Sea, Trains and Ridiculous Chocolate: July's Photo An Hour

Check me out: a Photo An Hour post up within a week of the actual day! I know, I know, I'm incredible. Jane and Louisa's Photo An Hour day for this month was a pretty eventful one for me (well, if you like trains, which I definitely do). 

9am: Surprisingly, I wore blue and polka dots. Very on-brand.

10am: Errands aren't so painful when the sun is shining.

11am: On the tram to Croydon (to get on the train to Brighton). No 12pm photo because I was on super-busy train and I didn't want to look creepy. Soz.

1pm: Exploring the Lanes. Sadly the sun had gone in, but happily there were many, many shops to explore. I definitely want to come back for some Christmas shopping (although I am busy every weekend in November so that might be an ambitious plan!)

2pm: Burgers (vegetarian, obvs) and cocktails were the order of the day. I went for this alcoholic slush puppy thang and it was as awesome as it looks (very awesome).

3pm: Back to the Lanes and we stopped to stare at the window display in Choccywoccydoodah. How is this made of chocolate?! Incredible.

4pm: My friend's sandals were rubbing her feet so we stopped for cake (any excuse!). And the sun actually started to reappear....

5pm: Brighton beach! 6pm was spent reluctantly heading back to the station ready for my next train journey....

7pm: Trainlife. This time, heading for Bournemouth to meet Pete. I had snacks and Harry Potter so it was two hours well-spent.


8pm: Still on the train, playing with Boomerang this time.

9pm: Bournemouth! Finally! It appears that I was all about the seaside towns beginning with B....

P.S. Got time to stay a bit longer? You might like these posts: February's Photo an Hour: My Transport Themed Hen Do, Eight of My Travel Photos That Instantly Relax Me...

One Normal Weekend, Ten Things That Made Me Happy #thislittlebiglife

In recent times my posts have become pretty sporadic and the upshot of that is that I've stopped documenting the little things. Inspired by Janet's list of 50 things that make her happy and Sarah's This Little Big Life posts, I decided to try and write something that focused on the little, awesome, gloriously inconsequential things. Here's what's made me happy last weekend:

Cold strawberry and lime cider (and comedy Snapchat filters).

Bumping into friends.

Finding an amazing view.

Making and eating the perfect avocado and cheery tomatoes on toasted muffin breakfast. Basic. Don't care.

Waking up before my alarm went off on Sunday and getting to the gym.

Doing my first 15 minute Headspace meditation. It felt really good to do it. I've actually finished the 'take 10' sessions and recently I've found it's really clicked for me. More on that another time.

Having my first Pimms of the summer (even if it was in a can).

Finding a new picnic spot in Crystal Palace Park (even if it did start to rain).

Eating picnic food. I love picnic food.

Hammock time!

Always good to focus on the little things, right? In the spirit of keeping this rare show of positivity going, tell me some of the little things that have made you happy recently (please).

Glitter, Cider, Yoga: My Glastonbury 2016 Highlights

So I finally, finally managed to tick off one of my most important '30 Before 30' goals: going to Glastonbury. Obviously it was fricking brilliant, that's a given. But why, I hear you ask? (Seriously, ask, it's kinda the premise for this whole post). Loads of reasons, but here are the bits I liked the best:

Joining a yoga class in the healing fields, sitting in child's pose and hearing The Beautiful South in the distance. Feeling so relaxed that I genuinely didn't mind that I was missing The Beautiful South.

Getting glitter painted. Waitinuntil Sunday was a silly thing to do.

Dancing to Jarvis Cocker DJ-ing while holding a cider in one hand and a 99 in the other. 

The sun coming out after torrential rain, about five seconds before Jess Glynne walked on stage. One of those perfect festival moments.

Experiencing all the random 'extra' bits that make Glasto awesome: politics, comedy, circus, wandering kazoo bands, giant giraffe puppets, and sitting in a 'county pub', drinking cider, ranting about politics.

