Current Affairs, Life Updates

Lockdown Update!

The past few weeks have been filled with the chaos and fear of uncertainty, and an unprecedented lack of control over the events around us. Human nature dictates that the one thing we despise more than anything is being told we cannot do what we want – the element of choice has been inexplicably stripped from us. This is something I think we’re all finding incredibly difficult to wrap our heads around. Routine has been forbidden, our entire way of life temporarily jeopardised. And with that, comes a distinct increase in anxieties over the near and distant future.

For someone that normally thrives off routine and structure, this lockdown as thrown me ever so slightly. Not going to work every day, hitting the gym and not being able to socialise has proven hugely challenging, but here are a few ways I’ve kept myself busy and thus, somewhat sane.

Reading – I used to consume books within a day way back when, so I’ve recently started re-reading some of my favourites which had a profound impact on me either growing up or more recently, from poetry to prose. I find losing myself in a book keeps me centred and acts as a very therapeutic form of escapism.

Fitness – three months ago I began my personal training journey after quitting my job at the last minute (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!). Having the sessions come to an abrupt halt significantly impacted my mood recently so I’ve decided to start doing home workouts. They take a lot of improvisation, but I was thankfully blessed with an incredible personal trainer who still motivates me every day – I’ve incorporated all of our prior training into these home workouts as best as physically possible, using weights and resistance bands where feasible. Not going into work every day has meant I have much more time to devote to exercise, and since introducing a routine of training every other day, I find myself feeling much healthier and happier, physically and mentally.

Writing – I’ve always considered writing to be my greatest form of therapy since I was a teenager, and during times such as this there is no greater way to comprehend any negative (and positive!) thoughts and feelings than writing them all down. Even if it means keeping a journal, or jotting things down when feeling overwhelmed, expressing them in words rather than keeping it bottled inside has worked wonders.

Spending time with family – I don’t think I’ve ever spent as much time with or even seen my parents as I have done in the past two weeks! But it’s been a blessing to sit with them every day and talk properly. We motivate each other and pick one another up if we’re ever down and I believe in a time like this, that is more important than ever.

Leaving the house once a day – endometriosis has somewhat put a spanner in the works with this one as I do enjoy just going for a simple walk in the park every now and then. When I’m in a lot of pain, or even when I’m not, I sometimes try to distract myself with being around green space and nature, which really does work wonders when you’re stuck inside each day! Being quarantined indoors makes you appreciate nature and all it has to offer.

Stay in touch with friends – I’ve come to appreciate my loved ones even more so now! Even just checking in with each other is so important, but true friends provide stability in times like this. If it’s for a gossip, a vent or just to chat about being bored, it’s nice to have someone on the other end of the phone in the same position, who understands and listens.

As I said before, there is great fear in such uncertainty. Not being able to do what you want can at times take a huge toll on your mental wellbeing. But staying indoors means saving the lives of our loved ones and the vulnerable, so it’s really a no brainer. If we can survive this, we can survive anything. And it makes the future that much more promising.

Stay safe, stay healthy and stay positive (and stay INSIDE!).

A x

Current Affairs, Life Updates, Original Writing

Mental Health: Uncut

[Writing this post took all the balls in the world for me today.]

On the 18th February, I cried for hours. And by hours, I mean from approximately 5pm to 1am. It then concluded with a grand finale of a monumental panic attack in which I forgot how to breathe and thought I was literally going to die. (PSA: I know I have the tendency to be dramatic but this is actually in no way exaggerated!)

This is what mental health looks like.

I have a terrible habit of bottling up my emotions, and I guess that partly stems from being an only child – I am in no way blaming anyone but myself for this terrible habit! It’s a life-long lesson I am slowly beginning to fully comprehend. I also suffered an extraordinary amount of psychological abuse during high school (ironically, mostly from teachers), and that impacted both the perception I had of myself and the way I lived my life. My social anxiety most probably is a result of being punished weekly at secondary school by teachers who viewed my insubordination as a threat to their authority. (Fun fact: I hated teachers who thought respect was their automatic right, simply because they were responsible for our academic education.) They broke down every single piece of me until my identity was entirely consumed by the failure they enforced upon me. Now, I know it sounds like I’m bitter and resentful, but I do believe I have earned the right to own the effect they had on me. I never truly accepted my secondary school experience as traumatic until I developed an eating disorder at the age of sixteen.

