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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

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The Gender Tag / Coming Out

This is a really big post for me to publish, it feels like I am revealing a massive part of my identity to you guys which, up to this point, I have felt too scared to admit to because I was worried about what other people would think and being rejected. I thought that using a tag to do this would be an easy and simple way to ‘come out’ because it will break down my experiences into little chunks and make it easier for other people to understand me (hopefully). So, without further ado, here is my take on the Gender Tag (please be nice in the comments and if you have something judgemental to say keep it to yourself).

1. How do you self-identify your gender, and what does that definition mean to you?

I am transgender, female to male to be specific. Being a trans man means that I have felt suffocated in the body I was born into, everyday I have got up in the morning knowing that I have to live and function in a body which does not feel like it belongs to me and which I often feel repulsed by. The definition ‘transgender man’ does not however equal to me the criteria of toxic masculinity we see in society these days. Whilst I am a man, I will refuse to conform to the hyper-masculine stereotypes which are so emphasised in the media. Refusing to cry and suppressing vital emotions is not what being a trans man means to me. Personally, identifying as a trans man means that I finally have the freedom to be who I truly am without imposing boundaries and limits on my character.

2. What pronouns honour you?

He/him is music to my ears. Whereas I cannot be referred to as she/her without flinching. However, being referred to as they/them does not offend me, especially if someone does not know me and isn’t prepared to ask me my pronouns outright. Hedging your bets on they/them in my personal case is much better for me than risking misgendering me.

3. Describe the style of clothing you most often wear.

Quite literally every day I wear jogging bottoms, a baggy t-shirt (most likely Harry Potters  themed) and a hoodie unless it’s warm in which I case I drop the hoodie. On a daily basis, I wear clothing which doesn’t show my figure, meaning that I feel loads more comfortable in oversized items.

4. Talk about your choices with body hair. How do you style your hair? Do you have facial hair? What do you choose to shave, or choose not to shave?

In regards to the hair on my head, it is very short and I do the bare minimum with it. I literally just wash it in the morning, run a comb through it and let it dry naturally which does not take long at all. I do not shave, although I used to when I was at school because otherwise the other girls would have stared at me like I was a foreign species and the boys would have undoubtedly have had something/a lot to say about it (the atmosphere of my school was literally that petty).

5. Talk about cosmetics. Do you chose to wear make-up? Do you paint your nails? What types of soaps and perfumes do you use if any?

I never wear make-up. I used to wear it occasionally when I was younger because I thought it would make me feel more confident by allowing me to fit-in more but, in reality, it just made me feel more uncomfortable and like I was only doing it for everyone else around me rather than myself. I do not paint my nails, however this is more down to me being lazy and impatient because I can never be bothered for nail varnish to actually dry properly. I also do not use perfume because I am very sensitive to smells, so overpowering scents tend to just annoy me during the day. The types of soaps I use are usually quite neutral fragrances which do not linger long after using them.

6. Have you experienced being misgendered? If so, how often?

Yes, for the vast majority of my life I have been misgendered because I have not been comfortable enough in my identity to come out as trans, even though I purposely dressed in a androgynous way and attempted to present myself as masculine. On the occasional times that I have been referred to as a guy, it has made me really happy, although once I have spoken in my high to the person they become horrified for ‘mistaking’ me for not being a girl and I have to repeatedly assure them that I am really not offended.

7. Do you experience dysphoria? How does that affect you?

Yes, dysphoria is a daily sledge hammer which attacks my self-confidence. Sometimes it prevents me from leaving the house because I cannot bear being seen by other people and feeling their eyes on me. Dysphoria is very damaging to my mental health and general mood because it makes me feel disgusted by my own body and plunges me into self-loathing.

8. Talk about children. Are you interested in having children? Would you want to carry a child if that was an option for you? Do you want to be the primary caretaker for any children you have?

In all honesty, the idea of having children really does not interest me and it never has, I’m just not a child-orientated person and it has taken me a long time to not feel bad about myself for being this way. The idea of carrying a child is also not for me, especially as I would wish to to have a hysterectomy in the future.

9. Talk about money. Is it important to you to provide for a family financially if you choose to have one? Is it important to you that you earn more than any partner you may have? Do you prefer to pay for things like dates? Are you uncomfortable when others pay for you or offer to pay for you?

This question makes me cringe because it just screams to me of outdated tropes of nuclear families and gender stereotypes. Concern about money and paying for things just seems to me to be ways of enforcing your own power and dominance in a relationship which is an uncomfortable and weird thought. I really think that it can only be an insecure relationship in which someone feels the need to earn more than the other.

10. Anything else you want to share about your experience with gender?

It has taken me a very long time to come to a place in my life in which I feel even remotely comfortable with myself and my gender. I have experienced years of confusion and self-hatred but now there is a positive at the end of the story. I am proud that I have given myself the freedom and licence to be the person I know I am rather than self-imposing constraints upon my character and personality or following the caricature of male and female characteristics portrayed in the media.

