26 March 2014

"I'm just a f***ed up girl who's looking for her own peace of mind"


Hi, my name's Sofie, and I suffer with anxiety.

This post, essentially, has been 12 years in the making, because I've lived for 12 years with mental health difficulties. And quite frankly, it's been shit.

Writing (and sharing) this post has been and is very terrifying, as a lot of people aren't aware that this aspect of me exists... Which is understandable, as I don't like to shout about it. "But why write about it?" you may be thinking. Well, rest assured it's not for attention or sympathy (neither of which I need). It's because I'm aware there's still a stigma surrounding mental health, and it's a stigma I despise. I also want to make people aware that anyone could be suffering with mental health difficulties, and there's not a "type" of person that can suffer with them. 

People are aware that sometimes I'm smiley and happy and upbeat, but they are aware that equally I have days where I am very, very down. I'm useless at hiding my emotions - I'm a heart-on-my-sleeve kinda girl - but I'm sure they'd never assume it was anything serious. For me, this post is more about working through my feelings, and I hope that no one judges me too much. Maybe even people will relate, which would be fantastic.

A lot of the time, I like myself. I do. Despite the fact I may not conform to society's expectations of "beauty", I know I'm not ugly. I'm also thoughtful, caring, empathetic and sometimes funny.

But sometimes... Sometimes I hate myself. I hate my mind. I hate it so much I want to scream and cry in frustration and not be myself anymore. I just want to remove my brain and pretend I don't exist. Because sometimes it's really, really difficult to stop feeling like my mind is suffocating me; feeling like it's against me and not letting me be "normal".

I want to be my best self, without my worst self. I want freedom from the bad parts. But I can't get it.

Recently, things have been bad. For the last few years I've been able to coast by without many problems, mental health wise. But life has caught up with me and been like, "Hey, remember this bit of your mind? The bit you've been ignoring? Well, it's back with a vengeance, and it's here to stay unless you sort it out."

So that's what I need to do. Instead of running away and consequently compromising my happiness, I need to confront my anxiety, learn how to deal with it and, ultimately, live with it. The simple fact is: no matter how much I may scare myself, frustrate myself, hate myself... I'm stuck with myself. There's no escape. Unless I choose to shut myself away and let my mind defeat me, which I refuse to do.

This is because, external to my current issues, my life isn't as bad as it could be. There is simply no point letting my issues define me, because I am so much more than being anxious.

I am a girl on a mission to not merely be okay, but to be happy. And somewhere along the way, I've lost a bit of perspective. It took a hiccup (or relapse) to realise how much easier things are when you're not feeling so rubbish. As clich├ęd as it sounds, you really don't know what you have until you realise what you could lose, if only you decided to just give up.

Okay, so let's take a step back. Fair enough, by London standards I am not paid too well. But you know what? I'm paid enough to rent somewhere half decent and live in one of the best cities in the world (although I may be slightly biased). I have a load of cultural, brilliant experience literally on my doorstep... Or at least a tube ride away. The only thing stopping me exploring is myself, and that's frankly an awful excuse. I have a fantastic support network of family and friends who I know (despite low moments where I think they don't care... even though they do) are there for me through thick and thin. I've also somehow managed to meet a nice guy. Who would have thought it?

This week I had the fantastic opportunity to go to the Teenage Cancer Trust comedy night at the Royal Albert Hall as a guest sponsor. It was easily one of my top London experiences so far. I laughed so much I could hardly breathe and actually felt in pain. My mouth was dry, and my stomach was permanently tensed... I can't remember the last time I laughed so much. It felt brilliant. It felt brilliant to be so removed from my reality and escape into the comedy world and reminded that even though life can be exhausting and painful, it can also be outstanding and hilarious. And then at the weekend I spent time with loved ones, and saw War Horse, and just generally had a lovely, lovely time.

