Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Returning to the World Beyond

It’s a bit bizarre after a few days, more or less shut away, trying to return to some sort of normality. Everything does feel different right now. Somewhat clearer, somewhat less agitating, but just as disappointing.

Leaving the abbey felt like leaving a safe place. It was no longer somewhere intimidating, but somewhere I could almost call “home”. The huge group of buildings looked smaller somehow in their familiarity, the strange corridors less dark and scary than on the first night.

That peculiar smell of old things and incense lingers in my clothing, my hair. There are fragments of songs, of the hymns, of conversations, still floating around in my head. Yet I’m at home now, with the floors dirtier than when I left and there still being a huge pile of washing as only one load has been done during my absence. The washing up done at the last minute before I return, the house in its clutteredness not as welcoming as it should be.

It’s odd, in a way, considering how unfriendly the house should feel, especially considering all the fights that have been had here of late, that I should still feel so peaceful and at ease with myself inside. I know as the days go on, that the tears will come again, as I move towards facing up to the decisions that need to be made. It’s not going to be easy, especially with all that needs to be packed, arranged and sorted, but I think I’m finally ready to move on and start to live again.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Listening to the Silence

I was quite wrong last night. I thought that I’d find it difficult to keep myself busy, but instead I haven’t really stopped. But, when I do, I hear the silence, and through it myself.

I’ve always been afraid of silence. That’s when my thoughts start up, often negative, the constant fight to make me afraid or bring me down. It can seem impossible to calm myself down in those moments. Yet somehow, in the past 24 hours, in the peace, quiet and overall friendliness of where I am, I seem to have somewhat succeeded.

Firstly, last night, I decided I’d go down to the reading room to read. Well, that didn’t happen. Some of the other guests were there, drinking beer. I then decided to give up my reading venture and join them. Drinking the local beer, whilst talking about nothing in particular, it hasn’t felt that good for a long time. I was relaxed, relaxed enough to sing along with the small, impromptu group from a random book of folk songs found on the shelf.

And this morning, I somehow managed to get up on time. Just. I slept fitfully and when I heard the bells ringing at quarter past six this morning, I was still dreaming and I wasn’t sure if they were real or not. I had a moment of not being sure if I was awake or asleep, then when I did wake up, I was even less sure! But I got up, got into the church, and was just fumbling around getting my book ready as the brothers walked in.

This afternoon I went for a long walk around the local area and had to go and buy myself a new hairbrush, as I’d left my old one at home. It’s past it, anyway, so it’s a good excuse, really. I ended up walking around for two hours, and I ache far more than I should simply because I don’t do it often enough anymore, but I also feel better for it.

So, with walking, taking part in the daily singing prayers, semi-socialising with the other guests, I haven’t had that much time to actually just sit on my own and think. Yet, in those moments when I do, some surprising things come out of the silence.


It is an uneasy sort of peace at the moment. I still feel pain, in my heart and in my stomach, and I know that there are some big decisions ahead. But sitting alone, just listening to myself instead of fighting myself, has certainly brought some light to what decisions I need to make.

It has been surprising, also, how much sitting in on the services has helped, even though I am an unbeliever. It’s not just the routine, the ceremony, but the reflection. Even this evening, at my second evening prayers, I felt nervous, small, humble. I was able to follow the order of the songs with more confidence, yet I still felt intimidated by this great presence, the working abbey and the combined power of its believers. To hear, feel and see that, you can understand in a way why people would give up a complicated life for the simple one of service.

And, in that, I have come to where I am. I can only progress further if I give in, if I give over to the thoughts, the pains, the promises, give over to instead of fighting myself all the time.

The path I am on right now started some time ago now, but started properly a year ago. It is not necessarily taking me where I want to go, but it is taking me where I need to be. Being here at the abbey was an important next step. I just hope I can remember the lessons I’ve learnt once I’ve returned home.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Getting Away From it All

My life hasn’t been ideal of late, as you may have realised from my previous post. It’s brought me back to a point that I thought I’d never return to, a place I never wanted to see again.

