My Brain Can’t Handle the Future

When I actually post this, I’ll be in the middle of wandering round stalls that different universities are at – over 150 of them – with one of my teaching assistants, not socialising with other people because of it, panicking at the sheer amount of unis and, as usual, having a minature crisis about what the hell I’m going to do. Really, I should have at least an idea by now…

For context, I’m in year 12, studying my AS levels – they’re History, English Literature and Psychology so after having dropped French around two weeks ago, I’m doing 3 which is much better for my mental health. I’m also blind, which heaps a bunch of stress onto me: not only tomorrow – today technically but I’m writing this the night before – will I have to think about universities, but I’ll also have to think about whether they can meet my needs. Wooo, sometimes being disabled is a tad inconvenient at times.

There are some things which I know. After I finish Year 13, I want to take a year out to increase my independence at what I nickname “blind college”; I’m already making preparations to start that process, having planned over a month ago to go and visit there in the Easter holidays. In my mind, it’s set in stone as I have to consider how I’d actually survive studying, plus looking after my health: even if I feel worried about being ‘left behind’, there are more important things for me.

The next few years are kind of blurry. I know I want to do a three year ‘undergraduate course – if I get into uni – and that I want to be on a campus rather than having Lectures and things like that spread across a huge area like a city. Where and what course is still a mystery to me; I was searching things up earlier today and stressing so much because there were too many options, to which I got a headache and couldn’t do much.

English is my passion, and always has been; I love both reading and writing: creating ideas but also seeing how others create theirs. That’s the thing: I don’t think I could do either exclusively because I’m indecisive and need a variety. However, anything not related to English might bore me: I could do History but that might make me despise it; if I do journalism or media, I’d most likely realise that wasn’t the career path I wanted. At my heart, I don’t think journalism is for me, although I’d love to work in publishing. I’m keeping my options open.

So, English it is, but what? English Literature would be great but I don’t know if I love it enough to do it on its own. I want to combine the two things I love – reading and writing – to do a degree that I want to do; I think that’s one of the most important things. I’m either going with English Lit and Lang, or English Lit and Creative Writing. I have no idea if I should do a combined course but what I do know is that only doing one thing can leave me feeling stifled.

With the former, I know that it would get me good employment and it’s got high qualifications, ordinarily, that you’d need to meet to start the course – I think I can do that. I’m just worried I’d bail halfway through or realise that language was dull, despite me being fascinated with how language has transformed, both spoken and in the written text. With the latter, I adore creative writing but I’m not sure if I’m good enough; I haven’t been writing much recently except on here and the occasional poems but that’s certainly not dedication to it. As well as that, I don’t know if it’s as prestigious as Lit and Lang; I know that I’d love it but I have to balance with getting a new job because employment figures for disabled people worry me and I want to have a good job – is that shallow? I don’t know.

Not only that, but there’s the issue of where to go. If I manage to select the course I want to do, there’s also balancing which unis are good for it – the qualification is a BA Honours for most courses and I’m just terrified that I’d pick the wrong uni. I think that I’m overthinking as usual but it’s so important that I get good results and balance that with my mental health and happiness because if I’m miserable, what will I achieve? I kind of feel overwhelmed.

I know that there are a thousand people I can talk to, both blind and sighted, who can help me with every aspect of it. Going to open days is a big priority, along with getting advice from people at school, people at the universities itself and friends. How will I know which advice to take? How will I know what’s right, what’s good for me and how do I connect with my emotions and worries enough to do that?

Tomorrow, I’m going to be okay but I may be even more tense than usual. I just want to sort out my life but I also have to deal with A-Levels, the history coursework I’ve barely started and unpleasant feelings of stupid guilt to keep my health in check.

If you’re thinking along the same lines as me then do let me know; if you also know of any good unis for English especially, as well as open days, then drop me a message. We can go through this together because this is a huge step for the majority of people around my age.

From Elm 🙂

My Body is My Own

One of the only times I truly appreciated myself, how I looked, the way I stood and how a smile felt on my face – was at my Prom in June. That, and when I kissed someone, but the latter was more of an affirmation that I was attractive and not a failure at ‘romance’.

I’m not some great beauty, some kind of princess or queen because if anyone called me that, I’d laugh in their face and ask them to list every positive physical attribute I had, interrupt them halfway through because I was laughing too hard and then refuse to let them continue. Or… Perhaps I’d be so shocked that I’d accidentally hug them. So, that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Even so, I don’t lord myself as someone who’s immensely attractive: I know my flaws, often get insecure about them, but at the end of the day if someone judges me on them, it’s their problem. I learnt today that I didn’t hate my body – not like I thought I would. My flaws, for once, didn’t bother me.

My stepmother bought a bunch of clothes for me today, to prepare for something I’m doing tomorrow which means I won’t be at school. After the disaster of yesterday, where I felt like a puppet because I was made to try on clothes of hers because I had no appropriate ones of my own, I was all set to be furious when I came back from school. I hate it when people buy things for me, especially if I wasn’t told before, because I need to be in control of what I wear and how comfortable I feel in my own skin. Often, I feel as if people control that without realising, and I don’t speak up to stop it.

I was waiting to snap, to feel disgusting like I did yesterday, to want to take every little part of my body and rip it apart. I was expecting to have the world crowd in on me. That time didn’t come.

My stepmother showed me the clothes – it probably helped that we started with shoes and they fit, which meant that my mind immediately quietened because not many shoes fit me that look nice. I laughed, joked around, did stupid poses and barely got annoyed when I couldn’t stand how she wanted me to.

For me, it was a shock. I’m used to criticising myself, to saying “NO – you look awful; no one thinks you look okay and you know you feel bad in your body. Who’d want to appreciate you, seeming as you can’t do it yourself?” I wasn’t angry; in fact, I revelled in knowing I had clothes which I liked. Yes, it would have been better had I bought them myself, but I’m still figuring out what kind of style I like – HA, I’m hopeless with fashion!

Today was a rather steep learning curve for me. I don’t like my body necessarily, but I don’t despise it. What people think of me – whether they want to kiss me or not if I have a certain bloody type of top on – doesn’t matter. If someone truly cares for me, they won’t give a crap what I wear. The age old saying, “It’s what’s on the inside that matters,” really applies here.

You aren’t somehow less for liking to wear different things. Your body is not Unattractive, and only you can have enough faith in yourself to tell yourself that. So many people can tell you you’re beautiful, but if you don’t truly believe that in your heart, you’ll continue to think you’re ugly. I can’t see you, even if you were right in front of me, but bloody anyone can be beautiful to themselves if they believe it. I will never see myself in the mirror, but does that mean I can tell myself I don’t look attrocious? Yes. I can still do it, heedless of the fact I don’t understand what a face truly looks like.

Don’t believe me? One day, when you’re strong enough, when you can, find things about your body you like. List them, without any negative adjectives because realistically it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you feel miserable with your appearance, no amount of makeup oR product can change that. If you hate your body, the only way to improve it is to realise: “I’m not hideous. To myself I’m not, and fuck what other people think.”

I’m nowhere near perfect because I always find ways to critique myself, but I’m working on it. I have over 40 photos of me on my phone right now, which is more than I’ve ever had at once, and I refuse to call myself narcissistic. It’s one step at a time and that one step, today, was feeling happy enough with myself to take control of my body, because it’s mine. It’s not anyone else’s to judge, to own, to comment on: I literally own it, and you own yours. Don’t forget that, when you feel like everything’s getting too much.

