13 Reasons Why: A Conversation with Emily Holyoake

It seems like this has been a long time coming, my sister and I have had numerous conversations about 13 Reasons Why, so we thought we would sit down and record one of our discussions. Spoiler alert: we’re not huge fans.

Why did you watch 13 Reasons Why?

Jess: I’m just obsessed with Netflix, to be honest, and everyone was banging on about it.

Emily: This wasn’t one where people started saying ‘you have to watch this’ and I resisted it, because I usually do – I still haven’t watched Stranger Things, it took me about three years to watch House of Cards. But for some reason, 13 Reasons Why looked like it would be my sort of thing. And I think as well, I saw a lot of people saying ‘it’s so important’, ‘everyone must watch this’, and it looked like it had some sort of nobler purpose to it which I thought was quite interesting. And I definitely- I think I recommended it to you and I asked if you were watching it a lot.

Jess: Yeah, you kept asking me ‘are you watching 13 Reasons Why yet?’ and then I finally watched it in about a day, because there’s only 13 episodes of it. (Obviously).

Emily: So you did what the character doesn’t do, and you binged it all at once. Whereas, I spread it out- not because I couldn’t have binged it- I probably could have watched it all in one sitting if I had had the time to do it.

Jess: Yes, whereas I have no life.

Emily: So apparently in the book, he gets the tapes and he listens to them all at once, and the book takes place all in one night. Whereas for the TV series they decided to do this thing of breaking it up and have him going and confronting people as and when he found stuff out. And everybody else then saying to him ‘well you don’t know the whole story yet’, ‘why haven’t you listened to your- you haven’t even listened to your tape!’ And making the point that everybody else is shouting at the TV – ‘just finish listening to them!’

 

Do you think you’re the target audience for 13 Reasons Why?

Jess: Absolutely not. I’ve said this from the beginning, you know, 16/17 year old Jess would have absolutely loved it and been completely obsessed with it and just been like ‘I love Clay so much’ and ‘everyone’s so misunderstood’ and ‘I’m so misunderstood!’

Emily: Which character would you have liked best when you were 16?

Jess: Clay. Yeah, probably. I’m not sure, I don’t particularly like Hannah and I don’t know if I would have liked Hannah 7/8 years ago either.

Emily: I also really don’t think I’m the target audience for it. Although I don’t know whether Netflix thinks in ‘target audiences’… I think this is a problem with 13 Reasons Why and generally with Netflix – there’s either the kids section or there’s the rest of Netflix. And I think there’s something dangerous about streaming in that it really gets rid of ratings. They didn’t put those content warnings on until it had already been up for a couple of weeks at least.

Jess: Oh! Really?!

Emily: I can’t remember what stage they put them on, because by the time we got to it they were there, but those content warnings weren’t up to start with.

Jess: Oh yeah, I’m just looking here: “Netflix has announced it will add a content warning to its original series “13 Reasons Why” after multiple mental health advocacy groups and parents expressed concerns with its graphic depiction of suicide.” To not even think about that in the first place completely baffles me.

Emily: So these characters are … 16 to start with and then 17. I’m happy with 16/17 year olds watching it. I’m worried that it’s also appealing to teenagers a lot younger than that.

Jess: Yeah and without a parental lock on something, Netflix isn’t going to be like ‘are you sure you want to watch this?!’ It has a content warning at the beginning, but no one really reads those anyway.

Emily: And it’s only on some episodes too.

Jess: It’s definitely on the first episode, because I remember being really impressed that it had a content warning, but I didn’t know it wasn’t on there originally. That’s crap.

 

Why do you think people are saying ‘it’s so important’?

