Am I A Grown Up Yet?

Today was a major throwback to adolescence for me. I picked up a pen, dusted off last year’s journal (still thick with blank pages) and began to write. I felt like a fourteen year-old again, barring puberty-driven angst and the invaluable knowledge that the world didn’t owe me anything.

What blossomed as I scrawled a somewhat incoherent letter to myself – or someone else – was that I am in the best place that I have been in in many months. Despite quitting university for the third – and last – time and being in a form of purgatory over the past few weeks, I honestly haven’t felt this content in a while.

I’m starting to read again: books by strong women with a sense of humour, the kind of women I aspire to be like when I “grow up”. I recently finished Lena Dunham’s “Not That Kind Of Girl” and was stunned by the candid, hilariously-honest way in which she holds herself.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I am not the only tomboy-esque, slightly awkward person on the planet. Who could be guilty of stealing snippets of other people’s personalities to form their own. Who got a huge Blink-182 tattoo on her leg because it reminds her of youthfulness and who, with no shame, still listens to pop punk music from 2004 and revels in it.

I want to share something groundbreaking with you. A few days ago, I was talking to a guy who informed me that he used to be a “skater” (for any millennials reading, you geddit). I had a slight “No way!” moment when you find a fellow human being and thought this was pretty cool, until he proceeded to inform me that he eventually “got a life” and started playing football instead.

My heart sank a little, but not with sorrow. More in a “wow, you’re a dick” kind of way. It occurred to me after that that maybe it had gotten to the point where I was beginning to care less about whether other people liked me and more about whether I liked them.

I didn’t feel even remotely compelled to agree with his statement, either. If I was younger, I would have laughed with him, knowing in my gut that I was betraying myself. Is this what being a functional, rational adult feels like?

Quitting university was the most rational decision I have made in a while. After countless sleepless nights and pros and cons lists, I decided it was for the best. I couldn’t justify spending a ridiculous amount of money per annum on something I wasn’t sure of, nor was particularly benefitting me. I was sticking it out for the wrong reasons.

However, it now means that I am a working woman with a real-life income. It means I can save, gain experience and hopefully, move elsewhere and create my little mobile coffee shop.

These recent revelations and new-found loves have made me feel like a completely different being. I am immersing myself daily in writing (even if I have a knack of going off on tangents), books (most recently: Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys Boys Boys by Viv Albertine) and most importantly, life.

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”Henry Miller

Sometimes You’re Behind

So, I’ve managed to have a few weeks where I’ve felt completely at one with myself. Everything has gone back to normal in terms of routine, and generally I was just feeling relieved that I was finally beginning to feel “normal” again. Finally, a hint of light at the end of the tunnel! An iota of difference! Let’s do this thing!

However, today and over the past few days, I’ve been on the verge of tears more times than I care to admit. The shame of failure is starting to catch up with me. It’s tiring and it’s embarrassing. My mind is tricking me into thinking that I’m too neurotic to be content for this long. The beast is convinced that I have too much self-loathing to allow myself the happiness I deserve. The weight in my chest is growing heavier again and evidently, the battle continues. Wah wah wah. I feel like a newborn child: weak, frail and dependant.

Sadly, this will be regular occurrence. A few weeks of surviving on crumbs and preoccupying myself, followed by another few weeks of drawing the drapes. Neither are particularly appealing. It feels as though every aspect of my life is falling spectacularly to pieces.

This is a temporary state of mind, mind you. There is a glimmer of hope, which is the most important thing of all at this present moment. I know it will get better eventually. I will reach that state of nirvana. But what do I do in the meantime? Cry? Self-harm? Hit the bottle? These can’t be the only options I have.

It’s patience. A truckload of the stuff, and then some. It’s writing these blog posts: getting things down in print so my head doesn’t well up and explode. Instead, as hard as it can be, I’ve tried to embrace it creatively and with a sense of humour – something I haven’t done in a long time. If there’s a silver lining, that’s it.

