18 January 2018

Let's Talk: Bandwagons, Monday Blues and #NewYearNewYou

We're now two weeks into 2018 and WOW. What can I say? EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED. As soon as the clock struck midnight, the Queen's carriage transformed into a pumpkin, every Cindy lost her heels and social media sung....

   #NewYearNewYou   

Chapter 2018! Oh wait, that's not what happened, is it? Except the part about losing heels, but I suspect that had more to do with Daiquiris than God-Fairies. At the risk of being a bandwagon-scrooge, I'm going to reveal a little secret that New Year's Eve, New Year's Day - and even Christmas - wouldn't dare to say. Nothing actually changes. The second that stood between 2017 and 2018 is no different to the second that stands between every other second in the HISTORY OF SECONDS. Nows that's lot of seconds. Yet relatively speaking, we only see a fraction of them in our own lives.

So why, every January, do we give these seconds up so easily? That's the true irony of #NewYearNewYou; society loves to convince us that it's taking BACK control of our lives, but in reality we're handing  it over. Society wants us to believe that 01.01.XXXX is some astrological phenomenon; that your salads and squats will only suffice if Mars and Saturn align in the heavens.... In other words, Society is Professor Trawlaney and thinks we're all Parvati Patel/Lavender Brown, but it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. 
It's time to pour some Hermione Cynicism over the Resolution Bandwagon. When she knocked over that crystal ball and turned her back on divination, she turned her back on people deciding life for her. She chose HER OWN FUTURE. Okay, I realise I've gone a bit "english student" on you here; it's possible that Hermione just had an issue with loose-leaf tea (I can empathise) and JK wasn't quite this existential. It does make for quite a nice metaphor though, so what do I have to lose?

Imagine that advertisers are the crystal ball. Every January, they predict the same future of cakeless cakes, protein shakes and brand flakes #AllBranNew. The Supermarket shelves switch mince pies for potato-free fries... and let's not forget the skinny tea-leaves. They will be the first to guilt-trip you for "festive indulgence" in January, yet used the same argument to SELL the 'indulgence' in December: "enjoy as many mince pies as you want, because come 1st January it's #NewYearNewYou!". As for *some* instafluencers (not all), once the photos are done it's down with the christmas tree and up with the gym gear selfie: "Does my protein shake look big in this? No? Here's ANOTHER selfie then!" #ad #spon.

"Every January, advertisers predict  
the same future of cakeless cakes, 
protein shakes and branded flakes 
#AllBranNew."

To play devil's advocate, New Year's Resolutions can be a positive. For example, my goals of returning to University and applying for a PGCE definitely motivated my recovery in 2017. Sometimes we need that final push to get us somewhere and there's nothing wrong with that. However, it had to come from me. Ultimately, only I could judge how I felt and make that call. Moreover, it had to happen in my time. For what it's worth, if I'd waited until 1st January 2018 to make my 'recovery resolutions', I wouldn't be typing this from my flat at Exeter!

My main issue is not with resolutions themselves, but the narrative we've built around them. It's this idea that we "should" change; that the turn of a clock hand signifies so much and that we 'fail' if we don't fulfil them. In December, I decided not make resolutions and I felt confident in this. Then Christmas passed and the Resolution-themed blog posts arrived. Twitter and Instagram quickly followed and, by NYE, I admit I was doubting my choice. Was it wrong not to have a resolution? Did it make me unmotivated, lazy even? All these thoughts were swimming in my head, until I saw the following two tweets:
They led me past the trees and out of the shoulds. I came back to new-sky thinking, along with the advice I would give anyone else. and that's how I came to write 17 Silver Linings From 2017It may not have been as conventional or 'clickable' as "18 goals for 2018", but it was my voice. It also reminded me that blogs I love most often aren't for the plot, but the author themselves. That is the thing that truly matters. So here's to #NewYearSameMe: Allowing myself to BE.  


   #BlueMonday   

You may have seen another hashtag do the rounds this week, which dared to put MINDS before materialism. FINALLY... Oh wait, that's not what happened, is it? #Dejavu. For just like its hashtag twin #NewYearNewYou, Blue Monday prescribed its own narrative for an otherwise innocent day. Apparently there's some scientific proof to the *blue* pudding, but I'm going be Hermione on this one too. For starters, the evidence came from a PR company. And second, did the PR gurus never watch that scene from Bridget Jones?

