Books, books, books.

Today I bought 6 books.

This is a common occurrence for me. I love going and looking through second hand shops, especially the second hand book store we have in town. I love finding books I read when I was young, sequels to books I have or books that I think I might love for only a dollar or two. I love finding books with beautiful covers that, honestly, I might never read, but make me happy just looking at them. The place I’m happiest is surrounded by books. If you want to see me at my most relaxed and most open, take me somewhere with lots of books.

Which is why I wonder why dates to book shops aren’t a common thing.

I’ve always been an avid reader, for as long as I can remember it’s been a favourite hobby of mine. At the start of every school holiday my mother would take us to the town library. I’d pick a stack of books, usually five or six chapter books, and take them to the counter. The first few times the librarian would say “Wow, I bet those will keep you busy for the next two week!” but then a few days later I’d be back for more.

I loved, still love, being able to absorb myself in different worlds, to discover characters and places and lives, to be so deep into a book that you forget there’s anything outside of it. Reading is an escape. I have so many favourite books and authors that I almost dread being asked what they are. Whenever I tell someone I love to read they ask. “Oh, really? What’s your favourite book?” “How long do you have?” I have one bookshelf in my room. It doesn’t even hold half of the books I own, so I only put my favourites on there. The book has to be pretty special to earn a place on The Shelf. Once a book is on there, though, it’s usually there to stay. When I fall in love with a book, I fall hard. The Harry Potter series, for example, will always have a place on The Shelf, as will The Iron Fey, The Demonata and Anne of Green Gables. These are some of the books I’ll never grow out of.

I wish everyone loved books as much as I do, although then there would be even more competition for second hand books. Our town library throws books in the bin if they’ve been damaged or if they’ve been in the library for a few years. I personally think that is a crime akin to murder. I find it heartbreaking that they throw away perfectly good books to make room for newer books. I mean, look at the classics, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Anne Rice. Those books are old, but still amazing. I think they need to build more shelves. One of my dreams is to have enough bookshelves to hold all my books. And then more books.

I’ve always had a reputation of being an avid reader. Even in kindergarten, while the other kids had their reading groups I was in the “independent” reading group, which meant I could sit and read whatever and didn’t need to prove I could. When I got to high school the librarians knew me by name before most of my teachers because I was in there getting books every other day. I actually still have a school library book that I accidentally stole, but that’s another story…

The only thing I don’t like about books is the endings. When I finish a series for the first time I always feel a little sense of lost. I’ll never get to discover the story for the first time again. It’s always a little bittersweet. But knowing that I can go back and relive the story over and over again brings me comfort. Despite there being SO many books out there, every year I like to take the time out to revisit my favourites. And now, I’m going to go and dive into a new book, I hope it has a happy ending.

 

Image credit: Kameron Hurley

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The Battle for Bed Sheets

As anyone who has ever shared a bed knows, there is nearly always a battle for more bed sheets. I’ve shared beds with my sisters, my friends, and partners, sometimes single beds, sometimes double beds. Space hasn’t been that much of an issue, but the sharing of bed sheets is.

The other day I was having a Down Day, which is what I call it when depression starts to win in the battle with me. As I was thinking about life, death and mental illnesses, I realised how similar The Battle for Bed Sheets is to the battle against depression.

When I sleep I pull the blankets around me as I roll from my back onto my stomach, effectively cocooning myself. Also not leaving a lot of spare blankets. This is fine when I’m sleeping alone, but as soon as you put someone else into the mix, I become a “blanket hog”. It got to a point with my ex-partner that we would have separate quilts because both of us were blanket hogs (although he was worse, just saying).

If you imagine the scenario with the blankets representing Happiness and the person I’m sharing a bed with being Depression, then it looks very similar. I try to roll over and surround myself with Happiness, while Depression wants to take it all for itself. Unfortunately, in this scenario I can’t get separate Happinesses for us to have, we have to share.

