Alternative version of my mental health week piece.

I think what stands out most for me, in my experience with mental health issues, is how quickly they appeared, seemingly from nowhere: I’d settled in at university, was enjoying my course, had a lovely group of friends, a boyfriend, a good supply of tea – all of the ingredients to be content with life. About half way through my first term, almost overnight, I started to feel what I assumed was homesickness, although I couldn’t quite understand why it would happen so late and having been so happy at Royal Holloway. When it developed over a few weeks into a constant feeling of panic that stopped me from socialising, eating and really from ever leaving my room, I really began to wonder what on earth was wrong with me. I think the fact that I kept asking myself that question is really poignant, purely because it’s something that most people I know who have struggled with mental health problems have asked themselves, but one that to be honest, no one ever should. The fact of the matter is, there is nothing wrong with me, or anyone with experiences similar to mine because such a huge range of similar problems is so common, occurring in one in three people. 

I eventually went to a doctor under strict instruction from my Mum, having basically not eaten or slept for a month but I found it took a long time to get any real or useful help – initially I was just given a box of valium and sent on my way, which of course ended with me rather spaced out wandering off to Egham train station in my pyjamas to spontaneously head home to Cheshire, but at least I found the trains very amusing! I got used to that highly intelligent and well thought out advice ‘ why don’t you just be happy?’, people actually told me I was selfish and attention seeking because I wasn’t acting ‘happy’ … oh ok, I’m terribly sorry, excuse me whilst I go and try harder! I’ll be totally honest here, I never found medication, counselling or anything like that helpful, although I know a lot of people who have found one or both to be a fantastic coping strategy. 

Despite the best attempts of the friends and family who stuck by me as I slowly descended further and further into madness, I just flailed more and more, like a sort of helpless beached whale. Whilst some people tried to help, my older friends expected me to be my usual hyper active happy self and just got fed up at how boring I was. The reaction of most people really made me feel pretty damn worthless on top of everything I was already going through, I ended up convinced that in the state I was in I was of no use to anyone and was basically doomed to spend the rest of my life hidden in my bed with an intense fear of anything sociable.  This of course was a spiral of hopelessness and I ended up convinced I had absolutely nothing left to make my life worthwhile, having lost friends and a long term boyfriend based on the fact they just considered me insane and scary, I reached the lowest point of my life so far when I completely gave up. It’s a bizarre feeling to stop wanting to live, to be fed up of everything and lack any motivation, it’s not dramatic and emotional, just like feeling tired on a whole new scale and ironic considering that humans tend to be programmed with survival instincts. Hence I began to wonder whether I still counted as human or whether I had just become some robot hybrid that is unfazed by anyone and anything. People with less experience assume those feelings are scary and full of deep, dramatic emotion, but really, it’s just an overwhelming numbness. For this reason it marked the end of  my worst period of panic as I had felt permanently terrified for every waking moment and for so long that eventually I’d used up all the fear I was allocated. 

At this rock bottom point, anyone who hadn’t already, ran away as fast as possible, things got horribly messy but when they didn’t go as I’d expected, I think in a way it was the start of a wake up call, anyone who has ever reached that point will understand that from there things have to get better, there’s no where worse for them to go. Seeing my Mum, sisters and those real friends so upset and scared was probably the trigger for the painfully slow rebuild of the confidence and self worth I’d lost. Right there at the bottom, I’d found that to my complete genuine surprise, some people seriously loved me, and two of them had only met me at university the tiny space of time I’d been there. 

But the worst experience for me that is permanently imprinted in my mind, is the people who see me as weak and think decide they can use it against me for their own gain. I am however slightly smug that this may be something that helps me, I can lose every feeling and emotion that I’m meant to feel in order to be socially acceptable as a person, but I will always have a stubborn determination to prove wrong anyone who either says I can’t do anything. 

 

Review of the Pixie’s first 2014 EP.

Although not a full album, ‘EP2’ is the most recent in a series of EPs released by The Pixies, in my opinion one of the best bands of the last century. Well known for their hit song ‘Where is My Mind?’ as well as many others like ‘Debaser’ and ‘Here Comes Your Man’, it’s hard to find someone who is unaware of The Pixies popularity. The new EP was released on January 3rd 2014, one of the first releases of what promises to be a fantastic year for music! It includes songs the popular new track ‘Magdalena’ as well as three others that fans have showed huge excitement over. The Pixies never fail to keep our interest whilst maintaining their vintage sound, they are a real tribute to what is left of the rock and roll era. My passion for their music really revolves around this point, as a music lover born a generation too late I love their quirky retro genre that reminds us of bands like Status Quo and Slade whilst achieving a twist of modernity. A brilliant EP that hopefully acts as a taster for much more from The Pixies this year!

