Have you ever wondered why the majority of people in our society have become so captivated by various social media sites? It has become a habit for many to check it constantly, worrying about what is trending or what people think of them. Social media is a great source of communication, for the most part, but the impact on mental health can be severe. We must emphasise why it does not have to control your life and how you can, in fact, control it yourself.
Be honest with yourself and answer this: how long do you actually spend on social media per day? What do you turn to when you have completed your daily routine and need to wind down? Is it fair to say that your mobile phone may be holding you back? It is not a negative thing to be socially active on the Internet, but as a teenager, you may find it refreshing to take a step back. I know that may sound cliché but I have found that it is true and it is surprising how much productivity increases when you take more breaks.
Thinking back to a few years ago, I remember coming home from school, sitting down with my phone and spending so long on it until the battery was practically dead. Some days I would even sit there until it was 7 PM and it was time for dinner. Honestly, I can’t comprehend how I coped with homework and my mental well-being. Perhaps I did find some enjoyment in scrolling through Instagram and Twitter, but now I have come to realise how consuming that lifestyle really was. Now, when I come home from school, I don’t even think about going on my phone for hours. I have learned to adopt the mindset that allows me to stay motivated and complete tasks, not just because they’re necessary, but also because I want to.
I read somewhere that “humans will do more to avoid pain than find pleasure.” Therefore, procrastinating becomes second nature, because we have trained our minds to think this provides us with an escape from pain. But, what if we can find pleasure in being productive instead? Think of an essay you need to write and instead of thinking “I have to write an essay”, think “I get to write an essay”. It is a great feeling reminding yourself of the reward of finishing homework, or the result of spending time revising for a test. So, that’s what I focus on instead. So, by focusing on what is good for you, you are already reducing the hold social media has on you. I honestly feel it is so refreshing.
My advice to readers would, therefore, be to control social media and prevent it from controlling you. Trust me, scrolling through Instagram for 30 minutes a day is so much more interesting than scrolling mindlessly for 3 hours, desperately searching for new content. It can be quite scary to think about the future but preparing for it productively will provide you with much more satisfaction than social media ever can.
To remove the habit of checking your phone, the most obvious way would be to put it in a drawer in the other room. However, there are other options:
To summarise, reducing your time on social media is not only beneficial to your mental health in the short term but helps you in the long term. After learning to stop checking it, I have found that my life has become much more productive and I feel happier as a result. Removing it from your life completely is not always necessary but taking a break can be crucial! Remember that social media does NOT control you if you do not allow it to. Be your own master!
Apps/websites that can help you stay off social media:
Self-control- an extension for your computer and an app that stops you from checking customised websites that you add yourself
Pomodoro tomato timer- allows you to spend 25 minutes working and then 5 minutes on a break on a loop. This means that you manage the amount of time you concentrate and it allows you to enjoy time away from your work without sacrificing precious time! I also love the to-do list feature so you can know exactly what you need to do.
Hold- an app that times the amount of work you do and grows a tree while you do it- this is quite satisfying!
Autism and Me
Okay, so a lot of people have their own viewpoints on what autism actually is, and a lot of these opinions are media based. Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder, and has many different factors, including but not limited to, social interaction, communication (both verbal and non-verbal), intellectual capacity and repetitive behaviours. When people hear autism, they typically think of Rainman, Sheldon Cooper, or the highly intelligent, quiet person at school that is socially awkward. That is autism, but that isn’t solely what it is.
I was diagnosed a few months ago with high-functioning autism. This basically means that I’m able to communicate to a degree, although I find it difficult, and I struggle picking up on a lot of different social cues, and struggle in some social situations. I do have a higher IQ than a lot of people my age, and I have some extreme obsessions, namely with music. It’s my strongest passion. Mention George Ezra or Lewis Capaldi and I could talk for hours with no issues.
It took 17 years for me to actually be diagnosed, because first of all, I’m a girl. There are so many differences between boys and girls being diagnosed. Boys display autism differently from girls. It’s so much harder to receive a correct diagnosis as a girl, often being told that it’s “typical girl behaviour” because of our obsessions, or social awkwardness and that all girls do it. I showed behaviours from a young age, but was told “I’ll grow out of it.” I didn’t. Fast forward to age 15, I was receiving some help for my anxiety when I was asked about my thoughts on Autism, and if I thought I maybe had it. At first, I was in denial, going off the stereotypes. I did some research, and deliberated for a while. It makes so much sense. I went through a test called an ADOS, which is used to help diagnose autism in children and young people, and a week later I was given a diagnosis.
