I finally have a cat!

After months of searching and never replying to ads in time to adopt the kitties that needed new homes, I finally got a cat May this year.

Meet Meka!

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She is two years old and although she was shy at first we are now firm friends. She lets me kiss her forehead and pick her up (although she’d rather I not with the latter). Looking after Meka is a lot of work as she is one chatty cat and is always demanding food. You would think I’d been starving her!

However it is all worth it, as being an anxious person having a cat to cuddle with and rant to when I’ve been having a bad day has really made a difference to my mood.

Here is a list of the best things about having a cat.

  • When they “make biscuits” on you with their paws or when they’re getting comfy
  • Seeing her leap into the air chasing a dangling toy
  • Meowing back and forth as if we’re having a conversation
  • Waking up to her sleeping on my chest and purring
  • When she licks my hand

I am now a proud cat mummy, and soon to be (if not already) crazy cat lady. Bring on the cat mugs!

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Life Update: A New Chapter

I don’t know if anyone reads this blog religiously, but if you do then you’ve noticed I haven’t posted in a while.

The truth is, I’ve had a lot going on with friends, mental health, studying, and general adult life. I felt the urge to write on this blog again as I feel it will be key to my well being in the next coming months. Why?

I’m moving!

Where, you ask? I have no idea.

All I know, is that at the end of August I will be leaving Aberdeen, my home for the last 6 years. I moved here for university in 2012 and it will always be the place I learned to grow into my own skin and accept myself. I will be handing in my Masters dissertation August this year and graduating in November. My lease ends in August too, so it’s the perfect opportunity to find a job that makes me happy and uses my degree.

I have been applying all over the UK in the hopes of starting a career where I can help people, or as a way to kick-start my PhD.

I have a job interview in Dumfries next week, a place I’ve never been before that is at the other end of the country for the job of a life time. I am excited and nervous at the same time. That’s to be expected. I’m starting a new chapter of my life. I’ll also be in a long distance relationship. If I don’t find a job by the time my lease runs out then it looks like I may have to temporarily live with my parents. All in all these are changing times for me. I’m transitioning from being a young adult to a proper adult in my eyes. I’m taking risks and pushing myself out my comfort zone to achieve what I really want out of life.

I will probably be writing more about this topic, as there are a lot of elements of moving to a new place I feel like I should explore.

 

My Top 5 TV shows for grounding anxiety

Hey everyone! Hope your March 2018 is off to a great start. Today’s post is a little different from my usual stuff but I still feel it’s important in it’s own way.

I find it difficult to relax. When I have time off I get pounding uncomfortable feeling in my chest and in my stomach and most of the time it won’t go away unless I do something productive. While that’s good sometimes, other times I just need to accept that I have down time and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been unemployed until recently, which has given me a lot more free time than I’m used to. With essays coming out my ears and a job hunt that seemed to be going nowhere, I needed something comforting to distract me from the anxiety that made me want to go straight to the highlands of Scotland to scream.

In no particular order, here are 5 TV shows that helped ground me when I was anxious.

1. Supergirl

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Superheroes, aliens, and an abundance of female characters? I loved it from the beginning. It’s just the right mix of cheesy, action, and heartbreak that made it so enjoyable to sit down and watch when i was feeling overwhelmed. There are a lot of complex characters and plot lines that kept the “just one more episode!” voice in my head going. All of the episodes so far can be found on Now TV.

2. The Good Place

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The Good Place is just so much fun. Each episode is 20 minutes so a binge doesn’t have to take up the whole night. Each character has an interesting backstory and the settings are so colourful and strange it is just an absolute delight for the eyes. Eleanor the main character finds herself in The Good Place after dying on earth…the thing is, she shouldn’t be there! You can find it on Netflix.

3. One Day at a Time

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Another 20 minute episode sitcom that is easy to binge on! One Day at a Time centres on a Cuban family living in the US and the challenges they face. It’s comedy style is so delightful and you will fall in love with all the characters. They tackle some very serious topics as well including racism, depression, and gun control. I’ve just finished season 2 and I’m already itching to watch season 3 when it comes out. You can find it on Netflix.

4. The Flash

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It took me a lot longer to get into The Flash than Supergirl, but once the ball got rolling I got sucked in and invested in the cast. There are a lot of twists and turns that keep you engaged and I just love all the cheesy villains that pop up every episode! There are some very sweet moments as well as ones that will tug at your heart strings. Visually the Flash is stunning and my heart feels very warm when I watch it. You can find all the episodes so far on Now TV.

