Friday, 15 December 2017

Worrying Means You Suffer Twice

"Worrying means you suffer twice" - Newt Scamander.

   Whatever you think of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this quote is pretty spectacular. I love it because it humours the anxiety sufferer. It plucks "what if...?" from your brain and weaves it into an inevitable reality. The thing with anxiety, at least for me, is that it works very closely with the fear of the unknown. I'd prefer to feel pain instantly than to dwell on it, like the cliche of pulling off a plaster. The idea that "worrying means you suffer twice" implies that the thing you fear will happen. It will happen and it will hurt and you will suffer - so why suffer up until then?

   It might not sound like a good idea to imagine that the thing you are afraid of will happen. I understand that for a lot of people this kind of thinking will be impossible without panic attacks. I once convinced myself that a loved one had died because they didn't reply for a few hours, and I was checking news outlets in my area and was contemplating calling the hospital when I finally heard from them - they were having a nap. I wouldn't blame you for laughing, I laugh at it now. I think this is a good example of how most things we worry about will never become a reality.

   However, my point, which is in relation to the quote, is so what if they do become a reality? I told a counsellor recently that I was worried that x would happen. I went to continue rambling about how the thought that x would happen made me panic but she stopped me and said, "so what if it does happen? What would you do?". Even though my mind had run through approximately 101 scenarios that could occur thereafter, everything was focused on the out of control events of the situation, and not on my own agency. It was Class A Catastrophic Thinking. She didn't try to reassure me that it wouldn't happen, because anxious brains say but what if it DOES, she taught me to assume it would, figure out what would be my plan of action and then to compartmentalise this and put it away for when I need it. Just knowing that my plan is there is comforting because instead of adding to the 101 scenarios when my worry arises, I just open the compartment with my plan inside it and rehearse it until I feel comfortable that I could carry it out, and put it away again. Instead of cowering away from a perceived threat, I can say "you know what, you're not happening right now so I'm okay, but when you do I'm ready for you, gimme your best shot".

   What I wish I could do is offer specific advice, but we're complicated beings with our own set of circumstances, and I'm sorry if this does nothing to help you. If it does, that's wonderful, if it doesn't, hopefully my tips below will at least be of some comfort.

It's fair to say I've had a difficult few months, and my lack of activity here is definitely a result of that. However, I wanted to take some time here to share things with you and to sign off again for a short while whilst I spend Christmas with my loved ones (and writing all my essays).

I know that for a lot of you, what I have written above will feel frustrating. Frustrating because anxiety is an involuntary condition which is very, very difficult to control and I appreciate that fully - I know. Though I have long given up the idea of curing my anxiety, I am a strong believer that you can put up a good fight by making good choices and looking after yourself. Our mindset often makes us do terrible things for our health, maybe we deliberately hurt ourselves, or maybe we neglect our well-being because we're too frazzled to pay it any attention. The "don't worry until it happens!" advice is all too familiar and it usually feels completely unattainable.

   But I never said it wouldn't be hard work. Never write yourself off as a lost cause, because you're not. We can all achieve moments of happiness, because it isn't linear, it isn't a goal that we attain and keep. There are moments of it scattered everywhere and accepting that the bad will come will remind you to appreciate them.

To wrap up this post, like a completely not fun but practical Christmas present, I'm going to leave you with a smattering of comforting things which have helped me recently. We can't do all these things all the time, because it's hard, but I've found that looking after myself is sometimes hard work and does not come naturally.

⚘ Ambient Music
   Ambient music has long been suggested for sufferers of anxiety (and also migraines for any fellow migraineurs our there), and I personally love ambient music mixes because they don't contain any lyrics, so I can listen to them when I'm working too. My personal favourite is this Harry Potter themed one, but this channel does other film-related ones too like Lord of the Rings and stuff. I recently heard of a song called Weightless by Marconi Union which, according to a completely unreliable google img, reduces anxiety and causes drowsiness. Happy listening.

⚘ Art therapy
   If you don't draw or crochet or have a craft like I like to do, get some of those colouring books. I refuse to call them "adult" colouring books because colouring is not age-specific. Creativity and fun are not exclusive to children, and anyone who tries to tell you they are need their own colouring book.

   Additionally, you could doodle, buy a Wreck Journal, make slime, cut the pictures out of old greetings cards and magazines and cover something with them, or find out how to make crafts from old newspapers or household clutter. Having the motivation to craft something isn't easy when stressed, so having a timetable, like I mention below, may help. If you have books to read for your course, see if you can get them as an audiobook (as well as your physical copy for when you need to study) and listen to it whilst you craft.

⚘ Bed Time Routine (and morning routine) ANY ROUTINE
   Sleep deprivation or too much sleep are exacerbating factors and symptoms of mental illness. Putting technology away at least an hour before bed and reading is a great way to get your body ready for sleep. Throw in a bath and brushed teeth, taking your makeup off and getting into a made bed will also help.
Additionally, a morning routine of making the bed and brushing your teeth will also help set the tone for the day, even if you don't really feel like it.

⚘ Comfortable Clothes
   Do not wear a bra if you don't want to/don't feel it's necessary. I stopped wearing bras daily years ago and my lungs feel they can expand properly. (I appreciate that this won't be possible for everyone)
Wear what makes you comfortable both emotionally and physically. Dress up or dress down depending on what you want. There is no need to be uncomfortable at home - invest in warm, fluffy socks.

⚘ Forgive Yourself
   There is a common belief that you should forgive people in order to move on from things. Although I am not inclined to suggest that we always forgive people who hurt us, because we are allowed to protest the way we have been treated, I do think we should forgive ourselves. If you start blaming yourself, spell "S.T.O.P" in your head, and forgive your younger self, even if it's just your minute-younger self. Always try to learn, and make every mistake a new lesson.

I was watching Saving Mr. Banks with my family today and a quote which stuck with me from this film is "life is a harsh sentence to lay down for yourself".

