A couple of years ago, my friends and I decided that we’d take a shot for every time somebody posted Death Cab for Cutie – The New Year on Hogmanay. Guys, if you’re reading this, and you understood the reference – the rule still stands. Sorry.
So, it’s 2018. 2017 passed in a bit of a wild blur for me, I think any kind of happiness was mildly clouded by the chronic pain that I struggled with throughout the year. I still feel like I’m on pause until I’m treated but as that is hopefully around the corner, I’m more hopeful for 2018.
A friend said to me a couple of weeks ago “I want you to be doing good, and to not be giving Sarah-Louise a hard time” and that’s my goal for 2018. Focus more on happiness and stop being so hard on myself.
Thank you for all being so supportive in 2017, happy new year. X
I spent a lot of 2017 apologising and excusing myself. I felt that I needed to justify every aspect of who I was – right down to my writing. I was published once last year. I barely even tried. I couldn’t justify to myself, in my head, why my writing was more important than somebody else’s. I couldn’t rationalise putting my work out there. Not only was it my work, it was my taste in films, music, my opinions. I just lost all confidence.
In 2018, I’m going to try to get off my own back. I have resolutions, that I’ve shared with those close to me but my main goal for 2018 is just being kinder to myself and realising that my feelings, my words, my work all have worth even if I don’t always feel like they do.
In 2018, I’ll be following the words of the wonderful Carrie Fisher:
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
It’s how I’ve lived my whole life up until now. Time to get back to being unapologetically myself.
I sat, head in my hands, wincing and said, for probably the 15th time that day;
I cannot deal with how tired I am
I was so tired. So tired that I felt physically ill. So tired that my anxiety had been sky-high. Between sleep deprivation and too much caffeine, I was losing my mind.
I couldn’t really figured out why, though. I was looking into high-energy foods and promising myself I’d go on a diet of solely these if it meant I’d actually be able to get through the day. I was considering that maybe I had a deficiency of some sort. I just… couldn’t place it.
That was until a coworker pointed out that for the past month, every single time she’s asked what my plans for the evening are, I’ve had something on. Nothing too extravagant but still, all the time and it always involved me travelling, not quite catching dinner, getting home after 10 and struggling to fully wind down.
I struggle with my physical health as it is and I really should spend more time relaxing. I just like being busy. I like telling people how busy I am, how tough my job is. We all do, we just don’t tend to admit it. Being busy isn’t always something to aspire to, though. Being so busy that you are ill, you are exhausted and you’ve lost all sense of normality is extremely unhealthy.
Bertrand Russell once said:
The kind of leisure which is quiet and restoring to the nerves comes to be felt boring. There is bound to be a continual acceleration of which the natural termination would be drugs and collapse. The cure for this lies in admitting the part of sane and quiet enjoyment in a balanced ideal of life.
– The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell
I agree. There is peace to be found in taking it easy. It’s been less than a week and I am already feeling better for the quiet moments.
The solitary hours reading alone, the baths lit by candlelight, curling up in front of an old favourite show or even just taking a couple of hours out of my evening to call my mum have all been extremely restorative.
We romanticise stress. We believe that the more stressed we are, the more we’re achieving but it’s not true. Take the time to look after yourself, even if it’s just for a couple of nights. Remember that it’s okay to be “boring” for a while if it means you can truly recharge.
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“Leaves are falling all around
It’s time I was on my way
Thanks to you I’m much obliged
For such a pleasant stay
But now it’s time for me to go
The autumn moon lights my way”
Led Zeppelin – Ramble On
So, today is moving day. Finally.
Autumn doesn’t actually start ’til later this month but it’s the 1st of September and to me, that indicates that Autumn is almost here and the fresh start that F. Scott Fitzgerald spoke of is well underway.
I’m really quite excited to be leaving my big purple house now. Just as I was getting sentimental about leaving, one headache came, and then another, and then another. Now that moving day is here, I’m just really excited to move into a lovely southside flat with an old pal. It’s a new adventure for me and the cats. A well overdue adventure.
