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

“I’m giving you five minutes to get out of my house!”…

… “Mabel for the last time this is NOT your house!”

So I have an icon – the ultimate idol of my life. She is my 89-year-old Oma (Grandma – she’s German) Mimi Gertrud Crosbie. She’s the best woman I know; she’s funny, smart and sharp as a tack; she’s had amazing life experiences and always offers the absolute best advice; she has wonderful sayings and the thickest German accent you’ve ever heard despite living in the UK for over 65 years; she is epic, just epic.

She has Dementia and after years of increasing her care package at home (up in Cheshire) to try to keep her safe the decision was made that she should move to a residential care home here in Cardiff. It was sad to take her away from a home she’s lived in for 58 years but for me in particular it was a source of great excitement to have my role model in life living only a 10 minute walk away, instead of a five-hour drive! And as my time is more my own at the moment I have been able to visit The Legend every day – which has resulted in a lot of time spent sitting in comfy chairs, knitting, drinking tea and eating biscuits whilst completely surrounded by old people. Those who know my habits, hobbies and idea of fun would say that this suits me perfectly and they’d be right, however, spending this much time with those in the winter of their lives is teaching me rather a lot, so I decided to write a blog on what I’m learning.

So one of the major life lessons the residents of my local care home are teaching me is the art of the comeback. I think in general we’re loosing our ability to deliver a scathing, argument ending comeback. We swear more and resort to that, or we use weird colloquialisms like “yeh? Well…your mum!” instead of just responding with a clear, concise and well constructed answer to offensive behaviour. For example, a few residents at the care home believe that the home actually belongs to them, I am going to call them Mabel and Edith (lovely names – I thought about it and decided to change the names of those I spend my days with as I thought it was a more sensitive approach to take). On the first night Oma was in the home I was getting her ready for bed in her room which left Chris in the communal sitting room with the other residents (he dresses like an old man already so he fitted right in). During this time Mabel shouted at him “Right, I’m giving you five minutes and then you have to leave my house!” One the lovely nurses said “Mabel, you know that this isn’t your house”. But this wasn’t really good enough for feisty Mabel who went on to shout at Chris about taking liberties and invading her space and how she paid for everything, etc. To which Edith piped up with “Oh Mabel, just stop being so rude.” And that shut her right up! Which got me thinking, what if instead of saying “your mum!” (I don’t know if this is just a Welsh teenage boy comeback but I’ve always found it rather amusing) to people who are rude to us, or “well fuck you too!” what if we just said “just stop being so rude”? Might that not make the person being rude think about their behaviour? That they’re not being offensive to offensive people, they’re not sticking up for their own rights, they are just being rude. Perhaps that would be a changing point in their lives?! Perhaps the next time they think about shouting at someone, or dropping litter in the street, or posting profanities on social media sites they’ll think hang on, am I being rude here? And instead they’ll say “Good Morning” to someone, find a bin and share a picture of a really cute cat. All because of a good comeback!

Also my Oma  has always been great at comebacks and being surrounded by old people trying to tell her what to do is exercising this particular skill, for example, the other day I found myself sitting in a room full of really old people watching a bald Michael Buble wannabe singing old school hits to them (he was actually pretty good). At first my Oma had decided she didn’t like this man and insisted on shouting to me (I was sitting in a spare chair a little way away) “He’s very loud but not very good!” But after a while the familiar tunes started to do their wonderful work and she started tapping her feet and hands to the beat. The lady sitting in a wheel chair next to her said “sit still dear!” to which she replied “I will sit still, when I’ve stopped moving!” Perfect. Just perfect.

Dementia, what care homes are teaching me, my oma, dementia care

I didn’t think that I could learn so much from a care home but comebacks aren’t the only thing I’m picking up. Next week: The Power of Acceptance.

How to…

…Recover from a nervous breakdown (6!)

Healing Exercise No. 6: Lists

I have become an avid and devoted list maker. I cannot fully describe to you the feeling of ticking off items from a list – it’s almost as good as hearing the pop of the first champagne bottle at a party. It feels me with a warm, oozing but triumphant glow. I have always been a bit of a list maker, because I like structure, but I am now fully committed to the task and it’s revolutionising my life.

