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The Bad Days | Living With My Mental Health

Now, I've been dealing with my mental health - the good, the bad, the seriously ugly of it for so long now that I've seen my fair share of bad days. Every one is different. Every one is tough. Every one is dangerous if not handled with care.

Back in what I call the 'bad stage' I had constant back-to-back bad days that spiralled me deeper and deeper into my own black hole. The black hole my mind had created for me that didn't let any light in, the black hole that consumed me, the black hole that stripped me of any self worth. I'm not that girl anymore though, not fully. For the past few months, I can safely say I've been doing well, even though the black hole has always been there in the back of my mind. Sometimes though, I have bad days with my mental health. The black hole likes to remind me it's still there.

It's taken me a while to distinguish just a bad day from a mental health bad day. On a bad mental health day, nothing is ever particularly wrong - nothing I can pinpoint. But I feel numb and sad. I feel sluggish. I feel slow and confused. But mostly I'm just really sad. Super sad. Bad days make me anxious and paranoid about every little detail - every message, every word, every thought gets twisted. Bad days make me feel so overwhelmingly alone but unsure if I actually want people around me. Bad days make hiding in bed seem like the only option. I don't want to do anything but wait for it to be over. And I hold in tears for a long time. And then they come. And I fall asleep with this dull ache that I hopefully don't have in the morning. And if I look after myself, I don't.

This used to be the regular outburst back in the bad days. Big, ugly, gurn-like, ploppy tears and an achy heart that made me want to lie down and wait for the world to stop. But I'm a busy woman now, the world doesn't stop for a day. I rarely find a day to myself.

It scares me when the black hole jumps out of nowhere and gives me a bad day like I used to have but I get through it. I'm unprepared. It feels strange and nostalgic being in this low place that is somehow so familiar but also not really at all. It's overwhelming to be back where I was, surrounded by early teenage worries and insecurities, surrounded by memories of terrible friends and having no real motivation. I am terrified of how I can be completely fine one day then crying because I'm not comfortable being in the world the next.

So now, the bad days are different because when they happen I have to push through them. So on a bad day, when I still have to live my life, this is what I do: I get comfortable. I get up as late as I can before I need to get ready. I take all my medication, wash my face, look after my skin. I wear makeup if it'll make me feel better, I don't if it won't. I pull my hair out of my face. I wear something comfortable. I work hard, I distract myself, I don't let my paranoia and anxiety hold me back from the things I know I'm capable of. I get some tea or some iced tea. I take pain killers if I need to. I get through the day by any means I can, stopping for air, letting myself sit down for a while, excusing myself from a situation. I make sure I eat. I make sure I always have water. I listen to the music I need to hear on the way home. Sometimes I watch something. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I find comfort in poetry. 
Sometimes silence works. I avoid social media. I curl up in a blanket. I sob down the phone to my best friend like a baby. I call Will. I let everything out and I am not embarrassed by it. I try to find the source of the pain but I never do. I take care of myself. And when it's all over, I sleep. And I wake up, for another busy day, knowing I can and will handle a bad day the best I possibly can. That it will not take hold of me. That I am stronger than I give myself credit for.

It's easy to give in. To take that day off. To catch up later on your chores and social responsibilities. To stay away and hide all day. Sleep is good, it's different to laying in bed all day and feeling like you're controlled by your mental health. You mustn't let it take you because the more bad days you let win, the more they pop up. And suddenly you're back where you were, your character development scrapped. It's so important to know the signs, to know when it's crawling back. Knowing when your mental health is taking over and when the black hole is opening back up just makes it easier to manage. I know what brings me into the good days again.

I think I'll be one of those people who always battles with her mental health. Albeit a strong, successful and motivated woman, but one who is living with depression and anxiety every single second of her life. But it's totally okay, not to be okay as long as you take care of yourself on the bad days.

The BEST Salted Caramel Brownie Recipe

Will salted caramel ever die? I hope not. This recipe is definitely a new staple when I'm craving something sweet. Incredibly moreish, fudgy and surprisingly easy to make - it's hard to say no to another one.

It's not a big secret that I fail at anything that involves culinary skill. I am by all definitions of the word useless in the kitchen which is so cruel as I LOVE to eat good food. I used to attempt to bake when I was young, much to my family's disappointment every single time. Being with Will has slightly improved my skill, we've had to cook so much when I visit him and I actually love the experience. I'm slowly building up a repertoire of recipes that I can go to. But when we've attempted to bake something in the past, it's been a disaster. Until now, when we spontaneously decided to try again and succeeded (after an originally dodgy mixture) - giving me so much pride and amazing blog post inspo! 

