Chasing Happiness 

Call it mental illness, call it critical thinking, call it a philosophical mind, call it whatever you want but I call it being human. 

What is happiness if not an impossible to achieve construct that we have created to make life worth living? As the old saying goes: there’s only one certainty in life and that’s death, so why are we chasing this imagined ‘happiness’ and for what? It will end sooner rather than later. What does it mean to be truly happy? I don’t think we ever can be because there will always be something else, something more. We will never truly be content with what we have and that is sad but I feel like acceptance here is key. I think I’m slowly but surely beginning to accept that as much as I can strive for a little bit of happiness, with a mind like mine, I’m never truly going to ‘have everything’ or in other words ‘I’m never going to be like you’- normal. Maybe this is all I need. Instead of chasing happiness, normality or sanity, I’ll just be my usual, fragmented, distorted, (in)sane self. The time has come to accept who I am and sit back and watch everyone else chase that imagined concept because let’s face it, everyone is chasing after something. 

After all, why should I continually strive for more when it’s all going to end and in reality if I catch it, I’ll find something else to chase? It’s just not worth the struggle! So for now, I’d rather not be happy, alive suits just fine. 


PTSD and Me

Living in a constant cycle of illness and recovery is more exhausting than anyone will ever know. To be told at seventeen, when life is just beginning, that you have an illness that will affect you throughout your whole life is absolutely devastating. I’ve always known from childhood that there was something a little different about me. I wasn’t the same as all of my friends, more cautious and definitely less confident. I was around age eleven, when this illness began to properly affect me. I began to self-harm, although at the time, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was but it felt good, took the pain inside away for a little while. After about six months of hiding it, my best friend caught me in the act; she vowed that if I didn’t stop she would tell. It worked! For a while I did stop, not because I wanted to but because nothing terrified me more than people finding out what had happened five years previous. After I was satisfied that she had forgotten I continued with the self-harm and from there my life began to spiral out of control. I began drinking alcohol around the age of thirteen, like the self-harm, it dulled the pain inside me and made me feel like my mind wasn’t against me. My mother never knew and never suspected. I had hidden it; it was me against the world. I would cause havoc in my house and get angry easily. I don’t think there is a door or a wall in my house that survived my violent rages. Whilst my mother never knew, my behaviour led her to believe she had done something wrong and I hated her for it. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, in fact, she was the only constant in my life at that point and probably my only ally. That’s why it was so easy for me to take things out on her. At age fourteen, I found myself worrying about school, experiencing some serious bullying and genuinely thought nobody cared. What was I good for? At that point in time I thought absolutely nothing, would it make a difference if I wasn’t there? One morning as I was getting ready to go to school I saw a box of pills on the counter and thought this is it, the pain will be gone. I opened the box and popped each of the pills out of the pack and swallowed the lot, about thirty pills in total. I went to school as normal and to my disappointment nothing happened. I’m not really sure how I thought it would play out but I suppose it was that immature thinking that I would just collapse and that would be it. I would be in school, so my family wouldn’t have seen anything and that was my justification of how I wasn’t being selfish. I thought that was the day my life would be over, that’s what I wanted but fate had other plans. I arrived home that afternoon to an inquisition as to where the pills had gone; she knew that someone had taken them as the prescription had only been filled the day before. I denied all acknowledgements and went to bed after a lecture about the consequences and side effects of these pills. I was violently ill that night, but I was lucky as I began to throw up around 3am so everyone else in the house was asleep. With nobody able to hear me, nobody would know. That’s exactly what happened that night, but it hit me as I lay awake that maybe dying wasn’t my only option, I hadn’t quite figured out what the other option would be but I knew there had to be something! The next morning I confessed that I had stolen the tablets and that I had taken them. I didn’t go into detail as to why, I simply talked around the facts so that someone would know that something wasn’t quite right with me. I missed school that day in favour of an emergency doctor’s appointment, although the doctor wasn’t the greatest of help, telling me that the pills I took wouldn’t do much damage apart from making me throw up. He told me that most suicidal people would have paracetemol as their drug of choice as it’s much more effective, I was fourteen! He did however; refer me to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist. It took almost three years for me to move up the waiting list and I was already seventeen by the time I had my first appointment with CAMHS (Child Adolescent Mental Health Services).  