Who Do You Think You Are?

What does it mean, to know who you are. What do you have to do to be satisfied? Discovering who you are, is a discovery that forever changes, sometimes progresses, sometimes regresses, but is never going to end.

Sometimes you find yourself in times where major events happen, that you won’t realise until later life have changed who you are or had some influence into who you are.

Sometimes you find yourself obsessing over a thing that can shape your style, your likes and dislikes and your opinions.

Sometimes you find yourself admiring others, copying others even at times, to be like them or to try and hinge parts of your personality to be liked by them or to be similar to them in some ways.

When you think about it – discovering who you are is like trying on a pair of shoes. Try on the red wellies, they’re a bit big but you’re happy to grow into them, but next week you don’t like them and try on a new pair. Sometimes you try shoes on that fit perfectly until a years time. Sometimes you try shoes on that you like until 10 years later where the thought of even trying them disgusts you. But sometimes you find some you love, and will always love, even when they no longer fit. Or you’ll even find some you now hate but you can laugh at, and accept, because at one point you did love them. And all of those scenarios are completely ok, and you’ll experience many like it, you won’t just stick to one pair of shoes.

But along the way, you slowly collect parts of who you are. In various different ways you find out, and you change your mind on whether you like it or not. Change happens all the time, all through life and despite everyone being afraid of change at some points in life, it inevitably happens but is incredibly exciting.

My Mum once asked me if I ever wanted to see a medium, to help me discover who I was, what I was in for, how I should feel. I know at the time she was just trying to help. But in my eyes, there’s no better person to tell me or to find out than myself. I love the stupid haircuts I went through, the fallouts, the misery, the happiness, the cat eared cardigans and the graphic designer, the avid reader and aspiring teacher, and even the me I am today – full of unknown aspirations and pathways, filling up a personality chunk I ripped out of myself by removing someone from my life who previously filled it.

This final paragraph is to tell you not to look for someone to fill a chunk, if you’re looking to fill a chunk in your personality. With whatever you have to do to find out who you are, never make it someone else. Never pass on that responsibility to another person, or you’ll find yourself reliant on never being whole unless someone holds you. Finding out who you are never ends, but is also never solved by other people.

Working yourself out, is actually a lot of fun! Try all the shoes, just to see what makes you feel comfortable and happy.

Make sense? Of course not always, but that’s the point!

Whim xoxo

 

The Beauty Of Being You

Understanding my head and heart currently is a task. My feelings and thoughts change not only on a day to day basis but sometimes hourly. Amongst my thoughts are my random bursts of paranoia that have washed up that affect my day to day and cause me a tonne of embarrassment in front of my friends. One minute I’m nervous if one of my friends hasn’t replied to me – when in reply it takes me sometimes too long or I’ll reply something stupid. Because clearly I’m adjusting to being lonely, and being a bit needy. But in combination to this, I start thinking about what I should do about making it better.

If I talk to a friend about this paranoia, I regret it and want to make it better. If I’m replying terribly I’ll want to spice up conversation or wonder about how to become a better person. I want to be charismatic. I want to become someone full of bubbles and light and happiness, someone inspiring, someone that helps. Someone that listens, then beat myself up about not asking enough questions to someone or not listening enough to someone else’s story. I’m self conscious, randomly. I left my friends waiting today, so that I could get home to put tights on in 30 degree weather after being nervous about having my legs on show. I feel like I should lose weight and tone up if I plan on ever finding anyone to be with ever again because I’m not good enough. I’m nervous about my hair, my skin, the things I choose to do in my spare time. And then, I remember.

So, yesterday I went to a record market. There was a DJ playing reggae, there were comic book stalls with graphic novels, album cover artworks everywhere. I wore one of my favourite cardigans, and my comfy trainers. I offered for people to join me, only one of my friends came and even she just stood in the sun enjoying the scenery. But for the first time in far too long, I felt like me. I bought myself a Prince vinyl, and a Moomins graphic novel. I was home, and this was me.

The thing is, I can be as paranoid as I like about what I wear, who I’m with, what I say, the way I am as a person. But truthfully, half of those decisions I find myself wondering about what other people think. Not what I think.

And truthfully, if this is also you, how many times are those decisions based on what others think?

I could have not gone to the record fair yesterday, despite my largest passions being literature and music, all because out of the hundreds of people in the Erasmus group I asked nobody wanted to come or could have come. But I still went. I may have browsed the boxes alone, I may have looked a little lost, maybe even out of place. But it made me truly happy, and I felt not only entirely in my element, but me. Not focussed on the thoughts or judgements of others.