5. The Orville 

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I’m a massive Star Trek fan, and this parody is amazing. It’s more than a parody – it’s the ideas of star trek as a comedy with more realistic interactions and events. Humans are messy and stupid – and this is a perfect example. I didn’t think I’d enjoy The Orville as I’m not a fan of most of Seth MacFarlane’s work but he gives a brilliant performance. Each episode is mostly self contained and occasionally actors from Star Trek pop in for a role and it delights me every time. Despite the parody look some episodes have very serious elements and really make you think. The Orville is more than it appears. The Orville is currently airing on Sky with a new episode added to Now TV when it airs on a Thursday night.

Here are my top 5 TV series that are helping me through anxiety at the moment. I hope some of these were new to you and I’ve helped you find something new to enjoy. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear about them in the comments as I’m always looking for something new to watch.

Accepting you have depression

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I have a habit of pushing myself until breaking point. I don’t realise that I’m being too hard on myself or running myself ragged until I’m so deep in anxiety I snap and run for cover. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally begun to accept that I have depression.

Depression isn’t new to me. Years ago, I was depressed. Bad. I received warnings for all of my classes because I was missing too many tutorials, I was staying up late and sleeping until 4pm and I was deliberately avoided spending time with people. Back then I felt hopeless and unmotivated. Eventually I dragged myself to the doctor and was put on medication. A few months later I moved house, got a job, and to top it all off I got a boyfriend. I felt great and I was pulled out of my depression with medical help and a change of environment and perception.

Today, I have a different kind of depression. It’s one of the reasons I had such difficulty accepting it was here.

Depression comes in many different forms and nobody experiences the same symptoms. Depression does not discriminate. Rich or poor, successful or struggling, none of us are immune.

My first round of depression was a time of struggle. Now, I am the most accomplished and self accepting version of myself. I am still depressed.

This depression is based in anxiety. I am irritable and unmotivated, almost always worried about my studies, money, and whether that thing I said last week means that my new friend hates me. My biggest symptom is overeating to deal with my emotions and feeling of lack of control over my future. Instead of me identifying the depression it was my partner. I became so accepting of my anxiety and my habits that I couldn’t even recognise what was happening to me.

The point of this post is to make you stop and think. Slow down for a minute. When people hinted that something might be off with me, I became defensive and angry, as if even considering that I had depression was an admittance of defeat. I didn’t want to be depressed. If I accepted it, that meant it was real.

Once I sat down with myself and wrote out my thoughts and feelings, it dawned on me that I couldn’t continue like this. Here are a few ways I began to accept it and helped myself clear my head to tackle the beast that is depression.

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  1. I listened to people’s concerns. REALLY listened. Before, I brushed off suggestions from my partner that I was pushing myself too hard and that I didn’t smile as much as I used to. I read into his suggestions. He doesn’t think I’m fun anymore. He doesn’t understand how important my studies are to me. My anxiety and depression was twisting his words before I could even consider them. Listen. They care about you and notice changes in behaviour that haven’t gotten on your radar.
  2. I made an appointment with the GP. There is no shame in needing medication. It doesn’t make you weak. I say this all the time to other people but was shocked the attitude I had towards myself. I felt that since I was in fairly good position in life compared to other people, that it wasn’t that serious and I could dig myself out of my rut. Comparisons help nobody. As I said before, depression doesn’t discriminate.
  3. I made an effort to make plans with people. I’m a people person. If I spend a day all by myself I go stir crazy. Lately I’ve found myself feeling lonely, but still not wanting to spend time or talk with anybody. Whenever I was with people, I just wanted to go home. This attitude should have been a wake up call. I try to make plans to stop myself crawling further and further into isolation and my own head.
  4. I let myself take shortcuts. Sometimes I begrudge taking the shortcut. I like to make my pastry from scratch and I like to accomplish things alone. It’s a lot of effort, especially when you’re busy and not in the best mindset. It’s okay to buy lazy vegetables or ready made pastry. It’s okay to put dishes in the dishwasher instead of washing them by hand. It’s okay to play the game on easy mode. Help doesn’t mean you’re not independent or intelligent.

