I am mentally ill.

When people think of mental illness, they think of one of two things: the straightjacket-clad, stereotypical ‘mental patient’ you see depicted in tasteless halloween costumes, or the black haired, teenage girl, crying to the Smiths with eyeliner running tragically down her face, as she writes poetry about her broken heart. Most significantly, one never thinks of their best friend, or their dad, or the bartender at their local. People distance their depictions of mental illness from their friends and family, and even themselves, because it’s something that only happens to ‘other people’.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 21.03.25

I take daily medication for my mental illness. It helps me to disguise the fact that I’m irrationally panicked by pretty much everything, and that a jealous twinge can send me spiralling into self-hatred.

If you met me, you wouldn’t necessarily think I suffered from a mental illness. You might see someone who’s a bit shy, dresses weirdly and needs coaxing to engage. That image of the cute, quiet person, who just needs a kind word, that romanticised depiction of mental illness. People like it when mentally ill peers present that way – discrete, quiet, blending into the background. They want to help us, they feel sorry for us.

All that changes as soon as we actually display our symptoms. My quietness can be annoying, my moods can be erratic, and I can start having a panic attack in the middle of Tesco because two people knocked into me. Then, no one’s sympathetic – they’re exasperated, they want to know why you didn’t do something you said you would – and the answer is because I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I missed a fair few lectures because of this reason. Everyone says they’re sympathetic of mental illness, until they meet a mentally ill person.

Furthermore, what’s the deal with so much hatred towards medication, anyway? My mother was horrified when I told her I’d started taking antidepressants, and was hoping I could kick them off over the summer. Obviously, I don’t want to be on them forever, but they’re helping me. We should remember that they’re a good thing, that they’re designed to help us function like everyone else. And, yeah, they do alter my brain function, just like my contraceptive pills alter my uterus’ functions, how my granny’s inhaler affects her respiratory system’s functions. It’s medication, that’s what it’s supposed to do. It affects my brain’s functions because my brain isn’t functioning correctly. I’m not enhanced, I’m being brought up to speed.

I’m arranging therapy, currently, and I do hope to come off antidepressants before next year, but I am always going to have a mental illness. Even if you can’t see it, it’s still there.

(One of my next posts is going to detail my experiences of sertraline, or zoloft, from when I started taking them until the current day.)

What’s in a name?

Names are a bit weird, aren’t they? They make up such a huge part of our identity, yet, in most cases, we get pretty much no say in the matter. Our names are sometimes picked out for us before we’re even born – before we’re even conceived, in some cases – and it seems to be pretty much pot luck as to whether or not your name fits your personality.

In spite of this, in spite of the fact there’s absolutely no way of knowing how someone will turn out as an adult, people are hugely resistant to the smallest of changes to one’s own name – even down to the nickname. I still remember the expression of absolute disbelief and defiance on my grandfather’s face, as he said, with the most over-exaggerated shock in his voice, when I, a mature, grown up twelve-year-old, decided I wanted to be ‘Liz’ instead of ‘Lizzie’: “no… Lizzie!”. And, to this day, he’ll write Liz in cards, but will always call me Lizzie to my face.

As most people who follow me on social media are probably aware of by now, I’ve recently decided that I’m no longer going by ‘Liz’ or ‘Lizzy’, and am instead going by ‘Zara’. The reason being, if one needs to be given, is that I’ve never felt those names suited me. I’ve been known as ‘Lizzie’ since birth, and only changed it to ‘Liz’ when I decided the former was too childish. I’ve never liked ‘Liz’ that much, either, but I was twelve when I made that decision. ‘Zara’ is such a beautiful name (and can come from Elizabeth – ‘EliZAbeth’, ‘ZAra’), and I really feel that it’s a name that suits me. People have already used it to address me, and it fits.

My friends, and most of my family, have been kind, but I do worry about the response. Apparently, despite it being my name, my deciding that I’d like to be known as something else can be seen as an inconvenience. I know my aforementioned grandparents will be calling me ‘Lizzie’ until the day one of us dies – not because they can’t remember what I’d like to be called, but because they choose not to. A visit to them reminds me that I only have so much power over my own identity. (My nan, on my mum’s side, I will cut some slack; she’s terminally ill and has other things on her mind, like making sure she has enough oxygen.)

