My Mental Health Story

Anyone that’s experienced MH issues can probably recall the moment they realised it was a problem. I was recently writing a short piece for my new project, The Nopebook (plugplugplug) and accidentally gave the 100 words I was writing 800 words of context. Not one to let copy go to waste…here you go.
I was 23. I’d been out of Uni long enough to work an 18 month contract that was, through some miracle, relevant to my chosen vocation. But since the contract had ended, yet my need to pay rent had not, I was working in an outbound call centre in Holloway, 80 minutes from my house. It was hell.

Each day I woke up, went to work for twelve impossibly long hours, came home, ate and slept. My boyfriend worked similar hours, building his business from the ground up. We were exhausted, but in love and therefore happy, right? That’s what your twenties are for?

Except, I wasn’t. I slipped off to the bathroom at work at least once a day, pulling the pencil sharpener blade that I’d stashed under the sink out for a little light relief on the top of my thighs, just to keep me going. I’d run scaldingly hot baths entirely from the hot tap and jumped straight in, wincing in pain as my skin turned red. I’d stand over the washing up bowl, staring for hours at the kitchen knife I was washing until the water went cold, tracing the point up and down the protruding outline of my radial artery and wondering “what if?”

I called in sick or cancelled shifts almost weekly, spending days at a time on my sofa, drinking and watching Grey’s Anatomy in great long stints and never really enjoying it.

I stopped mid-walk home to sob for no reason. I was hollow, and clueless, and miserable. And I told no-one. No-one except for my friend L. She, at the time, was the only person I’d ever known to have been diagnosed with depression. She always answered her phone, she always let me cry at her and rant at her. When I felt I was becoming too much for her, I rang the Samaritans. I cried at them, and ranted at them.

But I still didn’t think anything was wrong with me, if you can believe that. Because sometimes, I was high as a kite. I’d think up new plans and projects. I’d start up event nights and book groups and join teams and get excited and lose my shit over a good project. I was unstoppable, I was a genius, I had it all. Until I didn’t.

I knew I had anxiety. I’d realised at Uni, discussed it with my doctor, but not been prescribed anything. But still, nothing clicked.

One morning, completely out of the blue, I awoke to the sound of my alarm. My boyfriend was in bed next to me, reading something on his phone. I stared at the creeping splotch of mould on the ceiling of my first-ever-flat and said gently, “I think I’m depressed.”

He couldn’t have been kinder. He said I should call in sick for work, and make an appointment with the GP. He drove me there just two hours later.

It was a standard GP appointment. Like being asked about my eczema or an ear infection. He read the questionnaire I’d seen online, typing answers into his outdated PC, and I answered honestly. “Have you hurt yourself?” Yes. “Have you considered taking your own life?” Yes. “Do you plan to take your own life?” No.

He sent me away with a prescription for Citalopram, instructions to return in a month, and an appointment with a counsellor.

I met with the counsellor some two-three weeks later. She was a middle-aged blonde woman in a floral polyester shirt. She was soft spoken, to the point that it made me cringe. She spoke to me like you’d ask a five year old “where does it hurt?” after she falls of her bike.

I was three weeks into the Citalopram, and they’d made me vomit several times. They’d also made me feel a little strange – outside myself, separate and numb. Despite this, though, I was having an okay day. I felt I had to put myself back into that depressed state before I spoke to her. I spoke quietly, and sadly, and avoided making eye contact –despite actually feeling alright. Because she spoke to me so delicately, I acted delicate.

I explained that I sometimes felt fine. I explained my fits of productivity and crushing pitfalls.

She suggested I go back in a week. She suggested I go back to my GP in the meantime and explain the highs and lows, as she felt I may be bipolar. I didn’t go back. I didn’t make an appointment. I didn’t get my prescription refilled. I hid from the doctor. I knew it was the right course of action but it just felt too strange, too alien. I didn’t want to do it anymore. “It wasn’t for me” I told myself.

I survived, I dealt with it myself, I pulled myself up (for the most part) and now I am surviving. It helped that my loved ones knew now, and could offer support. I felt less alone, which lifted an immense weight.

But I still feel that ignoring the medical advice was the wrong thing to do, and I’m so lucky I didn’t do anything stupid.

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Bad Brain Day

Hello

This blog’s more of a diary entry I guess than my usual rant-about-something type of blog.

I’m having a Bad Brain Day™

If you’ve been following me on Twitter for a while you’ll be familiar with Brian, the name I’ve given to my depression/anxiety. It makes it easier to tell him to fuck off (it’s also what happens if you try to type ‘brain’ whilst mid-panic attack.)

