This week is Mental Health Awareness Week.
You could probably go through a calendar and mark off each week with a label of something or other awareness week. And with all the background noise telling us to be so aware of things, despite the various merits of each cause, it can difficult to focus our attention on any one of them long enough to become aware of it.
Okay so in many cases, awareness can be beneficial in promoting a cause. But in the same way as commercial marketing, some of the really deserving stuff can become lost in the noise. Whilst it may be useful to raise awareness of some things, perhaps others would benefit just as much from support or campaigning in other ways?
Mental health is different. British culture in particular is guilty not only of being unaware of mental health issues, but also of actively not acknowledging them. Many therapists and psychologists have argued that the English ‘stiff upper lip’ is one of the worst ways of dealing with problems. And if I see another product in a home furnishings section with yet another amusing take on the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ motto I may burn it in a fit of rage.
Or alternatively perhaps I will create my own propaganda initiative to infiltrate the world of stylish pillows and mugs that will champion my ‘Be Passionate and Throw a Tantrum’ slogan.
The first (and often hardest) step in dealing with most mental health issues is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Although in the short term this can seem time consuming, (wouldn’t it be less hassle to just ‘get on with it’??) we are not robots. Humans are built to operate based on their emotions- in the days of cave men, people didn’t use their intellect to weigh up the pros and cons of things in a cold, balanced way based upon the evidence available. They relied on their emotions and instincts to guide their actions.
Western culture in particular benefits from conditioning people into having efficiency focused thought processes. But whilst this may be useful in maintaining a productive society in the short term, it can be disastrous to individuals in the long term. Do you think of yourself more as a member of society or as an individual person? Perhaps it’s worth prioritising yourself a bit more.
Acknowledging emotions and problems as they arrive- and allowing yourself to really feel them- prevents even worse crashes and breakdowns later on. And you know that if you are going to crash it will come at the least convenient time; when you are tired, ill, or experiencing a number of other problems.
So in the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Week I will say this. If you’re feeling sad, feel sad. If you’re feeling like you need to smash something or throw some paint at the wall, go for it. As movies have taught us (Falling Down, American Beauty), if you bottle things up for long enough, one day you’re bound to snap.
And one last thing. The merits of crying over spilt milk are greatly underrated. Milk is necessary for a nice cup of tea. And tea is essential for the upkeep of the soul.
I suppose it’s time for an update really isn’t it?
Okay, here you go.
Since my last post I have been pretty busy.
We made a den in the bedroom.
The den fell down.
I discovered a cool coffee shop in Finsbury Park called Vagabond.
It does really good quality coffee- and the ‘extra dark’ hot chocolate is seriously yummy. But the thing I like about it is that it has its own style.
The tables are all rustic and woodenish, and there are adverts everywhere for stuff like life drawing classes and independent exhibitions. Some of the walls are covered in newspaper, with inspiring graffiti and drawings scrawled over the top:
I also did a bit of baking:
With some bespoke designs for my housemates:
I know you’re impressed by the Bee. So here’s a closer look:
The Seedlings (see previous post) are slowly turning into Plantlings:
Nom nom soon they will be vegetables and herbs. I hope.
The three Venus Fly Traps my boyfriend bought me appear to be ignoring me. Or dead? Hmm…
I planted some flowers too. Still a bit cressy but they are supposed to end up as all sorts of pretty flowers:
I’m re-listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung album. Loving this song:
And finally, I started on a Life Spring Clean. More on that to come…
Well I’ve been gardening.
I don’t have a garden though so I had to make one out of little seed trays from Poundland (I love Poundland). I don’t really know why, but I had this increasingly strong feeling that I should plant vegetables and herbs. Perhaps it was destiny.
I didn’t have any wooden lolly sticks to make markers so I hacked up one of the strips of wood from my collection of ‘scrap wood that might be useful for something’ (see earlier posts). I didn’t have a Coping Saw so I used a bread knife. And I didn’t have any regard for health and safety so I did it all cross legged on the kitchen floor, slightly blocking two doorways and the sofa. Because that’s how I roll.
