well-being

Count Your Blessings — Week #3

I started a very simple exercise to help me fight depression. I’ve decided to count my blessings every day of the week, so that I can actually visualise that there’s good in my life. I need to confront my mental illness with facts, so that when it tries to make me believe I’m alone or pathetic or ugly, I can prove it wrong with substantial evidence. I may have really bad days, and sometimes it may seem impossible to say anything positive about a day, but I’m going to make it my mission to find something even if it’s just the tiniest blessing.

So, let’s see how this past week went, shall we?

Monday 14th of January: I started the week editing a video for a friend who’s doing a new series on her YouTube channel (I’ll share when it comes out). It made me realise how much I’d missed it. I miss YouTube, I miss creating, I miss producing. I want to make videos again, and I kinda know what direction I want my channel to take… I guess I just have to take the plunge now. Anyway, it felt good to focus on video editing for a bit — that was a nice change of pace from the travel guide I’ve been fact-checking. The evening part of the day was my favourite though. I went and bought ingredients to make veggie gratins. I’ve been trying to start cooking (sort of) because I’d love to have a better relationship with food. Building up my cooking skills (they’re pretty nonexistent so far) might help me have more control over my eating disorder. I made a creamy and delicious mushroom risotto over the Christmas holidays, and, surprisingly enough, my veggie gratins were quite tasty as well. Of course, I failed a couple of things in between — even after a few attempts, I keep burning up my onions and bell peppers, but I’m not giving up. As some people told me, it would have been hard to fail the gratins as I just had to slice the veggies and the cheese, but I’ll give myself a pat on the back nonetheless. One of my flatmates tried the gratins and she seemed to like it too, so I was really pleased. And we all had a lovely evening together, chatting and laughing.

Tuesday 15th of January: My friend Filipa arrived in the late afternoon and my day brightened as soon as she showed up. We went to grab some afternoon snack at the café and we both finished our work day together. She introduced me to the app Too Good To Go, which was created to reduce food waste. There’s a selection of restaurants you can buy leftover food from at bargain price. The only downside is that you don’t know what you’ll get before you pick up your food at the restaurant. It isn’t super practical for people with dietary requirements and allergies but from what I’ve heard, restaurants are willing to refund you if there’s nothing you like/can eat. Filipa and I found a place to buy dessert from. I’d never had a donut from Dum Dum Donutterie before, but I’d heard a lot about it. Zoe Sugg always raves about them! So, I ordered a ‘magic bag’ of donuts for £3. We headed to the shop to retrieve the sugary treats, located at Euston Station. As I said, I didn’t get to choose the flavours but I was given a Blueberry Creme donut (originally £2.95), a Dark Chocolate Berry cronut (originally £3.95) and a Perfect Jam beignet (£2.95). As you can see, I got a £6 discount on the food, which is quite significant. Filipa then suggested Nando’s for dinner and I had actually never been. Ever. They advertise themselves as a chicken restaurant so, as a vegetarian, I never bothered taking a look at their menus. Turns out, they have vegetarian options and it was actually pretty tasty (got myself a Beanie wrap with coleslaw, if you’re a vegetarian too and you fancy giving it a try!). We had a lovely catch-up, as always. When we got back to my place, we took photos of the donuts and had a bit of a tasting session. I have to say, it was weird. Not bad weird, but unusual texture and unusual flavour weird. I wasn’t a huge fan but there are still a couple of flavours I want to try from there (the salted caramel cronut does look incredible). Too Good To Go (which is also available in France and other countries) is a perfect way to try out new food places without spending too much money. To be completely honest, I would have been rather disappointed to pay full price for the Perfect Jam donut since there was… well, no jam. It’s literally a lie. You can see a dot of jam on the outside, but there’s none inside. How rude!

Wednesday 16th of January: look, I know I said I’d make it my mission to find a blessing for each day but this one really was tricky. It was a typical work day, except for Filipa’s presence. Don’t get me wrong, it was a blessing to have her with me but I just wasn’t feeling great that day. It was pouring down with rain and I didn’t dare brave the weather, which meant staying inside all day. I didn’t even go out for my usual coffee break. However, it’s not what really upset me. I learnt, at one point in the afternoon, that a friend of mine had suddenly lost her husband a few days before. I was so shocked — he was young, far too young, and he was leaving two kids behind. I felt such a terrible sense of injustice that Death had once again taken the life of someone who had still so much to give and experience. It took me back to that morning, a year and a half ago, when my dad tried to wake my mum up. In vain. I do think about her every day, but I never really let myself feel sad about losing her. I don’t let myself feel at all. That day though, I just couldn’t avoid it. I miss her so much, and I just can’t imagine how the kids of this man must be feeling right now. I know people die every day, I’m aware that lots of lives are turned upside down every day, but it suddenly feels a lot more real and concrete when it happens to someone close to you. So, that night, I felt completely helpless. I cried and cried and cried some more. I simply couldn’t stop. And so, I turned to Instagram. Somehow, I needed to share. I wanted to tell people to tell their family and friends that they loved them, because you never know what’s going to happen. The support I got that night really helped soothe the pain. Having you guys in my life, having such an amazing community is the most wonderful blessing. I am so incredibly grateful for your presence, for your comments and messages.

