Letting people in.

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – A.A Milne (Yes, I did just start this with a Winnie the Pooh quote).

I know how it feels to live in such fear of letting people in. I struggle with it so much, i’ve already resigned my life to living in my friends attic with my cat and a penguin… scarily, that doesn’t scare me. To fear exposing yourself is to live the all encompassing nightmare that one day, someone will find out who you are. However, I’ve only recently realised that letting someone in will not ruin you, it might just really guide you. Believe it or not, there are people out there who love you, who won’t run away, fall apart, tell the whole world if you lay yourself bare. They may even help you realise, that this mass of stored up feelings is not what you always feared. You’re more “normal” than you think. I will never find a way to tell these few people i’ve opened up to how much I love them for just listening.

Someone I know once wrote:

“if you’re suffering, if you don’t trust the days in front of you and if you think that you yourself are the flaw that keeps the black coming back know this: i cannot promise you a date, i am powerless to tell you which route you should take to move forwards (because each one is unique) and i know how it feels to not believe in the words of another on subjects like these. but the hell is beatable and it doesn’t take a superhuman effort. it is a temporary stain and it makes you a stronger person for resisting it, and in the resisting, you become a truer version of your real self; the self that hates the delusions and grimness and grows low because of it. time and will heals all. so long as you don’t tolerate being down (and i have never met anyone who does, regardless of what they might say), you will beat this thing. it is not mine or your job to heal another who suffers, but it is your job to understand. and if you truly care, to love.”

These words shaped my life. And hopefully he doesn’t mind me posting this, I won’t name you Ollie.

I know if you feel like you’re unfixable, anything anyone says won’t change it. But does that mean you should never open up? Deep down there is a voice in you that’s keeping you here, there is a reason you are still here. You are not flawed. And if you let it, that tiny (and fuck, I mean tiny) ray of hope will grow, and it’s going to take fucking ages, but it might change your life. So open up, let someone in. Whatever you might think, you do actually deserve it.

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Christmas

This ones for the ones who fear Christmas. Who fear sitting down with those who love them incase they see through it. Who lie awake dreading the social aspect of the holidays, dreading the laughter, the freedom. Who fear the every day. Who fear the every night. Who lives in a constant, all consuming nightmare, praying, pleading, that they’ll wake. Demons gone or Christmas over.

 

This is to say that you’re not alone. Not alone in the nature of those feelings and not alone right now, those around you this Christmas love you for you. They see you and they see your inner torment, they take it and accept it, they love you. Unconditionally.

 

This is to tell you, you are going to be ok. You are beautiful. You are worth so much more than what you give yourself. You deserve so much more than the cards you’ve been dealt. For some reason it was you, and fucking hell, I’ll never know why. Of all people, you don’t deserve this, no one does.

 

But you’ll do it. You’ll get through Christmas, there may be a fog over it but there will be glimmers of something, maybe hope, maybe light, maybe just a ray of laughter through the clouds. And it’s these moments you have to cling to because one day, I promise, these moments will come more, and more, and soon you’ll be noticing the low moments are the rare ones and the stable, ok-ness that you crave right now is the norm.

 

Breathe. We’ll be ok. You’re never irretrievable from your demons, however long they’ve sat there, we’ll get you back. And until then, we’ll wait.

Many of us seek validation in others.

“Does my hair look ok?”

“Is this picture alright?”

“Does this text make me sound too keen?”

“Does my make up make me resemble a man in drag?”

“Does my costume actually look like a puffer fish?”

Although asking other peoples opinions is fine, I think the saddest thing is when people base their self-worth on how others view them, or more commonly how they think others view them.

There is no worse feeling than feeling like everyone around you is judging you, like they can see through you, like you are not worthy of anyones love or friendship. It can get worse, you go out, and you feel disgusting. How anyone could even take a look at you shocks you. Being social becomes a chore, something you dread. You want to be someone else, anyone else. Yet you can’t actually tell anyone because you’re annoying enough as it is. The inner dialogue becomes a stream of self-negativity until you’re perception of yourself becomes so warped you lose all sense of who you are. And it’s the hardest thing to overcome.

Exercising, eating well, dressing nicely and basically looking after yourself does help. But we should not be walking around feeling inferior because we don’t look our best. Recently i’ve been plagued with injury, and although I could probably have a million sit ups every day and eaten quinoa and kale for every meal, I haven’t. I’ve been drinking and eating, and suppressing the feeling that i’ve gone from an athlete to a lump with no identity. I feel like a fraud when I see physios or wear running kit. Without running, in my head, I’ve got nothing, and therefore no-one wants me in their lives. I’ve not shared this, but I know i’m not alone.

