I Remember How This Feels

Trigger warnings: this post has references to passive suicidal thoughts and negative mental health. If you’re triggered by this content, please don’t feel like you have to read this; your health comes first.

I’ve been trying to deny all my feelings over the last week, to just shut it all down and function. During the weekend, I felt myself go so downhill that it was impossible to even pretend. I’m struggling and this is the worst I’ve seen myself for at least a year and a half. I only know that because I could never forget how I’d felt back then. Now I’m feeling it all again, it’s a huge shock. I’ve been angry, taking the anger out on people and just not very healthy whatsoever.

When I was halfway through Year 12, I pretty much hated everything and wanted to die the majority of the time. I was so unhappy that it was a struggle to even move. In terms of work, I barely met any deadlines and didn’t care enough to complete most of my homework. It was around this time that I quit French. A couple of months later, during my exams, I managed to pick myself back up. Ever since then, I’ve had a cycle of feeling so awful that I just couldn’t do anything but it was never as bad as it was last January. Until now.

I have these memories of sitting in my classes, barely able to work or to string a sentence together. I would desperately try and get through the fog of my head and to not cry, just not cry until it was over. I’d feel this cold terror, where I’d be hanging on to the thread of getting out of there and screaming. But by the time I could breathe, I’d gone blank; I didn’t feel a single thing but this aching emptiness. The only change now is that I’m better able to articulate it. Talking doesn’t feel impossible, just very tiring. Everything else – the sadness, the exhaustion, the not-quite-feeling-there, is back.

As I’ve mentioned in this post, I’ve gone to blind college for a year. That move is stressful enough but on top of my breakdowns, it’s turned into a shitstorm. I’ve had to mask how I’ve been feeling to everybody here and to friends outside of it; the motivation to do any work has just disappeared; I’m attempting to actively withdraw myself from social situations because I’m just too tired. It’s exactly how it felt in Year 12 but somehow magnified because I’m in such a small, residential environment. I can’t hide it whatsoever.

People have been supporting me a lot; Kel is a godsend and I couldn’t have done this without him. My friend Robin has been a lifesaver and my other friend, Pearl, came over to stay at the weekend. Rapunzel has been one of the only people who has managed to keep me grounded and recently, I’ve really started to try and have more conversations with people outside college like Red, Wren and Swan. Somehow, though, I’m still really bad: I’m still not coping, still don’t have any energy, still tired.

On paper, everything seems to be good: I’m in a great place, have met some amazing people, am actually enjoying my course and the personality, or side of myself, that I show to people seems to have it all together. So why am I feeling like this? I act so energetic, enthusiastic and organised that by the end of the day, I’ve got nothing left. I’ve stopped talking to so many people because I’m often too unwell or exhausted to keep up a conversation but because of the ‘happy’ way I’ve been acting, it’d feel like I was a fraud if I suddenly started acting how I truly feel.

I suppose that this must come from the agony of feeling isolated. Recently, because of my lack of talking to people outside of the college, I’ve felt alone and quite adrift from everything. A good way for me to get by when I have nothing else – no coping mechanisms that work, at least – is to talk to others and share in their happiness. It honestly feels like people don’t care any more and don’t want to talk to me, meaning I don’t find out things until weeks after they happen and so I can’t be happy for anyone. That means that the one thing I usually have left is just gone and it’s fucking overwhelming and horrible to feel this forgotten all the time. I may be just whining or being pathetic but it all just hurts at the minute, so I don’t have the energy to gain perspective. I haven’t started blaming myself for not talking yet but I’m pretty sure that will happen when I get a second to myself.

Having what I can only describe as a mental health relapse is one of the worst feelings. It doesn’t feel like I’ll get better, or as if people care, or as if anyone would care unless I spoke to them. I have a whole river of bitterness and fear inside my head and I just want it all to stop for a bit. I can barely function, running on very little sleep; I haven’t been eating well and I don’t have the mental capacity to look after myself properly. The most worrying thing, as my friend Rapunzel (who has managed to get me to vaguely talk about things and is a beautiful soul) said, is that I just don’t care any more. That not caring means that I stop talking to people and avoid even thinking about what’s happening, leading me to do anything to distract myself which then ends with me feeling sick and unpleasant.

Talking about it has got easier – it’s not like it was a year and a half ago, where I’d only talk in very toxic, short bursts. I now know how to get my emotions out; it’s just that I don’t have the energy. Writing it down has made it less overwhelming, I think, though nothing seems to help apart from resting and trying not to mentally collapse.

Perhaps, now, I feel a little clearer. It doesn’t feel like things are wailing in my head any more. Is that because I can write it all down? I don’t know. All I know is that I hate feeling like this and if this post was a reprieve for me, where I could let it out, then I’ll take it.

I hope that you’re all okay. I’ve been so silent because I just didn’t know how to talk. After speaking horrendously honestly to a friend yesterday, part of that blockade has broken. I just hope it can continue.

Now, I miss blogging intensely. At some point in the next few weeks, I want to be able to go back to a semi-regular posting schedule. For now, I’m going to have to concentrate on pulling myself back up a little.

I miss you all. How have things been?

Love from Elm 🙂

How I’m Feeling about Moving Away to College | Screaming

Today marks a week before I move away from home for a year to go to what I affectionately call “blind college”. Essentially, I’m going there to increase my independence (learning how to cook, clean, get better IT skills) and also to do a few courses. Because it’s me, naturally, I’m just a little bit terrified at the prospect of moving away because although I’ll go back in half terms and the other holidays, I won’t see my family for a while.

