It's been a while.

Heck, it's been too long. I've just not been in the headspace for writing lately.

Life has been strange lately. There are aspects of it that I can't talk about on the blog at this moment in time, and that in itself winds me up! I've said before now that I missed having some kind of private life, but I stand corrected.

However, there are bits that I can talk about! A couple of weeks ago, I flew to London to go to an MQ Young People's Advisory Group meeting. Remember that post written from a 24 hour bar with a cup of tea? Well, I did eventually sleep, then had breakfast, followed by a bit more sleep, and consequently a late checkout! The meeting that followed was incredible though, and I'm looking forward to attending the next one in April!

In the meantime, I'm making another trip to London next week. It's a privilege to be able to say I'm attending the MQ Science Meeting, let alone that I'm going to be on a panel alongside some incredible people. Cue guided meditations for overcoming anxiety surrounding public speaking! (I'm not even kidding.)

Next week I'm also making a return to therapy. Yes, I've recognised that I'm struggling again, and I'm getting help and speaking openly about it. Why? Because where's the shame in asking for help when you need it?

It comes down to the fact that I'm tired of not being able to get a good night's sleep any time I've been reminded of the events of December 2015. Why should I be tied down by nightmares?

Anywho, I'm going to finish this post here. Please, if you have any questions I can answer in future blog posts, leave a comment! I miss writing, a lot. Help a girl out!

Hope and hugs,
Megan xx

"How do you cope with traveling when you're anxious?"

Up until very recently, traveling was one of the things that kept me sane. I'd sleep better and feel happier when I was away from home. Tonight, though, I'm realising a few things have changed.

I'm in London to do some voluntary work today. I'm excited! But I'm also completely exhausted. I've slept for about 2 hours in 48. I'm nauseous, and every time I lie down I feel like I'm about to be sick. So, at 2am, I'm in a 24-hour bar in my pyjamas, socks, and a coat, filling up on cups of tea. Money's quickly running out, but I'm a bit lost as to what else I can do.

Nobody's batting an eyelid at the girl who clearly can't sleep so decided to come down to the bar. I'm getting the guest discount without any questions being asked, because who in their right mind would go out of their way to go to a bar in their pyjamas? Thing is, I'm not sure I am in my right mind.

If anyone watched me too closely, I'd quickly be branded the "crazy girl". I keep staring off into space, and occasionally there are a few tears. I stare at nothing in particular and shake my head. I check my emails every few minutes. I check my bank account every few minutes.

So for all traveling used to keep me sane, on this occasion, it inexplicably seems to be the very thing draining my sanity. But hey, at least I've got a blog post out of it!

Theresa May | Talking the talk, but when will you walk the walk?

As per usual, everything is happening at once. Northern Ireland is heading into an early election, meaning that once again mental health is going to be a topic of radio silence as far as our executive goes.

Meanwhile, in England, Theresa May is saying that she will make mental health a priority, contradicting every action the government has taken so far.

You see, for months, if not years, spending for CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) has been slashed. Today Theresa May has announced that she plans to ensure that schools are trained in mental health first aid. Effectively, the responsibility is being shifted from healthcare providers to schools.

Schools, regardless of the amount of training provided, will never be in a position to provide adequate care for students with mental illnesses. The training specified by our Prime Minister is fantastic when used alongside services such as CAMHS, but we're going in totally the wrong direction.

The ratio of students to staff in schools means that children cannot possibly receive the one-on-one attention they need when struggling with mental illness, which is why services such as CAMHS exist in the first place.

So whilst I would love to be excited about today's headlines, I'm actually just rather sad.

Our governments are continuing to fail young people at every hurdle. Mental health first aid should have been implemented in schools long ago, and it should never be used as a substitute for mental health services as I believe we are going to see happen next.

"Are you content?"

No, no, no! I'm not content. Am I happy? I'm getting there. But no, I'm not content, and I'm okay with that. I don't want to be content.

The day that I'm content is the day that I stop aspiring to be more, to be better than the person I was yesterday, to help more people than I already have. Why would I ever aim to be content?

You see, to be content is not the aim. As far as I'm concerned, I can save being content for my last day on this earth. And I'm hoping I've a while before that day arrives. Until then, I'm going to keep aiming for bigger and better things. You should too.

