some reflections on love

i do not think love can be quantified in chocolates. in oversized teddy bears, or roses and social media posts proving it so. love…is an essence. it flows within us. it exists in the sound of laughter, within the flutter of heartbeats and in the first light breaking over the horizon, it is raw and powerful and important. far too important to be summarised in the pre-printed words of a hallmark card, or squashed into heart-shaped trinkets found in the seasonal aisle of supermarkets. but it can be amplified by such. i do not think the campaign against capitalism should discourage us from expressing our love. while yes, perhaps valentine’s day has been taken over by corporations and mis-placed social pressure that alone equals bad, and yes true love shouldn’t need a calendar reminder to be shown, in this hectic and messy life perhaps we need a day dedicated to love. it doesn’t have to be the day they’ve packaged in shiny pink paper, slapped on a price tag and shoved on the shelf, it can be a day of whatever we need it to be. our love. not about who in class received the most notes from anonymous admirers, or which celebrity can pose with the largest diamond. rather about unlocking our love, and allowing it to shine within you, and cast a sparkle on all around.

to be in love is to feel magic in this muggle world. to fall into the whirlwind intertwined with another is an experience like no other, and the comfort of a kiss paired with the security of affection is a natural thing to long for. that said, to be without romantic love is not to be without love. we need to shake the toxic, collective belief that we are incomplete until we find our “other half”. so, instead of allowing a feeling that you have somehow failed to embrace you, reach out to a relative you haven’t seen since the christmas reunion. reconnect with an old school friend, and reminisce of times gone by. surround yourself with those who bring out your sunshine. there are many ways to feel and experience love, and none are less than the other.

sometimes, struggles in this world, and indeed those struggles within ourselves, can make reaching for human connection hard. if humanity has let you down find of late, don’t push yourself past comfort in the name of love. when love is, as has been so excellently put, actually all around. find it in the world, through connecting with nature. it is drifting with the gentle breeze, and echoing on the back of a dog’s bark. find it in the feel of a soft blanket, the smell of fresh coffee or the taste of melted cheese.

if this time in your life does bring you in the pursuit of romantic love, know what it is you are looking for. i do not mean in hair colour or height, but in what role this romancer will play in your life. look for another not so you have an answer to “any plans this valentine’s day?”, but so you have someone to share your love with. view romantic love not as your completion, but as a special addition to your already whole self. we can work on making ourselves feel whole through self-love. we are all complex compilations of memories and senses and cells. when sifting through this, there are always things that crop up as seemingly unlovable. the things about us we were told were wrong as a child, or those things that differ from the faces on the screens. learn to embrace these parts of you. at least, as a starting point, learn to look past them. do not let one thing define the array of wonder that you are. think on your loved ones, has a blemish or a loud voice or a tummy roll ever obstructed your love of them? see yourself as beautiful. as a complete and magical individual who is entirely deserving of love. look in the mirror and tell yourself the words you’d want to hear from an admirer, or the words you would whisper to a loved one. “I am beautiful. I am powerful. I am glowing. I am loved.” find the belief that all this love can come from you. in fact, it is already there.

have a happy valentine’s day, whatever that means for you.

with love,

kirsty x

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a letter to God (whatever that might be)

Hi God,

I’m not sure if that’s the correct way to address you. I confess it’s been a while since I attended church. In there, I’m sure they use the term “dear”, which I suppose derives from caring (my dear), but it feels awfully formal. A sign of respect, I suppose, for the Great Almighty. But perhaps it gets lonely, being above one and all. Perhaps you are lonely, and would prefer a casual greeting. From one existence to another. Or perhaps you can’t hear me at all. Perhaps you don’t exist.

It’s been a long time since we talked. Or rather, since I talked to you. We’ve never engaged in dialogue. I imagine because on the rare occasion I did call on you, on my own outside of the communal prayer of the church hall, it was on a trivial matter. I remember sitting in my bathroom, looking out to the winter world and asking you for snow. A heavy enough snowfall that I would not have to attend school the next day. In a world rife with terror and disaster, it is no surprise such a selfish request fell on deaf ears. That is, I always took the lack of snow the next day to mean you were not listening. Later, as added proof that you could not exist. However, now I wonder if you did hear. If the lack of snowfall was a message. That I should not hide in fear. Back then, I don’t think I would’ve characterised it as fear but it was. School and with it the demands of successful social interaction and getting all the answers right was daunting. Perhaps you knew, as I do now, that by hiding from that which fears us, we only increase that fear. That by allowing me to attend school, snow free, you were showing me, it really wasn’t that bad. Maybe I would make a joke and no one would laugh. Maybe I’d get some answers wrong that day, but I would be okay. I suppose you would know that, being all knowing. 

