On the Kindness Of Strangers

Today, I had a bad day.

Bad days, over the last few months, have been common for me. There are bad days and there are non-days which, to me, are bad days. But recently, as I’ve gained support and understanding from friends, family, and professionals, my bad days are few. But sometimes, they still creep up on you, and they can make you feel a whole lotta things that just aren’t true.

Today it was that I wasn’t good enough.

After being unemployed for a long amount of time and working on my health, going full force back into a job was never the plan unless it was the job of a lifetime. Working in my local bakery was an idea of my dad’s to slowly get me back into working life, and they only wanted me for 2 days a week.

But by day two, I was already struggling with the pace, the pressure, and my anxiety flared and I cried in front of my boss (my 21 year old boss who has her life far more together than I ever did at 21). We had a chat and she had a smoke and we shared a lot about each other in the space of a few minutes. It was nice and strange; I tend to be an oversharer but not about things so personal to someone I barely know…let alone someone who is my employer.

But it was important. We talked about mental health, and she told me that almost everyone that passed through the bakery had some sort of struggle when it came to their mental health. And while I haven’t found stigma or prejudice of having mental health issues affect me, it was very eye-opening to see how not alone I am.

I was left to take a breather, given an orange juice, and sat outside in our British heatwave until the door to the lot next door opened. Oh God, the hairdressers next door were going to see a blubbering 24 year old sat with a sad carton of Capri Sun.

I was bullied for exactly one week at school, and then sporadically when I found myself alone without a fight in me. But I remember the people that did it, I remembered what they looked like and how they acted and it contributed to I feel what a lot of girls experience during that difficult time in life; internal misogyny. While I’ve definitely unlearned so many drilled in prejudice and discrimination even of my own gender, all I could think of when I saw these hairdressers, caked in fake tan and lashes on their fag break was shit, they’re going to make me feel pathetic.

It started with them all subtly trying to get a glance at me while trying to make it look like they were just making sure not to blow smoke into each other’s faces, swapping seats occasionally so they all had a turn at sitting where they could get a good look at me and my blotchy red face. I’ve never stared at a Capri Sun so intently. Every time their laughs got loud, I shrivelled into myself. Not only had I fucked up at work, I was also getting judged for it. I didn’t need this.

“Ummm, are you ok?”

I didn’t even see which girl said it, only that a few had left and all that remained were two. I glanced over and smiled and waved them off.

“Yeah, just first day at work stuff.”

And instead of anything shitty, they moved their chairs so they could talk to me. They spoke of their experiences of anxiety and stories of their first days, cut throat practicals while studying for a qualification in hair and beauty, and how sometimes you just gotta cry and that’s OK. They told me they knew my new colleagues very well and that they were lovely and understanding, and so I had nothing to worry about. They made me laugh, and offered space in their air conditioned salon whenever it got a bit too much in the stifling bakery.

And I just got this overwhelming feeling of aren’t girls just great? It’s not a new concept that girls are always there for each other. I’ve experienced it in so many other places; nightclub toilets, queues, on the bus, but there was something so incredible about female solidarity in a non drunk, non forced situation. These girls could have ignored me, mocked me, but instead they just did so something simple that perked me up for the rest of the day. I felt shit for assuming they would be awful based on what they looked like, it’s still something I have to unlearn and not flinch at. I always try and make space for women, always assume they’re good (whereas I always *eye emoji* at men I don’t know) but even now I’ll have subconscious feelings of unease and pre-judge people.

It’s become very important to me to try and be there for strangers, to not judge and just give a little support when someone’s in need. I’ve always been that way, but when it happens to you it you make sure you are aware of it.

The kindness of strangers is mighty, and I aspire to be like the hairdressers on their cigarette break.

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This Time Next Year

I didn’t really know how to start this post. I was tagged by Alice at Ardently Alice (thankyou!), and I’ve only just realised that I do tend to think a lot about the future. I’ve been waiting for months for this year to end, to get to an important time to actually begin the rest of my life, and I’ve been doting on January 1st to actually get the ball rolling.

I’m very indecisive with what I want to do with my life, and it really shows with my ever-changing goals. You want to experience everything and anything, but there are always things that get in your way. Instead of focusing on the larger things, I wanted to talk about goals that signify a good change in my life; changes that make sure I do not ever look behind my shoulder at 2016.

Travel


globe-map

I’ve always wanted to travel, but the ways and means were always a tad difficult. I’ve gotten to the point in my life where family holidays aren’t exactly what I’m looking for in travel, and there are places that I will never see unless I just shut up and go. My mental health has always been something that has stunted my travel, including my confidence, but 2017 is the year of change and so this year blah blah travel

Move Out


I moved out once. It was really nice. I came home again, and I think it was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. I guess it depends on the person, but to me, once you’ve moved out, coming back is just not the same. I suddenly feel like I am too much for this unit; I am an adult in a setting where I am supposed to be a child, and it just does not fit anymore. I do not fit anymore, which is a sadder way to put it. I am so ready to fly the nest (for the second time) but this time for it to be permanent.