At no point throughout life should we find ourselves ready to settle for where we are. When we do, we've stopped dreaming. Where's the fun in that?

Hello to a New Year | Goodbye 2016

Music. Fireworks. Glasses being raised. Kisses being exchanged. Screams echoing. Tears falling.

Okay, so I could either be describing a Bond film or the scenes that play out at midnight at the end of each year. I promise it's the latter.

What a year. I've watched so many peoples' lives playing out around me. I've lived through another year of my own life. And it's the first time I can honestly say I lived rather than simply surviving.

I took the leap and launched the website. I've been telling my story in its entirety. I've met so many incredible friends, hugged so many wonderful people, and grieved so many beautiful souls. I've been handed unbelievable opportunities. I've been sober, and I've also been drunk. I've collected countless more books. I've even had a few books signed.

It's been quite the year.

But I'm ready to say goodbye to it. This year brought more experiences of sexual assault and harassment as I attempted to travel for the first time since my first assault. Whilst none of those experiences have been nearly as haunting as that first experience, they did shake me, and they seemed to open up the wounds created by the first one. It's time to let those wounds heal again.

Most importantly, though, I'm still here. I've arguably had more reason than ever to give up this year, but I've kept fighting. I've had friends holding me upright, and I've tried to hold those same friends upright when they've needed it. There are a few people in particular who have been incredible, supporting me despite the fact that they were going through their own pain.

Perhaps most significantly, the majority of the people I've shared my life with this year have helped me learn how to let myself lean on others. In the last three years, I've come to rely on myself, never trusting anyone enough to let them help me stay afloat. Now, though, I'm very much a person of community. I wouldn't have stayed in recovery this year had I not had the support of my truly remarkable circle of friends.

This year has been a year of healing and growth.

"What have you learned in 2016?"

Some of the biggest lessons I've learned throughout this year have been related to who I am, what I need to do in order to stay safe from my mind, and the things I want to go on to do in the future.

Don't get me wrong, I still lie awake at night, plagued by the question "who am I?". I look in the mirror and I don't always recognise the woman looking back at me, but unfortunately it's not always because I've grown into a better person. Sometimes I don't recognise myself because I've put on a mask without realising it.

I was talking to a friend recently about one of the things that was bothering me and said, "y'know, just last night I lay in bed, crying, and I realised that this isn't me".

I'm not entirely sure who I am, but I'm getting closer to finding out through a process of elimination!

As for staying safe from my mind, I realised towards the end of this year that I was passively suicidal. A scary realisation for anyone. A bit of research confirmed what I already knew; the slightest trigger can flip the switch and push someone to becoming actively suicidal.

I sat and thought about this, wondering what I could do to keep myself safe.

Accountability.

I posted in a group of friends and asked them a question. "Is it okay if I come here and tell you all if I flip and become actively suicidal?". The reasoning behind this was that a lot of these people knew me quite well, and know my reasons for sticking around, so they were the perfect people to remind me that I can't leave this world yet.

Thankfully nothing has changed and I've not flipped to actively suicidal so far.

As for what I want to do in the future...well, a lot of that was covered in yesterday evening's blog post. There is more, but what can I say? I like to keep my cards close to my chest!

"What are you going to do in 2017?"

This year has been quite the year, mostly due to the fact that on 21st March I launched this website. I'm pleased to say that I'm still here, and plan to expand my presence somewhat in the coming year.

So whilst I've not entirely mapped out 2017 yet (because, really, what's the point?), I have planned how I'm kicking it off, in that I'm going to be reducing the number of blog posts I publish each week so that I have time to draft a submission for a literary agent. Who knows, maybe 2017 will be the year that One Day At A Time becomes something bigger, not to mention physical.

I'm also going to be making a day-trip to London to work alongside some lovely folk at a charity. That'll happen four times throughout the year, and I'm really, truly excited about it all!

Other than that I've no plans, but I think both of those are pretty huge in their own right.

The darkness of this year only serves to push me to do more next year. We've lost so many incredible voices, it stands to reason that those of us who are still here need to raise our voices and ensure that we don't stand by as silent witnesses to the goings-on that have shaken the world of late.

"Why is contrast important?"