Emily: So I guess people are saying it’s important because it’s opening discussions. It’s definitely one of those series that everybody’s been talking about. People have spoken about the portrayal of depression in it and whether that’s effective or not, they’ve spoken about the representations of rape and whether those are truthful, accurate, helpful. I think it’s got a lot of discussion points in it, and it just about skirts around feeling like a public service announcement to watch- it doesn’t feel like it’s about ‘bullying’ or ‘abuse’ or ‘harassment’- I think it speaks on the same level as its audience. I’m still slightly uncomfortable with how graphic it is, but I don’t know whether that’s because I’m looking at it through a more adult lens. So I think people are saying it’s important because it’s starting conversations. I’m not convinced it’s starting the conversations it intended to.

Jess: Actually what’s been surprising is that it’s starting conversations amongst parents and their kids, which is great if it makes parents more open to talking about things like that.

Emily: It portrays parents very badly though. It portrays adults as not being able to on any level understand teenagers, which is not particularly fair. And it’s also saying to teenagers ‘the adults in your life don’t understand you, and when you ask for help they won’t be capable of giving you that help’. Because everybody that Hannah asks for help, everybody that Clay asks for help, is crap at it. There is no example in that whole series of an adult actually being able to help one of those teenagers. It wouldn’t have taken much to just have one person who didn’t fail. And Keiko Agena’s character? She’s like a communications teacher- she’s awful! How has she got a job?!

Jess: Mrs Bradley.

Emily: I mean, where did she get her qualifications?! I can’t believe that that’s actually a class.

 

Why do you think 13 Reasons Why could potentially be dangerous?

Jess: I have so many issues with this show. Speaking as someone who has had both relationships and friendships with people who have had depression, and as someone who has struggled with anxiety and depression in my own life and still does now, I think it’s incredibly dangerous to have a programme that’s centred on the suicide of a teenage girl and not to touch on the idea that there’s some mental health issues going on as well. It is entirely placing the blame on other people, on external factors, and yes of course all of those people have contributing factors, all of those events did, but it doesn’t touch on the fact that she probably was pre-disposed to a mental health issue that wasn’t address at all. Not once. I don’t know if I’ve completely missed a whole episode where they did that?! But to just kind of gloss over it in the way that they did, and make out that suicide is entirely blamed on people and their individual actions and not have mental health as a contributing factor- I don’t understand why they wouldn’t have touched on it. It’s such a big deal, especially now there’s a huge percentage of young adults who have some kind of mental health issue. To not touch on it… I don’t know why they haven’t done it and I think they’ve missed a trick there. That’s what young people want to see, that kind of thing being addressed.

Emily: Yeah you’re right, they missed the opportunity. It opens discussions about depression externally to itself, but within it, they really do shy away from using any terminology like ‘mental health’, ‘anxiety’, ‘depression’; they really shy away from using the words. I remember one scene that really confused me was that scene where Clay’s parents give him his prescription again, and we’re given the idea that Clay has suffered from some sort of anxiety, but we’re not given any context for it. We’re shown him with a bottle of pills, experiencing some symptoms and this idea that he’s over it and it’s in his past and we don’t have to talk about it again.

Jess: Yeah, ‘he’s taking these pills… DOT DOT DOT’.

Emily: In some ways that’s interesting and subtle story-telling and in some ways that’s being wussy about labelling things.

Jess: It’s laziness.

Emily: I think what you said is right, and that the whole premise of the show is that if you are feeling depressed, if you are feeling sad, if you are having suicidal thoughts then you should look externally to yourself, because it’s other people’s fault. The actions of other people obviously contribute and the stresses in your life can certainly trigger depression and make it worse. And people do need to be more aware of their impact on other people. But considering it’s a show that is entirely narrated by Hannah, I don’t think I really ever got to grips with how Hannah was feeling. For most of it she just seemed like this… vengeful angel.

Jess: It made me not like her.

Emily: One of the big sticking points for me was that she outed the rape of somebody else. That was for Jessica to deal with in the way that she wanted to, and Hannah takes that away from her. Because the show is quite clear that Jessica remembers it and is repressing it, she doesn’t need Justin to tell her what happened, she does know what happened. But Hannah outs her, which… there’s a lot that they do that makes Hannah not particularly sympathetic and identifiable with.