Brian’s been dormant for a good few months now, only popping up every now and then to say my book’s shit or that I look like Shrek (someone once said I look like Shrek and Brian will NOT let it go.) but yesterday he came back.

He’s not the loudest he’s ever been. I still got up, and got dressed, and got to work on time, despite his best efforts. But he’s been hanging around me for the last two days, telling me I’m shit.

He’s mostly reminding me that I’m not trying hard enough in my writing career. That what I’m working on is shit, and that I’m not doing enough freelance work. That even when I am doing freelance work, it’s terrible. I’m shit at my job, I’m shit at life, I’ve peaked. My trajectory has plateaued and now all I do is post Twitter polls and be terrible.

I’m simultaneously panicked into wanting to do loads of work, but too numb to think of anything to write. I don’t have any ideas, I don’t know who to pitch to, I’m just stuck.

Like I’m down a hole, just shallow enough that the top of my head pokes out and I can see how great everyone else is doing. But I don’t have the energy to climb out. I don’t have time to figure out how, because despite being a failure and doing nothing, I’m too busy to breathe, too busy to think, too busy. I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed and lost and feel shitty today.

So if my tweets are weird and existential and sad, that’s why.

I’ll bounce back, I’m sure. But today is a Bad Brain Day™

PS. I used a picture of a puppy because puppies make me happy.

Thoughts On Happiness: A Life Audit

Thanks to @nylontoast for letting me use this INCREDIBLE artwork.

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Disclaimer: depression is an illness. I know this; I’ve been in the grips of it, and when you’re that deep and that hollow, it’s very difficult to get out. Maybe you need medication, or therapy, or time and support, or a mix of all of that. Whatever you need, you go ahead and you do it. This blog is taking another angle, and it might help you too, but it might not, and that’s okay. This blog is looking at general unhappiness, rather than clinical depression. Okay, we on the same page? Good.

It should also go without saying that these are my opinions and experiences – but here I am, saying it.

I firmly believe that we can be in charge of our own happiness in that instance. It’s well known that humans are prone to putting themselves in shit situations and thinking it’s the only option. I know I’ve done it in the past. I can honestly say that I’ve only felt truly happy as a person for about 18 months. But I soon realised that (aside from the bipolar and the anxiety), I was making myself miserable. I undertook a life audit. I changed a lot.

What Makes Us Unhappy?

I took a step back and, one by one, analysed the things that made me miserable. Here’s a handful of what I found:

Work – I hated my job. I thought I hated the commute, but I do that same commute now and it’s no skin off my nose. I was working long hours in a thankless job for no money. I was lucky enough to find something else, where I could flex my creativity and my talents and really feel like I was making a difference. It’s a trap a lot of people fall in to – and for some there isn’t another option, which is always shitty. Your job is the place you spend the most of your time, so of course it impacts what you’re doing. If it is making you miserable, look for something else. You do not have to put up with people who think they’re better than you; you do not have to make money for people who do not respect you; you do not have to waste 40 hours a week on something that bores you; you do not have to settle because it’s easy. You deserve better. Figure out what you want to be doing, and make a plan for how you’re going to achieve it. Sometimes even just having the plan there can help.  Even if you’re not a career person, and you don’t want to be rising through the ranks, and you just want to make money and go home – it’s so important to be working somewhere that isn’t actively detrimental to your mental health.

Money – Live within your means. You do not need expensive things to be happy. More often than not, if you’re buying lots of stuff you can’t afford it’s because a. you’re trying to fix something else by throwing money at it or b. you’re trying to impress other people. Neither one of these things will make you happy.

Toxic Relationships – If someone causes you more upset than happiness, cut them out. It’s that simple. If they’re bad for your health or your self-esteem, fuck ’em. Friends, boyfriends, even family – whatever. They are not worth it. You are important, and you are your priority. If you don’t put you first, no-one else will. In a relationship with someone who makes you chase them? BYE FELICIA. Feel like you need to change yourself to fit in with people? TOODLE AND ALSO OO. You don’t need them. When I realised I’d rather have no-one than be surrounded by assholes, my friendship circle suddenly whittled down to pure motherfucking solid gold. Seriously, my friends are the absolute shit. I cannot stress this enough.

Don’t stick with someone because you’re frightened to be alone. You’re fucking brilliant, you’re all you need. It’s a cliche but god damn is it true.

