No means no, not try harder.

Every Sunday evening, I get a phone call from my Dad. We catch up on what we’ve been up to in the week, talk about the news, my work, his work, and how many days it is until I’m heading home.

But recently I’ve noticed a pattern in what our conversations are like when I tell him about a night out. There’s nearly always a mention of me, or my friends, being disrespected by men. Whether it’s a story about one of us getting shoved at a bar or in the crowd, or the fact we’d had to shout at someone to get off of us.

And I realized just how sick I am of being treated like an object. 

I am sick and tired of walking around in a club and being groped.

I am sick and tired of having to shout at a boy to get his hands off of me.

Mostly, I am so sick and tired of how some people think this is ok.

There seems to be this assumption that if this kind of thing happens to you, you were ‘asking for it’. That your behaviour warranted you being touched without consent, or that you’re simply overreacting. People will say things like;


“You shouldn’t wear such revealing clothes then”
“What do you expect if you’re dancing like that?”
“Maybe he was just too shy to talk to you”

I’m calling bullshit on all of it.

I’m a 21 year old woman, and I can dress how I want to. I can dance how I want with my friends. I can tell you to fuck off if your hands are on my body without my permission. I can tell the bouncer you’re harassing me, because you are.

I want to know where this idea that if a girl’s in a tight skirt, or a low cut top, she’s giving you consent to touch her. If she’s alone, clearly looking for her friends who are still in the loos, she wants your company. Or if she says no, she really means yes.

The amount of hands I’ve taken off my body, feet I’ve stamped on, and grown men I have argued with for being disrespectful towards me and my friends, seriously upsets me. And I don’t want my future daughter, or my little cousin, or any other girl to have to continue to put up with this.


“Learn to take a compliment you bitch”
“How else was I meant to get your attention?”
“Chill out you psycho”

Those are just some of the choice responses I’ve gotten over the years when I ask the boys and men who touch me without my consent, “What do you think you’re doing, get off me.”

What baffled me most is that boys think this behaviour is ok. They act shocked and offended when you pull them up on their behaviour. Instead of saying “Hey, what’s your name?”, they grab whatever part of your body moves past them without saying a word. Why are we told as girls to stay safe, and warned of this behaviour, but nobody is talking to boys about what consent is and why grabbing the body of a stranger is never ok?

 This ‘boys will be boys’ mindset has to stop.

The excuse that they act this way because they’re attracted to you has to stop.

The feeling of fear every girl feels when they get groped or touched without their permission, has to stop.

I have had someone whip me with their jacket to get my attention whilst standing at a bar. I’ve had my drink spilt over deliberately when I’ve said no. I’ve been shoved in a crowd when I move someone’s hands off of my body. I’ve been called a slut, a bitch and a prude for telling a boy to get away from me.

And the way I dress, or act, or speak, hasn’t asked for any of it.

Nobody asks for this behaviour. Nobody deserves being treated like this.

Of all the things university has taught me, the number one thing I’m taking away from it is that some boys are truly vile. Their attitude towards women, their self entitlement, and their complete lack of respect is truly disgusting. And I will not miss having to deal with them.

Thankfully, we’re living in a time where the movement to end this is stronger than ever and our voices protesting this are louder and actually being heard. Sexual harassment is not a joke, it’s not over exaggerating and it’s not to be taken lightly.

 

It’s time for this to stop. #TIMESUP

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If you’ve been affected by anything mentioned in this blog post go to:

Citizen’s Advice on Sexual Harassment

Reporting sexual harassment – Rape Crisis UK

 

Am I normal?

My 21st birthday was the best birthday I have ever had.

I don’t do anything in halves, and I am most definitely that person who throws my birthday in everyone’s face. I love being made a fuss off, big surprises and being surrounded by everyone I love. My lovely housemates this year went above and beyond to make my day special, and truly made me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. 

I spent the night in an over the top dress, with big hair, big heels and forcing everyone at the bar to do tequila shots with me. I epitomised your stereotypical party girl.

