happy

Halves, Wholes & Other Emotional Maths

We all grow up differently. Some people are self-conscious about their weight. Some people hate their noses. Some people think no-one is ever going to like them. Whatever it is, everyone has their insecurities, and from my experience, sex ed didn’t really make anyone feel better about them. The teacher was awkward, the students were worse, the curriculum was reeled off and that was pretty much it. The biology was covered, and ‘pastoral care’ mentioned, but what no-one really touched upon was how big a role emotions and self-image play amongst all this growing up.

I spent a lot of my teen years feeling uncomfortable in my body and insecure about how I looked. I was one of – in hindsight -many people that thought no-one would ever want them. I doubted that anyone would ever feel anything for me, yet maintained the hope that should something happen, it would be the answer to everything. I’d be fulfilled, complete and wanted, entirely satisfied with myself and my life.

Looking in the mirror and not only seeing the ‘ugly’ and the negative seemed an insurmountable thought for me. I was stuck in a rut of worthlessness, hopelessly looking to be wanted and reassured. I had the expectation that finding someone who saw more in me than I did would automatically bring happiness, irrespective of how I was feeling. I was not prepared for the emotional experience that thinking would bring about.

21244662_10211805042095761_2026440898_nThere’s that saying; ‘looking for my other half’, that people use when they talk about finding that person who is their soulmate. Whether that’s important to you or not, I think there’s something about this quote to bear in mind. No-one else should ever be your other half because you are already a whole. This is actually quite a new revelation for me, but one that has made all the difference, both to my relationship with others and with myself.

Adopting this perspective is, in essence, very flexible. It can mean that you need to go and be single and find happiness with yourself completely alone, but it doesn’t have to. It can mean constantly surrounding yourself with family and friends to build up morale, but only if you want it to. Whichever suits, my point is that no matter how endearing your environment is, the positive words from people around you cannot fill the sadness of how you see yourself forever. You must give yourself time to learn, to help yourself.

I am a huge advocate of drawing from the people around you. Having hated myself for so long, I have found so many parts of myself that I now love through other people and how they saw me. A few years ago, however, these positive words will have needed to be regular; I was in constant need of recognition that I was of any value. What they were saying wasn’t sinking in, because deep down I still couldn’t see past what I saw.

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When no-one was around to reassure me, I plummeted back into sadness, which took a toll on almost every aspect of my life. As I watched myself let everything slip away, I realised that I was losing myself. I decided that something had to change. I took a deep breath and a step back. I spent a summer with less social media and less communication with friends. It gave me a chance to reflect on myself, the words of others, and how I wanted to see myself. I built up confidence, proving to myself that I was of value rather than needing someone else to tell me this. It was a long process, and how I went about it may not suit you at all, but what matters is making that change.

I finally allowed my friends’ words to change my own mind, and as a result, I’m starting to embrace a happiness which is beyond fulfilling. This happiness comes from within. This is where we come back to that quote because that is what we all deserve. You are – always have and always will be – enough, but we need to take charge of our own self-worth to truly realise that. No-one can permanently plug that self-doubt you have, no-one can fill that space of insecurity forever. Using the people around you and their appreciation for you, you can build up the image you have of yourself into a whole that you become happier with.

While I think that’s important for wider life, it’s also important for the health of your relationship. You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t let go for the benefit of yourself or your partner because your entire world depends on how their opinion of you builds you up. Even whilst in a relationship, you are two very different individuals who have their own lives but needn’t depend on the other. Value one another for the love you give but have enough confidence in your self-worth that you don’t need it to be satisfied.

As I said before, everyone is different, and everyone improves themselves differently. Your environment, be that a relationship, friends, or family is a gold mine for learning about what others value in you. The importance of the emotional awareness that sex ed neglects, lies simply in seeing this within yourself. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself taking the world by storm because knowing yourself – the ‘to-be-improved’, the value and the good – is nothing to be afraid of. Rather, take your happiness into your own hands and go for it, in love, ambitions or everyday life, all while knowing just what a good egg you truly are.

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Images from Rubyetc, Picture Quotes and The Online Odyssey.
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

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Blue Monday, Blue Winter, Blue Year.

Blue Monday is not the most depressing day of the year, nor is it any more or less depressing than any other day of the year.

January can be a difficult month as we tend to pile even more pressure onto ourselves with sweeping New Year’s resolutions that often force us to think we should be fitter, stronger, or better than we already are. My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to watch more films because I keep watching the same ones over and over .

I do not plan to get smarter, thinner, or better at riding my bike because I have as much control over the year as I do the weather. This year I’m going to try my best to look after myself while I attempt to embrace the mess that is life after uni.

I don’t believe I will be happy all year. I don’t believe I will be healthy and happy for the next New Year because I don’t know what life will bring. My attitude differs to the popular resolve I’m sure, but it seems fair to me.

