Little Rays of Sunsine

As I mentioned in my last post, the past couple of years have been incredibly difficult for me with regards to my mental health. Finally, however, I feel as though some of the more recent strategies I’ve employed have started to make a difference to the way I feel, think and perceive/process information and events, and I thought it might be useful to share them on here, particularly for those of you who – like me – have struggled and continue to struggle with the challenges of living with a mental illness (or mental illnesses) on a daily basis. I will say though, these aren’t miracle cures: recovery is so incredibly challenging, and is possibly the least linear process you will ever experience; just because certain things work for me doesn’t mean you’ll find them useful, and vice versa. When you’re feeling consistently low and/or enervated, it can be extremely difficult to have the desire to get better, because it takes work. Types of therapy and medication can help you to help yourself, but – and I learnt this the hard way – they can’t do it all: that’s down to you. That being said, however, there will always, always be people there to listen to and support you – you deserve health, you deserve happiness, and, possibly above all, you deserve hope. As always, if you ever (and I mean ever!) need someone to talk to, then you can drop me an email or Twitter DM, and I’ll reply as quickly as possible!

The biggest change I’ve made to my daily routine is definitely waking up earlier – I’m usually out of bed for 5.30am on a weekday, and about 7am on a weekend – but the massive difference I’ve noticed can’t solely be attributed to messing with my alarm clock: that by itself would probably just make me grumpy! After I’ve forced my eyes open and stretched out my ridiculously long limbs, I always make sure to throw back the covers and leave the cosy cave of duvets and pillows that my somnolent self crafted expertly the night before behind. The very notion sounds horrifying, doesn’t it?! Masochistic, even – and perhaps it is – but I can promise you, hand on heart, that your feet hitting the floor for the first time will ground, focus and calm you. The thing is, as fantastic as snuggling down and hitting snooze sounds, you’ll end up feeling worse for it; if you fall asleep again after your alarm has first woken you, it is almost definite that its second blaring will interrupt your sleep cycle, thereby causing you to feel more – yes, more – tired, and essentially setting you up to fail before you’ve even left the house!

When I was at my worst, yoga and meditation seemed like pointless exercises, only useful for those people with perfectly polished and put-together lives – Whenever someone mentioned in passing the concept of mindful breathing or holding a child’s pose, I’d conjure up an image of a tanned, athletic-looking woman in her twenties sitting on a mat next to a bottle of water and an açai bowl in the lotus position, with her naturally blonde hair pulled back into a loose bun, her eyes closed and her hands upturned, with the middle finger and thumb pressed lightly together. The reality is so much different, however; to me, meditation looks like sitting in my pyjamas with my legs crossed and shoulders relaxed, with an Honest Guys track playing in the background and (most likely) a thick blanket draped across my knees. Yoga is also personified in my mind as a sleepy not-quite-adult cracking her bones before slowly extending herself out into a Cobra, or straining to stretch her hamstrings just that little bit more… In short, you don’t have to be an Instagram model or fitness blogger to fall in love with yoga and meditation: you just have to be willing to give it a try. Honestly, it does wonders for my mental health – I feel less anxious, more energetic and just generally more capable of taking on the day; even if I know it’s going to be a tough one, I find myself consciously and deliberately focusing on the positives as opposed to the negatives. At school, I now have permission to put my earphones in during lessons if I find myself becoming overwhelmed so that I can listen to some calming music or a guided meditation track for five minutes to calm me down while I focus on my breathing, which also helps an enormous amount – if this sounds good to you too, perhaps suggesting it to your head of year or even just a trusted teacher would be a good idea?