If today, I had thought for a moment about what I was comfortable in, rather than what others would think of my bare legs which rarely get a chance to see daylight, maybe I would have had a positive day like yesterday. But because I cared so much about what other people thought, it happened to ruin my day a little, all for the sake of what would make other people happy.

And it’s at this point, it’s important to ask yourself. What makes me happy? 

One of my favourite quotes from the Lion King (my all time favourite film, no shame!) “Remember who you are.” – Because the moment you forget, you become someone you’re not, or begin to strive to become someone you’re not in order to either fit in or impress others around you. But it also forces you into an uncomfortable zone of feeling like in order to be accepted you have to be someone other than yourself.

After watching a TEDx talk tonight on YouTube, a quote that has been imprinted in my brain went along the lines of “you should show yourself unconditional love.” While I’m glancing at my fat spreading thighs, slightly hairy, complete with stretch marks, why am I wearing these shorts? Because it’s 30 degrees, and despite what other people may have thought about my legs today, the important notion to gather from this is when am I going to be happy with myself, and how can I achieve that. People come and go in life, the best of those stay. But you will always be there for yourself. If there is anyone that you should be showing unconditional love to, it’s yourself. Did my friends judge my legs? Maybe, but I will never know about it, and the only person who truly beat me up today for my legs, was me.

So, remember who you are, do things that make YOU happy. Don’t wonder if someone likes you, wonder if you like them. Do the things you love, and be the way you want to be. The paranoia comes and goes, and it’s a challenge to learning to love something you loathe for the fear of other people not liking it. But I believe you’re awesome, and we are awesome. Show yourself some appreciation, but also don’t fear being who you are for the sake of others. Because being you is beautiful.

Whim xoxo

In Private – 447 Words Today

You know things have gone wrong when the only moments you can truly cry, are alone, on the 5am bus back home. These are the only moments I can truly look into myself and realise I’m entirely deprived of privacy, and I can look into how I really feel. I replay all the moments I ever cried, as much as I’m crying now. All those times I ever had to say goodbye. All the times I have ever been hurt. And then just as those thoughts get deeper and I can finally sink into my inner pain to resolve what the hell is going on I’m interrupted by a group of four drunk girls, smelling of bakery food, gossiping. And then my privacy ends. I don’t know when I’ll get it again. Usually in the moments I stay up til 2am when my room-mates are officially asleep and unable to hear my sniffles or weeps. If not then, then in the shower while I Feel Fine by The Beatles blares and my tears can mingle with the sulphur drizzled water. My most prized possessions are my health and happiness. And apart from those, when they are on the low side, my prized possessions are my smoke and mirrors. Without them, people would be able to see deep into the core of my unhappiness. People might worry.

The stupid part is that I know they are already worried, it’s just I know if they knew the extent of my feelings that they would be even more worried. To be in a situation where you need a constant emotional escape, and to have no where to do that apart from in the extremely lucky moments of the night is a shame. It’s a shame towards my sleeping pattern, granted. It’s a shame further towards my well being because I’m only getting worse. Although, when I do talk about my problems to others, I all of a sudden grow numb. It’s only really while I’m alone that I find myself struggling to hold back the tears.

Annoyingly, there are even strangely times I wish I could express my emotions in front of others. It used to be such an easy task. But my body has just gotten so used to yearning for privacy when I need to cry and express those emotions in such a way, that it has become nature to only expose my raw emotions when I have the world around my and my head to myself. I’m finding being alone a beautiful sanctuary regardless of it’s negatives currently, these moments are just so hard to grasp in a time when I need them the most.

Whim xoxo

 

Womanly Ways – Random 250 words (another poor excuse for my 500 words a day)

Yesterday was international woman’s day, and to celebrate I watched my favourite speech regarding feminism. It’s by Chimamanda – I’m sure you’ll know it, if not, no worries, the youtube link is right here and you can buy the speech on amazon in book form. The thing is, it’s almost as if international woman’s day came to me as a blessing, like I needed to revisit that speech to understand current life situations and make a decision. And then I realised, I needed reminding of so many things I should have already known.

  1. To be happy, and to not listen to the social stereotypes of my being, but to take charge in achieving what I want in life and what I know is going to make me happy.
  2. I don’t need to have anyone give me my happiness, but true happiness only comes from myself. If I can find happiness in myself and on my own without relying on anyone else, I can achieve the happiness I’ve been yearning for.
  3. I am deserving of respect.
  4. I am only as powerful as I make myself and let myself to be.
  5. I shouldn’t ever hide my anger, because I’m a woman and I should think it important to be liked by others.

It’s about time I didn’t just remember this every so often, but made it a life change to know it. And I believe others should, too.  Don’t settle for being in pain, and cracking. Settle for realising and then harnessing happiness while you still can.

