An Update (10 months later)

It has been a while. In fact, as soon as I disappeared my life suddenly became much more eventful, interesting and positive. I found a safe haven in watching Rupauls Drag Race for 3 months straight and ended up making friends with some of the most important people I know – and will ever know. 2016 was a rough, but very important year including some very special people, I can’t deny you that.

It amazes me how different my life was less than a year ago, how my priorities, friendships and self schema have drastically changed. I feel like I have aged in just 10 months and even though I still doubt myself more often than not, my growth is always something I should be proud of.

*Amazingly, despite talking about how much has changed, I’m currently listening to Youth by Daughter, a song I had on repeat throughout my iconic mental breakdown in February 2016. (it’s a good song though.)

I’ll begin with my mental health, as I never give myself enough credit for how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked regarding it all. This time last year, I was barely leaving the house and couldn’t eat out or stay at other people’s houses. I couldn’t travel alone – especially on the tube and I was isolated from everything and everyone. To this day, I still wonder how I survived January 2016 because that period of time was torture and I like to think it only made me stronger. I can now leave the house, I can eat out, I can stay round at other people’s houses and if I’m really pushing it, I can travel on the tube alone. Most of these things are still scary for me and I know it will take a while to get to a point where they aren’t scary but hopefully, my hard work and practice will pay off. I’m resilient and I try so hard, it’s something I’m always proud of.

I’m still in therapy, doing the same thing. I’ve got through two therapists now and I’m onto my third. Having to adapt after somewhat ‘losing’ two people who I was quite attached to has been difficult but it’s made each loss a little easier. I’ve recently been prescribed antidepressants and I’m hoping the combination of medication and therapy is beneficial because I’m so desperate to be okay again. However, I’m finally confident that thing’s are getting easier.

A slightly more boring topic is that I have now applied for university. I’ve also been rejected by my top choices, which is making things more complicated than they should be. On a more positive note, I’m taking a gap year with a couple of my closest friends and right now, that’s something I’m really looking forward to. I can’t wait to become more independent, confident and sleep in later than 8am. I can’t wait to travel and not have the pressures of school hanging over me. I’m most excited to spend time with people I love and care about, and only people I love and care about.

Another drastic change in my life are my relationships with people. They couldn’t be more different from how they were a year ago. Some of the most prominent people in my life this time last year, I no longer talk to and if I’m honest, I am so much happier without them. They became the people who made me feel insecure and insignificant. Unfortunately, their hostility and lack of communication has left me constantly worrying about people lying to me and not caring about me (which is something I desperately want to get rid of). However, after dropping those who were toxic for me and distancing myself from unhealthy people in my life, I have finally been able to focus on the people I care about and are positive influences in my life and that’s been such a relief. There isn’t a single person in my life who I wouldn’t want around in 10 years time and I feel comfortable around all of them. I have never been surrounded by such loving, caring and compassionate people who only ever make me happy and I’m endlessly grateful for all of them.

The final thing which is of great significance and is probably the most prominent and positive change is that I am now in a relationship and have been for over 4 months, with a girl. By dating her, I have become increasingly confident with my own sexuality and I’ve now come out to my parent’s, who haven’t been anything but supportive. Being in a relationship is a constant learning experience and there have been things and people who have tried to get in the way, but I believe that it’s all worth it. I’m in a long distance relationship which is the hardest part, as the distance feels so prominent and difficult – I miss her more and more every time we are apart, but knowing that in a years time there probably won’t be any distance is unbelievably motivating.

I’m also lucky enough to be in a relationship with genuinely one of the most caring, beautiful, patient and funny people I have ever known. She’s my best friend and has been a close friend long before any romantic feelings which I’m really happy about – there are very few people who are lucky enough to be dating their closest friend and every day I can’t believe I’m one of them. (Sorry for the cringe additional bit at the end)

I’m hoping 2017 is overall much more positive than last year. This month has been tough but most importantly, it’s nearly over. I hope that this update has been interesting and that I write again before 2018 this time. I also want to quickly thank Vanessa, Karli, Fae, Keya, Anna Ray, Leanne, Dhara, Zoya, Seher, Georgie and of course Tabby for their support and patience with me this past year as I know I’m not the easiest person to deal with. Thank you.

