Reasons why I’m grateful for the best gift I’ve ever been given

year of gratitude mental health blogger UK

This week in the Year of Gratitude challenge the task is to talk about something someone gave me. I tried to find something heartfelt and sentimental that’s been in my possession since I was a child, Perhaps a handmade blanket or a worn out old teddy bear?

I couldn’t think of anything quite as beautiful as that because my most coveted gift is something incredibly materialistic and expensive. Don’t judge me. My MacBook Air is by far the best gift I’ve ever received.

My husband treated me to this just before Christmas after I started to become a bit obsessed with blogging everyday. It means I can do freelance work as the drop of a hat and also do my own writing, photo editing and blog images on the go wherever I am.

It comes with me everywhere

I long for the extended train journey back to Scotland where I can take out my laptop and get stuck into some writing. I often take it to work with me so that I can stop off at a cafe on the way home and do some work. It also means I can do work when I’m visiting in Scotland and really utilise any spare time I have.

It’s so fast

I’ve never had a laptop – or any device really – that turns on with the push of a button. Like, INSTANTLY. It means I can do those little five-minute blog related admin tasks like scheduling tweets, updating links or correcting spelling mistakes without needing an additional ten minutes to load up the computer.

It makes blogging easier

The portability and speed of my laptop are two of the main reasons that blogging has become so easy for me. I can also access all the photos on my phone, use the free software – like Pages – without having to purchase Microsoft Word and use iMovie to edit when I start creating video content. I’ve not always been an Apple fangirl but I must say, I’m absolutely obsessed!

Would it be exaggerating to say that this one gift has changed my life?

Turning 30 and I still don’t want kids – what’s wrong with me? 

30 and I don't want kids what's wrong am I normal

Now is the perfect time for me to get pregnant.

I’ve been with my partner for almost 12 years, we got married in 2015, we just moved to a new city where he’s got a good job and I work part time. Apart from owning our own house, we are in a good state of affairs at the moment. I’m turning 30 in December. If I haven’t got a bun in the oven in the next six months then when will I? That’s the burning question on everyone’s lips.

OK the truth is, no one actually cares that I haven’t had a baby yet. None of my friends have mentioned it, my parents are silent on the matter and my husband – like me – is more or less certain (never say never, right?) that he doesn’t want kids either. I don’t want a baby. So why do I feel obliged to have one? I can’t stop thinking that I should want one. Am I crazy?

I was brought up as the middle child and only girl in a happy family. Looking back I’m certain I was a normal kid. Nothing unusual happened that I could possibly blame for my strange fear of having babies. I played with dolls, wrapped them up in blankets and soothed their cries. I stroked their shiny little heads and held them tight to keep them warm. As I got older I cut my Barbie’s hair, changed her outfit and sent her off on her first date with Ken in the hope of starting a family in their wooden doll house that resided at the end of my bed. The notion of a family is something I am 100% comfortable with. I love having siblings, I’m close to my parents and I understand the importance of having a loving support network. But for as long as I can remember, whenever anyone asked me about having children I’ve always been confident in my answer. Thanks, but no thanks.

Throughout my life everyone has told me in a very patronising manner that I will change my mind. I’ve never really questioned myself on the subject, it’s always been something I’ve been so certain about. But in the past year or so, I’ve been starting to wonder. Every other female on the planet seems to have this motherly urge bursting out of them but I can’t seem to identify it within myself no matter how hard I try. There’s no denying that my age is playing a part in this ‘pressure’ that I’ve started to put on myself. In fact it’s not even really pressure. I just feel so acutely aware that my body is primed to do this thing, and if I don’t do it soon I might miss my chance. I’m turning 30 at the end of the year and although I’ve always been adamant that I don’t want to have any children, I suppose I always knew I could try if I ever changed my mind. Assuming I’m able to physically have children, then I’ve always known I could do it if my heart desired. When you’re young you forget that there is a bit of a time limit on the task though. You think you have all this time to decide, but I feel like the window is getting smaller. I know there are plenty of women over 30 experiencing happy pregnancies and giving birth to healthy babies but for me, now is the time where I need to start thinking seriously about what I want and planning for the future. What do I really want?

I find as a woman I’m generally expected to do one of two things; have a career or have a baby. Since I’ve concluded quite firmly (kind of) that I don’t want a baby then I should be focusing on my career, right? Well, how about no. If I don’t need a baby to complete me then I certainly don’t need a job to do the same. I’ve spent too many years wasting my life on jobs that drain me to continue down that road. My mental health has suffered so for now, I’m focusing on living a fulfilled and balanced life. In fact, my mental state is another reason why I don’t feel great about having a sprog.

