Day Two

Day two of blogging every day for the rest of January and I find myself under the covers just after half eight, panicking a little that I haven’t bothered to think of a topic to write about tonight and that I’m far too tired to try and put together sentences with any level of coherency.

It’s been one of those days where my brain is all over the place and living with my own company feels relentlessly exhausting. But it’s also been a quiet day and getting to the end of it with time for a hot bath (the luxury of being in our own flat is still not fading, I can’t get over it), a cup of chamomile tea and a book in bed before 9pm feels wonderful and reassuring (elderly vibes, I know✨✨✨…).

I’m reading Emma Mitchell’s The Wild Remedy at the moment, a book I like to dip in and out of occasionally, and it’s the loveliest – the drawings inside are beautiful and Emma’s reflections and openness about her own mental health leave me feeling a little less alone on short, dark winter days. It feels particularly like a bit of respite now that I’m no longer living on the edge of the city, with the luxury of having Fletcher Moss Gardens And Stenner Woods so close by. The moments and animals Mitchell spots and the accounts of her wanders through the countryside feel like a brief escape from life in the city centre, where reassuring signs of the changing seasons are harder to stumble upon.

This hasn’t been the most articulate of posts but whilst I doubt there’s much to gain from it from a reader’s perspective, I do feel a little better going to sleep knowing that I carved even a brief bit of time out of the day to write and reflect a little. Hopefully I’ll have more time to think of a topic and write about it, before I get cosy under my duvet, tomorrow.

January Blues

It’s Sunday evening and I’ve had the whole day to relax and read and write and relish in the quiet of January. And yet, as often happens whenever I have no plans or obligations for the day, the day has stretched on in a fog of not feeling able to think clearly, of restlessness and a constantly overwhelming sense of anxiety. I think it’s felt worse recently – the new year and decade stretches ahead, lacking shape and certainty. I try to see this unknowingness as some kind of magic space – a future I can go ahead and create and do anything with. But with my mental health and with the constant onslaught of news stories that make me ache for the state of the world, it can be hard to not just feel scared at the thought of the future.

It’s not that things are bad right now – there’s so much to be grateful for at the moment, so much of my life which leaves me overwhelmed with surprise and love. I’m still learning that I can have space in my heart for all of that and still be scared, still struggle. Still learning that it doesn’t make me ungrateful or unappreciative or incapable of seizing all that life has to offer. I think it’s important to recognise these feelings and try and work my way through them, make space for them and treat myself with kindness when they’re heavy in my chest.

I’ve been thinking on ways that I can feel better – planning for days in the future so I have plenty to look forward to, savouring a good cup of tea or the view from my living room window as traffic snakes into the city, rearranging my bookshelves and relishing in the fact that I have a space to call home and so many wonderful things to read. But sometimes even trying to pick out a book that won’t have content that makes me feel worse seems hard and sometimes I think I just need a healthy distraction. And so after a think about what I could do to try and combat these January blues, I’ve decided to give blogging every day for the rest of the month a go. One of my ongoing anxieties is whether I’m good enough to write, to create content, to share it with the world. To do this feels like a good way to try and combat that whilst giving me the soothing promise of time to reflect as each day passes. In the same way that my weekly therapy sessions used to be a time to breathe and let everything out (pls can the NHS hurry up and give me more therapy sometime soon), I’m hoping these posts can do something similar – recently I’ve been struggling to write poetry or even just the journal entries that I used to do so much of (scrawled in various notebooks that are now stacked up at the opposite side of the room) and so I’m hoping a slightly different format will do me some good. We’ll see.

2019 and the end of the decade

As the year, and decade, draws to a close Instagram and Twitter is full of reflections, positivity and achievements as well as (if you follow the right people) reminders to be kind to yourself, to celebrate survival, to be at ease with anxiety about the future.  I don’t remember writing a post that wraps up my year since 2009, when I was 12 years old and still trying to navigate growing up and grief and countless other things. Looking back at what I wrote then I find myself in the same position I’ve wrote about countless times recently – wishing I could give her a glimpse of where I’m at now, to help her through. But writing about the whole decade would probably just emotionally drain me and I’m already teary enough (in a good way) thinking about the last 12 months alone…

