My Self-Care Routine

I’m going to start this by saying that everybody needs self-care. My anxiety serves a purpose; it reminds me to look after myself. When I start to doubt myself, or worry about the impossible, when my hands start to shake or I feel like I can’t breathe – I’ve let it get too far.

You don’t need to suffer from a mental illness to look after yourself, it should be the norm. Think of this as a pick-me-up package, full of ways that help me feel better and that will hopefully benefit you as well!

When my anxiety gets bad, the first thing I like to do is listen to music. I go to my playlist full of songs by artists that make me happy so that I can surround myself with positivity and drown out the dread. One of my favourites at the minute is “Good as Hell” by Lizzo, her music is so upbeat and her lyrics are full of self-love. I’m thinking of creating another playlist and sharing it here, so if you have any suggestions let me know!

Exercise is another distraction. I’m not an expert but everyone who knows something about fitness seems to think it creates certain hormones and releases some sort of chemicals that make you feel good – and I’m not one to argue with them! When I’m looking after myself I don’t work too hard, I do enough to get my heart going but I don’t push it too hard. This is about making yourself feel better, and sometimes too much exercise and not listening to your body can cause more harm than good.

Baths! I’m one of those people who could stay in the bath for hours if the water stayed the right temperature. Any excuse to get use some of my favourite lush products. I can’t read in them but sometimes I’ll play music and if not I think it’s nice to just light some scented candles, lie back and enjoy the bubbles. I used to have this PE teacher who would tell us that warm water like baths was good for us – it was her way of encouraging us to go swimming (The water in our school’s pool was disgusting – no one went in.). She used to say that professional footballers would be sent straight to the nearest swimming pool after a strain – whether there’s any truth in that I’ll never know.

I’m a reader, I have been from a very young age. I liked being able to escape through another doorway full of words that could create new places and people. Self-care for me is quite literally an escape route, to get away from anxiety I avoid it by looking after myself. Reading books where I quite literally have to fight myself to put the book down just as binge watching a new television series. Currently shows like Bodyguard, Stranger Things, and Killing Eve have really been helping me. I’m thinking of compiling a list of books, tv shows and films for when I feel low, like a care package in media form.

If distraction doesn’t work and I have to face how I’m feeling, I write it down. My words are uncensored and raw, I hold nothing back. I think it’s best to get it all out on paper – and then rip it up. My emotions have been acknowledged by writing and now it’s time to get rid of them. I think the act of getting rid of them is what helps me, but if you prefer to keep them you can do that too. A self-care routine is what you make it, you do what makes you feel better…you can tailor any of this advice to what will help you.

I think that’s the most important thing about this “pick me up package”, doing what makes you feel good. Everyone knows the old song, “forget your troubles come on get happy” and when my body and mind need some TLC, I pull myself out of my self-pity and do what makes me happy. If happiness is staying in bed all day, scrolling through social media and playing your favourite song on a loop – do that. If it’s going to your favourite coffee shop with family and friends – that’s self-care! There is no true definition as long as you’re looking after yourself, that’s the most important thing.

What do you do to practise self-care? If you have any songs, films, tv shows or books to recommend for me to binge on for the next time I want to look after myself– share them with me!

Bex

My Favourite Movie Musicals

I’ve loved musicals for a long time. I remember watching Chicago when it first came out on DVD – not understanding ANY of the plot, but I instantly fell in love with the music. I loved the dance numbers, the way the costumes and sets sparkled. At family parties I’d always be asked to sing, and I always did the first verse of All That Jazz. Looking back it might have been a little weird to have a kid sing about painting the town and rolling down stockings but I lived for the applause. Obviously I’ve been a child of the theatre since the very beginning.

I’ve watched more musicals on film than I have at the theatre – they’re a lot cheaper and more accessible. I want to see more on-stage musicals, so that maybe in a few months or even a year I could blog about my ‘on stage’ favourites.