Dancing to Fatboy Slim and suddenly 'getting' dance music.

The sheer relief each morning of waking up and realising that the tent was still up, I was still in the tent, and we were both in the same position on the hill/vertical slope of doom.

Genuinely enjoying, no loving, Coldplay. In these difficult times it can be hard to stick your head above the metaphorical parapet and challenge the long-held views of those closest to you, but I'll say it: COLDPLAY WERE FRICKING AWESOME. Might have cried during Yellow. And Fix You. Seriously, it was emotional. The three of us had to hug it out at the end. 

Standard dancing conditions.

Dancing to some amazing guilty pleasures on Friday night. This also involved exposing one of our group's ability to sing along with JT's every word. I also showed off my enviable working knowledge of Girls Aloud and S Club 7 lyrics. No guilt, all pleasure.

Watching Pete trying to drink from a bottle, in a downpour, at 5.30am, while wearing a bin bag with no armholes. I'd reached a mental state where everything was hilarious, literally hilarious, so this could not have been timed better [note: no illegal drugs were involved, just alcohol, sleep deprivation and my own natural instability].

Drinking coconut and lime cider, eating an amazing flatbread thing, listening to samba music and sitting in the sun.

Getting to know Pete's friends better. It was amazing to spend proper time with them and find out lots more about them (some of it I wanted to know, some I didn't). Hopefully they didn't think I was a dick. 

Laughing about Pete's Peruvian water carrier, general stinginess, adopted Lonsdale bag and misheard lyrics. Turns out the main way that I bond with people is by mocking Pete. Sorry Pete. On that note, and this is not the kind of thing I'd normally say but.... Hanging out with Pete for five days was brilliant. We seriously had so much fun. 

There is, of course, one small [first world] problem with all of this: I'm now desperate to go in 2017. Turns out that Glastonbury is huge and there's plenty more left to do. WHO KNEW?*

*Everyone. Everyone knew.

Living with Emotional Instability

So, what exactly am I talking about here? A few years ago I was given the delightful diagnosis 'Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder'. Please don't Google it, it'll make me sound like a terrible person and I'm really not. I actually can maintain relationships and I'm a good employee. My colleagues in mental health are surprised when I tell them. But the 'personality disorder' part is a post for another day. Today is all about the emotional instability (let's face it, every day is all about the emotional instability).

It's hard to quantify what I experience, mostly because I've never been inside anyone else's head. My lows are more extreme than my highs; I've been clinically depressed but have never experienced 'proper' mania. However, I think I do experience more extreme highs and lows on a daily basis than most people do. I regularly feel weighed down, like everything is absolutely fucked, like there is nothing good in the world. I can then go for a run with some of my favourite music and feel on a high, like everything is awesome and it will be forever, and like seriously, every tiny thing is brilliant and has anyone ever appreciated a cup of tea as much as I have right now?! (I experience The Hum all the time). All this can happen within an hour. Or less. When things are bad I have experienced (and this is my term, not a clinical one) really rapid cycling through emotions. As in, rage, hysteria, crying, panic over and over again.

So what's it actually like? Well, it's terrible and it's brilliant. It's terrible to feel crushed, and like you have to drag yourself through the day. It's terrible to feel like everything is over and there is just no point in carrying on. But it can be brilliant. It's brilliant to appreciate every little thing. I wrote a list the other day (as you do) of things that I absolutely love: tea, patterns, bright colours, dancing, the Top Tips page in Chat magazine, most food, gigs, books, The Internet, my duvet.... Can you imagine how wonderful it is to extract pure joy from these things on a daily basis? I'm very lucky that I can experience that without experiencing self-destructive mania.

But it's exhausting. It's exhausting feeling things so extremely. These states tend to feel permanent, so I feel like I'm going to be depressed forever, or happy forever, or angry forever, or anxious forever. Things that seem fairly tiny can have a big emotional impact on me. Sometimes this is good ('Ooh, a pattern, I'm so happy!') but sometimes this can be dangerous; feeling under too much pressure can make me feel totally inadequate, which in turn makes me feel everything's fucked, which can then make me lose all hope. I've also resorted to some less-than-ideal tactics for emotional regulation.

