Re; Rejection

So here it is, the follow up post to my post on rejection. Two weeks into January I was actually panicking I would have nothing to say to you, which is a strange feeling because rejection was what I had avoided for my entire life and now I was trying to get rejected and coming up a bit blank. I had asked a guy out and he had said yes, only for me to end it, I had proposed three PhD’s to supervisors and got two accepted and one I decided before I got rejected that I would decline it anyway so the rejection didn’t hurt at all. I was honestly worried that there would be nothing to say about it, but as the end of January rolled round, the magic started; I had two instances of rejection. I am not going to go into them; lets just say one romantic and one PhD related. I am going to give the disclaimer that the romantic* one wasn’t proper rejection but for the sake of the blog post lets roll with it. The PhD one hurt like a bitch though, I cried more for that PhD than I have over most break ups.

I don’t regret putting myself out there, I would have regretted more not being honest, not going for things, and never knowing or never gaining the experience. I feel, in the least dramatic way possible, that a lack of rejection in my life has exacerbated my inability to face it, but actually when you stand head on, it is not that bad. It is like getting into cold sea, dipping your toe in is excruciating, but once you are fully submerged, it is not that bad. I have also learnt that 99% of it is bruised ego, and well, that is something that people (including me) should get over. I also, through asking for honest feedback on the PhD application, I will learn things that will strengthen my next application if I do apply for more, and I have learnt a little bit more about where I need to be in order to be a doctoral candidate, and that is not a bad thing.

Rejection reminds me of my fear of needles, I hate them, I hate having blood taken, I am one of those people who goes white and shakes when they put the needle within a foot of me, I am a total baby. I always have to sit on the edge of the nurses bed, large eyed and trying not to pant afterwards. Once when I was in hospital, about 17, already in a tonne of pain, a nurse came over and told me it was time for bloods, I immediately welled up, no, I was already in so much pain, no more. He told me to look away from the needle, about a minute later after some prodding and rattling he asked ‘did that hurt?’, ‘no’ I replied, pretty sure he had done nothing, again a minute later; ‘did that hurt?’, ‘no’, and again a minute later, ‘no’. ‘Well,’ he said ‘It is all done, I took the blood’. I looked around in total astonishment to see the vials of blood, the slightly distended vain and the smiling nurse, it shocked me, needles don’t really hurt, it was all in my mind. The work up and the nerves before getting rejected is so much worse than the event. I think because we are expecting to get booted from the tribe, or publicly humiliated, but in actuality it is rarely the case, and if it is, you really need to think about the situation you are putting yourself in. If a person humiliates you for asking them out see it as a win they didn’t say yes, cos that person is a dick.

So here is my theory, we flinch so hard away from emotional pain that we hold it up as the worst thing that can ever happen to us, it terrifies us, and no wonder, we are bombarded by the idea of rejection being a catastrophe in tv and movies, in romantic movies you always get what you want. We imagine it as agonising, life ending, but in reality, most of the time we are putting off a little bit of pain for no reason but fear. We stay in relationships for fear of what is outside them, single because we can’t face asking people out, in jobs for fear of not being good at anything else, in lives because we fear change. I used to hold to the theory that I would rather not get hurt, and protected myself from lots of things because I could get hurt, you can’t fail if you never tried, but you also can never succeed.

lalal

Again, thanks Laura.

Secondly, the thing that will strengthen you against rejection is having a strong sense of self away from the judgement and opinions of others. If you base your self worth on what other people think of you, or in comparison to others, you are going to be miserable when you feel that the acceptance you seek is not given, but if you hold true to the idea that the only person who you have to live with, impress and have the wholehearted love of is yourself, then rejection becomes so much easier. Rejections sting is a lot less severe when you feel that your sense of being has been compromised by not getting the person/job/opportunity you want. This doesn’t mean that rejection is not going to hurt, it is just not going to be as traumatic, it would be weird if you asked someone out and they said no, and you felt nothing, that when you went for your dream job and didn’t get it you barely flinched.  It is just about having a sense of perspective on it. Being happy with yourself is a long journey that most people never fully win, but you can start and try^. I feel like if the self acceptance journey is a novel, I am on chapter two, and maybe by the time I am 40 I will be on chapter 4, and some people have read the novel twice, and some people think the novel is boring and refuse to read it, and this metaphor is bowing under the pressure. Look it is not a race, it is a journey, that you can chose not to take, do your thing. 