I’m trying really hard to accept help from others and that I don’t have to do everything perfectly. It’s okay if not everybody likes me or if I take a little longer to do something than somebody else. Accepting that I had depression I feel has helped me on the road to recovery. I’m not ‘better’ in many ways. However, accepting that I need to slow down and treat myself better has felt like a weight off my shoulders.

 

Egg Free Peach and Honey Cake

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I’ll make this short and sweet, everybody is here for the cake aren’t they?

With my Baking is my therapy post being so well received, I thought it was time to start posting my own recipes on this blog.

Baking is so freeing for me. On the days where my anxiety gets really bad nothing is more soothing to me than making something with my own two hands. Baking may seem intimidating, but I think it is worthwhile to consider baking when looking for new outlets to add a bit of fun and sense of accomplishment.

This peach and honey cake reminds me of a sticky toffee pudding. This cake should be gooey in the middle and crispy caramel on the outside. Best served hot!

You will need;

Equipment

  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring jug
  • Spatula
  • Kitchen scale

Ingredients

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150g butter
  • 125g plain flour
  • 180ml milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 peaches
  • 3 tbs honey

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees/356 Fahrenheit. Thickly slice 4 peaches – these will be placed on top of your cake once the batter is mixed and in the tin. I sliced mine a bit too thin so had about half a peach leftover.

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Step 2: Cream together the butter and sugar with a spatula until it looks something like this.

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Step 3: Next, add the flour, salt, and baking powder and mix. Then add the milk and mix thoroughly until no longer lumpy.

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Step 4: Add a tablespoon of honey to the batter and mix.

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Step 5: Spray a cake tin with frylight and line with grease proof paper. Pour in the batter and gently hit on a hard surface to get rid of any air bubbles.

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Step 6: Drizzle more of the honey on top of the cake batter to form a sweet layer underneath the peach slices.

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Step 7: Line the peaches in whatever pattern you like. Press lightly into the batter. Add another drizzle of honey over the peaches. Put in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

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Step 8: While you’re waiting for the cake to bake, now is a good time to nibble on leftover peach and wash the dishes.

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I was very proud of how this cake turned out, especially since it was my first time making a peach cake and I wasn’t sure if they honey element would work out. I really think the peach and the honey compliment each other well. Enjoy with a cup of tea and if you’re wanting a bit more, I think a scoop of vanilla ice-cream would be the perfect way to kick this cake up a notch.

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Body Image Poetry

The Box

Feeling fat,

Want to hide,

Food has consumed my pride.

Don’t look at me,

For I will break.

Just another one of my mistakes.

Those voices are my own,

‘Fat, ugly, waste of space’

Break my bones.

The lies are clear,

What do I mean?

My dear,

You are trapped in the same old scene.

The box is too small for you.

You are not a cardboard cut-out,

Cut it out.

Those voices are not yours,

They are learned.

Boxes do not fit.

They are fucking bullshit.

 

 

 

Job Search Fatigue: Coping with Rejection

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I haven’t worked a day since last year. Granted it’s only been a month, but it’s long enough for panic to start to settle in. I worked as a Christmas temp at HMV last year and I really enjoyed it. Sadly it came to an end and my bank account is slowly getting more and more daunting to look at. I’ve been applying for jobs in Aberdeen pretty much everyday. This afternoon I applied for 6 that I look qualified for after getting rejected from a job where I had an interview for and thought I had a good chance of getting.

If I estimated it, I would say I’ve applied for about 40-50 jobs this year so far. Most I haven’t heard back from, one I had an interview for, and another I rejected an interview for because it was far less hours than I had previously thought.

It’s so depressing. We’ve all been there. Every application feels like a losing battle. It can do a lot of damage to your self esteem. What I’m frustrated with is the amount of effort some jobs expect you to make in your applications. I’m not complaining about relevant things like a good CV, cover letter, and some basic details. No. I’m talking about those jobs that want you to pledge half an hour to a screening system with complex questions about your suitability and then expecting you to come up with an answer to why you want this job that’s not just ‘I need money to live’.

I started out job hunting pretty optimistic, and now I’m starting to loose hope. I promised myself I would never work in care again as it was horrible for my mental well being. My frustration is tempting me to apply for this jobs against my better instinct. Desperation can really cloud your judgement. Here are a few things to remember when job applications seem to be going nowhere and the rejections feel like a kick in the stomach.

