Living In A Make-Believe World

Though my heart may long for the ocean
And my soul may pull towards cleansing,
The lush green grass outside my car window
Will always dance around my mind, echoing.

An imagined reality, surpassing that of romance;
I am heartily enthralled by the impossibility,
The fantastical chance for a happy ending.

My mind’s eye sees in a variation of coloured pens,
Fat, vast, greedy lines pass my sight,
Eventually fulfilling the outline of a child’s fantasy.

Battling The Need To Be In Control

My anxiety has manifested itself in many ways throughout my life. One of the ways in which my anxious brain has manipulated my actions is through ingraining in me that I need to be in control of every situation. For example:

1) To stay safe I need to know every detail about where I am going, what I am doing and how long I will be there.

2) I need to constantly know where my family are in case of an emergency.

3) To reassure myself I need to ask my loved ones what they are thinking all the time so that I can share their burdens. 

These impulses which I feel on a daily basis are all evidence of my need to be in control in every facet of my life so that I can pacify my anxiety. My brain tells me that if I am not in constant control then surely something bad will happen because of my negligence. I worry often about mine and other’s safety due to my desire to understand every possible variable which could result from any and all circumstances.

Not only is this undoubtedly annoying for the people I am around but it is also exhausting for me. My brain is constantly spinning as I try to battle the spiralling feeling of not having full control. When I get into this state, irrational thoughts rule my brain as I become convinced that something bad is certain to happen. This leads me towards tension headaches and panic attacks. Evidently, this is no way to live.

Over recent weeks, I have been taking active steps to reassure myself that not being in control is okay and that it is not my responsibility to constantly keep abreast of all the possibilities which my circumstances could generate. In fact, sometimes when you relinquish the iron grip of control, this is when unexpected things happen and good opportunities can arise from you being open to a situation rather than feeling threatened by it. I have allowed myself to believe that my anxious brain is tricking me into wasting energy on things which may never happen and worries which are illogical.

Now, I would much rather live in the moment and appreciate my surroundings than analyse them from a critical standpoint so that I can analyse potential threats. Being on high alert all day is much less rewarding than owning your actions and embracing the chance that things might not turn out how you want them to because these are the turn of events that you will learn from. Instead of being tense and apprehensive, remind yourself that you will feel so proud and accomplished if you relinquish control and do not base your actions on your anxieties.

The better way is possible. 

Here are some resources which go into more depth about the need to be in control and paranoid thoughts:

Paranoia – Mind, the mental health charity

Information from the NHS on Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Surrender To Being Wrong

Recently, I have realised that I have been taking myself down the wrong path in life. I have been following a route which I thought I should do, it felt safe and like the conventional path forward for me in my present circumstances. I severed myself from my own individuality, enjoyment and desires because it looked the easier thing to do rather than fight for what I truly wanted. I have been to afraid of following my own unique path. I was wrong in doing this. I’ve been weak and not followed my own principles. However, I won’t fight against the fact that this is my mistake and mine alone. I cannot blame this on the people around me who have been shaping me into the person they want to see because I have allowed, almost welcomed, them doing this. I must surrender to being wrong.

Over time, I have come to the conclusion that realising I was wrong is not the catastrophe I have always built it up to be. Making mistakes does not define you or mean that you have failed. There is a strength in being able to realise that you were wrong and then having the respect for yourself to address your error and improve yourself in the process.

In my case, being stubborn is a family trait. It can be horrendously annoying when a family member gets a thought or opinion stuck in their mind because you can see in their eyes that you will not be able to budge them from their perspective, no matter how much passion and energy you put into trying to convince them. The same goes for me, when I get an idea or line of thought into my head, I can get tunnel vision. I refuse to listen to other people’s logical arguments because I feel threatened by anyone trying to contradict my point of view. I stubbornly neglected my own individual path in life so that I would not have to risk failure. I guess that stubbornness comes in part from insecurity then, the fear of being proved wrong and that is why we cleave so strongly to an idea and refuse to back down, so that we do not have to confront ourselves and realise our mistake.

Sometimes being wrong can be the best possible outcome of a situation. Realising our errors can help us enact change and come to better conclusions about ourselves and our lives.

Being wrong can help us practice humility as we have to admit that we are not perfect and be comfortable enough in ourselves to own-up to being wrong without feeling overcome with shame and embarrassment.

Being wrong is an insight into our humanity. The challenge of being human is to constantly grow and realise that we are not the finished article no matter what point we are at in our lives.

Being wrong is also the antidote to arrogance, by recognising the faults in ourselves we deflate our egos and stop ourselves from feeling that we are beyond reproach.

In the end, being wrong is not so horrendous as our brains tell us it is. Mistakes are steep and sometimes scary learning curves but they are necessary in building up all of the good things which make us ourselves. 

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” – Neil Gaiman

 

Nine Powerful Lessons We Can Learn From Our Mistakes – this is a really great article from the Huffington Post which gives a great insight into all of the beautiful and overlooked positive consequences of making mistakes.

5 Lessons I Learned From The Harry Potter Books

1. You get out what you put into relationships

The bond Harry, Ron and Hermione share impels them to never let one another fight a battle alone or without each other’s love and support, no matter how many times they get into arguments amongst themselves. In the same way, the Order of the Phoenix and the passion they share for a common cause means that they can trust and rely on each other even in the darkest of times. Relationships based on this level of commitment stand the test of time throughout the books, in contrast to those which are founded on fear like the ones Voldermort illicits.  