I suppose what I’m here to say is that I need support and a little bit of love during this time, just like we all do sometimes. I stepped out of the battle for a while, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve locked horns with the bull again. It’s a repetitive process and it’s draining, long-winded and above all, boring. The only thing I can do is reassure myself is that sometimes I’m ahead, and sometimes I’m behind. That’s the crux of it. Right now, I am behind in the race, but that’s OK. I guess it’s the courage to continue that counts.

It Gets Better

As some of you may know, I have been trying to keep the monster at bay over the past few weeks. It’s been a case of one step forwards and two steps back on many occasions and it’s safe to say that it is pretty exhausting.

There have been days where the sunlight from the crack in the curtains in the morning has made me want to curl up into a cocoon and sleep until the New Year. Every commitment I have in life right now – work, university, even seeing friends – has been put on hold due to my need to be in a familiar, safe place whenever I feel a turn coming on. I’ve been completely isolating myself, eating badly, drinking and smoking more than I care to admit.

However, it is getting easier.

Over the past week, the salt in the wound isn’t burning nearly as much as it did. The pain is still there but I’m less afraid of it. Every now and then, I’ll get a twinge in my chest and the sense of impending doom but I’m slowly learning how to curb it through pausing, cheering myself on and carrying on.

It’s a long and gradual process, and I know for a fact this won’t be the last time I struggle with keeping my emotions at bay. However, I can vouch for the fact that every time it does come around, it gets just that little bit simpler to deal with.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve grown up, through therapy, excessive amounts of reading and gaining knowledge on my condition that it’s allowed me to step away from the battle and reflect instead of getting caught up in the agony. I guess it’s a combination of all these things. However, I know for a fact that during previous episodes, I wasn’t progressing nearly as much as I am right now.

I arrived home just now after meeting with a business advisor at Enterprise First for some start-up business advice. Don’t get me wrong, I had to use some of my previously discussed motivational tools to get there, but I did it and it was one of the most productive things I’ve done in weeks.

On the drive home, a quote struck me like a bolt of lightning and although I’d heard it a thousand times, it’s relevance was as clear as crystal.

“Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind: the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

Truth is, this is a completely normal way to feel. Sometimes you do feel like you are on top of the world, full of life and ready to go and sometimes, maybe a little bit like all the odds are against you.

This weekend, I’m going back to work. I’ve slowly started on a university project, I’m gradually feeling less afraid to be on my own and more able to leave the house. As I’ve said before, it’s all about taking each day as it comes, because it really does get easier.

Finding Motivation

“I really need to reach this goal, but I don’t feel motivated in the slightest.”

This is a thought I find myself having a lot lately. Whether it’s to make a phone call or start a project, motivation is a ball ache to come by.

Last night was a perfect example. Last week, I had enquired about a business networking event and although my intentions were good, I knew I wouldn’t go. I waited until 5pm, watching the minutes tick by.

“Nope,” I thought, “It will be awkward, uncomfortable, tedious… I have to avoid it at all costs.”

But what about my business idea? One of the first steps of starting a successful business is networking with other businesses. I knew I had to go. It was all about finding the motivation to do it.

“I’m going to a business networking event tonight,” I blurted out mid-conversation. That was it, the night was written. I couldn’t back out now. I knew for a fact that I would feel awful later if I decided to bail.

I reluctantly left the house and made my way to the business centre (getting lost, in perfect character). I’m awkward at the best of times but I know for a fact that I work things up in my head and they are usually never as bad as I make out.

After being guided up to the conference room by a lovely lady named Tanya, pacing the corridor a few times and hiding in the toilet for five minutes, I entered the room. I was immediately welcomed and all my worries literally melted away.

I knew it! Things are never as bad as I make out!

That evening, the guest speaker, Adrian, gave a talk on Finding Motivation. I laughed to myself as soon as he presented the title on the whiteboard.

Truth is, motivation is an effect. It needs to be kept in motion once it’s in place. It’s a case of one step at a time, and maintaining motivation is something that needs to be practiced.

