A Little Blogging Break?

Finishing university is a very anti-climactic time for some people I imagine. Right now the situation is unravelling like that for me. I can acknowledge that I’m incredibly lucky to be in a place of leaving university knowing that I have income and a good job as well as being able to move back home to my parents. My emotions since walking out of my last ever lecture and getting my last assignment results back have been very stable smack bang between ‘slight anxiety’ and ‘slight excitement’ of the oncoming future. I feel very disengaged from the entire process, as if the summer is just breezing past in front of me.

general writing worries

I often worry and get quite genuinely upset that I did my entire three years at University wrong. That I didn’t appreciate the opportunities put in front of me or take in any of the lessons that could have benefited me. As a student in creative writing and an aspiring writer, all I want is to feel happy and pleased with the words, prose or nonsense that is released when I put pen to paper or text to document. But even as I write this blog post I feel like my writing is compatible to a toddler who is excelling a bit faster than the rest of the literacy class. Sure at the age of six it makes them a wonder child, meant for amazing things. But at the age of twenty-three, I feel I’ve become stagnant and that I’m constantly way in over my head when I call myself an aspiring writer or make plans to write a book or poetry collection or even a blog.

poor self-esteem and social media do not go well together

Social media and it’s effect on my mental health has been, frankly, a constant bloody migraine in the past two and a half years. University is a great time, especially when you connect yourself to societies or big groups of people, as you get to see many different people explore themselves and grow and change. It can bring out both the best and worst in people. One of the worst things it brought out in me? I have a disgusting habit to compare myself to others and get pathetically envious when people excel at a faster rate than me at similar hobbies. I can be happy for people but I would be a fat liar if I said there wasn’t times in the past three years where I had literally cried that I should give up writing because I saw my peers who weren’t even planning to become writers or weren’t doing similar degrees get more ‘social media’ likes and shares when they decided to create blogs and such. Wrapped up in my own crushed ego, all I desired was to be known in a social group as the ‘writer’, the ‘blogger’. To have my hard work acknowledged and regularly have support. These high expectations placed on other students, who were probably struggling with their own self beliefs and attempts to find what they were good at, only doomed to fail and I found myself throughout third year feeling invisible and convincing myself that if I wasn’t getting likes, shares and support online then I was nothing.

my experience with instagram

I think I’ve had about four Instagram accounts in my whole university ‘period’. I’ve tried to find a personal branding by making accounts for this blog, for my ‘eco-conscious’ journey and even a ‘bookstagram’. I had a thirst for a link to a community. I just wanted to feel like my voice was being heard. It hurt and would reduce me to tears if I felt like I was putting out too much of myself online, only for nobody to interact. It felt desperate and embarassing. I was stuck in a spiral of putting a part of my work, my voice and myself online in hopes it would help someone or speak to someone and to not get an instant response, I would blame myself. I would feel disappointed in friends even though I knew they were trying their best to support me. I had incredibly selfish expectations that could only be settled by instant-gratification and that gratification would fade so fast. The thing is with social media blogging and having it come to a point of being obsessive and basing your whole worth on it is that you begin to struggle with communicating your emotions, upset, mental health effects and worries out loud or through spoken word. I felt trying to explain any of this to a counsellor or family member would be pointless. Pathetically, I would then express my disdain, my depression and my frustrations through what I’d personally call ‘online outbursts’. I’d write some vague nonsense on an Instagram story, a tweet or such whilst being emotional and then when my ‘rational thoughts’ kicked in later and I realised I was getting upset over social media, a concept that didn’t even exist when I was a kid and really will mean nothing 20 or 50 years in the future when my life is different, I delete the post and humble myself over my actions.