Then I painted the wooden labels in bright colours with my acrylic paints (well it was that or watercolour…) and began planting.
After I had planted each little seedy pot and the first layer of paint had dried on the plant markers, I carefully labelled what each plant was in black. This took ages. I had a lot of seeds. Damn you Poundland. I put the labels in and got up to take the finished seed trays upstairs to where they would live.
At which point I dropped them all on the floor. The seeds mixed up and the markers flew everywhere into a big fat beautifully hand decorated mess.
I looked at my Manly Punk-Rocker type flatmate and his facial expression echoed mine. We both wanted to cry.
But we didn’t because we’re too rock ‘n’ roll.
“Rarr. God dammit” I cursed, looking at the soil scattered into the carpet- an apt reflection of my shattered dreams.
“It’s okay, I’ll put them all back into random trays and we will call them Mystery Seeds” I said, cheerily, ever the English emotionless optimistic robot. “It’ll be a surprise when they start to grow”.
As this was an enormous lie to hide the fact that I was crying inside, I gradually and laboriously re-planted and labelled a whole new tray of seeds over the next few days. When they were finally done I put them where they were destined to be. Near the only source of relatively natural light in the room. Pleased with myself, I lovingly took them down and watered them regularly.
A few days later, they began to grow.
“Oh no!” I exclaimed. I often exclaim things when I get excited. “My vegetable and herb seeds have all turned into cress!”
Turns out that when seeds are at the first stage of growing they all look the same. Like children. Only they look more like cress.
And the cressish stuff is what gardeners call ‘SEEDLINGS’.
What an enjoyable word.
My lovely seeds were growing into vegetables and herbs. Via cress.
Here’s a photo ❤
Now I know what you’re thinking, this story ends well. I lived happily ever after with my home grown vegetables and herbs, well into my old age- where I eventually died in an olive garden/vineyard type place in Italy in the sunshine.
Oh how wrong you are. There’s someone you forgot about from earlier on in the tale…
Over time, the Mystery Seeds became not only a symbol of the futility of my efforts, they became SEEDS OF HATRED.
After the infamous ‘Seed Dropping’ incident of 2012, I had put what was then termed the tray of ‘Mystery Seeds’ at the end of my bed, thinking I would deal with them later.
Later turned into tomorrow, and tomorrow turned into a few weeks time. Now I must stress that at no point had I watered the Mystery Seeds. I must also point out that the level of light in my room is comparable to a bat cave. And from what I know about plants, they need water and light to grow…
More time went by and I continued my well meaning thoughts that I fully intended to dispose of the corpses of the Mystery Seeds. But somehow each day brought a new, more important task which distracted me long enough to forget.
Until one day, something suddenly caught my eye. I looked down at the Mystery Seeds, and that was when I saw it. All this time they had been up to something beneath that soil. Sneakily sprouting little shoots of doom, as if to mock me as they grew ever stronger each day.
They had been trampled on and sat on several times by indignant housemates. They had been without light or water. And their very existence was a fluke- jumbled up floor seeds that had only been scooped back in to their tray so I could avoid looking sad.
Against all odds, what were effectively mementos of my failure had survived. I can only assume that they feed off futility, gaining strength with every battle I lose- be it a battle with my own motivation to hang up the washing (often resulting in me having to wash the clothes again to get rid of the damp smell), or the futile daily battle to find some sort of existential purpose. Perhaps my tears act as fertiliser? Catalysing the growth of their twisted roots, enabling the Seeds of Hatred to suck any hint of a nutrient that may be lurking in the dry, dark soil in which they dwell.
I can tell you how this story will end. And it’s not a happy ending I’m afraid. The Seeds of Hatred will continue to double in size, until one day they will catch me off guard. As I lay in bed, pondering the futility of existence (and indeed the futility of the pondering itself), they will begin to entwine me in their evil stalky grip. I will be so deep in my own thoughts that I won’t notice until it is too late. Eventually they will be everywhere. Climbing up walls and binding the doors shut.