Adrian explained that motivation is the result of our physiology, our self-talk and our focus/beliefs. We may find that we lack motivation because some of these areas are in desperate need of improvement.

Now, take a moment to think about how you sit when you are feeling unmotivated. Slouched, arms folded, slow breathing? Yep, that’s pretty much how I sit all the time too.

Now think about how you would sit if you were full of life and ready to rock. The positions differ, don’t they?

The upside is, we can differ between a motivated and an unmotivated posture. That’s a great start in itself. However, it’s important to realise that spending too much time in one position affects how we talk to ourselves. I know for a fact that when I’m feeling unmotivated or uninspired, I begin to think those classic negative thoughts.

“Why am I doing this?” “What’s the point in doing this?” “I really, truly, absolutely suck at this.”

Luckily, physiology is something that we can adjust to our advantage. Simply changing our posture in some way; for instance, going for a walk, standing up to take a telephone call or dancing around the room to your favourite song; can instantly change our mood and how we look at the task in front of us. This then snowballs in changing our self-talk, which then goes on in reinforcing our initial focus of the task at hand.

Therefore, it is crucial that we take things one step at a time. If you’re working on something and you feel yourself beginning to flag, take a walk. I am not the kind of person who goes for leisurely walks, but I know now I will definitely try it.

After explaining my situation at the presentation (“Poor, hopeless student looking to go at it alone!”), I was amazed to find that loads of people were approaching me wanting to talk to me, whether it was to find out more about my story as a young entrepreneur or congratulate me for just showing up. I had never felt so motivated!

I know now that when I’m feeling a little bit uninspired, I will remember the ordeal of having to drag myself out of the house in order put myself in an unfamiliar situation. But I will also remember how rewarding it was and that little lift I felt when I said goodbye, jumped in my car and pulled out my new collection of business cards!

Dear Kathleen

When I was at one of my lowest points, I decided to write a letter to my great-grandmother who passed away a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly what was going through my mind at the time, and what gave me the compulsion to write such a letter. All I know is that it accurately describes what depression feels like for me, as well as all the other things that fill my mind on a daily basis, however incoherent.

I wrote this letter in October 2013, and reading it back haunts me.


Dear Kathleen,

I’m writing to you because for once I didn’t just want to talk to myself. That’s probably my fatal flaw: I spend too much time in my own head. Sometimes I’m so engrossed in that inflamed area at the back of my head that I can’t even talk. I forgot how to.

I’m trying to identify what exactly has caused all this, therefore the rest of this letter may seem incoherent. 99% of the time, I don’t know why I feel the way I do, and when I try and pinpoint it, I feel a headache coming on and the images become blurry. The voice in my head disappears too, like it knows I’m trying to figure it out and therefore runs for cover. Right now, I have this nagging ache between my eyes.

The only thing I can muster the energy to do is breathe and lay here staring. Sitting and just staring is one of the few things I can do for solitude without feeling meaningless or that I’m just distracting myself momentarily. For some reason, when I stop still, my head does too. At least right now anyway.

I’m merely trying to describe how I feel in myself without sounding like I’m crying for attention, which is what all too many people do these days. I don’t know if things were the same when you were young; they probably were but maybe it was less accepted: I haven’t accepted it. I’m still not sure if I accept that I even have something wrong with me in the first place, just because I think negatively about everything. Doesn’t that just mean I’m inquisitive for wanting to discover things? Who wouldn’t want to learn as much as possible about the concepts of the world we live in?

However, at the same time, discovery is what drives me into this state of nothingness. Art and music and literature have always been of interest to me, but they are to a lot of people and it seems that most of these people are out to use it as a social tool: pretentious, pseudo-bohemians. People who talk/read about high art. I fucking hate that stigma that goes along with the arts, and I can’t get rid of it. Who are they trying to kid?

But at the same time, sitting in a field with an interesting book sounds idyllic to me. I’m such a hypocrite! If I pick apart that situation, a book represents an opportunity for me to firstly tick that book off of my roster (however, I would always be honest about whether I liked it or not) and secondly, for me to look even slightly intelligent/cultured to anyone who might see me. I don’t know why I do it, but I do! It’s ridiculous! Is this really what life is about – image? Has it always been about image and I didn’t even realise it?