If it’s not the eternal struggle to find work, not just good work but good work that I can get to easily whilst only being able to use public transport, then it’s something else, like the constant fighting at home, to a point where I no longer know where I should call home.

I have been aware for a while that it’s time to move on, but when you have limited financial means, it doesn’t make it that easy. Yes, I could go back to how I was before, and just run away from it all, but I know that that won’t solve the other problems that are still there.

Who am I? Who am I now? What have I really achieved in my life? Where am I going to? Questions, so many questions, all of which I need to be able to answer before I can truly move on.

At the suggestion of my psychologist, it was decided that some time away from it all, in a place of peace and rest, could be useful.

So here I am now, in an abbey. It’s not something I ever thought I would do, especially as I’m not particularly religious. But many people do it, just to get away from the world for some time, just to find that quiet place amongst all the chaos that is daily life.

When I got here I was unsure. Where do I begin? What am I going to do here? You have to pay to stay, for the basics, as it needs to be affordable. Yet I have never had silence in my life, have never been comfortable with it, so I am also nervous as to how I am going to cope with it.

After sitting still for twenty minutes, whilst pondering all of this, the bell rang to signal five minutes before vespers. I sat and listened to it for a while before deciding that I would get up and go to the church. It felt quite awkward, in a way, what with not being religious, yet at the same time there was still something there that felt otherworldly. I have never seen the like in my life. Such power in the words, the way they sing them with meaning, the sounds mingling and echoing eerily throughout the church. For the first time in a long time, I felt small and humble. Yet also strangely out of place.

At the evening meal, afterwards, I still felt out of place. Luckily I’d picked out some relatively neutral t-shirts, deciding to leave all the heavy metal ones at home. Yet I still have tattoos that show on occasion. I needn’t have worried; no one noticed. Yet I still felt a stranger in a world that belonged to others, not me.

There are some regulars here, people who know the father who is looking after the guests today. It gives me even more of a feeling of being out of place. Yet they are welcoming, non-judging, peaceful people.

As I sit here this evening, it being not long after 7pm, I’m not sure where tomorrow is going to take me. I know I should avoid the internet and social media as much as possible, because that is partly what I need to get away from. Yet, finding something else to do is not that easy. Tomorrow I plan to take a long walk, the start of a long journey into finding myself again once more. It will be like a physical metaphor, “a journey starts with a single step”. Yet tonight, I am alone in the world and my insides are struggling to find a peace with itself. My brain and stomach and heart are all fighting to take first place in the decision making, but they just come clashing together. Maybe that first step actually truly starts this evening, in starting to learn to find and make peace with myself.

Tomorrow morning I have been invited to their morning prayers, as they saw me tonight, which are an hour long instead of just half hour in the evening. The main problem is getting up to be there at 6:45, as I’m not usually a morning person. Yet the rhythm will no doubt do me good.

Tonight is still long, though. I sit here alone, with just my thoughts, and the silence echoes around them.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Keeping Up Appearances

It’s amazing what we do in order to prove to the world that everything’s OK, that we’re not struggling. So many words that can give a positive impression, without really saying that much:
‘Not bad’
‘Never better’

All of these words, phrases, so often just used as a simple get-out clause so we don’t have to further explain our inner turmoils and struggles. Just a simple reply, with no explanation, that allows the one asking the question to feel at ease.

Yet, underneath it all, behind that reply there’s a darkness, a swirling tornado of black eating up our insides. There is no way out, we’re trapped, and our only possible salvation is someone who we’re afraid to confide in lest they are scared away by the truth.

The thing is, it’s not that we necessarily don’t want to tell people what’s going on, it’s just that sometimes we’re unable to. Sometimes you just get used to your own sadness, your own company, your own loneliness, and it’s easier to hide behind it and not share what’s going on. Other times you know that if you do tell you will lose a friend or two that could otherwise make you happy when you need it most.

Mental turmoil is a very delicate thing. It’s led me to going absolutely crazy before now and just telling too much, sometimes to the wrong people, flooding people in my desperate need to get it all out of my system. At other times, it’s led me to not leaving my bed, lying awake for several hours in the morning and long into the afternoon just wondering why I still even exist and what the world would do if I just disappeared.