I’ve spoken about depression before, comparing it to a little creature. I like to picture depression as something physical, because it makes it seem easier to fight that way. Picturing it as a problem, like bed sheet sharing, helps me put it into a different perspective. A friend of mine once said that he always says “I have depression, depression doesn’t have me”, because it makes him feel like he has control. This is just a different way of coping with it.

I’ve recently been having a lot of Down Days. This happens sometimes, I start to lose the battle, I lose grip of the bed sheets and lie alone in the cold feeling resentful. It’s often very tempting to give up completely, to relinquish the bed sheets and accept that I’ll have to sleep in the cold. It seems easier than having to pull the sheets back and fight to keep them. But then you lie there, cold, miserable and isolated and you remember why you’re fighting.

You’re fighting because bed sheets are warm and comforting. You’re fighting for all the people willing to share their Bed Sheets with you (in this case I mean happiness. Although, possibly also literal bed sheets). You fight because when you win and get those sheet back then you’ll feel satisfied and accomplished. And every time you win a fight you get to add that to your Achievement Pile, and the bigger that pile gets, the harder you can fight because you have a whole pile of wins that remind you that you can do it.

Mental illness is a difficult battle, something that people often don’t know that you’re fighting. I know a lot of people who think that when they ‘lose’ to depression, whether that means they failed a class, they lapsed back into old habits, they self-harmed or whatever it is, that means that they’ve failed. Set backs like that can seem like a failure, like you’ve given in, but they’re just set backs. It’s not the end, the battle goes on and you can keep on fighting.

If you’re having a tough time, there are lots of resources available to you. I’ll list some below:

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://www.sane.org/

https://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/

www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au

Remember, if you or someone else is in danger of hurting themselves you can call the emergency line (000 – Australia, 911 – USA, 999 – UK, etc). You can also take them, or yourself, to the emergency department at the hospital.

 

Image credit: http://www.prevention.com

“Don’t poke holes in your body!”

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to get my ears pierced. When I was about 7 it became all I wanted, it seemed like the most important thing in the world to me. But my mum always said the same thing “When you’re 21 you can get them done”. She finally caved just before I turned 13 and said, provided it was done while she was out of the country and that I never got her to touch them or help clean them, I could get them done. Now, nearly ten years down the road, I have just gotten my tenth piercing.

When I first wanted to get my ears pierced it was about fitting in. Every other girl in my class and a couple of the boys had theirs done and I wanted mine done too. But as I got older piercings became about so much more. When I was sixteen I got my lobes done for a second time. I was obsessed with getting a forward helix piercing (I’ve included a chart with all the different piercings below), however this piercing involved either parental consent or being 18. My mother’s mantra was “Don’t poke holes in your body!” so parental consent wasn’t happening. It wouldn’t have been more than a couple of days after my 18th (just long enough for the hangover to wear off) before my best friend and I were in the salon, getting it pierced. I was in love! The very next week I went and got my belly button done.

When asked why I got my belly button done, since I never wore anything that showed it off, I simply replied “I got it done for me”. That’s it. All of my piercings are because I want them. Because I think they look cool or cute or pretty. I find it empowering in some way, it makes me feel more confident. I have eight piercings on my head, seven on my ears and one on my nose.

I got my daith and tragus on opposite ears done at the same time. Unfortunately my tragus rejected (meaning it would heal, got swollen and infected) and I had to take it out. Around the same time I tried to change my daith and couldn’t get the new bar in. By the time I got to a piercer to help me with it, it had closed over. Even though I could get it repierced, I felt less confident. When I got them both redone a little while later, I left the piercing shop with a new spring in my step. I don’t know why it makes me feel more confident, but it does.

I don’t think I’m the kind of person who would get dozens of facial piercings. I like my piercings to look good and I’m conscious of them suiting me, but last year I said I’d never get even one facial piercing, so who knows?!

I know a lot of people who turn their noses up at people with piercings. “How will he ever get a job looking like that?!” “Doesn’t she look horrible!” “Why do people do that to themselves?” I hate this kind of thing. Firstly because it’s their body, leave them alone. Secondly, because having piercings isn’t the taboo it used to be. Maybe having excessive piercings is, but people are often shocked when I tell them I have ten. One comment I’ve gotten was “I never picked you for that kind of girl!”. What kind of girl? I still don’t know.