Also, you are not defined by your ability to date/have sex/be in a monogamous relationship, and being in a relationship is not a superior situation to being single, and the sooner that you see both situations as equal** the sooner you will be happy, and the less shitty situations you will get yourself into. If you see yourself as enough, and appreciate the life you have, not waiting to start when you find a significant other, the better you will feel. Find a person (or persons) who compliments your life, and in the mean time be enough for yourself, be so great and so fabulous that you never settle for anything less than you are worth.

(^Says the cis gendered, white, able bodied girl. And let me disclaimer this; the path of acceptance is not an equal one, as much as I wish it was, it will be so much harder to accept yourself if you don’t fall into what society finds acceptable, and I can’t comment on that; so here are some links to some amazing people who can. I hope you find your path. 

Transgender and self acceptance

Disability and self acceptance

LGBT and self acceptance

Women of Colour and self acceptance 

corgi-treadmill-o

THE END

On a totally different note. I feel like this is the end of my journey as a mental health blogger, I wrote my first ever blog on this site about feeling a lack of acceptance and my last is about accepting myself. I am really grateful for all of you who have read, told me your stories and smiled and commiserated with me. I am so glad of all the people I have met through yoga, through this blog and their blogs, and all the people who love me and who I love. Why is this the end? Firstly, I am in a fairly good place with my mental health right now, I have even conquered one of the biggies for me and stopped biting my nails, and I feel like I am very close to becoming preachy. Secondly; I just feel like I need to take my journey offline and go live the life of a yoga minded veggie hippy I have found myself to be in the last year (*shrugs* no shame), I absolutely refuse to say the quote ‘find myself’ but I guess, I am off to go try accept myself. I also want to find time to work on other projects and other writing, maybe, if I am very lucky, a PhD or job. Anyone paying attention (to be honest probably too much attention) may have noticed my step down off public platforms recently, the reduction of the sharing (I said reduction, not extinction, hush), and it is because I want to do the cliched thing, and work on myself offline. Here I go, off to go work on me for perhaps the first time in my life, privately, but make sure I tell everyone about it first, naturally.

In parting, I wish everyone who has ever read this blog the best, you are all amazing, wonderful people, and in the words of Jimmy Eats World:

Live right now, yeah, just be yourself.
It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else

Here are some more beautiful words from amazing people that have helped me on bad days:

‘you are complex and important and worthy of love’ -John Green

‘be gentle with yourself, you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars; you have a right to be here’ – Max Ehrman

‘Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver or gold’- Bob Marley

‘To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance’ Oscar Wilde

‘You will face many defeats in your life, but never let yourself be defeated’ Maya Angelou

And finally;

Charlie Brown

*Long story but lets just say I am very much better out of that one!

** I am having a single BALL right now. WOOOOOOO. Friend dates and freedom.

***

Having depression and anxiety is never easy. It has been two years of blogging, and my adult life searching, I feel like I am here, for now, feeling good much more than feeling bad.  Thank you to everyone who has been there, and those who are still here, to everyone who I have or ever will cry on, or will cry on me. To everyone who has egged me on, believed in me, cheered me up and hugged me, and to everyone I have the pleasure of believing in and being there for.  

 

 

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Rejection

I have written about some fairly tough subjects on here, so honestly I am not sure anyone is going to believe that this was the hardest to write, because it just makes me cringe. So cringe I wrote this before Christmas and I have just being sitting on it.

Rejection. And my total and utter flaming huge massive fear of it.

I mean, Harry Potter can battle Lord Voldemort, time turn, and face dragons but this is his face when he asks a girl out:

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Which makes me feel vaguely better about the whole thing.

When I was younger, my answer to being fearful of rejection was tequila, and you could just avoid real life rejection by being not doing much risky things. No one cares if you tried to snog that guy and he said ‘uhm no’ if you have had booze, not even you. And the next day when you are laid sipping water in your bed, you can laugh and pretend it is all cool. But at 26 years old, the fear of asking someone out sober is starting to effect my life; I want to be able to ask someone out like an adult. Also I want to be able to handle the real life, real world rejection from things like jobs and opportunities, and apparently it is not cool to go to job interviews drunk*

Tequilla

Why is it so scary? Why is rejection so terrifying? Well rejection is felt as physiological pain, so much that pain killers actually alleviate feelings over rejection. It is an evolutionary reaction to being ‘abandoned by the tribe’ or rejected by a mate, designed so we would avoid it, so it is anxiety inducing and pain inducing.This explains why I am definitely not alone in an avid fear of rejection. And as much as it is funny to think about this in terms of dating and mating, it is actually a serious issue that permeates our lives, and is very tied into imposter syndrome, people (including me) short shoot themselves in their lives rather than knowing they are worth something, and that sometimes rejection is just part of getting there. The most intelligent people in the world have not got the job they went for, the prettiest have been rejected by people, the loveliest have fallen for someone who didn’t fall back.

