Sunday, 4 October 2015

How are you?

How are you?
Three words repeated over and over again, a platitude - learned behaviour. I’ll tell you what I do. I put my smile on and I say
            FINE THANKS
            and keep moving if I can.
            OR I sigh lightly and laugh a little and say surviving. I’m surviving. Like I’m some kind of creature whose out in the woods and getting by although it’s dirty and mucky and sometimes cold.
            Then I always say “How bout yourself?” and they say something similar although maybe there’s too much work or something going on with their Mother-in-Law and they’ll fall in to telling me.
I tend to keep the things that I actually want to talk about until I actually want to talk about them.
            This greeting isn’t meaningless, not quite. Sometimes it can have huge power. When my close friend came round to see me, after her husband had been diagnosed with a chronic illness I asked her how she was and she wept, saying no-one had really asked her. I thought maybe they had but you wouldn’t want to open up about that to just anyone. 
            The thing is, actually, probably the most important thing you can do is ask your very own self - “How are you?” and if you’re good then great - if you aren’t then you should give yourself a hug and ask why not and is there anything you can do to help.
            Deciding to be a friend to myself could be the best thing I have ever done.

            I encourage to do the same and remember that at the very crux of it - YOU ARE NOT YOUR EMOTIONS. YOU ARE ONLY EXPERIENCING THEM.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A Positive Case

Yesterday I left my suitcase on a train. It doesn't have lots of valuables (doesn't rather than didn't, the recent nature of the loss means I keep it present) - it's the suitcase that my mum and dad gave me for getting a permanent job, it has clothes and a Murakami book I was in the middle of reading and shoes I bought for my friend's wedding. Little things that are important to me. 

When things like this have happened in the past - when I was in the throes of my depression I wouldn't have been able to step back. I would have stayed in that frantic moment, when you feel so electrifyingly alive it's impossible to think straight. When you can't quite believe that it happened to you and you go over your own idiotic behaviour again and again. When you say to yourself forever that it's all your own fault.

Don't get me wrong I was there for a bit. I'm up at a ridiculous hour because I can't get back to sleep. The important difference is I know if I don't get it back it won't be the end of the world. I can get myself out of those negative spaces I used to roam around, back hunched, crying in the gloom. I can breathe and understand sometimes things are beyond your control but - pretty much always - it's not the worst it can be.

The things that have helped me to do that have been having an amazing therapist - who I saw for only a few months last year - mindfulness and the support of my friends. Sometimes I think that it's amazing I managed to stop pushing people away. More on that to follow. 

In any case (ha!) I hope to continue like this, this me that can lower her heart rate when stressful things happen. 

Love and hope from a person who is still breathing. 

Miss D x 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Waking up

My eyelids crinkle
and crumple in protest.

My body is sunken - still sinking,
deeply heavy.    

Light somewhere
and a muffled alarm ringing
abrasively in my ear.

Not again.

Write Now (Part 2)

Hello friends,

A little while ago I wrote about the barriers to writing that I believe my depression - and to some extent my personality - cultivated. Now I am setting myself a challenge - a week long writing course where I have nothing to do but write. Of course I am excited, exhilarated, wondering where this great adventure will take me. Who, out of the fourteen other people might become my friends. What my week will hold - and what I can create. The place I am in is stunning, rolling mountains - peace and quiet enveloping the overawing grounds.

It seems a bit luxurious doesn't it? So many other people, other writers, just got on with things - writing at their coffee tables, on trains, in every free moment. I don't have that kind of personal motivation. I get stuck in the uselessness of how it feels to be me. This for me is an opportunity to push myself beyond the what ifs and how comes and why don't yous. I am grateful and lucky to have it.

Writing is the way that I express myself and I believe that whatever medium you are naturally drawn to is important to nurture. I have wanted to do this for a really long time. Now what's stopping me? Aside from the fact that I am currently writing on my blog instead of continuing a short story?

As ever only myself.

Miss D xx

Friday, 26 June 2015

What I Want What You Want it Kills Us

This morning, awake at 5am I read two pieces on touring as a musician and it's implications on mental and emotional wellbeing. The first, written in The Guardian  includes standpoints from many well known names, the second is an articulate piece by an creative and intelligent woman who experienced the touring lifestyle from the sidelines and had a full psychotic breakdown. It affected me personally.

Both pieces talk about the highs and lows of touring, the wins - travel and the exhilaration of performance and the lows - erratic schedules and a distorted sense of reality amongst them. I've never been on tour, never played an instrument competently in my life so that isn't my point here. What I can relate to it is my former career, working in PR. I wanted so badly to be part of the media, to work in the music industry, to write and create and learn. I did all of those things. I had big moments. I wrote press releases knowing my words would be replicated in the paper the next day. I supervised interviews. I stood at the side of the stage while bands I loved performed. I scheduled journalist meetings. And, although not to the extent that I craved, I travelled. 