 

If you have any questions or are struggling with anything gender related, although I am not an expert, feel free to contact me via the links below or drop me a comment.

TWITTER: @RyanBInNature (I recently changed my Twitter handle by the way)

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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Lessons High Schools Could Learn From Hogwarts

Yesterday was one of those days when I was reminded how lovely a place social media has the potential to be. It was 1st September and #backtoHogwarts was everywhere on Twitter and Instagram, as people took magical photos to mark the departure of the Hogwarts Express from Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station. The joyful atmosphere surrounding that hashtag got me thinking about how muggles always dread going back to school and I imagined an alternate world where every student actually faced the oncoming academic year with the same enthusiasm as Hogwarts’ students. I came to the conclusion that there are many lessons which High Schools could learn from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to make the education system a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Whilst, Hogwarts is not without it’s faults (the fate of multiple Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers was at the very least unsavoury), it was considered a second (or first in some cases) home by its students rather than a place of misery and boredom which many High School attendees regard their schools as being.

Without further ado, here are just some of the lessons High Schools would do well to learn from Hogwarts:

1. Never underestimate pupils

For many, High School can be a time of confidence-crushing experiences, in which teachers impart on you the impression that success will always remain out of reach during your life. People who do not excel during classes are often told that they are destined for failure whilst they are at a startlingly tender age and have not had time to let their talents bloom yet. I’ve known someone very close to me who was told in primary school that he would not be able to progress through the school system and would have to be withdrawn to a specialist school to have even a slim chance of reaching his GCSEs. However, he is now completing the third year of his University degree. High Schools could learn a great deal from the stories of Hogwarts’ students such as Neville Longbottom. Neville was constantly undermined and chastised by his teachers for his anxious and forgetful demeanour, so his talents went vastly overlooked for many years as teachers did not invest time in developing his self-confidence. Yet, it was Neville who destroyed the last Horcrux and was able to wield the Sword of Gryffindor which only choses the most noble witches and wizards to be of use to. If there is anything to glean from Neville’s school years, it is that pupils should not be underestimated simply because there talents are not easy to spot from a distance, those who flourish slowly are infinitely valuable too.

 

2. Everyone needs a Hagrid during their school years

Although his cooking was perhaps not up to much and his unwavering trust in all magical creatures sometimes put his pupils in less than comfortable situations, Hagrid was often a crucial shoulder to cry on, especially for Harry, Ron and Hermione. I could think of no-one better to lead the first years from the Hogwarts Express across the Great Lake with his guiding light showing them all the way. Hagrid’s kind and open heart endeared him to his students (except for certain Slytherin cohorts) and by being such a generous soul, he showed his pupils that they should not believe in all the stereotypes they are fed due to his being an unconventional giant. His passion for his subject shone through in every lesson he conducted whilst he strived extremely hard to make every lesson enjoyable for his students, his heart always being in the right place. With the restrictions in school funding in the muggle world, pupils often do not get all the pastoral care they deserve. High School can be a confusing and isolating experience for too many pupils and a Hagrid-like figure could make all the difference in making their experience more bearable. School is not only about academics and peoples’ final grades, an emphasis too should be placed on the learning of core values which will help shape students into adults who are equipped for the world ahead of them and who have had confidence instilled in them by understanding figures like Hagrid.

3. Food is important too!

I believe that Ron would be especially passionate about this point considering his undying passion for Hogwarts’ feasts in the Great Hall as well as any sugary treats he could get his hands on. Whilst I do not expect High Schools to lay on extravagant feasts for students, food is an extremely important fuel to facilitate learning during the school day. Joking aside, too many pupils have to go to school each day on an empty stomach because their families’ could not afford to feed them breakfast and that reality is heartbreaking. When food is scarce at home, pupils often struggle to concentrate and take information in during lessons, rendering them at a distinct disadvantage to other pupils whose families are able to afford sufficient nutrition. Poverty creates a chasm of inequality in every level of schooling, so schools need to have the funding made available to them so that they are able to give pupils at least a good breakfast and hot lunch, in order for them to get anything out of the school day, something which the Hogwarts house elves who worked in the kitchen would agree with wholeheartedly!

4. A feeling of belonging makes all of the difference

If a student feels like they have a real place at school, their academic efforts and contribution to the establishment can increase hugely. Partially due to the house system, the vast majority of Hogwarts students felt a sense of belonging inside that magical, grand castle. Pupils worked hard for their house because they wanted their house to succeed at the end of the year and also because their house became another family to them. For me personally, I never felt comfortable being at school during all those years I was at different establishments. I was on edge constantly during the school day waiting for the next taunt to be flung at me from one of my classmates or worrying about who I would be able to hang-out with at lunch. Feeling like the odd-one-out made me resent school and, as a result, I never contributed during classes because I was always worried about the reaction of  my peers. Essentially, I never found a place for myself at school. However, at Hogwarts, the feeling of belonging students had was something for them to fall back on during hard times. Even if the library was your safe place, as in the case of Hermione, there was always a space for pupils to slot into at Hogwarts which stopped them from feeling completely adrift.