I’m not sure what to picture when addressing you. You used to be an old man sitting on clouds, taken straight from an illustration in the children’s bible. Then I discovered feminism and thought, if God is real, why couldn’t she be a woman. Now I think it’s much more likely you’re neither. 

The concept of omnipresent is not an easy one to wrap one’s head around. I recall myself as a cocky thirteen year old piping up in RMPS, having just learned about atoms in chemistry, that God must be atoms, then, because they’re everything and in everything. I thought I’d found strength in the anger of my atheism. That I knew the real truth. A truth built on facts and tangible proof. That to believe was to be naive: openly accepting words written years and years ago with no real evidence. I was missing the point. That with belief, you don’t need evidence because you believe. And in the darkness of my room in the early hours I would curse my sensible brain for seeing through the facade of you. I would wish that I could believe. That there was someone I could turn to. That I could I have absolute faith I would make it to sunrise. 

I did. Always make it to sunrise. Maybe that was me or, maybe that was you. I see now that my cynicism wasn’t granting me any strength and in the moment I longed for faith all I had to do was embrace it. Ask you for something more than a snowfall. 

The world is complicated and messy. People are complicated and messy. It’s easy to lose faith as we let out our planet burn and turn on each other because we don’t look the same and close our boarders because apparently “united we stand, divided we fall” hasn’t yet been repeated enough. But God, I don’t think it’s time for another flood. I think we can climb out of this, somehow. I don’t know how, but I have faith. I think, if we all had more faith, it could help. 

I’ve grown to believe that absolute truth doesn’t come from facts, figures or science experiments. It’s something quite different. It’s feeling. And it exists in the in-between. I see truth in the leaves: as they turn golden, when they fall and when they grow. In glittering night skies overpowering with beauty. In 5am laughter and in kisses that make the world go quiet. 

I don’t know if you created the universe. Perhaps particles collided and when the universe exploded into existence, so did you. In the energy in everything and in the spaces in-between. Or perhaps you really are an old man in the clouds with a golden trident in hand. 

I don’t expect an answer. A booming reply or a face in the sky, quite frankly that might scare me. I don’t know if you can hear me, or if you can if you’re listening. It’s okay if you’re not, I know you are plenty in demand and right now, I’m doing okay on my own. But I know you could be. Listening. And I know that if I need you, I can find you. That in the darkness, or when I’m scared,  I’ll find you: somewhere my behind eyelids, or dancing on a star. In the in-between. 

While I hope I don’t need to call upon you soon, I also hope it’s not so long before we talk. Thank you for everything (I’ll try not to fuck it up). 

Until next time,

Kirsty 

Label-less and Lost, or Labeled and Boxed?

After leaving my film degree I was so quick to attach the label of “writer”. It wasn’t a revelation, I’ve always been a writer. Only now I had the time to start a blog. Now, I didn’t have uni briefs and deadlines and cameras. I was in a lull. Not really a film student, but not not one either. I’d been wearing the “filmmaker” label for years, but oh so uncommittedly. Only one arm in the jacket. The filmmaker-label-jacket, the one that was two sizes too small, or two sizes too big. (Did it slip off or did I wriggle free?)

It is true I am a writer. No ghost is writing these words. However, I’m yet to receive my writer-label-jacket. I made sure they took the measurements this time, but now I’m not sure I want it. With the writer-jacket on, it seems certain the filmmaker one won’t fit. Can I swap? Come up with some arrangement? It didn’t fit right but I sure did like the style. It’s not quite ready for the charity shop pile. No.

And what about “actor”? “Model”, “musician”, “magician”? (Scratch the last one.) 

I haven’t read the label jacket manual, if anyone’s got a spare copy let me know, but I’m not sure they let you have more than one. More than one label-jacket. It seems to be more of an exchange situation.

I’m shuffling labels. My heart set on whichever one lands on top of the pack.

I think I need a patch jacket. Each label a patch. It may need to be a quilt. A patch quilt. To curl up in, to hide in…

No, not hide. Not hide anymore. A patch cape. A Superhero cape. “Patch-girl! She does multiple things at once!” (We’ll work on the branding.)

In 2013 Aiden Grimshaw was on the X factor (stay with me) and I liked him. In an interview, he said his favourite quote was

To define is to limit – Oscar Wilde

It became my favourite quote too. I confess, it was many years later I learned it was from The Picture of Dorian Gray, and that I still do not know it’s context. Sorry, but I don’t think it matters. It resonated with me and has never ceased to. I remember looking around school, thinking ‘God, how right is that Oscar Wilde guy’. Cool kid or geek, everyone is limited by their definitions. And I decided I didn’t want that. I did not want to be limited. and so I refused to be defined.

The thing is though, we all want to belong. Definitions place us somewhere. Labels give us belonging. For years I have wrested with wanting to be unlimited, and wanting to find my fit. Be it my sexuality; career; mental health, or even my personality, I’ve struggled too find the label that fit. But I didn’t want the label. And then, I felt lost.

