Travelling: Why the Journey is Better than the Destination 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Travelling is good for you. No matter what’s going on in your life, travelling is what you need.

Wanderlust: A love of travelling

I started writing this post sat in seat 50C of a Etihad Airbus A-380 (for you plane nerds who are interested, it was beautiful!) My final destination is Sydney, some 30+ hours away.

I’m usually really good with travelling. I’ve travelled with friends and family and I’ve travelled alone a million times before (OK, so that’s a slight exaggeration but I can’t be far off that now!) Today has been different though and pretty manic.

I decided to pack this morning for two reasons. Firstly, because I always pack on the day I leave and secondly, because I knew if I packed any earlier I’d only end up unpacking and repacking again. I’d worked out a little timetable in my head of when I wanted to be packed by, when I wanted to get ready and what time I wanted to leave the house. Needless to say, I was running late at every stage.

For the second time this week, I forgot how small I am and tried to carry a bag the same size as me on my back. Luckily it’s not too heavy but it did make walking pretty difficult. The journey ahead of me is Heathrow to Abu Dhabi, then to Melbourne and finally Sydney. My connecting flight between Melbourne and Sydney is with a different airline so I have to collect my baggage and check it in again – if you could all message me to remind me that’d be great!

I love travelling, not just the bit where you get to explore your destination but the journey itself. The anticipation and the build up to your new adventure. More than anything else, the travelling part of any trip gives you time to unwind and time to sit back, forget about home and time to think about what you want to get from the trip which, for me is crucial. Every time I’ve been somewhere new, I’ve set myself goals whether it’s something straightforward like learning to ski in Zermatt or something a little deeper like learning about religion in Ghana.

Given recent “events” my goals for this trip are fairly simple: enjoy myself, relax, spend quality time with my family and to learn how to surf. I want to fill every single day to the brim with new adventures and people. I don’t want to lie-in; I want to run, do yoga on the beach, swim.

Travelling can bring new life to old habits
The other great thing about the journey itself is the people you meet and strange things you see along the way. I’ll openly say this now; people are weird!

On the flight, I was sat next to an elderly couple (I always have to have an aisle seat to prevent having a meltdown of epic proportions) who had clearly flown numerous times. The guy was super excited about the plane as apparently Etihad have only just added it to their fleet (!!) Once the doors were shut and everyone had boarded the guy got up and moved to a seat about 6 rows back so that he could have a little extra leg room and that was it. He just left his wife next to me for the next 6 hours and 50 minutes and didn’t even come to say hi to her. Now I’m sure he had his reasons but I really hope my marriage isn’t like that in 50 years’ time.

The only other thing worth noting was a fat middle aged man who threw a toddler-like tantrum until he was given a row of four seats to himself (which apparently he had requested and had no idea why this hadn’t been arranged). I was considering doing the same myself but I didn’t want to leave the old lady on her own and I also didn’t want to look like an absolute nob like the fat guy did.

I’ll be doing a few posts throughout my stay but for now I need to figure out what day and time it is in Abu Dhabi and where my connecting flight departs from.

How Do You Feel Today? Explaining Depression

Depression can distort how you view yourself

Honestly, I have no idea.

If you have no idea how you feel yourself, how are you meant to answer when someone asks you?

Explaining depression to people who have never experienced it is one of the hardest things to do. Especially if, like me, there’s no specific trigger point. No horrific event that started it. No reason to be unhappy.

My husband has always been very supportive and on numerous occasions I’ve tried to explain to him how I feel and, more importantly to him, why I feel like that. I’ve not yet been successful in either.

In my previous post, Girl, Interrupted, I said that I would be doing this series of posts to help those struggling with depression and anxiety and also to help the people who are supporting them. I’m really hoping that this post will help others who, like me, have found it impossible to explain how they feel to others. I’ll point out now that I’m well aware that these issues are extremely personal and that no two people will ever feel the same; this whole series of posts is written from my viewpoint, how I feel and what I have been dealing with for over 10 years.

