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Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself in a huge variety of ways and the massive presence it has in mine and others’ lives means that it inevitably takes a toll on our bodies and physical health. So, below I have listed just five examples of how anxiety translates into physical symptoms on a daily basis.

1. Headaches 

When I’m feeling stressed for extended periods of time, I usually end-up getting what I call ‘stress headaches’. When I am anxious and worrying about things, my whole body becomes tense; my shoulders rise, I curl-in on myself and I don’t let any of my muscles relax. The result of all this pent-up tension in my body is that I will get a headache which, in turn, makes me feel worse because I am unable to be productive during this time and I have to wait for painkillers to kick-in.

2. Grinding and gritting teeth

I have been told-off numerous times by the dentist for the toll which grinding my teeth all night has on the condition of my teeth. Despite wearing retainers, I still manage to cause myself damage by the extent that I grind my teeth together due to the anxiety I feel even whilst I’m sleeping. This habit also makes my jaw-ache a lot which then contributes to me getting more headaches; so it is easy to see that the physical symptoms I have from anxiety interlink and worsen when they combine with each other.

3. Exhaustion

The amount of energy I use-up and expend on a daily basis because of the anxiety which courses through me means that I tire myself-out. My fatigue is very frustrating because my mood becomes worse and worse when I am not being productive and exhaustion really slows me down throughout the day. It is like my body is constantly existing in conflict with what I need and want it to do. Whilst I feel exhausted a lot, I am also on-edge for most of every day because I am anxious – so the conflicting symptoms I experience leaves me feeling uncomfortable and unsure what to do with myself.

4. Weight loss and fluctuation

For me personally, when my anxiety took a turn for the worse a lot of weight simply dropped-off me. I am now underweight and people frequently comment on how small I have become. Some people find that the opposite happens for them when they go through a bad-patch of anxiety because they use food as a way to comfort themselves, however when I am anxious the thought of eating makes me feel nauseous and I cannot manage to tackle having a full meal. 

5. Skin problems

Anxiety causes both my acne to flare-up and rashes to appear across my body. I have had acne since I was 12ish but there is a definite combination between the state of my mental health and the state of my acne, which is furthered by the fact that I do not eat and drink properly when my anxiety is at it’s worst. My skin becomes painful, red and irritated during these times; almost like it is a physical representation of what I am feeling on the inside! 

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Here are a few of my other mental health posts:

Anxiety At Christmas

Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

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5 Things Not To Say This Christmas

Here are just five examples of things that people say around Christmas which really grate on me and deserve to be called-out:

1) ‘Come on, crack a smile, you can’t be miserable at Christmas’

It doesn’t make sense that people could just will their mental illness away for one day or part of the year. People with mental illnesses do not chose to be miserable or any other type of way at Christmas so don’t put your energy into shaming or stigmatising them. Instead, try to engage some empathy this festive period and respect that not everyone has the same experience of Christmas as you do.

2) ‘Are you vegan over Christmas as well?’

The look of disbelief on people’s faces as you admit that you do not have Christmas dinner is startling and hilarious in equal measure! I don’t know if people expect me to pick-up a bacon roll in the name of Christmas and joining in with the people around me but, let me tell you now, that is NOT going to happen! How about you let me do what I want at Christmas and you do you?

3) ‘Well at least have one drink’

People do not realise how hard Christmas is for people who have complex and difficult relationships with alcohol. The pressure to ‘get in the spirit’ and ‘be merry’ is ever-present and telling someone to ‘at least have one’ can do a lot of harm to people’s recovery processes. Don’t assume that the drinking culture around Christmas is enjoyable for everyone or even healthy for some people to be around for that matter.

4) ‘She gets very OCD at Christmas, you know, when she’s decorating and party planning and all that…’

Enough with using OCD as an adjective! OCD is an illness that people have to live with on a daily basis, so stop using it as a throw away comment to describe people’s habits which you find annoying. It is belittling and demeaning for people who have OCD to hear you laugh and joke about it in such a dismissive way when you do not appreciate the reality of how the illness manifests itself in the daily lives of others’.

5) ‘What’s the point of buying presents for pets?’

I call my dogs my babies and so they are treated like any other member of the family and given presents on Christmas Day. They deserve the treats they get for the joy they give me all year round and, if you saw the excitement on their faces when presents get placed before them, you would not even need to question why they are given presents. Genuinely, I think seeing them sniff-out their new toys and rip away wrapping paper is my favourite part of Christmas!

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

 

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Anxiety At Christmas

The festive season comes with all sorts of pressures and expectations which is a shame because these details detract from what should be a relaxing time in the company of loved ones. The ideal Christmas image leads us to think that we have to achieve perfection in everything we do; in how we decorate our homes, buying expensive ornaments and gifts, maintaining completely harmonious family ties, being a social butterfly and flitting from one Christmas party to another and immersing ourselves in an environment centred around food, alcohol and indulgence. Whilst all of these things are part of the Christmas image we are sold and look good in the Instagram pictures we are inundated with, they can also produce a lot of anxiety in the many people who worry that they cannot achieve or keep-up with this level of so-called perfection.

Christmas isn’t supposed to be about competition; who’s got the best Christmas tree or how many designer gifts someone has received but the airbrushed images we are presented with lead us to believe that there is a certain standard we have to live-up to, no matter how unattainable it really is. For many, anxiety can be produced as a result of fearing failure or worrying about external expectations. When it is expected for people to attend their big work Christmas parties, for example, fear of being overwhelmed by the hectic environment and the unnecessary pressure to do everything in excess are not a part of the conversation. So, each person who struggles with anxiety at this time of year feels isolated and alone, like no-one else is going through the same things as them.

The following can be sources of anxiety during the festive period:

  • Christmas shopping in busy areas
  • Seeing relatives you do not meet with often
  • Christmas parties
  • The expectation to be festive and merry in all of your interactions
  • Buying gifts and worrying if they are adequate
  • Receiving gifts and stressing about opening them in front of the giver
  • The expectation to indulge in food and alcohol when, for many, our relationships with these things are complex

And so many, many more situations, which others may view as tiny details in the bigger picture of their Christmas, can be anxiety-provoking.

Christmas is meant to be a time we feel the opposite of isolated and fearful of judgement. So, let’s make mental health and inclusion a part of the discussion within the bigger picture of Christmas this year and make sure that no-one feels iced-out of the celebrations.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

Here are some more of my Christmas-related posts:

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

Don’t feel alone this Christmas (resources about the festive period and mental health):

Support at Christmas – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas – The Priory Group

Real Christmas – Samaritans

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I’d Be Invisible

You know when you’re asked as a kid what superpower you would chose to have if you could? The answer has always been the same for me, without doubt or question; I would chose to have the power of invisibility.

The power to become invisible at will has always been enchanting to me. Perhaps it’s because I am someone who suffers from anxiety, perhaps it’s because I am cynical and instantly see threats around every corner and a potential bully in every set of eyes. Either way, invisibility seemed a perfect superpower to summon whenever it was needed.

If I could be invisible whenever I wanted, I could drift through the journey from flat into Uni, rather than have to look at every person crossing my path and wonder about all the thoughts which could possibly be crossing their mind. If I could be invisible, going to put the rubbish out wouldn’t have to be an ordeal, wondering whether I might see someone as I walk down the stairs and panic about what on earth I would say to them. If I could be invisible, I could attend lectures without feeling sick at the thought of other people seeing me.

In short, the shame and worry and wracking fear which churn my stomach would no longer plague me if I could summon my power of invisibility at the drop of a hat.

Perhaps then I would not be trapped inside my flat fearing the threats which lay outside my door, agonising over the assassins which I am convinced lie in wait for me. Invisibility could solve a lot of problems, it would be the superpower above all superpowers for people like me.

Therefore, it follows that people like me have to reconcile ourselves with the fact that invisibility is not a superpower we can conjure onto ourselves whenever our thoughts threaten to overcome us. Instead, we set about making ourselves appear and feel invisible instead. So, the next time you see someone with their hood pulled over their face or shaking when they hand the cashier their money, do not snicker and laugh or wonder ‘what the hell is their problem?’ Have some empathy and realise maybe, just maybe, they are wishing themselves invisible in that moment too.

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The Christmas Tag

I first saw this tag the other day when Nicole Eloise did it for her Blogmas Day Two. I thought it was really fun so, even though I haven’t been tagged by anyone to do it, I decided to gatecrash the tag and do it anyway! So, without further ado, here is my Christmas Tag.

1. Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts?

I’d say that I prefer giving gifts. I always feel awkward and embarrassed opening gifts that people have given to me, especially if they watch me do it because I’m anxious that I don’t look happy or grateful enough (I have a naturally grumpy face!). 

2. Do you make and stick to New Year’s Resolutions?

I do make New Year’s Resolutions, however I have the terrible habit of scrawling them at the back of a notebook and then forgetting about them after the first few months of the year! I generally find it more helpful to set smaller short-term goals each month or week, for example. Although, New Year’s Resolutions are a bit of a tradition in my life now, so I don’t see myself not making some this year.

3. Have you ever made a snowman?

Yes, I remember making them with my brothers when I was younger and I would become overly attached to the little people I created, so much so that I would get emotional over watching them melt away. I can’t say that I have made any snowmen in recent years as the snow usually gives me a headache so I tend to bundle-up inside and watch the snow fall through a window!

4. Is your Christmas tree real or fake, and what theme do you prefer?

We have always had a real Christmas tree ever since I can remember which, with the benefit of hindsight, seems rather wasteful looking back. I actually have nothing to do with putting the Christmas tree-up or decorating it anymore; once my family stopped putting on chocolate decorations wrapped in foil, the tree suddenly became a lot less interesting to me!

5. Most memorable holiday moment?

This is so hard, primarily because my memory is terrible and I don’t remember any of the Christmases I’ve had distinctly, so there are only a few snapshots which have stayed with me. I think my most memorable moment would have to be my grandpa tucking into his Christmas dinner with a colourful paper hat on his head or tearing open his presents like a excited little boy even though he was past 90 years old! Now that he is gone, the memories of his fun-loving nature pop-up from time-to-time and remind me how much he loved a family occasion (especially if there were sweets or chocolate involved!). 

6. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?

Probably seeing my dogs ripping-open the paper around their presents and then running off to their beds to enjoy their new treasure. My dogs’ enthusiasm for Christmas is hilarious! 

7. What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?

When I was younger I got tickets to see my then-favourite band McFly in concert and seeing those tickets felt completely surreal as I was blown-away that I was going to see these people that I had idolised on stage in front of my eyes.

8. What are your favourite holiday foods?

Well, I don’t have Christmas dinner, so I’d probably have to say whatever sweets people gift me (I have a very sweet tooth!).

9. What is your favourite Christmas film?

Sorry to sound Grinch-like but I actually don’t have one, although the Harry Potter films always make me feel Christmassy for some reason!

10. What is your favourite Christmas song?

Again, I actually don’t have one – I just listen to whatever my brother puts on.

11. What is your favourite thing about Christmas?

The way time feels like it stands still on Christmas Day – you feel like it is a day which completely stands alone from any other on the calendar and it seems to pass in a very surreal way.

12. What would be your dream place to visit at Christmas time?

Copenhagen, Denmark. I have been there before and I thought it was the most stunningly beautiful city, so I bet it would be a very special place to be at Christmas.

13. Who do you spend Christmas with?

Usually it would be my parents, my two brothers and my dogs and then either side (paternal or maternal) of my extended family. However, this year will be different, I think, in that my immediate family will be visiting my extended family without me this year. I find Christmas difficult mental health wise and I think it will be good for me to try and handle it in my own way this year in just the company of my dogs for the majority of the day. Although, I believe I will still be opening my presents with my parents and brothers. 

14. When do you start getting excited for Christmas?

I don’t get excited until classes at University end for me because, up until then, I am so immersed in the Uni bubble and removed from what is outside of campus that Christmas does not feel like it arrives until teaching finishes and I leave campus. I sort of get quite nervous for Christmas really, so it is a combination of nerves and excitement which start to peak around the nights of the 23rd probably.