  1. It’s not you. These days 100 people apply for 1 job. It’s so competitive. It’s not fair, but don’t let it make you think you’re not good enough to do anything. Your application could be great but so could 20 other people. Just keep trying and eventually you’ll make the cut.
  2. Look at your CV again. Try rewording some paragraphs and celebrate on what skills you gained from previous employment. Dig deep – if you had to answer the phones occasionally don’t hesitate to put that in as experience.
  3. Make a list of people who could help you out. That includes asking employed friends to keep an eye out for any job openings in their place of work, having friends check your CV, and keeping people in mind who would be happy to help you out with money or food if things get bad.
  4. Do something with your day. Being unemployed is not fun. It’s so boring. Sitting around doing nothing will make you feel listless and won’t help you get motivated. Have a few tasks you want done that day and do them. Small accomplishments will give you that extra boost for those ‘I’m never going to get a job’ days.
  5. Believe in yourself. Cheesy, I know. It’s far to easy to berate yourself when rejections come in or you don’t hear anything. You are a brilliant individual and it’s their loss if they don’t want to hire you. Don’t get bitter and swear off even trying. Applying for jobs is hell. Don’t let the fire burn you.

Hopefully I’ll get a job soon. I’m very fortune to be in the position where I have an overdraft with no interest as I’m a student. All we can do is keep applying. Good luck to everyone else looking for a job!

Combating academic anxiety

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I hold myself to a very high standard, especially when I have a goal in mind. Whether it’s achieving A’s in all of my essays, committing to going to the gym, or trying not to spend money, I am very hard on myself when I fail. This can have a damaging effect.

Yesterday I fell short of an A in one of my courses from last semester. I was devastated. I cried. I binged ate until I felt sick. The only thing that stopped me from eating more and beating myself up was my partner on the other end of the phone reminding me of how much I have achieved. When in a spiral, I need someone else to pull me out. My underlying anxiety makes ‘failure’ feel a lot worse than it is.

Academic pressure is something that stresses me out without me even realising until I’m deep in the spiral. When I fall short I can be very unforgiving of myself. Even if I have done all the prescribed readings if I don’t fully understand the discussions in class that day I tell myself I’m stupid. That I don’t deserve to be there. That I’ll never progress from Masters to PhD because I won’t be able to handle the pressure.

The truth is, it’s not the work that I can’t handle. It’s my reaction to setbacks. In my mind, a B in one class made it impossible for me to get a PhD. In my logic, without all A’s I would not be able to successfully get a scholarship, which is the only way I can afford it and is highly competitive. An overall A is what they say is the easiest way to secure a PhD. What my logic ignored is that I know it’s not a rule. I know people who have gone on to do their PhD with funding without an A overall. I know that I have a lot to offer. I know I work hard.

The thing with academic anxiety and ambitions, is that you compare yourself to everyone. It’s not healthy. When this happens to me I convince myself I’m not good enough and that I shouldn’t even bother – which is the one way to 100% fail…not even trying.

The day after an academic anxiety attack, I thought I would compile a list of things that help me swat away all that negative thinking.

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  1. Let it happen. This may sound counterproductive but it’s healthy to acknowledge your emotions instead of burying them. Pushing down negative feelings can result in emotional outbursts when you least expect it, and they’ll be a lot worse because they’ve been stewing unattended for days/weeks. Have you ever felt better after a good cry?
  2. Talk to someone. Getting it all out by talking to a friend or a family member who you trust will give you someone to remind you how much you’ve achieved so far and how much you are valued as a person. If they are worth anything to you, they will not judge you or love you less for your supposed ‘failure’. You might feel like you’re annoying them by talking so negatively about yourself (this is something I worry about) but friendship is a two way street. You’re there for them when they’re upset, and they are there for you. They care.
  3. Write it out. What is so frustrating about anxiety when it comes to failure or frustrations, is that it’s swimming around and around your brain with nowhere to go. Write it out. Open a word document or write in a diary and just let it all out. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece but being able to put your feelings into words can actually help you pinpoint why you’re really so upset. This helps you visualise the problem and maybe come up with a solution to your feelings. Keep it, delete it, or rip it all up when you’re done.
  4. Do something your good at/be productive. If you’re a dab hand in the kitchen like me, whip something up that you know you do well. If you’re so deep in the spiral that you don’t think you’re good at anything, do something productive. Clean. Do some uni/college work. Play a game that has a levelling system or easy tasks that give you points. Little things like this won’t make you feel brand new, but it will quite those negative thoughts so you’re able to think clearly.
  5. Forgive yourself and try again. Just because you’ve had a setback, doesn’t mean you can’t try again. Forgive yourself for not doing as well as you hoped. The main thing is getting back on track. If this goal is so important for you, think about ways you can do better and what options you have now. There is never one way to do things. Think deeply about what you want to achieve. Mind map it, make a plan. Seeing it all in bite size chunks will make it feel less overwhelming.

