2019 – it's not an easy world

What a year 2019 was.  So many ups and downs, I learnt so much about people in that year.  I feel like the whole time I was on a long journey to finding the one thing I’ve always felt like I was missing.  A place I truly belonged. 

I went from thinking I’d found it early on in the year, to feeling like I’d lost it and the many low days that followed led to self-deprecating thoughts of being a failure, of being someone that wasn’t good enough or interesting enough for anyone.  Landing me right back where I’d started, in a place where I was beginning to accept that I would always be alone, that the only person I could really rely on was myself. But, like we all have to, I kept going, because when it comes to life, there really shouldn’t be any other option.

I built relationships back up again, refusing to give in to the temptation that it was perhaps oh so much easier to just embrace being alone.  I knew I could never be happy that way, I needed to keep trying until I found the people that got me, that could love me for who I am, baggage and all. 

In so many ways 2019 was the best year of my life, but also one of the most difficult.  I had achieved everything intellectually that at that point I wanted to.  I knew anything in the academic arena I could have done if I had gone for it, I had enough confidence in myself to know that when I was determined I could do it.  It wasn’t educationally that I felt inadequate.  It was in myself I didn’t feel enough.  I didn’t know who I was anymore, I had a complicated relationship with my Mum which neither of us wanted to revisit for fear it would make our relationship even worse, unsalvageable, and I felt like I didn’t have many close friendships that would look past the cracks and see that despite my mental struggles I wasn’t weak, I just needed a friend. 

I was scared of being misunderstood, of people assuming things that weren’t true, I was scared of being treated differently, like I was fragile, when in reality I was anything but that.  I was just tired of pretending all the time. 

2019 did that for me, it sent me searching for the thing I thought was out of reach.  It gave me a place in a world I had started to doubt was even made for me.  It gave me people that wouldn’t judge, people that understood how struggling felt and wanted to stand by my side rather than try to save me like some superior heroic figure.  It gave me people I could rely on, but also people I could laugh with.  2019 gave me back my relationship with my Mum, I worked through some of my biggest fears, and had conversations that I never thought I’d have the courage to do. 

Maybe it was the right time, the right age that meant I stopped being so afraid of what would happen if I was more open, if I became ‘real.’  I was always the girl at school that had to be perfect, have perfect clothes, perfect make-up, be talking to guys, have an exciting, adventurous life.  Perfection gets tiring.  Leaving and going to university I let go of that, I became a truer version of myself, and I struggled with friendships.  Then, I found the real friends, the ones that didn’t care about perfection, I found a place where I belonged. 

So many people struggle with friendships and home life, they feel like they are completely alone in the world, like no one could ever understand them.  It’s different for everyone of course, but loneliness I can understand, I think we’d be surprised by the amount of people that can.  Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest obstacle, and we have to overcome our own fears and insecurities, figure out who we are before we can tell other people, and expect them to accept us.  It’s not an easy world, it’s a judgemental one, but if all the lonely ones were to come together and form a friendship, I have a feeling we’d outnumber those that aren’t.  So, remember that the next time you feel alone, because in thinking that, you’re not really alone at all, and someday if you keep going long enough it will change, and someone will really see you for who you are.

Liv.

(Instagram = the_olive_blog)

You Are Not Alone

Everyone has ups and downs in their life, no one has it easy.  Even if you had it easy, you probably wouldn’t know it, you’d find a way to make the monotonous safety of your life an imprisoning boredom that you wish to escape from. 

We all go through it, and most of us come out the other side, but not all.  Some can’t, some get so low they can’t see the light anymore, or imagine their lives without the darkness.  It’s why we have to talk about it, regardless of whether what you went through was mental health related or not, we have to let go of the dangerous perception that the majority of people have perfect little lives with the closest of friends and amazing supportive families.  Life doesn’t always work like that, and nor should it, that’s normal, it’s just a shame most of us suffer through it alone before we make that realisation much further down the line. 

Perhaps if we were all a little more honest with each other and allowed ourselves to be a little more vulnerable, we could protect others from thinking that they are alone.  In reality, when you think that you are alone, that you are different, you’re probably just the same as every single other individual, that has been taught by society to keep up the mantra of ‘I’m fine’, even when we’re all crying on the inside. 

Liv.

‘You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for’

‘You only cry for help if you believe there’s help to cry for’ Wentworth Miller

I never understood the suggestion that mental health, depression, anxiety, feeling suicidal etc. are a cry for help or attention seeking in some way.  For me Wentworth Miller’s quote rings completely true, I felt that nobody could help me, so why would I reach out to anyone as the only thing I would gain from that would be becoming even more of an outsider than I already felt I was. 

It was more important to me to hide what was really going on, so that people would assume I was fine.  I wanted to deal with everything behind closed doors, hide my shame, hide what I thought was my failure.  I had always come across as the strong one, the one that was never phased by anything, I wanted people to continue to think that so badly it got to the point where I was almost living a double life.  The things that were going on in my head were concerning, and definitely suggested a need for help, but I just couldn’t.  I couldn’t admit that something was wrong that maybe I was mentally suffering, it would have been an acceptance of weakness for me, I wanted to believe that if I could just keep pretending that I was fine, that I would be.  Like some kind of strange Halo Effect. 