Whim xoxo

Love Yourself; Training Yourself Into Body Confidence

I don’t even have to look at my body to tell you all of the things I don’t like about it. Because I’ve told myself about the things I don’t like about it so many times. I’ve had self confidence issues for as far as I can remember, all the way from tap dance class when I was about 7 and I felt embarrassed to be seen in a leotard, because I was fatter than all the other girls.

  1. I don’t like my nose, it’s crooked and large.
  2. I don’t like my toes, they’re so big they blister.
  3. I don’t like my tum, it’s flabby and jiggles.
  4. I don’t like my bum, it’s not rounded or toned.
  5. I don’t like my boobs, they’re too far apart.
  6. I don’t like my skin, it’s sugar skin that’s grey and sags, full of spots and wrinkles already.
  7. I don’t like my cheeks, I’m always chubby.
  8. I don’t like my hair, I dyed it too much and now it’s ruined.
  9. I don’t like my lips, I wish they were fuller.
  10. I don’t like my body hair, its everywhere and is a constant daily task to get it away.
  11. I don’t like my thighs, they’re too blubbery.
  12. I don’t like my eyes, they’re too small.
  13. I don’t like my eyebrows, I have crows feet and the hairs grow upwards.
  14. I don’t like my fingers, they’re too short and stubby.
  15. I don’t like my size, I wish I was a bit taller.
  16. I don’t like my body shape, I find it really difficult to buy jeans.
  17. I don’t like my smile, I can’t smile with my teeth.

But everyone has insecurities. That’s just looking at my body. I have personality insecurities, things I do I wish I didn’t, and I’m also pretty sure I’m not alone. This isn’t just a teenage thing, insecurities pass throughout life and they’re always there. There are parts of your body that can change (I don’t agree with surgery, I think it should only be used for super serious cases but if you’re stupidly unhappy about something to the point where it ruins your everyday, that’s your choice if it’ll make you happier!). You can wear make-up to feel happier. Go to the gym to tone up. But ultimately, you’re only as beautiful as you let yourself be. Everyone is different, everyone has insecurities. Learn to love them. Learn to love yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we all just told ourselves the things we love about ourselves as often as we tell ourselves the things we hate?

  1. I like my nose, I can flare my nostrils and the rest of my family have it the same shape.
  2. I like my toes, they serve me well and are so short and stubby they never get stubbed.
  3. I like my tum, I have a great belly button, it all just needs a bit of toning.
  4. I like my bum, It’s a big wide bum that would look great if I exercised more.
  5. I like my boobs, they look great in or out of a bra, no matter if I don’t have wonderbra cleavage 24/7.
  6. I like my skin, it’s real skin that gives me issues so I can learn to look after it.
  7. I like my cheeks, I have cute little dimples all of the time!
  8. I like my hair, I just need to look after it, but it grows quickly!
  9. I like my lips, they’re never dry or crackly.
  10. I like my body hair, it gives me an excuse to buy lush things and have a long hot bath to shave it all off. Plus I could grow a tash greater than any man has witnessed if I felt like it.
  11. I like my thighs, they’re great for balancing cups and bowls. It’s an art.
  12. I like my eyes, my Mum has always told me they look like malteasers.
  13. I like my eyebrows, they’re like Keira Knightly’s.
  14. I like my fingers, I have my Mum’s fingernails, they type well and quickly, plus I always have an excuse to compare hand sizes and have a Disney Tarzan moment more often than most people!
  15. I like my size, it means I can fit into small spaces easily during hide and seek games, and my arms fit into pringles tubes so I can always reach the blighters stuck at the bottom. Talk about survival of the fittest.
  16. I like my body shape, I’m a pear, according to Gok. Who needs jeans when leggings exist that flaunt my curves!
  17. I like my smile, because it’s my smile, and as long as it shows people I’m happy it does a wonderful job.

Make a list of all the things you don’t like about yourself, and then change the sentences to why you do like those things like I have done so above. Have a think, and be positive. Learn to love your insecurities and your imperfections – they are what make you, you! and you’re only human. Being more confident, doesn’t mean being in a different body, or having other people tell you what is good and bad about you. Those opinions and people will come and go, and everyone will think something different. The only constant is you. You always had every reason to feel happy and confident in your own skin. It’s what you make of it that determines whether you do or not. I’m telling you today, give yourselves more credit. Love yourself. – Sings ‘I Feel Pretty’ from West Side Story into the distance –

Whim xoxo

 

Apparently, My Feminism Jumper Won’t Attract Future Husbands?

