Sunday, 24 November 2013

Perfectionism

I have always been a perfectionist.

I have no idea where I get it from, as no-one in my biological family, or even my boyfriend seems to concern themselves with making things 'right', 'perfect' or 'proper', they just allow things to be. I wish I was like that.

The worst thing about being a perfectionist is that nothing can ever be perfect enough. I could achieve a first in my assignment and the buzz would last for five minutes before I panic over how the next assignment must go horribly wrong and how I must get working on it in an instant. I spend at least an hour each day throwing clothes out of my wardrobe, trying them on and putting them back again before I leave the house because I fear that I won't look perfect, that I'll look fat, people will judge me (this drives my boyfriend mad and is also a result of my body image issues). I become terrified of saying no to what I'm asked at work for fear of making myself look imperfect. I blame myself when something goes wrong in someone elses lives because I couldn't do more and I couldn't be the perfect friend. I freak out when I spell things wrong or when my work isn't neat and structured correctly. Because it then isn't perfect.

I hate being a perfectionist. I lived for a while thinking that it was okay to be a perfectionist, and don't get me wrong, it is for some. But I completely let it over dominate my life, encompassed by worry and fear of imperfection that I actually end up getting nothing done half of the time, or, as appears to be the case recently, I'm making myself ill over it. Which allows me to be imperfect, and then the whole spiral begins again.

It's harder sometimes to be a perfectionist when you have a mental illness such as depression. You fight two consistent battles, the depression wanting you to isolate yourself, not speak to anyone, not get on with your work because there's no point, and go back to bed, but the perfectionism needs you to get everything done as soon as possible, set yourself out to be a shining example to work colleagues and lecturers, and make people like you. In the end you just end up with a headache and you feel even worse than before. Hence why I hate being a perfectionist and why I've known for a long time that I need to learn to let go of these thoughts that convince myself that I'm bad if I'm imperfect.

I KNOW perfection doesn't exist. I don't always know it, sometimes I need to remind myself. But I'm consciously aware that the word perfect has no clear definition and means something different to everyone. Looking the word perfect up online I saw a description saying 'as good as it is possible to be'. Is that possible? Surely we need a further definition here? What is 'as good as it is possible to be?'. What does that mean? For myself, or others? Another - being without defect or blemish. This got me because in reality, we ALL have defects and blemishes - even those we perceive as perfect in the eye of the media, whether they be external or internal. 'How to get the perfect body in 90 days' - what does this mean? Conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type - again, what is ideal and who makes the decisions as to what is ideal? Why are we listening to who makes these decisions? Why don't we just listen to the voice that really matters - which is our own?

I hate the word itself. It's a word which bears no actual meaning and therefore people like myself interpret it as constant striving to be better, to do better, to have the best body or to have the best life. I genuinely just found a WikiHow article online - 'How To Have a Perfect Life as a Teenager - 12 steps' - what? One of the items on this pathetic list was 'follow a fitness plan - you want your body to be pretty'. Being young and being a teenager should not concern what you look like - in fact none of your life should concern what you look like to a point where it takes over your happiness (as hard as that is to do, I know) - we're here to enjoy our lives, not obsess over what is never going to be good enough for our perfectionistic selves. I'll tell you something, I've obsessed for years over my nose - it looks like it's been broken about three times, it has a huge button at the end and I quite literally hate it - it's the first thing I notice in photographs of myself and I always wish I could have surgery on it (and it's something I will always consider - even thanks to working for BodyGossip I stand for true beauty and the natural self). I have an imperfect nose, but it is mine. I was born with it, I'm likely to die with it and it's part of me. I could spend years wishing for a nose that is perfect, but in reality, what am I searching for? A nose that is perfect for me, or a nose that is perfect for others? Would I ever be happy once I had attained perfection? No. There would always be something else. It would then be my body, my hair, my stomach. Why waste time when I could spend the time learning about acceptance and being comfortable with what I have? I'd just be striving for the unattainable, following the same repetitive cycle for the rest of my life of self-hatred. And boy, that gets dull after a while. Why bother?