Jess: And they could have done so much with that character, it’s disappointing.

 

Are they any characters you particularly liked?

Jess: Tony.

Emily: I was convinced for most of this series that Tony wasn’t real, and that he was some sort of angel or imaginary figure that Clay had made up.

Jess: And I thought he was dead. Or that Clay was dead. And they were ghosts. Illuminati confirmed.

Emily: Yes, I was disappointed as Tony interacted with other human beings and it became clear that he wasn’t just a figment of Clay’s imagination!

Jess: Even Hannah didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities that made me like her.

Emily: I have a problem that the male characters were much more active than the female characters –  the whole show is ‘Woman In The Refrigerator’, that trope of a male character being motivated to do something important with his life and make an impact because a woman has died. Considering as well, the stats may be different with teenagers, but in adults the rate of suicide in men is so much higher – it would have been a very different show if it had been a teenage boy at the centre of it who had taken his own life.

 

How do you think the show dealt with self harm?

Jess: I had to watch that bit twice, because I could not believe how much they glossed over… Clay sees Skye’s arms covered in scars and she says ‘it’s what you do instead of killing yourself’.

Emily: And she says something about how that is strength, and what Hannah did was weak. YEAH.

Jess: I was so shocked. ‘It’s what you do instead of killing yourself.’ And then that’s it.

Emily: Skye was such a screaming stereotype.

Jess: She’s this emo, she’s eternally angry, she writes poetry…

Emily: She works in a coffee shop and reads tarot cards-

Both: And she self harms!

Emily: And then of course she turns out to be the girl that Clay should be friends with because she’s also the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’! She’s just a collection of stereotypes.  You have this sort of mishmash of characters. Take Justin, who on the surface is the popular, jock-y, sporty one, very charming, very good with women, and then he goes home to a really shitty home environment and you kind of see that how he is at school is a façade and how he’s clearly a lot more sensitive… there are some characters in there that start off feeling like stereotypes and then get unpicked a little bit.

Jess: There’s these kind of issues-

Emily: Alcoholism…

Jess: -that are addressed in a way that you see them happening, but they’re never actually resolved or dealt with constructively.  So this kid is really hurting in a really relatable way, but we’re not going to deal with it at all.

Emily: Because the moral of 13 Reasons Why is ‘if we could all just be a little bit nicer to each other’… but being a little bit nicer to each other doesn’t actually address alcohol abuse or having a crappy home life where you go home and get beaten up, it doesn’t address the causes of self harm – being a bit nicer to each other. Self harm is not the same thing as suicidal thoughts – one does not necessarily lead to the other. And one is not an alternative to the other.

Jess: Just reading this from The Tab: “Speaking of which – Skye, the one character with scars, tells Clay ‘it’s what you do instead of killing yourself’. Where’s her recovery? What sort of message is this sending to the millions of young adults watching this show? Not everyone who commits suicides shows signs, granted. Almost all suicides are described as ‘shocking’. But is the word ‘depression’ ever uttered once in all 13 episodes?”

 

How do you think the show dealt with rape?

Emily: The thing that I realised recently about the rape scenes and why they piss me off – so I recently watched Three Girls, which is the BBC’s dramatization of the Rochdale child-grooming case, and I think that… it’s not gratuitous at all. The rape scenes in that… there’s one that we actually see on screen. We don’t see any flesh, we see a man taking off a young girl’s jeans, we see her crying, you hear her saying no, and then you see shots of the room. You don’t hear any sex noises… you don’t hear him orgasming. You don’t see any sex. There is no way that you can confuse rape with sex. The actual shots never confuse it. It’s rape. It’s definitely rape.