As some of you may be aware, I am ‘Serbian’. To be specific, I am British with family members from Former Yugoslavia. If you want to be REALLY specific about my family, they are Croats who are actually Serbs because they were Serbs born in Croatia and for all we flipping know my ancestors were Turkish, and before that African, and then if you want to add religion into the mess, from Adam and Eve. And if you haven’t gathered by now – no I have no opinion in the politics of Yugoslavia, and my ethnicity is so confusing to explain that it’s just simpler to call myself human – just like everyone else on this planet.

But my Balkan bloodline comes with a whole lotta culture to it, and what happens to be included in that is anti-feminism, and namely sexism. Do you wanna know how many times I’ve been told to get married as soon as I graduate in the space of 48 hours? 7 times. No I’m not exaggerating. I’ve been told by 7 Balkaners, family or family friends, “When are you getting married then?” “oooh it’s good you’re graduating soon, you can marry!” “have you met any nice future husbands in Serbia to marry once you’ve graduated?” “You and your boyfriend will marry at about 22, that’ll be nice for you when you’ve graduated.” NO NO NO NO NO AND NO!

Do you wanna know how many times my brother has been asked or told when to get married in the past 48 hours? 0 times. Not once. Nobody has asked him. Why haven’t they asked him? He is only two years younger than me, 18, I’m pretty young at 20 so there isn’t much difference between our ages. The only thing I can truly whittle all this down to is the fact I am, a balkan woman. And as a balkan woman, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie refers to in that all famous feminist speech (y’all know the one I’m talking about!) marriage is the most important thing in my life as a woman. I MUST aspire to marriage, because I am a woman, and that is allegedly my main purpose in life as this gender.

It is firstly, entirely unfair, for any young person to be told how they should live their life and what are good and bad choices for them to make. I was told tonight, that I should become a doctor. So, the same man that told me to get married, and that being a feminist would lower my potential in finding a husband, that I should become a doctor. Hey, at least he is all about women doctors(!) but I am doing entirely the wrong degree to be a doctor, and right now I don’t want to be a doctor. So why should I be told what to do, and what would be the least disappointing thing for me to do in his eyes?

Everyone is entitled to their own choices in life. Nobody should be told how to live their life, and people should be free to be able to do whatever they want and feel like. It’s that persons life, not yours, there is no need to dictate it, you go ahead and live your own and don’t push your own expectations of other people onto them. Nobody deserves to feel like they should please people to be successful, but to please themselves only in order to be truly happy and successful.

Secondly, it is also unfair to be made to feel like a disappointing woman, for both being a feminist and not wanting to marry at the age of 22, or to have marriage as my main goal in life. Tonight, I wore a jumper. It says…

FEMINISM- The radical notion that women are people.

At first, yes, it’s a kick up the bum to anti-feminists, so apologies I didn’t have my rack out instead like a good woman should or focus on wearing something that people would like. Personally, I don’t find the jumper offensive. I find it amusing, and great at the same time, and hope it just makes people look at it and have a bit of a think. I mean, there are definitely worse things you could have on a jumper. Like racist, sexist, derogatory comments and all sorts more.

I was laughed at for my jumper. “Feminism!? Oh no not that…” (by a woman) and the highlight of comments “Well, just for some advice you won’t attract many men with that jumper.”

q1: So my one purpose in life is to attract men now? I can’t have equal rights, opinions or wear what I like because my purpose is to attract men and by wearing this jumper it stops that from happening.

q2: You’re about 56 years old, and you think it’s socially appropriate to tell a stranger who is 20 years old you’re offensive “advice”, what?

q3: So wanting equal rights is unattractive?

q4: So if I came to this party with my rack out, people would be elated to know at least I didn’t wear this jumper?

I do believe, it is a common thing in balkan culture, as I’ve experienced from my own upbringing and personal accounts with my family to be very male-dominant. Women are joked about, deeply sexualised and are shown that they should be constantly in the kitchen, it’s ‘their role’ as women. Men are the head of the house.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and this post won’t appeal to everybody. This is just a post, on a whim as my blog consistently is, saying that being a feminist in a balkan cultured family – sucks. I replied in jest to that man, and said “Well, the men that aren’t attracted to me by my jumper alone are obviously not my type of men.” 

I don’t want to be told what my main priority in life should be, and I especially don’t want to be told it’s to get married. I am not disappointed in myself, despite maybe disappointing many members of my family that this isn’t my main ambition in life. I also don’t want to be told what to wear, specifically because it’s unattractive to the opposite sex and thus be told that I should consider how attractive I look to the opposite sex when I decide what I wear for the day, as if that too is a priority. 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But nobody is entitled to dictate how other people should be living their life, what they should believe or think. And nobody should share their utter disappointment in you for not being what they personally deem is the right thing to be. That counts for ALL cultures and ALL people.