I know it’s irrational. In reality, everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to give two shits what’s going on with you. You may not be as toned, fit, light as you once were, you may not be wearing make up or a ball gown, you may not be high- achieving in every area of your life, or any area of your life (at the moment). But this doesn’t mean you are not worthy. The fact that you’re still going gives your life validation. It’s the easiest thing in the world to throw in the towel, give up, isolate yourself and wallow in self loathing. Getting up and facing the world can feel like a marathon sometimes, the fact we do is an expression of hope and love in itself.

If your friends felt the same way about you as you do they wouldn’t be there. You are loved because of who you are, not who you think you are. You are not being constantly judged and I think you all  need to start walking around like you’re gods gift to fucking humanity because you’re all great.

OK

What’s ok?

It’s ok to feel…. it’s ok to feel weak, tired, stressed, anxious, upset, happy, fat, alone, hungry, vulnerable.

It’s ok to not do what you “should”… it’s ok to not exercise everyday, it’s ok not to be a whole food vegan, it’s ok to wear trackies, it’s ok to not wear make up.

It’s ok to ask for help.

It’s ok to be scared.

It’s ok to cry.

It’s ok to have vulnerabilities.

What’s not ok?

It’s not ok to scrutinise every inch of yourself every day to find flaws.

It’s not ok to base your self worth on body image/insecurities/how you feel that day.

It’s not ok to judge other people on how they look.

It’s not ok to feel like there’s no way out and not speak up.

It’s not ok to think no-one cares.

It’s not ok to hide who you really are to those closest to you in order to portray an image of who you want to be.

It’s not ok to constantly want to change yourself.

A lot of chat about one emotion

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”

I think the darkest emotion is fear. Fear can bulldoze someone to their lowest, it can ruin any moment, week, year or life. Fear is a silent killer masked by an exterior diagnosis.

I write a lot, I scribble thoughts down on napkins, I sit in bed writing letters to myself, I’ve written thousands and thousands of “blog” posts to the world, deep down knowing the only one who will read this is me. But one thing I wrote in a so called diary about a year ago was this:

“Every action I take is tainted by an underlying fear of not being good enough. I’m not even just talking about the larger things in life such as the fear or failing university, or not getting a job or family or home. It’s every tiny detail in my life… I wake up in the morning petrified of not being okay. I’m scared to go for a run in case I’m too tired or slow to finish. I’m scared to eat in case I gain weight or can’t stop. I’m scared to go out because i think I’ll be judged or hated. I’m scared to talk to friends because I hate to be a burden.”

To those who don’t know me well, or actually to some who do, this will be a bit unclear. On the outside I was putting up this facade. I would sugar-coat everything. I would never cry in front of anyone, and if I did It was cause me to feel so angry at myself for showing any emotion. But this was fear again, I was fearful of people seeing how much fear was in me.

Thats a bloody mind bender but this shows, in me, what fear can do. Fear took away my enjoyment of every living moment. It took away my love of anything, fear stole running, food, friends, family, it took everything i’d worked 18 years to build and rendered it useless.

Externally I was being labelled by health professionals. I felt like someone was branding me with permanent marker for the whole world to see. When in fact I just needed the diagnosis of scared. I can see it now, having a breakdown in a corner and someone asking “what’s up with her?” “Ah don’t worry she’s got fear”. I know it sounds ridiculous, but this is genuinely how I felt. I was so consumed with fear I was considering changing my name to Maddy “Heebie-Jeebies” Austin.

I was getting all this advice about how to overcome each label i’d been given. I didn’t ignore it all – pills worked to an extent, herbal teas and long walks were not quite so successful. But time was passing and I was getting nowhere.

Then I then became obsessed with fear, why we have it, what’s it’s purpose, how others see it. The definition of fear is a good one:

an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.

So what was the danger, pain or harm that I was fearing? I needed to find that out and eliminate them, without them, there would be no unpleasant emotion. That’s logic in motion. I thought of the fears I had, not the biggest scary ones, but ones that were pesky and annoying. I worked them out and tried my hardest to try and “overcome” them. Being slow and tired on a run will not cause me danger, pain or harm, therefore I shall not fear it… I wish I could say it was as easy as that but that was how it started. If a friend feels you’re a burden, then they are not a friend, so opening up to a friend should not be unpleasant and I’ve worked on this. I now chat my shit to all my friends, they probably hate it… but they’re my friends so they’ve got no choice. (You know who you all are and if you move across the damn world i’ll follow you). Failing university wouldn’t be the worst thing that happened to me, so why fear it? There is definitely no enjoyment in fear! Whilst I would love to finish university well, I would rather do it with a shit load of memories.