5. Get yourself a Professor McGonagall

You would never want to get on the wrong side of her and she dealt-out her fair share of tough love but Professor McGonagall was a pivotal figure in her students’ lives. Minerva McGonagall had the ability to chastise a pupil for their wrongdoings perfected beyond that of most other teachers, however she also had the ability to sit a student down, offer them a biscuit and give them some crucial words of wisdom. She was an extraordinary teacher who treated her pupils with a very real sense of love and protection. Overworked teachers and underfunded High Schools mean that students are not able to be given the sort of Professor McGonagall-esque treatment that they deserve. Teachers do not have the time and schools do not have the resources to stretch every pupils and make sure that everyone reaches or exceeds their potential whilst also making them feel cared for like Professor McGonagall did. 

I hope you enjoyed these little Hogwarts-inspired pointers and please drop any more that you can think of in the comments if you have ideas on how to make school more enjoyable and preferably more like Hogwarts! Thank you for reading and, as always, feel free to reach out to me on social media if you wish…

TWITTER: @IssieLouH

INSTAGRAM: @awalkwithnature00

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Unpopular Confessions and Why I’m Crap at Social Media

Whenever I am on social media (which is invariably way too much), I come across posts which make me think that people are speaking a different language to me. In-jokes and witty references often pass over my head because I have not watched or listened to the latest popular show or song. Sometimes this can make me feel out of touch (which is odd as a 19 year old) but other times it can be quite comical watching memes and joke threads unfold in front of me which seem to me completely bizarre and ridiculous because they are out of context. Without further ado, here are some of my unpopular confessions which explain why am I usually so out of the loop on social media (don’t judge me!).

1. I have never watched Friends. I feel like so many people I know have watched every episode of the series multiple times but when someone says they are a ‘Joey person’ I just look back at them blankly and there are so many Friends gifs which completely bewilder me.

2.What the hell is Stranger Things? I really do not know. I know it’s a Netflix series but apart from that I see people walking around in Stranger Things fan t-shirts and just wonder what the series is whilst also not being bothered to watch it because TV series feel like too much of a commitment to me.

3. I really never got to grips with Snapchat and so I just stopped engaging with it after about a week. I just always felt that it was a worse version of Instagram. 

4. I am useless at selfies. I don’t know what it is about me but I can never hold my phone at a normal angle or rest my eyes on the screen without looking that I am staring at myself like a maniac. If I pose then I just come across as looking scary, so there are literally barely any photos of me to find anywhere.

5. I still do not understand what IG TV is and whenever it pops up on my Instagram I stare at the notification with mistrust until it goes away. No matter how many times people talk about what it is, I still do not get it.

6. Whenever someone talks about ‘spilling the tea’, I instantly switch off. The phrase really irks me, especially because I find ‘spilling the tea’ videos to be the most petty and anti-climactic videos on YouTube.

7. I am terrible at motivation posts, so #MondayMotivation is completely out of my league. I either come across as being cringey or just downright annoying if I try to tweet something energetic or inspiring!

8. I have never had a pumpkin spice latte, so I cannot do the typical ‘autumn’s here’ post with a picture of my seasonal Starbucks drink.

9. I find people that only follow me to get a follow back annoying. I usually do follow my followers back anyway especially on Twitter but when people then unfollow me after a day because they’ve already got my follow, I just find it rude.

10. Whenever I am actually doing something interesting, I forget to take a picture or document it in any way, so my social media is always really boring. I literally feel sorry for my followers.

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Unpopular Opinions Part 2

I’ve decided to write a sequel to my first ‘Unpopular Opinions’ post because I enjoyed the response to my last one so much. It’s really fun to share your thoughts with other people and find that they agree with you when other people have always told you that your opinions are weird and odd. So, without further ado, here is my second post of my Unpopular Opinions and please leave comments about whether or not you agree with me down below!

1. I find yellow to be an annoying colour; it’s so bright and loud that it feels invasive and blares at you from across the room.

2. I hate champagne and proseco, they’re supposed to be celebration drinks but their taste is enough to put a dampener on any good news.

3. I think sliders are the worst footwear creations since Crocs, if nothing else I’m worried that people are going to slip out of them whilst going down the stairs and fall over.

4. The majority of premium range, expensive cars look repulsive to me, I much prefer the look of normal, everyday cars.

5. For me, Urban Outfitters is massively over-rated and overpriced, I just do not see the appeal.

6. I think greetings cards with glitter on them should be banned, I hate the stuff when it explodes out of the envelope and little specks of glitter hang around for years, stubbornly refusing to leave every orifice of your home.