I’m a proud feminist, and I will disappoint you’re expectations of me as a woman and as someone undergoing higher education. I like my jumper, and I don’t have a life plan. And for that, I’m not sorry. Not one little bit.

Whim xoxo 

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

In my younger years I wasn’t one for being disobedient, reckless or out of character. But since I’ve got older I’ve found that being disobedient, reckless and out of character can be an extremely fun thing to do every once in a while. Sometimes we all just take life way too seriously sometimes, and as said in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – and the quotation couldn’t be more precise. 

If you’ve never seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, please watch it. It’s an 80’s movie about a kid who decides to skip school for the day and drags his best friend along with him. They go through some extremely crazy and reckless situations in the day to which point they had ultimately had one of the best days of their entire lives, and a very memorable one too. There is a huge contrast between Ferris and his best friend Cameron though. Ferris hasn’t a care in the world. Cameron stresses about every single move they make that day and struggle to find the fun until the end of the film.

Some days, a lot of us probably find ourselves like Cameron. Too nervous to do something out of character, or reckless. But those are the moments that make great memories to store and share for the future, all the times that you went and did something purposefully to have fun. I always think of this in relation to missing classes. I never used to miss classes, until first year of university. Then I missed a few in second year but not too many – but most of those times I was ill and bed-bound or did nothing productive for the entire day. However since being in Serbia on my year abroad, I’ve actually been purposely missing days of classes in order to do something productive or to go out and have fun. And I can’t explain so much how proud I am of being able to do that!

At the end of the day, think of all the times you could of gone out and made the most of the gorgeous weather to go and have fun? All the experiences you could of had? The things you and your friends could of done in the day? And that day could give you the biggest smile – which is the most valuable thing of all. I’m not saying miss every class you have to do something entirely illegal and reckless, of course! I’m saying, allow yourself to have fun once in a while. You deserve it, and if you don’t take the moment while it’s there who knows when you’ll ever have that chance again.

Go out and have some fun, sometimes we all just need to stop and take life a little less seriously once in a while!

Day 5: Meeting Ksenija

For all my readers, please, somehow, make Carrie Hope Fletcher see this post! Once upon a time I was in a youtube video with Carrie after winning the venus #useyourand campaign competition to have a webchat with her. It was an amazing experience as it was, which you can read about here – but something even more extraordinary happened as a result of this video.

So. The fact I had even won something was a miracle. I mean I don’t normally win anything. Ever. Apart from a sports day certificate in primary school for golf, only because I told my teacher I never won anything and was terrible at sports and she must have felt some sympathy. Anyways. I entered this venus #useyourand campaign which was all about showing all the unique qualities you have, showcasing all the ands you have as a person and to show you’re not just subject to one entity. I’m not just a student. I am a blogger, and now a sort-of-not-quite vlogger. A sister. Girlfriend. Daughter. A reader. A disney fanatic. A lover of all things beauty. A crochetter. A knitter. A speaker of serbo-croat and yeah. Basically. Not just some random student that comes from a small unknown town in Britain. But, nobody is actually one entity. We are all, something more than just one label.

I won this chat with Carrie and was nervous as hell that I’d be meeting someone I consider an idol, and we happened to talk about my year abroad to Belgrade due to my studies in English and Serbo/Croat. Carrie added this part of our conversation into the video. The responses were amazing as it was. People were commenting good luck in Serbia, and to all that I do while I’m out there and you know, if I need any help to come holla. But, a bigger miracle than the competition, is that a girl called Ksenija messaged me also over my Whim twitter profile. And something urged me to private message her saying thanks.

We pretty much had the same thought at the same time, and that’s where it began. We started having small chats and thank god that twitter released unlimited messaging – because we couldn’t stop! Sure, my replies are notoriously late, but I made replies and those replies were essays. I’d met my first friend online. Initially, yes, I was terrified she would be a 40 odd year old paedophile. But I’m rather glad she wasn’t. Because she happens to have pretty much all of the same interests as I do! We love youtube, reading, the colour grey, we are lactose intolerant and both believe professor Snape is the best character in the Harry Potter series. The list, honestly, goes on for absolute miles and it was entirely clear that we got on like peaches and cream in an instant. As the conversations grew, slowly we realised just how similar we were and how well we got on together. I couldn’t believe it! My first online friend, and a friend who lived in the exact city I was spending my year abroad. At the same university, and everything!

We messaged all summer long, and then it was coming close to the flight to Belgrade. Well. We had to arrange to meet. Because this girl, I swear, is basically my long lost twin. The similarities between our personalities and the things we enjoy were entirely uncanny, and the coincidence that we messaged each other and that she happened to give the #useyourand campaign video in her sub box a watch, no matter on my atheist beliefs, this was fate. Or some form of witchcraft/wizardry.

