So I got a 50mm lens. I paid for it in part with a voucher I received for writing a post about cats, so I see it fitting that I introduce you all to it with, well.
So I got a 50mm lens. I paid for it in part with a voucher I received for writing a post about cats, so I see it fitting that I introduce you all to it with, well.
This is a post about kittens. See, when I first moved to London, I said goodbye to my cat. It was — well, I kind of forgot to actually say goodbye, so the tearfulness came later, but I can assure you tears were shed. Many tears. Tears by the bucketful. When Oxford came into my life, a lovely morning in September in 2011, he was an elusive little ball that fit into my hand, and it took me about five days of living with the creature to start having anxiety over it — specifically, over the possibility of having to give it up due to my sister’s allergies — and my love has only become slightly more sensible since.
When I saw Oxford upon arriving home after a year out, you would have thought I was being reunited with a long-lost sister on a talk show, or whatever it is people who put their hands over their mouths and struggle not to scream on daytime television do.
In between, I ended up living with about a half dozen different cats and two honorary chihuahuas, and met another half dozen. After a life where I saw a cat maybe once every three years, this was intense and unexpected. For a while I felt like I was just going from cat to cat instead of place to place, which is a rather less stressful way of framing the absolute joy murderer that is flathunting in London on a budget.
Putting aside the time I met a jewellery maker’s cat and the poor thing was spooked and gave me a serious bloody clawing — totally my fault: I wasn’t used to being careful around cats yet — it’s been quite an adventure. Cats actually sort of maybe like me, and either strut up to me in five minutes or just hide less long than they normally would from other humans. I’m rather generous with my bed and love having pets snoozing where I can feel their warmth and their weight, so that probably helps.
And so: here’s an abridged list of cats I’ve had the chance to pet, based around which ones I had nicest pictures of.
In case anyone’s wondering how hard it is to blog when you move four times in a week and one of those times is back to your parents’ in a different country, the answer is: really fucking hard, actually. It’s hard to work, too. I’m trying to ease into it but I don’t have a surefire setup; I’m sharing a room with my sister. The last time I worked it was the type of work that doesn’t feel like work — it was shooting a shop; it doesn’t feel like work while I’m shooting, only during admin and editing and the inevitable endless chasing of payment when I’m not paid upfront — and my two-session psychotherapist was like, “You’re working today?”
This was a valid question because “today” was: two weeks after being given notice on my flat, with no prospects or budget to find another; four days after having a fight with my landlady about my last three weeks’ rent and emergency-moving to a friend’s couch in Hertfordshire; one day after deciding to go back to Spain to live with my parents for a while and save up to go back to London; one day after booking a hostel and a plane ticket; one day before moving to another hotel; two days before my flight. And ten minutes after going on forever about needing a shower and not being able to get through the day without one — ten minutes before going into the clinic toilets and washing my hair in the sink with hand soap.
It’s been six days since I landed in Madrid — six days since I sobbed on a plane, then on a train while reading a book about cats, then on the platform after getting off that train, and then into my mom’s shoulder after stepping off the moving walkway. It’s taken me six days in Ciudad Real, six days following six days dragging my baggage, physical and metaphorical, around in London, to muster the strength to open this window and throw some words together.
I thought it would be worse.
It’s not good. It’s taken only six days for me to be moved to shouting and tears. It’s only taken this long because I was too tired to shift close to work for the previous five. I’m sharing my sister’s room while my grandma’s in mine until fall, and even though my mom has been reading my blog for the past eleven months, she still doesn’t seem to grasp why I need quiet time to work.
I thought I’d go to coffee shops and just stay out. I still want to try, but I haven’t found a single place with wifi that also looks like it’d let me relax. My social anxiety keeps kicking in, and I haven’t made it to an ATM yet, which I need to do because no place in this town accepts cards at all, not even with a minimum spend, and I categorically refuse to ask my parents for pocket money.
I’m not feeling great today. It’s been one good day, one bad day — the good days being, much like in London, the ones where I allow myself to take lorazepam. Today is a bad day, but it’s also been the low point of my workload stress. It’s always a trade-off. I’m not worrying about rent, but I can’t further my work until I figure out a work setup that doesn’t rely on other people understanding that I can’t concentrate or get work done unless certain basic needs are met, and actually seeing value in providing me with those basic needs. I’m not worrying about money, but I’m having nightmares and waking up with the same knot in my stomach I did in London most days. I’ve got a roof and food and running water, but my family still cause me pain.
I’ve gone on walks with my sister, went for ice cream last night. Yesterday was pretty decent. I never got to go anywhere in London because I was so broke, so I think: I can survive this town sucking balls, but then I walk around it and all my resentment comes back. Then I’m fine again.
This first week has been better than I expected, considering how I felt last week. I’ve cried a lot less. But I’m scared it will quickly get much worse, and I’m not ready — I don’t have the means — to run off just yet.
I don’t know what’s happening next.
It’s a whole other post altogether; when I left London I planned to come back straight away. I grieved it. I got off the train and I was bawling. Then I woke up on Sunday and it wasn’t so bad. I was glad to see my cat, I was glad to be fed, I was glad to have my mom around. My sister isn’t awful most of the time, as opposed to being awful most of the time when I left. My father appears to have been trying specially hard not to be an asshole, though his approach to the fight I had with my sister today (really, it’s not even the fight; it’s the outrageous fucking cluelessness as to where I’m coming from and what matters to me) doesn’t fill me with hope.