As such, I know people will think I’m being negative by saying that Blue Monday is as depressing as any other day. I feel I should however remind you that Blue Monday is false, has no scientific backing, and was made up by holiday company Sky Travel in their 2005 press release. Blue Monday is pseudoscience, and an angle for marketers. So all of this (see below) is bullshit.

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My point with this piece isn’t to mock you, or to tell you how foolish you are to buy into all the companies and newspapers telling you to be depressed every January 16th. My point is to tell you that for many people, the entire month, season or year can be so awfully blue, that one day won’t make a difference.

We should not see Blue Monday as a day to feel bad about ourselves unnecessarily, but as a reminder of how much work we need to put into looking after ourselves, as often as we can. Whether it’s a seasonal affective, or year-round depression, it’s important to focus on the good.

Articles from the Daily Mail (*cough* trash) telling us why things are terrible and ‘more depressing than usual’, should be replaced with good news, and things to be happy about. We should not feel bad for being upset, and we should definitely not feel bad on behalf of others when we are sad. It is a human right to feel. It is a part of living to cry and feel down, as much as it is to laugh and feel joy.

This Blue Monday, I ask that you stop reading articles about the bad in the world and to instead watch a film, or have dessert or a hot chocolate. I don’t want you to feel bad because you’ve been told to. I ask that you look after yourself as well as you should every other day of the year, and to do your best to keep it up from now on.

Blue Monday isn’t real, but your health and feelings are. Look after what counts, and be kind to yourself.

 

Words by Briony Brake

Stop WINE-ing About Women Drinking

 I am fully and wholly aware that alcohol is bad for you. It’s bad for your physical and mental health. It is a drug.

But my god it’s fun, isn’t it? When you’ve had a few, and you dance your way back from the pub, eating some chips that taste like the best chips ever… and it is my god damn right to do that.

In the wake of New Years and Christmas festivities there have been a spate of ‘oh no binge drinking women how awful’ articles in the typically awful right-wing press. The narratives of these stories are often about how terrible it is for us young girls to go out in short skirts, or heels, and to get merry. They depict us as ‘messes’, as out of control, or loose.

If you’re decrying young women going out and acting disgracefully on nights out, you should probably stop putting photos of it in national newspapers.

I am sure that some of this notion of women going and getting drunk being a terrible thing stems from the fact that many of these women probably end up having one night stands, and that many people still have a problem with women being in charge of their own sexuality and sexual freedoms.

I wonder if there’s a rise in young women drinking because the pressure on us to be everything is so intense that we need something after a long day of the patriarchy to take the edge off.

Or if it’s because we are made to feel so constantly self-conscious and aware of our looks -as that is taught to be the only thing that defines us – that having a drink is sometimes the quickest way to feel good about ourselves.

In her article ‘Pictures Of Today’s Young Women That Make Me Weep’ (I’m not going to link you to it or even suggest that you look it up because any more hits on their website is exactly what The Mail wants, and I’m loathed to ever give them what they want, the absolute fucks), Sarah Vine writes “[e]ven more depressing, however, is the fact that these are not the usual suspects – thuggish male louts or football hooligans – we see brawling and barfing their way to destruction; but young women”.

OKAY. LET’S DELVE IN. Vine seems to be suggesting here that if it were ‘the usual suspsects’ that would somehow be okay, and that the fact that it’s not makes it worse. She even calls it ‘depressing’.  

I wonder why, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove, young women would feel the need to go out and get rat-arsed these days. No idea? Me neither, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove.

I’m not okaying binge drinking. It’s silly, and foolish, and is a strain on public services. People put themselves in dangerous positions and many die or are hurt. I’m just saying that being a woman doing it is not any worse than being a man doing it.

Also, being drunk is a right laugh. There is something intensely powerful about a group of girls on a night out. It is one of my favourite places to be. When you give up with glasses and swig from the bottle, and do each other’s eyeliner and cackle. When you hold back your mate’s hair as they’re sick in a bin. My two best friends from school and me would take it in turns to be the most drunk on a night out so no one was always the one doing the looking after. That’s not being a ‘mess’ that’s being considerate. Rae Earl put it best on Twitter when she said this:

Vine’s article also says this: “These girls have grown up in a post-feminist society that tells them anything a man can do, they can do better. And that includes getting monumentally, catastrophically bladdered.”

You know what?

Yeah. It does. Today’s young women can do whatever they bloody like. Have a drink mate. Mine’s a pint.

Words by Sian Brett (@sian_brett)
Tweet by Rae Earl (@RaeEarl)

How To Cheer Yourself Up When You’re Down

This post is an interesting one, because it’s not just me talking about my issues, it’s not just interviews with friends on similar issues, and it’s not just advice being passed on to you lovely readers. Instead, it’s all three.

