In a very short time I will be going back to work, as will many others, but the landscape to which we are returning is vastly different to what we have been used to, and I feel like I will be returning as a vastly different person.
The Coronavirus crisis has decimated so much of what our society has taken for granted for so long and we are all having to change, though I can't help but notice that there are so many people out there who aren't willing to make any changes to their lives. Seeing the devastation of beaches and the amount of fights breaking out across the nation - despite the fact the country is supposed to still be on lockdown - is utterly abhorrent to me and it brings sharply into focus the total mismanagement of this whole situation by our monumentally moronic government.
I have always been a person with very low self-esteem, a lack of confidence and a very thin skin, which in my profession probably isn't the best, but it also makes me a very empathetic person who understands others and how to provide a good level of service. Before lockdown, I had found my skin getting a little thicker, but now, at the precipice of jumping back into "regular" life, my confidence has waned to a point where it's so far in the negative, I don't know how I'll balance the scales towards the positive. I have found my anxiety levels sky rocketing each day, constantly worrying about the state of the world and feeling utterly devastated by the amount of people who have been affected by this pandemic. This anxiety has affected so many parts of me, including the resurgence of what I had hoped was long-forgotten adult acne, horrific IBS flare ups and, along with my plummeting self-esteem (which massively impacts how I dress and how I feel about my 'style'), a questioning of who I really am.
On the plus side, in having so much time at home, I have found something of an inner spirituality I didn't really know I had. I've been practicing yoga every day and taking long walks and finding myself connecting more with the earth. I've even managed to grow some flowers on our balcony - something I never seemed to have the knack for. But perhaps this is the earth telling us that we need to take better care of her? As utterly hideous this crisis has been, by us not travelling and not polluting in the same way, the earth has started to heal itself, I just hope that she is given more of a chance to continue to do so, but I'm afraid with everyone itching to get back to "normality", so many of us will forget the importance of taking care of our home planet.
This is a really terrifying time for me, not only as a business owner, not knowing how the world situation and our mitigation measures will impact our business, but as a human being with stress-related mental health problems. Feeling so unsure of who I was before this, I feel even more unsure as to who I am going into this "new normal" (jeez, I hate that phrase). I can only hope that as this annus horribilis trundles towards a close we all learn to have more respect for our planet and each other. If we've learned nothing else in the last 100+ days, surely we've learned that life is short and that we need to love so much more. Times definitely are a-changing.
"We cannot hate ourselves into versions of ourselves we can love".
What a quote that is. It truly resonates with me as I realise this is something I've been doing most of my life.
I cannot recall how or when my mental health issues began, only that I can't really remember a time that the black dog wasn't following me in the sinister creeping way that it does. I didn't suffer childhood trauma (although I was bullied at school); I have a very loving family, a wonderful and supportive partner and great friends. To all intents and purposes, I should be a very happy and contented individual. But that is not how depression works, it's isn't how mental health conditions work. Depression doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care if you're young, old, black, white, straight, gay, bi, trans or anything in between. It is a sucking void, a black cloud, a parasite.
Society is all too quick to use the terms 'depression', 'anxiety', 'OCD' and 'bipolar' in such flippant ways. I hear people saying "oh my god, I'm so stressed and anxious" or "ugh, I'm so depressed", or "I'm totally OCD about xyz" or even "she's, like, totally bipolar" when its clear that they might just be feeling a little overwhelmed or a bit down, like things a certain way, or, for want of a better word, a bit eccentric. I'm not saying these feelings aren't valid, but what I am saying is that using those terms is both disrespectful and irresponsible. Overuse of these terms begins to render them meaningless.
You might be thinking to yourself, "what does this girl know?" Well, I'll tell you, this girl does know. This girl knows the crushing weight of depression and the overwhelming feeling of constant worry that something horrendous is about to happen; that churning feeling in your stomach and the dropping of your heart to the floor every few seconds. But you'll see me walking down the street and have no idea that I used to be heavily medicated for my mental health, had 6 weeks off work due to a minor breakdown, and have contemplated suicide more often than would be considered 'normal' (and don't even get me started on the term 'normal'!).
I'm not writing this for your sympathy; I don't need you to say "oh poor girl with her clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder"; I don't need to hear you say "oh I would never have pegged you as someone who had depression" and I definitely don't need to hear you say "can't you just cheer up?". I'm writing this to give you an education and to ask you to be kind. Be respectful of the language you use each day and be respectful of other people. You don't know what a person you see on the street might be going through, so a smile or just a random act of kindness can be the most welcome thing (to anyone, not just someone who might be suffering at that moment). And above all, be kind to all of those people who are currently trying to hate themselves into a version of themselves they can love.
Please show your support for World Mental Health day by sharing this post and by choosing kindness even if it's just for this one day.