13 Reasons Why shoots rape scenes from the perspective of the male gaze. And makes them look like sex scenes. Because we see them in soft lighting, we see fingertips under bra straps, we see pants being taken off, the rape of Hannah happens in a hot tub which is traditionally a romantic setting and she’s already in her underwear. We hear sex noises. We see thrusting. And it’s all from the male perspective of it, even though I think it was trying to be the female perspective… But honestly if it was going to do what a girl might see or experience during rape, it could have been a shot looking up, or looking at the side of the hot tub, rather than looking at Hannah’s hands, looking at Hannah’s face, her lips, her bra straps, her shoulders. There are ways that you can film those scenes that make it feel like it’s from the woman’s perspective.

Jess: I don’t think that rape scenes should be censored at all, but it was very much male-orientated.

Emily: Those scenes were shot in a way that feel titillating. And if you took them out of context, it could just be soft porn. It could just be rough sex.

Jess: I think, the one rape scene I have seen depicted on television that has stuck with me for years, and does every time I watch it, is the attempted rape of Buffy by Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. That in my mind is the truest, most honest depiction of sexual assault that I have seen in any programme or film.

Emily: Yeah, and you think about the differences. So that scene – it’s bright, harsh light –

Jess: There’s no airy-fairy music in the background, it’s silent in the background. It’s taking place in her own home, her own bathroom.

Emily: Yeah, and it’s clumsy as well, and the camera… you don’t have arty shots of bits of body parts, it doesn’t break it up at all. And the fight that they have is clumsy.

Jess: This is a woman who’s supposed to be essentially a superhero.

Emily: Yeah, so it still addresses that it’s not about who the woman is – anybody can become a victim. It doesn’t make any difference if that man has made the decision to rape. And they use the word over and over again. That’s something to give 13 Reasons Why credit for- they really explicitly call Bryce a rapist. That is actually resolved. It’s funny that that’s resolved and none of the mental health stuff is. The physical actions have consequences, but the internal stuff doesn’t.

 

What are your opinions on the way suicide is depicted?

Emily: Well I didn’t watch it. When it came to that point in that episode, I skipped through it. I got to the point where she took razor blades out of the cupboard and then thought, nope. Too much for me.

Jess: I watched it. I sat through that and watched it. For me it was very triggering… It was incredibly graphic… I still am in two minds about whether it was good that it was shown like that or whether maybe it shouldn’t have been.

Emily: Well why d’you think they did it? In terms of what they were trying to say about suicide?

Jess: I think it was basically a ‘this is how you can kill yourself’ scene. Which with a younger audience is, I think, irresponsible to show that in such detail.

Emily: There’s an instructional kind of aspect here where you see that she’s running a bath, you see that she’s getting an actual packet of razor blades – you see what tools she uses and how she does it.

Jess: It’s all very methodical and kind of normalised in the way that she’s doing it. If that’s the way they’re going to depict it then they also need to address why she’s treating it like it’s normal.

Emily: Yeah, it’s like, we’re not going to into the reasons why a person with depression – which we still have not said that she has – would not express emotions in the way that you would expect them to. She just has this flattened affect without any explanation, so it just seems like it’s normal, she has no reaction to it.

Jess: And it’s like with the rape scenes, the lighting is there, there’s music in the background, it’s all very glamorised. It just doesn’t feel right, it could have been done in a better way. They could still have shown the suicide but in a better way.

Emily: I think the whole show is not really communicating the impact of death. It’s a version of death where you get to still impact on people – we’re given this idea that Hannah is watching them, that Hannah gets to have some sort of active involvement in their lives even after she’s died.

Jess: It makes you feel like she could come back.

Emily: And again, to use a Buffy example, when they show a real human death in that, when Joyce dies, they have an episode that uses no incidental music, that is bright and harsh –

Jess: It’s all one take, you see Buffy vomit, it’s not glamourous.

Emily: It’s dealing with paramedics, it’s trying to give somebody CPR and hearing their ribs break because you’ve done it wrong. Whereas Hannah’s death happens in dim light and the parent rush in and they start crying and then it fades out, and then the ambulance comes and then it fades out again.