I'll be the first to admit that this year has been tough. I don't think I've ever cried so much in the space of a year. Now, a lot of that could be put down to the fact that when I first began suffering from anxiety and depression, I almost trained myself not to cry. If I'd let myself cry every time I felt like it back then, I would have been in a near-constant flood of tears. I think this year I finally broke through that barrier and began crying again.

However, I think the number of tears can be attributed to the fact that this year has been an overwhelming roller-coaster.

From memory, the first thing I did this year was to send my assaulter a message to wish them a happy new year. I was still a victim of gaslighting at the time, and my memory was still pretty foggy.

As for what the last thing I do will be, well, I've yet to figure that one out. However, I'm thinking I'll raise a glass and breathe a sigh of relief. I survived 2016.

So, back to the point of this post. This year, I had a breakdown at a concert. It happened for a lot of reasons, probably the most significant being that I'd experienced assault for the second time in my life less than 24 hours earlier. It was hell on earth.

I later went on to see one of my childhood heroes, Michael Morpurgo, reading his book, War Horse, alongside Joanna Lumley. I sat approximately 10 feet away from these two incredible humans, and I cried with gratitude. I wouldn't have been there had I turned back and gone home following the breakdown.

The following day I boarded a coach to Germany, and a few days after that I saw the same singer in concert that I'd been listening to when I broke down a week ago. That was one of the most incredible nights I've ever had, for several reasons.

In summary, those final few experiences would not have been as important and wonderful to me as they were if I hadn't broken down at the first concert. The bad only served to make the good that bit better.

That is why contrast is so important.

It's okay to be "busy". | A Hug From Me To You

There was no blog post yesterday. I was "busy". No, I wasn't out doing things with friends or even interacting with family. I was sitting in bed, and from the outside, it looked as though I was doing nothing.

The truth is, I was sorting through my head and trying to quiet each panicky thought. I was busy trying to stop myself from drowning in my own mind. It's left me feeling pretty guilty because I'm planning to reduce the number of blog posts I publish each week starting in January.

But the thing is, it's okay to be busy. I've learned the hard way that if I don't take the time to look after my mind it leads to a longer period of absence down the line. So I've fought the guilt and I've taken the time to make sure I'm a bit more stable before throwing myself back into writing.

I'm planning to write a little extra in the run up to the New Year in an attempt to make up for this latest absence. I've become a tad nostalgic in the last few days, so it should be fairly "easy" to rustle up a few extra pieces. In my nostalgia, I've been able to put my finger on a few lessons I've learned throughout the last twelve months. It's been quite the year.

Love to everyone,
Megan xx

"Why does suicide prevention need to extend to social media?"

Last night a good friend of mine sent me a like to an article on The Frisky regarding Instagram's new mental health support features. Much like the feature recently rolled out on Facebook that allows users to report concerning posts anonymously, it will cause a prompt to be sent to the person whose post was reported. This prompt encourages them to speak to friends, provides the person with contact details for local helplines, and even offers tips.

"Suicidal thoughts and calls for help or posts about starving oneself oddly find a home on social media. It’s only responsible for the platforms and users to have everyone else’s back." -Karen Fratti for The Frisky

What we have to understand is that we are living in an ever-changing world. Much of our lives now end up played out online. I've been both the person reading a concerning post, and the person making the concerning post. It's not unusual for people in dark places to lash out at those expressing concern for their well-being, and as such, it's incredibly useful for concerned friends to be able to report these posts anonymously.

It's also a comfort to know that when we're struggling and our mask slips, there is someone out there listening. How many times have you felt isolated and alone whilst going through a rough patch?

At the end of the day, as Karen Fratti and so many others have said, social media platforms do have a responsibility to their users. It's time for mental health support to come into line with the world we're creating, we need mental health charities to create a presence on social media, and we need platforms to be receptive to an increasingly apparent need for integrated, instant support.

"What do you do when you can't sleep?"

Recently I've stopped waking up frantically gasping for air and crying hysterically. However, I am struggling to get to sleep, often finding myself still awake at 5 am. It's far from ideal, because often when I wake up, it's too late to get anything done outside of the house. I've missed final postage dates before Christmas, I'm possibly not going to get my last benefits payment of the year, etc., all because I keep oversleeping.

