Liquid (n):
A substance that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure.

When I was a teenager it seemed like all of the adults around me were always telling me that you change as you get older and figure yourself out. However, I have found that it is not so much that I am different, not so much that I have found my true self – not quite.

Instead, it feels like I have always been my true self and the older I get, the more liquid I become, slowly stretching out to fill the spaces that have always been there. No more, no less than I always have been, constant in the things that make up myself, just more comfortably, more sure of the boundaries I have always set, and yet less rigid in my maintenance of them, expanding out to the edges of my personality to take up the space I own.

It may look like I am different but do not be fooled – in the same way that a block of ice in a bowl and the water in a bowl are the same compound, the same combination of hydrogen and oxygen, I am still myself and all of my original elements are there – just more relaxed, warmer.

Dear future me, do not be too harsh when you remember the awkward sharp edges of your past, do not be too embarrassed when you look back on her and see how she did not fit into herself. She just hadn’t yet learned how to melt.




Recovery tastes like pesto

Nine months ago, making pasta for tea took all my energy. Not making a proper pasta dish – just getting up, boiling water, adding pasta, and draining it was legitimately a difficult task that took up all of my mental energy for that day, and even the smallest change to my plans was enough to set off a three day panic attack.

Today I got up early after a night of not-much sleep, did an 8.5 hour work day and then after work I walked to the shop (a 15 minute round trip) for a jar of pesto because I had planned pasta for my tea tonight and Jon was doing overtime which meant I could abandon my original plans for a Bolognese sauce if I just nipped out.

It wasn’t until I was home and feeling a bit tired but mostly fine as I stirred my completely impulsive pesto – complete with actual added vegetables, I might add – that I realised how far I’ve come.

Recovery tastes like pesto (and it is delicious).


You were the girl who could always find north. Even on a cloudy night, compass madly spinning, you knew where you were going. You walked confidently through impossible terrain, didn’t doubt your steps for even a second, almost as if the earth itself was rising up to meet your feet and take you where you wanted to go, you put your trust in it and it didn’t let you down.

You thought you would always find north. Even on a cloudy night, compass madly spinning, you never stopped to mark where you had already been. You walked confidently through impossible terrain, not bothering to map it, not looking back to see what was left, and now it is too late – the earth itself has risen up and buried it.

I am directionless – even with clear skies and a steady compass. I walk with shaky steps through unfamiliar terrain, upon earth that still rises up to greet me like an old friend. With the steps I take, the mud washes away to reveal whispers of a time when I put my trust in it and it didn’t let me down.

She will be the girl who finds north again, one day. The sky may cloud and her compass may spin, but I have marked this path for her so that she can walk it and know that the earth itself will rise up to greet her, not minding what was buried. For although I do not remember life, it remembers me, and I trust that it will not let me down.

On Statistics

I am a statistic. I can’t help it, none of us can. Humans like to measure things, and compare ourselves, and so, all of us are statistics. We are born as statistics, we will live our lives surrounded by statistics, and we will die as statistics. We are of course not merely statistics, we are individuals with personalities and hopes and dreams and pasts and futures, but in the larger picture, we all become statistics and that is not a bad thing, it is just a human thing.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you will be able to get through life without statistics defining you too much, and without really having to think about them, because most statistics do not really affect us too much, and we all are this sort of statistic: 0.02% of people are born in Northern Ireland, 2% of people have naturally blonde hair, 0.86% of people live in England. That sort of thing. They are things that describe us, but they don’t really have much of an impact on how we live our lives.

Other statistics do impact how we live our lives: 25% of people will have a mental health problem this year, 1% of people are autistic, 5% of people live with a chronic mental illness. These things make it harder for us to relate to other people and to live our day to day lives.

Some of those statistics are even scary: the survival rate for my particular combination of mental illnesses is 86%, I am 50% more likely to develop dementia and 65% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s when I’m older because of my mental health problems.

These last ones terrify me. I want to be one of the 86% – not that I blame the 14%, because keeping going when you have violent intrusive thoughts and less control over your own mind than feels safe is difficult, and most days I want noting more than to just make it stop make it stop makeitstopmakeitstopmakeitstop MAKE IT STOP. In choosing to be one of those 86% I am signing myself up for potentially another 60-odd years (another statistic) of a brain that some days it feels is actively trying to destroy me, I’m signing up for those higher risks of Alzheimer’s and dementia, I’m signing up for higher risks of losing my job, or living in poverty.