I remembered recently that I used to have an awful crippling fear of making new friends, like not the first time I met them (being a chatty cat this has always been cool), just the bit in the middle when you have to ask them if they want to hang out, cos who would want to hang out with me? But now I don’t care and am the girl who is always trying to drag people I half know to the pub or for tea, and I have made amazing friends in 2015 thanks to this carefully worked on confidence.

There is two things in life I am a firm believer in; faking it ’til you make it. and I will not let stupid men be better at something than me, so if I can watch men hit on women with wild abandon and total fearlessness, I can do it; I might shake with fear the first time I get rejected, and I might cry, but the next time it will be less scary.

If 2014 was the year I got over the fear of making friends, and 2015 was the year I found my headspace by learning how to stand on my head, 2016 is going to be the year I learn to be rejected. I am going to crack it this year by getting rejected by everyone and everything. I am going to shamelessly write to professors who didn’t email back to my PhD applications and ask them specifically why I didn’t get considered (this is good practice but scares me), repeatedly until they tell me out of pure irritation. I am going to ask people out with such wild abandon it may be considered harassing behaviour**, and I am going to audition for something I don’t stand a cats chance in hell of getting, maybe a choir (I sing like a cat with a cold). 2016 is the year when I give less of a fuck about being rejected. I am going to be able to be less like Harry and more like George***. And I am going to write about it, because FUCK IT WHY NOT?

I don’t have any grand revelations for you right now, I am going to work on it for a month, and sometime in February, I will update you on how it went. Wish me luck.

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*JOKING potential future employers.

**OK maybe not.

*** The references are for you Laura, always be more George.

Impostor Syndrome; Posing As Me.

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I think one of the reason we love movies that involve swapping into another body, a child miraculously becoming adult overnight and similar is because everyone at some point in their life feels like that they are in a place that they don’t deserve to be, or in a place where they are expected to be doing something that they are unsure that they can achieve. This feeling is called impostor syndrome.

The movies that portray the struggle of kids pushed into adult bodies and succeeding at adult life makes us have faith that we can too, that we can fake it until we make it in the adult world, because it is really not that rare to feel like an impostor in your own shoes at some point in your life.

I sat down at my desk today and I struggled to attend to the task I had set myself, frustrated and a bit fatigued by my attention failings (hilariously as I try to pull together a study on attentional bias) that familiar little voice in my head whispers ‘haha, remember last week when you thought you were successful, smart and pretty, oh my god that’s so embarrassing, you are such a fraud’, and it all spiraled from there. Although I am getting much better at not beating myself to a pulp emotionally on days like this, the feeling of being an impostor in my own shoes still overwhelms my brain sometimes. Weirdly, most in a time when I am actually getting somewhere and being successful.

Cats

Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you are not worthy of where you are in life, of being fraudulent in your place in life and usually comes with a perpetual fear of being ‘found out’, regardless of the evidence to the contrary; this paranoia of place continues.

Although impostor syndrome is usually associated with ‘intellectual’ success, I get it in all areas of my life, basically anything I can be proud of being, I can also have this intense fear that I am actually deluded and I am non of these things. I lay in bed thinking ‘what makes you think you are a good person?/Who would actually fancy you?/’Maybe you’re not funny?’ over and over again thinking of any time I have ever said anything good about myself to anyone and think ‘That is so embarrassing, they must have been laughing so hard’.

I think impostor syndrome is a result of a society that struggles to admit weakness or failure, meaning that everyone else feels like they are the only one who has failed. You rarely hear successful adults talk about the time that they had a meltdown because they thought they would never get a job, never write another book, were secretly shit at their job or even if they still feel like that. It is also a society that expects us to be good at everything; great career but shame about the personal life/looks/lack of a partner. The pressure is so high that we start to feel that if we are not holding it together in all areas of our lives at all times, we are a faker in all other parts of your life.

