Murky Mud Brown

I can feel it again. It’s building, slowly, but surely. With the knowledge that my next exam is only eleven days away, the panic is due to set in any day now. I’ve already got the characteristic exam season neck pain, and although thus far I’ve managed to avoid a breakdown, I can feel it beginning to flitter in the corner of my brain. These are the exams that really count. I don’t want to let anyone down, and I just want to please everyone. Hell, I don’t want to let myself down. Too often I’m an embarrassment to myself, and this time, I just don’t want that.

So the flittering continues. The bright spinning colours are slowly being overtaken by a murky mud brown colour. For now though, I’ll keep fighting the panic. I’ve learnt to identify it, and slowly, I’m learning to cope with it. They’re just exams, I’m not going to let them bring me down.

Secretly though, I’m not sure how long it’ll last. These aren’t just any exams. And it’s not just exams that I’m worrying about, and I’m really not sure how long I can fight the feeling. Eventually it’ll drown me. For now though, I’ve just got to keep on swimming.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

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How I’m Going to ‘Keep on Running’

It’s only 86 hours until I run the 10K Race for Life. There is absolutely no way that I feel like I’m well enough prepared. I went out for my first ever 10K run with my best friend personal trainer yesterday. I love that girl, but my god is she a pain in the bum when I’m exhausted. I’ve decided that I prefer her as my best friend, but even then, we didn’t run the whole thing. I’m mentally kicking myself for it. This weekend, I WILL succeed. I have a goal – to not stop running – and I AM going to achieve it. I don’t care if it takes me two hours, as long as I don’t walk. My aim however is 1hr 20 mins, and I’ll be bouncing if I do it in 1hr 10. If by some miracle I manage 1hr 5 or even faster, please have an inhaler ready, because I’d be on top of the universe if I managed that, never mind the world. I’ve been reading around, and thinking about things that my friend has told me, and I’ve grouped my tactics into six categories:

1. It’s all mental. A positive mental attitude will be what gets me through this, and even though I’ve probably never had a positive mental attitude in my life, I’m going to start now. All I have to do is just keep running, because I don’t want to be a failure. I’m always a failure, and I don’t want that this time. I want to achieve, and I want to be proud of myself. Maybe, just maybe, if I’m really lucky, I might make somebody else proud of me too. I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing that would feel.

2. Reward. I’m not 100% sure yet what I’m going to reward myself with, but there will be one. And I’m going to tell my friends that if I walk, they’re not allowed to let me have it. I know that I’m not running this race for me. It’s not about me, and it never will be about me, but having that little something to look forward to might just push me on, especially if it’s cold and wet. That reward is going to consist of a flask of chai, but also something else. Probably another edible treat, if I’m completely honest. But perhaps a notepad, too. A really pretty notepad so that I can draw to my hearts content, and keep it all in one place. I know that’d make me really happy.

3. The world around me. I’m running the race for life, for goodness sake. At least the firstly ten minutes is going to be spent reading people’s back signs, thinking, and sympathising. I couldn’t fit on everybody who I’d want to onto mine, so I picked the one who is the most positive – the survivor. And someone my own age. But there will be many many people there with names of people who have died, or are even just racing for fun. I love to read the back signs as I jog along, and it will spur me on. My first line of defence when the tiredness hits will be to think about the pain of hearing that someone has or might have cancer. Trust me, I’ve heard it more than once, and it’s crushing. But I’m running for the pain to stop. I’m running for a cure. And I’m going to be sending £352.50 to Cancer Research, and the same to The Little Princess Trust, and that’s why it matters. They will find a cure, and the physical pain I have to go through while running is nothing compared to the smiles that it will give to another.

4. Improving with each stride. My best friend has taught me how to run. She’s told me about the posture, the breathing, the pace. Admittedly, I’m still pretty damn rubbish at it, but concentrating on a better posture could keep me going for another few minutes. Even counting my strides, and setting myself targets. That tree. Okay, now that bush. That bench. Look, there’s the sign for 5K, half way there!

5. Distraction. Distraction has always worked wonders with me. I can be having the hardest day ever, but if you can distract me, I’ll be fine. I’ve found that talking while I’m running can really help. Of course, I won’t have that this time – my best friend will be much faster than me. Instead, I’m going to give myself some alternatives. I’ve always been a keen mathematician, and I read somewhere that numbers can really help to pass the time, and also to strive for goals. How many strides am I taking in a minute? I’ve run the first kilometre in so much time, so how long will it take if I continue at this pace? What fraction of the way there am I? How many strides until the top of that hill? How many people can I see who are younger than me? How many houses are there?
There’s other things too, that aren’t numbers. Can I guess what her job might be? If I give that kid a high five, maybe they’ll carry on? What am I going to have for tea tonight? Can I remember those key words for biology? What can I cross off my bucket list next year? What’s it going to be like when I go to Turkey with my best friend? How’s uni going to be? What do I need to buy for uni? Is there any teachers I need to see before my next exam?
Got the idea yet?