Imagine, if you’ll indulge me, a society that doesn’t produce any label-jackets. (It’s a system entirely out of business.) One where no one asks their five year olds what they want to be when they grow up, excepting a career plan from a child. Where there’s no expectation to come out when who you love doesn’t align with the norm. Beings existing from one moment to the next. Fulfilled, in alignment. Not defined by your limitations, or expectations. Not hindered by their own.

Labels define us, but communities give us belonging. People, including ourselves, give us belonging through acceptance. Faith and love, and just a little bit of fairy dust.

Labeled and boxed? Me? No, not ever. Label-less and lost? Not that either.

Flying through the sky with my patch cloak. Not patches of labels, patches of memories: of passions; loves; hopes; dreams. Shimmering, never static. No, not label-less and lost.

Label-less and free.

dropping out, changing dreams

Now, when someone says “edit”, I no longer think of the editing of pictures and sounds, but of words.

In my interview to study digital film production at Ravensbourne I said I wanted to be a filmmaker because film was my longest lasting passion. I knew it wasn’t true, but I thought it sounded impressive. It was, and is, true I am passionate about film. The bubbling excitement after seeing a masterpiece, that’s still there. The yearning desire to know how they did it, how every inch of it came together, that’s still there. But the envisioned future of me as a successful director, who will to do anything, everything to get there? Not so much. The belief that digital film production at Ravensbourne was the place for me? No, not that either. 

In high school I was voted only second most likely to win an Oscar. It’s like they knew.

I do not regret my decision to study film at Rave (that’s what the kids call it). Partly because I’m trying to adopt my housemates no regrets policy. They are, after all, useless: they only trap us in the past. And partly because of how much I gained there.

Had I not joined the DFP (kids call it) course, I wouldn’t have all the wonderful friendships I have today. I wouldn’t be able to call London home. I wouldn’t have learned and changed and grown into the me I am now. Had I not joined the DFP course, I don’t know who I’d be.

So I can only see this as a blessing. All the things I gained, a blessing. And all the things I didn’t, a blessing also. I feel frustration, of course, that I didn’t graduate the course I started out on. That now many of my friends have graduated and I’m looking at going back to university. It’s no easy task to remould your ideas of success and let go of the expectations your younger self had. It is, however, a possible task. And an important one.

I did not fail this course. In some ways, I suppose, this course failed me. But failure is an ugly word. I believe we benefitted from each other, but it just didn’t fit. Like pieces from two separate jigsaws that ended up in the same box, we were never going to fit. You can try. You can bend yourself out of shape; contort; edit yourself, but it will never be a perfect fit. Something where you have to change yourself to fit, be that a uni course; a relationship; a job, is not something that is right. You will always end up dissatisfied. It is much better to step back; to turn away; “drop out”, than to force yourself into a mould not made for you. It is not failure, nor is it giving up. It is moving on.

Moving on to the path made for you, finding your way back to your jigsaw box.

North Wembley to Waterloo (a short story)

“The train approaching platform one is a Bakerloo line train for Elephant and Castle.”

The familiar monotone female voice cut through my sleepy thoughts as I struggled to stay awake on the near empty platform. The train sped into the station and pulled to a halt with the doors directly opposite where I stood: a kindly welcome to the early morning commute. North Wembley to Waterloo. Thirty eight minutes on the stuffy and noisy London underground. It doesn’t seem particularly appealing even at the best of times but throw in an early morning, then the promise of a dull 9-5 at the other end, and it would be more than understandable for me to dread this journey. However, despite its drawbacks, the tube journey is in fact often the highlight of my day. It provides the perfect setting for my favourite pastime: people watching and daydreaming. 

This morning, like every other, I near collapsed onto my preferred seat in the centre of the carriage and glanced around at my fellow travellers. There was a woman with slightly greying hair reading “Sense and Sensibility” through a pair of spectacles at one end and at the other her polar opposite: a tall guy in his late teens tapping his foot along to the much too loud music blasting from his branded headphones. A few other sleepy heads had straggled on to the train with me and, as the doors slammed shut, they found their seats: as far away from each other as possible of course. The scent of stale cigarettes and alcohol drew my eyes to the young man sitting in the row opposite me. His tattooed arms and roughly kept beard stood out against the regular businessmen of the London commute like neon paint splattered on a white canvas. A worn black backpack was placed securely between his two equally as worn converse, and his attempt at an even composure was let down by his trembling hands. He stared blankly straight ahead, encased by the protective personal bubble everyone hides inside on the tube.