I’ve found over the past few months, when I tell people about autism, or have seen other things on social media, there are a lot of misconceptions and people jump to conclusions. I want to address a few of these.
“You don’t look autistic.” This is probably one of the worst things that you can say to someone who has been diagnosed. There isn’t a set look when you’re autistic, it’s not like we have 3 eyes or a horn coming out of our heads. “Oh my god you must be so smart can you do my homework?” No. I’m not doing your maths homework. Or your science homework. I’m hopeless at both, they’re not my thing at all. “Are you sure you’re autistic? You don’t act like it?” This is one of the more annoying ones, where people look taken aback because you’re actually able to engage in conversation. “Don’t you have those ear defenders things?” Nope, I like to joke about it with close friends, but I can actually process a lot of sensory things. They’re helpful, but I’m not reliant on them.
Now this one is even more annoying, but people try to compare me to another autistic person they know. “Oh but my friend's cousin's sister is autistic and she’s non-verbal.” Okay? It’s called a SPECTRUM. Where everyone is completely different. This also means it isn’t just a straight line, with non-verbals at one end, and high functioning, maths geniuses at the other. It’s so much more complex than that. No two autistics are the same.
So, I hope I helped with some of the misconceptions. For any autistics, or those waiting to be diagnosed, if you ever want help, I’d highly recommend looking at the National Autistic Society’s website. They have a lot of information, and in some areas, they even have support groups, which I personally think could be brilliant!
swipe left or swipe right
PLEASE NOTE: You must be 18 or over to legally use a dating website or app so please bear that in mind.
Online dating has become increasingly popular in recent years and it looks like that trend is only going to continue. Gone are the days of meeting someone in a bar or through a mutual friend. It's easy to see why people turn to websites like Tinder, or Match.com. It is so easy to create a profile and it allows you to meet single people outside your circles who you may not have otherwise given a second look.
But online dating is also scary. With an estimated 323.9 million people using dating apps (source: Cloudwards.net) it can be really difficult to decide who to 'swipe left' or 'swipe right', so to speak. Not everyone on a dating site is going to be trustworthy and who they say they are and, certainly for women, unsolicited pictures (colloquially known as 'dick pics') are a common occurrence. But it’s not just women. Men can also feel concerned for their safety as women online can also be inclined to lie or make omissions about who they are and their life. So do the pros of online dating outweigh the cons and if so, how can you keep yourself safe?
I am extremely inexperienced when it comes to dating. My first and only serious relationship was when I was 15/16 years old and it really didn't end well. I had briefly considered online dating before but I had always been scared as all I’ve ever known is the horror stories you hear about catfishes and dick pics and people just looking for sex. I knew I didn’t want that so I was very reluctant to go online, despite my godmother insisting that I needed to get out there again and give dating a chance. But, despite my reservations, I have recently taken the leap and decided to try Facebook Dating. It’s been an interesting endeavour, to say the least. I was decidedly optimistic about online dating and thought I’d met ‘the one’ the first time I matched and spoke with someone.
That was my first encounter with what I call ‘the bullshitter.’ He told me he’d never met anyone like me, never felt this way about anyone and he was falling in love with me (this was all on the first date, two days after we’d started talking, can I add.) He kept saying how he couldn’t wait to put a ring on my finger and spend his life with me. Cue two weeks later, two days before our second date, he messaged me to tell me he was getting back with his ex-girlfriend… who was also pregnant with his baby. I mean - what, wow. What am I meant to do with that?
Understandably, I was pretty cautious and nervous after that about getting too invested in anyone. I didn’t want to be let down yet again. In the past month or so, I have matched with many people and spoken with roughly half of them. Half of those I’ve clicked with and half of them either didn’t work out or didn’t even reply. I’ve been ghosted, sent unsolicited dirty messages and blocked for no reason at all among other strange interactions. I honestly considered deactivating my profile and just giving up again.
Roughly two weeks ago, I met one of the sweetest guys I've ever encountered. He has one young daughter which is a bit scary for a 22 year old, but he is so kind and makes me feel pretty damn special - not in the way the bullshitter did though, but in a genuine way. He’s made it very clear that he’s fine with me needing to slow down and he won’t pressure me into anything that I’m not ready for or completely 100% comfortable with. It’s early days but we’ve been on three dates so far and thanks to him, I’ve regained a little bit of hope and faith in online dating.
