New Start

I think I need a new start for this blog.

I was thinking about starting again completely, but I have invested a lot of time in it, and I do have some posts on here that I like, so I’m staying here, but going by a new name

I am trying to move away from my previous online name, and make my blog a bit more separate from other online projects, so I can open up on here once again. Reclaiming some anonymity (I know long time readers may know where else I am online) is a way for me to reclaim this blog.

There are things that happened to me a while ago I am just realising were actually traumatic, and to be honest, I should probably be in therapy. Some days, I am finding myself teetering on the edge of I don’t know what, and I’m using some not so healthy coping mechanisms. So, from saying that I wanted to stop sharing lots of personal issues on this blog, I am now going back to oversharing.

I have processed a lot of what has happened in personal diaries, but in the past sending my problems out into the ether has helped, and so I’m counting on it to do so this time.

This is going to be totally for me, I just need to vent all the crap that is going through my head.

Editing Your Life

I think everyone has times in their life they wish they could forget. Or that they’d never happened. I have a big portion of my life that I am trying to move on from.

I don’t think ignoring that these things happened is helpful. After all, nothing can change the past. But there comes a point, when you have processed what happened, accepted it, and moved on, and you don’t want to be thinking about the crappy things.

I have realised that I am the kind of person that heavily edits my own life. I get rid of possessions that remind me of a bad time, like a dress I wore to a funeral, or a present from someone no longer in my life, or deleting photos from my computer. I find that this helps me stay focused on the present. Objects have such strong memories attached to them, and by getting rid of the object, I have alleviated some of my emotional anguish.

I have even taken down some of the posts on this blog, once again, editing the bad parts of my life out.

The flip side to this is that I have a very good memory, and I want to remember my life in as much detail as possible. I keep a notebook with tickets and scraps from all the cool stuff I have done, and I love looking back on it. I have kept all my old diaries, and notes and drawings that my friends gave me at school. I love having tangible things that document my life.

One of the things I have done to move on from this bad thing doesn’t involve completely removing it from my life. I have made some blog posts private, so they are there, but not when I look back over my main blog website.

Another things I have done is physically making some things private. I’ll explain what I mean by that. There are some parts of my teenage diaries that I cannot read, I know I am lying even in my diary and the cognitive dissonance is simply too much. But I didn’t want to throw away. So, I taped them shut. I physically made it so I can’t read them (unless I have a complete meltdown and rip them open like a bear). They are still in my box of sentimental items; they are there, and I can acknowledge them, but I can’t relive them.

I think this relates well to that mental image I have seen a lot, of packing things into boxes in your mind, having them there if you want to look at them, but not letting the take over your thoughts. And this balance, I believe is best. I don’t think it’s healthy to ignore the bad things that have happened to us. Accept them, process them, and acknowledge them if you need to. The rest of the time should be sent on things that make us happy.

Blogistential Crisis

I sat down this week to write a blog post, and I realised that I didn’t want to. And when I realised that, it begged the question: why am I doing this?

I originally started this blog to share my experiences in the hope that it might help other people. Over time, I have branched out and written about all sorts of different issues and interests, and this blog has become more of a reflection of my personality than a place to vent.

Now, I am really struggling with how personal I want this blog to be. Every time I post something, I think, would I want my family or friends to see this? And sometimes, if the answer is no, I don’t publish it. I have even deleted a lot of my past posts for that reason, and I’ve stopped writing posts when I am caught up in strong emotions, such as sadness or panic or stress.

However, I have talked to some really lovely people as a result of sharing personal stories, and to think I might not have talked to them, and might not interact with more people like them in the future if I don’t over share, is sad. But the thing is, my mental health is taking up less and less of my life. I am doing so well with my depression at the moment, my anhedonia is basically gone and I feel like an actual well rounded person now. Anxiety is still a massive problem, and being out in public/talking to people is a huge struggle for me. But I worry that if I keep writing about it, and focusing on it, it will keep taking up space in my life and in my head. I would rather talk about the things that I am achieving and doing rather than the things I am not. Or maybe I just feel a bit fake, like I shouldn’t be doing so well in my recovery when others are still struggling. Maybe I’m afraid to be feeing better.

