Thursday, 20 October 2016

Oversharing is my best flaw.

I think if I were to pick a person in my life who definitely 'overshared' their stories, their opinions, their anxieties it would be me. It would obviously be me; I write about subjects that deeply trouble me and share it on the Internet where I can never take it back. Oversharing is my best flaw. 

Is it a flaw? I get a lot from it. I connect with people and create friendships through sharing. I tell people openly about my life and the way I am because that is how I understand them. Obviously I don't tell them anything intimate, but I also don't hold anything back. If I keep things to myself, things that worry me, it makes me ill.

I also share a lot on this blog, and in other writing, because I am not ashamed of it. Everything I write about is something that I want other people to know. Last week I spent a while thinking about whether I should publish a post because I was scared that it was too much. I shared moments of real vulnerability that had happened behind closed doors with people I barely knew. I didn't want it to be whiney, either; "oh poor me, pity me, pity me." I just wanted to write about it, to express it, and to share whatever came out. I made the right decision; sharing brought me kindness and friendship and connection. I regret nothing in that post. 

I share myself with people because I enjoy the connectivity it brings me. It means I have less things in my mind to be afraid of, because I can release them easily. I don't fear judgement, because it doesn't matter. I fear rejection, because it makes me vulnerable. But still, I believe, I am better open to the world, arms stretched, ready to take everything in. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Firstly there's panic.

I think I've written enough about my anxious disposition for it to be very clear how terrifying coming to university would be for me. I think it's terrifying for most people. Here is the room you will live in for the next year; here are the people you will be friends with for the next three years; here is the false start of your adult life. I just wasn't expecting to revert to such heightened anxiety as I would feel as a child.

I thought on the first day that the crying when my parents left (on their part too) was pretty minimal for what I could be feeling. I thought on the second day when I felt quite hungover that I was bravely ignoring the tension in the pit of my stomach reminding me of past school residential trips. I was terrified of school residential trips.

On the third day, however, I realised pretty quickly that I was absolutely not okay with being in this strange new place, with these nice but unknown new people, and I felt almost drowned with the terror that came with this realisation. Or did the terror come before?

I went to my new, strange room to experience old, recognisable panic attacks and begged my parents to come and take me home. I went to this room to sob about the horrible strangeness of it all, and I locked myself in the toilet to do the same. I rushed passed people filing into the drugs and alcohol talk, telling them I'd only be a second, whilst desperately hoping the nurse would give me a good enough excuse not to cry in front of a room full of people. I burst into tears as soon as I entered the nurse's office. I couldn't tell her why I was there for a good few minutes. All I could say was "I'm so embarrassed, I'm so sorry."

Mum kept offering to come and see me, to come and calm me down. I was too scared that if she did I wouldn't be able to let her go without me. That I'd pack up the car and demand she take me home.

Eventually, after the fourth time I called her crying that day she made the decision for me. "Don't worry about wanting to come home," she said, "I wouldn't let you anyway."

An hour and a half later she was there. I calmed down for a moment, but I'd made myself so sick with worrying that I'd entered that vicious cycle of fear = illness = fear = illness. I begged her to stay the night, I was absolutely paralysed with panic. We spent the night watching iPlayer on her phone using 3G and she coped with the noise from a corridor inhabited with new freshers late into the night and then we finally fell asleep.

And then, in the morning when I woke up and she was getting ready to drive back home I realised I was very, very calm. I didn't feel physically sick with anxiety. I was going to let her leave without me, I didn't even question it.

Now, only a week later, it feels as if none of that actually happened and the emotional twinge from the memory is more like remembering a bad dream. I actually feel happier and more peaceful than I have in a while. The sudden disappearance of fear feels almost heavenly. My chest isn't tight, I don't need to run off to cry every half an hour, I've stopped feeling completely afraid.

