On Getting Back to Basics

As far back as I can remember I wanted to be a gangster writer.

I love writing, the feel of words and energy flowing out of you as you press keys and see your words flood out onto the screen. There’s never been a problem I can’t release through my words, even if nobody else reads them.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life over the last decade I hate to use the J word so early in but it really has been a journey. One I would never have gotten through if it hadn’t been for blogging.

2009 was undoubtedly the worst year of my life, I lost everything I knew and had to rebuild from nothing. Hot off the back of my first suicide attempt I didn’t know who I wanted to be or how I wanted to do it. Blogging was an escape, and the only types of “real” fun blogs I saw were fashion and style blogs.

From that I shaped my future, I chose to study fashion communication at uni, got to visit fashion week twice, changed my style and who I was to suit London fashion ideals. If you’ve ever met me in person you’ll realise I have the weirdest accent known to man and will copy your accent instantly, that comes from being looked down on for my north-east accent. But ultimately stretching so much to fit others instead of myself lead to burn out.

I kept blogging and writing my feelings and moved into writing about my disability, this led to me finally realising my niche whingy essays about my shit body! I realised that people would pay me to cry onto a page and ran with it.

My style of writing is and has always been first person essays, even back in the style blogger days I’d constantly be talking about myself. Nowadays I make my bread by writing about the hard times in my life or reacting to recent events in the news. I make my living by selling these to editors who then have to make this depressive stuff marketable. In today’s world all stories are judged by how much ad revenue they will bring the site, meaning that my deeply emotional story about how getting a dog saved my mental health isn’t worth anything to them.

This way of working fed into what I have to contend with inside my head every day. You see I have that great combination of depression and anxiety that can both convince you you’re not writing enough whilst at the same time tell you there’s no point in writing because it’ll be shit, nobody will want to read it, you’ll upset everyone and they’ll all think you’re stupid.

As if that wasn’t bad enough my disabilities, the menopause and medication give me what is accurately known as brain fog, making my mind feel like soup and making even the simplest words hard to remember or get out.

I found myself judging every idea I had by if an editor would like it and if it was bankable and in the end letting great pieces pass me by and fall out of my brain for worry that it wouldn’t make me any money.

I couldn’t tell you the amount of things I haven’t written in the last year because they wouldn’t make me money. No I really can’t. I’ve forgotten them.

Expressing my feelings by how much they’re worth is a horrible way to live and it’s only when it was highlighted to me that I don’t have to be paid for all of them that I realised this.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m crap at talking about how I feel, sure I’ll share all the great things and rant if somethings provoked me but when I’m truly upset I just can’t get the words out of my mouth. But they can always come out of my fingers onto the page.

But when I put a price on my thoughts and feelings and only prioritised letting out those that would make me money I took away my way of processing what was going on. I effectively cut off my hands and locked down my heart. meaning they all got stuck in there and jumbled. I snapped more and spewed them out after too much wine, had bad nightmares and generally couldn’t function.

I can’t carry on like that. I need somewhere to share everything I love and bit of what I don’t. I need to let my thoughts out of their cage. So if you need me I’ll be on the beach with my doggy, scribbling in a notebook.

I need to let myself be free.

I didn’t allow
myself
to heal
I gave
my heart
permission

From my debut poetry collection Phoenix: Notes on Rebirth, available on kindle

 

On End of Year Achievements

At this time of year my social media feeds are full of others sharing their new jobs, book deals or that they won an amazing award  and while I’m happy and proud of my friends it can leave me feeling a bit flat.

One of my worst traits is that I constantly compare myself to others, i see their success as my failure- why haven’t I written for this publication, how did they get a book deal and I didn’t? How can they be 5 years younger than me and so much more grown up?

I think a big problem with end of year achievements is what we see as achievement ourselves. Yes recognition for our hard work is good but there’s so much more in life that you can achieve. What about discovering new things about yourself? Finding new things you love and making new memories.

Sure creating your new favourite dish wont win you a michelin star, but getting to make a meal for someone you love brings its own rewards.

Last week I shared a tweet about how other people’s end of year highlights were making the tweeter feel like they’d achieved nothing, I empathised and thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until a few hours later that my boyfriend told me that seeing me share this on his feed upset him that I stopped and thought about it.

Where I saw the year as a bust because I’d written less, failed some exams and was generally in the brain toilet with my mental health, he’d seen our year together as successful because we’d moved in together, made what was his flat our home and added to our family with an amazing puppy who had changed our lives in every way.

With this new perspective I began to realise just how much I had achieved last year. Whilst it was true that I did fail 2 exams, the fact still remains that I had the courage to return to education and despite my anxiety travelled to two unfamiliar cities alone to sit them.

