Experience · Life

What Am I Searching For?

What am I searching for?

This is a question I am currently asking myself but I don’t have the answer. For as long as I can remember, I have been chasing success. Studying, learning, training, getting qualifications, searching for the ‘perfect’ job. But the truth is. I am exhausted. I am tired of chasing ‘dream jobs’, only to find they are not what I thought they would be. I am tired of adding more and more pages to my already long CV. I no longer want to feel lost and confused, desperately seeking a place where I belong. I am tired of searching for the successful career that I believe will finally make me happy.

What if all I really want is a simple life?

In a world where you can do ‘anything.’ I feel suffocated and constrained by the societal structure we have in our western society. You know the structure – go to school and get a good education, work hard and get good grades (these will inevitably define the rest of your working life, but no pressure), go to college, attend university (don’t dare to do a degree that will waste your time eg: anything creative or vocational, you don’t get unlimited chances), get a job when you graduate (and become a functioning adult in society, even though you were never taught the REAL skills you actually needed), then work, work, work, pay taxes into a pension (that you will probably never get), then work a little more until your health declines and you can’t work no more. That’s it. That is your life. But it doesn’t need to be this way.

I have been stuck on the career hamster wheel for years now, giving everything I have, trying three different industries to become what society defines as ‘successful.’ But you know what? I don’t think I want it any more. I am starting to wake up and realise that there are other ways to be successful in my life and that my health and happiness need to come first before any job. I am becoming more aware of the link between my ongoing unhappiness and my need to be the best at everything.

We are all stuck in this abiding loop of always wanting and needing more.

Showing off about what we have. Craving attention and likes. Impressing our friends and doing whatever it takes to make our family proud. Climbing a metaphorical career ladder to achieve more power. Why?

I’ll tell you why. Fear. We are scared of what will happen if we stray from this structured way of living. Sometimes we need to break the mould and do things differently. We all want to do as much as possible with our lives. We want to live a life without regret. So we work ourselves into the ground to try and achieve the unattainable, quintessential, Instagram-perfect life. We go where the money is. We either get a soul-destroying job just to ‘pay the bills’ or we nearly kill ourselves training for a job that takes away our right to have a healthy work/life balance.

We spend so much time trying to get ahead that we gloss over the importance of what really matters.

I have focused SO much energy into finding my ‘identity’, finding the ‘perfect’ job for myself and finding ‘me.’ But I don’t need to. I am me. I always have been. I am constantly adapting, learning and evolving. I am learning to reflect on my past mistakes and learn from them. I am figuring out what makes me happy and what I need to walk away from.

I don’t need a label or a job title to define who I am.

Like a kaleidoscope, my visions for life are always changing. My vision now is to shift my focus towards my hobbies and passions. I am going to keep writing because it is what I love to do. I am going to continue to do yoga because it grounds me, it heals me, it allows me to be closer to my spiritual self. I am going to sing in choir and play my guitar and ukulele. I am going to do the things that make me happy and try and let go of the idea of being successful and having a career. It isn’t going to be easy but nothing ever is.

What am I searching for? Maybe what I think I am searching for, I already have.

I have a wonderful life. I have a place to call home, people that love me and hope in my heart. That should be enough. I need to start appreciating and loving my life instead of obsessing over things I don’t have and goals I haven’t achieved yet. It’s time to take a moment and reflect, I need to stop questioning the direction of my life and worrying about what I am ‘meant’ to be doing and just let go, let life happen and trust that the universe will give me everything I need.


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Life · Mental Health

The Truth About Living With Mental Illness.

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For a long time I used this blog as a platform to write about my life. It was a place of freedom. It was a space where I could write down the uncensored and vulnerable musings of my experiences, to share a little piece of my world with others. Then, last year, I had to step away. I had to stop sharing my opinions, views and experiences on this blog because of the profession I chose. I had to distance myself from the online world, due to my words being misconstrued and misinterpreted by others. My voice was silenced. But now I feel ready to share again. Starting with the truth about what it is really like living with a mental illness. If you are offended by swearing or uncomfortable about the topic of mental illness, then you better look away and find another blog to follow because shit is about to get real. 