I worked in the industry always thinking the next big thing was around the corner. What had begun to take it's toll with me was the insecurity of it all - working for days or weeks on a project, planning the release, hounding the media only to open the papers the next days with a heart sinking feeling as you found nothing. Some accounts were of course more reliable than others. Some I was even really good at: setting up media partnerships, running successful campaigns. After each win I'd coming crashing down - realising that clients and journalists would always want more. In a day I could be shining from getting coverage to Tatler then crying in the toilets because I knew it was not enough - and not enough was never ending. In our tiny office I'd feel like I was coming out of my skin, restless to not be sitting at desk anymore. 

When I landed a dream account working on a film festival I thought I was made.  That account broke me in so many ways - shitty press calls, demanding distributors, clients who dropped bombshells like sweeties.  What it made me realise more than anything was that it wasn't worth it. It felt like you could flog yourself to death and no-one would blink. Hyperbole of course. It wasn't what I wanted anymore. It wasn't what I needed. 

Fast forward to now. I teach English to teenagers and I love it. I laugh so many times in a day. I come home and cook watch TV and movies. I love my friends and family and spend time with them as a much happier person. I write stories. I do yoga. I want a puppy more than anything. I'm still on my medication. I actually realised that I needed medication, that I wasn't just fighting in my own head. I was only able to do that when I became more grounded and I was only able to become more grounded when I left the industry. 

When I think about my depression and how long it went undiagnosed for I used to wonder how I stuck at it PR as long as I did. It was for the highs. I'll always remember them. That's why I can understand the touring lifestyle, it makes sense to me. Just like PR people are eager to see the glamour, the privileges, the big moments. And just like PR those come at a price. 

Personally I have another investment - I am completely in love with a wonderfully talented musician who is going to spend a lot of the next year on tour. Unlike my own experience of misguidedly working in an industry that wasn't right for me I know that music is right for him. Love makes me feel like I want to hug someone all the time to make sure that they are ok. I want him to have the things that work for me. I want to cook him nice food, have a nice place to live, get proper sleep and fresh air. I also want him to play music and be happy, I just worry that those two things pull each other apart. 

I know one thing though - I'll be here. I hope that my own experiences can keep him grounded in reality. 

I also hope that some of that at least makes sense. 

Miss D xx 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Everyday Yay!

Hello friends. We all need cheering on a daily basis - that's not something I just attribute to anxiety or depression or another mental illness. It's how we are. We need to support each other.

Here, everyday, you can find something to be happy about. This is not trivialising the anguish you might be in - simply taking a moment to reflect and relieve it. 

Today's daily YAY! 

Replace this: 

With this: 

It's ok to not be ok.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Write Now

I have a complicated relationship with writing.

Right now I'm trying to write a new short story and the trouble is, the trouble has always been, that it has to be bad before it comes good. This is why, for many years in the throes of depression I wrote diaries by the ton load, but I hated my own words. Sometimes I would scribble them out just so I wouldn't have to see them. Now it's the most useful thing, because I can look back and understand how I was feeling given my mental state. I don't feel angry at how poorly expressed my thoughts are, I feel sympathy for my younger self and sad that it took so long for me to get the help I needed.

Whoever you are and wherever you are, writing helps.

As for my story? Never confuse a single failure with a final defeat.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Coping: Joy Lists

Hello my friends,

The sun is shining here and it's a beautiful day. I wanted to share with you something that I find helps me when I'm not as smiley and when things are more difficult. I make lists of all the things that make me happy. Sometimes I write them down, sometimes I don't. What I have learnt through yoga is to think about the mind/body connection - how doing something with your body can have a positive impact on your brain. So now, when I'm down - and if I remember, I am only human - I try and do one of the things from my lists.

Currently, here are some of my joyous things:

  • Feeling the sunshine on your back as summer begins 
  • Laughing
  • Singing to Banarama with my friend as we drive around 
  • Drinking Tea 
  • Falling out of yoga poses and getting back into them 
  • NPR All Songs Considered Podcasts 
  • Beer 
  • Reading (specifically 'The Bean Trees' by Barbara Kingsolver) 
  • Looking at pictures  
Make your own list. Little things help.

Peace, happiness and smiles

Miss D 

Monday, 8 June 2015

Why Yoga is it's Own Little Miracle

A year and a half ago, when I was going through what turned out to be the point in my life where I was finally diagnosed with depression, I started doing bikram yoga. I had tried another type of yoga before but I thought this one, undertaken in a forty degree heat would be more worth my while.
For a long time exercise was my way of coping, and at times became an obsession. I'd gotten tired of the cycle - going for a run, going to the gym, going to a class - it had all begun to bore me. Bikram was different.