And finally, number six… The thing that will really keep me going is the thought that my best friend is faster than me, but as soon as she’s done, she’s going to come back and run the last bit with me. She’s going to spur me on, and we’re going to cross the finish line together. And yes, my head is a little weird, and I’ll make that seem more than it is. It’ll mean more to me than just finishing the race. It’s about friendship, future, and a silent promise to never forget. Every time we do something together, we get a little closer, and I feel a little more sure that university won’t separate us, because we won’t allow it to.

So, wish me luck. I sure as hell am going to need it. I’ll let you know how the plan goes, and I’ll let you know my time. Here’s hoping that I finish with a smile on my face. Secretly though, at the same time as dreading it, I’m just a tiny weeny bit excited.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Thank You

There are so many people out there who are terrible, horrible people. The daily news is littered with headlines of murder, rape, and abuse. Stories of crime and hatred. People are forced to hide who they really are in order to attempt to live a life of peace.

Even within a school environment, life is tough. Friends are battling exam stress, self harm, depression, and eating disorders. There’s the snigger of someone you’ve never met as you walk down the corridor. A throwaway comment that when you’re already having a bad day, can push you over the edge of that cliff as you fall into a breakdown.

Silence.

It’s the safest option, to live in silence and try and blend into the background of the busy environment. Sometimes, the easy way out is to keep your head down, work as hard as you can, and cry when you’re alone at night. There will be times in life when you think you have nobody, and that you’re all alone. To haul yourself out of bed in the morning is a mental challenge, and to reassure yourself that today will be better is like being asked to sprint up a mountain.

But is silence really the best option? Sometimes, the safest path is not the path that we should take. Then again, it can be hard to make that decision and choose that path when you’re alone. That thought is what leads me to the true point of this post. Today, I want to say thank you to the person who has taught me that I’m NEVER alone. It’s a thank you that I could never say to her face, and I will even struggle to write it down. Words have never been my strong point, but I want to try to explain why I need to say thank you. Because I owe her that much.

I want to take you back to four years ago. I was just moving schools for my first year of GCSE’s, and I was a little mouse. I was silent, blended in, kept out of everyone’s way, and worked hard. I was a nobody. Pain was dealt with internally, and externally, I smiled. The only way I could keep the few friends that I did have was to do this. I was told off by my friends if for whatever reason I didn’t have a smile on my face. At night, I went home and I got stressed and cried.

Four years on, and I’m going to let you into the last few days. Earlier this week, I was told ‘It’s like we didn’t even know each other, and then suddenly, we were best friends.’ And she’s right. That’s exactly what did happen. But I’ve changed so much, and she makes me so strong, and so happy. It’s less than four weeks until my last A Level exam and freedom, and I can’t wait! We spent Friday night together, determined to laugh and to smile before the madness really sets in. Determined to ignore the stresses of school and exams, and not to talk about eating, weight, or calories, we giggled and laughed like four year olds all evening. Oreo brownies were order of the evening, along with cards, and a kids movie.

She also helped me on Friday night, to overcome something that I’ve been struggling with for a long time. And that’s why I want to say thank you. Four years ago, I wouldn’t even talk to her. But she’s taught me that it’s good to talk, and it’s safe to cry. Letting people in can only ever make things better, and make you a better and happier person. It doesn’t matter what people say, and what jokes are thrown around, because we know what our friendship is. And I truly would be lost without her. Seeing her in pain is so horrible, but I now know that for her, seeing me in pain is just as murdering. But we can have fun, and we can laugh. And it’s amazing when we do.

In four months, I have to let her go. She’s going to be a doctor, and I’m going to university too. We’re going to be at opposite ends of the country. (and if one more person chooses to point out just how far away we’re going to be, I’m actually going to go crazy!) Shhh, don’t tell her, but I’ve spent some time today looking into making a surprise visit to her once she’s gone. I know exactly how I’m going to do it now, and I’ve got some plans in place for saving the money to afford it. Because when you love someone unconditionally, it’s all that matters. She’s all that matters. It’s taken me a long time to understand this, but I don’t think she’ll forget me. Ever. That makes me so excited, so happy. I can’t wait until we’re 97 and tottering down the road arm in arm.

I told you that I didn’t know how to explain, and I’m sure that you still probably don’t understand, but I’ve tried, and that’s what’s important. So now, I give you my own special method of communication. This is how it makes sense to me, and that’s why I struggle with my words.

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Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

To The Moon and Back

It has been two weeks since aworriedstudent created this for me. I really should have posted it by now, but my life and A Levels have unfortunately gotten in the way. I wanted to wait for a suitable time, because the phrase that I asked her to ‘art attack’ for me means a lot. I was waiting for a time that I could explain. Now is a very very fitting time, but sadly, I don’t want to explain today. So, ill leave you guessing.