My obsessive attachment to social media and trying to construct an ideal personality and representation of myself, because deep down I cannot really pinpoint what personality I have or who I am, is unusually unhealthy and I always wonder if social media-inflicted poor mental health is more common than I think. But that’s a personal issue I’m sure I’ll deal with one day or maybe even write about (ironic if that became my first ever publication – how to deal with having a toxic attachment to social media to the point of not knowing who you are without it! – might patent it now.)

why I think a break will be a good idea

So, now I have realised that there’s something inherently wrong and worrying at the fact I base my writing worth or talent worth or actual self worth on how many likes I get or whether or not I can get an ‘aesthetically-pleasing’ photo with my phone. I think it’s time to seperate myself from most of it. The reason I’m also including my blog in this is that I know I’m not happy with anything I write on my blog at the moment, and even when I push myself to write something, I ridiculously use the lack of shares or likes or interaction from social media as ‘proof’ towards myself that I can’t write or whatever negative self-bullying I have pre-prepared in my brain that day. I believe I might benefit from taking a hiatus from my blog and maybe coming back one day when I feel more confident in my writing or my confidence and self-talk has become more positive so that I won’t care what ‘support’ or ‘interaction’ I get. I would like to come back to my blog when I’m back in a place where I want to write for me and anything that comes out of it is just a bonus. Unfortunately I am nowhere near that place right now. Even if I tell myself that I’m writing for me, I find myself checking the likes or asking people if they’ve read it.

Therefore, I’ll be taking a break from my blog and I am also disabling my Instagram to push myself to live life for what it is. I find often I am not completely present in moments or situations in my day-to-day life and that I feel I can’t prove a good thing has happened unless I put it on Instagram. I find myself dissociating and isolating myself to check my phone, to edit photos and take several photos to get that ‘aesthetically-pleasing’ shot. You know it’s sad when you care more if a photo is ‘inline with your feed’ than actually capturing a moment you enjoy. I find myself writing blog posts or making interactive Instagram stories thinking ‘nobody’s going to read this anyways’ and looking for evidence to sustain this self-belief of ‘nobody cares about my work’ which is just depressing overall. This spiral or this compulsive behaviour associated with social media and my blog is detrimental to my mental health and can also affect my relationships with other people. I don’t want it to keep doing this. I don’t want to isolate myself especially if I feel alone online anyways.

I do appreciate if you’ve read all the way to this point and I’m sorry it’s such a winding ramble. I hope one day I can come back to my blog or find a time where I can use social media just as much as everyone else healthily. I wish for a time where I can put my creative work whether it’s blogging, reviews, art, poetry or photography online and do it for me and not compulsively check for other people’s affirmations or acknowledgement. I am eternally grateful for the friends, followers and people who may have always read my posts or interacted.

So hopefully this seperation, especially as I’m finishing university and unleashing myself into a summer of a lot of free time (slightly scary), will be good for me and I’ll be able to become a lot more happy, confident and self-assured.

Until then!

Helena

Changes that have helped me with my body image

Growing up I feel like almost everyone I know, at one point or another, has had issues with their body image. Even if, thankfully, it has not developed into anything that’s upsetting them or affecting their mental and physical health. It’s the societal norm to hear ‘my stomach is so big’, ‘I need to lose weight’, ‘I’m on a diet’ or ‘I feel ugly’. I can vouch that I have said all four of those sentences at some point in my life.

This year for Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation (UK) shared some statistics relevant to ‘body image’. This included the fact that ‘one in eight adults in the UK have experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings because of concerns about their body image’. It’s quite upsetting to read, especially when you realise how young these obsessions, self-beliefs and worries can start. Among teenagers 31% felt ashamed in relation to their body image. (All stats can be found here.)

Mental Health Awareness Week has passed now, however as you will hear most advocates say – mental illness and mental health struggles happen all year round and can affect absolutely anyone regardless of lifestyle, age, race, gender, size and so on. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that have helped me deal with body image issues and doubts as well as share a little bit of my story.

Growing up I’ve always been quite unhappy with the way I look. I distinctly remember drawing out a ‘self-portrait’ as a kid and exaggerating all the parts of me I really hated or thought made me ugly. Digging my felt tips into the paper with frustration and sadness because I felt like my appearance meant a lot more than it really did.

High school is when social media started to become a thing and I’d spend ages using the laptop webcam trying to get a perfect selfie, to then edit it madly – adding high saturation to my eyes to make them look unnaturally blue, blurring my skin. If the ‘popular girls’ complimented it, it only gave me more reason to keep obsessing over how I looked. I know it wasn’t just me alone in this though, thinking back every girl I knew had something they were insecure about. At one point one of the girls I thought was popular, confident and absolutely invisible asked me what editing app I used on my photos to then go and use it herself. It was almost like we were the generation to see the beginning of the addiction of basing our self-worth on Facebook likes and high school rating systems (Remember the ‘like my status for a rate? xo’, why on earth did any of us do that.)

