Sunday, September 24

Living Without A Mental Illness

“Mental Illness” is a term I hear almost every day. Whether it be on twitter, a blog post or even coming up in conversation with my friends. I straight a way think of depression and anxiety but of course this umbrella term covers a whole range of things that plague the world. It is everywhere. And it has always been everywhere but only with recent years has it developed into such a topical discussion. And I mean thank God! Living with a mental Illness is not something to be embarrassed about and because it is so openly discussed hopefully people suffering from it don’t feel as pressured to hide it.

I don’t believe I suffer from a mental illness ( even though some people claim that everyone is affected by a mental illness to a certain degree ). I guess I consider myself lucky because I have seen depression cripple people close to me. I’ve seen them get so low that getting out of bed becomes impossible. The easiest of tasks are now Mount Everest. It is not something I’d wish upon my worst enemy. But even though I am not “depressed”, I too have felt like the world is on my shoulders and the sky is crashing down around me. I have felt so low and sad that I thought I’d never make it to the next day. I’ve wondered how my body has not crinkled up with water loss because surely I just cried out the pacific ocean. But these are just emotions, mood and stress that bring the ups and downs. Because everyone, depressed or not, will have their good days and bad. And whether you have a doctor’s note does not determine how important your emotions are. Or the strength of your pills will not make my feelings any less significant. In the past I have felt guilty about feeling bad when I have it so much better than others I know. Over time I have realised that we are all living different lives and our glasses of water don’t all contain the same amount. Some of us might have buckets or jugs instead of shot glasses and we’ll all overflow at different times. It is important to remember that it’s okay not to be okay.

It appears that mental illness has become trendy, and in particular anxiety and depression. This used to irritate me because I felt that perfectly healthy people were being dramatic about their depression and that it was diminishing the true struggle of living with a mental illness. It became cool to have anxiety. And you didn’t fit in if you didn’t have depression. I have been excluded and made felt different because I didn’t take depression medication and was told that I don’t understand it. Some of my own friends made me feel beneath them because I didn’t have a mental illness. But as more and more people open up about their own stories, mental illness has become very popular. And this trend isn’t actually a bad thing! It is important to know that people aren’t alone out there. That we can all tackle this together. As Scarlett Curtis says “I want it to become so trendy that it gets it’s own clothing line and homeware range”.

I am not trying to belittle or downgrade mental health. I have been affected by it my whole life. I know how destroying it can be.  From my first Christmas as a baby spent with one parent because depression had put my other parent in hospital to my best friends suffering from anxiety and/or depression everyday and even the death of someone very close to me because of mental health. Sometimes I think maybe that I have depression. That maybe it’s actually contagious and I have caught it like the common cold. But then that’s me being melodramatic and reality brings me back to earth. Everyone has their ups and down. And regardless of a label,  how we feel is not something to be overlooked.

Monday, September 11

An Existential Crisis

It crept up on me like the way summer turns to winter. Slowly overtime and then all of a sudden. Except it was more like a growing bacteria or fungi, something you wish wasn’t happening and often don’t even know that it is happening until it’s too late. Gradually, I began to feel lost. I was floating and not in a good way. I needed to be grounded. There were too many questions inside my head and everything lost meaning. Even myself. I began to question who I was, and why I didn’t even have an answer for that. I remember a time when I knew everything. I had a plan and a grasp on what I wanted and how to get there. But poof - it all disappeared.

They call it an existential Crisis. “They” being google, the God of the internet, he who knows all. But he didn’t know the answers to all my questions. I didn’t stay at home, moping around, trying to figure it all out ( at least I didn’t do a lot of that ). I carried on, staying my usual busy self. But I felt I wasn’t all there. It was as though I was drifting just above everyone else, in a different atmospheric level, seeing things through a fog. Just like in those movies where a person’s spirit floats out of their body and sees things from a different perspective.

I kept expecting to wake up and know the answers. My biggest question was what should I do. I’ve been making decisions, ones I didn’t want to make, without knowing what I wanted. But without knowing who I am, I can’t figure out what I want just yet. So I’ve been trapped in the place between being gone and being there.