15. You have one Christmas wish – what will it be?

I’m going to take it that the wish has to be Christmas-related rather than encompassing anything bigger than Christmas Day. So, my wish would be that everyone in the world feels loved and cared for this Christmas Day. 

 

I’m not going to tag anyone specific to do this tag. Instead, if you are reading this and want to do this tag, please do! It would be fun to see as many different responses to these questions as possible.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings please follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

I don’t know why but I love writing ‘Unpopular Opinion’ posts so much! Sorry if you are sick of all the different versions I have done by now but I cannot get enough of creating them, so here’s another one all to do with the festive season and Christmas itself.

1. There is too much pressure put on giving someone the perfect present

It feels like people view the presents they are given as a signifier of how much they are valued by the giver. However, presents should be all about the sentiment, not the price tag or what designer label it comes from. Giving presents these days feels like you are having to prove to the person how much you cherish them but that feels impossible to encompass in an item or two, so it ends-up simply being an unnecessarily pressurising process.

2. Opening presents in front of the person who gifted them to you is tense

When I am opening presents, I am way too aware of my facial expression! I worry that I’m either looking unimpressed or that I’m making too much of an effort to look happy with the present which means that I end-up looking like I’m faking my reaction. There is no satisfactory way to open a present and I wish people would accept that I am being truthful when I tell them that I am really grateful for their present rather than seeing the look on my face as the real signifier of truth.

3. Crackers are a disaster waiting to happen

Who thought that having multiple contests of strength occurring at the same time around a dinner table loaded with glasses, plates and drinks was a good idea? The males in my family especially really like to muscle-in on the crackers, so much so that their arms end-up flying back when they break and I live in worry that a glass of wine is going to go flying!

4. Flashing Christmas lights are too intense

I much prefer the softer type of lights where they either fade in and out or just stay the same. Some of the flashing Christmas lights around where I live look they are trying to replicate a secondary school rave more than be festive!

5. There are no Christmas-specific films that I love to watch

To be fair, I’m not really a big film fan anyway (except for the in the case of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films!). Although, I distinctly remember the Grinch absolutely terrifying me when I was a child to the point where I would simply avoid watching it when it inevitably came on every year. It wasn’t even the fact that he was trying to steal people’s Christmas presents from their own houses which scared me, it was more about the way he walked around and his creepy fingers!

6. People who put cold cream on top of their Christmas pudding are going too far!

Every single year at Christmas, I will look around me as people tuck into their Christmas pudding and see people pouring cold cream (fresh from the fridge) onto their hot puddings and it continues to make no sense to me!

7. The expectations people have for Christmas Day are too high and put an unfair amount of stress on the host

Every year people stress about making Christmas Day absolutely flawless. People get so caught-up in trying to make everything look picture-perfect and ensure that everything goes off without a hitch that they forget to enjoy the moment. I feel sorry for all of the people who run around their kitchens, boiling hot and flustered, on Christmas Day and miss out simply relaxing with everyone else and enjoying the day for what it is. 

 

Find my other ‘Unpopular Opinions’ posts below:

Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

Unpopular Opinions Part 2

Unpopular Opinions

 

If you want to hear more of my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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My Relationship With Alcohol

TRIGGER WARNING: if talking about alcohol/alcohol abuse triggers you, please do not read this.

My relationship with alcohol is complex. In all honesty, I’m not supposed to consume alcohol at all because of the medication I am on but that is a rule I have ignored repeatedly, especially in this semester at University.

I think it is important to make clear that I am not a social drinker, meaning that I only ever drink alone. So, you might think it is completely normal for a 19 year old to use alcohol as a release, however many 19 year olds drink in friendship groups on nights-out as a way of having fun. I, on the other hand, drink for the sole purpose of getting drunk in my flat at night so that I do not have to grapple with the thoughts and feelings swirling around my mind. This is where I believe my relationship with alcohol becomes unhealthy.

When I make the decision to drink alcohol, it is because I want to forget about the things that are weighing me down. So, I drink strong spirits until I cannot think straight anymore. So, really I view drinking as a crutch; a way of getting through the night when I am too emotionally spent to deal with my own emotions any longer.

The buzz I get from drinking, the way it makes me feel light and removed from the person I spend the rest of my time being is difficult to ignore. A niggling voice remains at the back of my head every time I feel myself spiralling into a dark realm of thinking. It tells me to ‘just have a drink, it will make everything feel better’. That voice becomes stronger at night, especially if I’m craving sleep.

As I am writing this, a drop of alcohol has not crossed my lips for the past two weeks. I have been making a conscious effort to exert control over my impulse to drink away my thoughts. Although, it has left me wondering why I bother because avoiding alcohol has, if anything, just made me feel worse. Being sober has not brought any great epiphany to my life which the idealistic side of my personality so hoped it would.

Alcohol is a part of my life I keep secret from many people. My support worker at University knows that drinking carries a heavy amount of temptation for me and continues to warn me against it because of the conflict it holds with my medication. I was also honest about it at my last mental health assessment, not that I felt it had any effect on the outcome of my assessment. However, I keep my drinking very separate from my family, it is a part of my life that they have little insight into. Whilst they know that I drink, I have never told them the thoughts and behaviours which go alongside my alcohol intake.

One thing my destructive behaviours have taught me over the years is how to keep secrets.

 

Poems about my relationship with alcohol:

Finding Comfort In A Bottle

Finding Comfort In A Bottle – Part Two

 

If you want to see more daily ramblings from me, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Resources for help with alcohol-related issues:

Recreational drugs and alcohol – Mind, the mental health charity

Drugs, alcohol and the links with mental health – Rethink Mental Illness

Alcohol and mental health – Drinkaware

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Closing The Chapter Of November

November has been a funny old month, full of a jumble of occasions, tough moments and travelling back and forth between my family home and University. So, in a bid to get my mind around everything that has happened in the last 30 days and document these events for my own memory, I thought I would do a post to close this month’s chapter.

Opening-up and being assessed

November brought with it more than its fair share of mental and emotional hardships. The weight became a lot for my mind to bear, so I reached out to different people for help. Although I didn’t always get the results I wanted or needed from these attempts, at least I know that I took responsibility for my own mental health again this month and didn’t completely close myself down, no matter how strong the temptation to do so was. I continued attempting to adjust to my new medication this month which prompted me to write a post about the stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Finding the right medication can be a long, confusing and winding road which I’m not convinced I have fully travelled yet, so this month was about me assessing the impact my meds were having on me and the extent to which they have been effective.

 

Deadlines crept-up on me

I handed-in my first two proper essays of my second year at University. One minute their deadline dates seemed in the far distance, then suddenly they were upon me and I felt woefully unequipped to tackle them. Whilst there are many ways I could have better approached these assignments (essentially giving myself more time to do them!) I’m proud that I managed to give them a good go whilst juggling some of the heavy mental health-related things which were swirling in my life.

 

Back and forth

The train journey between where I live at University and my family home has become a habitual presence in my life over the course of this past month. Due to birthdays and appointments, I have been needing to be present at home quite frequently. Each time I go back there, I gain a new appreciation for how much I miss the simple things which come with being home. The town I grew-up in makes me feel nostalgic these days with every corner prompting memories from my childhood to flash in front of me, whereas before I only held a seething resentment for the (admittedly very much imperfect) place.

 

Birthdays at every corner!

There was a grand total of six birthdays within my family during November. First of all, it was my Godmother’s 31st birthday then her sister’s 22nd. It’s crazy to think of them as being at these ages, it makes me wonder where all those years went between them being the girls I once saw them as and the confident young women they now are. Then, there was a 17th birthday in the family, another milestone that I cannot quite believe has crept-up so quickly, especially when I remember going around to said boy’s house when we were nothing more than tiny tots. Then, both of my brothers and my grandma had their birthdays. My grandma turned 91 whilst still holding herself with the youth, energy and wit of  someone years younger. Also, she is nothing less than a flipping style icon to be honest; that woman knows how to put together an outfit!

 

Fantastic Beasts, The Crimes of Grindelwald

It takes a lot to get me excited about a film because I’m not particularly a movie fan considering that I usually find it boring to sit through over an hour of watching something. However, JK Rowling’s wizarding world has a place in my heart that I cannot even attempt to explain or summarise, so the second Fantastic Beasts film had been a date in my calendar for quite a while. I went to see it in the cinema (a very rare occurrence for me) and I was blown-away by the spectacle of it. I genuinely believe the people who work on the visual effects of those films must be near geniuses! As we re-visited Hogwarts, I felt a very real tug on my heartstrings and the phrase ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home’ played in my mind.

 

I can’t say that I’m always proud of myself

My attendance this month at University has been patchy at best. When my anxiety in particular rears its head in its customary vicious fashion, I struggle to even open the door of my flat let alone take a step outside of it into the danger of the wider world. Therefore, my attendance at seminars and lectures took a hit. The thought of sitting through a class whilst destructive thoughts raged within me and words stuck in my throat was, at times, too much for me to bear. I couldn’t pretend that I was ‘well’ when, in reality, I was feeling at the complete mercy of mental health. However, for the classes I did manage to attend, especially in the last week of this month, I can be pleased that I pushed myself to regain some control over my academic life and didn’t let my lack of attendance spiral out of control too far.

 

So, it is now December. Who knows what this month will throw at me or you, yes you, reading this. However, I’m immensely grateful for whoever will be here to read the following instalments on this blog and follow my somewhat volatile ramblings as I relay my thoughts, feelings and emotions. To anyone who has commented or given me a like this month, I am so, so grateful to you! You have no idea what a boost those such things can give to my day when I am feeling low or anxious or anything in between.

 

If you want to hear me ramble on everyday follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature !

 

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Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

There is a certain stigma around taking medication for your mental health. Full disclosure; I do take medication to help me cope with my mental health and I’m tired of it being treated as shameful or weak.

Taking mental health medication is seen as proof of a person having given-up and not working to resolve their own issues. Medication is viewed by many as the ‘easy way’ and reliance on it is thought to be weak and showing a lack of self-motivation to engage with therapy and other methods of working through mental health condition.

I call BS on all of these assumptions! I reached for medication as a last resort after I had tried therapy and counselling and found myself in a desperate situation where I felt like there was no hope of me ever getting better. For many people, medication offers them a lifeline, a way to level-out their condition/s so that they can go about their lives in the way that they want to. Medication can offer someone a platform from which to build their lives but it does not magically solve all of your problems. Work is required on top of taking medication to achieve the feeling of being mentally ‘well’. So, the next time you want to call antidepressants ‘happy pills’ think again because it just shows uneducated and ignorant you are about the whole topic.

Patients and doctors never take the step toward medication lightly. The journey to finding the right medication for your needs is a hard one in its own right. Often you have to trial a medication for a few months, see if it makes you better or even worse, then face the possibility of trying it all over again. The added stress of the medication having negative side-effects makes the process even more disheartening, scary and confusing. So, no, medication is not the easy option or a sign that someone cannot be bothered to work on their own self-improvement. In reality, a person’s trials and tribulations with medication can be really bloody hard in itself.

Other people pile shame on those who, like me, take medication. They say that medication is harmful, ask why we would subject ourselves to it and tell us to try a myriad of different natural alternatives. Now, I’m as big a fan of yoga and colouring-in as the next person but assuming that we haven’t already tried all of those things or that our conditions (which you know barely anything about) could be suddenly cured by these activities is insulting. The individual taking the medication knows their mental health the best, so do not try to shame them by pretending that you know better what they should and shouldn’t do. Some people find that medication works for them, others find that mindfulness and other techniques are great for them, none of these options should be shamed or stigmatised. Let people deal with their own health in the way they see best.

