Let’s Focus on the Positives…

…I hate that Chris goes away all the time, it sucks balls and not in a good way (you know what I mean). When he’s not here I get all morose and mopey, washing my hair seems like a waste of good water and eating becomes more of an optional day time activity than a necessary bodily function (I know you might be wondering why this post is called Let’s Focus on the Positives – stick with me). Chris got back from Indonesia on Thursday and I was in a pretty bad way. It’s taken me the weekend but I have managed to get my mood a little more regulated, things look better today than they have done for a good couple of weeks. But the thing is, this is Christopher’s job (and quite frankly while I’m ramping up the old freelance career it’s COMPLETELY necessary), he’s been doing it for a year and a half now and it’s about bloody time I got sodding used to it. I’m not saying that I want to be happy about Chris going away – that would be weird and quite frankly a warning sign on the whole spending the rest of our lives together thing, but in order to level out my despair at his absence I think I need to come up with a list of positives to focus on the next time he goes away.

So let’s start; Five Good Things About Being Without Your Significant Other:

  1. Underwear Times: I’m not talking about using Chris’ absence as a reason for wearing all the comfy but shit underwear I own (you know, the ones with the weird pattern that hold the memories of when you first felt all independent and free buying yourself pants as a teenager, but which have since gone a sinister grey colour and are weirdly faded in the gusset)  – we’re getting married, I stopped buying lace underwear a good two years ago, if you keep that sort of crap up they’re just going to expect it forever. I’m talking about wandering around the house in it. You might think, don’t I do that anyway (?) but really unless it’s pre or post coital I tend to be fully (or mostly) clothed at all times, especially during the winter. Wondering around in a t-shirt and my pants would feel weird if Chris was around and fully clothed too, actually if he was also wearing a t-shirt and his pants it would be even more weird. But wandering around the house in that state of semi-dress when there is no-one in it but you is perfectly acceptable and more than a little bit fun.
  2. No Food Consultations: There’s not the whole “what do you feel like for dinner tonight?” “I feel like curry.” “Curry? Urgh, what about cheesy pasta?” “We always have cheesy pasta.” “That’s because it’s very very tasty.” “I still feel like curry though.” There’s just “CHEESY PASTA YEEEEAAAAHHH.”
  3. Work Absorption: Generally I work all day and then when Chris get’s home I spend the evening with him but when that doesn’t happen I have my evenings open to write and email and all sorts, which can lead to more productivity…but sometimes just a lot of time spent watching cat videos.
  4. Cat Favouritism: Not that I necessarily want to be the cats’ favourite owner but I LOVE that I am (love’s not a competition…but I’m winning). Little Gusgus just follows me around like a feisty little imaginary friend, and these days I can just walk up to my little scaredy cat Nunney and give her a stroke, which has taken MONTHS to achieve. Cat’s are fickle and I know that if Chris was the one feeding them and cuddling them at night they’d like him more, but he’s not, so there.

    Cats getting in the way of work
    Computer Cat
  5. Keeping the Magic Alive: Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer it if Chris were here all the time, getting under my feet, telling bad jokes, generally annoying and irritating me, but in the spirit of looking on the bright side I do have to admit that there is excitement to be found in his frequent absence; I get all funny in my tummy when I’m on my way to pick him up from the train station or when I get the text to say he’s landed and he’s on his way home. In fact I get butterflies every time I receive a text from him. I plan lovely things we’re going to do when he’s back, sometimes I do buy a pair of pants with a bit of lace on (as long as they’re in the M&S 3 for 2 section). I have plenty of opportunities to miss him and this means a constant reminder of just how important he is to me, how much we love each other and how lucky we are that this is the case. Abracafrikindabra.Two lovers in Paris

If there’s one thing I know about my brain it’s that it is inclined towards the melancholy, so hopefully this will be part of the training to get my mood at a more consistent level of contentment. I’m not asking to bounce out of bed every morning rejoicing in the rising of the sun (although that would be nice), I just really want my first thought to be “Oh! Another day!” not “Oh. Another day.” – if you know what I mean. Onwards and upwards people, onwards and upwards!

Dot and Lucy Engagement Photoshoot

 

Oh my God I forgot one! What I fool.

6.   Sometimes I get to go too! Now THAT’S a pretty good deal.chilling out in vietnam

See, once you look for one positive, you’ll find many more!

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My Daily Creations!

