Anyone who has been following this blog for a while is aware from some of my previous posts that I have a fair few mental health problems: Anxiety, Depression, PTSD and then of course my other life-long commitments: ADHD and Hypothyroidism. My daily life is a constant little game of ‘which one is in control today’. And like a lot of people who have experienced depression, over the last almost 20 years I have had dark thoughts. I used to think of ways of harming myself and although I never wanted to kill myself, my thing was always wishing I could wake up as another person or another version of me.
Now: how it took me so long to get my hands on and read The Midnight Library I don’t know but I am kicking myself for not grabbing it sooner. And below I am going to give some examples and a brief review as to how and why reading this fictional masterpiece completely changed things for me mentally.
If you haven’t read the book don’t worry I’m not going to post loads of spoilers about it and ruin the entire story for you, I’m not that mean. But there’s a couple of things that stood out for me in this book that I wanted to share with you all and also, I think everyone should read this book!
Matt Haig has a big social media following and regularly posts a lot of things about mental health and anxiety and has even written books about it (I highly recommend his book Reasons To Stay Alive by the way). I knew when I kept seeing all these tweets about The Midnight Library and how it moved people to tears that I needed to get my hands on this book.
This is the first book in quite a while that I physically could not put down. I opened the book yesterday – I finished it yesterday. But why was that? What made this such a big deal to finish in one sitting?
Personally, I knew that this story would potentially be something I enjoyed or related to but I did not expect to connect with it half as much as I did.
From the moment I read the first few pages, I immediately connected with Nora. In as many ways as possible. She was 35 (the age I’ll be turning in a few months) who basically seems to be having bad luck all the time it seems, no husband, no children etc (same as me), she’s on sertraline (just like me – there’s a poem about it in one of my earlier posts) and she’s getting to the point where the sertraline doesn’t seem to be working anymore and she wants her life to end.
The concept of The Midnight Library is that there is a place in between life and death where there are infinite possibilities of various lives she can go into where certain regrets that she has never happened and she can see how different her life could have turned out.
This whole concept was something that literally put a twinge in my stomach (a good twinge mind you), as parallel universes and alternate realities is something that goes on in my head a lot. Particularly when my anxiety and depression is really bad or my PTSD – I always think to myself, ‘I wonder if this didn’t happen or I didn’t do this, how differently would my life be.’.
With my life, I have always sat there and thought to myself that if there are these parallel universes and lives and I am just one of me, that I am definitely the worst version. No one wants to be a thirty-five year old woman who lives in a box room at her parents house, trying to pay off debts (and stop herself compulsively buying stuff she doesn’t need for the sake of her own insecurities about how she looks), never having a successful loving relationship with a man, various mental health issues & PTSD that effects her love life. So I sit there, very often, and think to myself: I wonder how lovely the other Zoë’s life is. I wish I could be her instead of me.
There’s a particular statement about Nora in the book that I thought could have very well been something I wrote about myself in my journal: “Nora had always had a problem accepting herself. From as far back as she could remember, she’d had the sense that she wasn’t enough.”
I genuinely cannot describe to you the overwhelming feelings that I felt from just reading these two sentences. This was me. Through and through. I can’t actually remember a time when I felt like I was good enough. I don’t know how or why this ever happened, maybe silly little school bullying chants that stick with you, rejection over and over again in love and friendships, or maybe just not being ‘wired right’?
All I know, is as far as I remember, I have never been fully accepting of who I am. Never loved myself enough. I always did multiple things to impress others or change who I was as a person to impress someone else – it was a constant voice in my head always saying to me ‘you suck’ ‘everyone hates you’ ‘you’ll never have a happy ending’ ‘you’re going to die alone’ etc. You get the idea. I won’t bore you with every single thought, but they’re not very nice.
Anyway, back to the story: the story goes through different lives and the regrets that Nora has and how changing one little thing can make a big difference. For me, I think this is something I take for granted, and many other people probably do too. We never actually think about the fact that just one small decision can actually change an entire course of our lives, but not just our lives… other people’s too.
At first I was a little cynical about this (as I already am about everything), but then I put the book down for a second and thought about this thoroughly. I realised there were a lot of decisions that didn’t seem big but wow they would have made a massive difference to my life, for example: (& please note these are assumptions not facts- some things could’ve still turned out the same, I’ll never know)
If I didn’t make that choice at 18 to go home with a guy I barely knew I would probably not have PTSD and relationship issues
If I hadn’t decided to quit college I could have had a completely different career and colleagues
If I hadn’t moved out and rented for years, how would my life had played out?
These decisions, for me at the time of making them I never even considered them being anything drastic. They were literally as far as I was concerned, random impulse decisions. (Impulsiveness is sadly something very common with ADHD and it’s unlikely I’ll ever grow out of that) but these random impulse decisions led me to a totally different life.
I probably wouldn’t have even known half the friends I have now if I had just stuck with college and got a different career altogether. I might not even live in Watford. It’s the constant what-if process isn’t it? We don’t realise how these little decisions that we make shape the course of our lives.