My general anxiety (which I define for myself here, through my personal experiences which are in no way universal, as random bouts of extreme nervousness, worrying excessively over minor, minor issues which I exacerbate in my own mind to become something huge etc.) is a part of me I’ve learned to live with for a long time. It’s like a scar; I know it’s there, I can feel it with me all the time but more often than not, I’m able to live peacefully without it sabotaging my way of life. I guess on some level, everyone has a form of general anxiety. Some have it worse than others. However, there are days where I can feel my anxiety digging its claws into my skull and tearing everything to pieces. I’m left feeling exhausted, worn out and emotionally numb.

This is exactly what happened on the night of the 18th February. Being as busy as I am, amidst the chaos of my final year of university whilst simultaneously juggling a job, I don’t have time to process my own thoughts – the good, and the bad. Having a health condition which causes moderate to severe pain daily also massively plays into my anxiety, and the two are inextricably intertwined. Undergoing my surgical procedure nearly one month ago, and having to deal with the agonising consequences of a rather horrendous recovery whilst trying to catch up on missing a month of university took quite a toll both physically and mentally. That night, I broke; I felt my body physically break. I cannot quite describe it in any other way. I screamed obscenities at the ones I loved the most, blamed the world for my problems, cried then felt absolutely nothing. It’s only now, looking back, that I realise just how painful that breakdown was. I saw no way out of my own head; I was drowning in my thoughts and that manifested into physical suffocation. I could not breathe.

I guess the aim of this post is to draw attention to the silent sufferers of mental health and to raise awareness. If you’re struggling, drop me a message. Drop someone a message. Don’t suffer the weight of your world on your own – God, I cannot stress this enough. Don’t be someone you’re not just to impress a few people. The social concept of ‘fitting in’ is so fucking overrated. Don’t suffer in silence. For so long, I created a facade of myself: one that’s strong and fearless and brave and all of that bullshit. But there are times like this where I remember just how vulnerable I am. I’m not anywhere near as strong as I want to be. I’m not always the person you see on Instagram every day. And that is so, so okay. It makes me human. 6 years on from the operation that changed everything (gallbladder cholecystectomy) and I’m still learning so much about myself.

I’m done with pretending to be brave for the sake of others. I’m done with pretending to be someone I’m not, and it’s truly the most wonderful feeling in the world. At 23, I’m finally finding myself. I’ve spent 6 years trying to forget the pain I went through, but I’ve never really forgiven myself for it. My body has been fighting itself for years, and it’s time I showed it a bit more understanding.

A little more self-love.

A x

Life Updates

Summer Update 2018 – Regent St

I can’t quite believe my time at Regent Street is fast-approaching its end! The past 3 months have been an absolute whirlwind of stress, excitement, tiredness, and happiness. (Cliche, I know.)

Whilst studying at Reading University, I started working in retail part-time. Before I knew it, June had arrived and I knew it was unfeasible to travel to and from Reading during the summer holidays (despite desperately not wanting to leave for 3 months!). I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work at the London store, which also happens to be the global flagship for the company, too. Going from a store where,  in total, there were 35 of us to a store of 125 members of staff was an absolute killer for my social anxiety, but the staff and management opened me with welcome arms.

Coming towards the end of my summer stint in central London, I can honestly look back and say this summer was one of the best I’ve had. Working full time in retail is exhausting but being able to work in a fast-paced environment with people who have become great friends is something I’ve been so blessed with. I was lucky enough to cross paths with managers who went out of their way to help me progress further within the company by training me up and most importantly, pushing me to better myself.

One of the categories within the store is sportswear and during the first month, I decided that would be the category to specialise in. Considering the company are always bringing out new collections and working on developing the category, I figured it would be a great place to start learning about how exactly retail works and what goes on behind the scenes. One of my managers, in particular, trained me up on everything sport-related, from USPs to KPIs to the technology of fabrics used; I never thought in a million years I’d be able to look back and say I’ve learned so much from working in retail and had such fun learning, too. I’m super excited to get back to Reading and put everything I’ve learned/been taught to good use!

Thanks for a beautifully wild summer, Regent Street. I’m sad to leave you behind.

(But let’s be honest, I am absolutely thrilled to be heading home to my Reading family soon!)

A x

[Featured Image:]





Life Updates

Internship 2017

This summer I’ve had the privilege of working as an intern for the very first time. I still can’t quite believe just how lucky I got, bagging myself an internship in my first year of university (perks of studying at Reading!).

The company I work for are based in central London, and they work with the top universities in London. My role is working as a Media Coordinator for the company, which is many ways perfect considering social media is my forte. Being in charge of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for the company in addition to visiting these universities, talking to students and scientists, and creating case studies for the students has been a rollercoaster of excitement and adrenaline, and 100% worth it.