I think about traveling. I think about putting together enough money to last me through four months in London — or elsewhere in England, or around the UK — until my grandma leaves and then taking the full year she’s out to stay here and save up to move again. I think about visiting friends in Europe, if they’ll put up with me.
I think about travel blogging, and how to navigate not knowing if I’m coming back to London or when or for how long. I’d still like to settle there, but not while my business isn’t making a steady monthly income. I think about what to do about my location, my branding, my services. I have so much content to roll out from the past year — there are so many pictures, places, little things I want to share. There are hotel reviews and portrait sessions and things I never got round to when I was constantly seeking work to keep a roof over my head. London is quite charmless when you’re fighting to stay afloat in it. It was only when I was leaving that I felt that thrill of love for the city again. It had been a while. It had been two seasons.
I don’t know how to be Spanish, and I’ve never wanted to. I’m a UK blogger, and I can be a UK-based travel blogger who spends most of her time in Europe, but Spain has never been a part of who I am. It’s just that my home base, my last resort, my family is here. Home is this flat, home is my mom and my cat and my sister, and the immediate surroundings are familiar, but I was landing in Madrid and it just — it was never home for me, this country. I was on the Madrid metro thinking, “Could I live here? (two-second pause) Fuck no,” and wondering if people from around the UK felt that way about London.
My main bank account is a UK one, and I left a lot of my stuff with a friend, and I have to go back eventually. I’m just not sure what that’s going to look like in the short term. And meanwhile, Spain is where I am, and I’m trying to stay positive. I’m trying to do one thing a day, to be efficient without pushing myself into a breakdown, to be productive within the limitations of my mental health instead of continually drag myself forward only to end up where I started, carrying my depression on my back like a corpse in a rubbish bag. That’s what the past year looks like in retrospect. I was in London, but the day-to-day could have been anywhere. My little ray of sunshine was the routine of having a coffee shop where I liked everything and was comfortable and could get out of my own head every day.
That was invaluable and I miss it so much I don’t know how to live without it. I miss it the most. If I had that, I could relax the rest of the time; I could let things roll off my back. I’d still have nightmares, probably; I’d get that knot in my stomach from hearing yelling not directed at me; but it wouldn’t be quite this difficult.
Whatever I do, I need to keep working on my business, and to do that I need to find a setup that works for me, and some days I’m hopeful and some days I feel utterly doomed. I feel pretty fucking doomed tonight. This could have been a better story on a different day. But when do my circumstances ever not have room for improvement?
In 2008, I spent three weeks in Oxford. I was going to say it’s well-documented on this blog, but that’s a lie, actually; I’d love to pull some travel posts out of the 2,000+ pictures I have from that time, many of which I still like. I do however mention it a fair bunch.
What I don’t think I’ve ever talked about is the two weeks I spent wondering if I could maybe — possibly — if it might be viable for me to find a job, and stay.
At the time, I had a laptop, and I had my fandom corners and friends online, but I didn’t have a blog, or a shop, or anything resembling income. I didn’t have any work experience either, and I’d never in my life written a CV. I’m sure people used Skype at the time, but my mom and I talked by phone. Internationally. I’m pretty sure she ran up a three-digit bill.
Oxford wasn’t a perfect experience by any means; I had to attend an ESL course I didn’t feel I was getting anything out of, and I was put up with a host family that I got along with so poorly everyone was relieved when I was moved to a flatshare for my last week. That flatshare was in Jericho, which is a ten-minute walk to the very middle of Oxford — possibly the middle of Oxford itself; I’m not that familiar with what falls where geographically — and it was the biggest room I’ve ever been in, and maybe my favorite week of my life, perhaps second to the week my best friend was here in London last year, the first week I was here — and even then there were stressors because I had to flathunt and wasn’t exactly swimming in savings.
Oxford suited me in a way I’ve never felt any other place suit me before. I felt at peace there. I was on my own, but I didn’t feel it. I wanted to stay. I really did.
I just didn’t know how to, so I moved back to Spain.
Fast-forward six years, or wait: let’s have a little montage of those six years first. Started an English degree in my hometown in Spain; dropped out as I couldn’t afford the tuition. Proceeded to spend five years at home, going out of the house maybe once a month, once every few months, to the library or when I had to buy something, which was rare because my family was pretty damn poor and I had the internet to keep me company. I wrote a lot of fanfic and I wallowed and my anxiety got so bad I eventually asked my GP for antidepressants. Those helped. In August 2012, I started paroxetine and quit writing. I tried to sell bits and bobs on eBay. Then in December, I opened a photography print shop on Etsy.
My laptop was on its last breath, and I couldn’t blog, or design, or do any of the things I was now realizing might be a viable career — the only career in a job market where the only available positions ever were door-to-door salesmen; a job market where a street-long queue waited to give in their CVs for a retail job that popped up behind my building once. I ran a crowdfunding campaign, one of the most stressful experiences of my life, bar having to pay rent and flathunt. New laptop led to this blog (with help from my friends, and with help from a specific friend for the hosting of this site as well), and then, on my birthday, I opened a design shop. November 2013. I was 24 at that time.
I started thinking about taking the leap to London. My laptop allowed me a movable source of income, a growing source of income, and my best friend started planning a trip to London to see her friend Ashley, who was doing a semester abroad here. My home life had been a toxic environment for a long time, and even though I could have saved up further, I knew if I waited, not only would I not see my best friend for god knows how long (we first met face to face in London in 2008, for one morning) but I’d never have the courage to jump on a plane on my own and book a hotel on my own and start flathunting on my own.
