This Again

I found out two days ago that someone close to me has cancer. The person who told me is someone I love very much, and the pain their face was the most heartbreaking thing.

I don’t know how to help this person, as they aren’t the person with cancer but are very, very close to that person, much more so than I am.

Cancer terrifies me – I know people who’ve had it and survived, and I know people who’ve had it and are no longer here. It doesn’t give two shits who you are or where you’re from or how loved you are, it just exists and keeps existing. Sometimes it’s conquered and sometimes not, but the battle against it is so incredibly hard, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It scares me so much that this person has kept this to themselves for as long as they have, but they don’t know that I know so there’s absolutely nothing I can do for them. The person who told me is the one I have to help, or comfort, or whatever the hell it is I need to do to make sure they’re ok.

I’m not sure how to help – when I was them I was a lot younger and while it was awful it was happening to 14 year old me, not 18 year old us, and so it was all a little bit different. It was scary and sad but not this, so I just feel very useless right now.

I hope that continuing to just be me around this person helps them, because I know normalcy is so important at times like this when everything seems so very up in the air.

To be honest, it’s all very shit but it’s going to be ok, it has to be. I am far too stubborn to let people I love get hurt, it’s just not gonna happen more than it has now.

Terrified

First off, I’m writing this on my phone so I can’t promise perfect spelling or any of that. 

Secondly, I will hear from Central Saint Martins about whether or not I’ve got onto their foundation course on Wednesday. I have a ‘backup plan’ but in all honesty I don’t like it – my second choice is a college that does a UAL approved foundation course, so it’s good, but it’s not CSM. Obviously. 

So there’s the stress of not getting in, but then my boyfriend applied for the same course. Now, his art is amazing, not even from a biased view – it’s just flipping amazing. Incredible. Fantastic. Honestly, it’s unique and interesting and just so good

I want him to get into CSM so much, and I genuinely believe that he will. However, I want to get in too. Ideally we both would but this is not, and never has been, an ideal world. 

I’m so scared that he’s going to get in and I’m not, which I would hate to sound mean and selfish even though I know it does. The idea of not being with him and not seeing him every day like I pretty much do now, given that we go to the same school, absolutely petrifies me, and I mean petrifies – I just freeze up and see panic and it’s horrible. I love him so much and the thought of him going there and meeting someone amazing and arty and perfect is awful, but at the same time I want more than anything for him to be happy. I don’t actually, rationally, think he’d just up and leave me because I have far more trust in him than that, but irrationally my brain says otherwise and that argument is far louder in my head. 

Of course, him going there and me not could also result in us staying together and everything would be lovely. 

We could also both get in and be happy there together, or both get in and break up. 

Neither of us might get in and we could stay together or break up. 

I have no way of knowing what’s going to happen and that is horrible because it means that anything could. On the flip side, of course, that means endless possibilities but right now I’m stuck panicking over all these possible futures. 

I just think that, to me, is both going to CSM would mean us staying together, as if that black and white plan is a definite. 

I realise that all of this sounds a lot like CSM is important only so that we stay together, which is actually not true at all – it’s one of the absolute best art schools in the world and has the most amazing facilities. As well as that it attracts people from everywhere, and is essentially a concentrated melting pot of cultures and lives and that fascinates me. I love meeting people and they would all be there because they love art, something I love and always have loved. To get in there would be amazing. 

In all honesty, it’s the only thing in my life I’ve ever worked for – I winged my GCSEs and really my A-Levels aren’t looking too great right now either, although I am trying with them. I’ve always had this stupid mentality of ‘what happens happens because it’s the right thing’ which is bullshit because I think, with GCSEs, the right thing would’ve been for me to have worked and got grades that were good for me, not just ok ones that reflected well on the school. I could’ve done so much better. 

But with CSM… it’s art. It’s the thing I have always done and have always loved, forever. I’ve always had drawings stuck on my walls and photos stashed in boxes or blue-tacked to my windows, mirrors, doorframe… I love making things, and more specifically making things out of nothing – old bits of stuff I’ve found along the street or in skips or something that have become actual pieces of art. I love it, and to me CSM is an opportunity for my hobby to become something more and to maybe be recognised as something more by people who actually know. 

I’ve never worked for anything, but this. My portfolio was beautifully mounted and I love the sketchbooks I showed them. I can honestly say that I tried, and not only that but I gave it my all. 

