NEARING THE END, A REFLECTION ON 2017

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2017 has been the most tumultuous year of my existence, and has marched forward with such a pace that I’ve had to force myself to reflect upon these rushing days, and how they have fluctuated so wildly between the macabre and the wonderful.

The year began with a slither of hope; having left university due to various circumstances, I was ready to embrace January for its metaphorical clean slate, and set about trying to organise my life. After a rather chance conversation with my best friend, I suddenly found myself booking all of September off to travel around Europe, which, if I’m being honest, flooded my veins with an unshakeable feeling of dread and fear. I was concerned that I would be unable to get through it without the shadow of my anxiety swallowing me whole, and the image of me experiencing that panicky, illogical mindset somewhere in the middle of Prague wasn’t going a long way in regards to calming me down.

With that in the pipeline, I thought it best to revert from my usual reaction to such worries, and fought against the urge to shut myself up in my room, eat unhealthily, and refrain from human interaction as much as possible. I went out for daily walks with my camera, met up with friends as often as I could, and went on a beautiful trip to Pisa with my girlfriend. The latter was actually an event more significant than I originally thought; I had planned and actually enjoyed a trip abroad without any major incident, and besides from one little episode prior to the flight over there, it showed me that my month long trip would be nothing to worry about, and I let positivity control my brain for once. Upon our return, I worked part-time, and found that to be great too – I was interacting with strangers all day, and enjoying it, and I suddenly found myself free from my burdens.

However, I was pulled back down to reality rather quickly when we realised my grandmother was dying. I know a lot of my friends aren’t that close with their grandparents, yet Grandma was, ultimately, my best friend. Throughout my childhood, I had spent 5-6 days a week at her house, talking extensively about pretty much anything we could, and forming my life-long love affairs with cooking, literature, music, and cinema. She was an outrageously funny, incredibly fashionable, independent lady with a seemingly bottomless wealth of knowledge, and I am blessed to have even known her let alone be related, but that made it all much harder at the end. Watching such an energetic individual slip into their illness, unaware of anything around them, and ultimately become dreadfully frustrated with a life they can no longer enjoy, was possibly the most traumatising thing I have ever witnessed. I think a small portion of myself died with her that day.

The aftermath of the funeral was not great. By my own admission, I am pretty terrible at facing such things, yet I think I was more concerned with my mother to think too much about anything else; in a way, I count myself lucky that I was with Grandma in her final weeks, right up to the very end, as it enabled me to mourn in a gradual wave, rather than experience what others in the family had to. I just felt that everything was becoming a little bit too much, and that I had to get away.

Luckily, Europe was closing in. Before I knew it, Jacob and I were boarding our train for Paris and the journey had begun. I don’t know why, and perhaps I never will, but I did not experience one iota of anxiety throughout the entire trip (which you can see the photos from on my travel page – here). I think it was the relief of being somewhere so excitingly new that left me no time to dwell on anything from home, other than my girlfriend, but she was beginning her own adventure at university. It was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable month of my life, and I think I’ll be able to dwell on the inspiration for my writing for many years to come. More importantly, by the end of it, I was so glad to see Derbyshire, and be back in familiar territory that no longer felt like it was suffocating me. 

On the day I arrived home, however, my dog passed away. It was weird to leave a trip and return from it surrounded by elements of death, but Truffle was extremely old and frail and had given us so much love throughout the years that it felt strangely right she had gone; dare I say it, I was weirdly relieved. The next few weeks were spent writing and roaming around, visiting my girlfriend in York and reading good books on slow trains, and then I had one fateful weekend that has twisted the road of my future once more.

After attending an interview for what I thought was a two-week volunteering position, I accidentally left the room with an internship and, looking forward, the prospect of a full time job in something that enables me to work with the terminally ill, conduct creative writing groups, and work within PR and marketing. This should all start in January, and because of all that has happened this year, I don’t think my anxiety is going to fuck this one up. I am much stronger, happier, and healthier than I was this time last year, and I can’t thank the people around me enough. 

Let me know in the comments how your year has been – what were the ups and downs, what affect do you think it has had on you?

Anyway, here’s to another metaphorical clean slate, may it forever be chalked with positivity. 

Fred x

 

FINDING MY DNA – 26/10/17

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I am, by most definitions, the epitome of a mongrel. On my paternal side, I stem from Russian and Australian blood, and can trace some of my ancestry back for vast generations, yet my maternal side remains a mystery. My mother was adopted as a baby, and to make matters more confusing, her birth mother was also adopted, and thus to trace such things has proved to be rather difficult. I do, however, know that the people I knew and loved as my grandparents share some of the same blood as my mother’s birth family; both stem from European Jewish communities.

Now, I have no interest in meeting my “real” relatives, as they are not the people that have made vast sacrifices and loved me unconditionally throughout my life, and thus will never rival the connection I have with my family. I do, however, possess an insatiable intrigue to discover more about my identity; I want to know more about the history swirling in my veins, and I have no idea what to discover. All that we are aware of, on my mother’s side, is that her birth father was an upmarket individual who was married, and had an affair with her birth mother. She has met the latter, who I understand has passed away now, yet I never had the opportunity, and remain unsure of what my answer would have been should I have had the choice.

