[Chatter] At Last, Let’s Talk About Depression.

I think over the last year or two I may have attempted to draft out this post four or five times. As I wrote this very first paragraph for this working draft, it was January of 2018. I knew I wanted to put this up eventually, and I felt like it was approaching the right time to do so. I also knew that I have always struggled to express the feelings (or lack of) in a proper way that feels like it’s doing my experience justice, so in order to get my words out on time, I started early.

Do feel free to grab some tea.

If you’re a friend I have directed to this post, it’s because I’m crap at explaining this in person or even over WhatsApp, especially when I’ve been caught off-guard on a Sunday evening. All this is just me talking about things I have always wanted to talk to you all about but never got the words right for. I hope none of you mind.

Here’s a Trigger Warning for Depression, Self-Harm and Suicide.

For a long time, I didn’t quite relate to the idea of needing a trigger warning (even if I understood the reason for it) but recently I have been feeling extra sensitive towards this topic myself. It’s not particularly graphic or anything, though. If you’re not sure whether to read on, I’d err on the side of caution and not continue.


Firstly, I may as well tell you what the symptoms of depression are. We can spot them together as I back-track through my life. Here it is, the DSM-5 criteria for a diagnosis of depression:

A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period and represent a change from previous functioning; at least one of the symptoms is either

  1. depressed mood or
  2. loss of interest or pleasure.

Note: Do not include symptoms that are clearly attributable to another medical condition.

  • Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day.
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  • Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  • Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

B. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
C. The episode is not attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or to another medical condition.


The earliest recorded indication that I was depressed probably goes back to 2015 when I was still 17. In fact, it was on this blog because I had no other outlet. I’ve always written my honest thoughts on this blog, as bland as my life was, because it’s just not the same otherwise. To sort-of quote one of my old blog posts, pretending is draining. It’s the same reason that I love to share happy things with others and it’s for the same reason that I am a terrible liar.

So I was looking all the way to 2015, the first year of the blog and my first year of A-Levels (Y12), and life doesn’t seem bad. Mundane? Yes. Occasionally, I got angry, and I got stressed, but within what I thought were normal means for a student of Hell A-Levels. I went to work, I slept, I tried my best to manage everything and was failing. I was easily triggered, especially by my school reports, and I clung to my hobbies (and this blog) a lot as a means of coping.

My grades were suffering, and teachers were pulling me aside to ask me if anything was wrong. I said no because, at the time, I genuinely didn’t know. Some teachers thought I was just lazy and lacking effort (which I admit I agreed with). I mention Student Support briefly in this post from April 2015 from when I got sent there instead. They thought I was overworking myself and lacking in sleep (the latter being true). I didn’t feel this was the case as I simply was not getting anything done despite always being at my desk. I was stuck in this spiral of unproductivity, lack of sleep, and hating myself all in abundance. It was mostly hating myself, though.

For quite a while, I thought most of my issues were the fault of the school or the education system. Now, after lots of rational thinking, I don’t blame my school for my depression at all, because how could they have helped me out when I had no clue what was going on, mentally speaking, myself?

In October 2015 (the beginning of Y13 and my second year of A-Levels), I expressed a thought on this blog post about wanting to see the GP about my mental health. This means that I must have been thinking about it for quite a while, prior to that post going up. I had probably at least googled the symptoms and taken the quiz on the NHS site. Note the mental breakdowns (I think this means my negative emotions peaking and crying myself to sleep), and note the P.S. where I mention that I was finding it hard to concentrate. Yet at this point in time, I ended up not going to the GP about it.

I mentioned the breakdowns again in February 2016, talking about stupid school assessments, but this time more casually. I was getting the impression that this was a normal thing, that my feelings were not significant enough to seek help for and that this was part and parcel of being an A-Level student. My emotions were fluctuating, even then, but now it was so long ago I can’t really mention any specifics.

Later, I decided to include less of my feelings on the blog and more of what I was actually doing, so there’s not much there that shows what I was feeling until much later.

What I do remember, though, is that during that school year we studied depression as part of the abnormal psychology topic, and I distinctly remember the lesson on diagnostic criteria – looking at the list of symptoms on the board and thinking ‘all of that sounds like me.’

Anyway, I finished my last year of school, and my A-Levels went terribly (I say that, but I didn’t fail any) and I decided to take a gap year. Despite this, life was not particularly awful – in fact, it seemed like a lot of fun judging from past blog posts. Things seemed okay. I was beginning to branch out with what I was doing whilst making time for my hobbies and, well, widened my horizons a bit.


In the latter half of March 2017, I booked my first appointment with my GP for my mental health. I thought of having this post up on the 28th, a year since the date of my first appointment. It would be the first of quite a few that spring/summer. To this day I am still incredibly proud of myself for doing the adult thing and picking up the phone. I was so terrified.

At the appointment, I wanted to explain things logically to my GP, but I ended up breaking down crying, saying something like ‘I don’t know, I just… I just feel so sad all the time’. The truth was, that was the first major step I had taken to do something about my depression and I felt the impact of the moment – I didn’t know whether any of what I was doing would help, but I knew it was important that I did something.