7. I do not particularly like the taste of avocados, I find them bland and wouldn’t go out of my way to cook with them.

8. A6 notepads are little wads of frustration, you may as well try to cram what you want to write onto a post-it for all the space an A6 page gives you.

9. The first Divergent film is great, the others I found quite disappointing especially considering I loved the books so much.

10. I prefer to go to colder climates on holiday when I go abroad, warmer climates just make me grumpy!

11. I hate it when people criticise fan fiction and fan art, people being creative in whatever form should be encouraged rather than demeaned.

 

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Ace and Down On The Ground

My emotions do not work for you

My emotions do not work for you,
My ‘type’ is not seen in films,
Or lauded by proud relatives.

I’m the dog-eared piece of a jigsaw puzzle;
Incapable of slotting-in beside another.
Your risqué quips make me sick,
A brush in the corridor makes me flinch,
The fibre of their collective being collides,
Scratches and irritates mine.
I am not a fairytale –
There will be no family portrait for me –
I smirk and frown to hide my doubt
And hope the spotlight never falls on me.

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Infantilised as an Adult Who Cries to be Heard

People look at me
And see a distorted child’s face –
My 19 years reduced to a pittance –
As judgement gleams from their eyes.
So they cast their words over my head
Towards a more responsible set of shoulders;
One made of more than me,
Seen as a more reliable focus for information.

Will I ever grow to be seen
Above the ledge of suspicion and mirth?
My mangled sentences are viewed as tired ramblings,
Pouring from the mouth of one juvenile
Who cannot yet sit at the table,
Nor meet the eyes of the rest of them.

After enough eyes pierce your heart,
Minimise you down to a pitiless size,
You can see yourself in the mirror of their face,
Become the infantilised ghost they haunt you with.
Shame begins to creep over your hunched frame
As you look-up through hooded lids,
Blowing another candle from a wounded birthday cake.

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @IssieLouH

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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The Harry Potter Tag

No amount of Harry Potter magic in your life is too much. Recently my mental health has been quite up and down and, as silly as it sounds, the wizarding world of Harry Potter always allows me some escapism, even at the age of 19! I love retreating into the fantastical world of Hogwarts and diverting my mind from the negative thoughts spiralling around my head. So, today I thought I would complete the Harry Potter Tag in a bid to spread some magic and light to other people’s lives.

*I believe that this tag was created by Cassie over at ZombieGoddess Beauty, so all credit to her*

1. What house are you in?

I am a very proud Slytherin! Whilst some people find my house controversial, I firmly believe that not all Slytherins are evil or necessarily drawn to dark things. We are resourceful and cunning but we can chose to use these qualities in any way . Also, being ambitious (which is another house quality) does not have to be a shameful attribute. Striving for the things you want in life is very important for self-fulfilment.

2. What is your patronus?

My patronus is a buzzard according to Pottermore (which is a bird if you were wondering). I’m not sure what to say about this really, except for that I think having a flying creature for your patronus is quite cool, especially in a visual sense.

3. What is your wand?

My wand is alder wood with a unicorn hair core, 10 inches long and quite bendy. 

4. What would your boggart be?

Probably me as a deeply miserable old woman. As someone who suffers from mental health issues, there is always a worry in the back of my mind that my problems will stay with me all my life and that I will never be far from depression and anxiety. The idea that I would spend my whole life in that state is very frightening to me.

5. What position would you play in Quidditch? 

I think I would be a Beater. I would not like to be a Seeker because that entails too much pressure and attention from the crowd. Being a Keeper might make me jealous of my teammates because they would be able to fly around a lot more than me. Also, I don’t think I would have the speed to be a Chaser whereas a Beater would quite suit my fiery nature.

6. Would you be a pure blood, half blood or muggle born?

I could imagine myself as a muggle born because I am usually the odd-one-out in a lot of situations! I am quite an awkward person as well which would correspond with the awkwardness of being the only one in the family with magical ability. I’m not sure what my fellow Slytherins would have to say about it though!

7. What job would you want to have after graduating from Hogwarts?

Running my own magical shop in Diagon Alley sounds like a nice prospect! Perhaps I would run a shop in my retirement after serving as an auror during my employment years. Catching Death Eaters and other dark figures would be very satisfying and give me a chance to prove all those Slytherin stereotypes wrong.

8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you chose?

The Invisibility Cloak has always greatly appealed to me. As a very anxious person, being able to hide from certain social situations sounds great to me. Also, with the Invisibility Cloak I could investigate all sorts of forbidden places which would make for great adventures.

9. Favourite book?

The Prisoner of Azkaban. As this is the book where Harry, Ron and Hermione are in their Third Year, we see them as having matured (to an extent) for the first time and we get an insight into their emotional complexity, especially with Harry in regards to the death of his parents.