I am a very strong believer in fate. Even though sometimes I get sulky and depressed and question why fate is giving me such bad luck in life, I still believe everything happens for a reason. But I loved having a little fantasy about what-ifs and how different things could be if I stayed with an ex, if I had quit my job years ago etc.
The point is, and the point I got from reading this (not sure if it was Matt’s intention but we can all interpret things in different ways) is that it’s not about wishing your life could be different or thinking you could do better if you could turn back the clock.
We all make mistakes and most of all every single one of us has regrets. Big or small, we have endless amounts of regrets – probably more regrets then we realise, but we can’t let the regrets forever control our thought process. Use regrets as a learning curve and forgive yourself for them.
I am quite a hypocrite at times and I always give people advice that I don’t take. Particularly with life choices or how we feel about ourselves, but I’m glad that as an aspiring writer I grabbed a whole bunch of different genre books to research and decided to add this one to my basket.
If you are ever feeling low or at a point of no return with your life and think that you could do better if you were someone else, don’t. You are unique as you are and everything you do will lead you to something positive, even when it doesn’t feel that way. Learn to love and learn from everything that happens to you. And live as much as you can.
Most importantly of all, Matt Haig taught me not to wish to be out of my own life, and embrace my life for what it is. It might not be my idea of a perfect life right now, but I am still here, I’m still alive and although my disorders will probably always be a part of me, they make me who I am and that’s not always a bad thing.
This book showed me the beauty of really putting things into perspective and embracing life as we know it. After all, we might not ever come across our parallel lives – so this is all we have got. Let’s live it.
It’s very easy to experience a lack of motivation in our current situation. No-one thought in March-April time last year when the first lockdown hit that this would go on as long as it did. But here we are, confined in our homes again, wondering when it’s all going to end…
“Emotional exhaustion is a state of feeling emotionally worn-out and drained as a result of accumulated stress from your personal or work lives, or a combination of both. Emotional exhaustion is one of the signs of burnout.
People experiencing emotional exhaustion often feel like they have no power or control over what happens in life. They may feel “stuck” or “trapped” in a situation.
Lack of energy, poor sleep, and decreased motivation can make it difficult to overcome emotional exhaustion. Over time, this chronic, stressed-out state can cause permanent damage to your health.” From healthline.com
In the first few months of 2020’s first lockdown I ended up suffering from emotional exhaustion. I didn’t know what was wrong with me at first, I had not set foot out of my front or back door in about a week, I had no idea what the temperatures were like outside, I was tired all the time. It was a horrible experience for me, I can only describe it all as complete numbness.
A permanent sensation of heavy eyes, ‘blank brain’ and not feeling any motivation to do anything. After about a week I took a walk in the woods by my house to try and get passed it all – I knew that I was damaging my own health because of the fact I’d walked for five minutes and my legs were in pain. Like severe muscle pains, the kind of leg pains you get when you run a marathon… not walk for five minutes.
The fresh air and the walk did me some good I admit. And after this I tried my best to take regular walks every day to clear my head and help me feel better. And for a brief few months, lockdown relaxed a bit, we got to go and see friends again, go to the cinema, visit the workplace, socially interact… but then it got to winter, more spreads and a new variant that seems to spread a lot faster than the last and it is so much easier to get back in to the emotional exhaustion phase again.
I have felt myself over the last week or so, feeling the same emotional exhaustion experiences that I did last year. I find it harder this time around. I think more so because I have more goals and tasks in front of me now, I’m doing a writing courses, I’m trying out new things, I have ambitions. Yet I feel worse now, because there’s this pressure over me that is making me feel demotivated to complete things and then I get miserable because I feel like I am a failure and I won’t make it. It’s also harder to do regular walks when it’s dark by about 3.30pm every night.
So in light of all this, I have devised some plans on what I can do to beat the exhaustion this time around and also might help some other people out there who may be experiencing the same things to try and overcome the dark tiring feelings that come about. So below is a few ideas and suggestions that I’m currently working on to keep me going. You don’t have to do all of these if you don’t want to, or do one or two if you wish. Just some ideas really 🙂
Set yourself daily goals to achieve: it doesn’t have to be anything massive, but if you give yourself a small realistic goal each day, you will feel great when you achieved it.
Go outside for a walk. Daily!: Nature is beautiful, fresh air is good for you, it may be harder in winter with the air being so ice cold and less natural vitamin D, but try and put some wooly items on and have a little stroll. Even if it’s just for five minutes round the block.
Read a Self-Help/Motivation book: I am an absolute sucker for self-help books or motivational books. It’s amazing what they can do for your mental health. If you’re not sure what ones to go for, I suggest these as a good start point:
What a time to be alone by Chidera Eggerue
Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King
The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight
I have received one today by Anna Lou Walker called “Find Your Shine, how to go from self-conscious to self-confident” so I will let you know how that goes and I can already tell it is going to be good.