A lot of people will say that they’ve been “depressed” at some point in their lives, but what they really mean is that they’ve been unhappy. Depression isn’t an emotion and not something that comes and goes. It’s part of your life and part of who you are. It’s a mixture of feelings and often presents itself physically as well as emotionally which makes it even more difficult to explain. It’s also not constant and the way you feel can change several times in a single day.

Dealing with depression can make you feel lost

I’ve found that trying to explain how you feel to someone out loud is a huge challenge. I always find myself using clichés and lines I’ve heard in films. After a while you start to doubt the words coming out of your mouth. In writing this post, I’ve actually realised that writing down how you feel and turning the laptop screen around for your other half to read is a million times easier (for a start, you can go back and edit the bits that don’t sound right). So, if you take nothing else from this post, at least try this approach and try to explain how you feel in writing. I think it will really help.

Anyway, this is what I have come up with. The short paragraph below is what depression and anxiety feel like to me:

It’s like when you wind yourself and you’re trying desperately to catch your breath. It’s like the worst feeling of guilt you’ve ever felt – you feel like something has gone horribly, horribly wrong but you can’t quite remember what it was. It’s the worst, deepest sadness you’ve ever felt and at the same time it’s a paralysing fear of everything and nothing. It’s laughing hysterically until you’re crying uncontrollability for no reason at all. It’s feeling lost and empty; it’s questioning and doubting yourself and everything you do. It’s a sense of uselessness and hopelessness. But most of all, it’s exhausting, all-consuming and impossible.

I think that just about covers it! But if not, there’s a great article I read a while back here.

Living with those feelings on a daily basis is tough. There are days when just the thought of getting out of bed brings you to tears and lifting the kettle to make a cuppa physically hurts. There are days when you feel nothing at all. And I mean literally nothing – you’re not happy, you’re not sad; you’re not tired but not quite awake either; you’re not hungry or thirsty; you’re nothing. But then there’s days when you are “the old you”. You have energy and the motivation to do everything you ever wanted to all in one day. You love, laugh and live.

One of the hardest parts of this is that there’s often no reason for the change in mood and no way of telling how you’re going to feel in five minutes’ time, let alone in two or three days’ time. It makes planning things extremely difficult because that night out with the girls that sounds like a brilliant idea today may actually be completely overwhelming and terrifying on the day. Or, it might be just what you need. Who knows? It sure as hell isn’t you!

The key thing that I have found over the years, the thing that helps both me and Sean the most, is to remember that it’s nobody’s fault. I used to get unbelievably frustrated with the fact that I was so desperately unhappy when I was so lucky; I have a good job, a roof over my head, an amazing husband and the best family and friends. I’ve spent every summer since I was 18 working with orphaned children in Ghana. I know how lucky I am and, as strange as this sounds, I know I’m happy with my life. I’ve started to cope much better since realising that, just because I have depression doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy with my life (although, I do appreciate that for other people, there may be stresses and triggers in their everyday lives but, like I said at the beginning, I can only write about my own feelings and experiences). Don’t try and find things to change just because you feel like you should; you’ll end up destroying the good things.

You can still have good days even when living with depression

It’s important that you don’t pressure yourself to “feel better” and important that those around you don’t blame themselves for how you feel. It’s also really important to embrace the good days, make the most of them. And, as hard as it is, trying to explain to someone how you feel really does help.

I was going to add a section at the end of this post of things that you can do to help and support those who are struggling with depression and anxiety but I’ve realised that the list is quite long and probably deserves a post of its own so I’ll get started on that now.

Girl, Interrupted (by Depression)

We’ve all seen that film. You know, the one where Angelina Jolie has a strange fringe and Brittany Murphy has an obsession with chicken? Yeah, that one.

It’s a film about a female Psychiatric hospital in the 1960’s and it paints a pretty dark and horrible picture of the facility and the treatment of the patients there. I first watched the film a couple of years after it came out. I was about 13 or 14 and it made no sense to me. I didn’t understand why, if the girls hated the hospital so much, they didn’t just pretend to be better so that they could go home. I mean, it’s really easy to pretend to be happy right? You just smile. Smile and don’t cry. People always say that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile, so what’s the problem?