From Elm 🙂

Should you Do Something Even if You Hate It?

Yesterday was a great day: I felt positive, happy, did work (understood my psychology and history) and I was held up by the thought that for the whole day, I’d felt alive and like I was in control. Recently – and by that I mean for the past few months – I’ve steadily been feeling less connected with my emotions; numb, if you will; growing slowly more unfeeling and scared because of it. Yesterday was a change from that.

Today started off the same – a bit dulled – but it was still alright. I had great conversations with Swan, felt passionate about Othello and English and laughed in Psychology with the new, casual friends I’ve made.

That shattered, at lunch, for one reason: French.

“I fucking hate it.” “God, I wish I’d done Philosophy, or Politics instead.” “If I could go back and change my options, I honestly would – I know loads of people say that but I mean this.” “I’m not passionate about it any more.” “I can’t do it – I just can’t – I want to cry whenever I think about it.” “I love the concept of it – languages are amazing – but studying it sucks the energy out of me and I hate myself for it.” These are all things I’ve been saying about the subject, with more and more insistance, increasing in frequency after the soul-destroying disaster that was my mock.

Today I broke down over it – it was like the final straw. I do Peer Mentoring for this lovely girl a few years younger than me, but I couldn’t do it this lunch. It was partly because I felt shit, but also because I’m tired, confused, and I feel ill, but that’s a whole other story. I hope that she’s okay; I feel rubbish for not talking to her because she might have needed my help nd.

I went to the VI unit – building for visually impaired people where they prepare our work – told the teacher who helps me find my Mentee’s form room that I just couldn’t do it because of stress, and then opened up to her about the french problem. They all knew I was stressed, that I disliked french, but today was the day I truly told them how I felt. After that teacher left, I explained how awful I felt to the teacher who prepares my French work, and one of the other teachers there. Then, I cried through my words, just feeling guilty and hollow.

Essentially, I don’t think I can carry on with French, even to the AS exam. Every time I think about that subject, I panic, cry and don’t do the work. Not doing the work makes me panic so much that I then can’t do it, but there are other reasons.

In French, we study a film. I’m blind, and can’t see enough at all to, well, read the subtitles. The film’s in French, English but also Spanish (which I have no idea how to speak apart from some simple phrases). It would be bad enough if I just didn’t understand what was going on scenery-wise, but not only did my dad have to try and explain what was going on with that as well, he had to translate a few key passages using the subtitles. Plenty of VI people have done french and other languages for A-Level, but I’m just bad, and my mental health was low anyway. That sounds like some fucking stupid excuse.

How do I explain this? Right, so imagine you’re blindfolded and you have to listen to something. It’s in a foreign language, a few English words scattered here and there but mostly in a different language. You watch it with your dad and you think “Okay, I think I get the plot?” You watch it with your class and a funny scene comes up; they laugh, and it takes you 10 minutes to get the context of the joke, understand it, and then understand why it’s relevant. The teacher tells you, “Here are some filming techniques!” Oh great, you think, but what does that mean? Why? You find out the plot, have to learn it and then someone in your class says, “Remember when the main character did that?” Did what, and when was that, and when was the significance of that, and oh god oh god oh god!

When I write about this film, I write what people tell me to write. Either because I’m incapable or because of partly the blindness, coming up with good points based on scenery, characters or anything like that is a struggle. I just don’t understand it, and writing, reading, listening or anything has turned into a chore, something I dread, and it ultimately makes me hate myself because I convince myself I’m some sort of failure.

It’s not only that: the workload is awful. I do three other essay subjects, and they’ve all been affected because French takes up my time, and I always stress I’m just not doing enough. This year has been the worst, academically and personally, for me; my enthusiasm has gone, my mental health is unpleasant, I feel like crap all the time and I can’t seem to shake a feeling of worthlessness. I only wish I’d caught this at the start of the year but at the start of the year, I was much happier.

My friend Laurel, who sits next to me in French, found me after class today as it was the end of the day. She’s also thinking of dropping it, and we walked down the corridor, as I was trying to explain an abbreviated version of how I felt. The wind, as we walked outside, threw my hair around and we stood facing each other, she patting my arm as we said goodbye because she could hear the deadness in my voice.

The thought of going to french lessons makes me feel sick. When I come out the classroom, usually I’m upset, or dead inside – as I am right now, numbed to it. I got so stressed about the speaking exam and how I hadn’t prepared for the practice one that I bent my fingers back, twisting my wrists and gasping for air, trying to tell myself I was fine, that I was just being pathetic.

I can’t do it any more, and I’m gripped with this awful desperation. If I continue with this, I’ll break down, cry even more than I have, and I’m just scared of slipping even further down the crap health ladder. Then again, am I making this out to be worse than it is? If I drop it, will everyone hate me?

I’m speaking to a more senior staff member tomorrow, because I’m too nervous of talking to the french teachers. They’re amazing people and I adore them, but if I explain it to them, they’ll try and convince me to stay. They’ll give great arguments, or say, “Just stick it out to your exam!” I genuinely don’t know if I can do that, but if I told them, they’d convince me I could and then I’d get even worse, because I’d have to prove something.

Pros of dropping French:
I’ll be happier
There’ll be less stress
I can concentrate on the subjects I want to carry on with
I’ll have more time for myself
I may hate myself less

Cons of dropping French:
My french teachers and otherteachers will be disappointed in me
It looks like I’m giving up after having not tried it
I’ll lose credability for not carrying it through to the end
I may regret the decision
My friends and everyone else could think I’m a failure
I do enjoy the idea of French

As I sit in my bedroom, hands shaking and feeling cold all over, I ask myself this question: is it worth feeling this miserable, panicking constantly and worrying, for something that won’t affect your future much after you do it? Is it all really worth it if everything else is being brought down by it? Is it too late? I don’t know. I don’t think it is, and that’s terrifying.

From Elm 🙂

Adventures on So-Called “Blind Camp”

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m very unfit and don’t do much exercise. Err, make that two.

As a result, blind camp – not actual camping but I call it that because it’s usually a bunch of blind and VI people, plus volunteers, doing activities that are exhausting – nearly killed me, but nothing has ever been more worth it.

Perhaps “killed” is an exaggeration. Tired me out would be better, or caused my non-existent muscles to ache and for me, now, to be so sleepy that I have no filter on my words. Luckily I don’t have school tomorrow so I can sleep, but still; my eyes hurt and so do my arms.

I had been to the centre where it was taking place twice before: in January and February last year, the latter experience causing so much drama that it was almost but not quite funny. Because of that, I knew the place well, and it took a short while for me to stop getting lost, or other people lost. We arrived on Thursday around midday – the success and happiness of Wednesday had made it so that I felt less nervous than I thought I would: having that, feeling human and loved, gave me the confidence I needed to remember that I was okay, that people cared about me and that I did fit in there.

Traditionally, on these “blind camps”, we do quite a few activities – because I’ve been to so many, I’d done a lot before but it was still amazing to get new experiences. Contrary to my misleading nickname for it, we didn’t sleep in tents: we had rooms and it was indoors, with most activities being outdoors. Yes, it’s February and yes, it was cold, but trust me that even I wasn’t cold by the end of each one.

After we had arrived, done our usual screaming reunions with people we had met before and got introduced to those we haven’t, we did the classic unpacking, had “banter” with the volunteers and relaxed. I think that the people were the ones that made it for me – if it weren’t for certain people, I would have hated it.