So not only am I so much more than my anxiety... Life is so much more than my anxiety. Sometimes it's oh so easy to become tangled in your own issues that you manage to forget that life is happening. I don't want life to happen and pass me by because I'm too scared to face my demons. Facing them will be simply awful at times, I know, but I have to do it for myself. I hope that if anyone reading this can relate, that they are inspired to do the same and help themselves and not let their mind defeat them. Because as I said to a close friend at the weekend "Everyone has their own shit going on, don't they?", to which she replied "Yup". And that's life, and that's okay.



1 March 2014

"I'm happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time"

Oh, I do love a bit of Taylor Swift. I really do. Her ability to capture an age in such an accurate, catchy song... And the fact she's dated Harry Styles #dontjudgeme

In her song "22" the general message she puts forward is that it's okay to not have everything in life figured out by your early twenties. Which is great, y'know? I mean, if Taylor Swift hasn't got it figured out, of course it's okay for us mere mortals to be in the same boat.


But the one thing I can't shake as I sing along, is that I can't really compare myself to Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift is a talented (say what you like, but she's a multi-platinum artist. Call it success, call it talent, whatever), beautiful woman with legs up to *here*; girls want to be her, and guys secretly want to date her. Bless Tay-Tay - I know she tries, but she can never be down with the average 22 year old. Because she was never a typical 22 year old.


My first weeks as 22 have not been plain sailing. The day of my birthday I found out my brother had broken his arm skiing, my Mum had to leave work because she was ill, and my cat had found himself in the cone of shame again (don't ask). I was pretty shattered from Fashion Week (I'm not complaining - it was absolutely fantastic, just exhausting) and I woke up on my birthday feeling quite... Lonely.

My previous birthdays had been spent in the company of family pre-university, and in the company of friends during university. This was the first year I'd been without either, and as I opened my birthday presents and cards (with "22" on repeat, natch) I realised birthdays are nothing without the people you care about around you. N'aww. 

22 also brings an element of panic, as do most things in the life of a worrier like myself. A year older tends to mean another year wiser, but this year I find myself feeling more lost than ever.

I blame this on societal expectations of age. These expectations tend to extend to love, work, family and friends. Then, to top it off, the over-arching question: Are you happy? The expectations are that in life, you should gradually get closer to the ideals of being *in love*, satisfied at work, and retain close ties to family and friends.

With this in mind, here's how I currently stand on the above elements:

Love: If I want to pull, I can go to a club. The online dating world is slowly becoming more depressing and boring to me. Aren't cats great?

Work: I am doing a terrible job of balancing everything, which probably explains why I was a terrible waitress and barely managed two plates at a time, let alone 4. Job applications are going out, with rejections coming in thick and fast. Enthusiasm is being worn down as quickly as my prospects.

Family: Lovely, but unable to understand why I am single, worried that I will indeed become a mixture of crazy cat lady and Miss Havisham (although to stand a chance of being a latter there would have to have been a male involved in the first place). Also confused as to why I cannot secure a permanent job. I share their concerns.


Friends: Scattered around the capital, the country and as we speak, the world. Not ideal, but always on hand if I'm in need of comfort in the form of food or a few glasses (read: bottle) of wine.

Am I happy? Is a question that I really don't understand, as I'm starting to realise that people see happiness as a tick list (i.e. Expectations of what it means to be happy) when actually I find happiness in moments and gestures more than anything, anyway. So with that in mind, I can't really answer that one.

Amongst all this, I've realised that having to deal with the ups and downs of being 22 will be an absolute nightmare if I have to do it alone. But luckily I have some absolute star friends who will simply not allow me to a sad loner, wondering why I don't have more matches on "Tinder" and wallowing in the fact London's first cat cafe is fully-booked until the end of March (!!!).


So although Taylor Swift's life is a world away from mine, lines like "Everything will be alright if you keep me next to you" and "Tonight feels like one of those nights we ditch the whole scene" is a good reminder that even though we don't have it figured it out yet, we're not alone, and there's always dancing the night away to keep us sane.

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