It’s also important to be able to have a space to be authentically you. I’m trying to reconcile with whether for me that means it’s okay to have a place on the internet to share my deepest secrets and feelings. By not sharing the dark things, am I representing myself authentically? Maybe it would be better for me to keep some things private, now that I have the tools to deal with my issues, journal in my own time and use the blog as a form of positive self expression and exploration.

I’m also wrestling with social media in general. I think a lot of the time it can be really negative and put pressure on people. But I realise that I have just written about not wanting to share the bad parts of my life, which is something that social media gets a lot of criticism for. You only see the good days, but that doesn’t mean that every day is a good day. Additionally, why do I want to share my life? Why do I want to post things on instagram, or blog about my holiday? What is the driving force behind that?

I also worry that writing so much for my blog is taking away my writing energy for creative projects. I have had an idea for a story for over a year now, and I haven’t done anything with it. Maybe if I wasn’t forcing myself to write short blog posts every week I could work on it. I also have a load of other projects on the internet, between YouTube, my birding blog and my Etsy shop.

So should I stop writing regularly? Keep this blog as a place to share travels/adventures and photography, or wait for inspiration to strike, or should I keep plugging away at it until the inspiration comes back?

That was a big ramble, a lot of questions and a lot of mixed feelings. At the root of this there is a larger issue. There are things that I want to write about that I am finding to difficult to publish. That’s why I am struggling to find my voice, because my voice is defined largely by the things you don’t know about me. Or do I need the courage not to care and just have this blog for me?

UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRGGHH

 

Let’s Have a Conversation

I just read this article on the Guardian about self harm in children. The figures are shocking, but what I find worse is the number of children not including in the statistics.

Self harm is a secretive illness. I didn’t tell anyone about my own struggle for 7 years, until I was legally an adult. I was a child invisible to these statistics. For the 19,000 children who were treated in hospitals, what about the ones who weren’t? The children who have no access to a support network, or a healthcare professional? The children learning to patch themselves up all by themselves? The children who don’t even understand that they are suffering from a mental illness?

I was that child. I was in complete denial that there was anything wrong, whilst also being terrified of anyone finding out. I couldn’t even write in my diary what I was doing to myself, it was too painful and embarrassing to admit. I went to school in physical and emotional pain, secretly spending my money on the most contradictory of items: razor blades and first aid essentials.

I totally agree with the article that we need to start teaching emotional well being in schools. We need to open up the conversations with children about these things, not only so the children who self harm know that they don’t have to suffer alone. If we have these conversations, children will feel able to open more about their feelings, and we can help  children before they get to a place where they feel the need to self harm.

I feel so passionately about this. I wish my teenage years on no child. I wish I had the knowledge and courage to get help before my problem spiralled as it did. Now I am so much stronger, and I want to spread awareness. I encourage anyone reading to have a conversation about self harm, mental health and emotional well being with the children in your life. Give them that channel through which they can open up, and hopefully we can prevent children from using self injury as a coping mechanism.

Challenging my Anxiety

One of the things I was most nervous about coming to China was living with people the same age as me. Last time I was in a shared flat, I had an awful time. I was bullied, and my social anxiety got so bad that I was scared to leave my room, even just to go to the kitchen.

As it turns out, I think coming to China was exactly what I needed. It was a big step out of my comfort zone that so far, at least in terms of my social anxiety, has paid off.

I am really enjoying living with my flat mates. It helped that they were very welcoming, and it was almost an expectation that we would go out to dinner together. Not only did this force me to socialise, it helped with other aspects of my social anxiety. For example, I sometimes find it difficult to go outside, which is something I don’t really talk about. But, with two other people I don’t feel so self conscious. I can eat in public without too much anxiety. I can do normal things, and not panic about them.

As a contrast, I went for a walk by myself last week in the downtown area of Nantong. I was trying to take some pictures, and just explore the city. I ended up going home earlier than planned because I was feeling very anxious. So, while my social anxiety is better, and I’ve found some people who I can be comfortable around, there are still aspects of my anxiety that I need to work on. Travelling by myself is definitely part of that, which I am hoping to work on (I went to Shanghai by myself at the weekend!)

I already knew this, but being here has further proved that exposure therapy is very effective. If I hadn’t have pushed myself, and forced myself to feel the initial anxiety, I wouldn’t have had the pay off, of new friends and new experiences. I think it is important to realise that you can do all the things you want to, even if your anxiety tells you you can’t. It will be hard, but it will also be worth it.