If you break your leg, the immediate reaction you receive from others is sympathy, empathy and understanding. They want to know what happened, how long your recovery will be, is there anything that they can do and will your leg ever be the same again. You get a chorus of “Oh, you poor thing, it must really hurt.” People gather around to sign your cast, send you get well soon cards and hold on to you as you wobble your way through recovery.

If only mental illness was treated in the same way.

The shitty truth is. We still live in a world of stigma and denial, a world where people are forced to believe that the only way to deal with mental illness is to shut up, cheer up and take a pill that will numb how you feel. It is unbelievable that despite the fact that 1 in 4 human beings on the planet are suffering with a mental illness, it is still shunned as an unimportant inconvenience and the bottom of everyone’s priority list. Why is the idea of being mentally unwell so difficult for us to talk about?

Well, whether you like it or not, I’m going to talk about it.

I’m human. We are all human. We are supposed to feel, think, do and be. We are emotional creatures. We all cry, scream, smile and laugh. We all feel guilt, jealousy, happiness, anger, loneliness and sadness. We all want to love and be loved. Life is a mixture of darkness and light, good and bad times, achievement and failure, love and pain. We all struggle at some point in our lives. So why do we still fall silent when we hear the words ‘mental health?’ Why is there still a wall of secrecy that people feel they have to hide behind? Why do we still consider a connection to Wi-Fi more important than the connection to ourselves and others? Why, in this modern society, can we be surrounded by people but still feel alone?

Lets start at the beginning of my mental health journey… Anxiety came first. At the age of 18, I developed an anxiety disorder – GAD (general anxiety disorder). It was the beginning of a difficult journey for me, years of panic attacks, mental breakdowns but also many mental breakthroughs. Then, a few years later, my anxiety made a friend, called depression.

Living with two mental illnesses was like standing in the middle of a pair of scales, waiting to see which side tipped first.

I could feel hopeless, useless and unmotivated one day and stressed, manic and agitated the next. It can sometimes feel like I am fighting a losing battle but most days, I find the strength to win. It took me a long time to accept that I have two mental illnesses. No one wants to believe that they are sick. No one wants to be anything less than perfect in this fucked up society that we live in, I was no exception. Only when I actually accepted that what I had was an illness, something beyond my control, something that was universal and not only affecting me but millions of other people, that’s when I started to believe that no matter what, I would be okay.

I have found strength in knowing that I am not alone in my struggle. I surround myself with people I know won’t judge me, they hold me as I cry, listen as I pour my heart out and release the fears and worries that weigh me down. Those people know who they are and without them, I don’t think I would still be here.

Living with a mental illness is hard, living with two can sometimes be unbearable. There is no sugar-coating it. It’s fighting with yourself every single day. It’s trying to silence the negative voices in your head. It’s trying to get through the day without crying. It’s analysing every word of a conversation and worrying about it weeks later. It’s laying awake at night not sleeping or staying in bed and sleeping too much. It’s hoping and praying that things will get better.  It’s fighting for a reason to stay alive.

Do you want to know what the hardest part of living with mental illness is? Keeping it a secret.

When people ask how you are and you respond with ‘I’m fine.’ You’re not fine. You just don’t want to burden those around you with your pain. You don’t want people to judge you. You don’t want to feel the stigma of others. It shouldn’t be this way… but unfortunately it is.

Living with a mental illness is like living in a cage that you can’t escape. It’s messy and complicated. It’s also fucking painful. One day I can be on top of the world, smiling, laughing, sharing positive pictures on my Facebook feed and the next, I could be crying hysterically, clutching my chest, forgetting how to breathe.

My disorder is not a decision. I am not choosing to feel this way.

