I’m Trekking to Petra!

We may be in lockdown now but adventure awaits! I’m thrilled to say that in April 2021, I will joining 50 other people from my local area on a gruelling desert adventure in aid of a charity that’s very close to my heart!

This trip has been in the works for almost a year and I joined the team back in November 2019, but it’s become even more important in the current crisis. The charity we’re trekking in aid of is the Stars Appeal (registered charity no: 1052284), which is the in-house charity at Salisbury District Hospital. The Stars Appeal funds projects within the hospital which offer direct and practical support to patients and their families, over and above what the NHS is able to provide. Every year they require around £1million of funding to make patients’ hospital experiences as positive as they can possibly be.

The projects they fund include one-off items – like creating a brand new birthing centre, or purchasing state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment for cancer patients – and long-term projects and services which need to be funded every year, including free WiFi for patients and their families, maintenance of the award-winning Stars Appeal Breast Cancer Unit, and purchasing toys and games for children in the Sarum Children’s Ward.

Have a look here for a comprehensive list of what the Stars Appeal hopes to achieve in fundraising this year: http://www.starsappeal.org/our-wish-list/

I volunteered my time at Salisbury District Hospital’s radio station, Radio Odstock, for two years and got to see for myself some of the amazing things that the Stars Appeal have provided. I was born in this hospital 22 years ago, as was my sister 5 years after that. Almost 30 years ago, my Mum suffered a spinal injury and having the specialist spinal unit, partially funded by the Stars Appeal, saves her travelling miles to a specialist hospital for the check ups she still requires every year. I have friends and family who’ve had long and short stays in this hospital and I’ve been a patient there myself on a number of occasions. What I’m saying is that this charity means a lot to me because the work they do effects everyone in my local community.

Right now, the hospital, along with every other NHS hospital is facing its biggest challenge ever, but the great news is that the money I raise ahead of the trek doesn’t wait until after the event to reach the Stars Appeal. The moment you donate, it goes straight towards the work they’re doing right now to make sure patients and staff are having the safest, most comfortable experience they possibly can during this time.

To that end, I am asking that you consider following this link to my JustGiving page and making a donation, however large or small you can manage, towards my fundraising goal of £3500. If you can’t donate, please share the link and tell your friends – particularly if you’re from the Salisbury area, have friends or family here or even if you visit often – you never know when you might need the benefits that this funding provides!

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hermionepetra

I had lots of plans for fundraising events which of course have had to go on hold, so right now, sponsorship is the best way for me and my fellow trekkers to raise the hugely important funds required to continue giving the people in my local community the best care possible, making their experiences comfortable and efficient, and easing the pressure on our National Health Service.

I will of course, as with all my other mad projects, post updates here and on my Instagram (@hermionerose) as they come. This will include more information on the actual trek and what it is I’ll be doing next April – today I just wanted to share with you all how important this cause is to me. In the meantime, I’m going to keep asking nicely for sponsorship (pretty please, with a cherry on top??) and start walking up some hills in preparation for the desert trek that lies ahead!

Reducing Your Screen Time

Hello lovely readers,

How are we all doing? A quick update on me before we start: I’m now back home in Salisbury and I was meant to go back to work on Sunday, but on that morning my Mum’s partner, who lives with us, developed Covid-19 symptoms. Because I never got tested so we can’t be sure I’ve had it, I have to isolate with my family/household for the recommended 14 days. (Nearly wrote years then – it feels like 14 years!). My mood has been up and down – mostly down. But today I’ve had a bath, washed my hair and done some tidying so I feel a bit less useless. By the time this 14 days is over though, I’ll be chomping at the bit to finally be back at work!

It feels like there’s not a lot else to do in these times than be on our phones/tablets/laptops. Whether it’s messaging friends, scrolling social media or watching Netflix, we’re spending most of our time looking at a screen. I’ve become very aware of how much time I’ve spent, mostly on my phone, mindlessly switching from one social media app to the next and back again. I think I was pretty guilty of this anyway but under normal circumstances, I’d have work or uni or be meeting up with friends, and that would be screen free time. So during this time, I’m trying to make an effort to put the social media down and read a book or phone a friend instead.