Depending on how I’m feeling the lists vary. Sometimes I know things that I want to do the next day so I make a lot of lists entitled ‘To Do Tomorrow’ but then often I wake up and know it’s a bad day and the list changes to look a little more like this:

  • Get up
  • Shower
  • Get dressed
  • Make the bed
  • Empty dishwasher (this one is pushing it)

And other days I wake up and it seems to be a good day so they look more like this:

  • Buy cat food
  • Hoover
  • Sew table runners
  • Sort out cupboard over microwave
  • Yoga
  • Knit a hat

Either way it’s important to do only what you can feasibly manage, and on the days when it’s a real chore to get out of bed, ticking off that list feels just as good as when I tick off ‘Knit a hat’ and where depression and anxiety are concerned it’s important to be encouraging and gentle with yourself. You wouldn’t punish yourself for struggling to get out of bed with a cold so why would you punish yourself for struggling to do it with depression? Every tick is triumphant, whether it’s having gone for a run or made the bed – you have to congratulate yourself for living life with a mental illness and, when combined with other healing exercises, eventually the bad days will come fewer and further between.

This is hard for me because I’ve always been really tough on myself but this is where mental illness is teaching me things and techniques to lead a better life with or without it. When I’m over this and off antidepressants and not nervous about going out in public, I’ll still be being kinder to myself than I was before (which will ward off more mental illness episodes in itself), I’ll have gone through a wholly improving reassessment of my life and priorities, I’ll know more about myself and what I want. I’ll be more understanding, more able to help others, more experienced and ultimately a better person from going through this than I was before I broke down. There’s something to be said for re-building a life, because you have the luxury of experience and hindsight to utilise when it comes to building things back up – so ultimately you’ll be building something better, more stable, stronger.

Perhaps this is just one of those good days, but I’m starting to feel finally ready to put the last few bricks in that building.

Todays List:

  • Write blog
  • Publish blog
  • Wash sofa cushions (cat wee)
  • Take duvet to dry cleaners (cat wee)
  • Sew a top (Christmas present)
  • Go to Ikea
  • Go to Lidle
  • Be happy

Autumn style, list making, getting on with it

How to…

…Recover from a nervous breakdown (5!)

Healing exercise no. 5: Life Assessment

I’m going to try to keep this one as short as possible, but when one goes through a full-blown and comprehensive assessment of one’s last 25 years on planet earth it can be hard to fit into a 600 word blog – I’ll try my best though.

After my breakdown I didn’t think right, I’m going to sit down and completely review my life; the way I think about things and all my priorities, I just knew that I needed to make a few changes but this did in fact lead to a complete review of my life; the way I think about things and all my priorities. Chris had to leave for a three-week work trip which looked like terrible timing but actually it provided me with the space I needed to reassess things, to think about how I’d ended up in this medicated and unhappy situation and what I could do to avoid it in the future.

Life assessment
Taking a closer look at life!

I guess in its simplest form the main change I’ve gone through is my attitude towards stuff. I seem to like stuff just a little but too much. Since I left university my life goals have been the acquisition of stuff. Of Teco’s Finest instead of Tesco’s Own, of jewellery and expensive cosmetics and fizz every Friday and chic clothing. I went from one unhappy job to the next and tried to compensate for this unhappiness by using the funds I earned to acquire more stuff. And after making myself so unhappy I had actually made myself incredibly ill I finally thought this is fucking ridiculous!

I’m not chic! I’ve never been chic! I spent my school years wearing toe socks with flip-flops! And all these clothes I keep buying have to bloody go somewhere – my wardrobe is fit to burst and actually the daily chore of trying to extract clothes from its contents and then strategically place the discarded clothes back in the wardrobe in such a way that means I can actually close the wardrobe door is making me really angry – every day! I also wear the same make-up every day, so why am I buying purple and green Chanel eye shadow pallets which are hideously overpriced and then putting them in a draw and NEVER USING THEM!? And all Fizz Fridays has ever done to me is to give me a big fat hangover on Saturday – the one day I don’t have to think about work! And I have more than enough beautiful jewellery – I am so lucky that I have been given wonderful gifts over the years, when did I stop looking at my jewellery and thinking how beautiful it is and started thinking if only I had ruby earrings as well as a ruby necklace? And if I’m completely honest – I couldn’t tell the difference between Tesco’s Finest prawns and Tesco’s perfectly fine other prawns if I tried.