My GP asked me why I was having the emotions that I had (as opposed to the what of early 2015) and I replied that I genuinely did not know. Where earlier I was comparing my experiences with others and not finding my situation comparable to them, this time I was on my gap year and life really did not seem bad at the time. My depression was, and still is, very irrational of me considering my circumstances.

I went to see a counsellor. It helped a little bit, but not that much. I think most of the change in mindset afterwards happened by itself.


A month and a bit later, I was a week after finishing my medication and my next GP appointment was not for another two days. On the 14th of May, I was not in a good mood, and neither was my mom. We got into a heated spat about something very minor. I broke down in the bathroom, and I saw the open cabinet door with the pair of scissors in it.

Scissors are relatively very blunt compared to other sharp objects, so all I ended up with were some very red, raised lines, and the tiniest beads of blood. It took a lot of pressure and self-hate to make those marks at all, let alone draw blood. Had that been a razor (we don’t use hand razors in this house) I might have ended up in hospital or worse. I spent a lot of time afterwards looking at the marks on my arm, ‘trying to figure out what they mean’, according to a diary entry. The lines are unnoticeable now but sometimes I wish I still had a scar to remind myself always that things were worse before and better now.

However, I wrote a private diary entry in an old notebook after my shower, and that’s enough. This is how I can write about it now because I knew it was a new low for me, and one that I needed reminding of. In hindsight, I wasn’t ready to be without the antidepressants yet, and I noticed multiple times later on that if I didn’t take my medication for a few days my mood would crash pretty badly without any other obvious cause. Needless to say, I tried not to go without them again and scheduled my appointments appropriately for the next few months.


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In September 2017, I started to evaluate my mood on a scale of +10 to -10. My average mood when I am depressed being around -3 or -4. In general, I was feeling much better. I actually hadn’t taken my medication for months at that point but I didn’t feel awful and I didn’t feel a crash as I stopped. I went out with some friends on the 9th September, and my mood was about a +7, according to my diary: “I felt so good. I can’t stress that enough, I’m so surprised by it.”

Then I managed to crash to a -7 which I now have pegged as ‘suicidal thoughts with minor urges to actually carry it out’. I genuinely wanted to jump out of a window, and I was petrified that I would. I couldn’t sleep and ended up writing in my diary at 2:20am, two hours after getting home, after breaking all sorts of rules. It took me weeks to climb back up from that -7. I thought it might have been the alcohol, at the time, but now I don’t think that was the case. It was at least the first time that I realised how sensitive my mood could be to change even if things were good.

Again, nothing was inherently wrong with my life besides my feelings. There was no ‘why’. I had exciting events planned and I was about to start at my university. There was a complete mismatch between my situation and my mood, objectively, and I think that lead to a dysphoria, a ‘state of unease or dissatisfaction with life’ that was really hard to shake off. When people ask me what’s wrong, there’s genuinely nothing wrong, and it’s hard to explain that I can’t control my mood fully even with all my best attempts to do so.

But I did write that night about how my parents can’t be blamed for things. That they worked their butts off and always did the best they could for their kids and that I felt bad they ended up with a crap daughter like myself. It’s strange, because I’ve never felt so comfortable with myself by my own standards but the moment that the other people I love are involved I’m not worth anything anymore. 

That feeling still persists from time to time. I’m working on it.


 

20180211125525_IMG_7703-02-01.jpegSince we are on a timeline, I want to also mention Jonghyun of SHINee as I’ve been meaning to say something about him, too. Never found the right words, though. He committed suicide on the 18th December, 2017 after a long battle with depression. He was a successful performer, y’know – world at his fingertips and all, and he still felt that way. He finished all the preparations for his new album, Poet/Artist, and he even filmed some variety shows. His album was released posthumously. It’s fantastic.

I can’t claim to know what he was thinking. From what I could tell, he had been planning it for a long time, all whilst thinking of who and what he loved and was leaving behind. As a member of SHINee and as a solo artist he knew he was very, very, very well loved, and still chose to make the decision to end his life. I think the album and what he left behind were all signs of that – that he cared so deeply for his family, his friends, and his fans. I think one of the few things that kept him wanting to be alive was just that.

That’s something I relate to. For me, I think my life is small and trivial, but my friends are my world. I would not want to wish the after-effects of my death on them, and if it means staying alive for them, then sure. I think suicide, in a sense, is selfish in that way (I’m not sure how better to word that). What I’m trying to say is, I think Jonghyun chose to end his life as a final act of self-care, and still he was thinking of those he loved by planning his album and his suicide. I am sure he has found his own happiness now.

Again, I cannot pretend I know him, and I just wanted to share some thoughts on my point of view, and finally get it off my chest. I didn’t realise it would shake me so badly. I cried reading the initial announcements on the news, and even weeks later I feel tremendously sad at anything involving him, like Lee Hi’s performance of a song he wrote. I haven’t been able to listen to the final track of his posthumous album yet. It’s a piano ballad. I heard the first few notes and noped completely out.


This brings us to roughly the present day. This section is actually the hardest to write, because I never feel like I have a proper grasp of my feelings until long after the time has passed.