It is difficult to recall this time of my life because in the three years that I was waiting for help, my life had spiralled to a deeper, darker place. I had started working at age sixteen and it only enabled me to drink more, I was drinking excessively and eventually moved on to drugs, when the drug use began I would literally take anything I could get my hands on but after a while cocaine became my drug of choice. I was failing in school, failing everyone at home, failing myself and just generally failing at life. I went to therapy sessions for around three months before I made the decision to move out of my family home, which broke my parent’s hearts, I wanted to be in control of myself. I could do this! I had kept my past a secret, kept my lifestyle secret, I even managed to keep the fact that I had stopped going to school secret, I didn’t need anyone but myself. It wasn’t long before I realised that I was not someone I could rely on! I was well and truly in self-destruct mode! By this point I was a seventeen year old school dropout, yes, I had a job but it was more a hindrance than help, simply used to fund my daily drug habit and pay for the alcohol that I needed. I don’t remember any point after I turned seventeen of turning up to work sober. I could function though, no one at work ever suspected that I had a problem, I was simply the over confident kid that liked to party at the weekends, little did they know what I was hiding. I didn’t care about the effect my lifestyle was having on me, all that mattered was that little bit of happiness I felt when I felt that powder go up my nose, the pain was gone, I was normal! Seventeen was not a good age for me, a disastrous year that began with the loss of my nanny, 9 days after my birthday. I really do think looking back that my drug use completely got out of control around this time. I am in no way trying to excuse my behaviour, I had a choice and I made the wrong one! Therapy began to help though, it was easier to explain the slashes on my arms to a stranger and tell them about my life without judgment. My therapist knew every detail of my life except what had happened on that day in 1997. I knew not to tell her, not because I didn’t want to but because I knew that she would have to involve the police, social services and my family due to my age. That was a risk I couldn’t take! Once I turned eighteen though, she couldn’t do that because of confidentiality. I thought if I can just hold out until then it will be perfect. However, the closer it got to my birthday the more my behaviour deteriorated. I think it was knowing that finally after twelve years I was going to tell my secret, I needed to get it off my chest sooner rather than later. If I had have waited any longer than I did I genuinely think I would’ve ended my life before I got to tell anyone, so in the end I told my secret one week before I turned eighteen. That night after telling my therapist that I had been abused by a family ‘friend’ in my cousin’s home when I was six years old, I waited anxiously, jumping every time my mum’s phone rang thinking it would be either the police or social services. The call never came! It turned out that because I was so close to my eighteenth birthday the confidentiality agreement could be extended, I was conflicted about how to feel. I was ecstatic that no one else had to know however, I was afraid that my parents would ask how counselling was going and if I’d got to the root cause of my behaviour yet. I knew then I would have to tell them. That night (29/4/09) was one of the hardest days of my life, to tell my mum and dad that their little girl had been violated in such a way at such a young age, and have them knowing that there was no way they could have prevented or protected me from it was the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. It turned out to also to be one of the best things though, because it was from that point that I had complete support from my family in overcoming my demons. It was what I needed all along! I went to visit the psychiatrist two days before my birthday and he told me that he believed I was exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, on 12/5/09; I was officially diagnosed with PTSD and severe anxiety. I was told that PTSD was a lifelong illness with no cure, however many sufferers were able to manage it through various treatments. Not a great start to adult life but it was this start that pushed me to turn my life around. I no longer felt like a victim, I was a survivor! I had always dreamed of going to university and thought now is my time. I’m getting help and no matter how many teachers told me that I wouldn’t be capable of university, I would give it my best anyway, if I failed I failed, at least I had tried. I enrolled on an access to university course, passed and gained a place at Liverpool John Moore’s University, which is where I wanted to go since I was young. I started my course in 2012 after being clean from drugs for 21/2 years. The day I landed at John Lennon Airport was the proudest day of my life. I have worked a lot on my wellbeing in order to be able to stay in Liverpool and have decided that this is where I can finally be free. I am not saying it is easy, every day for me is a constant battle not to be who I was back then, but I finally feel like I am living life on my terms. I am no longer the kid that isn’t capable and blames my past for my reckless behaviour. This year (my final year) has been the most challenging by far but I will continue to move forward with my life. I am now five years clean and planning my future in Liverpool. My next milestone is to walk across that stage in July with the rest of my friends and finally be a graduate. I will be the person I want to be and live the dreams I have always dreamed!