Review of Katy B’s album ‘Little Red’

Kathleen Anne Brien is just aged twenty-four but has made an enormous splash in the music Industry since 2010, in just four years she has risen to huge appreciation with her unique sound! Her music has been described as ‘funky’ with a house/dubstep genre which is particularly interesting for a woman, it’s fantastic to see a female artist venturing into musical types that are predominantly presented by males and her new album is a fantastic example of her success. Titled ‘Little Red’ presumably as a reference to her own firey shade of red hair, Katy’s album has received particular credit for the singles ‘5AM’ and ‘Next Thing’. Fans have suggested this new and vibrant album set’s the precedent for the rise of artists like Disclosure and Rudimental which is a huge comment for a fairly new and emerging artist to receive. Definitely worth a listen if you want something quirky, confident and different!

My two women of 2013.

Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart stands out to all women, not because she’s different but because she’s normal and she’s intensely relatable. Reading her book ‘Is It Just Me?’ just felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders – women fall over in public, fart loudly and unexpectedly, eat cake with wild abandon and are definitely not always thinking about men. She reminds us all that we don’t have to conform to the distorted media image of women and I love that, she’s witty and clever and interesting but always, always real. Her television show and appearance on mostly male panels for comedy shows like ‘Have I got news for you’ continue to remind women that you can be seen in the media without being a false version of yourself, men just simply aren’t more entertaining than women. 

Kate Nash

‘Feminism is not a dirty word. It does not mean you hate men, it does not mean you hate girls that have nice legs and a tan, it means you believe in equality.’ – I’ve always believed in equality, but its taken until this year for me to realise it matters enough to me that I want to actively promote it. That quotation from Kate Nash sums up everything I’ve learnt about myself, feminism and my strong values in the last year and when ‘Girl Talk’ came out this year I was overjoyed. The album is entirely her own work having released it herself, and the bold change in her style inspired me by reflecting my own recent maturation and figuring out how I want people to see me. In the last year she has also founded her own campaign ‘protect a girl’ teaming up with the charity ‘Because I am a girl’ to support education of girls around the world. 

A personal piece for mental health awareness week.

 

I think what stands out most for me, in my experience with mental health issues, is how quickly they appeared, seemingly from nowhere: I’d settled in at university, was enjoying my course, had a lovely group of friends, a boyfriend, a good supply of tea – all of the ingredients to be content with life. But halfway through my first term I learnt the definition of panic attacks, not even just that but a constant sense of panic, until I no longer slept, ate or basically left my room. Becoming a hermit at university is not ideal nor was it an ambition I mentioned on my UCAS application and at this point I really began to wonder ‘what the hell is wrong with me?!’ – the question everyone who’s experienced mental health problems will ask themselves, but never should, because in fact nothing is ‘wrong’ with them at all. I think what’s very important here and I’ve learnt in the past year is that mental health isn’t a case of being ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘in control’, everyone’s mood and feelings fluctuates in an enormous variety of ways for an enormous variety of reasons. It really is okay to not be okay. 

I went on to experience a terrifying and horrible blur of instructions and doctors and counselling and questions, a whole load of questions that I had absolutely no idea how to answer. If I’m totally honest none of it helped in the slightest (although I do know many people who have found one or more of these to be very effective), The first thing that happened without any real communication was that a large box of valium was presented to me. I accepted it with slight confusion and did as I was told, which in fairness was effective in the very, very short term when I waltzed off to the train station in a hazy cloud of contentment wearing just pyjamas and possibly underwear although I can’t even be sure of that. Five hours later I turned up on my Mum’s doorstep at the other end of the country, at which point people really started to realise I wasn’t just ‘nervous’ or ‘homesick’. As things got worse very quickly I was forced to come to terms with dropping out of university as try as I might, I was definitely not coping at all and my panic attacks began to merge into a cocktail of extreme depression and fear for what seemed like no reason. 