We’ve developed an unhealthy reluctance to put our phones down, I feel. We live in an age where if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner etc doesn’t text you back quick enough they must be talking to someone else or not be interested in you. I’m guilty of this pattern of thinking too. Especially now. I keep seeing posts, particularly on Twitter, saying things along the lines of:

‘We’re in lockdown, he’s got nothing else to do, if he ain’t texting you back, he’s not interested in you’. 

Of course, this isn’t remotely true. The person might be cooking a meal, taking a nap, or simply having some time away from their screens. If you’re starting to feel insecure about the reason someone isn’t texting you back, that’s probably a sign that you need to take a break from your phone. And it’s not just our private interactions (or lack thereof) with friends or family that can take a toll on our mental health. The internet can be a toxic place at times. You’ve got internet trolls who can’t find anything better to do than anonymously tear others down, you’ve celebrities and big brands creating adverts that make us feel insecure in order to flog products that will ‘fix’ our flaws, and right now a lot of the news is very upsetting. More than once, I’ve teared up at a news notification or become angry at someone on Facebook posting about how social distancing isn’t necessary if you take Vitamin C (NOT TRUE!).

I had a conversation about this with a friend the other day and when we ended the FaceTime call, I had a well-timed notification from my Headspace app. It said:

“As you pick up your phone to do anything, be clear in your intention. Do the thing and then put it away.”

As with breaking any habit, it can be easier said than done, but try and practice this tonight. I’ve had a think about some of the techniques I use to reduce my screen time and I’m sharing them here in the hopes that they’ll help you too:

  • Set time limits on your apps – if you have an iPhone, there’s a section under Settings, called Screen Time. You can see how much time you’ve spent on your phone in a given time period, but you can also set time limits for specific apps. When you’ve used up your chosen time, the app will be closed and you’ll get a message letting you know. You can override this if you choose to, and often I do if I’m in the middle of reading an article or watching an IGTV, but what’s great is that it makes you aware of how much time you’re spending and that once you’ve finished what you’re doing, it’s probably a good idea to put it down for a while.
  • Leave your phone on charge somewhere out of reach – I’ve been doing this a lot and found it really helpful. If I’m watching TV or reading, I don’t want to be constantly checking my phone or scrolling, but I don’t want to miss any important messages or phone calls either. So I’ll leave my phone on vibrate or on loud and then put it somewhere out of reach. This means I’ll hear it if it rings, and I can get up to answer, but I won’t be able to just absent-mindedly reach for it without a purpose.
  • Plug it into an iPod dock – in the age of Alexa and Bluetooth speakers, this one’s a little old fashioned, but if you still have an iPod dock, it’s worth trying. It’s similar to leaving it out of reach, except with this approach there’s a forfeit for going and checking your phone – if you pick it up from the dock, the music will stop! Are you really going to interrupt your favourite tunes just to scroll Twitter for 20 minutes or are you going to answer that text from your Mum and then put it straight back?
  • Set an alarm before scrolling – sometimes you are just in the mood for a mindless scroll, and that’s okay. You want to catch up with what’s been posted/tweeted/grammed and I can’t fault you for that. But when you pick up your phone for a scroll, trying setting an alarm or timer for what you feel is a reasonable amount of time to spend browsing the web. When the timer goes off, close your apps and move onto a different activity. This allows you to have a moment of mindless scrolling without getting carried away and realising too late that you’ve been at it for hours!

I hope you find some of these tips helpful, not just now but in ‘normal life’ too.

Take care and stay safe everybody. I’ll be back soon!

xx

Four Years Of Us: An Open Letter

Dear Toby, 

So, it’s been four years of you and me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve known you forever and other times it baffles me that so much time has passed already. And what a ride it’s been, eh? Even in the last three months we’ve been through so much! Between your broken ankle, my family emergencies, and a global pandemic, it’s been hard to make time for each other. But make no mistake, you’re in my thoughts and in my heart every single day. 

I know that public displays of affection aren’t really your thing, but I wanted to post this today because in this uncertain time, I want to put out as much love, kindness and positivity into the world as I can. Thank you for giving me your blessing to write and publish this online. 

