Dreams Can Come True (But I really hope they don’t)

I’ve always been a dreamer but lately (and for a long while now) I’ve literally been a dreamer – every night I have dreams so vivid I have no fucking clue how to process them. Or even if dreams really do mean half as much as we give them credit for.

I’m thinking of getting a dream journal so I can work through them because some of my night time adventures are so off the chain they have to be something, don’t they? I want to believe they are, anyway. I know it’s really just my brain working through my anxieties and my thoughts from the day but could it be something more?

Last night, I dreamt I was being held hostage by a family of yetis in the woods. I managed to escape because I fortuitously found a yeti mask and was able to convince them I was one of them – and then I escaped. Not after having to grunt convincingly for the ringleaders, because one of them was suspicious.

WHAT THE FUCK?

It doesn’t sound as tense as the actual dream felt, but in the moment it was a life and death situation – and I knew my body language and my verbal nods had to seem legit. And when I was out, I felt that rush of being free, of being safe again – and it was GREAT.

So the yetis were a one off but I often have reoccurring dreams, or I explore similar themes. My horrid ex is always popping up, always angry and every time I’m trying frantically to get away from him – that’s a bad one to experience continually.

I suppose the reason I have that one is pretty straightforward; it’s my worst nightmare to bump into him or to ever have to clap eyes on him again – so duh.

I think those ones come down to guilt: the guilt of allowing myself to make the choices I did back then. It’s like a PTSD situation which might sound a bit casual to throw into a blog post about dreams but is testament to the damage leftover by an abusive relationship.

I wish those ones would stop because sometimes I act out violently and have a moment on waking where I believe I’m guilty of something I can never take back.

Ditto my old best friend, she makes appearances a lot but in a much less dramatic way. We’re usually friends again (no) and I feel guilty about having to tell my actual real life best friend. It’s a relief to leave those ones behind too.

Life is strange, isn’t it? We do what we have to do and everything we juggle can be overwhelming – and then we have to run away from Big Foot at night. It would be nice to switch off my mind at least half of the week – or maybe dream only on weekends?

What are your thoughts on dreams?

A History of Silence

The other week was Mental Health Awareness Week and I had planned to post this then as a celebration of my own mental struggles – but of course I never got the time/had the energy to sit down and polish off the right words. I do think it’s great that this week is marked in the calendar and that it prompts so many valuable discussions. In the wake of the devastating news about Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbits, it feels especially poignant.

Where do you even start though when you’ve been plagued with doubt your whole life? And why does it always feel so narcissistic to talk non-stop about this stuff? I’ve dealt (and sometimes ignored) my own depression and anxiety since teen age. I always thought I was just supremely anti-social and lazy (I am lazy) but I’ve come to understand that it’s not that black and white. Sometimes the feeling of not being able to physically haul yourself out of bed isn’t just because you’re a sloth. As for being around too many people, that’s all symptom of the same condition. Some days I can’t bear the thought of having to deal with another living soul. My family used to describe me as sensitive and you know what, I really am – and there’s nothing wrong with it.

When I first moved to Brighton I was grappling not only with a dramatic move and adult life away from home but with crippling loneliness. I didn’t like myself very much, felt hideous 24/7 (adult acne did not help) and all I wanted to do was hide away. As I adapted to my new life some of that fell away but I’d fall hard for the wrong men and then feel everything ten fold. The first time I sought (not very good) assistance from a medical professional was because of a man (I had an affair with someone completely unavailable). Really it was about all those feelings backing up one on top of the other and having no understanding of how to deal but the boy was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I was immediately medicated with no other discussion and whatever I took then was not the one. My doctor was well-meaning but not exactly open to a conversation about mental health and I guess I didn’t really care to understand the whys then, I just wanted to be ‘fixed’.

A few years later, during my black period (age 24-30), I was in a very bad place. I was trapped in a relationship that was slowly killing me. For the most part I was numb and uncaring about everything but inside I felt trapped, scared and I did not want to be part of anything anymore. I walked on eggshells around a man that scared and controlled me in subtle ways. When he told me I was crazy I believed him. When he told me I was lucky he didn’t hit women, I believed him.

Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it’s sometimes hard to remember how bad things were then but they were the pits. I thought seriously about ending it and planned my out meticulously, something I’ve never really told anyone and certainly nobody at the time. I had it all mapped out but now I think if I’d gone through with it, it would have been a cry for help. Not to trivialise the choice to end a life, I have every sympathy for anyone in that position but I personally wanted a way out or for someone to reach out and tell me what to do. I’m thankful I didn’t act on that and one day did find the strength to leave him. I still dream about that time and live in dread that one day I might bump into him again.

Life since has been up and down of course because it’s life but it’s been good. That anxiety though just doesn’t want to let go. Everywhere I go I am constantly wrestling with the internal voice that tells me I’m worthless and failing at everything. Every time I walk into a new social situation I’m sure everyone hates me – and I will often lie awake at night because I forgot to say goodbye to someone and have probably upset them in some irreparable way.

It’s a funny old battle – the war between this negative voice and the real me – but they are both me and we have to find a way to co-exist. I’m medicated again, I started up on Sertraline about ten months ago and it seems to be suiting me. My lovely doctor also got me signed up to some CBT training and counselling and has generally been adorable every time I’ve rocked up to her office and sobbed my heart out. I’ve been lucky this time and things feel more manageable. Some environmental changes can trigger a particularly bad period but other than that I’m coping.

My heart goes out to anyone with the same feelings and it breaks my heart when another person loses their battle but I understand. Suicide doesn’t make a person weak and if that’s the only way to find peace then I get it – although I would hope there’s always another way.

Things might be getting better and there is less stigma attached to these mental conditions but we still have a long way to go.

Here are a few deeply relatable illustrations about anxiety that I love:

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So much for Motivated May, eh? I had all these plans to keep the posts flowing throughout Mental Health Awareness Week and then… I couldn’t muster the energy. Instead I had a very chilled week, mainlined Safe on Netflix and spent time with my beloved. Which sometimes is all the self-care you need.

MHAW was a busy one at work though with workshops every day which I made sure I attended. While they won’t change my life forever, they have given me plenty of food for thought. Particularly when it comes to diet, direct sunlight and digital behaviour. I’m not talking going on a diet obviously, I’m talking about the things I ‘should’ be eating for optimum mental health – fermented foods like kimchi, anyone? Sauerkraut with every meal? I’m definitely falling short of my 5 a day (bare minimum) and probably should swap out my daily Wispa for an apple but we’ll see.

Apparently you’re also supposed to get at least 30 minutes of sunlight into YOUR EYEBALLS every lunchtime too – which I definitely do not do, what with being ginger and mutant and all.

For me it’s the digital side of things that is the real problem, I’m the worst for falling down a blue light rabbit hole before bed and not being able to sleep – so I’m looking at what I can do to rein that in. So much of the time I spend on social media could not be considered ‘quality’ and I can do without it. That’s what books were invented for, right?

All in all I think I’m in an okay place. I was going to do a whole spiel for the week about my history with depression and hey, I still will but in a few days when I get my act together. In the meantime, I’m just here thinking about life and kicking myself that May wasn’t the hive of activity I planned it to be. Joyous June, anyone?

Consider this a check in, filler post while I sort out my life.

How are you?

Update on Anxiety

My anxiety has been more in check these last couple of weeks since the panic attack but I am definitely feeling more sensitive to certain things. Like, if there are too many people at an event, I’m out thanks. I’ve always been this way to a point (50% introvert, 50% extrovert donchaknow?) but as the nicer weather starts to show its face and large pockets of people congregate all over the place, it fills me with dread. Even if they are all smiley and happy.

I’m not against joy or anything and I love people really, even though I pretend I don’t – but large collectives stress me out. Even at my own events (like I throw those regularly!), I feel like I can’t sufficiently spread my attentions around and get flappy. So I’m feeling a bit angsty lately and fighting the urge to hide away – I say fighting because so far I’m winning, go me.

