Not quite two years later.

*Please note that this post has mentions of suicide and self harm.*

It sounds so cliché; a friendship forged out of circumstance. One room opposite another room. One self confessed make up obsessed woman opposite another. But there was nothing forged about it.

You get to know people very well in group therapy sessions, where you’re forced to sit with a bunch of strangers, brought together by one common denominator; mental illness.

I’d had this idea of what I expected a private psychiatric hospital in the centre of London to be, and it was exactly what I had anticipated. When I wasn’t fighting nurses to not eat my 3 meals and 2 snacks or taking cocktails of drugs 3 times a day, I was surrounded by “celebrities” and other people who were finding it just as much as a struggle to stay alive in a world where the saturation had been turned down so much that there wasn’t a single glimmer of colour. 

Our first meeting was quick, we stuck our heads out of our doors while a girl in the next room screamed and shouted for three hours before eventually being sedated. It was my first night there, I was terrified and alone, and this was something I was not expecting. I had this idealised image of what was happening to me in my head and this was not part of my mental picture. I thought I wasn’t ill enough to be in a place where someone kicks and screams and bites nurses. I was. This screaming girl wasn’t supposed to be here, this was a calm environment. It wasn’t. It wasn’t meant to be like this. I don’t know how I thought it was meant to be, but I was ill and in denial and wasn’t receptive to anything that would rip the veil from my brain and expose me to the danger and darkness I was really in. 

There across the corridor from me was a woman in the same boat. After two hours of incessant screaming, I finally emerged from my own crying, sedated, ball of hysteria hiding under the blankets of my king size bed; as though this screaming monster was going to break through the walls and hurt me. Who once daylight came, turned out to be not a monster, but a Middle Eastern Princess. It took me a few minutes to summon up the courage to open my door and to look out, I don’t know what I was expecting, I knew she was in her room on the other side of the wall, but if that was behind that wall, what was to say what was behind the door? 

As it turns out, what was behind that door was a lifeline. We opened our doors at the same time and both had a dazed look of what I think was anger, mixed with fear, mixed with guilt. We scanned the corridor, and there was nothing and nobody to see but each other. Our eyes met, we nervously smiled at one another, unsure whether we should say hello, or say something about what was happening next door. At that moment everything went silent. The sedation had kicked in and the monster next door was gone. Doctors and nurses emerged from her room and saw us standing there “sorry about that ladies, are you both okay?” one of them asked. We both murmured “yes” and shared a look as if to say 'thank god, that’s over.'

Two doors simultaneously closed and I smiled for the first time that day, over my first encounter with another patient. The one thing I had been dreading as I had hidden in my room avoiding all possible interaction. 

A few days later, I was in an IPT group therapy session and she was, the woman from the room opposite, escorted in by a nurse and made to join us. I discovered her name was Felicity, it suited her. 

She was frail, pale, and tearstained. She clutched at the sleeves of her cardigan, and looked like the saddest person I had ever seen. I was thankful for her presence because I was about to be forced to speak, but now the attention had been turned to her. Except she didn’t want to speak. Slowly, our therapist tried to coax words out of her. She was quiet, her voice a whisper, her answers short, and her mind trying to conjure herself anywhere but where she was. I knew the feeling. Something about her resonated with me, whether it was the way she picked at the skin around her nails, or the way she chewed the sleeve of her cardigan, or the way she was trying so desperately hard to imagine a completely different reality to one we were in at that moment. Whatever it was, it resonated so deeply within me that I decided that I would allow myself to talk to her if she talked to me.  

I had gone in with a plan; don’t talk to anybody, don’t stay longer than a few days, don’t listen to them, don’t believe what they say, don’t let them tell you that your illness is bad, don’t let them force feed you, don’t make friends, don’t interact with anybody.

When the session was over, I started walking back to my floor, I felt her behind me and something made me turn back. “Your hair is beautiful” she said, “has anybody ever told you look like Jessica Chastain?” Those were the first words she said to me. Someone who was so ill and in so much turmoil, was able to reach out to someone and give a compliment. I was shocked. She seemed so different to the girl sitting in that room with me mere minutes prior, she was more at ease and I recognised straight away that she had the same plan as me; don’t, don’t don’t.

The following day, I didn’t see her at all, nor the day after that. She returned to her room with Selfridges bags in tow, beautifully made up hair and incredible make up. “I’m allowed to go home to my flat at the weekends” she explained, “and I can’t stand what the water here does to my hair so I’m going to get it washed in Selfridges every few days. You should come”

Within 10 minutes of her return, we were sat on her bed surrounded by make-up. It’s funny how quickly you can bond with someone over a love of something so material. It sounds silly, and it sounds so superficial, but when you are in the clutches of depression, anorexia, of so much sadness, to have something that makes you happy and something you find enjoyment in is a rare and beautiful thing. To find something that actually makes you dull the voice of anorexia, or the black fog in your brain, is something that needs to be embraced. In a world full of darkness; that was the glimmer of colour. 

I let her curl my hair that night. We talked about music and movies. We both loved ballet, foreign film and classical music. We both had all the screeners for upcoming Oscar season and our thoughts were identical. My nights were becoming less fearful and more fun. I knew that after the cocktails of drugs, the 3 meals and 2 snacks, the endless therapy sessions, there was some downtime to look forward to. Good conversation, intellectual conversations to look forward to.

We were so alike but so different. We would do anything but talk about our illnesses. We learnt each other’s family histories, we knew everything about each other. Sometimes talk of our illness would creep in and sober us up. “It’s easier to talk to you about it than it is to anybody else” she said to me, and I agreed. 

Slowly we carried on, I’d go to therapy throughout the day, and she’d go shopping. But she’d talk to her consultant, and she’d talk to me. We’d reconvene in the evenings where we would just talk. Talk about everything and anything. She was kind, and she generous, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help her. I let her do my make up whenever she was feeling low, as it gave her so much joy. She called me her muse. I told her she should look into doing a course in make-up. Maybe it wasn’t what she had planned to do, but if she had found something that made her happy amongst all of the pain, maybe that was something to cling onto. 

Her hands would shake so much. Her tremors were the same as mine, but I didn’t notice my own, they were part of me. Hers were so visible because I could feel them at the other end of the make-up brush. When she had a make-up brush in her hand, her entire face changed. The pain contoured itself into concentration, her brow would still furrow yet it would be gentler, she would double take something she had done, pride evident on her face and she would let out a smile. The smile was so big it reached her eyes, and when her smile reached her eyes, her eyes lit up and I could see fragments of the endless possibilities of what her life could be like if she was free of this pain. I could see hope. So whenever I felt like I wanted to bury myself under the duvet, whenever I felt so disgusted with my own presence or so deeply rooted in self-loathing that I hated the nurses for taking anything sharp off me, I would bury it all inside of me and I would let her paint my face or style my hair. I found comfort in those fragments of her, that for a few seconds each day, meant didn’t hurt.

One nurse called us the terrible twosome, she let us do her make-up and told us we were both beautiful. We both watched the other shrug off the compliment because there was a darkness inside of us that wouldn’t let us hear or accept anything that resembled kindness to ourselves. We both thought the other was beautiful, but neither of us allowed ourselves to see that. I hope she saw it. At least once, I hope she saw it. We ended up with the same diagnosis, the same drugs, our manic episodes synchronised and we would sit them out together. I thought that there was one difference; that I was going to therapy and she wasn’t, but in truth, I wasn’t trying to get better at all. I was going but I wasn’t trying. At least she didn’t have the pretence that I had, she was able to know she wasn’t receptive. I failed to realise that about myself. I envied her for it. 

When we both got discharged, we went our separate ways, we stayed in touch and I tried to convince every single person in my life that I was better. That this hospital had helped me. “You can’t keep up this pretence forever” she wrote “you’re going to fall hard, you need to talk to someone, you need to get more help” “So do you” I wrote back. “I know” she said, “but your situation right now is awful, you’re going to unravel much faster than me”.  She was right. I did unravel, and I unravelled fast.

