Meds

This post is a second draft. The first draft was so self-indulgent that I deleted it out of spite. If the first one was deemed too much and this one has achieved a glowing acceptable, just imagine how much too much the first try was.

Dearest friends, relatives, and that one guy who likes everything I post immediately, making me sure he’s never actually read a blog of mine but just gets off on giving me a little bump of serotonin (big up),

Here it is, the next instalment in the series of very long and very depressing posts I intermittently use to curse your feeds. Today we’re gonna be discussing

antidepressants

and how much they can help and hinder in one’s journey to mental healthiness.

I wanted the word antidepressants to be glittery on a rainbow background but I don’t think that WordPress has developed that functionality yet.

First, though, a couple of notices:

If you hate the jokes I try to make (and who can blame you!) but love reading about how much I despise the inside of my eyelids, this link will take you to an archive of everything I’ve put on here about Living With Depression.

This post will contain references to depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and self harm. There are currently no graphic sex references, but I may add some erotica or a tasteful nude later to undercut the misery.

I don’t think many people read this blog who don’t know me personally, so that trigger warning might be a bit pointless. Even so, I’m trying to get into the habit of posting warnings more consistently. I read something a few weeks ago that contained a graphic self harm reference and it really knocked me over – I wouldn’t like to do that to anyone.

When I wrote a very long post about depression a few months ago (this boy), I specifically avoided talking in detail about medication. I mentioned that I’d been taking Citalopram since I was a teenager, but I didn’t talk about its effects very much. As the post clocked in at an eye-numbing five-thousand-and-something words, it strikes me as an act of kindness that I refrained from adding even more blah.

That probably sounds disingenuous, and it is: when have I ever shied away from giving you, my beloved readerate, too much information to comfortably digest? There’s a reason my average sentence is sixty words long, and it’s not because I’m a genius. I had a couple of explanations as to why I decided not to spend much time talking about my relationship with medication, aside from the above lie about not wanting to bore you.

Firstly, I didn’t have much experience with meds and it felt wrong to disseminate information that could potentially be wrong. I still don’t have much knowledge outside of a few hours’ Googling and personal experience, but now that I’ve tried two different antidepressant prescriptions, I think that I have something slightly more interesting to say.

Even so, I’d like to underline that I don’t have any medical knowledge and that my experiences with antidepressants are certainly not universal or representative. In fact, one of the things I’ve learnt from my Googling and conversations with doctors is that people’s reactions to antidepressants and other neuroactive drugs are hard to anticipate. (More on that later.)

Please don’t take my perspective as universal, especially if you’re considering starting antidepressants.

Secondly – and I’m on the fence about whether theorising about your own neuroses counts as armchair psychology (a punishable crime) – I think I was afraid to specify what antidepressants I was taking. On a subconscious level, I was worried that defining my medication and dosage would quantify my mental illness and that people would look down on me for not having severe enough depression. I sometimes have a similar feeling when people see my self harm cuts/scars/marks – I worry that they’re thinking: All that fuss over that?

I told this to my flatmate once when we were having a semi-drunken heart-to-heart in our living room. He said, “That’s backwards,” which I think is the best response to something that’s so blatantly nonsense. “Yeah, that is backwards!” I said. Now when I catch myself thinking along those lines, I think “That’s BaCkWaRdS,” as loudly as possible. (Thanks, Aaron.)

Those are the two things that have prevented from writing about antidepressants in the past. I’ve been thinking about doing a post like this for a while now, especially over the last couple of weeks, when the effects of Sertraline have started to become more noticeable, and, in some cases, invasive. The transition from one kind of SSRI to another has given me a slightly different perspective on the whole sorry mess*, and what do we do when we have something to figure out? We write a very long blog about it!

*whole sorry mess is code for Ro Daniels’ mindstate

an unsettling selfie

My relationship with antidepressants is quite long, which you would expect from someone who was diagnosed with depression checks watch five years ago. It was when I first started self harming that my mum took me to see the GP. My memory of that time, like my memory of most of the worst times of my life, is very hazy, but I remember that I was firmly against the idea of being treated for a mental illness. I think Mum had to all but carry me to the car, but I imagine that she had to all but carry me to lots of places, because I was limp and lifeless most of the time.

We went into the GP’s office together when my full name flashed up on the announcement thing. She wanted me to have a sense of ownership over my health so Mum sat down discreetly by the door and let me try to tell the doctor what was wrong. I could barely get through a

“Things have been really hard recently,”

before I started crying. To be fair, that is to this day the exact phrasing I use to describe the periods of time when I want to pull my skeleton out of my body, and it seemed to do the trick. Mum took over explaining what I meant by that while the doctor gave me some tissues and made me a cup of tea and got out a pack of leaflets about crisis hotlines and so on. That wad of leaflets is very familiar to me now – I get given one whenever I get a new GP or therapist or similar – but that was probably the first time I’d ever seen Samaritans’ branding.