However, I promise you that right now, as I finish up this post before it goes out tomorrow, I’m in a good place. Maybe a little muted, but good. Depression never feels like the kind of fight that is won. 

Most days I’m good. I have things I want to do, small aspirations, almost never a plan. My modal average day is no longer a -4, but more of a 0 or -1. In fact, the week of my birthday I was consistently at +4/5. That was great, and I long for more weeks like that.

Other days, I don’t feel good, but not bad either. On those days, instead of caring a little less, which can be good for me, I don’t care at all. All my emotions seem muted or absent. Sometimes, I ‘slip’ a little, back into that old pit of sad. Sometimes, I feel without purpose or just aimless, and I have moments of sadness welling up in my chest throughout the day. Sometimes, before I know it, a bad day has become a bad week – time can really fly when you’re depressed.

However, since last year I’ve been hyper-aware of my feelings and as such, I’ve been better at spotting these kinds of days and clamping down on them ASAP. I’ve found that the best way to do that is to have all the important crap started and sorted earlier so I can take time out for myself. Then things are mostly OK.

Although sometimes, my wrists itch, and it’s frustrating.

Even now, I have times where I doubt my experiences. How serious are my symptoms now? I am constantly comparing my current mental state to that of last year and I think it might prove counteractive eventually. For example, I often think ‘this can’t be that bad of a day. I have had worse. I have survived worse.’ It sounds pretty good until I remember that I have never been able to justify my awful feelings and low mood days and I’m not about to start. In reality, it’s ‘this is not that bad of a day, but I feel like crap anyway.’

The third type of day is the worst kind. I’m having a good day, and I am happy, and I’m laughing a lot. That’s good. But beyond that feeling of happiness, there’s a pit somewhere and I am still stuck down it. Is it a crap ton of self-doubt? Is it the sense of impending doom? Is it the feeling of knowing that happiness is more temporary than sadness? I hate that I am this stubborn in my sadness.

I have slowly become more accustomed to talking about my depression to my friends, especially the few I love the most because I know they worry about me and appreciate that they do, even if I don’t want them to. Whilst it’s so easy to let a bad day pass and pretend to my friends that it never happened, these days I can just tell them it’s a bad day.

Not all the time, though. I actually tend to rotate and tell one person each time, so they’re not all worrying about me at once.


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On top of that… I’m twenty now. It feels like a happy little miracle. As I told someone one time, ‘my mental health got to a point where I genuinely did not think about being alive for this long. Like I wanted to get better but didn’t know what I wanted to live for.’

As a result of this, I didn’t keep any aspirations over the last few years beyond ‘I want to make it to the end of the day having smiled at least once’.

When I was 13 I had my heart set on writing. I still do, as it’s my Plan A (Plan Ambitious). That said, I wish I felt the urge to be writing regularly and this blog is the closest I am getting to my daily quota of creative writing. My Plan B (Plan Believable) is something more akin to teaching languages, working abroad or working in a field of psychology after I graduate. Perhaps even all three. My short term goals are to study well, save money, and successfully get a study placement in Korea. Heck, guys, I have GOALS. I have things I want to aim for! That’s pretty amazing!

I finally see that I have a life ahead of me. Isn’t that the most terrifying thing?

Thank you for reading this far.

Until next time,

X

[Chatter] A Quiet Evening

I’m sure it happens to a lot of us.

I’ve noticed recently that I go through these phases of being very talkative, oversharing and social, then feeling very very quiet and reserved, and wanting to keep to myself as much as possible. Even now, I don’t feel like writing a lot. I don’t particularly feel like doing anything, actually.

Last night, I was having a bit of an ‘off’ evening where my mood was really low for no reason. I was struggling to take care of myself and had finally pushed myself into the shower, and forced myself to do my skincare and brush my teeth. As a bonus I even body-buttered myself. But on these days I also feel this strong urge of not wanting to sleep, and it was past midnight at this point.

This is a rather regular occurrence for me, by the way. I usually just try not to work against it and take some ‘me’ time without guilt and, when sleep takes over, the feeling lessens in the morning and I can take things from there. These phases pass. I am working on a long post about my depression, for later this month. In writing it, I realised how much this blog helped to track my emotions, so I do want to be talking more about my own emotions here.

Anyway.

I took out my deck of tarot cards. I was partly inspired by Alice’s post here, where she had her cards read, because it got me thinking, and reminded me that I have a set of cards. Do check out her blog – I find it very fascinating to read about her experiences living in Japan as someone who wants to live there one day or at least study abroad in Korea.

I’m not a heavy believer of tarot and I am obviously not a skilled reader. If anything, the cards present more questions than answers. However, I like to use them as a source of ideas and reflection, and they sometimes offer a new perspective on a problem I have.

I’ve been meaning to invest in a Rider-Waite deck and may actually get around to it soon. My current deck is just a small introductory one my friends picked out for a birthday once, but I really like the small size and its design.

A card that represents a part of my past that may be influencing my present

10 of Wands

Wands represent energy, growth and personal enterprise. The picture on this card depicts a man carrying a lot of sticks. I think it suggests a heavy workload. It brings to mind the idea of taking on too many new challenges and not being able to handle them all. Also, as you all know, I keep a lot of hobbies although I am not active with all of them at the moment, and this card is also making me think of that.