So I booked a flight, and I booked train tickets to Madrid. I bought a suitcase and got another from a friend of my mom’s. And I came here thinking, well, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I may only be here a week.
It’s been eleven months, and sometimes I’m so proud of myself for having made it this far. Sometimes, however, there are weeks like this week, where I need to flathunt and I’m still broke and my anxiety isn’t triggered by my toxic living environment but my financial stressors, constantly. I keep breaking down.
But I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to move back to Spain; I don’t want to leave England. Not for long, and not for home, not when summer’s approaching — braincell-killer summer in Spain; so much nicer and more productive in the UK for a photographer and model! — and it’s my parents’ turn to host my grandma, so I wouldn’t even have a room of my own there.
For the first months I was here, I skyped my mom daily. I fell into a bit of a depression hole in October and it went down to several times a week, once a week, sometimes longer periods without. My wifi fails and it frustrates me when I’m already doing badly with my mental health. But we still communicate — through twitter DMs, of all places. No huge phone bill is run, and I get to see my darling cat up on the screen, sometimes, though I miss him most of all because I can’t exactly communicate with him.
I’ve thought about going to Europe, finding cheaper places and traveling a little, for blog content, because it may well be cheaper than living in London for much longer, because maybe I’d eventually be close enough to Spain to visit my back and do it all over again.
I don’t know if I have the strength, but I’m thinking about it. And after that, maybe I’d be making enough to live in Belsize Park again, or give up the London thing and go back to Oxford.
Either way, this entire thing couldn’t have happened six years ago, and if I didn’t have the Internet none of this would have worked. I’ll refer you to the contents of my bag on that train from Stansted to London, and the person who took that picture — someone I met online a full decade ago.
I wrote this post for the Second Time Lucky campaign with Ocean Finance. I’m hoping they can help me get back on my feet, and have a clearer head when I consider options like ‘move to Berlin for a month because it’s cheaper there and you’ve always wanted to go to Germany, self, don’t front, you’d swoon in the little towns and take all of the selfies.’
Also in partnership with Legal & General. My entire income comes from cameras, laptops, blogs — technology has basically changed my life for the better, and given me options where there would have been none otherwise.
Trigger warning for suicidal ideation, violent imagery, talk of depression and anxiety and disappointment in the NHS (and by extension the social security in Spain, which wasn’t any better).
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist; I am not a qualified therapist, or a doctor, or anything of the sort. I talk about my lived experience and what I’ve glimpsed of others’ lived experience.
I didn’t intend to begin this post like this, but I will: there’s something really messed up about the fact that the only mental health symptom considered an emergency is attempted suicide.
Here’s how I wanted to begin this post: there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think, “I want to kill myself.” Sometimes it’s empty words; sometimes it’s cathartic, the only way to let off steam without screaming. Sometimes it’s just a chorus playing over and over in my head. Sometimes it’s calmness: sometimes I hit rock bottom, and I think about dying, and it’s comforting. My most violent imagery happens those times, when I’m not anxious, when I’m instead calm — unbearably sad, disappointed, resigned — and it helps to picture ways to die.
In general, suicidal ideation is pervasive. The scale goes from those empty words I mentioned above to desire and intent. You need to attempt suicide, or be very, very clear you’re going to, to receive any sort of emergency help. To check into a mental hospital. Feeling like you’re going to explode doesn’t matter unless you plan to end your life. It doesn’t matter if you just want to be dead. Resources cannot be allocated to run-of-the-mill breakdowns.
Suicidal ideation is a symptom of many mental disorders, and I know plenty of people who struggle with it. But I rarely see talk of it in this blogosphere that — wonderfully — speaks up about anxiety and depression so often, and I want to do my part for it.
Disclaimer: If you’re looking for a clear, organized post, this is not it. This is pretty much stream of consciousness.
For starters, I’ve been meaning to write this post for the past two weeks. Longer, if you count me wanting to recap February via Things I’m Thinking post, and feeling daunted by the thought, and now it’s March 27 and tomorrow I will have been in London for eleven months. Eleven months. Ridiculous.
I got a haircut, and then I got another one. Had enough hair left after the first to cut some more off without going above my jaw, which is my upper limit. First haircut came with a bit of a copper dye; second came with a lighter brown dye. Both photos on this post are from the day I got the second one, March 19, at the L’Oréal building in Hammersmith. The first cut was for a hair seminar in Sevenoaks in Kent in late February, with Debbie G. It was a really enjoyable experience, which is why I picked up another hair seminar gig. Early start, train to Kent, worked alongside lovely models, was watered and fed, looked awesome with my crimped hair.
The second gig wasn’t nearly as fun; there was no food provided and frankly I was close to either throwing up or falling over on the tube back home. I love the haircut I go — from Skyler McDonald of seanhanna — but it would have been nice not to feel sick throughout the day.
Modeling: never assume you’re going to get fed? Never assume anything ever, probably. I mean, the only modeling gig I’ve got fed on besides the hair seminar with Debbie G was the time I worked with Bethany Owen on a boat, and she’s like, a friend who cared about my well-being and whatnot. Also we were on a boat so it wasn’t like I could sneak off to buy snacks.
What else have I done that I can talk about — I shot two events this week. The first one was rather regrettable, the kind of thing where I should have said, “Well, no, I can’t confirm I’ll do it if you won’t even tell me what the fuck it is.” Then it turned out they wanted video, which there was no mention of, and I filmed a bit on my phone because I didn’t want to have spent money on the bus for nothing, and then they went and paid me less than agreed upon. In short, why did I bother.