Firstly, the fabulous L was there: he and I have met up more over the past year then in all other years combined, probably. Violet – a great friend of mine who I’d met first at a family weekend when I was 11 – was also there, and she and I had amazing conversations at 1 o’clock in the morning; she was my emotional rock in Paris, being there for me, as I try to be there for her. A girl who we’d met last year shared a room with us – she’s quite loud, but nice, and made me literally scream with laughter a few times. Lastly, my ex-girlfriend – I call her Rapunzel on here – was there on her first trip like this, and we were utterly inseparable throughout. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year, and so my legendary brutal hug was even more injuring this time, and I may or may not have – in the first 10 minutes of being with all of them – shouted “SHUT THE BLOODY HELL UP!” and screeched whilst laughing.

As I said, activities we did were physically taxing, but only for me because I have the energy levels of a 2 dimensional shape. After the relaxation, we jumped right in with rock climbing. It’s the only “sport” I’m not attrocious at, and I’m proud of myself that I managed to climb the wall fast, doing my terrible impression of a monkey/spider/over-eager little child. My hands were rubbed raw by rope – and by that I mean they were dried out – and I made a new friend whilst helping other people up the wall and making sure they didn’t fall. We moved straight onto archery, the only good thing about that being that I got an accidental bullseye on my first go. I actually remember how to shoot a bow which is shocking, and in between rounds of shooting arrows, I sat with the others. We made terrifying innuendos involving balloons, arrows and various other things, and that continued throughout the weekend: with us making the most inappropriate jokes, me taking the piss out of everyone and showcasing my newly corrupted (thanks to Sav and Mit) nature to people.

We watched a film in the evening, and just “chilled” – re-discovering that the showers were shit, going to bed too late which we subsequently repeated, later and later, the next two nights, and generally making far too much noise. The next day we did canoeing – yelling loudly in time to the oars going through the water, splashing people a little and floating down a lake. Afterwards, we did a thing called crate-stacking: climbing on a layer of crates, building a tower that you stand on as it gets higher and higher. It doesn’t sound difficult, but it wobbles more as you go up, and I was gripping onto Rapunzel and another boy for dear life, scream-swearing with the boundaries of personal space being obliterated. When the tower fell down – after I shoved the boy off by accident – it hit John, one of the volunteers. He’s one of my favourite people in existence: he was there when I cried my eyes out on the Eiffel Tower, which you can read about in this post – and it bruised him because he jumped in front of a volunteer and another boy; I still feel bad for that. It turned into a running thing, where he couldn’t do certain activities like caving the next day because of it.

In the afternoon, we did bushcraft: I set things on fire, used a saw and knife, wreaked of woodsmoke and first started to use the catchphrase “GOOD DRILLS!” – something that the cratestack-boy always says. When we got back in, I stabbed Rapunzel with a sword.

Of course, I mean I fenced – why would you ever suspect me of stabbing people? Hmmph. Anyway, the instructor helped me, and I was scared of hurting Rapunzel or scaring her, but I won the “match”. To protect our faces, we wore a visor which meant that the vision blurred into just nothing, and I got so tired by the end that I could barely think. Having a pizza for takeaway (Dominos is amazing) was a blessing, and even though I didn’t finish it, the evening of tears of laughter and the discovery that I hated the showers even more, more than made up for it.

Saturday was the most interesting day, I think. It started with abseiling – something, again, which I can do – and I’m telling you, abseiling down the inside of a tower whilst you can hear L singing is one of the funniest experiences ever. For the first time, I didn’t freak out whilst abseiling outside, and I ecstatically told John this when I reached the bottom. We next went into caves and crawled along tunnels. Nick – another volunteer – wore a blindfold and so there was only one fully sighted person in that cave system, who was the instructor. My hands were covered in cave shit, mud and dusty bits from the stones, but I loved it because it made me feel accomplished. After lunch I made this fabric swatch in textiles: it’s alternating electric blue, green and vibrant pink thread, is soft and is something I’m proud of because it’s (mostly) neat. I love being creative, and coming up with ideas; I felt as if I was happy doing that, even for the anger I experienced when I got something wrong. I calmed down though, even deviating from the rigid pattern I had originally planned to stick to. Eyyy I’m such a rebel!

For the last meal of the trip, we went to a pub. Okay okay, it sounds weird, but just bare with me. I dressed up. As in I made an effort with my appearance, actually straightening my hair and – yeah, I had to borrow everything from Rapunzel, but she being the patient and fabulous person she is, didn’t get pissed off and taught me how to be somewhat vaguely okay at makeup. Her sight’s much worse than mine, but she could see more before and so knows how to do it both with sight and without; she looked beautiful (I couldn’t see her but other people said so) and I trust her to help me because she actually cares about me – why, I don’t know. I wore a skirt, and top with velvet on it – the boy I made friends with at rock climbing had an awesome conversation with me about clothes and fabrics after dinner, whilst Rapunzel did L’s makeup.

During dinner itself, I felt unbelievably happy: John and I sat with Rapunzel and L, and I was actually crying whilst cackling at one point; R and I copied each other in what we ate, with John having about 500 portions of food. The other voluntiers were amazing in the activities too, and it’s such a relaxed atmosphere that for the most part, they don’t care what you say as long as it doesn’t upset anyone.

This morning – after having about 4 hours of sleep – we did zorbing, which is basically attempting to walk in a large blown-up ball on water. Violet and I had had great conversations the night before and so I was feeling positive, Rapunzel, L and I creating a “blind parody” to Closer by The Chainsmokers, and loudly performing children’s songs after we’d “walked on water”. It was time to pack after that – even though I’d packed before, I was paranoid I’d forgotten something, and spent ages in the room faffing around with my case.

Leaving was the only time I properly sobbed – I’m such a wimp honestly. I hate saying goodbye to people, and I really don’t know when I’ll see any of those people again: I love them to pieces and they made me so happy. Rapunzel and I were the last ones to leave, mainly because I’d made my mum wait for her mum, and I hugged all the volunteers goodbye (almost crying when John said he hated to see me cry).

It was a brilliant experience, because apart from some minor things, I didn’t hate myself. I felt loved, cared about and entirely comfortable yelling at people as a joke; there was no pretending, because I was presenting myself to people who didn’t have preconceived judgements about me or if they did, they were the judgements of my personality that were correct.

I felt alive, connected to myself, light and airy and full of vitality, like I was worth the effort to jump to the moon and back – like I was worth something. I felt human, and every time I hugged someone, or fake-danced, a little spark grew inside me that told me – “Hey, Elm, you have a personality and people can see that.” When I got home, I felt hopeless and dispondent, like I could scream because I missed that feeling. Being with everyone there gave me a purpose, something to do, an objective to work towards that I loved. Now, I feel really sad, but also happy and confused and filled with nostalgic memories.

I’ll bounce back. The little things – like the fact that walls and water are forever ruined for me, or that I found a huge pair of pants that were definitely not mine on my bed which I then proceeded to wear over my trousers whilst howling with laughter, will keep me going. I just felt that much more relaxed with those people, where I could express myself, than I feel here or at school.

I hope you didn’t mind reading that monstrously long post; I just wanted to summarise the few days I’ve had. They’ve been enlightening, and have given me a lot of lovely memories to savour.

From Elm 🙂

My Blindie Plans

I think I’ve finally sorted out a little segment of my future, after much deliberation – and yes it’s scary because I have regular panics over my life – but it’s about the little fact of my blindness. Lack of sight. Shit eyes. That, and what I want to do regarding certain things that come along with it.