Sarcasm aside, there were people genuinely struggling on 16th January 2018. There were also people struggling on the 15th and the 17th. There are people struggling as I type this and you may be struggling as you read, however far into the future that is *virtual Free Elf hugs*. I may not be a scientist, but I've had my fair share of 'blue day' data and I know one thing - it wasn’t all recorded on ONE DAY. The x-axis goes from 1-365, because a date does not decide your mental health and you can be 'blue' any day of the year. 
Conversely, some people do struggle on a particular date; however, this date is not open to the public and often marks a difficult anniversary: bereavement, divorce, family or personal trauma. For those people with PTSD, a date can unearth the most painful memories and requires proper, meaningful support in that moment. In other words, more than a hashtag or discounted shoes. 

"Just like #NewYearNewMe, 
Blue Monday prescribed a narrative 
for an otherwise innocent day"

Surprise surprise, this fact was a bit lost on the #BlueMonday BRANDwagon. Having a mental health crisis? “Here’s 40% off shoes to beat the blues!” I received about a dozen discount emails yesterday, while fashion brands called for 'retail therapy'. Who needs the NHS when you have RETAIL THERAPY? Again, I use sarcasm but inside I'm angry. I'm angry at how commodified our world has become - epitomised by the two hashtags -  and how out of touch we are with just being human.

Thankfully, there is A SILVER LINING. As it turns out, I was far from the only person with this view and two more hashtags also trended: #BrightBlueMonday and #BlueAnyDay. When I opened Twitter on Monday, my timeline was filled with powerful counters to the 'Blue Monday' message. People wore bright colours to work, wrote their positives for the day and shared their own mental health stories.

Top mental health charities (Time To Change, Mind, Rethink) and some of the biggest names in media (The Guardian, BBC Newsbeat), came together for Mental Health Awareness and turned the entire day on its head. The BBC Newsbeat article was especially powerful, as it spoke to people with firsthand experience of mental illness. So despite my frustration with Blue Monday, I am grateful for one thing: it started a conversation and every conversation matters.

    PS: there's more    

My recent posts have been very focused on self-empowerment lately, so I do apologise if I am repeating myself sound like a Miss World/Oscars Acceptance Speech. Right now, I think I need to remind myself of it as much as anyone, so perhaps it is self-indulgent... or perhaps, to use a more compassionate phrase, it's self-CARE? I spoke earlier about the relevance of certain dates and, in the past month, I had my own: one year out of treatment. One year out of hospital and, in the same week, returning to University. 

On #BlueMonday of all days, I had my first lecture in two years. I was genuinely shaking before I went in and so many doubts ran through my head: "What if people don't like me? What if I don't understand the material? What if they hate my essay idea?" What if, what if, What. If. (What if and I Should would get along). What if....

....I just tried being me? So that is what I did, for that first hour of teaching. I quoted Colours of The Wind to an English Professor and compared Pocohontas to Romantic Poetry, as you do. It will take me time to adjust to this new way of 'being' at University; not defaulting to over-analysis and trying to please others. I won't always get it right, but I'll get one thing right: #SameMe. Just being Sophie.
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12 January 2018

Find the Courage to Write Your Own Story

Write Your Own Story - BumbleandBeMakes @Etsy
I've always loved telling stories. When I was younger, my sister and had piano lessons and I would write a story as she played. My piano teacher (the kindest woman you could ever meet) told me that she still has the story after all this time... simply put, in my childhood there was ALWAYS time for a story and a harry potter reference. Some things never change... 

When I was around six years old - I can't have been older than that, because we still lived in Newcastle - I wrote a story titled  'The Three Pigs and the Fairground' (perhaps you've seen it a bargain bin near you?) My teacher must have thought she had a booker-prize winner in her hands, because she later showed it to my parents and they apparently had the same view. Instead of going home to write essays watch Barney the Dinosaur, we were spontaneously heading to the local Fair!

*Fun fact, 23-year-old Sophie would rather read 50 Shades of Grey than go to a Fairground. Sorry Shakespeare... At the time though, it felt like Disneyland.*

Now, it's still possible that my story was, in fact, a masterpiece; I had genuinely bewitched the adults with my literary genius, otherwise known as the Imperious Impigious charm. All that being said, I think the real reason was far more innocent: they were under the spell of childhood. In the muggle world, childhood is one of the closet things were have to real magic. A child's imagination can reverse the clock for the most serious of adults... except perhaps Agatha Trunchbull, but that's a whole other story!