You wouldn’t think that a girl dealing with anxiety would be a fan of all that attention and partying. But on a good week, that’s the kind of girl I am. On a bad week, it’s a whole other story.

 

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetThere are a lot of times where I don’t want to see or talk to anybody. I don’t want to socialise or have to start a conversation. I want to hide in my room, under all the duvet and blankets I can and block everything and everyone, out.

This is how my anxiety makes me feel. I get this overwhelming feeling of fear that I’ll manage to fuck up whatever I attempt. I start to convince myself that my work isn’t good enough, that I’m wasting my time. I start to think that I’m bad at what I do, that I’m a bad friend and a bad daughter. All because on that particular day, my anxiety has gotten the better of me.

So, on days like that I keep myself to myself. I shut off, and shut people out until I’ve done what I need to do to make it go away. Knowing that you’re isolating yourself from people who care about you is a very odd and horrible feeling. You’re fully aware of what you’re doing, and you know you should probably stop, but you don’t. Because you’re scared of burdening people.

For me, I know I have a group of friends that would never judge me. They may not always understand the way I’m feeling, but they are always there for me. Same goes for my parents and the rest of my family. They all know that sometimes, I just need to be alone for a while to gather my own thoughts and come up with my own solution to my problem.

On a bad day,  I don’t want to talk about it, because then I have to confront it. I don’t want to take my mind off it by socialising, because then I’ll just be in the same mood, but surrounded by people and having to fake being ok. I just want to zone out, and care for myself.  And I do that by writing, reading, working or having a 45 minute shower listening to Adele. Belting out chasing pavements is oddly therapeutic, try it yourself.

IMG_0074Nevertheless, being 21 and having this mindset can make you feel abnormal. You start to feel like the awkward kid on the playground that people whisper about. And you start to become paranoid that people really are judging you.

“How can she expect to make things better if all she does is spend her time alone?”

You look around, and it seems like everyone else in your life is galavanting out and about, care-free and enjoying themselves. It makes you wonder why that’s not you. You start asking yourself, “Why can’t I be spontaneous and fun? Why don’t I want to be out of the house more and with people? Am I causing my own anxiety?”

But the reality is, I am this way, because I am an anxious person. It’s in me, like it is in everyone to an extent, only mine creeps up to the surface and tries to take over more often than normal. My anxiety can go from mild to chronic in a matter of minutes sometimes. Other times, it can go months without affecting me. But it’s a part of who I am.

What I’m learning now is that it doesn’t have to control me. My mental health needs to be nurtured, not ignored, and accepting that it’s a part of me, but not something that has to change me is the first step to tackling it. Accepting my issues, and learning what to do for myself to make it manageable is the best thing I’ve done. It’s enabled me to stop worrying about what other people think about me, and start to tackle how I think about myself.

I’m still in my beta state. But I’m getting there. 

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I was told and taught from a young age by my parents that “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. This very simple statement has stayed with me, as an annoying little niggle in the back of my mind that pops up whenever I’m about to lose out on something I want. It creeps in through my ear, whispers to me ‘you’re being a doormat’, and suddenly I’m being very frank and forward about what I want whilst internally cringing at the fact I’m being so confrontational and honest.

It’s a trait that has since proven to work for me. There have been multiple occasions where my success has come from simply asking for an opportunity, and strangers giving me a chance. I never feel confident in doing it, but I force myself to ask the awkward questions because if I don’t, nobody else will do it for me. You have to make your own luck, and you won’t get anywhere by staying quiet on the side lines.

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Some see this attitude of going for what you want and making things happen as arrogant. They think that you’re big headed, and obnoxious. In reality, this ‘I want it, so I’m going to get it’ comes from my need and want to prove my worth and ability. You don’t get anywhere in life without putting yourself out there, even if it ends in you looking like an absolute idiot.

I am by no means the most outgoing person. If anything, I’m a massive introvert. But I have learnt through experience that if you don’t push for something to happen, it will never happen. If you don’t get up again every time you get knocked back, you’ll end up sitting at square 1, wishing you’d just said something.

