Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Holly Bourne: What's A Girl Gotta Do? (The Spinster Club 3) | Book Review

It has been a while since I have sat down and wrote a book review, but upon finishing this book, I knew that I couldn't wait. Before I start, I would recommend reading the first two novels in this sequel; Am I Normal Yet? and How Hard Can Love Be? This sequel explores the importance of feminism, having a voice and growing up into today's society with issues such as mental health, broken families and the pressure that comes with being intelligent. 

In this novel, we hear Lottie's story, Lottie is a very bold character, she is extremely intelligent and her dream is to get into Cambridge University however, if she see's something that she doesn't agree with, she isn't afraid to call it out. I wasn't sure if I would like this novel, as I felt like the previous novels had already touched heavily on feminism, but this novel was something else, it not only opened my eyes to how much of a big issue sexism is, it made me feel powerful, strong and inspired as well as being funny. I love a book that can take me through a number of emotions and this was definitely one that did.

After an incident of being called out by two men for what she was wearing and how she looked, Lottie decided that enough was enough. She was fed up of being commented on, for what she wears and how if she wears less clothes than others might, then she clearly wants the attention and she clearly wants men to be drawn to her. Alongside her two best friends and members of the Spinster Club, Lottie decides that she is going to start a month long project where she calls out every piece of sexism that she notices. Lottie wants to make a difference, she wants to become prime minister and she wants to be successful but we soon learn that no matter how important some events in her life may seem, she isn't prepared to remain silent when she spots something that she doesn't agree with. 

Despite Lottie's parents negative views on the project and their concerns of how close her Cambridge interview is, Lottie feels like this is something that she needs to do, she wants to do it and there isn't anything that can stop her. As we get further into the novel, we experience the highs and lows of the project; her college trying to stop her, her attendance slipping, skipping class, being on national television, falling for the wrong person, wanting to give up, being bullied and harassed online by trolls and even taking a different approach to her Cambridge interview.

This book is so important, despite the ups and downs, it talks about how difficult it really is to be a feminist, the misconceptions about feminism, it talks about how society shouldn't shape and control you such as having to shave, having to be ashamed about cellulite and even how the word slut has been invented to shame your sexual decisions. In the acknowledgments, Bourne did admit how even with three books, she wasn't able to touch properly on feminism and how it relates to race, disability, sexuality, gender identity, or class which some readers didn't like, but I don't believe it takes away the importance of this novel because it is still sending the message out and is inspiring people to become feminists, to research it and to learn about all of the parts that weren't covered.

Despite being sad that the sequel is over, I am looking forward to reading the final and newer novel '...And a Happy New Year?' I absolutely loved the ideas of these novels, how each book was dedicated to a different character yet time still shifted so you were still able to find out how the other girls were getting on. I rated this novel five stars on Goodreads and I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed this novel (even if it took me two months to read). If you're interested in feminism and how it affects us, then this book is definitely one for you!

This novel is 432 pages long and was published on the 1st August, 2016.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wearing Short Sleeves with Scars in Summer

To the girl who referred to me and my friend as looking like effing barcodes, thank-you for inspiring me to write this post.

I wasn't planning on writing up a post regarding wearing short sleeves through summer, and braving having my scars out on show, for the world to see and for strangers to judge. I have written a whole bunch of posts about self harm in the past, and I was worried about coming across as repetitive but it is something that needs to be addressed. 

Last week, me and my friend reluctantly ventured into the city wearing short sleeves, it was a decision that we made after the heat from the previous days being so overwhelming that we either had to stay inside or risk going out in long sleeves, resulting in us feeling hot, bothered and ill. I had prepared myself, I knew that I was going to get stares, I knew I was going to feel vulnerable, weak and patronised but I wanted to go out to enjoy myself without risking getting ill from overheating. I try not to notice people staring, I go about my day and I avoid looking at peoples faces because in some situations, what I don't know, doesn't hurt. I am not the most comfortable whilst wearing short sleeves in public, it makes me feel very self conscious but I had to pretend to be confident because if I wasn't, then I could risk drawing extra attention to myself.

As the day went on, I relaxed a little bit more but I started to notice the stares, the glares and the strangers who would look me up and down. I can completely understand people looking if they have noticed, but I feel like it is one of those situations where you notice, you look and you turn away instead of staring and risking making that individual feel uncomfortable. Apparently this is not the case, apparently people feel like they have the right to stare, the right to ask questions and the right to judge me. What's worse, is that the most of these stares came from both middle aged and older people which again, I can understand a little bit because this topic has only really been well known over the past ten years but I don't believe for a second, that not one of these people didn't know what my scars were from and that they didn't even consider how it could make me feel to be judged all day, by strangers. 

It was as we were walking out of one shop that we overheard a girl say to her friend "look at them girls, they look like effing barcodes" which I did laugh at, because at least it was original and it wasn't worth feeling angry or upset over, but was it really necessary? I realised then that there really was no point in worrying about what everybody else thinks of me because at the end of the day, these scars are on my body and I am the one who has to live with them, day in and day out. If they want to be shallow minded enough to judge me and try to make me feel uncomfortable, then they are not worth my time. 