I think – no, I know – that I want to get a Guide Dog. After years of internalised rebellion against that supposed “blind stereotype” – “HAHAHA you can just have a cane,” “You don’t want to be like all the other blind people, right?” and “Stop pletending that you can actually take care of one,” I’ve decided that all of that was ridiculous. At the end of the day, my independence is shocking and not just in my abilities, but in my confidence, and as much as some many people can get around with a cane fine, I don’t know if I’m one of those people. Maybe having a dog won’t change that, but it’s a far sight (ha ha ha) better than what I feel now whenever I have to walk in an unfamiliar place on my own.

I made contact with my local mobility team for Guide Dogs a few weeks ago, and they’re coming to my house on Monday to discuss my options. Maybe it won’t be the right thing for me, but I want to try; it’s a step I feel like I’d love to take because I’m sick of not doing anything and just floating along. Most people don’t actually know that this is going on, but on my blog I’m totally honest, and this is a reasonably big thing.

Another thing that’s pretty huge – simply because of the shift in my opinions – is the fact that I’m considering taking a year out after I finish A-Levels, before I go onto uni. Perhaps this deserves a whole post of its own, but I want to bundle it up with the rest of my updates.

There’s a college for the blind; I won’t say which but it’s pretty obvious which one it is if you’re blind or if you do research. A lot of people take a year out to go there, and my reason is that my independence is laughably bad. I have no confidence, I don’t know how to do most things, and there’s no bloody way I’ll be able to learn everything on top of studying and not breaking down mentally. Cooking, using basic appliances in the house and moving around with ease in places you don’t know – I can’t do that and it’s terrifying because if I don’t get my act together, I won’t manage university.

Because of that, I want to go to this college. It’s a proper establishment; A-Levels are taken there as well as mobility courses, and I just think I should take the initiative here because it’s my life, my happiness, my independence. I want to be the person I can be without worrying that I’ll look stupid, or inept, in any situation. I’m afraid that I’ll be left behind, because all my sighted friends will move on without me and go to uni, but to be honest it’s something I just have to get over. This is more important.

To attend, you have to get funding, and I’m worried that my local council won’t provide. It’s paranoia more than anything else, but I really want this. Considering that eghen a year ago, I was so against the idea of me going to so-called “blind college” that I’d get upset whenever anyone suggested it me, this change in opinion is kinda significant. I’ve grown up, matured, and realised that life exists outside my perception of things and that I shouldn’t be ashamed of that part of me. S moved to a different school for the blind this year and if he can do it, there’s nothing stopping me – and he learned to like it there I hope, and so can I.

Yet another thing is happening, though not so long-lasting. I’ve become involved in a campaign for young people with sight loss, and I’m going to a meeting tomorrow in the city near me. I’m nervous for that, mainly because I’m not used to my opinions being taken seriously – it sounds weird, but I’m scared that I’ll speak and no one will listen. I won’t know anyone there, I don’t think, though they’re all around my age; I’m not sure if it’s better to know people or to not. Hopefully, it’ll all go well, and I can feel like I’m doing some good rather than just slipping into the background.

In two weeks, I’m going to another blind camp with L which should be something interesting. Violet (a good friend of mine) will be there, and so will Rapunzel (my ex-girlfriend). I won’t be able to blog in that time, but mocks are coming up (I’ve done shit all revision) so that’s producing stress.

Those are all of my updates! I think that I’m taking measures to increase my independence, and for once, I’m not criticising myself for it. Above all, it’s me that has to be in control of this, and no matter what anyone says, I’m willing to be.

From Elm 🙂

Putting You in My Shoes

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I was going to write a post, explaining a situation that happened recently, but then I realised my words weren’t enough. I could tell you the events in detail, how I felt and what I think, but that’s just my word. I’ve already been through it with a few people, and so I’m too exhausted to explain exactly what happened – not least because I’m paranoid it’ll upset someone. Instead, I want to show you.

Whilst you’re reading this, I want you to really try and imagine the feelings. Step into the situation for a second, because it’s the only way that both you and I can understand it.

You came into the, what is to you, huge room with friends. They’re gone now. You don’t know where, but all you know is they’re gone, and it takes you a second to register that.

Oh, you don’t panic first of all. They’ve just lost you for a second – they thought you’d follow them, that you’d hear their voices and come over to them because you’re good at that, right? You didn’t, because it’s so loud. It’s so, so loud. They’ll come back – it’s just momentary – and anyway, someone will find you. Won’t they? You’re not here on your own; there are people, there are.

There’s the light from the window, and the break in between two windows. You can see that, and look – there’s the space where the benches aren’t. Are those shapes tables or people? There’s an open space in front of you, in between what must be benches, and to your left are some indistinct shapes. They must be people, but they’re not the right ones, because they’ve been standing there too long and they don’t speak to you but would they speak to you anyway? Maybe they are your friends, or maybe they aren’t, and you can’t ask them because you don’t know who they are.

It’s okay. You can just listen, listen – listen! If you listen hard enough, you can hear your friends. Are those them? You don’t know at all, and you’re disorientated now, because they could be anywhere. You can’t move, because you might bump into someone who doesn’t know you, and you can’t do that. They think you’re weird, and it’s embarrassing because you can’t do this. You need to grow up – you need to!

You’re taking deep breaths now, to try and calm yourself down – but there’s nothing to panic about! It’s fine; you’ll find them. But oh god, you’re going to be standing here until the end of break, and you’re alone too. You’re alone, and no one is here; they can’t see you. Their eyes aren’t pointing in your direction, and you can’t get their attention because you don’t know where they are. You can’t ask someone random to help, because you don’t have a clue who’s there, and you can’t be a burden on anyone. You’re going to be here, standing, until the bell rings and then what? How will you get out? How can you if the room’s so expansive?

You feel like you’re about to be sick, but it feels almost muted. You’re boiling, shaking, breaths getting shallower and shallower. Maybe if you cause a scene, someone will notice? They’ll find you? But no! If that happens, you’ll look pathetic, they’ll feel guilty when it’s not their fault and everybody will think of you as the helpless blind child. You can’t but you’re also finding it difficult to breathe. Are you doing this on purpose?

You’re turning your head now, because your eyes could be caught by one of your friends. You don’t even know why you’re doing it, because you can’t see and you’ll never see, but you can’t think straight either. Where are they? Where are you? You don’t know any more, and the voices around you are swelling; you don’t know what they’re saying. You have to be putting this on because you weren’t panicking earlier. You were fine! You need to be fine, think, think, think think think!

You are terrified. You are so scared, because they could be anywhere; they could even be right next to you but you’re too paralysed with worry to notice if they are. They don’t understand, but it’s not their fault because they can’t. You’re on your own, the only blind one in the school that feels this way. Alone, and it’s all you can think about, and you’re almost crying because there’s no one here and you feel like a child again. You remember primary school, where sometimes you were just there on the bench and no one else was, when your best friend wasn’t there because she was busy.

Someone’s come up to you, asking if you’re okay. Who are they? Their voice isn’t that familiar, but maybe it’s one of the new people, or maybe it’s someone you’ve never spoken to before. They noticed, but no no no, they want to help you find your friends. How can you let them do that? It would be mortifying, presented to them like a package, and you can’t. You say you’re fine, but your heart’s thumping, and you ask to get out out out. They know how to guide you, as you clutch their arm and gasp – are people looking? Do they want to help you? They must feel so awkward! God, you’re so scared, and where are you?