This year has been challenging and at times the weight of everything has felt so unbearably overwhelming that I wasn’t sure I could get through it. But it’s also brought so much positive change and so much of what I’ve been dreaming of for years. I get back to my flat and feel relief as I unlock the front door, feel at home as I have dinner or a cup of tea or curl up with a book or even have a therapeutic cry. I have seen so many golden mornings and so many pink, bleeding skies. I’ve climbed up blustery hillsides and wandered across Millennium Bridge and by St Pauls on a beautiful, silent morning before the rest of London woke up. I’ve bought lots of flowers and had nights out that felt a bit like magic with the best people, spent far too much money on brunch, graduated (though not with the grade that I wanted, and that’s ok!), fallen in love with the view from a train window, worn pretty dresses and read poetry and novels that make me feel a little more at home in the world, explored new parts of the cities that I love so much and learned to like myself a little more, to be kinder to myself even when it feels like I don’t deserve it. I’ve pushed myself and encouraged myself and surrounded myself with people who support and love me. I’ve reached out for help when I’ve needed it (even if sometimes it isn’t easy. Mental health waiting lists are forever the worst). I got my first graduate job (!!), which is a particularly big achievement given that I used to be petrified that I’d never be able to hold one down because of my mental health. I’ve tried to be open about mental health and I’ve been a little braver about sharing the things that I write/create in the world, including two poetry collections (one of which was published by the wonderful Horsfall Gallery and 42nd Street). And, though it terrifies me to say it, I’m genuinely feeling content and happy at the moment. Life has been full of the kind of moments that I never believed I would get to see or feel. And I am so, so grateful for that.

 

Why we need to do more than just ‘talk’ about mental health.

I recently pushed myself massively out of my comfort zone and sat down in front of a camera to talk about my experiences with mental health support for an ITV report. It was daunting, but something that felt important to do – a few years ago the idea of even receiving adequate support for the problems I was experiencing seemed impossible, so the opportunity to actually have my perspective and experiences listened to and shared still feels like something I can’t quite wrap my head around. Today I thought I’d expand a lil upon what I talked about in the clips because I have a lot to rant about and, as writing has the benefit of an edit button, my sentences (unlike in real life) won’t be quite as littered with the word ‘like’. I guess this piece is partly an attempt to shed light on how difficult it can be to access support and partly a way for me to get a bit of anger out about it all – the impacts of not having your mental health taken seriously can be really damaging and it’s something I still struggle with massively, despite having received treatment and massively improved in managing my symptoms.

Throughout my attempts to access support for my mental health I’ve been described by a GP as “emotionally weak”, been told that cutting is a perfectly normal outlet but just to keep knives clean whilst in A&E, waited over a year to see a psychiatrist who (from seeing the notes taken afterwards) didn’t actually seem to listen to what I’d talked about (getting key details wrong) and seen plenty of people who, without further investigation, were quick to either diagnose or refer me to a long waiting list with no support in the interim. In part this is because toxic mentalities regarding mental health are still prevalent, however much people dismiss needing to continue to change the dialogue surrounding the issue. It’s also partly down to the fact that the NHS is severely underfunded and, unless you have the financial means to go private, support can be inaccessible even when you need it most. This isn’t to say that the NHS isn’t full of wonderful and empathetic people who genuinely want to/are capable of helping – I know those people exist and work ridiculously hard to improve things. But without the resources or the capacity to advocate for yourself, they can be incredibly hard to find. 

The result is people dying. And people being robbed of opportunities and happiness and quality of life. People are left feeling invalidated, unwanted and unsupported. I tried to do everything right to look after my mental health – I tried exercise, eating healthy, mindfulness. It wasn’t enough and until I received support from 42nd street I believed I was likely going to be incapable of living the kind of life that I wanted to live. At some points in my life suicide just felt like an inevitability. And it’s uncomfortable to talk about and it makes people feel awkward and nobody knows what to say. But I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to not talk about these things, not to get angry about them and not start pursuing change. Because it wasn’t my determination to get better alone that saved my life. It was support that took years and years to access, but that was life changing when I did.


Things are changing when it comes to mental health support – the University of Manchester are now running a pilot scheme alongside the NHS, they provide access to Big White Wall and wellbeing is talked about more and more. I’ve had positive experiences with the University Counselling Service (though they’re not there to/capable of supporting more complex mental health needs). But until there’s more money put into the NHS, allowing for people to receive adequate time and support when they need it, people will continue to suffer. There are lots of ways that you can help to improve things – consider how you vote in elections, donate to charities that pursue research/support people experiencing mental health problems (like 42nd street) and try to be as supportive as possible if someone you know is struggling. It can be difficult to know what to say and daunting to figure out how to get things right, but validating people’s emotions, offering to be there for them and asking what you can do to help is (in my opinion) invaluable. You can even find downloadable PDF files on the Mind website for different mental health conditions, explaining symptoms and causes and ways in which you can help to support someone. All of these things are so important to do, because sentiments like “it’s okay not to be okay” are useless without the support structures that people deserve.