A card that represents the present situation –

Temperance, reversed

The image depicts a woman pouring something from jar to jar, amongst vines and a tortoise and a hare. It reminds me of how I like to be busy (the hare) but also need time to take it slow, like with my talkative and quiet periods (the tortoise).

Temperance means self-restraint. In particular, voluntary restraint or self-moderation. Mine is upside down, which could mean the opposite, or it could emphasise the normal meaning. To me, it means something is abnormal here. Am I too controlled or too uncontrolled right now?

I’m not fully sure what it could be referring to as there isn’t anything, in particular, I have been practising extra restraint or freedom in. Perhaps it could be about my mood, which is often out of my control and definitely was last night… but I find that to be too convenient of an interpretation, perhaps.

A card that represents an issue of the future

the King of Swords.

The picture depicts a king with grapes and a fox.

This card represents independent judgement and rationality, two things I can lack at times. Swords represent interaction, communication as well as intellectual pursuits, so I usually take the meaning in the context of work and study. This card suggests that I might improve in these aspects or that opportunites will arise in which I can, and this will be something that challenges me in the future.

A card that represents what can be done in the present to prepare for the future

2 of cups, reversed

The picture depicts a boy and girl holding a wine on which cups rest. SIGH. Cups in general represent the emotional and relationship side of life. I assume this card means relying on others for emotional support. This card could also be advising me to keep things light-hearted with a focus on relieving tension.

So, these were just a few things for me to think about and pass the time with. I’m always a little surprised at how applicable these can be and what I can learn from these despite not reading seriously.

Have you ever had a look at tarot card reading?

Until next time,

X

Some Songs and an Attempt To Sum Up My Month

Hi everyone!

It’s the last day of February now. Compared to January, this month really flew by and lots of things happened. I didn’t just want to write about my month, so I tried to find the best songs in my music library to express the things that happened.

Since I listen to a lot of Korean Pop, I had to google a lot of the lyrics for the first time, haha. I was surprised to find that a lot of the sweeter love songs didn’t quite match the meaning I wanted for this song selection.

Galantis – In My Head | I actually don’t have much to say about this one, it’s sort of self-explanatory, lyric-wise.

Namie Amuro – Birthday | Also moderately self-explanatory, seeing as it was my birthday this month AND this year it’s also unintentionally been a case of “new year, slightly-better me”.

Melanie Martinez – Soap (Sailors Remix)| I am working on a sort-of filter for when I say things. I say stupid things, get annoyed myself for staying stuff and then take it out on someone else and what the heck, Swanna? PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER. Also, I’ve started letting out the occasional swear word at work, which isn’t good when I am working with kids. Luckily, it’s all been out of earshot but that needs work, too.

Carly Rae Jepsen – Warm Blood | For the longest time, as much as I adore this song to bits, I didn’t really get it. It sounds like a love song that is borderline creepy due to the blood imagery. But I was daydreaming up a music video for this recently and something just clicked.
I recently went out to the pub to hang out with some friends. My alcohol tolerance is really low, everyone. I felt my heart pounding after one glass of wine, and I stood up and my head spun and my hearing went muffled which was quite scary until I was outside for a bit. But anyway, that was the experience that made this song make sense, and what inspired me to write this entire blog post. It’s just a dreamy, muffled feeling of drunk happy.

Red Velvet – My Second Date | Okay, so I’m not quite at Date #2 yet. Did I tell you about how I had a Valentine’s blog post all ready, about being single and stuff? Yeah, you didn’t see it, because it wasn’t really relevant to me anymore. Yeah… Suddenly I wasn’t exactly single. As the song says, “from A to Z, it’s all so awkward”.
Dates are really weird, everyone.

Kisses are even weirder. I was tempted to include 3OH!3’s “My First Kiss” (which, to reference the lyrics, didn’t go ANYTHING like this) but no. Not that my expectations were high, but my YA fantasies have been proper shattered, LOL.

LOONA / Yves & Chuu – Girls’ Talk | Typically, all my close friends got almost-live updates as all this dating stuff happened, so despite me saying ‘oh my lawd guys don’t tell anyone’ they all know anyway. All the recent happenings were just so bizarre. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are moments with this guy that are really sweet and sappy and stuff and I do like messaging him (and also my friends) in the dead of night. That’s part of the reason this song is on this playlist.

But, on the other hand, it’s this gossipy part of the experience that makes it feel sort of like… a game. I won’t lie when I say I tell my friends things just to seek reactions, and that those reactions are entertaining. So, it’s not that I particularly care if people find out, but I don’t want certain people to tease me into oblivion. ANYWAY. Am I even making sense?


That was something just a little random for a mid-week, end-of-month post. I hope you enjoyed that!

Until next time,

X

Twenty Thoughts from A Twenty Swanna (i.e. it’s my Birthday.)