Now that I’m in Year 13, and – because of my disability – have to use a laptop or Braille device of some description every single day to complete my work, I often feel enervated and in need of a break from technology. Luckily, however, this feeling has subsided slightly ever since I started walking to school with my friends on a morning, which can probably be attributed to the fact that I’m experiencing genuinely enjoyable social interaction, (mercifully) without a phone or iPad in sight. The exercise seems to invigorate me and – alongside yoga and meditation, of course! – really sets me up for the day by providing me with a brief escape of sorts. When my friends and I are walking, we’re free to laugh, gossip and, usually, moan about school, which is surprisingly cathartic so early on in the day! Exercise of any kind is obviously amazing, but exercise (even if, or especially if, it’s as light as walking) with others helps an awful lot: you may well be feeling ridiculously tired, but I promise that your body will appreciate you making the effort and, in the long run, you’ll feel much, much better for it. Drinking more water both during and after even the smallest amount of physical exertion will also help, especially if – like me – you don’t usually drink anything – no more dehydrated headaches and dry throats… Even the notion! Trust me, it’s fab. 

Reflectively, this most seems insanely short and a little dull, but I have a crazy amount of schoolwork to be getting on with so please forgive me – remember that you’re incredible, and deserve the absolute Earth.

Thank you always,

Grace

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The ‘Back To School’ Blues

Unlike the majority of other schools and colleges around the UK who have already begun the next academic year, my first proper day back at sixth form after the summer holidays isn’t until tomorrow, and to say that I’m apprehensive would be a massive understatement! Now, usually I don’t like to talk about super personal stuff on here, but I really need to find an outlet and I can’t think of another alternative: I don’t really feel able to talk to anyone about this – not today at least – and so moaning on my blog seems like the only reasonable solution. Sorry in advance for the probable rambling, nonsensical worrying and barrage of stress that will doubtless be heading your way if you continue reading this post (which you absolutely don’t have to, of course!).

I won’t go into specifics, but I had an incredibly tough time during Year Twelve due to enormous decline in my mental health; I ended up being really poorly and (although I’m now being supported in a plethora of ways), I’m not yet better – far from it, in fact. Despite my best efforts over the six week holidays, nothing much seems to be changing with regards to my self-sabotaging brain, which isn’t fun, let me tell you. Anyway, the point is that the next few months aren’t going to be easy, even without the inordinate amount of academic pressure that has, somehow, already started. The stress has been creeping up on me for a while now, and I’ve had a fair few solo crying sessions already, despite knowing that I have so many wonderful people who are there for me (including the amazing Maria – first mentioned here – who is just the sweetest person ever, and never fails to make me smile).

The thought of sitting in lessons, of doing homework, of revising, of all of it, fills me with dread. I used to love school – every morning, I’d wake up ready for the day ahead, triple check my bag and walk out of the house with a smile on my face; even if I didn’t feel great within myself, school always behaved as a sort of  escape from ‘real life’ – I would absorb myself in learning, filling in workbooks with almost obsessive precision, and even being excited for certain homework projects, such as creating exemplar leaflets for English or colourful posters for Science. I’m not entirely sure when that love of formal education stopped – I still promote equal schooling opportunities, and can’t imagine my life without some of my teachers, but I find myself dreading even the thought of getting out of bed at 6am, packing my bag and heading out of the door… Right now, even the notion of getting dressed, of eating breakfast, of sitting in a classroom for more than fifteen minutes, fills me with a horrible, throat-constricting anxiety. How am I supposed to learn if I can’t even stand the idea of walking downstairs, of interacting the people, of pretending to be okay?

In less than 24 hours, I will be back at school. In less than 24 hours, Year 13 will officially be under way. In less than 24 hours, I don’t know if I’ll be coping. In less than 24 hours, the summer is well and truly over. How on Earth do I deal with that? Maybe I won’t. Maybe I can’t. I don’t know about you, but I always feel so bad for talking about the way I feel, especially if it’s about school, because I feel as though I’m a huge burden, and am convinced that the other person considers me nothing more than a drama queen. But the sad truth is that most of my favourite teachers have either left or aren’t taking my class anymore, I’ll hardly be seeing Maria – who I adore and who helps me a ridiculous amount with everything, from academia to stress – as she’s so busy with other pupils in different locations, I haven’t seen the majority of my friends all summer, the workload is bound to be incredibly high and – on top of all this – my mental health is showing approximately zero signs of improving.

