Promise 3

Okay, now we are back on track with these promise posts!

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If your read my last post, you’ll know that when I earned my second bracelet after being 3 months self harm free, I was feeling very positive. It was very interesting reading that post back, now that I am 6 months clean, and to see the changes I have made.

I have been able to focus on more things that I love, and give myself more time to relax. I usually work six days a week, my day off being spent with my boyfriend. While that is lovely, it doesn’t give me a whole day that I can dedicate to doing what I want to do, and being a bit of a lone wolf, that is something I really enjoy.

However, for the past two weeks, I have given had the opportunity to take 2 days off per week, and it has been lovely. I have managed to maintain my work hours, which has alleviated my anxiety about money, and not working hard enough, and I even went for a massage last week. It was some much needed down time where I didn’t need to worry about anyone else.

Like I said in my last post, the bracelets are a good physical reminder that I don’t really want to hurt myself, not deep down. However, this does not stop the thoughts. Since my last promise, because of some of the difficulties I have had in the past few months, I’m not feeling as positive. I concur that the physical presence of the bracelets serves to remind me not to hurt myself, but it’s hard to get rid of the thoughts.

I have been struggling with urges, especially in the past month or so. I haven’t acted on them, but it’s still quite distressing. The thought that I was only a few weeks away from another bracelet actually helped me through. I know that’s a bit sad, but if I say I am going to do something, I like to follow through, and I hate letting myself down.

Therefore, my next promise to myself is: I will keep going, even when things are hard.

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Even when I am lying in bed, and thoughts of what I could do to myself are swirling in my head. Even when I have that object in my hand, the one that could do me harm. I will keep going.

Recovery isn’t about one day waking up and magically finding everything in your life easy, stress free and happy. I think it’s unrealistic to expect a life free of struggle, even when you are considered fully recovered. The important distinction, in my mind, between being recovered or not, is perseverance. When you are in recovery, you are fighting, and trying, and maybe still struggling, but you are able to pick yourself up after a bad day or week.

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So, if we were to boil it down, the three things my promises represent so far are strength, happiness and perseverance. I believe they are essential for a healthy life, and recovery from whatever you are struggling with.

Promise 2

So, remember that post I made about my reward system to help me stop self harming? Well, I did write a follow up a few months back, and I had planned to make it into a series. However, when I went to write the third instalment, I realised that I had not posted the second. I want to carry on with the series, so even though this post is three months late, for the sake of continuity, I wanted to share it.

To find the positives in this situation, I think posting this late gives me the benefit of hindsight. I can look at what I wrote, and see if I kept my promises, and whether I have made positive changes. I will be posting my third promise later in the week, with some follow ups to the promise I made here.

(NB: Everything in italics was written in June.)

It’s been three months since I made the post entitled “Promise;” three months that have been completely self harm free. That means it is time for another reward, and another promise.

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My second promise is “I will strive to pursue the things that make me happy.”

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I am still struggling, especially with my depression. I often feel worthless, that my life is stagnating, and there isn’t much point to anything. But, there are still moments of happiness. I just got back from holiday, and in spite of the everyday difficulties that mental health presents, I had a great time.

I want to dedicate more of my time and efforts to pursuing the things that I enjoy. I am learning to be unashamed about my interests, after hiding them for fear of judgment from people – people who are fortunately no longer in my life. I love nature, and animals, I love travelling and photography. I love crafts and yoga and being vegan. These are the things that keep me grounded when depression and self harm urges threaten my stability. Therefore, they are important, and deserve the time I dedicate to them.

I have found that the bracelets have helped me when I have had urges. Having the bracelets where I might cut myself gives a strong incentive not to do so. Even just looking down at my wrist, I am reminded of the promises I am keeping for myself. It makes me want to keep trying, because if I relapsed, the bracelets would be meaningless.

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With this new bracelet, my determination to recovery is renewed. The new, bright purple string next to the faded first bracelet shows my perseverance.  I will continue to add these small tokens of strength to my wrist. They may seem insignificant, but the knots that bind them to my body represent so much to me.

Once again, I encourage you to try this, or a similar method of tangible reward if you are trying to recover from self harm. It is really helping me, even though I have been trying to stop for a number of years. Battling self injury is a long process, fraught with set backs, so any tools we can use to help are worth trying.