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you all, no matter what the reason may be, to respect your friends and family when they decide to change their name or nickname. Their name is theirs, and not yours to dictate. A name is so important and it should fit its bearer. Why else do you think novelists spend so much time picking names for their characters?

As for all of you who’ve been wanting to try out a new name, do it. Just do it. People who matter will accept it. Occasional forgetfulness, especially in the early stages, is okay. “I’m going to keep calling you (x), because I’ve always known you as (x)”, is lazy, dismissive, and downright disrespectful.

Year 1 is over, finally

It’s been over a month since I last posted on this blog, and honestly, that’s because I’ve been at uni on the block placement part of my course. It was… hard. Physically and emotionally, it was hugely difficult. I nearly failed, actually, but managed to pull it back in the last week – I’m once again doubting whether or not I want to continue with the course, but given I’ve already used up my ‘second chance’, I’m going to have to see it through.

But that’s a post for another day, perhaps.

On a lighter, brighter, sunshiney-er note, I  have the whole summer ahead of me to relax, have fun, and honestly, feel like myself again! I have a couple of trips lined up – 2000 Trees festival in July is one I’m looking forward to immensely, as I get to be reunited with my lovely friends from college. We’ve all spread out a bit, now, so getting everyone together is going to be amazing. I also have a trip to St Ives planned in August – one of my favourite places in the world – and one to Liverpool in September for my 21st birthday.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 14.51.58Other than that, I plan on getting in lots of hula hooping and spending time outside. I really, really hope I get some people to hang out with this summer. The flow arts jam that runs on Tuesdays looks like a good place – I’ve already met some lovely people at the last ones.

It still doesn’t feel real that I suddenly have so much free time – but I’m so glad that I do, I really need the break. I love being able to wear the clothes that I want to wear, rather than my ‘teacher’ ones! Bracelets are back on my arms, my makeup is flashy again, and I have so much more freedom over ‘appropriate’ clothes to wear. I also got a new tattoo a couple of weeks ago – I’d show, but I don’t have any photos.

Oh – and I dyed my hair green!Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 14.54.54

I’m so glad I can write and post again. I hope everyone has a lovely summer!

Why I fell in love with the hippie lifestyle

Why am I a hippie?

Sometimes, I look back on the past four or so years, and wonder, out of all the aesthetics and lifestyles I experimented with, why was this the one that spoke to me the most? What separated this one from all the others? Why this, and not goth, or nerd, or art student?

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As a child, I never really fitted in, but in primary school, that doesn’t seem to matter. In primary school, or at least, when I was in primary school, kids enjoyed one another’s interests, no matter how strange, and celebrated them, in a sense. In secondary school, though, things were different. Not fitting in was a social death sentence. I had no idea about the ‘in’ clothes or music, and I was painfully, toe-curlingly shy. Not an ideal personality for that environment. So, for a while, I did my absolute best to fit in – I wore the same thing as everyone else, I tried to hide the things I enjoyed. Of course, it didn’t work, and I never magically became popular overnight.

At sixteen, I finally dyed my hair for the first time, I developed a personal style and stopped caring what people thought of it. The dark hair and the questionable anime t-shirts are long gone, but it was at that time that I discovered Pink Floyd – and I fell in love with classic rock on the whole soon after.

I joined Tumblr, and became a fairly recognised member of the ‘Classic Rock Fandom’, as we called it, by the time I was 17. I started learning about the 60s, and fashion, and the politics of the time. I made friends with some people who were hugely into vintage fashion and jewellery – two girls, who I sadly have all but lost contact with – and they very much influenced my fashion and makeup. I still own and regularly wear all the things they inspired me to buy.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 22.38.38

In the summer of 2014, I spent much of my time listening to classic rock (the albums I listened to the most are, I think, largely listed on this post), and watching movies set in, or made during, the 60s and 70s – think the Boat that RockedQuadrophenia, and A Hard Day’s Night. One in particular, which is still one of my favourite films, was Across the Universe, and it was really the one which introduced me to the ‘reality’ of the 60s, so to speak (I know, I know, it’s not exactly a proper representation). I studied the Vietnam War protests, and the flower children, and I joined CND – overall, I guess I started to see what it really stood for – why it all began.