⚘ Kindness
   Always be kind. Being anxious makes it incredibly easy to be irritable with others and want to avoid social interaction and to just hide away and be grumpy under a blanket. And you know, there's nothing wrong with this. If that's how you feel, feel it and take that time for yourself. But don't forget to reach out. There are good people in the world, no matter how many past experiences might make you worry that the opposite is true. There are people worth knowing, and people you will want to make smile. Whether it's finding the spare change for someone on the street, smiling at someone, writing someone a card or sending someone a message to catch up and ask how they are - it is all worth it.

⚘ Self - Care (personal hygiene)
    Because if we're being real, mental illness doesn't always care about brushing our teeth, washing our faces or taking showers. Push yourself to wash yourself and brush your teeth daily. Go all in and treat yourself to some body spray or perfume. Smelling good makes you feel less self-conscious if you haven't felt like washing.

⚘ Timetables
   I don't really know how to explain how I do it, but if you have a lot of shit to get done, write it all down so you can get it out of your head. I have a whiteboard in my room for long-term goals, a notebook to remember important dates, a calendar on my laptop for an electronic copy of these dates, and an app called Carrot for short term goals. Carrot gets annoyed with you if you don't be productive for a certain amount of time, and it rewards for you getting things done. You level up, and it has lead me to believe that I will get a virtual pet cat. I have essentially tricked myself into being productive for the prospect of a pet cat. Yes.

   On that note, treating yourself for being productive is a really good tactic. My genuine advice is to get up early, have a good breakfast with your preferred morning beverage, begin work at 9am, have a 20 minute break half-way through the morning, an hour for lunch and continue working until 5pm. After 5pm enjoy a meal and do what you want to do for the evening, and you hopefully can do so guilt-free because you worked during the day when you were supposed to. This routine can be difficult to get used to, but I promise it is immensely helpful if you get like me where you feel guilty for sleeping and eating instead of working. If none of this works for you, tweak it until it does - you know how you work best.

Stay safe saplings x

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Death Note 2017

Warning: spoilers | language | sexual and violent themes.
Second Warning: Rushed | Full of Sadness and Dissappointment

   Death Note, an incredibly popular manga and anime which is cherished by so many people, has been brutally and unjustly murdered at the hands of Netflix. A murder most foul. In fact, I'm completely convinced that Netflix themselves must have their own Death Note, paradoxically scribbled Death Note inside it and then watched as fans laughed and cried at the monster that is the so-awful-but-impossible-to-look-away shitshow. Literally, if you don't laugh you'll cry. Hence my painful laughter throughout the duration.

Me: 25/08/2017

   As someone who has only very recently got into watching anime, I completed watching Death Note for the first time this year. I'm still finding my feet with anime and I'm still exploring which genres I actually enjoy, but happening across Death Note was one of the best things I ever did in this area. 

   Light Yagami (a.k.a Kira), a high-achieving student who finds the Death Note reveals himself as the megalomaniac that he is, yearning to be the 'God of the New World'. The Death Note, a book which allows you to kill anyone who you write inside it, assuming you know their name and can picture their face, becomes Light's vehicle to gaining the power he desires and begins killing people that he feels deserve it, for example, serial killers etc. At first, the power of the book appears to initially startle him and the emergence of the death god Ryuk is even more unsettling. However, it doesn't take long for Light to settle fully into his role as judge, jury and executioner before Ryuk has a chance to say a thing. In fact, Ryuk is very much surprised by how many names that Light has already entered into the notebook by the time they meet. Furthermore, though the appearance of Ryuk is concerning for Light, he already works out that a god of death will emerge and prepares for imminent death by noting down as many names as he can.

   In the new and significantly worse version, Light Turner (yes) finds the Death Note and almost immediately comes into contact with both Misa Misa, oh sorry, Mia and Ryuk. Ryuk has to convince Light to use the book after scaring him to death (ha) and instead of the impactful scene where Light Yagami saves a young woman from a gang of men attempting to commit sexual violence against her, Light Turner murders a high school bully. I mean, Light Yagami killed people for murder, and, eventually, for getting in his way. This is morally wrong enough, but Light Turner killing another kid for bullying completely ruins the washed up mentality that Light Yagami thought he was doing something good. I think that the extreme example makes it impossible for us to believe that he thinks he's treading the fine line of morality for the greater good instead of just murdering someone you don't like very much. Light Turner is not the mad genius that Light Yagami is portrayed to be, Light Turner shows no intellectual strength aside from doing other students' homework, which is nothing special if you're comparing the two Lights. Ryuk turns up to Light Turner's complete surprise and essentially tells him to murder the bully after Turner says "nah". This is not the power-hungry, psychopath that we all know and love to hate. 

   The complete and utter stupidity of Light Turner only intensifies when he sits in the school gym reading the rules of the Death Note. In public. At school. When Mia sits beside him and asks what he's reading, 
  Mia: "Death Note? What is it?"

  Light Turner: "What is what?" 

You absolute master of deception, Light. She will never suspect that what you're holding is sinister when it's called freaking 'Death Note' and you're pretending you don't know what she's talking about, 

Light Turner: "Uhhh I can't tell you"
Mia: "Okay :)"
Light Turner: *LEANS IN CLOSE* "You really wanna know?"

   Light Turner, you idiot.
   Light Yagami despises Misa Misa. He constantly tries to avoid her and is annoyed that she attempts to be a second killer with her copy of the Death Note. He emotionally manipulates her because she's in love with him and ensures she does everything he wants in exchange for making her believe he loves her too. Light Yagami is a calculated, cold murderer who uses everyone around him to his advantage - this is what makes him such an interesting and incredibly scary character. 