I am, as you know, the kind of person who during hard times, likes to look back on happy memories for comfort. There are so many with you sweetheart. And ours are my favourite to reminisce. 

As I sit here writing this, I’m listening to our song. Do you remember the first time you played this to me? I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. There are a few little moments that pop into my head often and never fail to make me smile. The first time you told me you loved me, in the car after we’d spent an afternoon soaking up the sun in the Cathedral Close. When you came back from uni to surprise me on Bonfire Night. That time you turned up at my work with a bunch of roses just because I’d had a rough night the day before. 

I love how with you I’m always laughing. Even when I’m angry or sad or tired, you’re always trying to make me laugh and despite my best efforts sometimes, you always succeed.  

I love the way you’re truly my best friend. You’re the first person I want to tell when I’ve got good news, the first person I want to cry to when it’s bad news. You treat me with such respect, compassion and love. We can talk about anything and there’s nothing I’m afraid to share with you. We call each other out on our bullshit. We’re quick to apologise when we fall out. We can discuss our flaws and help each other grow and learn. 

Your work ethic and determination are two of my favourite things about you. It makes me so proud to see you working so hard towards your degree and your future. You inspire me to want to find something I enjoy that much and work hard for it. 

You give the best hugs that make me feel safe and loved and protected. You’re such a comfort to me. When I’m having a bad day or an anxious moment, hearing your voice or seeing your face brings a sense of calm over me. Thank you for supporting me, for cuddling me, for letting me into your life four years ago and not letting me go. 

My heart aches at not being with you today and I can’t wait to be able to have a belated take-out and movie night as soon as we can. 

Life is full of ups and downs but there’s no one I’d rather ride this rollercoaster with. You have my heart forever.

Happy Anniversary sweetie!

All my love, 

Hermione xx

Self-Isolation Shenanigans

Anyone else feel like they’re waiting to wake up from a bad dream? Life feels so surreal right now. The anxiety really started to set in for me today. I know people who’ve lost their jobs. My sister’s A Level exams have been cancelled and she’s gutted. My final year friends won’t be able to close out the university chapter of their lives the way they wanted to. We’re having to try and find a new normal and there’s no telling when life will go back to the way it was before, or even if it ever will! I know that sounds dramatic but this global pandemic is bound to have long-term ramifications for years to come.

However! I wanted to share what I’ve been up to while self-isolating because until today I’d managed to make it feel like a nice relaxing little holiday.

Firstly, I’ve had a couple of lie ins. I’ve been struggling with my sleep pattern lately and having to force myself to get up for things even though I’m exhausted and struggling to open my eyes. So it’s been really nice, while I’ve had nothing to do and no where to go, to just sleep in until my body decides it’s ready to be awake (or until the cat decides she’s bored!). This might not be helpful for everyone though – I know a few people who find getting up at the same time every day a much better coping strategy.

Yesterday, I had a big old clean and tidy of my bedroom. I caught up on laundry – I have a terrible habit of putting it in the washing machine, pressing go and then forgetting about it while it sits in the machine, damp and smelly. I washed all the hand towels too because I bet they’re a breeding ground for bugs! I dusted my bedside table, emptied all the old receipts out of my purse, tidied up the crap on my desk and moved all my clean laundry from the floor-drobe to the wardrobe! If you’re looking for mundane things to occupy your time during this period, I would recommend putting on some music and doing those silly little tasks that you don’t have time for in real life. They’re normally so simple and easy and you’ll feel a sense of achievement afterwards.

My proudest achievement was making a slow cooker bolognese! I got a slow cooker for Christmas last year and I haven’t used it a lot because I’m not good at forward planning. They’re very low effort but they do require deciding what you’re going to cook a few hours ahead of time. I threw in some lightly browned turkey mince (wanted to go for veggie but someone’s been panic buying all the Quorn mince!), chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, onions, herbs and a generous glug of red wine and then… went away and did something else! As you’d expect, it cooks for a long time on a low heat so you don’t have to watch it to keep it from burning, you don’t have to stir it very often, you just let it do its thing. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it last night so I turned it off and just re-warmed it (there’s a setting for that on the slow cooker!) and ate it with spaghetti this evening. And I must say, it was delish. I’ve seen a recipe for making bread in a slow cooker so I might try that next!