And honestly, all those statistics terrify me, some days they overwhelm me, but I am choosing to keep going in spite of them, because I am more than a statistic – I am an individual with a personality and hopes and dreams and a past and a future. And if I am lucky, and I hope I am, in the larger picture, in the end, the statistic that defines my death will be different to the statistics that currently define my life.

The Dress

Psychosis is a lot like The Dress.

The difference is that trying to understand that your senses and reality don’t match is fun and bizarre when it’s one photo and there are lots of people who are on your side. Trying to understand that your senses and reality don’t match is difficult when it’s 24/7 and nobody else can see the dead wasps everywhere, Catherine, it’s just in your mind.

Try not believing in rain. You can’t, because you’ve seen it and heard it and felt it, right? But everyone around you is telling you that it doesn’t exist, it’s not there, you’re the only one who’s ever seen it. When you live like this, you end up questioning everything – if I can’t trust my senses, how can I be sure I’ve heard the right words and you haven’t said something different? How can I be sure either of us even really exist? We are the result of the interactions between our senses and the world and mine are different to those around me, but the hallucinations that I experience are as real and as solid to me as the things you can see and hear.

You can tell me that The Dress is black and blue, you can provide proof that it’s black and blue, you can explain why I’m not seeing black and blue using science and lighting and biology, but no matter what you try, I will always see lavender and bronze.

You can tell me that this is in fact the only universe I’ve ever inhabited, but that won’t stop me crying from homesickness for a universe that’s louder and not as saturated and less yellow than this one.

Why I won’t shut up about my mental health

The reason I write about my mental health a lot is because ten years ago, when I first realised that my brain was not working the same way as everybody else’s brain, there were only two types of people you could find talking about their experience of mental illness:

  1. The Recovered, those who shared their story of “coming out the other end of the tunnel”, usually people who had suffered from mild depression for a couple of months and then it had disappeared as quickly as it had surfaced.
  2. The Emos, who mostly wrote poetry romanticising negative coping techniques and sharing photos of, for some reason, cigarettes with tragic quotes written on them in Sharpie.

Of course, if you’re not seeing any improvement despite your best efforts, or you have something more complex or that affects you more severely, that first person isn’t going to be much help. Depression in any form, no matter how long it’s around or how severely it affects you, sucks, but to me these people were not relatable and I couldn’t see myself in their stories at all. And as for the second group, I was not particularly interested in “letting the darkness of this cruel world consume me”. Of course there is merit and personal value to expressing yourself through art, but to this day when I find myself on the aisle of the Internet with black and white photos and sad quotes, it usually makes my mood worse, not better.

And so it seemed that there was nobody like me – everyone who had a mental illness had either got better or given in and when you are a teenager on the internet and that is the message you’re seeing, that those are your only two options, that’s incredibly dangerous and harmful. Of course now that I’m older I know there are lots of us bumbling through life with chronic mental health problems that we know will not disappear, but trying not to let them become larger than us. Ten years ago though, I didn’t, and that’s why I write about my mental health even though most days it feels like it’s never going to end, but I still try to write about it in a more educational (from a personal perspective) or in a more positive viewpoint if I can. I write about it because I hope that other people will look at it and see themselves, and know that it’s okay if it’s been fifteen years and you’re still not getting better but you still want to keep trying.

One of the things I have been trying to do more in the last few months is to push myself out of my comfort zone when I talk about mental health. For me, it’s very easy to explain that I have anxiety or depression, but it’s a lot harder to talk about psychosis, suicidal or self destructive thoughts, or the days when it genuinely does feel endless and overwhelming. I am trying to write about those because they are a reality, sometimes a daily reality, of living with my specific group of mental illnesses and somewhere out there could be a teenager staring at the “filtered honesty” blogs wondering if they’re the only one who experiences those more negative things and they need to know they’re not. Maybe there’s a someone who is trying to get better and things are getting worse, and that “if it’s not okay, it isn’t the end” clichés are not helping but knowing they aren’t alone just might. I needed to know I wasn’t, still need to know I’m not and I figure that if I have the confidence/have lost all the fucks I had to give about oversharing, then I should overshare and who cares if other people think it’s weird, they’re not the people I’m talking to.

