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Sunday, 9 October 2016

trials, tribulations and triumphs (or a sort of: dear juno and nicola)

Today I attended a Birmingham Lit Fest event in which Juno Dawson and Nicola Morgan spoke about teen mental health and the stigma around it, and I just want to talk a little bit about it. I was previously unfamiliar with Nicola Morgan's work but the fiction extract she read was amazing and her non-fiction sounds brilliant also so I'll definitely be looking at reading some of her work.

So. This isn't going to particularly inform you about the event's content, it is more for myself, and I believe that could get quite rambly.

Every fibre of my being was invested in every second of this event. I walked in, equipped pretty much only with a cold that was dragging me down -  honestly, this morning I felt so rubbishy that I almost cancelled, but I knew I wanted to go. This held a weird contrast for me because I hadn't actually attended a book event since my inpatient stay, or since I stopped book blogging particularly, when I used to go with my DSLR and a notebook, and sometimes a lanyard swinging with my web address on it. And this was kind of scary, but I did it anyway.

And the reason I became so invested, regardless of my omnipotent headache, was because everything was so true and so relatable. Nearly every view I have about mental health, and education, and the relativity of struggle; they were pretty much all expressed and I think even if they hadn't I would have been just as invested, if maybe ready to make this blogpost a bit of a fight.

This event was special. I only wish it had been bigger like other events I've been to, but alas, less people want to hear about mental health than they would want to see Veronica Roth, so. It wasn't preachy and it was cut-throat in the best possible way - Juno's comment about people telling us to get over it because "we're not in the war" was so, so true. 

And the last time I met Juno, I was very different. I was (outwardly, anyway) healthy and believed I was straight, in a grammar school and no, no I wasn't happy but I was dealing. This time, I'm suffering with several illnesses. I know I'm asexual. I go to a comprehensive school where I get far more support. And interestingly, I hope she won't mind me saying, this was also before Juno came out, too - so I feel like we essentially met each other for the first time.. just again.

It's so important that we have these conversations, even if it's in a room of already quite aware people, because at least then we can go on and talk about it to others. And so, thank you, Juno, Nicola (and indeed the teens who organised the event!). Thank you for having that hour and a half of safe space, and letting me ramble my thoughts to you after; thank you for making me want to read again after a while of feeling down about it. Thank you.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

A High-Five to Mental Health Meds, Therapy and Inpatient Care

In the past few weeks I've seen several documentaries go past about anti-depressants and "how damaging they are" and "natural remedies" and such. I want to talk a little bit about this; because each time a new hashtag for one of these documentaries go past I have to see desperate tweets from so many people saying "please don't go cold turkey without your doctor" and "don't rule out anti-depressants!!".

So here's the deal - I was in a mental health unit for 3 months last winter. The majority of patients on the ward were placed on some form of medication, whether that be simply melatonin for sleep, a small dose SSRI, or even something more heavy duty if needed. Each patient was put on something completely tailored to them and monitored. We were all warned about side effects, we all KNEW what we were putting in our bodies.

In inpatient care, and I think some people have it outpatient too (though I don't), we also had something that's called PRN. This stands for "pro re nata" in Latin, and is essentially a very small dose of something to calm the system if needed. For most, this was promethezine, an anti-histamine with calming properties. I'm not being over-dramatic when I say that this essentially saved lives, because even on an extremely safe ward, bad incidents happened.

Personally, I was put on a medication that isn't actually an official anti-anxiety med, because I reacted badly to one; instead I was placed on a mood stabiliser which does the same job. Because of my previous reaction to a med, I was very closely monitored and the dose was put up even slower than normal. I got to the right dose to keep my anxiety down, and then we fiddled with the doses at morning/night because I was getting drowsy. I am still on this medication now, because it keeps me at a functioning point. However, we are beginning to look at a decrease now that I am functioning better - a slow one, because the reason you shouldn't go cold turkey on these meds is because the brain needs to get used to it. Withdrawal will not kill you.