A child's view of the world allows us to "grow" down, free from the expectations and  limitations of adulthood. Children do not hear "I should"; they think "I could". I can. I will. Children write their own story.   When you grow out of childhood, you lose more than a size 2 shoe. You lose the feet that would take you anywhere; climb the mountains that adult's don't dare to consider. When you're seven-years-old, your story doesn't have an ending. You are the only author and anything is possible. You can climb mountains, move mountains, or build your own mountains, or perhaps do all three - now there's a booker-prize plot, if ever there was one!

Before 'life happened', the world was more than my oyster: it was the oink of a pig in a fairground; it was my first horse-riding lesson after quitting ballet (I was no Darcey Bussell); it was that first page of Harry Potter, or Roald Dahl, or the Worst Witch... or too many other books to mention! I don't even need to name them now, because they're written into my life story and I no one can change them. Just as I decided, many years ago, that fairgrounds are far more suited to Horror Movies than Playhouse Disney. As long as my mind chooses the plot, my mind writes the story.
Plotting Life - BumbleandBeMakes @Etsy
I'll be honest with you, dear reader, I'm not actually Jane Eyre everything you've just read was "spontaneous Sophie rambling" and wasn't at all how I imagined this post. In a nutshell, I planned to reveal some exciting news that you may have already seen on my instagram/twitter/everywhere else but the blog about my life.... I guess I was just, writing my own story? 

You see, for so much of my adult life I haven't. Since my diabetes diagnosis at 7, in fact, my narrative was claimed. For every sentence I wrote, life presented its own chapter, novel, prequel, or sequel. Once mental illness joined the story, we suddenly had a three-part blockbuster...  just not one the Oscars ordered. I've been open about the impact of anorexia/ anxiety on my life in recent years, not least of all suspending my university studies, receiving hospital treatment and feeling isolated from my peers. In many ways, it felt like anorexia wrote me out of life and I forgot how to even hold the pen. Then 2017 came along...

"Children do not hear 'I should'; they think 'I could'. I can. I will. Children write their own story."

 To use one of my favourite quotes  - from Tim Minchin's Matilda - "nobody but me is going to change my story." It is a statement that epitomises my 17 Silver Linings of 2017, as I began CBT and dared to try on the size two shoes again and see a world without "shoulds". From the vantage point of possibility, I fell into the world in Primary Teaching and fell in love. Others scripts may have chosen different careers, as I talked about in this Vlog, but "Miss Harrison" is the title for 2018 and I've rarely felt this certain of anything. As I type this, I have officially heard back from my three PGCE choices - Bath Spa, Oxford Brookes and Cambridge - and have three interviews in the next two weeks! What's more, I have just returned to University for the final term of my degree and am living independently for the first time in two years

It's safe to say that a lot has changed in a very short space of time and, in truth, my hand is still unsteady Sometimes, there are more blots on a page than legible words and right now I'm taking each day as it comes. Yet every morning, I pick up that pen and keep writing. Right now, it's 10pm and I just paused to make my evening snack. With helps from a bowl of Cheerios and Little Bitty Pretty One in the background, I am crossing out another line in the anorexia script and attempting to levitate my spoon. I often listen to this song when I'm feeling anxious, as it brings instant childhood nostalgia and the mindset of "actually I can levitate cheerios" *someday*.

If I want my "Miss Harrison" chapter to continue, recovery is a plot I have to follow - as painful as it may feel at times. Yet even by writing "Miss Harrison" - not "Miss Honey" - I realise how much has changed in the last six months alone. Back in June, when I wrote Someone's Miss Honey, I could never have imagined where I'd be now. In writing "Miss Harrison", I am valuing myself enough to be the protagonist and turn the page on my own. So maybe, just maybe, I can. 
Miss Honey Quote - BumbleandBeMakes @Etsy
What's Your Favourite Childhood Story? 
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1 January 2018

17 Silver Linings from 2017

I'm officially OVER 2017. Thank Godric. Not that I was ever under it, to be honest; the world has definitely seen better years! Nevertheless, that doesn't mean to say it was all doom-and-gloom. For every cloud there is a silver lining, as the saying goes, and after reflecting on 2017 I've found SEVENTEEN to share with you lucky bees.