But despite the fact that I end up oversleeping, I'd rather not just lie in bed tossing and turning for hours until I eventually fall asleep. After all, I'd probably still oversleep and be exhausted the following day. The only difference would be I'd have more work to do.

So generally what I do is I work on projects, write blog posts, or watch the odd film. I'll flick through news sites to see if anything new has been said about mental health. In the past, I've even sat up through the night and re-branded the website. I'll check exchange rates to get an idea of whether my bills to U.S. companies will rise or fall, and I'll check flight prices out of sheer nosiness and the hope that one day I'll be able to travel again.

Or I'll have a night like last night where I watched Billy Connolly talking about Robin Williams, and how he kept phoning him to say "I love you" before he died. I ended up sobbing, heartbroken all over again. As much as I never knew Robin personally, his death shook me to my core.

Most of the time, though, I sit and wonder "what else can I do to improve the experiences of future generations?"

I'm doing the best I can right now, yet I'm always wondering what I can do next. What constitutes my best right now isn't always going to be my best, because I'm going to continue growing and gathering new experiences. I need to grow my endeavours in correlation with that.

"How do you feel about the approach of a new year?"

In the past, I've found myself having a panic attack in the minutes before the clock struck 12, heralding a new year. I vividly remember one year, I was hysterical and telling a friend I wasn't ready for a new year yet. I had things I wanted to fix, mistakes I'd made in the year that was about to end.

This year couldn't be more different. I said recently "I have a feeling I'll arrive in 2017 breathless, feeling like I've run a marathon, and looking for the next challenge". Well, I've found the next challenge(s). I'm pleased to say that next year, I'm going to be taking my work to England once again. More on that another day.

I'm also planning to start quite the writing project next year. We're in the region of 200 posts on this website now, and I want to grow. I've spent the last couple of weeks researching publishing agencies. Take that information how you wish.

Of course, with this new writing project looming in addition to the odd trip to England, I'm going to have less time to write for this site. So, the plan is to possibly reduce posts to three times a week. I hope you're all okay with that. There are plenty in the archives, and a search bar at the base of the website. I'm sure you haven't read all 200 posts yet! And at the end of it all, I shall hopefully have something bigger and better for you all to read.

In short, I've decided to make 2017 "my year". 2016 has been a rollercoaster, with lots of incredible opportunities, but it's also thrown more than its fair share of punches. So next year is going to be the year that I get up and fulfill a couple of dreams.

I'm glad to have had you all by my side this year. Thank you.

M xx

My experience of gender dysphoria | Dylan F

OK, so a while back, I suggested to the lovely Megan that I do a wee blog for her. Now you don't know me from Adam, or Eve, or Edam (that terrible pun will become clearer as I go on, I promise).

I should probably introduce myself, huh? Well... this may take a while as I'm going through some changes. My name right now is Elspeth, but I'm trying out the name Dylan, as much as I can really try it before going hell for leather with it. I'm changing my name as I want to have a name that's less feminine and more gender neutral, with perhaps a gentle masculine bent on it.

Yes, folks, I'm non-binary. That is to say that I don't identify with being either male or female. I'm sort of a mixture of both, hence the cheesy pun earlier (oh dear, I did it again, didn't I?). Anyway, I'm an AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans-masculine non-binary person. Try saying that three times fast.

Anyway, as I'm sure you're well aware, people suffering gender identity issues can suffer badly from mental health issues. They can range all over the shop, from anxiety to depression, to body dysphoria (extreme unhappiness relating to their bodies). The purpose of my post is to discuss my own experiences in the vain hope that they may help you understand a bit more, and that it may even help a few folks get to grips with things, just as I'm trying to right now.

Word of warning - my tone may darken a bit in its nature from here on in, but stick with me, reader, I will try to make it worth your while.

Ok so... How have my gender issues affected my mental health in the past? Truthfully, I wanted to ignore my body. I wore mostly baggy clothes, despite being slim. I walked with a hunch so as to hide my budding breasts. There were occasions that I'd don the heels and make-up (in fact, I went through a HUGE nail polish phase) and wear short skirts, and I just... I didn't feel like me.