Sometimes it takes all of my strength to get through the day. My biggest achievement on a bad day might be having a shower and getting dressed. Over the years, I have learned that running away, hiding from my own feelings, smiling and pretending I am okay to please others, only makes my illness worse. The most important lesson I have learned is:

You can’t stop the waves from coming, but you can learn to ride them.

Now, I ride the wave, I feel every emotion no matter how strong it is and wait for the storm pass. I speak up and no longer feel ashamed. I am choosing to blog about my struggles, I am choosing to write poetry about it, I am choosing to be a mental health ambassador to not only help others but help myself.

The only way we will see change is if we fight for it. It was time for me to speak up. Be one voice among the many that will play a small part in that change. 

Writer's Life

Darkness & Light Poetry Collection

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For the last few years I have been writing poems about my life.

I always planned to create a poetry collection but it wasn’t until recently I decided to group them together and start editing. Darkness and Light is a collection of
emotionally-driven poems about the struggles and joys I have experienced in my life so far.

I would describe the collection as a raw and honest collection of poetry exploring the emotional complexities of modern life through the lens of a young woman’s experience. The collection is a balance of both an idealistic and realistic view of the world, compared with the ideology of darkness and light. There are themes of love, sex, struggle, heartache, pain, mental illness, relationships and happiness.

At the moment, I am working on the second draft of poems. I currently have 30 poems but plan to add more before I am ready to publish it. I don’t feel like the collection is complete yet, I still feel like I have more to say. A lot of writers hate editing. But I am one of the few writers that loves this part of the process. I am thoroughly enjoying rewriting and organising this collection.

I have thought about whether or not I would like to submit it for publication or self-publish it on Amazon. I think I am leaning more towards the latter. I want my book of poetry to be published, not to make me any money, but to share my poetry and my experiences with the world. I’ll save the dream I have of seeing my book in Waterstones for the novel I will one day write (I just have to complete one first). I will keep the blog updated with the writing and editing process and will hopefully be announcing the publication soon.

Life · milestones

Twenty-Six

Tomorrow is my 26th Birthday.

For the last six years I have been posting on this blog, the day before my birthday, reflecting on the year that has passed. In the 365 days that have flown by since my last post, a lot in my life has changed.

In my post ’25’, I was nearly at the end of my teacher training and I was celebrating that I had secured a permanent teaching job in a primary school. I claimed in that post, that training to become a primary school teacher was the best decision I have ever made. A year later, I think leaving the profession was the best decision I have ever made.

In the year that has passed, there have been highs and lows. Life lessons and life-changing moments. In the eight months of my short teaching career, I learned an important life lesson about what I value most in my life. I spent a long time focusing on the wrong things, I allowed stress to consume my life, it reached a point where I didn’t recognise myself any more. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was neglecting my health, physically and mentally and as a result, I experienced a mental breakdown. It’s only when I hit rock bottom that I gained the perspective I really needed.

Losing family members this year has also made me come to terms with the fact that nothing in life is permanent. I was under the illusion that many young people are, that we have nothing but time. But the inevitable reality is, we don’t know how much time we actually have to live this life. This realisation woke me up. It dawned on me that for the last few years of my life I have been asleep. Going through the motions of my life, a victim of ‘destination happiness’, I was lost and uncertain about where I was going and what I was searching to find. Something had to change.

I gave myself the time to make this change. When I left my job, I knew that I needed to give myself some time to heal, some time to get back to my old self again. I needed to do things that I enjoyed doing, time to be still, to be in the present moment. During this time for myself, I have found a healthy life balance again. I started taking care of myself by eating healthier, practising yoga and meditation, being creative and expressing gratitude for the wonderful things in my life.

Now, as I enter the twenty-sixth year of my life, I feel fulfilled. I have realised that everything I need is already within me. I am learning to let go of my need to control the future by embracing the present moment with gratitude. I am learning to be still and listen to what I need rather than chase what I think I want. I am learning to take each day as it comes and enjoy every new chapter I am blessed with in my life.