 

Another post I wrote about this topic can be found here: BEING ON AN SSRI

 

For daily doses of my ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

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Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

It was not until very recently that I heard the term ‘protecting factors’ but immediately it made sense to me. I was having a mental health assessment and I admitted to having suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. The nurse then asked me what stopped me acting on those thoughts and attempting suicide. I asked myself this question and was slightly embarrassed to give my honest answer. However, I knew the truth and this was that my dogs are what stops me from acting on my suicidal impulses and thoughts. I felt embarrassed about saying this out loud to a mental health professional because human relationships with pets are so often trivialised and I thought that they wouldn’t take my bond with my dogs seriously. I thought that giving this answer would leave them to believe that my suicidal ideation could not be that strong in the first place – none of which is true.

Instead, the nurse told me that my dogs are what is called my ‘protecting factors’. They act as a release valve for my stress because playing with them is uplifting. They comfort me when I am low by nuzzling and cuddling me, letting me know that I am not alone. When I get anxious about having social contact with humans, they remind me I am capable of having a functional relationship because of the ways I have bonded with them. When I think about leaving this world, they tether me to it because I could not bear to leave them; my desire to protect them and watch them grow-up are what, at this moment at least, is still keeping me fighting for life.

The World Health Organisation works on the definition of ‘protecting factors’ as being those which “enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and lessen the likelihood of negative consequences from exposure to risk.” They use this definition in relation to physical as well as mental health risks but ‘protective factors’ are always seen as what stops an individual’s situation from escalating to a dangerous or drastic level.

So, I would encourage you to think about what your protecting factors are, especially in the lead-up to the festive period which, for me, always adds extra stress onto my shoulders and makes my mood dip because I am hyper-aware of the fact that I am supposed to be happy. Hold your protecting factors dear and be grateful for their existence and what they mean to you. Feel free to share what your protecting factors are in the comments below!

 

Information And Resources About Managing Mental Health At Christmas:

Christmas and mental health – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas (5 ways to look after your mental health) – Priory Group

Depression At Christmas Guide – Mental Health in the UK

 

Some Related Blog Posts Of Mine:

How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

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Unpopular Opinions – Harry Potter Edition

 

1. I actually do enjoy the Fantastic Beasts franchise

Since the release of ‘The Crimes of Grindelwald’, I’ve seen a lot of criticism online about the Fantastic Beast stories as a whole. People have said that it is unnecessary to make more films about JK Rowling’s Wizarding World and that they should have left the Harry Potter series as the ending for this world. Also, others have said that Fantastic Beasts simply resembles leftover author’s notes from JK Rowling and that she is prolonging the series for the sake of money etc. Apart from the fact that, I assume, JK Rowling has more than enough funds to be getting on with, I genuinely do enjoy this new franchise. Whilst I am not blind to its flaws (such as continuity issues) the visual experience of seeing these gloriously detailed films and revisiting Hogwarts (my spiritual home!) is more than enough to get me hooked!

2. I love Slytherin House

I am very, very biased about this one considering that I am in Slytherin myself according to Pottermore! However, I do think that the House is unfairly demonised by people who assume everyone who belongs to it must be evil. In fact, I believe, the traits of the House amount to a person being resourceful and knowing what they want which are no bad things (as long as people do not go too far in their quests for what they want!).

3. I find Dumbledore vaguely annoying!

I know that it seems wrong to say this about such a well-loved and and cherished character but honestly the way that he manipulates events and withholds certain truths when he feels like it became really quite frustrating to me during the Harry Potter books and films. The fact that he was always so sure that he knew best and asked so much of the people around him was not a typically benevolent characteristic. 

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Read my Harry Potter Tag here.

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Antidepressants and Nightmares

A quick Google search about the relation between antidepressants and nightmares/graphic dreaming brought-up claims that SSRIs (a form of antidepressants) have been found, in some studies, to increase the number of nightmares and vividly of dreams a person experiences in their sleep. Now, I am certainly not a scientist or psychologist, however I do know that lately my dreams have bordered on seriously disturbing most nights recently. I am also on antidepressant medication.

The frustrating thing about dreams is that they appear outside of our control; how are we supposed to suppress something which preys on us whilst we are semi-conscious? It’s like being chained to the inevitability that I will be forced to watch a horror show with me as the main character the vast majority of times I go to bed.

There was a time when I thought that nightmares were a feature of childhood, something we all grew out of eventually and consigned to our distant pasts. This seems an incredibly naive idea to me now. Is it not logical that if you are emotionally distressed day in, day out, then this would seep into your experience of nighttime too? How could the problems you face in the day not transfer into how you feel at night?

Although, it does seem rather unfair. My mental health issues preying on me when I am most defenceless does not exactly seem like a fair contest. At least when I am awake there are some avenues of distraction I can attempt to take, whereas at night time my entire mind is the playground of these disturbing, graphic storylines.

Also, somewhere I remember reading that most people do not dream in colour, which is a statement that amazed me. From what I can recall, I always dream in colour (I don’t know if this serves to make my nightmares worse or not though).

Please leave your experience of dreaming/nightmares in the comments below and feel free to share any knowledge you may have about the correlation between nightmares and antidepressants.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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A Mental Health Update

Recently so many mental health issues have reared their heads and spun out of control in my life that I thought it may be useful for me to write about them all in a blog post to see if that helps me not feel so overwhelmed by my emotions.

TW: TALK OF SELF-HARM, DEPRESSION AND SUICIDAL IDEATION

Firstly, the feeling of hopelessness has been following me around for weeks. Like my shadow, it has shown me darkness in every moment or situation I have been in. Hopelessness has fed on my fear that no matter what I do my life will always be controlled by my mental health conditions which I will never have the power to make better. I have despaired for hours on end about how I cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel and I have lost faith that one day I may be free of all the negativity which constantly weighs me down. I’m starting to believe that my mental health is a life sentence.

My anxiety has been running wild lately. Without the energy to tame it, the beast has chained me to my flat and isolated me from everyone. Even when I do manage to creep outside my front door and brave the wider world, it haunts my every step and tells me that I should sprint back inside before something terrible happens. Almost everyday I wake-up feeling nauseous and ill because of my anxiety. Butterflies in my tummy remind of the dangers which could lurk around every corner and the worries in my mind paint the world to be a very dangerous place.

Partnering with my chaotic anxiety, my OCD has flared-up again. Intrusive thoughts have taken on a graphic hue and I cannot look at certain people without the thought of them harming me flashing constantly across my mind. My OCD informs me that everyone is dangerous and that I am vulnerable to being attacked every second of the day, so I am left scared, vulnerable and confused even in my own home.

Self-harm has crept its devious way back into my life. Yet again, I have to keep my arms covered by long sleeves so no-one can see the evidence of what I do to myself. The loathing I feel towards myself has yet again manifested itself in violence and I feel like a defenceless pawn in self-harm’s twisted game.

I have been at the brink of thinking that life is no longer worth living. However, I sought help and went to speak to my local mental health team with the faith that, once they heard what I had to say, they would know how to help me. Instead, it turns out that I left the centre with a couple of numbers written down on a flimsy piece of paper and the encouragement to self-refer myself to a charity, as if this was something I had not already tried. This felt like a kick in the teeth. They ignored my request to review my medication and, although I have a final review appointment booked there, I have no enthusiasm to return to their service again after this experience. Finding no help available for the one place you hoped may give you some answers is so deflating it is almost too painful to think about.

The atmosphere of University has only been exacerbating my problems. Everything feels worse in the context of this high-pressured environment, in which I am surrounded by people to compare myself unfavourably to. I look around and see people able to move around without being heaved down by the weight of anxiety and depression, then self-loathing fills up my body and soul again with a vengeance.

 

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

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Is The Internet Poisoning My Mind?

Life takes on a different sense of touch
When my eyes are not grazed,
Or pricked by poisoned pixels
Invading my mind via osmosis
From a scarily familiar screen.

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Expecting The Worst

I surprise myself
When my ink does not make me gag;
To enjoy an impression of my existence
Is a call to confidence,
Harking from deep inside my soul.

It’s strange how very menacing
A morsels is to consume
If it hails from the fibres
Of your own energised hands,
Bearing the weight of your fingerprints.

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Scared To Write?!

Is it ironic to write about writers’ block? Probably, but it feels like the only way to exercise this frustration I am feeling with myself. I have a lot of blog post ideas rattling around in my head but I cannot muster-up the confidence to actually make them come to life on my computer screen. Sometimes I get as far as writing the title but then the image of unimpressed readers’ faces float before my eyes and I convince myself that no-one will be interested in what I have to say.

It’s frustrating, largely because I know that I should be writing for myself rather than trying to complete the impossible task of writing to please anyone and everyone who could possibly stumble across my post.

Without the release of writing on this blog, a build-up of emotions start to compile inside me which is difficult to navigate without an outlet.

A list of draft posts, all asking for my attention, are left unfinished to differing degrees. I cannot conjure the energy to conquer all of the voices telling me to give-up trying with my writing ideas, so I just leave the drafts to gather metaphorical dust.

All of the poems I have been posting recently, I wrote in one hour on a couple of days (largely when a measure of desperation had set-in and I knew that I had no other choice to write-out my distress otherwise it was going to eat me up inside). It’s hard to have confidence in what your mind is telling you to write when you are struggling to trust your own mind in the first place. So, I start and then all of my insecurities and worries come crashing back down into the forefront of mind – a weight of thoughts I do not always want to wade through.

Bear with me, if you will.

 

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Finding Comfort In A Bottle – Part Two

I love the seizing ache
As it spreads across my chest,
Powerful and raw like wildfire;
It blazes a trail down my body
Resting in my stomach where it burns
As my whole body yearns towards it.

The longing to seize this power
And draw it down me never ends –
It’s a part of me –
The portion of my whole which craves
More destruction, the release
Coming from such sickly, manipulative liquid.

Despite the warnings, the stop signs,
Before it reaches my mouth,
The liquid release settles inside me anyway,
Leaving it’s mark burnt into my being
And caressing the lost parts of me
Which it makes a point to find and seek.

 

The first instalment of this poem can be found here: Finding Comfort In A Bottle

 

 

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Flawed Hope

I might suck the vitamins from my tongue
Lame as a tamed, feral animal,
However, their colourful bottle fools me;
When promise comes in a capsule
Your ground has already slipped away.

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Under The Puppeteer’s Control

Do you know what it is like,
The electric charge in my head?
It sends shockwaves to my fingers,
Vibrates the crux of my bones
And sends me skidding into the night.

As uncontrolled hands fly over my head –
My body a veritable war zone –
I look to my feet, scolding them,
Before I remember the puppeteer is above
So dominant, it kills my control.

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My Anxious Chest

Anxiety has a smothering hug;
Like a mother bear who pretends to protect you
Whilst it goes about suffocating your existence,
To the point where your lungs are a cage
And the locked bars on your lips allow no escape.

Anxiety has the manipulative claws of a monster;
It pretends to protect you from potential
Doom, then goes about crushing your skull
With the pressure of an invading force
Which, guiltily, you let in in the first place.

Welded into a cage designed by your fears,
What lies outside the bars is always a threat,
Movements and sounds are menacing
When the sky cannot even by trusted
And your hope for a future comes crumbling down.

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Survival Mode

I curl myself into a ball
To save myself –
Stave off the jeering knives,
Make them wait another day
For me to expose my tissue paper flesh.

I fall asleep on my hand
Because the yellow lights pull
My eyelids down,
So the veins, like crossroads,
Slither so narrow – they shut.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Boxed Into A Corner

Writing things down feels like a prophecy;
Ink it with a pen and it shall be,
Like the death carvings on stone:
I am the cornered tribe
Waiting for you to take my home.

 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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I Am Not Me

All at once I feel everything.
Then a confused blank of nothing at all.
A sick game of hide and seek
Spins me like a top around corners so quick –
I don’t see the wall coming.

Nothing is me; my character is hollow,
I knock and knock knowing no-one is home
Until I return to stand over my lifeless form
And feign empathy for myself
In death.