Also, getting lost in books in general is a really therapeutic way to escape things. If you like to write, find time each day to express your feelings in your writing. Or write a new story or poem.
I have recently started looking into spiritual well-being and purchasing things like crystals and oracle cards and learning about all that is helping me to react positively to 2021.
Hopefully I will be able to follow the above and feel a lot more refreshed and happier in the coming weeks. Hopefully, all of us are going to be seeing light at the end of the tunnel very soon. And will be able to feel positive energy and motivation all round.
I remember New Year’s Eve 2019. I had gone to a friends for a bit after work for some food and drink but then started filling a bit drained so went home before 10pm. I recall sitting in my room feeling a bit down about my lack of NYE energy because I always loved New Year celebrations, and I said to myself “it’s okay, I’ll make up for it next year and party hard.”
Well… little did I know then that life was really that unpredictable and it would not happen. But I guess we’re all on that boat, things were always the same and taken for granted until they weren’t options anymore.
(Don’t be fooled though, I wasn’t down this year. I spent the evening having a hot bath and then binge watching the final ten episodes of Vikings so as New Years goes it wasn’t that bad!)
So what am I looking at doing differently for the new year? What goals have I got? Well, you have probably seen my previous post ‘20 things I learned in 2020’… how am I going to keep these lessons firmly going forward?
For starters I made a decision to cut all the negative energy;
I genuinely cannot be bothered with holding grudges anymore, or disliking people for whatever reason. It literally influenced things a lot more then I realised. For example, before Covid, if I was on my way to the pub to meet friends and one of them text me and told me someone was there that I didn’t get on with – automatically from that moment I am frustrated. I start overthinking how much they are going to annoy me, or might start on me or say something etc etc and that’s before I have even set foot in the bloody pub! So I have basically had about 3 overthought scenarios in my head, a mini panic attack and been riddled with rage before I have even got half way in the Uber and the person in question probably doesn’t even bat an eyelid at the thought of me. In fact, a fair few times these said people didn’t even do anything at all when I got there. Do you see where I’m going with this?
As I have openly expressed in quite a few of my previous posts, in my past I was a very bitter and cynical person. I’m not saying I was intentionally a bully or anything like that. I have never enjoyed hurting people. But we all have been through points in our lives when we enjoy bitching about someone else to make ourselves feel better haven’t we? For me, it was always jealousy. Whether it be looks, popularity or personality, or even something like – people would always defend them even when they were wrong, it was always that I would have something about them that I was jealous of and therefore it made me feel better to be negative about them. But all of this is just a constant overwhelming ball of negative energy that nobody needs on their shoulders.
Now I’m not saying be a mug and let people walk all over you. You don’t have to go up to the guy that two-timed you and hug him or go up to the friend who stabbed you in the back and ask them to go for a drink. But what you can do is move on mentally. Sometimes in life, we do not get closure from the things or people that hurt us. There are so, so many things that have happened to me in my life that have messed me up for years that I will never completely get closure on. So you have to do the next best thing, clear your mind of the negative feelings you have towards them, forgive and move on. (You don’t have to physically go up to them and tell them you forgive them, you don’t even have to see them if you don’t want to, this is just a way for you to move forward for the sake of your mental health).
The more you start letting go of the negative grudges, the more you will notice how little their actions get to you going forward. Trust me on this. And quite frankly, if the person in question does give you a hard time or acts like a childish idiot around you – that’s about them not you, let them crack on with their sad little lives.
I am also setting big goals for myself
I’m not really one for doing resolutions (or keeping them) but I think yearly goals are more realistic and also more motivating. Instead of saying “my New Years resolution is to diet and lose weight” you could say “I hope that by the end of this year I have found healthy alternatives to take care of my body.”
We beat ourselves up way too much on having resolutions that last a week, but we do all naturally sit there and think ‘by this time next year I hope I’ve done this’.
The thing is we forget half of what we hope for throughout the year.. our lives change in various ways for many reasons, you can never predict where you’ll actually be this time next year. This time last year I was just taking on a new role at work and writing was something that kept sitting on the back burner as a daydream. Now I’m doing 2 writing courses and planning out poems, short stories and novels.
It amazes me how much things can change for you in just twelve months.
With this in mind, I decided to write a ‘secret list’ of goals that I would like to achieve by the end of 2021. I then sealed these 21 things (see what I did there?) in an envelope which I will not open until 31.12.21. Why? Because to me, it will be fascinating to see if my hopes and goals A. Were met or B. Are even remotely the same.
A majority of my goals are based around paying things off, starting to finalise writing pieces and send them off for competitions, get to certain points in my studies, read 100 books at least this year etc. But who knows where this year will go as well, we could get to New Year’s Eve and I could read certain parts of my life and think “oh god I don’t even care about that anymore.” It’s an interesting experiment for me!
