Tuesday, 14 February 2017

When I discovered him...

I watched as my sister struggled to get comfortable on the chair, she was due in a few weeks and I observed her, as we waited for my then 3year old nephew to get his hair cut in the hair salon. As I looked at her I thought about who would I have children to, what my future held for me, because a few months prior, I thought I ‘knew’ what would happened because I had everything planned.    


   Then LIFE happened…

I was newly single; it was a novelty, a new freedom that gushed from the wound that started as a 7year itch; a beautiful pain, a necessary pain.
I was excited, but I was scared. I had just turned 25, who would I find now?
I was with someone who slid out of my life like a pair of glasses sliding off a perfectly straight nose, and I couldn’t see my future anymore.

But I trusted in the NOW. I didn’t think about what the future would be like, the present was already bright, and distracting me from looking behind or too far ahead.
I was awakened, and everything around me that was once was dull beamed with colours that I had never noticed before.

I watched as my nephew was being served hot chocolate in his throne, a distraction from the terrifying clippers that would soon be cutting away his unruly, child-like hair, like the loss of innocence and in that moment I yearned for my own childhood, a time when no expectation laid upon me









Now, I would be watched to see how I would cope, how would I react, being newly alone. 

For the 90th time that day I scanned my social media apps on my phone, the usual ritual of scrolling, like a magician pulling an unending supply of tissues from his pocket.

Within a fraction of a second a curtain had opened a scene on the stage of MY life, because just then, in that moment, my life changed upon giving a photo a ‘like’ on Instagram.  The photo stood out to me, because it was of the very salon in which I was sitting. I was curious to see who took the photo.


Then I discovered him…

I didn’t know who he was.

But the photographs he took, what he took the photographs of, were of the small, common things in life, but he made them majestic.
Then I spotted a photo of him. With a sharp jaw-line and virile height he looked convincingly German. My only clue that he was Irish was his collection of Instagram photos of my own city. 


“Who is he?” I quietly murmured to myself. I had never seen him before.

Why was I feeling so drawn to him and his photographs? 

I was meant to be enjoying my new single life. Surely I couldn’t be showing interest in someone already?
Against the ‘logic’ of my mind, that was often infrequent, I sided with my intuition that I had been neglecting recently. 
And so, I ‘followed’ him. 
He ‘followed’ me back. The first time he made me smile.
I soon discovered, with the help of Facebook, that whilst he was from my hometown, he actually lived in Germany.

‘Add as Friend?’, you bet.

“Guten Tag”, I messaged him, trying to impress him with my G.C.S.E German.

And so it began.

We messaged every day for two weeks before he suggested ‘Skyping’. 
I was not used to this new-age digital romance. I was nervous, unsure of what I would say and what he would think of me.
It rang, doot doot –doot doot- doot de doot doot. He was ‘Skype-calling’ me. 
I answered, but didn’t appear in front of the screen until I could see him and get a good look at him. He stared blankly, wondering where I was.

He was wearing red, which made his sparkling blue eyes pierce my computer screen. I was envious of his beautifully arched eyebrows, and his cute ski-slope nose.  He was beautiful.
I appeared on the screen to him, smiling and my heart pounding, already knowing that he was something very, very special.
We spoke for hours, completely at ease, enthralled with each other, yet mystified at the fact that we had never seen each other before despite having mutual friends.
He would be in Dublin the following week and he asked if I would meet him. 
Of course I would.
“I’m meeting that guy from the internet in Dublin”, I said to my parents. 
Having heard me talk about him since the first day I discovered him, they knew that he was the real deal, and I didn’t have to convince my Daddy that he’d have to do a Liam Neeson stunt.
For the 4hour bus journey to Dublin I sat, not moving and not daring to snooze so not to ruin my makeup. My nerves wouldn’t let me sleep anyway.
He told me he would wait at the bus station.
As the bus pulled up I tried to look for him, and I couldn’t see him.
Doubt filtered through.
I stepped off the bus and proceeded to walk, and then I discovered him. He walked out from the shadow of a pillar and dazzled me with a smile.
“Hello” he said to me, as he kissed me on the cheek. A gentleman.
“I have to go to the toilet” was my reply. I casually walked off to the bathrooms until he stopped me to tell me that I would need a Euro to get into the toilets. He gave me the euro.