Bolognese sauce in a slow cooker

Today, I had a looooong, hot shower. Full disclosure: I think the last time I showered was Monday. I know I know, that’s gross. You definitely don’t wanna know the last time I washed my hair! But today I did the full shebang, hair wash, exfoliate, the lot. And I felt much more human afterwards, naturally.

I’ve also started writing a novel. Kind of. I’ve always loved writing and have written snippets of ideas as they come into my head and then forgotten about them. But there’s an idea I’ve had for about a year that I really love and I’ve decided to start outlining and developing it. Who knows if it’ll go anywhere, but it’s a fun project to work on for a while.

I’ve been doing a lot of watching too. Mostly Merlin, from the beginning, on Netflix. I remember watching it as a child (it started when I was 10!) and I genuinely think I’m enjoying it just as much as an adult. Instagram Live, IGTV and YouTube are also platforms where I’m getting some of my visual content from at the moment. I’m really enjoying rambling chatty videos from some of my favourite female content creators. I mentioned them in yesterday’s post and on Facebook if you want to know who I’ve been enjoying the most.

I feel like I needed a mental break from life a little bit and while the current global crisis is terrible and uncertain, I’m trying to focus on being grateful for being forced to take that break. Working in Pharmacy, I know that as soon as I’m out of self-isolation, I’ll be back at work, doing as much as I possibly can to help my team and my community, so for now I will sit back for three more days, put my feet up and continue binge-watching Merlin!

Take care and stay safe xx

Return to the Blogospehere

Hello there! It’s been a while hasn’t it? 6 months, in fact.

It’s been a funny old time and a lot has changed in those 6 months. Shall we start at the beginning?

In October, I became Cat-Mum to the fluffiest fur baby, Nala. She sort of came into my life by accident at a time when things were about to get really difficult and she’s been a wonderful comfort. My sister was buying a kitten from her friend’s family who’s cat had born a litter. When we went to pick her kitten up, they had one more, a long-haired girl, who was yet to be claimed or ‘bagsied’ so-to-speak. I fell instantly in love with her and took her home the following week. If you want to follow her feline adventures, you can follow @nala_kitten19 on Instagram!

In November, I turned 22. Christmas came and went with a visit from my wonderful friend Beth, all the way from Australia. It was a pleasure to see her a few times and spend New Years’ with her as well!

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In January I returned to Brighton for the second semester of the year. Academically, things went a little downhill from there. I didn’t pass my January exam. I told myself it was fine and that I’d just have to resit in August. The trouble is, the reason I failed is that over the Christmas period, while I was working a lot – as in, going out to my job, not working on uni stuff – I was also mentally drained, going through an episode of pretty deep depression and feeling no motivation whatsoever. That meant little-to-no revision. This didn’t change when I came back for the Spring Term and in the end, three weeks ago, I decided I needed a break to focus on myself for a while. I’ve taken an intermission from uni with a view to going back in either September or January to continue my studies. I need the next few months to take care of myself and my mental health and to reassess some of my options. Little did I know when I made that decision that we were about to face a global pandemic…

So now I’m in self-isolation in my student house in Brighton having started to experience the key symptoms of Covid-19 on Monday, including a cough, high temperature and tight chest. I don’t class myself as vulnerable or high-risk so I’m sure I’ll be fine in a few days, but I am obviously taking all the precautions I can to protect those around me. That includes my elderly Grandad who I believe makes up the final part of my update. He’s been unwell for about a year and a half and almost two weeks ago we had a very scary hospital experience where we thought we were going to lose him. Luckily, he pulled through and is now back home but I am staying well away from him for the time-being until I know that I’m not going to pass anything harmful onto him.

Everything’s a little bit strange right now, in my personal life and in the wider world. As a person with depression, I recognise how tricky and lonely this time will be for some. Luckily I do have some great housemates who are stuck here with me and proving to be great entertainment – last night we had an at-home pub quiz!

I’ve spent weeks not feeling able to get out of bed or do anything productive or useful and it’s unfortunate that this period of self-isolation and social distancing has come at a time where I was just starting to feel a little better. But life goes on and I’m going to link some resources/accounts below which I’ve found helpful so far and hope you will too.

