Let me introduce you to my brain

Hey, wanna know something super not cool?
My brain sucks.

Here’s the thing, I hate it when people post personal stuff on the internet. I mean, I can’t be the only one who scrolls through Facebook trying to locate all the memes that were funny on Tumblr 5 years ago and injures themselves from eyerolling at all the unnecessary melodrama of people’s posts. Its all ‘here’s some beef I’m starting with my best friend’ ‘here’s some goss about my ex.’ ‘urgh worst day ever!’ followed by people who normally don’t give a crap about you having their curiosity piqued and asking whats up, only to not receive a reply from the original poster. Hence why I tend to keep most of my personal stuff bottled, because I don’t want sympathy or to give someone else something to gossip about. Also because I’m aware of my privilege and I don’t want to seem whiny. But I’ve kinda gotten to the point where I’m finding it hard to keep stuff inside. So… I’m gonna talk about it I guess. Only not on Facebook. I’m sparing my fellow eye rollers that at least.

Here are a few reasons why I don’t like to talk about what is going on with my brain.
Firstly, I am really not comfortable talking about something that I’m not over yet. Secondly, I have a lot of shame and guilt associated with it. Thirdly, on the few occasions when I have tried to talk about it… Well, let’s just say I’ve not exactly had the support or the reaction that I’ve needed.
In fact, we’re only opening this can of worms today because this week, I tried once again to get a GP to listen to me and take my problems with my brain seriously. Because I live in the UK, I got to use the NHS. However because the literal devil is in charge of the country right now I can’t actually go and make an appointment to see a doctor, I have to call and leave a message and wait for a doctor to call me back and decide whether or not I’m sick enough to be worth their time. Long story short, I am still not sick enough to be worth their time. I’ve been going back and forth to a number of GPs at this surgery over the past 8 years with the same complaint. Every single time I have had the rather unhelpful advice of: “have you tried exercising?” like after 8 years that wouldn’t have been something I’ve tried. Yet again I have to sign up to a bunch of free CBT sessions. Most of which are during the day when I am occupied with my job (Which is a whole other thing) and the rest are full. So onto the waiting list I go.
Which is just peachy and has made me never want to discuss my brain with anyone ever again because yet again, it isn’t taken seriously.
As if that wasn’t enough, today I was approached by someone who proceeded to tell me about a young man they knew who had recently taken his own life, only not in the way such a subject would normally be broached, she was very disparaging of this young man, she didn’t think he should have been in mainstream school if he was suffering from a mental health issue. Later on tonight, I found out that the same young man was a member of an organisation that I am also part of. The people there spoke incredibly highly of him and talked of their sadness at losing such a popular and creative person.
Though I had decided a little while ago that I wanted to be better, tonight really made me mean it. I want to be better. I don’t want to continue down this path and have people lament the loss of my potential or bad mouth me for finding a way out. I’m just not sure how. Maybe that’s the point of this. Anyway, like I said, doesn’t exactly make me want to talk about my mental health.

Here is a list of other things that have been said to me on other occasions when I have tried to discuss the problems with my brain, just so you know I’ve already heard them and don’t want to hear them again:

  • You’re not depressed, you’re just over reacting
  • Stop being so sensitive
  • You have anxiety? Haha, but you love getting on the tube!
  • What do you have to be depressed about?
  • You’re not depressed, stop being so negative, the glass isn’t always half empty.
  • Have you tried drinking more water?
  • Why are you being so pessimistic about it?
  • Pull yourself together and stop being silly, I’m going to be late.