The second one was lovely, a Hot Hair blogger event organized by Michelle from Thou Shalt Not Covet. It was at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, which is gorgeous, and I had fun and didn’t feel underappreciated and got good photos despite the low light, and it was a great palate cleanser even though I overextended myself by taking pictures of stuff, because I can’t resist a night lights shot even though I bleeding suck at them. Then I put too much weight — read: my DSLR — into my paper goodie bag from the event, and everything — read: my DSLR — went flying onto the floor at King’s Cross.
At this point my camera’s taken enough tumbles that I don’t really freak out about it breaking, but it was still an unpleasant sight. I’m just glad it happened in a well-lit tube station instead of on the busy streets in the middle of the night.
This is Putney on March 12, when I went to seanhanna for a quick consultation before the L’Oréal hair seminar. I got there at 9 PM and only stayed for like twenty minutes and they gave me biscuits, which is probably why I didn’t bring snacks with me on March 19. Lulled into a false sense of security. Anyway, we actually talked about me going blonde, and I was a bit scared and excited, and then that didn’t happen. And then at the Hot Hair event yesterday I tried on a platinum blonde wig, and wow I’m so glad I didn’t dye my hair that color.
After that I shopped at Waitrose for the first time in my life and I’ve been meaning to find another Waitrose since then because their pasta is awesome and properly priced. I also still need to buy shampoo. Was kind of looking for a Superdrug for that, because they have better offers than the Boots on Haverstock Hill, which I found out the last time I ran out of shower toiletries before a press screening in Leicester Square. That was a good day. I recently instagrammed the shots I got at the National Portrait Gallery afterwards, when I randomly wandered in there. Scroll to March 9. There’s a Superdrug (and an M&S) in Swiss Cottage, which is pretty much the same distance from my flat as the Budgens and Boots on Haverstock Hill, but I don’t like going in that direction. There are no Waitroses anywhere. I mean, okay, there’s one in the wrong (read: furthest from me) end of Camden Town, and one like a bit further up north in Swiss Cottage but who needs that. I need to get invited to an event or get a photography or modeling gig near a Waitrose, stat.
Or maybe meet someone for coffee? Hot Hair event aside I haven’t met anyone since Rebecca from Bec Boop at the beginning of the month, and I miss it. (Click the blog link to go straight to the post she made with the photos I took!)
I need to organize my blog folders. It’s a disaster right now. These pics are in a folder named Kitties with mostly pictures of my landlady’s cats.
Yes, Tiikeri. Exactly.
I had a great time talking to people yesterday; I’d met Angelica and Jodie (I actually briefly discussed moving in with Jodie!) before, I met some new people I’d talked to on twitter via the hashtag, and I met two girls I’d been wanting to meet for a while — Christine (who I didn’t even expect to see there!) and Barbie. The weekend before I met Rebecca, I had coffee in Camden Town with Laila and Bel, and it was starting to feel like a good habit. I also found out Camden Town is a lot more visually interesting than the main road had led me to believe, though it is crowded as hell all around.
I finished a book I was sent last month, I Was Here by Gayle Forman. I have some artsy pretentious pictures I took of it with a bokeh-ed backdrop of a tube platform when I came back from Putney. I was kind of underwhelmed, but a hopefully short review is upcoming. I want to accompany it with a post about my experience with suicidal ideation, because it’s not something I’ve addressed or blogged about before and I don’t see it often. There was a passage in the book where the main character is pretending to be suicidal on a pro-suicide message board that — I wouldn’t say resonated with me; I didn’t have that proper emotional connection with it — but it was certainly accurate for me. It was pretty much word-for-word things I’ve thought.
And that gives me an excellent segueway to update you on my mental health. The past two weeks have been rough for me. I got excited about a project and, when it didn’t get started right away, it did a number on me. This was at the same time I ran out of sertraline before getting my prescription; I didn’t think quitting an SSRI after only 28 days of treatment would have withdrawal effects. I was wrong. I was dead wrong. (I’m sorry, I had to put that link in there.) Seriously, that was a terrible idea. I wasn’t noticing much of an effect beyond side effects (the nausea subsided, but my sex drive was still squashed, which I really like about SSRIs, actually; that’s another post I want to write) and I was in a tight financial spot and I made the executive decision of switching meds when I went to my appointment on Wednesday.
Well, on Wednesday I couldn’t get out of bed, was ten minutes late, didn’t bundle up properly, started crying in the clinic when the doctor couldn’t see me and it turned out I had to self-refer to counselling again because I’d missed an appointment due to being notified of it after it was over, cried from Fleet Road to Haverstock Hill, started hyperventilating where the road took a turn towards A&E at the Royal Free and very seriously considered going there instead of heading home but didn’t. On Thursday I woke up with a sore throat, which is a telltale sign of a cold for me, but the last couple of times it’s happened, I didn’t come down with anything, so I was hopeful.
Then on Saturday I started feeling proper sick, and on Sunday my nose gave up the ghost. I was sick for that event on Monday, and in fact, when I went home to grab my tripod and head to Camden Lock, I tripped on a storm drain, stumbled for three steps, and fell on my hands. (This is why I took a bus instead of walking there.) At first I thought I’d just got a scrape, and that the fact that the whole right side of my body hurt was due to the cold. Then I tripped again on Wednesday — though I didn’t fall — and realized that was probably the cause. There is also a bruise on my knee I only noticed today, but I no longer feel excruciating pain in my arm when I take off my clothes, so there’s that. I can also breathe. Massive improvements all around. I’m still carrying some anxiety, bad sleep habits (the awake when the sun comes out kind) and lack of appetite, but hopefully it will get better now I’m healthier and, thank all the deities, caught a bit of a financial break. Tiny one, but you know, better.