I have started closing my eyes and listing all the times I have heard about people I admire greatly talking about feeling like an impostor, I mean if the likes of Maya Angelou can feel like that, then it is perfectly understandable I do. If famous comedians can think that they are not funny, then it is perfectly acceptable that I occasionally think I am not funny*.

Observe to exist

So how can you manage impostor syndrome?

  1. Accept that you are where you are because of a mix of circumstance, a sprinkle of luck and hard work. Everyone is in different measures, you might get a job purely on being in the right place or knowing the right person, but so could anyone else, that is just life. Smile. Be grateful. Do your best.
  2. Acknowledge that if you feel like that, if you do realize you can’t do a job/hate it/find it too hard, failure is always an option. Honestly, most people will fail at something afailure-is-always-an-optiont some point in their life, and it is actually perfectly acceptable.
  3. Accept that your life doesn’t have to fit into some weird perception of success. You
    are not an impostor because one area of your life is going well while the other areas aren’t, it is actually very normal. Give yourself a break.
  4. No one knows how to ‘be an adult’, it is not a thing. Yes, I am sure that someone out there has it sorted in every way. Good for them, most of us don’t. Give yourself a break.
  5. I have no idea why I am giving you advice, I am such a mess.**
  6. Shake it off. Literally. Shake off the thought. You are not your thoughts, you don’t have to always listen to them like they are right. Here is a blog on intrusive thoughts and how to cope with them 🙂

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* I am funny.

** See

 

 

 

Why I am not ashamed to be SAD

Winter

** I AM BACK **

One of the most amazing and beautiful parts of standing up and saying “I have depression and anxiety” is the amazing people I have around me who can come to me and say “I am struggling”, and who I can go to as well. To them all I am so grateful, both for sharing their experiences with me and for giving me a safe space. This is why I am writing again, because within the last couple of weeks the amount of people who have reached out to me has increased, and so I want to talk about SAD; Seasonal Affective Disorder.

My depression and anxiety is more complex than a lack of sunshine, but on driech* Glasgow days, it can contribute to making me feel like my face is as frozen as my toes, and my mind is as dark as the encroaching nights. Not this time. My life is back on track, and I am not going to let the winter days mess this up for me, and in typical Elle-Oversharing way, I am going to talk about it as much as possible.

So what is winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder? It is the shorter winter days, lack of sun and cold weather contributing to existing depressive symptoms, or causing depression and or anxiety. It is one of the trivialised depressions, a bit like when saying to someone with severe anxiety that “you get anxious before x too”, and there is a difference between a dislike of winter,  and SAD. That said, the severity of the effect is different with everyone, and regardless of how much you are struggling, winter blues can be pretty damn depressing. It is caused by a mixture of behavioural changes that happen in winter (socialising less, feeling like we have less time), and chemical imbalances caused by less access to daylight, causing a disruption to our biological clocks (known as circadian rhythms) and imbalances in melatonin and serotonin in our bodies.

SAD can range from mild low mood, lethargy and increased eating to causing clinical depression. It can also range form mildly annoying to interrupting your day-to-day life. However it affects a person, it can lead to feeling like you have no control over your body and mind. It is important to talk about this as a serious issue, it is not just being grumpy in the winter, it is a serious issue that affects a large proportion of the population, and I feel like it can be ignored as a serious mental health issue. It can be very debilitating. We must care for our winter minds like you may care for your winter skin; you wear a coat to stop the cold hurting your body, time to start a winter self care regime so it doesn’t hurt your mind.

I don’t have an answer for making SAD go away, but we can start a discussion about, what works for you, what doesn’t and how it feels. Light therapy has been shown to reduce the symptoms of fatigue and low mood; and it doesn’t have to be expensive, you can get lights from as little as £30, which I know is not cheap, but if you can afford it; it certainly has the evidence behind it. I just invested in a SAD lamp and dawn stimulating alarm clock so I will keep you updated. Although I haven’t meticulously researched it (sorry) there is some evidence that SSRI’s and other anti depressants can also help.