Jess: They don’t see it through.

Emily: They do a lot of reporting on what it was like but we don’t hear, see, experience a real death. And considering that it is trying so hard to demonstrate the real impact of suicide, it doesn’t have that effect.

 

Any positives to take away from the show?

Jess: I liked the music. The music was good.

Emily: Let’s hear it for the music.

Jess: I think some of the acting was great. It got people talking as well. I think it was good in theory, but it was poorly executed and there were things that needed to be addressed and resolved that weren’t.

Emily: I think this is what happens when you make a series out of something that is already ten years out of date, because I really think that understanding of and attitudes towards mental health have changed a lot in the last ten years, even in the last five years. I don’t think there’s a lot they could have done to this core story to make it what it needed to be, because if you take away all of the stuff that we had problems with – actually we just have a real problem with the set-up of the plot. We have a real problem with this idea that there are only external reasons for committing suicide. So if that’s what that source material is, why choose that to adapt? Because it’s hopelessly out of date already. It’s not serving its audience.

Feeling Like Me Again

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been battling with the worst self-image issues I’ve encountered in my life. I’ve felt out of shape, unattractive and just generally really crap about myself.

There was a time when I was one of those really annoying girls who could eat whatever she wanted, do no exercise whatsoever and remain a perfect size 8 (I think the fact that I didn’t really hit puberty until I was 17 may have helped with this somewhat). Well, not any more! I have a shape. A shape that has become increasingly hard to maintain and be happy with.

I’ll be the first to admit that my diet could be better. I’m lactose intolerant but often completely ignore it, and then I’m surprised when I feel bloated and lumpy. I know bread is my nemesis, but sometimes I just cant help eating eleven slices of it as a snack. It got to the point in August when I would look in the mirror and feel disgusted. And I laugh and joke about it, but to look in the mirror and actually feel repulsed by your own body is truly devastating.

Around the same time, something wonderful happened. My sister’s fiancé started a personal training course, and I volunteered to be his guinea pig. So in September 2016, I finally started to take ownership of the state I had let my body get into, and do something about it. I train with him twice a week, and try to fit in an extra cardio session or two on my own. We’ve discovered that I’ll do anything to get out of doing a plank, but that I have freakishly strong hamstrings.

When you start training, you always have a ‘problem area’ or two that you really want to focus on. Mine were my upper arms and the old love handles/back fat. My housemate commented to me a couple of weeks ago that my arms had halved in size, and I genuinely could not stop smiling. I dug out a pair of jeans over Christmas that I haven’t been able to wear in over a year, and found that they actually fit again. Plus, there’s the added bonus of my butt. I have a butt. An actual, nicely-shaped, kind of peachy butt. I never had one before!

Now annoyingly, I didn’t take a photo of myself right at the beginning of the process. But here’s a photo of me taken at the end of October next to one taken three weeks later (and half a stone lighter):

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Seriously. My trainer is an actual magician.

I’m still working at it, but this morning after months of telling my sister that I don’t want to shop for Maid of Honour dresses for her wedding until I’m happy with my body, I told her that I wanted to start looking. It might seem small, but that’s a huge fucking deal for me.

I’ll be taking another progress photo and updating you all in a couple of weeks when my soon-to-be brother-in-law’s exam is, to see exactly how far I’ve come while he’s been training to qualify as a PT. But for now, I’m off to stare at my butt in workout pants.

If any of you are interested in a training plan tailored to your lifestyle, or you’re Devon-based and want some one-on-one training sessions with an incredibly patient man, then you can get in touch with Ben Gilbert on Instagram @realbengilbert If he can train me, he can train anyone.

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30 Day Vegan Challenge!

Recently I’ve taken a good, long look at myself and my lifestyle, and I’ve identified changes that I want to make to impact my mental and physical wellbeing.