You found a friend, but you wanted to get out. Your vision feels like it’s blurring, and you absolutely can’t catch your breath. You’re out of the room now, crashing into a door – shit, where are you? You walk, and there are people, but they’re not the right people because the “right” people are together and laughing and seeing and not crying, because they can walk into a big room and go across it to anyone they like. You can’t.

A teacher finds you, someone that’s quite high up in the school, and your tears run faster because you don’t want this. You can’t make a scene, because people will say you’re blowing things out of proportion. You’re still afraid, saying you’re okay to him whilst tears splash down your face. When he leaves, you turn to the wall and sob and sob and sob, fingers pushing at the bricks, hunched over like a wounded animal because you’re alone, alone, alone.

When they find you, you tell one of the teachers that knows you the best what happened. All throughout, you can’t speak because you’re crying too hard, humiliated and miserable because you’re doing what you promised you wouldn’t. You’re telling people how you feel, and people that might tell your parents, and people that will think it’s bigger than it is. But you feel isolated and you can’t take it any more, no matter how pathetic it makes you feel.

Even for that, you’re petrified. You don’t want this any more. You avoid people, shaking, tears sliding down your cheeks when you remember just how fucking lonely you feel.

Your eyes hurt now. They’re widened, blinking sometimes more than usual, and it hurts. It shouldn’t be like this, at the age you are. Will it happen again?

You’re scared. You’re so, so scared, but you can’t do anything. It would be a little thing to anyone else, but you feel cold when you think about the icy fear you felt, and the sheer horror of feeling like an object, or like the anxious 11-year-old you once were, when you were shoved into an unfamiliar surrounding with people you’d never ever met before in your life, and just expected – expected to be okay. To be normal.

That’s just a little of what I’ve felt. I’m not trying to make you feel upset: rather, as I would want people to do to me, I’ve tried to let you understand something different: a little of what it’s like for one person who can’t see much, who’s put into a situation where they feel helpless, but where they’re too scared to do anything about it.

From Elm 🙂

Wise Old Elm


I’ve managed to acquire the nickname of “Grandma Elm” by certain members of the Blogosphere – not pointing any fingers or naming any names, of course. It’s a title that I now think is well-earned: partly because I break out into rants with sophisticated language, but also because, today, I actually scolded people younger than me.

I wasn’t having a good day. I had had to scrutinise some of my thoughts and beliefs at break, had convinced myself that my opinion was not worth listening to and that when I debated with someone, I was pathetic as all I did was argue, turn away and come up with irrelevant points, and so I was feeling irritated, and entirely in the mood where if someone did something to piss me off, I would be very angry. I’d already made someone upset (still haven’t apologised for that and I feel guilty and ashamed of how childish I acted), and that put me in an even worse mood, which most likely facilitated the out-of-character situation I found myself in later on in the day.

A quick lesson about my school: I’m blind, and my school’s got a unit for VI (visually impaired) people where teaching assistants adapt work for us. There are about 10 of us in there: I’m the oldest, and this post is going to refer to a girl in year 7, 3 boys in year 8 and the guy in the year below me. I like the teachers in the unit, but it’s always been a bit of a source of conflict for me. It’s only recently that I’ve stopped actively disliking the atmosphere there, mainly because in year 11, they helped me out a lot more than they could have, and I appreciate that.

Now, my relationship with the people in there is a bit rockier. The teachers are great people: one in particular used to support me in Maths and now she and I talk not like teacher and student, but equals; I’m not close with the others so much but I do respect them, even if I’ve had issues with them in the past. For some reason, with me being the oldest, I’ve been expected to and so taken it upon myself to… Attempt to help the others, especially the four younger ones, if they need help or if I arrogantly feel like they need my help.

It’s not like I’m above the other students, because the only thing that separates us is age. I go into the unit in the mornings because I get there early and have nothing to do, and usually talk to the year 7 girl whilst doing work. Two out of three of the year 8 boys listen to me if I go on one of my infamous lectures: I chat to them, and try not to sound too overbearing. I feel guilty whenever I call any of them out on something, because it’s like I’m acting like the reprimanding grandmother (see, that bloody nickname!) and to be honest, I don’t care if they like me or not at this point. I’m harsh with them, but I don’t think anyone’s going to talk to them like this (especially if they’re being offensive, as sometimes they are) and so I decided to.

Sometimes, I come in on lunchtimes – towards the end, when if I have to get something. I came in today to ask my favourite teacher if she could help me to collect the girl I Peer Mentor because her form room is an annoying place. Like pretty much every single time I’ve come in, 5 of them were in the back room; I heard them talking. Something snapped in me: not out of anger, but out of a sense that I needed to say something and it wasn’t my place to, but it was important to me.

“Miss, are they in there?”
“Yes, Elm.”
“Do they come in every lunchtime, pretty much – what are they doing?”
“It’s homework club today – and yes they do.”

The feeling grew, and because of my bad mood, I knew I’d say something.

I walked in there, said hi to them, listened to a tiny bit of their conversation, and then said this:
“So, are you guys in here every lunchtime, then?”
“Yeah – well not every lunchtime, but sometimes,” said one of them: I think one of the year 8 boys. I then did something which I don’t usually do, especially in the climate of the VI unit: I expressed myself plainly, passionately, without fear and absolutely refused to back down.

I told them, in no uncertain terms, that they should get outside. Perhaps it was different for them because every pouson is, but speaking from experience, I hate being viewed of as “the blind one”. It’s degrading, and whenever I have to come into the unit for a prolonged period of time, I feel out of place and not normal – like I’m simply blind and nothing else. Though they may not realise it, I don’t want them to experience that; I don’t want them to be in a situation where their classmates think of them as “those kids who just hang out in their building for people with low vision”.

If they’re shut up in that room for a fair few lunchtimes per week, they aren’t socialising with other people. They may not want to, but this is a mainstream school, and the VI unit is absolutely not their entire world, and shouldn’t be. They aren’t just friends with each other: they have plenty of friends, but they need to use their lunches and that as a time to be with them, and not to do homework in the unit: I’d have sympathy for them if I thought they were scared of socialising with other people, but every single one of them are outgoing and friendly, and one of the year 8 boys has such an interest in learning and people that he reminds me of myself back then.

There’s also the homework issue: if they keep on doing their homework in their lunches, they may have more free time at home, but they can’t get into that habit continuously. When they (the younger ones) get to GCSEs, they’ll thank everything in the world for their lunches because it’s a reprieve from working. Anyway, they need fresh air (even if it’s freezing right now) and to be surrounded by other people’s laughter. When I asked them, “Do you often do your homework at home?” they replied with an unsure “yes” and I felt genuine worry. I care about how well they do, because disability employment figures are shit enough as it is and we need to get the best education we can. I definitely got through to one of the year 8s on this point, and I’ll speak to him (more reasonably) tomorrow just to check he’s taking things on board.

I told them all this, very firmly. Teachers can only say “Get outside!” so many times, but I know that if I were in their position, I wouldn’t listen. It would have to take someone who was older, but young enough to understand, and I forced myself to be that person. I could have shown a lot more compassion, but the teachers had admitted that they’d been quite lenient with them before.

I walked out of there, most likely leaving them thinking “Who the hell is she to tell us where we can go?” and my favourite teachers said, “God Elm, I could hug you; thank you so much.”

