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. 

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.

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!

 

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.

milestones

Twenty-Four

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So tomorrow is my twenty-fourth birthday. If I could use one word to reflect on the year that has passed between my twenty-third birthday and now, it would be strength. I have found a strength that helps me to get back up when I fall. I have found an inner strength to do what I know I am meant to do, teach. The road to being a teacher is going to be a hard one but I know that my passion, dedication and strength will get me there.

I have also realised the importance of gratitude and appreciation of the little things that make me happy. It isn’t easy for me to be positive but I always try to think of at least three things I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my day may be or how I feel about the direction of my life, I always try to step back and evaluate the blessings in my life rather than the imperfections.

Some days I do feel stuck, like the world is passing me by, the clock is ticking and I am no closer to getting the life I want, but I am learning now to stop, notice my negative thoughts, then change them. This is something I learned in therapy and I am starting to slowly apply it to my life.

I have to keep telling myself that my life path has its own timeline and what may take someone one year to do, may take me five, but it doesn’t matter. I strongly believe that in life ambition will lead you to success, perseverance will lead to positive actions and positivity will lead you to happiness. I remind myself on a daily basis of my goals and I always see each day as another small step towards achieving them.

My challenge for myself during the next year of my life (before I reach the grand old age of 25) is to start living in the present moment. This is something that I struggle with and is the root cause of my anxiety. With a combination of studying Buddhism, meditating and practicing yoga, I am slowly but surely on the way to learning how to be mindful and just ‘be’.

Another challenge in my path this following year will be balance. I know that when I start my teacher training in September (if I pass this maths test), I will struggle with the work-life balance. Finding time to relax and enjoy life, with the chaotic, stressful and challenging year of studying, working and learning.

Whatever happens in the 365 days between now and my twenty-fifth birthday, I hope that I find joy in the little things, I hope I learn to believe in myself more, to laugh, love and live each day with a positive attitude because life is passing me by and I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about things I can’t control or choosing to live an unhappy life or surrounding myself with people that don’t allow me to be the best version of myself.

Opinion

The Danger Of High Expectations.

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We spend a lot of time waiting for things from other people.We’re told from a very young age that we should treat others in the same way that we expect to be treated but sometimes, despite your best efforts with someone, you get nothing in return. In this situation, some people walk away and never look back. Then there are the people that don’t give up, that carry on trying with people because they want to believe that everyone has the same heart as them, I fall into this category.

I know that I’m a nice person, I’m kind, caring and thoughtful. I’m empathetic towards everyone around me and unfortunately, this leaves me open to getting hurt. The biggest problem with being a highly sensitive person is sometimes you give so much to others, that you neglect to take care of yourself. However, I’m learning that even my heart has a limit and I have reached a point where I have to let go.

The image in my mind of how I think certain relationships in my life should be and how my family should look was leaving me emotionally empty. I was going down a path that had no end, searching for a picture-perfect life that wasn’t there. Now, I feel like I am finally at a pinnacle of acceptance. I’m moving on from the childlike family portrait idea that clouded my judgement for so long. Sometimes families fall apart, sometimes it’s people that are in no relation to you that become your family and they show you that blood is not thicker than water after all. Relationships can change over time and not always for the better.

I now know that having high expectations of other people only leads to disappointment. The only expectations I should really have in my life are those of myself. I am the creator of my own life and I should work on improving myself as a person, instead of hoping that those around me fit into a mould of unrealistic expectations. I can’t change another person, no matter how hard I try. We are who we are. We can only change ourselves. Some of us learn from our mistakes but many of us never do.

I’ve learned to accept that I will never have the relationship I wish to have with some members of my family. I’ve realised that I should focus on the good relationships I already have. My life may look a little different to what I originally imagined but there is no reason why I can’t embrace this and be happy.

 

 

Writer's Life

Breathing New Life Into An Old Story…

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In 2014, when I was studying Creative Writing at university, I decided to take part in something called NaNoWriMo. A writing task to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Despite my lack of belief in myself, I managed to do it. I spent a few weeks beforehand writing a plan, I had detailed questionnaires on all of my characters, I was ready to go. I celebrated when I reached the word count. I actually completed a novel! Yay me!

Then, I left the story alone. It sat on my USB for two years, yes you heard right, TWO YEARS! I guess I didn’t have much faith in my story, I thought it was rubbish and didn’t want to read it ever again. Until one day. I don’t know what pushed me to do it but I decided to read my story to myself. As I scrolled through the pages, I realised it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Although my inner editor had already started to rewrite the story in my head, I saw a few moments in the story that had true potential.

I printed off my manuscript and took out a red pen. I highlighted sentences that worked, crossed out sections that didn’t and scanned the manuscript for inconsistencies and spelling mistakes. I’m still in the process of editing the novel but once I’m done, I’m going to start my second draft of 1:58. I’m breathing new life into an old story and I couldn’t be happier about it 🙂

 

 

 

Writer's Life

The Muse & Me

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Credit: Oprah.com

I’ve always had a turbulent relationship with my writing muse. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for two years. After graduating with my degree in Creative Writing, I decided to give my writing brain a rest. I had spent the past three years juggling poetry, stories, scripts and essays in my mind, so I simply stopped. The problem was, I didn’t know how to get started again.

I’ve made so many attempts over the past two years to get into the habit of writing regularly. After a while, I realised that forcing myself to write was only decreasing my enjoyment for it and I should just let go and wait for my muse to return when I was ready.

Well, now I’m ready. I woke up one morning with an idea burning at the front of my mind. I couldn’t get to my notebook quick enough! I thought it was a fluke, but a few days later, I started writing in my pink journal, which is a mixture of poetry, story ideas and random thoughts that inspire me.

The ideas started to pour out of me effortlessly. When I didn’t think too much about when I would start writing again, my mind was clear enough to allow ideas to develop. I have a large stack of Writing magazines to read and without even thinking about it, I have started to make my way through them. I’ve also decided to print off the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2014 and edit it. I am reading and writing again and I couldn’t be happier.

There’s a small part of me that has been missing for the last two years. I am a writer and although I have been occupying my mind with other things, getting a job, relationships, family, friends, starting my own magazine and discovering my love for teaching, I feel whole again now that I’m writing stories and coming up with new ideas.

When my writing brain is active, I feel like a child again. I cast my mind back to the excited little girl, sticking out her tongue as she scribbled stories in Woolworths notebooks and I smile. Not a lot has changed. I’m all grown up now but the burning desire to create stories is still very much a big part of who I am. I allowed ‘real life’ to grab my attention for a while, but now that I am in a place of contentment, I am ready to make room for writing again.