The best part of this internship, however, is the people I’ve worked with. The environment is based on putting the staff first, being as flexible as possible for them, and making sure they are happy in the workplace. These are contacts I can honestly say I would love to keep for the future.

The skills I’ve acquired are also incredible. After working in retail for two years, I was desperately craving the taste of a degree-related job. The friends I’ve made working in retail, I’ve made for life and whilst I appreciate the somewhat relaxed attitude towards working in the fashion-retail industry, it became tedious. Folding shirts everyday and analysing stock reports is alright but I wasn’t challenging myself in any way. I was physically drained after spending 8 hours on my feet, but this internship has mentally drained me, which is exactly what I love.

I’ve been pushed to work as hard as I can, to meet deadlines the day they’re set, and these are invaluable life skills I can carry forward with me into the future. This may sound awfully cliché, but now that I’ve had a taste for working in an environment related to my degree, I can’t bring myself to go back to retail. Of course, a job is a job, and when it comes to starting my second year of university in a month’s time, I will have to go back to retail part-time in order to pay for university costs, but my passion has now shifted from specialising in menswear to working in the marketing industry.

I take pride in the fact that I have put my free time this summer to great use. Thank you, to the University of Reading and to the company I’m working for, because I’ve had the best time. I definitely would love to do this again next year, and cannot recommend it enough!

A x

Life Updates

My (Nightmare) Experience with UNITE Students

In March 2016, I received the email I’d waited pretty much 3 years for – the unconditional offer at Reading University, to study English Literature. The only problem that remained was my accommodation. Commuting was out of the question: I was living in the middle of nowhere at the time (South-East England) and did not fancy travelling 2 hours each way, everyday. Unfortunately, by the time I’d received my offer, the accommodation deadline for halls of residence at Reading had come and gone. So my parents and I headed over to the university website, and looked at their recommended list of external, private accommodation options. That’s when we came across Unite Students.

I guess because I was in such a panic to find a place to live during my first year, I didn’t think to look at reviews, as it was recommended by the university. The rent certainly wasn’t cheap either – we assumed for the price we were paying, we wouldn’t need to worry about a thing.

When I first checked in, in September 2016, I was terrified. My mum was terrified. My dad was terrified. The concept of living away from home hadn’t really sunk in until I was standing at that reception desk, filling in the forms. The receptionist ensured both my mum and I that I would be well looked after at Crown House, and so I felt slightly more secure in choosing Unite Students.

Up until January 2017, I had absolutely no issues with Crown House/Unite Student management. The kitchen was kept tidy fortnightly by a cleaner, if there were any maintenance issues, they were resolved literally the next working day. I was happy to be living there. However, unbeknownst to any residents in the building, Crown House was to undergo a major emergency refurbishment, beginning in January, due to “white render” falling down outside the building. There was no warning of this when I moved into the building in September. Now, I’m no builder or contractor, but I’m fairly sure that organising this building work, and bringing in a whole team of builders must have taken months of planning. Which means, Crown House management must have been aware of this PRIOR to the building work beginning in January. I feel cheated of the money my parents had paid for my rent, as we were never told of the major disruption that was about to begin during my residency at Crown House.

The noise was horrendous. I can’t even begin to describe it. They’d start at 8.30am, drilling holes right outside our windows, and they’d finish at 5pm. That’s a whole day of drilling, constantly. Not to mention having men standing right outside my window every morning. A month into the refurbishment, I complained. My friends who came to visit would complain about how bad the noise was, so I knew I was justified in complaining. After a couple of meetings with management, I was given an upgrade to a studio flat on the fifth floor of the building, on the opposite side to where the builders were working. The noise was therefore significantly reduced, and I was finally able to sleep and study again. Considering I had a health condition which meant I needed to be able to rest whenever I was in pain during the day, peace and quiet was absolutely imperative for me. Anyway, I moved into the studio, and I was finally happy.