I felt like before even meeting this girl I had a great friend waiting for me who would look after me and make me feel completely comfortable with being in a new country. Which honestly meant the world to me! I cannot even explain. Being an anxious person is one thing, but spending a year abroad knowing absolutely nobody to then feeling like you have a sister waiting for you, filled me with complete warmth. Over the summer I even converted her into a Whovian knowing that she would probably adore David Tennant as Doctor Who as much as I do. Did I mention, she also loves baking, isn’t always the most comfortable girl with going to clubs or drinking? Like I said – it’s like I found my long lost twin!

So, the morning came that we had arranged to meet. I walked out of my dorm to see her turning the corner. We then instantly ran towards each other, hugged and cried, and said “OMG YOU’RE ACTUALLY A REAL PERSON!”. The girl I’d been talking to for months, was entirely real. Her favourite animal is also an owl – although I’m also mad for gorillas at the same time, she similarly constantly has gifts with owls all over them at birthdays and Christmas. Unbelievable, I know!

And then after the big hug, she gave me a box. Full of dairy free cookies! And she said “I thought you could use some comfort food.” Those cookies were just. Odlicno (Perfect)! 😉

She had the day entirely planned. First, she would show me around Belgrade as I didn’t have chance the previous days, hence yesterday’s Day 2 boring blog post. First, we saw Kalemegdan fortress. By far my favourite place to be in Belgrade, as I’m a sucker for castles!

Luckily, the weather was entirely on our side for the day so all my photos look pretty spectacular. We explored the fortress before she toured me a little of Knez Mihalova Street, and Trg Republike and everything else I’d missed out on on my first few days there.


She then took me to by far the cutest restaurant ever – Smokvica. Also known as Little Fig. It was just right up my street. Everything about the decor and the interesting grub reminded me of Boston Tea Party, with a few more books and nice lanterns everywhere. Basically, it was as if she had known me my whole entire life and knew exactly the places I would love. And we chatted so much that time flew entirely by, and before we knew it we had been exploring and chatting for five hours straight, without feeling as if any time had passed at all!

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Then, the day finished with the sunset over Sveti Sava.

By this point, we were even both getting our cameras out constantly, trying to take amazing photos of the day we had. Just to add into the mix of everything we had in common, this is someone I feel so comfortable in front of in terms of attempting to make nice photos and videos of our day. Basically, this was all just the perfect end to the most perfect day I’d had in a very long time. If it wasn’t for winning that competition, I wouldn’t have had one of the best days of my life so far, and I wouldn’t have met my double act from overseas if it wasn’t for being in the video, and for her clicking it in the first place. I have found a friend for life. And there ends the story. With two girls who live countries apart, who happen to be so one in the same it’s entirely surreal. One with Simba on a necklace, and one with the deathly hallows on a necklace. You couldn’t have paired two people more perfectly if you tried, especially, not entirely by chance. And she is by far, one of the nicest most amazing humans I have ever met.

So, Carrie, we thank you with everything! If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t have met. It was all as if by magic.

Nat xoxo

Happy Mental Health Awareness Day!

Happy (slightly belated) World Mental Health Awareness Day. I understand this post is long but if you have time to read, please give it a shot, especially if you think you could be suffering from anxiety or panic attacks. This is aimed to hopefully motivate someone/anyone to come out about what they have been going through and get onto the road of recovery, just in case, someone looks at this and seeks help as a result. That would be awesome! 🙂

In the first photo I’ve posted, there is the sunset in Split on the first day we were there on holiday last year. I’m quite proud of this photo, really. It’s entirely full of natural beauty and relaxation and should represent a time that should be exactly those things. But it was on that holiday that my life entirely changed in so many ways. Something changed in me in those two weeks, even my Mum noticed I hadn’t cracked a single smile or laughed since being in Split. I believe this whole thing was a long time coming, but who would have thought that on a beautiful Croatian beach, you would find yourself feel a sudden feeling of complete dread. Your heart is palpitating so hard you think you’re having a heart attack. You can’t breathe properly, your chest feels like it’s being crushed and you don’t know what’s wrong with you and all that’s going through your mind is “what the hell is happening to me?!” and whether this is going to be the day you die. You can’t focus on anything at all, and by the time the feeling is over with you’re so exhausted that you can’t even walk to the bathroom and back without feeling entirely out of breath.