   Light Turner spends the film running around in pure terror and playing Kill, Bang, Popcorn with Mia. who is far more frightening than Light considering she appears incredibly interested in the death of others from the beginning. She blackmails him by writing his name in the note (claiming she will burn it, thus undoing the death, if he gives her the book) and even remarks "you're not crazy enough". I don't know about anyone else, but I think I'm pretty done with the romanticised fucked-up-girl cliche.  Whilst the anime still seemed to perpetuate this, Light Yagami didn't skip around with Misa Misa, going to her prom and pissing about with top hats. He actually put extensive thought into concealing the notebook, ensuring their connection be kept secret and remaining undetectable by insisting they are not seen together. The story was about the large-scale plans that Light had for the world and the pedestal on which he was trying to place himself by killing all of those he felt were unworthy of life. Light Turner's plans begin by taking revenge on the man who killed his mother (come on, are we really going to try and make him relatable instead of having a god-complex?) and extend merely to trying to keep what he's doing a secret and appeasing Mia, who really seems to be the one trying to cover their tracks by killing people who can be traced to them. Light Turner is sloppy and we are completely shut out from any internal thought processes he might be having, unlike with Light Yagami whose intellect is portrayed as Sherlock-esque. He even ends up confessing everything to his Dad in a completely anti-climactic ending, who in the anime he goes to great lengths to keep in the dark about his true nature. Luckily for Turner, his nemesis has also been dumbed down, or else he would have been caught immediately. 

   For those of you who haven't seen the original Death Note, or read the manga, you will be wondering who tries to stop Light. This is L.

   L is an incredibly intelligent, though unusual, character who has been known to crack the hardest criminal cases on record. He likes cake, sweets and ice cream and almost always sits in a crouched position with his knees brought up to his chest - he claims he can think better this way. He also has an adorable way of holding things by the corners with his thumb and index finger. In any case, this all seems to remain true in the remake and when he was first introduced I actually liked his character. I felt a tiny short-lived feeling of relief that they hadn't entirely messed everyone up. Then, sadly, the film continued on. Originally, L was calm, thoughtful, mysterious and you always felt that he would always know exactly what to do in each situation. He skillfully traps Light Yagami into revealing he is from Japan and taunts him endlessly in order to find out his identity. Their mind games with each other are thrilling and suspenseful to watch and you find yourself completely immersed in their metaphorical game of chess. The same effect is attempted in the film and falls completely flat because L is frantically calling his colleagues to check they are still alive and is almost always trembling, shaking, sweating and darting his eyes around nervously. I'm not saying that this isn't normal for someone in his position, but he does not comfort the watcher in the same way the anime L does. Even though we find that L does have emotional depth, his live-action counterpart is significantly less strange and does not seem to struggle half as much socially that the original L does. I would also like to note my disappointment that live-action L betrays his nature by threatening to use a gun in anger after engaging in a panicked chase after Light. This is can be put down to personal opinion, but I prefer put-together L who always has another trick up his sleeve. 

   Overall, Death Note (2017) was painful to watch and there are so many infinite reasons that it would be truly impossible to explain each issue without creating a post so much larger than this one. However there are some things I would like to point out. By now, most of you will understand that the majority of the original characters were Japanese. At first, I was accepting of the fact that this version would not take place in Japan and that everything would be very, very American. You'd be right in assuming the start of the film features cheerleaders and American football. However, truthfully, I can't really happily accept it. Again, perhaps a personal preference but I would have preferred that Light remain as Yagami and that he was a Japanese student. I'm upset that L was not shown to outfox Light by only broadcasting his trap in Japan in order to bait him into acting. I'm upset that elements of Japanese culture such as Shinigami did not receive the representation they deserved. 

Seeing as an emotive and wonderful series was squeezed into a film, I'd like to take this time to say RIP to all the characters who didn't make it to the live-action. You were missed. 

   My good friend Nathan managed to sum up our collective pain in one brilliant sentence;

"They turned it from a smart, complex drama into a needlessly violent and mediocre thriller and turned Light and L's intricate battle of wits into a cliche revenge story"
- Nathan W. 2017 

   The film was a disaster and the only consolation was the shrieking laughter every time Light ran into a locker or slid over a car bonnet. However, they did get one thing right; Willem Dafoe was a really good choice for the voice of Ryuk. 

Look after yourselves lilypads, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Highlands

Afternoon thistles,

Photography (c) John McFarland

A few weeks ago, my family, boyfriend and I went on an adventure to Scotland, more specifically, Fettercairn, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Not only was it wonderful because I got to see a panda in real life, but I also met up with a couple of friends who I hadn't seen for two years. You made the entire holiday completely unforgettable and I loved seeing you guys again <3 We played mini golf, went on some rides which me and Bridie found horrifying and visited the cafe where J.K Rowling thought up Harry Potter. We also wandered around Edinburgh listening to bagpipes, buying shortbread and admiring the surprisingly varied collections of tartan.

Gingers ft. Michael
(Please do not take/edit the photo unless you're gonna put little hearts all over it)

Another great thing about being in Scotland is that everywhere is beautiful and I felt very inspired to paint and draw whilst I was there. Sadly, I was so busy that I didn't get to paint any landscapes like I was hoping, but on a particularly quiet day I did some practice drawing. Personally, I very much prefer it to a landscape;
(c) Lauren Newman do not take it please.

As usual, this post is an amalgam of things, which is normally what I prefer, and I want this section to be dedicated to John. Quite frankly, so many people find themselves in relationships which do not help them grow, lie stagnant and, more seriously, cause damage. I was one of these people who found themselves in a very damaging relationship and feel that it has changed me irreversibly for the rest of my life. However, shortly after meeting John, my world suddenly became less painful and fearful and I felt I could truly grow. This person encourages me every single day and has shown me that I can be in love and keep my freedom and individuality. No matter what happens, I will always be so glad that he came into my life and supported me whilst I rebuilt my self-worth and confidence. 

There is lot more I want to talk about soon, but I think it would be better if I posted separately in the spirit of not uploading walls of text.

On that short note, take care seedlings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fifty Shades of Vampires.

Evening willows,

As someone who often becomes physically and emotionally overwhelmed by day-to-day life, taking some much needed time for myself is always welcome. I spent the day alone today, so not only did I get to relax, but I also finished Death Note, an anime I have been watching, and I finished a drawing as well. Quick note to any anime fans (not a death one, though), if you're interested in Death Note, I would advise not Googling anything and simply going and watching it. It's a really good anime, despite me having some qualms with it in places, and I highly recommend it. 

Before we head on to the main topic of this post, I will discuss a couple of other things I did today that weren't so relaxing. 

Trigger warnings for sexual themes, with f-bombs to match, and mentions of abuse/rape. 