As the train drew in to Stonebridge Park the teenage boy got up, as though to leave, but instead of exiting through the first set of doors he carried on and stopped in front of the man. His lean figure obstructed my line of sight but in next to no time he had rushed off the train, leaving the man in clear view as he stuffed an envelope into his bag, which he hurriedly zipped up; apparently keen to keep any evidence of the exchange out of sight. These early stops on my route never usually introduced many interesting new faces to the mix but a girl of about twenty, who was very pretty and far too fresh faced for this early in the morning, caught my eye as she hovered for a moment near the man before deciding on the seat next to him. I noted this intriguing choice, considering the many vacant seats. Perhaps she knew him. Noticing her he raised his head with a sort of defensive curiosity that quickly dissolved into a hunger as he recognised her. 
“Hey sweetheart,” was his greeting.
She gave a small smile of acknowledgment, barely even glancing at him.
“Aw, someone not feeling very talkative today? What’s the matter?” He reached out an inked arm and placed a hand on her knee.
“Dave, I’m fine,” was her curt reply, accompanied by a turn of her head so that her hair created a shield between them. Dave. Clearly she did know him.
“Hey,” he insisted, pushing her hair back. “Hey, there’s no need to behind to be like that.”
His soft conversational voice had a steely undertone like a thin layer of sugar attempting to hide a bitter taste. I averted my eyes; concern for the girl was not enough to burst my own invisible bubble.

As the train slowed down for the next station an older man with sunken eyes got up and stopped by the tattooed man, Dave apparently. I craned my neck and could see him hand over a sealed envelope and receive a small package. He stuffed it in his pocket with a quick glance around the carriage before swiftly jumping off the now stopped train. The blonde’s eyes were left filled with disgust and, as the doors of the tube slammed, it looked as though she was going to move but a hand on her arm, and a low “you stay where you are”, kept her in her seat. Her eyes avoided his widened pupils and remained fixated on his bag. 

Two boys, around fourteen, who dripped with over-confidence stood out from the gaggle of excitable tourists who had entered the carriage through the other doors. I noted their well fitted blazers and clipped accents, typical of those travelling to public school, as they sat down at the end of the row.  

At Queens Park a third blazer-wearing boy got on. His face fell when he saw the two other boys sitting in this carriage. Unlike them he appeared timid, walking with his head down so that his red hair flopped over his eyes as though to protect him against the world; or perhaps the other boys. He turned to sit at the other end of the carriage but he was too late; they’d noticed him.
“Hey, Gareth! Come sit with us, mate,” one of them shouted over the drone of the train’s engine, his “mate” dripping with sarcasm. It soon became clear that there was plenty of history between these three. The boys moved so that Gareth was trapped in the middle of them. He sat, rigid, staring at his lap where his hands were intertwined. The other two sat uncomfortably close to him. A bullying story, then. 

The train powered on and a haggard looking woman moved to stand in front of Dave. I was unable to glimpse their direct exchange but she stayed there longer than the others. I strained my ears, attempting to decipher the inaudible mumbling that was passing between them.
“I believe this is your stop.” Dave raised his voice, keeping his tone even. She held his piercing eye contact until the bodiless voice alerted everyone to “stay clear of the doors,” pushing her to run off the train with a completely displeased expression. This less than smooth transaction left Dave distracted and his bag unzipped. I sat up in my seat, trying to have a better look and caught a flash of silver. A knife? I looked up at the girl, whose expression remained one of shocked fear, trying to gage whether she had noticed. Her lack of another attempt to move away suggested she had. 

A glance across to the boys revealed that I wasn’t the only one to notice the tattooed man’s behaviour. The bullies had taken a break from taunting Gareth to stare down the row at the man, and his bag. I focused on them, trying to tune in to the muttered comments the two were directing at Gareth. Extracts floated down the carriage, only just comprehensible over the hubbub of noise generated by the now full train.
“That guy looks like he might be dealing…”
“Certainly looks like the sort…Hey, you know, I’ve just had the best idea.”
Gareth’s eyes were still focused on his hands but his head shook in protest to the bullies plan.
“Oh, come on. Just do it.”
“…and ask for whatever he gave to that hag of a woman.”
“Nah mate, it’s no use. Little goody, mummy’s boy Gareth wouldn’t dare…”
“…shouldn’t have even suggested it. Should’ve known Gareth would be a letdown.”
Sniggering, the two boys high-fived behind Gareth’s head. Their smugness was soon wiped away and replaced with complete shock when Gareth stood from his seat and walked down the row, almost falling onto an elderly woman as the movement of the train shook his balance. Stopping next to Dave he froze for a few seconds before announcing his presence,
“I, uh, excuse me.”
“Can I help you?” Dave replied with a protective politeness.
Lowering his voice Gareth explained, “I’m interested in what’s in your bag.”
The man stared neutrally up at Gareth, remaining silent. 
“I want- what you gave, to that woman,” Gareth expanded.
The momentary panic which flashed across the Dave’s eyes was soon smoothed over with that same neutral expression.
“She’s a friend. I borrowed something from her and was just giving it back. I haven’t borrowed anything from you, have I?” His tone hardened on the last two words.
“No but- it’s just, me and the others,” Gareth said with a small gesture back to the others, who were still frozen in disbelief, “thought that you’d have something, something that sounds like mugs.”
“Look,” his calm act was slipping, “what the hell are you playing at?”