Like loads of people, I had been very resistant to the idea of antidepressants. My mindset was causing me and everyone around me lots of pain, but it seemed wrong to chemically change the way I perceived the world. After all, I thought, this was what I was honestly experiencing, and I thought that taking antidepressants would put a filter over what I naturally understood, that it would distort the truth – I was sure that the things I experienced without medication were fundamentally more real than things I would experience with the help of artificial serotonin.

I told this to a friend of my Mum, who paused, and said, “No, it’s what the depression is telling you that isn’t true. The medication will allow you to see what’s real.” Now I understand that she’s absolutely right – that depression is a distortion, and my outlook on life when depressed is not more truthful because it occurs naturally. At the time, I was worried that people were trying to force me to see the world in an unrealistic way.

My trepidation wasn’t helped by the fact that no one seemed to know how antidepressants worked. I thought this was because the people I was talking to were inherently lazy and didn’t care enough to do research about the drugs they were pushing on me; however, having tried to do some research about drugs on my own, and having spoken to even more GPs/therapists/misc. mental health professionals, I now understand that very little is actually known about neuroactive medication.

I don’t feel like I made the choice, when I was 18, to start taking antidepressants. I was by no means convinced that they worked. Still, we left the GP that day with a prescription for 10mg/day of citalopram and a bundle of leaflets about what to do if you wanted to commit suicide. (As in, leaflets about who to call, not tips.)

I stayed on citalopram from when I was first prescribed it when I was 18 until three months ago. We started at the lowest possible dose, 10mg, before increasing to 20mg and then 40mg a day. For a short period of time we lowered the dose back to 20mg to see if it would help make me less drowsy, but the reduction coincided with a more difficult period so we raised it to 30mg and then all the way back to 40mg.

Citalopram is an SSRI or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. It’s among the antidepressants GPs are most confident prescribing because it has relatively few side effects and seems to work well for most people. I had a look at the NHS page about SSRIs to make sure I’m not spouting bullshit, and it seems to confirm that no one really knows why they’re effective:

It’s thought that SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.

The page goes on to say that increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain has been observed to correspond with a reduction in the symptoms of depression.

My experiences with citalopram were mixed. On the one hand, I do think it helped level me out and mitigated some low mood. Another positive is that I experienced very few adverse side effects on citalopram, apart from drowsiness. On the other hand, it didn’t prevent me from feeling shatteringly awful at times, and the consequences of missing even one pill were brutal.

That sounds unbalanced against citalopram, but when you’ve been depressed for a while, being levelled out is meaningful. When the dosage was first increased to 40mg, which was the level that helped me the most, I remember waking up one morning and lying absolutely still in bed, enjoying the sensation of being OK. All of the fuzzy background noise and itchy thoughts and aching emptiness had cleared out of my skull and ribs and I felt luxuriously empty. I felt able to experience the world around me in a more rich way than I had for ages.

The euphoria at feeling OK didn’t last all that long – I quickly started to take it for granted. Citalopram raised my base level from dreadful to alright, which allowed me to participate in society and to do things. It definitely changed my life, but it didn’t eliminate my symptoms of depression or prevent me from experiencing suicidal thoughts on a regular basis and the compulsion to self harm almost constantly.

Forgetting to take a dose of citalopram could be quite serious, even if I missed a single one. I don’t know how much of this was placebo, but my mood would plummet, leaving me too low to put on socks. I also regularly experienced something my doctor called “brain zaps”, the sensation of electric shocks in your body and head. Again, we don’t know what causes these, but they suck. They’re uncomfortable, and if you associate them with being depressed, they make it hard to distract yourself from feeling down. I’d occasionally get brain zaps at the end of a long or stressful day – my pet theory is they’re a symptom of all the extra serotonin runnin’ around my brain being used up.

It’s probably natural that I most often forgot my antidepressants when I was feeling great, but this somehow felt especially unfair. My joyful moments felt far and few between, and were often marred by a comedown that you’d be unlucky to get after a serious night of partying, as well as the proverbial electric chair.

After I had my infamous new years’ 2019 mental breakdown, I spent more than the usual amount of time opposite a doctor or mental health professional. I think that part of the reason I had such a crash last year is because I’d been horribly ill for a few days and hadn’t been able to keep down water, let alone citalopram. However, medical professionals, my mother, and I were all disappointed to note that my mental health didn’t return to its pre-breakdown levels even after citalopram had been back in my system for a long time – even though I had started psychotherapy. This was a concerning sign that citalopram was no longer working for me – if it ever had.

Mental illness is tricky because it’s hard to define a metric by which to measure how someone’s feeling. When the GP prescribed me citalopram back in 2014, she* said that in four to six weeks I should be feeling more positive. I definitely did feel more positive. But did I feel enough more positive to suggest that citalopram was the ideal drug for me? It’s hard to say. It’s also tricky for people who’ve suffered from depression for their whole adult lives, because it’s hard to know what constitutes a healthy experience – so how do you know what you’re aiming for?

*that’s right, the GP was a woman all along.