This feeling has started to fade thankfully. By going back to the things I enjoyed, like reading and scrapbooking ( and trying to cut back on netflix ) I feel more like myself again. It seems that creativity has helped a lot. Yet there are still many unanswered questions; What am I doing? Where am I going? Why do we exist?

Today I attended the funeral of a classmate. Although I didn’t know him well, I’ve always held a high opinion of him. He was one of the first people I met in college and one that said hi and never ignored me. I thought he was kind and a rare gentleman for someone so young. From the sea of suits today at the church I know he was loved by many. It was heartbreaking to see the pain on the faces of his family, his friends and even the strangers to me who obviously knew him much better than I did. In his far too short life he had made such an impact on these people. It seams very unfair that his life could be just taken away like that.

But seeing how short our lives can be, really makes you think.

I figure that we exist to live. It really doesn’t matter that you don’t know where you’re going or that you don’t have all the answers. You’re alive and breathing. And in my opinion, it’s the people that make our lives mean so much more.

Wednesday, June 7

I Have A Voice, I Will Be Heard

“You’re so quiet”

 “You’re so shy!”

 “Can you just say something?”

 “Is something wrong?Are you alright?”

I heard these countless times. While you may think being called shy or quiet is a good thing. Perhaps even a compliment. To me it was as if someone was telling me how ugly I am, how fat I am. You’re so quiet. You’re so shy. These words followed me for years. Even today I sometimes still get told how quiet I am. The only difference is that I know that it’s okay.

Some people are sporty. Some are dramatic and some are chatty. I am quiet. But I am not just quiet. There is so much more to me than the amount of words I utter. I remember once when I was about 12. It was a new school which meant new people. I remember my friend and I talking with these new girls. I was happy. I didn’t realise at the time, that I wasn’t saying anything. It was normal for me not to say anything, as normal as breathing air. My friend turned to me, exasperated, and said “Can you just talk? Say something, anything”. I was stunned. I wracked my brain for things to say. Literally nothing came to mind. I probably spent 20 or 30 minutes sitting in silence, concentrating on something to say. As time itched on, I was getting more paranoid that I still hadn’t any input in the conversation. I felt sick and embarrassed. Until finally I asked, “What’s for Irish homework?”. I have no idea if anyone replied because I was so relieved that I actually said an entire sentence.

I wasn’t a mute. It’s not like I never talked to anyone. I had friends and family and chatted happily to them when I had stuff to say. But being told that I was shy, hurt my confidence so much. Like hello? Why would you tell a shy person that they’re shy? That’s like having a humongous spot on my nose and someone coming up to me to inform me that I have a spot, right there, on my nose. Well, blimey, how could I get through life without ever knowing? Gosh thanks, you’re my hero.

Through blogging I’ve found a form of communication I enjoy. You see, I do have a voice and I do have a lot to say. Just because I don’t stand on my soapbox and shout to everyone who passes does not mean my opinion is any less valid. I am okay with being quiet now because I know it really doesn’t mean anything. In fact I’ll take it as a compliment next time someone says it to me.

I've come along way since my 12 year old self. People are surprised when I tell them how very anti-social I am and how hard it can be to keep a conversation going sometimes. I'm much more comfortable in my self now. In fact I can be very chatty depending on the topic. I know a couple of people my own age who are even quieter than me at 12 years old. And that's totally okay. But it does not mean their voices won't be heard. When they are ready they will speak their mind, until then don't exclude them for being quiet.

I am a girl. I am human. I am a blogger, a feminist, a reader, a baker, computer scientist. And yes, I am quiet.

I am Marian.

Thursday, June 1

Poetry: The Last Goodbye

I first began to read poetry in school. Well actually if you count nursery rhymes as a sort of poetry then perhaps I've been reading it my whole life. In school though I've come across poems that I love, that I found a deep connection with, even though the writer is a stranger to me, somehow their words speak sense. Other times the study of poetry has been a nauseating chore. A dreaded 12 page essay on contrast and imagery. It's been years since I've read poetry for the sheer enjoyment of it. And even longer since I've written my own poem. You see, I am not a writer. I blog and I think up stories in my head, but when it comes to making those imaginations in to words, I can't seem to do it. But then today, as I sat by my desk in work, pondering my C++ program, I started writing on a yellow sticky note. I don't know why I've decided to share it on my blog as it really is a very personal poem. To me it is very clear what this is about and probably those who know me will understand but I wonder what others can see in it. That is why I like poetry so  much. It's open to interpretation. Some of my favourite poets are Sylvia Plath and Emily Dickinson. And although I did not capitalise randomly in my poem, the urge was definitely there. Hopefully I shall write some more from now on.

