The reality of the Christmas season…

It’s dark, the rain is splattering against my bedroom window, and I’m once again wrapped in blankets with an unhappy stomach. On my bed there are chord sheets of Christmas carols, some lush products, craft stuff for Guides, Paddy the iPad, my phone, while on the floor are three bags filled with shopping from today and throughout the past year that will be Christmas presents.

I haven’t written on here for a long while because I didn’t really know how to articulate everything.

In October, I had a breakdown. There were a lot of triggers in a short space of time and I think with stress of one of my jobs and not having friends around much it just escalated quickly and suddenly. I came off facebook and one day just got in my car and drove for hours. I didn’t really eat for several days.

Since then, I’ve been better, but still struggling with anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve not been able to be involved much with church partly because of the panic attacks, and partly because of work.

There have been a lot of things going on. I have two incredible jobs which I’ve dreamed of and had given up on hope of finding. I have been truly blessed this past summer, and I’ve now passed probation of one of them. I really, really hope that it will work out so I can stay after my contract is up because I love it so much there. The other job I’m still on probation, and it was a tough start for a lot of reasons. It’s still tough, but I hoping it’s going to be rewarding. And then there is volunteering. That’s been hard. I’m exhausted, and we are still short on volunteers which means I haven’t been able to take the steps back I wanted to.

So I’m doing lots of great stuff, and it’s all good. But it means from Monday-Friday I have no social life. Free evenings are rare. By the weekend, I’m exhausted. And everyone (including me) is busy. Most people have families they want to do stuff with at weekends. I don’t have that, so weekends have been incredibly lonely. I think I had this ridiculous dream after 3 years working pretty much every weekend of having friends who would want to go on walks, cinema trips and music gigs because that’s what it used to be like. Now I truly am that tragic spinster. I really need to get some cats.

The other thing that’s been going on is that my Dad has had some health issues. If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you’ll know that my Dad and I don’t have the easiest relationship. We have had months of trying to get him to a specialist here in the UK, tests and consultations and waiting. So much waiting.

The events of the last couple of months have really shown me how much I’m lacking in friends. The friends that have ‘been there’ – the ones that have checked in, who have text back when they see a missed call – they’ve all been people who are too far away to be able to do anything. However you know you have a good friend when despite being on a whole other continent they are texting you almost daily to check in.

And I get the “FOMO” thing. It is so hard at this time of year to see people happy and with friends and family. You know you’ve been replaced and forgotten when it’s there to see on social media. On the days when the anxiety and depression has really peaked, it’s just like twisting a knife in a wound to see. It makes it so abundantly clear that you are all alone, and if you weren’t here – life would go on perfectly fine without you, because it already is. It’s a really horrible thing when you feel so resentful of people that you love.

And do you know what, I know that in the past, people have contacted me saying how jealous they are of me when I’ve posted stuff on my blog and social media. It is really easy to portray this whitewashed version of our lives.

So though this post has been sitting in my drafts for a week, I am going to publish it for that reason. Because I want you to know, just in case you are feeling crappy too that you are not the only one. If you have a family that have mostly stopped speaking to each other and you only see at funerals. Solidarity with you – I’m in that place too. If you are living with mental health illness. Solidarity with you – I can empathise. If you are single and trying to navigate what life looks like when you are alone – I’d love some advice on how you deal with that.

Oh, and although I won’t be alone on Christmas Day, I will be on twitter as much as I can be to provide some company to those who are. I’ve been doing #JoinIn since Sarah Millican started it, and I can see how much it is needed more than ever this year.

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BK’s YouTube Picks: Reasons to stay alive

As I’ve mentioned one of the books I’ve been reading is Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Last week he tweeted a link to the video below. The video has been inspired by Matt’s book and gives encouragement to people battling depression.

Every society tells stories, but I’m afraid to tell mine…

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I wanted to be two things when I was growing up. A dance teacher and an author. Both these dreams got shot down pretty quickly by family members because apparently those aren’t ‘proper jobs’. However, while I know deep down that becoming a dance teacher is out of the question now, being an author is never out of the question. But I get scared of being rubbish, scared of being rejected. Like I know incredible authors got a ton of rejection letters before they got published…but it doesn’t make me feel any less anxious about the whole thing. And it stops me from finishing the stories I have in my head.

More specifically I’ve wanted to write children’s books. I still love children’s books which my friends think is an amusing quirk – though they’ve given me credit on occasion for finding books that their kids/nephews/nieces love. 🙂

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Discovering some children’s books at a vintage fair.

But oh the fear! I went to an incredible conference at my university a couple of years ago which one of my Germany roommates invited me to (she was doing a Masters in Children’s Literature and Literacy). It was all about picturebooks, and it fuelled that fire even more. Through going to different conferences mainly aimed at children’s librarians (another job I would love, love, love…and another job that our government is cut, cut, cutting) I met the head of Children’s library services for our city, and he invited me to become a judge for this incredible writing competition we have each year for primary school children aged between 7-11 years old. It has become my favourite weekend of the year when I go to the central children’s library to pick up 100s of entries and take them home to read to whittle it down to 10 entries for the final judging panel. Their creativity (when teachers have allowed it) just makes my heart more full, and I often annoy the snot out of everyone around me by bursting in a room or calling on the phone exclaiming “oh my gosh, this is amazing!” before proceeding read them a poem or short story I’ve discovered that has made me smile or laugh.

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Distracted by books at a market stall in Paris. I’d found the French translation of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

And stories are important. Not just the life stories, but the imagination stories. I do believe that fairy tales were often the ways in which morals and life lessons were taught to children by their families back in the day. A few friends continually tell me that I need to share my own story, but I worry that there’s no point because no one would want to read it.

But worst would be if the characters in my head never get to be loved and read. There are my reindeer and there are my superhero wannabe brother and sister duo, Mattie and Zander. I worry they’ll never make it from my imagination to paper. But somehow I worry more that they will and people will just go “Pffffftttt”.

Yep. I still haven’t been able to combat my fear of failure!! (Clearly).