I checked my reflection in the bathroom mirror, almost ready to ask myself  “You’ve never done anything like this before”
I smiled at myself, ready to explore this new discovery.

We walked towards the hotel we were staying at, IN SEPARATE ROOMS, of course.  I observed him as we walked.  He had a smile that triggered my own smile. His eyes had a soothing effect on me. 
I checked in to my room as he had been already staying in the hotel the days before. He would wait for me outside my room whilst I left my bags in and changed my shoes.

I opened the door.

“Oh somebody forgot their…”

Then I realised, the beautiful rose in the vase wasn’t left behind by anybody else, it was there for me. Him, he had done this.
I looked at him and he stood at the door, looking at the ground and smiling bashfully.
The card on the roses had the lyrics of  ‘Guns ‘N’ Roses’ on it, my favourite band, my favourite song, the most beautiful lyrics.

“You did this?” I asked him.

His vibrant eyes and animated smile was his response.





I stood, in awe, at what he had done. The fact that I thought the rose was left behind was evidence that I had never experienced such a surprise before.
I discovered in that moment that he was considerate, kind and I was surely falling in love with him
It’s almost three years since I stood in that hotel room looking at him, incredulous at how I, little old me, was the object of this beautiful man’s affection.
For three years we have been in a long-distance relationship. For the last three year’s we’ve discovered so much about each other. We meet up and travel every three or four weeks. Some day we will be able to spend everyday waking up to each other, but for now, we're still discovering the world.

In Rome, he laughed at my uncontainable excitement upon seeing the Colosseum and quoting the lines from the ‘Gladiator’ movie.

In Barcelona discovered how I considerate he was when he scoured the entire city at an unsociable hour to get me painkillers for my sore ear.

I discovered how funny he was in Australia when after a night out, a group of us sat in McDonald’s at 3am, and having found sunglasses, he sat and gave his best rendition of Stevie Wonder.

I see how he treats my family. I see how he treats me. I see how he loves me. I constantly see, and I constantly discover.


                                    I want to keeping discovering him for the rest of my life...


Australia

Ramsay Street, Melbourne








Melbourne

Christmas at home

New Year's Eve 2015

My nephew, Stephen and I

Christmas 2015

Skype 



Rome











We love our night robes


Celebrating my nephew's 1st birthday


Sicily, Summer 2016

Germany, Summer 2016


Monday, 23 January 2017

Our Lives are in Constant Motion...


I always feel like I’m on a unicycle, trying to gain
a balance in my life; learning and studying what moves it takes to gain that balance. Yet, it’s the very process of ‘finding’ the balance that consumes our lives...

We as individuals have a diverse set of conditions by which we live. These Conditions of Worth are set by those around us and ourselves. Most of the time these conditions are not talked about or simply not consciously acknowledged, but they are palpable in every household, society, school, etc. 
For Example, I always thought that 'I will not be content and successful until I graduate and have my graduation photograph on the wall between my brother and sister’s graduation photographs.' 

However, that being said, my parent’s never once put pressure on me academically, they always told me that my best was enough. It was myself from which the pressure came.
It’s surprising how we measure ourselves against the Conditions of Worth we set ourselves because most of the time these conditions manifest from what we see others doing.

People live and work within superficial mind-frames that only focus on how they can be better than others, rather than just bettering themselves. This is because they’re trying to find that balance within themselves, even though they’re not conscious of it. 
We would benefit from thinking about what it is we want, what part of us needs fulfilling.
I find that people yearn for substance in their life, and they think that alcohol and societal status, material gain and wealth is the answer. But it’s not.
I am a girl who loves her clothes and shoes and makeup, and I love shopping, but the feeling of buying something new is short-lived and the ‘buzz’ soon wears off... I know some people can identify with this, whether they like to admit it or not.


"Stand up in the midst of the turbulent water of life and regain our balance."


What I do find fulfilling is looking inward and listening attentively to what my soul and mind needs.
It’s important to attend to your holistic health, because when you tune into your mind and body and soul you will then begin to master the art of balancing your life and you will realise what matters.
Our balance depends on our values, adhering to them so that we know where we stand in the face of adversity and trial instead of being consumed by thoughts of ‘what will I buy when I get paid?’. 
Our values affect our goals, our decisions, our beliefs and behaviours. It lets us become more self-aware, to nurture ourselves and to understand ourselves so that we can rejuvenate.