I was distracted by the train stopping at Oxford Circus, where a man got on and sat next to me. There was nothing out of the ordinary about his appearance but something about him caught my attention. Although his body was relaxed he seemed alert; his eyes flicking from one end of the carriage to next. His casual expression hardening to one of concern as he realised what was happening.

 “Just ignore the kid, please. It’s not worth it,” The girl timidly spoke out with concern for Gareth.
“You can stay out of this, sweetheart.” Dave didn’t even look at her. “And you, well, I don’t know what the hell you’re on about. Absolute rubbish, all of it, okay? So you can just get that straight in your stupid head and make clear to your little friends down there that you were all mistaken and nothing else needs to happen here.”
“You’re wrong.” Gareth corrected him, quietly, “they’re not my friends.”
The man’s muscled tensed and with a voice that had lost all of its previous sugar coating he turned back to Gareth, “What made you think you could speak to me again?”
“Please, leave it…” The girl tried again.
“I thought I told you to stay out of this,” Dave snapped, turning sharply with a raised hand hitting the blonde across the face. A united gasp rang through the carriage followed by a tense silence, but for the rumble of the train against the tracks. All protective personal bubbles had been burst. 

Before anyone else could move the man who’d been sat next to me was up and helping the girl from her seat, speaking to her softly but urgently. The little colour that Gareth had originally possessed had vacated his face and the other two boys sat in the background, looking, if possible, even more shocked than before. Dave reached quickly for his bag and began to stand, but before he could move a step the other man had turned sharply back round, pushing his hand onto Dave’s shoulder, restraining him. He continued to pull a small object out of his pocket which flashed fear through Dave’s eyes. I tilted my head and saw something reflective catch the light. A police badge.

 “The next stop is Waterloo.” I looked up in surprise; I’d been too engrossed in the story to notice the past few stops passing.  Shutting my notebook with a snap I stood up, taking a look round the carriage. The school boys sat playing games on their phones. The blonde girl sat with her head on the man’s shoulder, half asleep and perfectly content. The tattooed man sat reading the Financial Times and the policeman, well; he probably wasn’t a policeman at all. 

As I stepped off the train onto the crowded platform I thought of the best writing advice I’ve ever been given. It was a few years ago, at a talk from some author whose name I can’t even remember. She said to us “Never try and tell me you have no ideas, or that you can’t create any characters. Just look around you! There are characters everywhere. Their stories can be your story, if only you pay enough attention.” 

Recovering My Recovery

hello again old friend, it’s been a while. let me fill you in…

I feel like I need to do something about this, its been happening for years now and it’s tiring. But I can’t deal with the fact that I can’t deal with it myself. That I can’t just have another “mental overhaul” and be positive. Because even if I find the energy to do that, it’ll come back. Always does. 

This is an excerpt from a journal entry I made at the beginning of 2014. I’m happy to say, old me, it only took us over four years to fully accept that I can indeed not deal with it myself. A few weeks after writing that, I wrote again, completely disregarding my mental vomit as though embarrassed (no one else had seen it Kirsty! Did you think the pages were judging you?!). In fact, I said it had motivated me to make the year good. That “I will do, as much as I can, to make things good”. My unwillingness to embrace help ran so deep that a few weeks was enough for me to forget that I needed it. To go straight back to believing I could make myself fine with a plucky attitude.

I could not then, but maybe I can now.

I’ll be honest with you reader, I still haven’t fully learned my “recovery takes time” lesson. It’s a good lesson, a smart lesson, and I believe it, but I haven’t fully learned it. I’m impatient. I want everything and I want it now! Still part the toddler who won’t stop screaming for the ice cream. (“You’ll get it if you’re quiet!” But I WANT IT NOW) At least as a twenty year old I understand the importance of, and my need for, patience, even if I’m yet to have it. I have a good habit (a bad habit, a bad habit that I am good at) for feeling invincible as soon as I stop feeling terrible, as demonstrated by 2014 me. Right now, part of me thinks I’ve cracked it. I’m stronger now. I know what I’m doing and I’ll never be depressed again! But that’s what I said before. Years ago, and months ago, and every time I’ve been wrong. The evidence is against me. I don’t want to be depressed ever, and I’m certainly doing everything I can to stop that happening, but I have to accept that it may. What I really have to accept is that, if it does, I will get through it. I will be okay. And I will be stronger.