I once sat at a cafe in the middle of Amsterdam, the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, with the man I love and had a right moody strop about how I couldn’t afford some seriously expensive and (looking back) pretty damn hideous shoes. What is that about?! And recently I’ve been trying to persuade Chris that I should have an eternity band for our first wedding anniversary because I didn’t think that my engagement ring was quite big enough and I wanted more diamonds in my life – as my Oma would say “you shtupid voman!” What a silly way to live. What happened to the person who was made happy by shells and the sea and dancing in the rain and toe socks?! Where did she go? She got buried – under stuff.

running in the sea

Don’t get me wrong I have some clothes and shoes that I love (like really, really love), and wearing them makes me feel all swooshy and lovely, but I have more clothes that I bought for no real reason and they don’t make me feel swooshy at all – they’re just clothes. And I’ve had fab days spent shopping for cosmetics with my sister and I’ve had some great experiences eating at lovely restaurants and drinking expensive cocktails but the time really has come to realise that all that stuff is lovely in its own way but that it can’t even nearly make me happy.

laughing in medieval cloak!
Definitely one of the items of clothing that makes me happy – it was a present from someone who knows me too well!

I used to strive for a snazzy watch and a big house and lots of jewellery, now I’m striving to be happy, to do what makes me happy and the other stuff will follow if it’s going to. There’s nothing wrong with ambition and striving for a comfortable life, but there is something wrong if it makes you ill.

In time I think I’ll be able to find a job that I love – or even be able to create one out of the things I love to do, until then I’m going to take the time to get back on my feet and implement the changes of my life assessment.

So I quit my job. I’ll get another one in due course but a part-time one. I won’t have money for stuff but I’ll have time for things, like writing, sewing, making and being creative. Time to walk and visit the sea… and may be just the occasional Fizz Friday.

Milly happy in the sea

All these pictures (bar the one of my giant face) were taken by the amazingly lovely and talented Dorothy Allen, just incase you wanted to know.

How to…

…not get employed!

I read a magazine article about how to ace interviews the other day (whilst on an airplane, trying to not think about death). One thing this article stated is that you should never, ever, write about bad interview experiences on the internet, including social media sites or blogs – fail number one!

Fail number two: do not get into your car (that you haven’t driven in four months) and put on the Bridget Jones soundtrack – it may explain what followed…

Number three: DO leave two hours to get to an interview that is an hour and five minutes away, it leaves time for damaging other people’s cars. In my defence I was trying to avoid a cyclist who had decided the middle of the road was a great place to stop and take a phone call. As I swerved to avoid him I scraped along a parked car. I then did what every normal person does in this situation; a barrage of expletives left my mouth, I burst into tears, called my mum (who I couldn’t get hold of, boyfriend had to do), wrote a note with my sincerest apologies, excuses and phone number and continued to cry. Somewhere in all of this I looked up to find the pillock on the bicycle laughing at me. After taking a moment to gather my thoughts and the appropriate drips of Bach’s Rescue Remedy I continued on the rest of my way, which turned out to be an hour and 20 minutes of thin country lanes. By the time I got to the interview my knuckles were white with gripping the steering wheel so hard, my newly ironed shirt was suitably moist and my nerves were in tiny pieces at the bottom of my brain.

Number four: The interview article also advised not sitting down in the office waiting room, apparently it makes one look slouchy. So when a kind lady showed me into the offices and into the waiting area with the welcoming words “please, take a seat”, I thanked her but declined to do so, to which she gave me an odd look but promised to tell the appropriate person I had arrived. After a few minutes of pointlessly standing in a small space in the foyer, my interviewer came in stating that they weren’t quite ready for me so could I please take the seat. This time I listened to her and sat down, which she seemed much more pleased with and offered me a glass of water.

Number five: Do not bring up Stroke victims in a job interview.

Number six: When they ask the question, “Do you own a car?” Just say, “yes I do, I drove it here today”, do not say “Oh yes, Emanuella – Manny, she’s a trooper, we only just made it here today.”

Suffice to say, I have not been invited back for a second interview. I hope these tips are helpful to all my fellow unemployed. Thank goodness my next interview is a phone interview…

How art the mighty…

… rejected.