In the days to follow, my breathing remained shallow and things were not getting any better. I was ready for what was to become the first of too many doctors appointments just to get diagnosed with something that had already began restraining me from enjoying my family holiday and coping with regular activities. After getting home, the summer started with my first ECG and a doctor saying “there is nothing wrong with you, you’re completely healthy.” and that was to be my experience with doctors (including being told I could have asthma!?) until the September time when a new doctor seemed pretty certain of what I was experiencing. I had been suffering with panic attacks, which were a result of anxiety. Specifically, I suffer with panic disorder. Which means once I have a panic attack in a specific place, my brain associates that place with panic and I will usually have a panic attack in that same place whenever I’m there. But I specifically suffer with nocturnal panic attacks. This is where you find that you panic in the night, and wake up during the night due to a panic attack. Sometimes, I would even have panic dreams, where I would have the same recurring dream about a situation of panic and wake up from that. Usually, between 3-5 times a night. Almost every night.

I began sleeping a lot more in the day, not really doing anything with myself and failing to understand and cope with my lectures. Getting up for a 9am was always tough for me, because I can be a lazy sod! But I was exhausted to the point where I was watching my lecturers mouth move but I couldn’t understand nor focus on a single word she said. I went through insane moments of worrying I had upset people, by overthinking about something I’d said, to the point where I’d lock myself in my own room and not speak to anyone or eat for hours, crying and wanting all of it to go away. I’d have horrible dark thoughts which were uncontrollable. I’d lock myself in public bathrooms before or after lectures if I was having a panic attack and hope that it would end before the next lecture started, and otherwise I wouldn’t go. I was put onto some magical tablets by my rock of a doctor which somehow managed to help with my panic attacks, and although it took time I was finally getting some more sleep, and even some complete nights of sleep! I was referred to a counsellor too, who helped me somewhat, but the answer was always clear that if something was to change then I would need to push that change myself – nobody can ever do it for you.

On New Years Eve, I was sat with my beautiful Baba. And as we sat there and watched the entire thing on TV it occurred to me that the majority of 2014 was a nightmare, and that was an entire year of my life that I couldn’t ever bring back. I had to stop drinking, and going out was an uncomfortable situation for me. Being a student, it wasn’t a common thing to be spending nights home alone and avoiding the buzz of going out. I stopped being as sociable. I quit from being part of a band because I was too uncomfortable with the idea of performing in case I’d have a panic attack. I stopped going to belly dance as much for the same reason. I stopped doing too many things, I stopped standing up for myself, I stopped enjoying my life all because I was constantly cautious that I was going to have to go through 20 minutes of pain at a time. I wasted my time. So, I made my list, and things changed. I began meditating, exercising more, trying to socialise more, focus on positive things that I’ve felt/have happened in that specific day by logging it into a book etc. etc.

My anxiety journey isn’t over. It still comes back to haunt me, but I’m hope if anything, I’m more than the quivering wreck I was a year ago who had no control over her life and stopped enjoying life. My life isn’t defined by the fact I have a mental illness, and I want to be able to live my life exactly the way I want to, and enjoy it no matter if I suddenly start feeling it knocking on my chest to try and stop me.

The second photo is one I’ve posted here before, of my sleep tracker I was using to monitor my sleep during these panic attacks. It isn’t normal to wake up more than twice in a single night, and feel the things I have experienced with them. If this is something that is happening to you, do whatever you can to fight it and don’t let it dictate your life. I know it’s hard, I know that not even words can tell you how to feel and what to do when fighting something that feels so difficult to control. But please, although the diagnosis could take a while, things can be patchy and results won’t come in an instant – doing something, anything will change your life.

Life is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it needs to feel like a nightmare. You can enjoy your life if you choose to fight for your enjoyment, and stop letting certain things get in the way. But the one consistent beauty in my life is the people around me. I have the best friends in the world. So, I may have a mental illness. And it’s not fun. But I’m more than happy to take this pinch of salt, if it means having the most wonderful, understanding and kind people who have been a consistent rock through all of my lows and highs. Like I said, I have the best friends. And I love each and every one of them with every inch of me, because without them who knows what my life would be. I also have a beautiful family that make me smile on a day to day basis, whether I’m with or without them.

The message here is simple, despite being an essay. But it’s important. If any of you feel any of the things described here, please, seek help. Don’t lock yourself away, or let the feelings completely destroy who you are and the life you lead. I can’t promise you that these feelings will go away, and that you will never have a panic attack ever again. But I can promise that you’ll smile a lot more if you try doing something about it, and try living your life without letting it hold you back. Don’t let mental illness take over everything you have. And don’t let it make you believe that you’re overreacting and that you should recluse to save everyone around you.

