A chat about suicidal thoughts for National Suicide Prevention Week

What I’m deciding to write about today is a period in my life that I was lucky enough to endure, make careful decisions and survive to become who I am today. It was scary for me in the time it happened and it’s, honestly, scary to have to bring it up again. In writing. Online. But you’d be surprised the reality of the situation and how common it can be for many people.

Suicidal thoughts isn’t a vivid, harsh costume or mask that will be pain-painstakingly obvious to everyone else. You’ll never meet up with a friend and be instantly clued into how they’re feeling at this exact moment. Sometimes it may be more easy than others, but depression and the severity of symptoms can be invisible and the only way to communicate how someone feels is through talking.

Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone at any time

The funny thing to me, personally, about this time in my life is that it was meant to be a period in my life where everything should have been exciting, it should have been fun and things should have been going my way and I should have maybe been kick starting up a whole new ray of confidence inside myself. The complete opposite is true. My mental health hit, what I’d consider, it’s rock bottom. The first few months of University I had a spiral of depression, PTSD, anxiety and self-destructive behaviours that took me so long to get out of. Even today I’m still affected by this period in my life whether it be self-hatred thoughts about how I acted and questioning and regretting constantly what I could have done differently.

A lot of things went wrong for me in my first week of University, this would then eventually lead onto me skipping class, sleeping through the day, not sleeping at night. Things got worse and I found myself pushing away friends, not going into work, being rude and disrespectful to important people in my life, drinking excessively until I couldn’t feel or remember anything, impulsive money spending. My mental health was like a dripping tap that just kept drip, drip, dripping every little reason to be happy. I was ruining myself with self-destructive behaviours and ruining everything around me because I felt this was who I was meant to be and that it’d be fine because I felt maybe soon I’d be gone.

That didn’t obviously come true. I’m still here.

What happened is a personal story, but what happened on the day in a way makes me weirdly thankful for my anxiety. I ended up having a panic attack in work because the thoughts were too much, they felt like daggers in my chest and I could still feel the voice somewhere telling me ‘I don’t actually want this’ so I knew I had to try and get help. I ended up rushing out mid shift and taking myself to Samaritans. A lot of my bad days around this period of University is starting to slowly blur into a weird, fuzzy memory now which I’m grateful for because it makes the healing a lot easier, but I remember visiting Samaritans so vividly. Their building is so quiet and so bright. All the members of staff there are very calm and do want to help you in any way they can. There was a lot of forces that helped me decide it’s best to carry on but physically getting the bad thoughts off my chest and realising what they meant helped me so much. I can’t remember what I did after visiting there but I’m glad I decided to carry on.

My depression has never gone away but eventually after that period in my life I was lucky enough to meet one of the best counsellors I’ve ever had and she was able to help me cope a lot better with my depression, PTSD and anxiety. I learnt to take responsibility for the things I did wrong during my ‘bad time’ but not let them take such a heavy hold on my life and to work on ignoring the bad thoughts, the self-hatred and work towards looking at life more clearly and with more optimism. I feel talking to her and working with her was my physical proof of why being able to access help is so important.

Suicide affects everyone

In 2015, according to Samaritans, overall there was 6,188 people who died of suicide just in the UK. Their statistics also show that the age groups with highest suicide rate per 100,000 are anyone, regardless of gender, in the 45-49 age group. (1) There is also a study online conducted by the University of Manchester, into suicide in children and young people who shows the majority of deaths they included in the study were male (70%) and that ten common themes in suicide by young people include experience of suicide, abuse, neglect, bullying, academic pressures, physical health conditions, alcohol/substances and mental health. It also discusses that around a quarter (27%) of the people in the study had expressed suicidal ideas in the week before they died. (2)

I believe this statistics shows how important it is we need to listen to people and that we all damn well need to get better at it. The truth is a lot of people suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts don’t want to talk about it. It’s draining and stressful and nothing is more terrifying than admitting to anybody close that we aren’t satisfied with living. You might be able to tell through the whole post I’ve even skirted around saying I’ve had those feelings because it’s a horrible feeling to live with. I’ve been lucky enough to get past that feeling, to get help and to move on but some people aren’t so lucky and in the UK year by year it’s getting even more difficult to access help. People are either sent home because they’re not ‘in danger enough’, the waiting lists for counselling are months long or people have to pay extortionate amounts and travel long distances to get help (4). These blocks in the road make it so difficult for people struggling with suicidal thoughts. When someone is at that point and feels that way, they deserve good help. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to ask for help and talk about how you feel so when you get sent home or just told measly rubbish like ‘go outside more’ or ‘think more positive thoughts’ it is literally a kick in the teeth, punch in the guts and then some.

Guilt and being condescending isn’t a way forward

You’ve seen the posts on Facebook. You’ve heard that one relative or person at work who says these ignorant things. Telling people that suicide is selfish and that people who do it don’t ‘think of the people around them’ and that they’re cowards is not helping anyone in the slightest. The scary truth is if someone wants to go through with it, they have a huge chance of doing so. Being condescending and ridiculing them is not helping.