I am so uneducated on the subject that didn’t even know until recently that if I was to get pregnant I would have to stop taking my anti-depressants. This is not something I’m ready to do yet. I tried about a year ago and I failed miserably, so I’m really not in a place to go through that at the same time as having my womb inhabited by a new human being. If that wasn’t enough, I’ve actually read some posts from health professionals advising that us ladies with depression should seriously consider our decision to have a baby. The reason being that we are statistically more likely to suffer further mental health issues during and post pregnancy. I can’t imagine feeling strong enough to put myself in such a vulnerable position. I admire any woman who does – and to be honest mental health issues are so common that it seems unrealistic to give out this advice to everyone – I just don’t feel like I’m quite stable enough yet to take that risk.

So what now? Maybe I’m destined to be the quirky aunt or the weird godmother that every kid needs. Maybe if we get too old to have babies we’ll adopt. Maybe I’ll not be 100% sure until it’s already happened. Maybe I need to worry a little less….

How to deal with negative people and feeling drained

negative people drained tired positive

I ran a poll on Twitter asking how to deal with negative people. Overwhelmingly the response was ‘avoid them’. Pretty harsh don’t you think? Everyone’s allowed a good old moan once in a while; in fact I think it’s healthy to get your grievances out in the open. Letting them fester and grind you down only breeds resentment and unhappiness, so I think we should all feel free to talk about what’s pissing us off without fear of being deemed ‘the negative one’. But when you’re faced with someone who is so continually unhappy, when every word that comes out their mouth is a ‘poor me’ sob story – how should you deal with it? I know that it can personally leave me feeling drained, lifeless and in need of an energy boost. Here’s my advice on how to stay happy whilst dealing with this…

Establish if it’s a one off

You should first of all, go into the situation completely open minded. It’s easy to presume you know what someone is going to say before they’ve even opened their mouth, but try and ignore how they may have overreacted in the past and listen carefully to what they are complaining about. Is this something that they complain about regularly? If not then maybe it’s just a one off. If that’s the case then they should be allowed to get it of their chest, be a good mate and listen. You never know when you might need them to listen to you whinge about losing your bus pass on the way home. Whatever is bothering them might not seem important to you but it clearly is to them.

Let them vent

This can be hard. When someone wants to highlight everything bad that has ever happened to them from primary school to present day, it will test your patience. However, it is helpful to let them vent. Shutting them down or trying to change the subject will only make them feel insignificant, giving them more reason to feel sorry for themselves. Take time to let them get it all out of their system and then you can offer and advice or pearls of wisdom you have hidden up your sleeve.

Have a moan as well

Fuck it. Screw positivity and seeing the silver lining on every cloud. Sometimes we all need to wallow in our own unhappiness for a few hours whilst eating peanut butter straight out of the jar. If you’re friend is complaining about something that you identify with -or something that you simply can’t seem to comfort them about – get stuck in there too and bitch about life.

Be active

If you know you’re going round to a friend’s house and they’re destined to be in a stinker of a mood, try and entice them into doing something to take their mind of it. Using up nervous energy is great way to release your natural endorphins too so exercise is a great option! You could suggest swimming, yoga or even a walk around the shops to help act as a distraction. I would also recommend getting them to try something out of their comfort zone as the feeling of satisfaction you get after doing something you’ve always avoided is exhilarating. Even something as simple as baking a cake together can lift someone’s mood. This will also help keep your mood elevated if you’re starting to feel the weight of acting as agony aunt 24/7.

Don’t let it affect your mood

OK, granted this is easier said than done but try your best to not take on other people’s baggage as your own. You can be a wonderful friend just by being available and lending a shoulder to cry on, you don’t have to solve anyone else’s problems for them. Take it all in and afterwards try to forget about it as much as possible. This might seem insensitive but it’s important to keep your own head straight. Practising mindfulness is a great way to do this as it forces all thoughts out of your brain, leaving you with nothing but empty space and time to breath, relax and feel ready to create your own happiness.

 

Finding your passion

finding your passion what to do with your life

Live to work or work to live? Most people have a strong opinion on this topic. I know it’s highly unlikely that everyone out there can go and find their dream job and love what they do every single day – but I’ve worked long enough in various jobs I detest to know that no one should be told it’s not worth trying for. If you find something you love, you should absolutely aim to do that thing everyday even if it’s just a hobby. If you’re lucky, your passion for that hobby might turn into a job without even trying.