Where is the balance? How is it even possible to find balance amongst all this chaos? Does it require medication, patience, perseverance, resilience, none of which I have? Does it require friends, most of which will get overloaded at some point? Does it require a permanent end?

I’m going to be straight here. I’m not actually suicidal right now, but I know people who are getting to that point and it makes me afraid. I have been at that point myself in the past and I know that at some point there comes a tipping in the balance where it will all get too much again. I do have a lot of strength, but it is not infinite. My life is far from perfect right now and I feel the darkness calling sweetly and seductively with the temptation of a dangerous yet exciting lover that you both love and hate at the same time.

All this makes me realise that there’s one thing I’ve been failing to do of late – living. The truth is, whatever anyone says or does, I’m the one who has the true power over my own life. It’s time to play my last ace, to use the last remnants of my strength to pick myself up and move forward, into the unknown. Make a jump, take a chance, and feel alive once more.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Why I Stopped Running

I actually wrote the text below a few months ago for guest blog than unfortunately never happened. Well, instead of wasting it, I decided that it was about time I got it up on my own blog and published. Enjoy! :)

Four years ago, after two years of living in Belgium, I nearly decided to move back to the UK. I had lost yet another job, things had gone bad for me once more as I hadn’t coped with the stress at work. With thoughts of, ‘why me?!’ I decided that it must be the country, that if I went back then everything would magically turn out fine.

At some point I stopped myself and realised something: moving back would be just running away again. I had fled England, my friends, a relationship when everything went bad. I suddenly realised that running back wouldn’t work, I had nowhere to go and everyone had already moved on. The only way to move forward was to work with what I did have, finding what was achievable, rather than being angry at what I didn’t.

Luckily I found the mental-health support in Belgium that I had been lacking whilst in the UK. With this, I decided it was time to push forward to achieve things for myself for once, rather than just sitting still feeling sorry for myself all the time. I enrolled myself in for Dutch lessons, knowing that if I was to ever get anywhere then speaking the language better would be a very useful tool. I also enrolled myself in for music lessons, accordion lessons, something that I had wanted to do for years. I slowly started to grow and become more confident, becoming a better and stronger person for fighting instead of fleeing.

Now, four years on, I’ve achieved so much that I never thought possible. And this is not just musically or linguistically. Because of the music lessons, I’m now a more confident person overall, having had to perform solo at various points. Also, because of my new-found linguistic skills, I socialise with more with people, speak to people on the train or at the bus stop, things I never used to do. Even before I moved to Belgium, I used to shut myself away a lot, turn away and avoid speaking to people. It’s like another person has surfaced simply because I dared to try. I am now also looking for work once more and, through making my own enquiries and taking the steps myself, am involved in a programme that can help me find a new direction along with training and job placements so I can “try out” any job before I decide to commit to it.

That doesn’t mean to say that everything has been plain sailing. I still have had and do have dark moments from time to time. The main difference has come with how I handle them. The darkness can be painful and enveloping when it returns, making me think that everyone hates me, that I’m just as useless at everything as I’ve always been. ‘Why do you even bother?’ that little voice says to me. At those times, one step at a time, I have to remind myself that I am capable, that the world isn’t out to get me. Even if I just achieve one thing during those darkest of days, no matter how small, it is still one thing more than those voices would have me believe was possible. Slowly, surely, bit by bit, those dark days are becoming less and I’m becoming more of an achiever than someone who just let life pass them by.

Be that person who takes the time to make a change in your life, do something for yourself. Whether it be indulging in a hobby or just doing something else that you enjoy, all these are things we can do to work towards our own happiness.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Social Media

I’ve written about both the positive and negative sides of social media before, here and here. Just like everything, there are good and bad sides to it. For me, overall, my experiences on various Social Media networks have been positive. I’ve met so many great people who I otherwise wouldn’t have met, plus have managed to keep in touch with people from my past and regain contact with others which may otherwise never have happened. There have been days when I haven’t been able to go out, so that little bit of contact can be all that’s needed to keep me going. A little smile, a little hello. Both new friends and old, whether I’ve ever known them in person or not, are just one click away.