Just because I have met some horrible people doesn’t mean that everyone is horrible. There are some genuinely nice guys online, as proven by the latest guy I’ve met. Online dating is scary and yes, it can be really difficult to navigate like some kind of unsolvable puzzle. But I don't want you to write it off just because of the prospect of meeting someone horrible. So here are some tips from personal experience on how to keep yourself safe and enjoy the experience.
So whilst I encourage you to enjoy the experience of online dating if you decide to try it, I’ll leave you with this thought: be careful and stay safe.
~ Kenzie x
Hi my name is Josh and I’m new to TWE. Seeing as I love writing and my dogs I thought why not put the two together and help you find the perfect pet pal!! Also, as this was a collaborative piece it was a great opportunity for me to meet other members of TWE and their furry friends.
These two are Tiger Lily and Nala!! They're my dogs Nala (on the right) is a Shitpoo and Lily (the happy one on the left) is a Cavapoo. As these two are both quite small and fluffy dogs they are perfect for cuddling up on the sofa with.
This is Menna's dog. He is a Cocker Spaniel. These dogs are very social, however if you don’t train them properly they can become very fearful. Proper training is important for all types of pets to ensure they live a happy life.
This is Alex. He is a German Shepherd and he belongs to Weronika. These are large dogs typically associated with the idea of being police dogs, despite their ability to get on great within the home.
This is Ebony's partner's Cockapoo called Charlie. Not only is he adorable but cockapoos are highly energetic dogs so they will need lots of mental and physical activities, to keep them constantly occupied.
Kenzie has a cat who is also called Nala!! Unlike dogs, cats like their independence and so caring for one won’t be as demanding but they won’t say no to a belly rub.
And lastly we have Sid the bunny who belongs to Katie. Due to their small size these adorable balls of fluff will need to be kept in a pen whilst you’re away to make sure that they don’t escape!!
Choosing the correct pet is a big decision that requires lots of patience and lots of thought. But after all that work you will have found yourself a friend for life!!
Already, there’s probably some of you thinking, what IS a young carer? Without directly quoting Google, a young carer is a child, or young person who looks after someone with a physical, or mental disability. This is an umbrella term, because a lot of people think young carer and see the stereotype of looking after a parent, often in a wheelchair or with another physical disability. It’s so much more. There’s mental disabilities, there’s substance abuse, there’s so many different things to being a young carer. And they can also care for other family members, even siblings. It doesn’t just have to be a parent.
There are hundreds of thousands of young carers in the United Kingdom alone, and so many more worldwide. It’s a tiresome battle, but they’re not alone. With the support of friends, family, school and work, that’s half the battle.
Being a young carer myself, if I could give any words of wisdom to people on what to do in order to help, all I would ask is to listen. We need someone to talk to, and sometimes things at home can get a bit too much. A rant, a listening ear. And compassion from work and teaching staff. Although there is some understanding, they should all be aware.
Although there are negatives, in the last 5 years, so much awareness has been raised about young carers, in Scotland there’s even a grant for those between 16-18 with a caring responsibility. If you actually are a young carer, there are loads of online forums that are helpful, teachers and bosses can help, and there are Young Carers support groups, not as cliche as it sounds. My group changed my life for the better.
Just remember, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. And if you aren’t actually a young carer, just try your best to support us. It goes a long way.
my comparison complex
Have you ever looked around you at your "friends", family members or celebrities and felt like you were being left behind? As if they were all achieving so many goals that you start to wonder: "Hey, when is it going to be my turn? Or better yet, will this ever happen to me too?"
I suffered through this complex for a better part of my junior and senior year of high school when I realized a lot of my friends got into Ivy League schools all the way in the US, or that they were taking a gap year to work. It seemed as if everyone was finally going to experience their college dreams abroad while I was in Tanzania, with barely having anything figured out.
I had fear and anxiety growing inside me every day because of this. Maybe it was because I was so used to having things planned out for me instead.
I had, and if I am being honest, still have these overwhelming thoughts that I’m probably going to just be another extra or another background character to all of my friends' stories. All of this stemmed just from seeing a few of my friends already looking successful. Some had become small but growing influencers on social media, another had started a YouTube channel, and the girl I sat next to in class had started an online business that is taking off. As proud as I am of them, I just couldn’t help but feed the hungry thought that maybe I'd never be as impressive as they were.
Like where was my shining moment? When will it happen to me? This ate me up to the point where even posting something on Instagram became hard for me and I always hit the discard button. That annoying and degrading voice in my head would taunt me and remind me of how anything I do would ever be good enough. There were so many people out there with better content than me, so why even try?