Stop doing what you hate

It was really important for me to take time off from my day job to realise that I didn’t want to do it anymore. I know most people don’t love what they do, but I seriously didn’t enjoy the responsibility and stress that came with my job as a manager. It took its toll on my relationships, mental and physical health, and made me unhappy in so many ways that it went way beyond the usual ‘my job sucks’ kinda situation. Unfortunately I was so sick from work I had to take a lot of unpaid time off, but I urge others to take some holidays in general to have time for reflection. It’s too easy to take a week off to fly to a hot country, drink too much and then fall back down to earth with a bang when you return to work. Set aside some time to write down what you want from a job, or even just a hobby; anything that you think will give a sense of purpose to your days. Think about the things you enjoy when you’re off work. What do you look forward to? What could you see yourself doing? What could you do everyday that wouldn’t feel like a job, but instead something you jump out of bed for and have to do? I know that writing is perfect for me because my ideas keep me up at night. I get so engrossed that I forget to eat and when I’m typing away getting up to go to the bathroom is an inconvenience! If you can’t think of anything that gets you excited, that’s OK too. My advice is to first stop wasting energy on something you know you hate, because it leaves you very little left in the tank to pursue what does make you happy.

Take a class

The most common reason I hear for not chasing your dream is “I’m not talented enough” or “I don’t know how”. If this sounds like you then I strongly advise you take a class to find out just how talented you really are. Over the years I’ve gladly taken part in at any extra training provided in my workplace in the form of first aid and management courses. In the evenings I’ve done several writing courses as well as a gym instructor course and an introduction to counselling. I’ve struggled more than anyone to try and pin down what it is I want to do with my life, and even though many of these training exercises haven’t led to new career paths they’ve enriched my life, given me added skills and if nothing else helped me cross another potential option off the list.

Just cause you’re good at it doesn’t mean it’s right for you

I remember vividly the day I quit my first coffee shop management job. My area manager wished me all the best, as I told her I wasn’t cut out for leadership and she loudly proclaimed “But you’re so good at it!” much to my embarrassment and brief feeling of regret. I think that was when I realised that I had spent 2 years doing a job I despised purely because I was so flattered that other people thought I was good enough to do it. With every promotion I felt fear and a sense of worth in equal measure. Obviously the small pay rise offered a tempting reward but I honestly think the sense of accomplishment was what kept me chasing the next new title on my name badge. But after the congratulations had been passed around, the real work began and I was left feeling empty and more stressed than before. The point is, it’s all about balance. We’ve all got to make enough money to live comfortably, but sometimes doing 50 hours a week to earn a good wage makes life uncomfortable in other ways. Sometimes working for less money doing something you enjoy offers a more fulfilling lifestyle overall; it’s not particularly well-paid but its not horribly soul-destroying either. Balance!

What steps have you taken to find your passion?

10 things to boost your mood

10 things to boost your mood happy relax

Suffering from anxiety and depression is a full-time gig. I’ve come to realise it’s the little things that add up everyday to either make or break my mood, and when I can feel my mood start to take a dip I have a few ‘go to’ habits that will often stop me from slipping into a low state of being that lasts a few days. I have gone through various forms of medication and treatment over the past few years, and this is by no means a cure for this horrible illness. It’s simply a few pointers for when I feel that dark cloud start to appear overhead – a few things that help me day to day and you might find useful.

What are your top tips to boost your mood?

How I realised I was successful in life

am I successful in life? mental health guilt

Success is a strange thing. It’s one of those terms that we tend to use to describe other people, but never ourselves. We can say we are unhappy, hard-worked, stressed and dedicated all day long in the hope that we somehow appear successful – or at the least extremely busy – to others, but to stand up and proudly say “I am successful” seems too much. Too cocky. How dare we have the audacity to praise our own accomplishments? Yet, isn’t it the one thing most universally desired amongst most humans? Don’t we all want to be successful at whatever is that we do? Well after years of self-doubt I’ve taken a good hard look at my humble little existence and I’ve realised that am successful. Fuck it. I am my own success story and you can be too.

No one knows what I’ve been through

I don’t mean that in a dramatic “I’ve survived a zombie apocalypse” type of scenario, or even “I’ve survived a traumatic event”, something that many people really have gone through and emerged beautifully from the wreckage. I just mean that no one has the right to judge my success without personally knowing my circumstances. I mean really knowing me. Even if you saw my life history down on paper, you still don’t know what’s gone on inside my head all of these years; the low self-esteem, the body image issues, the problematic eating habits and social anxiety problems that have reared their ugly heads in the past few years alone. No one can possibly tell me how successful I am because they don’t know the breakthroughs I’ve had to make on my own, in my head, repeatedly every day before I could even consider tackling practical barriers like getting a god job or buying a house. I’m not saying poor me, quite the opposite in fact. I’m saying Yes! Go me! because I’ve began to conquer my internal struggles and that’s a success story in the making right there.