I’m going to give you my top five, from the well known to the massively obscure. They range in style and popularity – and I can’t wait to share them with you!

 

5. Cabaret

For its time, Cabaret was so outrageous. Musicals were slowly becoming more political and having a message that wasn’t the typical “forget your troubles”. This classic is set in 1930s Germany as the Nazis are on the rise. The numbers all take place on stage, which I sometimes prefer to numbers that burst into life out of nowhere. The Sally Bowles look is iconic, her character (amongst many others) is eccentric and full of life. Definitely a film that every diehard musical fan needs to see!

Favourite song: Maybe This Time

 

4. A Star is Born (1954)

The 1954 version of A Star is Born is the first remake, the very first adaptation being in 1937. This film stars one of my favourite actors and talents of all time: Judy Garland. This beautiful musical is about the rise of one star and the fall of another. This almost three-hour epic is legendary, though at the time of its release it was considered a flop due to poor producing and too many deleted scenes. In the 1980s some of those scenes and a few audio clips were recovered and have since been re-added to the film.

This Oscar nominated movie is definitely one that everyone, musical fan or not, should watch at least once.

Favourite song: The Man That Got Away

 

3. Annie (1982) 

We got Annie! What musical theatre fan doesn’t love this film?! For me, out of all the remakes (and that one sequel with Joan Collins…you know, the one no one talks about.) the first movie is my favourite. The cast is perfection – Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, and Tim Curry in particular are what make this film what it is.

Even as a kid I never wanted to play Annie, I always wanted to be Miss Hannigan. She’s the villain with a redemption arc that we all want to play – or at least I do!

There’s never a dull moment in Annie, something’s always happening and if nothing is…there’ll be a song in a minute to keep you entertained.

Favourite song: Sign

 

2.     Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I think Sweeney Todd is my favourite Sondheim, though that could be because I haven’t seen “Gypsy” live yet (It’s on my bucket list!). The casting is perfect and Tim Burton’s style really compliments the genre.

The relationship between the two main characters isn’t a typical one you’d find in a musical. It’s entirely obsessive and one sided, there is no real love there. Yet sometimes I wanted the Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett to get married, and that Toby would be part of their strange little family. No such luck.

It’s a twisted, sinister movie that has amazing songs, very little in terms of choreography…but it’s more about the plot and the characters. The music is just an extra treat!

Favourite song: A Little Priest

 

1. Chicago

Of course this was going to be my favourite musical. When I was younger I wanted to play Roxie, I got older and wanted to be Velma Kelly…now I’d be happy to be an extra who’s only in a deleted scene.

The way the songs are infiltrated into the film is so clever. It shows that crime and the judicial system is a show and a source of entertainment. If you look at “Razzle Dazzle” and “We Both Reached for the Gun” especially they tell us that the court and the jury really want a performance.

I love the deleted scenes and extra songs, like “Class” with Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta Jones, and “I Just Move On” a song that Kander and Ebb (The original lyricists.) wrote specifically for the film.

The era, the hair and costume, the set – everything about this movie is what I love about musicals. This is what I watch when I’m low on inspiration or start to question myself and my career path.

Chicago and the cast were nominated for 13 Oscars and won 6 of them (including best picture.) and in my opinion it deserved every single one of them.

Favourite song: All That Jazz

 

I love a lot of musicals, big and small – but my list is always changing. To love a musical there can’t just be one good element, everything has to work.

I always love to chat about musicals, from Broadway soundtracks to musical remakes, and I would love it if you could share some of your favourites with me!

Stalking Jack the Ripper – a conversation

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I haven’t written a book review since I was eight years old. I think it’s a rite of passage, every primary school makes children write a report of a book they read over the summer. At the time I chose The Witches by Roald Dahl. That summer I didn’t just read that book once, I think I went over it at least five times. I also watched the film multiple times – though who can blame me? I can’t just read something. I have to know it.