Firstly, I’m not prepared. How do you prepare for going away for so long? How much do you pack? What do you pack??? Should I bring anything from my room? I DON’t KNOW! I probably should have sorted that out all before but I’m a massive procrastinator and always do things at the very last minute. Oops?

I’ve made a start on sorting out all my clothes, ready to get a lot of them packed. It’s only now that I realise just how many clothes I have and more specifically, how many of them I don’t actually like. Buried in my wardrobe are a whole Narnias-worth of t-shirts that I haven’t worn in months, possibly years. Not to mention that’s only at my mum’s house and at some point in the next 7 days, I have to transfer all of my clothes to one house to sort them out there.

The fear about change and that kind of thing is starting to set in. Of course, I don’t expect to be exactly the same at the end of the year but I’m so worried that I’ll accidentally get myself involved in drama, or that I’ll start being toxic to people, and not be able to get out. One of my friends who I call Robin, who went to that college for 3 years, has helped me to rationalise how I’m feeling. Another, S, who went to a similar school, has been a massive support as well. It’s still so nerve-wracking though.

I am really looking forward to it. It’ll be so different – a chance to express myself; a way of becoming more confident; a way of meeting new people. Right now, having done my exams and having received the results, it feels like I’m in a kind of limbo.

It feels like I’m on the cusp of something but not quite at the point where I know where it is. It’s almost, really, like I’m still waiting. Whether that be for the punchline or for the surprise that cements in my head that I can do this, that I’m capable. I just hope it’ll arrive before the week is out.

It’s not that I’m scared or soul-crushingly nervous. Rather, it’s that I’m anticipating a change, with no way of knowing how deep that change will run at the end of it. Maybe I’ll stay the same; maybe I won’t. All I want is to continue to be there for people – for the core of myself to stay the same.

I want to document it, as much as I can. My thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, without it becoming too confusing. Will I succeed? Again, I don’t know.

I just hope that this blog can remain my safe space.

Next Saturday, things are going to change but I’m as mentally prepared as I can be. This is a new beginning and I’m determined to make the most of it as I can.

If you’re starting University, Sixth Form or another year at school, how are you feeling about it?

Love from Elm 🙂

I Cried at my A-Level Results

On the morning of Results’ Day, I woke up feeling so ill that I couldn’t do much. I say “woke up”, it was more like “got up” because I’d hardly got any sleep the night before. It was a mixture of sheer panic and the inability to quiet my mind; I procrastinated sleeping by wailing about how scared I was to the friends that would put up with it.

My dad, Mum, a friend I call Rapunzel who’s been staying for a few days and I travelled to school by car because I live around 40 minutes away. On the way there, I had to listen to music to shut my brain off. I got into school, after being unable to function in the car, and I could barely breathe. The fear was unbelievable, especially because I was one of the first ones there.

We got into the hall and I just remember hearing this awful ringing in my ears. It was like nothing else mattered and I felt so weak that I had to hold my mum’s arm really tightly. Because we were pretty much first in line, my results were given to us quickly in an envelope (which of course I couldn’t read).

When my parents opened the results, my immediate response was “how bad is it?” For weeks now, I’d been setting myself up for failure, telling myself I’d do terribly. I was so afraid of disappointing people that I told my parents and everyone that I’d done awfully and I believed it myself. I can’t stress how much I thought I’d fucked up.

Turns out, I got amazing results – far better than I ever could have dreamed. When I found out my English result, I screamed so loudly that I felt like the whole hall went silent; Rapunzel picked me up and I was so happy – like I couldn’t believe. My friend Swan also got her results and we ran at each other, shrieking. I’m just so proud of all of my friends because they did fantastically, after having worked so hard. I hugged so many teachers, finally able to congratulate myself, with concrete evidence that my brain couldn’t disprove.

Afterwards, Rapunzel and I went to Swan’s house. There, we watched hilarious videos, relaxed and screamed a lot. The day had such an unreal quality to it, yet everything felt a little more vibrant. We met up with some friends and had lunch; it was so much more chilled than anything I’d done in school because I properly felt – and feel – free.

It’s been almost surreal, these last few days. At the weekend, I went to one of my best friend’s houses to stay and there, I felt lighter than I have in months. I’ve come to terms with a lot these past few weeks and that’s really shown in how I even react to myself. Sure, my mental health has really dipped recently but it feels as if there’s a massive weight off my shoulders. Now I’m not quite sure what to do with myself, though I’m still keeping busy as a distraction.

Whether you got the results you wanted or not, you should be proud of yourself. A-Levels were some of the hardest things we’ll ever do and we got through them: that counts for something. No matter what happens, there are always options and you will always have choices – that might not help right now but just hold onto what you can do rather than what you’ve done. You aren’t a failure.

It’s over now – you’ve done it; all that adrenaline isn’t needed for being afraid. Results Day was the final obstacle and now you can go on to live your life. God, I feel like I need a year-long sleep. Start again, if you want to, because you deserve that.

I’m proud of myself and I can really say that now. When I was going through shit in the middle of the year, my Head of Year told me that I would be and she was right. I bloody well did it, got through, survived, and no-one can take that away from me.