I set my own standard of success

The universally recognised checklist for success is generally made up of a respected career, good income, marriage, home ownership, flashy car and maybe a couple of kids thrown in for a laugh. I have one of these things and the rest are unattainable for me at the moment so I’m just writing a new checklist. And guess what – its constantly changing. At the moment I’m on a roll with regularly putting out blog content and getting more visitors to my site. I don’t get a lot if traffic so a successful day for me means increasing my traffic by 10% or getting my post retweeted on Twitter. On a day when my depression has set in real deep, a home run for me is getting dressed and managing to pop to the shop for some milk. That’s reality for me, and I’ve come to terms with that. I will have days like that on a regular basis and that’s just what I have to work with to be happy. Once it clicked that the bar was set by me – not my family, friends, employers or society – it seemed obvious that I could easily be a success in my own world. I set my own private goals and work towards smashing them.

I found out that salary means nothing

I’m well aware that it’s been said a million times, but money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Money is a clear motivator to work hard at something, and having extra cash makes life easier and means you can support your family. So does this mean we should continue to pursue money as the root of all happiness? I’m not convinced. Once you’ve worked hard to achieve a salary that makes life comfortable and enjoyable, the need to continually better the number on your wage slip year on year is a trap that many people fall into because they see it as the holy grail of success. The only way to prove their worth to the world. I’ve been on a really nice income in the past and I was incredibly unhappy for a lot of that time. For some people it brings them genuine joy and that’s fantastic, I’m glad that they know what makes them happy. I’ve realised that job satisfaction, or even just having a job that allows time for the hobbies I enjoy is where it’s at for me right now. If I can earn enough to get by and have the time and energy to do my favourite workouts, blog every couple of days and maintain strong relationships with my husband , friends and family then that’ll do. That’ll do just nicely, thanks.

How do you define success?

 

The most terryfing thing about relocating your entire life…

The most terrifying thing about relocating your entire life

My husband and I relocated to Birmingham last weekend from Glasgow. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it because I wasn’t sure it was that big of a deal. It would probably be the first thing on most writer’s minds when they start to type, but sometimes when you’re so deeply involved in a situation you disassociate yourself from the enormity of it all (a whiff of denial is definitely in the air here). I certainly do anyway. I’ve been focusing on the little things that occur on a daily basis – making a nice dinner, rearranging the new flat, exploring my local gym – instead of worrying about the fact that we’ve moved 300 miles away from home. No biggie, right? In fact, distance is only as far as you make it. Since moving I’ve actually reconnected with so many people who have private messaged me to say good luck, or even offered to come visit us. I’ve spoken to most people more than I usually would because I’m so aware of the geographical space between us, and I instinctively want to make the communication lines stronger.

The other thing that has helped me maintain my sanity (for 90% of the time) has been to surround myself with comforting things. I don’t mean physical things like cuddly toys but more like activities that give me comfort, things that help calm my insecurities and make me feel in control of my now non-existent routine. I ordered an online grocery shop to arrive the day after we moved in, because I have wierd issues with food (for evidence read any food related post on this blog) and like to have healthy, satiating options available to me at all times. This is some deep-rooted fear of starving to death by the way, brought on by restricted eating for the last decade of my life. Obviously I ordered some treats in there to help with my emotional eating too (I’m looking at you peanut butter) but overall I just wanted to fill our new home with familiar foods that I could use to rustle up a fulfilling plateful, whilst minimising my anxiety around meal times.

I try to make going to the gym a daily habit – for my mood as well as my waistline – so I wanted to ensure I could do that as soon as we moved in. Luckily there is a budget gym just around the corner from that flat and I was already a member so I just changed my location online and I could use it straight away. I’ve never been able to find a gym with a regular yoga class, so when I saw my local offering four classes a week I jumped (don’t worry I stretched beforehand) at the chance. I was up for the 7am class on Wednesday morning and it felt great to be back practising a good habit for both mind and body. Did you know that early morning exercise actually gives you the legal right to spend the entire day telling everyone what you did and being a smug little twat about it?

So my attempts at damage control seemed to be working pretty well and I’d only uttered “I’m FINE!” in the style of Ross from ‘Friends’ one or two times under my breath and it had gone unnoticed. All was well. That was, until we need furniture.

Yes people, the most terrifying thing about moving away from home has been having to purchase new Ikea flat-pack furniture and trying to build it before my husband got home from work in some sort of attempt to prove I can be useful. I’m currently unemployed, and after a two day stint at constructing and ruining two sets of drawers I’ve tainted any dream I had of becoming a joiner. There were tears, and mainy curse words were spoken but I guess I’m still here. I didn’t fail; I just made a bit of an arse of it.

And on that note, let’s raise a glass to making terrifying life-changing decisions! What’s the worst that can happen?