A week or so ago I decided that I would create one thing every day, in the hopes of pulling myself out of depression, living a more creative as well as active existence and getting the creative juices flowing on the whole business building, making money thing. So far it’s going quite well, I’ve been busy knitting and sewing, emailing and networking and I have to say that I am indeed feeling hopeful on all counts and it all started with a pom pom…

Create something every day

knitted hat, create something every day

And since then things have been progressing nicely…

knitted table placements, create something new every day

handmade bridesmaid dress, create something every day

shabby chic candelabra, create something new every day

Create something new every day

knitted coasters, create something new every day

wedding bunting! create something new every day

handmade wedding invites, create something new every day!
Evening wedding invites!

The days can still be dark but spending some hours writing, knitting, sewing, making and creating provide vital and much treasured moments of light. I think the important thing is not to push it, to do one or two really good things a day, rather than three of four not so good ones. I would encourage anyone struggling to see the light to do the same.

handmade table runner, create something new every day!

 

By the by, if you click on the above image it’ll take you to my Etsy shop – just so you know…

 

How to…

…create good things from bad.

Sometimes I see mental health issues as some kind of weird blessing. Couple of reasons: because my bad can be really, really bad I am able to truly appreciate how good the good really is. I used to envy the people who seemed to drift, freely and lazily through life but now I almost feel sorry for them, I have the experience of extremes to draw from, and it benefits me greatly, they do not.  Also, because my fight with anxiety and depression helpfully highlighted some changes that I really needed to make to my mindset and my living and this essentially freed me from a situation in which I was completely stuck and deeply unhappy.

Somedays I feel like that, but not today. Today feels shit. Yesterday did too. Suppose you can’t suffer from depression without getting depressed sometimes – bugger.

So today I made a decision! I’m absolutely happiest when I’m creating things. I like reading, and drinking wine in front of the telly really can feel blissful, getting dressed up to go out for cocktails can be fun, but really I am my most excited, content, joyful when I’m in the zone and making something from not much (mostly just thoughts – and sometimes a bit of old curtain). The only problem is my slightly malfunctioning brain; instead of waking me up in the morning and saying “go forth Milldred! Create things of such wonderment that people will laugh at you until they’re blue in the face and you’ll bloody love it!” It says, “oh look, it’s the day-time, we don’t like that do we? No, let’s stay in bed, shall we? Yes. You know it’s really not safe out there, you’re better off in here, with the cats…and Facebook.”

old curtain for making new things!
Wasn’t lying about the bits of old curtain…

But I’m taking charge! I’m going to create something, anything, at least one thing a day. And by saying to my brain every morning, ‘back off you old grouch, we’re making knitted pom poms today and we’re going to like it, aren’t we? YES.” I’ll be able to take back my mood and turn the day into a positive one, instead of a negative one. It can be anything; a blog; a short story; the chapter of a book; a tea cosy; a table runner; a great opportunity; a treacle tart (sounds like a good one for tomorrow). And I’m going to challenge myself. I mean for starters I’m already trying to create a whole self-employed business thing out of thin air (also a great deal of passion…but mostly thin air – if it keeps everyone else alive I can work with it). Yesterday I sewed part one of my bridesmaid dress for my best friend’s wedding (it’s currently see-through, part two is the slip – would be bad if I forgot that bit). I’ve signed up to do a craft fair, to try to sell some the nonsense I make, because I love the idea of the things I have so much fun creating going into someone elses’ home and becoming part of their everyday lives (plus I have my half of the mortgage to pay). I’ve never sewn a shirt before so I bought a cheap pattern and some £2.99 a meter cotton and I’m going to try to make a shirt, probably going to turn out really badly but at least I will have tried and you can’t get take-two without doing a take-one. Today I’ve created this blog post, tomorrow I’m going try to pitch some freelance articles and create an opportunity to get my work published.

creating one thing everyday
And I did make a pom pom today!

Once I’ve gotten out of bed to create one thing, who knows what other things might present themselves during the day? I’m taking charge! And I urge anyone else who’s pesky brain is keeping them down to do the same. And I’m going to need picture evidence of all that is created…

create one things every day, knitted pom pom
Now there’s one for the craft fair
create something new every day, knitted pom pom
Not bad…POM POM

By the by I shall be posting a daily picture of whatever I’ve created every day on my social media so follow me on Instagram or Twitter for the #createaday low down!

How To…

…maintain a relationship through mental illness.