 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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I am all of nothing

I’m not enough of anything;
Too middle-ground to be real,
Forced and fake – so I don’t feel –
My metallic scars run so deep,
Flinty shaving will never let my skin heal.

I paint on a cartoon face to keep-up,
But it gets in my eyes
So panicked rushes of bile rise,
Then my throat sticks like an envelope
And I leave to box myself up again.

There is a hole where my stomach should be;
Acid-ridden, an iridescent tangle,
It tells me where not to be,
Kills me so I do not have to see
And I can sellotape my box closed.

 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Finding Comfort In A Bottle

I love the amber liquid,
The stirring burn as it hits
The back of my throat, so it roars,
It’s powerful as it scours my tummy
And makes me feel again.

The amber liquid blurs me at the edges,
It is easier to think and feel,
Everything is not real!
Amber makes everything a dream,
My hands do not work like they should.

With the amber liquid;
I do not have to be responsible,
I do not have to be me,
Instead, I can be blurry at the edges
And forget how to type properly.

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10 quotes for when you need motivation to write

We’ve all experiencing writers’ block. From the world famous authors of literary classics to all of us struggling to keep producing consistent blog content; no one is immune from staring hopelessly at a blank page. The quotes below all inspire me in different ways to keep writing no matter what. They help me to cast doubt from my mind and stop thinking about how other people would judge my writing abilities.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Oscar Wilde

“The worst enemy to creativity is self doubt.” – Sylvia Plath

“Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” – Ray Bradbury

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway 

“If I waited for perfection, I would never write.” – Margaret Atwood

‘There comes a point in life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.” – Albert Einstein 

“You must write for yourself and not what you think people want to read.” – Jodi Ellen Malpas 

“If you’re creating anything at all, it’s really dangerous to care about what people think.” – Kristen Wiig

“At this stage accept, deep imperfection.” – Jessie Burton

“Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one can tell the stories that you have to tell.” – Charles de Lint

 

If any of you have tips to help navigate writers’ block, please let’s help each other out and leave our advice down in the comments below!

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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The Autumn Tag

I first saw this tag over on Hart of Blogging and thought it looked fun. Even though I haven’t actually been tagged in this, I will not let that stop me! So, without further ado, here is my Autumn Tag:

1) What signifies the start of autumn for you?

This probably very predictable but autumn feels like it officially starts for me when the leaves start to change colour. As soon as the luscious greens of summer begin to fade and the warm, earthy hues begin to take their place, I can really relish the changing of the seasons.

2) What is your favourite autumn scent?

I’m not one for sweet scents like the ones often found in Yanky Candles. So, I much prefer richer heady scents, such as ginger, cranberry or fig at this time of year. These probably sound like quite strange choices but pumpkin and vanilla scents do not appeal to me for the most part, even at this time of year.

3) Are you a fan of pumpkin spice latte?

I feel like the only person in the world who has never tried a pumpkin spice latte! For the most part, I avoid Starbucks anyway because I view them as an unethical company. So, overall it seems that I am failing on the autumn checklist so far!

4) Apple or pumpkin pie?

Another unpopular admission here; I really do not enjoy the taste of pumpkins. Genuinely, when I have tried it before I have almost gagged! It’s unfortunate because pumpkins look so beautiful that I really wish I could enjoy them as a food as well. 

5) What TV show, new or old, are you looking forward to in the next few months?

As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly a TV fan (I really am cracking out all of the unpopular opinions during this tag aren’t I?!). Although, I do have a soft spot for Riverdale, even though I am literally a series behind because I am so slow at getting through episodes. There are definitely some creepy elements to Riverdale which give it a somewhat spooky feel, so I’m really looking forward to (finally) catching-up with it.

6) What is your favourite autumn fashion trend?

The comeback of hoodies, bobble hats and cosy coats after the heat of summer.

7) What is your favourite comfort food to enjoy during the cooler months?

Veggie casseroles, hearty lentils and curries definitely! I love warming and hearty meals at this time of year, so I decided to get myself a slow cooker the other day so I can make big batches of these meals.

8) What is your favourite autumn activity?

Walking my dogs around the streets where crunchy yellow, orange and red leaves have fallen along my path. Walking in the cold, crisp autumn air is a treat, especially with my dogs trotting along beside me.

9) Are you a fan of horror movies?

Put it this way, when I watched the Woman In Black at the cinema I had nightmares for a ridiculously long time afterwards. So I tend to avoid horror films as best I can.

10) Do you ever do anything fun for Halloween?

I always stay in and I never dress-up but that’s a choice I make because I prefer to do things which I consider fun, such as making my home look and feel atmospheric and reading creepy books!

11) What was your favourite part of Halloween as a child?

I used to craft fake witches’ potion books, as well as draw magic-themed pictures which I especially enjoyed when it distracted me from the prospect of having to dress-up in a Halloween costume!

12) Are you a bigger fan of Bonfire Night or Halloween night?

Probably Halloween night because my dogs get scared of the fireworks which go off on Bonfire Night.

13) Where is your dream destination to visit during autumn?

Vancouver Island is definitely on my travel bucket list, not least because its landscape is stunning at any time of year. Also, I would love to visit Denver in the USA for its largely unspoiled natural features. 

14) Do you always forget about the clocks going back?

Not really, although I do often forget to change a few of the clocks around my home which creates a few moments of confusion on the same day it changes.

15) When do you usually start for preparing for Christmas?

I don’t do much to prepare for Christmas overall except for purchase presents for others which, in general, starts in the first week of December. 

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Easy Ways To Campaign For Good Causes

We are not powerless to make a difference. If you are reading this you probably have an internet connection and a laptop or tablet, therefore you have the vital tools to campaign for good causes. So, don’t just feel angry about the injustices you see, do something about them however big or small.

Below are some ways which are quick, easy and simple to contribute to campaigns for good causes.

NB. [some of the language I use is UK-specific, simply because I’m more aware of how politics works here due to being a Brit.]

1. Online petitions

Platforms which give people everywhere the power to start their own petitions are growing in power these days. Signing an online petition takes under 30 seconds and helps to put public pressure on social authority figures, such as council members, Members of Parliament or CEOs of companies. It is hard to ignore people power, especially when individuals from across society collaborate in creating hundreds of thousands of signatures, signalling their determination to make a change. Change.org is a particularly prominent online petition platform which makes it quick and simple to get involved in worthwhile campaigns, as well as also keeping you informed about new and upcoming campaigns you may be interested in. 

 

2. Email your local authorities

Starting at a local level is a really handy campaigning tactic. In general, local councils deal with a lower scale of incoming correspondence than Members of Parliament, so you will get a quicker response from them if you send them an email. Also, if you can get your local authorities onside, then that can add weight behind your campaign once you move it onto a larger scale. In addition, the response of council members will give you an indication about points of opposition people may have to your campaign which can indicate to you what issues you need to build upon when you contact other individuals later.

 

3. Tweet public figures or companies

How quick is it to send a tweet? We all know how easy and convenient it is to use Twitter, so it makes perfect sense to use the platform to your advantage when you are passionate about a campaign. The more people who pile public pressure on a public figure or corporation the better, as it means that at some time or another they are going to have to respond. Also, individuals and companies are easily searchable on Twitter, so getting in touch with them is made extremely simple. Although, please remember to never use aggressive language however much you disagree with the person you are contacting. It devalues your argument, strips the moral high ground away from you and means that you are not campaigning on a compassionate basis, which I believe is key.

 

4. Boycott certain businesses

Corporations run on profit and the only way they can make a profit is through the consumer. If you refuse to consume their products or services, then business is fundamentally compromised and, unfortunately, many companies only take notice when money is involved. In the past, campaigns such as the one against the Dakota Access Pipeline urged supporters to boycott banks which were investing in the damaging project. Divesting your funds away from unethical corporations will make them have to chose between their customer base and their dirty investments.

 

5. Drop a quick text to a friend or relative

Many online petitions give you the option of sharing a link to their page after you have signed. This enables you to send a link to the petition via text, email or other social networks, so you can ask friends or relatives to consider signing too. Text and emails are an undervalued way of spreading awareness about an issue, so if you think someone you know may also be interested in contributing their signature and using their power as a member of society, then it couldn’t be easier to facilitate them doing this. 

 

Resources:

Change. org – The world’s platform for change (online petition site)

Greenpeace – online campaign platformWWF – campaign with us

WWF – campaign with us

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

A Walk With Nature Facebook Page

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Do not live and die by the judgement of others

Day by day I am noticing how much I constrain myself and tailor my behaviour through fear of how other people will judge me. I toe a line, telling myself that I am free and do not care about people’s irrelevant opinions when really everything I do, even down to what clothes I wear, is decided through the lens of what I know other people will find acceptable.

It is easy to pre-empt what other people will think and say. As long as you fall into line; dress, think and act like them, they will have no complaints. Do not challenge their view of the world and do not scare them by stepping out of place and becoming an unknown quantity. Do all these things and you will be safe. However, you will never be fully happy.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

– Sigmund Freud

Only as I am growing older, learning about new things, experiencing things outside of my small bubble am I realising the compromises I make in my daily life. The little decisions I make so as not to cause to ripples whilst telling myself that I am doing those things because I truly want to. Lie after lie legitimates my never reaching my full potential.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being purposefully inauthentic is so boring though. When you look at the person next to you and realise that you have morphed into a similarly brainwashed creature who has followed the pattern of other people’s beliefs without question or issue. You have fallen into line so quickly and easily you never saw it happening. The most exciting thing you can do now is be fully and unashamedly yourself. Follow your intuition and impulses which are intrinsically unique to you. Express yourself in the brightest ways you can think of no matter what. Indulge in whatever interests you, no matter if no-one else you know cares about the same things. More than anything, become someone you can be proud of, not only now but years down the line when you are reminiscing about your life. Did you do your unique nature justice? Did you follow your passions? Did you take a stand for the things you believe in?

“Expression is survival”

– Hayley Williams

 

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Another Gratitude List!

Things have been rocky lately (how many times do I start off a blog post with those words?!). In short, I have experienced some very unsettling mental health symptoms which are new to me and got me seriously concerned and fearful, I then changed medication and am waiting for my body (and mind) to adjust to these tablets. However, through the whirlwind of mental health confusion which has left me trying to catch my breath at times, I have seen glimpses of things I am so sincerely grateful for. Surrounding myself online with positive (yet realistic) accounts, whether that be on Instagram, WordPress or Twitter, has yet again realigned my perspective and made me give time, no matter how small, to the things I am grateful for. So, here’s a gratitude list from me to the world!

1) The seasonal change to autumn.
From the leaves changing colour to the crisp edge on the air, autumn is definitely upon us. I am thankful for this change of season because it has brought my attention back to nature. Consciously looking out for the changes in my surroundings, whether big or small, has made me undergo a whole new process of appreciation for the environment. When you can see the world around you as beautiful, it is one more weight taken off of your burdened heart and a way to look around you and feel some sense of hope.

2) Having access to mental health services
I retain the right to say that I firmly believe mental health services in the UK are critically underfunded by the government and so what they can offer people is curtailed by the lack of support they are given by the state. However, I am grateful that I do have access to support when so many people around the world are suffering completely alone in a whole variety of different, heartbreaking, situations. I am immensely grateful that I was able to get an appointment with a GP, talk honestly about how I felt regarding my medication and have him give me a way to reach out to the services I need. I want to say a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to the people who work in our National Health Service, as time and again they tirelessly try against the odds to help us in anyway they can.

3) My dogs aka the lights of my life!
Being reunited with my dogs has undoubtedly given me a huge boost (as it always does). Their boundless enthusiasm for life, their endless love and devotion as well as the all-round silly and ridiculous things they do which make me laugh out loud, are the things which really keep me going sometimes. I could write for hours and hours about all the ways they have improved me as a person and given me a little chink of sunlight in my life when I have felt completely hopeless. However, for now, suffice to say that I love them both so dearly and genuinely see them as my best friends.