Smiling is sometimes difficult with depression

It was around that time that I’d realised that my mind didn’t work in the same way that everyone else’s seemed to. I was sad. I was anxious. I worried a lot. But hey, isn’t that what being a teenager is about? I continued to struggle with these feelings for years; I self harmed, pushed people away and considered suicide. I hated myself and, more than that, I hated the feelings I had but couldn’t explain. I didn’t know it, but I was struggling with depression. Then, one day, not long after starting University, I watched Girl, Interrupted again (you know, the one where Angelina Jolie has that fringe!). There’s a point where Winona Ryder’s character, Susanna says,

“…I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside…”

Things started to make more sense. Well, at least the film made more sense. They didn’t just smile and pretend to be better because they couldn’t and that’s exactly how I felt.

Depression can be easy to hide from others but it's always there

I was diagnosed with depression and associated anxiety in 2007. I told a few close friends but tried to carry on like usual with as few people as possible knowing about it. In fact, for many people I know, friends and family alike, reading this post is the first they will know about this.

So why am I deciding to write about this now? Well, in my post Time Goes By Too Fast I said that a lot had been happening and not all of it was good. Well, about three weeks ago, I broke. And I mean my mind literally broke. There’s no other way to explain it. Depression got the better of me and I was admitted onto a Psychiatric ward via the closest A&E department to my house. This was followed by daily home visits and a lot of medication.

Three weeks on and I’m feeling much better but I’ve been looking back at how difficult and scary the past month or so has been, not only for myself but for those around me and have decided to do a series of posts about my experience.

Hopefully the next few posts will help some people avoid getting to the point that I did, or simply be comforting words to someone who is going through the same; they might even be an insight for people into what a loved one is experiencing. I’m going to be as honest as I can, and turn on the comments function so that people can ask questions (you can always contact me via Facebook here).

Chances are, someone you know suffers from depression or anxiety

In the meantime, if you haven’t seen Girl, Interrupted yet, I’d recommend that you watch it; it’s a really good film!

Is it Too Soon to be Excited About Christmas?

If you ask me, the answer is simple. No. No, it’s not too early to be excite about Christmas. I absolutely love Christmas! I love the dark nights, the sparkling lights, Christmas markets, mulled wine, afternoons spent in PJs under the duvet watching films and drinking hot chocolate. Yes, I love all the standard Christmas clichés but, for me, that’s what Christmas is about.

Make time to snuggle up this Christmas

Most people will say they hate the run up to Christmas and that it’s still far too early for the shops to have Christmas gifts and decorations in. Almost everyone I’ve ever spoken to says that they hate Christmas shopping and how you can barely move in any of the shops. One of my best friends detests Christmas and literally everything about it. And yes, for the next 6 weeks, he is going to hate me too (even more so now that I have bought him a festive t-shirt).

Not everyone loves Christmas

Sitting in Starbucks enjoying my toffee nut latte in its magical red cup, I was thinking about how to help other people enjoy Christmas almost as much I do. So I wrote down a list of all the things people seem to hate and thought I’d write a list of ways that help me to avoid those nightmares.

Limited Edition Christmas Starbucks

So, my top tips for getting more out of Christmas and enjoying the festive period are here:

1. Do your Christmas shopping now – make the most of the fact that shops have all the Christmas gift sets out already and buy your loved ones’ presents now. There are three main benefits in doing this; you’ll make sure that the gifts you’re looking for are still in stock; you’ll avoid the manic pre-Christmas rush and ridiculous queues; and you’ll be buying gifts from this month’s wages which means more money in December. Bonus! (Just FYI, I did all my Christmas shopping yesterday #sorrynotsorry).

