50 Reminders that the World isn’t all bad.

Dear Taylor,

So it’s safe to say 2016 hasn’t been great. The world is currently in a messy limbo and it’s easy to feel a bit lost. I know headache attacks don’t make it any better, one minute you’re getting ready for a girls night and the next minute you’re on the brink of fainting and can’t move. When it feels like it’s all gone to (excuse my French) shit, I think you need a little pick me up and I’ve made it in the form of this list. Here’s 50 things to cheer you up.

  1. Brownies fresh out the oven.
  2. Skins.
  3. Every Christmas advert this year, they’re all so cute!
  4. Getting pjs warm out the tumble dryer.
  5. My new addiction to Gilmore Girls (Yes, I’m late to the party…)
  6. Remembering a cup of tea when it’s at the perfect temperature.
  7. A train ride through the countryside.
  8. Discovering you like foods you didn’t before because your taste buds have changed.
  9. Iced coffee (This is due to the above phenomenon)
  10. When your nail polish doesn’t smudge.
  11. Flamingos. (If you haven’t seen them parade, watch this now).
  12. Good selfie lighting.
  13. When you predict a plot line in a TV show episodes before it happens.
  14. Cats.
  15. Our kitty Blue in particular.
  16. Travelling to new places.
  17. Hastings.
  18. The fact that David Attenborough exists.
  19. Getting your eyeliner right first time.
  20. Dogs.
  21. Making a party best friend.
  22. A Lush bath.
  23. Autumn.
  24. Bears.
  25. Burg Eltz in Germany (It’s in the middle of the forest and it’s straight out of Disney movie. If you can go, it’s worth it.)
  26. Shakespeare.
  27. Peacocks.
  28. The fact that Pokémon made an epic return.
  29. Days watching trashy tv like Say Yes to The Dress.
  30. The take off part of a flight.
  31. Walking in clean snow.
  32. Koblenz.
  33. Puns, accidental ones are particularly good.
  34. Finding everything on your shopping list in one trip.
  35. A face mask.
  36. Fresh bed sheets.
  37. You have a Momma as cool as Regina George’s.
  38. Purple lipstick.
  39. The fact that you can get pretty much any character in pop culture as a Pop Vinyl figure.
  40. A Harry Potter marathon with my favourite girls.
  41. Mint oreos.
  42. Your friends who you can talk to about literally anything and they won’t judge.
  43. Your Christmas Eve traditions (New pjs, Chinese food and Miracle on 34th Street [1994 version]).
  44. Your bullet journal and how it nice it feels to be organised.
  45. When your hair dries and comes out naturally nice.
  46. RuPaul’s Drag Race.
  47. Your Totoro onesie.
  48. Getting a haircut and actually being happy with it.
  49. Fancy dress.
  50. That days without pain do exist.

See, the world isn’t so bad after all. Just remember that it isn’t all doom and gloom, come back to this list anytime.

Love from,

Taylor.

Bi the way.

If you’re looking for someone to talk all things sexuality, I’m your gal. I find it oddly fascinating, it’s something that affects everyone and everyone has their own way of experiencing it.
In my case, I identify as bisexual as I am attracted to more than one gender. When it comes to coming out stories, I think I’m one of the lucky ones. When I was 16, first I came out unofficially when I was drunk at a party and secondly a few days later when I’d got my thoughts together, I came out officially. My friends supported me completely, not making a fuss over it. Some of them had even guessed years before that I wasn’t 100% straight. I came out to my parents over texts whilst I was at a party. My best friend holding my hand while I freaked out on whether I’d made the right decision. Luckily both were accepting of it. After reading nightmarish stories online, I was dreading the coming out process. Instead I was supported completely.
However, if you identify as anything other than straight you’ll know the coming out process does not end there. For the rest of my life, I have to come out to new friends, work colleagues and possible romantic partners. It’s a never-ending cycle. It’s been 7 years since I first came out so now I’m well versed in the situation. While I’m quite open about my sexuality, you do get fed up of the same replies over and over again. It’s what I like to call bisexual bingo:
1. So is it 50/50?
2. Have you slept with a girl?
3. Aren’t you just being greedy?
4. You’re just confused.
5. Have you had/do you want a threesome?

