The unknown: post-graduation fear

I keep finding myself caught in moments of creative inspirations, one of which is occurring right now. Usually, I’m on some kind of public transport, and have these weird little waves of ideas, but right now, I’m stuck in my third year uni room, with an indefinite future ahead of me.

*background info* I’ve been in the process of organising a volunteering placement overseas with a charity, for a whole year, following my graduation. This process lasted over 6 months, 2 applications, 3 references, 7 interviews, and too many emails to count. I put a lot of things in my life on hold, but to cut a long story short, I was rejected from this organisation yesterday. They provided very little explanation and so this goal I’ve been working towards for so long was gone, just like that.

For almost 2 years, my post-graduation plan was to take this year out with the charity and take some time out of studying, before returning home to study for a PGCE, and later become a teacher. I’ve never been 100% sure that teaching is where I want to go, so this year out was supposed to give me a break to work out what I really wanted.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that yeah rejection happens and it’s expected, but that doesn’t make it any less shitty. It’s soul-destroying to work so hard for something, to then have it taken away so quickly. As a third year, to suddenly find out that I’ve got no clue what I’ll be doing after graduation is fucking terrifying.

Now February is upon us, and I’ve never felt more uncertain of my direction. With dissertation deadlines, essays, presentations, readings and exams to prepare for, I’m not exactly stress-free at the moment. I’m so overwhelmed and lost.

So I’m trying to write. Not necessarily for my course or to be productive, but for me. I’m trying to journal more, and I want to take this myriad of notes on my phone and turn them into something a little more coherent. I guess I’m just really struggling to make sense of everything right now, but writing gives me clarity and an escape. Hopefully, through words, I’ll be able to find some sort of path out of this mess.

H x

Goodbye, 2016

2016. Hard to believe that four numbers could represent so much. This last year has gone by so quickly, and it’s been a kaleidoscope of amazing and terrible things.

2017 will be a big year for me. I’ll graduate from uni, I hope to start a year long tour with a charity, and I’ll submit my application to begin teacher training. With so many exciting things to come, why is it that I can’t stop looking back?

With the turn of a new year, reflection is only natural, usually followed by a surge in motivation and excitement for the year ahead. We’re only 5 days into 2017, and I know already that this year will be one of my hardest yet.

As I sit here, I’m in the middle of writing two extended essays, for submission in just over a week, and I have no idea how I will get them done in time. The festive season creates ample opportunity to put off academic responsibilities, and now I’m paying the price. What’s really frustrating, however, is that whilst everyone is wrapped up in their new year motivations, I feel no different, and I’m struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

My third year at university has been a total whirlwind, I’ve been overwhelmed and broken and scared and unsure. It’s been more difficult than I could ever have prepared for, so in a sense, I can’t wait for it to be over. But I don’t want to wish the next few weeks and months away either. Going to university is the single greatest decision I ever made. I’ve learnt much more than what my course entails, and I’ve made the most incredible lifelong friends. But right now, I’m so overwhelmed. There’s so much I should be doing and so much I should’ve already done, that I don’t really know where to begin.  There’s always more to be done, and its impossible to ever truly feel in control or on top of this ridiculous workload.

My mental health is suffering too. I refuse to outwardly admit that I have an ED because it’s really not a big deal and I’m not skeletal so everything is fine. It gives me something to focus on other than uni work, and I just can’t see past the sense of achievement when I stand on the scales and more weight has gone. It’s euphoric. Right now, amidst the craziness of uni and being home for the holidays, those moments of ‘success’ make me feel in control again, and I need to hold on to that. I know it’s a problem, it’s a problem I didn’t want to bring through with me to a new year, but if feeding my ED makes me feel a little more in control right now, I’ll take it, because everything else is so out of reach.

For now, the plan is simply to plod on. These essays aren’t going to write themselves, I just wish I could shut off all the noise in my brain so that I could concentrate for a while.

2017, please be gentle with me.
H x

 

 

Looking back, and looking forward.

The last few months have been insane. I made it through my 2nd year at uni with a first, sent the summer exploring London and Paris with my best friends, worked my ass off, travelled to NYC, and applied for a volunteer programme that could literally change my life. Looking back, the last 4 months have been incredible, and I experienced so much, but hindsight is a beautiful thing.

I was starting to forget that this little blog even existed. But as I sit here, in my shitty ground floor bedroom in my shitty third year student house, I remember why I started this blog in the first place. To ground me when I was lost, and to find comfort in what I love to do: write. Really, I just needed to remind myself that this is here, that I’ll need it sometimes more than others, and that’s alright.