I only had to read Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco once because I have a keen interest (though some would probably describe it as teetering on the side of unhealthy) in the mysterious murderer himself. I’d like to know who, but more importantly why…and how many victims are there really? That’s something I’ll talk about a little later.

I’m calling this review a conversation because I’m going to talk about the 1888 murders as well as the book itself. I’m no expert by any means, but the case is so public now I feel like I can share my opinions. Not only that, but it could be that because of the subject matter I was destined to like it. Oh and I ramble. A lot.

The book deals with a lot of feminism, which I think is important given that all the victims were female, and we’re assuming that the perpetrator was a man. The assumption that the Ripper hated women, particularly prostitutes is so well known that it’s virtually become fact. The protagonist, an up and coming forensic pathologist, Audrey Rose Wadsworth has to battle prejudice in almost every chapter. She only had access to this career because of her family and their wealth, had she been born to a poorer household then she wouldn’t have got her foot through the door.

Once I realised that Audrey was from a family of money, I thought that I wouldn’t connect with the character. I have a working-class background and no doors have ever been opened for me because of wealth or where I come from. For the most part, Audrey’s pretty well grounded. She’s an intelligent young woman who isn’t arrogant, nor does she believe she’s better than any of the victims or “lower classes”. I liked her! I understood her battle with sexism, who knew that the problems women had in 1888 would still be applicable to today’s world? Hardly a shock, now that I think about it.

Outside of examining the dead and solving the Jack the Ripper case, there is some romance in this book. I was relieved to find that it wasn’t at the forefront of the plot, but rather woven in appropriate places and served as a nice break in between all the gore and whodunnit business.

Now, onto the murders themselves. There were a lot of lesser known facts that were used in the book that I really liked. It made it feel that little bit more authentic, it showed that the most important part of the plot was solving the case and paying attention to every detail. My favourite part of the whole book was that an additional victim was included. I was so excited when I came across the name Emma Elizabeth Smith. A real woman who was murdered at the time, though we’ll never know if she can be added to Jack the Ripper’s list.

For anyone who doesn’t know of Emma Elizabeth Smith, she was a prostitute who worked in Whitechapel until her death. It’s important to note that she was killed four months before the first “official” murder began, on 4th April 1888. Smith was attacked the day before and survived, but then died a day later in hospital. She told a witness that she was attacked by a group of men, which is why the police dismissed it as being related to the Ripper case when the string of murders began. If you’re interested in the full case of Emma Elizabeth Smith, you can find more information here++

Smith’s unfortunate killing tied into the book very well, but I’d be interested to know if the author truly thought that she was another victim. Personally, I don’t think so. Unless Emma was lying, I think her death was at the hands of a gang or of a pimp. Unfortunately we’ll never know the circumstances relating to her case. I was a little disappointed that another, likelier victim wasn’t mentioned.

Martha Tabram was murdered only a few weeks before the first official Ripper victim – and in a way that was strikingly similar to the other five. In my opinion, Tabram’s death was committed by the serial killer. Newspapers of the time made that assumption as well, though it was neither confirmed or denied. There was a character in the book called Martha, a part of me wondered if she acted a small tribute.

There were other interesting parts that were real. The Dear Boss letter, in which Jack the Ripper names himself and threatens to cut off the next victim’s ear off and send it to the newspaper he sent the letter to. It was considered to be fake until another victim’s ear had been partly cut off. I’m still unsure about the Dear Boss letter, it raises a lot more questions than answers – it’s easy to see that the police force had a near impossible task on their hands.

Besides a bit of artistic license and tweaking one or two facts, the only real difference is that we’re finally able to put a face to the name. Jack the Ripper is revealed. I won’t spoil it for you, but I guessed it rather early on. There were a few breadcrumbs in this book that led you to the killer. It was still written brilliantly; towards the end I was shouting, pleading with Audrey to work it out.

I will say that from start to finish, I was always hooked by something. Whether it be a new clue, a development in a relationship or a plot twist – I was always kept busy! If you have an interest in history, Jack the Ripper, detective novels with an amazing protagonist – then this book is for you!