Are any of you going back to school, college or sixth form this week? How are you feeling about it? If you’re down, anxious, excited or literally anything else, please feel free to leave me a comment, send me an email or DM me on Twitter! I’ll look forward to hearing how you’re all doing – remember, you’re fantastic and you can do this, regardless of what your brain is telling you.

Thank you always,

Grace

Somnolence

You tell me about the fading light, the late hour, the ink-dipped sky which has always been your home. I smile, pull the blanket more tightly around my shoulders. You remind me that we drank hot chocolate here, once, and screamed with nonsensical laughter at just about anything. You say that the drink burned your tongue, but that you continued to sip because it tasted just like liquified jewels. I whisper a Virginia Woolf quote into the night, and watch with bated breath as my words materialise, rise, flow and then fall, shattering into gossamer shards right in front of us: “You make me feel golden.”

You kiss me. You kiss me and I am safe again. Grounded, secure, comprehending. You pull me closer and bury your face in my hair. You tell me that it smells good, and then that your favourite scent in the whole world is satsuma, or perhaps tangerine. Mango works, too, and peach. You recite a verse or three about fruit, about blooming flowers and citrusy buds; I tell you that it reminds me of Keats’ ‘To Autumn’, and you return this with a grin, a nod, a murmur of acquiescence.

The skin where collarbone meets shoulder is warm and sweet – I inhale, exhale, inhale again. I have never been able to articulate your oh-so-familiar fragrance – fresh out of the shower, contentedly dreaming, wishing, wondering – only that it feels natural to breathe it in late at night, as though it were a Melatonin substitute. You yawn.

“Goodnight.” I grin.

“Goodnight, love,” you respond, pressing your lips briefly to my forehead before turning onto your side, “Sleep well.”

Random Facts About Me Q&A Tag

These questions were created (and answered, of course!) by Emma’s Jots, and I was tagged by the wonderful Megan Elizabeth. I nominate Elm, Kel, Violet, Jas and anyone else who wants to have a go! I’ll definitely look forward to seeing more posts of this nature in my feed – I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely nosey (in a nice, non-intrusive way don’t judge me), and so things like this are my absolute favourite. Enjoy!

1. When was the last time you cried?

Literally this morning; I’m currently reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini… Need I say more? It’s a seriously fantastic novel though, and I just adore the name Laila.

2. If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?

I don’t know actually – I’m essentially the most annoying human on planet Earth, so perhaps not. Then again, I do have a pretty impressive (and rather extensive) mug collection which, as my friend, I would regularly be able to take advantage of (without having to worry about washing up either – BONUS!). This question is more difficult than I expected to be honest; am I allowed to say ‘maybe’?

3. Do you use sarcasm a lot?

Me? Never. Wow, that was truly an original and hilarious response – I’m sure nobody else thought of that one, go me!

4. What’s the first thing you notice about people?

Okay, here’s where I sound like an absolute creep: the first thing I notice about somebody is always how they smell. Whenever I think someone’s perfume is particularly nice, I’ll tell them, which usually ends in them backing away cautiously. One time, I complimented a particular scent that Maria – who I talk about in this post – was wearing, only to discover that perfume gives her headaches and she never wears it, so it was just her natural smell which she christened ‘Eau de *Her Real Name*’ thereafter. She still hasn’t let me live that one down.

5. Scary movie or happy endings?

Most of the time, I find scary movies absolutely hilarious (oops), but I’m definitely a sucker for a happy ending. Nothing makes my lil heart flutter like a painfully-obvious-from-the-beginning cinematographic conclusion!

6. Favourite smells?

I was thinking about doing a separate post on my top cruelty free perfume and body spray picks, so let me know if you’d like to see that. Aside from artificial scents, then, I adore cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, chai/oriental spiced tea leaves, freshly squeezed orange juice, lime (just fruit in general really – especially peaches!), woodsmoke and petrichor.