While I’ll answer some of these questions, some of the answers are exceedingly personal. If a person announced they’re straight, would they be asked in depth questions about their sex life? Hell no, they wouldn’t. Just because a person happens to be attracted to more than one gender, that doesn’t give you permission to probe them about the intimate details of their life. If a person tells you they’re bisexual, be like ‘yeah, that’s cool’. The person has decided to share something that is personal enough, feel privileged that they’ve felt safe enough to come out to you. Coming out gets easier the more good experiences you have. Be kind and don’t start a game of bisexual bingo.

I figured out my sexuality early on, I think I must have been a kid when I started crushing on girls as well as boys. I’ve always felt very confident in my sexuality. However it’s only as I’ve hit my twenties that I discovered there’s so much more to learn. The more I learn, the more I find out about myself. For example, I’ve learnt that there’s a difference between sexual and romantic attraction and that there’s an asexual/romantic scale. There’s so many labels out there, I love how no matter how you identify there’s probably a name for it. I have found that while I’m bisexual, I’m also bi-romantic and demi-romantic. My identifiers give me some comfort in that I’m not alone in how I feel.

As this topic is so vast and huge, this post will be one of three. Next time I’m going to talk about romantic attraction and my own romantic orientation. Hope you come back for more!

Good days & bad days.

This post is for all those out there looking for answers, for those who are confused and for those looking for comfort after getting a diagnosis that brings little comfort.

I have a condition called paroxysmal hemicrania. As well as a fantastic tongue twister, this rare condition is where you get a particularly nasty headache which comes in shots of short pain in one side of your head. Headache seems like an insignificant word when describing the condition, when I’m ill, I usually call them headache attacks because that’s what it feels like. It feels like your brain is being attacked from all sides with very little way of defence.

Let’s go back to the beginning. It’s December 2013, a few days before Christmas. I start noticing a very occasional pain in the right side of my head. It’s not like any headache I’ve had before, it’s short but extremely painful. I take ibuprofen in the hopes of warding it off. I make it through my shifts at work and head home for Christmas without much fuss. I tell my mum of the pain and we both dismiss it as just a particularly painful headache. Come December 27th, I have my first full blown attack. I’m up early, getting ready to head back to Sunderland for my last shift at my Christmas job. I’m in the shower when the pain hits me like a ton of bricks. It was too much and next thing I know I’ve blacked out in the shower. I manage to get out with help from my mum and try and blurt out that the pain’s back. It’s not just going away however. Due to the other symptoms I was showing; stiff neck, severe rash and temperature, I was sent to hospital with a meningitis scare. After a lot of tests including one which meant I got a needle in my spine, meningitis was ruled out. However, a week later I’m still getting these pains. It’s coming in waves, I have real trouble dealing with any kind of light and my heat rashes are coating the entire right side of my face and neck. I go back to the doctors in hope of some sort of relief. The doctor I see is as baffled as those at the hospital but takes a guess. He gives me a new painkiller and tells me if this works, you have paroxysmal hemicrania. The painkillers worked thankfully and that gave us a diagnosis.

I do feel incredibly lucky to have a diagnosis so quickly. Due its rarity, it can take people years to be diagnosed. Looking back now though, I also wish I’d had meningitis. Unfortunately this is no one off.

One of my favourite things to distract myself is coming up with metaphors and similes for the pain. It’s also handy when describing what you have to other people. My current favourites are:

My brain is be grated on either side.

It feels like my head’s being boiled alive.

My brain’s turned into overcooked scrambled egg.

It’s like someone’s punched you in the face and your head’s on fire.

Over the last few years, I’ve had attacks at varying levels of pain and varying lengths of time. Sometimes I’ve just needed to sleep it off for the day with minimal painkillers. Other times I’ve been living in my pyjamas for weeks on end, taking a pharmacy’s worth of pills and barely being able to wash myself without help. Curling up in a ball is a small luxury in these moments. I’ve ended up in hospital waiting rooms leaving every health professional completely baffled when I tell them what I’ve got. Usually you can take comfort in a doctor knowing what they’re talking about, in my case not so much.