When I say that maybe now I can fix myself, by myself, with positivity, I don’t quite mean by myself. At the same time I do. It’s tricky. (I promise I’m not contradicting myself, you just may have to read this a few times, I have faith in you.) Now, in the year 2018, I no longer sweep my mental breakdowns under the carpet, then proceed to nail the carpet down, lock the door to the room, run twenty miles and throw the key into the sea. No. Nowadays, I say (to whoever will listen) “I went a bit crazy. Maybe thought about death a lot. It’s past now. Might happen again though!” (some of you probably long for the carpet days) I not only have accepted that my brain has some faults, I’ve accepted that I programmed many ways to fix them that only created more problems. I’ve accepted that I did not know how to fix it. I’ve accepted that others do. So, now, on the 31st May 2018 I’m in a position where I have help. A constant flow of support and people to lean on.

I said in my last update I had started CBT but after the first session I felt terrible. I had this gut feeling it wouldn’t work. Putting this down to not yet fully accepting the need for help, I went back. After all, this was what the doctor ordered. It was free; I should take it; not every one has the NHS! I should have listened to my gut. I knew the structure of it wasn’t right for me, and after a couple sessions I was discharged because I was “basically fine” and could “deal with it myself”.

I was not. I could not.

Now, I have started seeing a new counsellor. It’s more relaxed: there’s no six week deadline, no agenda. They get it, they get me: we vibe, if you like. I would also like to stress that I am very fortunate, because neither is it cheap. Well, cheap compared to some we found (£100 an hour for a healthy brain! Go on, cough up!) but it is not free. Were I not so fortunate to have a supportive, financially secure, situation, I would have been stuck. I am so thankful for the NHS, but they need more funding. And mental health needs to be a priority.

Back to the point (the point being me), I’m sure we’ll get political another time.

With this wonderful support network I have, it is keeping optimistic that will make it work. At the end of the day, it’s my brain and I am the only one who can reprogram it. They will help, of course. I could not do it without them, of course. But only I can do it, and so I will.

A moment of gratitude to that support network, to all my friends and family who listen without judgement or exception, who expect nothing of me but my continued existence, I thank you. And leave you with this, a journal excerpt from 2018:

I know I can do this. I’m scared but I know I can do this because I’m already doing it. I know it is hard. I know I’ve programmed myself to run at any sign of trouble. I can’t do that anymore. I’ve got to reprogram myself. Unpick and rearrange and rebuild. I’m not going anywhere. In fact, I’m more here than ever. More me than ever. I have to shed things I held close as my identity, like cynicism. That is not me, I am me. The me that matters. Inner me, true self. I need to listen to my gut. I need to trust myself. I need to live.

I want to live.

sleepless thoughts (some poetry)

09/05/18

i’ve been hovering pen over paper for a good while now, rejecting an inner monologue that’s past self-depreciating
no longer malleable for comedic effect, just a downer.
Confused and muddled, i’m stuck between unbelieved beliefs and lost my way in memories
Misremembered,
they had to be the best thing or the
Worst Thing Ever
i don’t dabble in the middle ground. (and all i can think is how much i want for this to be Profound)

i thought i could write myself out of this,
it seems there aren’t enough letters.
(Or perhaps I do not know how to use them)


in the immediate hours after a panic attack i’ll have yet another crystal clear wave of realisation and talk eloquently of my need for

Balance.

That’s all it is, it would fix it all!

Yet it’s past 2am, I just devoured a bag of sweets and have little inclination to sleep.

Perhaps I can get on board with the idea of reincarnation because surely I was nocturnal in a past life (I’m certainly doing my best to be so in this one)

And of course my belief in anything couldn’t come from anything other than myself. Something centred on me, because it should all be centred on me. It is
all about me,
it’s got to be.

Yet, at the same time, it’s really all about you (definition 2. used to refer to any person in general)

I’m frozen in fear before doing most anything,
Locked in a cage of what ifs.
What if I’m not good enough,
Smart, pretty, clever enough.
It’s a cage built on the ‘I’, but the locks formed on the thought of you.
Of you believing me so, so
Not Enough.

I’m not sure I’d care, were you not concerned,

But it’s hand in hand.
We’re Intertwined,
like a DNA for destruction.

So when you’ll always be here, I assume I will too, tell me –

How Do We Get Out Of This Loop?

for the Lost Hours. (a poem of sorts)

The clocks changed the other day,
I thought they were going back but they skipped forward.
Always rushing, no warning.

With the blinds always shut, day and night are indistinguishable.
And time is banished by an uncharged phone, or a clock with no batteries.
If time stops passing for me, then maybe I won’t be missing out. 