It’s no secret that Depression and anxiety are tough illnesses to bear, but not least for your family and loved ones. Any illness puts strain on any relationship – man flu could (and most likely does) break up the most solid of partnerships. And when your partner is lying on the floor rocking back and forth with tears streaming down their cheeks and asking you to section them, I can understand why that might be a tough thing to take.

Wedding guest outfits

Two weeks after I first had to leave work due to mental illness Chris went away for three weeks on a work trip. It seemed like terrible timing, however, looking back on it now leads me to think it was actually exactly what I needed. I heard a stupid song not too long ago, probably written by a stupid man, the lyrics of which dictate that “you’re nobody ’till somebody loves you”, which I have to say it utter codswallop (euphemism). Love helps, it really does, but the love of someone else can only go so far, love for oneself has to do the rest.

The three weeks I had without Chris gave me the perfect opportunity to work on me, spend a little time with myself and get comfortable with who I am. And it was nice! I think one of the best things you can do for any relationship is make sure you’re happy alone, because if you’re not, the likelihood is that no one will be able to fill the gap you already have within you. A partner can stop you feeling lonely, but may be not stop you feeling alone (I have a feeling that might be a song lyric?)

When Chris got home we went through a bit of an adjustment period. He wanted to help and tried to be understanding but it was hard for him to comprehend it all and it was hard for me to communicate with him. It was a bit of a mess really, not an oh-my-giddy-aunt-this-is-never-going-to-work-out mess, but a we-need-to-make-a-few-changes mess. So I wrote him a letter (time-honoured and much underrated communication form). I did a few drafts, I made sure I was explaining myself clearly and I gave it to him to read alone. After he read it he came downstairs and gave me a big kiss and we’ve had very few miscommunications since!

A Parisian Kiss
I am aware that I look like a dwarf in this picture

I decided on a letter because I’m a crier. I cry a lot. About every other day I burst into tears, either for good or no reason, it matters not. Chris is kind of used to it now but I have been told that the sight of their spouse crying has a somewhat panic inducing effect on many loving partners. It’s like what happens to me when someone poses me a maths question; I panic, I can’t actually focus on reason any more, it feels like numbers are shouting at me, it’s stressful. So I took tears out of the equation (evil things) and instead of me explaining myself through sobs and snot, I did it in a way that Chris could take as much time and space as he needed to mull over my point of view.

And it worked! He has been the most amazing support system since (not that this wasn’t always his intention). The other day I text him to say that I didn’t think I could get out of bed because I didn’t know what to do and he text back straight away with the best advice – to do just three small tasks one at a time; to get out of bed, to make myself some breakfast, and to do some yoga and then the day will have begun and I’d know what to do. And it worked. I told my therapist about it this morning and she said “he’s a really good fiance isn’t he?”

Yes he bloody is.

My fiancé with our gorgeous cat!

How to…

…holiday with anxiety and depression!

The world's fluffiest cat
Cat’s help, obviously

In mid December I was feeling really good. I felt that I had my darkness mostly under control and I hadn’t had to pop a propranolol for a while. I was feeling hopeful about the future and ready to set to work as a freelance writer in January. Life was looking up, and then something weird happened, I completely fell apart. On the 22nd I took to my bed with wild crying eyes, begging Chris to come home from work because I just couldn’t be alone. I was so scared, and of what I just didn’t know. Until I realised it was Christmas – I was scared of Christmas. What a fucked up situation!

It’s not usual that one is scared of Christmas but when you break it down it is sort of frightening; bright and often flashing lights everywhere, copious hugs and awkward hellos with distant family members who you’d rather not have to touch at all; the stress of watching someone open your present when you’re really not sure if you’re going to get the genuine “thanks!” or the not so genuine “oh, thaaaanks”; the stress of indeed getting the “oh, thaaanks” when said parcel is eventually exposed. And, I just have to be brave and say this…I hate Christmas dinner. It’s just a bigger Sunday lunch! I feel like Christmas calls for the kind of meal that you don’t have once a week, it’s special, it’s one day out of 365, what about a nice truffle risotto? Or a tasty Beef Wellington? Fondue! Just something that you don’t have every week for the rest of the year. Perhaps I should just change Sunday dinner to a weekly Fondue and then Christmas dinner really would feel like a treat. Although you would probably have to roll me to the table because after a year of weekly fondues I would indeed be a very large Milly Marble. And really good at solving countryside murders – obviously.