7. What is the furthest you’ve ever been away from home?

By myself? London. With a group of blindies? Barcelona. Con mi familia? Egypt (side note: I miss you, waiter guy who was just the sweetest!).

8. Do you have any special talents?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I wish.

9. Where were you born?

I was born in a hospital very close to my old house – it’s in the north of England, I’ll give you that much!

10. What are your hobbies?

I love reading (side note: should I start doing book reviews on here/Goodreads?), and writing too – mainly poetry, but also small prosaic passages, some of which I’ve posted on here if you’d like to check them out! I’m hoping to get back into trampolining after an extensive break (we’ll see how that one goes!), and I’d definitely like to continue spending time in obscure, independent cafés with my friends!

11. What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I wanted to be first an actress, then a teacher. After a brief interim of aiming to be a Psychologist, I reverted back to the idea of teaching (university students as opposed to school-age pupils, however), and that’s where I am currently. Of course, like almost everybody, I have dreams of becoming an author, a poet, of having my novels and anthologies line the shelves of bookshops but that will never realistically happen, much to my disappointment.

12. How many countries have you been to?

6??? I think???

13. What was your favourite/worst subject at school?

My favourite subject was and will always be English (particularly as, over the last four years, I’ve had three genuinely incredible teachers, one of whom I was lucky enough to be taught by from Year Nine to Year Eleven!), and my worst subject, well… I ended up not doing half of them, because of my sight loss and the difficulties both my school and I had adapting to it initially, but – of the few I did do – Maths was probably my least favourite in terms of its content, but I adored my teachers. Physics ended up becoming the most horrible lesson in my final year, to the point where I stopped going to class and did the work separately. Fun times.

14. What is your favourite drink?

This is too difficult – I can’t pick just one! Tea, of course, is high up on my list, but I also adore hot chocolate, peach juice, chai lattes from Costa, Fanta Lemon, passion fruit mojitos hot milk with honey.

15. What would you, or have you, named your kids?

I’ve wanted children ever since I can remember, and have had their names planned for a good while, now, too (my future partner doesn’t get a say apparently… Oops): Ivy-Mae, Lila Jane and Albie Robert are definitely my top picks, but I also adore names such as Kai, Belle, Aziza, Poppy, Luca, Eliza and Sonny. Not that I have an enormous document of my favourite names just in case, or anything… Nope. That would be weird.

16. Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?

I’m loving Shane Dawson’s content at the minute, but I’m also obsessed with Georgia Marie and Eleanor Neale’s true crime videos.

17. How many boyfriends have you had?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

18. Favourite memory from your childhood?

Oh, there are so many: watching Casualty and eating a ‘tray of treats’ with my grandparents; horse riding; Tuesday video nights with my cousins; sleepovers with my three primary school best friends; eating banana with crushed flake scattered atop it and barbecued at my auntie’s house; reading every single book in my primary school library; singing and dancing across the school field with my friends; writing stories on Fridays for the first hour of the school day… I’m getting all nostalgic now!

19. How would you describe your fashion sense?

Tragic, but attempting not to be. A bit like my life, to be hones- I mean, uh, yeah. It’s okay.

20. Tell us one of your bad habits.

I overthink absolutely everything constantly, and it means that I say no to a lot of things because I’m petrified that the people there either hate me already or will learn to soon after meeting me. It also means that I’m quite stressed a lot of the time, and the skin around my nails is a complete mess because I don’t stop biting it!

Well, that was a rollercoaster, wasn’t it?! I hope you liked it, though, and that you do it on your blog if you feel like it. If you do, let me know and I’ll give it a read!

Thank you always,

Grace

You Matter.

This post is for those of you who have experienced periods of bad mental health in any capacity, for any length of time. Perhaps you’ve recovered, and perhaps you haven’t; you may have relapsed just this morning or maybe you’re celebrating a year without self harm, a week without a panic attack, the medical breakthrough you’ve been waiting for. Whatever your circumstances may be, this post is for you – for you, and for your loved ones.