The older I get the more I realise that people are genuinely interested in your successes. Whether or not they show that in a kind way, it’s true. If you’re working hard and reaping rewards, people notice, and they want in. They want to know how you’re doing it, what you did to get it and how they too can get a piece of it. But most people are too proud to say “Hey I’m really interested in what you’re doing, would love to know how to do it myself”.  Instead they’ll call you a try hard, or a slave to your work and scoff at anything you do.

Remember that nobody else but you can get you to where you want to be. People can advise you, and give you chances, but ultimately you are the one doing the work and putting in the time to even get that advice or that chance. So don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion, and focus on you.

 

 

 

“So, what are your plans after Graduation?”

Coming to the end of my education has hit me like a tonne of bricks this month. Maybe it’s the petrifying pressure felt from starting a new year, or the fact the world and their wife all want to know what my plans are after graduation. Either way, the lists of things to do from now until I hand in my dissertation is twice as long as my idea for what I actually want to do with my future.

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My first year room at uni

Coming out of christmas mode and returning to university after three weeks of care free festivities with friends and family made me realise something. This is the first time, since I was 4 years old, that I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing come september.

Every new year has started with the same goal; get through the next few terms of school, countdown the days until summer and then prepare for the next school year. But now, all I’m preparing for is to be done with education. I’m finally going to be done with assignments, assessment briefings, lectures, presentations and all the mundane control that comes being in the education system. At the age of 21 I am finally in charge of my day to day agenda. Yes, I chose to go to university, but I didn’t get a say in what I spent every day doing.

These are all very first world, privileged problems I admit. But nonetheless, it’s painfully daunting. Becoming independent and free to do as I please at the age of 21 opens up so many new doors that I never had access too before.

Before I decided to go to uni, I was adamant that I was going to work, save and travel. I had convinced myself that I would never achieve the A Level grades I needed to be accepted to university, so chose to plan to fail instead. But now, I’ve proved my 18 year old self wrong, and managed to get through three years of hard work, late nights, partying and meeting lifelong friends only to find myself back at square one.

Now here I am, telling myself not to get my hopes up about getting my dream job, and accepting that things won’t go the way I’ve planned. A lot happens in the space of a year, even 6 months ago my post-graduation plans were a world away in difference to what they are now. But change is good, and I have to learn to embrace it.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetI’ve learnt a lot during my three years in Bournemouth. I realised I am a very impatient person that doesn’t share easily, I discovered my ability to meet a deadline no matter what regardless of how much sleep I’ve had, and I’ve met people who I can’t imagine living life without.

 

The next chapter is scary, and I might not be 100% ready for it yet, but I’m excited to see where it takes me. 

The Black Dog

 

When it comes to talking about how I feel, I’m a pretty open book.

From a young age I found talking about my feelings pretty easy. I was lucky enough to be brought up with a knowledge that if I had a problem, I could always talk to my family about it. No judgment, no questions asked, just listening.

So when it came to light when I was 16 that I was suffering with depression, there were no questions. I got all the support I needed. But that doesn’t make living with it any easier. As much as having people around you who support and love you helps, your head doesn’t suddenly decide to mend itself.

Mental health is a personal thing for everyone, in any respect. Whether you know someone who has suffered from it, have been directly affected by someone else’s struggles with it or suffer yourself. It affects us all.

In times like now when a lot of people are starting new adventures, I feel it important to stress that not coping is ok. Not being able to deal with your own mind isn’t weak, it’s human. With everything that’s thrown our way we’re all doing pretty well to still be standing.

Depression and anxiety are difficult to explain. Everyone, I feel, has different experiences with them and the same diagnosis doesn’t mean the same experience. One person can go years living their life without another soul knowing what they’re battling, another can completely crumble under the pressure of dealing with it. It’s always different, and doesn’t need to be explained.