I started off by joining Anytime Fitness, a 24 hour gym that means I can’t use my crazy working hours as an excuse not to go to the gym. Not only am I training for the 10km Race for Life that me and my sister are taking part in in July, but I also want to get toned and healthy. An added bonus are the endorphins released during exercise, which will hopefully make a difference to my mental health, too.

Another change I am making is challenging myself to become a vegan for 30 days, starting on May 2nd. As many of you know, I’m lactose intolerant, so I try to avoid dairy anyway. I also hate eggs, so not eating them is not going to be a problem. I’ve also been on a pescatarian, Palm Oil-free diet for the past three weeks, as I find it easier to be healthy if I cut out as many meat products as possible, and, having been to the Borneon rainforest, I’m passionate about eliminating Palm Oil plantations. So realistically, all I have to do now is cut out fish (and all that cake I eat), and I’ll be a fully fledged vegan! I’ve ordered a free vegan recipe book from Peta, to help me be happy, healthy and safe on my vegan journey, as well as various vegan protein shakes and nutrients from My Protein to make sure I’m able to improve my physical fitness whilst staying healthy.

I also want to use this opportunity to research more into cruelty-free and vegan cosmetics, as I feel it’s completely unnecessary and inhumane to test cosmetics meant for humans on animals.

I’m actually very excited to start this challenge, try out knew recipes and learn more about the vegan way of life, and who knows, maybe it’ll be a permanent change!

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and if any of you have any ideas in regards to delicious recipes or places to eat, please let me know!

Jessica xXx

Courage, Dear Heart

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I recently posted the above picture on Instagram, with the caption: “My anixety and depression is pretty bad at the moment. Everyone around me seems to have their shit together and I feel like I’m stuck. Sometimes it feels like I’m drowning and I’m constantly beating myself up about it. I need to remind myself to be gentle. Guys, your mental health and wellbeing should always come first. Hopefully I’ll have a new blog about it all soon.

As many of you know, I struggle with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and the depression that often comes along with it. It’s hard, and every morning I wake up wondering if it’s going to be a good day, or a bad day. Recently, I’ve had a lot of bad days. I’ve had what seems like a string of bad luck in my personal and professional life, and I’ve felt incredibly low. I worry about things that are seemingly insignificant, but that build up and up in my head into something enormous and out of my control. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, and I feel like giving up.

I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to comparing my life to other people’s. I see my friends getting engaged, buying houses, thriving in their dream careers, and it feels like I’m treading water. I have a full time job but I still struggle to make ends meet, I go to auditions where I ‘almost get it’ but never actually do, and I’ve let my diet and exercise plan go out of the window. In all honesty, I feel like I’ve failed a lot of the time. I focus on the things I haven’t got, rather than the things I have got. Even though I constantly encourage people to talk about their feelings when things get tough, I’m the worst for keeping things inside and bottling things up until I can’t stand any more and I break down completely. It’s often really difficult to remind myself that what I’m feeling is temporary, and it will pass.

People are always surprised when I tell them I suffer from a Mental Health Disorder. In public, I’m the clown, the one who’s always joking and trying to make other people happy, so it’s hard to believe that a lot of the time I’m feeling really shitty.

One of my ‘New Year’s Resolutions‘ was to find ways to cope with and ease my anxiety, and I’ll hold my hands up and say that I haven’t been trying as hard as I should. I’ve been making excuses to myself about why I haven’t tried out coping mechanisms, but there’s really no excuse.

So I’m going to breathe, be brave, and be strong. I’m going to invest more time in finding ways to deal with my anxiety. I’m going to take the time to do things that make me happy, and spend time with the people that make me happy. To anyone else feeling low right now, whether you struggle with a mental health disorder or not, please talk to someone about it. Even if they can’t to anything about it, simply saying “I’m not okay” helps. Grab your mental health by the balls and take it seriously. You don’t have to be strong alone.

I’m so lucky to have an incredible support unit, and I want to give a special thank you to the people who have supported and encouraged me this past week. I don’t think those friends realise how much a simple text has meant to me. You know who you are, and I love you.