If I don’t get in and he does, I will be so proud of him and pleased for him but I know that it will hurt me a huge amount, far too much for me to actually admit to, although I think that’s partly because I refuse to think on that pain long enough to really acknowledge how much of it there is. 

I don’t really know what I’ll do if I don’t get in, and for some reason that’s hit me particularly hard with a big ol’ wave of panic this morning. I think it’s partly because I don’t feel like I’m ready for my a-levels or to leave school and my home life isn’t great and everything has just got a bit much lately, and now there’s a few days until I know whether I’m in or not, and whether I am or not determines a lot of my foreseeable future. 

I really really hope I get in, and I hope he does too (and not for that selfish reason, but because he genuinely deserves it). I really really hope I do. For now, we wait. Agh!!! 

Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters

I always wondered why someone hadn’t done something about that, and then I realised that I am someone. 

It’s funny how many people mention in day-to-day conversation something that they’re unhappy with in the wider world. It’s strange that they always say that that thing is ‘awful’ or ‘sad’ or ‘unfair’ or any other negative adjective. It’s remarkable how even one person noticing and commenting on these things has the ability to change them.

Every single person on the planet has the ability to change something for someone, and everyone is capable of making a positive difference in the world around them. If you stop and think about that for a moment or two it becomes a pretty powerful thing; ‘changing the world’ doesn’t have to mean going out to some far flung place you’ve been told needs help because ‘the world’ includes where you are right now, and where you are right now is somewhere you can have a direct impact upon.

For me it took a while for that notion to sink in, because I’ve grown up with charities and programmes that stress orphanage- and school- building in countries far away that don’t have the same facilities as we do here, so for a very long time I thought that the only way I could ‘change the world’ was to leave my own but try and replicate bits of it elsewhere, but that’s really not the mentality needed to succeed in world changing…

We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. 

Think about a remote village somewhere a world away and think about the fact that this hypothetical place has amount of uneducated children and adults. Now imagine you have the chance to visit this place and do with it what you will. You take up the opportunity and are now all set to go and change this place; (working on the assumption that you have the means to fund this) you’re going to go and build a school and train teachers to teach this community, and as far as you’re concerned that’s that and you can go off and put this plan into motion.

When you get there, you do this and within a period of time you have a school and teachers and students, all of whom are pleased with this change in their community.

But, what does this education system do to the rest of their world? If it suddenly limits the amount of time spent culturally enriching their community, or decreases something imperative to that community’s well-being, then was this project for better or for worse?

If you think about it, when you imagine going off and doing something like this its likely that you picture something familiar, like a standard school for your area, mentally photoshopped into different surroundings. That’s normal, I think, but it’s not quite what we should all be imagining; just because something is how it is here doesn’t mean that it must therefore be like that somewhere else, because whatever it is is how it is because of the community it’s in.

My point here is that we need to consider what the people and/ or place we want to help actually needs to be, rather than trying to mimick our world in someone else’s – just because something seems like it should be a certain way because that’s how we’re used to it doesn’t mean that that’s the only way it should be.

In essence, I mean that we need to really think. What is it that will help? Where can I start? And how? And when? 

Well, I think now is as good a time as any to start looking around and talking to people, to start conversations that matter – I mean, talk about the things that are difficult to talk about and plan and do something to change those things for the better. 

Start a conversation that matters. 

Ask yourself, if not me, who? If not now, when? – Emma Watson  

I will not let him die.

A few months ago I began speaking to Daniel, a homeless man who often sits at the end of my road. He told me about the split in his relationship with his wife, and the ‘amazing’ 18-year-old daughter he has who lives with her mother. He has a dog called Poppy who also lives with his wife in Palmers Green, who he wants ownership of when he finds somewhere to live.

I’ve spoken to Daniel pretty much every time I’ve seen him, and if I haven’t stopped for a chat then we’ve always said hello. He knows me as ‘the girl with the photographs’ because I approached him with an idea for an art/ awareness project; I gave him a disposable camera and asked him to take pictures of his daily life. I’m now waiting for them to be developed so I can put them on display somewhere, and honestly I’m really excited because whatever they turn out to be will be an insight into the life of someone who is massively stigmatised by society. The point of my project was to humanise homeless people, something that is so important – when I first spoke to Daniel and asked his name he stared at me and went ‘no one ever asks’ and then ‘no one sees us’. It was then that I promised him that see him, and that I will make others see him, and other homeless people, too.