I didn’t feel ashamed for saying what I thought, because I knew it would help them in the long run. Maybe I don’t understand them, but for once, I think that they’ll take my advice – or at least try to. I’m only there for another year and a half, and though I won’t be able to do much in that time, I can try and make them not be dependent on the unit because at the end of the day, it’s not a social area, or a substitute for your form or year: it’s a learning centre and I’m glad I saw that right from the beginning, otherwise my year-group would view me as even more of an outsider than I already do. Because I had no other VI people in my form, I had to make other friends, which makes me have this attitude.

I just want to help people in any way I can. I may appear abrupt at times, cynical or sarcastic to them, but being the oldest in there has kind of given me the (wrong) thought that I can act like that. It’s just one of the things I’m working on, but in the meantime, I want those teenagers – when they get older – to not feel like “the partially sighted ones” because they aren’t defined by their disability.

I’m not an inspiration, or even someone who’s methods should be admired: I do things how I see them, and am sometimes, argumentitive, defensive and closed off. But I know that I want to help people, and I shouldn’t be afraid of standing up and saying when I think something isn’t right, or when I don’t agree with something. You shouldn’t be scared, either.

Basically, I acted like an angry grandmother and screeched my opinions at them. It was… Strangely liberating.

From Elm 🙂

How I Survived Christmas

You know what the most stressful thing is? Juggling family politics without telling various members of the family, having breakdowns on my sister and pretending to be extremely drunk so that mum didn’t find out, becoming ‘tipsy’ and telling everyone in my contacts list that it was a placebo effect, and figuring out which presents I should take to which house based on which ones I like best.

For some reason, Christmas has always been an… Eventful time of year for all the family. On Christmas Eve, I went to my Grandma’s house and yesterday, I was at mum’s, and so I got two Christmas dinners – Swedish and English – and two sets of presents.

At Grandma’s, I was my usual anti-social moth: I was reading, shouting about memes with my cousin or bitching about some of my family members with my aunt and Grandma. I’d feel bad, but when I was speaking to my aunt, I told her about loads of my thought processes and came out to her as bi without freaking out. My aunt’s never been the most accepting sort – not like my dad – but she’s not bad at all, and I only got unbelievably pissed off with her once.

We stayed over on the 23rd and 24th, and I stayed inside on the latter day whilst my sister and dad went into town. There was my customary reading time, plus speaking with my Grandma and hugging her dog, Daphne, on several occasions. Once all of the family – and by that I mean sister, dad, aunt, cousin, grandma and dog – were in a vague state of togetherness, we had dinner.

When I was younger, I never really had much enthusiasm when eating Swedish food; it was like a chore and I complained so much that it irritated everyone. In the last three years, I’ve been much happier to try everything than I was previously. We had sill – which is sweet pickled herring; janssons – anchovies and potatoes which is the most glorious thing ever; meatballs, regular potatoes, ham and vegetables. It’s basically a part of my childhood, even if I didn’t eat it much when I was small because I was a little shit.

We’ve always opened our presents on Christmas Eve – at least at Grandma’s – because it’s what you do in Sweden. If it suddenly changed I wouldn’t be able to deal with it, but luckily, we sat down to open our presents and I would have fought with my cousin over who handed out the presents, but he was being an arse and couldn’t be bothered, and so it was me and my dad who did it.

In short, I was happy with what I got. That included two bottles of perfume +a few samples, two jumpers, a nice top, a skirt, a new hairbrush and toothbrush (my family appear to have caught onto the fact that I’m becoming more health-paranoid/conscious) and various other little items. I said on my Twitter that my dad got 6 bars of chocolate and my aunt got a Fitbit, which made me sob with laughter and my family didn’t understand why; my Grandma was obsessing over a cookery book she got and my cousin took my dad’s mini skateboard that my sister had bought for him. Nothing much happened after that, except me staying up too late and crying slightly because of my dismal excuse for emotions but that’s beside the point.

Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, yesterday was more eventful. We were dropped at mum’s – going halfway and being picked up by her – and I knew the instant we were out of dad’s car that my behaviour was going to be shit. I hate how I act around my mum sometimes because I can be horrible, which doesn’t help my mood.

We had English Christmas dinner, which was delicious. Before that, I had gone up to my room and read, answered texts and replied to emails, so I didn’t feel as stressed. I walked downstairs, surrounded by the scents of cooking, and tried to tell myself that I’d be fine and that I could act happy, because I was happy, right?

With the addition of one of mum’s friends, dinner wasn’t awkward. I didn’t complain or get annoyed, but I did have a bit of alcohol because it was Christmas. After dinner, like with Grandma’s, we opened our presents.

This is when things get a bit blurry, though it wasn’t because I’d drunk that much alcohol. Mum was drunk, and I hate it when she is because she tries too hard, and gets too erratic, and just never responds to what I say how I’d want her to. As we opened presents, I was happy, the smile not quite translating onto my face no matter how I tried. My presents were great: I got chocolate, a rug for my room and a fluffy pillow, all of which were cute. However, I steadily became more and more inwardly sad, and now that it’s over, I’ve figured out why.

Whenever I have the barest hint of alcohol, my mum thinks that it’s the end of the world, and treats me like a child. She always has treated me like I’m younger, and I know it’s because she gets nervous because I’m blind, but it’s majorly messed up my thoughts about independence because I panic whenever I think about it. It’s not her fault, but that’s a thought for another day. Last night, I asked mum’s friend if she thought that alcohol tolerance was affected by size of the person – she said yes – and I told her straight out that I didn’t want to feel stupid for having such a quick reaction to it. I don’t remember it all, mainly because afterwards I chose to block it out, but I do remember my mum saying loudly that my face was becoming red – something that’s common in our family which my sister has too – and telling me I should have water, and making tutting noises which made me feel so upset that I engaged her friend in conversation. She treated me like I was my age, not laughing or acting like I was pretending to be all grown up.

Then, I cried on my sister. She’d gone to the kitchen and I followed, my head starting to ring as I drank water. I was trembling so hard then that I had to sit down, and she was there – helping me, talking to me.

I can safely say that last night was the first time in about 2 years that I completely – and I mean completely broke down about having very little sight. It doesn’t bother me usually, but everything had been building up: my mental state, my mother, my negative thoughts about myself. My sister let me cry as I gripped onto her hands, telling her how not being able to have something was so difficult sometimes especially when you’ve never had the ability to know what it’s like. She held me and listened as I told her how I felt, barely able to speak at one point as I had an existential crisis. Usually, we don’t talk about that kind of thing but when we do, she listens to me.

After that whole thing happened, I was in no mood to socialise or to pretend. I spent a little more time with my family and then went upstairs, spoke to a few friends and managed to pour water all over myself. Deciding to tell that fact to L was probably a mistake because he laughed at me, and I think I sent a few nonsensical texts to people: firstly because I had a little bit of alcohol, but secondly because I wanted to cheer myself up by laughing. It worked, thank god.

All in all, I may not have felt altogether happy this Christmas, but it gave me a break which I needed. Now, I can start pulling myself together, though I had moments over the last two days where everything got too much and I remembered I was single, etc etc, which shouldn’t bother me since it’s been 2 months. Things like that aren’t always logical, though, and I’m becoming more okay.

How has your Christmas been, if you celebrate it?

From Elm 🙂

Seeing Properly Must be Fun

The title of this post will most likely make me sound like a bitter snowflake, but trust me when I say I’m not. I’m telling the truth: to be able to see properly must actually be pretty cool, but seeming as I never have been and never will be able to see, there’s no use in me dwelling on it.

