This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

This is more of a life update post than a weekly update, but I’m sure you’ll allow me some creative licence!

The past few months have been pretty heavy going, with life changes and busy things happening. The attacks on the UK have been very triggering for me, so I was pleased I had a few scheduled posts ready to go, so I didn’t have to think too much about blog content when, being truthful, I just didn’t feel like blogging.

Twitter has become a hostile place to hang out, at times, with a lot of unnecessary bitching and drama for drama’s sake. I’ve taken a bit of a step back on there too. Instead I’ve been enjoying taking photos, and looking up from screens a bit more. Seeing what’s around me, and then sharing it with my followers on instagram.

As well as bits and bobs happening in my life, that I won’t go into right now for fear of jinxing, we did get offered the opportunity to take an amazing trip, which we decided to go ahead with and will be venturing out on in October.

Friends of ours are going to be in Orlando for a couple of months at the end of the year and offered us use of one of their spare rooms whilst they’re there. If you’re a new reader you may not know, but I am a huge fan of Florida (and Disney!) and fell in love with the place when we visited last year for our 10th wedding anniversary. This was an opportunity too wonderful to pass up, so we booked out tickets and are starting to form plans for our week there. Neither of us can wait, and we’re so grateful to our friends. I don’t want to wish the year away, but I really can’t wait for October now! It’s given us an amazingly exciting thing to look forward to, after what could potentially be a very stressful few months.

So other than that, there’s not been a huge amount going on. We’ve cancelled a few plans, a few events have been cancelled out of our control, and the country seems to be in a bit of disarray at the moment. I’m taking each day at a time, and I’m not going to lie and say I’m doing fine, because I’m not. My mental health is taking a battering, but I’m putting a smile on my face and getting on with my life, because what’s the alternative? I don’t have a bad life, people have things much worse than me, and I know I’ll keep on going. One great thing I will add is that the warmth and sunshine we’ve been having has done wonders to lift my mood, as have my friends and family. Never underestimate the power of laughter and turning your face to the sun when you’re feeling down.

So that’s my little update; a bit of a brain fart I know, but hey, this is what my brain is like right now!

Mental Health: A New Trend?

Trying to explain an anxiety disorder to someone who doesn’t have one is nearly impossible. It’s kind of like trying to describe a migraine to someone who’s only ever had a headache.

And it’s not the person to whom you’re talking’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just really hard. In fact it’s even hard to explain your kind of disorder to someone else who suffers.

Personally my anxiety disorder presents itself in lots of ways. It can be triggered by many things, and it’s so inflicting that it can make all my muscles seize so I can’t even move. My brain can switch off, everything goes slow motion and I sometimes won’t even know until after it’s happened.

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But this blog isn’t about that. We now live in a time where it’s more common to speak out about mental health. And as much as there’s still a HUGE way to go and reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues, people are still going for it, and trying to make others aware of it.

But I have a few concerns. There are so many people who will just fling terms around. “I’m so OCD I have to keep all my shoes in pairs” or “That ugly sweater gives me anxiety”. No one can tell whether these people really suffer, and who am I to say that they don’t. But it is starting to appear that a select few are wearing mental health issues as if it will make them more interesting. Something to add a little drama into their life.

Even Jennifer Lawrence, whilst being interviewed on The Tonight Show alongside Jessie Eisenberg recently, flippantly said ‘You’re the most interesting person’ and ‘I want weird quirks’ just minutes after he had opened up about his severe OCD. No one who has OCD *wants* OCD.

And in an episode of Veronica Mars (if you don’t know what that is, you seriously need to Google it and watch!) students were claiming GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) to get out of exams. It was so normalised that it penalised any students that really did have it.

My fear is just that, that people who really suffer from it are being washed away by those seeking attention. I hope I’m wrong.

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My second concern is one that I have zero basis to believe will happen – it’s merely a fear (heck, it’s an anxiety). I love how much anxiety and mental health disorders are being talked about. It’s fantastic that people are trying to end the stigma surround them. I myself don’t openly talk about it to my colleagues or even really bring it up to friends unless it’s relevant. I know, not with friends or family, but in the work place mainly it can alter how people treat you. I’ve seen it happen, not so much in my current job, but in past places, where I feel like your capabilities are questioned. Luckily if ever I’ve had to mention it at work to my direct boss I’ve been met with support and understanding. But I do have a concern that if having a mental health problem is normalised too much, it won’t be taken seriously.