I am also learning about self-compassion. I’m not sure if I mentioned recently or not, but I am reading a new book about Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff PhD. And it goes through how to show compassion to yourself like you would a friend and gets you to look at yourself differently, not beat yourself up etc. I’m only a section in but one of the first exercises she asks you to do is to pretend you are your own imaginary friend who loves everything about you and see’s your flaws as good things, and write a letter to yourself from this ‘imaginary friend’. I always find these sorts of tasks extremely interesting because they force you to look at yourself in a way you don’t do regularly.
I am going to publish a post review about that book when I have finished it and what I’ve learned from it so I’ll save the rest until then, I may even show that letter I wrote too.
I hope some of these things help whoever reads this to try and keep positive for 2021. I know it is really hard right now when we are still struggling with a pandemic and not quite seeing light at the end of the tunnel yet. But I truly believe we will get there, it’s just a case of when.
Personally, I am now looking at 2021 with a really excited attitude of just how much I can progress in the year. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be telling you how well I did with my goals 😉
2020 was an interesting year for everyone to say the least. Across the globe we saw some very harsh realities, we witnessed a horrible pandemic that felt more like the start of a sci-fi zombie flick then it did reality, we saw horrific stories and videos of how black people are still being treated poorly in comparison to us, deaths were on the rise, we were locked away in our homes for long periods. It was definitely a year I would call different.
2020 as a whole most of us will be glad to see the back of and mark it as one of the ‘worst years ever’, it has been very hard to witness much positivity throughout the year. But I decided a couple of weeks ago to sit back and think about all the things that I can take away from this year in a positive way. So I decided as it’s the year 2020 I would come up with 20 things I learned from this year to make it a tad more bearable… not all of them are complete positives but genuine lessons all the same.
I’m aware I probably won’t be the only one who does this, but I thought it would be a good expression point for me so here goes:
1. Covid is not a permanent thing but for some people this way of life is.
Earlier this year, I purchased a film called “Five Feet Apart”, mainly because I saw it had Cole Sprouse in but also I thought the title seemed quite on-point with a lot of what we were going through with the early stages of Covid.
The film tells a story from the perspective of Stella. A seventeen year old suffering with Cystic Fibrosis, constantly in and out of hospital for various treatments. Will, a teenage boy who enters the hospital, has the same condition and they appear to have a very flirtatious atmosphere between them. But the issue is, CF patients can never physically interact with each other because of the risks (I genuinely never knew this until I saw the film!) so it turns in to a really emotional story. I found the story so beautiful I even sent copies to a couple of friends, but the film really made me realise how ungrateful I was being for just having a few months where I couldn’t go and hug people. CF sufferers have to worry about this sort of thing quite often. It really puts things in perspective.
2. You are never too old to do something you really want to do.
I know, I know, people say this all the time but how often do we take that seriously? I definitely didn’t. I spent most of my adult life secretly writing ideas for stories and poetry etc but never pursuing anything. On the back end of the year I decided to bite the bullet and enroll on a Comprehensive Creative Writing course. It has really helped me in many ways so far and really increased my confidence with putting some of my work out there. I have also met some great people (through WhatsApp not physically sadly) in a group chat for students and it’s all a mixed variety of ages all trying to do the same thing and it’s a great group to be a part of.
t’s never too late to work at something you’re really passionate about!
3. Short hair is much easier to handle
This one was one of the first things I thought of about 2020 and is not as sentimental at all as the other points in this post, but hey! It’s about things I learned right? And I learned short hair suits me better and is easier to maintain. End of.
4. Walks in nature are good for your mental health.
How many of us have taken more nature walks in the last year then we have our entire lives?!! It’s actually mad to think about but also one big positive I have found to come out of 2020. I suffered from emotional exhaustion back in the early months of lockdown, I got upset and nauseous trapped in four walls. One Saturday I gave myself a kick up the butt and went for a walk in the local woods and my goodness did I feel 10x better! We actually take for granted a lot of the time how beautiful nature actually is. I now try and do nature walks as often as I can, I’m hopeful this isn’t something that will die out once the world goes back to ‘normal’.
5. Sometimes you need a new outlook on your experiences.
Any one who actually knows me very well will probably tell you I am a bit of a negative Nancy! I spent most of my adult life looking at the negative side of things in life and always huffing and puffing like ‘oh that’s just my luck – it never goes my way anyway’, ‘who’s gonna fancy me and wanna stay with me anyway?’ Etc etc. And well, it really didn’t have a good effect on my mental health either (duh!) but I also found that the more I was looking at things so negatively, the more it naturally became more negative. Over the last few months I’ve been reading up a lot about meditation, spirituality and getting in tone with the universe and one of the main things you find they frequently say is that you attract what you give out. I have now started trying to see things in a more ‘logical’ way (easier said then done when you have anxiety) and finding that sometimes there are positive outcomes to even the most negative experiences.
6. It’s surprising the support you can get when you are openwith people.
I have started being a lot more open about myself and experiences (you can see examples of this in a lot of my previous posts) and honestly, the support and feedback I’ve had from people has been amazing. I was always worried I’d get judged as an attention seeker or something negative, but I have had good responses from so many people and some things I’ve spoken about others have related to as well, the conversations never would have happened had I not been open enough about things. It’s true what they say: it’s good to talk.