I even know that most of the time, people are too wrapped up in themselves to care about anything else. When I was little and used to have these fantasies about living in my own little world with my friends; did I care then about what I was perceived as? I don’t even know now. But if so, when was there a time that things were true?

Overall, I think that is the thing I crave the most: truth. Truth in something. Maybe my compulsion to come home is because the only fact in my life is that I have a Mum, a Dad, a brother and some half-siblings. That’s the only thing I’m sure about.

I know I can’t go on living in the past, but doing that is one of the few things that allows me peace of mind. I don’t know if I should go on as normal, pretending that I feel OK or if I should seriously worry about myself. I guess I’ll soon find out.

I miss you,

Abbi

The Little Things

As I was battling with my mind as to whether I should get out of bed this morning, I checked my emails. I wasn’t quite ready to leave the comfort of my duvet (who is in the morning?!).

The mishmash of enterprise opportunities, business networking meetings and one-on-one guidance with my new business idea gave me that little lift I needed to motivate myself to leave the safety of my four walls and begin my day. I had actually managed to wash, clothe and do myself up before midday. The little things!

In my excitement, I had another look through my mail and found that I had received an email from a friend. All it said was the following words:

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won and all the fears you have overcome.” – Unknown

Now, I’ve not been dealt the best hand mentally and over the years I have managed to cope with this fact, thanks to therapy and generally becoming older and wiser (!). I also do not blame anyone for this, and I am learning to take life one day at a time.

Reflecting back over the past eight years, I have been on an incredible, meandering journey. I have learnt an extensive amount about the power of the mind more so than the average person and it continues to baffle and intrigue me. If you ever get the opportunity to have therapy, I’d thoroughly recommend it. It opens up a lot of doors and may just give you the insight you need to live a better, more fulfilling life. I know at least a handful of people who would benefit from it.

Truth is, I have overcome a lot of personal battles. There have been times when I’ve had to deal with my mood being totally up and down (like it is at the moment) and times when I’ve hit the wall and wanted, desperately, to give up. However, I might not be having the best time in life right now, but I’m still here and I’m still breathing. That’s what counts.

I thank my friend for sending me the above quote as it has had an amazing impact on my day. I’ve been productive, spent time with my brother and even bagged myself some new threads whilst charity shopping. Honestly, it is the little things that really make a difference.

The Next Step

So, today I’ve been doing a lot of future pacing. This is what people in the know call Mental Imagery, a form of NLP therapy which helps you to visualise where you’ll be in six months, a year, two years and so on. It’s a really positive step in creating a path for yourself.

For me, the next step is deciding what I am going to do right now. I am currently at university but not enjoying the work and if anything, it is curbing my creativity. I haven’t drawn or made anything that I’ve actually wanted to make in too long. It’s now a battle between my future career prospects and a shrill ring ring ring of the alarm bell.

However, this is my last chance at a degree. I’ve been to university too many times and had to drop out due to my illness on too many occasions for Student Finance to justify funding my studies for any longer. It’s a truly tough decision.

Do I stick it out for the next year and half, doing something that makes me unhappy or do I stop, drop and start planning my business venture? The latter is looking so attractive right now, and all I want to do is get started with all the exciting plans I have for myself.

My degree isn’t going to decide whether I’m an artistic person, I already know that I am. It’s just a case of wondering whether an art degree is really going to get me anywhere or should I just head out into the big wide world?

Future pacing allows you to daydream. It might be frowned upon at school or at work, but daydreaming is a really useful tool that many of the world’s greatest thinkers have used to great something worthwhile. Fast forward one, five, ten years from now. How would life be in a perfect world? What are you doing? Who are you with? Where do you live? How do you feel?

Truth is, I’m not sure about any of these things at the moment. The next step is to write lists, make plans and really evaluate what’s available to me.