The Last Goodbye ~ Marian

Chips drowned in vinegar, peas turned to mush
Food meant to comfort on this lonely night
even the stars are dim in the black
I need my strength, but I just can't eat.

They flock in and out, each bringing
their sorrows and sorrys .
Their eyes red with pity.
Too many people, too hard to breathe.
Family but  more like strangers.

I look in the mirror, but that's not me
Eyes are flat.
Where are the tears? Why won't they come?
Is this a dream, a nightmare?

I'm at my friends. Dad walks in.
We wrap our young arms around him.
I do not need to hear the words, somehow I already know.

Outside, I play with my friends.
Day turns to dusk.
Where is she?
I fear the worst.

Three o'clock, it's home time.
One by one they leave.
Only my sister and I are left.
No one is here for us. If only they had questioned this.

We make our way to school, the three of us.
It's sunny on this winter morning.
At the front gate, I look back.
She smiles and waves.
The last goodbye.

Do you read/write poetry? Who are your favourite poets?

Happy Reading!
Always, M

Wednesday, May 10

April Book Reviews

Now I know the world believes it is May, but let's say for the sake of this post that it is still April ( and so that I don't have to re-edit the above image).  I was technically supposed to have these reviews written and published in March but you know me, I am a total disarray of a blogger. Recent events (hospital, surgery, chest infection, asthma... ) in my life became priority and so I do have a valid excuse ( this time )

My April book reviews features 3 books I have been very keen to read. One was sent to me, one was borrowed to me and one was bought almost 2 years ago. I was very excited to read all three of these so my expectations had been very high. And I'm happy to say there were no (major) disappointments.

Title: Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the R.M.S Titanic
Author: Iain Reading
Genre: Young Adult / Mystery
Stars: ★★★★
Origin: Sent to me by book publicity services

This 4th instalment in this series is located around Ireland and England. I got very excited when I found this out as you all know I live in Ireland and have been to London a few times. So naturally I was very picky when it came to reading the book. I wanted the descriptions of "beautiful rolling-hills Ireland" to be perfect. For the most part it was very accurate but I found it had a very tourist view on Ireland. A sort of western idea of what it is like here. The start irritated me because it seemed like madness having an opening day for some sushi restaurant and a sumo-wrestling match on Grafton Street.  On top of that there was an emphasis on Irish food like stew and Guinness and Whiskey. It's so stereotypical. I mean my staple diet is pasta and lasagne. Not very Irish now is it? But I won't get too bogged down by this as technically Kitty is a tourist visiting Ireland and so of course she's going to try the most "Irish" of things.

The second thing that bugged me was Kitty herself. Up until this point in the books she had been such a great role model and strong female lead.  I don't think she had enough time to grow and develop in this one. She was just missing that kick-ass-ness. Replaced more by badass-ness. She did some pretty reckless things that I admire but also dislike. She wasn't the hero she had been in the previous books.

Before you start thinking I've only negative things to say I must point out that there are so many wonderful elements to this story. The Kitty Hawk books are all so educational and fun that they only compete with themselves. From the four books my favourite topic is definitely the titanic in this one. I have a HUGE obsession with the Titanic. Always have. That and Anne Frank are my favourite parts of history even though they are extremely sad. I knew a lot about the titanic but this book definitely taught me some really interesting things. There is a bit near the end where Kitty googles some interviews from the titanic enquiry and finds some piece of information that helps them solve the puzzle. What's amazing about this is if you google the same thing - there it is! Mind blowing. I love how factual this book is and how Iain manages to tie it all into this gripping story.

I must mention Newgrange. If you don't know what that is then shame on you. I actually studied Newgrange in Art and all about the details on the stones so when Kitty was visiting there I was nodding along with happiness and approval. I have never been there but actually plan on visiting soon. This book rekindled my love of Newgrange and all the other historical parts of Ireland. It's wonderful how much detail Iain goes into in the story. He really does his research.