Of course, the other thing about Social Media is that, without it, I wouldn’t be able to share this wonderful blog here! :) Now what would you all do without it?!

Yet recently I’ve learnt about its dark side. Now we’ve all heard about bullies that use Social Media to be able to plague their victims from a distance, yet to see evidence of such actions for yourself is something else. Luckily I have personally only ever had minor niggles show up, the odd person who’s decided to take advantage of my Facebook inbox in order to be shouty where they wouldn’t be brave enough to do so in person. On Facebook you’re mostly protected (despite how much I don’t trust them!), as long as you have your security settings programmed in correctly. Twitter, on the other hand, is an open field where mud can be flung and spread at an alarming rate. The rate at which the dung and filth spreads is quicker and more efficient than any farmer’s muck spreader, but without the positives of goodly nutrients going into the earth. People have filth and poison pushed into their open, hungry mouths just so they can go and spout it out somewhere else, or even back at the victim themselves.

Having been a victim of bullying in the past, in person, naturally it’s one of the things I can’t abide. Any decent, self-respecting person would find it abhorrent. Yet, there it is, just a click away, another wannabe thug digging into someone they wouldn’t have the guts to confront in person.

So there, unfortunately, lies the biggest downside of Social Media. The one thing that can be good for us, being able to speak to people at a distance when we are otherwise unable to go out into the world, is the exact same thing that bullies use to spread their filth. I have no time for those sorts of people.

Yet, as I have said, luckily I have mostly only had positive experiences, met some great people who have literally changed my life. So, despite all its negative sides, I am still a big advocate of the use of Social Media sites. Yet, at the same time, we all need to be vigilant and careful. If someone has nasty things to say about someone, make sure you know the full story before jumping on the bandwagon. Better still, stay away.

Friday, 30 May 2014


I don’t believe I’ve ever had a very good self-image, whether it be down to how I look, or how I perceive myself otherwise as a person. There have been many people in my life who haven’t helped that and have, indeed, exacerbated the situation.

It all started when I was quite young. As a child, along with my fellow siblings, I was always put down by my elders, told constantly how I wasn’t good enough at something. Each of us as fellow siblings were encouraged to further the damage with nasty words to the others. So, even if I knew otherwise, the belief that I was “stupid”, “worthless” or crap at a particular subject was ingrained into me. My low self-confidence as a result of this had a knock on effect on how people perceived me at school. It meant that I was bullied and my physical image was attacked, too. I was now not only “stupid”, “worthless”, “crap at everything”, I was also “ugly”, the person no one wanted to be friends with in case they caught something.

As a result of all of this, I have never been content with my self-image, whether it be how I interact with people or how I look. I’ve spent years being uncomfortable if people tell me I’m attractive or good at something. Even the smallest compliment will have me fidgeting and trying to find a way to negate or explain why it may seem I’m that way. All those positives turned into negatives, because for so many years I was always told otherwise.

So, what can I do to change this? Should I change this? Shouldn’t it be right that I believe that I’m worth something?

I’ll start with body-image. As a woman it can be hard to fit into society if you’re not perceived as being magazine-beautiful, or as trying to achieve that absolute perfection. The media tell us that the only way we can ever be acceptable to others is to be this clone image of whatever their latest trend is. Well, this is something that I haven’t fit into for years. Yet still, somehow, on a subconscious level, I’d make those little efforts, a little bit of make-up here and there, body-hair maintenance, etc. Even when wearing the drabbest clothing, I’d still be making over-the-top efforts to look a little bit more acceptable. It didn’t make me feel any better at all and certainly didn’t help me fit in any better.

So, I’ve stopped. I no longer bother with shaving, as I find it a ridiculous waste of time trying to achieve a fake image of so-called perfection that I’ll never reach anyway. I no longer wear make-up, even when the odd spot decides to surface and mar my otherwise less-than-media-perfect features. I don’t colour my hair, as I know that disguising the greys isn’t going to make them any less real. I am becoming a natural being, a woman in the form she is meant to be in. Yet am I happy?