A mental health study in the UK reported that 51% of adults who felt stressed also felt depressed and 61% felt anxious. (3) When the majority of people in the UK are suffering from a mental health issue, diagnosed or not, why are we still being mean? Why are we still making jokes about suicide, making jokes about overdoses and using the deaths of celebrities to shift blame and make clickbait tabloids. Sure, whenever National Suicide Prevention Week and other national awareness days come along, a large majority online now will discuss that we need to erase the stigma of suicide but what we also really need to do is be more respectful as people. Take suicide more seriously and take the people, our loved ones, our fellow colleagues, friends, classmates way more seriously if they come forward saying they don’t feel good. Everyone deserves the chance to reach out for help and try to work their way past these dark feelings. Everyone should have the right to access free, useful mental health help. The statistic in suicide in young people for children who didn’t get to access any service is the highest number for a reason.

The sole thing I think everyone needs to take away and consider on National Suicide Prevention Week is that we all need to fight harder against the people who are trying to strip us of our mental health services. Being able to access counselling could be the one thing that sets somebody who is at their lowest off on a journey of healing and recovery. We all need to take the topic of suicide more seriously. Suicide is never and will never be something you just hear about in young people, celebrities and online. It’s a very real deal that can affect anyone of any gender and age.

HELPLINES UK:

  • Samaritans: 116 123
  • CALM (for men): 0800 58 58 58
  • Papyrus (for people under 35): 0800 068 4141
  • Childline (for children, under 19’s): 0800 1111
  • Switchboard (for LGBTQ+): 0300 330 0630

NHS Website:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

SOURCES:

  1. https://www.samaritans.org/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/Suicide_statistics_report_2017_Final.pdf
  2. http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=37568
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-stress
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/20/help-mental-health-problem-five-stories

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Anxiety Battles

Anxiety has consumed a lot of my life in the past year or the past week or past month, maybe, honestly at this point – I can’t tell or remember the difference. It often feels like the same miserable, self-pitying feeling you get when you have a cold. When you’re full of the flu and your nose is blocked, you lie there in bed surrounded by tissues with the stark realization you didn’t damn well appreciate what it was like when you didn’t have a blocked nose and sore throat. Except at the moment I feel like I’m stuck in an occasional limbo of nostalgically looking back to whenever I felt full of confidence, hope and positivity. I earn some days and nights for the last time I went outside and didn’t have intense paranoia about random possible scenarios that had a 1 to 1000 chance of happening or harrowing discomfort whenever a stranger looked slightly in my direction. The nauseating bubbles in my stomach or the tension headaches from staying up with my mind buzzing of ‘what ifs’ and ‘hey what if this happens?’ or ‘what if this thing you think negatively of yourself is true?’ is so draining and not in the way where maybe I’ll get a good nights sleep when I finally hit the pillow because lately it’s been at least an hour or two sometimes before my mind will calm down enough to let me sleep.

Now you’re probably thinking, hey Helena where are you going with this? Is this meant to be a story of anxiety struggles but something marvelous has happened and it has a happy ending? Is this a set up for a post to give advice about anxiety where you act as if you know how to handle it when really you’re probably the least tactful person when dealing with your own anxiety? Is this really a sneaky review for something? Honestly, this is just a chat. From me to computer screen to whoever may feel like reading. If you’ve made it this far, I commend you. The past few nights and especially after watching a video on Youtube, which I’ll mention in a bit, I’ve considered expressing my struggles, my aspirations, my ideas and my hopes and goals a lot more through my blog. It’s almost egotistical in some senses but maybe this will benefit me, maybe this’ll benefit someone else, maybe there’ll be one word or phrase in something that I word-vomit onto this blog that could speak to someone. Two of my current goals in life that I feel that I, honestly, need to do better at is – a) Looking after myself more and b) Looking out for others and helping others more.

Kindness and empathy are two traits I think are so important in day-to-day life and in the world we live in at the moment. I absolutely adore reading stories of people doing random acts of kindness, people setting up charities and movements that they personally run to help others, people creating art and media to inspire others and reflect a positive mental attitude. It’s something that gives me hope and lately I’ve needed hope really badly. On some nights it feels like I’ve been housing a nocturnal, pessimistic demon in my brain who likes to send my brain into a spiral as I’m trying to sleep and the funny thing is, is how I don’t feel I’ve ‘given in’ to this demon at all because deep down I want so much good for the world, I want to be an activist, I want to create things, I want to actively work towards helping others even if its small things like smiling at someone or being there for them when they feel a bit down, or making people baked goods just to see them smile – I want to do better, I want to be the ‘change you wish to see in the world’ and all that cliché, but the catch is my anxiety is almost weighing me down with opposing negative thoughts. Because of my anxiety I feel so much fear, distrust and fatigue. I feel so nervous around other people, I feel so nervous about doing new things, I feel so nervous that going out of my comfort zone will end up with me hurt, people I love hurt or embarrassment or a bigger knock in confidence. Sometimes I feel like I do not trust anyone and my anxiety makes me think everyone is out to get me or doesn’t like me unless proven otherwise.