Fast forward to a few months later, I finally understood that I had a comparison complex. I constantly used to compare every single detail about my social life with people I idolized even my closest friends. I understand they would never rub it in my face to taunt me but the insecurity that I was being left behind became an obsession.
So what I did was that I decided to spend less time on the apps that I believed just added salt to the wound such as Instagram. I went from spending half my day on there to just mainly opening it at night. With Snapchat, I stopped doing streaks which ultimately led to me rarely opening it to check out peoples' stories. This small action helped immensely in building my self confidence.
If I wasn’t seeing the things that triggered me negatively, like a classmate posting their new college jersey, I wouldn't compare myself to them as much. I also reduced talking to some of the friends that brought out these insecurities in me. Not out of hate or envy, but I needed to focus more myself. To build the person I wanted to turn into rather than compare my current state to the picture of my best friend in Australia.
Just to be clear, I celebrate my friends' accomplishments but putting distance between them and me was my way of learning how to celebrate myself instead.
Now I know that a comparison complex can be triggered by other things, which might not necessarily be the need to be successful like mine was; but here’s a few tips I hope will help you through this phase the same way they helped me:
Now I want to end with this quote; “ You’re so busy doubting yourself, while others are intimidated by your potential”. This quote reminded me daily that the way I was thinking about how all my classmates were moving forward was the same way that some of them might view me. Someone could be looking up to you and you wouldn’t even know it! I hope this helped you. I want you to know that It will get better. It will take time but it will. Try channelling that obsession with comparing yourself with others to comparing yourself with who you were yesterday and who you want to be tomorrow.
Fighting could be over anything; a meet up gone wrong to losing something valuable. Sometimes it could be about feeling neglected by the other, or feeling misunderstood. Whatever the reason, fights happen. As toxic as it may sound, disagreements are inevitable. It's because we all constantly grow mentally and sometimes you don't always have to agree with what the other person does because it doesn't align with who you are anymore.
Fights tend to end up with someone leaving with their feelings hurt, regretful of what they may or may not have said, and sometimes and as much as we dont want to admit it; fights might bring an end to a friendship you thought would last forever...that's what hurts the most.
A fight recently happened between me and a close friend of mine. We had a fight about something I had said, which to be honest it was an insensitive comment on religion, I later realized and the aftermath of that comment resulted in her cutting me off, completely, and I felt terrible. Especially when it wouldn’t matter what i’d try to say to her, she just wouldn't respond to me, and some of the things she said made me feel like complete rubbish, this went on for days.
Overthinking about how I should have directed the conversation so it wouldn’t turn out the way it did, to regret over what i said, then eventually the anger set in; she could cut me off that easily? Like our friendship was really that disposable to her?
It wasn't until days later when I asked her about it that I found out it wasn’t even the real problem. She was mad and cut me off because she felt like I was making fun of her over something she was explaining to me before and my religious comment was kind of the tip of the iceberg for her, which was why it made her cut me off in the first place.
Point is, I would have never even known she felt that way if I didn’t tell her how she made me feel. And even though we made up now, there's things I wish I did that could have helped avoid the swarm of emotions the aftermath of that fight had on me, and I made a few suggestions on what to do after having a fight with someone you care about, both for you and for the other person.
For me I thought I was angry at my friend for just cutting me off and making me feel irritated at the fact that if i said something to try and solve it, she wouldn't listen to me. But as the days went on with us not talking, I realised that I was more angry at the thought that she could get rid of me that easily and the thought that maybe she didn't value this friendship the same way I did.
And with a lot more thinking, I realised that I felt this way because of an insecurity I have. Well, we all have insecurities, fact, but for me it’s more to do with the thought that I wasn’t good enough of a person to be around, that I wasn’t as interesting as other people were.
Also, even after doing all of this, it's good to keep in mind that, as sad as it may be, not all friendships last forever. A lot of the time people outgrow each other, you both stopped liking the same things and maybe the other person doesn’t align with who you're becoming anymore ( hopefully for the better)/ So I would say don’t beat yourself up about it, it hurts but maybe it's for the better. Theres alot of toxic people out there, and if this fight showed who you were dealing with the whole time.
Think of it this way, the friendship you just lost shows you the kind of people you might not want in your life in the future. Whatever happens remember to be kind to yourself; even if you're in the wrong or right. Cause your friend(s) might leave, but you’ll always have you.
Cats or dogs?