We spend so much of our time striving over what we'll never achieve because once we get there, we always want more. There's always a bigger goal we can reach and a higher grade you can achieve. But something I definitely want to work on is living a life less with worry and living a life with a focus on today, and being happy. I'm not going to solve all of my issues with my weight and my achievement overnight but the more time I spent obsessing about being perfect, the less time I'll have to actually live my life and be happy with it. By worrying about being perfect, I'm being imperfect, I'm letting life speed past me and I'm not putting thoughts into action. It's time to realise that not everyone is going to like me. I'm not always going to get the highest grades. No-one cares if I get a low 2:1 or a 2:2, no-one cares if you get a B or lower in an exam, they care about the effort you've put in your attainment as a student. And that not many people care about what clothes I'm wearing or what I actually look like (and I'm also realising that those that do are a little pathetic and need something better to do) and they care about me as a person. Everyday is a learning curve, life would be a little monotonous and boring if you ended up becoming 'perfect' - you'd have nothing to work on, adapt, change and you'd never be able to allow yourself to grow as a person because you'd already be at the top (yet we've already established this doesn't exist - I mean hypothetically). I don't want to be like that. I like a challenge, but a good old-fashioned healthy one.

I feel like right now my entire identity is based on what other people want me to be. And because of this, I'm really not entirely sure what I want out of life yet. But hopefully in the next year I'm going to learn to let go, focus less on what other people want of me and try to be more selfish and focus on what I want. Rather than tormenting myself in the process of trying to reach my goals, I'm going to try and have a little fun along the way. I don't want to be anyone else's version of perfect because it wouldn't be being true to myself. You have to let go sometimes, and just BE.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

The supposed 'selfishness' of suicide

The M42 motorway was closed for well over 24 hours from 12pm yesterday (and well into this evening) following the news that a man was threatening to jump off of one of the motorway bridges.

Diversions were made and many motorists were urged to seek alternative routes but regardless, as can be imagined, traffic was ultimately brought to a standstill and commuters were left stuck for several hours.

As per, these people took to Twitter as their means of release, and posted comments on websites such as 'The Mirror' and other daily newspaper websites, outing what can only be described as foul and abhorrent language used to describe the incident, some saying that the man clearly didn't want to die otherwise he would have already jumped, that he was 'selfish' (a term I'll discuss later on), attention-seeking and that he should have 'just jumped'.

Waking up to this was obviously extremely disheartening and unsettling, I went about my day constantly worrying about this man, clearly extremely distressed and one seeing no other option than the option of suicide. (I must add that luckily, the man has now been talked down from said bridge and detained - and without the amazing support from the emergency services that would never have been possible).

We often hear of suicide being seen as a 'disruption' towards commuters. As a commuter myself, travelling to and from University, I read regular updates on how particular services have been disrupted because of a 'passenger underneath a train' or some similar incident. But I do not, and will never, approach these incidents with the same sort of vulgarity in which I have seen demonstrated across Twitter feeds this morning. I express compassion, heartbreak and empathy knowing that for that one person, there seemed no other option. And there's no turning back from it now and they'll never know the chances and the opportunities they would have to rebuild their life and turn it around for the better. And that's what I feel.

As most of you no doubt already know, I have experienced strong suicidal thoughts many times, especially during the November of 2010, shortly after my 18th birthday, and I have been struck with suicidal thoughts at least once a year since then, the most recent being the July of this year. I'll try and explain them the best I can, even though I find it difficult. As one who is suicidal, in my case, you feel nothing. Your head is fogged and unable to think clearly or put rationality into perspective. Pain, for the suicidal, has no limit until you're dead. You can continue self-injuring and numbing yourself for so long but in reality, the harsh reality is, you are still alive. And the depression, or whatever illness succumbs you, tells you that to be at peace, you must be dead. The thought of death can be the only pre-occupying thought you'll ever have. Sometimes you act on impulse. I know there have been times where I've stood and not even bothered to look before I cross a road because I don't care whether I get hit, I'd rather I get hit, I'd rather be dead. Your illness tells you that your family, they don't care anymore. They'd rather you rot into a hole in the ground and be gone before your very eyes. The burden of the illness is so strong, so weighing, so triumphing that the only way to eliminate it, is to eliminate your life. It's an all-consuming, horrid way to live, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