Love from Elm 🙂

It’s Results Day Tomorrow WHAT

In less than 24 hours, I will have got my results for A-Levels. The very thought of that makes me feel ill. Fuck, oh God, I’m getting my results tomorrow.

If you don’t live in the UK, A-Levels are exams you do at the end of year 13 – the last year of high school, 12th grade, your last finals if you will. They’re the culmination of 2 years of work, in 3-4 subjects. They determine what university you go to, if your placement is dependent on grades (a conditional offer). Because of the new system of education, most of our grade is down to 2-3 exams – only a few subjects had exams that counted for the final grade a year before.

I did 3 subjects – English Lit, History and Psychology. In a way, I’m lucky because I didn’t apply for university this year (I’m applying in my year out) but that just means that whatever grades I get, I’m stuck with. It was certainly less pressurised when I was doing the exams but now it’s approaching results, I’m feeling more than terrified.

Around three weeks before now, I started getting the obligatory Results Day nightmares. At first, it was fine: I dreamt that I got all B’s in my subjects, which would have been good. Then, it jumped to E’s: I remember in that dream, it felt so incredibly realistic; everyone was disappointed in me and I woke up crying. Next, it was that I’d got all G’s. You can’t actually get G’s in A-Level as far as I know, which just shows how much my fear of failure was manifesting itself. My final dream was a couple of days ago: I’d got A*’s in everything but English, in which I’d got a D. That was kind of a problem because I want to study English at uni. Honestly, at this point I don’t know what to expect. I have no idea if I did alright or terribly.

On GCSE Results Day, I was nervous. I felt really ill and couldn’t sleep as much the night before. However, I knew that it wouldn’t be too bad if I didn’t get the grades I wanted. I also knew that I’d done reasonably well because I was able to put my all into those exams. With A-Levels, I’m not so sure: it means more if I don’t do as well but I also don’t have the certainty that I will have done well, at all. In my exams, my mental health had deteriorated to such a point that I could barely function in the months leading up to it. I did my best, given the circumstances, but is my best good enough?

I don’t know. So many people have said that there’s ‘nothing I can do about it now’ but they’re mostly relatives or much older adults who haven’t gone through this new system. I’m just so afraid that I’ll be a failure – not really to others but mostly to myself. Oh well – I know I’m going to have to deal with the consequences regardless; it’s just the lead-up that makes me want to sob.

To everyone getting results tomorrow, good luck. We’re going to get through this and no matter what results we get, those letters won’t define us. I know it’s scary but in a day, it’ll be over and we can breathe.

If I can’t believe in myself, I can at least try to help others believe in themselves. We got through these 2 years in one piece and we’re nearly there. That counts for something and you should be proud.

Good luck, everyone. We can do this.

Love from Elm 🙂

My Thoughts on the Education System | Collab with Debbie!

Along with many other people in the UK, I’m very lucky to have a good education. However, there are still a lot of problems with the education system that those who don’t experience are quick to dismiss. In a collab with Debbie – you can read her post on her blog – we’re going to write about the issues that are closest to us.

For me, the transition from GCSEs to A-Levels was particularly difficult, an opinion shared with a lot of people in my year and the year below. With the transfer from “less challenging” GCSEs to “more challenging” A-Levels, most teachers and students alike were struggling. We had no idea what was really expected of us as in many subjects, there were either very few or no past papers at all. Those who took GCSEs recently or are going to take them soon will have had a similar problem. We were told to learn independently, to “go beyond” the subject but GCSEs, or pre-GCSEs, hadn’t shown us how to do that. It felt like we were jumping in at the deep end of a swimming pool with no markings as to how deep it was. There’s this idea that figuring out your own independent learning style is all part of the process of learning but we were expected to do that, not having done that before; we were expected to learn so much content, apply it in ways we’d never done before, all whilst battling our own anxieties and personal pressures. If we couldn’t keep up; if we learned in a different way or if our concepts of success didn’t match up to the exam board’s or government’s or the vague “threat” of universities or employers, it felt like a failure.

It’s not all to do with the last 4-5 years of schooling, in that expectations of “how we should learn” go right back to the start. We’re told what books would best suit us – you can read more about that in this post by Izzy – given “advice” on careers based on predicted grades and behaviour, and examined from such a young age that the constant banner of success is waved over people’s heads and those who don’t achieve that are automatically labelled by teachers and others as not being “academic”, when academia isn’t the only way that someone can live a life which makes them happy. I’m making massive generalisations here but often, the way in which we learn is subject to these same generalisations. People are crammed into smaller boxes of 1-9 or A-G, into “smart” or “not smart”, into “likes to read so should be good at this” or “likes Maths so should go into this profession”. That’s not even touching on the idea of “one learning style fits all”, which restricts so many people.

Blaming “the school” as a whole would be counter-productive and wouldn’t solve any problems as a lot of the time, it’s a student’s willingness to learn – or lack of it – that stops people from learning. However, people are too quick to entirely blame students’ “laziness” for the difficulties that they face. How can it be an individual’s fault if they’re never given encouragement by teachers, never shown a way to learn that fits them and never shown that their aspirations don’t have to fall in line with the academic, English-Maths-Science expectations that are pushed so forcefully onto everyone so that they can “be successful?” With the new system of GCSEs and A-Levels, it’s even harder to achieve the top grades and so those who don’t work in the way the exam boards want are more likely to feel unhappy and so less likely to work as productively.