That one was particularly special because I was having a panic attack at the time.
World Mental Health Day was this week and seeing so many people I admire and look up to be open and talk about their experiences had me in awe, but even though it’s 2017 and Twitter has been flooded with people being supportive and sharing,  I’m not comfortable talking about my mental health partly because I’ve never actually had it taken seriously. I don’t think that’s anyone’s fault particularly, I just think its something many people are ignorant about or just don’t want to think about. Maybe its because I come from a very working class background and the kind of people I grew up around didn’t have time for things like mental illness, they had mines to mine and unions to join and work had to be done because life was about getting up, going to work, sleeping and repeating. There was no time for emotions or lack thereof. (Fun fact, even though I still think of myself as being working class, I have a therapist and I’ve eaten quinoa which is quite middle class when you think about it.)
But without meaning to, every time someone brushes me off or invalidates my feelings (or lack thereof cos full disclosure, I alternate between anger, sadness and numbness) all you do is add to the overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. To you I am over dramatic, to me, the voice in my head telling me no one cares and wondering how long it would take people to notice if I died gets louder. That one is a particular favourite of my brain, it likes to ask me that question around the moment I’m just drifting off to sleep, which then leaves me staring at my ceiling blankly for hours trying to calculate whether it would take longer than a week for anyone to get concerned about not seeing/hearing from me. It’s a riot let me tell you.
I think my other reason for not being comfortable about my mental health stems from that invalidation because mostly, when I think about how numb or angry or depressed I feel I get a sense of guilt and shame. What have I got to be depressed about? I have somewhere to live, I have a car, I live in a fairly affluent area, I have a regular wage, there are so many people in the world that have it way worse. I don’t have the right to feel like this. Which of course, makes me feel sad about feeling sad.
I’m ashamed because I’m not strong enough to cope with day to day life. I’m ashamed because for eight years I have been crying at GPs trying to explain how I feel. I’m ashamed because my mum lost the ability to walk and there I am completely healthy and yet wasting my life stuck in this black hole. Then I feel guilty for being in the black hole at all.

I can’t keep doing this.
I can’t keep pretending I’m ok. I’m not.
I can’t keep wasting my life in this void.

The bullies I face every day are nothing compared to the voice in my head. The world around me isn’t as vibrant as I know it should be. I’m fed up living life constantly exhausted from having to pretend to be smiley. I started a project in January where I decided to film my life and upload it to the internet a month at a time, so I could look back on all the things that happened in 2017 and remember the good times. I managed to get to May before finding fun things to record started to get hard. I’m pretty good at the hiding it most of the time though. Like, if you watch that video from May, you’ll see me have fun japes with socialists in Brighton. I conveniently left out the bit where I debated jumping in front of a train, thank Southern Rail for being so delayed that the platform got too busy for me to want to do it, I also left out the bit where I sat on the beach for two hours practically catatonic just listening to my mind tell me about how worthless and pathetic I was to have gone to the other side of the country on my own and to have been there for a day without once receiving so much as a marketing email. I don’t want to remember things like that. I don’t want to be writing things like this. I don’t want to make excuses or be pitied, but I do want to explain, because the way my brain is makes me irritable and I snap at people who don’t deserve it. The way my brain is makes me not trust why someone would be nice to me because clearly I am an awful person. Things like this don’t happen to nice people – hey, rationality isn’t part of the deal sadly. The way my brain is makes me not have the motivation to do any of the things it knows it enjoys. The way my brain is makes me dwell on things that are too ridiculous to fathom. The way my brain is makes me doubt everything. The way my brain is makes me sad and lonely and angry and numb and makes the world seem dark which bums people out, so I try to stay away from them. All these things are kinda getting worse, so is this an apology? Who knows.
If you’ve never experienced that, I’m super happy for you. Well, at least I think I am. I don’t actually even remember how to feign happiness any more.

Will medication help me? Who knows. Certainly not my local GP surgery cos they don’t even want to give me the option. I guess I could run more, I guess I could see therapists I probably can’t afford, I guess I could actually talk to more like minded people on the internet. I guess I could try and let go of some of that guilt and shame and open up to people.

Whatever. I hate that I did this. I’ll probs delete it soon. But like, if you know me and you’re wondering wtf is up, I’m just very tired but I want to be better and I’m trying.

Advertisements

Birthday blues

Hello.
I am stealing an idea from Sophie, because plagerism is the best form of flattery.
It is nearing my birthday, which means that I am now only a year away from leaving my twenties and I’m not ready. Like, when you’re a kid, you can’t imagine anything past the age of twenty, it’s too much into the future but now I’m here and I just can’t deal with it. This is so different to my usual birthday blues, I have birthday blues every year, I think its because I’m naturally very nostalgic and existential, but when it comes to my birthday, I always add a dash of lonliness in there too and get a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the universe and how insignificant my life is in comparison. So, yeah, birthday blues.