I’ll go back to my headache analogy. If someone tells you they have a headache you expect them to take a pill and carry on, but you have no idea how it’s affecting that person. Their head might be splitting, it might have gotten so bad they need a dark room or a sleep. It might even be a migraine. You have no idea how it’s affecting that person. But headaches are normal, they affect so many people and they’re so common. Anxiety is common, affects so many people but you have no idea how it’s affecting someone at that time. My fear is that I tell someone I have really bad anxiety and because it’s so normalised they tell me to sit quietly or take a pill and expect me to carry on as normal. They just brush is off, and don’t realise how seriously it’s affecting me at that time, because it’s ‘just anxiety’. Sometimes with a migraine you need to take days away from normal life to recover. Sometimes with anxiety you need to remove yourself for weeks.

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It’s selfish and hopefully wrong, but for that reason I almost don’t want GAD to be normalised too much. I guess I just want it understood. I don’t want to feel brushed under the carpet, because my struggle is real, so so real. And I really don’t want it to become the next fad, like veganism or yoga.

I think for now, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t really want to go into my own experiences in too much detail. I still find talking about it, and even reading other people’s experiences, a bit of a trigger. I just wanted to put words to ‘paper’ and put them out there. I also don’t want to offend with anything I’ve written, so hopefully this hasn’t. I can’t control my fears and in this instance, this is just how current events have made me feel.

I wonder if anyone else feels the same as me?

A Post about Friendship

I have never been a girly girl. I’ve had girl friends but never really gone in for the braiding hair and sharing secrets type stuff. I was always the one people spoke to with their problems but I never really felt I could come up with good advice or solutions, so I was more a sounding board. And I never ever went to friends of family with my issues.

It wasn’t until about 4-5 years ago that I was able to go to my friends with problems. Of course I have Gary who I can go to, but sometimes you just want to winge to a girl.

Over the last year and half, as I have previously posted, I have seen my friends more and more socially and found it wonderful to be able to share problems and experiences. I think maybe before I thought I might be judged by those I was sharing with and so I just didn’t. But I never feel that way. I’m really blessed to have a circle of friends, who don’t necessarily know each other but they know me and know me well. And I have only known some of these friends for a couple of years.

I suppose it’s all part of moving on from child to adult – trusting that the people you share with are going to react in an adult way and also feel that you are adult enough to hear what they have to say. I’m blessed to be trusted with the information I’m told with by these wonderful people and I’m blessed that they want to listen to and support me.

I had some rather shocking news a week ago, and I have been really comforted by the support I’ve had from my friends. They have all been wonderful and in their own ways rallied support. I feel like a have a net underneath me and that they will be there whenever I need them. These friends are all very different people and able to offer support in many different ways, which is amazing. (I will also mention the support and kind words from people whom I would consider to be friends, but may not have ever met, via twitter. Thank you so much!)

I’m rambling now, so I’ll stop. I just feel blessed.

Do We Over Share?

When I first started using the internet, it was pretty new. Message boards were more like chat rooms, and very basic. I don’t think blogs were very well-known and the term social networking didn’t even exist. It was a place that you could be completely anonymous and as a result, when blogging did start to become popular, you could write and be completely unknown. In fact people have made a living out of it (remember the blogging escort who is now a published author?)

All you had to do was think up a good username (or ‘handle’ as it was then known) and you were away. It meant that you could freely write your feelings, rants and fears online, have them out there for anyone to see, but not fear the backlash of people you knew knowing what was really going on in your life. It was a great feeling to get things off your chest and even have replies from strangers. Your thoughts were just floating out there in the ether. Of course now all you have to do is Google a name, username or email address and there are sites which display all their social networks and blogs together on one page for all to see. That blissful anonymity is now gone.