10. Least favourite book?

The Chamber of Secrets. I could not bare the character of Gilderoy Lockhart, so reading through scenes with him made me cringe and squirm furiously! However, it goes without saying that I still love the book.

11. Favourite film?

Again, I would say The Prisoner of Azkaban. It has everything in it that I love about Harry Potter films. Also, this film is the first time we see Sirius Black who is my favourite character and the scene where he flies off on Buckbeak’s back is iconic!

12. Least favourite film?

I would have to say The Chamber of Secrets again. Every time Lockhart’s face appears on screen, I groan!

13. Favourite character?

Sirius Black, I love that he is so complex. His family background is really interesting considering that they rejected him whilst he was still young because he diverted from their Pure Blood fascination. His courage and willingness to fight for what is right, his passion for being a good godfather to Harry and the injustice of him being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit all make a really intriguing character for me.

14. Least favourite/most hated character?

Lucius Malfoy, he is portrayed as spineless and incredibly passive, especially in the films. Whenever he has a task he is unable to do his own work, he never stands-up to people, his snobbery is infuriating and his son is endlessly miserable which is partly due to his dire upbringing.

15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

This changes quite often for me but at the moment it is Remus Lupin who comes to mind. His lessons were imaginative and engaging for his students. His own story about becoming a werewolf at such a young age and facing social stigma because of it is another intriguing strand to his backstory. Also, the fact that he was one of the infamous Marauders helps my liking of him!

16. Least favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Delores Umbridge, although Gilderoy Lockhart comes a very close second! Umbridge was endlessly evil and her torture of those who opposed her was shocking. She had an answer for everything and constantly found a way to legitimate her actions. Also her bright pink outfits along with her cat saucers, which lined her walls, were horrible.

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I thought that a lot more attention could have been given to Harry and Ginny’s relationship to be honest. Their connection wasn’t developed enough for me and did not sit naturally in my mind. 

18. If you could save one character from the final battle who would you save?

I think it would have to be Fred Weasley; he was so young and the other half of George who could never conjure a patronus again after his twin’s death. Whilst I think that Lupin and Tonks deserved so much better, I couldn’t save one without the other and at least they had been given the chance to live a life before they died.

 

I tag anyone else to do this who needs a little more magic in their life at the moment!

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @IssieLouH

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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Forgive me but I have to go now

A dismal knowledge has settled on my chest

A dismal knowledge has settled on my chest;
My heart will have to break,
In order for me to be able to breathe,
I will have to force myself through pain –
A period of ripping myself from the cocoon –
And shrugging off the shell I have been living in.

To grow into my dream of authenticity,
People will have to fall by the wayside,
Things I hold dear will be prised from my fingers,
Safety and security will be thrown to the wolves
Whilst I make my break for the goal on the horizon;
The promise I have waited for all my life.

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I Grew-Up, Opened My Eyes and Did Not Recognise Myself

To be honest or to be vague?
For the record;
I have always felt this way.

Life’s blows did mould me into a statue –
A grey imitation of the veins within,
Yet standing and posing clotted my blood,
And cracks started to begin.

Time does not hand-out sticky plasters,
It only offers an opportunity;
To remould the plinth you stand in
And write yourself a new beginning.

 

CONTACT ME:

Twitter: @IssieLouH

Instagram: @awalkwithnature00

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5 Things You Need To Know Before Moving Into Uni Halls

There are some universal features of University halls which, for some reason, nobody ever tells you or prepares you for before you move-in. Taking the leap into University managed accommodation is a culture shock for everyone and the surprising initiation ritual of finding out all of the weird quirks about halls only adds to the weird novelty of the situation. So, without further ado, here are five things you need to know before moving into uni halls in order to prepare you for the sublimely ridiculous experience of actually inhabiting these weird micro-cultures of society:

1. Dorm-room showers are the tiniest spaces you could ever possibly squeeze into

Fair enough, space is at a premium in University rooms but whoever designs the dorms has mastered the art of creating the smallest space possible for the showers. They are the most geometrically efficient they can possibly be whilst also giving the minimum manoeuvring room so you can just about shuffle around and slip your way out again. The amount of times I have hit my elbow on the handle of the shower door because of the minuscule room in my shower cubicle is ridiculous.

2. University bedroom carpets will never ever be made to look clean

They must use some strange type of material for the flooring of uni bedrooms because no matter how ferociously you attempt to hoover your floor, there will always be dirt and debris ingrained in the very fibre of the carpet. It’s almost like the flooring has the unique ability to just hold onto any amount of dirt it comes across for the sole purpose of frustrating the Henry the Hoover (which is standard issue in every University flat) and making you look bad in front of your parents when they accuse you of never vacuuming because they do not believe the effort you went to in vein for their arrival.