Hi everyone!
It will be my twentieth birthday as this post rolls out. I can’t quite believe that I’ve survived two decades of life so I’m kind of chuffed.
Did I do anything particularly special? Er… no. My regular outing with Tray has had to be moved due to uni things and on top of that, we both have university lectures on our actual birthdays! The official celebration isn’t happening for another two months as a result.
I wasn’t actually feeling a big celebration though and didn’t plan anything in the meantime. Well, I attempted to plan things but also had uni events and deadlines to keep up with. In the end, I ended up with very impromptu plans to go out for food with friends… three times this week!

 

THANKS FOR THE CAKE, RK. I celebrated really early with her as she flew home over a week ago. I love her chocolate handiwork.

 

I thought that ‘twenty things I learned in the last twenty years’ would be a good thing to do. After all, what is this blog without some sort of reflection?
But then I ran out of things after ten, so now it’s just ‘twenty thoughts‘.
Even then, I struggled with thinking of stuff.

One.
Care a little less.

This is my mantra for everything, these days.
I care less about people’s opinions of me when I talk. This does result in me sounding a little passive-aggressive, sometimes, but also being less willing to take other people’s crap. I also seem to have a knack for flirting when I am into it.
I care less so I don’t stress too much about my work, too.
In the words of my brother, things just are not that deep.

Two.
Make the best decision you can, and then put your all into what you decide to do.

This way, I end up with fewer regrets. It’s easy to just say ‘don’t do things you’ll regret’ but that’s the best advice I can give on actually preventing them!

Three.
Get that sleep in.

I know for sure now that I function best on at least 9 hours of sleep and I have been better at getting to bed early when I need to. Luckily, my uni schedule has been nice for this, too. I’ve definitely noticed that over a longer period of time running on sub-par nights, my mood also suffers in ways I can’t help. I’m pretty sure there are now scientific studies that found the same thing. I will have to find them sometime.

Four.
How to dress for my body type.

As my body changed in my teens, I didn’t know what to do with it. My style went from tracksuits all day, every day, to A-line tops, leggings and canvas shoes, to discovering skater skirts that flatter my waist, paired with nice ankle boots. Your teenage fashion is always going to be cringe-worthy but take what you like most about yourself and accentuate it, always try things in store and don’t buy on a whim.
Yeah, with my body type online shopping is mostly a no-go.

Five.
Keep the curtains open in the winter.

I struggle to get up in the mornings when it’s dark. So sometimes, I leave my curtains open and it does help me get up when my room is [fractionally] brighter. As for the summer… I’ll figure that out later.

Six.
Cafes.

I hugely underestimated the power of a nice coffee shop.
Even if I usually order a pot of tea at one.

Seven.
Adults can be idiots too.

I was taught to respect my elders and I still do, but I was also taught that they are never wrong, and that’s not right. Respect their opinion, by all means, but they can be wrong… And hypocritical. Especially now I’m an adult myself, this has never been more apparent. That’s right… This has been an open declaration that I’m an idiot.

Eight.
Food costs a lot.

SOB.

Nine.
Sharing is [Self] Caring

Okay, I know I have self-confessed tendencies to gossip which I blame on my mother’s side of the family. But that’s not what this is about.

When I am struggling with something, usually my emotions or other decisions or general stress, just being able to vent out to someone is a real help. Most times organising my thoughts for them helps me to find the answer myself, and when I’m being extra irrational my friends are the best voices of reason, too.

Ten.
Don’t wait for free time. Make it.

I think I picked up this piece of advice during a year of NaNoWriMo and honestly, I’ve never let go of it since it clicked. Sometimes, instead of waiting for a free day to draw or knit or read, you have to take matters into your own hands.
Find that spare half hour.
Push around the minutes.
Make time.

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A note about my name – you could spell it Su-Wa-N, Su-Wo-N, Su-A-N or Su-O-N in Katakana. It doesn’t matter since it follows the pronunciation, and on top of that, there are sounds that can’t be written in Japanese.

Eleven.
Friends aren’t made in a day.

This one I keep having to remind myself of since starting at university. Of course, I’m not going to be besties with everyone. It takes years of hanging out until we have too much dirt on each other to let each other go in order for that to happen.

Twelve.

Skills aren’t mastered in a day either… and they take practice!

On one hand, my standards are really low. I’m happy to be alive, and I’m happy to be happy. But on the other hand, it’s difficult not to keep comparing myself to others my age with bigger achievements no matter how small it may seem.
Also, I know I still have a long way to go to reach the place I want to be with my writing and other skills, but I need to remind myself that I’m not really getting anywhere by not dedicating time to them. I haven’t worked on my novel in a while.

Thirteen.

Everyone should spend at least a summer working in retail.

You’d appreciate shopping a lot more, believe me. It doesn’t even have to be a summer – it could be the really busy Christmas period. Experience handling fussy customers and in the end you’ll wish you never have to be That Customer for someone else.

Fourteen.

You can’t look after other people
if you’re not looking after yourself.

I began to think about this since last year, but I was discussing life priorities with someone the other day and was reminded of this. On my own list of priorities, my mental health and wellbeing are at the top whereas for someone else it might be that they put everyone else before themselves.
Either is fine and doesn’t make you all the worse for it.