Today was going to be a vlog day, I even put on makeup and dry shampooed my hair (I’m unemployed, this is a big deal). Then I made the heinous mistake of calling to chase up a few applications I’ve been waiting on. One post has been filled, the other post I didn’t even get my application in on time (and it was the perfect job – I’m a knob) and the other they’re going to get back to me, probably when they’ve fished my application out of the disguarded ‘NO’ pile on the office floor. So now my make-up is a little worse for wear. I’m also recovering from a cold and PMSing to the extreme. If it’s after lunch and it’s a Friday, it’s okay to start drinking, right? (I’ve just heard back from them, it’s been filled, it’s definitely drink o’clock now.)

This week has been actually been really interesting, with a trip to the past via my Oma’s home town of Flensbug, Germany…

Flensburg

…and the realisation that my rent is due for the second time since I was made unemployed – the low level panic attacks I’ve been experiencing for the past month are now taking it up a notch. But one must focus on the positives and in my blog pipe-line I have how to make these romantic bad boys:

Romantic lightingRomantic candle holders

The Great Gatsby review, it’s had some mixed opinions and I thought I’d go ahead and throw mine into the mix because I am very good at criticising things. I will also be touching of the tender subject ‘Man Flu’ and naming my second vlog ‘Am I a Feminist?’ – bet you’re all excited about that one!

So stay tuned people, because your encouragement makes unemployment actively enjoyable! All you need is love… and a reliable income – one out of two isn’t half bad.

All you need is love...

‘This is not creative…

… it’s all numbers, numbers, numbers.’

These were the hideous words that came out of the mouth of yesterdays interviewer. It was like a punch in the face.

I put on my favourite suit (again) and went all the way to Bath, quite unsure of what I was actually going for. The representative from the recruitment company who sent me there, couldn’t actually tell me what the job was about, or indeed which company it was for. They refused to tell her – probably because it was really rubbish.

I was so excited as well! I was sat in what appeared to be lovely offices, the reception even had one of those chairs that’s round, like a big ball they’ve cut a section out of and filled in with pillowy loveliness. I was just speeding up my pace towards the chair when the receptionist said I shouldn’t sit in it incase I couldn’t get out (cheeky), so I demurely perched myself on the normal boring chair. She then left the room and I spent the next 20 minutes thinking about sitting on it, just for a bit before my interviewer came in, just to see what it was like. If I knew they would have been 10 minutes late I would have had a proper go, 360 spins and everything.

Instead I spent 10 minutes blowing on my right hand to try to reduce claggyness (for hand shaking purposes) until a very abrupt woman came into the room, leading with a firm handshake, much to my despair – the offending hand was still moist. She was the kind of woman who said the word “quite” very often and a lot louder than she said any other words. So we left the lovely reception that had brand names like ‘Hello’, ‘BBC Sport’ and ‘Paramount’ plastered on the walls and went downstairs. Then we went down some more stairs. Then we sat down around a table – in the basement.

After a few normal questions… and a few not quite normal one, my now two interviewers told me about the role. It was direct advertising directed towards old people, house wives and the vast majority of the ‘Nuts’ readership. They explained that often the adverts are “shit” but they seem to do better than the good ones, that clients couldn’t “give a fuck” what the advert looked like as long as they got more money out of it and that the job had “nothing to do with creativity, great copy or good use of the English language”. I left feeling somewhat confused about the whole thing – usually the interviewer/interviewees relationship is that of mutual selling. They explained that they wanted to be completely honest so that I didn’t start the job, realise it was hateful, and leave. I appreciated them being upfront otherwise that definitely would have happened.

After discussing the role with my recruitment representative and finding out the salary (… was insulting), she advised me to hold out for something more in keeping with my previous experience – so I’ve got another interview on Tuesday and this time I know what the company and role is. Please join me in hoping to high (and possibly fictional) heaven that Tuesday goes better than yesterday did!

Well, as my mad and wonderful Oma would say ‘ach vell (oh well) life can’t alvays be a cheesecake.’ I’m going to watch Baz Lurman’s The Great Gatsby tomorrow, spend saturday celebrating my talented boyfriends new employment with my favourite people and I’ve just started re-watching Gavin and Stacey from the very beginning – this just could be an epic weekend. Lush.

Welsh Flag!

This picture has nothing to do with this blog post but I’m loath to upload a blog with no pictures and my sister and I agree that my boyfriend needs bringing down a peg or two after his employment success. This picture was taken after we had pretty much force fed him shots of blackberry vodka liquor (only thing we could find) for a whole evening because I was fed up of always being the most drunk member of our relationship. Enjoy!