Believe it or not, you are enough. You are so much more than enough, actually: you’re you, and that is beautiful, idiosyncratic, necessary. You are you, and you deserve to be here, to thrive, to dream and to hope and to learn. You deserve to read a book, to write a song, to treat yourself to an early night, just this once. No matter how alone you may feel, there will always be people who care, people who need you and people who will make the effort to prove you wrong whenever you say that you’re unimportant, irrelevant, or irrevocably damaged. There is hope, because you are here, you are living, breathing, moving. You are here, you are present and you are wanted, needed, loved.

You have the world at your feet, a brimful of potential in your cup and future sparkling in your eyes. Believe it or not, you have already made an impact, and can continue to do so forever. When you forget that there are reasons to smile, or even to survive, remember that you have the ability to change lives, to alter perceptions, to make a difference. When you can’t get out of bed, when you feel ostracised and abandoned, when everything feels as though it is falling apart around you, remember that you are a capable, multifaceted and wholly unique human being, and that nothing would be the same without you here. When you forget who you are, what you love and why you’re still breathing, when nothing makes sense and you’re scarily overwhelmed, when you’re losing control and unsure of how to cope anymore, remember that this will pass. It doesn’t feel that way right now, but I promise you, this will pass. I promise that this is transient, ephemeral, fleeting; I promise that there will always be a shoulder to cry on, arms to hold you, voices to soothe you, and I promise that these will help. Eventually, these will help.

If your family and friends don’t seem to understand why you’ve changed so much lately, or what’s making you so quiet, then show them this, and perhaps – just perhaps – they’ll understand a little more.

The person showing you this isn’t overdramatic, acting out for some reason or just ‘a little bit sad from time to time’. They cannot help being swallowed by first the mania and then the depression, it is not their fault they’re sick after eating, don’t blame them for being scared – they can’t help it. They are mentally ill. They might have Depression, Anxiety or Bipolar Disorder, they might have Schizophrenia or BPD or DID or Agoraphobia – they may suffer from Anorexia, Orthorexia, Bulimia, Psychosis, Depersonalisation, PTSD… They could be struggling with any number of demons: this is them, reaching out to you. I know you’re trying your best; I know you’re worried, but please don’t let that manifest itself in anger and resentment. Be kind. Help whenever and wherever you can. You might just save a life.

If any of you at all need to talk to someone, please feel free to DM me on Twitter or email me any time, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Whatever you’re going through right now – as petrifying or terrible as it may seem – will come to an end. I swear it will. Please don’t be afraid to reach out to your parents, siblings, friends, teachers…. Anyone who can lend an ear, with some tissues and the occasional biscuit thrown in for good measure. Take care, seriously. You know where I am if you need me.

Thank you always,

Grace

The Shapeshifting Wineglass

It occurred to me the other day, as I was handed a simple drink of fresh orange juice in a not-so-simple vessel, that wineglasses have the almost inexplicable ability to make everything better. You see, if someone gives you some water in an ordinary, cylindrical glass, you will accept it and, indeed, drink the aforementioned liquid – potentially even with some relish.  If someone gives you some water in a delicate, sparkling wineglass, however, you will bring the beverage to your lips carefully and take the softest, most tender of sips, whilst chatting animatedly with friends or colleagues about politics, gardening or some other such hobby. Also, the latter version of the drink will most likely be served with ice and a slice of lemon, adding yet more elegance and class to the whole affair.

Whilst it is true that wineglasses were designed for the very purpose that their name suggests, they are in no way inhibited by their title – don’t you see? The possibilities are endless! I intend to start a movement, nay, a rebellion, so that the satisfyingly crafted, translucent chalice can receive the recognition that it truly deserves.