I had nothing and nobody. She was on holiday, yet she gave me her apartment. I got on a train to London taking as much as I could from the place I had been staying, all packed into a tiny suitcase, and I thanked whatever it was that had brought us together. I was spiralling so far out of control, that even from thousands of miles away, she sensed it and she made sure I was safe. She didn’t let me go a certain amount of time without checking in and having me tell her what I was doing. She didn’t judge me when I told her I had taken too many pills because I couldn’t stop hurting. She didn’t judge me when I used her kitchen knife to open up my wrists, leaving identical blood stains on the carpet to hers, caused by the same action and the same knife. 

She was suffering herself, as always, but she did an excellent job of hiding it. She called her psychiatrist, and instead of getting help for herself she got help for me. He saw me thanks to her, and he helped me in a way I hadn’t been helped before. Within days I was back in hospital, but this time it was different. This time I fought.

I went to live with her shortly after I came out of hospital. She was sad in a way I hadn’t seen her sadness before. I was recovering, but she was slipping. I tried to help her but it wasn’t enough, I tried. I let her do my make-up and curl my hair, her hands shook harder than ever, sometimes she couldn’t even hold the brush. She’d cry and I would hold her for hours as her whole body shook, utterly consumed by darkness. I would hold her hand and sing her to sleep. I’d sit up at night and go into her room to check that she was still breathing. I went with her to Edinburgh to help clear her property there for new tenants and she couldn’t believe I wanted to help her with such a task. “Of course I want to help you!” “You do help me” she smiled weakly. I didn’t feel like I did.

It got worse, I saw her return to the frail, lifeless, whispering person I’d met in that first group therapy session and I began to feel myself slipping with her.

Her kindness was immeasurable. She was gentle, and delicate, but fierce, despite her fragility. She had more strength in one finger than I had in my entire body. She was beautiful and clever and funny. She taught me that kindness is more important than anything. She taught me that you can love despite all odds. She loved fiercely, but she could never allow herself to receive even a fraction of the love that she gave. 

She taught me that my empathy can be destructive, and that I take on other people’s moods more dangerously than I knew. There came a moment where I had to remove myself from her. I couldn’t help her, I even phoned our psychiatrist to express my worry and asked him to help her. He told me he would. She lashed out at me, accused me of something I hadn’t done, that she herself had done. That was the last time I heard her voice. I hated what had happened, but I didn’t blame her, I knew she was ill and that there was nothing I could do or say to her. She had to do this herself, I worried she wasn’t going to be able to. 

Eventually, months later, she got back in touch and apologised. I was touched by her apology. It was so her, putting everybody else before herself, unable to comprehend that she wasn’t the person she thought she was. Unable to see herself as she really was.

We moved forward and we stayed in touch through texts. A whatsapp message replacing those moments where I sat in silence as she did my makeup. A Facebook message instead of holding her whilst her body racked with sobs. We were in two different worlds now, I had found happiness, and seemingly she had to. 

She told me she was pregnant, she told me she was married. I worried that she still wasn’t better. I hoped that she hadn’t married because she had just wanted someone to love her. 

Her daughter is beautiful. She has the sparkle in her eye that I saw in those fragments of what her life would be without the pain. She smiles just like her too. She holds so much hope within her, that I pray to the universe to give her the kindness it couldn’t give her mother. That she never has to be a pale, frail, tearstained girl, that her life is happy and full of joy. 

There was nothing significant about the moment that I learned of her death. I knew before I was told. I’d sensed it. In the last few months of her life, she had been subjected to cruelty that nobody in this world should ever have to suffer. The only thing that kept her heart beating was the love she had for her daughter. That love is unquantifiable. There are so many Facebook updates that her daughter will one day get to see and have no question whatsoever of how fierce and strong her Mother’s love was. She loved that little girl more than she had ever loved anything. She loved her more than she thought she was capable of. But love doesn’t save us from the monsters within ourselves. That’s what mental illness is; a monster. 

She didn’t die from suicide, she died from depression, from bipolar, from the diseases that had plagued her mind for so long. What she did was not selfish, or wrong. She was a victim of her disease, a disease that had controlled her for so long, that each day she woke up and took a breath was a testament to her strength, her fierce ability to put one foot in front of the other, staying alive was a fight enough, and she fought for so long. 

I hope she’s at peace now. I hope her mind is finally still, and quiet; just like her. I like to believe something happens to us when we go, I don’t know where I believe she has gone, I just don’t think death is the end for us. Maybe that’s silly, but when you’ve lost as many people as I have, it’s something I really truly believe. Whatever you believe, to quote Harry Potter “You think the dead we loved ever truly leave us?” 

She may be gone physically, but she lives on through her beautiful daughter, her family and her friends. We hold her in our hearts, we are who we are because of her. She has impacted on all of us, taught us invaluable lessons and shaped us.

She saved me. She thrust me out of the darkness, despite staying in it herself. She pushed me out of it whilst she remained stuck, and that’s a testament of her character. Kindness and compassion in the midst of darkness and despair. That’s what she was, and that’s what she taught me. I owe her my life and so much more. 

I will never be able to fathom how she must have felt before she jumped. Every moment I spend on the 8th floor of my office, I feel sick, I see the distance from the ground and it guts me. It scares me beyond comprehension to imagine those last few moments. I’ve googled, and researched and tried to find out what happens to a person in the seconds between their feet leaving steady ground and their body making the impact. Would she have lost consciousness? Would the adrenaline have numbed her pain so that the last thing she felt was peace? What if she regretted it as she fell? I don’t even want to acknowledge the last one I nearly didn’t write it, but its a question I can’t get off my mind. 

I have no answers to these questions and I never will. I have to try and find a way to make peace with that. But right now, I’m struggling to make sense of it all. Blaming people is pointless, it won’t bring her back and it won’t change anything. We have to accept it, and through acceptance comes some semblance of something that is sort of like peace. Sort of because, I don’t think you can ever make it peace with it, you just have to try and accept what happened, grieve for the person, and try to move forward remembering everything that they taught you, carry that with you and show that to others. Then a legacy can truly live on. 

She made me kinder, she made me more compassionate, she made me more forgiving, she made me more tough, she made me a fighter.  The absence a person leaves is a testament to the person they were, I wish she could she the difference in the world now that she is not in it. There’s a huge gaping crater where she used to be that will never be filled. Wherever she is now, I hope that she is at peace.

Three thousand, six hundred and fifty days

Ten years. A decade. 3650 days. Ten times around the sun.
Almost a third of my life has now been lived without you in it. 

Last year was the first year the anniversary didn't fill me with dread, I actually felt okay, I laughed, I smiled, I didn't cry - It passed and for the first time, I didn't crumble. This year, I am a mess. 

Ten years ago, I had endured the worst night of my night, camped out on a sofa in a relatives room on no sleep, no food and no hope.

The following morning, my world ended. Machines were switched off, I held your hand and whispered everything that I could muster. Then you were gone. I fell to the floor clutching my cousin, sobbing away the previous days eyeliner, my eyes leaking black tears which painted the following years that same charcoal black. 

There's been ten years between your last breath and this moment. Time has taken you further and further away from me. I no longer remember the sound of your voice, the sound of your laugh, your jokes, your likes and your dislikes. I feel like I no longer remember you.

You were the centre of me for seventeen years, and ten years later, you have faded further and further into a tapestry of blurred memories but entirely remembered feelings. 

I couldn't fathom a world without you in it, and I've been living in that world for ten years now. It's been dark, and painful, and bleak. Grieving you was too much to handle, so I put up a wall and for years, I buried it under my anorexia and depression until it finally became too much and broke out of my chest. 

It took a suicide attempt and a breakdown six years later for me to really accept that you were gone. I've come a long way since then. I am so very happy now, and I may accept it, but that doesn't mean any of it is right. Or fair. Or just. How can life steal away someone who gave so much? Who had such a huge heart, so full of love that it broke and needed an electrical impulse to enable it to continue beating - loving at the full hearted capacity it was accustomed to. 

