More University Shit

The next chapter in my adventure “I though I was getting better but now I think I’m getting worse.”

So, I got into UEA, and I have accepted the offer even though I’m not sure whether I want to go, cue my family cheering “yay! Jess is actually doing what we want her to do!”

The problem is now money. I am working a part time, “living” wage job, and I don’t think I can do more than that in my current mental state. If I don’t go to university, I don’t see how I will ever be able to move out.

If I do go to university, I get a loan. However, this loan is only enough to cover my accommodation, if I get the accommodation I want. The basic single room is just within my budget, any fancier than that I cannot afford. I could afford the cheaper accommodation, but those are shared rooms, and given my history with living in halls and general poor mental state, I really don’t think I can share. I’m not just saying that because I don’t want to, I’m saying it because I believe it would negatively impact my mental health.

So, providing I get the accommodation I want, I’m left with a couple of hundred pounds for living costs. I really don’t think I can work while at university (again, not that I don’t want to, mentally I know this won’t be possible).

I have been considering applying for DSA because of my mental health problems. I think I would qualify, given the problems I have been having recently with employment and the fact that I have put university on hold for 3 years because of my mental health. The problem is that I am too anxious to ask for help with my anxiety, which is the worst sort of irony.

I went to the doctors this morning for a pill check, and as usual, my blood pressure was sky high because I was so anxious, especially because I was working up the courage to ask for evidence for my DSA application. I ended up not asking, and I’m really annoyed with myself, because now I will have to phone up again, something else that I hate doing.

I wish they could just take my word for it. I am scared of having to justify my condition to get help. I don’t talk to my doctor as much as I probably should about my mental health, so I don’t even know if she knows how much I am struggling. I am worried that maybe because I went to China, that they will think I’m exaggerating, or making it up, because if I was that bad, how could I have travelled and done all that?

I am also STILL waiting for therapy. I think I would feel more comfortable asking a therapist who I had a closer relationship with for help than my GP.

I wish I didn’t have to do this. But I don’t see how my life is going to progress if I don’t go to university, and it is going to be very difficult if I don’t have any extra support.

Update

What have I been getting up to?

Before we dive into the serious life stuff, I’ve been keeping up lots of different creative projects, like my photography blog, my YouTube channel, and general crafting. I’ve also been volunteering with retired greyhounds once a week (I have a new dog best friend as a result), I completed a diploma in Zoology, and I’m keeping up my German practise.

The reason I have so much free time to do all these things? I don’t have a job. Still. I went to an induction day for a part time retail job the other week, but they wouldn’t tell me what my hours were going to be, and since then I haven’t heard anything from them. And because I thought I had the job, I quit my zero hour contract job, so now I really have nothing. Part of me feels like I should have just gone back to my old job when I got back from China, as I would have been far better off financially, even if it would have negatively affected my mental health. Anyway, I hope that made sense, it’s a bit of a complicated situation.

I think I may have mentioned previously that my anxiety has been a lot worse recently, feels like I’m goings back to the good old days of not wanting to go outside, or interact with anyone in general. I am on the waiting list for therapy, but that’s not of much use until I get a place.

I feel as though therapy would be particularly helpful at this time, as I have been applying for university. I’ve actually got a place at UEA studying languages. I’ve been teaching myself German for a few months, and I like it, but I would be majoring in Japanese. I’ve also found an OU course that looks quite interesting, with lots of flexibility t study different subjects, but of course that would mean staying at home.

The problem is I can’t decide. I really don’t know what I’m interested in, of if there’s one subject that I want to pursue over all the others. I have been battling my lack of sense of self for a while, and most of the time it doesn’t affect me that much, apart from feeling a bit disjointed, but when it comes to stuff like this, I really just don’t know. And that’s such a dissatisfying answer, but I don’t.

So, maybe the OU course would be better, as I could pick my modules year to year, based on what I fancied. It would also remove the risk of reliving the infamous 2014 breakdown. The really disheartening thing is that applying to a proper university is the first thing my family have really supported me in for years. When I mentioned the OU, they were happy, but with UEA, it seemed like I was finally making the choices they wanted. They hardly blinked when I completed my Zoology diploma last month, and when I got the job (the one that has since dissolved into nothing) no one seemed to care, even though I was excited.