Most people work in different ways to each other. Some prefer group work and some prefer individual study; some need to revise in one session whereas others need to spread their revision out; some need support from teachers and their friends whereas others find that support within themselves or in other places. I don’t feel as if enough support or emphasis, on the whole, is given to those individual learning styles – it would be incredibly difficult to cater to everyone’s needs when in a large group of students but it’s too often assumed that everyone can work in exactly the same style. The good thing about A-Levels is that much more support is given by teachers as they have more time to do this but by the time A-Levels come around, it can be difficult for some people to know that they can get support if they haven’t had it before. In GCSEs and before that, those that received a lot of one-to-one or individualised support from teachers most often come from fee-paying schools. There are many exceptions but teachers in an average state school don’t usually have enough time to help the students that need it most.

With coursework disappearing and linear subjects being prioritised, there’s a huge importance given to exams. Yes, this system worked better for me in some ways but not in others and for a lot of people, examined subjects won’t be the best way to help them learn. SEN (Special Educational Needs) funding, which directly affects me and people I know, is being cut; resources aren’t being provided for SEN students in education but because of the constant pressure to get better grades, to improve your chances of getting into university, thoughts are being focused more on the students who attain more 9s or A*s. The problems with SEN deserve a whole other post and I’m not sure I’d even be the best person to write about them.

There are positives to the current education system, of course. More vocational courses are being offered at colleges; apprenticeships are being encouraged more widely and different learning styles are slowly being taken into account. Saying that, this is only the start and more needs to be done. Performing and visual arts subjects have been dropped from the curriculum of some schools which restricts those who are more creative from expressing themselves. People need to become more aware that not everything should be based on academic results and improvement of exam achievements doesn’t always mean improvement of people’s lives.

What do you think about the education system and how people learn? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to check out Debbie’s post! It was amazing to collab with her and to get my (complicated and somewhat ranty) thoughts out!

Love from Elm 🙂

Halfway There?

A quick side-note before I start: I have had Livin’ on a Prayer stuck in my head for the past hour as I was thinking about this post, simply because of the chorus. Along with book titles and other miscellaneous songs, this one really gets me because WOOOOAAH WE’RE HALFWAY THERE!

Apart from the atrocious posts of 2015, I think that was the worst transition between subjects I’ve ever done. Because yes: I’ve had four exams; I have three left. Isn’t it a time to celebrate? Well… No. It’s a time to update you all.

For the past week, I’ve been in a self-made cave of isolation apart from when I gallivant off to exams. Even then, I’m in a room by myself (and an invigilator). It’s because I Word Process – a fancy way to say I use a computer to write my exams – and I get extra time. It’d get lonely except that I’m usually shouting with frustration. For instance, today, I said “Oh fucking god” when I had to figure out a diagram for Psychology. I wish i was joking.

Until they’re over, I’m not going to contemplate exams too much. I’ve spent enough time crying over my first Psychology exam and then genuinely yelling at myself for misinterpreting my English paper to last a lifetime. It’s so exhausting to keep thinking, over and over, that I fucked up only to be told I should stop it because “you’ll do well anyway.” If I believed that wholeheartedly, I wouldn’t be terrified out of my mind.

Right, that’s enough of that. I’m going to do an exam recap like I did last year at the end. For now, I’m going to do a quick runthrough of what’s been happening. Bullet points are my friend and I got about 5 hours of sleep last night so my mental capacity isn’t great right now.

•It’s Pride Month which fills me with happiness. When I’m done with exams I’ll write some Pride posts but in the meantime, check out Lu’s amazing post on LGBTQIA+ representation in YA, Lia’s Pride Month TBR and Bethany’s post on coming out.
•Speaking of Pride and sexuality, as I said in this post, I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about my own identity, particularly my romantic orientation. I really want to make a post about it but long story short, I don’t know what I’m feeling: I know what kind of people I’m attracted to but I don’t know how far my attraction goes or what my limitations are. It’s confusing and I don’t want to commit to a label yet, possibly not ever, but SOMETHING IS HAPPENING INSIDE MY MIND
•I’ve come down with some kind of cold/virus which means I’m coughing constantly and occasionally think that my throat is on fire. Taking exams has been a struggle because for once, I feel very physically ill and my mental health isn’t totally terrible
•I might be getting my Prom dress adjusted this weekend; I’m kind of nervous even though I know it’ll be fine because I’m still not the biggest fan – to put it lightly – of my appearance. I’m irrationally afraid that it won’t fit me after the adjustments have been done.
•The friends I’ve spoken to recently have been amazing. I say ‘spoken to’ because my communication with people has been even worse lately, what with exams and confusion and illness but when I do emerge into the land of technology, I always get surprised at how fantastic people can be. That might sound horribly sentimental but at this point, I don’t care
•I’ve been trying not to implode from work but it’s been a near thing; sleep is elusive but I’m going to try and rest this weekend as much as I can
•Things with Pearl, who I talk about on this page are going really well. I’m still going to wait until after exams to properly process all my feelings but I’m relatively secure, meaning that I’m not screaming or panicking out of fear yet. This is me though, so only time will tell.
•Pearl also knows about my blog but I haven’t shown it to her yet – she found my Twitter (because I don’t exactly do a great job at hiding it) but has respected me asking if she’ll wait until after my exams to look at the blog. There are things I want to explain to her before all of it because my blog, and showing it to people, has always been a private thing and I want to be as careful as possible instead of running headlong into all of the big decisions
•Exams are draining the life out of me because I haven’t read a book in a long while and i miss it. I also haven’t written anything substantial in ages as well but my mantra for getting through this is that I’ll be able to do everything after exams

So, there you have it. My brain is wired for revising right now; I can’t do much else. My energy levels are only now starting to rise as this virus thing clears up. I need sleep and I need it soon otherwise I may scream.