3. University kitchen floors are forever destined to feel a little bit sticky

Again, this is a mystery to me. The first day when I moved into my Uni flat and the cleaners had just finished wiping and mopping the whole place, the kitchen floor already felt slightly sticky. To be fair, I didn’t go into my kitchen very frequently because the sight of the state my flatmates left it in sent my anxiety through the roof. However, when I did use the kitchen, it was noticeable that none of us would go in there without shoes on to try and keep the sticky floor at the largest distance from our feet as possible.

4. The block fire alarm will go off at a crazy hour

It is inevitable that someone in your block of flats will return home drunk from a night out and try to cook themselves sausages or some other random meal with all the ineptitude of a toddler maxed-out on smarties. They will, no doubt, rev their oven up to some ridiculous temperature in their bleary-eyed state and forego the simple act of opening a kitchen window. Therefore, the fire alarm will pierce through your sleeping state at 3am in the morning at least a few times during the year (usually when you have a 9am lecture in the morning) and you will have the pleasure of standing outside in the cold feeling extremely awkward in your pyjamas and seeing other strangers from your block of flats in all their bunny-slippers and bed-headed glory!

5. Internet at Universities is notoriously bad for some inexplicable reason

Considering that Universities are supposed to be hubs of education and learning, their wifi networks are atrocious and will continually frustrate you throughout your time there. I have visited multiple University campuses (for reasons less to do with my own interest and more to do with trailing after my brothers on endless open days and picking them up at the end of semesters) and every campus has the same tedious wifi problem where the buffering circle of death attempts to load and re-load whilst you waste your life staring at the screen, hoping against hope that you might connect to the internet within the next hour.

 

If you have any questions about uni life (which are probably a bit more serious than what I have outlined above!) feel free to talk to me on twitter and I will try to offer whatever wisdom I can as a current Uni student myself. My twitter: IssieLouH

 

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Six of the Most Harmful Mental Health Narratives

TRIGGER WARNING: IN THIS POST I DO DISCUSS TOPICS SUCH AS SUICIDAL IDEATION AND DEPRESSIVE THOUGHTS

Recently, I have seen a lot of dangerous ideas regarding mental health being circulated on social media. I have seen posts which have blamed sufferers for having mental health issues and statuses which have suggested that people with depression are ‘choosing’ not to be happy. People have been insulting anxiety sufferers for being ‘self-centred’ amongst other things. Essentially disrespectful people who lack any understanding of mental health have chosen to spread their harmful narratives of what they believe mental illness to be. I am here to call BS on their idiocy and share why I believe these narratives to be completely false and hopefully spread some education about mental health.

1. ‘Choose happiness’

I appreciate the significance of shifting your perspective and adopting a mental outlook which emphasises gratitude and acknowledgement of positive things in life. However, the phrase ‘choose happiness’ seems to me to be a kick in the teeth for anyone suffering with a mental illness. This phrases is slung around without a care by people who preach that they want to help people achieve better mental health when really all they are doing is invalidating the experience of people who are struggling. If it was so easy as ‘choosing’ happiness then nobody would be depressed! If there was a switch which could be flicked which would allow people to not feel sadness or experience dark thoughts, then people who are suffering with depression or any other mental illness would flick that switch immediately. It as if the people who tell others to ‘choose happiness’ think that people who are suffering are simply wallowing and that recovery from mental illness is as easy making the decision to not be ill anymore. Either way, I have always found the ‘choose happiness’ slogan to be both condescending and insulting whether the people who use the phrase intend it to be or not.

2. Exercise is the ‘cure’

Again, I understand the sentiment and the intention behind this claim when people say it but I maintain that people who think that if someone does exercise then they will never suffer from mental health issues have a fundamental misunderstanding about what mental illnesses are. Exercise can be used as one part of a larger recovery programme or adopted as one element of a healthier lifestyle which can help people with mental health issues but that does not mean that going for a jog everyday will suddenly cure someone. I cannot deny the existence of endorphins but mental illnesses are deeply ingrained in sufferers’ psyches. So, harmful thought patterns, intrusive thoughts and other symptoms of mental illness will not disappear after a zumba class. Also, just because exercise worked wonders for one person, that does not necessarily mean that it will have the same positive effect for someone else; there is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. 

3. Choosing medication is a weakness

Every time I see someone pushing this narrative, it makes me so disheartened. I take medication for my mental health issues and let me tell you that the medication people are given are not magical ‘happy pills’. I do not take my medication then suddenly feel on top of the world or cured. Medication is not simply for people who do not try enough on their own to get better. Trust me, I tried every option available to me before I chose to go on medication and the stigma surrounding antidepressants (amongst other drugs) is part of the reason I suffered for so long before accepting medication. Accepting that you need medication in order to help put yourself on a more even keel before then working hard to improve your mental health is actually a strong thing to do. For me, medication serves to give me a basis from which I can work from, it allows me to function at a certain level which then facilitates any other therapy I chose to pursue as well. Medication is not the ‘easy way out’ or a sign of failure.