Take care and stay safe

xx

Helpfuls:

@heapsofalice on Instagram – Alice is one of my oldest friends and is taking the opportunity of social distancing to put together a website featuring lists of things to do during this period. So far there’s home-workout videos, educational YouTube channels and the best one so far: Pet-stagrams! She’ll be uploading more content each day. https://heapsofalice.wixsite.com/inisolation

Louise Pentland – very active on the Instagram stories with a good balance of serious Coronavirus talk and happy distracting fluffy stuff! She’s also been doing an Insta live most mornings. Follow @LouisePentland on Instagram.

Carrie Hope Fletcher on YouTube. If you know me you’ll know I adore Carrie anyway, but this afternoon I watched a few of her theatre-related videos (you’ll also know that I adore the theatre and am gutted that they’ve had to close!) and it was lovely to listen to a friendly voice chatting about something completely non-current-affairs related. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbhNxkjmpQcTJDrabiyzHUw

Hazel Hayes on YouTube. Hazel is a filmmaker/director who doesn’t often find herself in front of the camera but she’s making unedited rambly videos, to be treated a bit like a podcast – something to have on in the background to make things feel a like less lonely. Plus, she’s Irish so an absolute joy and comfort to listen to!

My Thoughts On Lover

It’s been a month now since Taylor Swift released her seventh studio album, Lover.

As I’ve listened to nothing else since that day, I think I’m in a position now to share my thoughts on some of the tracks. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE Taylor Swift and I have to say that this album lived up to all of my expectations.

“I thought that it would kill me but it didn’t: it isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.”

The opening track, I Forgot That You Existed holds a brilliant message for me. It reminds me of a very specific feeling that you find yourself experiencing without warning. When you’ve spent so long overthinking a situation or pining over a crush or resenting an enemy… then, without you realising, it starts to fade away until one day you stop and go, ‘wow, I haven’t thought about that in ages… and I’m thinking about it now but I don’t feel anything’. To me, that’s how you really know you’re over something. And the more intense that feeling was, the more satisfying it is to realise you’ve forgotten it.

“I cried like a baby coming home from the bar… I love you, ain’t that the worst thing you ever heard?”

Cruel Summer is some of Taylor Swift’s best lyrical story telling. When I listen to it I feel like I’m right there in the situation about which it was written. Sneaking around with someone just for fun, then falling in love and being faced with the choice between breaking your own heart by calling it off or carrying on and risking the agony of that unrequited love growing stronger. And then ‘he looks up grinning like the devil’ because he’s been feeling the same way all along and actually it’s all gonna be okay. Argh! I love it! I also think it’s brilliant to belt in the car with the windows down.

“I blew things out of proportion, now you’re blue. Put you in jail for something you didn’t do”

I relate hard to Afterglow. In this track Taylor sings about the excruciating guilt one feels when their insecurities cloud their view of a good thing that’s right there in front of them. I’m like this. I catastrophise. I can take a minor issue and turn it into something much bigger, panic about this seemingly huge issue, convince myself that the whole relationship will come crashing down and then start preparing myself for that by creating distance and blame. It’s like a form of self sabotage, but when you take a step back and realise that you overthought the whole thing, sometimes you have to say “That was all in my head, and I nearly let it destroy us. Please forgive me.”

“My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue, all’s well that ends well to end up with you”

Lover’s title track was my favourite of the four pre-release tracks. It’s a classic love song; from the bridge that reads like wedding vows and references Shakespeare to the timeless instrumental lilt. I’m lucky that I have someone who I think of whenever I hear that song and even though he’s not a fan of Taylor Swift, one of the first things I did when I heard it was play it to him, like reading out a love letter and saying ‘this is how I feel about you.’ Also there’s a line that reads, “I’ve loved you three summers now honey, but I want ’em all,” which matches our timeline too so that’s kinda satisfying.