7. Punk Goes Pop is very therapeutic.
Honestly, it will put you in such a good mood. And some punk covers are better than originals. If you haven’t played some punk goes pop full blast at some point in your life, I highly recommend it!
8. Reading is the best escapism.
I used to love reading books and then over the years I really slacked at it because I was ‘too busy’ (scrolling on social media no doubt). During this last year I have really thrown myself back in to the book world and my god, I never want to be without it again. I’ve really under appreciated how good getting lost in a good book is.
9. Small Businesses are amazing
How good was 2020 for small businesses though?! We really learned this year how much sweat and effort goes in to making a small business work and I don’t know about you but I found some amazing gems in the last year from small businesses I never would have looked twice at before the pandemic.
10. I have taken way too much for granted.
One thing I have always been aware of, is that I do come from quite a spoilt background. I grew up never wanting for anything and was very used to getting my own way. But the last year has really taught me just how lucky I am in a lot of ways, not just in relation to money or presents. Even though I bitch about it, I am lucky to still be able to live in my parents house (I will move out soon Mum&Dad I promise!), and various little things we don’t give much second thought to because it’s just what we have.
Other people aren’t always as lucky or fortunate as you are, so it’s important to bear this in mind.
11. Poetry is beautiful
I have loved getting thoroughly back in to poetry again, both reading/discovering and writing it. I still have a lot to learn in all areas of writing but really, nothing tops that feeling of expressing your feelings or emotions into words to form a poem.
12. Appreciate your friends. Always,
Always make sure you remember who stuck by you. Your friends stick with you by choice. Nothing tops a person who chooses to be by your side even when you’re at your worst.
13. Finding my identity was easier said then done, but I got there.
If you have read my ‘Social media life lessons’ post then you’ll know what I’m talking about here. If not, then in a nutshell: I spent a lot of time trying to be someone I was not, for the sake of fitting in and impressing other people. Recently I have allowed myself to take a step back and re-evaluate who I truly am and what I like/don’t like etc.
Nothing is worth trading your personality for.
14. Self-Compassion is important.
People mistake self-compassion as arrogance, but it’s not. I have only recently started reading about self-compassion and have recently purchased the book of that title by Kristin Neff (I haven’t finished it yet though), but self-compassion is all about common humanity and self-kindness. I will most likely to a full blog post about this when I’ve finished the book. But what I will say is I did a test on it from the book and my scores of self-compassion were really low!
“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” – Ru Paul.
15. How someone acts with you is a reflection of THEM and not you.
I spent way too much time caring about how people treated me. I also learned in recent years that me being negative and mean around other people was down to me not being happy within myself. So it’s an important thing to always remember. If someone is mean to you, instead of getting upset just think to yourself that they probably don’t feel very good about themselves, and move on.
16. It is good to be kind.
It is amazing how positive being kind to someone or receiving kindness from someone else can make you feel.
17. Rejection and Failing is okay – at least you are trying.
I don’t really need to put much background description to this. It’s all in the title. If you fail at something or experience rejection, at least you’re trying. It’s a lot better than never trying at all and daydreaming what if’s. Trust me.
18. Online Dating is NOT the way. Anymore.
I don’t want to offend anyone who has met the love of their life on dating apps or who has had luck on there, but from my 5-6 years (at least) of experience on dating apps. They just aren’t what they used to be. In the last year in particular it’s just been an ego boost. Most people (including me on certain occasion) have just used it to cure some boredom. No decent conversations or meet-ups were formed. No-one takes it seriously any more.
I personally would much rather wait until I meet someone in the flesh and can then establish whether I am attracted to them or not. Online is easy to fake. However, with that all being said I have also made a recent decision to take a break from it all in general. I recently got a 2021 writers planner to plan out my writing goals for the year and with all of that and a new writing workshop class I’m going on I do not have time to mentally exhaust myself over a man.
I think the main thing I learnt from it was that you can’t keep pushing for something that isn’t there. And tinder and those kind of platforms are kind of doing just that, you’re on there for the sake of meeting someone (yes, I know with lockdown there was no other way!). I prefer to think that at some point in the future I’ll meet the right guy in a normal setting and it will all go from there. But until then, I’m out.
19. There is always someone worse off than you. But it is okay to feel how you feel.
Yes, we all experience emotions in different ways and some may not be upset by the same things as others. There will ALWAYS be someone who has had a harder time than you, and it’s horrible for them. But we can’t keep feeling like our feelings are invalid just because someone else has more ‘to be sad about’. It’s just about putting across your feelings in the right way, so you don’t make someone else feel like their feelings aren’t genuine. But people think different things about their own self worth. It is okay to feel however you wanna feel about anything. Don’t let other people dictate to you how you should feel.