In the past, attacks could cause an interruption in my life that lasted a month at most. I was diagnosed with the episodic version of my condition, so I’d have periods of remission. Right now, I’m coming to the realisation that my condition is no longer episodic but chronic. I’m also in the midst of being diagnosed with another condition which is set off by PH, but rather than in my head I get pains in my jaw, neck and ear. I started a new job in April and after two weeks of training I got an attack. This lasted around three weeks but it hasn’t really ended. Since my return I’ve still had bad days where the pain is too much and I can’t physically handle it so all I can do is sleep. I’m having to come to the realisation that there isn’t much I can do but hope my painkillers work for the day and I can make it through my work. Those are the good days and it’s so important to enjoy them.

Today was a good day. Today the pain was manageable. Today I got to bake muffins and see my best friend and write this blog. Even in the midst of a full blown attack I might get a couple of hours where I don’t need feel like screaming in pain. I’ll try and tidy or watch my favourite film which requires concentration.

If you get diagnosed with this condition, I know this blog might be a depressing read but I think the best approach is to keep positive. That’s always going to be easier said than done. With me, I try best to keep a sense of humour. Coming up with silly names for symptoms or making stupid jokes with a brain of putty is sometimes enough to encourage a hint of happiness in a heap of pain. Make sure you have support around you, I don’t know what I’d do without my mum or my friends. I’ve also found chatting to people online with the same condition weirdly comforting, rare conditions can be isolating so it’s good to know you’re not the only one. If you’re looking for someone to talk to, I’m here to answer any questions. This post might be a lot to take it, if anything I just needed to vent. It’s important to have a release, I’m lucky in that I’ve found mine. Anyone out there in this situation, find your release.

Don’t let the pain win and appreciate the good days.

YouTube ain’t just for cat videos.

It’s safe to say I’m a long time YouTube viewer. I’ve been watching since before the word ‘youtuber’ was really coined and I’ve even dabbled in a little vlogging myself. What appeals to me about YouTube is how accessible it is. You’ll find everything from short fantasy films to LGBT education, comedy sketches to political rants and of course cat videos. I’ve lost count of how many channels I’m subscribed to but here’s some of my current favourites:

Hannah Wittonhttps://www.youtube.com/hannahwitton

hannah witton

Hannah is a British 20-something who vlogs about sex, relationships and feminism amongst other things. What I love about her videos is that it’s like chatting to a friend, no matter what the topic, it could be your favourite book that month or periods. Hannah’s open approach is educational but never patronising and you can see the passion she puts into her videos.
Highlights: Her ‘Drunk Advice‘ series is fabulous, Hannah and a friend get drunk and answer Twitter questions with hilarious results. Never fails to crack me up.

KickThePjhttps://www.youtube.com/user/KickThePj

kick the pj

PJ is first and foremost a storyteller. I’m not entirely sure he’s from this planet because his content is awesome, in the true sense of the word. PJ’s short films transport you to whole other worlds filled with mind bending characters. In between short films, we get a fresh approach to vlogs, with occasional looks behind the scenes and some DIY tutorials. I love watching PJ’s videos because there’s always something new and you can tell he’s doing what he loves.
Highlights: Office Space is a super endearing film and while you can tell where the influences for this one have come from, it’s still very much PJ’s film. It is 3 years old but it’s a good place to start and still one of my favourite videos PJ’s ever made.

Daniel J. Laytonhttps://www.youtube.com/user/DanielJLayton

Daniel J Layton

Daniel J. Layton is a severely underrated YouTube treasure. When his videos pop up in my subscription feed, I always watch straight away because I know I’m in for a treat. Dan vlogs about what’s going on in his life, nice and simple. But he knows how to subtly work up to a punchline to perfection so an everyday anecdote turns into something really amusing. Dan’s videos are completely relatable but not in a cliché way, he’s just very honest and lovely. Just go subscribe!
Highlights: His ‘Baking with Layton‘ series is like the YouTuber version of The Great British Bake Off. Dan and a YouTube friend bake something, it’s a strong format that always gives me the giggles.