The only other thing that bumped down this rating to 4 stars is the treasure. I was utterly disappointed. I guess from the Titanic film I was imagining them finding the heart of the ocean. I know the actual treasure meant a lot to the family and it was necessary for the story to remain humble  but a diamond necklace would have been awesome.

I very much enjoyed this book and cannot wait to see where Kitty takes me next.

Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise 0'Neill
Genre: Young Adult / Dystopian / Feminism
Stars: ★★★★
Origin: Borrowed from housemate

Can Louise O'Neill ever write a happy ending? After reading Asking For It and Only Ever Yours I guess the answer is no. So if you're looking for a fairytale this ain't the book for you. In fact this is one of the realest stories I've ever read. Now it is a dystopian, set sometime in the future so obviously it isn't real but the fact that this life in 2017 is an echo of this book makes me open my eyes to so many different issues highlighted by "Only Ever Yours". It is haunting to read.

Thank you to my housemate Margaret who let me borrow this book. She came home from a talk from Louise one day and we started gushing about her and other feminist related things. I was super excited to meet someone who is as obsessed with her as I am ( in an admiring way, not creepy stalker ). I love how this book dealt a lot with mental health, eating disorders and how we perceive people based on looks.

In a summary this book is about how women are only used for sex and reproducing. In fact women who will be mothers take medication so that they will only produce boys. Girls are made by scientists engineered to be perfect and then brought up in schools away from the outside world until they reach an age when they are shipped off as concubines, wives or chastities.

It is a sick and disgusting world. The girls compete against each other based on their looks. They must be perfect. And when they're under so much pressure to be this perfect girl you can see how their mental health suffers. They develop eating disorders and rely on drugs to be able to sleep. It is an exaggeration of what already exists in this world. There is so much pressure to be perfect from social media, magazines, celebrities and our own friends. Uploading pictures to Facebook and instagram you must look your best. It's all about how many likes you get. This book shows how ridiculous it is to base your value on a number. On how many people "liked" your profile picture. It is an addiction. Looking for approval and confirmation from other people that you are enough.

It is such a raw story that I hope will change a lot of people's opinions. Being beautiful is not just about your flawless skin or tiny waist. You shouldn't judge someone on how they look. To be cheesy: it's what's on the inside that counts.

And particularly how women are viewed in society in this book is so disturbing because we all know that gender equality is still a major problem in the world. Women do not belong to men. We are our own person and our body belongs to no one else. No one should have a say in what you do with your body. It is nobody else's business and certainly not any man's business.

I hope this book opens people's eyes.

Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Young Adult / Mental Health
Stars: ★★★
Origin: Bought in Waterstones after reading raving reviews

I'm afraid this is a book that has become over-hyped. I bought this after reading a bajillion 5 star reviews but then didn't get around to reading it until only recently. It has been described as a mixture of The Fault In Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. I can see the resemblance and as I really didn't like Eleanor and Park then I obviously wouldn't be hugely obsessed with this book.

In short it's about a boy and girl who fall for each other even though their lives are entwined in grief, pain and suffering. It sounds like a good story but like many people I found that the subject of mental illness became the sole point of the book. The characters were engulfed by depression. They were walking bodies of bipolar and suicide. But this isn't necessarily criticism. For isn't that what mental illness is. It sucks you out and leaves behind a gaping hole. Sometimes filled with anxiety and fears or other times totally empty. A vacancy. It is not my right to say that this book is bad because it didn't show my "version" of depression. For many people how they live or exist with a mental illness is not just one single way. People react all different. You cannot condemn these characters for being overwhelmed by their suffering.

Unfortunately I failed to make a connection with this book. I thought I would, particularly with Violet because of losing someone in her immediate family but I just didn't relate. I didn't "like" the characters and I was just not as interested as I would have wanted. Now the ending did make me cry. How couldn't it? Only a robot could stay cheery through those last chapters.

I'm very glad I read this book as it opened  up some things about bipolar disorder which I knew very little about. Mental health is an important thing that everyone needs to be aware of. This book touches very much on that but loses its story in the meantime.

Have you read any of these?

Always, M