16 April 2019

Finding the Words

Ever since I was little, words have been like a friend. Whether it be reciting poems/ the first Harry Potter parapragh by heart, or retreating to the pages of my beloved books, words were the silver lining to any storm. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, - yes, you guessed this, Harry Potter featured! However, in reality Hogwarts was a drop in the ocean (albeit a very big one). From Jill Murphy to Jenny Dale and extra helpings of Roald Dahl, I was like Matilda in Mrs Phelps' Library. Where are the books please?

I grew up on stories and, to this day, they are a comfort blanket like no other. Whatever storms come my way, the silver-lined spine of a book is always there - as JK Rowling said - "to welcome [me] home." More than this, I loved creating them. My old piano teacher still talks about the stories I wrote while my sister had her lessons. During the school holidays, my dad would create story prompts and spend all day writing. At the grand old age of 24, this love of storytelling shows no sign of stopping. As I spoke about here, storytelling lies at the heart of my Instagram and Etsy; each of my crochet creatures has their own SPEWcial story to tell. I am a whimsical Ravenclaw through and through and it's such a huge part of beeing SOPHIE. 

Yet in recent weeks, I haven't been able to find the words. My lack of blog posting is a visible sign of this, alongside my reduced frequency of Instagram Posting. Nonetheless, these are physical symptoms that can be dealt with. Are they frustrating? Hugely, but they are nothing compared to the mental muteness. Behind the screen, a 24-7 mind-fog has seen my thoughts washed away like a current. At the dinner table, I find myself floundering. I feel my thoughts turn to brain fog and can't engage with the conversation like I used to. 

Beyond words, I have forgotten to put my card back in my purse (RIP Peter Rabbit 50p, I needed bus money!) I have put milk in the mug cupboard and mugs in the fridge... I've been brought back to the mental fog of anorexia, only this time the cause isn't restriction. I was hesitant to write this, but if there's one things I've learnt through my mental health journey, it's that you never find safety in silence. When in doubt: talk. What's more, perhaps someone will read who has experienced similar? If it can shine a light for them - or even myself - isn't it worth sharing? 
So that brings me onto the subject of this post - the cause of the mental fog and why I've been more distant from social media.  In fact, briefly mentioned it on IG Stories last night, as I was conscious that been posting a lot less and wanted to offer an "explanation" (in hindsight, no explanation was needed, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!) In the past few weeks - or months, come to think of it - I've been in the process of changing medication I won't specify names, as what works for one person may not work for another and vice versa, but will say it involves anti-depressants that I take for anxiety. If you do want to read more about medication and mental health, The Blurt Foundation covered it brilliantly in this post

For the best part of two years, my current medication worked well and definitely helped my engagement with CBT. Nonetheless, around a year ago I started to get more side effects, as if I was withdrawing from it - from what I've read, I think this is called 'loss of efficacy' and can happen after a period of time (note: I'm not an expert, so please talk to a doctor if you have any questions). This isn't the first time I have switched medication, but it is definitely the most challenging experience so far and I knew this would be the case - one of the known drawbacks to this particular medication is the withdrawal process, so it has to be reduced very slowly. 

In June last year, I attempted to do a 'fast-track' withdrawal while in hospital and, long story short, realised very quickly that this would never work. I can only describe it as a five day hangover-to-end-all-hangovers and knew, inpatient or not, there was no fast-track. I needed a window of a few months to gradually reduce my medication, step by step, until I reached a point when I could taper it with another. Thankfully, the one I'm switching to can be introduced earlier than most. 

After months deliberating the best time to start, December came and I decided 'now or never' After suspending my PGCE place for 2018-19 last September, I'm not currently studying and my  paid work/volunteering is spread throughout the week. What's more, I hope to start my PGCE this September, so this is really the best window I'm going to get - unless you can point me in the direction of a magical Narnia Window, which has the power to turn 6 months into 6 minutes and possibly introduce some talking Beavers/Fawns along the way... (no apologies for this whimsical turn - it means the Ravenclaw dreamer is still there!)  
I am currently in the final stretch and can almost see the finish line. Hopefully, before the season ends, so too will this chapter of "The Medication Journals" (she's going to have her friends call her Valerie MJ). Yet like many races, the home strait is the hardest part. For me, this has materialised in brain fog and lost words. At the start of 2019, one of my unwritten resolutions was to get back into reading, but right now I simply don't have the concentration. As I've already mentioned, I'm struggling to blog and even instagram captions can feel like a dissertation... I probably don't help myself by making them the length of a dissertation! A bit like this and every other one of my posts...