20. Don’t waste your entire life on what pays your bills.
Now this is different for everyone, some people have jobs they absolutely love and will happily commit all their time to. Others do not. But you need to have the right balance in your work and personal life. Yes, overtime makes you look good and you might be the champion employee of the month but, you need to make sure that you are always giving set time to yourself and your personal life. Especially if you’re working from home and it’s hard to separate the two.
(I am not saying you all need to hand in your notices or tell your boss to naff off, it’s just about making sure you have balance. If you don’t: it can really damage your mental health. And could result in your performance at work being effected. So make sure you always try and have breaks for yourself and make me-time a thing.)
So that was very long, if you read through all of this then I really, REALLY appreciate you. I hope that this entertained you to read like it did me to write.
To everyone : I wish you the best for 2021, let’s hope we can have more fun, see a way out of this pandemic & learn more valuable life lessons.
Puzzles can generally be frustrating things can’t they? As fun as they are, you always find yourself getting irritated at the loss of a certain piece or when you just can’t seem to figure it all out and get it all to piece together. You may even end up throwing a strop or tantrum over it, or giving up on completing the puzzle all together.
I feel that suffering from ADHD and Social Anxiety is a bit like a puzzle for me. Every one is different, and I’m sure I’m not the only person that experiences both of these (along with an added slice of hypothyroidism, general anxiety and depression) but we all handle it in different ways and believe me, it’s a struggle.
Social Anxiety is where you can overthink social interaction and events. It varies from person to person but some cases of it mean the person might not want to go out at all unless they are physically invited to (as they feel you do not want them there otherwise) and some get shaken or nervous overthinking every thing that is said and done during a social activity. Also an overwhelming general fear of socialising with new people.
ADHD is a medical condition called Attention deficit hyperactive disorder. It effects your concentration and self-control. Your attention is limited and you have more difficulty being focused. You can also be very fidgety, and with hyperactive behaviour thrown in it can be a very difficult disorder to deal with.
I didn’t get diagnosed with ADHD until I was in my 20’s. It wasn’t commonly investigated back then. Generally, everyone just thought I was a little shit and I was not very clever. I do sometimes question how different my life might have been if this had been picked up on in my childhood. If my grades would have been better, if I would have been medicated, would my future have planned out differently?
Now that I have gone in to the definition of those two conditions, imagine what it’s like to have both going on in your brain at the same time. I basically overthink every single aspect of my day to day life.
Having anxiety constantly makes me go back to overthinking conversations I’ve had with people, how I have behaved in front of others etc. But having ADHD also means that I am impulsive and have no filter what so ever. Sometimes this can be seen as a positive, because most people will have a genuine idea of how I’m really feeling because I can’t think up a lie before I open my gob. But more often than not, having ADHD is not such a positive thing.
I have made a fool of myself many, many times. With men, saying the wrong thing in front of friends, putting my foot in it unintentionally etc. For the first few times, I was bummed but it sort of blew over. But now because there’s been so many mishaps with this, my social anxiety has gone beyond peak level. I have a horrendous fear of meeting people full stop.
The internet makes it easier to pretend. It’s easy to hide behind a filter and follow random people and like their photos without ever having to let them experience what you’re like as a physical human being. But even social media gives me panic attacks at times because I overthink what strangers may think of something I did online.
I once deleted Tinder because I accidentally super liked someone who was a mutual friend, I basically spent all day freaking out thinking that the guy was going to laugh about me to the mutual friend or send me some mean message and make me a laughing stock. Why that automatic thought occurs I’m not sure, but my guess is due to the bullying in my past, this now makes me assume everyone is always going to see me as a negative. But In hindsight, the guy probably just did what most people do when they see someone they don’t fancy superlikes them and has a giggle about it on their own and swipes left. No harm done.
Social anxiety really doesn’t allow you to be logical too often though. And ADHD always overpowers me when I am out at social events, it is hard to not have a filtering process and just say and do dumb shit around people. The social anxiety generally plays out afterwards. I’ll go home and then lay in my bed and rethink every single action and word that happened. If one person even gave me one slightly funny look or disagreed with something I said, it will play on my mind for a long period of time. Then it brings the pending fear of seeing that person again in another social event. Once you have that mindset that the people you socialise with have a problem with you, it is very hard to break out of it.
So this is why I describe my disorders like a puzzle, I spend each day piecing different bits of each disorder together to try and make a big bright picture which makes me happy about the conditions I have. I always see all this stuff about self-love and acceptance of who you are but it can be very hard to do so when you are easily disliked for things you’ve done that are beyond your mental control.
Because that is something people don’t physically grasp with ADHD. We can’t control what happens with it. It’s easy for people without the disorder to sit there and go “it’s just an excuse so you can be a little shit and misbehave”. Trust me, it’s not. I don’t know about other ADHD sufferers but I would love nothing more than to not have a lack of filter and be hyperactive so easily. It’s also actually rather offensive to accuse someone with ADHD of making excuses. Imagine as a woman if you suffer from PMS or get hormonal when you’re due on… imagine how annoyed you get when people bitch about it but it’s something you can’t control. Well, that’s how I feel about my ADHD outbursts.
