De-weeding the Mind Garden…

De-weeding the Mind Garden…

Hey peeps, and welcome to another Project Unicorn blog. I’ve been struggling for several weeks now with my anxiety and depression, and I’ve felt completely buried under this cloud of mind fog and confusion. I haven’t felt inspired and all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in a fluffy blanket and go hide in a cave somewhere (preferably with access to Skyrim and Game of Thrones).

Just let me sleep

But that’s not going to make me feel better, is it? Happiness isn’t a destination and it doesn’t just happen on its own. Happiness is working at it every single day. I always think of my mind like a garden. As you might have guessed by now, I’m a ridiculously metaphorical person. The world I see around me is full of stories and everything is something else. It can be amazing and makes for a very interesting way of telling a story, though it can sometimes leave people looking at me with that ‘what exactly was she talking about?’ expression.

So, yes, my mind is a garden. Right now I’m stepping outside into my garden for the first time in weeks and I’m looking around with a mixture of dismay and determination at all of the weeds and vines choking my flowers of happiness.

You see, my happiness is a bunch of tulips and some sunflowers, some pretty roses and lavender… and a bunch of other flowers that look and smell great even if I don’t know what they’re called. I’m a metaphorical gardener, not a real one! I see a real life bug outside and I squeal and run back into the safety of my house (whilst trying not to squish the darn thing on my way inside).

Bug response

Anyway. In my mind-garden, my little chibi-cartoon self is pulling on her sparkly gardening gloves and rolling up her sleeves ready to tackle the choking weeds of self-doubt and the vines of sadness. It’s not that these weeds don’t have a place, it’s just that the vines belong in the greenhouse of grief (which thankfully doesn’t need to be opened very often) and the weeds are from the anxiety meadows over the fence. They keep coming back into my little garden even though I keep pruning them back.

Because, peeps, self-doubt keeps coming back. If you’re susceptible to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or self-doubt, any of these things, it takes constant work to keep your head above the water and keep those weeds out of your sunny little garden.

So, let’s begin. The first weed of self-doubt is a writing one. This is a large weed with a very deep root and lots of stalks. Each stalk is a question that Steve the Demon Monkey uses to poke me with, bruising my little unicorn butt and making me stumble and fall. Am I a good writer? Will I ever actually finish my novel? Will anyone really like it?

books-1015594_1920

These doubts seed other doubts and before you know it, the sunflower of writing is overwhelmed with this dark grey mess of stinging barbs and pointy thorns and I can barely choke out a sentence to keep the flower from withering.

So, I take my sparkly gardening gloves and I start pulling back those thorns. It hurts and I’m very scared. I’m scared right now, writing this blog with the knowledge that it will go out onto the internet and be read by other people. What if you hate it? What if you don’t care at all?

But then I remember that I don’t write because I want to make money, I don’t write because I want to please other people or have them think well of me. I write for me.

And all of a sudden the weeds come away and my sunflower reaches up to the sky again. I think ‘yes, I can do this.’ And I look around at the possibility of everything I could achieve. I like my writing style, I like my characters. Someone else out there in this vast world will probably like them, too. And if not? That’s okay. Because, when I really get down to it, I’m writing my book for me. I’m writing this blog for me. I just happen to want to share it with other people in the hopes that it can make you laugh and maybe help a little bit, too.

Sunflower

Now. I brush my hands off and mud sprinkles over my rainbow wellies. This kind of gardening is so much better than real life gardening. In my real life right now it’s raining. In my mind garden it’s sunny, the sky is blue and there are fluffy white clouds drifting overhead. I can hear a robin singing and sparrows chirruping. If I imagine hard enough, there are also some cows mooing.

Ah, sweet English countryside.

I digress. I haven’t written in a while. The last few blogs I started I gave up on halfway through. This is fun!

Now for the money vine. That one is choking my tree of inspiration. It’s sort of like a pear tree only the fruit is all gold and glowy. The money vine, however, does not have leaves made of money but bills. It oozes a sticky sap called ‘gnawing worry’ that seeps into the trunk of my inspiration tree and stunts its growth. The little tree is all gnarled and bent over, wispy leaves withered and dry, no fruit hanging from its branches even though it should blossom all year round.