These kind of introspective periods make me think a lot about what I’m doing with my life and although I’m pretty happy, I’m starting to lose patience with some things and some people. I think I just have to keep reminding myself that I have the power to make changes, however small.

Thankfully it’s the Bank Holiday weekend and I’ve got lots of plan to podcast, watch movies, see good friends and just chill the fuck out, without having to make any big plan yet.

Bring it on.

Anxiety 1, Voluptuous 0

I had a panic attack yesterday morning and had to come home from work. I lay down until it passed and then watched The Conjuring with a cup of tea and a banging headache. I’m off again today with the same headache but really it was frightening and I still feel out of sorts.

Even though I have an anxiety disorder, I very rarely have these attacks. I can remember two over the last year and they were scary bastards. This was no different – I felt like I was going to collapse and then I just felt an ominous feeling engulf me, like something really bad was about to happen. I felt like I had to flee and I couldn’t get out of the office quick enough.

Yesterday (and today) are the sunniest days we’ve had all year, everyone’s smiling and showing skin – and I’m home feeling sorry for myself. I know I’m normal but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Can’t I just live?

I feel daily as though there is a war raging inside me, one between the anxious me and the confident me. They’re such polar opposites with such vastly different attitudes and they butt heads constantly. Anxious me wants to break me with the self-doubt it sends coursing through my veins. I will never let her win but sometimes I’m not quick enough and I hear what she’s whispering – “You’re not good enough”, “Nobody likes you”, “You don’t deserve that”… oh, she’s a little cunt alright.

She’ll never get the better of me but sometimes I let her run the show, she is part of me after all. And while this is happening Confident me has a nap, posts Instagram memes and rallies against the patriarchy in her head (the patriarchy is responsible for consumerism and the unrealistic beauty ideals that keep us feeling like we’re never good enough). Confident me tries on jumpsuits and shushes Anxious me when she tells her (me) that I can’t wear that.

I’m tired and I’m feeling sorry for myself. My head hurts and I feel old and crabby. My skin needs moisture, my fringe needs a cut and everyone looks so effortless in the summer sun. I wish I was out there and I’m glad I’m indoors. I want company and I want to be left alone. Like I said, a constant battle, an eternal game of tug-of-war.

Blue Monday

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Here it is, the single most depressing day of the entire year.

I mean there are reasons to kick against it, to say “Fuck this, not today, Satan” but when it’s violently windy outside and your umbrella gets blown inside out 0.2 seconds after stepping out of the door, it’s hard to be strong. Plus, I got my period and have the worst cramps ever in the whole history of menstruation, so I’m not feeling today AT ALL. (Of course I’m jesting, these are not problems in the grand scheme of things. But aren’t Mondays hard enough?).

This isn’t a big post really, just an acknowledgement I guess to anyone feeling extra shitty today. I feel you and I’m here for you.

I’ll spare you a Reasons to be Cheerful list because it’s likely you already know there are blessings to be had in this life, even if they’re just Oscar Issac’s face. Depression doesn’t see all that or work that way, I know. But sometimes it’s useful to receive the message that you’re not alone, that other people feel the way you do and they understand.

Be kind to yourself today and every day, but particularly today, while everybody’s chattering about how depressing it all is. Do what you can but if you can’t do anything, that’s fine. Stay home if you can, avoid people if you need to.

Rinse Netflix, read a book – whatever you need, try and make time for it.

I’m thinking of you.

Anger

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The other day someone (a dude) asked me why women are so pissed off these days. Instead of punching him in throat and screaming “Because of you motherfuckers!!”, I took a breath and told him to look around him. Predictably I didn’t finish my sentence before my piece was derailed by a #notallmen remark and I’m quite certain none of my points got through his thick skull. Doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying though.

I feel like I’m angry all the time these days. Angry I have to get a bus home after dark for fear of walking home alone, angry I can’t finish a sentence without being interrupted. Angry every time I pick up a paper or log onto Twitter and read another story about another man abusing his position. Angry for every one of the women I know who has a #metoo story.