So what did I do? I took it easy actually, I took it all in my stride, not anyone else’s. At first I felt stupid and guilty for not being able to enjoy a time of year I usually relish and look forward to but that kind of emotion really did not help the situation. So I took time out from the festivities when I felt I needed to. That and I made sure a glass of fizz was always within reach. Dear readers I would love to tell you that alcohol didn’t help but alas, that would be an untruth.

So when Christmas was over, I breathed a sigh of relief as we drove away from the Uk and on to Switzerland, on a skiing holiday, for the New Year. I haven’t been able to go skiing for about 2 years and being spoiled as I am and used to at least one annual trip to the snow, I was really looking forward to getting back out on the slopes. But when I got there I found that I was racked with guilt. Holidays seemed to be things for people who work and I don’t have a job. But my sister put it quite succinctly when she said “but you have been working hard, you’ve been working hard at getting better and that’s a pretty full-time job.” It took me a while but I did eventually settle into the idea that just because I hadn’t been working in a 9-5 job, I did deserve a break, or at least I definitely did not not deserve one, if you know what I mean? So I let go a little bit. I counted my blessings and tried to enjoy them.

Happy couple on a sunny ski holiday

And I stopped putting pressure on myself to enjoy things that I felt I should, for example New Years Eve – I have always hated New Years Eve but always felt that if I treated it as any other night and went to bed when I felt like it, I would be missing out on something but I actually had the best New Years Eve I’ve ever had. We went to watch a band in a local bar at about 5.30pm, who were so bad that they managed to clear the entire place, when we got up to leave the guitarist said that we couldn’t go because we were the only ones left and that if we agreed to stay he’d buy us another drink! He then gave Chris the tambourine and we all joined in with the last couple of songs until the poor musicians really did have to admit defeat and pack up. Then we went home, I changed into my special New Years Even lounge outfit (stretch waist band), we had a great meal and then watched a Julie Walters documentary at which I laughed until I cried and then at 11pm we all went to bed. At 12am the fireworks woke me up but then I went back to sleep and we got up nice and early to catch the first lift up the mountain whilst everyone else nursed their New Year hangovers. Gloat.

My glamorous New Years Eve outfit
My glamorous New Years Eve outfit

This holiday season was a lesson in letting go. Opening up to the way I was feeling and just trying to be okay with that, by doing that I naturally let the better feelings in and the bad ones sort of seeped away. It did take the entire holiday to learn something I wish I’d know on the first day but now I know for next time – roll on honeymoon!

family ski holiday fun

How to…

… find yourself – I’m still working on it.

I’m continuing my journey to me through music with my next and final four tracks. If this post is coming a little out of the blue you can find the first half here.

So! Onwards with The List:

5, The Rose – Bette Midler

So the major part of my early development happened under the guidance of two very special people – my Mama (the formidable Mama G) and my sister (the equally formidable Jessi). For a while it was just the three of us, which has resulted in us being quite unusually close (our significant others will attest to this most vehemently!). My memories of this time are of a lovely, fun and overwhelmingly 90s period, which is a testament to my amazing mother as in reality she was a full-time teacher, a single mother of two and a newly separated (and I hope she doesn’t mind me saying) heartbroken woman. But we got each other through it, and this song represents that love can cause pain, but it can also be a great force for healing. This song also has a beautiful three-part harmony, so whenever we find ourselves sitting round a campfire on a beautiful summer evening, the three of us sing it, and I am reminded that every storm has its end, and that I come from some pretty amazing women, that I am a part of them and that as a result of this I am ridiculously lucky.

6, Betty Blue – John Cooper

This is a long-standing Desert Island Disc of mine as it is my incredibly talented father, John Cooper playing a saxophone solo at the Millennium Centre, with the composer of the piece accompanying him on the piano (she says, beaming with pride). This piece of music calms my soul and makes me think of leafy autumn walks, with cold red cheeks and brown leather boots. It also reminds me that if my father is this talented, I’ve got to be good at something – just haven’t quite figured out what it is yet!

7, The Songs That Make Sophie Fizz – Martha Tilston

The Songs That Make Sophie Fizz is mine and Jessi’s song. It perfectly describes our past, present and future relationship.  It’s such a wonderful thing to have a sister who is also your best friend. If (and when) I lose myself, Jessi is sure to find me, in one of two ways; she’ll coax me back to myself with Fizz and cheese and dress-up and laughter; or she’ll drag me back to myself by my hair – either way it’s most sisterly and effective.