Now, I didn't have a clue what was going on, but it didn't feel like something I could or should discuss freely, so I hid it. I hid everything. My apparent homosexuality, my body discomfort, everything. I swallowed it down into the pit of my stomach, where it festered and churned. Because, folks, you can hide these things from outsiders, but you most definitely can't hide them from yourself. It will burn and keep repeating on you, like acid reflux. It didn't help that I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and cyclothymia (a form of bipolar disorder) waiting to smack me in the face, as it later did. 

Now, at least I know that I have generalised anxiety disorder and cyclothymia. I say that because looking back I think that the two often got merged. Heck, they still do now. I mean, there are days I find it hard to leave the house, and then there are days I find it hard to leave the house and I'm crying because I have boobs. But I'm much more aware of the differences. I now get anxiety about going to each of my gender-related appointments. Not just because each one means I'm getting closer to actually having to do things, like come out to my parents, but because I will have to face the dysphoria afterward. I wasn't expecting it the first time when I discussed things with my doctor. I came out feeling a little elated, but that soon crashed as I got back to my house, and sat down and thought about the questions she'd asked about my breasts, and vagina, and my feelings towards each. I sat and considered my responses, and became increasingly aware of body parts that, unless I was in a sexual situation, I spent most of my time ignoring. I brushed as much under the carpet as I could muster. 

So, all in all, I think it could be said that while the gender dysphoria has a profound effect on my mental health, the fact that I have separate issues doesn't seem to help matters. Each issue has a knock-on effect with the other if that makes sense.

"Unacceptably high levels of suicide." | My Response to the Health Select Committee

I must say, I was confused to see an article by the BBC detailing that "The number of people taking their own lives in England is unacceptably high". The first thing that crossed my mind was that, surely, anything above 0 is an unacceptably high rate of suicide? The second thing was that once again, a conversation has taken place in England, about England, whilst those of us in Northern Ireland continue to hear little more than radio silence and quite frankly, pathetic excuses as to why more cannot be done to support our people living with and suffering from mental illness(es).

So, due to the fact that I've discovered through experience that politicians involved in healthcare have a nasty habit of brushing off the concerns of "outsiders" (aka, the people whose lives they're playing with), I decided I'd sit and write a response for all to see. Maybe you'll join me in voicing our concerns; after all, it's harder to ignore nationwide outrage.

First of all, when are we going to remember that people are individuals? Stop looking at the numbers. As I've already stated, anything above a 0 should be considered an unacceptably high level of suicide. When are we going to sit down and question why each person is falling through the cracks? It's not hard to work out. I challenge every MP to look at the number of suicides in their constituency and look at the availability of mental health services. Maybe even talk to the families who have lost loved ones, find out how many lost souls had known mental health issues and were unable to access satisfactory help before it was too late.

Second of all, again, I'm repeating myself, but why isn't this conversation taking place in other parts of the UK? When are the politicians of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales going to address the issue of suicide in their countries? It's all very well talking about the levels of suicide in England being "unacceptable", but why are we waiting for the numbers to reach that point? Surely we should be doing absolutely everything in our power to stop them in their tracks?

MPs are elected to represent their constituencies, not just England. Why aren't they speaking up about the issue of suicide in their own areas? This is a conversation that needs to be had, and it needs to be had right now. I'm happy to see it being talked about, I really am, but I am slightly concerned that it appears to have been left until figures become embarrassing for government.

"What steps are you taking to recover from assault?"

A little over a year ago, I got my semi-colon tattoo. One of the first posts I wrote for this website was about that tattoo and what it means to me. I'd been waiting for a long time to get that tattoo, so to be able to get it in New York just hours before it would be 2 years since I took my last overdose...well, it was quite simply overwhelming and magical.

I had a friend with me when I got that tattoo. "You'll think of me whenever you look at it", he said. Hours later, the assault took place.

Now, I don't want to repeat everything I've already said about that night. It was traumatic, I still can't sleep, and it's still nearly impossible for me to have a "normal" relationship. We know all that. What I haven't really talked about is the fact that I feel sick every time I look at the tattoo that meant so much to me.

All year, I've been looking at it thinking "I should probably get it covered, but I don't want to lose the memory of the excitement I felt when I signed the forms before getting it done because of him". So, when a friend suggested I had it adjusted and get butterfly wings added to it to signify an ugly journey resulting in something beautiful, I texted my tattooist and asked him when I could drop in.