I’m pissed about all my own experiences. For the time a man told me he could rape me if he wanted to outside Sydney bus station when I was 20. For being followed home more than once but most recently in my own sleepy hometown. For last Christmas when a stranger grabbed my arse at our works do and squeezed it really fucking hard, like it was his right.

I’m angry for all the times my nasty ex told me I was lucky he wasn’t the type to hit a woman. For all the times he told me I needed psychiatric help and my mother agreed with him (she didn’t obviously but he wanted me to believe she did, as if they were in cahoots. As if). And for the time he bullied me into going topless on the beach in Barcelona and simultaneously poisoned my memory of that beautiful city.

Most of all I’m fucking furious he made me hate and blame myself for letting it happen, and for making me question my place on this earth.

I don’t hate men but they make me angry. Of course not all fucking men but every single man has a responsibility to be better and that is a fact. They might not directly hurt women but laughing when their friend makes a Harvey Weinstein joke is part of the problem (and so much more besides). We can all be better and I know I’m not perfect either. I’ve turned a blind eye many times in the past just so I don’t come off as a rabid feminist killjoy.

No more. I will be better and so will the men in my life. I demand it.

What are you angry about today?

Flaking Out

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Is there anything better than the last minute text you regularly receive saying “I’m so sorry but can we do this next week?”.

It’s got so easy to flake out on plans, cancel at the nth hour and swerve people you don’t really want to see. Or maybe you do want to see them but not quite enough. It’s almost impossible to remember what we did before smart phones. Did we just keep all our dates?

I’m so guilty of backing out of social engagements myself and I’m working on that. Last week I had a plan for every night of the week and it was too much. I panicked and cancelled 75% of it, then went home and spent most of my down time braless in front of Netflix. I’m not good at being too busy, especially when I’ve just started a new job and have a million things on my mind. Sometimes it’s a wonder I still have friends but I guess the secret it to balance it out. And I’m by no means any worse than any of the people I make the plans with (and I’m never that gutted when we have to reschedule, rather it’s usually a beautiful gift).

I used to be a lot worse, suffering panic attacks when I had to go out to crowded places. My head would bang and I would try anything to get out of it, even if they were arranged months in advance. Luckily I had minor speed habit that helped me to get over myself quickly, until the inevitable come down the next day.

I would drive friends mad with this behaviour and sometimes now I wonder if I’ve not changed that much, given that I avoid birthday gatherings because I just can’t handle more than a handful of people at a time. If I don’t know anybody then I’m even less likely to attend. I still shudder at a birthday drinks I went to a few years ago where I stood there like a sore thumb for hours – and nobody saved me from my misery. (I would save someone from their misery!).

Anyway, this is the season I start to plan my hibernation. Apart from the obvious holiday celebrations I will be opting out of a lot of social fun times in favour of staying in with my books and watching films. I’m not exactly the outdoorsy type you could say – and I’m unapologetic about it. Oh, and people who rib other people for not getting out in the fresh air are the worst. I will do it in my own time, when I feel like it. You don’t know my life.

If any of my friends are reading this then I’m sorry for all the birthday drinks and house parties I’ve swerved, it’s all about my feelings of inadequacy as a party guest though and never to do with you. I’m way better one on one in the pub or over dinner, I swear.

Just not during the months of October, November and December. And January and February, too.

Life-date 

A life update today, and a break from all the horror of Halloween, like you need one because it is the best. But in case you do, here’s the horror of my real life instead. LOL.

It seems a lifetime ago but only really four weeks that I was fretting every day about having to go into Horrible Work. Every evening was stressful because I knew in a matter of a few short hours, I’d be back at my desk again. Every weekend was hard because I knew they would end and Monday would soon loom over me. And every morning was the worst because I had to face the terrible mistake I’d made in leaving my familiar comfy job of six years to ‘try something new’ – and that something new couldn’t have sucked harder.

Some mornings now I see one of my old colleagues driving past and it jogs my memory back for a second. And then I shake it off because these people have no power over me anymore. 98% of my colleagues there were a joy anyway but it’s amazing what the 2% can do to your mental well being. So eff them, truly.