In my last moments I will resemble Rapunzel after some kind of horrible hair dye disaster, with their planty shoots twisting all over the place like evil green locks of organic princess hair. But no one will be able to see me looking all princesslike prior to my tragic death because the Mystery Seeds will have entwined themselves around the doors and windows. And the last thing I will be able to see, through a tiny gap between the branches- will be a perfect tray of lovingly home grown and painstakingly hand labelled vegetables and herbs.
At the moment, for one reason or another, I am poor.
(pause for dramatic effect)
You may now imagine me elegantly sitting on a windowsill in a scruffy, almost empty apartment, wearing white and looking like a waify, pale English model. You can probably imagine the little makeshift table made out of a cardboard box, with a pretty old scarf as a tablecloth. My only possessions atop the table- a battered copy of The Secret Garden next to a glass of water.
Well it’s not quite like that… But I’m not going to correct you because I like the image. And I’m sure as you read my blog you will build up a more accurate image of me and my room.
So this new found poverty then. Well as I have implied I’m not living on the streets. But I am cutting down a lot on spending. I’ve never really had to do this before so it’s kind of exciting. I’m making a game of it. It’s like a challenge- What do I spend most money on? And how can I spend as little as possible? Screw budgeting. I made an elaborate colour coded excel spreadsheet and I never update it. Instead I’ve become more creative and started putting my crafting/painting/making skills to use.
Here are some of the ways I’ve cut down on spending. Feel free to steal the ideas or comment with your own. Or alternatively read them and think things like ‘Whaatt? I wouldn’t cut down on that, you can’t substitute that!’ Whilst this may entertain you I can assure you that I have done all of these things (yes, I’m THAT poor), and it didn’t kill me. Also, I found it gave me a weird sense of pride that I had made these things and thought of these creative solutions. However I do also have to mention that the weird sense of pride was then followed by a wave of shame for feeling proud about it. Anyway, enough about my complex emotions (I don’t need any more excuses to over analyse them). On to the list. Hope you’re impressed:
Downgrade to Sainsbury’s ownbrand teabags (oh shut up, they taste exactly the same and I’m a big tea fan)
Use powdered milk. You can get a big tub of it, dilute a few teaspoons in a jug of water and keep it in the fridge. It’s way cheaper and you can make as much as you need so it doesn’t go off.
Make your own bread. My boyfriend’s Mum bought us a bread maker and after the initial cost of the machine, it’s cheaper in the long run. No more weekly shopping for bread and milk. Maybe ask for a bread maker for your Birthday? It’s got loads of recipes (also makes scones, fruit loaf, cakes and even jam). Plus it’s pretty exciting to use (it does all the hard work but you can look through the little window and comment on what it’s doing)- and it makes the room smell all yummy and bready. Warning: May cause delusions that you could (and would like to) own a bakery.
I made a table for my Art stuff out of the remains of an old broken coffee table. I took the pieces of wood apart and turned them round the other way so that it was taller. I then painted it bright pink, purple and yellow and put a coat of subtle glitter on top.
I found an old rusty metal adjustable stool when I was hanging out near some skips at the back of some warehouses. I painted the legs blue and the seat green, with little white and yellow daisies. Together with the table I had a free Art zone in my room. Nice and bright and fun.
On another occassion when I was hanging out near the bin storage area outside, I found loads of bits of long thin wood and metal poles that someone had thrown out- think they were once part of various broken pieces of furniture. I used the wood and the metal poles to fashion a clothes rail to the wall (think towel rail but longer). Now there’s enough space for all the clothes to be hung up on hangers. It makes choosing outfits easier as you can see what you have.
My flatmates cut and dye my hair for me- and I do the same for them. We put on some kind of edgy, old indie movie like Ghost World while we’re waiting for the dye. I found a Savers shop nearby that sells hair dye for £1! As long as you’re not annoyingly uptight and you chill out and see it as something to do, you can get a free haircut whenever you want it. And none of us are even slightly trained- we just have common sense and like playing hairdressers.