I didn’t want to write a blog this week. I wasn’t feeling inspired, and I couldn’t find the motivation to do it. But I did, and although it’s a slightly more serious tone this week, it’s something that needed saying and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. Starting this blog has helped me in more ways than I could have imagined, so thank you to everyone for your continued kind words and support with it. When I’m feeling down, I need to remember the real Lovely Little Lighthouse that’s the namesake behind this blog, and the hope it gives me.

Jessica xXx

 

 

Did I Offend You?

I want to talk about offending people. About the invisible line between making a joke and hurting someone’s feelings. In my opinion, a joke is only funny if you’re not the only one who thinks it is. If it’s meant to make people laugh, and not to upset them.

Recently I’ve heard some ‘jokes’ that truly disgusted me, from people I thought would know better. Some aimed at my mental health and my appearance (I’m aware I have a big nose, get over it, I have), some aimed at my family (people who know me know that I’m fiercely protective), others aimed at people I’ve never met. I’ve had people take what I told them in confidence and make them into a ‘joke’ for their own amusement, to get a reaction, no matter how much it hurts me. People I trusted, and who I thought were my friend. If I don’t joke about a personal issue, what makes someone think they have the right to joke about it themselves? What gives someone the right to make me into a joke? And are their lives really that unfulfilled that they have to get their kicks by kicking other people? (Metaphorically, obviously).

It’s made me question the world we live in, and the people I choose to associate myself with. How can someone so easily make a joke out of someone else’s misfortune? It’s a complete mystery to me. It’s 2016, and the world is screwed up enough. You would think people would look out for each other and not bring them down. It’s time we stop bringing other people down and start bringing them up.

The majority of the time you have no idea who a ‘joke’ is going to affect, who is going to find it upsetting and who is going to really take it personally. Unless you do know, which makes it even worse.

Now I have a fair bit of training in comedy, so I feel like I can gauge what people are going to laugh at, and what they’re going to cringe uncomfortably at. There’s a difference between being a ‘controversial comedian’ and being cruel. There’s a difference between ‘dark humour’ and being an asshole.

Don’t be that guy.

Don’t be an asshole.

Jessica xXx

I’m A Walking Cliché

Okay, I admit it: I’ve made some New Year’s Resolutions. New year, new me and all that. But in all honesty, I made a list of resolutions last year, and I realised recently that without really thinking about it, I had achieved every single one of them. Granted, they were things I knew were going to happen (pass my driving test, get a car, move etc.), but isn’t that the point? To set yourself achievable goals? What is the point in making this long list of far-fetched ideas that you know in the back of your mind aren’t realistically going to happen.

So this time around, my resolutions revolve around my mental and physical well-being.

  1. Learn to cope. My last blog post was about my struggles with GAD, and in it I mentioned my desire to find coping mechanisms to help ease my anxiety. 2016 is the year I take my mental health seriously. If you want to know more about it then head over to my previous blog post. 🙂
  2. Be healthier. I’m all too aware that in the past few months, my once pretty healthy eating habits have changed, mainly because of my working hours. I can’t remember the last time I had my ‘five-a-day’, done exercise that wasn’t emptying the glass wash at work, and I’ve been really bad at keeping myself hydrated with anything other than tea. Lots and lots of tea. I’m also really bad at staying away from dairy, which is a problem when you’re lactose intolerant. And yes, part of me wanting to be healthier is out of vanity. I’ve put on a bit of weight, I’m not as toned as I once was, and my chins are so prolific that my family have named them.
  3. Indulge my creativity. I am constantly making excuses for why I haven’t read a play, practised my keyboard or just messed around on my guitar for a while, when really the time I spend justifying not doing things to myself could be used actually doing them. I’m particularly keen to start writing music, something which I’ve found to be a challenge in the past. And I want to read more. I can’t actually remember the last time I got through a book.
  4. Be a better friend. The past few months, I’ve been a bit crap. I’ve been rubbish at keeping in touch with a lot of my friends from school and uni, again making the excuse that ‘I’m always working’. But it’s not good enough. My life doesn’t revolve around work, and I’m the kind of person who really values friends and family over anything else. I really need to start showing that more.
  5. Go to the cinema/theatre at least once a month. I’m an actor. It’s what I do. So why is it that I can’t actually remember the last time I went to see a film or a play? I’m literally sitting here straining to think of what it was. No idea. Not a clue. First on the list: The Danish Girl.
  6. Grow my hair. I want to be a princess, okay?
  7. Blog more. That goes without saying really. I’ve not been the best at posting on here, and I have so many ideas about things I want to write about that it seems silly not to make this a resolution.
  8. Get a tattoo. Sorry mum. But I’m warning you now: it’s going to happen this year. And I’m so excited.