How are you all doing? I miss the blogging community so much. I’ll be back on my game ONCE EXAMS ARE OVER I CANNOT WAIT.

From Elm 🙂

A Huge Update Because I Didn’t Post

When I looked at my blog and discovered that the last post I wrote was on 4 May, I screamed silently for about 5 minutes before realising that a post was in order. For my peace of mind – and yours, if anyone is still around? *Squeaks hopefully* That sounded more needy than I wanted to GIVE ME ATTENTION PLEASE IS ANYONE LISTENING?

Right. I’m going to pretend that monstrosity of writing didn’t just happen and get onto the update. Loads of things have happened over the last 4 weeks; I’m not sure where to start. I may just go and structure a brief outline, come back and commence with my yelling.

One of the biggest things, possibly the biggest thing, is that school ended last Thursday. I now no longer have any official lessons; my Year 13 classes have stopped. The only thing left is exams and a couple of revision sessions. That’s so disorientating – to think, 14 years of education are now over. Time has gone so quickly whilst also crawling by at particular moments. I’m sure I’ll cope with this change but how whole will I be on the other side? Who will I be without going to that school every day? It brings me back to the end of primary school, where I knew I was going into a place where I didn’t know many people. Starting again, I suppose you’d call it.

Recollecting on that last day, I had a bunch of emotions that I didn’t know how to handle until it was over. Wednesday was my last day of lessons; the next day, I had no classes but went in anyway. Armed with brownies and a heavy dose of trepidation, I expected to feel so many things but just… Didn’t, until it was almost too late. I sang, in the end of year assembly; it was You Don’t Know by Katelyn Tarver – a song which meant so much to me and will always mean so much to me. I was beyond terrified – I shook; I freaked out beforehand on Wren. When I sang, I forgot all that when I got really into the song; I had to distance myself from it a bit in case I genuinely started crying – that song captures all the mixed up fear I’ve been feeling for years. Afterwards, I stood there for a few seconds absorbing it all, my other friend Red helping me off the stage. The aftershocks of those emotions made me shake even more and I think that’s what started all my feelings off. It drew to the end of assembly and we started to say our goodbyes. It was then that it hit me. I wouldn’t be seeing many of these people for ages; possibly I would never see some of them again – and beneath the blind jokes I disguised my pain with, something about the sorrow of not getting to know people when I should have nagged away at me. Taking pictures was surreal; seeing Laurel – a girl I used to have a crush on – and feeling nothing was relieving more than anything. As our group of friends stood outside, hugging and occasionally shouting, I realised just how much I’d miss them all. On the way back home, I cried and I don’t know whether it was from ittersweet happiness or an overwhelming sadness.

That just leaves revision for my A-Levels, which start in a week. I’m so scared I could scream but I just have to get through it. On Friday, I went to an English revision session and I genuinely felt confident; the points I was making weren’t shot down. It wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever done but it was productive. I’m just worried I won’t be able to do this, that I’ll totally crash.

However, there have been a few bright spots – one of them is Pearl, who I talk about in this post. The last update i gave was when we’d met for the first time. I then briefly mentioned we’d seen Love Simon together – which was beautiful and magical – and since then, she’s been round to mine once; I’ve been round to hers twice, met her sister and pets and had an amazing time. We kissed, when she’d been at mine and the anxiety I felt about how terrible I was was only lessened by a ton of reassurances from her – why am I always like this? I don’t know what our relationship status is – all I know is that I’m a bit confused but also not willing to let this go. I don’t know. I’ve been having a few troubles with my identity recently, which I’ll get onto later. Despite not wanting to, I’m scared I’m not communicating enough; I don’t know how to do relationships – or whatever is happening – anymore. I’m not good at trusting people properly – only trusting them enough to know that they won’t hurt me intentionally. Intimacy is still a problem but I care about her a lot and think she’s wonderful. Nothing in my mind has twisted enough yet to tell me I’m lying about that.

A huge positive was also Eurovision. I can’t overstate how much I love that show; because my parents weren’t okay with me going out that day, I watched the final quietly, only properly shouting once or twice at the results. During the semifinals, I got really involved in an awesome group chat where we yelled about the performances – it included Kel, Lia, Lisa, Bethany, Em, Elly and Michelle. I memorised a bunch of lyrics to the songs, sang along, got far too angry when Denmark didn’t get many points and just generally wailed about the thing for a week. To be honest, I’m still not done shrieking over it.

For some weird reason, I’ve been more socially active the past month – although it still exhausts me and communication outside it is still an issue. On Friday, after our revision session, I went to Swan’s house where she was having her birthday party. There, I laughed violently, had an honest conversation with Wren about how I was feeling and sang songs far too loudly. It was a wonderful time, including the hilarious Cards Against Humanity game that was comprised of far too many inside jokes and points of cackling to be considered, well, family friendly even for Cards Against Humanity standards.