Yes, I have PTSD but I am not PTSD! 

P.S. This is an old post.. written in 2015

Writer’s Block or Happiness?

I am more than aware that quite some time has elapsed between this post and my last post but believe me when I say, it is not from my lack of trying and I hope this post can offer somewhat of an explanation.

For as long as I can remember, my go to ‘therapy’ has been writing. Every feeling, every thought resulted in me writing something, whether that was a journal entry, poetry, blog posts, whatever but recently I have found myself completely unable to write. Many times I have found myself sitting down with the intention of writing but simply, not being able to find the words to say. It has been very different and it has been a struggle.

Previously, my writing has been the result of one million and one conflicting thoughts rushing around inside of my head that needed me to understand them and ‘unjumble’ them. Writing helps me to do that. So, what do I do when those thoughts have disappeared? I must admit, it is a nice feeling, it is peaceful ‘not having any thoughts’ and I have found myself questioning whether I should rock the boat and disturb that peace if you will.

My decision, this post! Rather than stir up old thoughts and emotions in an attempt to produce some material for a new piece of writing, I have decided to embrace the peace. I don’t need chaos to produce writing, I can simply use the peaceful emptiness of my mind to write about the fact that sometimes ‘I cannot write’. Maybe for the first time in forever, I am struggling to write because it is so ingrained within me to write about the bad, and at the minute, life is good so maybe this difficulty is the result of finally being truly happy which is an emotion I’ve never had to understand before. 

Happy or sad, I will not stop attempting to write. These feelings are very new and will require a new understanding in order for me to transform them into words but I am really looking forward to the journey and hopefully a change in tone in whatever I do or do not write.. ☺

Why don’t you wear a poppy?

This post is a little off track from the blog but with nothing to do and a little too much time on my hands this weekend, it was suggested to me that I think about writing a post about remembrance. It seems fitting as it is coming up to Armistice’s Day, a day that always seems to bring about some level of controversy. Thinking about this and writing this post has given me a little bit of focus anyway!

The title question of this post is a question I have been asked many times. Only recently though. You see my dad is a veteran along with his brothers and various other family members and so, I was raised to wear a poppy as a mark of respect and to commemorate the fallen. Many people do the same, in recent years however, I made the decision not to wear one and this post will explain why. It may cause controversy or spark debate but stay with me.

In recent weeks the news has been dominated by FIFA’s ban on players wearing the poppy as they consider it a political statement. This has led to an outcry from various institutions who claim that this is not the case, I think though, in today’s society it is dangerous to consider the poppy, as a symbol, apolitical. Let’s take a trip back in time to look at the origin of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. John McCrae, the writer of ‘In Flanders Fields’, was a poet and physician from Ontario, Canada. His poetry often focused on death and the peace that followed. *Note: The peace that followed- I’ll come back to this. During the First World War- ‘The war to end all wars’- I’ll come back to this also- after the funeral of a comrade, McCrae wrote the following:

‘In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields’

These words were the beginning of the use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance but let’s break down these words. As mentioned before, McCrae’s writing tended to focus on death and the peace that followed. My interpretation of the above words would take the first two verses as a vivid description of the life and death of human beings, the sacrifice of man. The third however, deals directly with this notion of ‘the peace that follows’, it offers a direction ambition for peace- ‘the torch; be yours to hold it high’. Essentially what he is saying is we our giving our lives, sacrificing ourselves so you can live in peace, but you have to do it yourself, you have to be that beacon of hope- ‘the torch’. He acknowledges the fight and urges for us to remember that but never repeat it- ‘If ye break faith with those who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow’- The only way he can rest in peace is to know that his death wasn’t in vain. He fought for peace. He fought in the ‘war to end all wars’, gave his life so no one else would have to experience that trauma and what have we done, created more! The hypocrisy! Here in Britain we use the poppy as a symbol of remembrance but what exactly are we remembering.