The video I watched that randomly stirred a new feeling of being absolutely sick and done with this anxiety was weirdly a Markiplier video. Now if you don’t recognise that name, he’s a big youtube name who does gaming videos mostly but has also done quite a lot of charity work and I believe is working on an interactive project? I’m not engrossed enough to know completely but essentially the video I watched is Mark discussing ‘pain’, what some of the worst ‘pain’ he’s been in his life has been and how it’s changed him and changed his perspective. What stuck out to me is how he talked about after having quite a horrible doctor during painful recovery after surgery how a lot of his family were telling him to sue but he talks about how he never wants to be a ‘revengeful’ person even if he feels like he can be quite spiteful. He talks about how if you only ever use anger as a release for stuff, it’s going to be very toxic and damaging to yourself and it spoke to me because lately, especially during at university, I’ve had so many occasions when either things have gone wrong, people have upset me or taken advantage of me and all I’ve felt is anger and stress. Both at other people and then after trying to teach myself to understand other people’s perspectives and take responsibility, I’ve been angry at myself and when you get to that point, there’s never really any letting go of that completely. So now, yes I’m pissed off at my anxiety for how much it’s drained me and taken over my life, my perspectives and my attitudes towards things, but I want to teach myself how to not get so stressed about things, especially when they go wrong.

Being angry is completely valid. Being upset is completely valid. When people hurt you or let you down, you have every right to be upset. What I wish to learn though is how to make that passage or journey after something like that so less stressful and draining. I want to learn how to not let stuff like that be extra building blocks for the walls my anxiety puts up. I want to learn how to feel something, feel the feelings I am allowed to feel as a human, but then communicate with people who care about me and take the steps and responsibility to not let it break my confidence down but instead learn from it, distance myself from the pain and carry on. I don’t want anxiety to be my definition or control parts of my life.

So I don’t really have any happy ending or resolution for all this but that’s kind of how living with anxiety can be, isn’t it? Some times you will actually feel a release or something will happen and you’ll be told by others how much ‘better you’re doing’ and you think ‘Wow, I’ve done it, I’ve beaten anxiety’. But the reality is sometimes it’ll come back and come back hard and honestly that’s what I’m going through right now. I hope maybe as time goes by, I’ll be able to figure out how to live with it and accept it.

 

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What is writing to me?

Writing is a pain in the arse.

Writing, to me, is feeling absolutely overwhelmed even though your mind is completely empty. It’s feeling like you’re in a fight with your brain because you can’t find the words you want to put out there. It’s fighting with your brain because you feel too stupid to articulate what you want to say. Fighting because you’ve been itching for hours to do the only thing you thought you were good at. It’s the writers block that has been going on for days, for weeks, for months. It’s feeling that now you haven’t been able to write anything for a day, you probably won’t be able to write anything for a week. It’s feeling like the person who wrote stories when you were younger is not the same person, because you can’t pull out the motivation or imagination that was able to create so much back then. It’s having a white, blank page glare back at you for so long that the screen warps and it feels like the icons and buttons are laughing at you. It’s watching the word count flicker back and forth as you dislike what you wrote five minutes after finally typing it out. It’s frowning so hard and tapping at your skin in hopes this will force words out.

It’s envying the people who didn’t struggle with the class coursework, it’s feeling like you might not have the capability that everyone else has. It’s worrying that you’ll never be able to move anyone with your writing. That your prose will never give anyone goosebumps. That your poetry will never make anyone’s heart throb. It’s watching words repeat and getting sick of them. It’s trying to bring new words into your vocabulary and second guessing yourself because you’re not sure they fit well. It’s like having a puzzle dumped in a moving river and trying to gather it all together but losing parts one by one as they get pulled into a whirlpool full of everything you’re stressing about. It’s laughing at your own metaphors because anybody with common sense could think of a better one. Writing is feeling like everything you want to say and everything that comes from the heart is dissolving as soon as the idea even passes your mind. Writing is feeling there’s no point to even note your idea down because you’ll instantly find flaws in it.

But writing is also the best skill I have in my life.

Writing is therapy. It’s finally unscrewing the overflowing, pressurized bottles inside and letting all the bubbly mixture pour away into a delicious mixture. It’s knowing that sometimes the words you manage to scrap together will flow beautifully and sit comfortably just like the feeling of sitting in front of a cosy fire in the winter. It’s finishing a long piece of coursework and feeling satisfied because you did that. You put all your heart and soul into it. Writing is getting the anger out. It’s letting yourself breath, it’s unfastening the frown in your eyebrows and letting your hands exercise. It’s distracting yourself from the defeated feeling, it’s distracting yourself from the stressed feeling. It’s proving to yourself that you’ve gotten better and stronger than you were when you were younger. Writing is having people tell you that they love your writing. It’s having people tell you that something you wrote related to them hard. It’s seeing your poetry at an exhibition, it’s your tutor telling you that your ideas would be publishing material, it’s having people tell you that they can’t wait to see you become the writer you’ve always wanted to be. It’s sticking at your blog for three whole years through heavy depression, through manipulation, through bullying, through bad jobs, through the low confidence. It’s knowing you have proof to show you survived and that you kept doing what you loved. It’s living life and seeing beauty in a sweet coffee you had on the commute to work or the song of a gorgeous bird making you smile on a walk home. It’s keeping all these feelings, these memories, these glimmers of hope and knowing one day you’ll be able to express them in so many different ways whether it’s a poem, a children’s book or a blog post.