In May 2017, I received an email that the builders had finished up on that side of the building and so I should move back to my old flat. Now, I understood that the studio flat was a temporary measure, but I received this email the Friday BEFORE my first exam, which was almost laughable. I told them there was no way I was moving right before my first exam, so they gave me a one day extension to leave the studio (also laughable).  To save any hassle and stress during the week when my exams began, I decided to just move in the weekend before my exam, on the Saturday. To my absolute pleasure (please note the heavy sarcasm) I had a new tenant next door to me! Considering I had an exam on the Monday, it was important that I was well-rested. Funnily enough, the Monday exam was one of the hardest of the year. Saturday night saw my charming next door neighbour hosting a party in her room. I figured, since it was a Saturday night, I’d let her make an abundance of horrific noise (including her and her friends singing, screaming and then, eventually, screeching) until just after midnight. Then I really did need to sleep, if I was going to get any last minute revision done on Sunday. 1am approached, and she was still making my ears bleed with noise, so I complained. The security team knocked on her door and told her to keep the noise down. She said “ok” then turned up the volume for a whole other hour before her friends left the flat. I was pissed.

Sunday saw me sleep-deprived, nervous for the following day’s exam and stressed. I’m pretty sure everyone knows by now how badly stress triggers my pain. Anyway, I assumed as it was a Sunday, I’d have no problems with my noisy neighbour and could get up at 6am on Monday morning, ready for my exam, with no issues of sleep deprivation. Oh, how I was wrong. On Sunday night, I was greeted with more screeching, more screaming and howls of laughter that could be heard from OUTSIDE the flat. This time, she wasn’t throwing a party and so I had no real right to complain, or so I thought. In hindsight, I should have complained. By the time I fell asleep, it was well after 3.30am. I needed to be up at 6am. I was a mess. That Monday, the day of my first and hardest exam, I was running on 3 hours sleep and pure adrenaline (and caffeine), all because my new neighbour was an absolute nightmare.

2 weeks passed, and I was getting furthermore frustrated with my new flatmate. I spent all day at the library, simply because she’d wake me up in the morning by having her laptop on full volume and howling at the top of her voice. I kid you not, she would HOWL.

The third week of exam season had approached, and the lack of sleep as a result of my neighbouring flatmate had resulted in my stress levels rocketing through the roof, my sleep deprivation also significantly stressing me out. Then the inevitable happened: I got sick. In fact, I somehow managed to contract a 24 hour flu. I was unable to even get out of bed, let alone revise for the 3 exams I had coming up. My new flatmate had caused me so much distress as a result of disruption, I had to go home with my parents. I spent the next month at home revising, coming back to Reading only to sit my exams, then go back home.

During this time, I informed Crown House management of my situation. I attended multiple meetings, in which I was promised some kind of reasonable outcome. I was told by one of the managers that she would try her absolute hardest to get me some compensation for the one month I spent at home, resulting from my neighbour. All of this was absolutely pointless.

Crown House management brushed my one month of utter distress under the carpet, and told me that “because the new tenant didn’t realise the distress she was causing, the matter is now resolved.” I didn’t receive any compensation. The tenant didn’t even receive a warning.

As soon as Summer Ball was over, I moved out of Crown House. I couldn’t bare to live in that building a minute longer. I told them I’d be looking for a tenant to take up the rest of my tenancy because I could never live there again. Unfortunately, and I should have really seen this coming, they’ve thrown obstacles in my way ever since. I found a tenant willing to take up the rest of my tenancy, only for them to create a “rent issue” with my room, and so they showed him a studio flat INSTEAD. They essentially took my client away from me, so they could get more money.

Overall, I would urge everyone and anyone to NOT live under UNITE students. Their main concern is for themselves and how much money they can squeeze out of a student, not the student at all. They’re unbelievably rude, and do not care for the distress of a student living in their residency. I’ve lost out on 4 month’s rent because they’ve been so difficult, and showed no regard for my suffering when it could easily have been resolved.

I’ve looked at reviews for UNITE students online, and I was horrified at the sheer number of complaints ACROSS THE COUNTRY, by students who were scammed by the company. Please ensure you thoroughly research your accommodation and its reviews before moving in.

Thankfully, I’ll be living on campus next year, and so will never have to deal with them again.

A x

Life Updates


4 years later and I finally have the answers I’ve been waiting for.

After seeing a pain consultant at UCLH, I was told I had damage to my abdominal wall, most probably as a result of my operation in 2013. This would explain the consistency in daily pain and the multiple admissions to hospital. The methods of dealing with this are somewhat complicated – there is no “cure” as such, as surgery runs far too many fatal risks, not to mention the risk of furthermore pain. I’m on medication for chronic pain, and hopefully by steadily increasing the dose if I experience severe pain again, it should make a considerable difference to my quality of life. The only downside to the medication is their sedative effect, so I spent 90% of my day resembling that of a zombie. I’ve now been referred to the complex pain team at UCLH, where I’ll undergo physiotherapy to help live with the pain, potential local anaesthetic shots to numb the pain of my damaged abdominal wall and ultimately methods which will ensure I don’t have to visit the a&e department as frequently, and hopefully in time, at all.