I can’t exactly pretend like things have been 100% amazing; they just haven’t. I had an incredibly horrible panic attack last Monday which stopped me going to history; I’ve had a couple of days where I feel so sick that everything looks bleak and confusing. A couple of weeks back, I went to an introductory session to CBT with the hope of attending a proper group session this Thursday. It made me realise a couple of things: firstly, that the feelings of fear I felt before the session were what I felt most days and that I was only realising this because I was about to potentially express them. I also didn’t know how comfortable I was with the group aspect – I still don’t know. Coming to the conclusion that this shit can’t be solved with a single session reminds me of how I felt after my first proper counselling session. Not hopeless, not angry, but a mix of intimidated and contemplative. My mental health has been bad but once exams are over, maybe I can start to pick up the pieces and figure out what’s really going on.

Oh god, I need to talk about what’s happening with my thoughts about expressing my identity. Really, this needs a post of it’s own and I don’t know where to start. Acknowledging it as something that I’m confused about has literally happened in the last week or two. The short story is that my relationship with romantic feelings and sexual feelings is confusing at best and what the actual fuck do I feel? if stated plainly. I can be attracted to people quite quickly but I’ll only ever really enjoy doing anything, even kissing for instance, if there’s a romantic subtext. Sure, I’d enjoy it but I would always feel more blank and strangely upset. Romantic attraction is even more confusing because sometimes, I don’t know if I’m romantically attracted to someone unless someone straight up asks me and forces me to examine it; also, I’ve found I can only really be romantically attracted to someone I know quite well. Because of some unresolved situations, my brain is so confused right now; I don’t know what or how I feel, or even how to explain it. That’s why I’m hesitant about expressing all of this to Pearl – I wouldn’t know what to say – “I’m scared I’m going to accidentally upset you and push you away because I’m confused about who I am?”

Probably, the only concrete thin you can get from this post is that I’m confused and suspended in some kind of emotional limbo, mixed with a bunch of turmoil, that I can’t hope to figure out until my A-Levels are finished. Getting some of this out has helped but there’s still so much I haven’t said. This could only be a short outline anyway – I have so much to write and not enough time to write it in. Things will fall into place, just not right now.

I’m sorry if this has been too hectic or too negative. I’ve missed my blog but I’ve forgotten how to organise my mind; I want that freedom back. Explaining my thoughts to a little part of the internet has always helped me far more than anything else has. Thanks for putting up with it – I hope you’re all doing good.

If you need help or just a chat, I’m still here. That can’t change.

From Elm 🙂

A Strange Kind of Feeling

Yesterday was my last counselling session and I don’t quite know how to feel. On the one hand I’m terrified it’s over; on the other, I have this odd sense of happiness that I don’t know how to place. It’s not a feeling I’m used to.

I sent an email to two of my teachers on Tuesday because my mental health has got to the point where I’m finding it hard to function. It started with the words, “I’m finding it incredibly difficult to write this email. However, expressing how I’m feeling in person is getting increasingly more difficult.” I still wrote it, a 700-word long email that took me an hour to put together. My mum encouraged me to talk about my feelings to the school after I’d spent a while crying to her. Without counselling, I know I couldn’t have done that.

That email was the culmination of many things. I’d gone to talk to my history teacher before the Easter holidays, terrified out of my mind because of how behind and overwhelmed I still was. In the holidays, I tried to give myself a mental break and it might not have worked to the extent that I’d wanted but it was a start. Yes, I didn’t get much work done but the alternative was to exhaust myself again.

Jane, my counsellor (or former counsellor, now) is amazing. In our last session, when I told her about the open conversations I’ve been having with my dad and the way I didn’t feel so “desperately alone” anymore, I said that – for the first time – I was properly proud of myself. That openness and honesty was because of me, not because of anyone forcing me. I’d done it when I’d felt ready, without intense amounts of pressure. It felt real, like the results were tangible. I suppose they are, really.

I can see them in the way I talk to people. As I said in my email, “I feel ill and worried pretty much all the time” but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people there. I may not be okay but actual evidence, rather than paranoid fears, has shown me that I’m capable of talking to people.

Of course, there are consequences. Because of the school confidentiality rules, it’s being shown to my other teachers and the head of Sixth Form. I knew all this before I wrote and sent the email – I think it’s part of the reason I did it. I needed people to understand, to hear it through my own words. Explaining it vaguely hasn’t been enough and trying to hint at how I feel in lessons is so exhausting that I just can’t do it.

Perhaps this will change things. There may only be around 6 weeks left of proper teaching; I may not catch up on all of my work but I at least want to make a difference for myself. I’m incredibly pessimistic so it might all go to shit but the pessimism isn’t all-consuming, all the time. Having no counselling on a Wednesday is going to be painful at first and I’ll need some kind of support but it doesn’t feel insurmountable anymore. God, 6 months ago, I wouldn’t even have been able to say that sincerely, or to wish for it!

There is hope for the future. Last Saturday, I spent the day with Pearl and two other friends and we watched Love, Simon, which was one of the most heartwarming things I’ve ever seen. Pearl and I got lost in the cinema and spent an hour, whilst waiting for my dad to come and pick me up, talking. I didn’t feel like she was going to hate me; I didn’t feel like I was faking part of my personality to stop her hating me. It just felt nice, and happy, and calm. Examining my emotions, not criticising myself for having a good day and letting myself feel is one of the things we focused on – without explicitly stating that – in the sessions I had with Jane.

