Thursday, 14 August 2014

This is the face...

The past couple of days have seen the internet explode with discussions around mental illness and suicide. Some has been great and informative and beautifully vulnerable. And some has been stigmatising rubbish which makes me incredibly sad.

A beautiful movement this week, that began with individuals putting a face to mental illness and attempting to break the stigma is #thisistheface. Because those of us who have struggled with mental illness are real people. We are not statistics or debate topics or a stigma. We are people who struggle and fight to survive with all of our being. Whether our battle is current or past, public or tucked deep inside, won or still battling, we are people who are fighting and who need our cheerleaders to stand alongside us, cheering us on instead of pointing fingers and heaping on shame.

Mental illness is real. It affects everyone, whether they have faced the battle themselves or they know someone who has. No-one is unaffected, which is why we need real information, and real grace-filled conversations about this topic. We need to sit with others and ask "Are you ok?" and be prepared to hear the answer that, no they are not. We need to sit in our shared humanity and acknowledge that we're all just a little bit fragile and broken, and that's ok.

#thisistheface of anxiety

#thisistheface of self-harm

#thisistheface of someone who spent 2 years on anti-depressants

#thisistheface of bulimia

#thisistheface of a survivor

Although the battle of my struggles is mostly in the past, anxiety is still something that pops up now and again. It's the quiet voice inside that I'm pretty good at tuning out, but sometimes begins to sing into my ear about how unworthy I am and how freaking scary life is. In times where I'm not taking the best care of myself, the voice gets a little louder and I get scared that I'm going to topple back down into that rabbit hole and may never find my way back out again.

Although the war of the battle is behind me, everyday I am fighting. I'm careful about what I eat, how much I sleep, what I expose myself too. Without those daily battles for life, I risk giving the voice a megaphone and opening the door for it to take over my life again. Without teaching myself healthier coping strategies, I risk taking a knife to my skin or putting my fingers down my throat once again as a way to feel ok. And even with the daily fight, I know that it's not guaranteed that I won't find myself at the bottom of that rabbit hole again, looking up and wondering how I will ever climb out.

I have resources. I have support. I have people who love me and understand me and fight the battle beside me. I hope I can be that person to others too. I hope that my voice will join the loud cries of support, telling the other battlers that "YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!", "THERE IS HOPE!", "ME TOO!". I hope our voices will rise and overshadow the megaphone of mental illness in someones mind. Our voices and our stories are powerful - let's use them to actually make a real difference.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A Story of Depression

I have always valued people who have helped put words around human experiences. Those who have vulnerably shared their stories so that others can grasp onto that normalisation of their own experience. I believe our stories, our narratives, have huge power, both for ourselves to share them, but also for those privileged to hear them. Stories expel shame and invite empathy and community. The below is my story of reflecting on my experiences of depression:

Emptiness. The feeling that I have already been running on low with a leak slowly allowing drips out, drop by drop. And one day it is empty. Yet despite the leaks, the total emptiness comes as a surprise. A void inside which is bone-dry of energy, emotions, life. Just a gaping empty space where life used to be. But now nothing.

Feeling like a hollow body, trying to navigate through a world of people who seemingly have something inside - something which makes them enjoy and love and hope and smile. Something that makes these things come naturally and even vulnerably, not just as a mask to cover up the nothingness.

The voice of depression was in my own voice. But not the voice that other people knew. It was my 'inside voice', the one only I had to endure. The voice that reminded me I was worthless and broken and unfixable. The voice that told me I was a burden on others and that silence would be easier. The voice that told me that I had to do it all on my own so no-one else could see how weak I was.

Because I felt nothing, I found it hard to even feel anything about depression. The numbness instead reminded me that this wasn't life, so why would I want to be alive and continuing the suffering. Somewhere in me the rational voice reminded me that other people in the world still had feelings left inside them, so even if I didn't care if I was dead, they might be sad. This is the one thing that kept me alive. I didn't ever care about hurting myself, because when you can't feel you can't hurt. But I knew that my decision to end it all would hurt others who did still have feelings and I couldn't possibly take that responsibility for causing them pain.

I became the master of disguise. I smiled and laughed and helped and studied and functioned. As much as it exhausted me, I maybe even increased in functioning as a step to conceal what was really going on inside. I hid from others and I hid from myself. I tried tricking myself into thinking that I was fine, until eventually I'd end up on the floor in a ball wondering when this was going to end and debating whether I should help the end come sooner.

Depression also lied and told me that I was alone. Alone in my depression, alone in brokenness, alone in suffering, alone in life. Shame festered and grew and I knew that no-one must ever know of this terrible monster that was inside... This empty ghost in my soul.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Shame Kills

Last week I posted a link to Facebook with this quote:
And so when my bulimia pops up, I never feel mad at myself. NEVER. Shame takes us closer to that edge than any single binge will. NO. Life is hard and I’m doing the best I can. So I just take inventory and love myself something FIERCE and then start over. Every single moment I am someone brand new.
 I almost didn't want to share it because it felt vulnerable and a little too open, but at the same time I knew that I needed to.