In my later teenage years I found myself quite obsessed with checking calories, only eating so much a day, trying to cut out sugar, salt, bread, carbs – you name it. I’d follow ridiculous accounts on Tumblr that only pushed unhealthy images of girls who were underweight but labelled as ‘goals’. I’d tell myself off and mentally abuse myself whenever I ate something ‘unhealthy’ even if I desperately needed to eat.

Luckily, I realised I was very much treading in the deep end. One more step and I’d be underwater.

One of the worst things about dealing with body image, is that the problem is so accepted. It’s almost like if you don’t hate your body, you’re not human. If you go to a doctor and tell them you loathe your body to the point of pushing it through unhealthy diets and regimes, unless you’re drastically underweight, they won’t do much (in my experience anyways). I was lucky enough to tackle the very dark parts of hating my body mostly through sheer willpower, but a lot of people don’t always have that and will instead struggle alone and may even develop an eating disorder. It shouldn’t be like that.

Stop making food a villain

We need food to live. We literally need to consume food to keep us going and for the nutrients, protein and other good stuff that it provides. One of the biggest steps I needed to take throughout my life is learning to listen to my body. Even if I’ve already eaten today, if I start to feel hungry and fatigued, I need to eat. Never get into a routine of telling yourself you can only eat ‘X’ because you ate ‘X’ yesterday. Or that because you ate junk food today, you need to do 3 hours of exercise tomorrow. Stop making food a villain and embrace it.

I haven’t looked into it enough myself to completely vouch for it but intuitive eating is the best thing you can do for your body. Ditch all the diet books and listen to your body. Stop categorising food as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and make peace with food.

Let yourself enjoy delicious food

Unfollow any influencer or person that makes you feel bad about your body

Social Media controls more of your confidence, self-esteem and body image beliefs than you realise. This advice means a lot to me because taking it on has probably helped me the most over the past few years. As a form of self-care, I ensure that my entire Twitter and Instagram feed is solely full of content that inspires me, makes me happy and motivates me. I don’t even follow most of the celebrities from TV or films that I like just to prevent me from getting into the mindset of ‘why can’t I look like that?’.

Everybody and their mum knows that a good chunk of Instagram is full of lies, facetune and fakery. Don’t even get me started on influencers who push ‘weight loss shakes’. You don’t need that on your feed! Follow mental health advocates, positive body image advocates and inclusive artists and creatives. Most people spend a large percentage of their day scrolling through social media, the best thing you can do is make sure what you see isn’t reinforcing those negative self-beliefs.

Make sure you enjoy your exercising

I hate the gym. I hate running. These are the two exercises that physically drain me. The only endorphin I get from the gym is when I leave and get to be by myself.

An exaggeration of my dislike, I know. But, taking up exercise that I actually love, enjoy and look forward to has done so much more for me than the years where I’ve forced myself to go to a gym only to feel miserable, anxious and bored. If exercise feels like a chore, what’s the point? Growing up, I always heard 30 minutes of exercise a day is the minimum that is recommended. Now if you want to do exercise you just need to find something that you’ll find fun for that 30 minutes, and eventually it won’t even feel like exercise and you might want to do it for an hour or even more!

It’s also important to remember that it’s ok if it takes you a while to find this or a couple of tries. My personal favourite is dance. I only started dance fitness last year and I feel genuinely sad whenever I can’t make a class. I also find swimming, yoga and long walks enjoyable. I don’t worry too much about exercise now because I acknowledge that going for an hour’s walk is doing something. Enjoyable exercise is different for everyone, there is no one ‘correct’ exercise routine.