I take these medications alongside two types of therapy. I do not take these medications as a simple way out of trying to deal with my conditions. Yes, I completely understand the stance that therapies and other methods should be tried before jumping straight to medications and I personally agree with that. If you are offered therapy for free or can afford it? PLEASE take it. I was SO cynical before my first CAMHS appointment due to some horror stories. My CAMHS psychologist is the best therapist I've had (and I've had quite a few!).

It is also worth referring back to the inpatient care at this point. They didn't just put us on meds and leave us to it, we had a very intense therapy schedule to try and get us back up to a functioning point. Individually, we were offered family and occupational therapy, psychology and 1-2-1s with staff. As a group, we had art therapy, drama therapy, Dialectal Behavioural Therapy, relaxation and psychology group.

But for a lot of us, our meds were what allowed us to take part in those and take them on board. It is all well and good having therapies, but if your brain isn't in a place where it can use them effectively, it is all pointless.

I colour when I am anxious. I use mediation apps for sleeping and SOS points. I have weekly therapy. I have systems in place at school. But my meds make my mind clearer. I was never forced to take them. I was with my doctors every step of the way. They were never the first resort, they were put in place several years after I started having therapy. 

I urge you: if you are suffering, please please please don't be put off mental-health medications simply because of these documentaries or the stigmas around them. They may not be right for you, but they could be, even if just for a short period of time (disclaimer, short being 6 months, not 2 weeks) so you can have a therapy and use it efficiently.  These meds aren't dangerous, okay? One may work better for you than another, like me with my reaction, but there is more than one type. 

Like everything, it is all a balance. For me personally, I don't think meds or therapy would have worked on their own. We found a balance, and so can you.

Just please, don't discount any of the options, whether that be being cynical about therapy or scared by meds. Go and talk to your doctor - they know best, not some documentary. 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

harry potter and the cursed child

Warnings!! Spoilers; I haven't seen the play this is based on the script; rambling.

Before I start can I ask you to sign this petition to help disabled people feel the magic 

I honestly don't know how to express my feelings on this, because I feel so underwhelmed. And no, not because it's a script instead of a book, that drama is annoying me because we knew that. Imagine me rolling my eyes.

Now, I haven't seen the play, and it'll be short of a miracle if I ever do, so obviously I wanted to read the script. I actually didn't preorder it months ago like most people, just because I wanted to see the different prices; but then I saw I could get it on Amazon Prime the day after it came out, so I just did it (I know, I know, Amazon, but it's Harry Potter! It's different!).

And so I read half of it on Monday the 1st, and half on the 2nd. If I'm completely honest with you, I almost struggled. I don't think it was because it was a script, because I actually like reading scripts. I just didn't get invested in the plot, and it weren't for Scorpius (my love) I think I would've struggled more.

I hated how much of a joke Ron was. All through the original seven he was built up as a character beautifully, scene by scene, becoming such an amazing character. What happened? I was also really disappointed by this concept that Harry messed up because he had no father figure. Umm, Sirius, Lupin, Dumbledore?

The plot felt so jumpy and flawed. I struggled to keep up as to where we were, and I'm sure as a plot it works better on stages, which is why this whole review is pretty irrelevant and flawed in itself, but as a read it didn't work for me.

I was definitely disappointed with the lack of Rose Granger-Weasley. Anyone who knows me really well knows I'm a big Scorose shipper, and I've always wanted to see her flourish as a character, and I just didn't get that. I think I also just generally wanted this one to be a big more about the Hogwarts experience, I wanted to see who were the teachers now and how it'd changed. But hey, for a play, you can't really have such a chilled plot.