This recipe is in no way healthy but does it matter? It's a treat to see Will and it's a treat to eat the best brownies I've ever made. Our recipe is a combination of a few but I stalked Anna from The Anna Edit's post on Salted Caramel Brownies and adapted it slightly from there. It's incredibly easy and only needs one mixing bowl for the whole thing so means less time for washing up and more for indulging! The caramel sauce part is also incredibly easy as we used shop bought sauce from M&S but I don't consider it cheating, I don't have the patience or skill to make my own caramel sauce but I'm sure you could if you're even slightly more skilled than me! Baby steps...

Ingredients: 150g dark chocolate, 150g unsalted butter, 250g golden caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100g plain flour, 150g caramel sauce, a sprinkle of salt

Method: Melt the chocolate and butter over a bain-marie. Take the bowl off the heat. Whisk the eggs together and add to the mixture. Follow with the sugar and flour. Pour the final mixture into a greased and lined baking tray and dollop caramel sauce on top. Swirl sauce through top of mixture with a fork and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake at 160°c fan for 25 minutes, then leave to cool until firm. Cut the brownies into squares and sprinkle a little more salt over them. Serve and try not to eat them all at once.

Results Day... A Year On

It’s been a year since I collected my final A Level results. A year since this post. A year since everything felt uncertain and unclear. A year since I felt so terrified of what was to come. A year ago I was still struggling with myself.

On the day I woke up to find out I was going to Canterbury Christchurch University, something that still makes me proud because I never thought I’d do it. Originally I differed my application, because I thought my mental health was too bad to throw myself into this completely different world with more deadlines and pressures and new people who I thought wouldn’t like me. But after the new year I brought it forward in the early months of 2016 and felt this rush of motivation - I would get better, I would go to University, I would make my family proud, I would make friends who thought like me and would support me even if it did get too much sometimes. And I did.

The previous year I’d scored A,B,B for my AS’s and was on track for the same for my A2’s. When I actually got my grades last year, I was heartbroken. I’ve always been a high achiever, even with my anxieties and everything that’s tested me. I’d worked so hard to achieve the best of my ability. The best of my ability was B,C,C. My grades were below what I should have got to be offered a place but I’d been offered a place anyway. So somehow, in my twisted, anxious mind that was just not good enough. The best of my ability was not good enough.

I had ignored my mental health so badly whilst at school that the sleepless nights, the uncontrollable panic attacks and the nights feeling so completely awful had added up without me realising. I should have been proud to have my place. I should have forgotten all about the actual grades and focused on the journey ahead of me. But I couldn’t. I felt like I’d betrayed myself and had let myself down even though I knew I had shown enough potential to be at University anyway.

 ‘…I set high expectations for myself and I failed to meet them. I'm kind of surprised I got accepted now, although I tell myself I'm talented and they want me for my creativity not for my grades… I always wonder if I didn't have anxiety, if I was a calm person, would I have reacted in the same way? Probably not. Me without anxiety would tell you that I'm proud of myself and I passed despite all the crap the universe threw at me this year. I like being that girl…’

Looking back now I wish I could talk to myself and tell a younger (well only 18) me that everything would be okay. If I hadn’t brought my application forward I wouldn’t have done so many amazing things. I wouldn’t be writing this now. I wouldn't be the amazing person I know I am today. 

I was terrified because it was a new place with new people - not an ideal situation for me. But I found my friends - Monique, Mill, Matt and Will who care about me unconditionally. I learned how to deal with people who don’t like me or who treated me badly. I felt overwhelmed being on campus but eventually it felt more like home. I found comfort in certain places - the benches to wait for my friends, B and Nat’s flats to have a laugh and make some awful dinner, town at lunch to find the cheapest meal we could all agree on. I loved learning. I loved creating. I found my self-worth. I found my boyfriend through University, even though he is a 100 miles away, who showed me so many amazing things and gave me another place to call home. 

I worked so hard on myself, because I went to uni in 2016 and I am so thankful for it. So much had to happen to make me the person I am today that I truly believe if just one thing had changed, my life would be so different. I am so glad I brought forward my uni application and if anything, my mental health is better for it.

Everything about me is 100 times stronger and more determined and it’s all because of results day. Yes, 18 year old Elana, you will still have a bad day every now and then. Your anxiety and depression will follow you every step of the way but you’ll do amazing things despite that and make yourself so proud. And in the end, you’ll forget about your grades entirely - they just don’t matter.

I sincerely hope that everyone got exactly what they wanted this year if they worked as hard as they could for it. Just remember that your grades don’t matter, they’re just numbers and letters on a piece of paper. Everything that makes you you is more important. Keep high expectations for yourself and constantly challenge yourself but be more than the grade. Everything has only just begun.