I know that my scars aren't pleasant to look at, I don't like them either and I am hoping to get tattoos to cover them up, but my scars have to be at least three years old and white for this to happen, so I am sorry if the sight of my scars hurt your eyes, but at least you're not the one who has to live with them and before anybody says "but you did it yourself", I am aware, but in the moment you don't think rationally and you definitely don't think about the future, and having to carry your scars, especially when you're not even sure that you have a future.

So before you stare, you judge and you make a person feel uncomfortable, please remember that they are more than an illness, more than their scars and that they aren't doing it for attention. Please at least try to stay mindful about what they may have been through and that they don't deserve to risk getting ill, just because they feel like they have to hide their scars.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Other posts about Self Harm:
Self Injury Awareness Day 2018
Living with Scars & Stigma
What to expect when visiting A&E for Self-Harm
Self-Harm Scars: Gradual Exposure

Monday, 16 April 2018

Project Semicolon

Today is the 16th April, meaning that it is actually World Semicolon Day so I thought that I would explain to you all what Project Semicolon is and how you can get involved.

Project Semicolon is an American nonprofit organisation that aims to and is passionate about preventing suicide. The project was founded in 2013 by Amy Bleuel, ten years after the death of her father by suicide. Amy herself had a tough childhood and developed mental health problems, she also struggled with addiction. Sadly, Amy lost her own fight on March 23rd, 2017 at 31 years old, the cause of her death was ruled as suicide. 

The project claims how they aim to "present hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury". They have also been known to encourage people who have struggled with mental illness or lost someone to suicide to draw or tattoo a semicolon onto their bodies, to create a bond between the people who carry them. 

On Semicolon Day, the project teams up with tattoo shops across the globe to give out free semicolon tattoos. Semicolon Day is all about Mental Health Awareness and inspiring the world to take action. The people working for Project Semicolon aren't mental health trained so they do advise individuals to use other hotlines if they are in a crisis.

The project has become worldwide and many people are aware of what the semicolon means but if you aren't then the project explained how "a semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life".

Personally, I was keen on getting a semicolon tattoo as I adore the idea and meaning behind it but I didn't want it big or too bold so I actually incorporated it into the outline of a tattoo that I got with my best friend who I met whilst in hospital. There are so many different semicolon tattoos and I love each and every one of them but it is understandable that not everybody wants a tattoo. 

In 2017, Project Semicolon released a paperback book called 'Your Story Isn't Over' which reveals dozens of stories from people of all ages, speaking about what they have been through and what they hope to achieve in the future. The book allows other people who struggle to feel less alone and I am definitely going to be purchasing it myself. The book can be purchased from Amazon here.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Links & Resources:
Project Semicolon:
Instagram: @projsemicolon

Stuck but Stable

I was planning on drafting a blog post for this weeks Mental Health Monday but I found that I was just left feeling stuck and unmotivated. I thought that instead I will just write, and see where it takes me. Therefore, I apologise in advance if this post doesn't make much sense but I thought that it is also important to document the negatives of mental illness as well as the positives.

I feel at a point in my life, where I am nothing more than stuck and a little bit lost. I still feel sad and I often feel very suicidal but I am stable, I am silent. I wake up each morning full of suspense over what the day may bring. I go to work, I do my job, I put on a face and I come home from work. I take my medication, I use my skills, I try a whole number of different distraction methods, I eat, I wash, I sleep. I wake up, I go to work, I do my job, I put on a face and I come home from work. I take my medication, I use my skills, I eat, I wash, I sleep.

On some days, I am lucky enough to have the company of my boyfriend, my friends or my family. On others, I am stuck within the four walls of my bedroom, my only friend being my head; full of stress, full of sadness, full of worries. I adore my own company, I can be very content whilst alone, yet too much time alone can be damaging, and then it isn't just the time alone that turns damaging, it's even when you're surrounded by a whole crowd of people, even when you're having a good time and have spent all day distracting yourself, that's when the sadness comes flooding back in.

I am still in services, I still struggle and I even feel worse than what my thirteen year old self felt whilst sitting in a waiting room for her first appointment. I am no longer engaging in regular self destructive behaviours, I am stable, I am strong, I am surviving, so why am I still struggling? Why am I still so sad? Even worse, why do I feel so stuck? So trapped within my own life and my own mind.

I am silent, I am too sad to find the words to describe how I am feeling, the trust that I once had for others has seeped out of me, every person who left, who abandoned me when I needed them most sealed up my trust a little bit more. To my services, I am stable, I am silent, I must be better but they also recognise that I am stuck. 

I am yet to find a purpose of life, a reason to stay in this world. I am trying so hard to find my feet, but every time I try to move forward, attempting to let go of this pain, it finds its way in, and my head fills with doubt. I have so many ambitions, so many things that I want to do, but these things are impossible with a negative mindset. I want to live, I want to enjoy life, I want to recover and I don't want to be stuck within the grips of mental illness any longer.