Tomorrow, I'm going to be reclaiming my body. The person who assaulted me has put me through hell over the last 12 months, and that's without being in my life. It's time for me to move past that. I got some exciting news last night, and I'll share that in due course, but the ugliness of the last year truly has led to something incredible.

"Low Achievers?" | The People Project

This post was originally written for The People Project

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I recently heard someone make an incredibly foolish and arguably dangerous generalization.  By way of his or her statement, this person wished to imply that people with learning difficulties are low achievers.  

In response, I’d like to draw your attention to the following individuals:  Daniel Radcliffe, who is dyspraxic, Richard Branson who is dyslexic, Agatha Christie who was dysgraphic, and Albert Einstein who may have suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome. 

Would you consider any of these people to be low achievers?  

I think you would agree that they are anything but!

Why do I get so angry when these generalizations are made?  Surely they’re not doing any harm?

But, they are.  They’re doing major damage to the self-esteem and self-worth of those who are being branded as “low achievers.”

These days, it appears that a large proportion of people hold the view that there is one route to learning, and one way only.  If an individual doesn’t fit into that box, then he or she becomes subject to the judgment of people who cannot understand that there might, in fact, be another way.

To quote Albert Einstein:   “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid.”

In my experience, people who are learning disabled are faced with negativity by the majority of people who do not or choose not to understand what this might mean.  This can lead to the development of lifelong self-doubt and low self- esteem on the part of the individual who is learning disabled.  The individual may feel inadequate, and may continue to believe that he or she is never achieving enough, when in fact, the contrary may be the case.  Often, people with learning difficulties or disabilities do not even recognize when they have achieved something.  Even if people tell them that they have done well, it’s unlikely to sink in.  

Or at least, that has been my own personal experience.  

In the past, I have been referred to as a “low achiever.”  This has really affected my sense of self-confidence.  There was one incident in the past, when I was referred to as an “imbecile” by a teacher, in front of my class.  It was an incredibly humiliating experience.

I think people in positions of authority can be very damaging, especially when they refer to teens as “low achievers.”  It's a little like playing with fire.  People generally have respect for those in authority, therefore their opinions can be incredibly important and are more likely to be accepted at face value.  As such, I think that such behaviour can have long term, detrimental effects on the person who is labeled a low-achiever – effects that may include anxiety, depression, and even suicide.

Telling people that they are low achievers can go one of two ways:

1.  They will become increasingly determined to achieve things, just to prove you wrong or to win your approval.  I think that this in itself can be damaging, leading to increased anxiety, overwork, and lack of sleep, leaving the so-called low achiever feeling run-down and depressed.

2.  They will stop trying.  If you tell people enough times that they are low achievers, they may very well start to believe you.  They may begin to believe that they quite simply can’t achieve anything.  Again, this can be dangerous, leading to low morale, low self-esteem, and a severe lack of self-worth.

So before you call someone a low achiever, ask yourself why you’re doing it.  

Is it perhaps a reflection of how YOU feel about yourself and your achievements, or, potentially, the lack thereof?

*If you’ve been bullied into believing that you’re a low achiever, remember that it’s okay to feel upset or hurt.  You can sit down and cry – but at some stage, you must get up, wipe those tears, and start walking again.  If they get you down, don’t let them keep you down.

"Remembering your roots?"

Whilst I can hardly define myself as "successful" in this moment, I have spent the last few days remembering where I started. I recently got myself into a bit of a state, realising that the articles I once wrote for a website were probably gone for good now that the website has ceased to exist.

Here's the thing, whilst I was only 16 at the time, it was the first time I'd ever done any sort of writing on a regular basis. I loved it! And despite my age, every time I spoke with the co-founder to submit a new article, she was incredibly encouraging.

So, when it occurred to me last night that the articles may well still exist in the form of attachments to old emails, I went digging. Successful in my search, I started reading both articles and the exchanges that took place between myself and the co-founder. One, in particular, had me weeping, as I thought of all the people who have since echoed those words: "Megan, we need more people like you to speak up on these issues. Don't ever give up Megan. Yours is a voice that should be heard and cherished. You have so much to contribute to the world. (Not to mention that you are obviously a talented writer...). Sue."
Now, I may have forgotten those words for a while, but I never forgot writing for that website. I say this about so many opportunities I've been given over the years, but I'm not sure I'd be where I am today had I not started by writing for Sue's website. Looking back, I'm blown away by the support and encouragement she gave me.