ITV Report: https://www.itv.com/news/granada/2019-11-13/mental-health-support-centre-set-up-for-students-in-manchester/

3 places to visit in London…

London is forever a city of magic to me, whether it’s a sunshine filled South Bank trip or the central line at rush hour. Last week I headed down for a long weekend and, whilst I usually end up sticking to my favourite old haunts (despite my best intentions), this time we visited a handful of new places, and so I thought I’d share a few of them here – a bookshop, a brunch spot and a bar (the three B’s of any decent city-break).

Persephone Books – Holborn.

Persephone Books is somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for ages – a dream of a shop, stacked with hundreds of beautiful grey-jacketed books, a scattering of pretty flowers and the loveliest staff. They specialise in reprinting/publishing a variety of out-of-print texts, from diaries to short stories, with a focus on women writers. They also have the loveliest tote bags, which seem to be the second weakness of everyone who spends all their money on books… A copy of their first book of short stories seemed like a good place to start my collection and I’m already anticipating a shelf of my bookcase ending up being entirely devoted to grey spines.

Megan’s – Kings Road.

Brunch is my favourite meal (after a Sunday roast…) and I’m constantly trying somewhere new and then declaring it the best brunch I’ve ever had. But Megan’s really was. Really. Aside from being in a dreamy restaurant, filled with pretty lights and flowers (which is admittedly enough to lure me in), the staff were all very friendly and helpful and the food was incredible. We all ordered a full english (with added hash browns, obvs) and everything was just delicious – including a smoothie which left me feeling slightly less guilty about all the unhealthy food I’d eaten all weekend, without tasting like I was drinking a glass of liquid grass…

Bar Elba – Waterloo.

After climbing up a seemingly endless flight of stairs, complete with lots of colourful walls and Napoleon quotes, we arrived at Bar Elba. A rooftop bar on a rainy day – except with lots of heaters and a covered roof to keep us warm. The cocktails were all amazing- and also, especially for London, affordable if you took full advantage of the happy hour deal (which we definitely did). I always imagine London roof bars to be overly busy places where you spend most of your time in an endless wait to be served, but Elba was a lovely place to go for a few drinks and not too busy. The summery cocktails, sheltered roof and view of a rainy London skyline made for a surprisingly cosy afternoon before a tipsy tube journey home…

5 tips for starting therapy

With most of my ideas surrounding therapists centering around tv depictions where they do little but say “and how did that make you feel?” to a character who doesn’t really want to be there, I wasn’t sure what to expect at my first session a couple of years ago. Since then, a lot of the people I’ve talked to about my experiences have been curious about what therapy is actually like – whether you can cry in sessions, whether your therapist gives you advice, whether it’s awkward or intense. But whilst everyone’s experiences of therapy will vary (depending on who your therapist is/how good they are, what you put into a session etc) I thought that World Mental Health day might be a good time to share some advice on how to approach therapy sessions to get the most out of them.

    1. Be prepared for the benefits of therapy to take time. Therapy is so effective in part because you work to build a relationship with your therapist in a space that feels non-judgemental and safe. But being able to challenge your thoughts and behaviours with someone requires a certain level of vulnerability that most likely won’t appear after just a single session. Give yourself time to connect with your therapist and to adjust to the dynamic of sessions before you decide that you’re not getting the benefits that you hoped for. **
    2. Try and schedule in some down-time after a session. Therapy is likely going to explore some difficult emotions/memories and you may struggle to just go straight back to whatever you’d usually be doing afterwards. I often felt really happy and productive after sessions because I felt heard and managed to make progress with how I was coping, but I also had sessions were I felt incredibly emotional/needed a good cry. Giving yourself a bit of time to go for a quick walk or have a coffee afterwards to clear your head can be really helpful, especially if you’ve got work/uni commitments. 
    3. Embrace the lack of social norms. Therapy is one of the only places where I’ve felt like it was okay to clarify what was meant by a question, where I felt like I could admit when I was worried I hadn’t articulated a response well enough or had said something that was making me feel anxious. Embrace the fact that therapy isn’t a normal conversation – you can come back to things you’ve already talked about or let the other person know if you’re worried about something they or yourself has said. When you feel able to do this, you can get a lot more out of your conversations. 
    4. Engage with the process. Therapy is about putting hard work in to understand yourself, your thoughts and your behaviours. A really helpful way to ensure you’re able to do that is to make sure you engage with the ideas behind the therapeutic approach being used – if your therapist doesn’t explain the ideas/theories behind their practice to you then ask for some insight. My therapist explained the different models incorporated into our sessions and I found that it really helped me to implement the ideas we discussed into my everyday life.
    5. Take a pen and paper.There were only a few times I used a notebook and pen in a session because the dynamic was conversational. But sometimes it can really help to be able to quickly jot down a certain pattern of behaviour, a certain idea or even an epiphany you’ve had about your thought process to look back over later. If you’re struggling without support between sessions those notes can be helpful to go back to and if you’re talking about some difficult stuff it’s always useful to have reminders so things don’t get swept up and forgotten by whatever emotions you’re dealing with during the session. If you can develop this a little in your own time you’ll have a handy resource to go back to when you’re struggling as well as a tangible reminder that you’re capable of prioritising yourself and your own mental health. 