The last photo is of Sveti Sava, Belgrade. Because if you do feel any of the things I’ve mentioned – I promise you that if you speak out about your mental illness, things will look up and you’ll find yourself experiencing life in a more positive way. Speaking out is scary. Warning new people is scary. But not telling anyone is only even scarier for yourself and the people around you. Don’t let stigmas dictate what you should and shouldn’t do about your mental illness. Go and see a doctor, and talk to someone about what you’re going through. Things can only look up from feeling rock bottom. I was lucky in that my first panic attack was in front of my family who were there to support me. But if your panic attacks are something you hide from the world around you, then try and urge yourself to just open up a little more. I just wanted to take this last note to say, I’m so so proud of the people who looked at my last post about anxiety and spoke up about their own experiences and had themselves diagnosed and on the road to feeling happier. You should be proud of yourselves, and so should the people around you! I’m also proud of the people I know, who were not inspired by my post necessarily but opened more up about their mental illness – go live your lives, and don’t let it stop you from anything any more! I’m also proud of he people I know who haven’t. The fact that you go through this pain every day, shows just how strong you are, but don’t let it stop you from feeling wonderful about life, when you deserve to be happy. I’m sending you all of the virtual hugs!
Like I said, if this is something you’ve experienced, refer to the following links for some help and guidance which have helped me on the way:

http://www.getconnected.org.uk/ – an amazing helpline service that gives you someone to talk to that can help with whatever you’re going through, they are so so comfortable to talk to and are perfect for if you feel anxious about talking to someone face to face about the situation.

http://www.mind.org.uk/ – for info on how to help others with a mental illness, the types of mental illness, an understanding of mental illness for both the person experiencing it and for those intrigued.

http://www.sane.org.uk/what_we_do/black_dog – a campaign led by sane to prevent the stigma behind mental illness which is part of the reason many people suffering with mental illness don’t open up and have their diagnosis sooner.

if anyone fancies dropping me a message regarding my experiences with anxiety, feel entirely free to drop me a message. I know I’m useless when it comes to replies but I will do what I can to reply as soon as I can for if you’re intrigued on the diagnosis process, certain emotions or feelings or methods on controlling a panic attack (p.s. I am not an expert! and everyone is different! what works for me might not work for you!)

I really really hope this has helped someone out there who could be reading this. Even if only one person feels inspired to go and open up their lives – it’s entirely worth the shot. Don’t battle in silence. More people are here for you than your mental illness wants you to believe.

Anxiety + Year Abroad

So it’s been a hell of a while since I posted here. Hi y’all! Hope you’re all doing well, and I hope you’re not reading this with need of help. Because if you are, I’m so sorry for how you’re feeling and I’ll do my best! As some of you know, I’m on my year abroad. I came last week and I’ve been doing so much that I haven’t been able to take too many pictures or film. Which is a giant shame! But I promise, in the coming weeks, I will!

What I wanted to say on a whim, was to discuss anxiety and going abroad. I’ve been incredibly anxious since moving away and there have been so many confusing feelings I thought would benefit being spoken about on this blog, so here we go!

First off, I actually felt extremely emotionally numb before coming on this trip. I wasn’t feeling too sad nor too upset, or worried. Which was strange. I did at some points feel some nerves or some emotions but the bulk of the time I felt nothing. Which was something very foreign to me. Normally I’m an emotional wreck constantly, however not in the run up to the year abroad. Sure I cried, a tonne, but yeah. It was strange to feel nothing, but a lot of people told me this was a very normal thing which is fine.

Then I noticed my breathing was becoming quite shallow in the mornings, not into full blown panic attacks, but it was quite shallow. But having friends who I’d told in advance about my anxiety and panic attacks helped a lot. They have been my rocks the past couple days. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them. They understand that I need distraction, and that really helps. So, if you’re bound to feel a bit nervous and stuff, tell someone around you! Don’t be scared nor shy, they will understand and will become your help in hand when things get a bit too much.

My anxiety however has also made me feel quite isolated. There is a language barrier, which never helps, but at the same time, you’re away from usual friends making new ones, in another language. Which isn’t the easiest thing to do at all! This makes me feel so nervous about new people and anxious on whether I’ll make any friends at all, but at the same time, isolated. I feel out of a loop that is yet to be established and that doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I have been included in things a couple times but I haven’t felt stable yet, so the isolation is becoming an annoyance. At the same time though, hopefully, it won’t last long.

But, I feel like all these things are natural for a year abroad. I think this is something a lot of people must feel when coming abroad to a foreign country, especially if you’re pretty much going solo. It’s a scary life step as it is, and to be able to power on through is an achievement in itself, let alone going through it with anxiety. So if you’re feeling these feelings I’m feeling, I’ll let you know in the next week or so how they have been getting on. Hopefully, they will be gone. Keep the faith, and keep smiling, it’s only week one.

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