Stephen Cox, the writer of the blog Balanced Existence, writes that “the waves come in, break and recede. Then they roll on in again. Instead of fighting and being tumbled painfully ashore, feel the waves coming and ride them out.”

So let me ask you to think of something...

➜Imagine yourself standing on the shore of the ocean, faced with the constant motion of our lives (the waves), and think of the waves as the changes of life.
Some may be small and others will come and crash into us, changing our position  and setting us off balance. To regain that balance we must be strong in our mind, our soul and our body. 
Being holistically strong and aware of our values, allows us to stand up in the midst of the turbulent water of life and regain our balance.


Monday, 12 December 2016

Oh Christmas Tree...




Christmas is always a time of year where a variety of mixed emotions are running high.
Trying to save money to buy presents for all your loved ones and trying to keep on top of bills can cause stress to creep in, including remembering our loved ones who have passed, not to mention the effect of the dark nights upon us. Christmas in fact can be quite a stressful, depressing and lonely time for some of us.

Whilst I’ve always dealt with a touch of SAD Syndrome (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a very common condition that causes the individual to have symptoms of depression due to the lack of sunlight, I’ve always enjoyed Christmas.
If I’m feeling the symptoms of S.A.D syndrome I know what to do to control it and to counter-act the effects because I’ve always experienced it, even as a child.  

“We’re not at a place where mental health is discussed as openly as the weather...”


As winter has progressed I’ve been hearing about more and more people feeling ‘low’, or feeling ‘panicky’ and likely dealing with S.A.D syndrome. However, these are people who have never really experienced mental health issues before, and now don’t know what to do about how they’re feeling. They feel different, trapped and afraid. It can feel like you’re losing your identity, and that’s terrifying. This is why the stigma attached to mental health acts as a barricade to those who need help. 
If mental health was discussed as much as the common cold, then it wouldn’t be such a struggle to deal with.
Unfortunately, we’re not at a place where mental health is discussed as openly as the weather whilst waiting for a bus, or casually brought up as a reason why you’ve been absent from work. We always give a different excuse for why we are not being ‘ourselves’, “I’m tired” or “I’m not feeling well’’ is usually the excuse for what we really want to say.
We’re actually quite like the Christmas tree.
We are like the tree with different branches of personality. 
However, we decorate our branches with a fa├žade of false emotions, and we pretend to be happier and more cheerful than we really are.
We create a delightful image of joy and what we think it means to be happy. But a lot of us are decorating ourselves to conceal the rough bark of our minds, and the painful jab of our pine needle thoughts.
Why do we weigh ourselves down with these false decorations? Why can’t we talk about how heavy we feel with these false pretences?
We see other people who are ‘happy’ and fear that if we do come forward to speak up that we would be the only ones to do so. Coming forward to speak up about mental health can have more positive effect than you can imagine. You can encourage and help others with their own mental health by becoming an advocate for your own well-being.
By doing so you’re contributing to removing the stigma attached to mental health.
Mental health doesn’t discriminate. We’re all Christmas trees from the same forest, we can all experience the same thoughts, feelings and emotions. It is up to us to let others



“We’re all Christmas trees from the same forest, we can all experience the same thoughts, feelings and emotions.”


I’ve come to realise that when I speak openly about my mental health I find that others come forward too to speak about theirs, and there’s such liberation in that.
Isn’t it time to put our real selves forward this Christmas? It’s okay to admit that we may not want to drink alcohol because it makes us feel worse, and it’s okay to say you need time to yourself to rejuvenate. 
Give yourself the present of honesty and self-care as this New Year begins.

It is important to not blind those around us with our twinkling lights - and realise that we can be all vulnerable and scared, but by coming together we can create a forest of strength that doesn’t allow the mental health stigma to cause damage like an invisible wild fire. We can look out for each other by empowering ourselves to look after our own mental health and stand forward and challenge the social stigma.




















Monday, 5 December 2016

A Trail of Glittering Experience

I have been recently discovering a lot of snails about my garden...