Blindness is a tricky thing, mainly because I’m just one person. A lot of people sometimes think I can speak for the entirety of the non-sighted world which is horrifying and hilarious, when the truth is that I have one level of sight and my perceptions of it are different to so many others. Let me explain.

At the moment, I don’t particularly want to see; I’m too scared of the adjustment, and the eye condition I have can’t be improved with glasses or anything of the sort and so my view is that I’ve always accepted that, and so that shouldn’t change. However, so many other people want to see: those who’ve lost their sight, and those who were born like this. People want what they don’t and can’t have, and I can’t criticise anyone for that because in a way, I get it. Not losing something because I only had le sight for, what, two weeks when I was born, but the wanting and the realisation that no, you can’t see. Ever.

So, there are the people that lost sight and want to see, and I used to think that they should just live their lives. As much as I still think that, because anyone should try and live their lives, I know it can’t be easy. I can’t understand, not having lost it, but seriously to just lose a sense like that must be the worst thing. I mean, how can I understand it when I’ve never had anything like it? That’s why I no longer feel like I can give any sound advice to anyone who’s lost their sight because I’m worlds away from getting it and that makes me sad, because that’s a group of people I can’t help.

Then there are the people like me, who were “born” with it – I say born, but it might be that they have literally no memory of seeing which is what I have. So, the thought of seeing is entirely foreign to me, except for lights and a few shapes and a vague amount of something that might be colour. And if I try and explain it to you, you won’t understand because you can’t: even someone who’s blind won’t, because they don’t see what I see. The only people that see the same are the ones that can’t see anything at all, and even then, their perceptions of it are different.

There are so many things I don’t understand about how you see, like the fact that you have depth perception because I can see stairs go down but that’s only because I know that pattern in my mind. Also you can’t look in two directions at once like WHAT IS THE POINT in having two eyes?!! I know one colour of blue, but not another (light blue like the sky is cool is that even a colour) because it looks black or green or purple, when purple looks black and grey looks like a lighter black; yellow seems like a muted white and pink is unfathomable to me. That’s only when it’s a square of colour too, not anything else, and contrasts are basically essential so unless you want me to tell you that blue is red. Seeing out of a window confuses me, because when I look out of a car and see a thing beside me, darker, sometimes taller than azuggr thing, I know it’s trees but it COULD be a building, or just a wall; I can pick things up but only through context and only very occasionally. I know when a person stands in front of me but not because I can see their eyes or hands or hair, only because their person-shape stops at the usual height and it turns into the air or the sky, and not because anything is distinguishable. Thingdon’t blur or stop, because I don’t understand what blurry things look like – they just are and then they’re not, like the fact that the wall’s on the opposite side of the room, but I don’t know that if it’s dark or there’s not much light.

If you don’t understand that, it’s perfectly fine, because I don’t understand it. My sight’s just always been there for me, nothing remarkable, and I’m not brave for getting through my “struggles” because I don’t remember being in the hospital; I don’t remember having the mental capacity to stay alive because I was a baby. Ever since I can remember I’ve been blind, not completely but blind enough, and that’s the reality. I’m not annoyed about it, not often sad, because I’m living and I’m still managing. No, not still; I AM managing because this shit doesn’t hold me back.

Seeing must be amazing, though, even if you wouldn’t know it. My dad told me a week ago as we stood outside, to try and see if I could see the moon, that people look up at the sky and think “Ahh, it’s just a sky”. and I suppose I get that. You’ve seen it countless times, and it is just a sky, the same as to me the sound of the wind is just that. I couldn’t see the moon, just a disturbance in the sky that might have been my imagination, but it was nice to try.

I won’t ask you to appreciate your sight because I don’t know what it’s like to do that, and so I can’t expect you to do it as it wouldn’t be fair. But always remember this: I wish I could see the stars, and a waterfall, and someone’s face, but I won’t. I can’t feel sorry for myself, because life moves on, and I don’t pity myself because there are plenty of other people who have it so much worse than me.

I’m just one blind person out of millions, who thinks that distant lights in the sky might look beautiful. I’m not an inspiration, but I hope I’ve let you understand that not everyone’s the same and yeah, seeing would be great, except if you never can.

People with disabilities don’t get magically cured most of the time, and wishing won’t help anything. To see a look in someone’s eye would be so nice, but I’m already doing fine without seeing that.

From Elm 🙂

The Beauty in Paris

When I wade through all of the other stuff that happened, I really enjoyed going to Paris. How could I not? It’s an amazing city, filled with so many things, and walking down the streets and listening to people talking gave me the enjoyment I needed.

I’ll dwell on the pain tomorrow. Today is reserved for the amazing things that happened, the light and smiles and almost magic. So, I’ll run through what happened, snapshot by snapshot, to show you a little of what it was like.

S, my ex-boyfriend, came to stay with us on Sunday, as you saw by my last post. That involved talking things out, dealing with emotions and other things I really don’t want to talk about, and surprisingly a lot of happiness. You don’t realise just how much you miss someone until they’re there again, even if not in the way you’d like them to be, but that’s a whole other bucket of shit.

On Tuesday, we took a train and a cab up to a travel lodge in King’s Cross. After we met up with people, I screamed for about ten minutes when I reunited with Violet and the girl who now has an unofficial “thing” with S, I’ll call her… Pansy, because she’s someone who means a lot to me. I hadn’t seen her in a year, and so when we met up again, we laughed until we howled, walked around the hotel trying to find a toilet, got lost when we attempted to find our room and so much more. It’s easy to be around her, and a lot of the sadness melted away because I KNOW she’s a great person.

We spent the night there, singing in the communal area, doing a lot of shouting and just making new friends or reuniting with old ones. I shared a room with Pansy and another girl that night, and we stayed up until 1 as we couldn’t sleep, speaking about deep shit but also laughing until our sides ached.

The morning was kind of hectic. We ate breakfast early, listening to the classic bustle of London, as I sat with L and Violet and ate a croissant (I was getting into the French swing of things). We were taking the Eurostar, and so we went into St. Pancras (NOT Pancreas) but not before S and Pansy got a photo at Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross. Border control was easy, but it did involve me holding the hands of three strangers. Then, we boarded the Eurostar – I’d never been on it before and IT WAS SO COOL – which was uneventful as fuck, except for L finding chargers beneath the seats and Violet crying with laughter over a song on her boyfriend’s phone.

When we got there, we got on the Metro which was about the best thing ever for the whole trip. I’ll whizz through all of the days, what we did and how fun it was, so as not to bore anyone. For anyone that doesn’t know, the Metro is a train system in the City: think of the London tubes, but they run on wheels and have tyres; you’re much more likely to stumble and fall over, but the people don’t mind if you grab onto them.

On the Metro, I almost strangled S because I fell over, screamed and laughed. We arrived at the hotel (involving getting lost and being tired), relaxed for a little, but then went on a little tour of the surrounding area. I shared a room with Pansy and two other girls (one lovely, one not so). I also had to share a bed with Pansy, but because I’ve known her for 6 years, I didn’t feel uncomfortable.

A french woman, I think called Marie, took us to Montmartre. On the way, we tried a baguette from the bakery (French baguettes are beautiful), splashed water at each other, nearly got run over, almost got high off the smell of paint, and did so much walking that my feet hurt (then again, I’m VERY unfit as it is). Going to the Church, Sacré Cœur, was a great experience – it was quiet, echoing and majestic, and though I’m not religious at all, I loved it. Walking through it filled me with a horrendous sadness, but I won’t dwell on that: we walked out of the church and it mostly faded.