Last Saturday I also finally googled clinics near me, and there are none closer than the one I signed up at when I lived on Fleet Road literally (okay, not quite literally, but I could rush out of bed and run down without feeling like death later for not having showered and got ready properly) five seconds away from it. But there is a mental health foundation trust ten minutes away, and I got in touch with them. Today they replied to me saying they offer four-session consultations and it sounds like I want ongoing therapy, which would be an issue if I’d ever got anywhere chasing ongoing therapy. Look, four sessions is better than zero. Call me, clinic. Call me. I want new meds too. I’m thinking citalopram. It’s obviously down to my doctor, but I don’t think I stressed my anxiety (no pun intended) enough when I asked my GP for meds last time, and I’m trying not to rely on lorazepam so much. (That’s another post: how lorazepam works for me. It seems it’s a bit different from the effect it has on other people. All in the name of informing, y’all. I take lived experience very seriously.)
Laptop work-wise, the highlights are I finished a media kit I adore for a client I love, and designed a blog that’s tentatively launching on April 1 and I can’t wait to show off. I finally followed the creative process I’d wanted to for ages but been too scared to try — mock-up first, coding later — and it was just an excellent result all around, and far less stressful than I’d predicted.
I also started a new Instagram project after ignoring #wearyourdamnjewelry for a month: #lixunderground. I think I may even bring it onto the blog, because I have tons of camera photos, too, and I’m just strangely attached to the tube. It’s a whole thing.
It’s probably too overdone for me to try and do an actual photography project based around the tube, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it.
tl;dr: Can you guess how many more photos have been added to my ever-growing backlog? Go on, guess. (I don’t have an actual number so I can’t tell you if you’re right, but there are lots.)
These days I run sales arbitrarily every three or four months and every one is different, so if this appeals to you, go for it because it’s probably not happening again. You’re welcome.
Winter Greens (Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead) / an old shot from a bus to Archway / Fleet Road, Hampstead
Cozy b.young Cardigan / Staying In (ZozPots Mug) / Delivery Office Run (Hampstead)
Hampstead Hill Gardens / Baker Street Station / Haverstock Hill, Hampstead
I try to take the bus whenever possible because it’s cheaper, but it’s nice that sometimes you can get interesting photos of streets and traffic — if the window isn’t dirty as fuck, anyway. I’m starting to memorize my route from Swiss Cottage to Marylebone, and I just end up going on manual focus and taking bokeh shots of the car lights at night. I really want to do a photo walk down Eton Avenue one day, when it’s not as cold — the houses are so picturesque — and every time the bus goes past Lord’s Cricket Ground, I look at the little park — St John’s Wood Church Gardens — and the tombstones and the children’s playground and think, “I want to shoot in there.” It is impossible to get a halfway decent photo of it from the road, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it seems like a cool location for a shoot. In fact, hire me and find out!
2. Mental Health
I’ve had a depressive-episode week, again, due to a payment not being due when I thought it was. It’s thrown my motivation and sleep schedule into disarray, and I’ve only barely begun to recover. The sertraline isn’t doing anything for me yet, as far as I can tell, other than quell my appetite; I no longer feel drowsy and I’m not getting any more migraines.
Every morning, it takes me two or three hours to get out of bed; I feel hopeless and dejected and stressed. Then once I get up and shower and get dressed, even before I medicate, I feel better — I feel like I can make something of myself, that I can make things work. I’m having trouble falling asleep at night again, or rather putting my phone down and trying to sleep, which doesn’t help with the lack of motivation in the morning; if I go to sleep at 4 AM and I wake up at 2 PM, that means I’ll get up at 5 PM and I was really enjoying not doing that for the couple of weeks it got better.
But I’m making an effort to be healthy despite the lack of appetite, and I did get up when I was supposed to (even if it was an hour and a half later than I intended) on Friday when I actually had to be somewhere, so it’s not all hopeless.
So. I picked up a tiny hair modeling gig off Model Mayhem a few weeks ago. Hair modeling is like modeling except way more time-consuming and appearance-changing. I went for a consultation a few weeks ago, and yesterday I went in for a dye and a cut. The dye is so close to my natural hair color — copper, and my hair shines copper already — I can barely tell it’s there, and the cut isn’t a huge difference, either, because it’s still medium length at the front, shorter at the back — Alexa Chung inspired, apparently?
On Friday, when they blow-dried it at the salon (Billi Currie on Chiltern Street in Marylebone; I’m modeling for Debbie G), I wasn’t super thrilled with it; then when I washed it yesterday, I felt a little better, and this morning when I woke up and looked in the mirror I was like, “hell yeah.” It’s very bouncy and it actually reminded me of the picture of Rosamund Pike’s haircut they threw around during my consultation, and I am into it. Plus, it’s so much lighter and quicker to wash and dry.
The actual modeling is tomorrow, Monday, at a seminar in Sevenoaks in Kent. I have to get up at 7 AM, which is terrifying, but I’m sure I’ll manage. It should be fun. I like modeling because you just go and you do something that is really quite effortless if you’re comfortable letting people make you pretty and prancing in front of a camera, which I am, and it’s done. I like the simplicity of the timeline, compared to design work.
Anyway, everyone involved is super friendly and nice, so I’m looking forward to being made up and styled within an inch of my life tomorrow.