– Scarlet

Coming Out

There is something that has been bugging me for about 2 years. I’ve wanted to share it for ages because even though it might not seem like a big thing, it’s a big thing for me to do. I’m planning to post this at some point this week, I’m writing this on the 26th February 2016. I feel accepting of it and have done for a year now.
I am bisexual! It is confirmed. SO many people have asked my friends if I’m gay or bi and yes, the conspiracy is true. I’ve been aware of not being straight since year 8 but worked it all out in 2014.
I was actually planning to come out to my friends in December 2014, I wrote letters and everything but I was too scared to. I told my friends Zoe, Laura, Lily and Georgie when I first worked it out and then my friends Maya and Zoya last April. All of them were so lovely and accepting of it, it hasn’t changed anything in those friendships except that the banter is better – especially when people ask them if I’m queer.
I don’t like any girls currently. I liked a guy for a long time last year but I’m over that (I think) and I wouldn’t go for anyone in my school just because I don’t view any of them in that way. All my friends are still my friends, I don’t and have never viewed them differently. Being openly bi doesn’t mean that every time I hug someone I lowkey want to do the deed with them, it literally just means I want to hug them.
If I’m honest, I am much more nervous about my friends and the girls in my school finding out about this. I’m worried about them treating me differently or making ignorant jokes or full out disowning me as a friend (which sounds ridiculous). I don’t feel the need to come out to my family or parents, I know that they’re accepting and if one day I were to bring home a girl they wouldn’t question it. I’m so lucky to have parents like that.
Also – another quick confirmation for anyone who knows me in real life. My general banter is flirting as a joke and that DOESN’T mean I’m hitting on you. If I fancied you I would 1) tell you and 2) do the opposite of flirting because I’d be so embarrassed. I can assure you the chances of me openly liking someone is very high as I tend to be honest about that kind of thing.
I’m writing this because the other day I desperately wanted to tweet something but realised it would mean I was outing myself and I didn’t want to abruptly do that and leave people wondering what was going on. I want to feel open about saying things and NOT denying the rumours of me being queer because that is draining and so uncomfortable to constantly do.
This means a lot to me, it is really, really important to me. I don’t like saying ‘I’m straight’ when I’m not and I am completely aware that I am not. I don’t want to spend the next few years not being completely honest and real with myself and the people around me.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make. I kept convincing myself that I could wait two years and wouldn’t have to tell anyone but it is SO hard keeping something this important to myself. I have absolutely no idea how to word it (therefore I’m writing a blog post) and I don’t even know if this is the right way. I am hoping this doesn’t change anything, particularly at school as currently my best friend is away and I’m worried about everyone hating me and her not being around as a moral support system.
I hope you all understand and are willing to accept this additional feature of me, particularly if we’re already friends in real life. If you’re my friend and someone asks about my sexuality, it would be great to send them this so they technically find out from me! Thank you for reading this.
– Scarlet

Anxiety: Do’s and Don’ts

This post is more for friends and family of those who suffer with anxiety disorders, some of the points are relevant for most mental illness.
Doing and saying the right thing to someone struggling with a mental illness is important. I have had many instances with my friends and family where they’ve said the wrong thing and have upset me a lot. Of course, this is inevitable because we aren’t trained to know what to say in every situation but hopefully these next do’s and don’ts will help you avoid saying the wrong thing more frequently!