4) The ability to cook
For me, self-care always starts with looking after my nutrition. Eating properly gives me a foundation from which I can start to feel better about my day and show myself some compassion. Preparing my meals is therapeutic in itself, then actually appreciating the fact that I have made the effort to give my body a nutritious and healthy meal allows me to shift my perspective which usually focuses on my habit of self-loathing.

5) Music
Whilst my ears have probably suffered from my reliance on music, at least putting my earphones in and drowning out the world has given me some peace of mind at times throughout these past few weeks. As always, I am immensely grateful to Paramore, Twenty One Pilots and Dodie Clark for making such raw, honest and insightful music. The fact that they don’t dress-up life as an easy ride in their lyrics gives me so much comfort whilst the beautiful music which laces together their words affords me hours of escapism.

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

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Awkward Confessions – Halloween Edition

1) I have only been trick or treating once

One Halloween, I went round to my friend’s house and her dad took a little group of us around their neighbourhood trick or treating. We must have been around 7 or 8 years old and I found out later that her dad had gone around prepping all the neighbours for our arrivals. My parents never let me go trick or treating around my area although, to be fair, I’m not sure I would have wanted to anyway but being with my friends and one of their dads, I felt like it was an amazing adventure, especially because they lived near a graveyard which made the whole experience extra spooky!

2) My family used to close the curtains and pretend we were not home when trick or treaters came around

I feel quite bad about this one but I think this was because my parents did not want older kids coming around and causing trouble from what I remember. Also, we were inevitably that family who had forgotten to buy any sweets for the occasion so even if we had of answered the door the best the kids would have got would have been a few mints from the bottom of my mum’s handbag!

3) I used to hate dressing-up for Halloween

I used to hate dressing-up full stop actually, no matter what the occasion was. The whole process of putting on a costume and embracing fancy dress has always gotten me embarrassed and feeling flustered. Part of that is probably down to the fact that I am a very self-conscious person and inherent in fancy dress is having to be able to pull-off an outfit and be confident enough own your look. Suffice to say, I have always avoided dressing-up wherever possible. 

4) I am awful at carving pumpkins

For some reason, it used to fall to me to carve our pumpkin each year which is actually very puzzling because every year I would do a pathetically bad job of it! Apart from the fact that I hate scooping-out all of the gloopy insides from the pumpkin, I have always struggled  to do anything fancier than a few triangles for the eyes and nose and then a slightly jagged line for a mouth.

5) I like celebrating Halloween…just not at parties!

I know that I am most likely the exception but I enjoy celebrating Halloween in my own ways and mostly on my own. I am not a fan of parties no matter what occasion or time of the year it is, so Halloween celebrations are no different. Instead, I have my own traditions which I enjoy largely in my own company.

(Wow, I’ve just realised how much of a misery guts I sound…)

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

 

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Beauty is a Myth and Other Ugly Confessions

I have acne.

My head is unevenly shaved.

My lips are flaky from the time I’ve spent chewing them.

I am a permanent sweaty mess because of anxiety.

I pull out my eyebrows.

There is a scar where my nose piercing used to be.

At 19 I already have worry lines.

I wear glasses too big for my face.

My teeth are coffee stained.

These are all just facts – things I am supposed to be ashamed of and try desperately to hide. I have whittled away hours of my life fretting over everything that makes me ‘ugly’, all of the features which dump me in the category of the unappealing. Then, I began to wonder, why do I care? Who is it I am trying to impress? It certainly wasn’t myself. I know that my acne amongst my wild variety of other flaws are all natural pitfalls that accumulate along the journey of living. If it doesn’t offend me to see a scruffy so-and-so looking back at me in the mirror, then why am I wasting all of this energy worrying about the implications of my so-called ‘ugliness’?

If someone looks at me on the street and thinks to themselves ‘wow, they’re ugly’ or ‘I wouldn’t date them in a million years’, frankly I never have to speak to them or see them ever again and they are not going to make any impact on my life. They are as irrelevant as the crisp packet being blown by the wind down the pavement.

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Unpopular Opinions – University Edition

1) Seminars are nearly unbearable and I barely ever get anything useful out of them

As someone who suffers with anxiety, I hate seminars. It feels like a magnifying glass is being placed over the fact that I am useless at speaking in front of people, so I clam-up and find my body ridden with tension for the duration of the seminar. To be honest, I have expelled so much energy over being anxious about the seminar that the majority of the material we cover just passes me by. In addition, I’ve always been more of an independent learner, meaning that I find it easier to teach myself concepts using my own methods rather than attempt to absorb what someone else is telling me.

2) It is not worth the £9,250 a year 

To be fair, I know this fee is a lot less than what students in other countries have to pay (I’m looking at you America) but I still think it is overpriced. We are being trained to become a functional part of the economy later in life, if nobody went to University the country would be in an extremely difficult predicament (I have a better word I want to use but I’m trying to keep swear words out of this post!). So, surely a better way to run the system would be to not put us in debt for the majority of our working lives unless you want to make Higher Education so unobtainable and unattractive a prospect that young people reject it out of hand?

3) Academia is inaccessible and elitist

First of all, academic books cost a small fortune, so it is no surprise that only a couple of people in each class actually purchase the required reading materials. Honestly, I actually felt compelled to play The Lottery the same day as I bought my books for Uni this year out of sympathy for my bereft bank account! Also, in a lot of cases, it feels like the technical jargon and overuse of words which are never used in everyday life just serve to put up barriers between people who hadn’t swallowed the dictionary by the time they were six and academic success. Things can be said just as effectively without drawing out concepts into hundreds of 10-syllable words and confusing sentences which go on for half a page without a comma.

4) Half of the stuff I study has no relevance to my interests

Although I picked a course I was interested in, the fact that the actual content of what I study is determined year by year by the interests of staff rather than students means that the things which particularly interest me can be swiped from the curriculum before I have a chance to study them. The depressing fact is, I have ended-up studying the same time periods and concepts multiple times because diversity within my course has been whittled down so much. 

5) Compulsory modules should be banned

This is something I feel with a passion. Why, oh why, do Universities force students to study particular things which may have absolutely no interest or relevance to them? In someone’s first year, compulsory modules are somewhat understandable because it gives students a broad basis of knowledge and exposes them to lots of different perspectives but, for second and third year students, it useless to force them to take one module in literary theory for instance when they have decided they want to specialise in history. 

I should probably stop ranting now before my blood pressure rises any further but I would be really interested to hear what any of you think about these opinions I have raised, no matter whether you agree or disagree with me. Also, do you have any unpopular opinions about University or college that you would like to add?

 

YOU CAN FIND ME HERE…

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Autumn Activities

I am so in love with autumn; it feels like a breath of fresh air after the stifling heat of summer. I really believe that there should be more celebration of the seasons changing, like a mini new year’s party as we embark on a clean slate for the next chunk of the year!

As the wind is getting gustier and whipping the fallen foliage into a frenzy, I’ve looked at my surroundings and felt a real craving to properly appreciate autumn this year rather than just look at it as the precursor to winter. There are plenty of things to put on an autumn to do list, so I thought I would leave a few ideas here in the hope of generating some good appreciation for the season amongst anyone who stumbles across this post!

1. Visit a gardening centre

Gardening centres are really nostalgic places for me. It used to be a real treat to walk along behind my mum, piling our trolley up with new, colourful plants and discuss where they could find a home in the garden. At this time of year, gardening centres have a stunning variety of different pumpkins in all shapes, sizes and shades on display which are the perfect things to get you in the Halloween mood!

2. Pack away your summer clothes

Put summer out of sight and out of mind! I know some people find passing into the colder months sad and somewhat demoralising but I find it completely the opposite. Get all your layers out ready to be donned once the wind and rain start to descend on you to get yourself into the autumn frame of mind. Also, this is helpful to check that you actually have the appropriate clothes waiting for you to wear them, in case a moth has decided to make it’s way through your choice of warm coats during the summer!

3. Cook hearty, warming meals

Shifting towards big warm meals has long been a feature of summer’s departure in my life. Autumn seems like the perfect time to get creative with cooking and create big batches of casseroles and stews, incorporating all of the wonderfully colourful harvested vegetables which make their way into our homes at this time of year. Food which warms us from the inside out can be the perfect antidote for people who are not so keen on the colder weather.

4. Get in the garden

If you are lucky enough to have a garden then get stuck-in nourishing your plants as they make the transition from the summer warmth to the colder months. If you do not have a garden of your own, think about going out ready to spot some of the gorgeous plants which bloom at this time of year. In the UK, autumn is especially good for Acers, Dahlias, Crocuses, so-called Beauty Berries and Asters. Looking at autumn’s unique offerings rather than focusing on how the luscious greens are fading around you can help to assuage some of the melancholy you may feel about summer finishing.

5. Harry Potter marathons

Personally, I think the Harry Potter films are the perfect accompaniment to your day no matter what time of year it is but it is true that they feel especially good to watch around Halloween time. Immediately, from the opening notes of the beginning credits, I fall into a mental wormhole of nostalgia and feel instantly comforted by the familiar characters, stories and scenery.

6. Get walking the dogs in your life

If you have dogs, they can give you a whole new appreciation for this time of year. They seem to find endless fun and interest in the piles of fallen leaves on the ground. My two spend a good portion of each walk kicking their way through piles of leaves and then giving them a good long sniff before inevitably trying to run around whilst balancing a fallen branch in their mouths! Honestly, dogs can be hysterical and the best ways to find enjoyment in the little things around you which otherwise would probably go unnoticed.

 

More resources for autumn fun can be found here:

10 Plants for Autumn Colour – Gardeners’ World

British Harvest Facts and Traditions – Countryfile

Autumn Activities for Kids – The Imagination Tree

 

You can find me here:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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How Mental Health Stigma Has Hurt Me

TRIGGER WARNING: REFERENCES TO SELF-HARM.

When I was 15, I was told by a family member that I was ‘over-sensitive’ because I had completely shut down whilst suffering with depression. My memory of that depressive period are incredibly hazy. When I try to think back to that point in my life all that really springs to mind is a cold, heavy feeling in my chest which takes me back to the days on end I spent sitting on my bed in a grey, miserable bubble. I remember glimpses of conversations I had with people at the time, such as when I was labelled ‘over-sensitive’, other than that it is a chunk of my life which remains shrouded in a cloud of fear I’m not really ready to make my way through just yet. However, the phrase ‘over-sensitive’ still hurts me to this day. It is an obvious example of someone buying into the stigma around mental health and trying to tell me that it was a character weakness of mine which was causing me to suffer, erasing the fact that depression is a serious illness.

I remember the first time I went to see a counsellor. I was scared stiff and my anxiety was the only thing my mind and body had space to feel. She asked me what I was worried about and I told her that I was scared she would think I was ‘pathetic’. I was 16 at the time and my self-esteem had been completely decimated by the narrative that suffering with your mental health makes you less of a person. I carried that weight around with me everyday as I avoided people’s eye contact at school and went to elaborate lengths to hide the fact that I was having to leave lessons early to go to counselling sessions. Stigma had taught me that my mental health was something to be ashamed about and a part of me to be hidden at all costs.

How many other people in the world have felt that way too?

Stigma around anxiety led me to skip school rather than tell my teacher that trying to make me do a presentation in front of the class was unacceptable when he knew that I was suffering at the time and could barely vocalise my thoughts in front of one person let alone a whole class. I thought that he would laugh it off or tell me that I would have to grow-up one day and make me do the presentation anyway. So, I missed a whole day of school because I knew how widespread the stigma around anxiety was (and still is).