There are a few people I know who regularly switch blogs, mostly because at some point in their sharing there’s been a point where they’ve gone to far and as a result fear their real identities being revealed. I have no problem with people knowing who I am, the general area I live, where I work. Some of my friends are baffled at this and find it very strange when people I only know from the internet visit me at work to say hi. The world’s a dangerous place, I know, but when people are being randomly stabbed near my work place anyway…… But I don’t mind people knowing who I am – isn’t the whole point of social networking allowing people to know who I am? It’s all about everyone having their famous for 5 minutes moment, right?

But – there is a line. A few years ago a woman was criticised, and rightly in my opinion, for tweeting about her child drowning in her pond or swimming pool. It wasn’t the content of her tweets so much as the fact that she was tweeting WHILE her child was drowning. Yes, people were there trying to help him at the time, but if your child was drowning wouldn’t you think the last thing on your mind would be to pull out your phone and share it with the world?

About a month ago a distant relative posted on Facebook that her Mother and Brother had been in a car accident and that she’d had to watch them being cut out of their car. They were all fine, and she wanted to thank her friends for their support. Yes it was a terrible time for them all, I’m not criticising her for sharing, but if it was me I would have picked up the phone and thanked my friends personally. Or if I’d HAD to use Facebook, written on their individual walls to thank them. But by writing it all as a status update, the whole incident was hugely dramatised and broadcasted. It seemed to me that it was a massive shout out to scream ‘look how dramatic and interesting I am’. I know that was not the intention in this case, but statuses or tweets like this really do read that way to me. Is it only me?

And it happens a lot. Mostly on Facebook I must say. It’s so easy to start writing things like that as a way to just get the feeling out there. But do people forget who their audience is? An update about an argument or a cryptic sentence or song lyric about a break up gets tongues wagging and questions asked. And surely that’s the intention? It’s the new century’s version of  “Oh my God I’m so fat” in order to get the response of your good friends assuring you that “of course you’re not fat”.

Now I know I’m an incredibly cynical person. I always look for motives and both sides of situations, and usually go for the version that was the least obvious (I’ve got a strange brain), but it seems to me that the world is going into Over-Share. Write a journal (in an actual book), a private blog or just come out and say what you think! I’m a straight talker with a bad case of verbal diarrhoea. I can hold my tongue in most situations but I prefer to speak the truth. I hate dishonesty and secrets (they ALWAYS come out). But I do firmly believe in a time and a place and increasingly I’m seeing that the internet is being considered as both the correct time and forum – no matter what it is. Maybe we need to re-establish some kind of internet etiquette.

One day, in the future, if places like Twitter or Facebook aren’t around, the current generation of youths who have known no better, might have to have a face to face conversation with someone they care about and actually speak words about their feelings. And they will struggle hard. Social networking is stripping people of their skill to interact and makes it easier for people to make hard decisions and actions. How many people do you know who have found out their relationship is over because their partner has changed their online relationship status. Sad times.  I wouldn’t be surprised if statistics will show a rise in marriages breaking up because people find it easier to share with their computers than their partners. Just a thought.

So I say to any of my readers out there, the next time you feel like blogging, tweeting of updating your status to provoke a response or create some drama, think about who you’re trying to reach. And if it’s that important, go speak to that person for real! It might be harder, but it’s going to make you a stronger person.

Christmas is a four letter word

I love Christmas. I love it so much that I would gladly listen to the music and watch the movies all year. But pretty much only from December I actually allow myself to listen to the songs and watch the movies! This week, the shop I work in was allowed to put in it’s Christmas windows. As one of only 5 in the company doing this, it felt really special, but it also felt a little too early. Though saying that in about 3 weeks everyone else will have theirs in their shops so who am I to moan?

But it did get me to thinking about how much people love, and loath Christmas. Take my Mum for example. You can’t talk to her properly about Christmas until at least the end of November. Before then, if you dare to talk to her about it, you must refer to it as ‘the C word’. But get to the week of Christmas and she’s loving it – embracing it from all aspects.  Last year I began to put the Christmas music on in the shop at the end of October. Mostly because I wanted to hear what they had to play. But also because I like it. It made most of the staff hate me 😀  I adore Christmas time, as I think most people do. But I don’t understand how people can have a Christmas overload. I just don’t get it! Though I was surprised to find that a lot of Christmas adverts are showing on the TV already. It seemed they had a date when all of a sudden they were allowed to show them. I saw one for Hobbycraft the other day which had my favourite Christmas song on it – Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses – Yay!