After that, we said bye to Marie (I spoke French to her or tried to), walked down the street singing hymns with Violet, and then went to relax. That day was bloody emotional as I spoke to both Violet and Pamsy, and tried to help Violet as much as I could. For dinner, we went to this adorable little Crêperie because the restaurant we’d planned to go to hadn’t received our booking. I think that was better, because it was just us there – about 15 of us including kids +volunteers, all laughing. I sat next to Pansy, and between eating, we whispered that we’d talk later, and I overheard some pretty weird conversations with Violet, her boyfriend and L. After my conversation with Violet, we all went up to the boys’ room – all 9 of us – and didn’t leave until about 11. I nearly lost my cane, and just sat on the floor like a rebel.

On Thursday, we went to the Eiffel Tower, and that day was simultaneously the best and worst – the latter, I’ll explain tomorrow. Being classic terrists, everyone was excited, exclaiming over the Eiffel tower-shaped EVERYTHING (Pansy bought pasta, L bought about six models of them, and others bought keyrings). For both Violet and I, there were some horrendously low points, but also high ones too. Standing near the edge of the tower’s second floor, I looked out. I couldn’t see a thing – S and Pansy could, on the bit of floor slightly below us, but I couldn’t. All I could see was sky, a bit that wasn’s sky where there was a boundary, and some darker things below that was an unbroken line of… Nothingness. How do I explain it?

There was a volunteer there, and I’ll use his real name – John. John understood me, because he found me standing there, and took me to walk around. He described it all, from the river to the buildings, and said that there was always something he noticed when he came back to look, that he hadn’t seen before. I opened up to him and another volunteer, and we went into the gift shop to see everything. I’d say that the people who made my week were him and the other volunteers, for just being so relaxed: when we stayed up until 1 that night, they didn’t bat an eyelid, and told us that it was our decision and that they wouldn’t stop us. Their thoughts were that we were responsible enough to make our own decisions, and because they were so relaxed, we could freely swear and yell in front of them (I called Jamie, another amazing volunteer, an utter fucking bastard once and he choked on his laughter).

On the Tower, L screamed “QUI VEUT ME MARRIER?!” (a phrase Violet and I repeated under a bridge the next day, whilst 5 french boys walked towards us). It means “Who wants to marry me?” and he got no response, except for screaming laughter from me. In the afternoon, we went on a river cruise down the Seine, in which I saw the sunlight glancing and shimmering off the water. We screamed various phrases as we went under bridges, and there’s a video of us chanting under one of them. I sang to myself a little, and talked at length to the girl who I shared a room with that first night; we’ve grown much closer now, which is great. Some drama also happened which wasn’t too pleasant, but for a little while over dinner, it was mostly forgotten. I ate snails – which are actually really nice – Pansy and Jamie sobbed whilst laughing (still don’t know why) and whilst we were walking to the the place, Violet and her boyfriend got lost. We thought they’d gone to the numerous sex shops which frequented the streets, because they promised me they would if I let them cheer me up, but psh they didn’t.

As I mentioned, we went to “bed” at 1: again, we hung out in the boys’ room. That involved S “falling asleep” though he was actually awake, which made me cackle like a witch. In case you didn’t know, L had his blogiversary on Friday, and so at exactly midnight I ran over to him and bugged him, squealing “I’m SO PROUD, you’re so old now eyyy!” and that probably scared him. After going back downstairs, I spoke with Pansy until 3. The rest of them didn’t sleep much at all – S only got about an hour and so was delirious with tiredness, something that still makes me laugh. There’s a photo of both Pansy and I hugging him, and he could barely put a sentence together because he was so exhausted. To be fair, our adventures on the Metro and the rest of the day woke him up.

Speaking of that, Friday was definitely my best day, before we went home. In the morning we went to the Louvre, to an amazing art gallery with sculptures. Translating into French braille is surprisingly difficult, and took me a while, but then I felt the recreation of every single sculture. The attention to detail was exquisite, the lines of the flowing robes, fingers and sweeping features giving you such a good impression of what it looked like. Then, I could appreciate art, standing in the silence of my little section of beauty, marvelling at how beautiful everything was: Venus, Mercury, the Three Graces, each figure standing tall despite its size. I loved it all, even the maps of castles, even when we walked through rooms with cobbles and rough walls. Jogn explained it all to me, staying by my side with all the statues, helping me when I got stuck on what something was.

He did the same too, when we went to the Notre Dame: I couldn’t see the decorations, the purple on the stained-glass windows, the high ceilings and model of it with all its spires, or the floor worn down by thousands of feet, but I got a good picture of it from him. We spoke about the Pope, Saints, religion and everything in between: it was nice to be there in the hushed quiet, feet clicking on stones and just walking, not reflecting on any pain, and just existing.

Now, it wasn’t all like that. Throughout the day, before and after going to the hotel to pick up our bags, things happeng that made me almost vomit with laughter:
• We had a leaf fight, where I got leaves in my hair and Jamie chucked leaves at the leader of our group
• We went to a chocolate shop: I fangirled over the selection, eventually buying the most beautiful hot chocolate (it was literally like LIQUID chocolate)
• I drank it, and then immediately ate ice cream. Don’t try that at home, kids.
• Jamie made me sit on a freezing, metal lounge chair, screamed “OI WATCH OUT THERE’s A PIGEON!” and poked me with a leaf. I screamed very loudly, jumped up and then proceeded to yell at him. L fell for it, too, and everyone laughed at us.
• We danced the Cha Cha Slide in the middle of the Notre Dame square. I wasn’t embarrassed, and eventualhy we fell on the floor. So many people stared at us, but to be honest, I dinn’t care.
• On the way to the Metro, Jamie made joke sexist comments, and I’ve never yelled “Right FUCK OFF!” in public before that day.

Four of us had to go on a separate train, because the previous one was so full. It was me, Chef Boob (e’s actually called Bob and isn’t a chef but that’s a long story), Jamie andthe girl I shared with that first night. Jamie tried to say a stop in French, to which the French couple next to us burst out laughing. The girl said, “Jamie, they’re all laughing at you, shut up!”
“We most certainly are,” replied a random french man. I started talking to him, unable to speak because Jamie was so embarrassing. When we left the train, Jamie shouted “Mercy buckets!” and I couldn’t stop laughing for the next 20 minutes.

On the Eurostar on the way back, Jamie, S, Pansy and I walked down to get food. That resulted in Pansy’s dolphin laugh, me falling into people’s arms who were sitting down, me accidentally groping a man’s stomach and the slowest food line ever. When we got back, we were all talking, which caused two to LEAVE the train carriage because we were being so loud. By the end, I was so tired that I couldn’t walk properly.

Saying goodbye was the hardest part: S was coming home with us, but I knew I wouldn’t be seeing Pansy for a while, or Violet. I promised to come and visit Pansy some time in her school, and I hugged John and Jamie because they were fabulous. It feels weird to be back in England, almost unreal, and I miss the laughter, Jamie’s awful French and everything else.

There were little snippets of things that I’ll always remember. I’ll never be able to think about the word “pulsating” in the same way; whenever I cough violently I screech, and there are too many inside jokes to count. I feel like I’ve grown closer to a lot and people now, something that I needed to do. I got more than I wanted out of Paris, in some ways.

Oh my GOD, that was a long post. I hope I’ve done Paris justice, and that you could see what I felt and what I experienced there. It was funny, insane, and I made friends with French people for about 5 seconds.

From Elm 🙂