For me, depression comes in waves. When I feel like I can’t cope with the pressure I put on myself, or I feel like I’m losing control of a part of my life, it comes back around. Like a slap in the face, I suddenly don’t want to see people, don’t want to get out of bed and any discussion about my feelings is promptly shut down. I know the signs, I know when it starts. But everytime, no matter how much help I’ve gotten, it’s never easy to admit I need more.

More help, more love, more support. You start to feel selfish for needing it.

But no matter how much I push against it, I always end up giving in and admitting defeat. Yet again I’m knocked down by my own mind, my own strength, or lack of.

I have to remind myself that I am in a constant beta state. I am not complete yet, I will always have more work to do and be faced with more lessons to learn.

Mental health is not a quick fix. There are so many outlets to help you cope with it, and it’s all about trial and error. First step is asking your loved ones for help with it. And if they’re not around, or you’re not ready to involve them, your doctor, support worker, school counselor or even school nurse is your first point of call. Tell them how you feel, even if you don’t really know what it is. Feeling upset, lost, numb from feeling or just confused is reason enough. Talking about it, and letting it out into the open is the first big step to helping it get better.

It took me a long time to get my head around the fact that one session with a therapist wasn’t the fix. It was countless sessions, processing them when I got home, logging my emotions, writing down how I felt if I couldn’t verbally explain it. And then accepting that the underlying reasons for my depression were done and had to be let go. It was confusing, it hurt at times, but it’s the best thing I ever did.

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Photos in this post were taken by Flo Crowcroft 

I know a lot of people will feel confused by a post like this.

“Why’s she telling the internet about this? Why does she think people even care?”

But I wish I had read something like this at 16. When I needed someone on my wavelength, of a similar age, to tell me how I felt didn’t make me a ‘psycho’. That feelings, deep or not were valid no matter what other people thought. I wish I had had some reassurance that this internal struggle didn’t have to rule my life, and it would eventually teach me a lot more than I ever realised.

Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as ‘The Black Dog’. It supposedly dates way back to poets and writers who used it themselves, but regardless it is still used to describe a person’s depression.

It may not help everyone, but I was shown the video below when I was struggling to help better understand what it is I was going through and feeling. It isn’t a cure, or a fix to anything, but a little knowledge can take you a long way.

So, if you’re struggling, or know someone who is, just remember it doesn’t stay this bad forever. Every new day is a new opportunity to get better. And it will never, ever define you.

 

If you need help, but don’t know who to talk to first, check out these websites:

YoungMinds

Samaritans

Mind UK

NHS UK

 

 

The Slump

We’re all faced with hurdles in life. Times of difficulty, confusion and sadness. One of these said times is when we are faced with the reality that Summer is well and truly done, and months of coats, dull skies and an extra blanket on the end of your bed are approaching.

Personally, I live for these times. The long nights in, the shorter days where being in your joggers by 3pm is totally acceptable. But really, the fact it becomes acceptable to cover up head to toe is what is really appealing.

There’s no doubt that the summer months bring a sense of dread to some of us. The thought of revealing your body to everyone can make even the most confident wince. No matter how many body positive instagram accounts I follow, that first time being in a bikini in public can feel like I’m walking around completely naked. My mind tells me everyone can see the weird dimples in my thighs, that they’re judging my cellulite and stretch marks. My stomach isn’t rippling with abs or definition and my hips bulge over my waistband. What I fail to realise is that in reality, nobody else even notices these things. Even if they do, they don’t tell me about it. So why do I care so much?

 

 

For me, my body is something I’ve never been one hundred percent content with. I go through phases, like I’m sure many others do, of wanting to hide it under as many layers as possible. I have accepted by now that I will never be a skinny girl, because i’m just not built that way. But my blotchy freckled skin, wide hips and thighs are just some of the things I wish I could change, but know I have no control over.

It all comes down to what we’re told is acceptable and desirable. I won’t get into the social pressures on body image right now, that’s for another time; but it seems that no matter how major or minor, we can only focus on the negative aspects of our bodies which are practically invisible to others.