I know that a crappy retail job is not going to be the path to my future, but it’s better than being unemployed. And I know that I shouldn’t care what other people think so much, and not let their expectations dictate my decisions. But it is hard to shake, especially when you live with them, and they are allowing you to live with them.

 

Dieting and Weight Loss Bullshit

I wanted to break the silence by recommending a podcast I have really been enjoying. It’s called “Don’t Salt My Game,” and it’s all about nutrition, body positivity, and countering toxic diet culture.

The host is Laura Thomas, who is a real nutritionist and has a PhD (not a food/fitness blogger who has no idea what they are talking about). She is also a vegan, but really doesn’t shove it down your throat. Vegan nutrition does come up, which I find useful, but she makes it clear that she is an ethical vegan, not a dietary vegan, and offers advice for meat eaters as well. I really appreciate this, as there are a lot of fake vegan “nutritionists” out there that rely on pseudo science, promote veganism as the only healthy dietary option, and make us vegans seem angry and irrational!

Personally, I have been struggling with eating and body image recently. I tend to bounce between what negative coping methods I am using, and cycling between over eating/restricting is one of them. This has definitely gotten worse since I stopped cutting myself, I guess I feel the need to transfer my self-destructive behaviour somewhere.

When I was in China, I was feeling really good about food. I was trying lots of different meals out, enjoying the different flavours I could find in the supermarket and indulging in all the exotic fruit I had missed from Singapore. It was very freeing. The first two months were fine, and then I was doing yoga one day, and as I was doing a side stretch, I noticed I was being cushioned by a roll of fat that wasn’t there before. All the negative feelings came crashing back, and I could feel myself obsessing over how I looked. The last month was a struggle of restriction and over eating, and I really wasn’t enjoying the food I was eating.

Since being home, the weight that I have gained has been weighing on me, and like I said, I’ve been using over eating as a coping mechanism. But, since listening to this podcast, my perspective is starting to shift. Of course, logically, I know that size does not matter, but this podcast explains in scientific terms how size does not have any bearing on health. It explains how dieting is unsustainable, how exercise doesn’t need to be an extreme workout at the gym, and picks apart the notion that we need to be thin to be attractive. It is really refreshing to hear someone who actually knows what they are talking about, and has researched this thoroughly, when there is so much white noise in the media about fad diets and restrictive diets and clean eating trends.

If you only listen to one episode, listen to episode 45 on intuitive eating (and then binge listen to the rest of them like I did!). It is so helpful, especially if you are like me and have been stuck in disordered eating patterns for years. I definitely need to do more research into intuitive eating, it seems like the way forward.

I am also trying to embrace how my body looks. It seems so illogical that I don’t have a problem with other people having lager bodies, but when it comes to my own I can’t accept that I’m a little soft round the edges. I even find curvy women more attractive, so why can’t I apply that same standard to my own body?

I am thinking about doing an update post soon. I have a couple o ideas for posts I want to write so maybe I will start writing more regularly again? Who knows.

That One Thing

I thought that all it would take would be one thing to really change everything. I think that’s what a lot of people think, at least I hope I’m not the only one. That would make me feel pretty stupid.

The older I get, the more I realise that it’s not that simple, nothing is. One person,  one therapist, one job, one trip, one revelation, it might not work out like that. Things don’t progress in a straight line, always getting better, always getting stronger, always figuring out more.

China was supposed to change it all. I was escaping a number of things, I was reclaiming my identity, I was casting off a poorer version of myself. I would travel, make friends, be true to myself. That’s my goal this year, after all, be true to myself. Except it didn’t happen like that.

When you do something amazing, like travel to the other side of the world, everyone who asks you about it expects you to say it was fantastic, the best thing I ever did. It’s kind of like when someone asks you how they are, and all they want to hear is fine.

Because it was an amazing experience, and I was so lucky that I had the money, the opportunity to quit my job, all the factors that made it possible. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Some people dream of being able to travel that far and never get to.

But it didn’t fix anything. Yes, I was able to run away from a relationship, and basically didn’t think about it while I was there. Yes, I was able to “find myself” to some extent, in that I accepted what I had known for years. But, what else?