The Personal

Since going to university (and generally just growing up some), I’ve become notoriously bad at looking after myself. It’s something millions of people struggle with, and it’s not something they teach you at school, but it is important to deal with. Often the worst part isn’t just feeling sad or upset, but feeling that way when you’re alone.

Everyone has friends, or partners, or family that they feel comfortable turning to, but sometimes these friends are asleep, at dinner, at work, or uni or so on. Sometimes, they can’t help. In some cases, people don’t want to reach out, or ‘bother’ their loved ones, but whoever you are within this mix, I’ve gone out to research what other people do, to help us both.

When I used to feel sad as a teenager, I would often watch YouTube videos and vloggers, or listen to my awful iTunes playlists, but I don’t really go for that anymore. These days I tend to light candles, carry on listening to music, don some comfy pjs and eat (and not just when I’m sad). It’s basic but effective. On better days, I’m smarter when it comes to looking after myself.

As a result, I’ve decided to ask what other people do. I’ve asked around and posted to social media to work out how my friends look after themselves when they only have themselves to turn to, and the results are all achievable and easy things to do. Seems only fair to start with myself…

The Interviews

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When I get down these days I tend to watch a classic Disney film like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, because they’re very uplifting. Alternatively I’ll stick on The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh – sounds childish I know but it’s so innocent and pure that it just makes me so much happier. Other methods involved adult colouring or dot-to-dot, and ultimately a cup of tea and an early night.

 

Next up, my housemate Nathan offered up his solution:anthemnathan
Most of the time I’d message a friend, but if I couldn’t do that I’d probably find a film or TV programme to watch. That always takes my mind off whatever is wrong, and I can just keep up with any current show I’m watching. If not, I try to get some fresh air and go for a walk. If all else fails, music can a God send, for me rock or grime especially – it’s a bit more fun and energetic.

 

What about fellow Anthem writer, Jess? She always seems to have wise words:anthemjess
To be honest, I do tend to just watch TV, or binge on whatever series I’m on currently and then I can forget about being down. Occasionally I’ll paint, bake or maybe cook a meal. A lot of it is mental, and so a lot of the time if I’m down I’ll sort of sit and take a moment to just redirect my thoughts to things that I know I’m lucky to have like family, my degree and so on. Something that always helps is going for a walk to look at all the lovely things that exist, and then I’m able to tell myself that good things have to mixed in with the bad so that we can understand and appreciate them better.

 

If you haven’t quite got the hang of the mindfulness skill yet, sometimes it really is quite simple to cheer yourself up. I asked my friend from uni, Jamie how he went about it: anthemjamkie
If I need cheering up, I’ll normally turn to a film and most of the time it will be Love Actually. It always makes me laugh and smile.

 

And what about my friend Amber? Well hers made me feel a bit better too:
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I had to think about this quite hard. It depends why I’m feeling sad I guess, and what kind of sad; like if I’m feeling defeated or shit about myself then I tend to write things down that are good about myself or that I have achieved. Sometimes I do something simple like having a nice long shower, or ‘mindful’ washing like really taking in smells of shower gel etc. which might sound super lame but it works. I have a teddy (judge me) and I cuddle that sometimes. If I need distracting, I watch Netflix or I’ll read. I like to go for walks as well if it’s a nice day and really take in my surroundings and tune out of my head if I can. A lot of them seem quite obvious but whatever works!

 

The Advice

So it’s not as hard as I (probably you as well) make it out to be sometimes. Just have a drink (tea/hot chocolate/wine) and some food, watch a film that makes you happy, binge on some TV, do some painting and colouring or writing. These guys are a great bunch of people who I consider quite happy people as well, so how can I be sure I can do this next time I need to?

I guarantee that a lot of time if I’m sad I’ll either text Jess into the night until I fall asleep, or moan at my friends and boyfriend until they tell me I’m probably being silly and should just have a cup of tea and calm down (which is correct), but when I’m alone it is harder to get happy again. Something that you, I, and generally all of us can do is plan ahead. I know it sounds stupid but hear me out. 

Blurt Foundation Buddy Box Depression Care Package

There are companies built entirely on care packages (see: BuddyBox, PinkParcel), but if you’re as skint as I am, then you can make your own, or be super cute and make one for a friend. The idea in this case is to make sure you have what you need to look after yourself when sadness strikes. You can either go full Monica Geller and set aside a box full of snacks, treats, books and fun things and DVDs, or you can make sure you know what makes you happy. Simple as.

Asking other people has been useful because I feel like I’m not missing something that everyone else is doing. It seems clear that looking after yourself is as simple as eating, drinking, sleeping well and making time for a walk, or bath, or favourite film. If I can just remember that there are good things and happy things then all I need to do is find them and make use of them.

What else do you think is important to remember? Let us know how you look after yourself!

 

Words by Briony Brake
Interviews with Nathan Oliver, Jessica Yang, Jamie Clarkson, Amber Berry
Photo by BuddyBox: The Blurt Foundation