British forces have been involved in some form of active combat every year since that poem was written, so why do we feel the need to ‘remember’? Remember what? Let’s think about this… We initially set out to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in a quest for peace. Every year we come together to take part in this act of ‘remembering’ when, in fact, the world is more fragmented than ever. As the years go by, we seem to add to the list more and more people that deserve to be ‘remembered’, it is here that we see the emergence of the ‘political statement’ debate. A debate that appeared nonsensical at the beginning, that is now making more sense. The poppy, initially used to commemorate ‘the great wars’, is now being used to commemorate those who have died ‘anywhere’ that has been the subject of active combat, basically any ‘warzone’, official or unofficial.

As someone who grew up in Northern Ireland, I can completely understand why many people, in Ireland, look upon the poppy as a political statement. For all intents and purposes, ‘The Troubles’ was a war (a civil war at least), though never officially classified, it was. When I did wear a poppy, my argument to anyone who called it a ‘political statement’ was that during the great wars the British and Irish fought together therefore I am remembering everyone however, as I’ve said the idea of remembrance has shifted in recent times, meaning that the poppy now has the ability to frame who and what we remember. Now that we are commemorating ‘everyone’, we are commemorating those that lost their lives in Northern Ireland too. I’m not in any way saying we shouldn’t, but at the same time it makes it a little more understandable as to why some people wouldn’t want to. Though it may be controversial, I can see why in recent times, people feel that the poppy has become a symbol of British nationalism.

Obviously, I can’t speak for England, Scotland or Wales when discussing this but I find the whole act of ‘remembering’ completely ironic. Whilst the poppy is a symbol of remembrance it was also a reminder of ‘what not to do’, yet every year we bear witness to politicians laying wreaths at cenotaphs up and down the country, the same politicians that actively vote to send people into conflict zones. To link back to one of my previous posts, I said I felt like we remember the bad in order to rectify it yet, in terms of war, we remember but do nothing. Maybe we ‘remember’ so we can justify our actions, I mean at least we’re not Hitler eh? (but that’s a whole other post). The poppy has now gone so far beyond its original purpose, so much so, that for many it has become a political statement. My opinion is that the wearing of a poppy is a subjective and personal decision but I also feel that to disregard the emergent discourse is to fail the poppy’s original symbolism completely.

So the next time you see me in late October/ early November and feel the need to ask ‘Why don’t you wear a poppy? Know that my answer is: I don’t wear a poppy not because I see it as a political statement but because people are still dying and I’m yet to witness the peace that should have followed. We are still in Flanders Fields!

Will we ever learn?

Reflections on ‘memory’

The past few weeks have resulted in me somewhat neglecting this blog. It’s been hard to find the time to really do anything for myself as it has been absolutely manic. Long story short, following on from one of my previous posts, I did my PhD interview (wasn’t exactly the greatest) but I was offered the position, so I have had to up sticks again, find a new house, find a new job and move back across the water. Moving is stressful to say the least! I’m here now though and after all the usual reunions and meetings, today I can finally have a little bit of ‘me’ time. Of course, ‘me’ time to me involves thinking or possibly overthinking every last little thing and that’s exactly why I’ve decided to write this post.

Last night I went to a reading group, I know what you’re thinking- who wants to spend their Friday night reading and discussing philosophy? But honestly, it was insightful and fun, and let’s be serious that’s my usual Friday night only this time I had some company! The discussion mainly centred on memory and surveillance talking about both humans and technology etc. but it really got me thinking. I mean, the reason I started this blog was to document a condition that I believe is the result of ‘bad’ memories. Why is it that we remember the bad things more often than the good? I get it in terms of world events because as someone said last night, and I’m paraphrasing: ‘in a half hour news segment we are fed twenty five minutes of shit and then if we’re lucky we may get five minutes of something slightly more uplifting’, so that makes sense, but why does is seem to be the same with our individual memory and life?