And, I, in my tendency to succumb to the seduction of a silent reverie, found myself wondering about snails, their purpose, and why they are the way they are. Why a shell? Why have they their houses on their back?
Then I thought ‘Snails are independent in a weird way’.
They rely on themselves for their shelter, their security; unattached 
to anything but themselves. 
They travel leaving only a trail of glittering experience of the path they’ve taken, despite how long it has taken them.

A snail didn’t choose to be a snail, it didn’t choose to be slow and burdened with its shell, but despite its wavering purpose in nature, it still carries itself and travels to a new place, independent of all that surrounds it, and irrespective of what humanity thinks of it.
With its beautifully grotesque shell, intricately designed by the hand of nature, the snail climbs up walls, unaware of what is before it, never questioning.
It goes on, until a bird comes and ends its insignificant life, fulfilling its purpose as a meal for its avian predecessor on the food-chain... and the world goes on.

And I think, perhaps I’m too like this snail. I, too, am burdened by an unreckonable force upon my back, that is, my Mental Health. With such a heavy burden I’m tempted to wait in hope of a winged figure to pluck me from the perils of my physical encasement on this Earth.
But, despite the weight, and the fear of an ominous shadow, I have become accustomed to it.


“despite its wavering purpose
in nature, it still carries itself
and travels to a new place, independent of all that surrounds it, and irrespective of what humanity thinks of it”
I, too, can keep going despite what humanity thinks of me. It’s only with my beautifully grotesque mind, my perseverance and struggle that I can leave my glittering trail of experience. 
Perhaps my purpose is to show that despite the weight of my mental illness, I can still travel to new places, explore new grounds and live, unattached to the stigma and social ‘impressions’ of what it means to have a Mental Health problem. To show, that despite all the odds, I can still live.
I have come out of my shell and accepted who I am.
My Mental Health disorder has conditioned me to be strong, to persevere through everything that life offers. I chose to turn something negative into something positive, so going to therapy, taking medication and working on myself holistically has taught me to realise that I can have control over how I feel.
I consider what I thought was a curse, as a blessing. I feel blessed because what was once a burden is now a monument that signifies my success through the toughest struggle that I’ve ever endured, and I’m leaving my glittering trail of experience.

Living with a Mental Health disorder doesn’t define who I am as a person. Having a Mental Health disorder does not make me any less a dreamer, any less a daughter, sister or girlfriend. Being a snail doesn’t mean it’s any less an insect. Having a Mental Health disorder means I just have something extra to deal with in my daily life.
There was a time when I considered myself ‘cursed’, questioning why I was inflicted with such mental torment, convincing myself that I was being punished.
How I perceived my Mental Health disorder is indicative of how society can penalise and ostracizes anything that is ‘abnormal’ or ‘taboo’. In the daylight hours society doesn’t blatantly outlaw those who have Mental Health issues; in fact, it encourages inclusion and well- being of everyone. It’s only in the dark corners of quiet moments, when the day has yawned and the tie is pulled off, that the other face of society looks warily from the corner of its eye upon us and wonders are we actually monsters, psychopaths and murderers like the people in those horror movies.

Society paints a sloppy picture using only limited colours to portray those with Mental Health issues. 
We deserve to be painted by our own experienced hands, we who have experienced the inner turmoil that Mental Health can cause. If each of us could choose to contribute to what Mental Health is like using our own artistic technique, our own stroke of the brush, our own unique colour upon the canvas of society, then perhaps the art depicting Mental Health wouldn’t be abstract art, but simply naturalism, a reflection of our minds, our struggles, beautiful dashes of colour with trails of glittering experience. 
We owe it to ourselves to keep going and to make our own purpose despite what nature has given us. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Green Sofa


At the age of 8 I moved house. I moved three miles up the road to another estate.
I was leaving my world as I knew it.
I was leaving my best friend and my routine of ‘calling in’ for her so we could go out in our roller blades or go on our bikes.
This was all being diminished because I was moving house. It may not seem very dramatic to an adult, but for me, at 8 years old, it was traumatic.

My casual walking down to school with my best friend was now going to be replaced with having to
sit carefully, on the clankity old Ulster bus seats, in hope that the movement of the bus wouldn’t disrupt my position and cause my legs to shift onto the freezing cold chrome edges of the seats.
This is when I started to feel strange. 