Some of us are stuck in a tunnel with no light at the end of it, but a really long way to go, just trying to keep going and not just lie down. Knowing that there are others who are like us does not make the tunnel brighter, but it does make it easier to keep waking up and muddling our way through. Less like candles in the darkness, and more like a voice reassuring us that we can’t see for shit but at least we’re not alone, eh? And who knows, maybe if we can find each other we can be clueless together and knowing that there is someone who understands makes a world of difference when it has felt like you’re alone for so long.


Imagine if you could teleport and time travel! You want to be in another room? Bam, you’re there before you’ve even finished the thought. You’re in a boring lecture? Fast forward to the evening. Sounds cool, right?

Okay, now let’s imagine you can only go forward in time and you can’t actually control your brand new powers of teleportation and time travel. One moment it’s five o’clock on Monday and you’re at the cinema, the next it’s eleven o’clock on Wednesday morning and you are, for some reason, listening to NSync on repeat and according to your internet history, have been for three hours. You have no idea where you’ve been over the last few days, when you’ve slept, if you’ve eaten, who you’ve spoken to, or what you’ve been doing. Plus you’ve wasted fifteen quid on a film you’re going to have to go see again because you can’t remember any of it.

That’s what dissociation is like for me, most of the time.

I also experience other types, such as derealisation which is where your surroundings don’t seem real – for me this means that colours seem way too saturated and noises sound like I’m hearing them underwater, or I might believe that the clouds are not real and are actually somehow faking it – or depersonalisation, where I feel like my body is not my own. For me this is comparable to when you hear your own voice played back on a recording and it sounds wrong, except it isn’t a recording and it’s not just my voice, my reflection looks wrong and my limbs have somehow been replaced by replicas which are not quite right but I’m not sure how.

Everyone dissociates sometimes – have you ever been on the way home and then suddenly realised you’re at your door with no memory of the journey? Or maybe you’ve been making breakfast and suddenly realised you’re pouring orange juice on your cereal? You’ve dissociated! For most people, dissociation is the brain switching off for a little bit while it does something familiar and repetitive, such as going home on your usual route, or making breakfast, and it gives a signal to regain situational awareness when that task is over or if something changes in the routine. It becomes a problem when it happens frequently or for long periods of time, and especially when your brain doesn’t give you a signal to re-enter the land of the living.

For some people, dissociation has an obvious trigger – a certain thing which reminds them of a trauma or something which they’re not able to process yet because it involves a lot of complex emotions, and it’s the brain’s way of shoving that memory or emotion into a closet for later. For me, I have no discernible triggers other than it’s more likely to happen when I’m tired, but it’s not guaranteed to happen, and I can still dissociate when I’m not tired.

So yeah, recently I’ve been dissociating a lot (the first type) and from what I can tell I don’t actually do much differently from my typical self, which is a relief – some people can take on new identities when they dissociate, or become more impulsive and do things they normally wouldn’t. I appear to act fairly normally because Jon has told me that it’s sometimes hard to tell when I’m dissociating. So far, the signs we’ve worked out are:

  • Zoning out – I might seem much tireder than usual, or sit staring into space and not really doing anything
  • Being quieter than usual – I might not respond verbally to questions, or only respond with hums or single-syllable answers, or I might stop talking in the middle of a sentence
  • Confusion – I find it hard to stay on track or I jump between unrelated topics without any warning. If I’m asked questions, I can’t answer them and I become upset
  • Memory problems – asking the same question or saying the same thing over and over, not being able to remember what I was talking about or what someone asked me, not being able to remember what I was doing earlier

If you find that I am doing this, you can try to get me to come back to myself sooner by asking me to name all the colours in the room, or everything I can hear, or get me to tense and relax muscle groups (eg “Can you tense your arms and then relax them?”), or if I’m definitely tired get me to take a nap, although this doesn’t always work. If it doesn’t, don’t worry too much – just please try not to ask me complex questions or rely on me to remember something you’ve said because I’ll get confused or not remember the conversation at all. Also, obviously, if you notice that I am about to do something unsafe please stop me!

