I am always looking out for new ways to spread mental health awareness and I think fiction is an area I often glaze over. However, I’m starting to see just how beneficial reading fiction can really be. Recently, I was invited to take part in the book tour for ‘The Year I Didn’t Eat’ by Samuel Pollen – my interest was sparked by both the focus on mental health and the fact that the target audience is young teens…
I think a lot of people aim to be flawless. Or at least, they’re on a mission to become ‘perfect’ (whatever that means). It’s no surprise really, it’s an ideal pushed on us at every opportunity: the copious amounts of photoshop on magazine covers, the endless adverts for whitening toothpastes/mascara/weight loss products, the ‘top 30 under 30’ and ‘youngest billionaire’ lists designed to make us feel inferior… the list goes on and on and on.
It is pretty crazy, when you stop to think about it. There are so many things out there encouraging us to carve ourselves into smooth, marble statues of perfect proportions, beauty and purposefulness. And if you’re not everything, you’re nothing.
This is a stream of consciousness written at a point in time when I was gripped by anxiety so tightly I could barely think because of it. It’s angry and it’s messy, because that’s the reality of anxiety for so many people. I’m sharing this in order to give one perspective of what it’s like to live with anxiety – of course, many other versions exist out there, some of which will resonate with this more than others.
(Potential trigger warning for those who experience intense anxiety – this is descriptive of my thoughts and experiences and I don’t want that to hurt anyone further.)
Anxiety is not pretty. It isn’t glamorous, or endearing. It may seem that way in books and films and on social media, but that is definitely not how it feels to live with. It is rough, brutal. Mean-spirited and ugly. Anxiety is a constant argument in my head between the unconvincing, faint yelp of the rational, and the fearful, controlling scream of manipulative desperation.
The reasons why someone develops debilitating levels of anxiety can be extremely complex and down to a range of seemingly small things. To the person suffering, it can sometimes seem mystifying; I remember being struck by the thought one day, ‘how did I end up in such a mess?’ Over the years I’ve thought a lot about my mental health journey and my relationship with feelings of anxiety: these ideas have often led to an attempt to figure out possible causes for the intense feelings of fear and discomfort I’ve experienced. One of these is the relationship between growing up introverted and society’s perception and reaction to the traits associated with this.
What is introversion?
Introversion is the tendency to focus on internal thoughts and feelings rather than seeking outside stimulation; and introverts gain their energy from time spent alone or in small groups. According to Susan Cain, author of ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking‘ these are people ‘who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams’. They generally prefer to listen in groups and often like to share their ideas in writing, hence why there are so many introverted bloggers.
Growing up female comes with a whole host of challenges, much like a christmas chocolate selection box where an array of horrors disguised in tempting, shiny foil nestle inside. Of course, there are plenty of great things about being a woman, but this post is about the times when sadly that is not the case. More specifically, this post is going to focus on one of the most commonly discussed issues of growing up female: the pressure to look a certain way, or do certain things to be ‘beautiful’.
In a simple, kind world, we would be able to appreciate everyone’s differences, and also spend way less time thinking about them. What I think is even worse than the pressure to fit into a particular look, is the underlying concept that a woman’s worth can be based on her appearance; both how she naturally exists and through what she actively does or does not do with her body. Yes, it’s nice to acknowledge beauty, but do we really want to live in a society in which this is, so much of the time and evident across all media platforms, the most important aspect of being a woman?
I remember the incredulous satisfaction of getting a basketball through a hoop in the school playground when I was (possibly) nine years old. That complete, pure happiness of doing something visibly well without a single pinch of negativity radiating from myself; I didn’t feel the uncomfortable itch of other people’s eyes that sometimes physically makes my skin crawl these days, or the painful awareness of all my body parts awkwardly squirming in an unfamiliar environment. I was just one body amongst others, merging into the lines on the court.
Looking back at how I felt playing any kind of sport as a young kid, it was as if my limbs were an extension of the pitch, or the racket was an extension of my own body. Things flowed easily. Except thoughts, any thinking that was not related to the game ceased. I guess this is what it means to feel fully absorbed in what you’re doing, and I certainly can coax that feeling back sitting at a laptop, fingers flying over the keyboard as I type out a post. But I know for sure I haven’t felt it doing something as physical as a sport in a long time.
It was my birthday yesterday, and of course this calls for a generic ‘things I’ve learnt’ kind of post. Because who doesn’t like a neat list of life lessons?! I think it goes without saying that we all learn a lot of things over a year, month or even a day, but that could form a vast and boring collection. So instead, here are twenty highlights…
Appreciating the little things is important: whether that’s the sunshine on your face in spring, the thoughtful words of a fellow blogger, or a hug at the right time – gratitude is a powerful thing.
Prioritising is difficult but necessary; multitasking doesn’t really work in most situations and it’s better to just focus intensely on one task at a time. Managing all the important aspects of your life is an ever-evolving skill.