04 April 2020

#3--Surviving a Pandemic when you have some Seriously Bitchin’ Anxiety.

Look, I’ll be honest, this could be the shortest post ever, because honestly, I don’t have a fuckin’ clue. 
I, along with literally everyone else in the world, have been having a hard time with the fact that everything seems to have gone to hell in a very large, rickety basket, that may or may not, have been built by a blind, inept toddler, who only has control over one arm.
It’s all just a bit mad, isn’t it?

Sunshine before the Social Distancing 
 My partner and myself are both classed as Key Workers, so we still have to go to work. Obviously, we’re both incredibly lucky to still a) have a job, and b) be well enough to get to work, but it’s still very difficult to get out of bed every morning, knowing that you’re putting yourself and your family at risk. As I’ve mentioned EXTENSIVELY before, I have some pretty sweet anxiety (try to not be too jealous), and anxiety in the time of Covid-19--much like love in the time of cholera--is really not the one. Or maybe it is, I never finished the book. Every time I get on the train for work, I worry that this will be the time I’ll get it, or every time he goes to work, I worry he’ll catch it from a customer who doesn’t feel like telling him that they’re quarantining. I worry about my family, his family, my friends, their friends; I am a constant ball of worry and stress. I try my best to keep my panic to a minimum, or at least keep it internal, because I’m worried if I told people how much I actually worry about literally everything, they might actually think I am insane. I mean, I'm even worrying about my worry. Everyday in work we sit and chat about what’s happening, and I can feel the panic rising inside, but I have to pretend that I’m not completely freaking out, so I have become the champion of Changing The Subject. 

‘Cold today, isn’t it?’ ‘Aye, a drink would be lovely.’ ‘Isn’t starting a new job in a the middle of a pandemic a terrible idea?’ Any number of inane subject changes, all to avoid talking about our spiralling into what I imagine an apocalypse feels like. It’s like 28 Days Later out there, except everyone’s fighting over toilet roll and battering old people out of the grocery aisles, rather than worrying about zombies.

With that all said, here are my top tips for not Completely Freaking the Fuck Out, I hope they help you, and if you have any other ideas, let me know! I am always open to more ways of not just being a ball of panic all the time. 

Find a place that makes you feel relaxed
1)  Change the subject! I am very open about this; I will just stop talking about something if it makes me uncomfortable. My go-to technique is to slowly stop replying, and then completely change the subject. I am not subtle about it, but I also have no shame in it. Don’t talk about things that make you feel shitty, or stressed if you don’t need to. 

2)  Avoid the news and social media! Keep up with developments when you can, or when you need to, but don’t submerse yourself in every piece of news that comes out, because you will drive yourself mad with worry. The media exists to inform, but also to sensationalise because they want you to keep clicking on their links, keep buying their papers, keep talking about their stories. Please remember that the media works as a business; not everything they say is with your best interests at heart, it’s with theirs. The more dramatic the headline, the more they sell. Take everything with a pinch of salt, and try not to just read every terrible piece of news emerging. Read what you need to be informed, and then click away. I’d take the same approach with social media, even though I am more than guilty of wasting hours on it. Facebook is littered with news that has never met a fact checker, Twitter is full of angry people and conspiracy theories, and Instagram is bursting with people who want to convince you their lives are better than yours. Get your fix, and then move on. 

3)  Find something Positive! Find something that makes you happy, something that makes you smile and forget what’s happening for a little while. I mentioned in my last post, I have started writing two good things that happen everyday. It’s not always easy, but it does force me to realise that not everything is terrible. So try finding something everyday that brings you a bit of joy, something that helps you see that not everything is awful, because if we only focus on the shitshow around us, we’d never want to leave the house anyway. With that being said, don’t feel like you have to be positive all the time to keep morale up, just keep on top of your feelings; if it all feels like it’s getting too much, talk to someone. You’re not under any obligation to do anything, other than take care of yourself. 

4)  Don’t put Pressure on Yourself! I’ve seen so many people setting mad goals for them to achieve during their self-isolation. Look, if you want to learn a new language, write the new War and Peace, or cure cancer, more power to you, but equally, if all you want to do is survive, then go on with your bad self. I’ve seen so many parents convincing themselves that they must educate their kids to the same level that their teachers would, and I mean what I am about to say in the nicest sense possible. Teachers are people who have trained how to teach your kid shit, stop trying to come up with a better curriculum than the trained professionals. Just do your best, make sure they don’t become illiterate, and enjoy an extra glass of gin to celebrate surviving spending another 24 hours enclosed with hyper children who are desperately trying to escape. All you can do during times like these, is look after yourself and the ones closest to you. 