4. Mental health is an excuse for being lazy

Increasingly, I am seeing people accuse mental health sufferers of simply being lazy and using a medical label to disguise the fact that they cannot be bothered to do certain things. For example, when someone struggling from depression confides that they struggle to get out of bed in the morning or gather the energy to do domestic tasks, people respond saying that this behaviour stems from laziness and that no-one wants to get out of bed in the morning. However, these accusing people miss the point that if they do not get out of bed when they are supposed to, they are doing so because they want to, whereas someone who is depressed is not getting out of bed because they cannot force themselves to however much they wish they could. An inability to do certain things is not a choice for people with mental health issues; their illness dictates to them what they are able to do whilst they desperately fight against it. Some days the illness wins and they have to cancel plans but this does not make them lazy. Try to show some understanding and compassion rather than anger and disrespect.

5. Your case is not serious enough unless you are suicidal

This narrative has stopped so many people from seeking help until their mental health has deteriorated to a drastic point. People fear that doctors will turn them away for wasting their time because the case they present them with is not ‘serious’ enough. Saying that only suicidal people are worth treating makes people doubt the validity of their own feelings and wonder whether they are over-dramaticizing their condition. This self-doubt and shame can in turn have a negative effect on a person’s mental health, leading to a toxic situation where people keep their problems to themselves which can only be detrimental.

6. Mental illness sufferers are selfish

The misconception that people suffering with mental health issues are self-centred has been circulating a lot at the moment. People have been arguing that they are entitled to ditch friends who are suffering because they find them ‘boring’ due to their illness or a ‘drag’ to be around because they are not bubbly and happy all of the time. Again, to me this screams of people who do not exercise enough compassion and who do not make an effort to understand what their friends are going through (which is what a real friend would do). People with mental health issues are not ‘bringing the mood down’ on purpose. To be honest they are showing how strong they are by making the effort to socialise anyway which can be an incredibly draining exercise for people who are struggling.

 

I would love it if we could show some solidarity as a blogging community down in the comments or continue the conversation on twitter. You can find my twitter here and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have been effected by any of these harmful narratives and want some support.

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Unexpected Ways Poetry Made My Life Better

TRIGGER WARNING: I DO BRIEFLY TOUCH ON EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

The word ‘prom’ conjures images of a glamorous night of celebration shared between a peer group who have shared the stress of schoolwork, teen drama and exams together. Long dresses which glide along the floor, folds of expensive material and dates’ arms slung around each other come to mind. Perhaps this is simply the rose-tinted image I have gathered from endless cliched American high school movies where the bullied girl turns-up to prom looking every inch the movie star whilst the ‘mean girls’ suffer the worst night of their lives. I wouldn’t know what a real-life prom looks like because I have never been to one. Not even my own one. Anxiety made sure that I stayed away. I could not bare the thought of going and having to endure an evening with my bullies.

Secondary school and especially the last year of GCSEs was really difficult for me. By year 11, I was depressed and plagued by suicidal thoughts. School felt like a prison where every negative thought I had was heightened to unbearable levels and my fear of failure was magnified, even encouraged, by teachers who wanted good grades on their record. I was swamped with self-doubt and tortured myself with imagined scenarios with my disappointed parents which I was convinced would occur if I did not get the results which were expected of me.

Alongside the pain of academic expectation was my growing sense of anxiety. My mum had to drop me off directly outside the door to my school and pick me up from the same location at the same time everyday because I was so anxious about being outside rather than within the safe confines of my own home. The voices of my bullies ricocheted around my head all day everyday whilst I was at school and snide looks in the locker-room was all it took for my self-confidence to take another battering.

Regular meetings with the school therapist were my only saving grace. Whilst talking out loud to her was a struggle (as I explained in my previous post ‘What Is Wrong With My Voice?’) she encouraged me to express my feelings in the form of poetry. The words began to pour out of me and became a significant source of communication between me, my counsellor and my head of house. Whilst my peers teased me for how quiet I was and how little I spoke, this very fact became my strength in regards to my creativity. Though I have never been loud or outspoken, this has never meant that I have had nothing to say. In fact, it almost felt like I saved-up all of my thoughts and insight for my poetry which allowed me to explore the depths of my mind like nothing else could.

Poetry slowly allowed me to gain some confidence. Writing poetry gave me a sense of achievement and the encouragement of my counsellor and head of house made me believe in the words I was writing. Poetry restored within me a sense of identity which had been dwindling away from me for years. I found my own unique voice which I was not frightened to use, unlike my verbal, spoken voice.

In many ways, I see poetry as both my therapy and my passion. This may seem unusual because therapy is frequently portrayed as something which is impossible to enjoy, a chore or a source of heartache. However, whilst poetry can bring many hurtful feelings to the fore of my mind, the creativity which is intertwined with the act of writing makes it not only bearable but beautiful.

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What Is Wrong With My Voice?