Before Dance Fitness, I even tried Pound Fit! Good way to work up a sweat

Shop for comfort, not to fit in

I think I can speak for myself and numerous other girls when I say the crop top trend can be a pain in the arse sometimes. You go shopping, you just want a cute new top but for some reason my entire stomach has to be on show? Trying to stay on trend can be actually nerve-wracking because you feel so uncomfortable in what you’ve put on. But in your head you just want to look like one of the models on Instagram. In my mid-teenage years (17-19 years old) I spent ridiculous amounts of money on crop tops, mini skirts, short-shorts and such that I could just never wear because I felt absolutely stupid in or if I did wear them, I’d spend the entire time scared that I was flashing someone, or that people would laugh at me. Eventually I began to tell myself before going out or whilst getting changed in the morning: if I don’t feel comfortable in this, I don’t have to wear it. Nobody is forcing me.

I started telling myself female clothing sizes mean absolutely nothing and that I should invest in jeans that feel nice to wear whether they were a size 10 or a 14, and not bully myself if I can’t fit into a size 8. I made sure when I was buying clothes that I was happy, felt cute and comfortable. The number on the sizing and trend means nothing.

It might not be a stylish outfit but it made me comfy and happy!

What steps have you taken to make your body image journey happier and easier? Feel free to share in the comments. 💌

Thanks for reading,

Header Image taken by self

Once you realise you’re an extreme people-pleaser

Chances are you know someone who may describe themselves as a ‘people-pleaser’, you might even describe yourself as one. The common traits of a people-pleaser are well, doing everything they possibly can to make anybody happy. This isn’t just singularly attributed to people who want to consistently please their partner, best friend, boss or parent. Being a people-pleaser can get to the point where you want to please everyone you meet and become acquainted with. The thought of annoying one of your classmates that you barely even speak to? Soul-crushing. The fact that the bus driver gave you a scowl this morning because you took too long finding the right change? This now means I’m officially the worst person in the world.

You’re probably thinking this is a bit extreme. Naturally, you can’t please everyone. Especially with a world population of 8 billion people. But in an extreme people-pleaser case, sometimes the mere thought of a stranger disliking you can send you into an anxious turmoil.

Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

If you find yourself apologising at least a million times in an average day, struggling to say no, changing your personality to fit particular social scenarios and the idea of conflict makes you want to hide – you’re probably a people-pleaser.

What can be worrying is when you find yourself going off the deep end of people-pleasing and this is a situation I am currently in. People who have struggled with making connections or friends as a child or found themselves unfortunately in connection with people who manipulate and take advantage of their natural empathy are more likely to be people-pleasers. It is not always the case, but the fear of being hurt from abandonment or isolation can then form into self beliefs that people do not like them or that they are not worth anything and this self-belief will sit ingrained into the back of their minds. When someone, whether it’s a boss, a partner, a friend or parent, gives them positive feedback and validation, it helps break down that self-belief but if that belief has really concreted it’s place in that person’s brain – the happy feeling released from validation can be temporary.

the feeling that they cannot express their own emotions in fear of upsetting someone else or the fear of creating a negative image of themselves in someone else’s eyes

The validation and reassurance can get almost addictive and over time an extreme people-pleaser may become fearful of negative emotions, conflict or feeling like they’re letting another person down. These fears manifest into behaviours such as feeling physically unable to say no and one of the most damaging to a person’s mental health – the feeling that they cannot express their own emotions in fear of upsetting someone else or, a thought not discussed much, the fear of creating a negative image of themselves in someone else’s eyes. Being out of control of other people’s opinions about you or what they say about you is something that could cause a lot of anxiety in an extreme people-pleaser.

This is then damaging to their mental health as they may often repress their emotions, they may hold back on standing up for themselves and although not saying anything and keeping on a ‘happy face’, internally feel forgotten, not listened to, used or manipulated. The term ‘don’t bottle your feelings up’ is used as advice a lot because it’s true. The fallout of bottling up emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, fear, paranoia etc. over time is dangerous as you are not letting your body feel and express emotion. Which is a completely human thing to do. The lyrics of Sia’s Elastic Heart are a very good visual for this:

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard / I may snap and I move fast

The first step to adjusting your people-pleasing behaviours is acknowledging how much do you bottle up. How far do you let the rubber band of your emotions and feelings stretch for the sake of other people and what people think of you?

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

The next step is realising it is human to feel things. You are allowed to. Feel what you feel in a safe space or safe discussion with safe coping strategies (talking to a loved one or a mental health professional) and then take action to feel better and be compassionate to yourself.