After all, what other object fits into your hand so perfectly? Whether your fingers be splayed, cupped or wrapped, this particular piece of glassware will never fail you; I guarantee it. Whether you be drinking orange juice, as I was when the epiphany blessed me with its presence, Coca Cola, water or even wine, you will find that the finely shaped base, the slim handle and the deep curve meant to accommodate a hefty amount of liquid will instantly transform you into the sleek professional you’ve always wanted to be. Pretty nifty, isn’t it?

Actually, it’s quite the trick to have up your sleeve – a wineglass. Picture this, you see someone swigging vodka straight from the bottle, stumbling about and murmuring to themselves incoherently. Now, imagine that that person is drinking the same drink, but this time, from a wineglass. You will feel your emotions turn from disgust to pity; you will stop being appalled and start asking if they need you to call anyone (to which they will respond with an almighty sob and an autobiographical account of their miserable life up to press, but there’s no need to get into the nitty gritty of it all now, is there?). Regardless of this somewhat unlikely – shall we say – analogy, I’m sure that you understand my point. Perhaps if I didn’t spend so much time thinking about various beverage-holders, I might have reached it quicker…

Conclusively, I will say only this: if you can offer an alternative – yet sensible and convincing nonetheless – opinion to the one expressed in these lines, then you are, quite frankly, a mythical creature for no real person or thing would ever dare to disrespect the glorious and inspiring creation that is the wineglass.

What do you think? Feel free to sound off in the comments section, but only if you agree with absolutely every point I’ve made here…

Thank you always,

Grace

Rainy Jazz and Daffodil Hands

Part I

The sound of rain on the window is constant, comforting, a cathartic cadence  creating cacophonous conciertos just for me. Cinnamon dances in the slightly stuffy air, waltzing alone but not lonely in smokey tendrils around my head, neck, arms and hands. It, like everything at the moment, is too warm, too close to be comfortable, not refreshing or new in the slightest. It burns. Too hot to be chai, too near to be contentment, too obscure to be anything other than a fleeting thought, a passing whim.

I blow the candle out.

The cup of tea beside me is tepid, and I imagine it shivering, curled up beneath a thick blanket that looks strangely like the one folded at the foot of my bed. I pick the mug up and hold it to my chest. Miles Davis is playing in the background, making way for first Ella Fitzgerald, and then Louis Armstrong, and then the both of them together. The tea is flat cold now. I know this because I tried to drink it, but soon realised that it wasn’t refreshing or new enough; it loved autumn too much to be anything other than winter.

Part II  

Cool beneath my fingers, the glass seems to move, to curve, to accommodate my cheek, which is pressed up against it. My knees are just beneath my chin, and my arms are wrapped around them. I am leaning slightly to one side, so as not to fall from the windowsill, and I pretend to look out onto the street below me. I pretend that everybody else’s houses have crumbled, turned to dust in the searing heat. I can feel the sun on my face, and – for a minute – I panic that my house is going to collapse, too. Then, I remember that this is all in my head, and start to pick at the peeling strip of paint next to my left foot. As I do, my breathing quickens because what if this is somebody’s home? What if there are thousands of little people running away from my prying fingers? I stop picking at the paint.

I am sitting in the garden, but I don’t know quite how I got here. Maybe I flew. Maybe I opened my window and stood on my roof, arms spread as if nailed to a crucifix. Maybe I jumped, and soared, and doubled back on myself a hundred times. Or, maybe, I walked here. That notion is less appealing, so I shrug it off and imagine myself gliding through the air, pushing past the humidity and the heat without a second thought.

I leave my head again and I can feel water on my face. I wipe it away, but that only makes it come faster, like a tidal wave, or a waterfall. Yet, I reach out and it isn’t raining and the water on my face is salty and confusing. Perplexed and abrupt, I stand. I am still crying and I don’t have any shoes on. The grass is colder than the sky, but only a tiny bit, and so that’s still not cold enough. I want to go back inside, to return to my world of spice and solidarity, where everything has a place and nothing is nonsensical, only uncomfortable. My feet don’t want to move, so I think myself plane, bird, anything other than girl. I think myself rocket and starship and unidentified flying object, I think myself superhero and villain, cloud, breeze, falling leaf.