It’s just that when I’m under the weather, I’m of practically no use to anyone else.
But also, I have to look after myself so that my friends don’t have to stress about me since I know they worry about me sometimes.

Fifteen.

Honestly? Honesty.

I don’t know about you, but lying never got me anywhere.
If it’s important, the sooner it’s discussed the better.
In most cases.

Sixteen.

Be reasonable. Be rational.

This one mostly applies to my shopping habits, but it also applies to interacting with people, sometimes. It’s why I always go to my friends when I feel like my thoughts and opinion don’t make sense and needs objective input. It involves making an effort to understand someone else’s point of view before I go about judging them.

Seventeen.

There is always tomorrow.

No matter how terrible that day is, there is always the opportunity to go to bed and wake up feeling a little better and I’m grateful for that.

Eighteen.

Starting something is the first step towards finishing something.

This is especially true for writing as I find starting the hardest thing to do… even if I haven’t finished a novel yet.
It is less true for trying to exercise.

This brought to mind that quote from Adventure Time:
‘Sucking at something is the first step towards being sorta good at something.’
-which I think ties into point twelve as well.

Nineteen.

Don’t start things last minute.

This might sound hypocritical of me since I can be guilty of this myself. But honestly, once I get started, as mentioned in point eighteen, the rest comes a bit easier. Start from the middle of something if you have to. But basically, if the thing is started early, such as the essay draft, that’s a little less to do later when you’ve suddenly been bogged down with work and other deadlines.

Twenty.

Blood is NOT thicker than water.

This one probably sounds a bit harsh but when it comes to my family, I am equal parts attached and apathetic. I am lucky to have really close friends in my siblings but beyond that… I have less sympathy. My family get no free passes because we have blood relations. That’s never quite made sense to me. However, I do also want to make an effort to be closer to my wider family in Vietnam, who always make me feel welcome when I am there, because recently I was wondering what I would do if my parents were not around to bridge the gap between us.


Okay, that was surprisingly hard! I didn’t realise that twenty things was so many. I don’t think I’ll be able to do thirty when I’m thirty…

Dad mentioned something about being grateful for being born and stuff, and I am – that’s a given. But I’m also grateful to myself for still being here, despite my horrid mental health. For making it through and letting me experience a lot of cool, fun stuff as of late. Parents get their own days to celebrate in mothers’ and fathers’ days but birthdays are for the individual to celebrate themselves and making it on their own strengths.

As a final point, I’m doing so many things as an adult that I never imagined I would be doing when I was a teenager or even younger. I didn’t think I would be a concert-goer or that I would ever go to a nightclub (I’ve only been once, but still). I’m actually relatively surprised at the amount of independence and freedom I have now even if I do still complain sometimes.
I mentioned that it’s difficult to make friends, but leaving primary school I had pretty much none, and leaving secondary school I have a handful of close friends and a bucket load of names I want to meet up over a pot of tea sometime. (If you went to my secondary school, that’s you. I’m serious, hit me up.) I’ve said this before, but honestly, if my eleven-year-old self could see me now, she’d cry in amazement.
My friends are the reason I’m still here – the reason I still choose to be here. If you’re a friend reading this, THANK YOU. I’m really bloody grateful for all of you. Heck, I’m crying happy tears.
Happy Birthday to Me.

Until next time,

X

[Makeup and Chatter] Lunch at The Botanist

I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying this unintentional ‘Makeup and Chatter’ series. I get to talk about a good day with nice memories at a place I haven’t been to before, as well as share a makeup look. Oftentimes posts with only the former don’t do so well but I really do enjoy writing those so I’m glad I’m finding a way to keep them going. Also, I can’t keep these photos languishing in my computer folders forever.

The Botanist is a bar and restaurant which, in Birmingham, is tucked away on Temple Street, off New Street, just around the corner from Tesco Metro and a bit further up than Ryman’s. I didn’t even realise that it was a place you could eat – it’s one of those places easily overlooked, I think.

The bar has a glass ceiling part (I’m sure there’s another word for it…) which lights up that area quite well for photos, including this gorgeous coloured centrepiece I took a few snaps of, but otherwise, the restaurant is ambiently lit and very cosy. We went in just as it opened and it was still pretty busy for the lunch period as far as I could tell. As orders were taken and the restaurant leapt into action the smell coming out of the kitchen was divine. I stopped regretting skipping breakfast (by accident) right away.

I ordered the Berry Good Times Mocktail and the Butternut Squash, Goat’s Cheese and Mushroom Pie. It was a really nice comfort meal and I totally stuffed myself. The hanging kebabs looked fascinating, though. Maybe next time! I can never make it through a two course meal unless the portions are really small or I am especially starved… Is it just me? Otherwise I would have totally gone for dessert.

I finally gave my friend her Christmas present, a handmade hat like this one but in a different colour scheme, dark green and grey. I might do another post on it. On the other hand, she gave me a few packets of instant miso soup which taste really good and can’t really be found here. We spoke about a lot of things over lunch, like makeup (okay, that part of the conversation was mostly me) and boys (also me, but not normally my conversation topic of choice) and general facts about each other.