 

Body Image BS

My last post discussed the ongoing struggle I have with my hair, and how my body image affects my life. Today, I wanted to talk about another aspect of body image: clothes.

I made a post about androgyny over a year ago, and how I felt comfortable dressing androgynously, thus rejecting femininity. I thought I still did, but without consciously deciding to, I have been I’ve been shifting towards a more feminine appearance. I’ve been wearing dresses, I started shaving my body hair (despite my understandable aversion to razors, and belief that women shouldn’t be ashamed of their natural bodies). I even bought a bra to wear under my dresses! Granted, it wasn’t a wired, padded, awful contraption, but all these things added up make me wonder: when did I lose my feminist ideals?

This realisation that I had unconsciously been conforming to these standards was shocking, and made me want to reject it entirely. But why has it happened? I certainly get a lot of pressure from my family to be more feminine, an example of which is the wedding I recently attended. I was planning to wear a shirt, jacket and my Doc Martens, but eventually bought a dress and dainty shoes instead. It could also have been the embarrassment of constantly being mistaken for a man at work, even though I still wear trousers at work.

I think it is also very likely that it is linked to my sexuality. When I have been in relationships with men, I have felt that I should be acting more feminine to please them, maybe exaggerating my desire to be feminine in order to please them. Now I’m single, I’m asking myself why am I doing these things? It’s not pleasing my non-existent partner, and it certainly isn’t pleasing me.

I find it quite frightening that for whatever reason, I have been internalising these behaviours that are discordant with my own personality. I have been putting myself through discomfort in order to fit other people’s ideas of what a woman should be, and how a woman should look.

I have now decided to actively try to distance myself from femininity, simply because it makes me uncomfortable, physically and mentally. I don’t feel right in a dress. I don’t like that I feel I “have” to shave to wear one. I feel objectified, like I’m trying to be sexy even though I don’t want to be. I don’t like doing all these things, like wearing a bra, that really are unnecessary.

Mentally, there is a huge discord between performing femininity and my own feminist politics. I have been doing a bit of research, as a result of my body image issues, into the social construction of femininity. It’s undeniable that a lot of feminine things, make up high heels, revealing clothes, are done for the sake of men. As I said, I have felt pressured into these things by men I have been with in the past, and now, I don’t want to be doing things to please men. I’m not trying to be attractive for them.

I think I need to do a bit more research into the political side of things before I can write a proper blog post discussing this subject as a feminist critique. This is just how I am feeling at the moment, and my personal opinions about my own body image. Hopefully I can shake this off feeling that I have about myself, and feel comfortable in my own skin and clothes,  and maybe understand the politics of it better in the future.

It’s Back

You may remember earlier in the year when I forwent my hair in favour of looking like an egg.  This was the result:

IMG_2117

To recap, the reason I did it was because of the extreme amount of anxiety and intrusive thoughts I was experiencing were making me hate myself, and believe that everyone around me thought I looked weird. My conclusion was that if I didn’t have any hair, I wouldn’t have to worry about any of that. And it (sort of) worked. For a while, at least.

After about six months, my hair was much longer. It went through a lot of stages as it was growing. At one point, I actually really liked it. It was short, a little bit scruffy, and didn’t expose my face too much. But then it grew a bit longer, and the thoughts started to come back.

I was worrying how it stuck up in different places, how much I was washing it, whether I should dye it again, whether dyeing it would be too much work. I had thoughts streaming through my head, all about the stupid stuff that everyone has on their heads, and that everyone seems perfectly able to deal with.

So, I had to cut it again. I had a compulsion to get rid of it, and I had to do it. I didn’t shave it to the extreme of last time, but it’s pretty short.

I think for a while, this is just going to have to be my normal. It’s seems mad that hair is so difficult for me. I know nearly everyone has hang ups about their appearance, but this is the second time where I have got to the point where my appearance has inhibited my ability to function in my day to day life.

Except now the worry is what I am going to do in China. I can’t let anyone else cut my hair, but I need to have the option of cutting it if I feel like this again. But then will the people I’m living with think it’s weird that I cut my own hair? Will it be too messy to do it? Should I cut it again before I go? My brain is just insufferable at the moment. I just wish I could find a hair style that would shut it up, so I could start worrying about more important things.