The huge heart that drove me to every hospital appointment, every weigh in and ECG. Who waited patiently in the car and just held my hand in silence when I got back to the car and needed to go home. The same huge heart that was astounded at how restorative Hawaii had been for me, who in his final conscious days told me that it was a healing place for me and was so happy to see me so happy. The same huge heart that taught me to swim, read, explore and adventure. The same huge heart that built me a rope swing on the enormous tree in your enormous garden. The same huge heart that taught me about equality for all people regardless of their race, gender and sexual preference. You sat nine year old me down (who was so confused about a news segment about a boy band member being gay) and asked me if I knew what being gay meant, I said it meant that he liked boys instead of girls. You smiled and said it did and that there was nothing wrong with it even though the media were making out that it was (despite my peers crying and mourning the fact their impending weddings to him were now going to have to be cancelled!) We watched a once in a lifetime comet pass over us, we watched endless storms, and we watched the twin towers fall from your TV. In those terrible following days, you taught me about bad people in the world, and how bad individuals aren't reflective of a religion or a race. 

I was who I was because you existed, and I became who I became because you no longer existed. 

I couldn't navigate through life without you because you were my compass, pointing me in every right direction and steering me back on course. Without that compass, I was lost, hurt, and so lonely in this world that you were no longer physically present. 

In a few days time, it will be three years since light came back into my life. A beautiful, incredible person walked into my life and I finally felt like I could breathe again. The fact that you never got to meet her breaks my heart. You would adore her, I know that. She reminds me of you, she reminds me of how safe and unconditionally loved you made me feel. You raised me to find her. You made me the person that she fell in love with. I tried my hardest to emulate you so much from such a young age that I hope I carry your legacy in me now. I hope that people who loved you, even just knew you, would see fragments of you in me. 

There are fragments of you scattered inside of my heart and my soul. As I move further and further away from you, I carry you with me each and everyday. You are the very essence of me - and whilst I am struggling so hard with the distance between us, that makes your physical traits fade away from me, I must remember that I haven't forgotten anything you gave me. I hold them all close to me and they are what make me who I am. 

Grief is never ending, and I accept that. The loss we carry is infinite, it is a flame inside of us that never quite goes out. Some days it roars, other days, it is just a flicker, a tiny spark that you barely feel. 

On some days life is so good that I don't feel the hurt anymore. In the last three years, those days have become more and more frequent. I really do believe that you sent her to me, that you steered us together to make me feel a happiness and a love that I hadn't known to ever be possible. The kind of love you used to read to me in fairytales, the kind of love I didn't believe myself to ever be worthy of. I was so close to giving up again, and then she walked into my life. 

In the last conversation I ever had with you, you made me make you a promise. I cried and I promised you that I would try and get better, to try and break free of the disease that has come back into my life this year. For years, I carried so much guilt inside of me that I had broken that promise to you. 

So on this day, ten years and a few days since I made that promise, I promise you again - I will fight it even harder this time. I will fight it to live the life that you made possible for me.

I promise.
I love you. 
I miss you.
Thank you.

She Used to Be Mine

'It's not simple to say, that most days I don't recognise me'

It was summer. I remember it being hot. Well, everyone said it was hot but I couldn't feel it, because I had no body fat and was sleeping with the windows open and making myself as cold as humanly possible because shivering burns calories. I was exhausted. Tired of living, tired of the crippling darkness that had taken over my brain. Tired of the cyclic nature of my diagnosis, tired of living, tired of spending every single day in this unsurmountable tangle of wanting to get better, but also wanting it to be over.  My favourite artist, Sara Bareilles released her album 'The Blessed Unrest' and something stirred within me. For the first time in so long, finally, I felt something in my soul. 

So how do you do it? With just words and just music, capture the feeling that my earth is somebody's ceiling. 

It wasn't enough. Nothing was. I had to allow myself to fall further into my despair until one day, finally, it all came to a head one November evening with almost dire consequences. I'll save you the details, this isn't about that. 

Fast forward to a year later, I had spent the last six months in and out of a private hospital, and no longer felt so utterly unable to go on. On the day of my second admission, my best friend surprises me with tickets to see Sara Bareilles in London, something to look forward to, I know the undertones to that statement; something to hold on for, and I do. I am in a state of disarray, I chose to live, and to make that choice came with consequences. My medication has caused me double in body weight and I feel the worst I have ever felt about my body image. I can't look in the mirror, I can't catch my own reflection without breaking down into hysteria. I've started down a path of recovery, but I'm only on the first footing of the ladder, there's so much ahead of me that I'm starting to slip again. None of it was worth this. Was it? 

I make it to June. I know that somehow, I am in a state of recovery, even though it feels like anything but. People tell me they are proud of me, but still I feel nothing. Until suddenly, I don't. I think my own words from the end of that year describe it best, so I will paste them;

'My best friend and I are stood at the front of a sold out Islington Assembly Hall seeing Sara Bareilles live for the third time together. Her arms are around my shoulders and I'm wiping tears from my face as she plays the opening chords of "December" and I'm really, really fucking glad that I'm alive.'

It was 'December' that I heard when I was alone in hospital, feeling like a failure because I hadn't succeeded in what I had tried so hard to do. My lips stained with black charcoal, red stained bandaged wrists and the feeling of nothingness. Terrified of the persistent beeping of the machines that I was wired up to, I put in my headphones, and it was the first song that I heard. 

I listened to Sara and let her voice soothe me, half crying myself to sleep and half giving in to the sedatives that the doctors had given me. Now 8 months later, here I was finally waking up and hearing that song in an entirely different context. I was so thankful to the lyrics and melody that had been the only thing to lull me into a state of surrender, Sara's songs my lullaby into recovery. 

I wasn't fixed but I was fighting. 

Then I hear it.

She's imperfect, but she tries
She is good, but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won't ask for help
She is messy, but she's kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up and baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone, but she used to be mine.

It was late July and I couldn't sleep. I remember so desperately  trying to outwardly distract myself from those familiar feelings of despair, self hatred and bleakness that were starting to saturate my entire being all over again. I automatically reached for music; my anchor onto my sanity, the one thing that could make it feel less terrifying. I find a clip  uploaded hours ago of Sara debuting a song she has written as part of a musical that she is writing, and I could not have predicted what was to follow.

I wish I could remember it. It's so fragmented that I don't have the words to explain just what I felt. It was like she had taken thoughts out of my head and put them onto paper. Everything I wanted to say but couldn't articulate, everything I was thinking but hadn't quite realised. Here it all was in one song, by the artist who's music had taken me through the most traumatic time of my life. It was so overwhelming, I had connected to a song in a way I had never before. The surge of emotion swept over me like a tidal wave. 

I felt okay and I felt enough. 

From that day on, everything got better.

It's nearly been three years and in that time, I have become so far from that person, that it feels like it happened to a different person and not to me. Those years have become a blurry haze. It is partly because of the trauma and partly because of the medication that those years of my life are only remembered in pieces, little fractions and glimpses of what feels like somebody else's life. I don't remember most of the year 2013 at all it's like I was taken over by my depression and was so suppressed and stifled by it that I didn't exist at all. 

In these 3 years, that first preview of the song has been overtaken by what I now listen to; the actual song from the cast recording sung by my favourite musical theatre actress. In an incredible turn of events, not only did the musical Sara was scoring come to life and become a Broadway show, my very favourite theatre performer was cast in the role that got to sing those words.

Jessie Mueller, who years ago, was the only outstanding part of a show on Broadway that I didn't enjoy. Jessie Mueller who was cast as one of my favourite artists in the musical Beautiful. Jessie Mueller who I was unable to see in the role I had so desperately wanted to see in a role that I simply couldn't because of my recovery and constant appointments. Jessie Mueller who I made everybody in my life listen to sing as Carol King, and cried when she won the Tony award.

 The first time I heard her sing She Used to Be Mine, I couldn't breathe, and now, in less than a weeks time, I will be travelling to New York where I will see her perform in the show, and sing that song. 

This song underscored the final steps of my fight and the beginning of my recovery. It's been with me throughout,  remaining my constant. Next week, when I see the show, with the love of my life sat next to me, in my favourite city in the world, I feel like I will have ticked something off my bucket list. That is just how connected I feel to it.

It's been thirteen years (woah) since Sara Bareilles became my favourite artist, and her music has been with me for all of the good and bad times.

I got to meet her after seeing her live in June 2014, but due to my coming out of hospital only a few weeks prior, and still being in such a place of healing that I didn't really talk to her, or get the chance to thank her for it all. But after that meeting, She Used to Be Mine came along and swept me into it's midst and propelled me into the life I have now.