If you have read it, please find me on twitter and DM me! I’d love to talk to you about it. Please don’t reveal anything in the comments, I’ve tried keeping this as spoiler free as I possibly could!

 

365 days in 365 words

I was tagged by grabacuppa to post about where I see myself in a year – in 365 words.

The rules of this tag are:
• you can post on your blog or Instagram
• you should tag @nniamhbridget and the person who tagged you
• tag three other bloggers

Let’s get started!

I’d like to be working part time, or doing something that supports my acting. I would love to be able to do something that fits in with my love for history or books. Theatre involves a lot of people, whereas history and reading allows me to be behind the scenes and in my own space.

 
Speaking of acting, in a year’s time I’d like to have some more experience in the theatre. Outside of university I haven’t been in many productions – and I feel like I still have a lot to learn! I would really love to be taking some classes and be in a theatre company. I would like to think that I’d have a few paid acting jobs too, but I don’t like to be too optimistic.

 
A small part of me has considered doing some adult classes, maybe about history or archaeology…or something. One thing I’ve always wanted to do in the very distant future is go back and get a degree in history. I don’t have the funds to do that right now, but I’d love to keep learning somehow.

 
Outside of learning new things, I’d like to go to more events. The highlight of my year was seeing Bianca Del Rio live, I’d love to see more comedy shows. I’d like to travel across the country as well, I love the British countryside. Small villages have the best museums, and old houses that must have so many interesting stories!
I would also love to spend more time with my friends. We all went to different universities, so we never really got to see each other very often. Now that we’ve all finished with our degrees I hope that we’ll be able to travel to amazing places and do exciting things! I think that’s one of my main goals of next year, to be better friend than I have been recently. Sometimes we get into our heads and can get lost in our own world and forget that there are people around us who care. I’m going to make sure that next year I’ll be more present in their lives.

Thanks for reading!
I tag: @lifeintheeyesoflauren , @thestoryofashleighdavis and @ivehurtworse

Why I’m an Anxious Driver

I was inspired to write this as I was driving, coincidentally. I was driving a route I could probably do with my eyes closed (Though it’s best if I don’t test that theory.) when the van that was behind me decided to speed up. Their vehicle was so close to mine that I started to panic. What if I have to brake unexpectedly and they crash into me? What if they overtake me and crash into something on the other side of the road? Okay – I have to speed up – but I’m already doing 30mph in a 30 zone!! So I was only three streets away from home and I was all over the place.

You might be thinking, you could have sped up a little bit – there’s the 10% rule AND your car speedometer tells you you’re going 2mph slower than you actually are! I appreciate you trying to ease my nerves – but for me there’s more to it than that.

It took me five times to pass my driver’s test. I could tell you how I failed in all of them, but I don’t want to bore you. One of those tests was on my 18th birthday – because if they see a big badge saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY on your chest, they can’t fail you…right??? Wrong, they can and they did – and I wish I’d appealed that one because it was the most ridiculous fail in the world. I’ve taken enough tests to know the difference between a legit fail and a “oh we already filled our quota of people to pass today so you’re out of luck” fail.

But I digress.

Those fails aren’t the reason I’m anxious, far from it. When I first passed I used to drive anywhere and everywhere. I played taxi to my parents whose social lives were more exciting than mine. I’m pretty sure I turned up in the car…in my PJs and said the words “what time do you call this?” To my parents. I was eighteen.

Eventually anxiety crept in. I had a lot of vivid nightmares that included crashing the car with other people in, not being able to control the steering wheel, bricks being tied to my feet so i couldn’t lift them to get to the pedals, my car falling apart and exploding MID DRIVE. Every night.

So in response to those dreams, I changed my routine so that I felt safer. I started by avoiding driving uphill, which is difficult considering I live on a hill.