I think attitudes towards piercings and tattoos are definitely changing. I work in an office environment and no one has ever mentioned my piercings. I turn up with my hair neatly brushed, sensible shoes and a big smile, and do my job. My piercings don’t prevent that. I think the left over stereotypes from the good ol’ punk days, effect people’s, especially older people’s, perceptions of piercings, coloured hair and tattoos. I think most people who have any combination of the above would have experienced comments about it, whether positive of negative, but I think being able to look past a couple of bits of metal, some hair dye or a bit of ink is important. No, let me take that back. Being able to accept someone as they are, ink, dye and metal included, is important.

Let me tell you about Lisa. Lisa was the piercer I went to in the UK. When I first met her I was a bit shocked. She had the most facial piercings I’ve ever seen in real life. I never managed to count them all, but she had at least six in her lower lip. But she also had a great smile and was one of the best piercers I’ve ever had. She pierced me three times and was absolutely fantastic. If anyone in England is wanting a piercing, I highly recommend Nala Studio in Tamworth.

There isn’t really some deep message here, I’m not going to pretend that every piercing, tattoo or hair colour has some deep meaning. Most of the time it’s just because we like the look. But remembering that the people the the metal is stuck through are still people is important. Although now when I get a new piercing and someone looks disgusted and says “Why’d you get that?” I can roll my eyes and say “Because it’s awesome.” I remember when those comments made me feel extremely self-conscious. Especially as a teenager. I wanted to be happy and confident in myself and comments like that made it harder.

I want to end on a happy story, one of the proudest moments of my life. I had dyed half my hair bright blue and I went to meet Rainbow Rowell, one of my favourite authors of all time, someone I aspire to be like and admire very, very much. As she was signing my book she looked up at me and said “I like your blue hair.” and that, people, was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

Image result for ear piercing chart

Featured image credit: Instagram: @piercingsofinsta

Things I’m Grateful For

Tomorrow I turn 22. It’s not a particularly important age, but it’s one step closer to being in my mid-twenties, which is a terrifying prospect. Since tomorrow is my birthday I’ve been thinking back over what I’ve accomplished as a 21 year old. Not a whole lot, to tell you the truth, but I’ve had a lot of experiences and that’s something.

I have a habit of looking at the negative side of things, a habit I’ve been trying to break for a long time and am gradually improving on. I’ve decided that in order to celebrate my birthday I’m going to try to list 22 things that I’m grateful for. Here we go:

  1. My nieces and nephews. I’ve written before about how much I love being an aunt, but I really didn’t do it justice. Being an aunt is such an amazing thing to me. I feel like it’s one of the most important things that I can do. I get to be apart of these amazing kids’ lives, I get to be the parental back-up, remembering things like insect bite cream and bandaids when we go on picnics. It’s so rewarding and I love every minute of it.
  2. My friends. They’re crazy, they get caught up in their own lives, we go weeks without talking sometimes, but they’re always there. We could spend a year without talking and when we got together it would be exactly the same as always. They’re always there to listen to me complain and to share in my triumphs. They are beautiful, amazing and incredible.
  3. Fast internet. Seriously, as a university student, fast, reliable internet is a God send. Before we got this internet our old router would shit itself at the worst moments, for example, right before a deadline. This causes panic, tears and a lot of swearing.
  4. Medical care. I wanted to say health, but I haven’t been properly healthy in a long time, so I’m grateful for medical care. I’ve never had to wait more than two days to see a doctor and I have access to medication when I need it. And even though I hate getting them, vaccinations are, literally, life savers.
  5. Books. I love reading. I love immersing myself in different worlds. People are so amazingly creative with the stories they come up with, I find it so inspiring.
  6. Comedy. I’m a huge fan of comedy, especially British comedians. If I’m having a bad day I’ll put Russell Howard or Jimmy Carr or someone like that on and within minutes I’m laughing. Last night I put Billy Connolly on and laughed so hard I cried. Comedy is a true blessing.
  7. Clean water. There are so many ways that I’m privileged, but having clean water is a huge one. I can go to one of many taps in my house and have fresh hot, cold or lukewarm water immediately. It’s something that we take for granted, but we should take the time to appreciate it a bit more.
  8. Animals. I don’t have pets at the moment, but when I did they brought me a lot of joy. Now I just have videos on the internet, but even those bring me endless joy. I love watching cats doing stupid things or dogs barking in ways that sound like human speech. Animals are fantastic things.
  9. Music. I listen to music extremely frequently. Sometimes it’s just background noise while I’m working on something, other times I’m making up dance routines to it in my head or pretending I’m on stage singing it. It’s so versatile. There’s music for every mood, every occasion. Right now I’m listening to Swagger Jagger by Cher Lloyd. I don’t know the mood/occasion for it, but I’m enjoying it.
  10. Youtube. This ties in with music and animals, but it’s also very helpful. I submitted an assignment through it once. I also use it to play rain or ocean sounds if I’m having trouble sleeping.
  11. Glasses. I am so happy that I have my glasses. I have about 15 – 20 cm of vision without them on, and that’s terrifying.
  12. Zoos and aquariums. I love animals, but I’m also a bit of a scaredy-cat. I’m so glad that we have places where we can go and see lions and sharks without the risk of being eaten by them.
  13. Pooh Bear. Not Winnie-the-Pooh in general, just my Pooh Bear. It’s a teddy that I won in a McDonalds competition when I was six and he’s been my cuddle buddy ever since. He goes everywhere I go. Although recently I’ve started leaving him at home when I go on overnight stays, if I’m away for more than two nights, he comes along. I’m grateful that he’s never been lost or left behind or thrown away.
  14. Aloe vera. I’m a ginger, I have fair skin and I burn easily. Today I was waiting outside for my mum to pick me up for about 15 minutes and I got burnt. Not lightly pink, burnt. I spent half an hour outside reading a couple of weeks ago, not even in direct sunlight, and I got so badly burnt that I blistered. Aloe vera is soothing, doesn’t smell too bad and makes the redness fade more quickly.
  15. Sunscreen. Following on from Aloe vera, maybe this should have been the other way around, but I’m grateful for sunscreen. 50+SPF is an absolute miracle. Finally, I can walk to the letter box without looking like a lobster for days after! I say finally, sun screen has been around for a very long time, but when I was a teenager I thought it was for losers. I was wrong. Maybe this should be gratitude for growing up?
  16. University. I’m not a huge fan of university, I’ll be honest. I don’t really enjoy my course, my classes are okay, but I’m sort of only doing it because I haven’t figured out what I actually want to do. But I am grateful for the social side of things. There are lots of clubs and groups I can join and meet people with things in common with me. Already this year I’ve made a few new friends, which as an adult isn’t easy.
  17. Head rubs. They don’t happen often. In fact, in the last year I’ve had one, but that just makes me more grateful when they do happen. Having my head rubbed is what I imagine heaven to be like. As soon as someone touches my head, my whole back relaxes and I start to drool a little. If I could employ someone for the sole purpose of rubbing my head, I would.
  18. Adult colouring books. That name makes it sound like it’s lewd pictures in black and white, but what I mean is the new craze of colouring books for adults. I got two for Christmas, plus another from a friend, and I love them. They’re so relaxing. I can do them while listening to a pod cast or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  19. Colours. I love colours, I love rainbows, I love them all.
  20. Air travel. I love England. I love everything about it. I want to go back there. It’s about a 36 journey there, depending on stop overs and all that, which seems like a long time, but if you think about how long it would take by boat-! I’m grateful for air travel.
  21. Nice smells. I love pretty smells. I love the soft wiffs of smell you get after you’ve washed your hair. I love the smell of fresh laundry. I love the smell after rain. I love the smell of freshly mowed grass. I love the smell of my heat protect spray. There are so many smells I love and I’m grateful that not everything smells like vomit and dog poo.
  22. I’m grateful that this is the last item on the list. It was quite hard to think of things and that made me feel bad. Not because I’m not grateful, but because I’m grateful for a lot of thing, but they’re small things. Like pillows or yarn or lip balm. Small, inconsequential things that my life would be a tiny bit worse without.