In the days after I posted this, I not only had many questions, but I also had countless messages of encouragement, and even more messages that said "me too". So many people messaged me with their own personal struggles with eating disorders or other issues. A few shared these struggles for the first time. Shame began to retreat.

I love how Brene Brown describes shame because it rings so true to my experience of it:
Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging
Shame kills. I have no doubt about that. Shame is the voice that tells us it's not worth fighting for our life. Shame tells us not only that we're not loved, but that we're unlovable and broken. Shame is in the fingers down our throats or the bottle to our lips or the knife to our skin. Shame holds us captive in the deepest, darkest hole imaginable.

But shame has an antidote. Empathy. Shame mixed with empathy can never survive.

Shame thrives in secrecy and silence. It slowly wraps its fingers around our throats, squeezing tightly so our voices can no longer be heard. Shame points fingers and yells abuse. And the voice that is yelling at us if often our own.

So maybe vulnerability is not just allowing my voice and my story to be known. Maybe it's also creating a space for more voices to be heard, for more empathy to flow. Maybe our voices and our stories can not only loosen the hold of shames tight grasp around our throats and hearts, but maybe it can help loosen that hold for other people too. If empathy comes through vulnerability, stories, and honesty, then that is what I will strive to do. If my voice will help others (and myself) climb out of that pit of shame, then the vulnerability is absolutely worth it.

Monday, 7 April 2014

DIY: Chiffon Maxi Skirt

As with all of my sewing this was a total experiment but it actually turned out easier than I had thought. 

What you need: 
  • Thick elastic to match your fabric (the elastic will be exposed)
  • Chiffon (enough to wrap around your waist 1.5 times)
  • Stretch fabric to match your chiffon
First of all I cut my chiffon to size by wrapping it twice around my waist. I left the full length and hemmed at the end, but it's probably easiest to cut your length first up too. 

Hem all edges of your chiffon, and then sew the edges together to create a tube skirt. 

Next I cut my stretch fabric - I used this to create a tube skirt to go under my chiffon so my skirt isn't see-through. Again as I never measure or use patterns, I just wrapped the fabric around my waist to create a fitted tube skirt. Cut and sew into a tube (again hemming all edges). I made the length of mine just above the knee. 

Next take your elastic, measure it so it fits around your waist and cut to size. Then also sew your elastic into a tube. 

Now you will have ended up with three different sized sections - the elastic, inner stretch skirt, and the outer chiffon. The next step is to combine these all together so they're easy to sew. To do this you need to create even sections on each of your pieces, through folding and marking with pins. I ended up with 8 pins on each piece, but when it got to sewing I wish I had doubled that number! In foresight I probably should have had around 16 pins. 

Once all your pieces are pinned, you will need to combine them all, matching each of the pins up. I pinned my chiffon and inner tube together first, and then pinned them to the elastic. Remember that your elastic should be exposed, with the chiffon under it, and then the inner tube skirt. 

Once you're all pinned up it's time to sew. I sewing with a zigzag stitch right up next to the edge of the elastic. (On my first try I used a straight stitch about 5mm from the edge, but it ended up very wonky as it's hard to keep track of seam allowance when your elastic is stretched out). As you sew, you will need to stretch each section as much as possible. Your elastic and inner skirt should all be stretched out to meet the chiffon. Once you've sewn the whole way around, check that you have caught all the chiffon. Because I had only done 8 sections I had missed the chiffon in one spot, so had to do a bit of handstitching to catch it all up under the elastic. 

I have no photos of this section as my hands were busy with my machine and stretching the fabric!!

Next all you need to do is your hem and you're finished! 

Monday, 24 March 2014

DIY: Bat Wing Cardigan

I should be studying. So instead my brain told me the most logical thing to do was a random sewing creation. As always I followed the advise of my procrastinating brain and created a chiffon cardigan. It's super easy and only took one metre of fabric!!

 First cut your fabric to size - I did mine at 1x1.2m but this may vary depending on your size.

Next serge and hem all of your edges.

*note to self* - when your machine starts making clunking noises, don't just hope for the best and keep sewing... It will create a line of knots that you will end up having to unpick :(

Next fold your fabric in half lengthwise and pin the two corners as below.

Next sew across those two corners (you could do this by hand if you want as it only needs a couple of stitches).

And you're done!! Easiest top ever! The best kind of procrastination!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

My Warrior Heart

My heart feels walled in and hidden, longing to be free but trapped in a world of doing and feeling all too much to continue in its vulnerable state. A wild heart not built for a cage, yet escape may mean a breaking and a shattering. It may never recover. But then again, maybe it was never meant to be whole. Maybe in brokenness it can be true and wild, free yet ever-broken, ever-feeling, ever-painful. Knowing too much yet caring even more. A heart that doesn't just survive this harsh world, but one that bleeds for it yet also gives life to it. #carryonwarrior