After that I planned routes that didn’t include big roundabouts, or roundabouts that lead to motorways. To this day I’m still terrified I’ll get in the wrong lane on a ring road and end up having to do 70mph on a stretch of road I’ve never driven before.

Eventually I decided against driving anywhere I didn’t know. I still do this and typing it out makes me feel stupid, but if I know my route then I’m safe. I can deal with situations that come with driving a lot better.

Like that van that got too close to my car.

Honestly, I wish he had just overtaken me. It took a lot of time and money to learn to drive. My biggest fear is that something will happen and my driver’s licence will get taken away. I could never go through the process of learning to drive and taking tests again, I don’t think my mental health would survive it.

For those of you who ARE like me and get anxious about stuff like this, I do have a few tips.

1. If you get stressed, or if another vehicle is making you feel stressed – pull over. Take a few deep breaths and wait until you’ve calmed down and that other driver has long since gone.

2. Music! This seems like a stupid one, but as a learner I never listened to the radio whilst driving – the silence made the anxious thoughts louder somehow. I don’t have my music on too loud because I need to concentrate on the road too – but it definitely helps my mood when I’m on the road.

3. This is for the people who tell you “it’s just driving” “try the motorway, just one junction – it’s no big deal.”

I say to them “would you tell a person who’s claustrophobic to get in a lift? Go on, just do one floor! Everyone uses them, I’ll even go in with you.” No you absolutely would not, so why should this be any different?

I am a safe driver, but if people ask for lifts…I usually find an excuse or just say no. A lot of people judge me for not driving everywhere, even my closest friends, and it’s embarrassing trying to explain how I feel and why my anxiety makes it difficult to just hop on and off the motorway.

One day I’d like to be more confident in my driving, but I know that isn’t in my near future.

Bex

My September Goals

September is here! I’m currently celebrating the fact by lighting candles everywhere – I swear my home has turned into one big vanilla scented incense stick. We’re in the latter part of 2018, you can’t blame me for going a little crazy. I’m not quite at the woolly jumper and blankets stage – but the slipper socks are out. I suppose you could say I’m easing myself into the cold weather that will be upon us pretty soon!

Today I thought I’d share some of my September goals with you. My ambitions for this blog are more like baby steps, but you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run. This blog is currently at the “oh wow the baby’s sitting up all by herself! Get the camera before she falls!” stage, which is fine! More than fine actually, I’ve already got a few followers, my twitter and Instagram accounts are growing too – and the amount of support and encouragement I’ve had from my friends is amazing! I’m really thankful for what I already have. Hopefully this space will keep on growing!

I also have a few smaller goals, just to keep me busy. I’ve realised that staying active and constantly having something to do really helps my anxiety – so I hope that by treating this post as a checklist my mental health might improve a little.

  1. Write at least two posts a week.

So far, blogging has been a therapeutic experience and it takes a lot of time for me to craft a decent post. Hopefully by writing a minimum of two a week, I’ll keep learning through trial and error about what works and what doesn’t. It also means I’ll have some sort of a writing schedule, right now I’m just posting whenever I feel inspired.

  1. Hit ten subscribers on my blog and get my first hundred followers on Twitter and Instagram.

Ten subscribers might not seem like a lot to some, but honestly I’m floored that I have any. In the little experience I’ve had with social media and knowing other bloggers, the start can be the most difficult part. Right now I’m going in with very few expectations. I currently have 74 followers on twitter and 22 followers on Instagram and I’d love to hit my first milestone on both of them by the end of the month.

  1. Read five books this month.

I feel like everyone says that they need to read more, but most of us find it impossible. I don’t avoid reading as such, but until the start of this month I’ve been on a non-fiction binge. I’ve read some really good factual books (Mostly true crime…is anyone surprised?) but now I think I’m ready to go back into the fictional world.