Firstly, I wasted two hours watching Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyone who knows me will know that I have not read any more than a few pages of the books, and don't particularly hold them in very high regard, so what possessed me I will never know. SPOILER ALERT; I spent two hours watching a film about a millionaire introducing a startlingly innocent 21-year-old, who seems to have gone through life without being encountered by the existence of butt plugs, to his sex dungeon. Plausible, you say? Okay, fair enough. Not everyone gets more than their daily dose of the Internet so I can get behind it (haha). There are some pretty special gems in there though that I've extracted just for you;

- After Anastasia Steele repeatedly questions Christian Grey about why he doesn't want her to touch him, he dramatically crouches over the windowsill and whispers "Because I'm 50 shades of fucked up" which, I will admit, is where I lost it. The film had an average chance at being taken seriously to begin with, but I could not get past that line. I'd laugh all the way through if it wasn't so concerning. 
On that note, does anybody else find it uncomfortable that the story seems to equate experience of childhood abuse to being a BDSM practitioner? No? Not to mention that the relationship shared by Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is not reflective of BDSM relationships, but of abuse and rape. 

-  Christian spends a decent amount of time trying to convince Anastasia that his playroom is worth compromising for, that she should sign a contract and become his sex slave. He insists that she considers it. 
Anastasia: "Will we still go out to dinner, and movies...?"
Christian: "That's not really my thing."
What the hell, Christian? 

- Christian: "If you were mine you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week"
This alone might be enough to make you cringe, but I expected this kind of thing. What I didn't expect was that he would randomly rip his shirt off, crawl across the bed and TAKE A BITE OF HER FRICKING TOAST. I don't know about anyone else, but that'd be me screaming the safe word. 

- Christian: "my playroom"
Anastasia: "like your Xbox and stuff?"

If you want more hilarious and also shocking examples of this painful series please do read a wonderfully cutting post here; Grey: 32 creepy extracts that prove Christian Grey is the worst

Not that anything can really top my disastrous film-watching experience but I randomly decided to make these Watermelon & strawberry slushies today. Tasted nice but, in short, I am never deseeding a watermelon ever again.

Finally, we are onto the subject of vampires. Whilst watching the dreaded Fifty Shades of Grey, I was thinking about how it started off as a Twilight fan-fiction. As the two ventured into a misty forest, oh-so-Twilight-esque, I was wondering why Stephenie Meyer made it so that vampires sparkled in the sunlight. I believe it's explained through the fact that their skin is marbly, hard and smooth, and I started to think more about how I would write about vampires. My first question was why are vampires always predominantly humanoid? despite their transformations into bats and such. I was wondering if our often romantisised and sexualised portrayal of them was to blame; wouldn't want to make it too weird right? Just a slight sense of necrophilia should do it. After doing some skin-deep research, it was immediately obvious that vampires were originally undead individuals, of course, so naturally they're sort of human-ish. I did find that little extra information I was after when noting legends of chupacabras, who were said to primarily feast on goats. I enjoyed this fact simply because of my representation of a vampire;

So I've managed to create a somewhat cute version of a chupacabra that unintentionally resembles the very thing it's meant to suck the blood from, though the head is significantly more canine. My idea was that, behind the cheek-pouches, there are long, black teeth which extract the blood and deposit it in the cheeks. The blood then transfers into the body through the throat and is stored in the tail. The image was created using my Pigma Micron liner set and, my absolute favourite medium, my Winsor & Newton bullet tip/chisel tip markers. It feels so nice to feel my way into art again. Next time I hope to share last year's Inktober! 

For now, sweet dreams saplings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

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Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Second Summer: what now?

Good afternoon wallflowers and wildflowers,

 To be frank, toddling out of second year and wandering, dazed, into third has felt a bit like this;

Hercules. (1997). [film] Directed by J. Musker and R. Clements. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

I've started to hear the word "dissertation" spoken aloud as though it is now an impending reality. Those of you who already have their degree, and may even be brandishing a Masters or a PHD, will likely look back on your dissertation as comparably easy to the work you tackled from then on. However, that does not take away the knock-kneed, trembling-lip, nervous-stutter approach I'm going to take to mine (though that is my general demeanour when I approach anything remotely new). I'm sure I'll let you know in the coming weeks when I have finally decided on a topic, though I imagine it will definitely reside in the field of stylistics. I must make sure that, before I leave, I thank one of my lecturers for the infinite amount of confidence and reassurance she has given to me throughout my two years at university so far. I began by regretting the aspect of language in my degree and was thinking about changing course, but her enthusiasm and excellent teaching style has meant that, not only do I love studying language now, but I am opting to do an independent study in it. Then again, the entire English department at my university are nothing short of wonderful, in my humble opinion. 

Anywho, aside from work-related business, I will admit that my summer is still very much in full-swing, despite some wobbles in trying to pin down a specific study topic for next year. 

  A while ago, I made a Summer books list for what I wanted to read this year and in accordance with this I have started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is long awaited and I will likely make slow progress on it, but reading it I am. In an exciting turn of events, I am also attending one of the book signings that Matt Haig is holding this summer! I don't think I could possibly explain my excitement for this, but if I tried it would be that my boyfriend observed that when I hear the word "author" said on the tv I always look to see if it's Matt Haig, however unlikely. As far as other reading goes, and I know I said I'd stop talking about this, I think the majority of it is going to be about research methodology and stylistics, which I'm weirdly looking forward to planning and making some notes on. 

   Also on the agenda; video games. I will admit, with only a hint of shame, that my teenage years were spent mostly playing video games. After starting university, naturally, they took a back seat and I very rarely make time for the lengthy gaming sessions that I used to (all of my waking hours). However, as it's the summer now, I am very happily slotting back into Stardew Valley. This is easily one of my favourite games and is a welcome substitute for gems such as Harvest Moon which I used to play on my battered baby-pink Nintendo DS. Though I haven't quite found a suitable exchange on PC for Animal Crossing, games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon have always been appealing because they aren't based on real-time, whereas Animal Crossing requires that you are logging in regularly to ensure that your neighbors don't start to hate you or, at the very least, you don't end up with bed hair or a weed-infested town. Although I was able to take on Stardew' in the place of 'Moon, I don't think I could replace Animal Crossing quite so easily, as it's a staple of my childhood in gaming. 