Thank you for reading,

'Helena'

Header Image: Photo by boram kim on Unsplash

My most recent reads – Spring 2019

Not quite sure if it really means anything, or actually push me to read more, but I’ve recently updated my GoodReads 2019 reading challenge to try and read 11 books this whole year! 🎉

Obviously, I don’t have the highest expectations of myself, but I thought it was realistic considering half of my year has been finishing University. The GoodReads reading challenge option is really useful as it shows you the percentage you have completed of your ‘challenge’, if you are any books ahead or behind schedule, as well as some recommendations based on what books you’ve managed to read! Have a go at starting your own reading challenge here. They also encourage you to re-read your favourites (still counts as a read) and use audiobooks if that’s what you prefer. 🎧

So what books have I read so far in 2019? Well I won’t bore you with every single one (well there’s only 5 so far, but still), so I thought I’d quickly share the most recent 3 I have finished as well as give you a quick review!

Book # 1 – Pure by Rose Cartwright

I first heard about Rose Cartwright and her OCD story through an article she wrote for The Guardian. Dealing with a recent diagnosis of OCD (a story I may go into another time when I feel more comfortable) myself, I thought picking up her book would be a good idea to get somebody else’s personal insight into living with the disorder and it’s struggles. In this memoir, Rose talks about her ‘Pure O’ OCD in which she experiences intense sexual intrusive thoughts, she discusses how it felt before she even discovered that she had OCD, she discusses countless attempts at therapies and writing her story for the Guardian. Despite me and Rose’s experiences being completely different, there were moments where she’d talk about the anxiety and distress and I would be like ‘oh my god I do that’. It was an incredibly reassuring and emotional read and Rose also pokes in lovely bits of humour and references that made this a very enjoyable memoir read. 🌻

Purchase ‘Pure’ here.

Book #2 – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

‘The Bell Jar’ is a ‘cult classic’ from the 60’s that I hadn’t even considered picking up until this year. I have enjoyed Plath’s poetry before but randomly after spotting it in my University library, I decided to try the first chapter and I honestly could not put it down. It is said that the main protagonist Esther may be a ‘self-insert’ for Sylvia Plath, as Plath suffered with quite severe depression much like Esther did. When I read this, I enjoyed Esther’s first-person narrative incredibly because she showed such a blunt and realistic representation of how depression feels inside and on the outside. How frustrating it can feel when others do not understand how you feel. I would definitely recommend this to anybody, although the second half of the book has quite a lot of mention and scenes of suicide attempts and self-harm so it might be a bit intense for some readers.

Purchase ‘The Bell Jar’ here.

Book # 3 – You by Caroline Kepnes

This book literally left me sat up at night going ‘what the f*ck?’ but in a slightly good way. You (😉) have probably heard of ‘You’ if you have a Netflix account; recently a 10 episode series was released following a similar story to the book. If you haven’t watched the show – ‘You’ follows the first person narrative of bookstore manager Joe Goldberg. Joe claims he’s a big romantic and wants to do anything for the woman he loves. This not-so-lucky woman is called Beck. What Beck doesn’t know is Joe is willing to do anything. Even murder. She also doesn’t know that their future ‘coincidental meetings’ are completely manipulated and planned by Joe. Reading this book was so strange and creepy since everything is from Joe’s point of view. He believes everything he is doing – stalking, manipulating, stealing – is completely right. I did enjoy the book and got through it quite quickly but there were some parts that I just felt were too unnecessarily vulgar and didn’t make sense. Why you gotta bring Ben & Jerry’s into a scene like that?!😷 (People who finished the book will know!)

Purchase ‘You’ here.

So that’s the most recent books I’ve been reading. I have recently started ‘The Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled‘ by Ruby Wax that I am half way through and I also have ‘The Binding‘ by Bridget Collins on my TBR pile. Do you want to keep track of what books you have read or want to read? I highly recommend signing up for a GoodReads account. 📚

Feel free to share what books you’ve been reading in the comments below! I’d love to hear.

Thanks for reading,

Deaf Awareness Week 2019 : What do I, personally, want people to realise about my hearing?

