Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Get To Know Me TAG

Happy (late) Chocolate Egg Day! (or Happy Easter/Happy Normal Sunday if you prefer)

It's mid-way through the Easter holidays so naturally I feel sick because I've eaten a stupid amount of chocolate. I have also been experiencing heightened anxiety since beginning my assignments. I'd like to say that this is because it's especially difficult this semester, and perhaps it is in its own way, however, April was very similar last year. April is the dreaded month of little money and lots of work. After writing a detailed to-do list to empty my head of assignment stress (I love lists), I decided that a blog post would be a therapeutic way to end my evening. 

A little catch up, as I haven't posted for a little while, is that I have have purchased several books that are squirrelled away in my room until I can fully enjoy them over the summer - but I have been unable to stop myself from tackling the shorter ones. Last week I completed Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me; and Other Essays. I was a little bit hesitant about the title, as I've not always been very fond of the term "mansplaining" though I can sympathise with the experience, but it was a good read. I would be lying if I claimed to be fully clued in on everything that Solnit wrote about, as it was politically historical in parts, but the point that she was trying to make very much hit the mark. I have finally reached a point where I am not frightened to identify as a feminist. 

In other news, I'm currently halfway through Nicholson Baker's Vox which was a lot better than I was expecting. Fifty Shades of Grey did rather darken the doorstep of adult novels for a while, and I was reluctant to purchase one considering I had made it approximately three pages into Anastasia Steele's life until my eyes winced along the phrase; "floor the pedal to the metal". Needless to say, eyes rolled and book was closed. Vox is considerably less cringe-worthy, though still creates a very necessary weirdness and sense of discomfort. I'm still trying to make up my mind about it, so perhaps there will be an update in the future when I have read it.

I know that I made a summertime list for the books I was going to read this summer, and I intend to gather the remaining ones on my list, however, I worked with what little money I had to treat myself to some affordable books!

- All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven (Steph inspired this!)
- Making Friends with Anxiety - Sarah Rayner (I know)
- Men Explain Things to Me: and Other Essays - Rebecca Solnit 
- The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath 
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (My lovely friend Bridie let me borrow her copy a while ago and it was so lovely I had to own one!)
- Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher (I must see the hype)
- Vox - Nicholson Baker
- Watership Down - Richard Adams (I adore the film)

I think that's it for the general roundup of things-Lauren-has-been-doing-in-between-worrying-about-stuff. I have decided, after seeing several of these things on YouTube recently, that doing a Get To Know Me TAG thing might be a nice thing to do. 

A conversation with myself:
Self-conscious me: Nobody cares! Why would you do something so self-centred? 
Self-loving me: Do whatever you want, it's your blog, you crumpet. 

Here we go! 

Are you named after anyone?
Yes. I'm named after my Grandad whose name is Laurence

When was the last time you cried?
This afternoon. I'm a very emotional and sensitive person, as I'm sure you've all gathered, and I was experiencing a lot of anxiety which caused me to cry. 

Do you have kids?
Only if pets and cuddly toys count.

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
Of course. I think we would all benefit from imagining what it would be like to be our own friend, we would be a lot kinder to ourselves and put more effort into self-care. 

Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Not usually. I tend to use sarcasm in writing or texting etc when I have time to plot how I'm going to use it. Otherwise I would fear that I had upset someone with it. I will occasionally use sarcasm with friends if I know it's commonplace. 

What’s the first thing you notice about people?
Would it be cliché to say their vibe? Probably is. But I genuinely build up a little caricature in my head and then the more I find out about the person the more it changes in my mind to suit the person. Admittedly, I'd be better off starting with a blank slate but I'm human and I like to guess at the personalities that people might have - I just have to make sure I can easily accept it when I'm proved wrong. 

What is your eye colour?
There is some debate about this, but I've settled on grey. Photos rarely depict what they usually look like. 

Scary movie or happy endings?
Happy endings. I don't particularly mind sad endings, but I will pick absolutely anything over scary films. Dark films? Great. Scary films are the worst.

Favourite smells?
Any kind of food being cooked (though Italian always smells the best). Clean washing. Petrol. Winter. Summer. The seaside. 

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Wisconsin - USA. My family have friends living there who we visited for a couple of weeks in 2005 (if I'm not mistaken). 

Do you have any special talents?
Give me any situation and I'll tell you how it can go catastrophically wrong. 

Where were you born?
In my hometown, in the same hospital that almost everyone here was born in. 

What are your hobbies?
Art, eating, listening to music, reading, painting, video games, watching films and writing. I have also dabbled in crocheting and polymer clay modelling. 

Do you have any pets?
A border collie by the name of Jack Jack (yes, the baby from The Incredibles)
A black cat called Salem (Again, yes - Sabrina The Teenage Witch)
A ginger and white cat called Alistair who we usually just call Ali because Alistair is a bit of a mouthful for a cat. 

Do you have any siblings?
A younger brother.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
If I think about this question I will inevitably panic again. 

Who was your first best friend?
She is a lovely individual, who I very rarely see now, who I met in reception in primary school. I was playing with a plastic Pongo from 101 Dalmatians, having him trot around a dollhouse, and she asked if she could play with me.

How tall are you?
5'8 the last time I checked, though I may be taller now. 

Funniest moment throughout School?
I spent most of Year 10 and 11 with two particular friends who constantly made me laugh. I couldn't possibly extract a single memory from those two wonderful years of school - it was all lovely. 

How many countries have you visited?
I have only been abroad once to the aforementioned Wisconsin. 

What was your favourite/worst subject in High School?
Favourite: English. I adored Art, but English has always been the one I genuinely looked forward to every lesson. 
Worst: Maths. I have never felt more stupid than when I was sitting in a maths lesson. 

What is your favourite drink? Animal? Perfume?
Drink: Tea.
Animal: I've always said pandas, but I genuinely adore all animals. 
Perfume: I don't really know. I liked one by Britney Spears, but I don't particularly agonise over perfume. 

What would you (or have you) name your children?
I used to have a pretty solid list of names I liked for potential future children, but I don't remember any that I still like now. Except for Violet, which completely coincidentally is linked to this blog.

What Sports do you play/Have you played?
I used to love badminton, basketball and netball. I haven't played any sport for a long time though, apart from a game of badminton with my boyfriend once which nearly killed us both.

Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?
A Thousand Words - she is actually my mom's favourite, however, I recently emailed her about giving a shoutout to my mom and she did!

I probably have a lot more but I'm tired.

How many Girlfriends/Boyfriends have you had?
None-serious? Probably like seven?
But things that I would actually class as proper relationships: two.

Favourite memory from childhood?
The one that makes me laugh from when I was a toddler is when I was on the beach and kept putting pebbles in my pockets until my jeans got too heavy to walk in. 

How would you describe your fashion sense?
If I had the money to afford all the clothes I want then it'd be 50% retro/vintage and 50% gothic/punky? But who knows? I don't really know how to label it. 

What phone do you have? 
iPhone 6!

Tell us one of your bad habits!
I think my worst ones are pulling all the skin off of my lips and plucking the mascara from my eyelashes (resulting in some very sparse eye-hair).

Source: here.

It's now almost midnight and I've successfully vented out my worries through writing!
Sweet dreams saplings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Anxiety

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.