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

 

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.

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.

Unpopular Opinions

I thought I should share a bit more about my personality here on my blog, so I’ve decided to share some opinions of mine which people often find to be weird or unusual. People have called me quite contrary in the past but I would be interested to hear what you think about the items on this list and whether you agree or disagree with me!

So, without further ado, here is a list of some unpopular opinions I hold:

1. I find Kindles annoying, so I will only read from a physical book.

2. I hate the word ‘banter’ and I cringe when people say it.

3. I think the Twilight films are great and I still watch them now.

4. Long nails scare me so I would never have fake ones put on.

5. I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on creativity or individuality at school.

6. I dislike watching TV and I never usually finish a TV series as a result.

7. For the most part, I find short stories boring.

8. I prefer Vans to Converse.

9. I think silver jewellery is much nicer than gold jewellery.

10. I’m not a fan of rose gold or copper ornaments and decorations because they remind me of the colour of dirty pennies.

11. Winter is my favourite season whilst summer is my least favourite.

12. I really do not understand the appeal of fizzy drinks, to me they taste horrible.

13. I think breakfast is the best meal of the day and I would happily eat it for lunch and dinner as well.

14. My favourite Harry Potter characters are Sirius Black and Remus Lupin.

15. The feeling of velvet makes me want to gag because it feels so repulsive to me.

16. If someone hugs me or even just touches my shoulder without my express consent, my head feels like it’s going to explode and I really do not understand why some people feel the need to constantly touch the person they are talking to whilst they are in a conversation.

17. Going to Primark is my idea of a terrible time and even the thought of it gives me anxiety.

Pressing the Self-Destruct Button

With the sun baring down,
Clouds pressing in,
Creating a humid prison
Where thoughts are suffocated;
What are we able to make happen?

Tempers fray and run to the wire,
Breathes are pushed backwards –
The relentlessly airless outdoors –
Our lungs wheeze as we attempt to live,
So we are left with one question;
Did we do this to ourselves?

Our arrogance and foolishness
Injected our ignorance back into the world.
We greedily took the air we wanted,
No thought to whether pain would return
And hit us harder than thought possible.

We abused the glittering, green globe;
Threw rocks and dented it,
Rode furious paths through it
And changed our fresh peace forever.
So, are we makers of our demise,
Perpetrators of our own pain,
Makers of the ending to our own story?

 

A Changing Climate Gives Us a Chance to Change the World – VICE

Panicking About Money?

It is the summer holidays and I have weeks of time to spare before I go back to University at the end of September. However, that is not always how it feels. The rush to save money before the next academic year kicks-in is stressful and has led me to worry about what I am going to do after Uni.

I have applied to an endless list of jobs, the majority of whom have not replied to me even to do the courtesy of rejecting my application. I now have a part-time job which offers me 12 hours of work a week which I feel really lucky to have because I know how desperate other people in my position are to get any job, no matter how little hours are offered to them. I remain frustrated though.

It feels like I did everything I could to stay afloat during school and college; I maintained good grades even when my mental health was failing and I struggled to leave the house. Now I am at University, studying for a degree which is challenging me academically, yet I am still an unappealing prospect to employers. It feels like so many people have A-Levels and have been to University that now having a good academic record is not impressive anymore, it is simply just expected.

My CV looks bare because throughout my years of school and college, I was struggling with my mental health. It was achievement enough for me to even attend classes let alone take on extracurriculars. However, to employers I look like someone who has not tried to engage enough and does not have any interests because they can’t see the fact that I went through copious sessions of counselling to try and enable me to get through school and inch towards being able to join clubs and societies. To them I am a statistic rather than a person.

In the end, I have had to look at what I really want from life. Do I want to prioritise money over my mental health and happiness? No. Do I want to allow an employers’ view of me to dictate my self-worth and confidence? No. Do I want to let myself dwell in my own self-pity? No, I have seen before where this can lead me and it is somewhere I do not want to return to. 