Lately, Daniel has begun looking awful; he’s hunched over and almost comatose most times I walk past him, and when I say hello there is less and less recognition in his eyes. I know that the world sees the homeless community as druggies, violent and dirty people addicted to mind-altering things. I cannot deny for one moment that this is the case with some, but just like with any stereotype it is the mistakes of the few that taint the many. I hate that, and I hate that Daniel may now be slipping into the stereotype.

He will die. There is little point beating about the bush and denying this because honestly at this point I think it’s the truth, unless someone can help him. But there seemingly exist no charities designed to help the homeless get back on their feet that truly help – sure, the YMCA can offer accommodation but hostels are on average around £8 a night and people like Daniel simply do not have that money. I am well aware that that might be ‘because they spend their money and drugs on alcohol’ but so what? An addiction is an addiction, and it’s terribly difficult to stop, and near impossible to move past without the right kind of help. Charities that do exist are hard to find and even harder to approach if you are in trouble, particularly because those who need the most help are most often those who cannot ask for it.

I don’t know how to help Daniel now, because talking to him cannot get rid of his problems, and buying him food and water cannot make up for the other things in his body.

He can’t die. He is a person, just like you and I are people. He has a family and friends, and I know that this was not the life he chose; he was happy, and it took one small thing to cause a snowball effect that has led to this. I refuse to let him go without a fight, but I don’t know how to help him. If anyone sees this and has any ideas of where to look for assistance I would be eternally grateful because Daniel is my friend. I have seen him change from alive to a shell of the person I met a few months ago, and it is heartbreaking because this is not what he wanted.

I am not asking for money, I am asking for help. I am asking for awareness to be raised of the horrors of homelessness and for the stigma to be lessened. Just because you do not have a home does not mean that you do not deserve one.

That Time Of Life

So I’ve been lying here for the last few hours staring at my phone screen waiting for my boyfriend to reply to my messages because he’s sad and isn’t ready to talk about it yet, so I’m worrying that he’s sad and worrying that I can’t help him.

I’ve also been lying here getting deeper and deeper into my Pit Of Despair, because I was talking to my ‘brother’ today about universities, because all of a sudden we’re nearly 18 and have to think about these very Grown Up things that I for one am not nearly as ready for as I thought.

He and I have never actually sat down and had a proper conversation about unis, other than a brief ‘oh I wanna go here’ months ago before any of it was really real. But now it all suddenly is, and so we had that conversation and he’s been accepted to all of his uni choices and none of them are here in London and suddenly it’s real that he’s moving away and won’t be close by anymore and suddenly we’re Growing Up and I am SO not ready for that because we’ve never lived more than 20 minutes away from each other and we’ve known each other since we were 2 months old.

So that was rather a scary thing to realise at lunch time, and then became scarier as the day went on because all of my friends are moving away for uni to and I’m just kinda sorta… here. I’ve applied to do an Art Foundation at CSM, and at a local college, and I’d love that, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to be left behind because, realistically speaking, I am well aware of the fact that my getting in would be the most amazing and unlikely stroke of luck out there, somewhat akin to being struck by lightning. 3 times.

I also can’t shake the feeling that I actually just want to be let loose and be free for a bit, travel and help people and do something meaningful.

But I am also well aware that I significantly lack the funds to do so. And the courage.

If I am being completely honest, I don’t know what I want to do. I know I don’t want to get left behind, and I know I don’t want to lose people, and I don’t want to break up with my boyfriend because I love him an absolutely ridiculous amount, and I didn’t realise it was possible to love someone as much as I do him and to lose that is a terrifying prospect.

My friends keep saying, when I talk to them about not knowing what I really want to do, that a) it’s normal to feel like this because it’s scary and b) I actually do know what I want to do in some way because I know what I love – art.

a) I know it’s normal, and I know it’s scary, and I know everyone feels like this.

b) I do love art, but in the end you can’t make a career out of it alone, and (again if I’m being completely honest) art is amazing but I genuinely do not believe that I have enough of it inside to make anything worth looking at or paying the remotest bit of attention to because one thing that studying art so far has taught me is that all of it is a copy of something else, and originality is basically all gone, and I want to make a difference and not just blend in to a mishmash of other things and people, even if blending in provides safety.

I don’t know, I just feel more than a little bit lost rn, and as much as I keep telling myself that that’s normal and what makes things interesting blah blah blah I’m actually shit-scared because I have no idea what’s going to happen next (and not in some romanticised ‘anything could happen’ way but more in an ‘holy hell anything could happen. help’ way).