Hazel Hayeshttps://www.youtube.com/user/ChewingSand

Hazel hayes

Hazel is an extremely witty, Irish filmmaker. Whether it be sharing 30 minute long vlogs of her month, making thrilling short films or interviewing A-list celebs, Hazel has a complete air of professionalism at all times. Her brilliantly named Time of the Month series is exceedingly well put together, it’s a lot to share but Hazel gets the perfect balance between emotion, theme and aesthetic. When it comes to short films, if you like psychological horror, Hazel’s channel is for you. My particular favourite is Septum which I’d love to see fleshed out as a feature film.
Highlights: Tipsy talk is a series in which Hazel and friends (sometimes famous) get together for a drink and chat. You’ll never sure where it will go and that’s what makes the series so great; its unpredictability.

Connor Manninghttps://www.youtube.com/user/AConMann

connor manning

Connor is a young American vlogger who makes videos about sexuality, mental health, relationships and dating. His videos are sometimes inspired by questions from his views and other times, just by something in his life. I love that his videos are clearly for him, he’ll often say as he gives advice that he’s telling himself as well as advising the viewer. His videos have a pretty casual tone even whilst sometimes dealing with darker subjects. I find his sexuality videos particularly therapeutic, as someone who also identifies as bisexual, it’s nice to hear someone else’s POV.
Highlights: He’s covered so many topics, it’s hard to choose my favourites. I’d recommend No Bae November which is explaining how relationships are nice but they’re also just another way of living your life (he words it much better than me) and Too Gay, Too Straight which really resonated with me as it’s something I’ve gone through myself.

This is a very small selection of my favourite YouTubers, I could go on for hours. I may write another one of these in a few months time, I’ll probably have subscribed to even more channels by then! Got any YouTube recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments.

Why I bloody love Skins.

I will fully admit I am a television addict. I love the joy of finding a new show to immerse myself in, the detective work that comes with working out the plot, the bizarre emotional connection you get to fictional characters and the anticipation of the next episode or season. From fantasy shows set around a family of New Zealanders who also happen to be Norse gods to sitcoms about the parks and recreation department of Pawnee, I’ll watch it all. However, there’s one show I will always come back to; Skins.

If you haven’t heard of Skins, it’s a British drama set in Bristol that follows a group of teenagers in their last two years of school. It first aired in 2007, with the cast changing every two series and ended in 2013 with a one off series bringing back characters from the past generations, showing them in adult life.

gen 1

I was only 13 when the first series started but because I have a mum as cool as Regina George’s, I was allowed to watch it. It opened me up to a world of partying, drugs and sexuality. While I knew some of it was exaggerated, what struck me was that some of the situations and problems they were dealing with were something that could affect me in the near future. The actors are actually age appropriate and not in their twenties for a change, it gives the show a completely realistic feel. It isn’t all about the teenagers though. Parents, teachers and the like are played by some great British actors. While most think of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, I can only see him as Mark Jenkins, Sid’s foul-mouthed father.

The characters are fully rounded and you can often find yourself picking traits in them that you have yourself. Some appear a tad stereotypical on the surface, a speccy nerd who follows his best friend like a side kick or a metalhead who isn’t the most friendly but with each character getting their own episode, you’ll soon discover that stereotypes aren’t everything. The writing will make you love them, hate them and back again. Online, especially when you get into tumblr territory (find my own Skins tumblr here) you’ll see a lot of debates on favourite characters. While some can sympathise with a character, others are quite ready to bring them down.

Skins-Series-4

Plot wise, it packs a lot in. It deals with mental health from eating disorders to depression, drugs, grief, sexuality and religious beliefs clashing, falling in love, teenage pregnancy, crime, being adopted and how to get that darned history coursework in on time. There is something there for everyone. Plus with the cast changing every two series, you can see different backgrounds and perspectives on British teenage life. If you aren’t feeling one generation, there might be something for you in the next.

The other thing I loved about Skins was the soundtrack. I was and well probably still am a total indie kid. Skins introduced me to loads of bands and artists, with every episode featuring a lot of new talent. As well as new, they picked pop classics (Britney Spears = excellent car chase music) and soundtracked an entire episode with Debussy. The music choices are just as well thought out as the plot, with each moment musically glazed to perfection.

gen 3

I don’t want to say anything more because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching. Even after all these years and multiple rewatches later, I’ll never get sick of Skins. It’s TV at its best. Binge watch it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll become a teenager all over again.

 

 

 

Alternative Universes.