 

*Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may not be able to develop the kind of relationship necessary to make progress with your therapist. If they invalidate you/your emotions, you feel there are huge differences in your values/beliefs or you really don’t click then make this clear and try another therapist – you deserve to work with someone who respects you and your boundaries and is capable of creating a safe space for you to grow🌱

The best affordable eats in MCR

Having somehow found myself a grad job, I’ve recently been basking in how nice it feels to go out to eat more without the guilt of also eating away at my student loan.  And seeing as I’ve found some lovely new favourite places, I thought I’d write a lil blog post on my favourite, affordable places to grab food in Manchester. 

 

For something with your after work drinks – YES. 

With its dreamy pink room and roof terrace, YES seems to have quickly become a favourite new venue for half of Manchester. I’m yet to actually end up on a night out here but it’s become my go-to place for after-work drinks and pizza. When the sun is shining, the terrace is a perfect spot to watch the passing trains and make the most of their cocktail deals (buying 2 and getting the second for a quid when they’re a fiver makes it affordable too) but as the days grow grey and wet, in true Mancunion style, it’s just as good to be inside where you’re closer to the two kitchens they’ve got on offer. The pizzas from Pepperoni Playboy are so tasty and they’ve got a really varied range – I’m trying to cut down on how much meat and dairy I consume so it’s handy that their vegan options are just as amazing as the more standard ones. ‘Psycho Kaler’ and ‘Pepperoni Playboy’ are my favourites and, seeing as they’re half price from 12-6pm, you can always try both… 

For dinner – Kosmos. 

I probably passed Kosmos pretty much every day for the majority of my time at University – it’s tucked between takeout places and corner shops on Wilmslow Road, opposite the Fallowfield student residential campus. Despite that, I didn’t really take much notice or end up venturing inside until recently, but it’s quickly become one of my favourite places to visit. The staff are lovely and keen to offer recommendations, without being overbearing – it’s a family run restaurant and you can tell there’s a passion and pride for the food they make. It’s also delicious – I’ve tried two different chicken dishes and sampled the sea bass, but the meatballs are by far my favourite thing off of the menu. You quickly forget that you’re in rainy Fallowfield once you’re inside and everything is a decent price, with mains tending to be between £11 and £14. 

For a date – Hatch MCR. 

Underneath the Mancunian Way on Oxford Road, Hatch is a little haven of independent shops, bars and food vendors, with fairy lights and disco balls strung through the trees. There’s a varied range of food options available, my favourite being  the satay mushroom bao buns from Slurp, Crackle & Pop. Grab a small meal for between £6 and £10 before heading to Number 8 for wine on the roof terrace. I’d also recommend Electrik Box for drinks – it’s got a lovely upstairs space with some fun retro games like pinball to play. If you’re looking for more of an evening out I’d really recommend Hatch for it’s variety – there’s often DJs playing and you’re close enough to the centre to continue the night in the Northern Quarter or wherever else you fancy!

A post about grief.

Grief is a funny thing. It’s something I thought I’d got to grips with when I was much smaller, but somewhere along the way I shoved and swallowed it down until it only manifested in quiet and subconscious ways within my life. I think I’d accepted that it’s intensity varied, coming back and surprising me every so often. But I hadn’t quite prepared for the fact that it can completely hit you in its entirety all over again.

My grandparents raised me, were the most wonderful and important people in my life and I lost them at 11 and 15. I think I was too young to even comprehend the significance of that when I was younger and I eventually found myself feeling disconnected from the grief that it makes sense to feel.