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Thank you aworriedstudent, and I’m sorry for the delay! I really do love this, it’s fantastic!

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

I don’t feel emotions, I see them

There is something odd about me. I don’t feel emotions. To me, emotions are colours and shapes, patterns in my head.

I can draw them. They never quite look the same, but I give it a good shot. That helps me to put words to how I feel, but even then I often struggle with coherent sentences. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always chosen to suffer in silence when I’m worried or stressed. That way, at least I never had to try and explain my feelings. It’s a little bit like trying to explain what the colour red looks like to a blind person – you just can’t!

I can draw music, too. That’s fun! I don’t know why it’s like this, but it just flows onto the paper. It feels right.

People have colours, emotions have shapes and colours. To me, it’s normal. To you, maybe it seems crazy. It means that my head is never a lonely place, but at the same time, watching it all spin around like a tornado can often be very disorientating.

Maybe there are more of us out there? I’d like to think so.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Panic.

If you asked me if I’d ever had a panic attack, I’d say yes. I thought I knew what panic was. That feeling where your breathing goes all funny, and you feel like you’re loosing control. When I panic, I clutch my best friends hand and slowly wait for reality to return. My stomach churns and it doesn’t seem to matter how hard I try and concentrate, my breathing gets faster and faster and faster until I begin to feel dizzy.

Tonight however, I experienced a very different type of panic. An email arrived in my inbox. It was an email that I was half expecting, but at the same time I was dreading. The name flashed up at the top of my iPad and I panicked. Usually, I can feel the onset of panic and suppress it, but this was different. Lets say I was sure happy to be on my own. My face heated up, my stomach flipped, and I felt almost instantly as though I was having an asthma attack. My chest tightened, I couldn’t breathe, and by the time I finished reading the email, I was shaking uncontrollably. It took every last bit of energy to get up, have a drink, breathe, and not throw up. When the panic eventually subsided, I lay on my bed and waited for my energy to return. I was exhausted.

I wrote this post a long time ago, back on 12th April. It has taken me this long to work up the courage to actually post it. That’s mainly because I’ve been waiting to see what the outcome of that email might or might not be.

Fortunately, the next time I saw the person who sent me the email was over two weeks later. By then, I’d all but forgotten about it (give or take). She hadn’t. So I spent another flute lesson in tears, and this time I couldn’t even call my best friend to come and rescue me, because it has been her that we were talking about. We can’t talk anymore. She will have to tell someone who will change things. My friend doesn’t want that.

The worry continues to grind me. I’m lost once more. Please just let my exams be over, and please someone show me what to do.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Music Is My Drug

I took the drive home from the leavers concert this evening as a time to reflect. The sky was a baby blue, cut through with marks of bright orange and coral, carefully blended to sugar pink around the edges, and a deep ocean colour as it neared the horizon.

I’ve just listened to two hours of beautiful music, produced by my peers and friends. Our year group is full of fantastic musicians, many of whom will go far. For me however, I decided that three particular performances stood out.

Second in the programme was a flautist. She played a beautiful piece which I will not name for fear of an incorrect spelling. It was calm, collected, dreamy. I was enjoying the performance, relaxing in the music. Towards the end, I realised that I had tears in my eyes. It took me a while to figure of where the wave of emotion had washed from. Of course, it made perfect sense really. That’ll be the last time I ever hear her play. That’s the girl who I aspire to be like, to be as good as. That’s the girl who came and collected me from my grade seven and took me out for coffee. That’s my best friend.

Another girl played a piece from memory on her saxophone. I have no words for this, only feelings. I shut my eyes and absorbed the music. I drank it up like it was a drug. I felt all the anxiety and worry that I had been feeling earlier in the day leave me. I felt myself physically relax. My shoulders dropped, even though I didn’t know they were up. My hands relaxed, even though I didn’t know I was clutching them into fists. I felt free, safe, and happy. For a girl who merely hours previously said that she was so worried that she just wanted to curl up in a ball, it was a little strange. I said I didn’t even want to play the flute ever again, I just wanted to climb into bed. But the music this evening had me firmly in it’s grasp. It wasn’t letting me escape.

Our school have an amazing band. They played last. In their encore, a few of us clambered onto the stage to sing and dance along. That’s a memory I love. It’s like music tour, and it makes me laugh. It makes me smile. And tonight, I really needed that.

I just hope that one day I’ll be confident enough to make it up onto the stage out of choice. Because I know that I’ll live to regret not performing tonight.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

The World Is Spinning

The bad thing about my slightly OCD revision timetable? I can’t cope when for whatever reason I’m unable to stick to it. It kills me. And then I’m weakened, and everything else starts to grind down on me. More and more of my brain space is taken up by worries and stress until I eventually wind up in bed in the dark with blurred vision and the headache from hell. Oh yeah, that would be like right now then.