  Additionally, I have also managed to one-hundred-percent Grim Fandango on Steam. For those of you who don't know, Grim Fandango is my favourite video game of all time. This masterpiece by Tim Schafer, who also gave us the Monkey Island series (good ol' Guybrush Threepwood), was genuinely my favourite game to play since I was old enough to use a computer. My uncle Rob used to let me and my brother play it on his Windows 95 PC and had never-ending patience with us as we tried to work out the pretty obscure puzzles. Now I can, quite proudly, say that I have completed all of the in-game achievements, one of which included completing the entire game in the original tank controls. Strangely, I preferred the tank controls as it was what I was used to playing the game with as a child, though I did enjoy the smoother graphics that the remaster offered. I could not have been more thrilled that such a classic, that happened to be so close to my heart, was given a full remaster and put on Steam. 

  Finally, in terms of gaming, I am half-way through Alice: Madness Returns. Now, I'm not a huge fan of EA Games, but ever since I saw the teaser trailers for this I felt compelled to purchase it. I love Alice in Wonderland and fully intend to complete this game and it's individual take on the story and upload a review at one point or another. 

  Books and games aside, I'm hoping to complete some art and series I've been meaning to watch for a long time now. Art takes a lot of time, motivation and enthusiasm, so I imagine I will begin churning it out when my plans for my dissertation have been submitted. Series, on the other hand, will have their own post in the form of anime - my favourites and must-watches. Hopefully my blog posts will consist of less catching up and more specific themes from now on, I have some as work-in-progress pieces.

 Be green, 

 Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Playing Catch- Up: Mental Health Awareness Week

Good evening fellow mammals,

After what I can only describe as a turbulent couple of months, my second year of university will be officially completed on Thursday 18th of May. You might be thinking, "why the heck are you writing a post if you're not even finished yet omg" give or take a few words. The honest answer is that I'm resting in the name of self-care after a day of panicking and revising; do with that information what you will. 

Unfortunately, due to assignment stress I was unable to get around to writing a post last week. I regret this particularly because it was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which naturally I feel very strongly about. The truth is, talking about mental health is really difficult. You might not think so if you've spoken to me recently, as I've been making a conscious effort to be a lot more open about it to help eradicate the stigma, but actually being open about having a mental health issue can be terrifying. The truth is, I wrote an entire paragraph detailing some specific experiences I have with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and deleted the entire thing out of fear; 

"What if they think I'm self-absorbed?"
"What if someone thinks I'm an attention-seeker?"
"What if everyone just reads this and thinks it's pathetic or insignificant?" 

This in itself shows me that we have a serious problem with how we approach mental health. 
Talking about mental health is vital because right now it is often quicker and easier to get a box of emotion-altering tablets than it is to get someone to sit and talk to you about your emotions for an hour-long appointment. 

If you have mental health issues, advice or have a personal story to share - my advice is to allow yourself to talk about it. As I have demonstrated above, sharing personal experiences can be daunting but letting yourself share it in a way that you are comfortable with (counselling, family, friends, online) is a healthy way to raise awareness, receive support, fight stigma and encourage others to speak up as well. I truly believe that human connection and compassion is the best possible way to combat mental illness. 
If you're worried about what people will think, remember- "those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind". 
Of course, my pal Steph has written a beautifully eloquent piece for Mental Health Awareness Week; check it out here. I will always commend my friend for how wonderfully she tackles the issue of mental health and the experiences she has had. 

In other slightly less serious news, I drew a comic about anxiety and also purchased a stress ball. 

Firstly, the stress ball (product link)was an unfortunate impulse buy on amazon and I didn't think to check the reviews before just adding it to my basket of stuff and clicking check out. I realised that most people had managed to burst it within the first 30 minutes of use and had been covered in sticky gel. So when the bubbly sack of strange slime flopped out of the cardboard Amazon box, I wasn't entirely prepared for the fact that I could potentially have it explode in my face. I took it upstairs, held it over the bath and squeezed. Low and behold, my freakishly limp, cold hands were literally too weak to force the little gel bubbles to pop out of the black net. Anyway, after some cautioned two-handed crushing I managed to loosen up the rubber, or whatever, to make it so I could squeeze the weird bubbles out. After doing this for about five minutes, leaning over the bath, I realised that I was never going to be able to actually use this stress ball the way I want to because I'll be constantly terrified that it's going to burst and I was probably going to end up causing some injury to the tendons in my arm if I had to keep squeezing it with as much effort as I was. 

Basically, you guys, I bought a ball that is causing me stress. A literal stress ball. At this point in my life, I'm not even surprised that I've managed to achieve making a stress ball actually stressful. 

With that tragic confession out of the way, I'll leave you with the doodle I made during Mental Health Awareness Week. 

Have you ever thought you were a fraud because you deemed other experiences of mental illness as more valid than your own? You didn't think yours were that bad or that you are somehow wrongly claiming you have something when you don't? I do this all the time with anxiety and have realised that it's just best to trust how you feel. If you feel it, it is real. 

Merry May everyone, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Thursday, 6 April 2017


Good evening fellow Earth-dwellers, 

After a somewhat strange week, I have returned for another look into some of my previous work and a post I have been wanting to make for quite some time. As I've grown up, I have generally stopped vigorously typing hourly life updates on social media due to a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that the people I love in my life have taught me that you really don't need to shout it from the rooftops for it to be special - in fact it's usually quite the opposite for us. I also found that the worse I was feeling, the more I felt I needed to post things online to make me feel better - it was a way of compensating for the things I felt I could not fix. Now I am a lot happier and where I want to be, so the desire to post on social media about my private life has drastically lowered. 