I love buying gifts for people, I love the food, music, movies, seeing family – and EVERYTHING sparkles! What’s not to love? I will be writing more about Christmas as we get closer, I’m sure.  And I intend to complete a ‘countdown to Christmas’ project on flickr, taking a Christmas themed photo for the first 24 days of December – and no doubt Christmas day’s photo will also be Christmas themed 😀

But until then, I’ll just stare at the tinsel and fairy lights in the shop window and wait for the time to come when I just can’t wait any longer and must put on the music and decorate the house.

I’m going to be unbearable!

It’s Only Words

When I was a lot younger I really didn’t like to read. It took me ages to get to the standard the other’s were at in my year at school, and I didn’t like that it took me ages to finish reading what they’d already read. I didn’t read for pleasure and all the books I was supposed to read at school were boring and tedious. The funny thing is, both my parents are librarians so it didn’t make sense I would have an aversion to books. They just never held much interest for me, and didn’t understand why someone would want to read a book when they could watch a movie and get more of the effects in less time, with much less effort.

I can’t remember the first book I read an enjoyed. I know I read the Jostein Gaarder books and enjoyed those. But with ‘Sophie’s World’ I found myself skipping a lot of the philisophical letters nearer the end, finding them unnecessary to the plot. Which they were….. I enjoyed reading things like The Diary of Anne Frank because you could read it easily and fast. Mostly because they were short entries, I could assess my progress whilst reading.

I came onto the Harry Potter books late. During all of the hype for the 4th novel, I thought it was something I was missing out on and so bought the 3 preceding it, so I wouldn’t be left out. I’m glad I did that – it’s a world I’m happy to be part of!

It wasn’t really until I had my hiatus a year and a half ago, that I found the intense pleasure in filling my time by immersing myself into a world of someone else’s. I’d done this, of course, through my various obsessions of TV and Movies, but never with a book, or a series of books. Last year I read a total of about 11 books, which was a huge deal for me. The highlights were The Other Boleyn Girl, The Queen’s Fool (both my Philippa Gregory) and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I found it was easy to get involved in the stories and feel the emotions of the people involved. Sure I’ve read some duds in that time too (Cloud Atlas anyone?), but mostly I’ve enjoyed them.

So that brings me to my latest finding (and yes I know I’m slow on the uptake!) A while ago, Gary told me about some books that had come out, that he thought I’d like. I hadn’t heard of the stories at all, but he said they were for teens and they were about a teenage girl who had fallen in love with a vampire. As an original Buffy fan, I rolled my eyes, and said ‘how original’. I didn’t think anymore about them (except how cool the covers were!) until two saturdays ago. A girl I work with, Sarah (Hi!), told me she’d just finished reading Twilight, and that it was amazing, and I should read a little bit and see what I thought. I bought my own copy that night. And I’ll hasten to add, it’s now two weeks later and I’ve read all four – and I’m a slow reader!

I was amazed firstly at how well written the characters were. You could immediately become Bella and understand how she was feeling. I have to say as well that Stephenie Meyer (I love you!) has managed to capture, with words, exactly the feelings of a teenager feeling in love. As Sarah pointed out, an experience that’s so personal to you, and it’s there on paper. Incredible. Anyway, I flew through the first book and fell head over heels in love with it. The second and third books were purchased and inhaled straight after. I kept saying it this people, but it wasn’t like I was reading the books, it was more like they were reading me.

The final book was bought straight after I had read the second and third and I finished it last night. I’m just reading the draft of Midnight Sun at the moment. It’s nice to go back to the start and read from another perspective. Even though it’s not finished yet, I’m enjoying it a lot, and it’s like visiting an old friend – even though I only read it two weeks ago!

I saw the Twilight film and enjoyed it. Obviously not a patch on the book, but it was nice to see it all there in front of me. I’m looking forward to New Moon.

It’s been a long while since I was this emotionally invested in something like this. And it’s nice to experience it again. Twilight is right at the top of my favourite books now, where it belongs, and I can’t believe I resisted involving myself in it for so long.