All of this is a beginning. It won’t solve everything; it hasn’t even got close. However, these achievements – whatever they’re worth – show me I’m not the worst person alive, as I said to Jane yesterday. I’m going to go back to the GP at some point but at least I know that support is there. At least I’m holding onto that support.

I have to take things one step at a time, in my own time. The feeling of relief and the lack of violent upset that accompanies that is beautiful. At least to me.

From Elm 🙂

I Have No Time

I was going to begin this post with a “It’s only (insert number here) days until my A-Levels!” and then I realised that the very thought of doing that stressed me out to the point where everything felt cold and I wanted to slip under the school desk I’m sitting at and never emerge again. That’s nothing unfamiliar from the usual and that’s the issue: I’m constantly stressed, constantly terrified and unable to find time to do anything I want. Blogging, talking to friends, relaxing, reading – all of these I’ll be talking about in this post, as well as sobbing generally over my lack of organisation.

On Tuesday, the day I was supposed to be doing my history mock because I was ill the Wednesday prior, our school gave us an assembly that totally fucked up my day and, in short, made me cry. They told us that we should be more panicked, more stressed because our A-Levels are soon, that we should start taking responsibility for our own learning even more than we already do. I’m sure they meant it as a way for us to realise the “urgency”, as they put it, of the lack of time we actually have but it did the opposite for me. It increased my panic, to the point where I could barely breathe whilst listening; I walked downstairs and sat there for a good 15 minutes unable to do anything but breathe raggedly in utter fear.

I never ended up doing that mock in those 3 hours, lying that I’d finished it – I was doing it in my own time anyway – being wildly upset when I was doing other work that ended up helping me in the long run and eventually doing it in the evening where I worked far more productively. But that cut down on my time to do other things; it piled up and I cried twice that day: once in the toilets before lunch so nobody would see and another time at home. In counselling yestarday I told Jane all this, bursting out in a rush along with my general frustration and anger. All that screaming negativity made me realise something, properly for the first time: I don’t have time to do absolutely everything.

There are some people who can balance work with a social life, whilst having good and consistent mental health, can do a few of their hobbies and still have time to relax afterwards. I’m not one of those people. At the moment, I have extremely unstable mental health, no two ways about it; I’m barely able to keep afloat with work; I haven’t read a book for fun in months; my communication with friends has worsened if that’s even possible; I’m always tense. I try to do so many things that I never end up doing any of them, leading to so much stress and I suppose you’d call it anxiety. I withdraw myself, making myself feel so guilty that I try my best to be a good friend which makes me feel guilty for not doing work. It’s quite the cycle.

I love my friends; they’re the ones that have kept me going. Talking to some of my blogging friends at weekends has made me smile and gives a bit of routine to my mind. However, I haven’t been meeting people outside school and my energy for socialising has decreased dramatically. Instead of attacking myself for that, I need to remember that I don’t have an obligation to talk to people all the time: my brain has a lot going on within it and I’m always stressed. I don’t need another stressor on top of that because friends shouldn’t be a stressing factor at all. They’re friends and understand what’s happening, or they will when I explain it to all of them.

What makes me quite sad is that I haven’t given myself time to relax. Apart from extending my skincare routine on weekends, I just haven’t put any effort into making myself feel calm. My logic is that if I don’t have time to talk, I also shouldn’t give myself time to relax either. That’s crap logic. To try and get past that, I bought a few books recently and I’m re-reading Ink and Bone which I bloody love. I’m also trying to go to bed early; my sleep patterns have been so awful for the last few months and I want to fix that. Relaxing is so important, more important than working yourself to the ground. Now, if I could only take my own advice…

*3 decades later* well oops, looks like that might take a lot more work.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting recently. I mean you might not have, I’m kind of an insignificant dust speck in space and AAAAHH I’ll just stop talking… Anyway, the reason is simple: I’ve had even less time for blogging. Unlike with GCSEs, I’d rather be writing than studying but I don’t have much of an option. Every time I realise how much I miss blogging I feel quite upset and guilty but that gets me into a horrible mindset. I don’t know what my posts will be like, or when I’ll post them, over the next few months. I could pick myself up or I could slither away into a hole of despair but no matter what, I’m not leaving this blog. Posts just might be a bit short or infrequent but it’s coming up to my 3 year anniversary on here and I want to do something for it.

Schoolwork hasn’t been as monstrous as I thought. I’ve caught up on some notes, written essays, completed bits of homework and almost finished my english coursework, I’d like to say tentatively? things aren’t good but I don’t want to hide utterly right now which is a positive. I’ve kept up more of a dialogue with teachers and I just want to get that work done and not keep crying out of fear and desperation again. It’s an exhausting way to live and as I said to Jane yesterday, I hate it.

Honestly, I’m not sure what I’ll do from here. As I’m feeling rather erratic because of work, uncontrollable feelings and confusion, I can’t very well predict my own behaviour. Bare with me because I’m trying and my trying may not be enough but if it is, things may get a tiny bit more bearable. All I know is that time is running out and I don’t have much more time before exams but in that time, I plan to be as alright as I can be.

How do you manage your time? Also, do you have any ideas about what I should do for my 3 years?