My hearing loss ‘journey’, if you want to call it that, started when I was in Year 2, which in the UK means I was about 6-7 years old. Awkwardly, I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened with my hearing because it’s just a vague memory to me and I’ve never really had the guts or initiative to ask my doctor or audiologist the whole detailed story of how I lost my hearing as a child. I just remember one day in primary school having the most incredibly painful ear ache. The teacher had to call my mum to come pick me up and as I waited for her I cuddled the class teddy bear to my sore ear – the left one. My memory from that after is quite vague but before I knew it I was being taken from doctor appointments to hospital appointments to audiologist appointments and before I knew it, I was being fitted for my first hearing aid.

A teddy bear sits in the road.
Photo by Marina Shatskih on Unsplash

So, I’m not going to bore you with my complete hearing loss journey because, in all honesty, I couldn’t tell you the specifics of it all. I can tell you I’ve been wearing hearing aids for almost 16/17 years. I can tell you it’s been a difficult journey. I decided for Deaf Awareness Week 2019 (6th-12th May) I would share a couple of honest points about how I handle my hearing loss and being Deaf/hard of hearing. I was extremely inspired by an incredible Youtuber and Blogger called Jessica Kellgren-Fozard. Known online as ‘Jessicaoutofthecloset’. Jessica, to me, is a very amazing role model and inspiration because of how she talks so openly about being deaf and disabled. She created a video a while back that semi-inspired me to do this blog post, which you can find below!

Jessica’s Instagram: @jessicaoutofthecloset

Nevertheless, time for me to be honest about my personal experience of being deaf? Let’s see…

1.I don’t know BSL. Yes, I feel like a ‘bad deaf person’ for this.

Believe me, I want to learn! After getting hearing aids as a child, I remember really not wanting to adjust to them. Like, for my child self it was a huge no-no. I already struggled with confidence, making friends and fitting in so I didn’t want anything that, I thought, would make me separate or ‘different’. Unfortunately, because of refusing to wear the things that would help me hear, I struggled even more with communication which lead me to believe my ‘difference’ was the cause. I refused to wear my hearing aids for quite some years and didn’t enjoy acknowledging it or talking about it. Whenever I had audiologist tests to see how my hearing was coming along, I tried and strained so hard to prove I could hear ‘normally’. If sign language was ever offered to me, I probably refused it. It probably wasn’t until about 4 years ago that I started trying to slowly accept that this was who I am, and I shouldn’t be ashamed. However, I still don’t know the language that could possibly help me communicate better! I feel very silly for this and one day want to try and make time to learn it.

Tips for being Deaf Aware: Look at me. Turn your face towards the person with hearing loss so they can see your lip movements. Speak clearly: Not too slowly, and use normal lip movements, facial expressions and gestures. Don't shout: Keep your voice down. It's uncomfortable for a hearing aid user if you shout.
From National Deaf Children’s Society Twitter

2. Yes, I need subtitles. No, my hearing aid doesn’t ‘cure’ my difficulty with hearing.

One of my ‘funnier’ deaf memories is working in a cinema and having to hear a woman complain that the film screening she had arrived to watch had subtitles – asking us to remove them because they would ‘distract her’ and she didn’t see the point. She eventually blurted out ‘who even needs them?’ to which I, without thinking, pulled my hearing aids out and said ‘people like me’. Probably the only power move I’ve made in my entire 23 years of living. She then stammered back ‘yes but surely then you can hear, and you don’t need subtitles’. I don’t think people realise how hearing aids work. I am no expert and can only explain in the bluntest of terms but hearing aids just take the sound and amplify it. If someone on a tv show or cinema screen is mumbling some important plot point that explains their dramatic backstory underneath even louder SFX noises. I ain’t gonna understand it.

My own hearing aids, which are purple Phonak models, sat in their box which has a bright green lining.
My old reliables

3. It can be incredibly isolating.

In the video Jessica made above, she advises particular things hearing people can do in conversations to help deaf people feel more included in conversations and social settings. I empathize with all of them and find myself wishing a lot of the things she requests was just common place. I think sometimes even my friends and family aware of my hearing don’t realise that even with hearing aids on, lip-reading and expression-reading is so vital to helping me communicate. As soon as you turn your back on me mid-sentence or cover your mouth, it’s almost like trying to listen underwater. Noisy bars and social spaces are also the absolute worst. There’s been times where I’ve just gone home from outings because it’s so incredibly draining trying to hear every single word of group conversations and involve myself. I’m spending so much energy trying to understand what’s going on and then asking people to repeat back that I end up barely placing myself in the conversation. It feels like I’m watching it from afar, in some bubble where sentences are choppy and every so often someone talks in gibberish.