After talking to my GP, a therapist, and my brother, it seemed like it was time to try a different drug. The process of changing from one antidepressant to another is not straightforward. For one thing, the GP can’t know which antidepressant you’re going to respond better to, so it’s a gamble that you’ll feel any better than on your current medication. For another, you can’t just stop taking one kind of drug and start another; my experiences with brain zaps after missing a single dose proved that. If I cut citalopram out in one fell swoop, I risked being zapped to oblivion. For a third thing (if a third thing were needed), antidepressants typically take a few weeks to be effective, meaning you can experience a relatively long time of not being medicated to the ideal level – first when you reduce the dose of your original medication, and then when you begin your new one. It did not promise to be an easy time.

We decided to wait until I moved back to Sheffield to start this process. Although I’d be dealing with the not-insignificant stress of moving country, starting uni, and meeting lots of new people, I would be much closer to a support network that could intervene if things began to look too zappy. Accessing help would be easier than in Prague: my mum lives an hour away – the university provides a lot of pastoral care – they speak English at A&E.

Not necessarily the best time to switch meds, but certainly the least worst time.

The alternative we plumped for was sertraline, the next in the family of SSRIs. I asked the GP whether it was useful to try a drug that was in the same family as the one we were rejecting, but she said that some people react differently to similar medications. We don’t know why.

I had to continue taking a reduced dose of citalopram for a week, and then begin taking sertraline alongside citalopram for a week, and then switch to just sertraline.

This is a very complicated system and I am a renowned idiot.

It’s no surprise, then, that I instantly fucked up and started taking double the dose of sertraline I was supposed to – I had it in my head that I was supposed to be taking two pills: first two 10mg citalopram pills, then a 10mg citalopram and a 50mg sertraline, and then two 50mg sertraline tablets. In actual fact I was meant to stay on one 50mg sertraline a pill a day.

Inadvertently doubling my dosage of sertraline really did hit home for me how important it is to listen to your doctor carefully and write down everything she says*.

*or “he says”. It’s 2019. Men can be doctors, too.

I only realised my mistake when I gulped down the last two pills in a strip, reached for the next one to put by my bed, and saw that the box was empty. Panicky, imagining having to deal with withdrawal symptoms from sertraline as well as my scheduled withdrawal symptoms from citalopram, I got an emergency appointment with a doctor I didn’t know and was given a new prescription and an understanding smile.

In the few weeks I’d been illegally taking 100mg of sertraline, I’d been shocked by how quickly I’d felt its effects. They hit me suddenly. One day I came home from uni and felt so exhausted that I lay down on the rug downstairs without taking my shoes or backpack off. I’d been feeling drowsy all day, but this was something else. I felt physically numb all over and a little high. “Holy shit, it’s working!” I said out loud. “What?” said my flatmate, who was sitting with his headphones in. I couldn’t feel my toes. I crawled (literally) to my bedroom and slept for hours. When I woke up, my mind felt like a smooth flat stone. My body was heavy and tired, but I didn’t mind: I was so relieved not to feel depressed.

My whole life, even when I was little, I’ve had a recurring fantasy that one day I would sneeze blood or something and have to be taken to the doctor’s, and that the doctor would scan my brain and see, like, a worm or a bug or a gnome living there fucking shit up.

And the doctor would say: “What’s that doing there?!” and take it out. And when I woke up from anaesthetic I’d suddenly — be — normal. All of my anxieties, the heaviness in my bones that made it hard to get out of bed, all of the things that made me feel different from other people would be gone. I would be effortlessly OK all the time; I wouldn’t have the barriers to communication I’ve always felt; I wouldn’t be the self-conscious burden who found everything so difficult, even the things everyone else could do easily. And I would think: “Ohhhh, it wasn’t my fault. I had a brain gnome.” And that would explain it. And I’d be fine.

For a couple of weeks, I thought sertraline might be the proverbial gnome-removal-service. I thought I would be normal, OK.

(It wasn’t.)

Now that my body has started to get used to sertraline, I can compare it to citalopram better. I think that sertraline helps me feel less depressed than I did on citalopram, but the side effects are pretty gnarly. The initial wave of SSRI-numbness was so lovely that I got my hopes up that that would be what life would be like from now on – but just like with citalopram, that euphoria has been short lived.

I would say that sertraline has improved my mood on a day to day, but it hasn’t prevented occasional very severe bad days – as my family, housemates, and local medical professionals can attest. Maybe this is to be expected when I’m on a relatively low dose – maybe the medication can filter out the slightly-bad-feelings but can’t cope with the very-bad-ones. Maybe that’s how SSRIs work.

The doctor warned me that I would probably feel increased anxiety as I changed medication, and for a while as I was getting used to sertraline. I wasn’t phased by the prospect – I thought I knew what anxiety felt like.

Oh, man. It’s been really shit.

I am so easily stressed that recently I’ve been considering it a success when I can sit in the same room as someone. I’ve always been a little bit socially anxious, but this is next level – I’ve been panicky and overwhelmed at most social events I’ve been to, and it’s hard to resist the temptation to self-medicate, especially when being slightly intoxicated seems to take the edge off.

It’s manageable when I’m with someone I especially trust and feel comfortable with and the environment isn’t too intense, but even then, a very slight thing can make me spiral. When feeling anxious, colours have been sharper, sounds have been louder and hurt my head, and physical contact has felt like an attack. When I’ve met people unexpectedly over the last few weeks, I’ve been so flustered I’ve struggled to speak. Uni has been difficult.