Then on Tuesday I’m going to a thing I can’t find info about on google — a sewing workshop in Brent Cross in the morning, and in the evening I will hopefully not chicken out of going to the Gossip Girl-inspired gifting lounge put on by Bloggers Love. I’ve never been to any of their events, but this looked appealing. I have no idea how gifting lounges work, though. Any of you gone to any? Can you give me a rundown? I’m investing transport money in this thing so I want to get something out of it.
And then the rest of the week is mine, all mine. I’m trying to plan it out now because I know my motivation will waver, but maybe if I get up early on both Monday and Tuesday, I’ll be able to stick to the habit and keep it up for the rest of the week. If you want to help me stay not-depressed, feel free to have a look at my design portfolio and get yourself something pretty. I’m currently booking blog design for late March, but I’m more flexible with media kits and product photography and other bits and pieces.
And so: how was your week? What have you got planned for this next one?
You guys, I’m so tired. I’m struggling to put this post together. I can mostly handle design, but anything that involves thinking is making me exhausted. But I’m trying! Because this is a side effect, and it will go away eventually, and it was worse yesterday anyway and at least today I got some food in me. But first things first:
To the best of my memory:
Rosslyn Hill / Foyles on Charing Cross Road (taken last month) / Rosslyn Hill
Belsize Park Gardens / Belsize Grove / Belsize Grove
Belsize Grove / Belsize Park Gardens / Eton Avenue
South End Road / Belsize Park Gardens / Belsize Park Gardens
This could have been a nice Belsize Park + Hampstead collage but then I wouldn’t have been able to share the Foyles picture I posted this week, and it’s one of my favorites. So there’s an outlier. I linked the ones with halfway substantial commentary. I’d love to write more about all my pictures, but some I have nothing to say about and some I just can’t be bothered to type on my phone for.
I live in a really pretty place, even if they insist on putting up signs with Comic Sans in it. And the anti-Tesco promo may not use an affront of a font, but the design is still — well, if Tesco brings down the neighborhood, so do those ugly signs. You can do better, Belsize Park. You’re supposed to be posh, goddammit.
Bobby pins from Starlight Woods (buy) / Necklace from Resity (OOAK; love this similar one in green) / Hampstead Group Practice
Ring from The Two Wicked Magpies / Wednesday In Marylebone / Friday at Starbucks (post)
Asics trainers c/o Sports Shoes (post) / Necklace from finntastic2006 / Candy hamper c/o Toxic Fox (now a jewelry box)
Snowflake earrings from Bonita Bellita (here + parcel pic!) / Cowl from delectare (I designed her banner!) / Makeup by Steph Lai
Cardigan in #8 and #10 c/o Blue Vanilla via etailPR
I haven’t been as much of a stickler for daily jewelry-wearing as I was at first, but I’ve mostly done things to make up for it, and on one occasion wore a cowl (more things I never wear: my knit accessories that I love) instead. I actually airbrushed out my acne in the cowl picture. I look at it on Instagram and cringe a bit, but whatever, I made the choice, I’m leaving it. That’s been the hardest part of this project for me. I never wear makeup and in fact I feel uncomfortable and unfocused with it on, so I have to find ways around it and play with angles and when all else fails, deal. I’ve posted more imperfect pictures on twitter. I’m just pickier with Insta and blog photos.
I actually had to take pictures of the bobby pins with my Canon — yep, that is a Canon picture in a midst of LG G3 ones — because my phone camera washed them out. On the bright side, my hands didn’t fall off. On the down side, I took some more at Starbucks because I wasn’t convinced and this woman across from me kept giving me weird looks because I kept taking pictures because they all sucked and I felt very self-conscious. The dark side of Instagram.
The picture with makeup on is from last Friday and the Sun article I talked about here. I got my hair and makeup done by a professional, and then I was shot by a professional, and in between I took outfit photos and photos of a couple of pieces I still owed Pixiebell and basically an astounding number of selfies. I tried to repeat this on Friday, but I fell asleep. Anyway, yesterday I got an email from the article writer saying she couldn’t find it in the paper when it was supposed to go out, so I may not get paid for it, which is a bummer. I got more out of it than I put into it, but I could really use the cash.
Honestly, I’m weirdly focused on blogging and writing as sources of income at the moment because this week I took the plunge and raised the prices on my design portfolio by about 5x plus developer’s fees. (If we’ve talked about a project before, and you haven’t decided yet but can’t afford the new rates, don’t worry — I’ll honor the price I gave you.) Those prices now match those on some of my favorite (and less favorite — people I feel on par with) designers, and it would now take one client a month for me to survive. But I have no clue how to find those clients, or get them to find me.
I opened accounts on Behance and Cargo Collective; I need to fill them out. I updated my LinkedIn. I haven’t touched my CV, but I managed the copy for my media kit, so surely I can do it. Somehow. Some way.
The day before my agency gig that got put on hold, I tweeted, “If tomorrow goes well, I’m making a GP appointment to get back on antidepressants.” I held myself to that — actually took a while to make the decision, and by the time I made the appointment, things had gone awry. (For a not-all-that-terrible-but-hard-on-me meaning of the word.) Over the following few days, the past few weeks, I found myself needing lorazepam every single day, even the days I tried hard not to take it. Thursday and Friday this week, I was feeling better, but I knew that was all the more reason to get back on meds now — when things are bad, I just let them get worse.