It was so stressful. My anxiety was so bad while I was out there. I banged on about exposure therapy, and how much it was helping me, going to all these different places, challenging my anxiety. But it didn’t. I spent a lot of time just in my room, or in my hotel room when I did go away. Sometimes I would think about how far away I was from everything I knew and it really scared me. I even think about it now, how far away China really is and it gives me a panicky feeling. I don’t know why, really, because there is nothing here for me. It may be familiar, but what do I have, really? Friends, who I think about all the time, when they have moved on ages ago? Year 10 was a long time ago, but I think about it all the time.

And now that I am back, everything is harder. I thought getting to Shanghai was challenging, just going to the post office seems impossible some days. I can’t even go back to my old job, I’m so scared. I want to meet people, but at the same time I don’t. I’m unemployed, technically but not really, I’m thinking about doing a degree that will mean staying at home for another three years, and I’m not even sure I want to do it. There is just nothing else. I can’t get a job I like, I don’t know if there is a place where I can be myself and fit in. What is there?

I’m on the waiting list for therapy, but that could be another month away. I need it, but even then, I’ll get 6 sessions and then be chucked out. It won’t be enough to fix everything, I don’t think, and I don’t really know what happens after. I’m already thinking about the last session and I haven’t even started.

I don’t know. I thought it would help, I thought pushing myself would free me, would lead to something, but here we are, January 2015 all over again. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to the 12th.

I Think I’m Scared?

We’re back to the blogging crisis again. I did actually write a book review the other week, but even that I don’t feel like posting.

I think the truth is I’m a little bit scared of writing. It seems strange that my blog, once a safe haven, my little corner of the internet where I could be myself, now feels alienated from me. I have changed the names of most of my social media accounts, deleted pictures and information about myself, all because of this thing that happened a couple of years ago.

It’s one person in particular that is still haunting me. They were one of the only IRL people that new about and read my blog. I’m quite sure that they won’t be able to find my blog under the new URL, as I’ve been googling and checking old links to make sure nothing traces back to that old persona, but there is still a doubt that they could find this, and that my secrets could be in the hands of someone I don’t trust.

I want to talk about how they have affected me, what they have done to me, but I am scared. I am scared of them finding this, of them contacting me online. God forbid in person. Whenever I drive into town I think about what I would do if I saw them. Probably scream or cry. I don’t know why I keep writing “they” and “them”. It should be “he” and “him”.

I don’t want to keep thinking about him, because he had a bad enough impact on my life when he was actually in it. It’s been over a year, almost two, since he was a part of my life. But I still think about him almost everyday, not out of missing him, but out of regret and guilt and shame, and fear. That’s the scary part. How much damage he caused and I didn’t even realise it till now, years later.

This was way oversharing. I am on the waiting list for therapy but quite frankly I need help now because I am not coping with all the thoughts in my head at the moment. I keep having to remind myself that I am having a self harm free year this year, but that means all my other negative coping methods have well and truly taken over. More on that another time.

Project 365: Days 358-366

358: View of the Haohe river on a particularly smoggy day.

358

359: Met this little bean in Suzhou. She was watching me have my lunch!

359

360: I went to the Lingering Garden in Suzhou, and even the paths were pretty.

360

361: My mum gave me a present before I left for China, so even though Christmas passed me by this year, I did have one present to open.

361

362: This is near where I am living in Nantong, and where I sometimes go out in the evening.

362

363: In China they eat apples at Christmas. I got this one for free at the bar.

363

364: This fried bread is one of my favourite snacks/treats in China. It goes well with fried rice.

364

365: I captured this on one of my regular morning walks. Pied wagtails out for a stroll.

365

366: This was the last sunset of 2016, when I was in Nanjing. It’s not my best photo, but I thought it would be a fitting end to 2016.

366

I can hardly believe that this is the last 365 post I will be making (at least for another year). I want to repeat all the cliches of how challenging and rewarding it has been, because I have been challenged and rewarded by it. But honestly, it has given me a new hobby, forced me out of the house when I was feeling anxious and given me a sense of purpose that sometimes I lack. In spite of all that, I definitely need a break!

I want to make a reflection post on the whole project, so I thought before I wrote it I would ask if anyone has anything they would like to ask me about Project 365, or anything they would like to see in that post? I’m not quite sure of the angle I’d like to take yet, so any questions or suggestions are very much welcome.

Finally, in order to sustain my photography, and fill the weekly slot that my 365 posts have been taking up, I’m going to be bringing back my “Scraps” series that I started in 2015, then promptly forgot about. I don’t know whether it will be weekly or fortnightly, but it will be a visual diary about whatever I’ve been up to.