I waited for years to tell anyone about my OCD because I thought that they would call me ‘crazy’ once I explained my rituals and intrusive thoughts. Stigma around OCD means that it is not talked about much in society other than in regards to people who clean obsessively when, in reality, the disorder is a lot more complex than that. So, I purposely did not mention these symptoms throughout all of the counselling, therapy and assessment sessions I had. If I had not been so worried about the labels which I thought people who attach to me due to my experiences, I could have gotten my OCD diagnosis so much earlier.

The stigma around mental health led me to suffer with self-harm alone. I was petrified about what people would think of me if they found out and I imagined scenarios in which people would call me an ‘attention seeker’ for what I was doing. So, quickly my habitual self-harming thrived in my silence as keeping it a secret meant that there was no way for anybody to intervene or convince me to stop. Reaching out for help seemed like an insurmountable task because of the judgements I knew people held about self-harm, such as that it is ‘a trend’ or ‘a cry for help’. When I finally did tell a family member, I got shouted out and had angry, accusatory words thrown at me which felt like a slap in the face when it had taken me so long to open-up.

The stigma around mental health is dangerous. These experiences I have documented above affect millions of people in varying ways across the world. The stigma ingrains in us a shame around talking about our mental health and makes us feel weak for struggling. People die every year because they cannot face telling people about what they are feeling – these are the real effects of stigma. It’s time that we all break down these barriers, no matter who you are or where you come from. Normalise conversations about mental health, make it a topic that you talk about often so that others will hear and begin to think that, if they needed to, they could talk about it too. Don’t let people suffer in silence, reach out and offer an understanding shoulder to cry on. Start the conversation and others will follow.

 

Resources for help with mental health:

Information & Support – Mind, the mental health charity

Samaritans

Contact – Childline (for under 18s)

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Unpopular Opinions – USA Travel Edition

As I mentioned in my Remembering The Summer Of 2018 post, I visited the USA for the first time ever this summer. It was a bit of a whirlwind experience which jet lag made all the more surreal as well as the crazy humidity which lingered around me everywhere I went. Along the way, I developed my own opinions about some American quirks and confectionary choices so, without further ado, here are some of my unpopular opinions which I gathered during my travels!

1. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is disgusting

People talked at length to me about their passion for Dunkin’ Donuts and their coffee in particular (shoutout to the bus driver who raved about the place for a solid five minutes). So, I got myself a coffee from the buffet car on the eight hour train journey I took from Washington D.C. to Boston… I literally could not finish it because I hated it that much. This is saying something for me because usually I will be so desperate for caffeine that, no matter how grim a coffee tastes, I will chug it down anyway. There was also no other coffee choice available on the train, so I suffered the eight hour journey without my caffeine-fix (first world problems!). Honestly, I would see a Dunkin’ Donuts what felt like every five steps whilst I was in Boston because they are a Massachusetts-based chain, so it almost felt like the company was taunting me with memories of their horrendous coffee as I walked around the city.

2. Too many tasty things are displayed in grocery shop queues

My goodness, I had to develop an iron will whilst I was standing in the queue to buy groceries! It’s like they saved all of the most delicious, sugary items of temptation for the layout before the tills just so that I would have to stare at them in all their glory whilst I waited in line to be served. Really, it is an unfair tactic, I felt pulled in every direction whilst every flavour of Oreo was laid out there before me, ripe for my taking. You’ll be happy to know though that my lack of many dollars meant that I had to force myself to resist these sweet treats, otherwise I would inevitably have come back from my travels with rotted teeth!

3. America has way too many Starbucks

Sorry to continue the criticism of the biggest American chains but I felt like I was the places I visited were overflowing in a superfluous number of Starbucks chains. I feel like the little, independent coffee shops stood no chance against the power of a big corporation like that which dominated every street in every town. I like to support small businesses but that was hard since they seemed to have been mostly forced to relocate elsewhere because the cities I visited was so chain-reliant.

4. The idea of cream being put in my coffee is like sacrilege to me

Every time I had a coffee, which let’s be honest was very regularly, the person serving me would ask if I wanted cream in my coffee which is something you are never offered in the UK. Each time I would protectively cling to my coffee before they could get the cream in and plead for some soya milk whilst people looked at me as if I was abnormal for looking at the cream as if it were poison. There were even little cartons of coffee creamers in the rooms I stayed in. To be honest, I know I must be a very sad person but I just could not get over how millions of people were ruining their perfectly good coffees everyday by putting cream in there. Horrifying.

5. American airports are really confusing

I properly struggled with this one. I found American airports to be like highly distressing mazes which offered you directions in the form of very unhelpful signs for every mile you walked further into the trap. I’m glad I got to the Boston Logan International Airport about three hours in advance otherwise I would have had heart palpitations just trying to find my gate. I don’t know if other airports in the country would redeem my opinion of them overall but the two airports I went through over there were some of the most bizarrely laid-out places you could possibly come across!

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Having been away from the place where I grew-up, my heart is now starting to crave a return to that place which I once took for granted. I thought my hometown was simply run-of-the-mill, boring and easy to forget, little did I know that one day I would look back over my shoulder at it and get a little misty-eyed in missing that place. Sure, it looks grey and typical from an outsiders’ perspective but once you lace the town with your own memories, it takes a hold over you for life. Nothing about it special per se but hindsight tells me that it formed a basis for my life and gave me a springboard to jump forward into the place I live now.

I love my home county in the autumn and winter. I miss walking with my dogs through the dense woods where the trees block out the rest of the world, I miss seeing my dogs kick through the neat piles of autumnal leaves as we made our way through the posh streets in town and I miss shivering in my bed at night with no heating on. It’s funny the things which cling to your heart when you look backwards at your past life. The things you would have assumed that ‘adult’ you could forget in a heartbeat come back as fresh and clear as ever. Small things which seemed inconvenient or too small to notice at the time take on a different hue when you put your rose-tinted glasses on.

Sure, I can still appreciate that it’s not perfect. People there are discontented and suspicious of each other. No-one proudly proclaims that they live there; it is not a picture postcard town. Actually, if anything, the heart of it is pretty ugly. Perhaps it is the bubble which I inhabited there for a time that I want to return to – I can take or leave the rest of it. It’s the walks I took when the air was so cold that it burned the back of my throat, it’s the journeys we took in the car after rugby matches and it’s the times I saw my doggies run around the house together in synchronised mischief. Those are the little bubbles of emotion and experience I look back at with tears in my eyes. Maybe, it’s not the place that I cherish, just the memories it provokes in me. My hometown can still be seen as my fairytale though; the place where I lived when I wanted to die and the place where I learned to breathe again when I was scared to go outside.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Remembering The Summer Of 2018

Sometimes we let moments pass before us without thinking much of them then, before we know it, a whole season has passed and it’s easy to forget what was achieved during that time. Summer always seems to be chock-full of events, experiences and memories, probably by virtue of it being a long period of freedom from University, for me at least. In retrospect, things that happened have taken on a different perspective in my mind and I have come to realise that a lot of things which occurred this summer were either things that I should be proud of or memories I should treasure. So, I thought I would record some of the highlights of summer 2018 on here!

1. I saw my brother graduate from University

My brother is now officially making his way in the ‘real’ world. It was surreal hearing his name called-out and watching walk along the stage in his swishy gown that he was so embarrassed to wear. I thought of how much he had changed over the four years of his degree, the new passions he had taken-up whilst at University and all of the future opportunities waiting for him in the big wide world.

2. I visited America for the first time

I’ve grown-up watching American films and TV shows, listening to American music, reading American books and studying American literature and history, yet I had never been to the United States. So, this summer I went to the US for a whirlwind week of sightseeing and walking for miles and miles. I started off with two days in Washington DC, then I took an 8 hour train journey all the way up to Boston where I spent the rest of my week. Then, after flight delays, I started my flight back to the UK at just after midnight, arriving at 10 am UK time. Then I had half a day to pack my life into boxes and suitcases before moving into a new place for Uni to start again. So, when I say it was a whirlwind, it really was a whirlwind!

3. I prioritised my writing

Throughout the summer, I made sure that I valued the time I had to write. For once, it wasn’t just a few scrawled sentences at the end of the day. Instead, I set apart actual chunks of time for me to invest in my writing. From poetry to fiction to opinion pieces, I made my way through many pieces of paper and developed my craft along the way. Taking writing seriously rather than discarding it as frivolous past time was definitely something I now feel vindicated in doing.

4. I came out online as trans

This was the most nerve-wracking blog post I have ever written to date but it was also so worth it. The reaction and feelings of validation I got from publishing The Gender Tag  is still having an impact on my daily life to this day. Taking the step to come out online has given me the confidence I needed to return to University using my real name, Ryan, rather than my birth name. Now, when I assert my identity, I feel proud of myself rather than ashamed which was a process of emotional development started by that blog post.

5. I started learning to drive

My goodness, this was an experience! Every time I got behind that wheel I felt either like I was going to die or be physically sick (or both)! A year or even six months before I would not have believed anyone who would have told me that I would be cruising along a busy A roads at 60mph but I did it. Every moment of feeling scared out of my wits and like I just wanted to give-up was worth it for the pride I feel now knowing that I felt the fear but did it anyway. I proved to myself that I could be brave and that perseverance is the key to learning any new skill.

6. I began baking

An overarching theme of the summer was learning how to come to terms with my body. As a trans guy, my body is most often associated with self-loathing for me, so the process of starting to nourish it was both a trial and a milestone in my life. Baking myself healthy snacks and allowing myself the time to consider the different nutritional components my body needed went some way to shifting the relationship I have with my body even though this shift was only limited. Progress is progress.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Toxic Expectations People Have For Vegans

To preface this post and put it into context; I am a vegan. Also, I’m not going to judge you and start screaming at you in caps-locked letters if you tell me that you aren’t vegan. You do you and I’ll do me, okay?

The ‘vegan’ label can sometimes feel very weighty and like it has a lot of expectations that come attached to it. I say I’m a vegan and people expect me to be whizzing-up smoothies at 6 in the morning ready for a day full of leafy greens. In reality when I say that I am vegan, I’m not saying that I am perfect or that I particularly subscribe to ‘clean eating’. I love eating natural foods and nourishing my body in that way because that is one way I practice self-care and promote body-positivity within myself when, as a trans man, feeling any level of good about my body can be a struggle. However, just because I love natural foods (think grains, seeds, fruit, veggies, nuts, lentils etc) that doesn’t mean that I don’t also want a cookie or some chocolate every once in a while! There is no shame in this either, I just try to give my body what it wants rather than deny myself something due to pressure to be perfect. Perfect is not attainable, so why not just try to strike a balance between healthy and happy instead?

Whenever, I pull-out a vegan cookie to eat, people inevitably start to chorus ‘ooh, look at the vegan eating something bad’, as if veganism equates to perfection or purity. It’s not bad to give yourself treats in moderation. Also, the expectation of vegans to all subscribe to ‘clean eating’ is frankly toxic. Being painfully strict and analysing every single morsel you eat is, in my opinion and for my own wellbeing, more harmful than letting yourself eat a cookie every once in a while. The expectations people have of vegans to eat solely salads for every meal is toxic as well, as it promotes a sort of shame, at least for me, if I want to eat something which isn’t ‘perfect’ in nutritious value.

Really, let people eat what they want and figure out a diet which best suits their mental and physical needs. As long as people are happy and healthy, who cares if they tuck into a dessert with enthusiasm? Just let them be. Equally, if you enjoy focusing on plant-based nutrition as part of your lifestyle then more power to you. It’s time we shifted our perspective on the topic of food; we should be able to enjoy eating rather than stressing out about it. A good relationship with nutrition can have such a positive impact on our mental wellbeing when we think of it as fulfilling, nourishing and a doorway to becoming happy and healthy rather than something to feel intimidated of.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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5 Ways To Combat Anxiety During University Seminars

Personally, I find seminars the hardest part of my academic obligations at uni. Doing the reading during my spare time, prepping essay answers and all of the other academic tasks I have to complete are, at some level, manageable for me (in a non-arrogant way). Lectures are difficult because of the amount of people I am surrounded by in the theatres during them, as well as other issues I have such as overstimulation. However my attendance rate for lectures is always better than it is for seminars. This is because I find seminars to be the most similar to a collaborative, high school classroom sort of setting. Group work, presentations, individual contributions, teachers calling on students and inter-group debates are all features of seminars which make my anxiety sky-rocket. As a result, last year I would either avoid going to some seminars completely or, if I did go, I would end-up getting nothing useful out of them because my mind was so preoccupied with the anxious frenzy going on inside my head and body.