As most of you know, I am a total yoga nerd, but there is evidence that exercise can help with SAD. For me, yoga is as much about seeing people having a community and being able to come to the mat as you are as the actual bit where I try to balance on my hands, and I am eternally grateful to Laura McCrimmon (is there any Glasgow yogi that isn’t?) and the Kali Collective, and anyone who has been my mat friend** for being my yoga family and making my days better, you are eternally supportive. I am sure that having any community (from university societies to reading groups) can help with the winter blues. As for excercise; you don’t have to yoga, today I danced around to my kitchen headphones in to Taylor Swift (Shake off the winter blues) and it made me feel great. I personally think that, for me, it is the social isolation due to not bumming around parks and generally hanging out for longer. The Danish have fabulous practise of hygge, snuggling up with your friends and eating and drinking, and to be honest I want to do so much! I really feel for all you out there who are getting the winter blues, but as with other mental health issues; I think the thing we need is community, people to say ‘I feel so blue’ and that be ok, to have people to lean on and to be leaned on too, so I am here to say it again, loud and proud; life is not always rosy, and there is nothing wrong with being depressed, it has happened to the majority of humans at some point.

If you have ways to cope that you want to share, feel free to do so in the comments below, or come chat to me on facebook and twitter, I will never tire of people reaching out to talk to me. Warm your souls in the cold months!!

Here is some links too:

SADA 

Reddit SAD community 

NHS ‘What is SAD?’

*Scots for minging*** weather.

** Lorna, Jess, Clem, Jen, Paul, Claire, Grant, Becca, Laura, Steph, Holly, my lovely remote James (still my kula) and all you other people I could list all day.

*** I don’t know a non northern way to say that kids!

Class(ification) of 2014.

On January the 1st, remarkably less trashed than in previous years on this day, I awoke and looked on the various social media and general media in my life. Amidst the good wishes, embarrassing pictures, and the Facebook year retrospectives I noticed a trend towards classifying the previous year as amazingly super, or just something where you are wishing away the bells to click down to midnight.

I have spoken previously about compartmentalisation, and I do think the that the New Year count down is a brilliant way to say; ‘this is a new start, wipe the slate clean, last year no longer counts, it is done’, however the complete categorisation of years as bad or good, can miss the beauty and complexity of 365 days, in which I am sure you laughed, even if it was just the once.

What I am trying to say, perhaps slightly (or very) ineloquently, is that we seem to have a classification system for years. They were either good, or bad. On the 1st of January, or the 31st of December, we decide. Is it partying out the worst year ever ever with a ‘thank god for that’ theme? Or celebrating the fabulous end to an amazing year?

2014 was difficult, but it had amazing moments; I have a lovely house, I have made amazing friends in a city I love living in. I have found something I love doing; writing, and some people spend a lifetime without finding something they love to do. I am grateful for finding something that I enjoy doing, and may be able to make a career out of, and if not, then at least a hobby that helps some people and helps myself. I have taken active steps to making myself mentally healthier, including addressing my disordered eating, anxiety and fear of failure; I now like myself as a person, and accept the things I can not change. Have I become a zen goddess? No, I spent yesterday cry shopping for yoga outfits because I have put on weight recently and feel self conscious about it. Less than a month ago I burst into hysterical sobs on the phone to my boyfriend because I thought, for no apparent reason, that he was going to dump me. I have, however, come along way; I have put on weight and I am not attempting a crazy diet, or hysterically binge/purging. I am not in denial about my eating habits, whether complaining that I do eat whilst dropping pounds a week, or crying that I have no idea why I am putting on weight. I am getting there.

Classifying years based on the general overall theme of a year, you miss the moments of happiness, the small victories, the lessons learnt and fun had. In years that you deem as worthy, or amazing, you risk putting them up on a pedestal that is impossible to beat, and the next year either has to be fabulously amazingly fabulous, or disappointing draw on the precious last years festivities, that year becomes so rose tinted that you it becomes your best year ever, impossible to ever top.

Every year it seems more people appear on my timelines proclaiming their verdict on the previous year. “2014 will always be the year I got married and adopted my pet chimpanzee Carly”, “2014 was shite and if 2015 isn’t better I am going to kick puppies”. This is of course not to say that some people do not have every right to wish 2014, or a particular year adieu and welcome the transition to a new start, however, I would recommend that you spend some time thinking about the good things that happened last year. Was it really all bad?

Taking my (wants to remain anon) friend; last year she got dumped by a guy she had previously been planning on spending the rest of her life with, for another girl who was everything she worried about not being (thin/blonde/pretty/successful/bitch-queen-from-hell), shortly after she was made redundant in a spectacular display of twattery on her bosses behalf. And then she got the news her mum was very unwell. 2014 was a really rubbish year for her. Really really rubbish. But 2014 will also be the year she decided go back to uni and retrain, because she hated her old job anyway, and will also be the year that she discovered that her ex was a knob before they did something more permanent than get married/have a baby/buy a house together, and that is most definitely a very good thing. She also had the most amazing hair cut recently and is, despite her protestations, a stella hotty, despite not being blonde or thin, because that is possible capitalism.