Part III

Yellow is an underrated colour. Yellow is new and refreshing and daffodil. Daffodil is summer and summer is supposed to be better than winter. It is August. It is yellow. I am walking and the grass is too long – it hasn’t been cut in months and I like the way it half tickles, half itches the tops of my thighs. A nettle stings me, but I don’t mind. It doesn’t hurt enough for me to mind. I sit down in the long grass and trace my now bumpy, irritated skin with my fingers.

I wish I were yellow. I wish I were daffodil: blossoming; unfurling; feeling. Then, I think that maybe – if I were yellow – I would taste like fresh lemonade and iced coffee and daffodils. Maybe – if I were yellow – I wouldn’t be so blue, so red, so vibrant. Maybe – if I were yellow – I would be sweet candy apple, mellow in eye, spirit and step, maybe – if I were yellow – I would be better, just like summer is supposed to be.

Thank you always

Grace

Pain – An Art Form

Many a great person has said it before me; oftentimes, the most amazing pieces of art, be they paintings, anthologies, albums or any other creative outlets, are the products of a troubled mind, or minds. Despite this knowledge residing in the dusty, cavernous depths of my subconscious seemingly for years, it was only foregrounded a week or so ago when I found myself singing along (tunelessly, yet enthusiastically nevertheless) to an Amy Whinehouse song that was playing on the radio. As I listened to her smokey, anguished voice gliding effortlessly atop the soft guitar, almost accidentally ensconcing the fingered chords and heartbreaking lyrics with her jazzy riffs and impressive key changes, I recalled the precise moment I was told of her death.

Up until that point, I had been an avid fan of hers, but was only half-aware of her issues with substance abuse and history of tumultuous relationships, due to it not being entirely appropriate to expose me to such things at a young age. I was aware, however, that she had dealt with certain difficulties throughout her tragically short life. The only thought (or, more aptly, naive question) pervading my confused, deeply saddened mind was, ‘How could someone so talented, with the whole world at their feet, possibly be damaged in any way?’.

Retrospectively, I can see that it would have been more bewildering if Amy had been a self-assured, untroubled individual, somehow able to produce beautiful, relatable songs about love, drugs and a combination of the two, whilst also having a healthy relationship, a mortgage and a circle of equally polished friends to return home to after a lengthy UK tour. You see, those who have experienced heartache, loss or any other such emotion consistently throughout their lives appear to be some of the most creative, intelligent and refreshingly idiosyncratic people of all time.

Take Van Gough, for example, one of the most famous artists in the world – he was damaged, in pain yet impassioned whilst painting. In fact, he was so tortured by his own thoughts that he cut off his own ear. Can you even imagine being in that amount of agony? Could you seriously hurt yourself so terribly, so irrevocably? I couldn’t. Despite the tragedy that was his state of mind, the products of his toils were among the most awe-inspiring, intricate pieces of his time. Actually, not just of his time, but of all time.

Although Vincent and Amy (first name basis – how presumptuous of me) both created vastly different forms of art, they – and many others besides – have one thing in common. They were both in an awful lot of pain, and expressed it through creative means. Hence, I can conclude with absolute certainty that art and damaged souls are (and will continue to be) extremely closely linked.

What do you think? Do you know anyone, or – if not – do you know of anyone who could relate to this post? If so, where are the similarities between them and the two people I’ve chosen to write about here?

Thank you always,

Grace

Lost People

The air is cool against my skin, undulating to the rhythm of my cautious steps and kissing my exposed arms as if it were a lover, tenderly calming my erratic, panicked and passionate frame. In some ways, it is heavy, oppressive, like the arms of a stranger wrapping around your waist in a smokey bar, despite you telling them “No” enough times for them to know that what they’re doing is wrong. In others, this gentle, but reckless nonetheless, ambiance is too delicate, too fragile, too diaphanous and lovely to be uncomfortable.