Stay Hep, Cats
Whilst I know that social media has been proven to exacerbate mental health issues and I purposefully no longer have a Facebook account for this exact reason, I can’t help but find myself with a slight addiction to both Twitter and Instagram. I have met a lot of amazing people through social media and it really came in handy for me last night.
I had a meltdown. It happens more often than I would like, but let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.
I was working on icing a cake and it wasn’t going as well as I had anticipated. I struggle a lot with perfection, in that I have a vision of something in my head and when the reality doesn’t meet that vision I want to throw in the towel. My ever-loving and long-suffering boyfriend did what he could to talk me round, but like those who suffer with anger issues, the ‘perfection mist’ had risen and there was nothing he could do (except feed me which definitely helped). I finished icing the cake and popped it in the fridge, washed up and sat down. At this point I started looking through Instagram and came across a post by the lovely Made by Margie (www.madebymargie ; Instagram.com/madebymargie ; twitter.com/madebymargie) which gave me the social media equivalent of a lovely hug.
I realised that I couldn’t give up at the first hurdle. If I want to make my business work I’m going to have to grow a tougher skin and realise that there are going to be times when things go wrong; where I’ll have to scrap a cake and start again or remake sugar paste flowers or I’ll be clumsy and drop something on the floor and ruin it. What I also realised is that there are so many wonderful people out there who are so very supportive. Obviously I have those close to home; my boyfriend (who I’m surprised puts up with me but who I love with my entire being), my family (who definitely support my cake business as it means they are never without something sweet!). Friends and colleagues like Charlotte White (who is constant source of love and inspiration) and those wondrous folks on my social media feeds who are always giving me a cheeky thumbs up or buoying my confidence in one way or another. I am very lucky.
I think the lesson here is that life is too short not to try and not to simply give up just because something doesn’t go exactly as you expect. Sometimes the most beautiful things are created from disaster.
Keep smiling and as always, happy baking!
Stay Hep, Cats
It's time to make a change. The more I talk to different types of people, the more I realise how short life is and that one shouldn't remain in a position that makes them unhappy. Whilst I agree that if you can't change something you should change your attitude towards it (which in some cases feels impossible, believe me, I know!), I also think that we should all do what we can to be happy in the NOW.
This weekend I met a lovely lady who is a dear friend of my boyfriend's mum. She seemed to really love my style and over the course of the day discussing various aspects of life, she hammered home to me that I must remain strong and keep my uniqueness and individuality and that life is far too short to be anything but happy. Happiness, of course, is subjective, and one cannot be euphoric constantly - we need the low moments to be able to appreciate the high moments - but for me happiness is a feeling of contentment and peace. I have had fleeting moments of this in my life and am incredibly lucky to have experienced so many more since meeting my boyfriend and having a dog, but of course, I would like to feel at peace the majority of the time.
I am starting to think that (whilst I'm not ancient) I am getting older and I should start ensuring that the rest of my life is as happy and peaceful as it can possibly be, so I need to start making some changes. I need to stop telling myself I can't do things and start having a go, I need to remove toxic people and negative energy from my life. I have a list (albeit a short one) of things I really want to do and there's no reason why I shouldn't try to achieve all of these things.
Watch this space; I might post next week telling you all my black dog has come back out to play or I may tell you that I've managed to put together a modelling portfolio and have perhaps got some work, or that I have completed a novel or been commissioned to make a cake for an event. Who knows what will happen tomorrow, but what I do know is that I need to make my tomorrow be the best it can be without forgetting that it isn't promised and ensuring that I enjoy the peace and contentment I have in my life today.
I hope you can all do the same - do something today that you have always wanted to do; whether it's telling someone you love them, telling someone you don't like the way they speak to you, booking a holiday or speaking to a stranger. It doesn't matter, just embrace life and everything it offers you. It's too short not to.
It has been brought to my attention that my most recent posts have been somewhat sad in nature. As I have said, I tend to find that when I'm in 'crisis' I find it much easier to write - perhaps because I have some source material!
I find that writing when I feel a certain way is a great release for me and I also hope that by putting my thoughts out there in the ether they might be able to help someone else, just by knowing they aren't alone in having dark times.
To that end I have today signed up to become a campaigner for the mental health charity, Mind. I have done a few things for them in the past, most notably raising over £200 by running a half marathon. I feel so passionate about ensuring that mental health conditions are understood and want to assist others through their journeys. There is something so comforting about knowing there are others out there who have a pretty good idea about what you're going through and having someone to talk to. Talking about my issues, I found, was one of the major turning points in finding a way out of my misery.
Those of you who know me may have read a previous blog which documented some of my journey through depression and how dark things got; I'm living and breathing proof there is a way to find a light in the darkness even if I still struggle with it on occasion.
I saw a Victor Hugo quote today which is very apt in this instance; "Whatever causes night in our souls may leave stars". For me, the night that sits in my soul gives me an empathy and want to help other people dealing with their own darkness. That is my small constellation.