It wasn’t until years later, after around 9 months worth of therapy, that I began to feel that grief seeping back in to my life, quietly at first and then with a force I’d forgotten. It was as if a switch had been flicked and memories I’d somehow forgotten came flooding back – bacon buttys every morning and dinner ready when I dashed back across the road home from school, walks home from nursery and lifts home from high school, gifts and days out and snatches of memories from the home in which they all happened. I was devastated all over again. I think part of this came from a realisation of what I had lost – two of the most important people that would ever be in my life, a home where I felt safe and content and happy. And part of it was just the natural way in which grief lives within you once you’ve met.

But I also felt confused and guilty and like I wasn’t entitled to be feeling the loss so intensely – it had been years. I struggled to reach out, felt I couldn’t bring it up in conversation, worried I was just being over-dramatic or attention seeking.

Over the last year or so I’ve found myself feeling this grief more strongly than ever, when I’m homesick or lonely or something exciting happens and I wish they could know about it. But I’m beginning to accept it, to give myself permission to feel it. I still don’t know how to deal with it in some ways – wish I could visit places we used to go to or write to them or do something to celebrate their lives. But I’m allowing myself to miss them. And that’s a start.

How to look after your mental health at University.

This week I had my final ever University exam, which feels kind of surreal… I’m not quite sure it’s hit me that it’s all over, but given how much my mental health has impacted my experience of the last three years I thought it’d be good to write a bit of an advice post for navigating university life whilst looking after yourself – it’s been harder than I hoped, but wonderful in entirely unexpected ways and hopefully I’ve got some helpful advice to share!

 

  • Don’t pressure yourself to have ‘the best three years of your life’. University might well be a time that you look back on with nostalgia, filled with incredible memories. But three years is a long time and university is full of changes for a lot of people, especially when you’re first finding your feet. Take the pressure off of yourself and don’t feel bad if you’re not constantly having an amazing time/making memories/finding your ‘friends for life’. It’s normal to feel isolated, anxious and down at times – you’re not failing. And you’re much more likely to find yourself genuinely contented if you don’t expect your experience to be amazing 24/7.
  • Remember that there’s a billion different ways to experience University life. Particularly when you’re scrolling through endless photos of huge groups of people heading out clubbing, it can be easy to wonder if you’re doing university ‘right’. Are you going out enough? Making enough friends? Trying enough new things? But it’s important to remember that your own happiness and enjoyment comes before any preconceived expectations of how you should be spending your time. Push yourself and try things you might not initially think you’d be too keen on, but don’t stamp down your personality and interests in order to have a specific type of university experience.
  • Make sure you’re aware of what resources are on offer to you, if you need them. Whether you’ve experienced problems with your mental health before or not, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what help is available should you end up needing it. Have a quick search for your University’s counselling services and see if there’s other resources in your area to help look after your mental health – creative therapies, mindfulness events etc. If you’re Manchester based, I’ve provided a lil list of some great resources at the bottom of this post.  But this doesn’t just apply to directly mental health related services – find out what financial help/bursaries/loans your University offers; these things can be really useful, particularly if your mental health impacts your ability to work alongside your degree.
  • Try to open up and avoid isolating yourself. Whether it’s giving a friend from home a quick text, admitting you’re having a bit of a ‘down’ day to someone off of your course or forcing yourself to spend a little longer than you would usually socialising in a communal kitchen, try to make sure you don’t go from ‘making time for yourself’ to just isolating yourself – anxieties and emotions are often intensified after a few days avoiding the world in your room. And besides, those around you might appreciate your honesty if they too aren’t feeling great.
  • Find your happy places. This might take a little bit of time, but try and get out and explore your new city/campus. Stumbling across places where you can retreat for a little bit of quiet and calm can be so important when you’re in a University bubble. It might be a green bit of your campus, a coffee shop you really like or a bit of countryside you can get to easily enough – just find somewhere where you can be with your thoughts and relax.
  • Try and get outside of your University bubble. Especially if you’re feeling anxious or trapped, getting out of the bubble of university life can be really important. If going home is both an option and a safe space, try and schedule some trips back. Visit your friends at other universities. Or if you’re unable to do so, for whatever reason, try and find a way to engage with the local community outside of campus – find a volunteering opportunity or an event that you think you’d be interested in and go for it!
  • Be kind to yourself and accept your limitations. University can be full of expectations to excel academically, get work experience/internships and socialise. But if you’re struggling to do any/all of this, your worth does not change. It’s important to accept your limitations (which will fluctuate over time), be kind to yourself and focus on what you need, rather than what you feel you should be doing/what other people expect of you. If you’re not well enough to manage a part time job alongside your studies or you don’t have a huge group of friends that you see 24/7, don’t see this as a reflection on your capabilities/character. Be patient with yourself, ask for help when you need it and celebrate your victories, whether they’re big or small.