That was the turning point, really. It was when I adapted the ‘hippie mindset’, so to speak. And, for me, seeing myself as a hippie, someone who loves the 60s aesthetic, gave me a sense of identity. It was something I was that other people weren’t. Now I’m out of a secondary school environment, I love standing out, and I love being true to the things I like.

I soon began to meet and encounter people who shared my interests – I now follow a range of people on social media who regularly inspire me with their clothes and their adventures. I discovered that I absolutely adore wearing colourful clothes, and clashing patterns, and lots and lots of accessories. Before I really discovered this style, I’d wear fairly dark clothes – as in, I wore blScreen Shot 2017-04-06 at 22.39.01ack every day, pretty much. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, if it’s your thing, but I found that I was so much happier wearing lots of jingly bright things! I really don’t know why, but I always feel more confident when I’m wearing something colourful, or patterned, or just a bit different.

Furthermore, I’ve always had an interest in crystals, and that side of it. I’ve been collecting crystals since I was probably about ten, and I’d been interested in learning tarot for about six years before I actually bought myself a set. With hula hooping as well, I found that the hippie community was one which was welcoming, and full of love, and appreciated differences. I never got on with a lot of people at school, but I made friends quickly and easily when I became involved in the flow arts circle in particular. The hippie ideals allowed me to explore my interests, too – especially those which my mum deemed ‘nonsense’ (fair enough, but she refused to allow me to learn tarot because she thought it was a waste of time). And, surprisingly, I found that a lot of other people were actually impressed with the things that I’d learned to do. Finding myself this sense of identity allowed me to explore things I’d previously looked upon with admiration, and have a chance to take them up for myself.

Viewing myself as a hippie, and surrounding myself with the things influenced by this interest, has given me a sense of self which I’m so much more confident with. When I think about why it resonated with me, it makes so much sense. It gave me a chance to be myself, to meet new people, and to love the things I love. I finally found the person I wanted to be throughout my teens. I learned compassion, I became aware, and I discovered that the world has so much beauty if you look in the right places. I didn’t have to look a certain way to feel accepted, I didn’t have to keep my interests a secret. I could be the real me.

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And, to think, it all started when I listened to Pink Floyd’s Pulse one windy morning on the Welsh coast…


photo credit to my lovely friend, Ruby

Twenty is strange. It’s not quite an adult, but definitely not a teenager. One thing’s for sure: your life is starting to take shape, in one way or another. Obviously, nothing is fixed, but you’re probably either in a job, training, or higher education.

I’m the latter, and a dropout, too – or, at least, I was, since I’m now back in university, having discovered that I still don’t know what I want to do, but I know that I definitely don’t want to study Politics… or, at least, that I hate writing essays. While I’m glad that I’m now studying something I know I’ll enjoy doing, it does worry me that I’m being pigeon-holed somewhat; I’m only twenty, I hate the idea that I’m confined to just one thing, and, more so, that I’m seen as just that thing.

On the other hand, I’m sure there are people who are thrilled that they have everything figured out.

One day, I will absolutely go into my chosen career, but it won’t be the year after I graduate. There’s still so much I want to do – I want to see the world, I want to learn and perform fire hoop, I want to go to as many gigs and festivals as I possibly can, first.

I often look at friends who are travelling, or doing things that aren’t revolving around uni, and it makes me wonder, sometimes – did I make the right decision? Am I really doing what I want to do, or have I accidentally messed up my plans?

Obviously, no, because I’m so young, really, but especially with restarting university, I feel like I’ve ‘lost’ a year to do everything. Twenty, as a child, and even a sixth form student, seemed a whole world away, and now I’ve reached that age… just, wow. Where’s all the time gone?

Equally, I know there are a lot of things I have done. I’ve seen art exhibitions, plays, ballets, musicals, all sorts of things. I’ve written over 50,000 words in 11 days. I’m a trained classical singer, I can chest hoop, I’ve been to New York. This summer, I hope to see more of the UK, and I hope to do it with the one I love the most. I will, after graduation, spend a year travelling the world, seeing all the things I want to see.

One day, I will write a novel, maybe publish it. I’ll write a dissertation, I’ll perform at a festival.

After all, I’m only twenty.