So, when winter comes around, we start to feel safe again. No more getting our bodies out in public. No more dressing in next to nothing to save ourselves from the heat. We’re back to hiding in our clothes again, safe under the layers of jumpers, coats and scarves. There’s no need to be shapely anymore, we can just become human squares layered in different types of wool.

We’d all rather hide away from our issues, be them mental or physical. But when it comes to how we feel about our bodies it’s never good to ignore it. I personally believe no matter what size or shape you’ve been made into, you are perfect. If you are happy with it, then that’s all that matters. If you haven’t quite learnt how to love it yet, like me, then just keeping working on it. Whether exercise, socialising, researching or just talking about how you feel helps you, just do it. Do what’s good for you, when you want to do it. There’s no right or wrong way to love yourself.

No matter how you feel about your body, don’t forget to love it through every season. Just because it’s not being shown off as much, don’t forget to take care of it. Let it rest, feed it well, and make it move when it needs to.

 

Pick yourself up from the Autumn slump. Don’t use your winter wardrobe to hide behind. You got this.

All photos in this post were taken by my oh so talented friend Flo Crowcroft. Be sure to check her out here

PEACHY T-Shirt : Get it here 

Stronger Together.

Manchester.

The city of unity. The place  where you feel like you’ve been there forever as soon as you step into it. Manchester embodies pride and warmth, which transcends through the streets and into the hearts of the people who live there.

Sadly, it is also a place where over 20 people lost their lives, and over 50 were injured at Manchester Arena last night by a suicide bomber whilst they enjoyed a night of fun and music.

Today has been a day of reflection, grief, solidarity and confusion. Waking up to this news was harrowing. For more innocent people to be targeted, with many of them children and young people was incomprehensible.

Social media platforms were overflowing with constant updates, opinions and theories as to who, why and when it all happened. Videos submitted and published, pictures of the wounded leaked. Pleas from parents yet to find their children. Photographs of children and teenagers with the words “missing” above them shared.

It’s a surreal incident that has sent shock waves across the world. Celebrity’s words of comfort saturated social media, with fans and fellow musicians alike sending words of comfort to Ariana Grande, as she tried to process how something so barbaric could have happened at her concert.

This outcry for justice was met with some damaging words. Words that divide and place blame on the innocent.

But there were also stories of heroism. The homeless who were waiting outside the area to beg for money were some of the first to run into the arena to help those in need. The emergency services who risked their lives to save everyone else’s. Locals opening their homes and arms to anyone that needed shelter or comfort.

What started as a night of escapism to celebrate music, love and fun turned into a story of horror that will be told and remembered for years to come. Those who lost their lives will always be remembered. Those who survived will be left confused and somewhat traumatised from witnessing such an ordeal.

But today has also shown the heart of Britain. Our strengths lie in the diversity, culture, unity and love that the British people share and spread. This tragic incident has shown just how strong we are, and how resilient we will remain to be to any threat that comes to attempt to destroy our pride.

Do not focus on the hate, bitterness or aggression. Look at the good, the kindness and the love that has been shown by all.

We are stronger together. Do not let these events divide us.

If you’ve been affected by the attacks, click here for support and guidance.

Purge Appeal

When you were five, it was of utmost importance that you had someone to walk out onto the playground with. The same went for bathroom visits as well. Pack mentality was drilled in early on, and none of us questioned it.

These were simpler times, before the number of followers you had on instagram was even a thing. Yes, I and many others my age were the last few to live in a time where social media was not the be all and end all of life. We had mobiles, but they lit up and were made of rubber. The battery life was stellar, lasting a week or more because all we did was top them up with credit we’d get from saving pocket-money and text ‘r u going 2 the park 2nite’.

We didn’t have to unfriend, block or change our account names to avoid people we didn’t like. We just stopped hanging around with them, taking our mum’s advice when she’d tell us “don’t spend time with people who do not make you happy”.