I must admit, I am still uncomfortable with going out in skirts and dresses, trying to wear something nice and comfortable whilst not having made any of the “required” beauty efforts. I have done this in the past and not received any negative comments, yet I know that people still look. But, at the same time, I feel more comfortable with myself and less stressed for not having to go that extra mile, when I know, on the whole, it won’t change my own perceived self-image much, anyway.

So, what is needed to be comfortable with my own self-image? Well, one thing I do know is that it has nothing to do with the physical side of things.

Let’s go back to the bullying for a second. Even when I was trying to make an effort, trying to make myself prettier through using various lotions, potions, powders and clothing, I was still called names, made fun at. I thought I was trying to fit in, but all I was doing was trying to be someone I wasn’t. Even then, it took me far too long to realise that, what I really needed to do, was to just be myself. Now that wasn’t that easy to do when I was always trying to hang with the wrong crowds, if I ever did to socialise after having become a recluse for the most part. Yet, as soon as I had the right people around me, suddenly it didn’t matter how I looked, just who I was. I started to relax and my true colours started to show.

So, now onto self-esteem, the other side of self-image. One thing I have learnt is that it takes confidence to be the person you are rather than the person you think you should be. When you’ve spent any portion of your life being put down, trying to pretend that you’re someone else isn’t going to make people who have made a victim of you like you any more. If anything, it just gives them another excuse to laugh at you. What’s needed is to build upon your own self-worth and realise for yourself that you’re not the person all those nasty people have said you are, that you are capable of more than they say. Of course, it does help when you have good people around you who will encourage you and help you understand your true potential.

I’ve been lucky in that, nowadays, there’s mostly positive people in my life. It means that I’m gaining more and more confidence in being the person I really am rather than hiding various aspects because of what people may think. Because of this, it means I gain more respect and encouragement and means that I can also give some of that positivity back. It also means, when faced with negativity, I’m able to shrug it off a lot easier. This isn't to say that it's wrong to wear or do something that will make us feel better. Not at all. Yet, through that, we should still remember that self-image is all about how we perceive ourselves, inside and out, and we shouldn’t ever be afraid to show and be who we truly are.

Sunday, 18 May 2014


One thing I find that’s important in my journey is to be honest about things. This is not just about being honest to others about what’s going on, but, more importantly, being honest with myself. Being honest with yourself has to be the hardest thing.

We all have faults. Some days it feels like I am unable to escape from mine, no matter how hard I try. At times I feel like I fail at everything. Yet, if I were truly honest with myself at those times, I could tell myself the reason that these things were happening, what was really going on. The things we would otherwise want to avoid or not talk about.

Facing up to your own faults is never an easy thing. Even if we do believe that everything we touch turns sour and that we’ll never amount to anything, we still never admit to where our faults truly lie. The criticising eye we use to judge ourselves is just as judgemental of others, as if it will somehow make us feel better if we can see the faults in others rather than accepting and adapting to our own.

The truth is, I’m not bad at everything. I do many good things. I am bad at managing my own emotions, however, and letting them take me to places I shouldn’t. I admit that I am good at various things musically, but I know that I lack the patience to stick through the hard work and studying that it would require for me to ever be truly exceptional at it. I have been judgemental of others, even when I have refused to admit that I was being so, because the truth was that their faults reminded me of my own.

This blog, for me, has always been about honesty, about writing about the things I would otherwise avoid, or venting any crazy idea that comes into my mind that I’d otherwise shut away. There are many things that go through my mind and happen in my daily life that I don’t like to admit to. Even with being honest that depression does lead me to places I’d otherwise perhaps try to avoid, I still don’t want to be honest about everything that’s been going on. But, honestly, perhaps one day I will try.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Change is as Good as a Rest

This very popular saying basically says that if you’re tired with your environment, your work, etc., that changing things about can have a very positive effect, rather than having a rest and going back to the same mundane thing that you needed a rest from. Yet, what if it is something other than the environment that is causing the issue at hand? How can a break away or changing things about help in those times?