Through time and after speaking to lots of different support workers, mentors and tutors, I have found ways to not eliminate my anxiety but at least lessen it to a non-brain-shattering level during seminars. If you struggle during these uni classes like me, then these might be a worth a try for you. However, everyone’s mental health is different and each individual will find that they respond better to differing techniques. So, please don’t think that if these things do not work for you then you are untreatable and powerless to combat your anxiety because that is simply not true. There will be other methods and techniques out there more suited to you, it’s a case of waiting and researching to find the right support structures you need to put in place for you.

Without further ado, here are my 5 tips for combatting anxiety during University seminars:

1. Seek out your room beforehand

I find new, unfamiliar places to be overwhelming, so I certainly do not want the first time I visit a place to coincide with my first day of class and the first time I meet my classmates. On the whole, that is just way too many firsts and new experiences to be bundled together and experienced by me. So, I would recommend that if you have a day on-campus before teaching starts, then try to find the rooms your seminars (and lectures) will be in during the year. That way you can familiarise yourself with the place and not worry about having to find your way there and possibly being late on your first day. If you can remove the anxiety of not knowing where you are going that is another weight you can ease off your shoulders before your seminars start. Also, it might help you feel more in control if you know the layout and look of the classroom in advance.

2. Use other people’s know-how

From my knowledge of Universities, they all have a student support/information service which all obviously vary in size and other factors but have a responsibility on campus to try and help students who come to them with specific needs and issues. So, if you find that you ares struggling in seminars, make use of this service rather than struggling in silence. It is perfectly valid to set-up an appointment with a member of staff at your support service and ask them to email your tutors to notify them that you would rather not be called-upon in class to answer questions, for example, because the anxiety this provokes detracts from your learning. If your tutors are made aware of this then they can adjust accordingly and, if they do not accommodate your wishes, then you have a point of contact to go back to at the support unit who is already aware of the situation and can take things further. On the whole if you are honest and open about your struggles, I have found that people are a lot more ready and willing to help you.

3. Write it down

If I am ever called-upon during a seminar to answer a question or contribute in any way my mind goes completely blank; any knowledge or opinion I may have had two seconds beforehand disappears from my mind and I am rendered to a complete state of confusion and panic. So, if you are aware of study questions for that session in advance or if you have readings you need to do for that seminar, jot down some bullet points. That way if you are put on the spot at least you will have some words written down in front of you that you could be able to credibly use to escape the awkward silence of a non-answer. In all honesty, this has not always worked for me as I have still been unable to get words out even when they were in front of me but it is worth giving this tactic a shot anyway.

4. Fidget/stimming tools and toys

In any anxiety-provoking situation I find fidget toys useful. From making an airplane journey to walking down the street, fidget or stimming toys can have huge benefits in lowering your anxiety and allowing you to feel more relaxed. You can take out some of your anxious energy and re-focus your mind on them by using them under your desk or in your pockets. Personally, if I allow myself even just a minute of withdrawing from my current setting and focusing solely on the feeling and texture of my fidget toy (such as a tangle or fidget cube), I am sometimes able to regain some semblance of control over my thoughts.

5. Use your perspective

I have a tendency to plunge myself into catastrophic thinking whenever I am in the midst of struggling through a seminar. Feeling anxious and not being able to speak become the only things I can think about and a spiral of self-loathing and negative thoughts enter my head. What I’m still working on is implementing a different perspective during these moments. Rather than falling into a black hole of criticism and slating myself, I try to remind myself that seminars are not the centre of my world and are not the be-all and end-all of my academic career. At the end of the day, I am not graded on how I do in seminars and neither should me self-worth be based on them. I blow the experience of seminars out of proportion and let them define the tone and mood for the rest of my day which is both unhealthy and completely unnecessary. 

I feel like a bit of fraud talking about this because I still have not conquered seminar anxiety myself. Hopefully though you will be able to find something in my ramblings which will at least help to ease your struggle a little bit and you won’t do what I did in my first year which was avoid even going to a crazy amount of seminars which is the start of a slippery slope.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Turning Down Opportunities Due To Mental Health

Sometimes life throws chances into your path, leaving it up to you whether you wish to grasp them or turn the other way. Declining to take-up opportunities due to mental health issues is a double-edged sword; on one hand if you do not challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, then your mental health can continue to control and dictate your life, on the other hand some opportunities are just not worth the mental toll and upheaval they will place upon you. If you take the opportunity and then ultimately fail, will the impact of failure be so great as to outweigh the benefits of saying yes in the first place?

As I have grown older, I have learnt to distinguish with more ease and clarity which opportunities are really worth seizing and which others I should let fall by the wayside because of the risks they pose to my mental wellbeing. However, this is most often not understood by other people. Those opportunities which I turn down are viewed by lots of other people as amazing chances and new experiences to be cherished, so they cannot appreciate why on earth I would even consider not giving them a go. Instead, they ask themselves whether it is because I am lazy or unmotivated or unambitious that I will not go along with these chances.

What some people fail to understand is that there comes a point where you have to prioritise yourself and your own safety. This goes hand in hand with knowing your boundaries and understanding the wisdom of testing yourself versus being your own protection. Whilst I do attempt to challenge my comfort zone in certain situations, there are other circumstances which arise where I know that it would not be a healthy environment for me to take such a leap. Weighing up the relative risks and rewards, sometimes it becomes obvious that the potential benefits of saying ‘yes’ to something are outweighed by the looming possibility of damaging my own sanity to achieve these rewards.

It has taken me a long time to become unashamed of prioritising my mental health. I used to feel immature for admitting that I was not ready to take a certain opportunity or pursue a particular avenue but really my knowledge of where my healthy boundaries lie is a sign of personal strength and emotional maturity if anything.

Let me know your thoughts on this, whether you think it is wrong or right to turn down opportunities due to mental health. If you have any wisdom to share, then please do because goodness knows I need it!

 

CONTACT ME:

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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Why I Shaved My Head

Today is my first day of classes back at Uni. So, naturally this morning I decided to make a big physical, aesthetic change by shaving my head! Full disclosure: my hair has not been long for a good year and a bit, I have had it cropped for a while but nowhere near shaved. I’ve always kept it long enough to style with gel and give me a little something to hide behind.

My relationship with my hair has long been a love/hate one. When I was younger I had long blond hair down to my hips before I accepted that I was trans. People would always remark on my ‘pretty’ hair and often I would be moved to either tears or anger by the word ‘pretty’ being used to describe me because I adamantly did not want to be girly but I couldn’t express or understand why this was. As long as my I left my long blond hair flowing people would put up with me wearing jeans, t-shirts and trainers all the time rather than dresses and skirts because at least my hair kept me looking feminine. There starts my feelings of resentment towards my hair.

As I grew up, I began to tie my hair back into a ponytail everyday without fail but the long shock of blond which ran down my back was never far from my mind. I was torn about my hair, whilst it kept me looking socially respectable as a little girl and earned me the attention and compliments of people around me, I certainly felt a disconnect from the way it made me look.

Fast forward to me as a 16 year old who had just finished secondary school and was about to embark on the new-found freedom of sixth-form college for two years. I decided to get an undercut, meaning that I shaved the underneath of my hair. This was an interesting compromise because it meant that I kept the look of long hair on the top of my head but if I tied my hair up I could show something different through my shaved hear underneath. However, I still felt that I was hiding a big part of my identity and couldn’t find the confidence to go fully short with my hair.

At 18 I dyed my hair from blond to black. I was a very sad, confused and isolated figure at this age and I craved to express what I was feeling on the inside on the outside of me. My hair was still pretty long but I stopped being defined by the ‘pretty’ blondness of my hair. Then, I snapped. I’d had enough with not being true to myself and selling myself short to please other people. So, I got my hair chopped into a black pixie cut.

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Whilst this look was still layered and ‘feminine’ to an extent, I felt a lot less like I was lying to myself and the world when I presented myself this way.

Now, back to the present day and I have just given myself a buzz cut in my new accommodation that I moved into on the weekend! I feel like I have finally found the courage to be unapologetic in the way I look. There is no longer any hairstyle for me to hide behind which is a significant development for me as I have been so ashamed of the full face of acne I have had for the past 8 years. I have always looked to become invisible and fade into the background because of the level of disgust I have felt towards myself whenever I’ve seen my reflection. The disconnect between my mind and my body has weighed me down with the burden of self-loathing which was an unsustainable way to live my daily life.

I feel like buzzing my hair signifies to me a fresh start. No more hiding or trying to please others. I no longer feel the need to be seen as attractive by anyone, I prefer to make myself happy first. I want to abandon the shame I feel about the reflection which glares at me from the bathroom mirror. I will not live my life by anyone else’s rules any longer.

 

CONTACT ME:

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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Anniversary Feelings, Reminiscing And Getting Emotional

This is a very impromptu blog post but today I clicked onto my WordPress page and the notification came up to tell me that this is my blog’s one year anniversary and a lot of thoughts and emotions sprung into my mind.

This little milestone reminds me of the place I was in when I created this blog in the first place. I was living on my own for the first time, 18 years old and hating every inch of University life with a bitter passion. I could hear parties and the laughter of tipsy freshers from my lonely little room and I felt so horribly and completely alone. I felt like I was an outsider looking in, never really understanding other people and feeling isolated because I didn’t enjoy any of the things my peers were into.

I had heard so many people say that University was the best few years of their life and that they had made their best friends during their time away in Higher Education. Many of the adults I knew even met their spouses at University, yet there I was struggling under the weight of depression and anxiety in my room, away from everyone else.

This is where blogging came in. I wanted to stop feeling so lonely and also I craved a place I could pour all my thoughts and feelings into. I needed an outlet as well as a place to connect with other people. Creating a WordPress blog allowed me to do both of those things and my site began to signify to me a place of understanding and belonging.

Over the year which my blog has been running, I have been inspired by so many people. I discovered some of the most creative people I have ever come across on poetry blogs who create beautiful content on a daily basis. I have also been uplifted by lifestyle blogs which have caused me to find an interest in minimalism, as well as helping me on my veganism journey. Mental health blogs have given me a feeling of solidarity and the knowledge that I am not alone in my struggles with depression, anxiety and OCD.

My blog has served as my safe space over the past year whilst a lot has changed in my life. From starting University to coming out as transgender, my journey has been at times rocky and intimidating but my blog has allowed me to express all of my thoughts and emotions during these big life milestones.

I am so thankful to the me of one year ago who took the step to make a WordPress blog. I was battling with suicidal ideation and chronic anxiety which left me unable to leave my room for long periods of time but making this site was the best decision I could have made. I am also immensely grateful to you, the people who read my posts. Anyone who has left me a comment or a like over the past year, please know that these little gestures have probably made my day a whole lot better and made me feel less alone in this world.

Having moved into my new flat yesterday, I am excited to see what the next year holds for me. I don’t know what my life will look like in a year’s time, where I will be in my transition or what the state of my mental health will be but, for the first time in a long time, I am feeling hope for my future self as well as happiness that this blog will be there with me every step of the way!

 

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Cacao & Banana Overnight Oats Recipe

Overnight oats are great for when you are short of time in the morning or if you just want something to eat waiting for you to just grab when you get-up in the morning. It takes a couple of minutes to mix all of the ingredients together in the evening, then you just pop the mixture into an airtight container and store it in the fridge ready for the next morning.