Money worry is often the blocker to creation and success. Whilst financial stability and a degree of material possession can be a good incentive – like saving up for that really cool Friesian horse that you really want because it just looks so absolutely gorgeous with its long floofy mane and tail and it would be so much fun to ride and you could enjoy the clip-clop of its big hooves as you rode it down the street… – too much thinking about money and possessions quickly turns into fear. Fear that you don’t have enough stuff, that you won’t be able to pay your bills, that you’ll never have enough money to live the life you want…

The money-worry vine is very closely related to the ivy of self-comparison. It’s a slow-growing mind plant that can, in the right place and with the proper pruning, be a useful form of motivation. Competitiveness comes from a well-maintained self-comparison ivy. When we want to do better than someone else because it is closely tied with a strong belief in ourselves and watered with words of confidence, it can be a useful plant and very strong. But left unchecked and choking the life out of the flowers self-esteem? That’s no use to anyone.

Whenever I worry about money, my train of thought inevitably slides along to negative comparison. I look at other people, colleagues at work, people on TV and even strangers in the street, and I wonder how it is that they’re so much better than me. They seem to have their life together, they know themselves and they’re just cool. My wife is cool. She always seems to self-controlled and calm, even though she says she’s actually very anxious.

A nettle catches me as I chop away at the ivy and vines. Ah, good old weight nettles. One of my biggest fears and my biggest source of self-comparison. I feel like I have to compensate for my weight, for being fat, because to be overweight is to be a failure.

To be me is a failure. Strip away the nettles, the vines, the ivy… all of it and there it is. The root of it all that just won’t come out no matter how deep I dig.

You’re not worth it.

That message got put inside a very long time ago and it’s the reason I have this struggle with the weeds in my garden.

I take a step back and brush off my hands again. My little wheelbarrow is full of weeds. I don’t need them. They don’t belong here. What am I going to do about this root? It seems bigger than before. It’s grown back.

Well, I’m not a unicorn for nothing. I have magic inside me. It comes from a place of love. It’s a diamond, strong and shiny, and it fills me warmth. When I feel like giving up, it’s what whispers at me to try again.

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Marvin the Unicorn!

So I kneel beside the root and I feel sorry for it, because it came from a very unhappy plant in the mind garden of a very unhappy person.

And then I sprinkle unicorn dust on it. Because I AM worth it. I’m great, just the way I am. I’m amazing because I’m me and I’m alive and that’s amazing.

I know my unicorn dust won’t kill the root but it shrinks it and makes it retreat back under the fence, out of my mind garden again. The sun is shining for me again, burning away the fog of depression. I look around my garden, at the trees and flowers with space to grow again, and I’m happy.

I can do this. I can do anything.

WE can do anything.

Stay amazing, my fellow unicorns. I’m sure I’ll see you soon!!!

 

Laura x

I want to run away :(

I want to run away :(

Hey peeps, and welcome to another Project Unicorn blog.

Yeah. I want to run away. I’m feeling really stressed and overwhelmed by my life right. I’m having some problems at work because my boss is a bully, whether intentional or not, and it’s having some extremely negative effects on my life.

I want my blogs to be about happiness and positivity, but I feel like such a liar right now because I have such a strong voice in my head screaming at me that I’m the problem with my life and that everything and everyone would be better if I just wasn’t here.

I’m not about to hurt myself, don’t worry. It’s more that I want to be someone else. I don’t want to be me anymore. Being Me seems to be the problem.

I can’t seem to make any decisions right now. My brain is whirring at a thousand miles an hour and spinning around a thousand possibilities like a hamster in a wheel. Could I do this, could I do this, is this how it’ll fix it? Where’s the magic button? Where’s the off switch? How can I make it all go away?

I’m exhausted. I can’t stop yawning. All I want to do is sleep but when I do sleep I have horrible nightmares about being chased by walkers (as per The Walking Dead) or of drowning.

I’m having loads of migraines, or just one constant migraine that doesn’t shift. It feels like my left eye socket is made of sandpaper and my eye is grinding against it every time I blink or look around, and my jaw is wired shut. There’s a hot needle in my ear and the tide keeps going out in my head. That and the fact that I feel really sick, like I’ve just stepped off a rollercoaster and I’m seeing black spots everywhere, sort of like dozens of little spiders just crawling over everything or floating in the air…

I need a break. But I can’t have any more sickness because I’ll lose my job. I’m already on an attendance plan because of the migraines. I’ve been given a good tolerance and they’re allowing me to have up to 1 day off a week (on average) but if I’m off for more than that, I’ll fail the plan and then I won’t have a job to worry about, which is even more stressful because I have a mortgage and bills to pay.

So, yeah, I just want to run away. But I can’t. I just want to not be me because someone else must be better at dealing with this… right?

I used to be happy. I used to be confident. I’ve lost it all. Who was that person? Who was she? Who was I? How did I do that? It doesn’t feel real anymore. It doesn’t feel possible.