So yeah, this is just a heads up that this is a thing that happens to me, but it’s been happening to me more often than normal and for longer periods than normal recently. It’s how you can spot the signs of when it’s happening to me, and what you can try to do to help out if you think I am dissociating if you feel comfortable. Feel free to ask me any questions about this if you want to know more about my experiences or if you dissociate and know of any good ways to record potential triggers or regain situational awareness more quickly, please let me know!



We are born infinite, a blank slate full of possibilities in a universe that is vaster than we can ever imagine and yet somehow smaller than what is contained in ourselves, because we looked at the endlessness of space and we said “not big enough” and we took some of the infinities within ourselves and we put them out there into the open and we called them Inventions, we called them Stories, we called them Art, Language, Philosophy, Science. All infinities, all ours.

We are endless infinities, constantly creating more infinities and we are glorious, we are seven billion souls constantly creating things for a universe that we will only ever see one small corner of in our collective lifetimes, signposting to say that WE WERE HERE, once, and we refused to be anything less than as vast as the universe we knew we inhabited.

Mental illness does not feel like other illnesses, is not definable in the same way as other illnesses, because mental illness does not take your body, it takes your mind and your beautiful infinities and it is soul destroying in a way that nothing else is. We are born infinite, a blank slate full of endless possibilities in a universe that is vast, but when there are endless possibilities, there is always a chance that one of them is loss.

I am often kept up at night by the ghosts of my own possibilities, of who I am instead in a universe where I do not have a mental illness, still as infinite as the day I was born. I lie there and my heart breaks as I mourn the loss of my endless selves, the people I wanted to be, could have been, perhaps in a parallel universe still get to be. And yet I am here, in this universe, and they are not, and I cannot be, will refuse to let myself be defined by spaces inside me.

Because when there are endless possibilities, there is always a chance that one of them is hope, and some nights I feel myself burn with the possibility, with the hope that one day I will grow to fill the spaces that have been left inside me because I may not be a blank slate, but I am still full of endless possibilities and I cannot be defined by that which is smaller than me. And mental illness is smaller than me, because it is not infinite, it is only a thief that dares to take some of my endlessness and foolishly believe I will not claim it back.

You were born infinite, a blank slate full of endless possibilities, and maybe in this one it feels like you are less vast than the universe you look up at and try to imagine, but do not let it fool you. What is inside of you is still bigger than what is outside of you, you are vaster than the universe could ever hope to be, even without all of your endlessness, even in spite of your loss. You are one impossible soul with an unimaginable chance of being here, at this time, to see this corner of the universe, and yet you are HERE. You are glorious, you are beautiful. You are infinite.

It gets better.

Dear Me (from a year ago),

Right now, you’ve just started uni, and you’re dealing with at least five mental health problems, at least two of which are currently undiagnosed. Your recovery worker has just left due to mental health cuts, your psychiatrist is refusing to give you any medication and you’re incredibly stressed. You’re not sleeping, not able to keep food down, you’ve broken out in eczema from head to toe and your muscles ache from being so tense all the time. You keep telling yourself that it has to get better.

I wish I could tell you that you get a new recovery worker who’s just as good as the last one, your psychiatrist prescribes some decent medication, and that you quickly get used to the university workload and finish first year with grades you’re proud of. Unfortunately, that is not how your story is going to go. But bear with me, it gets better.

In two weeks, you’re going to have the most difficult week of your life. You’re going to drop out of university and you’re going to feel like the world’s biggest failure. You’re going to have fights with the people closest to you and things will be said by both you and them that you wish you could take back, or unhear. The psychosis and dissociation are going to get so bad that you’re genuinely not sure of whether you and your surroundings are real or imaginary. You’re going to feel like this is it, this is the rest of your life and you cannot cope with this pain and it is never going to get better.

You’re going to have three emergency appointments with your mental health team that week, and spend most nights on the phone with the crisis team until 6am to make sure you see the next day. You’re going to go to hospital one night because a voice on the other end of the phone is not safe enough for you. This sounds terrifying, and it is, but remember what I said earlier and trust me – it will get better.

Over the next nine months you’re going to have two more recovery workers who are both a bad match for you, you’re going to be discharged from your mental health team earlier than you thought you would because of mental health cuts and with no real safety net other than the GP – but you’ll use this to your advantage to get some decent medication because you don’t have to go through that anti-medication, anti-diagnosis psychiatrist any more. You’re going to quit more things to save all of your energy for getting out of bed in the morning because you want to be better.