So what’s really going on with me, right now? Well that’s a really good question, and I really wish I knew how to answer it. The truth is, there’s so much going on that my feet are barely touching the ground. Third year so far has been a whirlwind, but I’m barely even a month into the semester. The workload is insane, I have so much to read, and so much to write, but I can’t complain because I fucking love it, and I know next year I’ll feel so lost without a long list of looming deadlines.

Really, uni has saved me more times than I can count. It’s a constant, and I need that. I need the stress  to make me feel real and I need the reading to reignite my love of literature every time I turn a page. I need the routine and the structure and the fun and the parties and the love and the support more that I need the piece of paper that I’ll end up with. Looking back it’s been really fucking difficult, and I know the months ahead with be harder still, but my God, I wouldn’t change a second.

But looking back at everything that’s brought me to where I am now is really kinda scary. I’m finally starting to appreciate how far I’ve come, and all the exciting things that are waiting for me. I’m surrounded by the most amazing group of people I could ask for, there’s even a guy on the scene (maybe? we’ll see) I have an interview next week to spend a year travelling the world with the most amazing charity, and I think I’ve decided on studying to become a teacher later on down the track. But for right now, I’m trying to concentrate on all the little moments in everyday that make everything worth it.

I guess what I’m really trying to remind myself is that I just need to breathe. Amongst the craziness and the drama and the stress, I know, deep down, that I can do this, and everything will be okay.

H x

Music saves

Until fairly recently, I was rather impartial when it came to music. I mean sure, there were bands and artists that I listened to, but I wasn’t really bothered.

I went to a James Bay concert a few weeks ago with a friend. It was in this little outdoor venue in Manchester, it was packed, and the atmosphere was electric. I remember I’d had a really shitty few weeks, but there was a moment during that concert when I was so purely happy and grateful to be alive. It was incredible.

I guess, more than anything, that concert on that day with that atmosphere, reminded me what it feels like to be young and stupid and free. I felt more alive than I had in months and it gave me such a buzz.

The first supporting act for the concert was a band named Joseph: a group of 3 sisters from Portland, Oregon. I didn’t expect much, but they were amazing. As soon as I was within range of wifi, I’d downloaded their album and had their next record on pre-order. Their sound was calming and pure and simple. It was beautiful.

It was a grounding, pure and unexpected experience that gave my mental recovery a real boost, and gave me a bit of much needed perspective. External circumstances such as anxiety, for example, had almost stopped me from attending such an out-of-my-comfort-zone type of scenario, but my God, am I glad I went.

I guess what I really want to say, is that the artists I saw, or the music I like isn’t really significant at all. But being around likeminded people, surrounded by electricity and positive vibes was all I needed to remind me who I am, or at least who I want to be.

H x

I’m fine

Today I woke up with a rather unusual perspective of my situation. No circumstances have become any less shitty overnight, but maybe I’m not that ill.

I’ve come to realise that I am able to somewhat ‘control’ my ED, in that I can eat ‘normally’ in social situations, and sometimes I can eat regularly for quite a few days and only feel moderately shitty. So that’s okay, right?

I don’t know what I’m trying to convince myself of here, but I guess that’s the whole point. I’m not sure whether the whole social aspect of an ED is allowed as some sort of a personal protection of the disorder itself, as a way of making sure nobody finds out, a way of stopping people from worrying. These situations often feel freeing because for a moment I feel like my old self again, without the restrictions or the counting. Completely internalising the guilt is very difficult though, and the repercussions that follow such behaviour are imminent, as always. But I guess I look for those little social moments for a bit of breathing space. I know I’ll have to make up for it later, but somehow, that moment of freedom is worth it.

This method of escapism is, however, fucked up by the hell that is anxiety. Social situations scare the shit out of me, and I avoid eating around people that I’m not 100% comfortable with, and/or those that make me nervous. It’s a balancing act, and one I’m still trying to master. I’m not ready for people to know the truth yet, because I’ve barely begun to accept it myself, and I’m terrified of the judgement that will follow.

The thing is, my weight loss is becoming more noticeable, but not yet to the point where too many concerns are being voiced. I accept comments as compliments, whilst simultaneously feeling sickened by my undeniable sense of achievement. The level of perfection can always be improved. There are always smaller jean sizes, more pounds to lose and less meals to be had. I think that’s the worst part, the part that scares me the most. I can’t deny the fact that I’m a total control freak, so the infinite levels of perfection I could attain, may mean I’ll never stop. What if I can’t stop?!