 

 

Manchester based resources:

42nd Street & The Horsfall42nd Street offer individual and group therapy as well as groups such as MORR which are great to get involved with. The Horsfall is a gallery/creative space that’s linked with 42nd st and offers lots of wonderful creative stuff – from an art/drawing session every Thursday to exhibitions.

Open Mind Manchester Open Mind are a University based society, with groups operating at both the University of Manchester and MMU. They share helpful resources and run an excellent range of events, from mental-health themed spoken word nights to ‘PositiviTEA’ and ‘Share your Story’.

WeAreAssifCheck out their website/instagram for lots of interesting blog posts/articles and events in Mcr – from a book club to walks in Heaton Park.

 

Things that’ve made me happy – May.

Recently I’ve been feeling more like myself than I have done in a long time. My mental health has improved to the point where not every day feels like I’m in survival mode. Instead, the sense of contentment that I used to long for appears more and more often throughout the days. Whether it’s excitement to sit with a hot drink and a slice of cake in one of my favourite coffee shops or the sound of wood pigeons outside as the evening skies bleed out into night, happiness has found its way in. And so I’ve decided to write a monthly blog post about what’s been making me happy, whether it’s a moment or a place or something I’ve bought or read. I used to write posts like this back in high school and I think that documenting some of the things that are good in my life, and particularly documenting them through writing, will be a wonderful way to both feel like I’m being more productive and to make sure that I have things to look back on during bad days.

‘Ordinary People’ by Diana Evans.

After handing in my dissertation I decided to squeeze in something non-academic before confronting the stack of books to be tackled for my last exam. I picked up a copy of Evans’ ‘Ordinary People’ on a whim in Blackwells (my new campus happy-place) and tumbled into the aches, longings and frustrations of its characters. I think the fact that I grew so frustrated with one of the main characters without getting sick of the book itself is testament to Evans’ writing style – lyrical and lovely and incredibly moving. It was also refreshing to pick up a novel that engaged with ideas of racial identity, family and how these issues impact relationships from a perspective I hadn’t read from before. Like with all good books, it’s characters and their lives have been lodged in my head as I’ve gone about my day ever since.

This cute pot from 19pinkvine.

Not only is it in my favourite colours and a perfect lil home for a plant or my keys (I haven’t yet decided which) but given how stressful the post-uni housing situation is for me at the moment, buying something cute to have in my future flat seemed like a pretty good way to say fuck you to all my anxieties about the future. These lovely homewares are available via Etsy or, if you live in/near the Withington area, you could have a lil browse whilst grabbing a ridiculously tasty brunch at Boho Utopia. 

The loveliest Heart Earrings by Olivia Annabelle.

I stumbled upon the Olivia Annabelle Instagram (filled with dreamy clothes, soft pastels and lots of beautiful photos) just before my university May Ball and, after a quick virtual wander, ended up ordering a pair of their beautiful Heart Earrings via Etsy. They arrived quickly in the post in lovely packaging, with a hand-written thank you note from OA founder, Olivia. They’re the prettiest colour and worked just as well going for a mocha-fuelled revision session in town as they did at the ball – every time I’ve worn them they’ve been complimented. This month was the first time in forever that I’ve gone out of my way on a normal day to wear a piece of jewellery just because I liked it and wanted to wear it and feel good, which makes these earrings even more exciting to have.

My University May Ball.

When I started at Manchester it was my second attempt at University. During my first term I’d walk to whatever building my lecture was in and freeze up, completely unable to go in. Whilst my mental health problems have far from disappeared since first year I’m so proud of the fact that by the end of third year I’d managed to integrate into University life in a way I feared I couldn’t and organising and speaking at my final ball was the best way to celebrate that.

 

A quiet train journey at sunset.

I always romanticise the idea of train journeys, though they often seem to just be overcrowded and stressful. But earlier this week I managed to grab a window seat and watched the sky in hues of blue and red across rolling hills and country lanes and had a whole two hours to just watch car headlights cut through the dark in the distance, to watch rivers and farms and eventually red lights of cranes against a purple sky as I arrived back in Manchester. It was one of the loveliest moments, filled with contentment and never as beautiful in a photograph as it actually was.