Writing is knowing you have a voice and using it for great things.

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September reading goals and blog rambles

According to WordPress today is my 3 year anniversary of blogging! It’s so weird to think about how many blog posts I’ve done, how much work I’ve put into it or things that have gone well for me because of it. It’s almost ironic that the past few months I’ve felt incredibly down and stuck when it comes to my blog – honestly some days I can’t even find the motivation to do a blog post because I don’t think people will read it or I’m struggling to find the topic to write about. Some times I want to write personal posts – I want to share with the lovely people who continue to read my posts and support me stuff that is strange, sweet or a struggle in my life. I want to talk more about mental health or university/work struggles and break any stigma about discussing depression, anxiety and such. I want to talk about what it’s like to have a hearing disability or how I felt at 3am last Tuesday when I couldn’t sleep and the shadow of my coat hanging up in my room looked more like a ghoul than usual.

I want to help people, advise people, I want to talk about my experiences in hope people might relate or find hope or inspiration. But then I feel ‘god, who wants to hear me rant and ramble on about my life?!’ and I consider taking my blog in a direction of it being like a service to people. Reviews, tips and tricks and general advice about simple things that most people have covered before. But it just feels so not-me. So commercialized and through that I lose my real writing voice. I feel I’m focusing more on ‘will my friends share this on facebook?! will this get me noticed by a company?! will this get lots of views?!’ instead of ‘did I enjoy writing this? did I put my heart and soul into this? would I enjoy reading this if it was someone else?’, which at the end of the day is what matters more and the blog posts that come from me wanting to be genuine and the writing that comes from my rambling heart tend to be the posts I have more pride in.

Does this mean I won’t write reviews or tip posts again? As you can see by this title obviously not. When I say I love helping people or advising people, I take that in every aspect of life. If someone even tries a new flavour of tea or watches 5 minutes of a TV show because I suggested it, it makes me smile. Much like if I can make someone laugh after they’ve had the most horrible day at work or if I can let somebody rest by helping them with the washing up or a chore I feel better about myself and feel a lot happier. Whenever anyone even says they like my writing or enjoy reading it – that makes my heart soar. So when I combine advice and writing it’s almost like a very small, itsy-bitsy bit of therapy.

So today I thought I’d share 3 books I’m planning to read and complete by hopefully the end of September and the themes of these books are to help me better myself, help me in a dark mental health time and just in general cheer me up. Reading is beneficial, no matter whether it’s fiction, a self-help book or a picture book.

The first one in my list is ‘How to be a Better Person’ by Kate Hanley. This adorable little book shares 401 simple ways to help you become a better and kinder person as well as make a positive impact on the people around you. Although sometimes these books can feel like you’ve paid money to read something you already knew, the real trick is taking in everything you can from these simple tips. Sure, of course it suggests being more interactive with nature – but this book helps you recognise why this will make you feel better and make you more mindful and present and why simple things like drinking more water, getting better sleep, complimenting people more, smiling at strangers etc. will benefit you and make you a more positive, approachable person in the long run.

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Second is a fiction YA novel I bought a while back that I’m going to try to finally get round to reading this upcoming month and I’m holding out that it’s going to be a book that’ll make me feel good and keep me immersed in a fictional world whenever I need a bit of a distraction and break from real life. ‘Ramona Blue’ by Julie Murphy is a young adult novel that is a story about friendship, growing up, sexuality and family. I’m excited to read this since the description implies a discussion about possibly bisexuality and how sexuality is fluid and I’m really looking forward to discovering Ramona as a character since I’ve found it hard to find books with female bisexual characters (I’m probably not looking hard enough – would love some recommendations!). A lot of people on GoodReads have said that parts of this book stayed with them after finishing it so I’m very excited to have that feeling of absolute amazement and generally be dumbfounded and emotional after finishing a good book because I predict it will happen with this one!

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The final book in my little pile is a book by an author I’ve been following on social media for a while and for ages kept meaning to pick up one of his books and finally I’ve managed to pick up ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. This memoir is by the amazingly talented Matt Haig and I’ve heard so many positive comments about this book and his other things so I’m very much ready to curl up and read this one. ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is Haig’s story of dealing with depression and mental illness and how different it can be for everyone but also the tale of how he survived and overcame some of his lowest points in life. I feel this is a book I really need right now as I am at a point in my life where my mood is fluctuating constantly but when I’m down, I’m very heavily down almost like I’m stuck in a well and somebody’s covered up the hole so I’m alone in pitch darkness. I feel ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is going to help me find something to relate to amidst the stress of starting back at University and other things and I am so excited to start it.