5)  Keep Yourself Distracted! Listen to music, read a book, watch TikTok for 16 hours, find a new show to watch, find 10 new shows to watch, enjoy spending time with your family. I know that last part might be difficult when you’re stuck in isolation, and your kid has asked you for the 300thtime if they can have another biscuit, or if they can they go to the park, and you’ve watched your 75thepisode of Hey Duggee, but honestly, I’d love to be home with my kid, even if he is annoying the shit out of me, because at least we’d be safe. Just try and find something that makes it easier to see something good in each day. Maybe you get to watch a really sweet episode of Hey Duggee, or maybe that glass of wine at the end of the day tastes extra good. I’m not suggesting you take up alcoholism, but if a glass of wine helps get you through the days, you do you hun. Spend time in your garden, or go for a walk somewhere quiet. You are allowed to get fresh air, just don’t be a dick and go with 30 of your closest pals.  Break your day up with different activities, and hopefully it’ll help the time pass quicker.
A ray of sunshine.
I know these all seem very vapid, and when I’m feeling particularly anxious, the existentialism hits me hard, and I wonder what the point even is in any of it, because in the middle of all this; of life seeming to have ground to a stop for most of the world, of people dying, of people losing their jobs, their financial stability, it’s hard to see a point, it’s hard to find the hope. That’s the thing though; if we allow ourselves to just wallow in that despair, we will never come out the other side. To find the other side, we need to find a reason to look for it, and the only thing that gives reason to something like this, is hope. So even if these tips for helping you to Calm the Fuck Down, seem wildly obvious, hopefully seeing them written down will help keep them in your mind when it all feels like it’s getting too much. 

Keep safe, 

25 March 2020

#2-positivity journey.

I wrote this all before the COVID-19 outbreak, and never got round to publishing it, yet it seems more apt than ever. It is such a tense, scary time to be alive. There is so much uncertainty and fear, and everything seems so very overwhelming. Every time I go to work, I worry that this will be the day I catch it, that I’ll bring it home, that I’ll infect someone I love, and it's bloody terrifying.
 On the flip side—those who are hoarding toilet roll and pasta aside—the way people have stepped up for society is truly awe-inspiring. The hospitals, the supermarkets, the public transport, the teachers, all these people who too often get overlooked, are helping keep some semblance of normality for us, and they cannot be praised enough. No matter how dark things may get, the gratitude we should feel for them should always shine bright. It’s so important in times like these that we always look for that light, because we’d be lost without it.

Recently I’ve been trying to lead a more ‘positive lifestyle’. Nothing particularly dramatic—I haven’t signed up to retreat to connect with nature, or commune with my inner spirit animal or anything like that (although, for the record, definitely something cool like a tiger, and not the more likely scenario of a sloth). I’m just trying to be kinder to myself, not letting the little voice in my head convince me that every bad thought I’d ever had is true—that everything is my fault, that those people are definitely laughing at me, that everyone thinks I’m a bad person, that I deserve to hurt, all that fun stuff. I’ll not lie; it’s tough to train yourself out of thinking the worst about yourself when you have been doing it for so long. 

I’ve been having a difficult time with my depression. I’m used to my sadness being a constant companion; like a friend who doesn’t realise the party is over and follows you around making ‘jokes’ that are meant to be funny, but are just kind of mean. That sad, angry little voice that disguises itself as your pal, that tells you all the things you think you need to hear because it’s true. That voice is, frankly, a little bitch. Professionally, I’ve had a tough time at work—not knowing where I was going to be, how I was going to get there, if I would like it there. Changes like that are tough for anyone, particularly tough for someone who has a small breakdown over ordering first at a restaurant. (I desperately want to pretend that last part is a joke, it’s not, it has absolutely happened.) I spent most of the past 3 months alternating between panic attacks, crying, lying and staring at the ceiling for hours, feeling sick all the time, and just being really angry. I just felt so incredibly defeated by something that I couldn’t comprehend. I’m good at my job. I’m good with customers, I’m good at helping, and I’m hardworking, so to be treated like that was heartbreaking, because I didn’t know what I’d done wrong. My anxiety flared up in the worst way— I couldn’t sit still, I was agitated constantly, and my brain would not.fucking.settle. The blind panic was the worst, because that led to the crying, then the fear, then the mind-numbing realisation that this was going to happen all over again tomorrow. There were points, when I would just look at Eli, desperate to play with me, and I would just think I was utterly useless I was to this child. This ray of sunshine and happiness, who just wanted me to do something, and I was just gripped by this terrifying wave of ineptitude. I could do nothing for this kid, because I could do nothing for myself. I would look into his face that held nothing but adoration, and all I could think was ‘you deserve a better mum’. 

After a while, the neverending onslaught of shitty thoughts and panic attacks just became the norm, I’d be walking through Tesco thinking about pointless things I wanted to buy, like the iridescent shell penholder currently sitting on my desk, and then the next thought would be ‘imagine how sweet it would be to just disappear’ and I’d find myself nodding along like those are two perfectly normal thoughts to put together, and then I’d get distracted by a mug I didn’t need. This constant train of incoherent thoughts that would ebb and flow, until one day, in a moment of clarity, I realised it probably wasn’t normal to daydream about just disappearing. I booked an appointment with the doctor, swore I wasn’t going to cry again, cried everywhere, and then was prescribed anti-anxiety medication. In my head, part of me thought I had failed in my control because I had done well without medication for so long, I always managed to reign myself back in when it got bad before. The funny thing is, I would slap anyone else silly who had that same thought about themselves. Imagine thinking you failed because you needed medication? It’s like saying that a cancer patient needing chemo failed because they couldn’t cure themselves with their minds. I never cured myself before, I just handled it, and sometimes handling it isn’t enough. Sometimes you need help. Along with the medication, I decided to take an approach a previous counsellor had suggested to me. I decided to try to not just focus on all the shitty things that happened, I would try and find just two good things that happened each day. Two things, so that when I was feeling low, it would force me to think about my day, to search for something that made me smile, if only for a moment, so I’d know that not everything is awful. It’s not revolutionary, but it works. Some days it’s really, really hard, some days it’s not, but the main thing is that I have managed to find something for each day, and that’s a big thing for me, and I’m proud of myself for trying.