2. Do not judge people on the basis of assumptions

Peter Pettigrew was one of the most cowardly, selfish and deceitful characters in the whole series yet he belonged to a house which prided itself on the values of courage and chivalry, showing that you cannot form a judgement about people on the basis of very few facts. In addition, Regulus Black was able to learn the error of his ways and die for the right cause even after coming from a family of pure-blood elitists and spending his school years in Slytherin house which cherishes ambition and cunning rather than putting morality before self-interest, supposedly. People disregarded Neville as being incompetent or a weakling, yet he was the one who managed to kill Nagini, the snake, in the end. People also scorned Luna for her eccentricities and constantly undermined her intellect, yet she was one of the most dedicated and effective members of Dumbledore’s Army.

3. Money and status can leave you hollow

The Malfoys begin the stories as a family with an immense amount of influence, status and wealth which they direct from their lavish mansion. Yet, Draco’s insecurity is immediately evident as he resorts to being the school bully to maintain his status. Later, the Malfoy family becomes fractured by the weight of their immoral and dark choices, leading Draco to spiral into a deep well of sadness. On the other hand, the Weasleys are characterised by their warmth, love and likability despite the fact that they are always under financial pressure and struggling to produce enough money for their family. Arthur and Molly raise their children with the highest amount of care and nourishment anyone could give and prove that they do not need the sort of resources which the Malfoys have at their disposal to be a happy family.

4. Every being deserves respect

The magical creatures are very loyal to those who show them respect and those who do not inevitably suffer the consequences. It is often the coldest and most unhappy characters who show no consideration for the magical creatures whilst it is the warmest characters who do. Hippogriffs for example respond with great loyalty and kindness to those who show them respect in the form of a deep bow. The Harry Potter books show that approaching animals with kindness and openness makes all the difference in your interaction with them.

5. Those who are happy in themselves lift others up

Throughout the books, it is the most unhappy characters who seek to undermine and bring others down, such as the Malfoys who scorn muggle-borns, muggle sympathisers and those who are not wealthy. The Dursleys are also immensely cruel to Harry because they feel threatened by his magical talent and they cannot stand being usurped in their status. In contrast, Hagrid’s happy and optimistic demeanour lifts those around him up and he is a consistently comforting sight to Harry, Hermione and Ron.

‘You sort of start thinking anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve.’ – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Self-Care

In my eyes, ideas of self-care have become convoluted paths to luxurious experiences or funnels through which substantial amounts of money are spent which only leads to increased stress in the long-term. For this reason it seems that we have drifted so far away from the fundamental basis of self-care; to create time and space for ourselves in which we can prioritise our health and happiness during which we answer to no-one but our own needs and desires.

Mainstream ideas about self-care have morphed away from prioritising the search for peace and love within ourselves to the prioritisation of material things, such as extortionately priced bath bombs and candles, so that our sessions of self-care will be ‘instagram worthy’. I frustrate myself when I realise that, in my pursuit of self-care experiences, I overlook and disregard the simplest of things which are usually the most enjoyable and rejuvenating:

  • Sitting or reading a book under a tree with the sun shining upon you
  • Dedicating time to reflective journalling so that you can listen to your mind once more
  • Having a solid hour-long yoga session in which you set your practice intention to be calm and ease
  • Cherishing a new bunch of flowers you cultivated in your garden or picked yourself
  • Re-connecting with your all-time favourite book by re-reading it again and embracing the nostalgia which comes with it
  • Changing your bed clothes and sheets so that you can indulge in the experience of clean, crisp material when you go to bed that night

All of these small and simple things are gentle and easy ways to re-energise yourself after you feel ground down by the daily toll of life. When you come to reflect on your efforts at self-care you can appreciate the simplicity you have introduced into your life through that process rather than burdening yourself with superficial extravagance.

‘There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth’ – Leo Tolstoy

I’M MOVING ON…

Recently, I had become weighed down by the routine and responsibilities of life. This sounds like the most stereotypical millennial thing to say but why should that stop me? It’s true. The transition into University life has been difficult; the constant pressing down of academia on any and all of my spare time and the looming dread of deadlines and exams have been a burden. At Uni there is a constant pressure to be many people all at the same time; the ambitious person with a five-year plan, the social butterfly, the student who juggles five extra-curriculars, the party animal and the person who can survive on four hours sleep a night and powers themselves on a constant stream of the bitterest black coffee. Why do we do this to ourselves? Honestly, I have no idea. We are so caught-up in trying to copy everyone else that we forget how to be ourselves and do what we came here to do; to develop as a person.

Cynicism seems to be the most popular currency at Uni. I know that the world can be a very dark place but constantly working to seek out and analyse those dark spaces can be exhausting. I feel like in my first term I forgot to give myself a relief from all the critical arguments and debates which I felt that I had to constantly keep pace with in my classes. My course demanded that I immerse myself completely in other people’s pain or become just generally distrustful of everyone and everything in the world. That was not sustainable or healthy.

Now I have made it my mission to remind myself to actually breathe. To not weigh myself down so heavily with the cynicism of academic theory and the pressure to be a hundred people all at once. For me, I do this by looking around me and seeing what is actually happening, taking in the moment rather than constantly burying myself in articles which are telling me that the world as we know it is coming to an end or that we are falling into our inevitable doom as a species. Instead, I am focusing on issues that I am passionate about and that I can have an actual effect on, especially the environment. Living a more sustainable and eco-friendly life makes me feel productive and like I am giving energy back into the world rather than parasitically sucking it out. I am organising things that I can look forward to and enjoy, rather than scheduling work experience placements to bulk-out my CV.

I am so privileged that I can take a breath and think about what is best for me and my health. I am not having to constantly struggle to provide a living for myself or work a 9-5 job and I should take advantage of that because who knows what my life will be like in the future and what it will demand of me? For now at least, positive choices are ones which work towards bettering my mental health rather than my grades. If that means taking a path which I was not initially planning on, then so be it…