However, I think that something different can be said for mental illness. Sometimes the stigma associated with mental illness is far more difficult to cope with than the symptoms, which means that we must be proactive. We must speak out loudly and truthfully. Those who have a voice should speak up and lift up others who do not. The last couple of years I have openly and, without shame, admitted that I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic attacks. The mere fact that I wrote that sentence with "admitted" and had to clarify "without shame" indicates there has been a problem with how we deal with mental health. Nobody "admits" to having the flu, asthma or cancer, unless you know particularly cruel and unsympathetic people, because people generally accept that it's through no fault of your own. Even if you never wash your hands, smoke a lot or take part in high-risk activities, they will often not attack you for gaining physical illnesses as a result because they realise that you are not being ill on purpose. So why don't we carry the same assumptions for mental illness? I'm not going to go through full scientific reasons why we should, but all I'm going to say is that the brain is part of the body and no amount of willpower can stop your body from getting sick. 

Today I decided that having the next two weeks off meant that it was safe to tidy my room. Yes, I use the word "safe". When you don't have time off, you turn up to university and you get given even more work to complete, so planning any time for other activities is difficult when you're as disorganised as I am. Having two weeks free from university with my assignments and reading requirements set means I am free to plan my remaining time - some may relate to the consuming feeling of being completely occupied by one thing at a time. As I was tidying, I came across these;

These are Worry Dolls. Quite a few years ago (which I was panicked to discover was actually a decade ago), when I was just entering the pain that is adolescence, my mom handed me the little purple bag. She explained that these were 'worry people' and that at night-time, when my worries were always the worst, I could whisper my worries to the 'worry people' and they would take care of them for me whilst I slept. At that point, my life was completely devoid of smart phones so I didn't claw at Google to find out more about them. I simply whispered my worries to them and left them under my pillow every night. I didn't actually realise they were a common thing, however; 

"In traditional and modern times, worry dolls are given or lent to brooding and sorrowful children. They would tell their doll about their sorrows, fears and worries, then hide it under their pillow during the night. After this, the child will literally sleep over the whole thing. At the next morning, all sorrows are said to have been taken away by the worry doll"

(Wikipedia - an incredibly reliable source that you should always turn to for academic writing.)

Personally, I laughed at the idea of calling myself a brooding and sorrowful child. It conjured up an image of being a moody tween complaining about boys, ripping your jeans and plastering your eyelids with blue eyeshadow and rhinestones (obviously I grew up in the nineties/noughties). 

Finding these dolls reminded me of how involuntary my experiences were and that I had GAD long before I could realise it. As life got more stressful and I gained the responsibilities that come with getting older and older, my anxieties worsened and I was about to realise just how much it affected my life. 

Firstly, I want to address the actual symptoms of anxiety. They are different for everyone, but there are some classic elements that most anxious people have in common. If you know of, care about or love someone with anxiety, or any mental illness for that matter, then please take the time to educate yourself about it. The time you take to research the illness of another person is infinitely valuable and it will enrich your relationship endlessly if you are able to gain a better understanding. 

If you're looking for something simple then please do allow me to direct you to the NHS GAD page which explains in general terms what GAD is. A general understanding is better than no understanding, of course. However, I will detail some more in depth symptoms that many of us experience; 

  • Constant fear, dread and restlessness - If I had £1 for every second I felt relaxed I would never magically receive £1 coins. 
  • Excessive and unrealistic worry - Is that a molehill? Let me just get my magnifying glass. 
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed, on edge, exhausted and stressed - "No, I don't take [illegal/recreational] drugs. Why do you ask?"
  • Being irritable and finding it difficult to concentrate - Becoming overstimulated by subtle changes and starting my work at 4pm because it took me all day to get into 'the zone'. 
  • Feeling shaky, experiencing trembling and being easily startled - Basically one of those little dogs that constantly shake and need to be held and reassured.
  • The inability to sleep - I have heard of this thing called an early night but I'm not entirely sure I can grasp the concept.
  • Panic Attacks - If you have ever had a panic attack or experienced someone having one then you will understand why they are called 'attacks'. Your heart beat rapidly increasing until it feels like a steam train is rocketing across your ribcage, your body becoming hot and sweaty and claustrophobic, and being undeniably convinced that you are dying. Panic attacks are often accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety such as dry mouth, cold, numb or tingling extremities, nausea, dizziness and shortness of  breath. Naturally, it is very hard to tell yourself that you are not having a heart attack. 

Questions Some May Have

I realise that the stigma facing mental illness is often a product of simply not being informed, and not out of malicious intent. Therefore I will do a mini Anxiety FAQ.
(c) Lauren Newman - 2016 
Always credit me for my artwork.

I know that you might be itching to say to someone with anxiety, "hey, just don't worry so much about things". That is probably one of the most unhelpful things you could say. Although it is always easy to tell who genuinely means well by this statement, it can make some feel uncomfortable about confiding in that person. 

Do you worry about how having anxiety will effect being employed?

This is a common point made to me and my answer will always be the same; if someone does not want to employ me because of anxiety then I am glad not to work for them. 

Would I rather be unemployed than lie about my anxiety though?

Yes and no. I would never lie about my anxiety, and if I am asked I would freely talk about it. However, I'm not going to write that I have a mental illness on my CV or use it as a topic of discussion in a job interview any more than someone with Crohn's disease or carpal tunnel syndrome would. If I can get a degree with anxiety, I expect I can do many other things too. I always work to the best of my ability, and I don't expect to have to lie about having anxiety when I don't have to lie about having migraines. 

How can I help someone with anxiety?

Accept that no matter how much you love someone, you can't fix it for them. Anxiety can often be made worse if the sufferer feels that they are letting you down every time they feel unwell or that they are making you feel inadequate. Just love them, be there for them and listen to them and that is all you need to do. Mental health is a personal struggle and responsibility and, just like any illness, they are the only ones who can figure out how to deal with it. The best you can do is create a loving and supportive environment for them to grow in at their own pace (they might not grow at all - that is not your fault). In addition, do not tip-toe around them. Be kind, considerate and loving but they are still a human being and are capable of making choices. Do not stay with someone who is treating you badly just because they are ill. You are a human too and you must not forget your own mental wellbeing.

How can I cope with having anxiety?