8, You Are My Sunshine – My Oma

It’s a shame that I don’t have a recording of this because it would be a most treasured sound. But she’s a stubborn woman so I don’t think I’d be able to record her now. She used to sing this to me as a child. She has a card that a friend sent her, with a picture of  blue elephant frolicking on a beach (random) which plays the tune when you open it, so she would sing along and teach me the words. When I’m not sure I like parts of myself or I think my behaviour was a bit out of line (happens from time to time) this song reminds me at least of who I’d like to be; the person I’m working towards being. A woman as strong and bright and wise and funny as my Oma, my sunshine.

If my life was an album these would be the tracks. I should listen to them more often to remind me of where I’ve come from, where I’m going  and how I’m going to get there (by being myself – hopefully…and the all the working hard and stuff like that).

Now I just have to do something worthy of being a castaway – I’m working on it…

How to…

…find yourself. DEEP.

We all lose ourselves from time to time. We’re not always happy with who we’re being; how we’re behaving; what we’re doing. When I’m flailing around, searching for myself amongst all the nonsense that gets in the way – I turn to music. I have a playlist of music that reminds me where I’ve come from; where I’m going; why and how I became me – the real, unsullied person that sometimes hides under all these layers of crap.

Also, my biggest ambition in life is to be on Desert Island Discs so just incase good ol’ Kirsty gives me a call tomorrow and says in her beautiful lulling scottishness “Milly, fancy being my castaway next Friday?” I can say “Hells yizzle Kirsty, hold the mic, I’ll be right there.”

So, dear readers, The List:

1. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

I’ve been compiling a list of all the songs I plan to play at the big party that will be my wedding (I am getting married – I’m not doing this in a creepy shopping for your wedding dress before you’re engaged way) and this one came up as the top trumps family favourite. Whenever it comes on they shout ‘Milly’s song!!’ which now means that whenever I hear this song I feel great rush of self-celebration. If such a happy, cheery classic as this represents me I can’t be half bad can I? I definitely can’t be a sour-faced anxiety ridden hag. So I listen to it, smile and cheer the fuck up.

2. All I Really Want – Alanis Morissette

This takes me back to Gin Fridays (this was before we got classy and changed it to Fizz Fridays). My mama and God Mother would get together on Fridays and drink gin (does what it says on the tin kind of situation), which my sister and I loved because my dearest God Mama also had two daughters roughly our age. We used to leave the adults to their gin, go upstairs and listen to Jagged Little Pill (and wear weird hats, mostly Moroccan looking cap things without peaks – we rocked it). So now when I listen to this song I am blasted back to warm coloured childhood memories and reminded that I should think a bit more about what I really want – and be okay with that. I’m a good person who wants good things – I should see about getting them.

3. Wildflowers – Tom Petty

I have to thank my step dad, Robin for this song. It’s me in song form – it isn’t even part of who I’ve become – this is me as I came out of the womb, the most basic instincts of myself to run through fields of wildflowers in the rain, and talk to the sea and wear feathers in my hair. The minute I hear this song I think There you are, where HAVE you been you Silly Moo!? Robin has introduced so much wonderful music into my life but I think the effect that this song has on me means it’s one of my all time favourites – thanks Bob.

4. My Girl – The National

This is really Christopher’s song for me but then a big part of me is all wrapped up in Christopher. I don’t feel like I found myself when I found Chris at all, I was already a fully formed person, but a big part of me always felt a bit lonely, because all of my previous relationships (there were a few) had convinced me that the best I could do was find someone who accepted my eccentricities; someone who wouldn’t mind them, but when I met Chris I found someone who not only accepted the odd bits but loved them too – and more than that, understood them! Suddenly I found that no part of me was lonely anymore. It’s like he saw right through me and said ‘You understand me and I understand you. Good – now let’s be together forever, yeh?’ (don’t get me wrong, every now and again I shock the shit out of him, but one must keep the men folk on their toes). And that’s why you marry someone isn’t it? Because you’ve become a part of them and they’ve become a part of you. Plus in this song a scene is described where ‘the girl’ drives her car into a garden in a fit of anger and then says sorry to all the plants she’s crushed – which Chris is 100% sure I’m going to do one day!

As you may have noticed this post has now gotten a little long, so not wishing to take up any more of your valuable time, dear reader, I’ve decided to split it in two and publish the other 4 songs next week. You’re welcome.