Anyway, Sophie does a post every year where she talks about the things she would like to achieve before her next birthday and considers the things she has achieved from her last birthday.
Now, I’m not one for resolutions, I tend to feel a bit too much pressure when it comes to resolutions and then I don’t end up doing them and feeling like a failure. But my next birthday is a bit of a milestone, so I think I should make more of an effort. And well. I like lists. Here’s a list of things I would like to do before I get to thirty and have to accept the fact that I am a proper grown up. You guys can hold me to this. I’m counting on you.

Before I reach my next birthday I would like…

  • To be fluent in another language
  • To see the Northern Lights
  • To go on a date (I’ve never been on one!)
  • To finish my next novel
  • To publish a novel… (We’ll see how we get on with that)
  • To join a band
  • To finally FINALLY do the thing I’ve been putting off for ten years and get a tattoo

Whether any of these things are doable is another thing entirely, but you know, it’s good to dream!

My weekend at LFCC and YALC

Hello there chaps, chapettes and those who identify as neither, how the devil are you? It feels like forever since I last opened WordPress, I’m going to assume you’ve missed me. But you know, it’s fine if you didn’t. Anyway, you good? Good. Now, let me tell you about my weekend where I spent a day hanging out with a bunch of nerds in London and then ended up hanging out with another bunch of nerds in my home town!

I’ve spent the past few days mostly sat in various train stations around the South of England because I went to LFCC AND YALC! I did visit a few years ago when it was in a different venue and much like last time, I did spend a huge amount of time wondering around in awe at all the cosplayers. My favourites this time around was a large group of Rick and Mortys who all decided to hang out together singing Get Schifty, the family that came dressed as Guardians of the Galaxy with the parents as Star Lord and Gamora and the children as Drax and Groot and their baby as Rocket. How did they get a tiny Rocket costume?! I also enjoyed a couple who came as Deadpool and Spider Man who spent most of their time holding hands and skipping around the convention together and the Newt Scamander I stood next to in the queue for the bathroom.

Honestly, I spent most of my time on the second floor of the building at the YALC where I visited a load of publisher stands and got all the swag below!

I’m actually very proud of myself for only buying two things from the whole event! There were so many things I wanted to buy! Though I missed the panel I wanted to see, I did get to listen to many authors, including a bunch of my favourites, talk about everything from their latest work, to romance, to bending genres and making it work for them – fascinating stuff! I was super sad I had to leave before Non Pratt had her head shave witnessed by Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, that is a thing that happened, the Twitter moment that was put together was a work of art).
I did check out LFCC too and got to see Christopher Lloyd posing next to a Delorean, Alyson Hannigan hanging out at her booth, Sylvester McCoy heading to his talk and squeed a bit too hard at the display of Back to the Future costumes and props. One day I will learn to go all three days and enjoy the whole event. Also one day I’d like to be able to source/make an awesome costume because honestly cosplayers are the coolest. I want to be that cool! After traipsing through London in the rain to get my train home and then sitting on a platform wishing GWR would get their shit together and run their trains on time, I met up with a group of nerds I’m more acquainted with to see Woody Harrellson fight some monkeys. So, pretty successful weekend I’d say!

Like The Handmaid’s Tale? Check these out!

Do you know what the internet is missing? More posts like this /end sarcasm.

Anyway, the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale is on at the moment and so everyone has done a similar post, but there are always more books to recommend am I right?

So, here are a collection of books I think you might like if you’re enjoying the Handmaid’s Tale.

The obvious one to go with is 1984, so instead of including it on this list, I’ll do some honourable mentions first, so you know, if you haven’t read 1984, then you totally should especially if you are a fan of dystopia. Other honourable mentions would go to Fahrenheit 451, the Hunger Games trilogy, the Divergent trilogy and the Flawed series, which yes, are all YA books, but show a society that are strictly governed. I’d also mention Children of Men, you know, cos the whole no kids being born thing. Anyway, on to the real list.