I don't really see any point in asking, 'Would I get rid of it if I could?' I've got it, so I guess the real question is, 'How do I live with it?' Well, there are things that help: appreciating the highs; trying to be self-aware enough to know that these states will pass; trying to address my needs in helpful/safe ways; looking after myself physically and emotionally. For me, mood stabilizers never really seemed to make much difference, but I know that they've worked for other people. I want to give mindfulness a proper go, it would be good to practise 'sitting with' these emotional states, without being scared by them.

One of the most exhausting things is pretending to be 'normal', or pretending to be calmer than I really feel. Sometimes this has to be done. But sometimes I think I take it too far, and I pretend everything's fine when actually it's really not. Apart from Pete, everyone sees an edited version to some extent. The problem with not sharing is that you can only keep things to yourself for a certain amount of time. When things become really extreme, they kind of share themselves. So maybe it would be better if I shared when things weren't so extreme. Maybe talking to people would be a massive thing I could do to help myself, and help everyone else help me. Maybe this blog post is a good first step. Maybe.

So. Hi, I'm Liz and I experience extreme emotions. It's awful. And amazing. At least I'm rarely bored. How's things with you?

P.S, Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Link me to any good posts you find!

30 Before 30: Time's Up! #BEDM

It happened. I turned 30. When I first blogged about the list back in January 2012 turning 30 seemed like a long way off. The list seemed pretty achievable, so how did I run out of time?! In fairness, a lot has changed since then. I've gotten divorced, engaged and married (again), moved house four times, changed jobs and...well...lots of stuff, but if I tell you everything I've done in the first paragraph it'll kind ruin the post. Apologies to those of you who have read all my other 30 Before 30 posts, some of this won't be news to you! Without further ado, I present to you the best bits, the underwhelming bits, the stuff I half-assed and the one thing I wimped out of...

The Best Bits

Go on a family holiday. I actually managed this twice, and it must have gone well because we're all going back to the Isles of Scilly this summer. When I wrote my 30 Before 30 it had been years since I'd gone away with my parents, and I loved reconnecting with them on holiday (also, they like cake just as much as I do, so... lots of holiday cake).

Travel outside of Europe. I still can't believe this actually happened! Pete and I went to Japan last year and it was incredible.

Go back to Norway for a visit. I managed to make it back to Steinkjer in 2014 and it was awesome catching up with everyone properly.

Learn to drive. OMIGOD I ACTUALLY LEANRED TO DRIVE. Granted, this was nearly two years ago and I'm still a very nervous driver, but I've got that pink license and ain't no one taking it away from me.

Volunteer. I actually did a few different voluntary things, but the final one ended up leading to an actual, real, new job which I bloody love.

Get a tattoo. Got one, liked it so got another. And another. It's a shame that two of them are on my back really, because I don't get to enjoy them!

Go to at least 25 gigs. I don't know how many I actually managed but it was more than 25! This photo was Arcade Fire at Earls Court and it was amazing. Actually amazing. I'm very glad I rediscovered gig-going!

Join a book group, and read 100 new books. Again, I've lost count here but it was waaaaay more than 100! Another old passion rediscovered.

Get my hair professionally coloured. Went blue. Might as well go the whole hog, eh?

Attend the 10th anniversary of Fake Christmas. We've now had 12 Fake Christmasses, which makes me feel horribly old, but I don't care because Fake Christimas is awesome.

Seriously consider vegetarianism. I considered it. I tried it. I'm now properly pescatarian. Just don't mention the crispy beef incident.

Do something new every week. Although I've been pretty flaky recently at this one, making an effort to do new things has been really rewarding, and something I definitely want to pick up again. Starting NOW. Well, maybe in a couple of hours.