RIGHT.

  1. What can I smell? I smell… lemon cleaner, aircon air, my perfume… carpets…
  2. What can I taste? I taste… Coca-Cola, chocolate, caramel…
  3. What can I see? I see my work laptop computer, I see this word document, I see a smiley face sticker on my keyboard, I see the Marvin the Unicorn plush keyring that my amazing wife made me, I see a post-it saying ‘Just be Yourself’ and a little cartoon picture of my two wonderful dogs, Lilly and Doug.
  4. What can I feel? I can feel my mouth stretching into a smile again, a really big wide smile that crinkles my eyes and fills me with hope. I can do this.
  5. What can I hear? I hear uplifting music on YouTube through the blue earphones I’m listening with. I can hear my keys clacking, a really satisfying sound because it means I’m writing and writing is my life.

I’m going to be just fine. I’m okay. Just as I am. I’m back, I’m good… I’m breathing.

I can survive this.

I can do anything.

UNICORN POWER!!!

Unicorn kawaii

Image courtesy of:
http://evaons.deviantart.com/art/Unicorn-Kawaii-635054675

Sunny Sunday: The Dandelion of Self-Doubt

Sunny Sunday: The Dandelion of Self-Doubt

Hey peeps, and welcome to another Project Unicorn blog!

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Dandy Lion, the self-doubting weed.

Dandy Lion the Weed

Now, this is NOT my artwork, but this is very much how I imagine Dandy Lion, the self-doubting weed.

Basically, Claire and I (with the help of our amazing strong friend) cleared our back garden of all the massively overgrown weeds a few weeks ago, but in the nice weather I’ve noticed that they’re starting to grow back. So out I popped this morning to pull up some of the nettles and dandelions before they could take over and create a Backyard Jungle once again.

And it reminded me of my mental health.

Confidence and positive thinking don’t come naturally to me. My depression and anxiety are daily struggles. BUT if I can keep working on the weeds of self-doubt then, over time, Dandy Lion will become a positive-thinking flower, instead of a self-doubting weed.

So, how do I do this? With extreme effort and patience. And a lot of Google searching. I mean a LOT of Google searching.

There is tonnes of advice out there, and some of it might work for you, some of it won’t. Here’s something what works for me:

I pick a feature, just one, about myself that I like, and I compliment myself in the mirror EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Sometimes, I have to pretend that the reflection is a different person, and I ask myself, how would I speak to her? I’d never say a horrible, bullying thing to someone else, but my self-doubt weeds make me do that to myself.

Honestly, try it.

For me, I choose my big blue eyes. I think they’re really pretty.

Now, the self-doubting weed immediately pops up and, like a stinging nettle, jabs at me and says, “That’s so vain, who are you to like your own eyes? You can’t call yourself pretty; that’s arrogant and then no-one will love you.”

To which I reply, “It’s okay to like just one feature. I’m going to keep saying it for a while and see how things go.”

And the weed of self-doubt subsides into sulky silence and lets me get on with my day.

It still jabs at me (especially when I first started, it was so difficult to ignore the stings!), but perseverance is key and, sort of like non-harmful re-planting, the weed of self-doubt is slowly moved into a pretty terracotta pot and becomes a flower of confidence instead.

Because weeds are really just flowers in the wrong place.

There’s a time and a place for self-doubt – it can help us become better, stronger and kinder people – but too much self-doubt, like too many weeds, or self-doubt in the wrong place of your mind, like weeds in the wrong part of the garden, can make it really difficult to see all the beauty that your mind has to offer.

Could this work for you? Why not try it for 28 days and see? Apparently, that’s about how long it takes to change or create a new habit (or how long it takes to re-plant a weed into a pretty new pot).

Stay amazing, my fellow unicorns!

Chibird dandelion

Dandelion & Lion image courtesy of:
http://www.deviantart.com/users/outgoing?https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nabhan-Abdullatif/218421908222045
Check out more illustrations at:
https://www.facebook.com/nabhan.illustrations/
Make a wish dandelion image courtesy of:
http://chibird.com/
Check out more chibird illustrations at:
https://www.facebook.com/ChibirdArt/

 

I think I’m happy…

I think I’m happy…

Hey peeps, and welcome to another Project Unicorn blog! Isn’t the weather gorgeous at the moment?! It certainly is where I am in the UK. Glorious sunshine and heat. The birds are singing, the cats are soaking up the rays and the dogs are having a jolly good time running around in the grass.