I’m not sure if the Covid-19 pandemic has been a positive or not for the above, because I can’t go out and socialise. But my fear is it is actually making the anxiety aspect ten times worse with the lack of interaction with people, it might make me more anxious when the time comes to go back out there. Also, I fear my ADHD is going to multiply from excitement when I’m out and about again.
I’m still trying to manage both of these things and try not to let them overcome me too much. My people skills and filter still needs a fair bit of work but thankfully I do have friends in my life who get me. It’s just the meeting new people thing I am useless at. But, I am learning to accept this big brain puzzle as part of who I am. The right people will understand it and help me through it. It is very hard to not care about what other people think of me when I have these conditions, but I’m working on it.
So, as part of a recent assignment on my writing course, I had to write an article as if I was pitching it to a magazine. As I don’t have any writing experiences to rave about yet and the magazine I wrote this for have stated that they prefer to accept articles from people with some background. I’ve decided to publish it here instead. So here it is, the lessons I learnt about social media and the effects it has on my mental health…
It was another sleepless night in my room, as I lay there staring at the dark ceiling in deep frustration and insomnia. I then did the most common thing anyone can do – I went on my phone. Despite reading countless documentaries over the years, about how addictive social media has become in our lives, and even purchasing a book earlier this year called ‘How to Break Up with your phone’ which had a whole first section that blew my mind about scary addictive facts, I still did not think I had any sort of problem.
Then a couple of months ago, I tuned into the Netflix documentary ‘The Social Experiment’. This documentary opened my eyes to how much I scrolled through my phone and had a serious addiction problem. My morning routine was always the same. The first thing I would do when I got up: scroll through Instagram and Twitter. It wasn’t even for anything specific, just a general nosey window into the world. Into what strangers I would probably never meet think about current events, the latest gorgeous selfie my friend might have posted, the usual social media expectancies.
Initially I believed that I had broken my social media addiction a year ago – when I made the decision to permanently delete Facebook. It is a fact that Facebook is not the community it used to be, and I always found Facebook an extremely negative environment, constant negative comments on each other’s posts, people sharing group posts that they had not even fact-checked, it was awful. So, I made the decision to remove that area of social media from my life in November 2019 and never look back. I always thought Instagram and Twitter were better platforms, in some ways they are, but over the last few months I noticed that I really had a problem with how much time I spent on them.
The Comparison Thief
Over the last few months where the pandemic has been keeping us locked away to keep each other safe, social media has pretty much been the only place many of us can keep in touch. It has also been the window we all need to fake major parts of our lives for the world to see and get the attention we crave.
Again, I never thought I had an issue with social media. I believed I was perfectly fine with who I was and how I looked. But the pandemic opened my eyes in lots of ways. With less time spent socialising with other people or being out, I had more time to spend aimlessly scrolling through my two social media platforms and acknowledge just how negatively it made me feel. As someone who spent much of their life being bullied for how she looks, and her irritating hyperactivity (which was later diagnosed as ADHD in my 20s), I had spent every waking moment of my life caring what other people think: How people perceive me. Whether I’m pretty enough, or likeable. It also does not help when you socialise with some of the most beautiful looking women with great personalities!
The problem was that I cared so much about how I was perceived that I had become over the years, a very bitter and cynical person. I held hatred and grudges against people for way too long, I always saw the negative in things. Made negative comments about people I was envious of. You know how they always say ‘people who speak badly of you are just compensating for their own insecurities’? Well, I was those people.
It took me a long time to see it, but that was me. I acknowledged that this was who I was, and this enabled me to grow as a person. However, I found myself still having bitter envious thoughts while using social media. To the point it was becoming a natural obsession. I would post a picture on Instagram and obsessively keep checking back every four minutes to see if it had any new likes, it did not matter that Iliked the picture and that is why I posted it. If there’s not enough likes then it means absolutely nothing. I was craving validation from everyone on social media, even complete strangers. I would post a nice selfie that got on average 40 likes, but then a day later I would see a post from my more popular, beautiful friend, and see that all the friends we mutually know that didn’t like my posts always liked hers, and I would have this bitter twinge in my stomach, this complete bitter notion of ‘why is she better than me?’.
The thing is, when you have been battling low self-esteem your whole life, these thoughts will always come naturally to you. I know I am not the only person here who has felt like this either, I think the issue we have with social media now is that this is a lot more common. There are memes everywhere on a regular basis being shared about how likes should not validate you and you should stop comparing your dark days to another person’s highlight reel, but we still do. It was on this sleepless night while scrolling through these app’s at 2am that I decided to remove social media from my phone for a month and see what I could learn.
Real Life Lessons
The first few days of the 4.5-week experiment were hard. I realised just how much I had been addicted to the use of these apps. One morning, about three days in, I had put my facemask on to walk to the station because it was freezing, realised that it was a handy tool to have to keep you warm in the winter and my first initial thought was ‘If I had twitter, I could have tweeted that’. I recognised this thought straight away and re-addressed to myself that I didn’t need to post everything on social media.
