You Are Succeeding By Surviving

It’s that time of year again where people happily share their incredible uni results, graduation photos are imminent, GCSE and A-Level results are just around the corner, everyone seems to be passing their driving tests, getting new jobs, getting promotions, getting engaged, moving house, and digging wells in African villages, all at the same time.

For some of us, none of these things are true.

Some of us are trying our best to stay alive, and that’s pretty much all we can manage. Many of us have dropped out of university degrees (if we ever got there in the first places). Lots of us have had to put our GCSEs or A-Levels on hold (or if we do manage to sit them, we don’t achieve anything close to our potential). Some of us are unable to drive until our medication settles and/or our health improves. Lots of us aren’t able to hold down a job, or if we can, we’re on reduced hours. If we do have a job, it might be miles away from our dream job – we’re just not well enough to even apply for those kinds of jobs. Many of us struggle to maintain friendships, never mind even attempting a relationship. A lot of us are still living with our parents or other family members, because we need them to help care for us. Many of us can’t travel further than the end of our garden without a panic attack, if we can move ourselves at all.

Being in our late teens/early twenties, we’re expected to be carefree. We often don’t have responsibilities for anyone other than ourselves. We’re expected to spend time having fun, going out, working out who we are and what we enjoy, and generally making the most of life.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes we don’t have that luxury, because we’re simply not well enough. Life can play a cruel hand at times.

It doesn’t mean that we’re not achieving and succeeding, though. Our success might just look a little different to others.

Sometimes success is taking PRN, even if you feel like we are ‘giving in’ by doing so. Sometimes it’s getting to bed by 10pm each night, even if it makes us feel like a granny. Sometimes success is learning how to say ‘no’ to things that hurt us. Sometimes success is forcing down 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, however loud our heads scream. Sometimes success is getting our notifications down to zero. Sometimes, success is taking our meds as prescribed. Sometimes success is dragging ourselves down to the GP even if we feel we don’t deserve it, or we’re wasting their time. Sometimes success is making it into town alone. Sometimes success is letting our family members and carers help us. Sometimes success is navigating the benefits system. Sometimes success is just showing up – whether it be to school, to work, to a class, or somewhere else. Sometimes, success is allowing ourselves to do the things that we enjoy.

Sometimes success is simply doing what’s best for us. It’s taking care of ourselves. It’s continuing to stay alive, whatever is thrown our way.

To all of you who are feeling pretty rubbish at the moment because everyone seems to be succeeding and progressing, and you feel like a sad, stuck, blob… I want to remind you how wonderful you are. Continuing to wake up every day despite all the setbacks you encounter is so brave. It’s so admirable. It’s so incredibly strong. You are succeeding by waking up every day, by showing up, by never ever giving up. You are awesome.


Is it getting easier, or am I just numb?

There have been a few things that have happened in the past few weeks which would normally trigger off ‘missing Mum’ alarm bells. They range in size, from those that would have knocked me for a few days, to ones which are just a bit tricky.

Things like:

  • Christmas (without Mum)
  • New Year (oh look, you have to survive another year without your Mum)
  • Getting a new phone (my old one was inherited from Mum, but there’s only so many times you can apologise to the person on the other end of the phone for the fact that your alarm is going off (while on the phone) and you can’t switch it off because your phone has frozen… before a new one becomes a bit necessary. I have mitigated it slightly by putting my favourite picture of us as my background, so I’ve still got Mum in my pocket)
  • Feeling ill (my flatmate and I had a discussion last night over which of my meds it might be a good idea to take, whether NHS 111 might be a good plan (nah, they’ll either tell me to go to bed or to A&E, and I don’t feel like going to A&E) and eventually concluded that heat packs, gaviscon and sleeping tablets with a ‘maybe it will be better tomorrow?’ would be a good plan)
  • An exam (who knows how that went as I’m currently a person of no brain and not really well enough to do much at all never mind take an exam, but I couldn’t postpone it again, and the invigilator said that I’ve aged well, so I feel like I won a little bit)
  • Upcoming appointments that I’m not feeling too fab about (Mum’s are good people to text ‘arghhhhhhhhhh’ to).
  • Feeling like generally, with my health, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, and what to believe (Mum was always fairly blunt, if I walked in looking like I was dying she would tell me)
  • My mental health being a knob (seriously, as a twenty-something year old it’s hard enough to navigate life and try to keep yourself alive without your head attempting to kill you)
  • New year new diet crap (which she would have healthily laughed at and torn apart whereas every time ‘veganuary’ and ‘a researcher has decided that breakfast is bad for you’, I wish I was well enough to join in)

However, despite all these things, the ‘missing Mum’ part of my brain appears to have disappeared (along with the rest of my brain, arguably).

It’s not that Mum doesn’t ever enter my head, but when she does, at the moment, it’s in a much more clinical sense, with all of the emotion removed. It’s not that she never enters conversation, either, because she does (most recently this evening, with the exam invigilator), but when she does, and people say they’re sorry, I normally meet it with a bit of a shrug and an ‘it’s life’, where it might previously have set off cartwheels in my head.

I’m not sure if it is actually getting any easier, or if I’m just numb.