Of course, I went to sleep at 4 AM the day before (I’ve been doing better at falling asleep, but not on Wednesday and therefore not on Thursday), woke up at 9, pushed the snooze button about five times… and woke up two minutes before my appointment. Back when I lived literally two minutes up the road from the practice (reason #1 I picked it), I would have managed to run there, but I knew running the fifteen-twenty minutes from Belsize Park without showering and getting something nutritive in me would kill me, so I skipped. I explained my inability to send text messages to cancel to my GP the day after, who obviously thought it was fucking weird that I have a phone I can only receive calls and texts on because it’s registered to a PR instead of me, but understood. It is weird, Dr. Patel. I know it’s weird.
So yeah, I actually checked after I missed the appointment, and miracle of miracles, someone had cancelled an appointment the next day at 11 AM. Knowing me and the way I excel at chickening out of seeking medical help when time gets in the way, I grabbed it, and I was a little late to it — about nine minutes — but I bundled up, wore leg warmers to warm my legs — never had occurred to me before, honest — and got there.
I am now on sertraline. The GP looked at the previous GP’s prescription of mirtazapine and was definitely gunning for it, but I explained my concerns and then I mentioned that not only do I have trouble getting to sleep, I have trouble getting up, to the point that up until two weeks ago I’d been getting up at 5 PM every day, and she decided on sertraline instead.
Well, holy crap with the drowsiness. I feel a little more awake today, but I’m still too tired to do anything that requires thinking, or words, or thinking. I finished a media kit draft and a blog design mockup yesterday, so I’m not too scared it will ruin me, but it was amazing. I crashed at 8 PM without eating. I had some fruit this morning before showering because I would have fainted otherwise.
My GP also referred me for counseling, which no one said anything about last summer. She thought I’d rather have CBT, partly because they’d get that going more quickly than the 6-8 weeks for counseling, but I’ve got that sneaky aversion to ‘choose to be happy’ rhetorics (even if that’s not that CBT is) and I wasn’t expecting anything anyway, so I’d much rather wait for something I’ve always thought would help me and never got to try.
From the above — I knew going anywhere without eating first would kill me because it nearly did on Wednesday last week, when I rushed to Marylebone without breakfast for a hair consultation at a salon I’ll be modeling a dye and cut for next week (unless that also falls through. You never know). It was rainy and miserable, and I tried to find a Starbucks I liked in the area but the two I walked by sucked, and then I just took a bus back to my Starbucks.
Really, for an evil corporate chain everyone here is incredibly nice. The toilet was out of order that day and I was freezing and they let me use their sink to warm my Raynaud’sed-out hands. I’ve been coming here every day because it’s good for my mental health to spend £60 a month on lattes, shut up, and I know most of the baristas by name. The other day, some dude started screaming and throwing the displays and freaked a ten, twelve-year-old girl out who was, I think, waiting for her drink (the Starbucks is split down the middle by a wall, so I didn’t see anything) and made her cry, and the baristas gave her hot chocolate and a gift card and kept checking that she was all right. I kept thinking I should do something, but you know I suck at people, so I just sat around and felt bad.
I had high hopes of editing some photos from the time I went to the delivery office in summer and photographed the whole walk in various waiting rooms yesterday, but I didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes at the practice and the hospital pharmacy I thought I’d have to wait at was closed, so I killed my shoulder with my laptop for no reason. And boy, did I kill it: I had to pick up a GHD parcel from Best British Bloggers at the delivery office in Hampstead too (hence the motivation to edit those pictures from summer), so it was quite a lot of walking. Later that day, when all the drowsiness was high, I bee-hopped around picture folders and edited two pics from a walk from Hampstead Heath to South Hampstead, and they are so fucking magical I may try and get a Fairytale of Belsize Park post going. It’s not like I wouldn’t have to split up the pictures anyway. It’s a rare photo walk I come back from with less than seventy pictures for keeps.
Dear god, I did not set out to write a post this long. My bad! How was your week?
This could be a review; I did say one of the reasons I wanted to start with a picture this month was so I could write them, if needed. But it’s not. It’s just a story, and a bit of an opinion piece.
Here’s the short of it: my relationship with sports, exercise, working out, all that stuff — well, it hasn’t always been good. I used to avoid all physical activity like the plague. I was bad at it, and I thought it was beneath me.
My relationship with sneakers, trainers, running shoes, whatever you want to call them, is also tricky; it was involved in one of those incidents that you carry around for years until you realize it was shitty on someone else’s part and you are fucking done feeling guilty about something that happened when you were fourteen and why are people still expecting you to take responsibility for a grown adult man’s behavior? But my mom reads this blog, and I don’t want to go into that. Maybe some other time.
Under normal circumstances, this entire post would never have crossed my mind. But of course, my circumstances are what they are.
I ragequit gym class during a written exam the last year I had to take it. I can’t remember what was going through my head at the time, or why I would choose to give up on a subject when doing something that was the opposite of my problem with it. But quit I did: I got up, told my teacher I’d make up the subject in September, and went home.
For many, many years before that, gym class had the dubious honor of being the only subject I’d ever got a failing grade in. Fifth grade of elementary school, when I was nine, I’d failed a trimester in it. I believe the grade was called “Needs Improvement” at that point. It was primary school, after all. It wasn’t the kind of subject you made up, so I just kept going and passed. But gym was always my lowest grade, a barely-there pass in a sea of As and Bs.
I hated it. I did the bare minimum. You know how people always talk about being the kid who gets picked last? I was, but I didn’t give a shit about that. I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to run around my gym until I felt like I was going to throw up — which didn’t take very long because gym class was the only kind of exercise I ever got. I didn’t keep it up during summer, and I didn’t supplement it. I didn’t see a reason to put myself through that kind of pain.