So maybe it was right I didn't get to say thank you, because so much more was meant to come. So now I feel this is my real thank you; to see her show and to put into words exactly what her music has done for me, even this is messy and imperfect and completely unedited. 

I want some record of how I feel at this point in time before I see it live.  

Thank you, Sara Bareilles, thank you so much. 



The art of being indecisive.

I've often been criticised for my indecisiveness. Please understand that I am fully aware that it drives people crazy, but I cannot help it. My anxiety has been a driving force behind so many of my decisions, or lack of, and I’ve wasted days and days hating myself because of it. I have quite frankly had enough of how much criticism I've held towards my indecisiveness, so,  I have decided that it is time to address it in a positive way. 

Ask me to tell you my favourite movie and I'll break out into a nervous sweat and get back to you with a 'Top 20' list 3 weeks later, the order of which will probably have been changed over a hundred times.

Favourite song? Absolutely not.

Favourite colour? Okay, I've got that one, pink. Pastel pink, always pink. But I love do emerald green, the more lilac/grey shade of taupe, and of course, black. 

Favourite animal? It's always dogs joint with another animal dependent on my mood; most of the time it's cats, quokkas, dolphins or sharks, sometimes it’s baby sloths, or baby elephants. Or even those adorable slow loris creatures that aren't supposed to be stroked and make me cry whenever I see a video of them being stroked because they are in pain.

Favourite musical or play? No chance.

Favourite book? I have roughly 17. A Little Life was the best book I read in 2016, for that I am sure. 

Favourite type of food? Nope, just not spicy or lemon flavoured.

I'd be terrible at questionnaires. In fact, twice at school, there were two occasions where my questionnaire was declared not viable, because I'd crossed out so many answers over and over again. It's a miracle I managed to sit exams with multiple choice questions.

It takes me so long to decide on a meal in a restaurant, and then I usually end up getting what my girlfriend is getting anyway, because I don't want to see her food and then wish I had ordered that instead.

When I went on a team day at work, we had this amazing artist teach us spray painting (which surprisingly is actually so incredible, it is so fascinating how you can create so many different textures dependent on just how hard you push the can) and I had declared myself 'finished' eight times. Seven times, I looked at my canvas and decided I wasn't happy with it and added more. I eventually stopped for my own sanity (and because I was starting to get slightly high from all of the fumes) but people just could not believe that I couldn't just decide it was done.

I can't ever pick anything to watch on Netflix, I try to delegate decisions to my nearly, but not quite, as equally indecisive girlfriend and there have been many occasions where we've spent more time deciding on what to watch than actually watching something.

When I get to the counter in a coffee shop, I change my order at least twice. Thankfully my local, and personal favourite coffee shop, find it amusing, and don't want to strangle me for it (at least if they do, they do a great job of hiding it)

I'm just an indecisive person and I don't think that's ever going to change. I have made conscious efforts throughout my life to just try, just make a decision and stick with it, but then I decided not to, gave it a try again, then decided not to. You get the picture.

You know what? It’s actually okay to be indecisive, it really is.

There's so much pressure on people to make decisions and stick to them. If you can't stick to a decision then you're "flakey" so what if we're flakey? If you can't stick to a decision, maybe it means that you want to go into a something with your whole heart and that resistance to jump head first is a clear indicator that maybe this isn't the right decision?

We're probably not a rare breed, maybe our ratio to the decisive folk is as small a margin as the gap between the "Brexit" result. Who knows, but I've decided to officially declare to myself now that it is not a flaw. It's annoying to other people, I'm not going to pretend that it isn't, but it's okay, and I'm not going to get annoyed with myself. I used to beat myself up for the amount of energy I wasted trying to decide on things and get very angry about it. I was convinced it made other people assume I lacked conviction and integrity. I didn't and I absolutely do not.

Instead of wasting so much energy, I decided to compile a list of why actually, being indecisive makes us the most awesome people ever, so if you're fretting over it and it's causing you a lot of stress with yourself, just remember the following;

  • We get to have lots of favourite things, which means lots and lots of things make us happy. Isn’t that wonderful! 
  • We want to get ice cream? Who needs one flavour when you can have multiple flavours? Who is the real winner here?
  • We can get a good and wide variety of gifts because we like/hate so much stuff
  • Our knowledge is so vast because we've thought about doing this, but then did that instead, so we have retained a bunch of seemingly random facts, therefore we are excellent in a pub quiz.
  • We get to experience more, because we can't ever decide on stuff therefore we end up either doing one or the other, or compromising, or getting other people to choose for us and as a result of what, we don't just stick to our status quo (Can anybody say that phrase without singing High School Musical?)  
  • We have the unique ability to say "I've seen like 30 minutes of that movie" about more movies than you can possibly imagine.
  • We clearly care a lot about stuff, and instead of worrying about it, remember that, we care a lot about stuff, and that's great.
  • People can convince you to "get both" when you can't decide between two delicious snacks
  • You can cry over videos of kittens AND puppies AND baby sloths in pyjamas equally as much because you could never choose which is your favourite
  • Sometimes you save yourself money because if you can't choose between items of clothing, it gets too drawn out and you end up buying nothing. So actually, your bank account benefits from your indecisiveness
  • You get to have two or three favourite Disney Princesses instead of one
  • It means we are reflect a lot, which again, is a teaching process. Sometimes it can be too much, but we’re focussing on the good aspects, so we’re going with what is good about being reflective. We learn a lot about ourselves and others, our brains just increase in size from all this knowledge we posses.
  • We get that little feeling of ‘finally’ when we make a decision quickly, and that feeling is great, it’s pride and it’s joyous and it’s a tiny victory, and I am a huge believer in celebrating every victory no matter how tiny it is. 
  • Someone, probably a stranger in a good mood (rare, I know) is guaranteed to laugh at you when you’re standing there saying “latte… No actually a cappuccino. NO a flat white, no, actually a latte” and making people laugh is great
  • You get to go with the flow, whilst being strong and independent and knowing what you want, you are happy to pass decisions like movies to watch, places to eat, bars, fun days out etc to other people. You get to kick back and just go with it, instead of being a control freak in other aspects of your life. When the decisions are made for you, you can relax, and who doesn’t love to relax? 

So there we have it, being indecisive is not a bad quality and it does not make us flaky. There are usually legitimate reasons behind why we are so indecisive and it should be respected and understood. 

Hurricanes & Highs

Five years ago today, I was in Manhattan, with one of my best friends and my Mom. It wasn’t like any of my other trips to my favourite city; usually filled with an vast array of summer nights spent in central park, slightly tipsy, heading to a Broadway show, finding a bar that didn’t care that I had no ID to prove I was over 21 (because I wasn’t) or spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in Sephora on make up. 

This trip was a whirlwind, it started with flight delays, with our plane from Boston to JFK with approximately twelve other passengers being held for us as we raced through the airport, only to both be stopped by security to try and hit on us, not caring that AN ENTIRE FLIGHT WAS WAITING FOR US! Just after we arrived to my friend’s beautiful apartment, my NYC home on W57th, there were signs that a Hurricane was heading towards us later in the week. 'Excellent' we thought. We were excited, this was going to be an adventure. 

We had only planned to see two shows that trip - Hair (one of my all time favourites) and a musical that Daniel Radcliffe was in because we are both obsessed with Harry Potter. We had seen Hair the night prior and were halfway back to Manhattan on the Staten Island Ferry to discover that the entirety of Broadway was shutting down because of the hurricane effective as of tomorrow. Meaning we had to see Daniel Radcliffe tonight otherwise we weren’t going to see it at all. We left my Mom at Battery Park and raced to the R Train to frantically then race to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre to try and get tickets. “This isn’t how we planned it!” we screamed along the way, we had been planning to queue early the morning that we saw it for tickets at a discounted price. When does anything ever go to plan? We arrived into the box office a tangle of sweaty, panting, frenzied mess. The box office assistant was incredible and gave us some incredible tickets at a discounted price because of our situation and because we were English. As we left the box office, we discovered a huge queue had formed to try and get tickets, and after the people behind us went in, someone came in and declared that it was sold out. We were just so lucky.