While I’m sure if you had told ten year old me she could have a life without bed time, and with midnight mars bars. Where Sunday night needn’t bring dread because Monday can be a beach day,

(did I really dread school? I don’t like the beach much.)

That there’s no schedule anymore, I am sure she would have thought wicked, or cool I can’t wait to be you, to not have school.
Or bedtime.

I cried watching Gilmore Girls the other day, the early days with Chilton and Stars Hollow High. I want a blazer and a tie,
a badge of belonging,
it’s certainly harder to disappear when Miss is there to hear you say here. 

(Christ this coffee is disgusting. I used to laugh at my mum turning her nose up at instant. But then,
“we all become our mothers!”) 

Instant how the digital clocks change,
I thought we were going back, but they’d skipped forward.
How poetic, how fitting.
A lost hour, to join
So many lost hours,
My ceiling gets far too much attention from me.

Now, I am sure it is silly to believe in wasted potential at only age twenty,
Maybe I’ll find this at fifty and my kids will laugh at me.

(sorry to be morbid, I know not that, it’s what’s coming)

I just can’t shake the worry I won’t make it that far. 

get back up again (it’s not over yet)

February 22nd, 1am: Things got bad again, and I got sad again. But it’s time to get back up again.

At the end of January, I was excited. February was all mapped out: a month fuelled by self-improvement filled with learning and progression. Most of the blog posts I wanted to upload in the month were completed before the week was out. I had enquired about multiple jobs. On the 2nd, I went to the doctors and arranged a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) appointment. Each day was accompanied with a journal entry. Videos were added to my ‘fitness’ YouTube playlist while I researched meditation and self-help books. Everything glowed with a feeling of ‘this is it!’ I’ve tried before, but not properly, this is me really trying and It Is Going To Work. I am going to be okay. Really okay. Then, one day, my stomach was in knots. My heart rate quicker, uneven. The words no longer came easy and I found my self unable to concentrate on the page. It’s strange how quickly things descend even when you know all the warning signs. Even when you know all the recommended ways to combat them. I spent days in bed: doing my best to ignore everyone; not wanting to eat or wanting to eat too much (of all the wrong things); happily awake during the night then wanting only to escape to dreamland when met with sunlight. I was only driven to watch endless episodes of old British comedy panel shows. I am still haunted by Jimmy Carr’s laugh.

You would think over the years one would get used to a life of highs and lows. Be quite able to acknowledge that, ‘well this feels crap but at least I know it’s not lasting, I’ve felt better before and I will again’. Alas anxiety does not allow for any such logic. I had failed to listen to my own advice: Recovery is a journey that takes time.

What was blocking the sound of my own words of wisdom (ahem) is that I have always been a perfectionist. Which, on the surface, may not seem like a bad thing. Wanting to achieve the best and refusing to settle for mediocrity must surely result in endless high achievements. However, there is a difference between being driven to do well and being unable to embrace that doing less than the very best is really quite alright. Feeling you have to be the best in every area of life creates enormous pressure. I imagine perfectionism manifests differently from person to person but for me, as soon as I feel I’m not doing very well at something I stop doing it at all. I’ve developed an attitude that it is better to not do something than to do something and it be “just okay”. This has not only had a negative effect on my work, I see now how it has repeatedly halted my progression in all areas of life, such as recovery. I want to be able to fix everything all at once, so as soon as that fails I feel it is not worth trying at all. But it is. It is always worth a try (or many).

This reminds me of a pattern that has been prevalent throughout my life. Most notably at New Years, but also birthdays, beginnings of school years…met by anything that marks significance I would feel like “turning a new leaf”. That now, this year, I’ll start drinking more water; make sure I eat 5 fruit/veg a day; exercise; learn a language; have a proper skin care routine! And so on. Not that these are bad things to aim for. In fact, these ideals are intrinsic parts of my current recovery. However, when put together as a big, old list of things that must be completed (and in my mind, completed to the absolute best) it can create more pressure than good. Adopting a one day at a time ideology it can (I hope) make completing the bigger aims easier. Starting out the day with an idea of little things to achieve that will contribute to a better lifestyle is much more doable than trying to alter many grandiose ideals all at once.