I’m going to start off with The Giver by Lois Lowry, it’s the first in a series, but I think the book stands well enough on its own. Like the Handmaid’s Tale, we have a very strictly regimented society in which everyone is given a job to do when they reach a certain age. For example, again like in the Handmaid’s Tale, certain people are picked out for giving birth, others are picked out to look after babies which are then assigned to family units. The story follows Jonah who is given the job of keeping all the memories of the world before and with the knowledge he acquires, he tries to escape the society in search of something better.

Second up, The Power by Naomi Alderman, which I only read recently but bloody hell, that was good!
The Power is a novel based on research notes (kind of like The Handmaid’s Tale is a bunch of people analysing Offred’s account of what happened to her.) of a phenomenom that happens to only women and the evidence of it dating back to biblical times. The women in this novel all have what appears to be an extra organ near their collar bone that allows them to shoot electrical charges at will and follows the stories of four people living through more trying times where war is breaking out and women are becoming the more dominant sex. It’s a very interesting novel and raises a lot of questions about what the world would be like if the roles in things like rape culture were reversed.

Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, now I wouldn’t normally say this, but I think watching the film immediately after reading the book is highly recommended, I certainly thought the two complimented each other well. This is kind of a deviation because while society as a whole largely appears to be the same as… Well, normal life, there are moments in this where you get the feeling something odd is happening and then when you realise, the subtly makes it all the more haunting.

Next, here’s a sci fi dystopia, Philip K Dick’s Do androids dream of electric sheep? Yes. It is the book that inspired Blade Runner, so I guess you could just watch that because Harrison Ford. Or the new one because Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, but whatever. Like all Philip K Dick’s books, this has a lot of government conspiracy related stuff going on amongst the awfulness of general life. This is the story of a world ruined by nuclear war, it follows Rick Deckard who has to find and take out some androids to earn enough money to be able to have a pet because pets are a status symbol due to mass extinctions following the whole nuclear thing. It also features the whole Turing Test thing which to nerds like me is endlessly fascinating.

Finally, Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neil, which if you’ve not read the Handmaid’s Tale would be a great book to read either immediately before or immediately afterwards. I would describe it as being the YA version, but perhaps even creepier because these are all children that are being groomed into the ‘perfect’ female to then either be selected by rich men or be cast out. Also, while it isn’t technically the same genre, you should also totally read Louise O’Neil’s other work because sweet jesus, she is good.

So there you have it, some books to read if you’re enjoying The Handmaid’s Tale.

 

Solo adventures in Brighton

What’s this? Is Leah starting a series? No, Leah has just realised that as she is incredibly anti social if she ever wants to go somewhere different, then she is going to have to go there solo. A few months ago I did my first ever solo flying experience to spend a few days in Edinburgh and this month, I decided to spend five hours on a train and standing on various platforms throughout the South of England to spend a few days in perhaps my favourite coastal city, Brighton. Now I have returned as a sun burnt, creatively energised person with a knee injury, who in the past few days managed to accidentally join a Marxist cult, spend a night in the world’s worst hotel and have full on mental breakdown on a beach. So, who wants to hear about it?

On alighting my train and noticing it was a little over cast, I headed straight for the sea front and ended up on my first Leah esque adventure of the day, because let’s be real, my life is nothing but a series of odd events strung together by me telling people about those events.
See, this is where my initiation into the Marxists enters the story.
Imagine the scene, I am fresh off a four hour train journey, I am ready for all that tasty vegan food that Brighton is known for, I am here for a stroll along the beach, a meander through the Lanes. What I am not here for is an awkward situation which results in me accidentally promising to join a political party. We begin with my inability to not document things I think are interesting, for adorning the streets of Brighton where these posters:

Which naturally, I stopped to photograph because idk about where you guys live, but where I am, no one places political propaganda like this around. Yeah we get the posters for the main parties appear around election time, but we don’t get fringe groups like the socialists etc advertising their meetings and while I’d heard of The Socialist newspaper, I hadn’t actually ever seen one. Well, now I have. Naturally, upon stopping to photograph these posters I was approached by a chap with a clipboard who said: “what do you think of Jeremy Corbyn?” While he wasn’t expecting me to respond with: “Think he’s a top lad actually,” I didn’t really expect to then be escorted to a table and asked if I wanted to take part in the local socialist party conference and by extension join their cause. Though if you analysed my political leanings they probably wouldn’t be that far away from the beliefs of the socialist party, I just wanted a trip to the beach. I am however, one of those people who is scared of both confrontation and offending people, so I listened to the socialist vision for much longer than anyone else would have and accepted a badge. Which is how I then got accosted by the Marxists. But more on that later.

Finally free of the shackles of politics, I could make my way to the pier and the wonderful smell of churros, chips and sea salt.

How’s this, it was snowing when I went to Edinburgh and overcast on my arrival in Brighton, I should not pick when I go on holiday!

If you’ve never been to Brighton before, I recommend a trip. Brighton is, even when overcast, a vibrant, exciting and intoxicating city, you can feel the creativity and the enthusiasm of the place in every corner and the the Pier is no exception, it seems to crop up on TV and in film every now and again.There is so much art and wonder along the sea front alone, including this:

The Kissing Wall, it’s supposed to be an exhibition about love, which, given the events of Monday, felt strangely appropriate.

From here, I made my way over to the Lanes, which is basically how I imagine a rabbit warren would look were it inhabited by people. Lots of narrow streets filled with shops ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous and of course, where some of the best food options in the city can be found. If you’ve passed by here before, you’ll know I partake in the dairy free and meat free foods and well, Brighton has some of the best food on the planet that fits the bill, so, with my stomach rumbling and my calm returning after my awkward interrogation by the socialists, I headed into the Lanes intent on either finding Food with Friends, Rootkandi or V Bites. I ended up in V Bites and had my first experience of fake fish and chips, well… I was by the seaside, how could I not?

The sun decided to come out after I’d emerged from the Lanes, so off back along the sea front I went, back past my new friends, the socialists, and up to the clock tower and Churchill Square, which is a big shopping centre, one place in the city I hadn’t been to before. I was still carrying around the badge handed to me by the group of socialists I’d encountered earlier in the day… Mostly because I didn’t really know what else to do with it. It was spotted by a group of Marxists and suddenly I was surrounded. TLDR, I think I may have given them my email address in order to escape. I am now quite concerned that I may show up on a national register somewhere… Is it still frowned upon to be a Marxist? Especially one that hasn’t read any of Marx’s work? Someone needs to let me know.

You might think the adventure into the strange and unusual was over. You would be mistaken. After exploring Churchill Square, the clouds were coming back in and fog was starting to settle. Someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to build a large metal pole with a 360 restaurant thing in it right on the sea front, which allows people to have a bird’s eye view of the area and also allows those on the ground to wonder who on earth thought it needed to be where it was, however, by the time I began combing the front for my hotel, the enormous metal pole was barely visible. Which worried me, what with my ability to get myself into bizarre situations, it was at this point the knee injury occurred. Pebble beach, fog, inherent clumsiness, you know how it is, which is how I ended up limping into one of the weirdest buildings I have ever been into.

There is a moral lesson here, that lesson is if you find a hotel that is £20 cheaper than a Travel Lodge, do not save the £20.
This hotel was weird. Like not even in a quirky oh Brighton way, but in a H H Holmes kind of way. After checking in I was told to head for the stairs and follow the numbers, well if my knee didn’t hurt by this point it sure did by the time I reached my room. This hotel was just endless rickety stair cases and windy corridors, you could hear the foot steps, every word and every breath of its inhabitants, it was almost as though the building itself was creaking and would collapse at any moment. But you know it was just a bed for the night, it was fine. Well… Until I realised that the window in my room was only open because a bit of it was missing. So being a very nervous person who hates confrontation and had already expended all their energy dealing with political activists, it took me several hours of panic before eventually heading down to reception to tell them I’d noticed the window. Which resulted in me being moved to another room down yet more rickety stairs and winding corridors this time to the very front of the hotel immediately opposite an open all hours, well lit Chinese restaurant which had brightly coloured flashing lights illuminating every corner of the room. So my knee and I decided we’d take our chance with the fog for as long as we could.