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Although most of my reading these upcoming months should mainly be dissertation related I thought I’d share these so you guys could have an insight to what book reviews might be coming up, plus I would always love to hear what people are reading at the moment or have on their to read list! Sometimes when mental illness is being a bit crap, it helps to push yourself to do a hobby you love (in my case reading and writing) despite how much you want to give up and how you feel you are losing hope. I’ve chosen these books this month because I think they’re good choices if you need a little bit of pick me up or something to reignite that spark of hope in you.

Thank you for reading,

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How to Study Comfortably

It is starting to get closer and closer to the end of the Summer break and depressingly enough that means for some people it’s getting closer to studying again. Whether you’re starting afresh at college or university and you’re full of excitement and curiosity about your new course or you’ve already settled in and you’ll be revising for upcoming exams or you might be in my boat and about to go into your final year and you’ll be having to prepare and study for upcoming projects or dissertations.

It’s not a very comforting thought knowing how much stuff you’ll need to do and how much of your time you’ll have to take out to contribute towards essays, projects or other things related to your college course/university degree, however there is some ways you can make the task of studying/revising a little less daunting and I thought I’d share them today!

  1. Find an appropriate study space

It’s not exactly a lie that cosying up in bed, sticking Netflix on and at least having a text book open in front of you, whether you’re reading it or not, is the ideal situation to be ‘studying’ in, however unless you’re extremely dedicated to the fact you’re going to study and you can promise you definitely won’t get distracted by the interesting documentary you’ve put on or find yourself dozing off in the comfort of your duvet – it’s not going to help you study. If you have your own desk in your room, tidy it up and organise all the essentials you need onto it. Having everything ready in front of you and keeping yourself sat upright will keep you alert and focused. If you don’t have a desk to allocate studying too, back at my parents I always found it useful to bring my laptop and everything downstairs and sit at the dining room table, this also helped keep me far from the temptation of just crawling into bed and napping whenever I got bored.

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  1. Have a nice drink and snacks on hand

My ideal study drink is either a brew or my water bottle as both will keep me hydrated or awake. Preparing a little bowl of snacks and a drink before you sit down to study will help you keep the focus on your work instead of getting a couple of minutes in and using the excuse of being peckish to get up and procrastinate work. BrainMD explains that a proper diet built on protein, omega-3 and other healthy fats as well as high fibre will help your energy and concentration. They also say high sugar, high fat and high caffeine treats only give you a temporary boost in energy and can lead to a crash which isn’t ideal for studying for long periods of time. Snacks like blueberries, apple slices, nuts, cucumber slices or carrot sticks and hummus are great possibilities for a healthy, energy-boosting study snack. (However, I won’t judge you if you have that one packet of crisps or can of Coca-Cola!) Eat and drink what works best for you and your study situation, however listen to your body. If you feel drained, that is not a hint for you to down a fifth mug of coffee – go get a glass of ice cold water instead.

  1. Stick on some good music

The trick here is that music could either be a great motivator and help calm any anxiety or stress when studying or it could be an absolute distraction. I have been in both these situations, so I completely understand but there is a way of combatting the distracting side of it. When you have music on in the background, don’t have the music video on YouTube or the TV. Don’t give yourself a reason to switch tabs to watch the video for the song or to be distracted by changing the TV channel because something rubbish came on. In advance when you have the time, make a long Spotify or YouTube playlist of songs you like. (In Youtube’s case add on lyric videos as it’ll give you less reason to switch tabs to watch the video). See if you can make your playlist the same amount of time as you wish to study each day, so you never have to switch over to change songs. In some cases, people have found music to aid memorizing stuff whilst they study. Because the music creates a positive mood whilst studying, they find remembering the topics they were looking at easier.

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  1. Use an app to prevent you from getting distracted by your phone

My phone is my worst nightmare when it comes to getting distracted whilst studying. I always find myself just picking it up and unlocking it without even thinking whenever I’m waiting for something to open on my computer or if I’ve put my pen down for one minute. Although you can use your phone to aid your studying or perhaps you’ve got a notification for an important email you need to respond to. There is a very cute phone app out there, available on both Android and iOS, to encourage you to not pick up your phone for set amounts of time. ‘Forest’ is a wonderful free app, where you metaphorically can grow a tree by not picking up your phone for a set amount of time, but if you pick up your phone and unlock it you kill the tree. I did a review on the application back in 2015 and it still holds up on how amazing it is.

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  1. Do not compromise your sleep for studying

Studying and revising is going to be extremely important no matter what year of college or university you’re in. If you want good grades you’re going to have to put the extra studying in and you’re going to have to work your butt off for results. But at the end of the day, your health – both physical and mental come first. If you’ve had a long day or you’re ill or it’s 11pm at night and your eyes are literally forcing themselves shut – go to bed. If you have a deadline the next day, I understand you’re going to want to finish and keep going but this is why getting most of it done before the day before deadline is so important. You should never have to compromise your sleep for studying. If something has been going on personally that has affected your ability to get work done for a deadline, I encourage you to talk to your tutors and explain the situation because it might be possible to get extra time and your body’s health is way more important than trying to convince yourself you don’t need extra time. If you are just revising and studying in general and your body is not feeling up to staying up another half hour and you can feel yourself falling asleep – let your body rest and start again tomorrow. Put yourself first.