This is a really disorganised blog, I am trying (badly) to say; every cloud may not have a silver lining, but life is not so black and white and I am sure your year wasn’t either. Unhelpful thinking is probably, in my humble opinion, the most pervasive and common thing that people do which can lead to depression, anxiety or emotional difficulty. It is the act of thinking something as a fact, or as a statement, that makes us think in a negative way.

Recently I have started meditating again, now I am not saying it will solve having depression (although there is evidence that it can be a helpful technique), and during my meditation recently, I have been thinking about clearing my mind of unhelpful thoughts. I use a meditative technique where I make a mental note of thought errors I have during the day and when I meditate I think about the reason why they are errors, think about replacing them with more balanced thought patterns. For example; taking my early example of shopping and feeling bad because I have put on weight, during mediation I would think about that; then about why it was a unhelpful thought pattern; Why does being overweight affect my body image? Is there a reason why I feel like this today? Then I concentrate on what I should be thinking ‘My body is amazing and unique’, ‘I am striving to the healthiest my body can be, and that is what I value more’, ‘I should strive to be happy, not strive to have a certain body’. The next time I look in the mirror and see my figure staring back, I will take a deep, belly breathe, and stare into the mirror and think these thoughts.

If you thought 2014  was the worst year to ever exist, write down all the times you can remember laughing. Remember all the times you did something cool, or interesting, or achieved something. If you thought 2014 was an amazeball rampage of solid happiness, sunshine and tequila shots, remember that it was worth remembering accurately, and not putting on a pedestal, or risk never reaching the giddy heights of 2001. And perhaps, if you do have a year that was the tops of the tops, try and remember a time when you cried the next time you cry, and remember, there is no sunshine without rain; especially if you live in the British Isles.

No

Trigger warning; abuse, rape, sexual abuse, discussions of mental health.

No is an interesting word. It’s tiny, one syllable, monosyllabic, short and so often, not sweet.

It’s sister yes, she is so much easier to say, the sweet lilt of her accepting tone elicits happiness in others, from when you say yes to a job, a task, a favour, sex, a relationship or a proposal, it is a word that favours happiness so much more than no. No. Won’t. Can’t. Shan’t. Words that are infused with disappointment, frustration, anger and betrayal. No. The word that can be the worst of all anxiety-inducing things to say; your mouth goes dry and you know for your sanity you need to say no, not do something for someone else, for yourself.

I spent most of this year campaigning for people to be brave and say yes, now I am fighting for myself to be brave and say no. To stand up for myself and not be a yes girl. I wear my yes badge, and I will say no. This revelation has happened to me before, however, I don’t think I ever explored (god bless therapy) the reason I find it hard to say no, what saying no means, and the different forms of consenting.

Learning to say no can be a huge step in learning to control your life and your emotions, to be honest it is still something I am pretty terrible at, I plan to say it, or plan to tell people I can’t do it anymore, and the words that tumble out are often yes’s, apologies, acceptances. The amount of times I have laid in bed, having just had a conversation with someone where I was meant to tell them ‘no’ or that their behaviour towards me has been unacceptable, but instead I have found words like ‘its ok’ or ‘never mind’ and ‘I understand’ coming out of my mouth. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, but if it is at the personal detriment to your wellbeing, it is masochistic.

The constant pressure you can place yourself under by being a yes person can be intense. You end up looking after others before yourself and that can be emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting. Fundamentally, yes people get easily taken advantage of. I have known many of them and I have seen it happen. One guy I dated when I was 17 was a prime example of this, he really liked me, I was very unstable, I would call him up at 8pm on a work night, and although he lived 30 miles away, I would ask him to come over, and he nearly always did. My reasoning at the time was he wanted to, or he wouldn’t. Now I look back on that relationship with complete shame, I had mercilessly taken advantage of a nice guy who just liked me too much, and was a yes guy. The last time I heard from him, he was happily in a relationship which seemed fair and balanced, and had an amazing life; and I am not so arrogant as to assume my 3 months of dickery (of which the 8pm calls were only the tip of the iceberg) caused any lasting ill effects.