So that’s that for now.

So today was one of those days where I’m uncharacteristically emotional. I hate that, because I’ve always had the mentality that crying is a sign of weakness, that emotions in general are a sign of weakness. Only in myself, though, because when other people show how they feel I think it’s pretty cool – they’re proving themselves to be alive and human and real. When it’s me, however, I hate it. As does everyone, I think.

I have exams next week, that I’m oh-so ridiculously stressed about, that don’t even really count for anything and result in grades that won’t ever make it to any official records. Because of that worry, however, I haven’t been sleeping properly and I’ve pretty much stopped eating. It’s been like this for about four days, and I feel so awful. I don’t want to go back to how I used to be, and yet all these food-related thoughts powered by extreme sleep deprivation have infiltrated my mind, or at least become more noticeable than usual.

All of that anxiety has then made it horribly easy for other unwelcome, supressed thoughts to make themselves known (again): your boyfriend doesn’t really like you; your boyfriend’s friends hate you; your boyfriend doesn’t love you (and here come all the reasons why); your friends are only there because they pity you; your grades are slipping and your school will reassess your scholarship and kick you out… I could go on but I think at this point the list would go on for far too many pages.

I should note that I know that a few of these things aren’t actually true, but on days like this the rational side of my mind manages to disappear for a few hours and leave me alone with the other side, the one that mocks and taunts and points out everything that is, and could possinly be, wrong.

I think I mentioned in a previous post that on days like this I hurt the people closest to me, and it’s true; my lovely boyfriend who I like and love and care about so much, who is also the kindest, most thoughtful, funniest and most cleverly intelligent person I’ve ever met, saw me on the stairs at the end of the day, a few very short minutes after I’d ended up crying into my friend’s shoulder in the toilets, gave me a hug and goodbye kiss and I was so close to crying again so I turned away and hot-footed it down the stairs. He laughed from behind me, at what I have no idea, but I’m so terrified that I hurt him and that was a laugh of incredulity at my awfulness. He’s honestly so amazing, and I know that if I keep doing this he’s going to leave. I’m so scared about that.

Hastily pushing that painful topic aside, I was also supposed to have dinner at a close family friend’s house this evening. I went round after school and told both them and my mum that I’d had a horrible day so couldn’t stay to eat as I needed to get to my room and calm down. I should mention that a few tears made their hated appearance around about then because, as well as the nastiness of my day, I knew that I was being rude. Something my mum’s just come home and told me in greatly exagerated detail, having left a few hours after me.

The reason I take issue with my mother sometimes is something I should probably mention and explain here; whenever I’m having a day like this, and even when I’m not, one of her seemingly favourite things to do is mimic me, putting on a ridiculous voice and flapping her arms about while twisting the things I say and intentionally making me feel guilty. She’s even admitted to the fact that emotional blackmail is something she knowingly uses on me, which is horrible because she knows exactly how bad that makes me feel.

Anyway, I’m well aware that this post has become something akin to the content found on an angsty teenager’s blog, so I should end it before it gets worse.

I’ll finish by saying that I hope no one else feels like this, but as it’s inevitable that one or a few of you do please feel more than free to leave an emoji in the comments and I’ll find a way to contact you and try and help.

Just One Of Those Days

I’m having one of those depression days again and I feel awful.

I think it was triggered by a mixture of things, the most notable of which being that I am so goddamn paranoid… I hate it.

I worry that the slightest thing will make my boyfriend realise that I’m way less than what he deserves or could have. I worry that he doesn’t actually like me. I worry that we’re low-key because it’s not a serious thing. I mean, we talked about it and we are together but just not shouting about it, which is completely fine and yet I’m still worried… Part of that conversation was an agreement, initially brought up by him, that we can do whatever but no falling in love (which I don’t feel like talking about). This agreement was fine at the time, but over the last few weeks I’ve started wondering if that’s just what he wants because we aren’t actually serious. It’s horrible.

The thing is, I know that I don’t doubt him even if it seems like it; I doubt me because I know I’m not good enough for him.

Obviously, there’s also the whole panic about grades which I could probably eradicate by some revision, but over this past three week holiday I’ve done none. Sure, I’ve sat down with my books and all that but none of it’s stuck – I have a brain like a sieve, as I’ve probably said before.