Whilst I may not have had my dream holiday and have travelled the world I still managed to spend 5 days in Tenerife despite having an illness that is triggered by heat. Although I didn’t win all the awards and land my dream job I did write from the heart pieces that helped others. Instead of pushing myself to look perfect and reach a certain standard I discovered a joy in gentle exercise which gave me a love for my broken body in the process.

And there’s no denying that I was firmly in the brain toilet for a time but I pulled myself back out and kept going, more than that I admitted to myself that I was struggling and went back on antidepressants.

When standing separately these are all small things but together thy add up to one big year. I hope that when the time come for next new years reflection I can see the good in the year before the bad.

Friendship Outside The Box

[This is an archived post from my old blog or Medium that I was particularly proud of originally published in 2017. All info was correct at time of publishing]

I’ve had a lot of friends over the years; friends from education, jobs, fandoms, activism, support groups and every corner of the internet. There’s been a veritable stream of friendships over the last decade, but most very rarely last for longer than 2 years. You see, I make friends easily, but I also fall out of friendships even easier.

Friendships in your late teens and twenties are strange. If you attend university and then try to make it in the world after, you meet so many people. We’re thrown together as friends a lot in the real world, and in that sort of environment your friends become your family. If you can’t leave the house much due to illness, internet communities are where you find your friends; bonding over a shared hobby, circumstance or fandom initially but you find out more about these little icons and usernames and feel connected.

I fall for friends as easily as I fall for partners, if not easier. I’m obsessed with my friends, their biggest cheerleader and want to know as much about their lives as they want to share. I want them to succeed and be everything I know they can be. I want to be their closest confident and for them to know all my secrets too.

And that right there is my downfall, I’m too trusting. I have always treated others the way I wish to be treated but many don’t operate that way. I’m blunt and brash but I’m also caring, ridiculous and will listen to my friends for hours. My bluntness is often taken for rudeness and negativity, the brashness for oversharing, caring for meddling. So I lose friends easily.

I’ve had break ups that have destroyed my world and left me to rebuild the pieces. But some of the worst heartache I’ve experienced has been when a close friend has blocked me from their life.

It’s taken a while but I’ve realised why this keeps happening. Friendship for some falls into a box. They have their friend they can bitch to, the one they can cry and plot to kill their exes with, the ones who they can call for a laugh, the boozy one with many a sex story and the ultimate agony aunt. I’ve been each of these types of friend to different people and groups, and a lot of my ex friends were just one pigeonhole, but why can’t we be all?

They say that its when times are tough that you discover who your real friends are, and god how I wish that wasn’t true. It was during one of the toughest times of my life at the beginning of the year when it all clicked for me. My world fell out from under me and I couldn’t be the person others expected. Fair weather friends grew distant and eventually disappeared.

And then the stars shone.

The one I hadn’t spoken to properly in years made herself indispensable. The one who had her own life and baby to look after sent me cards. The ridiculous fangirl who was there with memes and pictures of sexy men but also a shoulder to cry on. The one who’d moved an ocean away and back but took me to lunch and made me scream with laughter. The one who keeps me up to date with all the gossip that I can trust. The one who I’d only just met who sent me a mountain of chocolate. The one who sat on skype and told me to find my favourite colour when I couldn’t breathe. The family member I never realised I had so much in common with. The one who knows all my terrible health problems and I know hers. The one who I trusted blindly through circumstance and became so much more. The whole communities of amazing folks who believed in me and saw in me what I couldn’t.

A close friend once told me “its about reciprocation bitch”– yes we all like a good moan, but we should also be there to listen to our friends problems. We don’t need a friend for this and a friend for that when all friends can do everything.

I have less friends now, but a handful of close friends I speak to when I can. It’s took me so long to see that friendship is all encompassing. I pride myself on being the friend pals can ask about weird sexual things, come to when they’re having a bad day and the one who will send them inappropriate memes. And I purposefully only surround myself with people that I know are the same.

I’m done with friends who I can’t be my whole self around. I’m not just the inappropriate sex story teller, the agony aunt, the fangirl, the comedic genius (I was never that one). I’m all those things and more. My friendships are with people I can talk about filth and pain with, then have it interrupted with a gif I had to send them or them showing me their new lipstick. They’re the people who call me a c*nt as a term of endearment, but will also mop up my tears and cheer me up again.

I know that I could message any of my friends with “life is shit” and they’d agree but we’d make the day a little easier for each other. Because life and friendship isn’t all rainbows and happiness. But there’s great things in life too; like musicals, hot men, pizza and orgasms. You need someone who can celebrate, cry, hold you accountable, wrap you in a metaphorical blanket and lift you up.

People don’t fit into boxes and neither should friendship.