From Elm 🙂

When I was Made to Talk

I’m writing this just after 1 in the afternoon, half an hour after a counselling session ended. I should be working but I’m a rebel. If you know about counselling, you might be asking, “But your counselling sessions are after school on a Wednesday?” Yes, they are. However, this counselling session was in school and I had no idea about it until I was in the room with the counsellor.

I’m finding it very very difficult to get my words out right now, as I did in the session, and so this post may be a little unfiltered but I’m so upset and shaky that if I don’t write it out, I’ll internalise it all. Although talking does usually help, it has the absolute opposite effect when I’m forced to do it at such short notice. It only works when I can at least gather my thoughts. If this won’t help me, I hope it’ll help you to realise that disclosing things about your own mental health should be on yr terms with your permission, rather than someone else’s. This is all fresh in my mind as I write this; I’m going to go back to this later and post it when I get home.

Now, it’s not like I had no warning. Approximately 4 months ago, when I actually spoke to my Head of Year about how bad I felt, she put me on the list to have counselling from an external counsellor in school but I never heard anything since. I thought she’d utterly forgotten because she always made me feel like my ‘problems’ were just normal hormonal things. Also, I could have refused the counselling straight off when I got in the room but I felt too awkward and guilty to do it, or even to ask not to go next week. I just felt blank and washed out and drained before it had even started because instead of talking to this counsellor – although really lovely – I wanted to talk to the one I go to on Wednesdays, Jane.

I got into the room and asked what I was here for and I was told it was for counselling. I relaxed a little as I thought I’d been in trouble; however, I still felt wildly closed off and unwilling to open up. Maybe if I’m approached it better, I would have had a better reaction but I had no time to do that. From the outset, I just knew that I wasn’t comfortable, above all because I hadn’t had time to get comfortable.

She read out some paperwork, about confidentiality (which didn’t help as I wasn’t feeling stable at all), then I signed a form about information from my sessions being used, of course anonymous, and we started. Right off, I felt disconnected and unprepared and so what I said was utterly raw, very jumbled, neither made sense to me nor her and I don’t know if it was the truth or not. I’m having a day where, with the exception of 2 hours’ solid work in History, I’m questioning my own thoughts a lot and so articulating them is so, so difficult.

Because my brain really hurts and I’m exhausted, I couldn’t have told you what I exactly said. When these kinds of things happen to me, where I panic, I often block it out to make it stop feeling overwhelming. I spoke about myself, my perception of how I feel, paranoia, how I have a distorted view of how I think, the conflict I’ve got between standards I set for myself and the expectation of failure and also not fitting the expectations of what people want me to be. I got so overwhelmed that I stuttered – something I hardly ever do – and felt absolutely cold. I mentioned the acting I did recently, how that made me feel; I talked about how behind I am in work; I talked about my general mental health and how afraid I felt that people hated me. All of this I know. What I don’t know is what she said to help; I don’t know the outcomes of the session. Instead of feeling like I could express myself, it all came out in a sick rush and I felt like I was a brick wall. I barely presented myself realistically – and yes, you could argue that the rambling, unhinged crap that came out of my mouth was me but today, I really didn’t feel well and also felt utterly out of it and unable to organise my thoughts.

After the session ended, I spoke to the counsellor casually but then just got out of there. Stepping outside, the first real thing I felt was the sun on my face and I was trembling because my thoughts were terribly confused, like they’d been shaken up. When talking to family about it, I could barely get my words out again; I texted one of my friends and couldn’t tell him much about what happened because I was in such an internal state. Part of the reason is that I wasn’t prepared; another was that because of confidentiality, I couldn’t talk about the thoughts that were really on my mind. The fact is, despite her being a really nice and patient person, I couldn’t trust her. I couldn’t trust the school and so, although she’s an external counsellor, I couldn’t trust her either.

As I’d previously expressed a need for the counselling, I don’t blame the school for how I felt. I know they thought I knew but I can’t help but be a bit upset – perhaps misplacing this upset – because it made me panic, after it was done, to an extreme. If I could have prepared myself to talk today, maybe I would have got more out of the session. If it had been in an environment where I felt secure, I could have spoken more freely. If I didn’t have the worry of confidentiality, I could have talked about more serious things without being afraid.

When I’m made to talk to someone and I’m not prepared for it, or when it falls on a day where my thoughts are really bad and talking about them is tricky, I shut off and just try and get through. Hopefully, this isn’t going to stop me from opening up in the next few days. I learned today that sometimes, I really can’t talk because I haven’t processed any of my thoughts but that’s okay. It’s not your fault if talking doesn’t help, whether always or only sometimes. People should respect your boundaries – and I know the counsellor had no time to be able to understand mine so of course I don’t blame her. I don’t even know my boundaries until they come up.

Don’t ever feel like you should be forced to talk if words just won’t come out and you can’t form them yet. It can be tricky to know when you truly feel like talking and when you don’t but if it feels utterly wrong to you to talk at this present moment, when you can’t understand what you’re feeling and it all shuts down, you don’t have to.

I don’t think I’ll go the week after next. On top of the fact that I already have counselling, the emotions brought up were too overwhelming and I felt too unhappy to constructively listen to anything. It didn’t feel freeing, or like I could trust it, or like I had another person to talk to. It just felt unpleasant to make myself talk about things that just weren’t prepared in my head.

What are your experiences with school counsellors? This counsellor was very good at what she did but just not for me and not now.

From Elm 🙂