This is a difficult one because everyone is different and it is unlikely that the same thing will work for every single individual. I mean, of course it couldn't possibly. The key word here is 'cope'. When I was very young, my family and I thought that I would grow out of worrying. Obviously, we didn't realise what was to come, but since then I have never actually thought about curing anxiety. I have accepted anxiety as part of my life, and furthermore, I don't think I know where I end and anxiety starts. It has taken me a few years to work out some coping mechanisms that are actually healthy and I will share these with you;

  • Counselling. 
  • Taking a break from technology and/or social media. 
  • Write down how you feel at length - pen and paper is usually best but if you only have a phone it will do.
  • Let it all out - vent and cry to a trusted person.
  • Regular exercise or outdoor activities.
  • Learning breathing techniques and ensure you're not taking shallow breaths.
  • Good diet and drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Keeping your environment clean and tidy.
None of these will fix anxiety, they might not even help, but they are all things that have contributed to a little less stress in my life. Sometimes it's simply giving yourself one less thing to worry about (though you will inevitably find something to take the empty slot).

This was a very long and general approach to having anxiety which I will definitely revisit when discussing more specific aspects of it. The topic is far too large to cover wholly in one post! 
I will leave you with my mini comics on anxiety and the situations which can cause us some bother!

Stay freaky, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

(c) Lauren Newman - 2016 
Always credit me for my artwork.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Summertime: books, books, books.

Good evening lovely readers,

With my previous essays done and dusted, another set of newborn deadlines have sprung and are descending upon me again in the coming weeks. Though I'm invested in reading course material, revising and figuring out how to outwit the future assignments, I am also looking to the future. Of course, I mean my immediate future; the distant future is that thing that everyone has rolling around at the bottom of the drawer and ignores. My immediate future, aside from death-by-assignments, consists of a beautiful place known to many as;


(c) Lauren Newman 20-whenever

As someone who generally drops most of my hobbies during the academic year, the summer is quite literally a paradise where I can spend all of my free time being unemployed, scribbling, reading and staring at screens for hours on end. I will not apologise for this because quite frankly I need some downtime. So, what will the shr-Inking violet be doing this summer? I made some lists. I'm that kind of person who cannot function without making a list. My notepads are full of to-do-lists. I CAN'T STOP

Lauren's List of Stuff  (excited noises)

First Section: Books To Read (or re-read)

The Top Spot: How To Stop Time - Matt Haig
Image (c) Waterstones
After finding Matt Haig through The Humans, which my Uncle Rob bought me for Christmas one year, I sought out his other novels in the hopes of finding a similar joy (which of course I did). In addition to The Humans, my collection now includes Reasons to Stay Alive, Echo Boy and The Radleys. Haig's depiction of the human experience is so warming that curling up and reading anything produced by him is like being accompanied by a friend; every other line you will smile, laugh or cry. I could not possibly be more excited to expand my collection and purchase his most recent work. I will also definitely be re-reading these titles as they are perfect when I need to reduce anxiety. 

The Not-Top-Spot-but-still-on-my-list:
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath: I want to acquire and read this novel because it's been mentioned so many times during my course and I've heard so many positive things about it that I simply must. It's also the book that the feminist protagonist of 10 Things I Hate About You is reading in the film which, I will be honest, was the deciding factor. 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen:  I actually own a copy of The Complete Novels of Jane Austen and seeing as one of my closest friends, Steph, is obsessed with Austen I must give in and finally read it!

A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness: After recently watching the film, whilst sobbing uncontrollably into my hands, I have been eagerly awaiting my chance to read the book. The underlying messages in the film genuinely struck me and I was completely overwhelmed by the depth and emotional complexity of the story that was unfolding in front of me. I can only imagine that the book will be even better. 

The Color Purple - Alice Walker: I truthfully don't know as much as I'd like to about this novel but I certainly know I'm missing out! I've received so many recommendations that I don't want to ignore it any longer. 

The Re-reads:
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood: I studied this for my English A Level and I actually quite enjoyed it. It has concepts I would like to explore again with knowledge I have acquired whilst being at university. 

To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee: Another book I enjoyed at school, except this time for my GCSE. I have yet to read the latest installment, but I think I want to re-acquaint myself with the story before tackling it. At this point I must drop in a reference to The Boo Radleys because who doesn't like this song?

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë - Another novel I loved during my A Levels which I want to read again with new appreciation (or perhaps I will change my mind?)

Of course, I will also be re-reading every single Matt Haig novel I own because, well, I want to. I will also be trying to purchase the remaining novels of his I have not read if I am able to afford it as a treat for completing my second year. 

Personally, I think this will be more than enough to get me through summer (perhaps too much considering all of the other projects I will have on-the -go). In the upcoming weeks I will be adding sections talking about my favourite anime and anime must-watches, discussing last year's Inktober, some self-care tips and dealing with mental health issues. 

Thanks to everyone who made it this far!

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 23 March 2017


I genuinely cannot believe it's been an entire week since my last dredge-up-my-art post. I'm going to want to use a lot of the pieces for themed posts and truthfully I don't have a lot of time today so I've decided to share a really weird old doodle I did quite a while ago. I remember feeling really ill and sorry for myself and I didn't have the energy to draw anything so I decided to scribble some silly cats.

Obviously, care was taken to ensure that each cat was anatomically correct.
The stripy white-ginger cat and the black cat are both mine. No, they couldn't possibly be more different!

Short and sweet, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Relaxation Music

Good evening gang,

Approximately ten minutes ago, I plodded downstairs and poured myself a glass of milk. Actually, it's not a glass, it's a square mason jar with a handle, lid and straw. My mom has hopped onto the adorable trend of drinking things out of anything that isn't cylindrical. Anyway, because I'm irrepressibly obsessed with consuming things before they reach the expiration date, I was doing the necessary check and noticed the milk expires on the 25th of March. What was my first thought? "When this milk is out of date, my deadlines for this round of assignments will be over!" (or at least for the essays).

After spending the day completing an assignment, panicking and introducing myself to John Milton's Paradise Lost, I think it's safe to say that I am stressed. Bearing in mind that I am no more stressed than people around me, my friends have been working tirelessly on their assignments and my boyfriend has been working continuously for several weeks, I am a believer that "others have it worse" is usually not a relief.