Which brings me onto the last paragraph of this post - and I solemnly swear on the soul spine of my harry potter books this will be the last! It's okay if I can't find the words. As I've been reminded by some magical people on Instagram, it's okay to take a break.  It's okay to press pause on posting and, when I come back, say as much or as little as I need. When I began writing this post on Sunday (who listens to Uncle Vernon?), I just wanted to put pen to paper serif to screen again. I didn't have a title, let alone a plot. I was simply finding the words as I went - wherever they went - in the hopes they may find others and possibly resonate with them too. So if that person is you, thank-you.

 The things we lose have a way of coming back to us 
 In the end, fnot always in the way we expect
- Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter

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31 March 2019

#MarchMeettheMaker2019
(My Month of Silver Linings)

From the 1st day of March, I was pretty much guaranteed one silver lining for the next 31 days. Nonetheless, #MarchMeetTheMaker2019 has still exceeded all expectations and more! Not only has it encouraged me to share more about my maker life on Instagram, I'm inspired to share more on here and other platforms too... three guesses what I may referring  to? 

I feel a renewed sense of passion for my business, which isn't to say that I wasn't passionate four weeks ago; instead, it's reaffirmed just how much I care about Bumble and Be. From recalling that moment when I first picked up a crochet hook, to sharing my workspace (aka yarn bag) and sharing the story behind my name,  I am saying goodbye to March with a greater sense than ever of my small biz story; my products beasties, my values and my hopes for the future.

Finally, it's allowed me to connect with other makers and discover just how many incredible souls there are. The maker community on IG is an Aladdin's cave of creativity, compassion, courage and commitment - in other words, it epitomises the virtues of all four hogwarts houses! I can't thank Joanna Hawker enough for starting this hashtag and I count my lucky stars to have found it. 

For the last day of March, I decided to rework my Silver Linings Sunday into seven spotlights from Meet the Maker (ft. a special surprise at the end!) So grab a cup of creativity and come et see...

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18 March 2019

Love Before Likes: We Need To
Sort Out our Instagram Priorities

     HOW TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM   

  • Brew Polyjuice Potion and become a Kardashian (do hair extensions work?)
  • Become best friends with a Kardashian (rumour has it there's a vacancy) 
  • Follow the "Influencer" formula - outfit selfies and flatlays ft. 50 shades of grey jumper.
  • Jump on the #LikeForLike #FollowForFollow bandwagon and miraculously find yourself comparing to Regina George. Who cares if their profile doesn't have an avatar, their usernames include  @free_ig_likes & @socialgains, or they shower you with fake compliments until  you 'like' them back. They like you, right?

Well... I've got a secret and the #instagurus won't like it. 'Likes' are Social Media's pretty little lie.  It's a word with far too much power but, ultimately very little weight. That is, if you allow yourself to look past the filters, come up for air and recognise what truly matters. As Ron Weasley tells Hermione Granger in Philosopher's Stone, there comes a point in our lives where we need to sort out our priorities... otherwise, we will find ourselves endlessly battling the Three-Headed instaDog:

Head 1 = self-comparison       Head 2 = self-criticism      Head 3 = self-punishment. 

While I admire Ms Granger's commitment to her studies, I'm with Ron on this one. LIVING should be the first priority; more specifically, living with, by and for our values. Thanks to charities like Heads Together, Young Minds and Place2Be, young mental health has become a top priority for society; more recently, the spotlight has focused on the relationship between social media and mental health. Given the popularity of Instagram among young users, mental iHealth awareness has never been more vital.

At the same time, it's never been more vulnerable. And on that note, the clock hand turns to me and it's time for honesty hour: by the end of 2017, Instagram was hurting my mental health and the problem wasn't the platform. It was the culture. I was caught up in the trap of likes, calculations, followers and filters. To use Forever Fi's words in her recent post  - which I siriusly recommend - Instagram didn't "spark joy" like it does now. So what changed?

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