Ten Year Challenge
I started this decade as a 15 year old who thought I was just starting my life. I was finding my feet, I had lots of friends and thought I was going to do okay in life. I spent a lot of time with my best friend, I had people who wanted to spend time with me, I thought I was really happy. And I was, if I ignored the way I was being treated at home, the verbal bullying I was experiencing at school and the battle with my sexuality that was raging inside my head.
The start of this decade was also when I first started recognising my underlying mental health issues (but they weren’t as understood or spoken about as much as they are today). I struggled with going to school — or doing pretty much anything that wasn’t hanging out with the people I was already familiar with. I was constantly arguing with my family and feeling increasingly trapped in my home. The place that should have been safe and welcoming. I was always having faults pointed out or the blame for anything going wrong placed firmly at my feet. I didn’t know how to escape it but, for the most part, I managed to ignore it. 2010 was also the first time I ever met my dad, which was an added dose of complicated feelings.
At 15 I thought I was so cool — and I was, in a way. With my friends I exuded confidence. I was the life and soul of the party (I was, at one point, one of the loud, obnoxious teenagers I now roll my eyes at). But then things started to change. My friends started to realise their goals but I still didn’t have a clue who I was or what I wanted my life to look like. Boys started entering the equation too. I couldn’t tell my friends that I wasn’t interested so I made up crushes and even tried to have a boyfriend once. I was very sad, very lonely, and very anxious. At 17 I ended up in A&E with a suspected heart attack. It turns out it was a severe panic attack and I ended up with a long list of mental health diagnoses.
After that my mum started to get sick of me (even more than she already was). She couldn’t understand why I was so anxious or why I cried all the time. She would say things like “get a grip” or “do you think anyone else is sitting at home crying about you?”. She would also call me loving names like “pathetic” and “loser” which is now, several years later, still a daily mantra I practice inside my head. Life was unbearable at home and I couldn’t escape it. I won’t go into any more detail because there are two sides to every story and I’m sure there are reasons why it all happened.
In 2013 I went to university. I’d always had visions of escaping far, far away but I didn’t manage it. I was set on a gap year but I was forced into uni so had to make a snap decision about where to go, so ended up in the city I’d grown up in. I moved into halls but couldn’t hack it at first. That’s when I first noticed how loud it was inside my brain. Everything I do has a running commentary; “don’t do that, you’ll look like an idiot”, “you shouldn’t have said that, they’ll think you’re stupid” “don’t try to cook that because you can’t”, “if they see you eating that they’ll laugh at you”, “don’t ask them to hang out outside of uni, they’ll say no”, “they’re only hanging out with you out of pity”, “you’re being too quiet, say something”, “you’re being too much, shut up”. That’s when I realised it was easier to shut out the world and spend most of my life in bed — and push away the friends I did have before they abandoned me.
I did spend a summer in the USA though, which was the best summer of my life.
In 2016 I graduated, and had a holiday to Tenerife to celebrate. I hated every second. Because of that holiday I got talked about behind my back and called horrible when I was trying to salvage my fractured friendship group. It was like being a teenager again where nothing I did was right. What followed was a lonely, awful two years cumulating in a long bout of unemployment and a mindset I never wanted to return to. I was working in an industry I hated. There were some perks of the job like meeting famous people, moving to Edinburgh briefly and free tickets to shows. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do and I couldn’t stand going to work every morning just to be shouted at by entitled middle-class wankers who couldn’t understand why I was making them adhere to the terms and conditions of a voucher they’d bought. In January 2018, I rage quit (and by rage quit I mean cried to my boss and cried harder when he looked very unhappy with me).
After I left that job I couldn’t find anything I wanted to do. The only thing I’d ever been sure about in my whole life was that I wanted to help people, but all I was being offered were bar jobs (not that there’s anything wrong with bar jobs but I couldn’t hack it). It was the worst year of my life. Towards the end of the year, I finally found an amazing job (which, 12 months on, I have been promoted in), started my dream masters and moved into a better home.
2019 hasn’t been easy. I’ve finally stopped talking to my family as I’ve realised that I can’t start to heal while they are squashing every little bit of progress I have made every time I see them. I could no longer stand being treated like a child, having my mental illnesses invalidated, and being told that they didn’t want to come to see me because I basically wasn’t worth it. My mum has told me all my life that she doesn’t like me so I need to start finding people who do.
In 2020 I want to dwell less on the negative. I want to focus on other people a bit more, but not in a way which negatively impacts on me like I have done in the past. I want to continue thriving in my job but I want to find other things that can define me because, right now, when people ask who I am all I can think to respond with is things about what I do for work. I want to go on more trips and say ‘yes’ a little bit more. I want to surround myself with people who think like me, and hopefully find someone to share all this with. It’s easier said than done but I want to worry a little less about what people think of me and start learning to love myself. In 2020 and beyond I want to become the best version of myself and leave the past where it belongs.
2020 is the start of the rest of my life — and I’m kicking it off with a trip to Krakow and a psych appointment!
Decade in summary:
2010: Trip to Tenby, Wales in October which was fun but freezing. Many outings with friends. Met Freddy and Katie Fitch from Skins and Bolton Smilie from Waterloo Road (lol). Saw Paramore for the first time.
2011: Summer trip to Devon. School leavers prom. All A*-C on GCSEs. Started college. Saw Jessie J for the first time.
2012: Trip to Scotland (Ayr, Glasgow and Edinburgh). Free trip to The Voice and a night in London curtesy of the BBC. Met Tom Jones and Danny from The Script. Lovely trip to London with my grandparents where we got very drunk in Covent Garden.
2013: Did well on A-levels and got featured in local paper and awarded a scholarship. Started university. Saw Emeli Sande in concert. Saw Jessie J for the second time. Made some good friends at uni.
2014: Was very unremarkable. I can’t remember a single thing that happened this year.
2015: Spent a summer living and working in upstate New York. Had several weekends in NYC. Travelled across the West Coast of America. Turned 21. Dyed my hair blonde.
2016: Graduated with a 2:1. Went to Tenerife to celebrate. Got our full house deposit back so I went on a spontaneous trip to Croatia and Slovenia. Had to move back ‘home’. Met Johnny Vegas for the first time
2017: Had some shitty bar jobs and hated every second of them. Got my first girlfriend. Got offered a job in a comedy club and had a pep talk from Johnny Vegas before I started. Met Rob Beckett, Reginald D Hunter and Paul Sinha from The Chase. Moved to Edinburgh for the summer and worked with lots of up and coming comedians who are now frequently on tv. Went to Madeira for Christmas.
2018: Quit job with no backup. Long unemployment. Trip to Milan. Saw Paramore in London. Started my masters. Worst year to date but I did end up starting my fabulous job.
2019: Not the best, not the worst. Trips to The Algarve and Budapest. London Pride. Promoted at work. Accepted my brain needed a little bit of help from medication. Let go of relationships that weren’t helping me.
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