I hope some of these tips help because they have helped me throughout my second year of University and I am going to try and follow my own advice going into third year and doing a portfolio, dissertation and other essays. If you want me to share more study tips and how I go about preparing for uni/college work – please comment and let me know!

Enjoy your day and thank you for reading!

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Dealing with the world when you feel too small to do anything: part 1 of ?

So it’d be a lie if I said the world isn’t having it’s dark moments lately. Everyone knows what and who I mean. Tyrant leaders, governments falling apart and showing instability, cuts to things that are there to help people live normally, environmental problems, every day there will be a sad news story and at least every month it seems something bad happens.

I decided to start writing this post and maybe possibly turn it into a series of posts, because I know what it’s like to be paralyzed at your computer or phone in fear and scared by the news. The way my anxiety goes about it normally goes like this: I check twitter, I’ll go on the moments and if something dramatic has happened in either the world or politics, I will click on it and read the usual news websites (BBC, Guardian etc.) that come up first. Then I will go onto the tabloids that aren’t known to be trustworthy but in my state of anxiety my brain is believing anything and wants to know every corner of the situation in case it can find something to calm itself down, this goes on and on as people’s comments come in and the situation is drawn out and escalated – people argue, people bring up other things to prove their point, people have conspiracies and different theories and it all vigourously whirls around my brain like a tornado and I normally end up in a state of sitting, physically shaking at my computer, feeling like I’m about to throw up and feeling absolutely helpless and unsafe.

And yet every natural disaster, every terrorist attack, every dodgy thing a world leader does, every joke/meme about the apocalypse, even obvious propaganda – the cycle of anxiety starts. People close to me know about this and the answers I get always dwell to ‘don’t read it/stop reading it/turn your phone off and distract yourself.’. When I’m in my state of anxiety, I’m convinced keeping up to date with not only the story, but every randomers comment on Twitter or response to news articles, is somehow keeping me safe? That whilst my body is in flight or fight mode, that somehow keeping my brain focused on what’s making me panic is preparing my body for any danger. Yes, even over random tweets of politicians arguing about how they feel about Brexit or such. Hell, I’ll admit even the recent satire, comedy Sacha Boran Cohen has released ‘This is America’ (which despite what I’m about to say, I strongly recommend everyone watches it) left me in a spiral because in his show his extremist, pro-gun character he puts on manages to get people in Congress to admit they think arming young children would be a good idea? It’s bloody smart because it’s showing the world the true attitude of these people who are in great power but it left me in a spiral because I felt helpless that there’s nothing I could do to further expose these people or maybe even do anything to push their careers to a deserving downfall? I was scared about how people in the US government think.

But, I know deep down, it is not healthy nor safe to do this to myself. It is also not good for me or anyone around me to just give in and give up. To become a shell of complete pessimism and hopelessness, especially now. And I know there is plenty of people who may not fall into absolute anxiety and panic attack frenzy like I do, but will see news stories and fall back to ‘why care anymore’ attitudes – I can’t explain how sad or cringy it makes me feel when I’ve seen people say they’re not voting because ‘there is no point’, or claim protests ‘don’t do anything’. I remember once I called out an old friend back in high school on littering and she just said to me ‘who cares global warming is happening anyways’. It breaks my heart and spirit. But I refuse to give up completely, I want to help anyone who ever feels like this. I want to give even the smallest bit of hope to someone. I want to encourage people to try and fight the negativity because we need it. Our mental health definitely needs it. Sure, we can’t change the world completely but one day all of our little actions might and what I suggest now might help someone sleep better tonight and better on days when the news just seems like a complete rainstorm.

What I say doesn’t even have to be necessary for being anxious by the news. It’s meant to be for helping you deal with reading scary things online and dealing with a feeling of hopelessness. Whether you’re reading the news, whether you saw something your friends posted online that has made you feel sad, whether something happened to you that has made you feel like it is the worst day in the world. Don’t give in to the hopelessness feeling.

