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

 

 

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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.

 

Change What You Refuse to Accept.

“We are mothers. We are caregivers. We are artists. We are activists. We are entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders of industry and technology. Our potential is unlimited. We rise.” – Alicia Keys, Women’s March 2017

From a young age I was told ‘boys will be boys’, and that acting and dressing in a certain way was not ‘ladylike’ and would make people treat me with less respect. I then realised that’s bullshit, and that I am free to say, do, think and wear whatever I want. Period.

It’s come to my attention as I have grown older, that being a feminist woman puts me in a box. I apparently hate men, demand equality but do not actually support it, and am ‘rabid’ and ‘nazi like’ when discussing my views on the matter. I was reluctant even now to make this post through fear I would be subject to labels and misconceptions, because of how people view feminists.

The main misconception concerning what feminism is revolves around the idea that being a feminist means you hate men and want more power than them. In reality, feminism is about making sure that women have equal rights. Those rights include rights over their bodies, equal pay, social opportunities, and political representation.

The Women’s Marches that occurred around the world last week embodied, to me, what it is to fight for equality. The mission statement of the organisation who started them reads;

“This march is the first step towards unifying our communities, grounded in new relationships, to create change from the grassroots level up. We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society.”

Many men came out in force alongside the women marching, which was humbling to see. Others may not have agreed with the march itself but backed the message behind it. Then of course, there were those who thought the whole thing was a giant middle finger to anyone who doesn’t have a vagina.

One of those people was Piers Morgan , who’s response to the Women’s Marches that took place around the globe a few weeks ago was that he was going to start a “Men’s March”, protesting the “creeping global emasculation of my gender by rabid feminists.” Not that anything Piers Morgan says is worth wasting time or energy on, but his small-minded response struck a chord with me.

The fact of the matter is, no matter what generation you’re from, we are living in a time where possibilities and opportunities to effect change are everywhere. A time of struggle offers the opportunity for a time of unity. To come together and make it through the bad times. I am privileged enough to live in a place where my rights are still intact and I am not being dictated to by a wotsit with a bad toupee. But I know that too many little girls, who might not fully understand what it is going on, are worried about what will happen next.

I hope we can make this a part of history we look back on and say ‘thank god we made things right’, before any more little girls have to fear for her future.

 

 

 

 

Burnt Toast

There are some days when burning your toast in the morning is the final straw to tip you over the edge. You go from teetering on the verge of handling it all, to falling face first into the pile of rubble that is your life. It just happens.

However, in today’s world, our phone screens are flooded with images of perfect, happy people, living their absolute best life. There is no hint at a bad day, or even a bad minute, because these people are perfectly polished social media influencers. There’s no room for them to be real, but we all buy into the facade that they are.

A recent video made a couple of days ago by YouTube’s king himself, Shane Dawson, brought to light the harsh reality that these perfectly packaged people are in fact battling demons of their own. The video discussed the turbulence of being a creative person, and how it seemingly goes hand in hand with being, as he said, “dark and fucked up.” And I couldn’t agree more.

Shane talks about how the more darkness there is inside of you, the more creative a person you are. Because whatever you suffer with acts as a tool that you can utilise in your creative outlets. It makes people connect with you and your content, and helps navigate online users away from the sugar-coated posed world of many influencers. A way to bring them back down to earth, if you will.

Another article that sparked my interest whilst searching for the reason why creative people are depressed after watching Shane’s video, was this. It’s now seven years old, but still wildly accurate. For those of you too lazy to click the link, here’s what it contains:

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This sums up, for me, how to explain why wanting to create but actually creating is a constant war in your own mind.

The fear of rejection, the self-doubt of ability, and the worry that someone else will interfere or steal from you makes even starting the creative process seem like it’s not worth it.

But if your creative outlet makes you happy, and helps you channel the unexplainable struggle you feel, then ignore the doubt and don’t let anybody stop you. Creativity is what keeps people going a lot of the time, and as Shane said to his audience, and I feel on behalf of #TeamInternet , “It’s comforting to know that we’re all doing the fucking best we can.”

And really, if all you can do today is your best, then at least you got up and tried.

That’s the most important thing.

Radio Documentary

Social media is the quickest and most effective way to communicate in our world. It is so effective in fact, that it has become children’s main and sometimes only form of communication and interaction. But what impact is this having on their psychological state?

This is a short documentary I spent 2 months creating as part of a university assignment, investigating that very question.