Project 365: Days 246-255

246: My meal from I when I went to Norwich. Read about it here.

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247: Little turnstone. It almost blends in with the rock.

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248: Beautiful sky!

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249: This dog is the best dog.

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250: Treated myself to a new cactus. It is fluffy, and in theory should flower!

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251: This plant (still not sure what it is) has grown lots of buds. I can’t wait to see what the flowers look like, and it might help me to identify it.

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252: I have taken only a handful of selfies for this project, but I was feeling quite good about myself, so here you go.

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253: How cute is this mug? I thought it would be perfect to put a plant in.

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254: Lupin has been very cuddly recently. I think she has finally forgiven me for the month of eyedrops.

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255: I can’t help myself. The moon is too lovely!

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Hope you all enjoy your weekend.

Help! Misogyny

A headline on the front page of the Daily Mail caught my eye at work yesterday. It read “Help! Theresa May has Stolen my Wardrobe.” My immediate thought was, of course. She’s a female PM, this was bound to happen sooner or later.

It is both shocking and unsurprising that Platell, the person who wrote this article, is a woman. The issue of women tearing down other women based on their appearance is arguable over stated, but evidently it is still relevant. Can we please stop with this ridiculous socialised criticism of other women? There is enough pressure from men telling us how we should look, without women holding each other to the same, often harsher, standards.

The article is accompanied by side by side photo comparisons of the two women in the outfits. Platell looks arguably more traditionally feminine, and from that I suppose we are to infer that she is the better looking, and thus superior of the two. Throughout the article, Platell discusses May’s age and physical appearance in a rather patronising manner. I’d encourage you to read the article so you can get a feel for the tone yourself, but my response was discomfort at reading these comments, and sympathy for May. It seems to me that she is making fun of May in order to bolster her own self esteem, essentially saying “at least I look better in that dress.” It’s sad that she feels the need to criticise May in order to do this.

Now, I don’t like Theresa May. I disagree with a lot of her politics, not least her most recent efforts to bring back grammar schools. But the attacks in this article were so unnecessary and horrible. It just confirms the fact that high profile women, when being criticised, are always reduced to their looks. If a women says something outrageous, people don’t debate with her ideas, they tell her she’s ugly.

This would NEVER happen with a man. Never would there have been an article about how David Cameron wore the same suit as a member of his cabinet, and it certainly wouldn’t be front page news. Jeremy Hunt, a notorious MP, was slandered by the British press and public, but at least the focus was always on his idealogy. Granted, Corbyn may be the exception to this, as he has been criticised for being scruffy, but this has different connotations.

Women are expected to have a different outfit for every day of the year, and are shamed if they are seen wearing the same outfit at two events, or, as we see here, the same outfit as someone else. I can guarantee that the majority of male MPs wear very similar things to work, black suits and white shirts. Yet, are they ever mocked for wearing the same outfit?

I believe that this is a form of diversionary tactics on the part of the media. It is a female reporter writing about a female politician; this is what they want females to be reading. The Daily Mail doesn’t think women are capable of being engaged in politics, or should be, so they are dumbing down their content for female readers, and reducing May’s political career to her dress sense. The fact that a news website has a section for women’s news should also be noted. This article was posted in the “Femail” section of the Daily Mails website, where articles are centred on traditional feminine topics. This further shows that they want to separate women from the current events and politics being reported on the main sections of their site.

Platell quotes a great one liner from May: “people are interested in what I say, not how I look.” This is how politics should be. This is how life should be. How a woman dresses or chooses to look says nothing about their ability or intelligence, and everything about personal preference.

Maybe the author should read up on Theresa May’s policies next time. I think a scrutiny of her political agenda would have made for a far more fair, and less misogynistic, criticism.

Conversational Assassin

It has long been one of my greatest skills to be able to bring a conversation to an abrupt end. I can end conversations before they’ve even begun, with a swift, cold response and a quick getaway.

My usual response to social situations that make me anxious is to completely clam up. I will remain completely quiet, often only responding non verbally, and if I am pushed to a response, I won’t ever reciprocate a question with another question. A good example of this is if you were to ask me how I was, I would respond “fine, thank you.” End of conversation.