I hope you’re all well, take care of yourselves and each other.
I’ll write to you soon,
27 January 2020

#1--back at it again.

Sometimes I worry that I’ve left it so long between actually writing something, that I’ve forgotten how to write. I constantly panic that my words have dried up and left me; that I don’t know how to just concentrate long enough to string a vaguely coherent sentence together. What could I possibly have left to say that would be worth reading, that I haven’t already said? I used to find writing really therapeutic, but then I allowed myself to get wrapped up in my own expectations. Every word I wrote had to be gold; it had to be a gold-covered nugget of pure, unadulterated wisdom that would exponentially improve someone’s life, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself. 

Every year I say I’m not doing the ‘new year, new me’ bollocks, because that shit just never works for me. I always have such good intentions, but I know come February, I’ll be right back where I was, just meandering through life. I’ve never been particularly good at planning my words out; most of my writing is a sporadic thought that strikes and then flows out. Whenever I’ve made a concentrated effort to plan something, the inspiration shrivels up and dies like every houseplant I’ve ever had. All of a sudden, every idea morphs into a 3 hour Instagram and Facebook scroll, and then by the time I decide it’s time to put my head down, my kid is either awake and kicking off, or it’s 3am and I’m falling asleep at my computer. Hell, I say I’ve never been good at planning my words; frankly, I’ve just never been good at planning my life. I’m very good at a daydream. If it were a career, I’d be top of my field, but living practically has never been a skill I’ve been particularly good at. I’m what I have politely deemed a ‘romanticist’, or what I have also less politely deemed ‘a liability with a poor grasp on reality’. I could probably blame too many movies, or too many books, but I’ve always been a drama queen with big dreams. The big issue is that those dreams are unfortunately wildly incompatible with my depression and anxiety. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am now, mildly content with who and what I am--which might not sound much--but is a very big deal to me. I still have days where I’d much rather lie in bed and hate myself in peace, where I’d ideally like to avoid every mirror and reflective surface because it’s painful to look at myself, but compared to where I was, I feel like a superhero. I’ve had depression since I was…11? I’m pushing 31 now (good grief). That’s a long time to feel like your dreams aren’t valid, realistic, or achievable. I mean, to be fair, some of dreams aren’t valid, realistic OR achievable—the chances of me marrying Jake Gyllenhaal seem pretty non-existent at this point, but some of my dreams were things that, in another life, would’ve seemed perfectly attainable. I always wanted to go to university, for me that just seemed the next logical step. I was decent at school, why not just keep going? I had this perfect idea of how it would be (which I blame entirely on my unhealthy obsession with American teen rom-coms) and I was sorely disappointed when that is not how my uni experience went. I would watch my friend’s power through their work, with a confidence that seemed utterly awe-inspiring to me. Now, with the gift of hindsight, I can see that wasn’t necessarily the case. For me though, it was painful. Every word, every sentence, every thought, had to be second and triple guessed, if it didn’t pass the triple guess, it was deleted. God knows how many times I would just delete huge passages of work, just because I hated everything that spilled from my brain. I once deleted 1,000 words after reading it for the 45thtime, 3 days before a deadline, closed my laptop, curled up on my bed and cried for 2 hours because it felt like I just didn’t get it. I wish I could read all the work I deleted now, just so I can tell baby Becca that she isn’t stupid, that what she has written is worthy of attention, is worthy of reading. On my worst days, I would spread my work out around me; all the books and notes I had taken, set my laptop up, and just sit and stare at the screen for hours. On those days I’d sit there for maybe 6-7 hours, and write about 15 words. I’d ‘finish up’ for the day and pretend like I’d had a productive day to anyone who asked, when inside I was, to put it bluntly, freaking the fuck out. I had days until my deadline and I felt like I could do nothing except watch the time pass by. I met some of the best people I’ll ever meet when I was in uni, but I was also the most miserable I think I’ve ever been.

I don’t think there’s really a point to this; I think this is just me trying to get back to something I love (writing, that is, not narcissistically talking about myself). I’m trying to get back into the habit of thinking of writing that is something I can do for fun, not something that has to change the world. If something I write helps someone in some way, then that’s amazing, but if not, as long as it helps me. I think I have to get in the habit of thinking selfishly about my writing, that it’s okay just to do it for me. If I don’t want to read my own writing, after all, why would anyone else?

I hope you’re all well; it has been a very long time. I will, hopefully, chat to you soon.

Motherhood, films, beauty, and life



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