So now I’m trying to overcome the biggest fears in my life and fuck its hard but it’s better than every single day being wrecked by one emotion.

Listen to the main man Jim Morrison –

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”

Nelson Mandela said that he “learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

And also… Do you know what age you’ll be if you put everything you’ve got into overcoming your fears? The same age you will be if you don’t.

Lets be honest any post opening with a Plato quote was not going to be all light hearted.

THINK

“Think before you speak.” The line that is drilled into your mind from the day you learn to talk. Parents, teachers, the wiggles… everybody tells you to make sure your words will have no hurtful consequences on anyone else. Being on par with Captain Jack Sparrow on the lunacy scale, I am obviously going to relate this to mental illness.

I truly think that there are still so many comments flung around without a thought to who might hear, or who might take offence. Of course I’m not going to say all banter is bullying blah blah blah I left school 3 years ago… and 90% of what I say is probably jovial abuse (most of the time not so jovial). But I’ve heard too many comments recently made to me, near me, to friends, to strangers that have just been careless.

I think it’s pretty clear cut you don’t tell a young female athlete she’s heavy, you don’t tell a school girl that she’s put on weight and you don’t comment on an adolescent girls eating habits. I’ve never actually been the subject of anything like his but I know it still happens, however, if these comments are made in front of other people I would like to think a few would jump in and try and save the day.

What about boys? what about adults? What about parents?Just because someone doesn’t fit the stereotype for an eating disorder doesn’t mean they don’t have one. Honestly, it’s sometimes the ones you would least expect.

In addition, I believe that if you don’t understand mental illness, don’t talk. I wish I lived a life in which I was ignorant to it and I know many people disagree with me when I say this, but I think ignorance is really healthy. I think it’s a great thing if your life hasn’t been touched in some way by a torturous mind, whether it’s yours or someone’s close to you. But if you don’t know, don’t pretend you do.

I overheard boys were talking very loudly on a train, very dull 15 year old chat until one of them just randomly announced “anorexia is an illness, bulimia is a choice”. It took everything I had not to get up and have a rant about but I thought i’d save myself looking like a complete basket case on this occasion. It really got to me at the time, to think that just by saying that as a passing comment might actually cause the rest of the boys to believe it.

Some of the other comments I’ve heard recently have been:

“Stop being so bipolar!”

“I was so depressed the other day, the coffee machine at work broke” (to be fair, kind of feeling this one)

“You’re so OCD”

“Cheer up it might never happen”

“She’s manic”

I’ve said comments like this, I know how easy it is. I think if you’re around someone you know well you can say whatever, if someone listened in on some of the conversations I have with my sister we’d wake up to you all outside the house with pitchforks. I just wish people were more careful when around people they don’t know that well.

I probably do listen out for things and interpret them in a way in which society is at fault. Sadly there is truth in the saying “everybody knows someone” and although having a mental illness is in NO WAY a personality flaw, being careless and coarse when discussing them is.

Love

“To experience beauty on Earth, you needed to experience pain and to know mortality.” – Matt Haig

I was having a conversation with someone today about whether it was possible to love two people. In the context, of course, we meant romantically but I’ve been thinking all day about things I really do love. Maybe it was because it was a beautiful day or just that for me, it is was just a day where the fog lifts and things feel like their in HD. I realised I love quite a lot of things:

My sister
Running
Chloe
Will
Roast chicken
Holyrood Park
Paolo Nutini
Sleep
Picnics
Sitting in a storm
Hozier’s voice
Yoghurt covered banana chips
Imperfect tattoos
Cider
Izzies nose
Barbecues
Jean Paul Sartre
My cat
Alli and Tim
Clean sheets
Andrew Lawlers smile
Tea
Baths
Sex
The East Neuk of Fife
People tripping over
Beards
Ben Howard
Dennis
Andrea Saxel
The catcher in the rye
The telegraph crossword
Tommy Ashby’s version of these waters
Watford opens
Every member of 148/09
Laughing
Tom Butcher
Into the wild
Livvy’s eyes
Benjamin Francis Leftwich
And there’s probably more.

So considering the amount of times per day I say the word “hate” or tiredly sigh…there is love there. These things will always be there and right at this moment, I really appreciate that.