I’m anxious by nature. While this can be helpful in making sure I study well enough for exams and really but the work in, it can make me too nervous to try and reach for higher things or flip my lid when I don’t achieve what I feel is necessary. I know I’ll be anxious again about any little thing, but for me the real battle is reminding myself of these steps to ensure that my spiral doesn’t become permanent.

 

Relationship Goals

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I was very privileged to grow up in a loving household. I come from a very close family. We tell each other most things, enjoy spending time together, and stay in contact in at least one day everyday whether it’s a text, a snap-chat, or a call after dinner. Some people find this odd. When I moved to Aberdeen for university I was struck by the fact none of my flatmates or friends had a similar relationship with their parents and siblings. I started to feel a little embarrassed by it all, but as I approach my mid-twenties I’m starting to realise how much my parent’s wonderful marriage has shaped me and encouraged me to hold any potential partners to a high standard.

My parents met when they were 14. They got married at 20 and I came along when they were 21 with my sister completing the family at 22. They are as in love now as they were then. It warms my heart to know that even though my sister and I have flown the coop they still go on dates, watch movies together snuggled on the couch, and tell each other they love each other everyday.

They are my relationship goals. I want a relationship as strong and committed as their’s. I feel that I have this. While my partner and I aren’t as cheesy as they are, I feel that their example helped me select a partner that was deserving of me. My sister has made the same good choice as I have. Their example means we didn’t settle for less. I feel it also means we don’t give up as easily. A lot of relationships fizzle out due to lack of communication and giving up when falling on hard times. The strength and love they have shown through financial difficulties, raising two children, and a number of health scares, inspires me everyday.

They have shown me that your partner should be your best friend. For better or for worst.

I was shopping for a birthday card for my dad today, and inside I have put a gift card for the cinema and a restaurant so that they can have a much needed date night. My mum has had to cut down on her hours at work due to illness, so they don’t have a lot of money flying around for romantic things. It made my heart burst with joy knowing that that love was still there after all these years.

I hope I still have that in years to come.

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Baking is my Therapy

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I’m a girl who loves her cake…and cookies. Basically anything that a personal trainer would not recommend. While at a party you’d find me chowing down on the crisps, sweets have always had a special place in my heart (and my stomach).

My grandmother was the one to introduce me to the world of baking. One of my earliest memories is watching her in awe as she made pancakes. I would get onto my tip toes to watch her concentration as she flipped the pancakes on the griddle stove.

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Big, beautiful, fluffy pancakes. When I got older I was allowed to help out, and as my skills developed I helped her make cakes and all sorts of biscuits and sweet treats. Baking became therapeutic for me. School was difficult. I was fat, nerdy, and socially awkward. Typical of most teenagers. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get into university, and I was even more worried if I’d be able to afford it. Friendships were difficult for me and although I still left with a solid group of friends my social skills weren’t the best.

When I went to University and I was far away from home, I took solace in baking. On one of the first days living in halls I baked for my flatmates. I can’t remember what it was but I remember they liked it, and it gave me the confidence to speak to them more and say yes to social engagements. When I lived with other students in the following years I did the same, making sure there were baked goods whenever I felt I needed company or praise.

Years later I still bake to build friendships. In a way, it eases my anxiety. Baking is something I am good at, and it is deeply personal for me. When someone I want to know better picks up a brownie I made and they tell me they love it, I feel closer to them. In my mind, liking the brownie is liking me. This realisation of my own thought process made me stop and think. Why do I need people to like me? Why do I need this praise and approval?

I don’t think I’ll fully understand the reasons I bake…but I know how it makes me feel. Baking is my therapy. Each cake I make every biscuit I ice is a part of me. Baked with love, as the saying goes. Baking is my initial offer in friendship, it is my hand extended to say I care and that I will bring something to your life.

It is my creative expression and conveys more about my personality than I could explain in words. I think we all have something that makes us feel more confident in social situations. While my talent may not be good for the waistline it is certainly good for my social anxiety.