See the barely visible pole… That is the 360 dining experience thing… not as ugly when you can’t see it though, right?

Eventually though, in pain and armed with a sandwich I returned to the rave room with a renewed sense of creativity, I’ve been working on and struggling with my next book for MONTHS like it feels like a life time ago that I last made any progress with it, but whether it was the sea air or the combination of strange events that had befallen me since my arrival in Brighton I began to make notes. I couldn’t turn those notes into anything coherent though due to the fact that multi coloured lights were flashing away and I could literally hear every conversation going on in the hotel at the exact same time, quite an achievement when you’re deaf in one ear and hadn’t bothered to take your hearing aids on holiday with you. Suffice to say, it was nearly 5 am before utter quiet had fallen and the sun had risen sufficiently to even out the various colours.
So there I was, limping, exhausted and terrified that I’d stumble across UKIP and end up handing over my details to them too, emerging into glorious sunshine the following morning. I took myself to the beach, I found a spot, I sat and I wrote. For two hours. Emerging from an almost trance like state to check my phone only to catch my reflection and realise that yes, I was now tomato coloured. Wonderful. Not only was I tomato coloured, but because it was a Wednesday at 9 am, I was also the only person on the beach. Cue my brain deciding that that was the exact moment to listen to my existential crisis. If you’re going to have an existential crisis, always good to have Brighton beach as your view though, right?

that's more like it, Brighton

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

 

So there we have it, I am sat with a bag of peas on my knee, half a tub of aloe on my face and the fear that I’ll be arrested at any moment for being a political enemy, but my novel is several thousand words longer, my love for Brighton and it’s eccentricities is increased and honestly, I am a bit excited about what new adventures I’ll find myself on.

My favourite author’s been dead for over 70 years, but he’s just released a new book

Hello there, sometimes I post videos on YouTube. I want to be a film maker, but shhh, lets keep that on the downlow. While I’ll never be Zoella, I do enjoy talking to a camera, so thought I’d do a little book haul over there, so take a look if you want to find out some more about a few new titles that have recently been released!

 

ps, if any of ya’ll are actual youtubers and can introduce me to hella attractive vloggers that might be interested in dating me, please do feel free to introduce us!

I went to the library

and I got a bit over excited, a novel, by me.

So, I did have a bit of a rant about libraries the other day, not the libraries themselves, but a bad experience that I had within one and the way in which it is being callously treated by the local Council. Anywho. I had to return some books. Also there were things I wanted to read… So, I ended up spending an hour picking through the shelves and came away with six items. Also, it was wonderful to be there in the middle of the day, during the week and see the place full of young parents, toddlers and retired people, as well as a few folks like me that were clearly putting their free time to good use!

library haul featuring a rec from @sophoes

A post shared by leah-marie smith (@leeeeeeeeah) on

Here’s this trips collection of books.

Like I said, I had things to return, but I was also on the hunt for some Mhairie Mcfarlane after watching this video, I found lots of her, but… You know, there is a limit to how much one can hire at a time. I’m also searching for a copy of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty because everyone tells me its wonderful – is this true?!

I ended up with:
Girl Up by Laura Bates | Still on that non fiction train and still have a copy of Every Day Sexism I’ve not managed to finish but you know…
Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt| I actually debated buying this in the airport the other day, glad I didn’t now I know the library had it!
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon | Everyone raves about her books, I’ve never read them, so… Figured I would.
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey | Read the Fifth Wave forever ago, never finished the series, think I might now!
Who’s That Girl by Mhairie Mcfarlane | Sophie made me get it. I’m very excited to read it!
The History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost | My friend Chris is a massive fan of Twin Peaks, he’s lent me the series to watch (I’ve not finished it yet) and there is a reunion series coming soon which he is very excited about and as this is one of the craziest shows I’ve ever seen, I thought I’d do a bit of wider reading to understand it a bit more!

Any of you guys read any of these? Let me know if they’re any good!