Sue, on the off-chance you wind up reading this post, thank you. I'll not be forgetting where those words originally came from again. My life's come full circle since then, and I'm glad to be back to writing.

"Is self-harm an addiction?"

First of all, let me start by saying I made it through another December 12th! I wouldn't have made it through this year without the support of a few special people. I won't embarrass them by naming them here, but they know who they are.

On Sunday night particularly I had a lot of support from people in various forms, from keeping me company via video chat, to telling me their phones were on if I needed help during the night, to checking on me periodically via text. One person said something that meant I got through the night without doing myself any harm - "don't do anything silly, self-harm or anything beyond that, it'll only serve to hurt people".

Nobody else had said anything about that, and here was someone bringing it up without making a big deal about it. There were no questions, just an undeniably true statement.

The truth is, in the last few months, I've had the internal narrative of an addict. I'll be lying in bed thinking "if I did hurt myself, and I didn't tell anyone and hid it from everyone, would it count? As far as anyone would know, I'd still be on track for three years of recovery...". Invariably, I catch myself on and remind myself that even if nobody else noticed, I'd be letting myself down, not just by giving up the fight, but by lying to everyone around me.

So despite the fact that I still had that narrative on loop in my head on Sunday night, I got through it. I'm still on track for three years of recovery.

I've said for years that self-harm is an addiction, and scientifically speaking, it is. It's a rush of endorphins, and when you've not felt anything for weeks, or all you seem capable of feeling is darkness, of course, if becomes easy to become hooked on the rush. You start to chase the high, and like any addiction, you end up losing friends the further you fall.

I've grown tired of losing friends, so as hard as it's become lately, I'm continuing to fight. It's a long battle, and yeah, there are days when I miss being in a position where I can momentarily pick my mood up. But I just keep reminding myself of the lows that followed the high. The come-down was always worse than what preceded the high.

Keep fighting!

Contrast | 2013, 2015, 2016

With so many things in one day, I've been finding it tough to find the positives. I've been trying too hard to see what's right under my nose again.

Three years ago, I felt so alone that I didn't want to fight anymore. Last year, whilst I considered ending things when I got home, I didn't, and that was because I was surrounded by so much love and support.

The same is true this year. My mood's dropped off a cliff in the run up to today. Things have crossed my mind, but just as they do, friends seem to pick up on the fact that I need a bit of extra support. I don't think there's been a day in the last two weeks that I haven't woken up to a message from someone checking to see how I am.

One message I received in the early hours a few days ago actually woke me and pulled me out of a night terror. I've never been so grateful to be woken up at 6.30 in the morning before.

So sure, it's not a great day and it brings all sorts of trust issues and anxiety to the surface, but at the end of the day, if nothing else, I've never felt less alone. I'm scared of the future and I'm scared to trust the people who are making sure I don't feel alone, but I'm trusting them and moving forward anyway. Because the alternative isn't pretty.

A lot's changed in three years. I am not giving up.

3am | A lifetime of hurt in a single moment.

This time three years ago I was sitting in bed and about to take a handful of pills. I was about to enter a semi-comatose state that would be filled with fear, regret, and a desire to live. I was going to be lying amongst the metaphorical wreckage of a friendship that was falling apart around me.

Two years later, I was lying on a bathroom floor on a different continent. I was hugging my phone, crying, and trying to make sense of what had just happened. I was now an assault victim.

One date. So much pain. Time I can't get back. Events I can't change. Wounds that never seem to heal fast enough, making them easy for people to open up with careless words, unanticipated movements. Memories that haunt my sleep, waking the people around me before they wake me. Causing me to lash out at the people I love, forgetting that I love them and that they love me.

It's going to be a long day.

I said recently that I spend every day looking for good people. I realise now that I don't have to look far because I'm surrounded by them. They're the people who hold my hand when I'm convinced that good people don't really exist. I forget them, I don't see them, I momentarily allow my past to define me rather than simply shape me.

I'm grateful for the good people in my life, and there are so many of them. I'm glad I survived. If I hadn't, I would never have known just how good life can get. I suspect I still don't. The best times of my life have yet to come.