Here is my recipe for cacao and banana overnight oats:

Ingredients:

1. Two small ripe bananas

2. Three tablespoons of cacao powder

3. Three tablespoons of rice protein powder

4. A splash of soya milk

5. One cup of rolled oats

6. One tablespoon of plain soya yoghurt 

Recipe:

1. Mash the two bananas thoroughly

2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the mixture and mix them all together. 

3. Pour the mixture into an airtight container and put in the fridge, ready to enjoy the next morning!

Benefits:

– Vegan

– Oats can lower cholesterol 

– Bananas are a great source of potassium and give you energy throughout the day

– High protein

– Cacao is a brilliant source of magnesium (and it’s delicious!)

 

 

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Life Update

Sometimes my blog feels a bit distanced from my present life which is a strange dynamic to work with and negotiate a lot of the time. I have talked so much about my past experiences on here that I have sort of left my current state fall by the wayside. It feels like there are many, many things going on in my life at the moment, so I am resorting to what I always do when there are too many subjects and thoughts and worries bouncing around off the walls of my mind…I’m going to write it all down. So, without further ado, here is a little life update of mine:

1. I got into my second year of Uni

I sort of glossed over this a bit on here to be honest but, yes, I will be going back to University in September. I averaged around the 70% mark for my end of year exams which really surprised me considering the mess I was when I entered the summer assessment period. However, the grades do not mean as much to me as the mental strength and progress it took for me to get through my first year and resolve to go back for my second. My mind went to some really scary and dark places throughout my time as a fresher at Uni and I pleaded with myself and others to just let me walk away from the stress of the whole situation. In the end, I got myself through a whole lot more than I ever thought I could do when I arrived as a terrified newbie in September 2017.

2. I have been rejected for more jobs than I can count

Being a student is expensive…well, to be honest, life in general is just expensive! So, I’ve been attempting to find a part-time job for ages. I have sent off my CV and completed questionnaires for jobs ranging from retail to copywriting to admin, none of which have been successful. It’s pretty disheartening to think that I do not fulfil the needs and wants of any employer I have applied to so far but I just have to remind myself that the amount of competition for each and every job is huge as thousands of potential employees are all trying to get the same job. Rather than think of myself as not good enough for any job, I’m trying to maintain the perspective that there are just other people better suited to those positions and there is another job out there which will be more appropriate for me.

3. I visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour

I went to the tour for the second time, however this visit was even more special as I got to see the Goblet of Fire feature which will finish in a couple of weeks. Props, costumes and sets which were used in the 4th Potter film were on display and I even saw the Goblet spit out Cedric Diggory’s name on a piece of parchment! The Studios are one of my favourite places in the world; it is breathtaking and surreal to step inside the Wizarding World.

4. I had a neck x-ray

I had a bit of a health scare in August after a went for a check-up at the opticians and they thought that they saw something irregular at the back of my eye. Many people don’t know that opticians can identify a whole host of health issues which seemingly have nothing to do with your eyes, so of course I was worried when I got this news and I was told that had to go for an urgent referral to an ophthalmic specialist. In addition, there was a worry that I might have had fluid pressing on my spine, so I was sent for a neck x-ray. Thankfully, the x-ray was all-clear and the ophthalmic surgeon discharged me as having only a minor issue which posed no health-threat to me.

5. I have started to make more healthy choices again

I started off the summer with a positive outlook on my health, as I was actively choosing to exercise, eat healthily and give myself a good routine. These things all started to decline and, as I got more frustrated and annoyed with my unhealthy habits, I just spiralled into worse ways. However, I have now got into the schedule of pre-preparing many of my meals and snacks which has allowed me to feel both organised and accomplished whilst also ensuring that I make more healthy choices. I have re-started going for long walks in nature which are beneficial to my mental and physical health by giving me a sense of peace and getting me into fresh-air.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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5 Things I Pack To Combat Travel Anxiety

Airplane journeys can be very stressful experiences. Once you have made it through the rigours of airport security and finding your gate in the maze of identical looking passageways, you will probably already feel frazzled and at your wits’ end. Then, actually having to go through the experience of air travel is just another weight to put on your already stressed-out shoulders. There are certain things I make sure that I pack in order to combat the sort of travel anxiety which being thousands of feet up in the air surrounded by strangers causes! So, without further ado, here are 10 things I make sure to pack to try and keep myself calm:

1. Fidget/stim toys

I use discreet little toys such as Tangles or Fidget Cubes to help exercise some of my nervous energy which flying provokes. Being able to fiddle with these little toys allows me to pour all of my focus and concentration into using them which then distracts me from my anxious thoughts. Also, there is something about their familiarity to me which adds a certain comfort to holding them in my hands, almost like what a comfort blanket is to a young child I guess!

2. Mints

Mints are another great way to distract the mind from anxious thoughts and anchor your focus back onto you rather than what others are doing around you. You can use them for mindfulness practice as well, if that’s your sort of thing, because you can make yourself solely focus on the taste/texture/feeling of the mint in your mouth which can help prevent you from becoming scatter-brained.

3. Earphones

Listening to music is one of my favourite ways to combat anxiety in any situation regardless of my location, so it makes sense to use the same tactic against travel anxiety. Playing music in my ears can help me shut out the presence of people around me, making me less aware of the people surrounding me who I may otherwise be worried about. Also, if I can completely immerse myself in music, especially albums which I have listened to many, many times before, then I can lessen my concern about being sat in an aeroplane.

4. Harry Potter

Some people might find this silly or immature but frankly I do not care. Harry Potter things make me feel happy and the familiarity of the Wizarding World is a comfort to me. Don’t laugh but I have the soundtrack for the Prisoner of Azkaban on my iPad, I find the music from the Harry Potter films both enchanting and nostalgic and when I am anxious. I aim to convince my brain that I am safe and give myself space to feel calm, so Harry Potter is a good outlet for my worried brain.

5. A book

Whether fiction or non-fiction, books are a brilliant distraction as they give us the possibility of immersing ourselves in an author’s creation. Pouring over the pages of a good book offers an avenue into a world different from our own.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Why Anxiety Sufferers Are Misunderstood As Rude

During my course of CBT a couple of years ago, my therapist warned me that I probably come across as rude to other people whilst I am fighting off my anxiety in a social situation. In fact, she said that it’s likely I put people off and make them wary of me because they will view me as cold and distant. To a certain extent I can understand what she was saying, however I also maintain that people with anxiety should not be blamed for the way they appear during social interactions.

People who do not have experience of social anxiety can often misunderstand the internal workings of anxiety sufferers. For example, I fidget quite often during conversations and constantly try to avoid eye contact, so others can perceive me to be disinterested and aloof when really I am just battling to keep control over my mind as anxiety increasingly eats away at me. At other times, I have difficulty vocalising what I want to say; the words may be begging to be said at the front of my mind but they feel like they get stuck in my throat. As I panic more and more, I am unable to speak, my throat constricts further and the waiting words get squeezed so much that there is no hope of me getting them out in the air. Whilst all this is going on for me internally, the person awaiting my response in conversation may misunderstand me and think that I have nothing to say or believe that I have abandoned the interaction. Again, this situation ends-up in me being viewed as rude when really I am trying desperately hard to stay in the social situation whilst all my impulses scream at me to run away immediately.

I cannot blame other people for wrongly perceiving me as rude or distant because I display all of the normal signs of being exactly those characteristics. People judge each other on first impressions and keep those judgements in their minds for a very long time. The problem is that when I meet someone for the first time, my anxiety symptoms are often at their most extreme and pronounced. As a result, I come across as the most rude I can possibly be and, after that, I am condemned to glares across the lecture hall for the rest of the academic year all because of the disastrous first interaction I had with someone.

It’s difficult to conclude this post. If general society was more aware of the effects anxiety can have on the whole of people’s lives, then maybe these misunderstandings could be avoided and the pressure on sufferers to act okay when they are not could be eased. However, everyone has some measure of insecurities during social interactions, so we cannot pile all of the blame on people who become offended when they see the person they are talking to start to shuffle and look away into the distance.

I would love to know everyone’s thoughts about this topic and what people think can be done to ease the pressure on anxious people when they are in social situations.

Here is a link for information about anxiety and panic attacks if anyone wants to read-up on this further:

Mind – Anxiety and Panic Attacks

CONTACT ME:

Twitter – @RyanBInNature

Instagram – @awalkwithnature00

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Gratitude List #3

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This week has been a bit all over the place. From coming out to riding a rollercoaster of dips and jumps in self-confidence, I’ve felt a lot of emotions during the last 7 days (when don’t I?). However, to put this week into perspective, I have decided to write-out a gratitude list to emphasise to myself the positive things I can take away from this week and to share the intention of shifting to a perspective of gratitude when life seems to overwhelm you. So, without further ado, here is a list of things I am grateful for which have appeared, surfaced or been re-emphasised in my life this week:

  1. My ability to get myself new glasses which can support my eyesight and make me feel comfortable whilst wearing them.
  2. The abundance of dried fruit and nuts I have to make delicious vegan fruit loaves with.
  3. The supportive and welcoming LGBTQ community online which offers me a place to feel safe and be myself even when I feel rejected in my personal life.
  4. My bullet planner which makes me feel in control of the events in my life by allowing me to become organised.
  5. The person who cut my hair yesterday and made me feel good about myself whilst she got creative with shaving my hair!
  6. Ted, the dog I got to look after earlier in the week who is such a sweetheart, never fails to make me smile and tolerates the playfulness of my other dogs even when he just wants to have a sleep.
  7. The album After Laughter by Paramore which lifts my mood and evokes great memories from the last couple of years.
  8. The people who leave comments on my blog posts, these interactions make my day and I love reading and replying to them.
  9. My morning coffees – they are a short period in my day where I can just focus on doing one thing, relax and prepare for the rest of my day.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @RyanBInNature

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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Am I Safe? The Fear of Prejudice

Some days I catch myself mid-thought,
Contemptuous in my assumptions
About the cruel masks people use to smile.
I think, ‘if they knew who I am really am,
They would cast their eyes the other way
Shake their head to rid themselves of my contagion’.
For, they do not know the cogs my mind is turning,
How my brain does not mirror my shell;
I am outsider to my own body,
A figure of revolted confusion, mingling,
Turning tables in their midst, under cover
Of darkness or the approach of a raging storm.
I am exactly as I seem if you know where to look.

Some poets and songwriters advise against describing exactly what it is that you have written about. They say that readers and listeners should come to their own conclusions about the contents of your art and that they should interpret it subjectively, adapting it to their own unique perspective. However, I always feel impelled to know what writers are thinking as they craft their pieces of work together, so I am going to break the rules and explain to you, as best I can, what this poem I wrote is about:

When people meet me in public, cross me in the street, glance at me across a supermarket aisle, they have no idea what is going on in my life. Some assume that I am female, especially if they hear my soft and quite highly pitched voice. Others assume that I am male because of the way I dress and attempt to present myself. As someone who is trans, I sometimes catch myself thinking about that stranger in the supermarket or in the street and asking myself ‘I wonder if they would hate me/be confused by me/judge me negatively if they knew that I was transgender’. Essentially, I wonder whether they would still glance at me nonchalantly or walk past me casually if they knew about my identity and who I truly am.

This is one aspect of how societal prejudice works. It sows seeds of doubt and fear in people’s mind. We question whether we would face repercussions from strangers in the street if they knew about our identity whether that be regarding our sexuality, faith, gender or many other things. Our worries about facing prejudice, which stems from the abuse we have seen online or experienced ourselves before, causes us to build walls around ourselves, as we divide ourselves away from people we cannot be sure are safe to be around. Being part of an oppressed group can, for this reason, be an isolating and anxious experience. Feeling safe is of the upmost importance but when you do not know who you can trust or you cannot gauge the reactions of people to your identity, it is difficult not to seal yourself off from the outside world simply as a precaution.

 

As ever feel free to reach out to me on my social accounts or drop a comment below if you are going through something similar or have any questions.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00