So what do we do? Those of us who are constantly confronted with stress? I was chatting with a colleague at the end of my lecture on Monday about assignment stress and she was very surprised that I suffered similarly to her. We talked about the inevitable comorbidity of tears, panicking, sleepless nights and assignment periods. Is such stress unnecessary and avoidable?

Unnecessary? Maybe. Avoidable? Not for me. My general logic is that if I care about something I will worry about it, regardless of what it is. Therefore, and this leads me to my point, healthy coping mechanisms are essential. To lighten this up, and to get to the point of what I wanted to do tonight, I am sharing some music that I use to deal with worry. Should someone with Generalised Anxiety Disorder even be recommending ways to relax? Probably not. Are they going to do it anyway? Of course. (Not to mention there will be a post about dealing with anxiety in the future but if you want one right now, my friend Steph has already written a brilliant one: here).

(In no particular order because that would make it too stressful for me).

1.) Roslyn - Bon Iver & St. Vincent

I know I've recommended this song previously, but it's one of my favourites for when I need to empty my mind. If I'm being completely honest I still don't know the lyrics because I find it hard to work out what they're saying and don't really want to ruin that by looking at them, if that makes any sense at all. I love the atmosphere and images that it conjures up in my mind - I'd tell you, but I think it'd be more fun for you to make your own!

2.) Pearly Dewdrops Drops - Cocteau Twins

This is band I recently looked into as they were recommended to me by my lecturer who has previously recommended some great music. This song in particular stuck with me because it has a way of making me feel something indescribable. I could only attempt to describe it as a feeling so personal, it's as though nobody else could possibly have felt it. Not to mention that 'Pearly Dewdrops Drops' is one of the best song titles I've ever seen.

3.) There She Goes - Sixpence None The Richer
4.) Kiss Me - Sixpence None The Richer

Truthfully, I love the original of 'There She Goes' by The La's too, but I have a special place in my heart reserved for Sixpence None The Richer. My earliest memories of music are the late nineties, and 'Kiss Me' was played constantly in my house so when I hear that song I can smell my childhood and feel what the house used to feel like when I was little. I highly recommend nostalgic songs but be warned - nostalgia sometimes feels sad.

5.) Prelude in E-Minor (op. 28 no. 4) - Frédéric Chopin

I have always loved classical music. I'm not very well acquainted with a lot of it, but I love quite a few pieces from various composers. I know that most of Chopin is quite sad, but music that makes me cry has a strange way of making me feel calm.

6.) Howl's Moving Castle OST

This one is highly dependent on the fact that I have watched the film and adore it. For anyone out there who has never seen a Studio Ghibli film - I insist you must try them at least once. This song is so uplifting, gentle and simple and fills me with all the emotions I feel when watching the film.

7.) The Very Thought Of You - Billie Holiday

It was difficult to choose between this and 'I'll Be Seeing You' until I remember that the latter does actually tend to make me not-the-good-kind-of-sad. 'The Very Thought Of You' literally sends shivers down my spine and gives me goosebumps because her voice is so comforting and the crackle of the recording gives me that warm, flooding feeling that music is eternal and can awaken such complex emotions.

8.) God Only Knows - Bioshock Infinite Barbershop Cover

Anyone who knows me, even just a little, knows I adore the Beach Boys. However, I'm also a sucker for good covers. I found out semi-recently that I adore barbershop quartets (I don't really know how or why) and when I realised that Bioshock Infinite, the third in a great game series, had added this into the game I was completely hypnotized by it for weeks. Most people I know haven't been taken with it in the same way I have, but that makes it all the more personal to me.

9.) Tugboat - Galaxie 500

When I first heard this song in 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' I fell in love immediately. Every time I listen to it I feel like I've slipped into another world, one which is magical and beautiful and when it picks up at 2:25 I literally feel my heart flutter. I realise this doesn't feel good for fellow anxiety sufferers, but fluttering for good reasons is always worth it and I feel so calm afterwards.

10.) Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're The Nail - A Day To Remember

Just a heads up, this is most likely not going to be everyone's idea of "relaxing". ADTR are one of my favourite bands and after going through a significantly distressing experience, this song is a genuine relief and somewhere I can unload my feelings. If you want to skip the screaming, I know it's not everyone's thing, 2:50 is the part that genuinely hits me in the chest. The lyrics make me tear up every single time because it symbolises my coming to terms with anxiety, the responsibility for the mistakes and choices I have made and defending my sensitivity.

I hope anyone who reads this can take away at least one new song that they like. I hope to make more lists in the future. I recently did an exchange of ten songs with a friend when we realised we had no idea what each others' music taste was, it's a fun exercise in getting to know someone a bit better!

I'm going to go and pass out now before an early lecture tomorrow!
Sweet dreams,

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Make Love Not War

How now, mooncalves?

I must admit, I really shouldn't be writing this at the moment. I have two essays on the go, a novel, a forum task and I've just ordered a copy of another book I need to start reading. However, after doing a recent collaborative post with my lovely friend, I've caught the writing bug again. I wish I had time to do more creative writing, but for now this is a good stress-reliever. 

If you've read my first post about this, you'll know I actually despise the phrase "throw-back Thursday". Maybe my inner hipster is just appalled at saying something so mainstream?...No, it's just a shit phrase and a bit of a tacky concept, but I'm obviously doing it anyway. 

This week I'm dredging up a piece that's quite fresh and may be remembered by anyone who added me on Facebook more than a year ago. It's approximately a year old but my sentiments and feelings which inspired the piece have not changed - the only guns that I would ever approve of would shoot little smoky hearts at people that make them feel fluffy and good inside. Disclaimer: I'm not a maniac, I'm an idealist. 

I'm quite regretful of the fact my art often contains representations and portrayals of myself. I would apologise for how incredibly egotistical this seems, but believe me when I say I desperately need an outlet in the form of self-expression. 

Lauren's Sidecut
An incredibly necessary solution to dealing with a crisis.
You are missed.

TIP: If you're feeling sad, get the hairstyle you've always wanted but are too scared to try. Hair grows back.

Personally I really like this stalling tactic until I have time to make more art.

Off to make a cuppa, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Make Love Not War - March 2016