I hope to become unstuck, I hope to feel free, I hope to be able to start living. I hope that I find my voice again, my energy to explain how I am feeling. I want to be better so desperately, I know that today is just a bad day, I know that not every day is a bad day, I know that I have made some progress over the past eight years, I know that intense emotions can't last for a long time and that our mood and emotions spike up and down. I know that I need to keep going, going backwards in not an option. I know that I will continue to keep going, to keep growing and that I will eventually get to where I need to be. But right now, I am struggling, I am stuck, I am sad and I am silent, but I am also  stable, I am strong and I am surviving. 

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Monday, 9 April 2018

4 Years in Recovery

Four years is a long time, one fifth of my life to be precise. Today marks not only four years since I was admitted to an adolescent psychiatric hospital, but four years since my journey of recovery began and since I met my best friend.

I can remember the 9th April 2014 so vividly, yet some parts are such a blur. I remember being scared and frightened, I had only just learnt that psychiatric hospitals actually exist, let alone that I was going to one. I remember my mum and the nurses debating getting me transport to the unit, my mum begged and pleaded to let her take me. I briefly remember the journey, we didn't speak much and my mind was full of thoughts and worries about what was going to happen. I arrived on the unit and met a nurse, she was so lovely and she reassured me that it doesn't seem like a hospital. I remember them searching my bags, that my mum had packed, removing anything that could be seen as harmful; nail polish, tweezers, razors, aerosol deodorant cans, pencil sharpeners, hair straighteners, my hair dryer and even my headphones. It was a waiting game before I was allowed onto the unit, I had to have my admission meeting which was full of intimidating doctors, nurses, therapists and health care assistants. Finally, the doors unlocked and I was taken to my room. I was confused about how locked it was for a so called open ward, there was a locked door splitting the unit from the reception and another one separating the reception from the outside world, the two doors couldn't be open at the same time. As we were walking to my room, panic starting to set in, I noticed a couple of the patients but I didn't take much in. We arrived in my room, it was very simple; a bed, a window that only opened an inch, disgusting patterned curtains, wooden furniture attached to the wall with no handles. Both myself and my mum sat on the bed, she stayed for an hour or two, different staff members would come in and out of my room, introducing themselves. I was being checked on every five minutes, despite my mum still being in my room. Everything felt like foreign territory, nothing was how it was at home. The taps in the bathroom would only run for ten seconds at a time and had a touchscreen button, the same with the sinks. Plugs weren't kept in the bathrooms and if we wanted to have a bath, we had to ask for a plug. My mum soon left and some of the other patients came to introduce themselves. They wrote on my white board a whole bunch of inspiring quotes and left their phone numbers. I am so thankful that we were allowed our phones because it felt like it was the only part of the outside world I had left. Bar using the bathroom, I didn't leave my room for three weeks. I was being prescribed and prompted to take medication that I hadn't even had discussed with me. It felt like hell, but I knew it was where I needed to be. I could go on about my admission for days, but in reality, it was only the beginning of my recovery.

I'm not going to lie, the past four years have been a struggle and a half, there has been constant ups and downs and I am still trying to find my feet within the world. I have been in recovery for four years yet I have battled for eight and I still struggle, I still have numerous days where I want to give up, I still have slip ups and relapses and I still have a hell of a lot to work on. I am still in Mental Health services, I am still on medication and I still have a lot of bad thoughts. I have been lucky enough to escape further admissions which I think is a good achievement. Recovery is difficult, it takes absolutely everything out of you, it is exhausting, it is stressful and it isn't a quick process. If I had seen four years ago where I am today then I think I would have given up before I had even begun because I am not even half way there, I still have so far to go and I wouldn't have seen the point. However, when you've been in recovery for four years, you realise that you've put too much effort in to lose everything now and although it doesn't feel like much, you have come far enough. In order to make steps towards being well, you need to want to get well because a self destructive mindset will only put you back.

Within the past four years I have sat through three years of Sixth Form to then drop out, I have had two jobs; one of which I have been at for over two years, I have completed a skydive to raise money for Mind, I have found the love of my life and have been with him for over two years, I have looked at going back into education, I have kept up contact and trips with my best friend who I met in hospital, I have met people and lost others, I have watched my relatives grow up and blossom into young adults, I have gotten a recovery pet who I wouldn't be without, I have had trips to A&E regarding my mental health, I have started this blog where I openly talk about Mental Health, I have done DBT, I have tried new things, found new hobbies and I have grown up. I have realised that I am not defined by my illness and that life is never straight forward, there are always going to be set backs and stresses but it is all about learning how to cope and deal with those situations. Recovery is not straight forward but I am sure that when we all get there, all the tears, pain, worries and stress will have been worth it, and we can start living even more.

"I am in repair, I'm not together, but I am getting there"

Thank-you for reading, Tay x
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