I, like many people, love animals; I always have. Because of this, I’ve always loved having pets and obviously, I’m not unique because of that. Millions and millions of people around the world have a pet, the most common being dogs and cats. But, sometimes people rush into buying a pet that they aren’t ready for, and this can be really harmful.
It’s important to do your research when buying any animal. Realize that it’s a commitment, and although your pet will just be a part of your life, to your pet, you are their entire life. This is especially true for animals that show more affection and need attention.
I have had experiences with a wide variety of animals, but before I comment on my experience, please remember that every animal is different and unique. They are all individual lives that have personalities formed by both their natural disposition as well as the experiences they’ve had. Please also note that I’m from the United States, and this means that the pets available to me are different than what may be available in other countries.
Okay, so now that all the disclaimers are done, Let’s get to it!
Dogs: Dogs are very popular pets, and for good reason. If the dog was raised right, they’ll be loving and even protective of their owner. There are a lot of different breeds and mixes, making them have some very unique looks and personalities. It’s the dream of many children to get their very own dog, but there’s plenty of responsibilities to consider.
Cats: Cats are also very popular pets and, like dogs, they have a wide variety of personalities. Some are very cuddly, and some are very playful! Cats are different than dogs, however, in that they don’t always want to be with you. They tend to have more of their own will, and if you aren’t prepared to respect their wishes, you probably shouldn’t get a cat. It can be said that cats are like an exercise in consent, because they’ll make it clear when they feel that you’re being overbearing. As I mentioned earlier, they have a wide variety of personalities, so if you want a cat to cuddle with, make sure to meet different cats and find the best fit. Responsibilities for cats and dogs can be very similar, but there are some key differences as well.
With both cats and dogs, adopting from a shelter could give a home to an animal that really needs one. And, although you may be tempted to get a cute puppy or kitten, getting an adult animal means that you already know their personality and you’re adopting a slightly less adoptable animal. The same goes for cats and dogs with disabilities. These animals will almost always make just as wonderful a companion as abled animals, but they aren’t adopted as often and go large parts of life without a loving home.
With all this in mind- knowing your goals, knowing the responsibilities, and being ready to give a home to a cat or dog- I’m sure you can make the right choice.
As humans, we all need the comfort of people from time to time. Often, it’s not just those we always confide in but also the people in the background; the people we smile and nod to at family gatherings, the people who accompany us during vacations. We seemingly disregard them because on the surface, we don’t need them; they aren’t the people we celebrate our achieved goals with or those we unburden ourselves to. No, they’re simply just there. Through the good and the bad. They’re always just there and it provides us with a sort of unspoken security to remind ourselves of that. But what happens when they aren’t there anymore?
Grief in itself is a complicated concept to come to terms with especially since it’s disturbing to think that someone’s complete life history can be reduced to a package of memories within a split second. Nevertheless, it is difficult to confront complex emotions forming over the loss of a loved one to whom you were never close to. Perhaps, you had held onto the hope of forming a relationship with that person and now they’ve died, you’re grieving the loss of a bond you could have had; the longing for what could have been.
‘I’ve got some important exams this week so I’ll be sure to call the hospital and check up on him in a few days.’
Then we’re left helpless; standing in silence at their funeral, with the final lingering thought being, ‘I could have done more.’
I was awoken by the cries of my mum. To some extent, I already knew why but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even know what to think. I just lay in my bed, staring at my ceiling. But I still can’t register what exactly his last words to me were. He was in pain. I could feel his voice shaking as he talked to me through the phone. It took me back to the moments where he’d sit under the comfort of the same bristly chair, amused by the actions of counterparts in black and white movies. He’d sit there day in and day out, occasionally checking the lottery results. We didn’t always talk but when he knew I’d be around, he’d boil broccoli and leave several out on the table for me.
I’m struggling to find the words to describe him. I never really understood him and I’m not sure if I ever will. Yet he will always remain a wonderful man to me, my granddad.
Grief and guilt, love and loss; they’re all feelings. Feelings need to be validated and although it will be hard, we need to find ways to accept and move forward with these feelings. You need to acknowledge that it is completely natural to feel grief for not only those closest to us but also those we wish we could have been closer to. After all, we are only humans yearning for love.
R.I.P. Ponnampalam Sellaiah, 1953-2021
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably. A charity providing a mental health helpline and webchat.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
an opinion on bullying
I spend my day wondering what goes through people's minds when they say such horrible things to other people just to bring them down. Some idiots think that if they make someone upset by saying a mean comment, it makes them the bigger person when really, it's the complete opposite. If you say something hurtful to someone, you don't realise how much that could actually affect them. Did you know almost 1 out of every four students report being bullied and that's just the ones who have the guts to admit it.