“I once believed love would be burning red, but it’s golden, like daylight”

In Daylight, Taylor describes how this new chapter of her life feels like a reawakening after the dark time during which she wrote Reputation – Daylight almost became the album title until she realised that was “a little on the nose”. She touches on letting things go, leaving the darkness behind, and most poignantly realising what real love feels like. She cleverly references Red, her 4th studio album, which was about all the parts of love that feel like the colour Red: the anger, the lust, the despair, the danger. The parts that are romanticised in the movies but are actually pretty distressing in real life. Daylight is Taylor professing that, for her anyway, love should be like Daylight: nourishing, refreshing, warm, healthy, glowing. Not always perfect, but always there to greet you after a long, dark night.

I wish I could write a little paragraph on all 18 tracks, and maybe I will eventually, but 5 will do for now. Listen to the album for yourself and let me know what you think. Which are your favourites? Do you agree with my take on the ones I’ve mentioned? What other music releases have you been loving lately?

A Word To The Wise About Antidepressants…

Since June 2017 I’ve been on prescription antidepressants. 

They started me on Sertraline but one of the side effects it gave me was severe night sweats and I couldn’t cope with waking up drenched every morning, so last September, I asked for it to be changed and they gave me Citalopram instead.

More recently, I’ve got worse at remembering to take it every single day so sometimes I’ll forget in the morning and not take it until lunchtime and some days I’ll forget entirely and miss a day. This week I’ve had a right royal memory lapse.

On Monday night, I went to stay at Toby’s new place in Surrey and I know that I didn’t take it the following morning because I forgot to take any with me. I’m pretty certain I haven’t taken it since then but I’m not sure whether I did take it the days before. So the most recent possible time I last took Citalopram was Monday morning, 5 days ago.

On Wednesday, I barely managed to drag myself out of bed but was unsure why I was feeling this way. I hadn’t had a particularly enjoyable Tuesday evening and it had been a late night. Maybe I was just tired? I had to get up because I knew I had packing for uni to get on with. I did very little and what I did manage, was done on the living room floor while binging Suits on the TV. Thursday came and I had a coffee date arranged with a close friend. Had to postpone this by half an hour because I overslept and I actually very nearly cancelled. I probably would have done if it hadn’t been the last opportunity to see her before going back to Brighton. I had a lovely couple of hours though and it really made me feel better.

‘Maybe I just needed to get out of the house,’ I thought. I was wrong.

Today was the worst day. Overslept again and had to really face the music with what was left of my packing because I head back to Brighton tomorrow! I was still feeling low and by this time very anxious about going back to uni (which I have been for a while so not entirely unexpected).

As I was packing up my bedside drawer, I pulled out my Citalopram packet and had the sudden realisation. “Shit. I haven’t taken this in days.” I took one there and then but by this point it was way too late. When I received some disappointing news concerning a family issue about half an hour later, I burst into tears and started to have an anxiety attack. I phoned Toby in a state, crying about how I don’t want to go back to uni, and how awful the other situation is that I’d had an update on. He managed to calm me down enough that I wasn’t sobbing down the phone and when he had to go back to work, I went to bed for a mental rest and a short nap.

Around 5pm, I woke up feeling calmer but exhausted. Mum and I finished my packing and then went to the home of another close friend for a farewell drink.

The point of my telling this long winded tale is that if you are on medication for your mental health, it is SO important to take it regularly and at the recommended dose. As someone who’s training to be a pharmacist, I could have told you that anyway, but living out the consequences of going cold turkey for almost a week is something truly different to learning a fact in vocational training.

If, like me, you take medication to help you live a relatively normal life, please do everything you can to maintain your medication. Set an alarm on your phone (this is what I’ll be doing from now on); ask somebody you trust to remind you; buy a pill box with days of the week on so that you can see when you’ve taken today’s dose; keep spares in your handbag in case you forget before you leave the house. And if you do want to come off your medication – deliberately! – don’t do it without talking to your doctor and/or pharmacist first and seeking advice on whether you need to reduce your dose gradually rather than going cold turkey.

There’s no shame in taking medication for your mental health, just as there’s no shame in taking painkillers for a headache or anticoagulants to prevent a stroke.

Just don’t pull a Hermione and forget about your bloody meds for 5 days!

 

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On 1st October I’ll be announcing an exciting event that I’m going to be a part of. Stay tuned!