But with all of that, I wasn't unhappy with it. I know that it's just the script for something that is bought to life on a stage, and so I can't really complain - but the things with Ron and Rose etc aren't because it's a script, so I'm upset about those.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

"wishes for them" // charli's poetry #1

tw: discussion of anxiety and panic attacks

"wishes for them"

my brother shouldn't have to 
see me have panic attacks daily
and along with my sister,
believe he has caused them. 

they shouldn't have to stop -
playing a game
loving their life 
being happy
to prevent my anxiety from 
rising, rising to the point of
no return

quietness should not be the 
currency of our household; 
stop for charli and 
you can have whatever 
(food, time, love)
in a minute. 

crying; from me 
but also from her -
the little girl who has
seen me panic at a
dining table, in the garden, 
in the car. 

they have been through more
than they deserve; for ages
ten, five and two. i am 
only a percentage of that. 

i have been in therapy for six years; 
i do not want
them to go the same way. 
pain, and tears, and medication? 
no, i want to see them 
smile and flourish and laugh
and love. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

girl gang // "i'm not like other girls"

When I was about eight to about eleven, I was one of those girls who said "I wasn't like other girls". And, yes, as a statement, this probably wasn't untrue. But now I'm older and know about the connotations these sort of statements make, I want to revisit this and look into why it's damaging.

I was one of those girls who wasn't into clothes, or makeup, or boys. I was vaguely "tomboy"-ish, which to be honest, is an awful term in itself. I loved my academics and was in the Scouts, and that was fine. In honesty, I was awkward when people asked me about myself, saying that yes, I wasn't like most girls, but I thought that was okay. In a weird way, I probably used it to validate myself, but not in the satisfying way some people use it.

I hate this idea that a girl who wears makeup is below a girl who doesn't, or a girl who goes out with lots of guys, or a girl who spends her money on clothes not books. Wear makeup for you, if it makes you feel more confident about leaving the house. What you do with boys, or girls for that matter, is your business. I buy as many band tshirts as I do books... just because I don't have bags and bags from Primark doesn't make me better than you. Of course, this all links to slut-shaming and that culture.

But there is the vice versa, occasionally - you're not better than me because of your shaped eyebrows or my bare face. 

But this is something feminism has been saying for ages, really. "You do you" and similar quotes as such have been saying this for so long. But for many, it really just doesn't sink in. When you're younger and more naive, there is either a pride or an awkwardness surrounding this phrase. Maybe both.

Maybe I'm rambling, maybe I'm talking nonsense - but recently, it's been weird hearing it come out of younger girls' mouths and it just sounding slightly wrong. I said it the other day, discussing my past, and it felt metallic and ugly.

Being a girl shouldn't have to be this competition, and that's how this phrase comes across, even without that being the intent. Everyone should love who they are and who everyone is. And that's why I want to be proud of the girls that wear pink shirts, and the ones that wear Spiderman tshirts. The girls who start wearing makeup, the ones that don't touch it. The ones that dream about prom, and the ones that will only go out of necessity.

Consider it - always be proud of your daughters, younger sisters - no matter what choices they make. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

my month: may '16 // the rocky one

May has been a very odd month for me; to sum it up in 5 words would be coursework, appointments, pains, progress and music. It definitely hasn't been a boring one, for sure.

This month was the start of my time being a Young Leader for the Cub Scouts of my group.  I had to do my safeguarding training before I could start, and since then I've helped with a lego night, been on a 2-day camp (including 7 mile hike) and recapped first aid with them! It's really fun, offering loads of opportunities and helping me work on my anxiety, so it's honestly brilliant.

Unfortunately, May has also been an increase in my joint pains and anxiety. My pains are becoming all-body and worse than ever. I was put on painkillers, taken off some of them, hoped for the best... I'm really hoping my test results come back soon because everything from walking up a flight of stairs to writing a paragraph is becoming harder and harder.

I've spent a lot of time in various waiting rooms and appointments this month, which I'm hoping actually come to something soon.

School wise, I've been doing okay away from the anxiety! I've had some grades back and considering that I still haven't caught up, I've been doing really well. I had my first French speaking and although it didn't go the best and I'll be redoing it sometime, for how anxious I was I think it went well. I'm also now part-way through coursework for all my sciences and history.

My friend and I went to see Pentatonix on the 25th, which was fabulous; even better than last year! I also fell in love with their support act Us The Duo, who I haven't stopped listening to since we saw them.

