2020 vision: a reflection of what’s been and a speculation as to what will come

A bathroom selfie from my first week at work, feeling indestructible!

Against all odds, I started a new job in November. It was significant and ultra scary after a year of unemployment, plus it had only been a few months since the final end of my master’s course. I was without direction and honestly lacking a sense of my own identity, with everything having changed so majorly. So it was pretty overwhelming, thinking about the fact I’d miraculously landed my first full-time job after the successful completion of uni. I got my own desk. I got my own laptop. I got my own telephone number on the company directory. It was surreal.

The commutes were great initially (let’s not talk about the train timetable changes in December…). The colleagues in the office were lovely and very patient with me. My family were supportive and encouraging, proud that I was settling in. It was really good.

However, the irony is that around the time I started the job, I stopped practicing all of the amazing self-care routines that I’d spent the summer creating. Yoga, healthy eating, daily workouts, hypnotherapy tapes at night, regular meditation etc. It was like, at the first sight of normality, I regressed into all of the bad habits that I knew had led me to ultimately feeling so low earlier in 2019. I threw myself into work whole-heartedly and did my usual self-destructive thing: juggling as much as humanly possible (finishing a distance-learning course alongside a full time job), working longer hours than I was contracted to (unpaid, might I add) and being silly enough to work straight through lunch breaks (taking no time to stop and do something recreational for myself). I bailed on plans with friends several times and beat myself up about it, constantly. I was drinking a lot of alcohol again and deeming it acceptable because I deserved it, after a hard day at work.

As a result of numerous stressors, predominantly ones designed by yours truly, I felt quite low during my last week at work and had a bit of a spontaneous cry at the office. I was exhausted. I also began to realise that even with numerous drastic changes in my life, for the positive, I was still feeling not so great. I think I’d felt guilty for a few weeks, constantly telling that internal voice to shut-up and stop being sad. I was starting to get my life together, so why was I feeling so bad? Why was it that, even with gratitude leaking out of every pore, it was still possible to feel so horrible and possess such a cripplingly low self-esteem? It turns out that depression and anxiety don’t just disappear overnight. They’re not purely situational diagnoses’ and they sure as heck defy sense. You can have all the components of a perfect existence under your belt and that won’t make a difference, if you have depression and/or anxiety. This is the sad truth yet when acknowledged, it can also be a liberating one. Sometimes resistance is futile and its more empowering to accept that you’re not where you want to be just yet, but you will be some day. That’s enough. Whilst I’d made undeniable progress in my journey to recovery, there was still so much more left to overcome. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay! There’s no bloody deadline date! It’s a lifelong commitment to preserve myself and be less of an asshole, where possible. I have to learn and I have to grow, yet to do both I also have to suffer sometimes because life can’t just be rainbows and butterflies. Humans aren’t infallible- they break and they bend and need to go through stressful environments and situations in order to take a stronger form.

Over Christmas, a busy period of time spent catching up with a never-ending conveyor belt of family faces, I realised that I had to commit to change. It was so nice to be able to savour the time with loved ones and it gave me a much needed reality-check in time for the new year. There’s no point putting so much time and effort into self-care if it’s only being done in an opportunistic window. You have to fight to change your lifestyle and to ingrain the practices that keep you grounded into your daily routine, at any cost. You have to appreciate your efforts, whether they bloom into what you wanted or fail, because at least you tried.

So my goal for 2020 is to really push for balance. A career is great but not without down-time and personal commitments. I want to manifest a vision of strong physical and mental health, confidence in my abilities as a writer and singer, an abundance of financial gain (earned through persistence and hard work) as well as an improvement in self-worth. I want to see my friends and truly treasure them, so that they go to bed every night with no doubt that they are loved and cherished. I want to finally accept that I am deserving of respect and that I am entitled to space from people and situations that are toxic.

2020 will also be the year I finally make philanthropy a priority. I want to give time and whatever resources I possess to various causes, local and beyond. It is no secret that our world is riddled with social and environmental concerns that need to be addressed with activism, fundraising and awareness. I want to be part of that fight and I want to be part of some positive change, even if its for only one person.

Those are my intentions. Those are my primary focuses in 2020. Though things are looking and feeling pretty scary, I am determined that things are going to get better.

On a final note, despite all my woes in 2019, I also have to acknowledge that it was a year of many victories, even if I didn’t have the capacity to truly appreciate them at the time. I:

  • Handed in my master’s thesis with minor corrections (literally grammar and punctuation changes were suggested).
  • Started a very candid and open conversation about mental health, which has been extremely challenging in previous years. I received lots and lots of supports from loved ones and strangers, far and wide.
  • Got to spend a lot of quality time with my family for the first time in many, many years.
  • Went to therapy and also overcame my aversion to medication, trying antidepressants at the recommendation of my amazing GP.
  • Started blogging again, making an active effort to post on a weekly basis.
  • Read, and enjoyed, way more books than in previous years.
  • Completed a distance-learning course in Mental Health Awareness.
  • Bagged a guest spot on a website about female worth.
  • Graduated again.
  • Started an enjoyable job that actually has some relation to the degree I did.