Experience

Cross-Stitch To Calm

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Two months ago, I decided to start doing a craft. I’ve always wanted to cross-stitching, so I bought myself a sewing box, a selection of threads and material, I was ready to get started. For someone who hasn’t done cross-stitching before, I found it a little overwhelming. The patterns I found were too complicated and I didn’t know the difference between a cross stitch and a back stitch.

That was when I found a brilliant book for beginners. Cross-stitch to Calm by Leah Lintz. The simple designs and easy instructions allowed me to start stitching straight away. It took me a few weeks, and I completed my first cross-stitch picture of a sun. Something I had discovered from the experience of cross-stitching was not only the sense of achievement I had when I completed a picture, but the calm that rushed over me when I was doing it.

There were two reasons that I wanted to start cross-stitching, one because my Nanna was a seamstress and made clothes. It inspired me to learn how to sew and cross-stitching was a good first step towards this. The second reason I took up cross-stitching was due to an article I read about the positive benefits of doing a craft. The article explored the link between spending some time doing an activity such as cross-stitching improved mental health. The repetitive action of stitching decreases stress levels and can have a positive effect on those suffering with anxiety and depression.

After starting the craft myself, I found myself agreeing with everything I read. Not only did I find myself sitting for hours, concentrating on each stitch and losing myself in creating a picture, personally, I felt a similar transcendence doing cross-stitching that I do whilst meditating, it’s that powerful. We live in a fast-paced world and sometimes, we think that we are resting when we’re watching TV with our feet up after a long, hard day, the honest truth is… we are not switching off. Doing any type of craft, a few times a week can have some amazing advantages on our overall health and wellbeing. Give it a try!

Experience · Life

Why I Had To Walk Away From Teaching.

Teaching has broken me.

I remember the excitement, the childlike giddiness I felt when I first walked into the classroom as a volunteer a few years ago. I loved working with the children and as I watched the teacher at the front, I knew that I wanted to do that too. Make a difference to children’s lives, teach them a variety of subjects and watch them learn and grow. There and then, I decided to spend the next few years of my life working towards my future, becoming what I thought was an important and respected job in society…. A teacher.

After a short spell volunteering, I became a teaching assistant and I loved it. In hindsight, maybe I jumped into my teacher training too fast but at the time it felt right. I had watched the teachers I worked with from afar and I knew I wanted to be them. I wanted my own class. I had the rose-tinted view, the naive dream that being a teacher would be an amazing job to have.

When I was accepted onto a teacher training programme, I was elated with happiness. I was working towards what I thought I wanted. A secure job with a lot of room for development, a job that would be different every day and a job that makes a difference in the lives of children. Perfect.

The only word I can use to describe my training year would be soul-destroying. It was difficult, exhausting and sometimes felt impossible. However, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel that everyone spoke about. “It gets easier” they would say. “Just wait until you get your own class, it’s amazing.”

The day came when I got my own class. I had landed a permanent job at a lovely little school. I had my own Year Five class. I should have been on cloud nine and I was…. but it didn’t last. I would never say a bad word about the school I was in for my NQT year. They were extremely supportive and I had experienced teachers, an understanding headteacher and an amazing mentor to lean on.

I still remember the day when everything changed. It was a cloudy day in November. I had experienced the blur of my first term as a newly qualified teacher. I was enjoying the chaotic, ever-changing life as a teacher. I was thriving in the new career that I had chosen. I was acing my observations. It was different from my training in every way. I was feeling positive, happy and appreciated.

Then that day in November came.

I can only describe it as a switch in my brain. I suddenly felt like the walls were closing in. I could feel the pressure for the first time. The unrealistic expectations were creeping in. The ‘I’ll go easy on the new teacher’ feeling was suddenly ripped away from me, the training wheels were gone.