New albums by Against the Current (In Our Bones) and Pierce the Veil (Misadventures) also came out this month! They are both amazing and I'm honestly in love. I've been spoiled for choice with music this month, and because I use it as a coping mechanism as well, it's been great.

So overall, May can really only be described as rocky - so many things have happened and yet it seemed to go very slowly; but that's okay. Bring on June!

Saturday, 4 June 2016

being "too young" for prescription meds

(possible tw for anxiety/panic, medications)

A while ago, my spoonie friend Caitlin wrote a post defending being on prescription painkillers. It really got me thinking about how people react to the fact that I take both prescription painkillers and also take anti-anxiety medications, which many people don't agree with in people as young as me.

I suffer from currently undiagnosed chronic pains pretty much all over my body but particularly in my arms/wrists and my legs; I'm known to have hypermobile and tight joints. I've been through nearly every department in the Children's Hospital you can think of , I used to have physiotherapy, I've had orthotic treatment since I was 10. I've had MRIs, I've had blood tests, I've had nerve conduction studies.

The pain has become worse more recently; it used to just be after a lot of activity, then it increased to after very little activity... now it's a constant. I wake up in pain. I go through my school day in pain. I go to bed in pain. And no, it's not completely dehabilitating just yet; but I can't do half as much as I used to.

So a month or so ago, I was placed on paracetamol 4x a day, as well as another heavy-duty painkiller twice daily. I was taken off the other due to side effects of anxiety (damn it), not that it was doing much, and now, the paracetamol barely touches it.

But regardless of what it was doing, the idea of a fifteen year old needing so much pain medication is so out of the way for some people. As I now take a dose in the school day, I sometimes have to deal with odd looks from the receptionists whom get it for me. My nan finds it a bit odd, even though she and my stepdad also take them (I like to think that as a family, we basically rattle). Surely I can't be in that much pain at this age?

Moving on to the anti-anxiety meds: from July to October last year I was on beta-blockers for my anxiety (which turned out to be a bad idea according to my consultant in the unit). If I forgot them, my heart would beat louder in my ears, my panic attacks would increase; some days, you could barely get me out of bed. I'm now on an anti-anxiety med, a small dose in the morning and a larger at night due to side effects.

There are so many people, including doctors, who hate putting teenagers on anti-anxiety meds, or antidepressants. And I can see why, completely. Taking them away again can be difficult, and yes, I'd agree that therapy should be the first call.

But the main reason I am on them is to aid my therapy, to keep me at a lower level of anxiety meaning I can cope with everyday life and in turn, have a better experience in my therapy; which is currently going amazingly.

I understand people's resistance to young people being on any type of regular medication that isn't a course of antibiotics or aiding a break or sprain. No, they aren't the healthiest for me, and yes, we have to be careful, and yes, they aren't doing much and we'll have to experiment some more.

But they get me through my day, they make my life that bit easier, they get me to school and Cubs and Explorers. Are you really going to be saying I was "too young" for all these meds if I'm taken off them all and suddenly have a huge crisis once more, and barely make it out of bed? 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

selfie culture and body image

(tw for body image, weight, shaming etc)

I was about eight when I became aware of my body image. My self esteem was already low, but it was at this point when I started to believe that I was ugly and fat. I still feel that way now, but with key differences; and looking back, it makes me so so sad to think that I was so young when these feelings started.

I was eight, I should've been playing and laughing and smiling instead of pinching at my thighs and wanting to change every element of myself.

At twelve, I moved into secondary school. I frowned at myself in mirrors and poked at my spots, I refused to be in pictures. There are holidays and scout camps and outings with my friends that weren't captured by photos because I simply hated being in front of the camera. I took my refuge behind it, taking photos at relatives' weddings as an excuse for not being in them.

It was around this point, maybe the next year, when "selfie culture" began. People at school would take them every single morning for snapchat, for instagram. They could be of ugly poses to send your bestie, or airbrushed and filtered with the perfect pout for your instagram, complete with the hundreds of likes and comments.