The thing about making new friends now is that there’s a breadth of past and potential to talk about as we get to know one another. She’s already finished her year of study here and moves back home soon and I will miss her to bits, as she was actually one of the first few friends I made at university, too.

Her birthday was yesterday and I hadn’t figured out what lipstick to buy for her (I am living my lipstick-buying life vicariously) so we popped around Selfridges, got sucked in by the lady at the YSL counter for several minutes, and ended up popping around MAC and picking a satin nude shade. We also popped by a NYX stand and I spotted a Soft Matte Lip Cream in Stockholm on sale for £4 (it’s on my wishlist for after I finish a certain other product) and I had to tear myself away from the counter, ASAP. In hindsight, that was pretty funny.

I had a lecture in the morning so I couldn’t go completely overboard with the makeup. I did end up a little late anyway (this isn’t usual of me! Don’t worry! I’m normally twenty minutes early!!) but this was because I made the over-excited last minute decision to add false lashes. Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking either.

I practised last night and it went okay, but that meant nothing this morning. It took me two attempts and then, not being used to using eyeliner with false lashes, the lashes got in the way and my eyeliner wasn’t so great. But I let that pass. Some makeup mistakes nobody else will really notice and this was one of them. The other was that my falsies were uneven.

The weather decided to turn bad just as I began to take photos but I persisted!
It got so dark in the space of two minutes, I was shook.

Eyes
Etude House Proof 10 Eye Primer
Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye Contour Palette
Shades Ludwin, Succubus, and Saleos
CLIO Kill Black Brush Pen Liner
Shu Uemura Standard Eyelash Curler
(These are only on trial at the moment but so far, I love them.)
Eyelure Naturalites False Eyelashes
(I can feel them on my eyelids but they’re not uncomfortable, although I put that down to my inexperience. I’m sure these are an old pair, the packaging is different but this box has been lying around unopened for years, I tell you)
Urban Decay Troublemaker Mascara

Base
Maybelline Age Rewind Eye Eraser Concealer in Light
Innisfree No Sebum Powder
(Note to self – base was already breaking down by the three-hour mark.)

Lips
Lancome 06 Rose Nu
(I am always surprised by how well this lasts and it almost never bleeds… at least in a bad way…)

I never really use eyebrow products these days… I’ve been wanting to try out some eyebrow mascara type products like Boy Brow and so on but my fringe covers my brows, and my brows themselves are thankfully nice if not needing a bit of tidying from time to time.

But anyway, that’s what I got up to today. My exams are over and I’m back in the full swing of uni and part-time work. I hope you’re all doing good!

Until next time,

X

 

My Photography Process

As another one of the Twenty Swans’ 3 year specials, I am including my current process for taking photos as my draft got long enough that I thought I should separate it from the main process post. Again, this is with a focus on beauty blogging.

I’m not gonna lie – my camera does so much of the work it’s insane but there are options less bank-breaking to explore! In particular, a light box for £20 can do SO MUCH.


My approach to writing posts and taking photos is very ‘grab-n-go’. As in, as soon as I notice the sun is out, I grab a shiny new product or whatever I need photos of, and I grab an item of clothing to use as the background, and I go.

My entire setup is on top of my bed, or my parents’ bed as the lighting in their room is usually better! I prop a pillow up or an A3 board I have lying around and cover the pillow in my chosen scarf or another clothing item.

The photos below are from previous posts (apart from one which is from a review that never went up, and another which is from an upcoming post) and all have an item from my wardrobe (or mom’s…) as the backdrop. I also think it adds the ‘at home blogger’ kind of touch without being overly put-together.

 

Some pointers:

  • pick interesting textures like faux fur coats, knits, satins or lace.
  • make sure it doesn’t make the photo too busy or clash with the product. This means you have to be careful with bold leopard print or overly flowery patterns.
  • It also goes without saying that you should avoid using anything with major pilling unless your background is going to be very blurred.

If my product can stand well upright, I would prefer to take a picture of it that way instead of on a flat lay. It also avoids the problem of having to find blu-tack to stop bottles rolling around and such, and for me, this also solves the problem of having my own shadow cast on my flat-lay photos all the time.)

 

I also like to use an object with a flat top as a display podium of sorts for my items. I stick it under the bit of clothing I’m also using as a backdrop, or I find something else that matches. What I use depends on the product. I have grabbed money tins, flat glasses cases and pots of body butter stacked up for this purpose.

Be aware of the colours you use for your background. On my DSLR the colours can change how the image registers, as well as the level of sunlight. Whilst I used a gorgeous white dress for a time, I found that it sometimes washed out the colours of the product a little. I can’t say if this will be helpful for you as I am still experimenting but so far that’s what I’ve noticed.

 

That said, sometimes white works super well and that dress remains a fail-safe if I ever need it.


So… that’s my current photography process. It’s changed a lot in the last year and I have been experimenting more since getting my new camera but all the things I learnt, I think can still apply to photography with my phone.

[I then went and attempted to recreate a shoot for an upcoming Lipsticks in Rotation post using my phone camera, and failed massively… ]
Here are some old photos from the blog in 2016 and even 2015 when I first started adding skin care to the blog, just so we can all compare them to the (even if I do say so myself) amazing shots above. The best photos were taken just inches from my window because that’s how hard it was to get nice lighting…

I think back then I was using either the family iPad or my current Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. Probably more of the family iPad.