Now, we can pretend people don’t exist anymore by tapping the block button on our phones. All traces of their lives can be eradicated instantly, and it’s as if you don’t even know their name. They don’t even pop up on the back of other people’s feeds. It’s magical. That is, until you see them in person again. The toe curling, nauseating awkwardness that follows that initial meeting is more hassle than it’s worth.

Awkward moments aside though, going back to my mother’s advice is sometimes necessary.

People purging is a thing I have recently started doing across my social media accounts. I have fallen out of the habit of following people purely because we went to school together/we occasionally say hi on the high street/ I feel bad if I don’t. Instead I have regained, to some extent, control over my social media bubble. I now only follow or befriend people whose lives I take a genuine interest in, or whose work inspires me to be better. I don’t follow someone I went to primary school with who posts the same sunday roast on insta every week anymore, because they weren’t doing what social media is intended for; connecting and influencing.

People with thousands of friends on Facebook, or followers on Instagram and Twitter 9 times out of 10 don’t know over half of the people who follow them. And that’s totally ok! Gaining a following is like having your own free fan club, it’s weirdly exhilarating and encouraging, especially if you use social media as a platform to present your work.

But I am just tired of scrolling through mindless posts that I don’t care about, made by people I no longer connect with.

People purging feels brutal at first, because we have this weird attachment to our own and other people’s online profiles and personas. Having access to a very structured and planned out insight into someone else’s life fulfills our need to be nosey. But taking away the courteous follows, and unfriending people you wouldn’t say hello to in person is the best way to spring clean your phone, and your mind. What’s the use in spending your valuable time looking at another person’s rehearsed life through a phone screen?

We aren’t on the playground anymore. You don’t need a group of people to walk out into the crowd with, because you’re perfectly capable of handling shit on your own. You no longer have to conform to the pack mentality, because you know you’ll get nowhere on your own if you’re just mindlessly following others.

 

The Art of Not Caring

Not caring what other people think has been, hands down, the most difficult thing I’ve had to learn to do. It goes against all of my natural instincts, which is to do everything within my power to be liked and not let on what a nervous and anxious person I really am.

Meeting new people, for me, is terrifying. I resemble a rabbit in the headlights, about to be squashed by an oncoming lorry whilst I’m desperately trying not to stutter because my tongue and teeth refuse to cooperate and form a simple “Hello”.

My brain goes into overdrive, analysing every little detail about what I’m saying, how I’m saying it, and what the other person’s face is doing whilst I’m saying it. It is, quite frankly, exhausting.

We all have a need to be liked and feel included, because it’s human nature. Being part of the pack means you won’t be left to starve alone in the wild, so being socially accepted rather than cast away for being strange is the modern version of pack mentality. But it doesn’t always make us happy.

I woke up on my first day of university petrified at the thought that I would never make a single friend. I thought I’d be the oddball from Jersey, that has no friends and can’t say her last name without putting a hundred extra W’s in front of it. Opening with”My name is R-ria W-w-w-w-wolstenholme” isn’t the way I wanted to make a first impression.

My fear of rejection had evolved into something that truly took over my day to day routine. I’d apologise  to people when there was nothing to be sorry for, just in case I’d upset them without knowing. I’d feel guilty for not accepting invitations to events, but would often cancel plans because I didn’t want to be in a situation where I felt overwhelmingly anxious and couldn’t leave. I was always worried I was invited to things because people felt sorry for me, so never knew if I was genuinely liked or just pitied. I was treating myself like a nuisance, and so in turn became one to myself.

My first year of university taught me a lot about myself, and my own mentality. I began to realise that if I didn’t give myself a break, and stop worrying so much about what other people thought, and how I was perceived, I’d never be happy. Caring that much about other people’s opinions and judgments was not worth the endless nights sat alone in my room, worrying about nothing.

Now, I’m happy being me. I don’t care what people think of me, because I’ve become more comfortable with who I am as a person. I no longer seek the approval of others, because I’ve learnt that I don’t have to justify myself or my actions to anybody. As long I’m happy with who I am and what I do, that’s all that matters.

In reality, nobody cares as much as you think they do. So there’s no point in you caring what they think.