*Because, you know, it's twenty seventeen and all that... and even my rambles can't cover two thousand and seventeen. Where are Fred and George's Extendable Ears when you need them?*

By gathering the tangible pieces from my 2017, I formed a picture was very different to what my mind initially saw. Through giving myself the time and permission to consider an alternative, I was able to salvage 2017 from the storm of my mind; as it turns out, moments are far more reliable narrators! Here are 17 of my most memorable ones...  .  

  #1 CBT & NEW-SKY THINKING     

Arguably the biggest change in my life this LAST year (aaah!) was CBT, as every silver lining in this post links back to treatment and my changing outlook (shoutout to my incredible therapist). In the first quarter of 2017, our sessions involved separating my core values from established beliefs; turning away from how I "should" be and learning WHO Sophie truly is. In the CBT world, it's called a "formulation"; In the Bumble & Be world, this was a bit too technical and I turned to the Creative Cloud for a more creative approach. A few honey patches and buzzing bees later, it looked something just  like this...

I now have a visual reminder above my desk, for whenever my mind tries to reinforce those old beliefs. Like Yesterday morning, for example, when I woke up dwelling on the things that I 'should' have done this year. Disclaimer: CBT isn't an overnight fix and doesn't stop you having the initial thoughts.* So my first reaction (old beliefs and all that) was to ditch this post altogether. Nice one pre-2017 me!

Thankfully, I paused long enough to  cast my mind back over 2017 and notice the clouds.  I poured through my blog and instagram posts from the past year; I spotted the crochet niffler on my desk and the acorn bee from beautiful V; I read the messages and handwritten letters from friends and, last but not least, I found the card I was given by 30 Year 2 students last June, complete with a drawing of 'Miss Harrison'. Dear head: you sit on a THRONES OF LIES.


Casually stealing the title of my youtube video on this subject, because it sums up my greatest epiphany of 2017. Over the last 12 months, I've done done u-turn worthy of Westminster and said "so long, farewell" to a future in Journalism and am currently applying for a Primary PGCE! If all goes to plan, I will be a qualified teacher by September 2019 and it's truly the most passionate I've felt about anything! So I hope 2018 will bring me closer to becoming Miss Harrison...

   #3 TEACHER TUESDAYS    

I did two school placements in 2017, the first with a Year 2 Class in May-June and the second with a Year 1 Class this past Autumn. I loved both experiences, but the one I've just finished was a match made in Hogwarts (my heaven). The school's motto - "where everyone matters and everyone achieves" - underpins their holistic approach, where they focus on the WHOLE PERSON. Their rewards system recognises "determination" "imagination" and "curiosity" and doesn't fixate on academic success. I couldn't think of a school more in line with my values and it's exactly the ethos I want to promote as a teacher. 


   #4 DISSERTATION INSPIRATION    

In SIX DAYS time, I will be returning to Exeter after two years and FINISHING MY DEGREE! The original 'plan' was to return in January 2017 (well, technically it was to graduate in June 2016, but life happened). Though I am nervous about going back, with the return to academia after a two-year pause and the whole living-on-my-own situation, one thing makes me truly excited: MY DISSERTATION.  

Inspired by my experiences in Primary Education this year, my interest in mental health/wellbeing and my enduring love for Children's Literature, I've decided on the title "Growing Down: exploring the the adult-child relationship in the works of Roald Dahl". I want to explore the importance of adult empathy for the social and emotional development of a child, looking at Miss Honey, Grandpa Joe, The Queen in the BFG etc... Part of my REALLY wanted to bring in other stories, comparing relationships such as Lucy/The Professor and Dumbledore/Harrry  However, I only have 8000 words and I'm learning from past pitfalls: keep it simple! 

  

In a knutshell, I opened my own Etsy store! BumbleandBeMakes is about 93.4% Harry Potter, in case the Knut pun passed you by. Since opening 4 months ago,  I haven't quite reached all my goals (between blogging, teaching and essay writing, time caught up with me!) Nevertheless, in the name of self-compassion I am going to CELEBRATE WHAT I HAVE ACHIEVED. It's enough to know that a fluffy Niffler made someone smile on Christmas day. 