I was expected to be teaching outstanding lessons all of the time, planning quickly and efficiently, marking the ‘perfect’ pieces of work the children had done in every lesson. With perfect handwriting, no crossing out, every single mistake to be highlighted in pink and corrected by me. If I dared to make a mistake in their books or miss a single spelling or punctuation mark it would be spotted in a book scrutiny. 28 children. On average, 5 different books to mark a week. Do the maths. It was nearly impossible. All whilst dealing with emotional, needy and challenging children.

I persevered. This is my job now I thought. I have to find a way to gain a balance in the classroom and outside the classroom. For months, I felt as if I was on autopilot mode. I was swimming in a sea of planning, marking, observations, book scrutinies, parent complaints and children’s problems. There is only so much one person can do and eventually it broke me. I shattered under the pressure and had a panic attack in the staff room in front of my headteacher (I still cringe at the embarrassment now).

I am open and honest about my mental health issues so I told the headteacher how I was feeling and she was surprisingly understanding and helpful. Occupational health were involved. Things would get better now I thought. A weight was lifted from my shoulders.

January was a new start. I had that new term excitement and I was looking forward to the topics I was teaching. A few weeks into the New Year, I started to struggle again. I was constantly being watched. My books were being closely scrutinised every week. Stress was affecting me in every way. I wasn’t eating, I wanted to sleep all of the time, I was struggling to concentrate, my memory was deteriorating, I had constant headaches and my stomach problems were back again. My anxiety levels were through the roof and I couldn’t do anything to change it.

In March, I handed in a resignation letter to my headteacher. I wanted to stay until the end of the academic year but I knew teaching was not for me after all. There was too much pressure, expectation and scrutiny. I started to lose my enjoyment of teaching. My depression returned and I was struggling to motivate myself to leave the house in the morning to go to work.

Then, two weeks ago, another panic attack. This time, worse. I had a mental breakdown infront of my mentor after school. I had reached my lowest point. I had to make the decision to walk away. Telling the children I was leaving was the hardest part. Seeing their teary faces made me feel guilty. However, I knew I had to go.

Now people keep asking me what my next step is. But to be honest, I don’t want to think about it at the moment. I just need some time to recover, time to heal, time to find my way back to myself. I need to focus on being mentally, physically and emotionally well again before I decide to climb on a different career ladder.

If this journey has taught me anything, it is that in life, having a good physical and mental health, enriching relationships and time to do things that bring you joy are much more important than money, jobs and professional success. Life is defined by the moments that bring you happiness. It is your choice to walk away from something that is not meant for you and if you do, I promise… it will set you free.

Writer's Life · Writerly Musings

NANOWRIMO 2018

TBWD NANOWRIMO

I think you have to be a special kind of crazy to attempt NaNoWriMo during your first year of teaching. Well, I think I might just be the right amount of crazy to attempt it.

I completed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2014. I wrote 50,000 words in one month. I wrote my first adult novel and it was a great achievement. I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a longer piece of writing, as I was used to writing poetry and short stories. Over the last few years, I stopped writing. Life happened and I stopped putting pen to paper. The ideas were always there but my motivation to actually write them disappeared.

This year, I have started to slowly put pen to paper and write again. I have had an idea for a children’s book for a little while now and I’ve decided to use National Novel Writing Month to begin writing it. I am not going to give myself a target of  50,000 words. With my crazy teaching schedule, it wouldn’t be achievable. Instead, I’m going to give myself a more manageable goal of 5,000 words. Although, I would be amazingly happy if I even reached 1,000! The whole idea is for me to START writing this children’s novel. No pressure. Just a chance to fall in love with writing again.

Writer's Life

For The Love Of Writing.

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Today I wrote a short story, for fun! This may sound like a simple task for a writer, as writer’s write, right? Well, I did write A LOT once upon a time. I had notebooks full of ideas, I had motivation to put pen to paper and I really enjoyed the craft of writing fiction and poetry. I did a three year degree in creative writing because I loved it so much. I completed an adult novel a few years ago (it now sits in the bottom of my desk drawer). I was moving onto writing a children’s novel when, well, life happened.