This is a fucking drag. I really like people (usually) and I (usually) enjoy being around them, even if I feel awkward. This is especially true of the people I know in Sheffield, who are all gloriously friendly and (usually) a joy to be around. I feel like I’ve lost my ability to walk, or something.

I should probably just say to people, “Hey! I’m feeling extra anxious. I’m not avoiding you on purpose,” but I don’t want to because thinking about having that conversation makes me want to set myself on fire.

The aftermath of seeing people has been really hard – it feels like something that I have to recover from. Even after relatively successful interactions with people I know and like, I’ve felt compelled to self harm.

Quite a significant exception to this is that last weekend I went to a party and had a really good time for a few hours. I think this was manageable because I was with some of the best people I know and because I’d been drinking, and looking back it was a pretty pretty good accomplishment.

Despite how pleased I am with how that went now, directly after I felt like an incredible failure because I left early; and I lay on my bed and thought through everyone I knew and liked at the party and thought about what they must think of me and how much they must dislike me and what a worm I am. Looking back, I’m ashamed to have thought that way, because these are some of the nicest, most sound people I know, who go out of their way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. Like, genuinely notice when I’m looking nervous and look after me. At the time, though, the idea that I was universally despised (and for good reason) felt very real.

Anxiety aside, I’ve experienced some grim physical side effects with sertraline, like weight gain, reduced ability to orgasm, and sleeplessness. Honestly, I’m most annoyed about the middle one. Who needs to be rested and thin when you can cum?

All of this sounds pretty awful, and these side effects might lead you to wonder why I don’t throw sertraline in the sea and take the SSRI that doesn’t really work rather than the one that makes me actively anxious. Good question!

I went to speak to my doctor about it and she said that it will take a while for my body to get fully used to the new medication, and that side effects often diminish with time. She said we could change now or we could wait a few months and see whether my body and sertraline get their act together and start behaving like grownups.

For now, then, I’m still taking the anxiety pill and trying to develop techniques to deal with the (hopefully) interim effects. Expect updates.

I would definitely recommend antidepressants; despite their flaws and side effects, they have enabled me to do things I wouldn’t have managed without them, like putting on socks.

Love you all,

Ro

I am so tired so so tired.

growth * by Lily

Is suffering worth it if it means you can create something meaningful? Will grass grow out of the cracks in me?

https://www.instagram.com/terracottalily/

Lines * by Lily

I don’t go to the supermarket if it’s busy and I don’t go outside if it’s too warm and I don’t reach out to people if they don’t text me first and I’m worried I’m drawing more and more lines around myself existing in a smaller and smaller box

But I like lines, because they keep me safe

https://www.instagram.com/terracottalily/

kitkat promo material

Reader, the last few weeks have been hard. Every day has felt like a battle, and as I mentioned in my last incredibly mopey post, I’m sick of battling. This blog was originally intended as a comedy outlet – I was hoping that the reason I wasn’t making anyone laugh was because my audience was too narrow, not because my jokes are shit – but it has become a self-obsessed journalling process in which you, the reader, are well and truly dead and I, the author and subject matter, do absolutely anything I want with no oversight. I’m not bemoaning this: I find it cathartic.

It’s a shame that any readers clinging to life are forced to suffer through the thorny bits of my life experience, but that’s my brand these days. Long gone are the days when I’d genuinely try and think up posts that I thought would like people. These days I just wait until I feel my soul welling up with something and then tippity tap at my computer until I feel better. Strangely, I have many more readers now that I have decided to write about whatever I want than when I tried to make everything accessible or attractive. I think people like the honesty of how often I tell them that life is shit and I am shit and everything is shit.

There are a few people who reply with beautiful and supportive comments whenever my angst exceeds safe levels; and I love you all.

It’s not just my mind/soul that’s been fucking me over: my body seems to be in cahoots with that giant depression spider I mentioned. I’ve been going from frenetically energetic to beyond lethargic several times a day and my sleep schedule has been really fucked as a result. Imagine the malaise you get from oversleeping and missing your therapy session because you were up all night looking at the inside of your own eyelids.

This is not even close to the worst I’ve felt but I am trying to be more open and honest etc etc etc. Journalling my experience is also really helpful for my sense of perspective, since I write stuff down when I’m feeling great and when I’m feeling terrible. This blog must read as comfortably as whiplash as the posts fluctuate between Rosie Loving Life and Rosie Wishing Her Skin Would Fall Off.

I think that this is probably quite hard to read, especially if you’re someone who knows me personally and wants to help me (shout out my mum). It’s particularly frustrating because I feel like I am truly and genuinely doing the things I should be doing – therapy, medication, applying the stuff we talk about in therapy to real life, even fucking yoga – and yet this shit still keeps getting on top of me. I am too tired now and over the last couple of days I’ve just let the bleakness wash over me without much resistance.

It’s hard for the people who love me because all they can say is, “Keep on keeping on.” And that really is the only thing to do. But, oh my god, I’m so done. The pile of things that have upset me on a micro-level has combined with the bigger things and I feel like I’m being crushed into a Flat Stanley.