The following day the rain came. Then after the rain came, the wind came. I’ll be honest, it was nowhere near dramatic as I had hoped for. It was every bit of fun, sneaking out and about after authorities had told people to stay in, seeing shop and bar owners reinforcing their buildings, hoping to save them from any damage, seeing Times Square with less than 50 people in it (aka the only time I could possibly enjoy it)

We got Oreos and peanut butter, plenty of diet coke and other vegan snacks, and sat in the window seat of our apartment watching as everything got stronger and more aggressive. I love nature and how we as humans have absolutely no way of controlling it, it reminds us just how powerless we really are. I’m not saying I like the destruction and loss of life it causes, I loathe that, but I love how unpredictable it is and how all we can do is watch. 

It was a long night of rattling windows, swinging street signs, the odd small object flying past the windows. We woke to flooded subways, minor damage to buildings, “Central Park is closed” headlines, and plenty of Broadway performers loving their unexpected time off. 

“Lets go and explore the city and the damage” I said. Less than an hour later we were stood at the West Entrance of Central Park on W59th watching as cops shooed people away from the park, barriers were erected everywhere and they tried to station as many cops as they could at every possible one to ensure nobody went inside. 

Out of the corner of our eyes we noticed that further along, people were slipping under an unguarded barrier, and we quickly followed suite. The park was a playground of fallen trees, excitable residents with their cameras, tourists who were unsure of what it normally looked like, and fellow adventurers who just wanted to climb on the fallen trees and see the flooded lake in person. There were exotic birds everywhere, birds from the zoo that were just perched on a fallen tree, unfazed on the events of the night before but enjoying their new location.

We spent hours exploring the damage. In wonderment of how nature has the ability to tear down trees and houses and sweep people away forever. Eventually, everybody was forced out by a new team of cops, sent in to heard up the rebels. “We would be doing the same thing” they admitted, but until the structural damage of the trees was assessed, it really wasn’t a safe place to be, so we had end our adventure there and succumb to evacuating the park and wondering if we would ever see it in this way again (I highly doubt it) 

I savoured every moment of those hours, and think about it still, five years on. I am writing this five years to the day, though I will be posting it much later. Five years later and I have yet to experience anything like it, it was a ‘New York moment’ that will never be replicated and I am so glad to have experienced it. What a great story to tell, and the photographs will remind us, when our memories eventually forget. 

What I was originally writing this post about was friendship. How it doesn’t matter how much time you can be apart from your best friends, because they are your best friends, time doesn’t matter. Three of my best friends live far away from me. One of them lives with and is my other half. But the other 3 are scattered, and we all lead such busy lives that it is very rare that we actually get to see each other. We still communicate thanks to modern technology, but when we do meet up, it’s like we’ve never been apart, which is a testament to how strong those friendships are. 

The best friend who I shared that particular New York moment with, and I met up yesterday, five years to the day that we had our frantic dash across Manhattan to try and get tickets for a show, five years to the day that we went out into the beginning of a hurricane, into a rainy, beautiful, windy city that differed so much to it’s usual famous crowded normality.  Although when I publish this, it will be weeks later, so we technically didn't meet up yesterday.

In the five years since then, we have lived in different cities and met up frequently. However, in the last two years, because of my circumstances, and then hers, we haven’t had a chance to meet up. Although we have spoken a lot, being apart just wasn’t fun, and so much has happened since our last meetings; recovery, new partners, new jobs, new homes, new goals, new lifestyles, and one incredibly special little happening; her beautiful little girl Matilda. 

These five years has been trying for both of us in different ways, we are both entirely different people to those two girls that stepped out into a hurricane (though I’m sure we would both do exactly the same again). 

Two years between seeing each other in the flesh and it’s like we had never been apart. That is what friendship is, and that is how my greatest friendships are. We are always there for each other and sometimes our communication can be weeks apart, but I always know how they are, what they’re doing and that they’re okay. I always know they have my back and are supporting me. Whether it’s a surprise “Guess who just got us tickets to go and see Sara Bareilles” on my terrifying cab journey back into hospital, whether it’s a message of pure love out of the blue when they can sense your agony from an ocean way, or a late night phone call whilst you’re in hospital scared and alone waiting for a psychiatric assessment having spent the last 4 hours drinking liquid charcoal and being pumped full of benzodiazepines to sedate you. I know that I have picked my tribe incredibly well, they are the best set of ladies I could have ever asked for, and as I grow, my tribe is extending. 

Friends are the family that you choose yourself, there’s no blood link or family name forcing you to know one another (although Katie and I do share a family name!) they’re simply people you get to choose to be in your life and ride this crazy ride alongside. 

People will come and go, but the real ones, they will stand the test of time and distance. 

So to those I call my best friends, not forgetting my best friend in the world: the love of my life. I dedicate this post to you beautiful angels who have each stood by me through the extreme highs and the extreme lows - who made me feel when I couldn't feel and who help me. You are my tribe, you are the family I have chosen and I could not have done any of what I have achieved without you. 

Little Musings

I write this to Matilda, to Miya, to Cara, Bianca and Olivia. To all of the intelligent, kind  and wonderful little, and big, girls out there who are going to be the generation that we take care of. 

It always seems to rain on these days doesn’t it? The world falls of it’s axis - - so the rain must come. It provides the perfect apocalyptic backdrop to the dismantling of the world as we know it. 

But I don’t want you to focus on the rain, I wan’t you to focus on the light. Whilst I know it’s hard to find any light in this dark day, I promise you, it is everywhere. 

“The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” 

It is a day to be angry. We are all allowed to be angry, and confused and to hurt. Do not let anybody chastise you for that. You may be too young to comprehend the impact this day has had, and not quite understand why suddenly the women in your life have a ghost of sadness echoing through them. That is okay too. 

On November 9th, as a world, we let out a collective gasp of breath upon hearing the news.

That collective gasp of breath is going to be what shapes us.

All I hear is anger and sorrow, I have yet to hear one explosion of elation (that may be down to the people I choose to surround myself with) I’ve heard no happiness and no celebration. I’m not naive enough to think that there isn’t an enormous amount of people celebrating, but for every person out there celebrating this so called triumph, there are at least 10 mourning.

Echoes of mourning are rippling around the world, mourning for our LGBTQ, PoC, Muslim, Latino/Latina, Immigrant, and Female friends. Every single ounce of hate I have seen today is posted only with shock, agony and disapproval.

Love. Always. Wins. 

I need you to remember that. In the next 4 years of your lifetime, the leader of the free world is all of those things that we have taught you so hard not to be. You’ve heard that women were “voting with their vaginas” and being told not to. A sentiment which riles me to my core. That phrase alone implies that there is something wrong or corrupt for us voting for another woman. Let me tell you this, there is nothing wrong with you voting for another woman, when that woman is the more qualified, less dangerous, less bigoted and less terrifying candidate. 

We get this wonderful opportunity now thanks to the work of extraordinary women who have paved the way or us, Hillary Clinton is now another one of these women. Whilst she may not have shattered the glass ceiling completely, she’s created so much damage to it that tiny fragments are holding it in place. It’s down to us to break those. 

White privilege is everywhere. I despair of the race I am when I see so much hatred. Like I said earlier, we get the right to be angry, but holding onto that anger can be destructive. The best deterrent for hate is love and compassion. Radiate that.  

We have to believe that love will win. Sometimes it gets harder to see the stars when the night sky isn’t completely dark, and that’s where we are right now. We’re struggling to see the stars. But they are there and they are everywhere. There are so many that you can’t see, so many that are so far away that we can’t see a single trace of them, but they are there. They outweigh the darkness. 

When you’re finding it hard, look for the sources of light that you know. Don’t be afraid of Social Media. I’ve seen so many people taking Social Media breaks today, but in all honesty, Twitter has been a huge comfort to me today, just as it was in June. 

I only choose to seek out good people in this world. I am surrounded by a wonderful group of people, and I ensure I follow only good people on social media. This ensured I only had a stream of like minded responses to this day; I only saw other people recoil and then spread their messages of love and unity with the people who may need it the most. Those tweets acting like a metronome, keeping me in rhythm with the real beauty and compassion of the world.

With our voices, we have power. We all hold power. Nobody should ever tell you that you can’t, although unfortunately so many will. As a gender, we have come so far, and we can only go further. We will not see today as dead end in the road. Today is a speed bump, a minor glitch in the end result where we can finally say that the glass ceiling is gone. 