I hated it. I didn't have an account on either thing. I thought it was self-indulgent and ridiculous that all people did was take pictures of themselves, or in groups.

A while later, one christmas, I got an instagram account. But all I would post were quotes, pictures of nature and etc. I followed all my friends but I wouldn't comment on selfies like everyone else, heart emojis and "stunning", none of that.

I posted my first selfie in early year 9. I got a little flood of comments telling me that I was pretty and the like, and whilst I didn't fully believe them, it made me happy. I didn't post them often, but I did occasionally.

I have a lot of doubt over selfies that I post. I hate the idea of people laughing at me or thinking I look ugly or stupid. But these days? I see why people post them, I feel what they feel when people tell me I'm beautiful.

People from other generations are negative about selfie culture because of similar reasons to what I was stuck in for a long time. But I don't like that. Because while my self esteem is still chronically low, and I'm having therapeutic help with it; posting a picture of myself occasionally, taking pictures in bathroom mirrors with my friends, striking a little pose on my snapchat every once in a while? Yes, perhaps it's self indulgent - but it's helping me with my journey to self-love, just that little bit.

Monday, 16 May 2016

on being "the asexual one" / my coming out story

On "coming out day" in 2015, I came out on instagram as demisexual. Having only moved school a few months before, I was slightly wary, but it was something I wanted to do.

The catch? I thought being demisexual and explaining that was safer than coming out as completely asexual (or asexual demiromantic, in my case)

A lot of people don't really get asexuality. Quite a few didn't get demisexual, either, saying that everyone has to know a person to date them, whereas demisexuality refers to needing an emotional bond before you even feel anything.

But asexuality? As both it's own sexuality and a spectrum of such, so many don't understand it. Do they or don't they have sex even if they don't feel attraction? What about romantic attraction? And, of course, who DOESN'T feel ANY sexual attraction? The answers to the first two are down to each asexual person, which should be easy for people to understand, but it just isn't.

Nowadays, I'm openly asexual and demiromantic. My parents, friends, therapist, some teachers... they all know. I didn't do another coming out post or anything, I just started referring to myself as asexual. No-one really minds; they just know that it's not often I like someone and when I grow up, I probably won't have kids naturally (although I've been saying since I was 8 that I'll be adopting, so it's not much of a shock).

While no-one minds, as I say, sometimes being asexual and such can be a bit lonely, for me in terms of discussions rather than relationships. I am left out of discussions about actors being "fit" and such; my friends don't need to hound me over whether or not I like someone. One of my male friends often comes to me for advice about his girlfriend, and while I actually normally have some pretty sound advice, if I do say so myself, it makes me feel that bit stranger.

At my old school, there were tons of LGBT+ people, and so, it wasn't a very niche place to be in. At my new? Well, a couple of people I know are bisexual, and then there's me. The people who don't know my sexuality get confused as to why I don't date. One of the first questions I got asked when I moved there was "so who do you think is cute?"

And whilst I love being me, and I will never hate my sexuality, it hurts to feel that little bit broken, that little bit robotic. It took me over half a year to come to terms with it, and I'll never lose that feeling, but very occassionally? I just want a sense of normality.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

nice to meet you!

Hi! My name is Charli, and you may know me from a lil blog called To Another World.

I've been running To Another World for almost 3 years, but it's been through some rough ol' times and because of all the bad times attached to it, after some long consideration, that it's time for a nice clean break.

TAW was a book blog but now I'm in my GCSE years, do a bunch of extracurriculars and have 4 months worth of schoolwork to catch up on (more on that later), I barely have time to read, so the content was becoming less and less frequent.

Instead, I want to write about my life, childhood, my mental and physical illnesses, about sexuality and feminism. I want to write about studying and Lush products, and sometimes books, and post poetry.

Also, in December 2015-February 2016, I spent time in an adolescent (CAMHS) mental health ward. I came out with memories and goals and I want to share my experience with others.

And so, welcome to my new little corner of the internet. It's not the prettiest, but it's mine, and that's what I've wanted for a little while now.

Charli x