People who spend any time with me will most likely notice that my voice is, in many ways, unusual. My voice is very soft. When I talk outside my words can get blown away by the wind and no mater how much I believe that I am elevating my volume people will continue to have to go through the futile effort of straining to hear what I am saying. Also, my voice tires after a short amount of time. Speaking a few sentences out-loud leads to my throat becoming sore and tightening-up, then my voice disintegrates and it is an effort to produce words.

Over the years this has become a problem when I have met with counsellors or therapists. The whole point of attending such therapies is to talk through your problems, which is a struggle when your voice gives out and your words become dry husks which only distantly relate to the sounds you are trying to make! More recently, I have started driving lessons which are two hours long. My instructor remarked that I am very quiet, little did she know that I would have no voice left if I attempted speaking regularly throughout a two hour period.

The question of what is wrong with my voice is actually quite a simple one to answer. Essentially, my voice is very weak. This stems from the fact that, throughout my life, I have not used my voice enough to make it strong or able to withstand substantial conversations. Even as far back as nursery, I was so painfully shy that talking to the other children was a very rare occurrence for me. Therefore, I rendered myself almost wholly silent for the hours of the day whilst I was there. When I was young, I was most relaxed when nobody was requiring me to speak. If people left me alone for an afternoon, I was very happy to remain quiet and retreat into my own imaginary worlds. Again, this meant that I would not use my voice for stretches of time.

Whilst I could form words as a child if I wanted to, for the most part I decided that I would rather not. My primary school was very small and I was rigidly polite but would often not branch-out into the same socialisation that the other kids did with ease. I had a very small circle of friends and I saved my words up for conversations with them. Beyond that, speaking out-loud seemed to just be a way of drawing attention to myself and this was something I wished to avoid at all costs.

At my second primary school, I became even quieter, speaking less and less until it became a standing joke amongst my year group. I withdrew into myself and so my words were very few and far between. I did not know anyone at my new school and found it impossible to make friends. Therefore, there was no need to converse with others and I certainly did not volunteer any contributions in class. Again, my voice shrivelled inside of me, growing weaker with disuse.

At secondary school, I made a very small group of friends and I would largely hang-out with only two people at a time. We would find very quiet rooms away from the hustle and bustle of the over-crowded school hallways and chat to each other there. There was rarely ever a need for me to raise my voice within such situations. I did not have to elevate my voice to be heard because there was no other noise to compete with and again I resolutely refused to offer contributions in class.

Then, when I moved to college, I would spend my days being almost completely silent. Friends were very few and far between and I mostly spent my lunch breaks lost in my own thoughts rather than mixing with others. Back into the present day and I am still sensitive to noise and do not talk at length. At Uni, I can go days without uttering a word and whilst to others this may appear to be a sad admission, for me this is just me being my authentic self.

I prefer articulating my thoughts through writing rather than expressing myself verbally and personally I do not see why this should be viewed as sad or shameful. The world is made-up of a extremely vast range of people, it has to be because social progress requires variety. Some people are very extroverted and use their voice with great authority and they are valid in themselves. Other people, like me, chose other avenues which do not require so much verbal communication and we too are valid. There is whole host of different characters and personalities which fill the void in between these two extremes and guess what? All of those people are valid as well.

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Things Anxiety Has Made Me Do

Anxiety is an often misunderstood mental illness. People think that those who suffer from anxiety are really just shy or timid. As a result, the majority of people do not appreciate the potentially debilitating effects of anxiety and how it can impact so many areas of someone’s life. To try and give an insight into the ways in which anxiety has distorted and manipulated my life experiences, I have compiled a short list of things which my anxiety has made me do:

  1. Violently vomit during an exam.
  2. Forget my own address whilst having to fill-in a form in front of a receptionist.
  3. Run out of shops before retail staff could approach me.
  4. Pretend I haven’t heard someone when really I just could not find the words to respond to their statement or question.
  5. Feign illness to get out of doing class presentations.
  6. Persuade my mum to order for me at cafes so that I do not have to speak out loud myself.
  7. Scream involuntarily when someone has spoken to me unexpectedly due to being so on-edge.
  8. Arrive 30 minutes early for everything in order to avoid the worry and stress of being late.
  9. Avoid going to events due to never having been to that specific location before and not being able to handle the ‘unknown’.
  10. Jump out of a dental x-ray because I felt trapped in the room (much to the anger of the orthodontist).
  11. Forget people’s names no matter how well I know them because of my mind being so scrambled.
  12. Wash my hands repetitively until they are red raw.
  13. Decline invitations to hang-out with my friends until I let them down so regularly that they give-up on me in the end.
  14. Lock myself inside my University room and not speak to anyone for days on end.
  15. Refuse to go to restaurants due to paranoia about the food and whether it will make me feel unwell.

 

Resources which give information about anxiety:

Anxiety and Panic Attacks – Mind, the mental health charity

Generalised anxiety disorder – NHS UK