I didn’t know that it was possible to shut your eyes and still feel like the world is spinning. But then again, I didn’t know until a few years ago just how ill I can make myself through stress. Revision is just unhealthy for me. Exams are unhealthy for me.

I had a fabulous night last night as a leader at my Rainbow Unit’s annual sleepover wakeover, but I’m exhausted. I was on my feet for hours, bedtime was hot and stuffy curled up on the floor, and the kids quite simply didn’t do much sleeping. The last one went to sleep at gone midnight, and the first was out of bed at 5am. I came home to be welcomed by a pile of revision and the realisation that in 20 hours all I’d had to drink were a few sips of tea and orange juice. On the hottest day of the year.

It’s led to this. It’s 8pm, and I’m tucked into bed. I have been unable to concentrate all day; all I’ve thought about I’d the texts my friend sent me last night, and her impending exam in the morning. I’ve thought about our little rainbow whose mummy is very ill with cancer, I’ve thought about the emotional state of another friend who appears to have had a difficult few days, and I’ve thought about how on earth I’m going to get through the next two weeks while my parents are away.

I’m lucky though, a headache is nothing. The neck pain and nausea hasn’t hit yet. Nor has the inevitable weight loss that comes with the stress of the exam season. My first exam is on Friday. We’ll see how it goes.

There is the potential that my friend may be staying over on Friday night to watch a DVD and go running. That would power me through the week, but I won’t get my hopes up. The feeling of being let down will just make me fall further into the pit of darkness.

Here’s to it all being over. Here’s to June 20th.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw

Finding My Voice

As a child I was always very quiet and shy. I didn’t talk to strangers, and I wouldn’t answer questions in class. I didn’t have many friends because I simply didn’t have the communication skills to make them. I was quiet, kept my head down, and I loved school.

I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown up, I’ve got friends to support me, and I’ve been leading Rainbows, Guides, and a Primary Science Club for four years. My confidence has shot like a rocket. I answer questions in class, I’m more confident in asking for help with work, I take Rainbow promise ceremonies, and I am a maths mentor for a girl who is two years younger than me. This year, my flute teacher even managed to get me to introduce my solo in the flute concert, and get to the end without shaking too much. I’ve given numerous presentations about my Guiding adventure to Denmark, and in a few weeks, I’ll be giving one to the Rotary about my leadership roles. I seriously am a changed person, and I’m so proud of that.

There are however a few situations that still make me panic. I’ve always struggled to cope with the pressure of a one to one situation. I didn’t speak to my new flute teacher for the first year, and it’s only in the past eight months or so that I’ve been confident talking to my best friend about problems and advice in person. Even now, there is the odd time in my flute lesson that I will know the answer, but I just can’t move my mouth to form the words to say it. It’s not something that I choose. I simply freeze, and it doesn’t matter how hard I try, the words just won’t come out. Starting my leadership qualification with Rainbows has been mildly terrifying. Sitting down with an adult and discussing my opinion just isn’t something that I cope very well with. I can feel the pressure mounting and building, it all sits on my shoulders, and sometimes it physically hurts. I worry about silly things – anything that could mean failure or making a fool of myself in front of people that I’m not close to, and the panic begins to wrap around me and it can’t be controlled.

I have theories on why I get such bad ‘stage fright’. I think it probably goes back to being a kid. I had a few embarrassing stage related incidents, but more importantly, I hate being wrong. I’ve always been a perfectionist, with high standards. My parents put exceptional amounts of pressure on me, and all I want to do is ensure that I don’t let anyone down. Being one to one means that I have no choice but to give my opinion or ideas, and although it never really occurred to me, perhaps I have a fear of being wrong. I sure as hell had a fear of failure. My parents were always proud of me when I achieved something, but because my brother was always a bit of a pain, I never felt that I got the attention otherwise.

So when the idea was suggested to me of talking to a teacher about my worries to do with my best friend, I thought they were insane. Just thinking about it makes me flush. My breathing rate increases, and I feel the onset of panic. At the same time that I know talking to someone would do wonders for me, it’s a horrifying idea. Sharing my concerns would allow me to relieve some tension, to let go. I don’t even have to say her name. But I’m afraid. And since I met my best friend, I’ve never had to cope with my fears alone. This time however, I do, and I’m not entirely convinced how I should handle that.

I might cry. I’m going to appear weak and helpless, and look completely stupid in front of my favourite teacher. To admit that you can’t cope is a terrifying idea, and when it’s because you’re worried about someone else, it’s even worse. I know that I need to have that conversation, but I don’t think that I’m going to be able to find the courage to do it. I’m not strong enough.

Here’s to hoping that deep inside me they’ll be a little spark that lets me find my voice.

Living. Laughing. Loving.

alex122rw