Confidence – This is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, and it’s a tricky one to navigate. I’ve spoken before about how I discovered self-love and body confidence, and how much it changed my life, and I can not overstate it. Take stock of what you love about yourself: your personality, your looks, your talents. Do things that make you feel empowered – for me this is performing and wearing tight clothes on a body I used to hide. Learn to say ‘fuck off’ to the asshole in your head that tells you you’re not good enough. You are not here for long; life is short as shit, so don’t waste any time on hating yourself. It’s not worth it.
If you died tomorrow, would regret not having the ‘perfect beach body’ or would you regret never sunbathing naked? Would you regret eating the calories of a biscoffi krispy kreme, or would you think about all the times you drank good wine with good people and be so happy that you got to experience that genuine connection? At the end of the day, what randoms think of you is not important. You do you.

You Do You – This is my BIGGEST rule. First of all, there is no cookie-cutter person that lives happily ever after. It  doesn’t exist. You might think you need to have the perfect relationship, and go on perfect holidays, and live like the family on a christmas card – and hey, some people do have that and it’s great. But you can be a fucking weirdo and be happy. You can be single and be happy. You can be poor and happy, rich and happy, fat and happy, thin and happy, hair and happy, bald and happy, have 25 cats and be happy (I highly advise that one actually). As long as you’re doing it for YOU.

“You can’t mismatch prints!” – you think it looks good? Fucking mismatch those prints. “Chokers don’t suit you!” – DISAGREE. “OMG I could never go two months without shaving.” – K don’t then, tf does it have to do with me? “Feminists aren’t stay at home mu-” let me stop you right fucking there, we’re all feminists and we can do what we like, move along. Guess what – what other people think does not dictate what will make you happy. What society says you should do is not necessarily indicative of what you should do. You know you better than anyone else knows you so please just DO YOU. Big into throat singing? BELT IT. Want to paint hairy nude dudes? GRAB A GOD DAMN BRUSH YOU BEAUTIFUL WEIRDO. Can you imagine how much more interesting the world would be if everyone just went with their gut?

As long as you aren’t hurting anyone else, you damn well do you.

Be Passionate – While we’re on doing you – do it with love. Find something that gives you life and do it. Paint, write, sing, build, dance, programme, clean, organise events, go travelling, watch every film, learn a language – find the thing you love and do it. Because otherwise, what are you wasting your time doing? As I already mentioned – your time is RUNNING OUT, fucking use it.

What makes you happy?

Valentine’s Paradox

First of all – Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s grey and dreary in London but I’m in a smiley love heart kinda mood anyway. You might not be. You might think today is shit. You might think it’s a commercialisation of a, let’s face it, pretty vague holiday.

A Made Up Holiday?

Like most of our traditional celebrations (I’m looking at you, Christmas), it seems to be an amalgam of crossed wires – a pinch of the Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, mixed in with a dash of the execution of St Valentine, a priest who married Christian couples in secret (after Emperor Claudius decided everyone should worship Roman Gods instead. You know, for the lolz.)

There’s also speculation that Geoffrey Chaucer just made the whole thing up. There’s actually no record of Valentine’s Day before Chaucer’s poem in 1375 – “For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day / Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate…”

And why is it widely accepted that we give cards and gifts? Well, a little card manufacturer known as Hallmark clocked onto the day and, in 1913, started mass producing Valentine’s Cards.

So yeah. It’s a pretty made up holiday; its origin is vague at best, and it has definitely been exploited for monetary gain.

Does This Mean I Shouldn’t Celebrate?

So Valentine’s Day is clearly a wee bit made up. You might think that it’s nonsensical to put so much effort into showing someone you love them, when the very day you’re celebrating is a farce. Yes, Valentine’s is largely bollocks. Does that mean you can’t celebrate it anyway?

Nope.

Now this is just my opinion, but- it is my opinion that you can do what you damn well please.

If you have a crush on someone, and you want to use a fabricated day to give you the kick up the ass you need to tell them – you damn well tell them.

If you think that the whole thing is an unjustified waste of time and money, no big – don’t celebrate.

If you’re in love and you like having an excuse to carve some time out of your schedule to shower your SO with affection and presents, fucking go for it. I bet they’ll love it.

If you think you shouldn’t need to be given a day to tell your SO that you love them, that you love them throughout the year – you go ahead and be romantic whenever you damn well want.

If you’re single and you like it that way, you can ignore today altogether – or you can watch and smile and be happy that others are happy.

If you’re single and you don’t like it that way, you can do the same.

If you want to have a palentine’s day, you do it. You want to drink a whole bottle of wine  and watch Bridget Jones? You do it. You want to just live like a regular old Tuesday? Fucking do it.

You do you, boo.