 Learn A Language


Honestly, this is not just a goal, but a dream.

Ever since I could talk, I’ve been in love with language. I was always a fast learner when it came to reading and writing and just breathing in English. And so, when I began high school and was introduced to French (and Welsh), I found I had a natural flair for this thing that I adored. I worked hard, becoming top of my class for both languages…until I moved back to England and was placed in a class with a horrible French teacher and never worked on my languages in school again.

duolingo3

Now, my love has been rekindled, and if I’m going to be ambitious, I’ll just say I want to know them all. I want to be fluent in all languages. But, if I’m realistic, I’m already fairly alright with French, and I’m getting better at Spanish. I would love to spend a month or two in Spain or France to learn, as well as just using Duolingo!

Physical Health


I know, I’m being cliche, and I feel like I say this to myself every year. But, if I’m honest, I’m at my unhealthiest.

There was a point in my life where I used to go to the gym everyday, and while back then I had fewer responsibilities, I believe that the time to act is now. Even if it’s just little things like drinking more water, eating more fruit, going for walks. I need to do something because improving my physical health isn’t just about looking good anymore, I want to feel good; I want to feel less tired, more focused, stronger, happier.

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Mental Health in YA

I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for a very long time, but it hasn’t been up until recently that it has actually become a lot more personal.

I’ve probably said this a million times in other discussion posts, but representation in fiction, especially YA, is important. Young adult is an in between phase where you’re not really a kid anymore but you still don’t feel like a full blown adult yet (Pro tip: No one feels like a full blown adult, even full blown adult). I feel YA novels should have a responsibility to at least make young adults voices matter. This is what they read and therefore they should be able to see themselves, even just a little bit, within the writing.

I’m not saying you need to find every character and situation relatable. But the idea that you can pick up a YA novel and find yourself within it, is such a big step for representation.

Which leads me onto today’s topic; mental health.

In comparison to my sexuality, I don’t really talk about my mental health much. While I consider my sexuality to be something I am unashamed and confident enough to talk about, my mental health isn’t another one of those somethings, and until recently, I didn’t think there was anything to even talk about.

It only really hit me that there maybe something wrong when I read Solitaire by Alice Oseman. I had read Radio Silence, her latest novel, beforehand and had fallen in love. And while RS characters also deal with symptoms of depression, it wasn’t as relatable and as real as Tori Spring in Solitaire.

See, Tori suffers in silence, she finds it strenuous and tiring to be around other people, let alone be nice to them, and often struggles to enjoy hobbies and past times, even the ones she liked in the past. It was strange to see someone like me in a story, one where the character isn’t a crazy serial killer who needs to be locked away, but as someone who is still considered a normal human being suffering from something that is common and treatable.

It baffles me that mental health is still stigmatized, that people still do not understand it. I’m not asking for everyone to have an obscene amount of knowledge on each individual mental illness, but to understand a person when they bring it up; to support, and to care.

When you’re a young adult, if you’re 18, or 23 (like me), or 27, there will be moments in your life where you don’t really understand what’s going on. There are so many gaps in our information of the world because society and peers have either deemed it unimportant or it’s just slipped through the cracks. I had never been taught about mental health properly apart from one Psychology module on Schizophrenia, which made sufferers sound like they all needed straight jackets and were to be locked away in a ‘lunatic asylum’.

It’s important for young people and teenagers to truly get a grasp on mental health so that they can identify it in themselves and in others. To know when it’s time to speak up, to know when something isn’t right. But also to know that what they’re feeling is valid, happens to others, and that there is support out there.

It helped me, imagine how many others it can help too.

Recommendation time! These are books that I’ve read and books I haven’t, but all have the the theme of mental health running through:

Recommend in the comments too! I haven’t read enough books concerning mental health and I love them!

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Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: July 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …

I wouldn’t have found this book if it wasn’t for social media. The power of the internet and the tweets of a certain author ring strong and true, and I find myself scouring the bookshelves at work to find Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall.

Weirdly, when it came out, it was taken out of the delivery and just put on the shelves and then that was that. But Twitter was screaming for it, and so I picked it up regardless of the lack of publicity.

urts

URTS tells the story of Norah, a girl trapped inside her own house by the evil demon that is Agoraphobia, a manifestation of her OCD and anxiety. It’s fantastic and I’m so grateful that I’m coming across more books concerning itself with mental illness, because mental health still has one of the biggest stigmas in society.

First of all, it’s an ‘invisible illness’, which is also a ridiculous definition because, while it may not reveal itself to you in the form of a wheelchair, the person suffering can feel it every. single. day. And that’s Norah’s situation. There are things in her life that seem so small and routine, like getting groceries, that she just cannot do; the anxiety builds, the worries come pouring out, and the overwhelming feeling of I can’t takes over.

And this book isn’t all about cures, about finding a person to fix it all for you. It’s about supporting, about getting better but at your own pace, at trying harder, and accepting that this may be the situation now, but it won’t always be like this, and that living a happy life is still perfectly doable.

A fantastic debut by Louise Gornall, congratulations!

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