Firstly there are mirrors. So you have to look at yourself, for 90 minutes of intense poses, working external and internal organs. You see every slouch of your shoulders, every slump of your thighs. Sounds awful? Probably, but it's not I promise you. You see what you are doing wrong and then you correct it. You go as far as you can then you breath. You don't push into pain. All of that helps. Just think about it - shouldn't we all be doing that with our minds too?

Now I do a lot more yoga at home, although I still do Bikram every week. I sleep better and I always feel better after I have given myself time for yoga. The video below is by awesome Adriene, who does wonderful, supportive sequences.

This is one I found particularly up-lifting. Namaste my friends x

Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Best Advice I Can Give You

I was talking to someone a couple of days ago about mental health and anxiety. He was struggling with their current situation, which wasn't at all unhappy. The only thing I could say to him was this:


More than that, for the majority of the time it's just how we (those millions of people who live with mental health issues) are. The pressure to be happy in the life that you have - when nothing is technically wrong - can be crushing. 

I lived with the question for more than a decade: "Why aren't I just happy?" I'd cry over it frequently, feeling like a failure because everything I had in live wasn't enough for me; feeling ungrateful because I had so much; feeling horribly confused because at times I could be so very happy, then the emptiness would come. As much as I wish I known my diagnosis and understood my symptoms sooner I suppose it's a part of me that made me stronger. I did fight through it. I still got up every day. I had an incredible job and incredible friends. In a way that almost made things harder: my symptoms weren't severe enough to really be noticed. 

I suppose it might possible to fight your own way through depression alone, without acknowledgement or support, but it's a hell of a lot better not to. 

It's ok to not be ok. Most of us aren't. 

Friday, 29 May 2015


Today I drove home in a hailstorm. Thousands of tiny frozen particles ricocheted madly off my windscreen, like they were attacking me, attacking the ground, attacking people with a glacial force. Three hours later it's a gorgeous day again, you'd never know it happened. When I started thinking I wanted to write something here it came into my mind and I started to think about how my brain can act just like the weather, and kind of attack me when I least expect it. Now I suppose I'm more able to know when it's happening, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hit me with some force. When it used to happen I supposed it was just being a fucking horrible person. It manifested itself like that, a fault of my own, and that feeling didn't leave me for years and years.

Blaming yourself for the weather? That's just crazy.

What I'm Listening to Today: Damien Jurado, Reel to Reel Demos (Where Shall You Take Me) on vinyl, a really beautiful record by a genius who shows all of us struggle.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Lives of Others

Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.

The truth is a powerful thing.

The thing I have found most startling since I started actually talking about my own mental health is how it almost always leads to somebody telling me something similar, or something worse, about a relative or a friend or themselves. Again and again we all keep it quiet, don't mention it until we are pushed.

And it's not in the way that you might if you were talking about a more physical illness - like cancer. I mean sure you might wait until your comfortable to tell someone about that kind of a struggle. But there is a precedent for it - books, films, TV shows and by enlarge you would only expect a swelling of (perhaps hard to deal with in itself) sympathy.

There is still a huge disparity when it comes to mental health issues. Instead of waiting for something positive or empathetic you wait to be judged. You wait for people to look at you differently, or try and skirt over it politely. I'm lucky in that very often this hasn't been the case for me - it's happened only a few times. Instead I've found people sharing their own stories. I remember telling one of my oldest friends about it after she had been through an episode of her own and she was stunned. 'Everybody hides stuff' was what she said eventually. Of course we do. Why? Because your brain, after all feels, like your responsibility. Perhaps the only responsibility that will make a difference is the ability to tell the truth about it.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


I was walking down the street with my friend today and she mentioned that she liked my blog. I instantly thought she meant my music blog - the one I've been writing for over four years. She starting talking about a post I had written and I realised she meant dullshine. Of course that prompted me to think about it - I was so passionate when I started out so why am I not writing here anymore? I answer is pretty simple: the past few months have been some of the happiest I have ever had. My job was made permanent, my living situation is awesome, I've been doing lots of yoga and letting go of the judgements I make one my body. I've also fallen in love for probably the first time ever. You see? I haven't felt entitled to write about depression, because I'm not in a depression.

Still, I couldn't stop thinking about my friend who said the post she read was interesting. And then I thought if you have never felt that way, how important it is for you to understand it. Essentially entitlement is bullshit. It's a disease so often swept away and because of that there can never be enough people writing about it. As for me, it lingered in me for at least two decades and I know, with a change of the wind, it could come back. I'll keep writing. For me and for you and anyone who wants to read it.