Essentially, I am learning that things often do not work out how we envision them. You may visualise your ideal situation and put all of your energies into achieving that state of mind and being only to find yourself unable to get there. I am learning to accept that this is ok. When these things happen and you don’t get to where you want to be, often this is for a reason and you can learn so much more from the unexpected results you alight upon in comparison to the place you imagined you would be in. I would not have learnt the power of acceptance if things had worked out the way I originally wanted them to. I have built-up my emotional strength as the tides of disappointment and rejection have arrived at my feet. I have learnt that I should not give other people, especially people I have never met, the power to define your own self-worth.

If you are struggling with something similar or feel like you have ‘failed’ at something recently, here are some helpful resources on how to deal with your experiences:

Five Ways To Make Peace With Failure – Forbes

How To Deal With Stress – Mind

How To Increase Your Self-Esteem – Mind

5 Tips For When It Is Your Time Of The Month

1) Do light yoga

Emphasis on the word ‘light’! Doing intensive poses and pushing your body too hard could lead to you straining parts of your body which is the last thing you need if you are already suffering from menstrual cramps. Instead, do poses which will slowly stretch-out and ease your abdominal area, such as the Child’s Pose and the Bridge, which both open-up your hips and can help to release tension in the area. Hopefully, practicing yoga will help reduce the intensity of your cramps, distract you from any pain you are feeling and give you a mental boost as you can feel proud of yourself for looking after and staying in tune with your body.

2) Be patient with yourself

When you are on your period or your pre-menstrual phase, it may feel easy to get frustrated and annoyed with yourself. Whilst you will probably have the same amount of work or tasks to do as you have at every other time of the month, during your period your body calls you to slow down and give yourself some rest. During this time of the month, it is natural for you to not feel as physically energised or capable of intense work as you might wish. However, this does not serve as a reason to beat yourself up over your slower pace or emotional outbursts, be kind to yourself instead. Also, listen to your body and do not push yourself to exhaustion just to prove a point, it is not worth it and you will regret tiring yourself out when you wake-up the next morning feeling like a zombie!

3) Drink lots of water

Multiple studies have demonstrated that you are more likely to become dehydrated during your period due to the loss of blood and bodily fluids which occurs. In addition, the changes which occur in your hormones, especially the reduction in your levels of estrogen, at this part of your cycle can leave your body less able to retain water. So, make it a priority to restore your hydration levels during your period and drink plenty of water. This will help you to feel less fatigued and can also combat any feelings of weakness you may experience.

4) Consume foods rich in iron

Losing blood has the knock-on effect of lowering the levels of iron in your body which in turn can leave you feeling tired and weak. Therefore, eating foods rich in iron will help to restore its levels in your body. For me, as I do not eat meat, spinach is a great go-to iron booster and green juices are great for boosting my energy levels during my time of the month.

5) Be comfortable in your own skin

I don’t know about you but, especially when I was younger, I was made to feel ashamed about being on my period and at school it felt necessary to hide being on your period at all costs in order to avoid incessant jibes and teasing from the boys in your year (if one boy caught a glimpse of a packet of sanitary pads, it would be common knowledge within the hour that you were on your period!). As a result, I used to feel dirty and disgusting during my time of the month and loathe my body for putting me through the ordeal. However, as I have grown-up, I’ve realised that this NATURAL process, is not something to be embarrassed about or feel any kind of guilt over (how many times can I say that it is NATURAL?!). In fact, you should damn well feel proud of yourself for literally working through one of you internal organs shedding its lining and dealing with all the complications which come with it. Seriously, give yourself a moment of appreciation right now for your inner strength and power. So do not let anyone else’s immaturity effect you, rise above it and smile to yourself with the knowledge that they actually think their stupid words could have any impact on you.