Of course at this point the intense feelings of worthlessness and failure emerged, I lost friends who were either scared of me or just plain bored, expecting my usual hyper-active happy go lucky nature. However, in complete contrast I did find that teaching staff and my personal tutor were incredibly helpful and supportive, showing me every option and persuading me that it was alright to take a break and I didn’t need to feel ashamed. Something that it has taken me until now to really believe but I’ve managed to completely change my mindset on mental illness because despite the few friends, boyfriend and so on that I lost through that experience, I stand by the fact that it has brought me closer to other people who are now so important to me and actually inspired new and fantastically supportive relationships. The people that stuck by me through everything I went through were massively instrumental in learning to live with fluctuating mental health, especially considering I never saw myself returning to university in a million years but knowing I could feel safe here gave me that courage. Of course there are also the few people that see me as weak, and attempt to use the issues I experience to their own advantage, but the changes I’ve been through and having come out the other side of what I hope was the worst year of my life, I’ve found a strong determination to prove wrong anyone that suggests I can’t do something. 

The impact of Beyonce’s surprise album.

‘I really, really wanted to surprise people, and for them really just to hear the art and it not be about the hype and the promotion’ – standing out from the crowd as always, ‘Queen B’ recently reclaimed our ears and our iTunes libraries with an unexpected new album. The self-titled ‘visual project’ came at us without promotion, advertising or even a leaked hint, on the thirteenth of December at midnight the album was released on iTunes and the entire internet erupted with the mind blown tweets, Facebook statuses and blog posts of incredulous fans. It became the highest first-week sales of Beyoncé’s solo career, and the best-selling debut week for a female artist in 2013; six days after release it had sold one million copies worldwide, with iTunes claiming it outsold any album they had ever stocked before. 

 

There are very few artists today who could get away with this kind of stunt, and even fewer who can do so to such extreme success. Beyonce has really become a huge icon, particularly for young girls who look to her as a role model, a position that in general, she copes with brilliantly. Having started her career in former girl group ‘Destiny’s child’, Beyoncé has come a million miles, starting a solo career was probably the best idea she ever had! Emerging as a solo artist took work for the beloved ‘B’, in her recent documentary ‘life is but a dream’ she talks about the difficult and emotional split from her father’s initial management. She also struggled with superficial media criticism of her looks and adjusting to life in the spotlight but over time adapted and has really started to move away from the sexist and controlling music industry to begin in this album singing about personal insecurities and important topics like bulimia and post natal depression. Her style has also come a long way as her first two albums were less well received with more generic pop sounds before she found the fierce voice she is now renowned for. 

 

Although a few critics still attempt to bring her down, suggesting the new album is ‘oversexed’ and ‘full of generic R&B sounds’ they are speaking against a tidal wave of applause. Featuring Jay Z, Drake and Frank Ocean as well as the vocal sounds of new baby Blue Ivy, fans have shown complete adoration for Beyoncé’s recent work. The addition of extra music videos alongside the tracks (in total seventeen) has only added to this appreciation and as well as the beautiful videos, many of the tracks are superb in my opinion! ‘XO’ has to be my top favorite and Spotify ratings suggest a lot of people agree, ‘Drunk in Love’ and ‘Haunted’ have also had fantastic reviews and others like ‘Pretty Hurts’ and ‘Blow’ have been congratulated on addressing themes that are infrequently spoken about. The album has overall amazed it’s audience, described as ‘emotional, dense and substantial but never difficult or self important’, it’s a controversial and surprising mixture of sounds and styles and is definitely worth listening to! 

Review of Nina Nesbitt’s album ‘Peroxide’

 

Driving down the M4 to Cardiff, me, my two sisters and my Dad listened to ‘Peroxide’ for the first time, considering my Dad’s love of classic rock and my seventeen year old sister’s obsession with Kanye West, the fact that by the end of the trip they were both fully fledged fans of Nina really says it all. 

Nina Nesbitt has gained fans at an outrageous rate over the last couple of years, emerging seemingly from nowhere when Ed Sheeran asked her to star in the video for his song ‘Drunk’. She has become so popular particularly as her unique style appeals to an enormous range of listeners, her music could be described as a coalition of genres, often intensely emotional ballads inspired by her experiences growing up in Edinburgh but also frequently upbeat and cheerful. Her adorable scottish accent and signature fluffy blonde hair allow her to stand out from a lot of young female singers and some of her songs like ‘Mr C’ also have a slight sassy feminist twist making a statement on the behavior of men in bars. 

The top song of this album has to be ‘Stay Out’, never failing to put me in a fantastic mood but others like ‘Selfies’ or ‘We’ll be back for me’ are also brilliantly written and performed. These are perfectly complimented the intense feeling behind ‘Hold You’ and ‘Brit Summer’ reminding us that we’ve made it through the dark winter months and looking forward to the festivals of the summer!

Rumored to have a strong chance of making a number one album on her first attempt Nina has created an incredible and diverse piece of work at the age of just nineteen, she is clearly destined to reach amazing heights.