This is something I know about from experience and someone reminded me of recently, at a time when I’m thinking about making major changes in my life again. I once ran away from everything, thinking that that would solve all my problems. It didn’t and they just came back again, having just been hidden away in the background waiting for their chance to reappear.

This is one of the major problems with depression, when not treated correctly. When left to face up to the problems on your own, you think that the problems are elsewhere than where they actually are. Often the problems are just inside your head. I didn’t like the neighbourhood I was in, disliked going out, felt trapped, because I felt like I had no privacy from the prying eyes of the gossips just outside the door. Yet part of what the real problem was, was that I was embarrassed about myself, who I was, and didn’t have the confidence to stand up to anyone who may be otherwise accusing of my choice of dress and lifestyle. That was something that didn’t go away with moving. Going out anywhere if you dress like an outsider means you’ll always be an outsider, unless you have the confidence to stand up and just be yourself despite that. I’ve never been into any sort of fashion, always preferring the comfortable route for clothing, and in a world that’s happy to criticise for the slightest faux pas that they see of any kind, it’s meant that I’ve been a target for those nasty words in the past. But, dress sense aside, I also didn’t know who I was, which left me being just as much an outsider.

There were other things at fault in my life at the time, other things that also weren’t simple to change. I didn't realise that there were other things that I could have done at the time, other than running away, to sort out the problems I was having. Yes, I am more comfortable now I’m not living on a housing estate with an assortment of various disreputable characters mingled amongst the ones who are more decent and have learnt to live with it. Yet I’m still quite isolated, away from friends and often quite alone. So, what else could I have done? Perhaps turned to them for advice, looked to have moved closer to people and places that were more comfortable to live in, and, above all, get help so I could learn to be more comfortable with myself.

That last one is easy to say, because in the UK at the time I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I often think that perhaps, if I had, things may not have turned out the way they did. But I then wouldn’t have had the other benefits of the crazy changes I enforced on myself, which were finding out who I really am and what I really want. The next changes I make in my life will be moving towards just that – places that I want to go, rather than panicking to get away from something that isn’t as bad as I may think.

A great follow-up article to read on a blog I’ve just started following, Finding Positives, is I Could Be Happy Here. I read this just as I was thinking about writing this post and it not only gave me the extra nudge to write this, but I think it expresses the ideas on this subject amazingly.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Awkward Weirdness

I’m not the best communicator. I have a habit of making a tit of myself even in the most mundane of situations. It tends to depend on my frame of mind at the time as to whether I’ll come out with a sensible line or one that’s entirely inappropriate. Of course, when you’re just the right side of potentially life-threatening thinking, then being able to say anything that’s both positive and sane is incredibly difficult!

Unfortunately, this has led to me being an outcast at times. There’s very little I can do about it. Rejection is a very painful thing, but, having just turned thirty three, I’ve gotten used to it now. Sometimes, though, it hurts more than others.

What do you do if you sort of like someone, but you haven’t a clue about how to communicate with them and every time you do try, you just make more of an awkward mess of things? Now I’m not talking about potential love interests or anything like that, but people you may like to be friends with, yet find it difficult to be so because the only thing you’re able to do is flood them with weird nonsense. Yeah, this happens too often in my life. Because of this, I’m surprised that I have any friends at all!

The people I have the most difficulty with is those that are also awkward and weird, but in different ways to me. It means that there’s a clash somewhere in the middle. Me being me, the chaotic communicator who has to over-explain everything, goes in there and makes it worse. It means that behaving relaxedly around these types of people is almost impossible. Now this is fine when you don’t really have enough in common with them to really be interested in being friends with them, but when it’s the other way around, it’s as sad as it is frustrating.

There’s not much that I can do about my weirdness. Life experiences have made me the person that I am and at my age I’m unlikely to make any huge sways in changing this. That’s if I even wanted to make such drastic changes to my persona. Yet, luckily, there are people out there who not only can put up with my special type of weirdness, but are drawn to it and love it. I’m glad that they are there, as they make this lonely life more bearable.