Needless to say that didn’t work, and I ended up eventually seeking help and talking to someone about the thoughts I was having.  This was after almost 5 years of struggling in silence, and even then it took me almost 6 months from having decided to talk to someone, to getting myself into that room.  Even now, I haven’t been able to muster up the courage to go back, even though a part of me desperately wants to.  I still struggle with those feelings of shame, of being a failure because my brain seems to slip into depressive thoughts so easily when all I want is to try and be positive.   That’s why I have this blog, it’s my outlet, my alternative to talking about it vocally, because that’s still such a difficult topic to broach. 

So, don’t assume that people who are struggling with mental battles are seeking attention in any capacity.  You don’t know how long they have been suffering, you don’t know how much courage it might have taken that person to simply get to where they are.

Be kind to all and you won’t mistake the good ones for the so few that are faking. 

Liv x

Panic and anxiety attacks

What are you doing, why are you here, they are going to judge you, what are you wearing, they are going to wonder where you’ve been, they’ll notice that you’ve been crying, they’ll notice you’re not eating, they’ll notice you are eating, you look a mess, you’re life’s a mess, why does everyone hate you, why do you have no friends, why are you lying to your friends, people think you have no friends, why do you smile when you want to cry, you have so much work to do, why are you so tired, you have no money, you’re an embarrassment, you’re stupid, no one will ever love you, you’ll be alone forever.

I think a lot of people wonder what it feels like to have a panic attack, I used to have them a lot in secondary school and 6th form, and I don’t think that I am exaggerating when I say that I often felt like I was dying.  The majority of mine happened in the middle of the night, usually when I was lying awake plagued by dark thoughts, consistently coming one after another, but feeling as though I couldn’t at all control where my mind was going, it often felt like I was losing my mind.  It was then it would usually start, I began to notice the early symptoms and I think that only served to make them worse as I would start to panic about having a panic attack, oh the joys of anxiety. 

It would usually start with feeling hot and cold at the same time, like my core was on fire but I was still freezing, then the pins and needles would set in, beginning in my hands and moving its way up my arms.  It was the frantic beating of my heart that would really scare me though, I felt like my entire body was jumping with its intense beat and rate, as though it felt my body was doomed much like my mind, and it was trying to escape.  When this sets in it is like nothing really makes sense anymore, I’m never fully aware of where I am, often trapped in the confusing thoughts of my mind.  I know once or twice the panic attacks led to hallucinations, almost like stress dreams but I was awake, the one I remember most distinctly was when I was convinced I had somehow pushed my Mum’s entire business off of a skyscraper, I promise it was scarier than it sounds. 

I never really worked out what exactly caused them, I know that I was very unhappy towards the end of school, and I’m sure that added with the stress, and the insecurity of my friendship group at the time, all contributed to it.  I can only be grateful that I rarely experience them now, or that they have filtered out into smaller anxiety attacks, which although are still unpleasant I find easier to manage, it’s more of a mind over matter situation for me now.  If I become afraid or anxious about something irrational, I know I just have to force myself to do it, force myself out of my comfort zone, even if I’ll hate myself for it for the moment, I know it’ll be fine in the end.  Sometimes, it’s just a case of taking myself out for a walk, putting on some upbeat music, so I can clear my head and put things in perspective, and remind myself that putting the bins out is not something to get anxious about.  That’s the thing I think most people forget, anxiety isn’t just about social situations, for some people, its not about that at all, sometimes it’s the most menial tasks that trigger you for no reason at all. 

At the end of the day though, we just have to do every little bit we can to try and overcome it, small victories to some people can be big for us, so as long as you’re doing your best, you’re doing enough. 

Liv

Is depression a symptom of society?

Everyone my age has experienced sadness, everyone in the world has experienced sadness, but when, at what point does that become depression?  I never know where the line is, if there even is one.  I’d hope for most people that’s a question they never have to ask, but I think that in our present climate that would be a naïve impression to have.  You might think me pessimistic, in fact I hope you do, because that probably means you’ve never suffered depression, but for me, I think most people have at some point in their lifetime. 

I was told once by a teacher at my secondary school, that everyone would experience depression at least once in their lifetime.  I remember being horrified that she could make such a claim in front of 15-year olds, little did I know I was on the brink of falling into that void myself. 

There has to be a reason, that we are all so discontent with lives that we should highly appreciate.  I happen to believe it is our relationship with the world around us.  Greed has the gotten the better of us, society was born to judge us, change us, alienate the real us.  When you feel like you can’t just be an unfiltered version of yourself, when you need to put on a pretence for the ‘social’ world, you lose the real you, and when you lose that part of yourself that makes up your identity, what do you become other than a blank slate for society to write on? With this brings its own problems, because society has no definition of perfection, it is riddled with contradictions and impossible standards that no one can attain in their real lives.  So where does that leave you?