You have no idea what goes on outside of school, what happens in their life, what their family is like. Some people think it's funny to make fun of someone because of what clothes they wear or their facial features or what size they are or their height. What exactly do all them have anything to do with what's on the inside? I have been called mean things in the past and it has really upset me and I know what it's like to be constantly picked on. But now I don't care, I am happy with who I am and how I look. I don't need random people who I don’t know and vice versa picking on me for the way I look because I honestly don’t care.. If you have a problem with that then don't bother with me because I don't need someone in my life that will make me feel upset or down all the time.
How would you like it if it was you? How would you like it if you were constantly picked on over something silly, like what shoes you wear? There is never a reason to bully someone, just be kind and you might have a happier, easier and friendlier life. If you have ever said something mean to someone, apologise to them and maybe you'll make a new friend and find out that they aren't that bad of a person in the end. The fact that it is 2019 and it's still going on is ridiculous. It's not about what you look like or what you wear, it's about their personality and how they are as a person. Do you honestly think that their clothes make them who they are or the colour of their hair/skin defines the rest of them? If we all wore the same, and looked the same, the world would be boring. There would be nowhere to express your individuality and you couldn't be yourself because you would be the exact same as everyone else.
Nobody is perfect, not even celebrities or royalty. Stop Bullying. It’s not worth it. It's pathetic.
a break doesn't mean it's over
Being in a relationship is great, especially when you love the person so much that you want to spend every minute of every day with them. It can also be hard work and it can also get in the way of things such as school, family, friends and sometimes the time you need for yourself. Sometimes a little break is what you need in a relationship, so you can take time for yourself and think and focus on important things such as your family, friends and school work. This is an alternative from actually breaking up properly. A break can last as long as a year or as little as a couple of weeks. Sometimes when everything gets a bit too much in your relationship and you can’t take any more, a break is the best solution to the problem because it can give you and your partner time to think about what you want from each other. It also gives you time to take a breather and have some time to focus on yourself.
There are no specific rules on how a break works, it’s down for you and your partner to set down rules on how you want things to work out. For example, if you or your partner could see other people during this break or if you should stay in contact or not. This is why communication is vital, because otherwise, your partner may not understand where you're coming from. How are they supposed to know what you want from them if you don't tell them? You can’t get mad at someone for doing something that they didn't know they weren't allowed to do.
A break is another great way for taking time for school. Sometimes your schoolwork is so much more important than a relationship, especially if you're taking your exams/finals. You don't want your relationship to get in the way of the grades that you need for your future. Now I'm not saying to break off your relationship completely and if you don't you will fail at school. What I'm saying is, sometimes you just need some time apart to study and focus on getting the grade you need. For example, I’ve been in the same relationship for 2 years and it just so happens that this year is my final year of school which means I have my GCSE exams coming up and these grades affect the rest of my life. They are extremely important and I need to study extremely hard for them. This means that I'm going to have to take a break from seeing my boyfriend so much. This doesn’t mean that I'm going to not see him at all, it just means that I will be seeing him a lot less than I used to. I know that it might be hard not seeing your partner as often, but it makes the moments you do spend together more memorable and I always remember the saying “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.”
how I began to find myself
“I don’t believe that you should be friends with these girls anymore, you are a bad influence on them”.
My Head of Year told me that when I was 13. I was told that I was something bad, that should be removed- like I was some kind of infection. And over the past couple of years, it had been hard to not feel that way, that by being myself I am a bad influence on people and should therefore shut myself away before I affect them.
I was so convinced that you could only give what people wanted to see and nothing else, because anything ‘you’ wasn’t good enough.
Bubbly, hard-working, social, reserved- anything you wanted I would have it. Sounds perfect right? Make yourself the perfect friend, they will want you...right? Put those parts away that you don’t like and let yourself become what they want you to be.
With the startling benefit of hindsight, I can sit here and tell you that ‘fake it until you make it’ is a terrible phrase. Because the moment that people believe the mask that you put is when you will truly start to fall apart. I look back at that person that I was- not in pity or spite, rather to know that I’m not that person anymore. Maybe I don’t have as many friends as I did back then, but this journey of trying to break down my own barriers, has left me with the most kind and genuine people that I know. I feel loved, and supported, and able to let down parts of myself. Be vulnerable.