Thursday 17th of January: I woke up with a strong sense of loss, which soon disappeared thanks to Filipa. Also, the sun was out and I really saw it as a sign that the day was going to be better than the one before. At one point, we took a break and watched Mr Squirrel (a squirrel that comes and eats the bird’s seeds on our balcony) for a good 30 min. It was lovely. Later, we went out on a stroll before she had to take the train back to Paris. I got my favourite pastry of all time — a cinnamon social from Ole & Steen —, a milk frother to make my own cappucinos (spoiler alert: I suck) and a couple of beautiful cards from Paperchase (shocker).

Friday 18th of January: I actually can’t remember much of Friday. I was having another down day, but I did go work at the café in the morning to make myself feel better. I also started Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and, so far, I’m having a blast with it. I ended going to bed at 10:30pm, which wasn’t a bad thing.

Saturday 19th of January: I woke up early, feeling much more motivated than the previous couple of days. I got myself out of bed whilst everyone was still sound asleep. I had a hot shower, which felt amazing. I tried making myself a cappucino with my new milk frother. The milk lathered, like soap, but it wasn’t creamy at all — I’ll work on that. I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for a while, and then started watching the adaptation of the Prisoner of Azkaban whilst getting ready to go see The 1975 with my roommate Gabi. I wasn’t feeling so good about myself — 80% of my wardrobe doesn’t fit anymore because I’ve put on so much weight in the past couple of years. And, as I was on my period, I was even more bloated. I felt like Aunt Marge when Harry got her blown-up. But I told the voice in my head to shut the hell up and, plot twist, it did. The concert was absolutely awesome and inspiring. I danced, sweated, cried and felt the music as if it was streaming from my soul. Matthew Healy and his band are bloody brilliant! I would definitely recommend you see them live if you ever have the chance. I started having period pain at the very start of the show (typical!) but, somehow, it gave the concert even more power. I was in a kind of trance, high on the music and high on pain.

Sunday 20th of January: I woke up with more period pain, but didn’t let it defeat me. London was sunny again, I was still feeling very grateful about the night before and I had Harry Potter to read. I really couldn’t complain. At one point though, I remembered seeing something rather shocking shortly before leaving for the concert. The brand Avon released a campaign that started with ‘every body is beautiful’ followed by ‘dimples look cute on your face (not on your thighs)’, and I just couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so outrageous and appalling, such a nasty manipulation of women’s insecurities, that I was mad. I was no longer disgusted with my body for having said dimples on my thighs. I was revolted. That just got to show how most beauty brands are toxic — all they care about is money, not the customers. Empowered women empower women, well… I guess women who run beauty brands don’t. I think I finally realised that all the ‘flaws and imperfections’ bullshit is, in fact, just that: bullshit. So, I went to Instagram again to post a photo of my thigh dimples and my very-bloated period tummy. It felt so liberating. It’s not so much that I’m proud I finally stopped being afraid of showing my body even though I’m ashamed of it, it’s that I stopped being ashamed of it altogether. The response I got was incredible. Again, the support I receive from you guys means the world to me. I hope you do know that every single message, every single word, every single emoji counts. That really made my day. I felt so thrilled by the adrenaline of having posted that photo that the period pain kind of subsided. I went for a walk in the park next to my flat and stopped to read on a bench for a while. I had the sun in my face, and I could feel the vitamins pouring down on me. I then went to the café and decided it was time to be a bit productive. I started writing a blog post that’ll come out later this week. Then I came home, read some more, started writing this blog post, went out again to buy dinner and watched the beginning of About Time. It’s now 11:30pm and I’m typing up the last words of this third instalment of Count Your Blessings.

If I compare this week’s blessings to last week’s, I think it’s fair to say my mental health improved a little bit. There were a few downs and lots of tears but, overall, I did very well. I was in good company most of the time, I challenged myself on a couple of things (food and body image mostly) and I made sure to go out and enjoy a bit of fresh air — which is something I had not done the previous week. I’ve noticed that it’s one of the most effective weapons against depression (for me, anyway): keeping busy and spending time outside. It’s exhausting, but worth it. I don’t know if it’s something that helps other people who suffer from it, but I’d be very interested to hear about what helps you.

Disclaimer: if you’re reading this and you’re feeling so helpless you can’t find a reason to smile at the moment, please know that it’s OK. It really is, honey. I know it’s fucking hard, and it’s not your fault. For every blessing I listed above, I had to fight monsters & demons & voices & circumstances. I’m not perfect, my life isn’t perfect and you shouldn’t compare yourself to me – the same way I shouldn’t compare myself to all the friends who’ve already been published, bought a house, got engaged, etc. etc. We’re all on individual journeys and we’re all at different stages of our lives. Last year, I was ready to end mine — today, I’m ready to experience new ways to cope, to try and find what works for me. This is only an example of what you could do too perhaps, if it helps. But don’t worry if you feel like nothing brought you joy this week. There’s always next week, or the one after that. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself and remember that you are not alone and that you matter. Always.

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