For now though we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. 

We learn from mistakes, we take these lessons and we do everything in our power to fight against them. That’s what we can’t stop doing; fighting. We fight for the voiceless, we fight for ourselves, for those living in fear, for those who need us. We fight to make our voices heard. There was a wonderful story that Obama told that became ubiquitous to his campaign; “Fired up! Ready to go!” He told a simple but true story about how one voice can change a room. He isn’t wrong. One person has the ability to change a room, I don’t ever want anybody to feel that their voice cannot be heard. It can be heard and it will be heard. Go out and be fearless. It’s time to be braver than ever. We won’t accept defeat and we will continue fighting to ensure that your voices don’t need to come with that fight to be heard. 

We have a responsibility now to go forward and be more kind, more compassionate than ever. A percentage of humans have shown us that they are lacking in so many qualities that we teach you to be, we must ensure that we balance their hatred out with love. Always. You are important, you are loved, no matter your race, your religion, your sexual preference, your gender, or where you are from. You are loved, and we are fighting for your rights.

I ask one thing; that you hang in there. You learn to let go of the anger and the fear, and you turn that into and a stream of unity and compassion. Let your voice be heard, let your voice be carried. Don’t be afraid, there’s an army of stars here in the night sky, looking out for each and every one of you, One of you who may go on to be a female president.

So dream big, little ones, because no dream is too big for you. We will endeavour to ensure this world does not rob you of your chances, your dreams or your education.      

Fight the hatred with the knowledge of the pain ricocheting around the world in the wake of this US Election. Let these responses show you that you are our family, you belong here with us in peace, free to be whatever and whomever you chose.

Even when it hurts, even when you ache - - love, just love. 

Wondering Through

It was mid October when the lethargy crept in. 

I focussed on my breathing, I opened up my hips and lifted my heart.

I feel a sense of harmony with Autumn, there is something so comforting to me about the trees changing their identity; green turning from orange to brown, the shedding of layers and starting anew. When I was thirteen, I learned about Buddhism, and it's idea of rebirth. There’s a Sanskrit word that I love - - Saṃsāra. It’s literal meaning is “wondering through, flowing on” associated with the belief that the person continues to be born and reborn in various realms and forms. 

I’ve often felt like Autumn is my Saṃsāra. October has always been a time of rediscovery and redefining. There’s something so intrinsically ingrained in me that feels the shift in the seasons; the moment the leaves begin to brown, like the butterfly effect, a sense of yearning begins inside of me -- to shed my own leaves. I like to think of it as a spiritual cleanse, a time for me to really reassess what I need to keep with me; the lessons, the people, the attitudes, and to shed everything that I do not need. That is usually when the haze sets in, slowly over my mind, sometimes it’s suffocating, sometimes it’s rejuvenating. This year, I’m not quite sure. 

I’m not quite sure what I’m feeling at this moment in time. The last few weeks have been days upon days of perfecting the art of forgiveness, allowing myself to write imperfect words, and learning how to practice radical brevity. I’ve taught and retaught myself daily that other people are out of my control. It’s been a learning curve that has drained every last ounce of myself. I’ve exhausted my understandings of what I’ve thought to be true and the result is a lethargy that I can’t quite shake. 

Change doesn’t have to be a big enormous act of grandeur, at it’s simplest it is just one person doing one thing differently. This month, I have come to terms with the simplicity of change. Change within myself. I learned a long time ago that we cannot change other people, but this month, I had to remind myself of that fact. Once I really looked at the repercussions of letting someone (who isn’t actually someone I hold dear) impact my life with so much negativity, I began to start detaching myself. I think detachment has been the most exhausting. I don’t detach, I attack the negative with compassion. "Kill them with kindness" my mother has always told me, and I always have done. Learning to simply deflect that kindness elsewhere has been one of the biggest challenges. 

I have moved through the last few years with a false ideology that we all hold an intrinsic fount of goodness inside of us, and that as we grow wiser and away from our mistakes that we all mature with this ‘goodness’ bubbling more to the surface. But that isn’t true. Some people simply are not good people. That is okay, I don’t have to try to make them good people. I simply have to deflect the outward manifestation of their unhappiness away from myself. That’s on them, not me. I remember that now, I think I am ready to turn the page over fully with this issue. 

I now find myself in this seasonal haze of lethargy and the longer that I have learned to sit with it, the more determined I feel to really sit with it. It’s uncomfortable and enlightening, but I find myself in wearisome moments of clarity. There is something so wonderful about sitting with these uncomfortable moments, it’s been exhausting but as I am coming out of the other side of it, I feel like my wisdom has increased tenfold. The teachings of messy emotions have lead to lighter steps, and a way of moving through these shorter days with a clarity that I had not known that I so desperately needed.

I’ve begun to remember the importance of practicing yoga for my mind. There is something in opening my hips and lifting my heart upwards as I exhale, that is simply enough

Dear Sugar

“Acceptance is a quiet room” Cheryl Strayed writes in Tiny Beautiful Things. She is right.

Dear Sugar,

I am writing this to you knowing that you will never read this, though really, this is an open letter to the magician of words behind Sugar; Cheryl Strayed. I am writing this after responding to a question of “What is a book that has shaped you?” and my response came so automatically that it made me realise that I haven't actually ever really reflected on how this book shaped my life. It’s so painfully clichéd, and is something you must encounter every day. I know that since it’s publication you will have received multitudes of “Thank you” and “You helped me” from numerous sources. Whilst you will never read this, I have no words to even begin to articulate how you words helped me become who I am today, and because of that, I am writing this as a thank you. This is my essay of thanks. Just because a letter of thanks wont get read, does that mean it doesn’t get written? Imagine how much wouldn’t have been written if we lived by that concept. I believe that we should always give thanks to those who help us, even in the smallest of ways.

The person I am now is so far removed from the person I was back then, that I cannot quite pinpoint the moment in my recovery that my wonderful friend gave me this book, telling me it would help me. When you’ve been battling with depression and have been convincing yourself that starving yourself and harming yourself is a way to numb a fog that settled ten years prior, you get a heck of a lot of books thrown your way.

I made a conscious effort to try more, to say yes to more. One therapist told me to go out and do the things I loved as many times as possible. “You love theatre, go and find a show you love and go and see it as many times” “Find a piece of music and learn every note of it” “Although your medication makes you drowsy and dilates your pupils, try and regain your love of words and reading” these things, he said, would help me learn to let happiness in. Whether it was two minutes of music, or two acts of a musical, for those moments; I was feeling. What I was feeling was light, let in through tiny cracks that the beginning of my recovery had created. “Let these moments gut you, let them trigger every emotion of your being” he told me. (I would like to point out these were 60 second snippets from one of my many therapists, for the sake of this essay, this is what we are focusing on) 

I had had a terrible attempt at recovery already that year, months in a private psychiatric hospital only to come out and spend several weeks unravelling into a sinking pit of self destruction.

But this hospital stay was successful, this time I was receptive and I wanted it. I wanted to fight, I didn’t care that I had 5 hours of therapy a day 5 times a week, I wanted that. I was receptive and my receptiveness meant for the first time in 10 years, when someone said to me that a book might help me, I decided to try.

“Let yourself be gutted. Let it in. Start here” 

That’s what it said on the cover. I read it and I cried. Nine words on the cover of a book prompted an hour of crying. I didn’t know why I was crying, I didn’t understand why these words had turned me into a sobbing mess, I was confused but I realised this was the first time I had cried in weeks. Then it clicked; “Let yourself be gutted” those words had been said to me (paraphrased) by one of my therapists. I wanted to let moments gut me, to strip me to my core, to fight through the dark mist of fog that was weighing me to the ground. Here was somebody offering me that, offering me hope. 

I saw it as a lifeline and I took it. 

I found solace through her responses to letters throughout the book. I found ways to set goals for what I wanted to be at the end of this recovery process. The human I wanted to become, separate from the illness. I wrote a list of the things I wanted to be; kind, caring, loyal, loving, accepting of myself - I wanted love, self love, real love, the right kind of love. 

“You will learn a lot about yourself if you stretch in the direction of goodness, of bigness, of kindness, of forgiveness, of emotional bravery. Be a warrior for love.”