Peeps… I think I’m… happy… Like, truly happy…

It’s really scary!

Haha! I love how I’m worrying about being happy! This is the thing I’ve been aiming for, a goal I’ve had in mind for a while… and now I’m worried again. I’m worried that it won’t last, that the come-down will be more than I bear…

But, at the same time… I don’t want to be worrying. The worry and the happiness come in waves, like gentle water lapping at a beach. Yeah, apparently I get all poetic and descriptive when I’m happy. Enjoy!

I think I’m so used to being anxious, so used to worrying that it’s become a habit. I’m so used to not feeling good enough and not being happy with my life, not feeling like a success or capable of achieving anything that I can’t recognise these feelings for what they are.

I didn’t have a single day off sick last week. Not one. For me, that’s amazing. I’ve not binged on food in 2 weeks. That’s also amazing. I’m so proud of myself.

Sure, I’ve had dips; I can look back over the last 2-3 weeks and see the odd difficult day. I’ve smoked a few cigarettes to keep from cutting but y’know what, I’m not smoking anymore, not for 4 days, and I feel brilliant.

The house is in order, I’m getting back on top of the laundry and the dishes… The dogs are so happy as well now that I’m happy.

So… how could I keep this going as much as possible?

  1. Write more of my book (that gives me a huge sense of pride in my achievement and it’s a great use of my extra energy)
  2. Exercise (I can improve my cardiovascular health and lose some weight, which will boost my self-esteem even more)
  3. Get ahead of the housework (so that it’s easier on the not-so-good days)

Yeah! I can do this!!!

Chibird doing great bunny

Image courtesy of http://chibird.com/

 

Until next time… stay amazing, my fellow unicorns!

 

Toodles!

 

 

 

Migraines ARE bad!

Migraines ARE bad!

I had a really bad migraine yesterday, though the comparison today means that I now feel SO much better! Wooh!

I’m back at work and managing my sickness plan; coming up with new ways to stay at work despite depression and migraines getting me down.

Still going strong with the YouTube videos – my 13th video is going live today, and I’ll be filming some more to load as well! I want to start vlogging because I think it’ll help me keep my perspective on life, especially useful when I get sad and feel like I’ve been depressed for weeks at a time. Sometimes it’s nice to look back on an older video and see myself bubbly and smiling – I can remind myself that I don’t always feel so blue.

Another assignment is due!

Aaah! University! The bane of my existence! Well, not entirely… but I really do SUCK at analysing poetry. Let’s hope that my next assignment, due next week, on analysing two books, is more successful. I just don’t GET rhyme and meter… ah well. C’est la vie. I don’t intend to be a poetry teacher anyway. Thank goodness! I’d be teaching the kids that Baa Baa Black Sheep was written in free verse or some such nonsense…

It’s also a good thing that I’m not trying to become a Shakespearean actor… I also suck at analysing Mr William.

Hybrid

I’m making (slow) progress on the novel. Did a bit of writing on Monday, before the two-day migraine hit… And I fully intend to do some more writing this evening as well. In between reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson, that is…

I want to get Chapter Six finished by the end of this weekend…

Wish me luck!

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

WELCOME TO 2017!

Before I move onto my ‘resolutions’, I want to have a quick look back at 2016.

2016: A Year in Review

April – new job

I left the police behind and got a new job working as a process efficiency specialist for National Grid.They call them Performance Excellence Specialists, but for you normal folk, it basically means that I work with the teams in my department to identify how we could do more with less, and give a better service to our customers.

June – passed my 1st year exam

I’m studying English Literature & Creative Writing with the Open University, part-time over 6 years, and I sat my 1st year exam in June. After much writing (and even more hand cramping!), I PASSED with a pretty decent mark, and went on to start my 2nd year. Woohoo! Only another 4 years to go! Damn me having to work full-time!

December – Project Unicorn Go Live

After many doodles, and much soul-searching with my wife, I launched Project Unicorn. This started with this blog (hello!) and, in January, I will be releasing my first YouTube video. Watch this space for a link!

So what can we look forward to in 2017?

My Creative Resolutions:

  • To write at least 1 sentence of my book every day
  • To create at least 1 Project Unicorn YouTube video every fortnight
  • To post at least 1 Project Unicorn blog every week (even if it’s really short!)

Ideally, I’d like to get into the habit of blogging and vlogging daily, or near-daily, because as and when I become a full-time author (Life Goal), I’ll need the internet interaction to keep me company. As an extrovert, it’s extremely difficult for me to be alone all the time with just my own brain for company. It drives me nuts!