Here are the only danger zones: You should not make other people feel shitty about whether or not they choose to acknowledge the day. You should not feel pressured into celebrating because it’s ‘the done thing’. You should not feel like you’ve somehow failed by not having someone to celebrate a fake holiday with.

But What About Capitalism?

Want to celebrate, but worried about what your complicity will do for “The Man”? 

Well. Corporations hire people. Your money will be paying wages.

Not good enough? 

Make a gift. Cook dinner. Draw a card.

Still not good enough? 

Ok. Only buy from independent retailers. Go to a florist whose fee will pay for their kid’s dance lessons. Buy from a chocolatier that really wants to get into calligraphy but can’t quite afford the pens.

So How Are You Celebrating, Georgia?

Well, generally we don’t bother. Adam’s birthday is tomorrow, so I focus on that.

But this weekend, we saw a couple DVD’s we’d been meaning to buy (My Scientology Movie and Hateful Eight) on 2 for £10. So we bought those with the joint account under the guise of Valentine’s Day.

Then when we woke up, we said “happy valentine’s day” and had a cuddle. And that’s about it for us!

TL;DR: DO WHAT YOU WANT AND DON’T MAKE OTHERS FEEL SHITTY.

A Ghostly Day Out In London!

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been a victim of this tragic cycle:

“What shall we do today?”
“I don’t know, what do you fancy?”
“I don’t know, what were you thinking?”
“I’m not sure – what are the options?”
*repeat until it’s too late to leave the house/you are dead*

I live in this cycle. Adam (the husband) and I both work a lot, as well as rehearsing for two (or in his case four) bands and a stage show. So it’s pretty rare that we get a whole day off at the same time; and when we do, we generally spend it buried in a blanket burrito on the sofa. So this exchange sort of ruins the very rare opportunities we have to go out and do things.

However, through some miracle, I managed to pull this day out together a year or so ago. We’re both hella morbid – we’re obsessed with true crime and old abandoned prisons and ‘ghosts*’ and all that shebang. One of our first dates was the woods at midnight to go ghost hunting (read: tell each other spooky stories to see who got freaked out first). So for anyone who’s looking for some tips for a date day in London, read on…

Step One: London Dungeon

This one’s pretty obvious. If you’re going for a morbid day out, you gotta start here. We went shortly after they re-located to Southbank and it was fabulous. If you’ve not been before, it’s essentially a tour around a re-created London, learning about everything grizzly from the Plague to Jack the Ripper. With tour guides who never break character, and mini-rides to boot. A lot of fun.

This year, they’re putting on London Dungeon Lates, so you can go drink gin when the kids aren’t there and get spooked…

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We took Gregory the Executioner to the National Gallery between stops.

Side fact: Adam and I run into a problem a lot at attractions like this. I get the impression that he was a class clown at school, because he likes to play up to the tour guide like some sort of hyper-active child. He’s always desparate to get picked as a volunteer so he can crack wise and get some laughs. It actually works out pretty well when he is picked, we tend to win a lot of free stuff as *whispers* he’s actually pretty funny. On the flip-side, I do not like to be picked. I do the classic avoid-all-eye-contact until the moment has passed because I don’t want to stand in front of the group and put on the thing and do the thing and just no. No thank you. Unfortunately, 9/10 tour guides pick up on this dynamic, ignore Adam, and yank me up front. *shudders*

London Dungeon was also where we picked up Gregory the Executioner (pictured), who then joined us on the rest of our excursion…

Step Two: Lunch…

Okay this one’s not so grizzly. We went to Five Guys. Moving on…

Step Three: The Clink

This one’s not as well known as the London Dungeon, but if you’re interested in true crime and the history of crime in London, definitely check it out. You’ll only be there around an hour as it’s pretty small, but we loved it. Over in Southwark, it’s built on the site of the original Clink Prison, which dates back to 1144. The prison spanned over 600 years and housed “debtors, heretics, drunkards, harlots, and later religious adversaries”. You can get hands-on with the artifacts, read stories of historic prisoners, and even try out some of the torture devices if you are so inclined! Good and grizzly.

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Step Four: London Stone

Okay, it’s time for day-drinking. I’m afraid most all of my day-out guides will include day-drinking…

I should point out that we walked the entire day, rather than getting on the tube – if you do the same I highly advise telling gory stories about the plague victims in the Thames as you cross bridges throughout the day. You can also look up where various plague pits are situated if you feel like being grossed out (there’s definitely one underneath Liverpool Street.)