For more information about what you can do to make your period more comfortable, check out these resources below:

7 Steps To Take If Your Period Makes You Unusually Tired – Bustle

Why Am I Weak During Menstruation? – Women’s Health Center

Nausea Before Period: Causes, Home Remedies, Treatment – Healthline

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

Inspiration and What You Want

There are so many options in life. So many times where we face a crossroads; decisions which feel like they will define and shape the years which follow. We are presented with choices to be made on a daily basis and it is hard to know which route to take a lot of the time. How do we know whether a certain path will benefit us in the long-run? How can we be sure that we will not regret turning an opportunity down? Which choice would contribute best to our wellbeing and mental health?

Choices come with a lot of baggage and worry. We do not want to close-down our access to certain opportunities but often I have found that I am not fully certain on what I want to do in the future, where I want to be and how I wish to get there. Without clarity about your future as well as your present, decisions can feel like a huge weight to bare because you do not feel ready or prepared to tackle them.

“My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.” – Newt Scamander

Recently, I have set the intention to let what inspires me guide me. Things which re-kindle my passion, things which set-off excitement within me and things which set my mind alight with possibilities are the things which I am going to take my cues from. It appears clear to me now that what inspires us sends us a direct message about what we are supposed to do in life because they show us what we want. The things which peak our curiosity and intellectual engagement do so because we have a natural leaning towards them which tells us that these are paths we are meant to follow and opportunities we are supposed to fulfil. Why else would they cause us to give such an emotive response to them?

When we are unclear about where we want to end-up in the future and what career or lifestyle path we should pursue, we should look to what inspires us. Within inspiration lies our real, true calling. Inspiration strips-back all of the external influences over our decisions, such as other people’s opinions, societal expectations and financial pre-occupation. By discarding all of these unhelpful layers which can cloud our minds when we make decisions, it is easier for us to understand what we truly want and what choices will be of the most benefit to us both in the long and short term.

“Hold fast to dreams,

For if dreams die

Life is a broken-winged bird, 

That cannot fly.”

Langston Hughes

 

Upskirting

For those of you who don’t know, I live in England. Yesterday, the British government was on the verge of passing a Bill through Parliament which would make up-skirting a criminal offence, punishable by a maximum prison term of two years. However, this potentially momentous occasion was scuppered by a Conservative MP (who does not deserve to be named) who simply had to shout-out ‘object’, in order to stop the Bill being passed. I know that I do not usually talk about political matters but this event has left me so angry that I feel it warrants being spoken about on here.

There is no doubt that up-skirting is a vile invasion of privacy which humiliates victims and leaves them with long-term anxiety about their safety when out in public. Taking a photo of someone up their clothing is another way in which the objectification and sexualisation of women’s bodies is pervading all facets of society. How can anyone, in good conscience, allow this gross mistreatment of people (which can occur in broad daylight, anytime and anywhere) to continue? The fact that people feel they need to censor their clothing and how they move in society so as to avoid being preyed upon is disgraceful. People who take these unsolicited images should be held to account. It just seems like common sense!

The MP who blocked this Bill from being passed has recently been knighted – obviously not for advocating the cause of public safety I would assume. The fact that he only had to say one word – ‘object’ – to stop the Bill is an affront to democracy as well as an insult to those who have fallen victim of up-skirting. These victims were made to feel powerless and could do nothing to stop their perpetrators leaving in possession of the photos they obtained through predatory behaviour, yet this MP only had to utter one word in order to condemn hundreds of people to the experience of injustice. How can he sleep at night? He is responsible for the constituents in the area he represents, does he not think of those people whom he has left feeling unprotected and undervalued despite having voted him into power in good faith? He said that he objected the Bill on ‘principle’, what possible principle could allow you to condone innocent people being preyed upon?

This whole issue seems crazy to me. Up-skirting is disgusting, so why is it not a criminal offence? I’d love to know other people’s opinions on this, as you can tell this whole saga has got me pretty riled!

If you want to read more about this, here are some links:

Sky News: Upskirting Law

TIME Magazine: A Law to Ban Upskirting Was Just Blocked in the UK