Now I’m much happier and things have changed so much. I’m feeling creative again, enjoying social dates and my job is fun. Sure, it is still a job and one I’ve done a lot in my working history but I’m learning something new and I enjoy it at the moment. The people are great and young and fun – and I feel like a different person.

My anxiety still kicks my arse every now and again but I’m working it out and that’s a great achievement. I’m proud of the changes I’ve made – even in my darkest hour I managed to brush my hair, put on my business bitch best and nail an interview, even when my head was banging and my stomach was twisting. Lucky me to be able to do that, eh? Some days is seems impossible to leave the flat and I know I’m not alone in this.

My Coping with Worry classes are about to come to an end and I’ll go into more detail about those when they’re done. I think I’ve found them helpful, though the last session was slightly more awkward because only four people came back and it’s so quiet in the room, I overcompensate with an annoying nervous laugh and that makes me feel even more anxious. Dammit.

Life is okay at the moment is the theme of this post. A million times better than a month ago anyway and although I need to stop shopping, stop eating out so much (£££) and start looking at my future more seriously as I enter Level 40 – I know I’m incredibly privileged, able-bodied and working so I never want to be ungrateful for what I have.

How you doing?

Fight or Flight

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Happy October the 1st Autumn fans! I’ve woken up to a grey and miserable day, which couldn’t be more fortuitous, if I’m honest. I have washing to do, floors to vacuum and bathrooms to spritz (plus this week’s Blog Collab film) – and frankly, I welcome the excuse to stay indoors. Like I ever really need one.

I type this as I watch my first Horror movie of the season – Last Girl Standing (2015) – and think about what I want my first post to say. I thought maybe I’d start light but then I thought I’d start as I mean to go on, openly and truthfully.

Last week I attended my first group counselling session. Technically it’s a course called Coping with Worry and was set up by my GP after I burst into her office and begged her to help me with my anxiety.

The group set up was the first available option (versus one on one therapy) and even though I’m not a natural when it comes to groups of people, I didn’t think I had much to lose in terms of giving it a go.

So far we’ve learnt about what anxiety is and what might trigger it – and the objective is to teach us the skills we need to deal with it. There’s no curing worry altogether but we’re also being taught that there’s such a thing as good worry. For instance, I can worry about my job not being fulfilling which then might spur me on to getting a new, better one.

Bad worry, in contrast, is the worry that cripples and stops us taking any action. This course might be Psychology 101 to other people but it’s making me think about things in a way I never have before. Hey, I’m new to my diagnosis, man.

My group isn’t massive but it’s full of normal people (who knew?) who think like me. When I’m getting myself twisted with worry that everybody hates me, it’s reassuring to know I’m not the only one who thinks this.

Fight or flight is a term we’ve just become familiar with. External forces will come along and fuck with you all the time. They might be big, they might be small but the mind perceives them as a threat, which causes a jolt of adrenaline. This is the fight or flight moment (the choice to smash it in the mouth or get the fuck out of Dodge) that triggers all sorts of physical symptoms, like sweating palms, headaches and tension. It’s akin to facing up to a slavering bear in the forest. How interesting is that?

You might wonder why I’m talking about this in such an open way. I did think about holding it all in to myself but that made me feel worse. Since I’ve been talking more openly about my feelings, it’s brought me closer to a few people who feel exactly the same way – someone I’d never have expected to be a fellow anxiety sufferer asked me for details on how to get help herself, which is so cool.

I’m also learning not to feel apologetic or weak for being an anxious person – I’m not a delicate flower who can’t do life, I’m a warrior arming myself with new skills to kick better arse. That’s how I chose to see us anyway.

My homework for the week is to keep an anxiety/worry journal. As you know I also have my other blog, which was built for exactly that purpose. I’ve neglected it so far but since I’ve made positive change (new job), I’ve started to feel so much better and ready to get back to doing the things I love.

I’m coming to realise that Anxiety and I are probably going to live together for the rest of our lives. And that’s okay, as long as it realises it doesn’t run the show.

I’m in charge, after all.