I'm not expecting to have suddenly cured myself of all anxiety in the last week, I don't think my life is now emptied of all emotional crises. But I'm just really, really happy that I didn't go home because I'm really, really happy that I'm here. And I'd like to tell all the crying Mollies that it's definitely 100% worth it to stick at it because the crying doesn't last. The fear doesn't last, it never does. I think I'm learning to remember that.

Sunday, 25 September 2016


Fascination with objects and things just for the way they feel and look is good for the part of your mind that processes shapes and colours. I have no science behind that, just experience. Enjoying craftsmanship and invention and design just because it exists feels very... pleasant.

Today when we drove home from one of those beautiful, harmonised family days out the sunlight was so awesomely clear that it illuminated one of the most magnificent rainbows I've ever seen. The colours, too vibrant to be real, were fantastic. We enjoyed looking at it, a full and exciting scene for our eyes.

We'd been at a house full of a collection of 'things' that had been collected just for the pure enjoyment of them. Tiny figures carved from bones, strange paintings, doll's houses, jars of exotic beetles coloured like gems. Everything was brilliant, just because they were. The house was meant for people to have an adventure in each room, to spend time just looking around and discovering bizarre and wonderful objects.

Fascination with what the world has to offer you is healthy and it is good. It means you are alive, and you are using every part of yourself to take that all in.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bodies are cool.

I am fascinated by but also completely ignorant of the human body, like most people. I have a general idea of how certain systems work and why but really there are enormous parts of understanding that are missing. The scary/cool/bizarre thing is that huge parts of that understanding are missing from even the greatest doctors' minds too, except they may be closer to working it all out than I ever will be. But that's the thing: I'm walking about in what I think of as a case for carrying my thoughts and feelings without much knowledge for how the hell it's been keeping me alive all this time.

If you think about it, I mean really think about it, your body is the coolest thing you'll ever have. Right now I'm thinking about words in my head and then without consciously telling them to do so my fingers are finding letters on a keyboard that have been memorised and are turning them into words on this page. And at the same time there are white blood cells in my blood stream that are working really hard, doing whatever it is they do, fighting against tonsillitis. I didn't tell them to do that, whoever "I" is, they're just doing it. At the same time as all of this my body is doing a thousand other things working like an extremely complex machine to do who knows what whilst I am sitting here, inside of my body, completely unaware of it all going on. My body is really cool.

We sit inside our heads as if we have any control or any idea about what's going on inside of our complicated shells and we rarely appreciate it. We never really stop to think about the fact that our bodies stopped us from falling flat on our faces without our conscious mind sending a conscious message, or that our skin sewed itself back up after a deep cut because it can, because it's there to protect us. Whoever "us" is. I think our bodies can be unsung heroes a lot of the time, when we ignore the fleshy home we live in. Perhaps we should stop and think about them once in a while, not  as separate to "ourselves" in fact, but just stop and watch our beings be. It's really, really cool, if you're paying attention.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Sugar and spice and all things nice.

I experienced internalised misogyny last night. I don't know if I have done before but I was certainly aware of it then. It was one of those moments where my brain forgot to filter unwelcome social conditioning and I actually targeted myself in my judgement of women, of womanhood, of femininity.

It was extremely trivial, but extremely dangerous, and I immediately pulled back from the thought I was having in shock. I was thinking about a style of top a friend of mine owns. I was thinking about what that style of top would look like on me, what it would go with, where I would wear it. It's a pretty top; it has a Peter Pan collar and cute, short sleeves and an empire line and it's in a delicate blue. I like the top, I think it looks very lovely, but my thought was this: It looks too feminine, you don't want that to be your image.


I actually considered that by wearing that top I would look too girly and therefore not be taken seriously enough. It wouldn't be cool because it wouldn't be ever so slightly masculine and therefore more grounded, more intelligent, more focused.

How dare I insult my own femininity like that. I'm so amazed at that thought, that creeping, sly misogyny poisoning my tastes and desires. Being feminine does not equate to being a woman, but despising femininity acknowledges the fact that female is inferior.