No is just not a refusal to do something, it is also a refusal to accept something. No it is not ok, no you may not treat me this way, no, I deserve more. I wish Jack* had said ‘no Elle, I will not travel 30 miles down the motorway to entertain you, I don’t want to tonight’, just as I wish a million times I had said no to people.

Trigger warning: Rape. Teaching people about enthusiastic consent is a cornerstone of ensuring the demise of rape culture and ‘ambiguous’ situations. Enthusiastic consent is about getting the verbal, physical and continuing consent of a person to a sexual act. However, I feel that along with the teaching of enthusiastic consent, young people, especially vulnerable groups should be taught how to say no; meaningfully. Although I am not in favour of the drugs prohibition, I do not doubt that a lot of young people are not making an informed and conscious choice to take drugs, they are taking them because they do not know how to say no, and furthermore, that they do not need to quantify that word. People, especially women, the world over will have had sexual encounters which were as a result of not knowing how to say no. I know I have.

When I was a teenager, I was homeless, staying on peoples sofas and in peoples beds, I had just been dumped by a guy who I (idiotically) thought was my life. I was very emotionally unstable, I drank an insane amount of vodka along with others ‘things’, with my mates, a lot of whom were a lot older than me. One of the guys, about 8 years my senior, took me home. He should not, emphatically, have taken me home. I was 8 years his junior, in a bad place and smashed off my face. He was a in a position of trust, being an adult member of the youth group I was a member of, and regardless of everything, he should not have done it. I am sure I am going to anger some people by publishing this, but I have wanted to say it for about 5 years now, and as I reached the age he was when he took me home, I looked at the young people around me, and the conclusion in my mind was set. I didn’t say no, regardless, when I got to his house, I had changed my mind, but I had no idea how to say no. I didn’t really learn how to say no to sex until I was in my twenties.

I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but maybe if someone had sat me down and explained consent, and how to say no, to me in sexual education, instead of showing me terrifying pictures of STI’s and STD’s, I would have known how to say ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. End.

It feels brusque to move so quickly on to the next subject, however, there is no smooth way to switch subjects, so I am just going to do it. Emotional consent; maybe this is a new word, I can’t find much about it on the internet, to me emotional consent is giving people permission to act a certain way within your relationship, and your consent to this behaviour. This does not have to be within the confines of romantic relationships, it applies to work relationships, friendships and family. If someone does something to you, or treats you in a way you do not like, you have the right to withdraw the emotional consent to a person treating you that way. This seems confusing, so let me give you a (hypothetical) example; you have a friend who is always asking you to help them finish their essays in class, at first you do this happily; they are having a difficult time and you want to help them, however, it starts to become a burden on you, but you gave them help and you don’t know how to withdraw this help.

You have a right to withdraw the emotional consent that you gave them, you can say no. This no may be greeted by anger, sadness or panic on their behalf, but nevertheless you have a right to do it. This is a mild example, but it does apply to anything. Your emotional support, or emotional involvement with a person can be withdrawn, for any reason. The person you need to look after is yourself, and if someone is taking advantage, or asking you to do something that is outside of the realms of the relationship you asked for, you should be able to say no.

No is not just a word we can use to withdraw sexual consent, it is a word we should have a right to say to any situation that we don’t want to be in. In a lot of societies, there is a socially ingrained politeness that makes this hard, we should be there for people, shouldn’t we? Yes, but we should be there for people in a way that is manageable for ourselves, and links to our self care. You can not meaningfully help anyone if it is impacting on your own health and wellbeing, nor should you. Essentially, the withdrawal of emotional consent is important for everyone.

When was the last time you said no? No I will not come to work on my day off, it is not my job to save your arse. No I will not bail you out of jail again because you got drunk and decided to mount the famous Glasgow statue and steal it’s cone. No I will not cover your shift again so you can do uni work that you were meant to do two weeks ago and is due in tomorrow. No is a powerful word, and if you use it right, it can make everyone’s life better.

Accentuate the positive.

You tell em Chez

Days of rolling bad events are always the ones that end me. You know those days? The ones where your shoe breaks, someone at work drags on your last nerve, and home life is a disaster. The washing machine has packed in on the day you’ve run out of clean underwear, and you forgot to buy milk, so your wired on no breakfast and black coffee.

You wonder what in hells name you did to deserve this day, and want something to make it all just stop. The camel is there, it has a pre-existing back injury, and the straws are slowly piling on.