A lot of things, or perhaps everything, is pretty numb right now. It’s not as bad as it might sound – I’d rather be numb than distressed. I often end up in a weird depression-anxiety battle, with depression pulling at me to do nothing, and anxiety screaming at me to do everything; at least when I’m this low the battle pauses because anxiety gives in. So with everything being a bit numbed, it’s hard to know whether grief is lessening, whether it’s becoming the ‘new normal’, or whether depression is just smothering it.

For now I’m just going to keep plodding along, because I’m not really sure what else I can do.

Happy Christmas

xmasHappy Christmas to you all with so much love from me and my blog.

I hope that you all have a lovely day wherever you are – whether it be alone or with family and friends, and whether you celebrate Christmas or not. I hope that you can be as happy as little me in this picture, and that if you’re not feeling that way , then your day is peaceful at the very least.

Christmas can be a tricky time when coping with loss, it can highlight the fact that someone is missing, I know I miss Mum a lot, so be kind to yourselves if you can.

I’ve donated to our Martin House fund in Mum’s memory this year because I can’t exactly get her a present. You’re more than welcome to do the same which you can do here.

If you’re feeling lonely, Sarah Millican is running her #joinin hashtag on Twitter again this year. The Samaritans line is always open, Blurt’s peer support group is there, and Beat have kept their helpline open again this year if you need someone to talk to.

11 Pieces Of Back To School Advice You Probably Didn’t Ask For

Summer has ended and everyone is heading back to school. Students and teachers alike are both mildly petrified about what tomorrow might bring. Bags are packed with many more pens and pencils than will ever make it past lunch time, uniform is cleaner than it ever will be again, and there is a faint whiff of shoe polish in the air. As the new school year begins, here are 11 pieces of advice you didn’t ask for:

  1. Your health (both mental and physical) always, always comes first. Before any grades, before any coursework, before any exams. Your health is more important than any school work will ever be.
  2. Teachers aren’t the enemy. Sure they might feel it at times, especially if they’re making you do things you don’t want to do. They’re not supposed to have favourites – but we all know that they probably do. Still, whether you’re their favourite student, or you think they probably hate you, you will get much further working with your teachers than against them.
  3. Spelling is important. Everyone who knew me through school and reads this will laugh. I absolutely detested spelling at school. Really, really hated it (partly because I was absolutely hopeless at it until someone taught me to spell by shape. I’m very visual, so used to get same-heighted letters muddled up). I couldn’t work out why the heck I needed to know it when things like spell-checkers exist. They do exist… but they only kick in if you’re moderately close to the word you’re aiming for. Also, even though you think you’ll never use a pen after leaving school, you actually end up hand-writing more then you realise, and it can be really, really embarrassing if you have no idea where to start when trying to write a word!
  4. A lot of talents and skills aren’t recognised by exam boards. For some things in life, you do need certain grades in certain things, and it is good to always try your best at stuff. But not every skill and talent is measured by school. My job now basically involves talking to people, networking, and problem solving. School definitely never encouraged me to talk (except in French), in fact I think a lot of my teachers would have preferred it if I’d have remained a bit quieter.
  5. Your best is good enough. It really, really is. You can’t try harder than your absolute best. Please don’t destroy yourself in the process of trying to be more than you are.
  6. It’s okay to not know who you are. It’s okay to change your hair and make-up. It’s okay to choose a rucksack over a handbag (or vice versa!). It’s okay to change your likes and dislikes. It’s okay to try certain hobbies, not like them, stop doing them and start doing something else. It’s absolutely okay be anyone you want to be (unless you’re a plonker… don’t be a plonker).
  7. Don’t be mean. It might sound really simple, straightforward and basic, but it’s an important one. Don’t be a bitch. Don’t talk about people behind their backs (even when it feels like everyone else is). Don’t trip people or laugh at people. Don’t make fun of people for the way they choose to style their hair or what bag they’ve chosen. It’s not worth it. When finding your way through life, it’s as well to have as many people on your side as possible – be nice to people.
  8. Do your homework/write your notes up. You’ll hate it at the time but love yourself when exam season rolls around.
  9. Life isn’t all academics. Join a sports team, start D of E, play an instrument, go on the occasional jog, join Scouts/Guides, volunteer, socialise, paint, go shopping, go to the cinema, watch TV. Life isn’t all about school work.
  10. Speak out if you’re struggling. Talk to a friend, a teacher, a school nurse, a parent, an aunt, a sibling, your GP. Write it in a diary. Talk to people and let them know if you’re struggling. People can’t help if they don’t know. However you’re feeling – you’re not the first person who has ever felt that way or who has ever had that struggle and things can get better. But you need to let people in.
  11. There is a whole world outside of school. School is all-encompassing and at times, overwhelming. When you’ve sat on a leaky bus for 3 hours of the day, just to wear something you’re not comfortable in, study subjects you’re not interested in and speak to people you don’t really like, it can be a serious drag. But life doesn’t start and end with school. There is a whole world out there waiting for you when you finish. A world with friends you’ve not met yet, places you’ve not visited yet, and more jobs that you can wrap your mind around. However hellish school is, you’re only there for such a small percentage of your life.

Good luck, look after yourself, and try to have fun while you’re at it Xxx

However awkward you are when you start school… you probably won’t end it much better.