I mean, that’s pretty damn impressive for somebody who had effectively given up on life and spent around 6 months physically unable to leave the house. If that’s what I managed whilst fully incapacitated, I can only wonder how much potentials this year holds!

I hope that I will look back at this post in the future and feel some gratification, in knowing that I acted on all of this. I also hope that you, dear reader, will be doing all that you can to manifest a brighter 2020 for yourself and your world💜🌍

Beauty is Different (the Why)

I’ve always been perplexed by the stigmatisation of mental illness in society. Whilst texts I’ve read have shed light and allowed for views to broaden somewhat, it still seems as though we have a long way to go in terms of lightening the load for people who feel they need to hide in shame for being ‘different’. I feel a lot of people are misunderstood because it seems to be taboo to take the initiative to talk about mental health and thus the myths are formed so that the ignorant can remain ignorant and the tainted can remain tainted for no valid reason. A prime example of this having a negative effect is during childhood and teenage years. We all know that high school is a testing environment; children are truly animalistic and savage with words and often oblivious due to lack of awareness. The words that sting at such a pivotal age of change can haunt people for the rest of their lives and form insecurities that are as stubborn to remove or lessen as a red wine stain from a white rug. Schools ought to be addressing this by allowing youths to discuss their own issues as well as their concerns for their peers; you’d be surprised by how much people notice, how much people pick up from small tell-tale gestures that something is wrong. Addressing that, however, seems to be the difficult part. There is no forum. There is fear.

It’s deemed solely to be a negative attribute to somebody’s personality to be ‘afflicted’ with mental illness and though in some cases it truthfully could be considered only a debilitating diagnosis, other talented people exist completely unaware that they satisfy the criteria for mental illness. When I was younger, I decided to do a research project for school based on whether there were links between creativity and mental illness. With a lot of my friends being talented in areas such as music and art, I found it quite intriguing that their creative outlets and personalities sometimes masked their diagnosis’. A lot of people came forward to contribute in my research and most of them, in my eyes, had been ordinary artists. In actuality, a lot more was going on beneath the surface and I, as well as many others at school, had been completely distracted by talent from people’s mental health issues.

For example, it was quite common for behaviors to be acknowledged as quirks; a guitarist friend of mine concealed his self-destructive cycle. He self-loathed, abused alcohol and also balanced being a musical genius for years before his parents realised that he wasn’t just a typically angsty teenager but actually struggled with rapid cycling as a result of un-diagnosed Bipolar disorder. His ups mirrored his heightened creativity bouts whilst his downs seemed to fall during the absence of plans, during which I’d get drunken phone calls and tearful confessions as to suicide attempts. Managing his mood-swings and gaining understanding as to how he works, he’s in a positive place now, but there’s a fine line between being okay and not being okay. Everyday is a walk along that tight-rope.

BUT- would my friend be the same excellent musician if he were without Bipolar? Without his buzz for ideas, consuming his sleepless nights with recording E.P’s that are acknowledged by notable music critics as being ‘out of this world’, would my friend be my friend? He is different, but beautifully different at that. People don’t understand him even without the label of Bipolar (which he doesn’t openly disclose), but that lack of understanding isn’t fear in his situation, it’s awe. People actually admire him for his talents and rock-god status because they’re unaware of the underlying diagnosis. If they did know, would that change the way they talked of him or treated him? Perhaps.

Even from personal experience, I’ve noted that in terms of mood, my peaks of creativity are often accompanied by diminished sleep/sometimes full bouts of insomnia, hyperactivity and lack of focus. When I was younger, I was obsessed by the need to know what was wrong with me. I knew there was something wrong with me because I was low. Lowest of all lows. I felt alienated from people of a similar age and people were never hesitant to tell me I was weird or fucked up, psychotic, Bipolar, different. Nowadays, I choose to focus on the ‘different’. Yes I am different and so is everybody else, instead of fighting that, I’m choosing to embrace it. I’m not concerned with the need to have a label to explain my idiosyncrasies because I’ve spent years concealing them just because it’s convenient for other people; that doesn’t make me happy. I get help when I need help. I’m responsible for myself and I’ve spent years taking notes of my own behavior and learning how to avoid the extreme lows. I’ve additionally, pardon the language, learned to stop giving a shit. I’ve learned to stop giving a shit about what people think of me, particularly if it’s negative and if they’re negative people preying on others. You’d be surprised by how many people exist only to project their issues onto other broken people; it’s kind of disgusting.

Hence, the Beauty is Different community was born. What really pushed me over the edge was watching my best friend face the worst comments for her eating disorder, something which can’t be concealed and hidden away as a secret problem, like some of my other friends and myself. Her body was her label for a short while and walking in public was her stage, or so it felt with the amount of agonizing stares and stupid comments hurled her way. Beauty is Different is YOUR forum, where you can talk and ask and encourage and listen. People make the world a dark place for your peers, maybe even yourself and as a result, bad things can happen and good people can hurt, unneccessarily. If you are facing concerns related to your mental health or you know somebody else is, send them our way!

If you’re feeling lonely, feel free to talk anytime! We can be found on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr under Beauty is Different Campaign 🙂

Photo by Zak Derler: BID's first ever gig held at Bradford Polish Bar.
Photo by Zak Derler:
BID’s first ever gig held at Bradford Polish Bar.