I actually had that idea run through me for a hot second: female is inferior and male is powerful, supreme, superior.

I think I must wear frills and bows and pretty things forever whilst stamping gleefully on the patriarchy just to prove that stupid idea wrong now. But I don't need to prove anything, my femininity is strong and serious and grounded, I won't be forgetting that again.

Friday, 2 September 2016

September stationery.

So the time has come for the summer to end and the world of students to trundle off back to school. Or university, in my case. For many this is a delicious time of year. The air cools, the trees set on fire,  new shoes and new stationery are in order. In fact it's that specific part of September, the buying part, that many find so exciting.

This year I have a much longer list of things to buy. Not only do I get to look through pens and pencils and notebooks and folders this time round but duvet covers and pots and pans are a necessity too. This genuinely excites me. The IKEA shop is calling to me, over the hills, through the wind. I can't wait. I'm going to get a new backpack, it's very thrilling.

And yet, I can't help but wonder if this excitement over the prospect of buying new things is a problem. Why do I feel any emotion in acquiring objects that will ultimately lose their fun new shine in a matter of months or weeks? What I will buy will mean nothing. Ok, so I need a few pots and pans to cook my dinner, and the backpack's going to be pretty helpful when I'm cycling to and from the city centre, but do I need to feel anything about it? Is any sense of attachment to a bag or a pen or a notebook healthy?

You could say I've been overthinking this, and I most definitely have. September is new academic beginnings and I am lucky enough to be able to afford all the pens and equipment I need to help me with that. I don't resent it at all. I just wonder why it feels so good purchase new stationery...

Friday, 26 August 2016

Burkinis and Ignorance.

I was in the South of France when the burkini was banned there. I was on a train and reading through the news on my phone and I quietly contemplated what it meant without discussing it with any of my friends. A few days later we were in our room in Barcelona and the article came up again and they expressed their shock and I responded in a way that I'm embarrassed about.

I said: I can kind of understand it, it can be threatening that sort of conservatism.

I've tracked that opinion back to when I was in Turkey on a family holiday 4 years ago and the lovely hotel staff expressed their concerns at the growing level of conservatism in their secular country and the growing number of women wearing full burqas and burkinis at the beach. They felt it was synonymous with an ever oppressive government.

This is what I was responding to when my friends brought the topic up and I didn't give it any thought whatsoever. I immediately regretted saying it because I knew that I was wrong but I was too embarrassed to say so. Instead I internally cringed and tried to telepathically apologise to all the women I'd just oppressed with my own words.

I want to be honest and say how I initially responded because I think that's how responding to something alien to your own world usually works. Isn't it that the first thought is society's ideals rubbing off on you, and the second the thing you actually, truly believe?

So I actually, truly believe that no woman should be told what and what not to wear - especially when it comes down to not showing one's body in public for reasons of belief/faith/insecurity/fear. I don't think I will actually understand why a woman may choose to wear a burqa,  I am not religious and I do not come from a background with those values, but I would never tell a woman not to, because that goes against my own values.

I think I initially reacted to the ban with that pathetic, lowly response because it didn't seem real. I hadn't actually seen a woman wearing a burkini. But then the internet exploded with a terrible story and a terrible image of a group of stern, ignorant looking policemen standing around a woman as they forced her to undress on the beach. Suddenly the ban was real and women in France were not free. Muslim women in France were not free, let me correct myself.

The entire concept of not letting women who choose to wear burqas onto the beach to enjoy the sun and the summer and the sea breeze is just as oppressive, just as dehumanising as an extremist Islamic state. Forcing a woman to undress herself is just as abusive, just as humiliating, just as horrifying.

I'm learning that an ever oppressive government does not just force women to cover their faces and hair and bodies, it forces women to expose themselves and undress their beliefs and values in front of an entire beach of people. In front of mean, careless, insensitive policemen.

Liberté Fraternité Egalité? I'm not buying any of it.