I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my writing muse over the past couple of years. It wasn’t a writer’s block that stopped my flow of ideas and writing, but a life block. A lot of circumstances in my life should have pushed me towards writing but instead, it pushed me further away from it. Writing was at the bottom of my priority list and I didn’t realise the negative effect of doing so. Writing is a big part of who I am and by not doing it to freely express my thoughts and ideas, I was losing a piece of myself. Over time, I could feel the idea of me being a writer and writing becoming a memory, a version of myself that I could never get back.

Last week, I was in Cardiff with my partner, when I came across The Writer’s Toolbox in Waterstones. I had seen it previously and never bought it, but something was pulling me towards it. With the help of The Writer’s Toolkit, Best Writing Prompts Daily Facebook page and reading some of my old writing (to remind myself that I’m not terrible). I was inspired enough to write something today. The ideas are there. They never disappeared. It was my inner critic, the confidence in myself that I was a great writer and I had something to say that stopped. For some reason, one day, I just started to question if my writing was any good. This nagging self-doubt stopped me from actually writing. It caused me to stop doing what I loved. I don’t want it to happen again.

I shouldn’t care if my writing is any good or even if it has an audience. I just need to get back to the reason why I started writing to begin with. I need to find the joy in writing again and today I accomplished that. I’m starting my NQT year in a few weeks. Which is the first year of primary teaching. I’ll have my own class, a lot of responsibility, a lot of challenges ahead.

But I need to make time for my writing. Writing fiction or poetry for me is an escape. Such as reading a book, playing a video game or even doing a jigsaw puzzle is for others. I love to lose myself in a fictional world that I create. I love to take my feelings and emotions and turn it into a beautiful poem. This will not be a fluke. I will make sure that for the love of writing, I continue to make time for it.  I must, I am a writer after all and that’s what writer’s do…. WRITE!

 

Blog Updates

My Apology.

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To anyone who reads and follows my blog,

I have used Another Beautiful Rhyme as a platform to write about my life and my experiences for the past 8 years. It was initially a blog about my life as an aspiring writer for my university course but quickly became a place where I would freely express my thoughts and feelings and be honest about my true experiences in life.

If there have been any recent posts on this blog that have caused upset or distress to anyone reading it then I apologise. This was and never will be my intention. I have removed all of my blog posts about my teaching experience.

In hindsight, I know that these reflections should have not been published on a public platform such as this blog and I am deeply sorry for crossing the professional boundaries for which I should I have upheld. I offer my sincere apologies to anyone who was affected by my words. The consequence of my naivety is living with the disappointment in myself for not being conscious of my own mistakes.

Sincerest apologies again.

Writer of Another Beautiful Rhyme.

milestones

Twenty Five

Tomorrow I turn 25.

I like to reflect on my life when it’s my birthday. It’s the perfect time to see how my life has changed in one year and it also gives me a chance to express my gratitude for the amazing things in my life.

When I wrote my last birthday post, I was just about to start my journey to becoming a teacher. It’s 365 days later and I am now coming to the end of my training, I will be qualified in just two short months. I have secured my first teaching job, a permanent position in year five and I am over the moon about it. Just as I predicted, it wasn’t easy but I can say for certain that training to be a teacher was the best decision of my life.

This year I have learned to find balance in every part of my life. I have learned to accept and let go of certain feelings and thoughts that were holding me back. I still have a long way to to before I am free from my anxiety but as time passes by, I am conquering it with confidence and learning different ways to reduce stress and manage my emotions.

The thought of the next year scares me a little but I am excited for the changes that I know are going to come and the little moments in life that will surprise me. I am ready for me and the people I love the most to move forward, to succeed, to love and to live a happy and fulfilling life. I am ready for the challenges that await me in the next 365 days, and I hope to share some happy memories and new life lessons with you all in my birthday post next year.