I have Galleons of ideas for  2018 and will hopefully be sharing more on here very soon, but I'm reminding myself to take small steps and become overwhelmed by pressure/perfectionism. I am currently devloerating whether to sell physical copies of my prints, as they are currently just digital downloads and I don't want that to deter people! It's also striking a balance between crochet and prints, as crochet takes longer but seems to get the best response... what are your thoughts? 

Ps: If there are any creations you'd like to see in my store, let me know in the comments


2017 was the year I decided "you should only work with kids and animals" Sorry adults... sort out your prioiities and then we can talk. I've already mentioned the common theme of my Etsy store - harry potter - but I wanted to give an exclusive shoutout to my Fantastic Beasts of 2017.
Almost exactly a year ago, last the very end of IP, we went on a ward trip to the cinema and saw FB. The first thing I said as I came out was "I need my own niffler!" 

19 attempts later, I had my first fluffy friend and since then my  menagerie has grown faster than the Weasley Family. I create all my own patterns, so there's definitely been an evolution - my first Dobby looked more like Gollum - but I feel genuinely proud of myself for the first time in forever. I was particularly fond of the Dobby below - a christmas surprise for my favourite Harry Potter blogger The Bakeey - as he just 'came to life' in the photos  and I finally made a decent pompom!

Most of all, it's helped me rediscover my inner Potterhead and wasn't afraid to share it - I've written IG captions as Dobby and created an exlusively-HP gift guide for Christmas! I am unashamed to be a fangirl, as Tessa Netting says, as it is just another thing that makes me SOPHIE. After all this time,  JK's story welcomed me back and it was like coming home.

    #7 OUT ON THE VEG OF GLORY     

When I explored my Core Values for CBT, animals/nature were a recurring theme and I spent a whole session discussing this with my therapist. It was something I also discussed in IP, specifically the food element and whether anorexia played any part in my choices. This led to a a full post about  Vegetarianism and Recovery, which you can read; however, if you want to cut a long ramble short, I can 100% say this decision is SOPHIE. 

What's more, it is not just about food. By summer,  my cosmetics box was 100% cruelty-free and  I've  also stopped buying leather. I've educated myself through documentaries/PETA and am continually learning, while also supporting more animal charities. For christmas I got Millie a guide dog sponsorship and gave all my 50p coins to the dog christmas dinner collection in Pets at Home.

   #8 B-ELLA OF THE BALL         

Now back to food! I was torn between this caption and Beauty and the Beetroot, as #7 is all about my 2017 food finds and beetroot/Ella balls are top of the list I can't believe I never liked beetroot before this year, as I now have it pretty much everyday and hunt for it on restaurant menus (top tip: add beetroot salsa to any Las Iguanas dish and you get ambrosia). Other discoveries include tahini,   Peanut Propercorn, Pip & Nut MAPLE Peanut Butter, Almond Dream and Grumpy Mule coffee. Contrary to the name, these are all items that bring happiness to my day and are here to stay!

Speaking of happy, I've never had a bad date with Deliciously Ella's Cacao and Almond balls. I literally smile when I eat them, as (vegan) cheesy as it sounds! I think part of this is linked to last summer, when I was having a particularly hard day and bought one for my snack. My head was screaming "no!" to self-care, but I managed to overrule it. Ever since,  they remind that I can fight back. They are my "You go Glen Cacao" and we all need one of those in our life!
   #9 SELF CARE = SKIN CARE   

I've always had a let nature take its course approach to skin; otherwise known as spot cream in emergencies and that's me sorted. At first, I dismissed this as laziness on my part; however, I now realise that skincare falls under the self-care umbrella and I didn't have that umbrella. Until last year... 

As I discovered more cruelty-free brands, I realised that there was more to cruelty-free than cosmetics and researched alternatives for haircare, makeup wipes and deodorant. This led me to Lush and The Body Shop and they surpassed all expectations. Forget 'alternative', these are upgrades! Products that contained so much goodness beyond the Bunny Logo. Shampoos that remind me of childhood, deodorant the didn't irritate my skin and, thanks to the angel known as cleanser, I haven't bought a makeup wipe in 4 months!

Over the past 6 months I've purchased my fair share of skincare products from both stores, particularly Lush as the Lush staff are truly passionate and want to help you. I have often shared may Lush experiences on twitter/Instagram, as they've been highlights in my week and it's now my go-to 'happy place' on the Highstreet if I feel anxious. I'm talk more about the products themselves  in an upcoming video, but I will say that I've see a big difference in my skin and overall wellbeing.   And on that note... 