  1. Exercise.

I know…another original goal. I’m going to try and work out at home for half an hour, three times a week. I’m not driven by dreams of weight loss and toning whatever muscle mass has been hiding from me for 21 years: I’m not committed enough. Exercise is a good distraction and it makes me happy. Who knows, maybe I won’t do squats and sit ups for half an hour one day…I might do yoga, or go for a walk.

  1. Learn how to cook.

I currently live on ready meals and takeaways. They save time and they’re cheaper…or so people say. I will say most of microwave dinners taste the same and anything that says it’s spicy is a lie, (With the exception of chicken arrabbiata, I won’t lie – that can get pretty hot.) but sometimes I miss flavour and I miss healthy food. So I’d love to get a few more recipes under my belt, because only knowing how to cook two meals isn’t enough to survive a week.

  1. Write more!

Outside of acting, musical theatre and blogging I actually discovered a new hobby: writing. For my final year I wrote a thirty-minute script and once I started, I really enjoyed the entire process. If I’m being honest, what I wrote is awful – but as far as first attempts go I’m happy with the end result!

Scripts do have their advantages, on the one hand you only have to worry about dialogue, but it seems that description is swapped for stage directions – something I find equally exhausting. I have a couple of ideas that have been sat in my head ignored and neglected for months on end, this could be the month that they finally end up on paper!

  1. Fill up that CV.

I’m an idiot. I put off working for such a long time as if once I graduated the good witch of the north would wave her wand and I’d be working with the likes of Meryl Streep and Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve dug myself into a hole of spectacular depth and now through unpaid work and building up my CV – I’m slowly making my way out.

I only volunteer once a week because I’m funding the travel expenses myself. There’s no issue, in fact I actually really love the work I do, but I think now I should also be volunteering somewhere even more local alongside what I’m doing currently. It would help keep me busy and if I enjoy it then that’s an added bonus!

I’m looking forward to achieving all my goals, or just seeing what September brings! Let me know what you want to achieve this month. I’ll have my fingers crossed for all of you!

Bex

My Journey Through Anxiety

I’ve never been one to ease myself into a task, it’s not that I prefer to jump into the deep end…but we’re going to get there eventually, so why not get it over with?

Talking about my anxiety, openly, is my deep end.

I have spoken to close friends about my mental health, I’ve discussed anxiety attacks and the side effects – but I’ve never gone into too much detail. Mental health is in such a weird place right now, kind of like society’s limbo. Everybody says we need to talk about it but no one knows where to start. Not only that, but our opinions don’t seem to be united; some people say that it’s a generation’s disease – that’s it is all in our head. I mean, if you take that comment literally, they’re not wrong.

I have anxiety. There were times when this stupid disease controlled every aspect of my life and there have been moments when I’ve barely thought about it at all. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s there…but it is. Anxiety works in mysterious ways. I could be wrong, but I believe that all mental illnesses are like that – they’re not plain to see. They’re not always black and white or in your face. Otherwise, how do we hide them so well?

 

When I was nine, I stayed overnight at my best friend’s house. She lived a couple of streets away and I remember being so excited. That changed the moment I stepped foot inside her house. I thought my friend would never want me to leave (I thought so highly of myself, wow.), that my family would never want me back – I wondered if both of them had set it up so that my parents could move to a new house overnight. It sounds ridiculous, right? Well it didn’t to me.

What made matters worse was the very next day, my friend and her family took me to her gran’s house. Granny didn’t live around the corner, in fact I have absolutely no idea where I was. I remember that familiar sensation of my heart squeezing a little too tight and beating too fast, I felt dizzy and I couldn’t stop fidgeting. This time, I was sure – I was going to be left here in this unknown house with this total stranger. I’d have to make my own way home.

I thought that until the last second when my friend’s parents dropped me off by the front door. I hid all my fears, my nerves, because I didn’t want anyone to worry. I didn’t want them to think I was silly.

This wasn’t a common occurrence. I want to be clear: this wasn’t the beginning of the end. I didn’t have to fight a battle of inner demons from that day onwards. In fact that incident is the only one that really sticks out in my mind from around that time.