  1. Step away from the computer, put the phone down or close the tab.
    That weird saying of describing something as ‘being like a car crash but you’re unable to look away’ is definitely true and it can be relevant to anything. In my case, bad world/political/environment news or maybe even obviously trash comments online. I start reading something I know from the get-go will upset me but I keep reading and reading and scrolling and I can’t look away even though I know I won’t get full closure because social media is a big, endless hole of different personalities, fake personalities, trolls, fake news, exaggerations and stories. But what you need to do right now is close the tab. Whether it’s an article proving how disappointing our country leader is or that your crush has put themselves as in a relationship on Facebook. You need to close it and take a deep breath. You’re allowed to do this.
  2. Message someone to talk out your anxiety or even just talk it through with yourself out loud.
    Your anxiety and demons can sometimes yell over you and you feel very out of control but when you start to talk your thoughts through, rant, or label what of your thoughts is irrational or unhelpful it can really help you calm down and move on maturely. I always find myself doing it when I tell my mum something has made me scared or anxious. I’ll find myself going ‘then again, that news article can’t be entirely true because of X fact’ or if it’s a personal situation ‘then again this person might not have invited me out because of X reason not because they don’t like me?’. The irrational thoughts and jumps to conclusions start to fade a bit once you talk it out. If you don’t feel comfortable going to someone, I even find it helpful to talk to myself out loud just to hear something and calm myself down.
  3. Put on something funny, heart-warming or silly.
    A cliche tip but it does help. One fun story from when I was younger, my mum tried to tell me about a space story of solar flares or something along those lines and I was too scared to let her explain the story because when I googled it, those predictable conspiracy theories that ‘this solar flare will cause the world to end’ came up like they do every space story. Obviously the moral here, I should have let my mum talk it out to me and calm my anxiety down (I was 13 here, I’ve learnt to deal with my anxiety better since) but what I did was not sleep (stupidly) but to distract myself I watched tons of reruns of Mock the Week and comedy quiz shows until I fell asleep and a day or so later I had calmed down enough to look it up again and realise they were harmless.
    So stick on your favourite movie, stick on a tv show that makes you cry laughing, even google videos of positive stories or funny stories to remind you of the good stuff in the world, play a game without violence or gore in it (or do if that doesn’t agitate anxiety/bad feelings), listen to upbeat music and see if it helps!
  4. Finally, do not feel guilty for needing to look after yourself and consider how to deal with this anxiety
    If like me, this is a common place thing that happens a lot or you find yourself having literally paralysing anxiety like I do just from looking at social media or going online – consider maybe looking into help for your anxiety because I don’t believe(I’m no expert) it is normal at all. It is normal to feel sadness and fear from bad news or from stuff that goes wrong but paralysing anxiety is not normal.
    Secondly, and I need to physically remind myself of this too, do not feel bad for taking time out for yourself or taking a break from Twitter or Facebook. A lot of misinformation gets shared on there and you need to remind yourself now that politicians, celebrities, journalists, world leaders and even just regular people can share their opinions and views online and claim it as facts and if it is causing your mental health to drain you need to separate yourself from it for a bit. If you were holding a burning pan that was burning your hand you would need to let go. This is a similar thing. I always get anxious that maybe trying to distract myself means I’m being ignorant or ‘turning a blind eye’ but you need to remember – as long as you acknowledge something needs to change and that things aren’t all howdy-doody. That there are bad things and views in the world – you aren’t being ignorant.

 

I do want to write more of these posts, to share how to invest in positive news, how to make small changes, share some good causes when I find them and suggest things for myself and others to do but for now I will leave you with that. Just some simple things to remember to start bringing yourself out of the hopelessness feeling.

Go and get yourself a glass of water and stick a funny movie on.

Thank you for reading,

signaturejune18

 

My (Ongoing) Skincare & Acne Journey

I’ve struggled with rubbish skin since I hit puberty – on and off acne on both my face and back, always getting what felt like massive crater-like monsters on my nose or my cheeks, blackheads, random patches of oily skin, random patches of dry skin, red patches – my skin has changed so much through puberty I still don’t feel I could define what kind of skin I have aside maybe just calling it ‘a mess’.

Growing up, and I believe I’ve made a blog post about it before, I had a really tough time with skin-picking and scratching at my face and it took me a few years to realise I mostly did it when I was anxious or stressed. If you want to read the post I’ll link it here.

So obviously because of the cycle of getting acne or spots, picking at them and causing scars and more spots (I’d be really gross and pick a spot and sometimes forget to wipe it or clean my hands), I’ve ended up with very scarred and red cheeks naturally (that’s where all my acne/spots seem to go) and last year due to many things my acne flared up again and I decided this year I wanted to try to improve my skincare and hopefully make my skin look nicer. I do tell myself a lot that completely flawless, natural skin isn’t a thing because at the end of the day it isn’t. Everyone has pores, everyone gets wrinkles and scars, everyone gets those pesky blackheads and build up of sebum on their nose. It’s completely natural to have flaws but I am glad this year I managed to figure out what stuff benefits my skin and has helped it heal and I thought I’d share it to obviously remind myself down the line and maybe help other people!

DISCLAIMER: Everybody’s skin is different. Acne can occur for plenty of different reasons and can react differently to different products. Some of the things I mention in this were recommended by my doctor so I always recommend going to your GP for advice. I am not fully educated in skincare and health, I am just someone who struggled with skin picking, acne, acne scarring and found stuff that’s helped my face. 🙂

What I think caused my recent acne flare up

Like I said, I’m not a skin expert and the assumptions I make towards my skin could be false! But based on the habits I had and what is usually said as being bad for your skin, the main causes of my skin flaring up so bad, I believe, could have been from:

  • Skin picking
  • University stress and anxiety (Goes hand in hand with skin picking)
  • Fizzy drink consumption
  • Winter/Christmas eating
  • More alcohol consumption than usual
  • Hormones

Comparison Photos

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January I started taking photos because I had just been to the doctors about how upset I was with my skin and as of this she changed the birth control pill I was on and gave me a cream (I will talk about what they were in a bit), I was also in the midst of most of my first semester deadlines and a lot of university related anxiety. From then on I started using different products and such that I will talk about in a bit. Around April time I started occasional microdermabrasion appointments and finally July is where we are now and how my skin looks now! (As you can see not completely perfect, I still have a couple of spots and acne marks remaining).