Over the past 4 years, I’ve gone through just about every single test possible for abdominal pain and the lack of answers completely destroyed me. I was living in a constant state of not knowing what I was suffering from, with doctors, or “specialists” in the private healthcare field not willing to act on anything. 2015 was by far the worst year of my life – 11 admissions to a&e over 12 months, where they could only manage the pain with opiates left me feeling at my lowest. Many people, healthcare professionals included, underestimate the debilitating impact of chronic pain. I’m always asked to rate my pain – how do I measure it, when I’ve experienced the worst kind this world has to offer? To this day, I’ve never measured my pain at a 10/10 because I’ve become so desensitised to the excruciating nature of a relapse.

I’ve always had people commending me for my bravery and strength, but ultimately this is 90% of the time a facade to help me survive. I’m so far from brave, compared to those who suffer from terminal illnesses and what not. There are days where I’m overcome with anxiety over how I’ll live with the pain when it gets bad, and how isolating the pain can be. There are days when I criticise myself for pitying myself when I’m so lucky compared to the plight of others. I’m filled with guilt at the sacrifices my family have made for me, and the pain they’ve had to helplessly witness, all the while encouraging me and supporting me. But I’ve slowly come to realise that it’s perfectly okay to feel sorry for myself here and there. It’s okay to feel like absolute shit. It’s okay to cry my heart out. Because pain is soul-destroying.

Ultimately, I survived these 4 years solely because I have an incredible support system. My immediate family and close friends have saved my life.

So, thank you. Thank you to the specialists at UCLH for giving me the answers I’ve waited so long for. Thank you to my close friends who’ve shown me so much support recently. Thank you to the friends who’ve become family. Thank you to each and every one of you who have contacted me on here and offered advice, encouragement and so much more. And thank you, a thousand times over, to my family.  God bless you all.

It gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better.

A x

Life Updates

An Open Letter to My Parents

The past few years have been turbulent, both physically and mentally for myself and those around me; the constant rejection of the answers I was desperately looking for, the reluctance to be treated for whatever is going on inside me, and the anxiety surrounding being in pain everyday were painful to say in the least. However, with the news that the investigations into my health conditions have now come to an end, I’ve stopped hoping for a miracle, adopting a rather more realistic approach to dealing with the pain. I’ve made peace with the idea that I’ll have to treat these symptoms, potentially for the rest of my life, rather than having multiple doctors, surgeons and specialists poke me here and there, performing countless tests.

Those closest to me will know how much I despise pity and sympathy: my health is something I have yet to come to terms with (I know, I know, it’s been 4 years) so handling other’s reactions isn’t something that comes easily to me when I don’t really know how to handle it myself. However, the one thing I have always been grateful for, but now more so than ever, is the relentless support of my parents.

During my darkest hours, they shared my pain and agony. In 2013, they shared my fear of going under the knife for the first time in my life. But they put aside all their own emotions to support me, comfort me and encourage me. Many will comment on my bravery in suffering from a debilitating health issue, but I believe the bravest of them all are my parents, for being strong for me. I remember waking up from the general anaesthetic after my operation and hearing my mum sob because she couldn’t handle the sight of me being attached to wires, an oxygen mask, and tubes attached to me. This was the first time I’d heard her cry since I was diagnosed, and in many ways that was more painful than the actual agony of a gallbladder attack. As parents, there’s an assumption that you have to be strong for your children, and my parents exceeded that. I know for a fact that their support has helped me live through this, and without it, I don’t know where I’d be.

It’s time for me to stop thinking about how I’ll survive living with whatever I am going through, but rather focus on how I can live my life to the fullest with it. Perhaps I was justified in my selfishness regarding the whole thing – after all, it was my illness, something only I was experiencing. But in many ways, my pain is also my parents’ pain. I haven’t given them enough credit for helping me survive the worst days of my life. I owe them everything for helping me keep it together when I was at my lowest points. Their ability to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I’m blind to it myself is a gift they are blessed with.

So thank you both, for transforming me into the strong woman I am today. I am a survivor because of you. You love me even when I’m at my worst, and boy am I an absolute nightmare. Through your care and devotion, you have created a human being who is prepared to fight whatever life throws at her head on. You have given me the strength to survive my darkest hours, and it’s only your words which help me overcome them. Your strength and courage lives within me, and I am so proud to call you my parents. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I’ll be able to embrace it because of you.

A x