I lived through these words, I made myself stretch in the direction of goodness, kindness and forgiveness. I made peace with issues from my past, resentments I held that were so entwined with my depression and anorexia. But most of all I understood that it took an enormous amount of emotional bravery to untangle a web of self loathing and hatred that was causing me to self destruct. 

“You have to say I am forgiven again and again until it becomes the story you believe about yourself.” 

Often I thought myself derelict, devoid of any hope or love. I believed myself to be unworthy and wanted to relieve the world of my existence. Getting yourself back from that place is one of the hardest battles in the world. Grieving the biggest loss in your life seven years after their death because it was hidden by so many layers of grief and illness. That place, it’s obliterating. 

“My grief is tremendous but my love is bigger."

This letter, “The Obliterated Place” caused ripples in my everyday rhythms and concocted an epiphany of sorts. She was speaking to a grieving Father who had also spoken of suicidal thoughts. 

“It’s your life. The one you must make in the obliterated place that is now your world, where everything you used to be is simultaneously erased and omnipresent” 

She goes on to say “It is impossible to go on as you were before, so you must go on as you never have” 

The obliterated place is equal parts destruction and creation. It is pitch black and bright light. It is water and parched earth. It is mud and manna. The real work of deep grief is making a home there. 

You have the power to withstand this sorrow. We all do, though we all claim not to. We say “I couldn’t go on” instead of saying we hope we don’t have to… But you can. You must.

Forgiveness bellows from the bottom of the canoe. There are doubts, dangers, unfathomable travesties. There are stories you’ll learn if you’re strong enough to travel there. One of them might cure you.

You go on by doing the best you can. You go on by being generous. You go on by being true. You go on by offering comfort to others who can’t go on. You go on by allowing the unbearable days to pass and allowing the pleasure in other days. You go on by finding a channel for you love and another for your rage” 

I must have read her response to that letter over and over again for an hour. Sometimes it takes the right words at the right moment to realign your purpose. 

Sometimes, you can go through years of intense therapy and cocktails of medication to try and alleviate at least some of your symptoms, to find a way to make it out of the obliterated place. But you can make a home in that place because that place is you now. It is through finding acceptance and comfort in that place and allowing the cracks of light to come in, that is how you go on.  

In another letter, she talked about seeing yourself "in a more fractured light" and I did. I learned to be true through the help of Cheryl’s words. I learned what acceptance was and what it takes to go on, and forgive myself. These words helped me in a way that no psychiatrist ever could. I can’t explain why, her words just found me, and provided me with something I didn’t know I was looking for. 

I became strong enough to travel to the stories of doubts, dangers, and unfathomable travesties, and one of them did in fact cure me. 

It’s thanks to that one book that was passed along by an incredible friend who had similarly found solace in what Sugar taught her.

I stand here now, as someone who has overcome so much but used the words Sugar gave to me to build a comfortable home for myself inside the body that I used to loathe and abuse. She helped me become more open, which led to so many spectacular events that only propelled my journey into self love and acceptance.  She helped me beyond comprehension, and there will never be a way that I can repay that, other than to pass her words onto others to hope they learn the same lessons that I did, that she helps them when they need it and gives them some solace, and turn on even the smallest of lights.

So thank you, Cheryl Strayed. From one stranger to another, thank you for your words and your lessons. It is going to be a pleasure and a privilege to hear you speak when you visit London, and I know I will be surrounded by people who similarly have been nurtured through your words and talent. 

Tiny Beautiful Things will forever be held close to my heart. I will cherish my dog eared, full of tabs and underlined sentences copy of it forever. It’s a part of my past that helped shape my future, and for that, it has more sentimental value that most of my much more expensive and extravagant possessions. It’s been carried around in bags so often, it resembles a worn out teddy bear; stuffing ripped out from too much love. This copy of Tiny Beautiful Things is my worn out teddy bear, worn out from too much love. Love and education. Books tell us stories, but the condition of a book tells a story too, and this is a story of acceptance and self care, and learning to see myself in a more fractured light.

People in the Abstract

I read a post on my old blog titled 'People are better in the abstract', and I wanted to amend it. I decided to recreate it in the present and to put a new spin on it. So many fragments of this little pocket of time remain, yet with new perspective and with a new frame of mind, it is just so different now. Perspective is an incredible thing, and once you step away, once you untangle yourself from the haze of illness and truly embrace life for what it is, you find it incredibly hard to distinguish your past self from your present self.

There is a certain amount of recklessness that comes with despair.

It takes so much bravery to open ourselves up, to show people who we are inside. To allow them to see inside of you, to see your flaws and your quirks, the little individual qualities that make you ‘you’. So much of what I see of so many people now is filtered. We hold ourselves back, we give certain people different parts of us, we let them see certain parts but hold back the others. You can’t give your whole self to many people, can you? If you do, you have to be so careful - they could hurt you, they could use it against you, they could see it as weakness, they could change their perception of you because they only liked some of the pieces that made the whole. 

On paper, it seems like it would be easier to hold people at arms length. To meet someone and say; “okay, this person gets to see my funny and charming side, but will never know about the side of me that that sits at home and worries about a sentence I said to them and if it came across in a different way to how i see it. I’ll never let them see the agonising hours of ritualistic behaviour that follows the stress that comes from that, I’ll always be happy go lucky me to that person” but then you can let some people see the worst parts of you; the bitchy side, the side that judges other people and is fun, but slightly mean. Two people who know you can have totally different perceptions of what you are. It gets exhausting, believe me, I lived like that too long. 

Opening yourself up is scary, but it’s so rewarding. You don’t need different versions of yourself. You just need to be you. You can let people see the different  fragments, but you can also let them see the whole. The whole doesn’t have to be all those sides at once, you just have to be honest. Just don’t lie to people, don’t be a horrible person. It’s such an easy formula;

being nice + not being disingenuous + just being who you are = a better human being

 I’m not saying, share your deepest secrets and desires, but just have an open heart when it comes to yourself, you’re flawed because we are all flawed. That’s okay. 

We gravitate towards different people, we merge, we collide... We can try to stop ourselves from letting people in, we can build our walls thick and high, we can turn ourselves into an insurmountable mass. But all we gain is loneliness and self destruction.

You turn inwards and when all your walls cave in on you, it's you that is left in the centre of it. You're the burnt out grenade canister, the wreckage is around you. So why not have other people there to help you sift through it all?

Because we need them. I used to roll my eyes at the phrase “it takes a village” but now I understand, that it does, it does take a village. We need each other, and we deserve each other. We help each other. No-one does it alone, Jack Christian Shepherd told Jack in the season finale of Lost, You needed them and they needed you” I leaned a heck of a lot of lessons from Lost (and discovered ways that I could cry at something fictional that I had no idea were possible, maybe that deserves a post of it’s own) I think it’s so important to know that we can’t do it alone, I’m a living example of that. Let people in. 

I've learned that some people are just temporary. Some people come into our lives for a very short amount of time, and then they're gone again. It's as simple as that. We can't grasp onto people for dear life, people will come and people will go. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but once you know it, it somehow makes it easier. 

I used to hold myself in a tight ball of loneliness. My way of coping was to internalise everything, to believe that people were easier to keep out because they always leave. Now, I make the effort, I ask the barista how their day is, and I really mean it. I give a person who despises me a hug goodbye, because I am the bigger person and their negative energy does not dictate my life. I say hi to almost every dog I meet, and I talk to their owners. I ask people questions, lots of questions, because I want to know. I want to learn more about people, I want to be open, I want to share my open heart with everybody, it truly is a better way to live. 


We Resume

Once upon a time, I thought I could write my sadness beautiful. I looked over a string of pretty words, and decided to make those my reality. I pushed aside feelings and wrote my own narrative. If I wrote it, I didn't feel it. Some days my sadness was beautiful. Some days my words masked reality, they were rose coloured spectacles, casting a pastel hue over a darkness that couldn't be painted over.

Now I have my words, but I also have my feelings. I feel things freely and deeply, and I do not need to mask them. I do not need to write them beautiful. When feelings don't need words, I simply breathe.

This week, both feelings and words fail me. I no longer feel ashamed of darkness, I no longer need to romanticise my sadness. But I need to write about my lack of feelings and my lack of words. A contradiction in itself, but a contradiction I need to explore.