People cheering their glasses of wine in a bar
Photo by Yutacar on Unsplash

4. I’m still learning to talk about it.

My brain is one of them silly ones that can hold negative interactions for years but the moments when someone’s been accepting and understanding can easily slip from my memory. I have had some unfortunate times where people, even ‘friends’, have randomly claimed I’m faking my deafness (ah yes, just picked these hearing aids up from the costume store obvs!), that I ‘talk’ about it too much and that I ‘use it as an excuse to not listen.’ It’s unfortunate that, at least 4/5 of these times, I’ve been told to shut up about it just as I was starting to not feel weird about saying ‘I’m sorry could you repeat that, my hearing’s quite bad’ or ‘Sorry, I hadn’t put my hearing aids on yet, could you say that again?’. It’s a massive confidence killer, more than most people even ones close to me understand. That moment when you huff, roll your eyes and go ‘It doesn’t matter.’ when I’ve asked you to repeat something? Literally the worst. Please be understanding with me if there are days where I’m suddenly a lot more confident about talking about it and then the next week I forget my hearing aids. I’m working on it. Yes, I know I’m not the only deaf person (I’ve had this exclaimed at me too when I’ve opened up about a hearing worry – it’s a tad rubbish).

Top Tips on how to be deaf aware: 1) Make sure you have the attention of the person before you start speaking. 2) Places with good lighting and little or no background noise are best for conversations. 3) Use plain language, normal lip movements and facial expressions. 4) Check whether the person understands what you are saying and, if not, try saying it in a different way. Never say 'don't worry about it'. 5) Keep your voice down as it's uncomfortable for a hearing aid user if you shout. 6) Learn finger spelling or some basic British Sign Language.
From Action on Hearing Loss’s Twitter

The best thing to bear in mind if you are a hearing person – not all deaf people’s experiences are the same. Not all disabled people’s experiences are the same. This is a post from my personal view, so someone who has been deaf since birth will have a completely different life story and needs and requirements to me. What works for one person with a learning disability will probably not work for someone who is deaf. What works for someone who is deaf will probably not work for someone who only has one leg.

Thank you for reading, you can find out some more about Deaf Awareness Week and being ‘Deaf Aware’ below!

Everything you need to know about being deaf aware

Tips for communicating clearly

Information on British Sign Language

Action on Hearing Loss’s Instagram

Rainy day thoughts: coming to the end of my degree

It’s still not kicked in that I technically only have two weeks left of University.

Today, I went into University to help as a ‘student ambassador’ for a University Applicant day where we met applicants possibly planning to start their undergraduate degree in something along the lines of English Language, Literature, Creative Writing or Drama come September. I can still remember my own applicant day back in early 2016 pretty well. I remember the Creative Writing taster session involved poetry and me and my mum sat there and had a go at putting prose together on scrap paper. I still have them folded up in my old diary in my room at my parents.

Every so often in the past three years I get the mini poem my mother wrote back out and read it and I just feel so utterly grateful for her and my dad’s support during my degree. Sometimes during these past three years I have worried that I made too much of an impulsive choice to study an English degree. That maybe my writing skills were too mundane and all along I had been kidding myself. That I wasn’t cut out for this. But then I remember that all of my loved ones have hope in me and constantly pushed me and encouraged me and I know that I must have made a good choice.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

The path laid out for me after graduation right now isn’t a clear one, but I don’t think that scares me right now. If I was to visualise it, I think of myself walking through a forest on a summer’s day. The sun is shining bright and kissing the picking scars on my cheeks. All the leaves around me glisten like dripping emeralds and the air smells nostalgic. I look up and there are several pathways drifting ahead of me, they fade into the distance each with different flowers dotting the sides of the paths. I think if I had visualised this back after college or back in 2015, the paths would have been foggy and dark. Now anything seems quite exciting and I’m open to exploring wherever these paths may take me; especially if I have my family, partner and friends by my side.