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Gregory rather enjoyed the selection of cocktails

Named after an historic London relic, The London Stone (which is a Grade-II listed piece of unidentified masonry), London Stone is a gothic pub situated opposite Cannon Street tube station. It’s easy to miss, as it’s just a simple doorway leading down a set of stairs…but it fits perfectly with the theme of the day, which is clear once you’re down there. With a gothic church vibe, the seats are all antique or replica pews, adorned with gargoyles, coffins and chandeliers. The toilets are hidden behind a bookcase for that ‘secret-room’ vibe.

They also offer a 7 Deadly Sins cocktail menu which, if you purchase one of each cocktail, can earn you a free T-Shirt. We both left with free T-Shirts…

Step Five: Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Bus Tours!

This was the booking that set the theme for the day – once we’d spotted this, the rest of the activities blossomed from there. The Ghost Bus Tours bus is a refurbished double-decker, with vintage curtains and lamps and some astoundingly good actors/tour guides. The bus picks you up at 7pm, and drives around supposed haunted sites of London, pointing out locations of torture, murder and executions whilst simultaneously pulling you into a ghost story of your very own…it was definitely the highlight of the day. If you can only do one thing on this list, make it this one.

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A particularly resonating location was the Crossbones Graveyard, which the tour group was ushered off the bus to go and inspect further. If you haven’t heard of the Crossbones Graveyard, it is an unmarked graveyard of what is considered to be in excess of 15,000 people. In the 1800’s, it was a part of one of London’s poorest slums, known then as The Mint. It was used for, among others, sex workers who weren’t considered holy enough to be buried on consecrated land. It was one of the most intense, emotional, and fascinating places I have ever been. To this day it is decorated with flowers and ribbons, creating a shrine to the ‘outcast dead’.

Step Six: Seriously?

If you make it this far, you’re a stronger woman than I. We were knackered. We went home and ordered Chinese food.

Got any tips on fun places to go out in London? Hit me up! @UpAndGeorgia

 

Too Young To Settle Down?

There’s a BBC article floating around at the moment, about how to buy a house before you’re 25. I’m going to start by pointing out that, for financial reasons, if you live in or around London, this is nigh on impossible. The article centres on Manchester, where the couple interviewed are both earning 20k or under, and the house costs about 150k. Bully for them, but down here? No chance.

My dad always says you can afford whatever you want, it’s all a matter of priorities. *Disclaimer: this obviously doesn’t cover poverty, unemployed, unable to work, etc. but you get the point. And my priority is to enjoy my twenties rather than stress over a mortgage. You do what you can, and you do it the way you can, and you do what you want. Whatever, you do you boo, I’m not here to judge. Though if you buy a house dirt cheap I will scowl behind your back but that’s just jealousy.

The thing that struck a nerve with me personally, however, was the amount of comments to the tune of “25 is far too young to settle down!!” and “Imagine being with the person you were with in your 20s for the rest of your life!”

If you know me or have been following me for a while, you’ll know that I am married. I’ve been married for about 18 months, having done the deed on 13th June 2015…when I was…25…

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The thing is, on paper, I’d have agreed with you. 25 is too young to know what you want with your life. But for me, that means – where I want to live eventually. What direction my career will end up going in. Will I shift my focus to music one day? Will I ever write a novel worth publishing? How many kids/dogs/cats/cars do I want? I don’t fucking know. Because all of that is in the future.

Thing is, Adam isn’t in the future. He isn’t some far off thing that I might get one day. He’s here now. And he’s been here a while. This wasn’t some hasty decision, we’d been together 6 years when I finally put on the puffy white dress. And I want him to continue to be as I figure the rest of this shit out. I don’t consider him as ‘settling down’, I consider him as my sidekick, my partner in crime, the dude that I get to come home to after a day of figuring my shit out and go ‘look at this shit I figured out today’, or the dude I can sit with a cup of coffee with before work, like I did this morning, bitching that my life is a god damn mess, I’m shit at everything and I’ll never achieve anything noteworthy. (I’m a delight when I haven’t had my coffee yet). 15894299_10155687465032195_5535570686345391466_n.jpg

The thing is about a good, healthy relationship is (in my opinion) that you don’t have to settle down and stop doing the things you do. He’s just there when I’ve finished doing them, to order pizza with and make up stupid inside jokes with, and to share my car and my house and my cats and my duvet with.

Essentially, if you’ve found the person – and you’re sure you’ve found the person – then why would you ass around? We act like we’re in our twenties, we still do our own thing, hang out with our own people, make our own way. We encourage each other to go play. But we can share it, and get excited about it together, because at the end of the day, if you love someone, you love them. End of.

Also he bought me a giant unicorn, so I have no regrets.