And of course, when I get back from China, I will be uploading the rest of my 365 photos to Flickr where you will be able to see the whole project in all its glory, should you be so inclined. I hope you have enjoyed following my Project 365, and I hope you are all well.

2016/2017

I want to start off by saying that I know how arbitrary New Year’s resolutions are. But, they are a fun tradition and something that, since starting this blog, I have found quite useful. I think it’s good to focus on the positive parts of your life, and this tradition is something that helps me do just that.

2016

  1. I wanted this year to be self harm free. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but I did only harm myself once, which is an improvement on 2015, when it was twice. Even though I didn’t achieve this goal, I am still getting better.
  2. My healthy lifestyle is coming along nicely. I now do yoga almost every day, and I can see the positive effects it is having on my body and my self image. I am also still vegan, which I am incredibly happy about, and I officially gave up alcohol. I have lingering issues with food that I am working to overcome, but exercising and feeling good about my body is really helping me to do that.
  3. My next resolution was to become completely cruelty free. Over the course of the year, I have realised that this resolution was more complex than I thought. While I have replaced all of my toiletries with products not tested on animals (thank goodness for Superdrug), there are so many more aspects of living a cruelty free life, if being completely cruelty free is even possible. But in terms of not using products tested on animals, I am doing very well.
  4. I got a new job, and I am living away from home, even if it is only temporary. However, it’s still a big step for me, and I have shown myself that I can live with other people, something I was afraid to do.
  5. I have certainly carried on with my blog! I think I have also achieved my resolution to blog more about veganism, although I have been blogging less about mental health. This is partly due to the fact that I am a lot better than I was when I first started my blog, and because I have discovered lots of new passions that my depression was preventing me from enjoying, and I want to blog about them.
  6. I completed Project 365! Okay, so I have one day to go, but I’m basically finished. I have loved taking part in this project, but I am sincerely happy that it is over. I think my photography has improved significantly, and I will continue to practise, but I will not miss the stress that this project sometimes gave me. Some days were a breeze, and then there were the days when I got home from work at 10pm and realised I had not taken a photo yet. I think it is evident which days those were (usually a cat photo).
  7. I have learnt more about myself, and found so many more of my passions. It feels like (fingers crossed) I have broken free of my anhedonia and rebuilt myself after a relationship that stifled my personality.

I didn’t achieve all of my resolutions, but I certainly had a good go of it. This year has probably been the happiest year of my life. I have regrets, and things I would have done differently, but I have also had some amazing experiences. I got a job in China, and if that isn’t progress I don’t know what is! I also like to compare my life to where I was when I first started blogging, when I was a university drop out, struggling to cope and wanting to take my own life. These past few years I have changed and grown so much as a person, and I’m glad I have been able to document it.

What does next year have in store for me?

2017:

  1. This will be a self harm free year. This is my year. I have a good coping strategy in place, and I am in a better place mentally than I have been since I was probably about 10 years old. I also want to be mindful of the others ways apart from cutting that I use to sabotage myself, and cut down on them as well.
  2. Continue on my cruelty free journey. I will be mindful of how my actions negatively affect people, animals and the environment. Particularly, I want to see if I can reduce the amount of palm oil I consume, as I know this is a very destructive crop.
  3. Continue to challenge my anxiety. I have found that exposure therapy has been most effective, so I want to push myself to do things that I find difficult. I have to challenge my social anxiety with my work, and I want to find things to challenge other aspects of my anxiety, even if they are only small, like going on outings by myself.
  4. Find more things that I love. As I said, in 2016 I discovered a lot of new interests, crochet, crafts, birding, photography and yoga. As well as continuing them, I want to develop my interests and learn about more cool things.
  5. Return to education. Since university, I have been scared to study. I made a start on conquering this fear last year by applying for a course at my local college, but then China happened. I want to take some type of course this year, and prove to myself that I can do it.
  6. Be true to myself. I have spent a lot of my life trying to be someone I’m not. From simple things, like the clothes I wear, to more serious things that affect my life. I’m definitely getting better at claiming my own identity, but in 2017, I want to solidify that.

And of course, it goes without saying that I will carry on blogging.

I swear, these resolution posts get longer every year, so if you read the whole thing, well done! What are your resolutions for 2017?