The last thing these people think of before jumping infront of that train or off of that bridge is whether you'll be able to get home from work this evening. And that isn't down to selfishness. Their illness is the one who is being selfish. I see my illness, in particular, as a separate being from myself, and whilst I know this isn't the case for all I know it is for many. I see my depression as someone entirely separate, that lives inside of me and occasionally feels like it is expanding, and growing upon me, a weight. Sometimes, the weight relieves itself, but when it rises, it rises so much that you're completely void of any action. It tells you, that death is an easy option. 'Fighting is pointless. You won't achieve anything if you fight. You're just fighting to end up right back at the beginning again. I'll keep weighing you down and weighing you down until you lose' and that's how it ends up. The force becomes too strong and that is when impulse takes over, when jumping in front of a train seems like the right thing to do. Just anything to exit this inner mental torture.

And that's why it grows on me so much when people refer to the suicidal as 'selfish'. How can they be selfish when all too often a lot of suicidal patients have the complete incapability to have any rational thoughts in the first place. Unless you have been in the situation of a suicidal person you have no RIGHT to acclaim that they are selfish or attention seeking. In a way, I feel pleased for the ones that have never had to endure this and the turmoil it places on it's victims. Yet this level of ignorance is not acceptable and I find it shocking to believe (although today has proven to be so) that we prioritise traffic over someone's innocent, fragile life. If you take yourself out of the situation of someone who knows nothing about mental illness and for one moment imagine that you'd received a phone call or a knock on the door from the emergency services saying that your son, daughter, parent, or other relative had been at the top of a bridge for over 24 hours threatening to jump and had been successfully coaxed down - I can imagine you'd be damn well grateful that the motorway was closed for as long as it was. Likewise, if you'd discovered that your son, daughter, parents or other relative had died after traffic was allowed to flow through the M42 after they were threatening to jump off of the bridge and therefore they had jumped, you'd be absolutely livid that it had been allowed to occur. Infact, the ones who accuse the suicidal of being selfish are selfish themselves for automatically assuming that their journey and their life is far more important and need not be disrupted to save the life of this man.

Another accusation plundered across the internet was that the act was cowardly. I honestly, and this is my personal opinion, find the act of suicide extremely brave. I have never been brave enough to go through it, though many times have been desperate to, and sometimes I hated myself for that. In some lights, I would argue that I have a fear of death, yet the power to die, is one that is so strong.  Your life was given to you, by whatever means you believe in, and to take it away means quite literally that everything you've ever known, is gone, in a flash. You can't take suicide back once it's been done. It takes one powerful being to make the decision to end their life and one who to me is rather courageous. What is done cannot be undone. It can't be the 'easy way out' for some. When you are so ill, there is no other way out.

People who end their own lives are ill. And that is what many of the ignorant and insulting fail to realise. If you have a broken arm/leg, the likelihood is that you're not able to drive or not able to play sports. If you have a broken mind, the likelihood is that the desire to live your life just simply won't exist any more. For some, that internal pain is too much to bear.

I'd like to thank you all for reading todays post. It was a difficult one, by any means, but I had to write it. I'd also like to give all of my credit to the phenomenal efforts of the emergency services for helping to achieve the conclusion that was met today.
Please remember that there is help out there if you need it and a life out there that is better than one you could ever imagine. If you are currently experiencing suicidal feelings or ideation, please contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Grateful

It's only Wednesday and already I can argue that I've had a pretty interesting week so far:

- Achieving a 2:1 in my first University assignment
- Realising that a lot of 'friends' never actually cared about me in the first place and that I need to move on.
- Finding out that my brand new course of CBT is starting up just TWO roads away from where I currently live.
- Just receiving generally nice comments this week - sometimes from complete strangers.