I can honestly say that there have definitely been more positive things happen in my life than negative but it’s always the negative that I dwell on and in many ways the negatives tend to have more of an effect. They say our experiences shape our lives but fail to mention that usually (or at least in my case) that shaping relies heavily on ‘what we remember’. If we don’t remember or remember less of the good things are they really shaping our personalities, behaviour etc. or do we ‘forget’ because if it’s ‘good’ it doesn’t require change? We always try to be ‘better’; to act ‘better’, to speak ‘better’, more often than not we want to do good things and be good people, maybe then that’s why we replay the ‘bad’. If we constantly remind ourselves of what we don’t want to be, maybe just maybe, we will get ‘better’. But what really is ‘better’? Should we be striving for this Utopian notion of perfection or should we be accepting of our flaws as human beings?

As usual, with my thinking, my brain is taking me a little off track, but I read somewhere recently that Pakistan has ruled that schizophrenia is not a ‘mental disorder’ and I can’t help but kind of agree. Don’t hate me yet! Let me explain what I mean by that. Reading that headline really made me think, is anything really an ‘illness’ or a ‘disorder’ or is it simply the result of continually aiming for this unnatural perfection. Obviously I can’t discuss this with an informed view but I can’t help but wonder if mental ‘illnesses’ are nothing but something that is entirely natural to the human race. We are all unique, we are all different yet we seem to strive for an unnatural sense of oneness. I often wonder what the world would be like if we just didn’t care! I don’t mean that in an ‘I don’t give a shit about anyone’ way, what I mean is if difference didn’t separate us. If we just accepted everyone as ‘normal’. I completely understand that realistically that is never going to happen but wouldn’t it be nice! Imagining ideal ways of life really makes you think, at least, it made me think! Where did this idea of ‘normal’ come from? Who gets to decide what is considered normal human behaviour and what is not?

For a long time I have thought about emotions, and I often question whether or not human emotion is socially constructed? For example: guilt, we’ve all felt it but where exactly does it come from. If we never truly knew that something was ‘wrong’, would we feel guilty for doing it. I’m not so sure. I suppose we could link it back to morality and legality, two overlapping concepts that we don’t really have any control over. Who really decides what is right and what is wrong and what is legal and what is not? Why do we always feel like we have to do the ‘right’ thing? Why do we feel the need to aim to be peaceful beings? At what point did we go from ‘survival of the fittest’ to ‘it’s OK, we can all live in peace and harmony’- (Yes, I know, wars, crime, blah blah blah, I mean in a general sense). How on earth did social conditioning almost completely change the world?

Attempting to get back on track to what started this random ramble, you could say that even our memories, you know those things that make us unique, have been conditioned in such a way that makes us aware of this ‘new world’ of peace and harmony. A sort of self regulation if you will. One of the articles we discussed (I use that term lightly, I mostly listened) involved the notion of panopticism, looking at the idea that we rectify our behaviour through a surveillance gaze and non-gaze i.e. we aren’t particularly sure if we are being watched but we may be so we have to be ‘good’, and the other talked about public memory. I can’t help but think that two are inter-related. Our own memories have somehow become mechanisms of social control on an individual level. We ‘remember’ the bad in order to rectify situations, emotions, actions, thoughts etc. that relate to that particular memory because for some reason (I haven’t quite figured that out yet) we feel the need to be ‘good’. Madness! Well that’s how I feel anyway! I’m getting to the point now that my head is actually starting to hurt from thinking so I’m going to wrap up here. Apologies for what is most likely rambling nonsense but I needed to write it down to make sense of it and hopefully, however nonsensical, it gets you thinking! My tired brain is signing off now 🙂

It’s only impossible if you believe it is!