There were five days between a weekend of Beyoncé and Carole King concerts, and a weekend of cancer and suicide. Five days where two very different poisons were evolving in two different people. I know it didn't take those five days for these evolutions, but in those five days before a day of heartbreaking news, followed by another day of heartbreaking news; nothing out of the ordinary happened. There were no defining moments, not one memory I can conjure. There wasn't a single second that I remember, but in those days, time was moving closer and closer to a moment that changed everything.

We go on. We get hit. We recoil. We react. We resume.

This year doesn't feel like any other year. We've experienced one atrocity after another, it simply hasn't stopped. Orlando. France. Baghdad. Brussels. Istanbul. Bangladesh. Mosque attacks. Dallas. Jo Cox. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. To name a few.

We haven't paused. It's been unrelenting. Children have lost parents. Parents have lost children. Races have been attacked. Religions have been attacked. We are on a never ending cycle of hashtags and temporary Facebook profile pictures. How do we navigate through it all? How do we continue each day knowing somewhere in the world there are people being persecuted for their skin colour or their religion. How do you begin to resume from one tragedy when there's another one round the corner? Isn't that life though?

Maybe this year has seemed crueller than any in recent memory, to my generation anyway. But maybe what we need to take from that is the hashtags, and the temporary Facebook pictures. It's the unyielding support that the world has shown. We've rallied around one another and expressed our outrage. Sometimes that's all you as a person can do. Sometimes we can't change the world, but we can give a little love. We can change someone's world. We can smile, we can say please and thank you, we can take a moment to check in with people, really check in.

My words don't need to be beautiful, but I've read so many beautiful words about people and kindness. You don't have to set out to make words beautiful for words to be beautiful. The more are raw and messy and unstructured, the more honest and open; the more beautiful.

Beauty is words. A series of 26 letters combined into sentences to make you feel in ways you never thought you could feel. 

Eight hours in Cambridge

We decided to take an impromptu day trip to Cambridge, and it stole my heart almost as quickly as I had to run from the train station into a patch of shade to cover myself in factor 50.

I loved the river banks. I loved the stillness of the river. I loved the crooked streets, and the way that the sun kissed the pavements. I loved the ratio of bikes to people. 

I loved the medieval doors. I loved the way everybody walked around, in awe, opened mouthed as they took in the beauty of the buildings dotted around hidden corners. 

I loved it's humbleness. It's grandeur, but it's unpretentious acknowledgement of the beauty it holds. It doesn't boast it, it makes you seek it out. It allows you to fall into a hidden world, behind a seemingly normal arch, or a small wooden door.  

We'll be returning multiple times, who couldn't? 

What do I write?

I love writing. It's a fact. I love it, I love it, I love it. But settling down to actually write? My god, I'm a nightmare. I have spent the last however many months desperately willing myself to start writing, let alone blogging again and every time I've gone to actually sit and write, I've sat, but I've done everything in my power not to write. 

It's weird, once I start, I cannot stop. Sometimes I think I have the shortest attention span in the world and that's why (because when you start seeing pictures of puppies dressed as dinosaurs, how can you do anything but keep googling puppies dressed as things) but then I have worries that I put too much pressure on myself to write, so to save myself from the overwhelming pressure due my way, I just don't even start. Which is stupid. 

I used to write a blog  (trigger warning) where I talked very openly about battling with depression, self harm and anorexia. Now all of that is behind me, I've wanted to just keep writing and blogging for so long but haven't found it in me to do so. I get scared that my best writing came from such a dark place that now I'm no longer there, I'll just disappoint myself and the people who love me. Then I had a realisation; I write for myself, not for other people, just for me. I love to write and I won't ever lose that love, it soothes my soul and eases my anxiety. It is something cathartic for me and a hobby I need to indulge in to maintain a healthy mind.

I love to write and rant, but at the same time I don't care about people reading it. Writing is fun to share with other people, but if they don't read it, I'm not going to lose sleep, but if people do read it, well then wow, yay! Blogging, to me, isn't about getting as many readers as possible to read your work. It's to just give your creativity a platform and make it accessible to others if they wish to read it. People who go in wanting readers is not a category I belong in. I'm blogging for me and me alone. It's good for my soul. It's good for my brain. So, my brain and my soul are at the forefront of this trip back into the blogosphere, however over the last however many months, my brain found a myriad of things for me to instead of write. Here are some of them:

  • Googling 'Dogs...' - pick an end to that sentence and I've probably Googled it; dogs in pyjamas, dogs dressed as superheroes, dogs playing with cats, dogs and babies, dogs in the bath... I have a real dog issue. I see a dog and I can't focus on anything but that. I'm the kind of person to smile at your dog, not you. Social media and the Internet only facilitate this issue, I follow more dogs in Instagram than I do people. Once I open Instagram and see a dog, I then just enter a downward spiral, and it's four hours later and I've gained 300 new pictures on my camera roll. True story.  
  • Instagram - I hate it. But I love it. I much prefer the photography aspect of social media. I love how accessible some incredible photographers have become to me, whom I wouldn't even have discovered otherwise. I love the fact that people have this platform to share their work online with a huge audience. But then there's this entire superficial world on Instagram that each most of us are guilty of subscribing to, because sure, of course I want to see nice pictures of the interior of people's houses, of course I want to see gorgeous shots of gorgeous clothes or pretty make up... I'm only human! But it's all about marketing and branding,  I know they're being sponsored, I know they got paid to post things, does it stop me from following them? I wish I could say it did but it doesn't. Recently, an "Instagram famous" (I can't believe that's actually a thing!) young girl, maybe she was a youtube vlogger too? I don't know, anyway, she did this "expose" YouTube video, she 'honestly' captioned all of her Instagram photos and spoke about how she and other people with hundreds of thousands of followers get paid to advertise products, and how for every perfect selfie you see, there's about 400 outtakes of it. 

Now call me a cynic, but I watched the video purely because it had been shared so many times, I couldn't avoid it and decided to  give it a go and see how this teenager could educate me about social media... She didn't. Now, I'm not saying it's a bad thing, I'm glad she opened the eyes of a lot of naive young people who blindly follow and idolise people who get turned into a brand and the manipulation behind a lot of what they post (although I do doubt her intentions behind it) But for someone who already knew it all, it wasn't news, it wasn't shocking and it hasn't made me stop using Instagram. Instagram is still my favourite form of social media, it's still my number one time wasting method, I love photography and I know that a lot of work goes into people making a shot look perfect, and that behind a pretty picture is a whole other story. But as long as I know that, it will always be my number one.

  • My girlfriend -  I'm in love with the most incredible human on the planet. So who wants to write when you can be having fun with your best friend. We spend all of our time together and I wouldn't have it any other way. But she's a really huge distraction, the best kind, but a distraction nevertheless! She has recently made me set myself some goals in terms of writing, she wants me to pour my heart into this because she knows how much I love it. She gently nudges me when I need nudging and she makes me break open my creative boundaries, she's my biggest fan and I am hers. 
  • London -  Oh London. My city that I love so much. I live in a beautiful suburb and I love exploring. My love affair with this city shows no indication of dying down anytime soon. I love the architecture, the museums, the sights, the skyline, the art galleries, I love it all. Except for when I hate it. Sometimes, I really do hate it. There is nothing I love more than wandering around the city and taking photos, it makes me indescribably happy. I love looking up when I walk, at the architecture and the sky, and the light. I don't ever want to start looking down. 

So, as you have seen, sometimes they can be productive reasons not to write, but the majority are as far from productive as possible. Recently, I made a discovery; I actually have the motivation to write when I am out of the apartment, writing from coffee shops, for some reason, is where I am my most productive and get the most stuff done. Hence, the name of my blog. So I have made a decision to get at least one day of writing in a week from a coffee shop, where I can just relax, write and drink coffee. What could be better than that?

I am back. I've made a commitment to myself now to ensure I don't let anything (not even a puppy being walked on a lead with a rabbit wearing a jumper!) distract me from this now.  Writing is important to me and it helps me in so many ways so I owe it to myself to do it, to do it and to enjoy it.

So here I am, back in my own tiny little corner of the internet. So hi everybody, please come introduce yourselves!