I’ll probably add to this list, but for now, I have a few things that I want to achieve, and that more importantly, I know I can achieve. I think it’s good for a person to set themselves goals. It gives you something to strive for. So if you think I’m a cliché, well… I’m okay with that. 😉 I also  fucking love making lists.

Jessica xXx

It’s Okay

It’s 1.30am. I’m lying in the dark, trying to sleep but failing miserably. It’s getting increasingly more common for my brain to be unable to switch off. This evening I’m kept awake by some deep seated need to scroll through the instagrams of everyone I’ve ever met right through to their first photo. Last week it was the overwhelming sense of sadness at the death of Jeff Conaway; a man I may have grown up watching in Grease, but nonetheless a man I’ve never met, and who died over four years ago. All of this stems from my Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which I’ve spoken about freely and openly for about a year now, but which I’ve known I’ve had for around two. Sometimes I’m so consumed by it that I’ll burst into tears and find myself unable to stop, and other times I’ll find it so ridiculous that I’m freaking out over something silly that I have to laugh at myself.

I can normally categorise my GAD into two ‘sub-headings’: explained, often predictable attacks (such as entering a social situation with a lot of people or people I’ve never met before; going to an audition; setting off on a long, unfamiliar drive) and completely unexplained and often baffling attacks (like the one I had two days ago whilst pouring a pint at work; or the one I had five minutes ago looking at pictures of dogs I liked on Instagram two years ago).

No anxiety attack, whether I can tell it’s about to happen or not, is easy to deal with, and they vary massively in intensity. I’ve been on Beta blockers before briefly which helped control the physical symptoms like palpitations, although unfortunately they didn’t help with the really attractive hives, but what I’m really interested in now is finding coping mechanisms to help the mental side. After all, it is a mental health issue, so it makes sense to look at the psychological side.

So far I’ve started keeping a diary again. I’ve been writing down when I’ve had an attack, what was happening that could have brought it on, how long it lasted etc. Sometimes it helps to look at a time when I’ve experienced anxiousness and see it written down in front of me so that I can start to indentifying certain triggers and think of how I could manage my feelings better if I’m in that situation again.

I’ve also started talking about it more. The other day I was shopping with my sister when all of a sudden we were in the middle of M&S under florescent lighting, with the heating turned up to max, surrounded by people when I was immediately covered in hives and felt like I was going to pass out. Simply saying the words “Emily, I’m feeling really anxious at the moment.” was a huge relief. She told me “it’s okay”, to take my coat off and look at this hilarious Christmas pudding hat, and I already felt better. “It’s okay” was all I needed to hear in that moment. And the hat was pretty funny too. Of course, telling me it’s okay isn’t going to work every time, but it did then. It’s okay to feel anxious, it’s okay to admit that you’re not coping and it’s okay to ask for help. People need to start taking their mental health as seriously as they take their physical health.

My mission for the new year is to try as many weird and wonderful coping mechanisms as I can, and try and find a couple that work for me. And to stop liking so many pictures of pugs. It’s getting out of hand.