Linked to that is the stress of university; I don’t have to apply til later this year unless I go for Oxbridge, which I don’t think I want to do. It’s just the whole future thing, I think, and the distance bit and the fact that I’ll be leaving behind everything I know. Bit scary, really.

On top of all that I’ve got strange little problems at home, and I’m just as paranoid about my friends as I am about my boyfriend, again because I can’t see why I’d be even slightly interesting to them.

All of this has come crashing down today and landed me with an awful migraine, one that came with all the symptoms of flu; in short, my depression has taken today as its day to remind me that it’s still there, as loud as ever.

I wish I could get rid of it, because I know that it’s the reason for my paranoia and anxiety and everything else, or at least I know that the three go hand in hand. I hate the fact that everyday I have to fight my own head, with my head, and that every time I wake up on and after days like today the phrase ‘won the battle, lost the war’ seems oh-so relevant.

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. It’s like this muffler stretching over my nose and mouth and a weight on my chest that makes breathing really hard, as well as this ache in the back of my head and a mixture of guilt, anxiety, paranoia and so much else biting at something deep inside my chest. Ohmygod I hate it.

Dear Nina,

I mentioned in my previous post that I was looking through some old notes I made on my phone and I found a record of some messages that my best friend, who incidentally lives in a different country to me, sent me when I was going through a particularly rough patch.

I want to paraphrase them a little so that they are suitable for anyone and everyone who might need them, because they helped me and I believe that everyone deserves to be made to feel better when they’re having a bad day.

It’s okay.

I will always be here for you and I won’t be mad at you for hurting yourself. I just want to help you to get happier, so whenever you feel like hurting yourself you can always write to me. I will never be dissapointed if you hurt yourself again, because it happens, and sometimes you just break your Wall (the one you put up to try and keep the bad things away). I will always love you, no matter what you do to yourself. You will always be my best friend and I will always be there for you.

If you get sad over small things, I won’t laugh and make fun of you – I will cheer you up and try to help you. If you are scared, and if you feel your anxiety, I will try to calm you down and just help you in any and every way that I can. No matter what is making you sad or scared, I will help you (even if you are too scared to ask for small things, even a sachet of ketchup, I will ask for you). I will always help you and I want you to know that you can ask me anything.

You are my best friend and I find you so beautiful even with your scars. Your scars and past don’t define you as a person. It’s the way you treat others that defines you.

I want you to know that even if it’s 4am and you are feeling sad, call me or write to me! I will just apply cold water to my face and stay up until you are feeling better. I love you.

Please remember that I will always love you and you will always be the same amazing girl that I call my best friend.

No matter what you do and no matter how much you hurt yourself, you will always be you in my eyes.

I am not mad at you for hurting yourself and I will not be dissapointed at you for hurting yourself.

I will always love you. Please remember that.

I know that her message was personal to me and fitted my situation, but I think that most of it could be applied to any situation where someone feels bad.

I also want to add that if anyone is reading this and is in need of someone to talk to then comment on this post and I will find a way to get into contact with you, whatever the time, because no one should feel like they have no one.

Just Something I Found

While looking through the notes on my phone I found a piece I wrote nearly this time last year. I wasn’t going through the best of times, but by the time I wrote this I think I could effectively ‘see the light in the darkness’, so here:

I have scars on my wrists,

And bruises on my knuckles,

With broken veins and a broken heart.

I have a void where I should have life,

A hole where I should find love,

Yet still I am alive.

I have scratches and marks aplenty,

And cold that runs so deep,

But somehow I am thawing.

I have scars, yes,

But they’re not all so bad,

They show that I have lived,

And survived a lot of things.

Perhaps to the others my hardships

Are nothing but minor setbacks,

But to me they cut too deep

To ever really hide.

I have family and friends,

And I love them all so much,

And it’s thanks to them that I’m still here.

I have love,

Not that I can always see it,

But I know that it’s always there.

So thank you, every one of you,

Who has held me when I’ve cried

And helped me to my feet.

Thank you every one of you,

For the solidarity I needed.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m particularly good at poetry, but it’s always been a way for me to express myself; I’ve never been much of a talker and so at a young age I realised that I could far more easily convey myself through the use of written rather than verbal communication.

This poem, sort of named The Scars On My Wrists, was my way of trying to look at my depression. I’m not sure what else I can say about it because I think the poem says enough, at least in the best way I can express.