The reality of the next few weeks and, indeed, the future is beginning to sink in. It’s a terrifying notion but at the same time I have never felt more excited, ever! This day, 3 weeks from now, I will be holding my future in my hands as I attend an interview for a PhD position.  Life moves so quickly! It feels like only yesterday that I made the decision of what I wanted to do with my life. We’ve all heard the dreaded ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ and I don’t know about you but I’ve changed my mind so many times. This time though, it’s for real, I know exactly what I want to do and doing that PhD is just the first step.

I’m always reading quotes and one that has been appearing more and more in recent times is about the importance of looking at how far you’ve come as opposed to the distance between where you are now and where you want to be. That’s something I’ve always found difficult as the journey has been a rocky road that, most of the time, I don’t like to revisit. However, I have made a conscious effort to look back, to look back to the time before I ‘fell down that rabbit hole’ 😉. 

Not too far back though! Throughout my life, I have learned ways of coping with my past and one of those ways was to compartmentalise certain events in my mind so, anytime before I was eleven years old is safely tucked up in a little box inside my brain that I can choose to open, if and when, I need to, but for now I would like it to stay closed. I choose to focus on the positive aspects of life and that box, whilst I acknowledge it’s existence, contents and effects, contains too many negatives. 

My past is something I am quite open and honest about however, its also not something I broadcast. If it’s brought up by someone else or I feel there is a chance to make a positive impact I will discuss it but the truth is, not many people know the full extent. When I was younger it was something I didn’t want anyone to know about and so, when I was speaking it was difficult to speak openly without revealing certain things. I usually compare this to someone who is used to using swear words trying to contain this in a professional setting 😂! But this analysis of my speech and awareness of the process in my brain is something that, although that past is now known, has never gone away.

I was told yesterday that I have a tendency to answer questions with ‘I don’t know’ When it is quite obvious that I do. I put this down to that analysis. My brain works in overtime pretty much all of the time which means that when I am asked a question I usually have to wait for that process to finish before I can articulate a response. The problem then being, it isn’t a short process so my go to answer is ‘I don’t know’. I know in my head that I do, in fact, know but I also know that it will take some time for my voice ‘to know’. It is all very strange 😕!

I am trying though, trying to somehow, shorten this process. As I look back on my journey, I think about the kid I was, petrified of leaving the comfort of my home, crying for hours because maybe I needed to make a phonecall, terrified in general of any human interaction and just in general living life, pretty much, as a recluse. If I can overcome all of those things, that seemed so terrifying at the time, to get to where I am now, then I can figure out a way to make my speech match my thoughts. I just hope I can, somehow, by some miracle, do it within the next three weeks. My brain has held me back too many times before and this time I refuse to let it. When Alice said ‘This is impossible’, the Mad Hatter replied ‘Only if you believe it is’ and this time I don’t believe it’s impossible 😉😆!

Where to now?

Well that’s it! I have finished my MA degree with no major meltdowns like last year 😊 Final piece of work was submitted yesterday and while I’ll be in limbo over how I’ve done, results wise, for another few weeks, it feels fantastic! Yesterday was spent experiencing some very mixed emotions but that is to be expected when you finish a chapter in your life. It seems the entire group felt the same! I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a group of people feeling exactly the same.. ecstatic that we all made it through but emotional because it’s over. What an amazing group of people to spend the last twelve months with though! They were fab! I know what my next step is but it still feels like a trip into the unknown, I suppose I could say it’s like another trip down that rabbit hole 😉 After all, Alice is my inspiration, motivation, whatever you want to describe it as.. I’ve never felt comfortable feeling pride in anything but this time it’s different, I am actually proud that I feel proud of everything I’ve done this year 😊 Here’s hoping it continues because it’s quite a nice feeling. Next stop- PhD.. but as of right this minute it still feels like where to now? I have no idea what to expect but I know it’s what I need to be doing, so here’s to the beginning of another chapter of my story! I can’t frickin’ wait! I told you I’d be back with a slightly more cheerful post 😉 Life may be hard but you will never have to deal with anything you can’t handle! Life goes on, people grow, it may not always seem like things are going your way but you will always end up exactly where you are supposed to be! So, I’ll leave you with my favourite quote: ‘happiness is a journey not a destination’. Keep travelling!!