But the first week and a half was more difficult than I suspected. I then decided to set myself some goals to pre-occupy my time from social media. Being a bookworm and someone who is always dreaming of being a writer, I used to moan about not having time to read all my books or have time to write. But what I learnt when I didn’t have social media to fall back on was that I had plenty of time available to me, I just chose to use it on something pointless. In the few weeks without those two apps, I read six books. Before I started this break, I think I had read around five books in total since January! It amazed me how much time I had to read, and the limits were endless. It just goes to show how much we can use social media as an unnecessary escapism from real-life.
One of the most important things I had learnt from my break from social media, was that I had cared so much about the opinions of others, that I had slipped away from my own identity.
I wanted to be liked so badly and ‘fit in’ that in the last couple of years I started to try and be more ‘girly’, but not in the girly sense I was used to. I started buying more feminine patterns and the kind of clothes you see in boutique stores that all the girls are wearing. Let me tell you, a lot of that stuff doesn’t particularly go well with someone who has half of their porcelain skin covered in gothic and nerdy tattoos.
The more other people noticed my posts with more girly appearances, the more I tried to fit in to it. In my time away from social media I realised how much I depressed myself when I looked in the mirror. I was the opposite of everything that I liked. I am the girl who always likes eyelash extensions and bold colour lipsticks, my clothes were always red and black – my favourite colours.
But I was starting to pose around in floral jumpsuits and cream knitted dresses and all I learnt from that was that it was not me, and I was unhappy. So, I did a clear out of all the stuff that was not me and went back to my ‘gothic’ roots. What I learnt as well was when I looked in the mirror and thought I looked good, because I wasn’t posting a picture on Instagram for validation, I felt good throughout the day. It is amazing what not seeking validation can do for your mental health.
My social media break taught me a lot, and of course, I do still use it and post a selfie or a tweet. But what I do differently now is remind myself to be kind and that likes don’t make you more attractive. Of course, there is still the odd moment where I get that jealous twang when I feel like I can’t look as good as someone else or be as popular, but when I have that twang, I just take a breath and move on.
It is okay to be jealous time to time, it is a natural feeling, but what we need to do is acknowledge that we should not have to feel that way and move on. I also find that complimenting other people’s posts and achievements makes me feel better about myself also. It is true what they say, being kind can do wonders for your mental health.
So, when I use social media now, I make sure that I remember that I am posting things because I like them, and it does not matter what other people think. Being true to yourself on social media is the best thing you can do.
Lockdown for a majority of this year has been a bit shite hasn’t it? However, there have been some positives out of it. For me in particular, 2020 has helped me re-visit my love for reading and writing and over the last year I’ve read a bunch of books that have really made a difference. So I figured I’d do a quick post about one’s that I would highly recommend:
Looking For Alaska by John Green
John Green is one of my favourite writers. I had read his most famous novels ‘The fault in our stars’ and ‘Paper Towns’ in recent years but this year I read most of his other works. This book was his debut novel and it was also one of the only books to ever make me cry! The ending is beautiful and it is basically a story of all sorts really, it’s a YA novel which reflects on a boys life when he meets a girl called Alexa in boarding school, and his life is never the same again. If you want a good moving read – this is a good place to start.
The girl who loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
Nothing ever tops a Stephen King novel to be fair. His writing is always brilliant. But this book fascinated me, all about a girl obsessed with a baseball player who becomes lost on a family trip to the woods. It’s all about survival and is a riveting read.
Good vibes, Good Life by Vex King
A non-fiction book which changed my mindset on a lot of the ways I look at things. Vex goes into various things about how you can transform negative thoughts into positive ones, self-love, overcoming toxic energies etc. For anyone who is struggling to feel good vibesabout their life, particularly in this current pandemic. You should really read this!
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Another fantastic novel by John Green. This book is all about a young teenage girl who suffers with obsessive compulsive disorder and the relationships she has with those around her while trying to locate a fugitive billionaire with her best friend. This books touches on mental health from the lead characters perspective with her mental health, its a beautiful story which touches on just how bad mental health can effect your life and relationships.
Pillow Thoughts by Courtney Peppernell
This is one of the most beautiful poetry/prose books I’ve read in a while. Courtney really touches on emotions here in her poetry. The book is separated into sections ‘if you’re missing someone’, ‘if you need a reason to stay’ etc. And each section is so beautiful and relatable it really reaches your heart soul and feels. If you love poetry, grab this. Seriously.
It’s not that many, because I don’t want to bore you with every single book I’ve read this year… some of them weren’t as good as I had hoped. But you don’t know if you don’t try and read it right? I’m currently enjoying reading various genres while I try and locate what I can relate to most with my writing. But if you are a bookworm like me and you’re struggling to find some new books to read – give the above a go. Also feel free to let me know any suggestions you may have!
Stay safe everyone. And have a wonderful Christmas xx