A few years later, when I started getting tachycardia every other day, I was extremely conscious of my heart rate. But even before that, I had no endurance, and I couldn’t handle the workout. A time or two, we got to play sports and I didn’t hate all of them — I remember enjoying baseball in primary school, a sport we never touched on in high school. I remember not absolutely hating field hockey. I remember liking basketball except for how much my hands hurt when it was cold. Volleyball was always out-and-out painful.
Of course, when I was a teenager, I just felt small. I felt weak, and I hated gym class because it was so hard on me. I thought I should be able to handle the kind of exercise everyone else did. I thought there was something wrong me. It took me a long time, even after quitting, to realize that the whole thing was just messed up.
Here’s the thing: I was weak. I had low endurance. The way you build strength and endurance is slowly, starting at the bottom, taking baby steps. You don’t start where everyone else is, because that’s a surefire way of making you feel not good enough, and that’s never been a motivating thought for me. I do well when things go well, and I collapse under failure.
Not only was gym class designed to hold everyone to the same standards at the same time regardless of physical shape or external training, but I never once was given suggestions to improve my state. It never occurred to me that exercise could be fun, feel good, if you picked the right activities and built up to it. I didn’t find this out until August of 2012, when I got into watching gymnastics and on antidepressants both at the same time. I quit writing and watched a lot of TV on my iPod in bed when the sun was beating down hard on my room and my old overheating laptop, and I started exercising. It lasted until the end of the year, but it was a huge eye-opener.
I always meant to go running at some point. I still never have. But I know that if I decide to do it, I can build up to it by improving my endurance slowly, taking baby steps, with exercise that doesn’t make me want to throw up.
I didn’t have a pair of sneakers from the time I quit gym class to sometime in 2012. I’ve been wearing that one pair every day since it got cold in London. Now I have another one to switch things up.
I picked this pair of Asics running shoes because the colors on the website reminded me of the Avengers. I guess that’s how you get me to do things: give me a media consumption reason to care. I started exercising because I was watching women’s artistic gymnastics, and I was fannish about it, and then I was fannish about Make It Or Break It and sometimes exercised while I watched. I actually bought a t-shirt once just because it said Payson on it, even though it had nothing to do with gymnastics; it was some kind of telegraph facsimile. But it’s still a t-shirt I wear on a regular basis.
The red on the shoes is pinker than I expected, but they still feel great on my feet.
I’m changing my approach to blogging for February. It’s not going to be overly different from your end, I don’t think, but it feels different to me and that makes it exciting and fun and when something is exciting and fun, I’m allowed to run with it.
Basically, I was on chookooloonks.com the other day, and Karen has started a #365daily project where she snaps and posts a photo every day. I’ve been going over the idea in my head for a while, how it would fit into my current blog and whatnot, and I realized that:
1. There’s not much of a blogging routine for something to fit into anyway; this blog was dead for most of January.
2. I don’t want to take new photos as much as I want to get through my backlog.
3. My backlog is full of things I would like to post anyway, like portrait and fashion shoots, travel-related bits and whatnot.
4. Posts I normally sniff at — reviews, in particular — seem much more substantial when you approach them as a beautiful photo accompanied by musings on whatever the photograph is about.
5. I don’t have to stop posting ‘normal’ content; I can just do the ‘starts with a photo’ approach on any days that I don’t have regular content ready to go, and use the ‘starts with a photo’ approach to create regular content like outfit posts and longer photography posts.
I’m trying this for February and seeing how it goes. It means this blog may come off more journal-y than usual, and if I know myself, I may get weirdly embarrassingly existential a time or two. Forgive me if the seventeen-year-old snob in me comes out. She’s got issues.
I’m still doing this consistently, which is a wonder and a half. But I’m loving it anyway.
I had a design gig for a PR agency starting last Tuesday — that’s what I was talking about last week when I said I had a reason to keep normal-people hours for the following two weeks. I stressed about everything I could possibly think of to stress about, got there on Tuesday and had most of my concerns relieved, and then at the end of Wednesday, I was told my project had been put on hold. I’ve been depressed all week, because the money for the two weeks would have been a lifesaver, and losing the prospect of it hit me really hard even though I’m nowhere near as badly off as I was for most of last year.
That’s where the Angel station picture came from. The central London photos are from two Tuesdays ago.
Having to get up at 7 AM two days in a row made me tired at night, which means I’ve been going to bed before 2 AM — often by midnight — all week, and getting up during daylight, if not proper early.
Working full-time made me realize I can get a lot more work done than the amount I operate (and budge) under if I focus and have a lot of time to group and regroup.
I got to meet Ashleigh and it was awesome to have someone to talk to. I don’t get a lot of that irl these days. I also happened to stress not at all about it at any point, which was strange because I usually start worrying I’ve said something stupid or embarrassing five minutes into meeting someone, but that didn’t happen with her.
Working full-time made me realize I can handle and in fact would like a regular job. Part-time, preferably, but I want one regardless, and I want to look for one, and one of these days I will crack down on my resume and start applying. Hopefully this week. I’m still terrified of spending a ton of money on transport and not getting an actual job at the end of it, but I might as well try sending my CV in for things and see what happens.
I added up my expenses for January and it’s £885.45 total, which isn’t fantastic but given £740 are rent and bills and the rest of it is evenly split between groceries, toiletries and Starbucks with a small amount for transport for a job, I maintain that I should focus on making more money, not on spending less.
And how was your week?