I know how self involved these blogs make me come off, but honestly, it’s a pretty accurate impression. At the moment I’m really struggling to engage with anyone else. This is definitely something I want to work on, because I love other people and I want to be there for them and to be able to be a Good Friend and a Nice Person. I wonder if I am using mental illness as an excuse for being selfish, but I don’t know if that’s a question I can think about right now or I might fall down a well and set on fire.

I need a little holiday from being me, from having to try to force a pleasant existence on an unwilling mind. I think if I take a little break I’ll be able to come back refreshed and with a new thirst for life and joy and all of that jazz. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as you might think to temporarily stop Being. I have compiled this short list of ideas to try out.

freaky friday

I can’t remember the science behind this film since I watched it when I was so little, but as I recall two people use ??? witchcraft to switch bodies. I infer from the title that this happened on a Friday, which is nice because it means that the protagonists had an entire weekend to run havoc in each other’s skin. This option strikes me as ideal, because I would be fully immersed in another person’s being and therefore have plenty of time to gain some much-needed perspective.

turn into a pillar of salt

But, like, just for three or four days.

Other inanimate objects would probably also work e.g. crumpled laundry, bathroom curtains etc.

live in the woods

Sure, this isn’t as good as the first two options, since I’d still be Rosie in this scenario and therefore still inclined to experience whatever is going through me right now, but I think that this jaunt would be so divorced from my regular day-to-day life that it would be as if I had disappeared. What I’m saying is that Ro having to forage for beans in the woods may as well be a stranger to Ro who grinds the beans and serves them in the form of a delicious coffee.

Haveabreakhaveakitkat love you bye xox

Instant edit!

Just writing this has made me feel more human. I’m going to go for a little walk and throw some stones at pigeons. All the very best. Thanks for reading through this mind dump. It might seem like it’s not helping, but it is

Choices

Reader, I’m back under my traditional black cloud. I’ve been feeling really low the last few days, and as well as being *cough* depressed, I’m demotivated and frustrated.

What’s the opposite of empowered? That’s how I’ve been feeling.

Here’s what’s uniquely frustrating: I’m really, really, truly and wholeheartedly trying to get better. I’m engaging with therapy; I am genuinely trying to implement my therapist’s advice. I’m trying to make constructive choices. I’m taking my medication. Despite this – despite my very, very best efforts – I’ve still been waking up feeling crushingly empty.

I feel like I’ve been given a stupid orchid to look after and I’ve been doing everything I should – watering it properly at the right times, buying it special soil or whatever orchids need – and the fucking thing has still died.

Here’s a list of the good, positive stuff I’ve been forcing myself to do:

  • Yoga
  • Speak to people
  • Eat green food
  • Not text my ex
  • Notice the beautiful stuff in life
  • Be creative
  • Get sleep
  • Get out of bed

My therapist and I have started talking about selfharm a bit more as well, and we’ve agreed that, whilst trying to stop is a bit mammoth, I should try and take a breath when I feel the urge to. Like, I’m not telling myself that I won’t selfharm, but I’m just saying I’ll wait ten minutes. The idea is that I’ll feel more in control.

Or, at least, I had been trying; but now I’m just tired out. I feel run down. I feel like my natural state is depression and trying to combat that is Sisyphean. I’ve run out of willpower and I’ve stopped trying to be good over the last few days.

The problem is that the good choice doesn’t always make you feel good. Let’s take the example of texting the guy I was seeing. (This also applies to selfharm, I think, but that’s a bit intense for a Wednesday.) If I don’t text him – that’s good. That’s the right thing to do. But if I don’t text him, I don’t get any kind of positive feeling. I don’t feel anything at all. So I can make the choice not to text him, but I sort of have to continuously make that choice without feeling any kind of reward. Whereas, if I text him, I get a rush of whatever chemical your brain produces when you do something fucking dumb; and, what’s more, I get a sense of closure. I’ve done it; it’s done. If I don’t text him, I have to keep not texting him for the whole night.

I feel like things should be getting easier, and sometimes they are; but right now stuff is hard – and I’m tired of trying. I want to disengage for a while, but I think this is The Wrong Choice.

This is probably the worst blog post in the history of the world but ya girl needs to vent.

Love you very much,

Ro

The Black Cloud

is back, but what’s really strange is that it’s not just me under it. All of my closest friends seem to be suffering at the moment – from relationship woes, work troubles, and, most upsettingly, from a general feeling of pessimism.

I went through a phase of wondering whether my depression infected the people I care about. When I was at home, at the very low point of this year, I avoided seeing my three-year-old niece because I kept having intrusive thoughts that she’d end up like me if I spent too long around her. That’s quite an egocentric way of thinking about things – supposing that everyone’s fine and living in the mental health equivalent of the Shire until Ro rocks into their lives and fucks shit up – but it is true that a lot of the people closest to me seem to be suffering, especially over the last couple of weeks.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, or maybe it’s because I feel closer to people whose experiences are more similar to mine, but I can’t think of many close friends who haven’t been through a rocky mental health period. That said, I wonder how many people on earth haven’t had those kind of moments.