 

Anyhow I hope that you learned something, however small, when reading this. Even if you didn’t, perhaps it was fun to read and look at my old photography!

Until next time,

X

[Makeup and Chatter] Paramore in Birmingham

Despite the makeup I have, I don’t do a base and eyes all that often. A full face is reserved only for special days, like a concert. I took out a lot of items I hadn’t been using for a while and got to play around with my look a bit. Today’s chatter / extra post is basically about what I wore and how it wore throughout the day! Also, some extra gushing for obvious reasons.

Before we begin, I obviously have to mention that my skin is oily and I wore all of this for 12 hours straight, with only a minor top up at about the 6 hour mark for some items.

(The cat ears, earrings AND the comfy grey turtleneck are all from New Look. What is it with me and my attempts to look cool? I TRIED, OKAY? Also, what do you think of the hair?? I’m still undecided!!)

Eyes:

Etude House Proof 10 Eye Primer – all over the lid and under the outer corner too.

Makeup Revolution Neutrals VS New-trals Eye Palette – shades Trend on the inner half, Suit on the outer half, Strong in the outer corner) (Speaking of which, I want to re-take the photos from that review soon. Sure, my palette is less than perfect now but I’m not entirely satisfied with the photos of that palette…)

Kat Von D Shade and Light Eye Contour Palette (Laetus as a base, Saleos under the outer corner, Shax right at the corner and to help smoke out the eyeliner just a teeny bit.) (Note to self to re-take photos for this post too!)

CLIO Kill Black Brush Pen Liner – Forever my love.

CLIO Salon de Cara Back Comb Long and Curl MascaraHeld my curls all freaking day, although I think my tube is getting a bit old and dry. I guess I should re-buy it soon if it’s still available.

Notes – My eye makeup looked EXACTLY the same as it did when I applied it. The shadow does rub off a bit but the CLIO liner is still steadfast. There is only one (1) minor crease on my right eyelid where some darker product migrated. My eyelid doesn’t even look shiny. You wouldn’t think they were oily at all. What is this magic??

I even teared up a bit when Paramore played Ain’t It Fun (and nothing smudged). That song is essentially my happy anthem, my hype anthem. I don’t know why I always cry at concerts. Maybe it’s because I just never thought I’d get to go to any.

(Here is your obligatory crappy gig photo from my phone. Taken during Hate To See Your Heart Break)

Base:

The Ordinary High-Adherance Silicone Primer

Maybelline Age Rewind Concealer in Light – All over the centre area of my face! It used to be too light for my skintone (and thus, a highlight shade) but now it’s pretty much a perfect match.

Innisfree No Sebum Powder (to set) – using a powder brush

Jolse Blotting Sheets (to top up later) – Often given out as a freebie when purchasing from them, I like these as they aren’t powdery. However I find myself using more than one to blot my face. More like two or three.

Soap and Glory One Heck of a Blot Powder (to top up later) – using a powder brush

Notes – I used to have issues with the primer as it often would go patchy and cause my makeup to pat off instead of staying on my face. This time, I had new cushion puffs (my preferred way of application) to replace my old ones. I spread a very thin layer of the primer on (I used to do thick layers), sprayed a little of La Roche Posay Serozinc on the puff (I’m just trying to use it up) and tapped the concealer out very very gently.

I was obviously very shiny at the 6 hour mark despite Innisfree’s No Sebum being my favourite powder to date (the record is about 3 or 4 hours before I get shiny) so this was inevitable. At the end of the 12 hours, there were noticeable breakdowns on my inner cheek and nose and a bit on my upper lip. Estee Lauder Double Wear does not break down below my nose as gracefully. Just sayin.

Lips

New Look Pure Colour Lip Liner – this liner is from just before New Look revamped their makeup line, so I don’t think you can find it anymore.

P.S. Black Lip Liner – Primark makeup was (well, it sort of still is…) quite inconsistent in its lineup. Either they had the colour you needed, or they didn’t. It was hard to find a black lipliner back then so I snapped this fast.

NARS Train Bleu – I love the NARS Velvet matte lip pencil range, although if I had to say there were duds, this might be one of them. But look – if you’re okay with wearing this dark lip for no longer than a few hours it’s fine. It showed noticeable gaps in my lip lines by the 6 hour mark and I had to reapply with a lip brush.

This photo above was taken by my friend, Nicole. As you might be able to tell I’m not exactly a fan of trying to stand at a concert with my height…

Actually, now that I am thinking about it, I don’t really have much to say about the concert itself! Hayley Williams is a total sweetheart (nothing new) and I had an amazing night and really enjoyed myself. If I’m going to be super honest, After Laughter is not my favourite album of Paramore’s (although I adore Told You So TO BITS!) but it’s an album I just like to play as a whole for the mood and jam and be happy to. Most of the songs from the set were from the album so it was just a happy night and really lifted my mood!

Until next time,

X


Days since last buying lipstick: 22