There’s something really exciting about moving house and I should know – this is my 20th(!) move. The actual moving part is tedious, costs more than you expect and exhausting but once you’re in, it’s a fresh start. It feels as if you’ve just really turned a page and there are endless opportunities ahead.
The new walls surrounding you, the new area to explore, the nooks and crannies that all make up a home… they’re all yours for the taking! The last tenants only moved out yesterday, so I won’t have that ‘new home’ smell. I have, however, bought candles to make sure it smells fresh.
I even love the unpacking and finding new places for familiar belongings.
I am worried about settling my cats. Cats don’t like change. But I do.
Initially, I freak out. Initially, I wonder how the hell I’m going to tackle it.
Then I get excited. Despite being surrounded by boxes, and binbags, and a flat that still needs to be post-tenancy cleaned, I’m excited. I don’t know what’s ahead apart from a big flat and living with an old friend.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was right, wasn’t he? Life really does take on a fresh new start in Autumn.
(Please carry my books for me. I have five huge boxes. WHO EVEN NEEDS THIS MANY BOOKS?!)
P.S – my first newsletter goes out today, if you’d like to sign up, just go here!
I remember the time before you. I did play on the street, I did go home with muddy knees and yes, my friends lived across the road from me. I had a lot of fun and I’m so grateful for my memories of being a scruffy kid who played on the street. My memories BI (before internet) are really exactly what all of those terrible memes say and I do get nostalgic thinking about the memories and laughter those days brought.
Those memories, however, have nothing on what you have brought me, internet.
I remember our early days together. The dial-up days. Look, I know you’re embarrassed now but don’t be – we worked through those times and I knew you’d be worth the wait. I mean, yes, okay, it was much quicker to call my friend to arrange plans than rely on not-so-instant messenger but I just loved the sweet satisfaction of pinging messages and awaiting responses.
I remember making websites that weren’t actually too different to this very one but they didn’t cost an annual fee and were almost always covered in tacky glittery gifs.
I remember Blueyonder emails. REMEMBER how important that email address felt?
Our early days were frustrating and I did go for days, weeks at a time without seeing you but once we recovered, we never looked back, did we internet?
From meeting my first crush on Habbo Hotel (I wonder who actually still goes on that bizarre site?!) to explaining my feelings at any given time via my MSN messenger screenname, you were there. Of course, I paired these screennames with “emoticons” that tended to be broken hearts and wilted flowers, bless my emo heart.
I poured my heart out to you from day one, internet. My various Livejournal accounts, my MySpace blog posts, my bulletins and of course, the music I listened to meticulously referenced on Last.Fm. I showed you every little part of me and for every part I showed, there was a new website waiting to embrace it.
When I was 13, I was a shy girl who moved to a different country and I wasn’t really welcomed with open arms by my fellow peers. My weird accent, consistent scowl and aversion to small talk led to me being pretty unpopular. But you always loved me. I found my fellow weirdos thanks to you, internet. My mum was worried for me but I wasn’t. I was relieved. Being a freak is one thing but being the only one is isolating. Thanks to AOL, band forums, MySpace and of course, MSN messenger itself, I never felt alone.
My first love, even before you, was music. Fortunately, thanks to Limewire, I had all the music in the world right at my fingertips ready to go onto my MP3 player. 30 songs in one tiny player! How lucky! Limewire did give our computer viruses, some dodgy versions of songs that didn’t quite sound like the versions I’d heard on Kerrang and never-ending frustration when I downloaded a full album but I loved Limewire. I tried others but like a lover that you know is bad for you, I always went back to Limewire. I couldn’t resist.
Even now, I don’t regret my time with Limewire. I can’t listen to Good Riddance without hearing the glitch that came with the Limewire version but that is a small price to pay, really.
Then there were the friendships I did start in person but curated online. The friendships that were built through late-night talks and bearing our souls in a way that just didn’t seem possible offline. We all struggled with our hormones and chaotic emotions but you, internet, you gave us a safe outlet that was very much “what is said on the internet stays on the internet”. Thank you for that.