So from now on I will not allow someone to say that I need to ‘get over’ my mental health. I will not allow someone to say that ‘they do not recognise this sad side of me’. There is not a single person on this earth that is entitled to tell you that you need to take a step back from self improvement- whatever form it may take. For me, it was letting myself feel because I was tired. So tired. Tired of pulling up a mask that I didn’t truly believe in and tired of numbing my emotions so that I wouldn’t confront how terrible I was feeling. This lack of energy comes and goes in waves, but it is no longer a tsunami.
Whoever told you that the real you wasn’t good enough- your parents, your friends, your teachers, yourself- they are so undeniably wrong. I know I’m making it really simple, but the moment that I looked in the mirror and realised that I didn’t recognise the person in front of me was when I started to make progress. When I started to make change.
Not for anyone else. For me.
That is the most crucial detail. In whatever way you find comfortable, make changes that satisfy your goals and the person you want to be. Personal change and goals are the most empowering, which also makes them the most rewarding. When the sentence changes from “I should” to “I am” is when you are doing you.
I can now look in the mirror. After years of being too afraid of seeing how broken and unfamiliar I had become to that 13 year old that had so much hope and love in her heart. I can now look in the mirror and can recognise that I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean I’m an infection or a ‘bad influence’. It is a journey and a process that you can only pursue if you trust that you will come out the other end.
So my advice to you is that today, you will do something for yourself. To start that journey, to make that first step. Look in the mirror, or release it into the universe:
“I am me. And I am enough.”
Have faith in yourself, and receive the love you deserve.
covid-19 vs my friendships
COVID-19 has affected everyone in many different ways and has essentially changed all of our lives. Throughout this time, I learned a lot about my friends and our relationships. I became extremely close with some friends, lost and drifted from some friends, and also learned how toxic some people were.
In school, I had a close group of friends, which included me and three other girls, but I also had an extended group of friends which probably ranged between 15 and 20 people, as well as others. During school, I was with these people every day and it was really easy to communicate and stay in touch. However, this changed when we went into lockdown in March of 2020. I felt extremely isolated and was not able to see anyone for two months. I kept in touch with my close group of friends and a couple of other friends during COVID, however, I also drifted with many of my friends. I realized who my true friends were. Furthermore, I became aware of the effort I was putting into many relationships that weren't being reciprocated. Through this time I was able to realize how much effort friendships really took, and I also realized how valuable my closest friends are.
Unfortunately, I did have some toxic friends through this time that were not treating me or some of my other friends right. Toxic people, in general, are tricky to deal with, but my advice for them is to talk to them, tell them how you feel, and what you feel they could do to make you feel better and more comfortable. Then, give them a chance to change, but if you realize they continue to be toxic, cut your losses. There is no need for anyone to be involved with people who bring you down or treat you badly. You deserve the best!
dealing with my loneliness
I have always felt lonely in my life as I find it hard to make friends in school and other places. I did have friends at school, but I never had any best friends and none of the friends I did have understood me well. I am passionate about science subjects so I used to study during the stopgaps when my classmates used to have fun or just talk.
As I am passionate and curious to learn about Science, I spend most of my time reading books. As a result, my friends see me as a nerd and used to stay away from me most of the time except when asking for help. I have always wanted to talk about interesting facts about Science I learned when reading books or watching educational videos. I wanted to share my thoughts and interests with my friends but they always think that I want to talk about studying only.
I refrain from expressing my thoughts and feelings of loneliness or other issues I face to my classmates. I am afraid that they may judge me or probably never talk to me thinking I am emotional. I have been hurt by some friends previously when I shared how sad I was when my grandma died. They did not comfort me; rather, they stopped talking to me. Probably they thought it's not good to talk with me then as I was emotionally weak or a little depressed. From that day, I never tried explaining my situation to my present friends as I am afraid they would desert me too.
That is why I try to keep myself occupied with other work so that I don’t feel lonely anymore. I had some phases of loneliness and little depression during the pandemic. But I overcame this phase because of online volunteering. I kept myself busy, found new friends with the same interests, and contributed to society too. TWE gave me a community where I feel supported and a feeling of belonging. I think being a part of TWE made me a better person and increased my confidence too.
Here are some tips to deal with loneliness-
And last but not least, you can join virtual volunteering! It will improve your skills, increase your self-confidence and you can learn new skills like time management, communication or team cooperation.
for 6 months, 9 years ago
It’s the third grade. I go out for a break and come back to my bag upside down and lunch stolen. This was just the beginning of a never-ending cycle. The next six months of my life became pure torture. I, who loved going to school, started to beg my mother to let me stay home. I did change schools eventually but the trauma of bullying stayed with me and still affects me to date.