So as we get into January, the daily grind starts again. Although for us joyous people in retail, it never ended. Anyway, everyone’s trudging back to work and school after the season of indulgence and it always feels a little bleak. Why is it no longer acceptable to crack the prosecco out for breakfast and have a decorated tree in your living room?

Our days become a little less excitable and a lot more ordinary after the festive season. We all have a bit of a reboot. Some decide to detox and hit the gym, even if it is only for a month while most hit the reset on their jolly emotions. The festive period made everything seem a little brighter and happier and it reflected through everyone, take notice because people smile a hell of a less throughout their year. When we get back to this stilted ordinariness, I refer to one of my favourite concepts:

Alternative universes.

It’s the idea that right now there are hundreds, thousands, well an unfathomable number of other universes. Some dramatically different to ours where say the dinosaurs still roam but others only a little different where I might happen to have brown eyes instead of blue. It’s an insane idea to get your head around that there’s possibly tons of different versions of yourself out there but at times it can oddly give me comfort.

Say I’m having a bad day, I’m running late to work, I’ve got a long shift and I’m full of the cold. All you want to do in that situation is curl up and feel sorry for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously do that too. However, I think about the universe where I’m on time to work, feeling great and I’m only in 4 hours. At least somewhere out there, I’m on the right path. There’s also the me out there who’s already writing her 3rd bestselling novel and I’m happy for her but I know I’m not ready for that yet. You can easily use it in reverse, as the only saying goes ‘things could always be worse’. For instance while dealing with tricky customers is a pain, I could be in a world where the Hunger Games is actually real or the mass majority of the population has turned into cannibals.

Now a lot of you could be saying I’m just running away with my imagination or I spend way too much time day dreaming. To be fair both of those assumptions are pretty accurate. However, I urge you to creative your own alternative universes. Some only a little different, where you’re studying photography instead of art but others that are completely over the top with monsters and aliens.

Some days we all feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. I’ve been there. I’ve been stuck in the emotional fog and it’s horrible. My alternative universes help me realise that while things could be better, they could also be worse. It hurts to lose someone but it’s even better to have had them in your life at all. Life is a middle ground. Sometimes you need a little bit of the ridiculous to appreciate it.

 

Warning: clichés ahead.

So I’ve sat down with a green tea to reflect, like a gazillion blog posts before me. I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the whole celebration of New Year until this year.

I was sensible this year, I stayed in for most of the night with my best friend and her dog. We watched films, treated ourselves to pizzas and chocolate and stayed sober the entire night. As midnight approached we went to a firework display the town over. At the stroke of midnight we gave each other that huge cheesy grin that Hogmanay qualifies for and hugged. We were surrounded by tons of people doing the same. Greeting each other with hugs and kisses and all the well wishes in the world. It was a pretty adorable sight to see.

While I’ve usually found making New Year’s plans stressful, only finding that it was another excuse for a party and while I’ve had fun at those parties, the next day comes with an inevitable hangover and a bit of let-down. Was all that fuss worth it? I think New Year is about coming to the end of a year and appreciating what you’ve got in your life. All the alcohol and party dresses aren’t necessary to appreciate your wonderful friends and family.

I have a feeling my reflections on New Year, have something to do with the kind of year I’ve had. 2015 has been full of ups and downs. I lost two family members early in the year and I’m still getting through that now. That, the stress of finishing university and my general lack of routine for the second half of the year have made me really ill. Unfortunately it’s not something I can really help, having a rare headache condition sucks. With all the negativity though, I can truly adore the positive in my life. I graduated with an honours degree in English and Creative Writing, seen some of my favourite bands live, had an amazing holiday to Amsterdam with my Mum, spent my 22nd birthday playing childish party games, visited my Dad’s for a lovely chilled break, I’ve dressed up in fun costumes for birthdays and Halloween, spent plenty of nights out with friends and I’m ending the year in a job which has its challenges but I enjoy it.

I’m very much ready for a new start, 2016 brings a nice clean slate. I’m not usually one for resolutions but I want this year to be all about writing. I’m determined I’ll finish my first novel, I started it as part of my final project for university so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch. It’s an achievable goal and I know how satisfying it will be. So with this post, I’m starting the year as I mean to go on, writing.

Happy new year everyone, I hope 2016 is good to you all.