In my later teen years, you were a solace to me when I moved to Glasgow alone. I spent my evenings finding new music, writing down relatable lyrics in my notepads and attempting to maintain the friendships I’d built.
I finally did start a real blog where I wrote about music. The first thing I wrote was about Jack Johnson’s new album. Then I wrote about my ex-boyfriend’s band’s new album. Then, through the magic of the internet and my Tumblr account, I met with three other girls who wanted to write about music. We started a music blog together called Let the Music Do the Talking, after an Aerosmith song. We ignited one another’s passion for writing and became a lovely wee team for a while.
Then, we got an email from somebody called Chris who was starting a monthly metal night in Glasgow called Mayhem Underground – would any of us like to cover it? I jumped at the chance. Mayhem Underground was run by a team of volunteers. The manager, his partner, two photographers, a radio dj, a weekly podcast host, a comedian and myself. We met so many bands, and I made friends with so many people from the bands. It was wild, incredible, terrible and short-lived. But I met some of my closest, dearest friends through it that I still cherish to this day. All from one silly email. Thank you for that.
All the while, I had a Tumblr account. I know, I know. Tumblr has a bad name but for me, it was an easy way to speak to people from my city without, you know, talking to them in person. On my 26th birthday, I was surrounded by around 10 of my friends and my sister asked me where I’d even met so many people who liked me (thanks Georgia!) the answer was Tumblr. For better or worse, Tumblr. Thanks for that, too.
My music writing slightly took off and I eventually started writing for a local youth magazine called The Banter Magazine. I interviewed so many incredible artists and had so many wonderful gigs experiences thanks to The Banter Magazine. It all started with Amy Lee from Evanescence and the last artist I interviewed for the magazine was Scott from Frightened Rabbit. Unbelievable. And all thanks to you, internet!
Thanks to my writing being readily available online, I managed to get some paid SEO freelance work which added to an accidentally growing portfolio. I didn’t even think of where my portfolio would take me, I was just excited to be writing and to be paid to do so!
In 2014, I landed what I thought was my “dream job” thanks to my writing. Thanks to you, really, since you gave me a platform. That job ended, and so did others following it but now I write for a living. It’s my entire job! This really is the dream. I am a content writer for a fantastic wee company and if it weren’t for you, internet, my job wouldn’t even exist.
In fact, I don’t know what my life would be without you, internet. Friends, jobs, unforgettable experiences, and all thanks to you. So happy birthday, internet and thank you so bloody much for the memories. And the endless information at my fingertips. And the opportunities. And Netflix.
I am willing to forget the utter horror that was Faceparty. We’ll call that a bad patch and leave it at that.
It’s been 15 years that I’ve loved you, internet, and although our relationship is sometimes unhealthy and I did use you as a crutch for a long time, I think our relationship is beautiful now. It has taken me to places I never could have been to if it weren’t for you.
I’m sure Tim-Berners Lee had bigger dreams for you than terrible memes and Llamas in Hats but I’m grateful for it all.
It started with losing a boyfriend and ended with losing a flat (well, my landlord is looking into selling it and was actually very lovely about it all but allow me some dramatics, I’m sad). In between that, I was told I might lose an ovary. Holy. Hell.
This little flat is my home. It is tiny, there are no radiators on the walls – just expensive portable ones, the neighbourhood leaves a lot to be desired and yes, fair enough, I have complained quite a lot about my little corner of the world over the past five years but it is home. In fact, I have lived in this flat for longer than I’ve ever lived in any home before it. I love it.
The walls are purple, the doors are cheap and the buzzer is ridiculous. I live on a lane. The end of my address is “street lane” and nobody can ever find it. I didn’t even really want this flat when we got it, it just seemed like the best of a bad bunch. It was so much worse back then but you really do make homes your own and now the thin walls that surround me also define me. Every essence of this feels like home.