So, that’s the end of the list and this is the end of my time as a 21 year old. Tomorrow I’ll be 22 and maybe I’ll wake up feeling older and wiser, but probably not. Who knows, maybe 22 is my year.

 

Image credit: Google, I’m not sure of the original source as it was on pinterest.

Depression: My Reality

There are probably thousands of blog posts about depression. It’s quite a common thing to suffer from, but everyone describes it slightly differently. I’ve spoken to a few different people who also have/have had depression and they all experienced a little differently from me. Sometimes I’ll read a post and identify with it almost completely and other times I’ll understand what they mean, but it’s not exactly what I’m going through.

I’ve had depression since I was about ten years old. At thirteen I started self-harming. At fourteen I told my mother about this, she told me not to be such a drama queen and to grow up. At fifteen I got called to the school counselor’s office because my grades had dropped and some of my teachers were worried about me, my mother told me never to speak to them again because CPS would take me away and that would kill her. At seventeen I finally manage to convince my mother that this was serious for me to need professional help. At seventeen I tried to kill myself. At nineteen I left the country and discovered a lot about myself. At twenty-one, after a year and a half away and nearly two years of not self harming, I returned home. At twenty-one I started cutting again. At twenty-one I want to kill myself again. At twenty-one no one in my family wants to acknowledge this. At twenty-one I am alone.

My depression centers around my family and my upbringing. I have something called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) from growing up in an abusive, highly stressful environment. My stress levels are at a constant high, which means when something stressful happens, instead of going into High Stress Mode, like a normal person would, I peak into Panic Mode. I’m on anti-depressants which help a little and I have been seeing a psychologist, which has helped a lot.

I’ve had depression for nearly 12 years now, more than half my life. But I’m not used to it. I don’t think it’s possible to get used to it. It’s like living with a little, sad creature all the time. Every time you’re feeling good the creature pokes its nose onto your shoulder and weighs you down. When you’re already feeling down it crawls onto your lap and holds you there. Whenever someone says something the little creature scrambles their words, putting a negative spin on it. “They’re just saying that because they feel sorry for you.” “They don’t really mean it.” And sometimes when you’re just coasting along it tells you other things. “I bet if you killed yourself no one would care. How long do you think it would take anyone to even notice if you were dead? No one would cry at your funeral. No one would even go.” And then something bad happens. “See? You’re worthless. This was all your fault. You did this. Why do you even bother? You’re such a failure.” When I was thirteen I discovered that by cutting myself the little creature wouldn’t talk for a while. The more I cut, the less it talked. “If you want me to go away, you know what to do.” And after I realised that, I realised there was one way to make it go away forever. “Swallow the pills. Step in front of the train. Cut a little deeper. We’ll both be better off for it.”

This little creature is something that I deal with every day, but it’s also something that I can’t get a handle of. It seems like every time I do it evolves and changes. Becomes something new and trickier.

Depression is difficult.

Depression is painful.

Depression is exhausting.

It’s even harder alone. Depression is hard to talk about. People don’t want to hear that I want to kill myself. They don’t want to see the cuts on my arms. It’s confronting and awkward. But that makes it a taboo. If we don’t want to talk about it, it just becomes harder and harder to get help. We need to be able to be open about it, to accept that mental illness is a real thing that real people suffer from and that by opening up about it, it will make the fight easier. For everyone.

What do you want to be…

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” seems to be the default question we ask children. I can remember being asked that in primary schools by extended family, friends of my parents and older siblings and that occasional strange woman who would tell me how much I’d grown and insist I’d met her as a child.