I wish you peace and compassion.

Little Miss Dullshine xxx

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Rain or Shine?

Hello there

I feel like I haven't written here in a long time, longer than it actually is. Perception is puzzling. That's what we deal with I suppose, working out if what we think is an actual truth. And if not then why do we think it. Or at least that's how it is for me. It's like this bunch of daffodils.

This is how they actually look; a sunny yellow burst of happiness.

Play around with them on a photo app and this is how you can make them look:

Rainy, troubled and withering. 

I think it's the same with my brain. Things happen and I change them. It feels unconscious but I have to question myself, or at least that's what I hope I have started to do. 

Right now I am going through a time in my life where I am trying to change bad habits. I know what they are, why I do them and why they are bad for me. The problem it's learnt behaviour - imbedded deep down in me as a false way to cope. So that makes it hard to change. My perception is that I do these things, that they are part of me. I don't know how to be without them - and I'm worried that a storm will come. Just writing that makes me think about it more. It's the truth, they are like my crutch, my solid support even though they also hurt me. Weird huh? 

I think you have to accept that there is no magic wand. What I try to do now it take a step back from myself - recognise how I am feeling and ask myself if it's really true. Question your brain and why you are seeing rain. Maybe, just acknowledging that you create it internally is some kind of help. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Dating and Depression

If there is one thing that I know it's this - dating and depression don't go. First of all, when you are in the midst of low time, it feels like nothing is hopeful. The thought of meeting a random person and chatting about yourself is inconceivable. Secondly, when you are in a better place it's just the thing to tip you up or down. Somehow I've found myself still doing it.

It used to be the 'thing' that I didn't have - a boyfriend who loved me and would make everything meaningful. I waited for a glance across the room that would change my life, the moment that you see in the movies. I'm old enough now to know that's pretty unlikely - more importantly I know fixating on someone else is never going to solve anything. You can only have someone in your life if they are enhancing what you already have - for me that's a great job, amazing friends and family, real loves (books, music, travel) and a sense of adventure.

I'm dating and yes it can be fun - but sometimes I walk away thinking 'Is this what love feels like?'. A great emptiness swells in my belly.

But still, I continue.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

How it feels: An Average Day

I wrote this when I was very low. I hope it might help to explain how depression feels, at least to me. 

I sat by the pond today. I say pond where others might say lake; to me the pool of grey water, dappled with long grasses and framed by ragged green, only had the stature of a pond. Ducks traversed in the water, sending out smooth circles of movement. Their slick feathers were dark grey, tinged with black tips. In the air there was ripples of chatter. Stones poked up through the pond, although in parts there was only water. I imagined putting my hand down into the murky water, diving down into the thick mud - stones and weeds underneath. On the surface it reflected a fiercely blue sky, no clouds to break up the colour.

A free day. I had nothing to do. I sat by the pond alone, without direction. A pretty day; the sun warm on my ankles, a fresh breeze colouring my cheeks. Emptiness rattled around inside me, a pinball bouncing off my sides. I thought about all the things I could be doing, better things, more normal things, things that would make me whole. I thought about reading again, filling myself up with something. I thought about writing again, pouring myself out. I only sat. I watched a small, scruffy duck turn on its side, flipping its head beneath the water. I looked up at the sky. I looked at the time. I dug my fingers into the grass beneath me. I think, I think, I thought, I am, I am not, I think, I think, I thought, I wish I was, I wasn’t, I can, I can’t, I think, I think, I thought, I try, I’m trying. I think, I think, I thought, I feel hopeless - I hope. There is nothing here.  I am doing nothing. I am less than nothing, a negative force. It pulls inward, it tugs at me and I struggle.

This is it: the way I treat myself. Treat. It happens all the time now and I’m not sure why, or I am, or I could be, or I’m not. It’s just how I am. How I have always been.

I let that nothingness coil carefully around me. I block myself in, thought on top of thought balanced like heavy bricks. I don’t have the energy to push them.  

Today I sat by the pond and watched the ducks. How about you?

Thursday, 1 January 2015

How to cope: Talk About It

Happy New Year! It's the first of January and I feel positive. Not because I want to write off last year, it was challenging and important. I'm also old enough to know that 'fresh starts' are a false promise. You have to acknowledge the past and make peace with mistakes. Last year it was the biggest hurdle for me. I feel like I am almost there. 

Mostly I feel positive because I am with my lovely friends and I just had an inadvertent conversation about depression. Talking is so important and cathartic, I spent years storing it all up and I know now that is the worst thing to do. Even if you think they don't understand the illness don't be afraid to confide in someone. It's the biggest and most important release.