I revel in it, despite the conflict raging ceaselessly on in my mind. The chill, the evening’s lips, the bumps on my skin that rise and fall with my heartbeat. All of it. It is not often I can walk like this; it is not often I can forget about everything and just walk.

My hair whips at my face and I brush it away absently. A dog barks. Once, twice, thrice. It falls silent after a minute or two, and I am almost disappointed with the quiet. Almost. To distract myself from my unavoidable isolation, I veer off my path, into and across a rustling expanse of grass, and sit abruptly. I don’t know where I am, or how far away the tarmac is from my current resting-place. I don’t care. I fall backwards with a smile and a sigh, laying amongst the flowers and weeds and soil that are dancing in the dusky half-light. Or perhaps the sky is dressed in a crepuscular gown, gliding down a curved staircase with a certain, inexplicable elegance and poise. Alternatively, it could be bathing in dew and dawn and that strange kind of hopefulness that morning brings. I wouldn’t know. Not that I’d care if I did.

I lose track of time when I’m here, only half-lucid, tucked up in the Earth as if it’s a quilt, reminiscing on all of those lost people I will probably never see again. I call them ‘lost people’ in my head not because I have lost them, but because they have lost me, or – more aptly – forgotten me. ⠠⠚ like the grass beneath me, I am but a temporary fixture in their lives, and, just like the sky above me, they are, will always be, permanent, even when I don’t want them to be. Speaking of the sky, perhaps it really is dark now. Perhaps I really should go home. Or, perhaps, I don’t care enough to either leave or contemplate it. Perhaps, I don’t want to.

Thank you always,

Grace

Grief Isn’t Beautiful

Often – particularly in films and television shows – when somebody dies, we hear slow, melancholy violins in the background, nothing from the archetypal, strong men and soft, demure sobs from the women. The grieving process is depicted as short-lived; everyone seems to get over their bereavement once the funeral has passed, causing it to feel like nothing really ever happened in the first place, and that’s just not how it is in real life.

In real life, the pain ebbs and flows like the tide: at times it is calm, a dull ache in your chest, others, it doesn’t touch you for days. When it does cast out its long, ethereal fingers, however, grief is the tsunami, the avalanche, the landslide. Grief is the epiphany, the realisation that a myriad of ‘first’s have already passed without your loved one, and the sinking knowledge that there are a million more to come. Grief is still texting their number, and staying awake all night waiting for a reply that will never arrive. ⠠⠛⠗⠊⠑⠋ is the breaking of the brothers and the grandfathers, the accidental equality that suffering forces upon us. Grief is ugly crying, hunched over and alone at 4pm on a Wednesday afternoon, and grief is not easy. It is not poetic (as much as we try to make it so), it is not pretty or romantic, and it most certainly does not end the day after the funeral.

The films, the television shows and even the books have got it wrong. Grief is not a fairytale, or a cinematic masterpiece. Grief is personal, mentally isolating, and exhausting. Grief is a plethora of things, and absolutely none of them so much as pertain to beauty.

So, if you’re grieving for any reason whatsoever, be it a death, the end of a relationship (romantic or otherwise, because friendships can hurt you too), the loss of a part of yourself, just know that – as much as you feel it – you are not alone. If you can’t think of a single person that you’d like to talk to or confide in then, if you feel comfortable doing so, my email inbox is always open. Losing anyone or anything at all can change you irrevocably, and it’s difficult to articulate that change, especially when you’re still going through the process. Yet, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you for feeling, well, anything. Everyone handles these things in their own way, and you should never be ashamed of yourself for thoughts you have, or emotions you can’t quite make sense of. It’s horrible, and painful, and a thousand other inexplicable things, but it’s natural. That may sound patronising, but it’s true. Talking about your feelings can be incredibly cathartic, and it might help to relieve you of some of the negative emotions you’ve been carrying around – even if all you do is rant about the misrepresentation of grief in the media.

Thank you always,

Grace