What I do know is that I want some more information regarding my ancestry, and have therefore ordered a DNA kit; the results should be with me in about 8-10 weeks, and I will, of course, divulge my results. I am excited, and weirdly a little nervous (for someone who is extremely proud of various parts of my heritage, it would be a little strange if it was revealed to be false), but for now, all I can do is wait.

Fred x

TRAVELLING WITH ANXIETY – a short reflection

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I’ve experienced anxiety, in varying degrees, for much of the latter half of my teens. When I first started to have attacks, I dealt with them in a pretty horrendous manner, and for a long while was unaware of what was happening to me; this lack of knowledge induced a great sense of panic and, at some points, I was becoming convinced that I was going mad. I’ve never written about this subject, as I didn’t think I was particularly qualified to do so, and compared to some individuals I am aware of, my anxiety is laughably small, but this is a personal blog and who knows, it may help some of you that are going through similar things. 

After a while, I began to realise what was occurring, and what I could do to keep it at bay. I was adamant I didn’t want to involve medical assistance, and to this day would never accept any help in the form of prescribed drugs, as I had my own ways of processing it all (although I am of course aware that more severe issues would require such treatment); these are very important realisations that I believe will be unique to each person, but with patience and determination, you will find things that help. These are the things that helped me:

  • Exercise and healthy eating. Now, I know I’m still rather large now, but I used to be hugely overweight, and that grotesque body image that I held in my mind was a massive contributing factor to my anxiety. Exercise boosts endorphins and shows you how strong you really can be, as well as being somewhat cathartic as you burn away the stress alongside the calories. Drinking water frequently was also beneficial, as you can’t be at your strongest without keeping hydrated. 
  • Poetry. I don’t really know what I’d do without writing, but I suppose most people have their ways to vent. Poetry was a way in which I found I could express my innermost troubles, facing them in the process, and put them onto paper in a manner that was ambiguous enough for it not to embarrass me. I release most of my work, but I do keep journals and notebooks that are entirely personal, and these are the most therapeutic. Once you learn how to write for yourself and not for a reader, which is very different from the usual process, I think you can start to understand what makes you tick. Feeding that mechanism is extremely healing, and I’d urge you to write something, even if it’s a diary entry, every day, as the routine will give you some release.
  • Friends. I was/am lucky enough to have a fantastic set of friends and a wonderful girlfriend. The former stuck by me even though I went through large periods of being reclusive and hardly ever went out on club nights/social events with them, and the latter has supported me unconditionally whilst pushing me to become the best I can be. They have all understood what I was feeling, and managed to keep me positive and hopeful, and I can’t thank them enough for dragging me through it all to be where I am today.
  • Hobbies. These are more important than most would like to recognise, but a good set of hobbies gets you out and about and gives you something to do other than sit around and vegetate. I found mine in the form of photography, but anything would do; painting, music, reading, writing, sports, etc. If it gets you moving and motivated, then it’s good for you.

The truth is, anxiety fucking sucks. It’s an odd state of mind that prevents you, quite frequently, from doing what you love, and overcoming it is an incredible feeling. With careful management and the help of some beautiful people, I hadn’t had a full attack in around a year, so six months ago I thought I was strong enough to start doing things that I’d always wanted to do, and made the decision to go travelling. Now, that’s probably something that seems so small to most of you, but for me it was huge. I couldn’t shake the visions of packed trains, blaring sunlight and the inability to get home easily, and pretty much predicted that I wouldn’t last long, but would give it a fair try. One of my best friends, Jacob, said that he would accompany me, and we booked it soon after. I was, in all honesty, petrified of letting everyone, and myself, down. 

Prior to this, however, I had booked a week long trip to Italy with my girlfriend, which was equally as scary. She understands me more than anyone I know, and with her care I managed to go through the entire thing without any major incident, and without her pushing me to get out of my comfort zone, I know I would never have gained the confidence required to be where I am today. This, for me, is the annoyance of anxiety; even though I hadn’t experienced a proper attack in so long, it still remained in the back of my head with every decision, and thoroughly influenced the choices I would make – being thrusted out of my comfort zone was terrifying, but the feeling of succeeding and managing it all is unfathomably good, and now I’m in the best state of mind I’ve been in for years.

I didn’t sleep for two nights before leaving on this month long trip, and spent six hours unpacking and repacking my bag out of paranoia I’d forgotten something majorly important, but somehow as soon as my foot stepped on the first train back in the UK, I was fine. I couldn’t believe it. There have been situations where I’ve had to laugh at myself for being so surprised I haven’t freaked out; a four hour train journey so busy that there was no room to move; a restaurant so full we were crammed in with six German speaking locals at the back of the room; in fact, pretty much everything we’ve done so far would have sent me into oblivion a matter of months ago, but it’s all going under my stride.

What I suppose I’m trying to say is that things will get better. They won’t seem like they will, and occasionally you’ll slip, but you’ve just got to keep going; find things that make you happy, find people that push you forward, and learn to get out there again. Don’t try and do it alone, but don’t refrain from getting to truly know yourself; in my head, I either enjoy things or let it win, and I know I’m too stubborn to go down without a fight. 

I will happily talk to anyone that wants to have a chat about any of this, and my email is on the “About Me” page – here.  

All the best;

Fred x

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