Changes I made and what I believe has helped my skin

skincarejuly2018

Water
First of all, the most cliché change I made – and I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing it but it really makes a difference – is drinking more water. I have drinking way more water recently than I ever did last year and not just because of the ungodly heatwave we’ve had recently in the UK, but because it has so many benefits and I can feel the change it’s made. It helps my skin feel a lot more calm, less dry in places, less oily and just a lot more regulated, I’m seeing barely any spots and I’ve noticed tiny spots are more likely to pop up after days where I’ve been drinking just soda/caffeinated drinks instead of water. I’m not perfect I still drink coca cola and I have a current obsession with iced coffees but getting in at least two or three glasses of water a day really helps.

Vitamins and supplements
My mum originally bought the Vitabiotics Perfectil Tablets for me to try when I was teetering on the anemic side back early last year and was constantly fatigued and in general my nails and skin were in really poor condition cause of it however I started taking them again this year because for me they are really benefiting my skin – I’ve found my skin’s started to clear up when taking them and feels a lot more supple. I also recommend if you are a skin picker like me, taking vitamin C tablets when your skin is going through a phase of healing and scabbing from the picking or whatever. It really helps speed up the healing process.

Cleanser
This cleanser has been a life-saver for helping any scarring on my face! Obviously, it can’t get rid of the marks and scars that are quite settled in my face however I’ve noticed nice changes to my skin as I started using the Palmer’s Ultra Gentle Facial Cleanser, my skin feels a lot softer and after spots have gone from my face they aren’t leaving marks as much as they used to. The cleanser is great for removing makeup as well, which goes hand in hand with trying to prevent breakouts since leaving makeup on or not removing it properly can lead to getting spots. Also during the past few months I’ve started to not exfoliate as much as I used to (back in January I was probably exfoliating my skin everyday), and I feel it may have been a gentle benefit to my skin and helped the healing process better as over-exfoliating can damage your skin!

Gels
Instead of moisturizer the past month or two (mainly cause I ran out of moisturizer and keep procrastinating buying a new one), I’ve been applying Aloe Vera Gel to my cheeks and where there is spots because of the obvious benefits of both aloe vera and tea tree oil. The tube I got was very reasonably priced and I feel was a better choice for my skin than getting a fancy branded moisturizer that only has a tiny portion of aloe vera in. It’s also been very good for calming any red or stressed bits of my skin because of its cooling feel!

Duac Once Daily gel was prescribed to me by doctor when I originally saw her in January – it is a gel you apply once a day (I normally did it before bed), and it helps to try and unblock the pores but also target any bacteria or spots on your face. It has anti-bacterial properties and has benzoyl peroxide in it. When I used it I definitely felt a change in my skin in the morning after (make sure to wash it off when you wake up) and I felt it dried out any spots on my face quicker than most spot treatments.

SPF/Sun Cream
Enough said really. I’m a firm believer in trying to apply spf on your face everyday because it prevents the skin from aging and wrinkling and it also helps protect your skin from sunburn and just in general benefits the gentle skin on your face. Here is my favourite from superdrug.

Microdermabrasion
Finally, I was recommended microdermabrasion by a lady at work for getting rid of acne scarring and I decided whilst my skin was in quite a calm state (I was having less flare ups and picking less, the only thing troubling me was how red and scarred my cheeks were, to the point I didn’t even like applying blusher because it just felt like I was making my face look ridiculous). Microdermabrasion is a facial treatment where they exfoliate your face to take off all the dead skin cells on the outer layer of your skin. The lady who did mine was very friendly and we sat down beforehand I explained to her where I felt the problem areas on my skin was so she knew where to focus on the most. She would also cleanse and moisturize my face as well as putting a hot cloth on it to help open the pores. It was all a very relaxing experience with a great outcome! The first treatment doesn’t instantly give you the exact result you want and it is a thing where if you want to focus on clearing up deeper scars in your skin you’d have to go back but even after two treatments I can tell a lot of my scars have faded and become less apparent. My explanation is not the greatest of ones, but I definitely recommend it! If your favourite beauty salon or such nearby does the treatment definitely ask for a consultation and talk to them beforehand so you understand what will happen and how it works!

 

Sorry that was such a ramble and a lot to take in! Of course, I have not mentioned the birth control tablets and changes I made or individual little face masks or moisturizer I tried in the past few months or makeup I’ve used because I didn’t want to write a dissertation on the topic! If you managed to read this whole thing reward yourself with a piece of cake or a face mask because you deserve it! I hope some of the things on this helped or gave you an idea of changes you could make in your routine!

Thank you for reading,

signaturejune18