Hey, it's not a life-changing week by any means, but when you struggle with a mental health problem, it takes the smallest things to make the biggest difference. To find out that I've achieved a 2:1 on my first University assignment gives me confidence that I don't usually have to know that I can push myself a lot further than this and achieve higher, better, and be stronger. Likewise, CBT, gives me that opportunity to grow and develop, minimise some of these awful thoughts that control me day by day. And having appointments so close to where I live is going to be of SO much benefit to my anxiety and I'm so happy and pleased that the NHS have finally catered to my needs in that respect.

I've also had some lovely messages this week - one from a friend of a friend who just so happens to read this blog (which I never knew about before). Another, who reminded me who my real friends were/and wern't - and reminded me what it is I am here for and to do. And quite simply, messages like that motivate me to keep writing here. I reached 100 followers this week and almost 33,000 hits and as much as I try not to concern myself too much with the quantity of my readers and more with the quality of my writing, it's still rather insane to believe that over 33,000 of you (and more in the near future) will have stumbled across my blog and perused your eyes over my sometimes rather pathetic words.
 
So I'm feeling mostly grateful this week. Grateful for:
- My perfect boyfriend
- My supportive University lecturers who I can't thank enough for their understanding
- The fact that I have access to treatment in two days - grateful for the NHS
- My University classmates, for our endless coffee/Waterstones breaks/chats and smiles
- Having a job where I am relatively respected enough to be given so much responsibility
- Good literature
- My trip to Canterbury this last week, to visit old friends and to meet inspiring people
- My mental illness (es), which would never have made me the same person that I am today.

And I'm not going to pretend to be one of those people who says she lives life grateful for ALL of these things each and everyday. Sometimes, my illness makes it difficult to recognise that these people, this degree, friends, are actually in my life at all and it makes me want to give up. Depression often clouds my vision. Into my present, and into my future. But it's important sometimes to have a little reflection over the small things, being silly with friends during lecture breaks, changings of the seasons, gingerbread lattes with those adorable Christmas cups from Costa (yes, they are a thing!) and being in love (which is actually quite a big thing, I know).

I'm at a stage right now where I still feel defined by my illness. I'm more likely to want to introduce myself as someone with a mental health problem, than someone who studies a English Literature BA. Because people could hound me for ages about how great it is that I've returned to studying and how much I've achieved, but in reality I haven't achieved too much yet. I've walked across a stepping stone upon receiving my first assignment back and on receiving feedback I hope it will be a learning curve. Yet my reflections on myself and everything around me seem still very much shaped by my mental health problem and when you've lived like that for such a long time, it can be incredibly difficult to undo, which is where I hope and pray that the CBT will really help me. I know that one day mental illness will take a back seat and I can be the hopeful aspiring student again. Things like this take time, they don't come easy.

But when you feel up to it, like I did this evening (mostly inspired by watching some of Carrie Fletchers YouTube videos, thank you Carrie), I just had a little think and got my fingertips writing and here I am, it was one of those times where I needed to recognise what I had around me and what I need to fight for. Recovery is one, and to live my dreams are another. Who knows if they'll happen but I'll try and make a pretty good damn bash at it.

I'm going to leave you now with some inspiring words of wisdom from the great YouTuber Carrie Fletcher - who has helped me loads tonight.


I hope that in the comments you can all write some things you are grateful for.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Amy turns 21

I haven't posted anything of importance in the last month or so - mostly because I've been struggling a ton with negative thoughts. I thought I'd finally show you some pictures from my 21st birthday back in September to fill the void a little. Enjoy!



The girls who keep me sane at work!

I was intoxicated by this stage - I blame the shots!


Me and my mother!

These people mean the world to me and made my teenage years that much more bearable - my bestest friends.

Myself and Jade :)



All fake-tanned up and ready to party!

Family friends and family!


Another very close friend of mine, Ellis!



More people from work :)
These photos are from September but I thought I should put them up.
It's strange to think I'm now 21 and, as is per usual at this time of year, straight after my birthday my depression worsens, hence the lack of posts and inspiration.

I'm posting some more in-depth thoughts and emotions on my Tumblr page - www.amychoselife.tumblr.com - I'd like to keep my thoughts posted on there and the ones on this blog separate but you are more than welcome to have a look if you've been interested in what has been going on as of late.

I apologise for not having been myself and hopefully I'll return soon.