My answer to this question changed as I grew up from writer to vet to singer. And then I noticed that the question started to change too. Suddenly it was “What university courses are you applying to?”. It went from “What do you want to be?” to “How are you going to get there?”. But I wasn’t ready to answer the first question yet! I didn’t know what I wanted to be, let alone how the hell I was going to get there! Out of nowhere the form was placed in front of me and I was supposed to sign up to a career path.

And then the question changed again. “What are you going to do once you finish university?”. Apparently there is a wrong answer to this question. The answer is not “Oh, I don’t know, I’ll see what happens.” No. This answer will result in prompting from the asker as to a more pleasing answer: “Well, are you going to work? Are you going to move? Have you thought about working overseas?”

Before I had even gotten close to finishing university, suddenly the question had changed yet again. “So, are you thinking about kids?”

To answer honestly, I have thought about having kids. I’ve also thought about how cool it would be if I could turn into an animal. The thing is that I’m nearly twenty-two. And although I can legally vote, drink, own property and get married I’m not really all that grown up, I’m still figuring things out. I’m not at the life stage where I could answer “Yes!” to “Are you thinking about kids?”. I’m not at the life stage where I can tell you what I plan to do after university. I’m not even at a life stage where I can tell you what I want to be when I grow up, because I simply don’t know.

Sometimes it scares me, not having the answers to these questions. I’m in my second year of university, so I should be able to at least tell you what I want to be, right? I feel like I should have everything together. But then I look around me and I realize that no, I shouldn’t have everything together because no one does. My best friend has just finished her under graduate degree, is starting honors, has a car, a house, a good relationship and a pet rabbit. And even she doesn’t have everything together. How do I know? She tells me. All the time.

When I tell old family friends what I’m doing at university they always point out that I wanted to be a vet and express shock that that’s not what I’m doing, as though the seven year old me who told them that should have known. She didn’t, I don’t and 30 year old me in the future probably can’t tell you either. But that’s okay, because if I never grow up, I never have to answer.

Dear Auntie…

I’ve been an aunt since I was six years old. Nearly 16 years on and I have eight nieces and nephews. Being an aunt at six is entirely different from being an aunt at 21. For one thing, I’m now considered an adult and therefore responsible, although sometimes I think I’m just as childish as they are!

I once heard someone describe being an aunt as a “thankless job” and I can honestly say that is a massive pile of bulls*** and it’s sad that someone could feel that way.

I recently had two of my nieces over for a craft day. The first thing we did was paint our faces. I painted theirs and then let them paint mine. It was messy and I looked liked I’d tried to put my makeup on in the dark with a shovel, but we were having fun. Then we did some painting which became finger painting which became hand painting which became “How did you get paint THERE?!” There was paint absolutely everywhere and we had to spend ages trying to get it off before we could go inside again. When it was time for lunch they decided they didn’t like the “orange spaghetti and ants”, aka carrot and sultanas, that I’d made, so I had to quickly throw something together as we were out of bread while two hungry girls kept trying to “help”. At the end of the day we were covered in paint, glue, googly eyes and bits of pipe cleaners. We were tired, hot and sticky. And we were incredibly happy.

Each time I see my nieces and nephews I remember how lucky I am to have them. They might not say “thank you” or “I love you” but they don’t have to. When they come into the house and immediately start telling me about something that happened a school, knowing I’ll listen with interest, I know. When they bring me a book and are half way onto my lap before I realise what’s happening, I know. When they bring me a piece of paper that has a scribble on it, I know. When my 9 month old niece leaned towards me from her mum’s arms for a cuddle for the first time, I knew. I have a whole wall full of little notes and drawings that remind me.

Being an aunt is an easy job. We get to play with the kids, laugh with them, cuddle them and give them back when they start getting cranky. We get given squished flowers that have been carried all the way from the park just because “You like yellow”. We get to watch these amazing, brilliant, beautiful little creatures grow into hilarious, clever, fantastic young men and women and we get to love them with all our hearts the whole way. If that’s not enough of a “thank you” then I don’t know what is.