I was fifteen when I found out what anxiety was. Before then I’d never heard of it. All the physical signs that are affiliated with it, I thought everybody had them. Isn’t it weird to think that some people go through life without the shallow breathing, the rapid heartrate and the critical thoughts?

I was knee deep in the exam period, amongst all the revision and extra lessons – I’d managed to contract a gland infection. Talk about terrible timing. It made breathing very difficult…and that combined with the anxiety left me exhausted. I could barely walk to school, being so stressed about the exams and not being able to breathe anyway, I’d panic and rush back inside within minutes of leaving the house.

I was so confused. After I recovered I was still struggling to catch my breath and my heart was beating so fast at any mention of school or exams. I thought it was a permanent side effect. That was until I spoke to a friend who couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of anxiety and panic attacks. She told me what they were and that stress could be the cause of them – but I was quick to brush her off. There was no way I had a mental illness. I didn’t think something like that could happen to me! So I pushed on – and by the end of my exams they seemed to disappear.

Which brings me to my lowest point. It seems to me that school was a trigger for me, everytime there’s a test or a grade involved – anxiety reared its ugly head. This time it was something entirely different: my appearance. I got a big part in my school’s musical – and I had a lot to do behind the scenes as well. With all the responsibility I felt the pressure to look ‘good’ on stage. In my head, I didn’t look right and I had to change. In a little over two months I went from ten stone to seven and a half.

It wasn’t enough. I’d got it into my head that if I didn’t look a certain way everyone would hate my performance and I’d never be able to work in the theatre industry. Then exams came…and auditions for drama schools…and driving tests….and show week all seemed to turn up at once and everything got too much. I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t stop shaking, I was snappy and irritable and almost anything triggered a panic attack.

My bleakest memory is sitting in the sixth form common room alone, shaking violently – my entire face had gone numb. I thought I was having a stroke. I’d been rejected by every single drama school, someone had told me they didn’t like my performance in the show and I’d failed all my mock exams. I didn’t see a future for myself. One of my teachers tried to tell me that none of this meant that the end was in sight and that everything happened for a reason.

I couldn’t hear him. Both me and my anxiety were totally wrong. If only someone had told me all the things I was going to do from then until now. I’ve achieved so much – but right in that second I thought it was over.

That’s what anxiety doesn’t tell you – that one mistake doesn’t lead to the end. That there is so much more than what your brain is telling you.

I’m not saying it works everytime, I still wake up fighting off a panic attack, I still have to plan every journey to the last detail to avoid those anxious thoughts. Looking in the mirror fills me with dread and thoughts that if I don’t do something about how I look no one will want anything to do with me.

Why am I telling you all this? To do my bit, however small it may be. I can’t tell you to exercise more, to drink a certain type of tea, to take this medication and go for that kind of therapy…because that isn’t down to me. It’s down to you. Everybody who has anxiety deals with it in a different way.

Maybe I’ll talk about how I deal with my anxiety in a different post. I’d love it if you could share your stories in the comments, or let me know if my experiences are totally individual – or perhaps you’ve gone through something similar. At the very least, we should keep talking. Whether it be anxiety, depression, BPD, BDD – every mental illness should be listened to.

I hope my story has helped someone in even the slightest way, and if you managed to stick with this post until the end – thank you!

Bex

A University How-To!

Hey!

As a recent university graduate, I feel like I can give a vague…semi useful guide of sorts. I can’t tell you how to do well, or how to get top grades – but I can tell you how survive…comfortably.

This guide isn’t for the extroverted or the financially secure – I doubt anyone who ticks either box needs a list on how to enjoy university. For those of us who find socialising daunting or are worried about grades, please sit back, sip your tea – and get ready to be wowed by what I learned through trial…and mostly error.