Photo by Charles Black on Unsplash

These next two weeks are probably going to slip through my fingers without me even realising but I think it’s so exciting to realise that I’ve almost made it through three years of a degree. I feel in each year I have been a completely different person, constantly growing and changing. University has put my personality and my way of coping with situations in such a pressurized state that sometimes my flaws have come out but also sometimes talents and abilities I didn’t even realise I had have come out. The experience has helped me grow and develop. It’s helped me learn from my mistakes, admit to when I’ve handled things wrong and acknowledge parts of me that I need to work on.

Overall, as I come to the end of my undergraduate degree, finish my last essays (for now, my rambling blog posts might as well be essays) and await my final grades I think it’s good to accept the feeling of nervousness about the unknown but also acknowledge that it can only mean exciting things are ahead of me. I can’t wait to take on the long, winding pathways. It’s going to be strange not thinking about deadlines constantly but I’m excited to use the writing skills I have been taught to begin writing more on my blog as well as creatively in my own time.

Thank you for reading,

Header image: @gaellemarcel on Unsplash

Underground Gaming Gem: NQ64

Despite living in Manchester my entire life and being of drinking age for 6 years now, I could probably count the amount of Northern Quarter bars I’ve visited on one hand. Ah, the tribulations of being a poor student. However, last night I visited the recently opened NQ64 bar which is hidden away between the Short Street entrance of Afflecks Palace and next door to Crazy Pedro’s NQ for one of my closest friend’s birthday celebrations (Happy birthday Georgia!) and I thought I’d share what I loved about the nostalgic, underground bar. 🕹️

As you walk down the stairs you are immediately greeted with the vibrant, neon lights and nostalgic, arcade noises underneath the hip-hop music playing across the bar – a lot of beloved classics played throughout my night including Stan by Eminem and of course, Ludacris’s Move Bitch. A completely on point soundtrack for playing Mario Kart on the SNES.

NQ64 opened a month or two ago and it has definitely become a popular space for both gamers and non-gamers as the place was very busy and bustling, however the rule of ‘no game hogging’ seemed like a non-spoken manner that everybody abided which was nice. It wasn’t difficult at all to try out different games throughout the night with nobody spending too long on one thing. Throughout the night I got to play Street Fighter (which I sucked at), Space Invaders, Golden Axe, Mario Kart, Spiderman Pinball and Guitar Hero Arcade (which I thought I was decent at, until I came back later to go against a friend and realised I sucked if you put the difficulty any higher than easy, oops.) But there was tons of more consoles and arcade machines to try – even one in the ladies toilets! 👾

Sick bar wall!

The drinks menu at the bar was really cool – with Camden Pale on draught and a lot to choose from on the board behind the bar if you fancied anything specific but the real thing that sets NQ64 apart from other bars in Northern Quarter, for me anyways, is it’s game-themed cocktail menu. I went in to the night, personally deciding I’d try and stick to just one cocktail to save money, went away having tried at least 3 of the £8 cocktails. RIP bank account. I tried their ‘Root Beer Tapper’ and ‘Bubble Bubble’ but my absolute favourite was their ‘Dig Dug’ cocktail. Absolutely deeeeelicious. It just tasted like Irn Bru with a slight tequila tinge which is a dangerous game for me and cocktails! At least with some alcoholic drinks, you drink them slowly because your tastebuds are very aware it’s alcoholic and it doesn’t taste more-ish but the Dig Dug did. I finished my first one so quick because it was just so tasty! At £8 for all their cocktails though, if you want to save money try and not storm through your first drink or you’ll find yourself spending a lot of cash.

Overall I absolutely can’t wait to revisit NQ64 and I will be recommending it to a lot of friends. The atmosphere is great and nostalgic and the drinks are not to be turned down. I would quite like to see a mocktail maybe at a pound or two cheaper for people who do not drink but I imagine you can buy a glass of lemonade or root beer alone if you asked! £8 for their amazing cocktails though is standard Northern Quarter price I’d say though so if you plan to visit NQ and you’re open to paying the NQ price – visit NQ64 solely for the retro nostalgia trip.

Find out more at NQ64.co.uk 👽