And now, a year later, you’re on medication that works (even if it makes you sleep a lot). Your eczema has finally cleared up, and you can’t remember the last time you threw up. You’ve slept fairly well every night for the last four weeks. You have a job that you love, with people who are nice and you’ve been in it for 11 weeks which is the longest you’ve stuck at anything in two years. You’re taking on extra hours at the end of this month, not because you feel like you have to but because you genuinely want to, and really believe you can cope with it. Sometimes you don’t get out of bed, but that’s because you choose to have a pyjama and Netflix day, or because you feel ill and you’re taking care of yourself, not because everything seems hopeless. Dear me from a year ago, I know it’s not the outcome you’re hoping for.

It’s better.


Winter is coming…

It’s getting to that wonderful time of year again, when the nights get crisper, the air gets colder, and Seasonal Affective Disorder sets in.

My brain is on some sort of weird journey to catch them all when it comes to mental illnesses, and so it has also very helpfully decided that Seasonal Affective Disorder is something else we should deal with. Here’s the thing though – when you already have chronic severe depression, there aren’t many places your brain can go with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Mine has chosen the path of psychosis, which sounds much more concerning than it actually is for me. Mostly it just means I hear people talking to me when they aren’t, the world is constantly shaking like I’ve been thrust into a cartoonish earthquake for a few months, and I see spiders that aren’t really there everywhere.

My other problem is that I am allergic to the cold (yes, really, it’s called Cold Urticaria and it’s really annoying) and so I spend most of October through February staying as warm as possible so I don’t turn into a weird asthmatic smurf and then die. The warmest place in my house is in my bed, with a sleeping bag, two duvets and the heating turned up. Of course, staying in bed for five months generally goes against all medical advice for coping with depression and so my winters generally consist of me lying in bed watching imaginary spiders run over me while I try not to accidentally tranquillise myself by combining my depression and allergy medications, which both have strong sedative effects.

It’s as fun as it sounds, honestly.

Anyway, here are my top tips for coping with SAD (even the acronym is horrible) especially if you can’t go out much or the cold turns you blue:

  1. Try something artsy – knitting, stitching, colouring in, writing – anything that will let you create and do something productive. There is nothing more satisfying than finishing a project, and even if it’s not amazing it’s okay because you have brought something into this universe that did not exist there last week using the power of imagination.
  2. Make a list of all of the tv shows you’ve been meaning to watch, books you’ve been meaning to read, and podcasts you’ve been meaning to listen to. Beside each one, write a friend’s name who you know is into that thing. Then read/listen to/watch them, and tell that friend what you think. When you finish one, recommend it to a new friend. This helps two ways: it keeps you entertained, it forces your brain to focus on a plot so your concentration skills don’t flounder, and it is an easy way to start a conversation and help you feel connected to other people.
  3. Do the things you know you have to do. Letting homework or housework pile up will just make you more anxious in the long run, and feeling in control of your environment or circumstances does genuinely make you feel much better about yourself. I like Unfuck Your Habitat’s “20/10” method – 20 minutes of the thing you don’t want to do followed by 10 minutes of something you do want to do. You’d be amazed at what you can get done in 20 minutes, and even if it’s not a lot, 20 minutes every day is way easier than forcing yourself to do everything on Sunday night.
  4. Try and do something active. Anything. Follow along with some yoga videos on youtube, have a ten minute dance party to whatever comes on the radio or spotify, download one of those seven minute exercise apps that give you new things to try at home. If you can’t do any of that, even just stretching and giving your muscles a bit of a shake out is still better than not moving at all.
  5. Be ruthless with social media. Unfollow, mute, or soft-block anyone whose posts are too much. It’s much better for your mental health to be a little bit selfish than to spend all your time worrying about the world ending because that guy Dave keeps posting about nuclear threats from North Korea, or your aunt Janet keeps posting about government conspiracies to replace us with robots. The world, Dave and his nuclear threats, and Janet and her government conspiracies, will all still be here in six months.

I hope these five tips are helpful. Feel free to add your own! I’ll see you all again in March when the temperature is back in double digits, the psychotic spiders are gone and I can’t physically feel my lungs freezing. 🙂