Coming out of a spell of low mood, I tend to find myself filled by energy and desire to do all the things, all at once. However, after a few days when I have levelled out to normal (whatever normal is) I am tainted by the disappointed that the last drive for better-ness bitterly failed. I am keenly aware that what I need in my life, what’s absence is the root of many a problem, is balance. In this scenario, alike to many another, I need to try to inject some balance. It is a conscious effort, one I seldom make despite being so aware of a need to. I am starting to see recovery as a serious of conscious efforts, conscious decisions, conscious change until, after time and practice, they no longer need to be as conscious. That, after time and practice, we have adapted to think differently and, therefore, live differently (where differently equals better). So, in coming out of this particular spell of low mood, I am making a conscious effort to review it in balance. There is no point in denying that it is disappointing and unwanted, but there is much point in finding some good to outweigh that. But what good can come from a setback, from days wasted hiding away? Well, I finally got round to watching The Mighty Boosh, something I’ve been aware of since my early YouTube days, and I loved it. I have rediscovered, or perhaps re-remembered, my love of comedy and desire to be more of a funny person (maybe even a funny person that gets up on stage and says a series of funny things, I’ll keep you posted). And, perhaps more fundamentally than binge watching everything Noel Fielding’s ever done, I have learned my own lesson: Recovery is a journey that takes time. It is also not, sadly, a journey down a straight, slightly downhill road. There’s ups, downs, twists and turns and there’s no way to cheat to the finish line. It sounds disheartening, but I believe it is a positive. I accept that I have to put the work in to be able to receive the award. And, oh, what a reward it will be.

So how do I move forward? I’ve outweighed the negative with some positive but it doesn’t alter that fact that February, the big month of self improvement, is drawing to a close with both my mental and living state vastly the same as they were before. Firstly, I won’t repeat mistakes. March will not be viewed as the month to fix all errors, but rather each day of the month will be filled with achievable tasks to reach the higher goal. I left my first session of CBT disheartened, quickly convinced that it’s system wouldn’t work for me. Since then, I have taken a step back, done some research and convinced myself to maintain an open mind. I am currently reading the book Brilliant Cognitive Behavioural Therapy by Dr Stephen Briers. So far I’m finding it interesting and engaging, but will share more expansive thoughts upon completion. Another book which I found very helpful is Russell Brand’s Recovery, which I’ll be posting a review of soon. In part inspired by Brand, I’ve been researching spirituality and trying to practice meditation. One of the things that really disheartened me when I felt down was my inability to envision a future for myself. Not in the sense I didn’t want a future, but rather that I don’t know where I’m headed, and so don’t know what I’m aiming for. In order to retain excitement about an open future, in which there can be endless opportunity, I’m aiming to practically explore my different interests to see where they lead. I have also concluded I do not need a life plan filled with shiny, specific career and family goals to aim for during recovery because the very notion of being recovered should be enough to aim for. Once mental health is managed, I can be more proactive in setting out on the next journey. Until then, I will do my best to stay focused on this journey, and stay positive that I can make it to the finish line.

I hope you’re doing well, more content coming soon.

kirsty x


related posts:

https://kirstydianasmith.wordpress.com/2018/01/24/recovery-and-the-time-it-takes/

https://kirstydianasmith.wordpress.com/2018/01/31/my-journey-to-mental-stability/

 

my journey to mental stability

hello,

today i want to invite you to join me on my journey to mental stability. which sounds a little cheesy, but basically i am setting out to sort out this silly old brain of mine. my hope is that in documenting this i will be more determined to stick to my goals, and that maybe it will help encourage others to look after themselves, too. i have been suffering from anxiety since the age of thirteen, but it is in the past year that my ill mental health has had a more significant impact on my day to day life. last year, i think it was in February, i diagnosed with depression by a GP. my diagnosis came about by the doctor asking me what i wanted to gain from the appointment. after i expressed a wish to understand the problem: a diagnosis, perhaps of depression, and he responded with “oh yes, you are depressed”. this is an accurate reflection of the majority of encounters i have had with doctors regarding my mental health. when i first went to the doctors to discuss the problems i experienced as a young teenager i felt very dismissed, as though my problems weren’t being acknowledged as real. it seems to me there is a lack of understanding of mental health problems by a lot of general practitioners. months on from my depression diagnosis, I had been taking citalopram, a common antidepressant, but was still experiencing extremely low mood and high anxiety. in December i was fortunate enough to see a private psychiatrist to have an assessment and discuss my treatment options.

His opinion is that i am suffering from generalised anxiety disorder but am not clinically depressed. it is instead the periods of high anxiety that cause my low mood. this was hard to get my head around having accepted a label of depression, but it explained why the anti-depressants had little effect. i think his assessment his accurate and it shows how sometimes doctors can get things wrong. i think a psychiatric assessment should be carried out prior to any diagnosis or brain altering drug is prescribed.

i am now aiming to adapt my lifestyle to improve my mental health. exercise is vital for all areas of health so i have started swimming, gone back to horse riding and am looking up exercises i can carry out at home. other small improvements are a higher intake of water and a better diet. when i am feeling bad my sleeping and eating patterns go completely all over the place so i am doing my best to keep them on track. i am researching CBT and hope to start seeing a counsellor soon. ultimately, i am trying to keep in touch with myself and focus on parts of my life that need improvement and make me happy. if you have any advice on how to achieve mental wellbeing, let me know! i will keep you updated with my journey,

i hope you are well,

kirsty x