  1. Join a club/society.

My only success….if you don’t count my good grades and attendance to almost every lecture. I would recommend joining an older society; organisation and experience definitely comes with age. You don’t even have to join something on campus, maybe a club that’s local to the city your university is in.

A lot of on campus societies have regular socials – aka meet ups in clubs or bars. It’s another excuse to socialise (with the option of alcohol) and meet some really great people!

I was a member of my university’s musical theatre society for three years and I made more friends there than I did on my course. Not that the people I studied with weren’t lovely, but I only saw them in lectures and rehearsals. I met up with the society out of term hours because we all shared a similar interest.

For the more introverted university students – clubs and societies are really useful. It’s difficult making the first move and speaking to a total stranger – but I’ve found in extra curricular environments you rarely have to. Another member will speak to you first, and usually the committee like to make sure everyone’s having a good time.

2. Be prepared for the worst.

I’m not sure who told me that by going to university I would enjoy every aspect of it….maybe I’d watched too many movies, or perhaps the advertising with all those smiling faces plastered on every prospectus had me fooled.

There will be times you don’t understand things. There’ll be times when you understand everything and have no idea why you’re wasting your time going to these three hour lectures that are filled with content you know about from A-Z. It’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to be bored.

Some tutors will make your learning experience so much better – others will not. What I’m trying to say is university isn’t always plain sailing. You will struggle in at least one module. It’s allowed – don’t be too hard on yourself.

3. Accept every bit of help the university has to give.

This is one of my biggest regrets. When I was a student I struggled mentally, financially and had no idea what I wanted to do when I left. If only I’d spoken to someone!!! Universities hire people to support you in all of that and then some! Make use of them!

If the government has made a mistake with your loans – the University can act (with your permission) as the middle man. They do most of the work for you!

Got a bad grade on an essay and need to know how to improve it? Book a one to one session with the tutor that marked your work, your personal tutor, a literary tutor – anyone! You don’t have to do any of this by yourself. You’re paying for this degree and all the services provided, despite the debt that hangs over our heads for all eternity – we manage to forget that sometimes.

Another top tip: it’s worth talking to these mythical advice givers sooner rather than later. In your final year they’re very high in demand and go into hiding – their entire existence is based more on hearsay and rumours than anything concrete.

Go visit them while they’re still free and have time to talk to you properly.

4. Work.

Or volunteer…I’m not too fussed. Guess what I did outside of term hours? Nothing. I could afford it at the time (Thank you maintenance loan!) – now…not so much. Here’s another thing universities do, they send out emails about job opportunities, workshops, career talks – about your field of interest. All of them are worth pursuing!

If I had volunteered, regardless of whether it was related to my chosen career – I’d have a lot more to put on my CV than I do right now. Keep working and keep busy.

I know people who did touring shows…and turned up to every lecture…and got first/second class degrees. It can be done, I’ve seen it happen…through Facebook and Instagram as I sat back and watched American Horror Story for the 12th time. Priorities, right?

5. The reading list is actually useful.

I’m such a frugal person, so to those of you moaning about how expensive they are – I’m right there with you! But you can shop around. There’s more than amazon/ebay ….use google shopping, they show you a better range. Unless the university want you to get a certain edition, then you should look for second hand versions and older editions – they’re a lot cheaper!

I didn’t buy every book on the list, I only bought the essential books. I used all of those books for every single essay I ever wrote. They were in all of my bibliographies – and I quoted them at least once. Every time.

HOWEVER – wait before you buy. Go to the library first, look at what they have, see how many of those books are part of their online collection and if they’re not…see how many of them they actually have. It’s all well and good not buying a book because your university’s library have it – but if there’s only one copy to share between 80 students and it isn’t online…you won’t see it very often.

You’re not going to get everything right first time. In fact it took me until the very end of my university experience to fully understand where I’d gone wrong. Having lots of friends isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, but being close to one or two people can make those three (or more) years a little easier. Hopefully this guide has too.

Put in the effort, have fun, and make uni your bitch!

Bex