What’s that meme? “ENFP: spends day alone. Questions reason for existence.”

It’s SO true! Haha. Totally me. I’m SUCH  a typical ENFP! I drive my boss nuts half the time, because he’s an ESTJ so, other than being an Extrovert, he’s the total opposite to me, and he has no idea why I talk about creative things and my feelings all the time.

But that’s just the world I live in. I embrace emotions, I think they’re powerful and important. And I think it’s crucial that men do the same.

Yes, I am a proud feminist. No, that doesn’t mean I hate men, or think that women should be superior to men. It means I don’t believe in a patriarchal society, or inequality between genders, or discrimination of any kind.

That’s what being a unicorn is all about. Loving and respecting each and every person for the amazing gifts they bring to this world. I don’t tolerate hate or abuse, and other than that, I accept anyone.

Anyway, I’m done rambling for now. I actually don’t feel very happy today. I’ve got some health issues that are getting me down at the moment, and I thought I was getting better but then the symptoms came back this evening. I just feel like I’ve got a thousand things to do at the moment, and even though I’ve written down a ‘To Do’ list and am only focussing on one or two at a time, they’re still buzzing around and around my head. And all I want to do is write my book but when I come to sit down and stare at the screen, at that stupid blinking cursor, or a page of my notebook… nothing.

HOWEVER. Positive thinking, dude.

I DID manage to tweak a bit of writing I’d done previously. And I’ve washed some dishes, done the food shop and have put on a washload of work clothes.

And done a blog.

Okay, I feel a bit better now. I’m going to scratch out one more sentence of Hybrid (the book) and then perhaps reward myself with a bit of Skyrim.

Toodles!

 

 

 

 

Eugh, another migraine!

Eugh, another migraine!

So I suffer with migraines, and that means, on at least 2 days out of every week, I wake up with pain in my left ear and eye, dizziness, nausea, cold sweats and tremors in my right arm. It’s not as painful as it used to be; thanks to a combination of beta-blockers that I take every day, triptan medication that I take at the first whiff of an attack, and half-yearly Botox injections in my forehead and around my head, they’re manageable.

Yes folks, THIS is manageable.

My work is fantastic, though. I started with them in April and my boss is really understanding about my condition, so when I had to call in AGAIN today and tell him that I have to take the day off to try to sleep it off in a dark and silent room, he understood. At least I manage projects, which means I can (mostly) arrange my work around the somewhat predictable little buggers (the migraines, not my colleagues).

So, there’s me, all day in bed, feeling like I’m falling from a log the whole time, wondering if I’m going to throw up the two crackers I managed to eat this morning with a glass of water to take my meds with, trying not to feel guilty that it’s ANOTHER day lost and wasted (because the guilt causes stress, which in turns creates more migraines and then we’re into this whole cycle that you do NOT want a piece of!)

And, at about 4 o’clock this afternoon, I start to feel better. Thank goodness it wasn’t a bad one this time. Sometimes they can last for DAYS. Don’t need that right before Christmas!

I’m up now, though I still have to take it slow. I only have a few lamps on downstairs and my laptop screen brightness is as low as it can be.

Though, excellent news, I DID wake up with the urge to write my book, so, as soon as this little update is complete, that’s what I’ll be doing. I’m working on Chapter Six at the moment, and figured out how to get past the difficult, emotional rut I was in from the previous chapter.

Now, you guys don’t know this, but I’ve been writing my book, Hybrid, for like, ever. And I mean, ever. It’s gone through so many incarnations, it bears no resemblance to the original story. I started writing it when I was 14, and I’m now 27. There you go. Forever.

BUT, it’s finally gained some traction this last year, and 2017 is going to be the year that I finish it. I’ve had the first couple of chapters finished and unchanged since early 2016, maybe even 2015, and I even have some later chapters and extracts finished. It’s always been this transition period, where my two characters leave Leicester and travel to London to start their new lives, that I’ve struggled with.

And then, the other week, the wife and I had a brainwave.

Why do I have to cover it in specific detail? A tragedy occurs at the beginning of the book, the catalyst for the story, and they’re still trying to recover from this when they have to leave. But people don’t just stop. Life goes on. And sometimes, and I’ve felt this, it goes on without you, and you come back to yourself a few weeks later and find that things have subtly changed and then you have to play catch up. Which is a whole feeling unto itself, separate from the grief of loss anyway.

So that’s what I’m trying now. I’m going to skip ahead and refer back to the period of readjustment, but get the story moving again. After all, it’s fiction, and fiction is an imitation of life but with more drama.

Wish me luck!