Worrying that, actually, the black cloud was me all along is probably a futile pursuit. For one thing, it stops me from accepting that my friends have autonomous, inner lives (how can they be experiencing something so profound if it’s not related to or even the result of me??); for another, it puts needless blame on me. I am not the weather. I am not the concept of depression.

I do wonder, though, how much people’s individual wellbeing is connected to other people, whether we’re all responding to each other, or whether we’re all responding to the same rhythms – whether there really is a cloud overhead and it really is raining on all of us. This last week, truly, all of my best friends in Prague have been really down and I wonder whether it’s connected, although you could attribute it to a bunch of independent stuff – the pressures of working as a freelancer coming to a head, relationship problems, working underground for eight hours a day like a gremlin. It’s enough to get anyone down.

I want to help the people I care about who are struggling, but I don’t feel like I’m in a position to help in a meaningful way. I’m more capable of truly loving people than I’ve been for a while, and I am almost always available as a shoulder or an ear; but I wonder – will my perspective, filtered through my own problems, help or hurt my friends? Will I not just make them feel worse? Am I part of the problem?

I don’t have any answers.

And what about the people I try to reach out to who don’t respond? I know that all I can do is express my love and good intentions, but it doesn’t feel like enough. The best thing to do, probably, in absence of any other options, is to try to care for myself and to let my friends and family know that I’m there for them and I love them, in whatever capacity I can.

Yesterday I took the metro to the end of the line and walked to a lake. I put my phone on flight mode and hid my rucksack in a bush and jumped into the lake. The water was a murky green colour and freezing, but I felt like it was washing the mess from my mind. I spent the whole day in and by the lake, getting burnt by the sun and bitten by ants, eating apples I’d brought with me and reading my book; and when I left I felt profoundly calm. It felt like my soul had been healed.

I’m waiting for more bright days, for me and for the people I love.

Dear Diary,

It’s been a while.

I’ve barely posted anything here in the past five months, and what I have published has been – if I do say so myself – shite. After a year of semi-regular, decently funny blogging, I seem to have fallen down the proverbial well into the proverbial underground lake of unfunny, rare content. Not to be overly critical, or whatever, but my recent output has been a joke – which you would think would be good for a comedy blog, but actually isn’t.

Artist’s representation of the proverbial Dark Cloud
(Proverbial well; proverbial underground lake not pictured)

I mean, I promised myself I’d never revert to the dark days of spamming your timelines with haiku, and yet February was like a Japanese library.

(If you accept that Japanese libraries are full of half thought-out, largely unbaked haiku, and I’m not saying that’s the case. I’ve never been to a Japanese library.)

Anyway, I spent the last ten minutes blasting every memory of those second-generation haiku into oblivion, and pray God forgive me for my poetry transgressions.

So, like, what happened?

I’ll be honest, so far, 2019 has been really hard. Like, just stupidly hard. I don’t like to use medical-ish terms without fully understanding them, but I think it’d be fair to say that I’ve had a mental breakdown.

I suffered from depression quite severely as a teenager and during my first year at university, but my second and third years were great – I felt healthy, broadly happy, basically no longer weighed down by the world. Although I didn’t have anything concrete to attribute this recovery to – it seemed like my medication had just suddenly started to work better – I felt confident that this was the end of my mental health troubles. Depression, I figured, was just a very dark, quite long period of my life which had, quietly and without fuss, come to an end. If that sounds horrifically naive, that’s because it was: new year’s eve 2019 marked a crash I didn’t anticipate, the severity of which I wouldn’t have thought possible. It felt like overnight I went from being a largely functional person to just – not.

I’d forgotten what it was like to have severe depression, to have suicidal thoughts and a constant desire to self-harm, and to find even the simplest tasks difficult. I tell you what, I hadn’t missed those experiences. Suddenly everything was a thousand times harder; I realised why the stuff I’d achieved in 2018 had felt like such a revelation: this was what had come before.

Unable to e.g. dress/feed myself, unable to put my shoes on, let alone plan a curriculum, I quit my job as an English teacher and retreated into myself, spending days, weeks, even, at a time without seeing anyone. I even went home to the UK a couple of times for a few weeks each to let my mum take care of me and to pursue medical intervention.

This, unsurprisingly, has had a negative effect on my ability to blog; there’ve been entire months when I’ve not wanted to get out of bed, let alone pen the high quality, bland content you’ve come to expect from me.

I’d quite like to journal my experiences to some extent here – partly because I feel like it’d be weird to just go back to writing dumb jokes after such a dark time; partly because my therapist said it would be a good idea; and partly for my own sense of fulfillment.


That said, writing about depression is really hard for a whole bunch of reasons:

1. I’m not sure it’s interesting

and, what’s more, it’s fairly self-indulgent: after all, I’ve just spent *checks watch* three days writing about myself, and I’m not even part way done yet.

Writing a blog is self-indulgent at the best of times, but when it’s just about an experience that I personally have been having – it stretches the limit. Even worse – imagine illustrating a two-thousand word mammoth about your own suffering exclusively with moody selfies.