My best friend Carla (Left) and I



"I too, felt like I was covered, wrapped and stitched in complete unfamiliarity."


I remember opening the door into the living room of our new house. The only familiarity that I saw was our green sofa that had made the journey some hours before.
I stood in the doorway, and I stared at the green sofa.
That sofa had been a different colour once, but my mama had got it covered in a new material earlier that year.
I looked at the sofa. What was once a brown, familiar and molded with routine sitting sofa, was now covered in a new fabric.
I too, felt like I was covered, wrapped and stitched in complete unfamiliarity.
At 8 years old, I remember the overwhelming feeling of fear. I was consumed, by what I know now, was acute Anxiety. I was for the first time, experiencing Mental Distress.
Little did I know that this was the start of what would be a very long journey spent in complete mental wilderness.

"I was losing my childhood
 to the ‘bad feeling’ that 
my young innocent 
self labelled it."

I didn’t know how to explain how I felt. I was a child, and my vocabulary was limited.
I began saying that I “didn’t feel well” and when I was asked where I was sore, or how I felt, I just replied, in hopelessness “I don’t know”.
After many a trip to the Doctors I was told “It’s all in your head, stop worrying”, but it was in my head, and it was festering. That was it, I had to deal with this feeling because the Doctor and nobody else  could understand me.  My mum was always trying to distract me from the silent torment of my mind by saying “let’s bake buns” or “let’s go up into town to get new shoes”.

Nothing worked.  

I was losing my childhood to the ‘bad feeling’ that my young innocent self labelled it.
I wasn’t young anymore, I wasn’t carefree anymore, and we all knew it.
I, who was completely in awe of Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ and sang every song during every second of every day, had stopped singing. The house was quiet now. My voice was silenced by the turmoil in my young mind. Before I was 10, I wanted to die, I couldn’t cope with it. 
At that age I had believed I wouldn’t live long, because I felt that it was not normal to feel so bad without dying soon.

Let’s fast forward to 2013. I’m still alive. I’m 24 now.
Since becoming mentally unwell from that young age of 8 I’ve been on three different types of anti-depressants not to mention the multitude of anti-anxiety medication and sedatives.

But I’m so happy!
Never did I think that feeling this good was possible for me.
Looking back, I know today that those feelings that I had when I was 8 was the beginning of the Depression and Anxiety, and ultimately a clinical diagnosis of O.C.D.
It has been over two years since I’ve been diagnosed with O.C.D. I was diagnosed due to a crisis, and I couldn’t cope and I had a major breakdown.
The coping strategies that I had developed since I was 8 had crashed and burned in face of this crisis where a family member had become unwell.
It came to a point where I refused to let the Doctor tell me that “exercise would lift your moods”.    

I swallowed my pride and demanded professional help.

My pride, my awareness of the stigma attached to mental health that came from society and even myself didn’t stop me. I didn’t care anymore. I needed help because the other option was Suicide and I refused to let Suicide be an option any more, even though I had Suicidal ideation.
And so, I was given an appointment for a psychiatric assessment. On the day of the assessment I was petrified about what would happen to me once I started to talk about how I was thinking and feeling.
I have no idea what I said that day in that room, but I remember I felt like there was a black cloud that had just burst open with rain and was now relieved.
A couple of days later I graduated with a degree in Drama. I was proud of myself and I was happy to have my photograph mounted on the wall between my brother and sister’s graduation photos.

The day following my graduation I had received a letter from the place where I had gone for my psychiatric assessment. I had sat down on our new black leather sofa and read the letter. The letter described my disorder; the letter deemed my disorder ‘common’ and contained a treatment plan of new medication specific for my disorder and C.B.T.

That letter meant more to me than my degree, because even though my degree proved that I studied drama for 3 years, my letter from the psychiatrist meant that I could now get better after 15 years of mental struggle.
I sat on our new black leather sofa and I cried with relief, liberation and catharsis from the unknown shadow that I could now name, and now control.

Celebrating my birthday in Melbourne, Australia

I wasn’t like the green sofa anymore. I was becoming more like our new black leather sofa, I had aged with struggle, but I was tougher now, I was durable and I was now more resilient, despite who or what impacted on me. 


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