Continue to blog. It hasn't always been consistent, but I'm still here. In fact, this blog turned seven last week. SEVEN?!

The Underwhelming Bits

Learn to walk in heels. I sort of did. As long as they're boots or chunky, with a strap. It's fine but it didn't change my life.

Go for a whole week without watching TV. I did it. Conclusion? I really like TV. 

Take a course in psychology or counselling. Well, this part started well, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to try and do a part time Psychology MSc. Which led to a breakdown. Ironic.

Sample every type of cuisine in Cardiff's Red Hot World Buffet. Achieved. I felt very full.

Get a sewing machine. Got one. Started loads of things, finished pretty much nothing. Sewing machine has spent the last two years in the garage.

Enter my writing into a competition. Did this. It was ok but didn't really inspire me to write more, which is what I was hoping would happen.

Submit a PostSecret. I didn't actually do this. When I wrote the list I really loved Post Secret, but I've gotten quite bored of it in recent years.

The Stuff I Half-Assed

Go to a blogger meet up. Well, I did do this properly in that I went to one and enjoyed it, but I feel like I really should  have made the effort to do more!

Listen to a new album every month. I did this a bit. But probably not every month - Spotify has turned me into a playlist freak.

Submit three pieces of writing for publication. Now, I did get an article published in the SEN Experience (niche) but my other two attempts remain...unattempted.

Read ALL the Babysitters' Club books. As much as I love them (and I do) the time, effort and money involved in actually achieving this were waaaaaaaay beyond me!

The stuff I'll be doing this year (I hope):

Go to Glastonbury.
Go to Scotland.
Complete my therapy.
Jump out of a plane. With a parachute (obviously).

The one I wimped out of:

Perform on stage. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.... I did kareoke, I did my shark song in front of about 100 people and I gave a speech at my wedding. So that's something. Right?

So. It's done. Will there be a 40 Before 40? Probably not. I think I'd have done a lot of the good stuff anyway, and setting arbitrary targets does start to feel a bit pointless after a while! However, I feel like the travel-type ones have been really enjoyable so next I'm thinking maybe a London Bucket List..? Except it'll be called something else because I hate the phrase 'bucket list'.

Wow, that was a crazy long post. Well done if you made it this far. Have a sticker. Also, if you're doing #BEDM, say hi and send me your links!

April's Photo an Hour: Bluebells, Cider and the First Ice Cream of the Year #BEDM

Well, I don't think I'm going to win any prizes for actually completing Blog Every Day in May, am I?! How is is already 8th May..? Still, better late (and completely off topic) that never, right?

Two weeks ago was a Photo an Hour day, ably organised by Louisa and Jane. My Saturday actually turned out to be pretty photogenic (in my opinion, obviously you're free to disagree - I'm nice like that).

12.30pm: Driving to the South Downs.
OK, so it took me a while to remember that it was a Photo An Hour day.

1.30pm: Enjoying the fresh air and a l l  t h e  s p a c e.

This wasn't on the hour, but it was far too brilliantly gruesome to leave un-photographed.

2.30pm: Sheeps!

Next, onto my favourite bit of the walk, and the reason why we decided to come back after doing it last year... The bluebells!

3.30pm: It's not a country walk unless it finishes at a pub. 
Sadly they'd stopped serving food, so we were left with only one option...

4.30pm: Fish and chips!
Detour to Eastbourne = proper fish and chips. Followed by...

The first ice cream of the year! Seriously, it was a gooooood food day.

5.30pm: Couldn't look less fun if it tried.

6.30pm: This is the best bit of motorway ever. Seriously, it's always quiet.

7.30pm: Marvelling at the fact that it was still light.

8.30pm: Bubbles are for life, not just for honeymoons.

9.30pm: Everything is awesome!

So, yeah, busy day! I love it when Photo An Hour actually falls on a busy day; I feel like I'm letting the side down a bit when I spent all day on the sofa hungover.

If you're doing Blog Every Day in May, or you joined in with Photo An Hour, please send me your links!