Christmas shopping can be exhausting

2. Keep costs down – get creative and make stuff. Christmas doesn’t have to be expensive. People always say that it’s the thought that counts and it’s totally true. Think of it this way; if your best friend only spent £2.50 on you for Christmas would you be annoyed? Or would you just feel all warm and fuzzy about the fact that they care about you enough to have been thinking of you when they were Christmas shopping? If your answer was “annoyed” then there’s probably not much hope for you! There’s loads of ideas on Pinterest for cheap, homemade Christmas presents and I’m part way through a post of my favourite handmade gift ideas so keep an eye out for that too.

Christmas presents don't have to be expensive

3. Embrace the weather – UK weather is crap at the best of times but if you learn to embrace it, it doesn’t seem quite so bad. If it’s raining, grab your wellies and raincoat and walk through the puddles (by walk through, I obviously mean jump in) and kick the fallen leaves around like you did when you were younger – getting soaked isn’t as bad if you’re prepared for it. Plus, coming home to warm, dry clothes and a cuppa seems so much better afterwards!

Embrace the winter weather around Christmas

4. Spend time with friends and family – ’tis the season and all that so what better time to catch up with people? Especially if you’ve done all of you Christmas shopping by mid November, you should have loads of free time. Taking a step back from the hustle and bustle to grab a glass of wine in the pub or have a cup of tea and mince pie with your nana is the perfect way to unwind and stay stress free this Christmas. A lot of people do get caught up in how commercialised Christmas has become; try and remember, whether you’re religious or not, that it’s not just about spending money but about spending time too.

Spend time with your loved ones this Christmas

5. Finally, STOP BEING A SCROOGE! – once the Christmas shopping is done, you’re free to dive head first into the Christmas spirit. You no longer need to rush around and elbow your way through crowds. You can take your time, go for a walk on a frosty morning, peruse the Christmas markets and indulge in a mug of mulled wine, go ice skating or, if you’re feeling particularly energetic, do all three in one day. You don’t need to think about what still needs to be bought and how you’re going to carry it all on the tube home (a problem I had yesterday). The more you try to be festive, the more fun you’ll have and the more fun you have, the more you’ll love Christmas (and, for my Christmas-hating friends, the more I’ll love you!)

Embracing the Christmas spirit in Copenhagen

Number 5 isn’t actually my last top tip, so this post should really be called “Six Top Tips to Make the Most of Christmas” but, it’s a little late for my sixth tip to be of any use (sorry!) Christmas can be really expensive which, for a lot of people, only adds to the stress; I put £100 to one side each month all year round so, by the start of November I have around £1,000 “more” than I would have at this time of year. That, combined with my love of handmade gifts means that Christmas has very little impact on me financially in November/December. But like I said, it’s a bit late for that now – maybe you can try it next year?

Whether you want to get excited about Christmas now or not, hopefully these tips will help you enjoy it more and your to-do list will look more like this:

Start a Christmas list early

Time goes by too fast…

I miss blogging. Today I was looking back over my last blog post and realised that it was posted over three months ago. I’ve got no idea where the time went but somehow, three months have gone by and I haven’t written a single thing. Not even notes on my phone. Today I realised how much I miss blogging and writing in general.miss pulling the thoughts and the words swirling round in my head into writing and I miss sharing my little London adventures with you guys!

Where to you find time for blogging?

I’m not going to try and put everything that has happened between August and now into one post but I am going to write a few posts over the next week or so about what’s been happening in my life, places I’ve visited, and what and where I’ve been eating (obviously only the interesting places; don’t worry, I’m not going to list every single meal I’ve had over the past 12 and half weeks).

A lot has been going on in my world, some good and some not so good. I’ve been caught up in the bubble that is London and it’s own little time zone. But I’ve found my love of writing again and intend to get back to regular blogging – I’ve even downloaded a new notepad app on my shiny new iPhone to make sure that whenever I have any ideas I can get them down on “paper” and *hopefully* not have any more silent periods of time.

I plan on writing posts as and when I think of them and scheduling them so that I don’t have lots of “chatty” periods followed by emptiness. I’ve not tried the schedule function on here before but I’ll let you be the judge of how well this plan works out.

Speak to you soon!