Do – have patience. By being impatient and snapping at them makes the person feel even more guilty than they already do (I can assure you that they probably feel very, very bad because that’s a general emotional symptom). Sufferers of mental illness can’t help it and the last thing they want to do is annoy anyone. The people who are patient with me are the people who I feel most comfortable with, for example I get anxious on the tube and my friend told me that if I needed to we could both get off and take a breather. I appreciated this a lot and it made me feel much better about my situation.
Don’t – tell them not to panic. This is probably one of the worst and most unhelpful responses to give someone with anxiety. On Christmas Day I had an awful panic attack and ran into my parents room crying. They were both very nice about it and said I could come to them if I needed to but then my dad added ‘don’t panic next time’. I was so shocked (I’ve been suffering with anxiety over the same thing for about 8 years now but have been openly diagnosed for about 3 years) because I thought he would just understand WHY I panicked. People don’t choose to panic, there is a fight or flight response within your brain which tells you how to react to certain situations after a fear response has been conditioned. It isn’t something you can just turn off.
Do – try to understand their disorder. It’s important that the person knows you care about them and by educating yourself on what they’re struggling with plays a big part in how you can help them cope AND how you can help yourself cope. There are so many different ways you can educate yourself e.g http://www.mind.org.uk , various threads you can find on the internet, there are mental health youtubers (two good ones are rawsammi and Laura Lejeune).
Don’t – call them a NEGATIVE person! Very recently, I’ve heard someone who I was very close with (and knows what I’ve been dealing with the past few years) has been calling me a negative person and it upset me quite a lot. It’s incredibly difficult to be positive when you are constantly having to deal with and overcome irrational and negative thoughts. A lot of people have a chemical in balance which causes their mental illness, meaning they CAN’T be positive by choice. Mental illness means the sufferer isn’t going to be the most positive person in the world, don’t have a go at them for that. They want to be positive just as much as you want them to be.
Do – ask how you can help. This is important in the long term as there might be a situation where the person is helpless and so are you. Some ways you can help people is through breathing techniques (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and breathe out for 6 seconds), relaxation techniques (tensing up your body and then letting it all go, loosening your shoulders) and other techniques or distractions that can help such as talking to them. For example, my friend helped me breathe when I was on a Ferris wheel once and began to panic and another time, my other friend and I did arts and crafts when I was having a panic attack to take my mind off it. Helpful techniques can vary from person to person, so it’s important that you ask!
Don’t – expect massive turnarounds. Recovery is a very slow process for anything, particularly mental illness. It’s easy for the person to get impatient with themselves for taking a while to recover (even though it’s very normal, it took me 2 years to get out of therapy and then I had a blip and I’m back in therapy again) and feeling pressured by their loved ones can make them feel like they’ve let a lot of people down. There are bound to be relapses and bad periods of time as that’s normal in the process of recovery so ensuring you stay patient whilst they’re in recovery is important.
Do – be proud of them! Pride can be SO motivating and you can see it on people’s faces. It also shows that you care about them and can also make it easier for the person to open up to you as they know you’re genuinely interested and there for them. Feeling proud when you see them making a step (little or big) in recovery is a million times better than getting frustrated when they have setbacks (reminder: setbacks are inevitable).
Don’t – guilt trip. This can be by making them do certain things or saying things that make them not feeling good enough or blame themselves for their mental illness. For example, my friend said to me a couple weeks ago that she finds it ‘too awkward’ to check up on me because of the stuff I’ve been dealing with recently. Often pushing people can be beneficial and have good intentions but DON’T make them feel worse than they already do for not being ready or up for doing something.
Do – be yourself! Don’t change how you act around this person because you’ve found out something new about them. You’re close with them for a reason. They can feel isolated and ‘different’ because you treat them differently and this also links back to feeling guilty over not being neurotypical.
Don’t – prioritise their needs over your own. Looking after yourself is the most important thing and there are going to be times when you’re not able to help the person! This isn’t your fault, you’re not a professional doctor and also have to focus on yourself. You are important.

I hope this post helps you somewhat relate to your loved one who’s struggling! I hope you all have a great rest of February.
– Scarlet

Dealing with Mental Illness and Relationships

It is almost a well-known fact for all those who struggle with mental illness that this puts a strain on your relationships with people. This can vary from friends and family to a significant other.
I was diagnosed with anxiety, OCD and depression when I was 14. Of course, just like any other mental disorder, this has made everything more difficult and meant that I have prioritised my irrational thoughts over every relationship I have in my life.
I’ve been quite lucky. I have an understanding family and generally have understanding friends. Of course, we all have our ups and downs with each other and there have been moments where I’ve felt like both parties couldn’t make my life any harder but again – irrational thoughts.
Not only suffering from mental illness, I also have friends who deal with mental health issues and this has meant I have seen what it’s like to be in the front seat and also the backseat. This has helped me understand how my friends feel and also increased how patient I am. However, this doesn’t help me when I am the person putting a strain on relationships in my life.
The most important thing I recommend doing is telling people when you’re struggling. Let everyone who you care about know that you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and this will mean you may act a certain way and for them not take it personally. I have had relapses over the past few years and I have sent messages to group chats explaining what’s going on. I’ve also been very open with my parents (anxiety was a big thing and it was hard to avoid explaining why I refused to let them leave me and kept crying) and that really, really helped a lot.
Another thing I did which really aided me in avoiding ignorance and insensitivity from people was explaining what your disorder is and how it affects you. I remember sitting my friends down and explaining exactly what was going on. I showed them my notes from therapy and let them have a look through themselves. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done but it was SO worth it, it’s helped me become more comfortable with my mental illnesses and meant I was able to go to them if I ever needed help.

The final thing is to try and be patient with them if they’re ever impatient. Understand that your mental health has the biggest impact on you but can also impact them and is part of their life. Before saying ‘but it’s selfish of them to make it about them’, I have experienced people being impatient with me and it sucks – but I have also experienced being stressed about other people and their health whilst trying to look after myself. Remember, you have to look after yourself first. That applies to everyone.
Relationships can be a lot of pressure on both sides but with the right amount of understanding of one another, they can still be as healthy and strong as a relationship between two neurotypical people.
Also – always remember that if you are struggling, get help. Go to your GP and they can provide you with the health and assistance you need. Friends and family can only do so much, professionals can help you in the long term.

– Scarlet