Some days really are better than others. Some days I can wake up and don’t notice the grey so much, I can laugh, sometimes I can forget why my brain is always racing, and why my heart beats faster with every trigger. Some days it’s easier to pretend, and the smile isn’t so difficult to paint on. Some days it just takes a particular person or activity, and some days it takes nothing at all. It’s cliché and it’s so cringe, but it really is a hell of a rollercoaster, and an unpredictable one at that. Other days are horrific. Other days getting out of bed feels like the worst thing in the world. Other days there is nothing that can help, you’re a prisoner within your own mind, and it’s dark, and it’s lonely. But these ups and downs make me feel guilty. I bet there are so many people out there that are way worse off than me: I still have the occasional good day so everything must be fine, I just need to deal with it and surely I’ll be fine?

Not necessarily.
An extremely soul destroying aspect of mental illness is its unpredictability, often robbing you of the good days, with the imminence of the bad. I’m learning, slowly, to accept that, to try and make the most of each day, and enjoy the good ones while they last. I’m getting better at finding the positives, and hopefully, one day, I really will be okay.

H x

The tip of the iceburg

I won’t sugar-coat it: I’ve had a really shitty couple of years. They’ve been a whirlwind of emotional results days, loss, grief, falling in love, learning to drive, and moving out.

As anyone who has ever suffered with a mental illness can tell you, they can be unpredictable, long-lasting and really fucking scary. As a complete and utter perfectionist, I’d say I’ve been dealing with OCD for almost my entire life. My mum was diagnosed with cancer when I was 15, and she lost her battle last year. Preceding and throughout those years, I also developed crippling anxiety and depression, alongside, and most recently, an ED, all whilst refusing to acknowledge the loss of my mum.

I’ve been seeking professional help for just under a year now, and it’s been one hell of a rollercoaster. My friends have been my lifelines, with one in particular being there for me night and day. I’ve tried a number of medications, along with a plethora of self-help methods and I’ve also had a number of counsellors. I’ve never been the sort of person who was comfortable sharing such personal details about herself, so I found speaking to a doctor, and counselling in particular, extremely difficult. I had CBT alongside counselling and it was really tough, and honestly, pretty unhelpful. I’ve promised myself that I’ll find a new counsellor when I return to university in October, because I’m determined to really get myself into recovery.

That all being said, talking really does help, once you find the right person. I was really lucky in deeply connecting with a friend; she understood particular events due to personal circumstances, but she also just understands me. I don’t know what I would’ve done or where I would be without her, and for a long time, she was the only person I was comfortable confiding in.

I’m currently taking daily medication for my anxiety and depression, but I’m yet to officially acknowledge my ED with my doctor. I’m a work in progress, but I’m getting there, and I know roughly which direction I need to be heading in. I can say from experience that mental illnesses make everyday struggles unbearable, so their effect upon traumatising events, such as familial loss, are truly debilitating.

But, I’m okay. As much as I wish I could be a different person, or look a certain way, or flick a switch to fix my brain, I’m okay. I’m surrounded by the most wonderful friends a girl could ask for, and I’m getting much better at reminding myself that this pain is only temporary.

H x

 

You’ll know when you’re ready

Mental illness is often romanticised, as well as heavily stigmatised within the media and online. As someone who has suffered with several mental illnesses for a number of years, I know how hard it can be to talk.

The stigma, and this inescapable need to be so fucking perfect is suffocating, and makes discussing your flaws even more debilitating.

I have anxiety, depression and OCD, but until yesterday, I hadn’t told anyone the full story.

I would say I have 3 really close friends that I trust. They all knew different degrees of what I was going through, but I was yet to disclose everything. Yesterday, I was reunited with one of my best friends after about 3 months apart, and I knew I was ready to tell her everything. We went for a walk, and I got it all out, and we were both a bit emotional, but I can genuinely say it was one of the most freeing experiences of my entire life. I don’t like to think of it as “sharing the burden”, because that makes me feel guilty, but knowing someone was aware of everything I was going through was really empowering.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, give yourself some time. For me, I needed to understand and somewhat accept what was happening in my brain, because talking about it makes it real, and that’s really scary. Even after at least 8 years of friendship, my friend still surprised me with how loving and supportive she was. But ultimately, keeping everything to yourself is suffocating, and it’s okay to ask for help. I guess I’ve learnt that the hard way.

H x