  #10 HI HO, HI HO, IT'S OFF TO SLEEP WE GO  

Oh SLEEPY, you are THE FAIREST OF LUSH HAULSAfter hearing the hype on social media, I was as sceptical as I was curios. Nevertheless, curiosity/chronic insomnia won over, I bought a small pot and I gave it a try that evening. Here's the verdict... If you haven't heard of sleepy, smelt sleepy, or are feeling Grumpy from lack of sleep, get yourself off to Lush and bask in this tonka-lavander-ambrosia dream. YOU WILL GO TO THE SLEEP BALL, trust me!
    #11  IT'S RAINING CHATS AND VLOGS  

After stumbling upon a certain Emma Blackery in August, I quickly established that YouTube is the Mary Poppins bag of the internet; otherwise known as the gift that keeps on giving! By Autumm, my Jolly Holiday with the Vlogosphere had become the highest height in my day - the perfect distraction if I'm feeling anxious, or feeling disconnected from the outside world. 

I was tempted to rewrite the lyrics for "Lets to Fly a Kite" and feature my favourite vloggers,  but I'll keep it simple with a list *and quietly judge anyone who can't appreciate a Disney Metaphor*


* Emma Blackery *            * Doddleoddle *      * Melanie Murphy *      * Hannah Witton *        

 * Niomi Smart *      * Rhiannon Ashley *      * Kiera Rose *     

Carrie Hope Fletcher *      * A Sprinkle of Chatter *      * Chloe Sitton *   

* The Bakeey *     * Laura's Always Pottering *      * Tessa Netting *      * Cherry Wallis *


  #12 DOG WALKS & POD TALKS 

Last Summer I discovered Podcasts and, subsequently, discovered that I do an uncanny impression of  Molly Weasley.... "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!" The first podcast I ever discovered was MuggleCast, which enchanted me so much I wrote a whole post on it. (Molly would be proud!) My other staple is #HeyItsOk by Glamour magazine, which didn't quite get its own blog post but did get an exclusive on my IG - not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I am also a fan of The Chickpeeps with Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and recently discovered #HashtagAuthentic. If you have any other recommendations, please leave them  in the comments!
   #13 TWITTER FRIENDS & #TALKMH   

Twitter was a saving grace for me in 2017 and helped me feel connected to the outside world after discharge. In particular, I am so thankful for #TalkMH - created by Hannah Rainey - a twitter chat that  coincidentally takes place on the day I have CBT ( the perfect distraction if I feel a bit overwhelmed). I've learnt so much and met so many amazing people through this chat. So when Hannah asked me to host one in December I was honestly shocked!

Nevertheless, I trumped anxiety and led a #TalkMH chat on Mental Health Blogging, which explored the benefits/pitfalls of opening up about mental health on social media and celebrated the way blogging helps challenge stigma. It was such a privilege and I was blown away by how many people turned up; so to anyone who was there, it helped my confidence more than you can ever know. Thank-you.

Beyond #TalkMH, I've 'met' some amazing people through twitter, many who blog about MH or work with MH charities like Time To Change. I still get anxious on social media, so I don't interact as much as I'd like and I'm likely under off the radar for  the majority of people! Yet 2017 Twitter   brought me Lauren, Hannah, Lisa, Nicole, Becky, Dee and Becca, to name just a few.

I would love to go to at least one blogger event in 2018 and meet some virtual friends in 'real' life. That being said, I am a strong believer that you can have 'real' friends online - Nicole is one of my favourite people in this world and also one of the kindest!  Which brings me nicely onto my next silver lining...


Nicole's Journey - aka Nicole's blog and the the blogosphere equivalent of pine needles and sunshine! Her posts are  the most relatable of any blog I read and, though she offers such amazing advice, it's her honesty I love the most. If you add one blog to your reading list this year, make it Nicole... or Nicole x2, come to think of it!