2. It’s definitely not funny

and this is, at its heart, a comedy blog.

3. I know the people reading this

and that makes it a bit embarrassing. I get incredibly detailed stats on my readership: graphs, heatmaps, the whole schabang. I know everything except your credit card details.

Wow, who would’ve thought it? Most of my clicks come from the UK!

I can understand the value of this if you have a massive blog and consciously tailor your content to your readers; but I’ve got, like, 300 followers, so knowing where in the world you all are just feels invasive. I can’t wait until I get my first Greenland-based reader, though – that giant grey patch is getting me down.

The nature, I guess, of writing something insanely personal on a blog mostly read by people related to you is that you end up feeling really vulnerable in front of your family. I trust that if anyone reading this finds it too uncomfortable, given their personal relationship with me, they’ll just stop reading; but I feel like this is something I need to do. Whether you feel like you need to read on is, naturally, up to you.

Feeling edgy about being vulnerable is, I reckon, pretty natural and normal and not unhealthy; but I think there’s a level on which I also feel ashamed – exactly of what, I’m not sure, but I think of my general incompetence. What could be more indicative of my global failures as a person than my experiences over the last five and a bit months? Everything I have historically valued about myself has been undermined – from my ability to make friends and connect with people, to being able to support myself financially, to just the very fundamental capacity to care for myself as an adult in the most basic ways, like getting dressed, getting myself food. Stuff like that.

That’s something I don’t think is reasonable – it’s one of those naughty thoughts I’m meant to be combating – and by not posting this, I think that’s what I’d be listening to. Honesty and vulnerability are things I think people should broadly pursue.

To think of things from a purely logical perspective – which, admittedly, is out of character for me – you, the reader, fall into one of two discrete categories. You’re either

internet strangersmy family
and being vulnerable in front of you doesn’t faze me; orand if I’m going to be vulnerable in front of anyone, it should be you.

I suppose I’m worried about writing something unexpectedly gruesome which might upset someone I care about; but there’s a simple fix to that –

Don’t write anything unexpectedly gruesome.

4. I’m afraid of romanticising mental illnesses

and it’s a trap I think people quite often fall into. School and university were dreadful places for this: it felt like, rather than creating a support group, people suffering from depression engaged in a weird kind of competition: who’s suffering more, who hurts themself more, whose medication has the worst side effects. Maybe that’s just my perspective, and I’m sure that some people develop really supportive networks in those kind of environments, but I felt a really strong my brain is broken = I’m interesting or even a hint of I’m more fucked up than you and that makes me more valid. But maybe I’m just projecting.

It probably doesn’t even bear saying, but having a mental illness isn’t romantic – it doesn’t make you special or interesting. Depression objectively makes me a less interesting person. Yet I fall into this way of thinking myself sometimes: it’s such an encompassing experience that it’s hard not to define yourself in that way – I’m Ro, 22, British, depressed – and once you start doing that, I think it’s hard to avoid feeling like this kind of suffering makes you important.

There’ve been moments when I’ve thought that I wouldn’t take the chance to be cured of depression if it were offered to me. I struggle to imagine what I would be without it – what would be interesting about Ro? Who would I even be?

I think it’s important for me to explicitly and categorically say that that’s bullshit. It’s clearly one of those evil thoughts that’s trying to ruin my life. But when you think that way, you really believe it. I’m trying to appreciates healthy aspects of myself, but it’s challenging when, overall, I’m still really not healthy.

5. I don’t understand it

and that makes it tricky to describe.

I’ve noticed this a lot lately. Since I’ve been feeling somewhat better/more functional, I’ve reconnected with some friends I didn’t see at all during those really dark months. Naturally, their first question is, “What happened to you?”

I don’t know.

I have some quite obvious physical signs of depression – or, at least, obvious to those that recognise them – and sometimes people (pretty insensitively, I think) ask things like, “Why’d you do that?”

Don’t know.

(Actually, I don’t mind that question in itself. I get people being curious – it’s a curious thing if you don’t know anything about it. I just don’t like it when people I don’t really know ask me in stupidly public places, especially when I’m at work. After all, it’s pretty personal, and I’m tryna froth milk here.)

On a day-to-day, if someone asks how I am when I can feel myself getting sucked down, I tend to answer in euphemisms: “I’m blue; I’m down; I’m a bit low; I’m under a black cloud.” These are meant to convey that I feel depression soaking in and I feel helpless and afraid – but it’s a bit intense to say that in so many words, so I’d rather be a bit indirect about it. Perhaps that’s the British in me.

This is especially tricky when I’m talking to someone in Czech, because those metaphors don’t always translate nicely – and if I say, “I’m depressed,” that sounds too intense to me and too superficial to whoever’s listening. Depressed is such a big word if you mean it medically and so small if you mean it colloquially.

I thought about drawing a similar Depression Spider to include here but I thought I’d find it triggering so please accept this underexposed, angsty selfie.

When I was in Sixth Form, I had an excellent counselor who I spoke to for an hour every week in a small room next to the toilets. Our conversations were interrupted every time someone used the hand dryer, which I reckon made them feel less overwhelming. It definitely injected a certain light-heartedness into the goings on.