As a result, for the first year I was at my current job, I never really spoke to, or built any relationships with my colleagues. I wouldn’t chit chat, a favourite past time of many of the middle aged women I work with. I would hardly talk at all, remaining as silent as I had done throughout my last few years of school.

I have gotten a lot better, and more confident in my workplace. I have written before about how talking to customers now comes a bit easier, albeit accompanied by heart palpitations. However, my affinity for avoiding conversations has also begun to manifest itself slightly differently.

When I am at work, work is the only thing I can talk about. It is a subject that I know how to talk about, and feel comfortable doing so. I am good at my job, and like I said, I have built up a lot of confidence around it. It is the only time I feel vaguely comfortable in social situations. Only last week, I basically ran away from a nice man giving Leo and me directions – needless to say, interactions are difficult for me.

However, I feel I am sometimes being a bit rude, just talking to my colleagues about work, or always bringing the conversation back to what needs to be done. I don’t want to come across as uninterested or blunt, or even boring. I know my social anxiety has made me seem rude in the past, and was the reason for the bullying I experienced at university. It’s just, whenever something else comes up, I feel that urge to stay mute returning, and I even do stay quiet and walk away sometimes.

I know this comes from a fear of intimacy. I don’t mean that in a sexual way, I simply mean being close to someone, or sharing things that are beyond surface level.  There are so many things about myself that I fear won’t be accepted, and so I avoid them altogether. I am not used to having people like me, and I feel very self conscious when I talk. At the same time, I’m extremely jealous when I hear people having conversations about normal things, and sometimes feel hurt when people don’t talk to me about those sorts of things, before I remember that I have given them no reason or encouragement to do so.

One way I have found helps my fear of talking and opening up is to ask lot of questions. That way, the conversational spotlight is on them, and luckily a lot of my colleagues can talk for extended periods of time without any expectation of an interjection on my part. However, there is at least one person at work who seems really nice, and I would like to get to know, and have a two way conversation with them. I just wish I knew what to say to them!

Project 365: Days 239-245

239: Look how beautiful!

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240: One of my favourite things to do in the world is blackberry picking, and it’s that time of year again.

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241: Ice cream I made with the blackberries. I love the colour.

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242: Last day with the dogs. Sad boy waits for game of fetch.

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243: Pretty rainbow in my amethyst. I was trying to focus on the colour purple this week.

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244: Another purple.

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245: Found this friend in my broccoli. Don’t worry, I set him free.

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Seals and Skies: Norfolk Mini Break Part 2

Read part 1 here!

Our final full day in Norfolk was spent once again on the coast. We went on one of the acclaimed sea trips off Morston Quay to Blakeney Point.

Blakeney Point is home to both common and grey seals. Common seals are smaller, have a V shaped nostrils and tend to lie with their heads and tails up. Grey seals are larger, have a longer snout and have separate nostrils. I think most of the seals I photographed here are common, but it’s hard to tell when they are all lying about together. One thing’s for sure, they are very cute.

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I have been on the seal trip a couple of times before, but that doesn’t detract from the joy of seeing these wonderful animals. I couldn’t get any photos of it, but some of the seals were in the water, and came up to the boat, almost as if they were playing with it. It is a really great experience, I just wish we could have stayed out there for longer.

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Another thing that blew me away that day was the sky! While the previous day had been pretty clear, we were treated to some huge rain clouds which looked incredible, especially on the view out to sea.

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After the seal trip, we walked along the footpath that connects Mortston to Blakeney, and then Blakeney to Cley. All the while there were amazing views, and we were very lucky that it only started raining towards the end of our walk, and even then it was only spitting.

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Cley beach is one of my favourite places. It was so beautiful and practically empty.

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Leo and I were pretty exhausted after our trek along the coast, despite having a rather large picnic along the way. Consequently, the final day we spent in Norfolk was a relaxing one, and we didn’t really get up to much, apart from spending time with my favourite dog.

Poppy is quite old for a labrador, her age showing in both her beard and her energy levels. She is still an absolute angel of a dog, though.

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We took her on a stroll round the local country park, where she very kindly posed for some portraits. If the job “dog photographer” exists, that is what I want to be when I grow up.

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This trip to Norfolk was a much needed break. I always find that being out in nature, walking and seeing wildlife, does wonders for my mental health. I need to remember that more when I am back home!

Norfolk may not be the most exotic holiday destination, but it will always be one of my favourites.