Something is going to have to give, and it might well be your sanity.

Like a toddler on a bouncy castle, having fun one moment, the rhythmic ride of life becomes  suddenly overwhelming, you lose your feet amid the jostling around you, and, in all the commotion, it seems it will be impossible to gain your feet and return to the fun, steady rhythm you had before.

Regardless of the minuteness of each of the  seeming failings, it seems like the worst day of your entire fucking life, even if it is really clearly not.

Burnt toast leads to a late bus, and late bus leads to a workplace dressing down, and with each event, that dark cloud just  keeps billowing around you. I once wrote that depression is not a black dog, it’s a monster, that weighs on your back and whispers in your ear. The whisper becomes a roar. And the roar blocks out the world around you.

I can safely say that today, I had a bad day. I walked into my therapists* office already a hot mess of dark thoughts and angry feelings. Why does it all seem to go wrong in one failing pile of crap? As I tried my hardest not to be the whining client, listing the terribleness of my first-world problems (‘sometimes people act like I am not capable of standing up for myself/I had to walk to work/I have had 4 hours sleep/wa), but I ended up crying in the sheer frustration of the days tiny events.

My therapist is nothing short of a miracle worker, and is both soothing and not patronising, empathetic and not trite, and encouraging despite my many attempts to dissuade her of any competence on my part.She introduced to a technique: both seemingly simple and thus, probably not easy to instigate: Compartmentalisation.

You burnt your toast. It happens. Take a deep breath, draw a line under it, scrape the worst of it off and coat it in butter. It ain’t that bad.

Bus late? Everyone late sometimes, draw a line under it. Use the extra time to tweet about burnt toast.

Boss mad? Boss is boss, boss is always mad. Fuck boss. Text friend gun emojis in reference to boss. Move on.

Compartmentalise.

See everything as done when it is done. Stop seeing it as an omen of a bad day to come. Step onto the metaphorical bus, and when it’s doors shut, let the episode be left at the bus stop, and start again.

End of the day, bad day. Draw a deep bath, and a line under it. The rest of the day can be better. And if not, there is always tomorrow.

So it might be simple. It might not be life changing. But if it can be day changing, maybe that is enough. If it can teach me, and maybe you, to give ourselves a break, and try again, maybe it is worth trying.

The obvious flaw in the plan is if you have some stella bad news, and can’t draw a line under things that are actually life altering, but for now, and for just bad days, maybe this will help. I definitely need to stop dancing on the edge of my last nerve, wondering at what point I will break and scream ‘oh won’t you all fuck the fuck off’ in the middle of work/life/someplace equally awkward because someone has tipped me over the edge.

Life is not a series of catastrophes if you don’t let it be. When me and my fellow mental health blogger babe Jessica (@jessicardctd) were drinking cocktails, we spoke about a quote that we both found oddly comforting; ‘the universe is neither benign or hostile, merely indifferent’. No one is planning for you to have a bad day, it’s just a series of unfortunate events. You should check out her blog, if you haven’t already.

There are two parts of this self care plan: the second being; accentuate the positive. Hair look great? Boss give you a compliment on your work? Have an empty inbox at the end of your day? Got a good grade? Feel good? Wallow in it. Take deep and heady gulps of the smallest successes. Tomorrow, when the bus turns up on time, wriggle in your seat in the sweet and tiny joy that you will be on time. Seat on the tube? Bask in the joy of not spending your journey nuzzled into a strangers armpit. Whatever makes a day good, or an hour good, or brings a smile to your face, let it envelope you like a bright, silver lined cloud. My editor and babe friend Lisa Luxx posted a this short video on Prowl House’s Instagram, about waking and spending time with yourself before you indulge the modern world; have breakfast and peer bleary eyed into your day before you face it.

At the end of my session, my therapist asked me, ‘what has gone right today’ and I replied; ‘considering the intermittent Glaswegian rain, and my Criss-crossing the west end for meetings, I have managed to stay dry all day.’ Any Scottish resident reader will surely concur that, in Scotland, that’s something to celebrate.

I left my therapist office ready to give it a go. Draw a line under the bad and revel in the good. Will it work? I guess only trying will tell. And everything is worth a try.On the way home, it rained, and as my umbrella turned inside out, collapsed and left me stranded in the Glasgow elements, I laughed, at least I’d remembered to program the heating.

*i feel so luvvy saying that, but it’s the good ol’ NHS that has provided me with her.