It left me unfulfilled, uncertain, lost, without purpose, without passion.  I only wanted others to like me, but when you are in that position you aren’t living for yourselves but for other people, often strangers that can have no care for your true wellbeing. 

I tricked myself and everyone else into thinking that that was okay when really, I was at the lowest point of my life, and no one saw the signs, how could I have expected them to, when I didn’t even know myself well enough to see it?

The point is though, I did come to a realisation, that I didn’t want to live for other people, I wanted to have my own agenda, I wanted to be someone unique, something new, something no one else could be.  The simplest way of achieving that, was to become the person I always was under all the pretence, to become open about my feelings, about what I went through behind closed doors.  I set myself free from what I saw as the constraints of society, all the stigma, I told myself not to care about it.  That’s not an easy thing for anyone, and I have in no way achieved that completely, but although I still have bad days, and depressive ‘episodes’ I no longer feel ashamed, or feel I have to hide it. 

Liv x

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Sadness without explanation

I have never found depression an easy topic to talk about, I still feel as though people won’t believe me, or they will assume that it is a cry for attention, when in reality it was the complete opposite. I would have done anything to make sure people didn’t know how unhappy I was with my life, because I had no specific reason for feeling that way, so how could I expect people to understand? I don’t blame people when they don’t, I barely understand it myself.

I found this short diary entry from February 2017, when I was going through a rough patch and couldn’t quite convince myself I was worth it. Perhaps this will give an insight into how my brain was working at the time.

Diary entry February 2017:

There is a saying that ‘life gets you down’ because life is tough. We all know that. But what do you do when there is nothing in your life to get you down, but you feel that way anyway?

What do you do when you feel so sad inside and yet so numb and empty at the same time?

My resolution was to talk to somebody about it, but I don’t want to talk about it, because voicing it means that I have to accept that this is real. And it also means that I have to try and explain it, and I honestly don’t even know where to start.

It’s sadness without explanation, therefore it is sadness without solution.

How can anyone hope to understand, when I can barely understand it myself?

How can I feel so alone and yet be sat in the middle of school with hundreds of people about?

Today I wanted to get help rather than run away, but again I am at a loss as to how to ask for it. There’s a hand around my throat that stops me from voicing the words, but perhaps that’s a good thing, too much would change if I was to talk about it, and I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

Normally, I’m not a negative person at all, I have a pretty positive outlook for the future, and strongly believe that if you work hard enough at anything then you’ll be successful in some capacity. In those times of depression though, it was incredibly difficult for me to stay in that mindset, and I was even more stressed about ensuring other people didn’t see that, most importantly my family, because I didn’t want to also bring them down.

In reality though, when I finally was able to talk to someone, it made such a difference, and allowed me to come to terms with what I was dealing with, and how I could better myself.

First Year of University

Everyone tells you that the first year of university will be the best year of your life, and in many ways it is.  However, in some ways it is also the most difficult. 

What is so often neglected to talk about is also the sheer amount of change that happens all around you, and how sometimes it becomes overwhelming.  There are a lot of things to juggle, making friends, going out, trying to organise your timetable and find classes whilst exhausted (and most probably hungover and coming down with freshers’ flu), all while trying to make a good impression on the people you’ve been told are going to be your life-long friends. 

I don’t mean that to sound scary, because freshers is so much fun, but it’s okay to also feel overwhelmed, unsure and a little scared about it all too.  I think the expectation that first year will be the best year of your life sometimes makes it all a little harder to deal with, because you might feel like you’re doing it wrong if it’s not as perfect as you thought.  I guarantee you you’re not. 

Change isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be unexpected and unpredictable.  There will be amazing high points, but you have to expect that there will be low points too, just like with everything, and then you can make sure you look after yourself until things inevitably get good again. 

Another thing to bear in mind is that, whilst it is true that you make some of your best friends at university, this does not necessarily mean it’s immediate.  So, don’t worry if you struggle to find your perfect friendship group in the first few weeks, or whole first semester even.  For me, my friendships changed so much and so rapidly all throughout first year, and it was only by the end of second semester that I felt I really knew who my close friends were.  Although struggling to find where you stand with friendship groups isn’t something people generally openly talk about, I think you’ll find it’s something a lot of people feel in that first year. 

That’s not to say I didn’t have such a good time, because I really truly did, there is such a wide range of diverse people to get to know, and I’ve definitely cried more tears of laughter just this year than the rest of my entire almost 20-year-old life combined.  It’s just I think too often people say their first year at uni was the best year of their life, just because that is what is expected.  Personally, I have a feeling year 2 is going to be just as epic, if not more so. 

So, if you’re off to university this autumn have an amazing time, good luck, and don’t worry if it’s harder than you thought.  That’s normal!

Just remember sometimes the expectation that something is going to be the best thing ever, makes it a little harder.