I can’t say I’m quite as attached to my ovary. The cyst that currently lives on it has given me so much grief. I’ve always been somebody who cries easily, and a lot, but the pain this has given me has left me sobbing on the bus, in doorways and into my cardigan at work. I probably won’t miss this ovary or the residing cyst but I wish the option to have it hadn’t been taken away from me.
I think that’s where I am, actually. There’s a lot happening to me that I didn’t get consulted on prior. The feeling of helplessness and loss of control has taken a huge toll on me.
I need to move. I need to move on. I need to probably have an ovary removed and the very least, surgery. 2/3 of those are definitely happening soon. They’re happening whether I like it or not, whether I’m ready or not. I’m still quite overwhelmed and although I think everything that’s happened has been right, and fair, and for the best, I’m craving the life I had 5 weeks ago. I wish I’d made the most of my life not being such a hurricane.
I have no idea where I’ll be in 4 months time. I have no idea what my life will be like. And I guess…. that’s pretty exciting? I have absolutely no idea what the future holds for me. And in my lighter moments, that are becoming more frequent, I realise I’m about to embark on a new adventure. Whatever that may mean for me.
If there’s anything I’m good at, it’s resilience. And oversharing on the internet, clearly.
As David Bowie said: “I don’t know where I’m going but I promise it won’t be boring”.
“Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.”
– Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
I didn’t intend for this blog to become a dedication to my eventual climb out of the abyss but here we are.
I am doing a lot better. I knew I would be, eventually. Four years ago when I was first punched in the gut with the lethal combination of anxiety and depression, I thought I’d never be happy again. I was really scared. I was scared of living, scared of dying, scared of absolutely everything. It took me a long, long time to come out of that place but once I was out, I knew I could get out and that knowledge has saved me a few times since. Depression isn’t a regular occurrence for me these days but it does rear it’s ugly head when things get dark. I can’t seem to go through a hard time without dancing with depression briefly.
Anyway. Hurrah. I’m out.
Another thing I use to help myself maintain functionality in these times is finding snippets of comfort when I’m feeling overwhelmed. It might sound a bit weird but hiding in the toilets or the kitchen at work for 5 minutes with a book helps to bring me back down from wherever my mind was taking me. As well as this, spending lunchtimes away from my phone/computer screen also helps. We have a comfy couch in our office and I have spent plenty of lunchtimes curled up on it reading. Reading, though, is a massive luxury and I know that I’m lucky to be able to concentrate and absorb books. Mental illness tends to make that harder but sometimes books break through the cracks and Holes definitely did that recently.
Another trick, and this one is far more versatile and generally doesn’t require hiding in a communal toilet. It’s common, and I know I’m not the first but I tell myself ‘you only need to get through the next five minutes’. And repeat. Sometimes, I know that I’m 2 hours away from home and I remind myself what happened over the past 2 hours and how fast they went by. Just repeating what’s already been. Then comfort.
Finally, and I’m sorry because this is corny but during my lighter days, the days I don’t feel swamped by my own demons, I practice gratitude. I have a hell of a lot to be grateful for. I live in a flat in my favourite city, with my favourite person and two gorgeous, affectionate cats. The area we live in isn’t the best but it’s not the worst, either. I have a loving family, both inner and outer that has dealt with all my phases and struggles admirably and I have a job. I like what I do, I’m very good at what I do (I think…) and I’m constantly learning. As well as this, for the first time in my life, I have a solid group of friends that I trust without question. I’ve finally got it made and while I allow myself to feel sad when I am sad, I don’t let myself forget how lucky I am. I think that’s really helped me stay afloat many times. I wasn’t always grateful. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve created and been presented with, I’ve built the life I wanted to live and how many people can say that? I’m not exactly where I want to be but I’m past the half way point and that’s something to be proud of and grateful for.
Sometimes though, depression is ugly as fuck and so is the rest of the world. Sometimes, there’s no good to be seen. Everybody experiences depression and anxiety differently and I’ve suffered, really, for as long as I can remember with the great dip of 2011 being my lowest point. I’m not trying to sound preachy or as if I know how to cure depression (I wish!) but this is how I found my own feet and I wanted to share my story.