My other favourite blog - A Beautiful Chaos - is written by another Nicole and  discusses all-things mental health, books, harry potter and christmas jumpers.   Her writing is honest, comforting and so relatable: Why Finding a Councillor is Like Dating springs to mind! It's official: the world needs more Nicoles... I plan to do a full post on my favourite blogs, but I thought I'd leave a link to posts/people that particularly jump out from 2017:

Four-Legged Family - Abbey Louisa Rose *      * Bossy Women - No Space For Milk *

Loved Lately: October - What Lauren Did Today 
(confirmation she is my blogging soul sister) * 

How Far You've Come - Curvaceous Vegan *   We Can Only Do Our Best - Nicole's Journey * 
  
(the most laughter you will have this week, guaranteed)

There's More to Life than Right Now - Lauren Evie *      * Creativity is like a Puppy - Robowecop *


Anxiety is a Boggart - Cup of Creative *      * 6 Things you Never Have To Prove - From Roses



  #15 BEYOND THE FILTER   

In October 2017 I decided to STUPEFY THE ALGORITHM and challenge my self-imposed #instastress. By September, I head reached a stage of  taking 30 minutes to write a ONE-SENTENCE caption. Hardly instant! Although apparently some people are now scheduling IG stories...

IG has so many positive features, namely the #crochetforsyrianrefugeechildren project I participated in last year, but it can also lead to so much comparing and self-criticising. It's simply not worth it.  I did a full post on IG Challenge and am proud to say that, since then, I've kept up my new outlook to Instagram! I'm writing more spontaneous captions, posting more, stressing less about the lack of finesse.

I still have days where I want to delete a photo/feel judged by what I share. However, those days are fewer and I feel altogether happier since making these changes. Nifflers and dog-motif shoes may not be very #instaready for the cool kids, but they're SOPHIE. No other reason needed! Life is about so more more than gaining likes/followers and, as cliche as it may sound, you can gain so much more by BEING YOURSELF
   #16 TO THE RACCOON AND BACK      

Fun fact: my head is a scrooge and likes to say that no one gives a duck about me (except perhaps the ducks, as 2017 was all about the animals).  I contemplated deleting this  blog about half a dozen times last year, particularly in October when the Ghost of Autumn Past descended and I doubted if anyone actually reads my rambles! So #16 is a shoutout to the wonderful people who made me feel good enough in 2017, starting with my family - mum, dad, sister and Millie moo. Obviously. Nothing beats that tail wag when I return home, even if I've only been gone 5 minutes to the post office!  

Then there's my Tea Twin, who deserves a whole post of her own to be honest. She is always there for me, motivating me and sharing my love of books, crafts, nature, dogs, Miss Honey and the hope of *someday*. One of the best things about returning to Exeter is knowing she will be there, along with my fellow aspiring teacher Sal - we can have our weekly coffee dates again!

Thank-you to my Bumble V, who I met in treatment and is the most compassionate, creative person you could ever meet. She made the acorn bee in the top photo of this post and has a heart of gold. To C, whose snail mail was the highlight of my 23rd birthday, and Han for your letters, coffee appreciation and crochet inspiration. To my Olaf for our Beauty and the Beast date and to A for cavachon cuddles. 

Last but not least, to B who I love to the raccoon and back. Who understands my random love for raccoons and has her priorities sorted out (Ron) . Our two Racc-unions (too much?), filled with avocado, rain dances and harry potter references, were possibly my biggest silver lining of 2017. that Regardless of the circumstances we met, she is my soul sister and ALWAYS #TeamAuntPetunia #TeamPineNeedles #TeamMalties #TeamWoof.

My past 2 New Years' were spent in hospital. I was admitted for the first time on NYE itself, 2015. In 2016 I was just about to be discharged, so at least had the energy to stay up until Midnight! Yet when I compare that to now - the fact that I'm writing from my desk at home, on New Year's Eve - it shows me that 2017 did something right...and maybe my 17 silver linings had something to do with it?

So if not for anyone else, I'm going to publish this post for me. For Sophie to look back on in 2018, whatever its 365 days may bring. At the moment, my year involves moving back to Exeter, finishing my degree, graduating and starting my PGCE...  it's a LOT OF CHANGE and anxiety/anorexia will put up a fight (Note to self: admitting this is not pessimism or failure - it's preparing myself and avoiding denial).

Nevertheless, each time they try to pull me under I will hold onto the 17 lifeboats in this post; my reasons to come up for air and "just keep swimming".  If I ever question that "I can", this post has 17 records of "I did". And who knows? Perhaps they can help you see beyond the clouds too. Whatever storms came your way in 2017, and whatever may lie ahead, you can always find one silver lining.

Never lose hope.
What were your Silver Linings of 2017? 
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