People deal with bullying in different ways; there is no one way to overcome the feeling of helplessness that comes from being attacked by another person. Some people ignore or fight back while others continue to suffer in silence. This way of coping does not make them weak but it can have an awful, long-lasting effect on their mental health. As a teenager, one may not want to involve adults in the situation, I know I did not but at one point, it became crucial.
According to an article on stopbulling.gov, social anxiety is in the top three effects of bullying that bystanders may face in their lives. Some people think social anxiety refers to being shy when approaching new people or having a fear of public speaking. However, it runs way deeper than that. Social anxiety could be feeling nervous or scared in a situation one has faced a million times before or over analysing every little detail in a conversation with a good friend.
Some significant psychological outcomes of bullying that I still face today include not being able to make long term friends. This is usually one of two reasons; the fear of annoying them by texting too much or wondering if they really want to hang out with me out of school. I tend to cancel plans a day or sometimes even a few hours before going by overthinking hypothetical situations that never happen. This includes plans I was genuinely excited for whether it be a friend’s birthday or just going for coffee. However, when the sudden fear of being overbearing hits me, this leads me to canceling the plan. A major setback I suffer from every single day is having to attend school. For me, except for the actual virus of course, COVID was a blessing in disguise. I could sit at home and take my classes in the comfort of my room. That is, until the teachers began to pick on students to answer questions over Zoom. This would always end with me disconnecting the Wi-Fi right after I get called on. My psychological symptoms definitely outweigh my physical symptoms. The only few physical symptoms I sometimes suffer from include sudden increased heart rate, trembling hands or legs and difficulty speaking.
It was obviously not easy growing up with a mental health problem but I tried my best to not let it stop me from living my life. After learning about social anxiety by reading up on it and talking to professionals (objectively), I decided to start by giving myself space and not beating myself up every time I cancelled a plan or mumbled in front of a new person. Secondly, I began to focus on positive things in my interactions with people instead of continually overthinking a bad joke I might have cracked. However, what may have worked for me might not work for others. Therefore, my advice is to a therapist if you feel like you suffer from a similar situation. Another individual’s triggers may be different than mine since bullying is not the only cause.
Social anxiety is not black and white- there is no right way to overcome it and suffering from it does not make one weak. It can be overwhelming at times and make one feel like something is wrong with them. At times, an individual may have the realization that their fear is irrational but despite knowing, they may not be able to control their thoughts and actions during the situation. Just always remember, there is nothing wrong with having social anxiety and seeking help when you need it.
We’re all hoping that 2021 will be a better year than the last one, but nothing happens overnight. Valentine’s Day is shortly around the corner. It’s a day where couples normally itch for quality time together at home or out on a date, and for most people this year, that probably won’t - or at least, shouldn’t - happen. Not being able to see loved ones in person can be challenging, and sometimes it can put a strain on your relationship. If this is happening to you, I understand wanting to spend the day together. Yet being apart does not have to ruin your Valentine’s this year, or any date you want to have with a partner when you are unable to meet up in person.
My partner and I have been dating for just over 6 months. Sometimes we are able to meet up in person as he gets regularly tested for Covid-19 through our school, but when he is with his family, the risk to either of our families is too great. We had to celebrate our first major anniversary apart. We both thought this would be hell. Even though we started dating before being able to meet up in person, both of us have physical-touch and quality time together as our main love-languages. To both of our reliefs, our date-night was really fun! I sent him a dessert set, and we ate desert together over Zoom. He also ordered me flowers, so I put them in the frame too.
Figuring out how you want to celebrate can be difficult. My partner and I decided on a more traditional, romantic-type date to mark the occasion, because we mostly have informal calls and binge-watch tv shows on Teleparty. If that type of traditional date is common for you, figuring something different that both you and your partner may enjoy will help make the occasion memorable. Here are some of my favorite ideas for Virtual Valentine’s (or other occasions) dates!
Hopefully, you and your Valentine date are able to make the most of the day! Staying apart from each other has been exhausting, but it definitely has forced me to find joy in activities I otherwise wouldn’t consider. And remember, no two couples are alike, and you and your partner get to decide what your romance looks like. As long as everyone is having a good time - and hopefully able to have some conversation - it doesn’t matter if a date is “conventional” or not. You give it its meaning.
Love well, and Happy Valentines!