Those sessions were always something I really looked forward to: going to school was incredibly difficult and speaking to her was a relief from everything else. I think I was probably the oldest person she talked to, since I was in the last year of school, and she did like to use techniques that seemed to be intended for younger teenagers and children. I’m not complaining, though, I think they really helped me. One of the things she asked me to do was to draw a picture of what I thought my depression looked like. We had poster-size sugar paper and felt tips, but I opted for a biro and a page torn out of my notebook; it felt a bit odd to use the same material for self-expression as I would’ve for, say, a Year 7 geography project. I drew a picture of a giant spider holding a caricatured Rosie in its legs.

It was so strange – when she suggested the exercise, I thought it was a bit stupid. I couldn’t really separate the depression from myself (maybe that was the idea) and it seemed contrived to imagine this creature that was meant to symbolise all these things I was feeling. But when I’d drawn that spider and was sitting looking at it, I had this visceral, panicky reaction, like I really was looking at something that I recognised, that I knew caused me harm. She asked me if I wanted to tear it up, but that felt needlessly symbolic so I just left it there.

My therapist now, similarly, seems to want me to conceive of the unhealthy thoughts I have as separate from me, like independent, malevolent beings that exist in order to make me suffer. “These thoughts are really good at convincing us of things that aren’t true” she’ll say. She talks about those thoughts as wanting to make me feel a certain way.

Like everyone, healthy and unhealthy, I have better days and worse days. What’s really unsettling is that when I’m bad I feel disassociated from Ro who feels good, or who is even capable of feeling good; and when I’m feeling lighter, I can’t remember what those low moments feel like. As in, I remember my actions, and I know that things must have been pretty bad; but it’s almost like it’s something that happened to someone else and I just heard about or read about in a book. If I think really hard, I can muster up a conception of feeling both empty and hurting, but I’d rather not, I suppose, try too hard to remember those feelings.

I think that’s why, despite being depressed on a medical level, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to describe me as a cheerful person. When I’m fine, I really am fine. It’s just when I’m not OK that it’s a problem.

I don’t remember how I felt as a child, but I suspect I’ve been depressed for at least all of my adult life, to varying degrees – not that I suppose it’s especially important to put a start date on it – and with that in mind, given my general love of the written and spoken word, it’s extraordinary that I’m finding this so hard to describe.

To give you an idea, I’ve been writing this single blog for *checks watch* four and a half days and counting.

I suspect that’s at least partly because it’s so hard to separate longterm mental illness with your own personality – how many of these difficulties are because of, say, Serotonin deficiency, and how many are just because of Ro? And what’s the difference, anyway?

This is one of the scary things, I guess, about mental illness: it’s hard to grasp what’s happening to you. My therapist has suggested it’s fruitless to try and conceive of depression when I’m having better moments – so describing it is hard. Maybe it’s pointless to even try, but I’d like to.


But the needle swings a bit when you compare it with these reasons to write about what’s been going on:

1. Depression affects piles of people.

We’re getting better at talking about it, but we’re still not great. I think it’s something we should talk about more openly; it’d help people suffering feel less alone and less monstrous. As it is, I struggle to express myself properly even to those people I love the most in the world – I don’t think I ever really verbalised to my dad that I have depression in so many words; I think he just saw medication on my dresser and scars on my arms and put two and two together. The one nice thing, I suppose, about having such visible, obviously self-imposed scars is that I don’t often have to pronounce the words, “I’m depressed.”

toes

I appreciate that people find talking about stuff like this uncomfortable, and I think that people are often trying to be sensitive to my feelings. I don’t know if I’d rather people avoided the elephant in the room or tried to talk to me about; it depends on the person, I guess.

Friends and family sometimes ask what they can do to help, and I really, really don’t know. If I knew, I’d ask for it – I’d do it. I do, genuinely and deeply, want to get better, but the hard thing is knowing how. I don’t know what I need from people or what I need from myself.

2. They say you should write about what you know

and, even though I just spent a million years telling you how hard it is to write about depression, this is something I’m pretty well-versed in.

3. I think it’ll be helpful.

I’ve been doing significantly better lately. I’m still not well, that’s for sure, but I’m not in the same dark place I was. Even so, I’m still motivated to pursue things that I think will make me feel more secure; maybe that goes without saying – after all, what that effectively means is, “I like doing things that make me feel better.”

What was so scary about new year’s was how quickly the life I’d built and the stability I’d cultivated both collapsed. Sure, before that night, I’d felt an onset of depressive thinking, but everything was still manageable: I was coping. It felt like a few hours destroyed however many years of improvement. I was left asking myself the question, “How did I get better last time?”

an image heavy-handedly symbolising the unreliable nature of human memory

And, honestly, the answer to that question is that I don’t know. I don’t remember how I got better – it seemed to just happened. I mean, I did go to various therapists and counsellors, and I’ve been taking Citalopram since I was a teenager, but I don’t remember what I, Ro, did to help myself out. I couldn’t call on any techniques or coping mechanisms because I didn’t remember having any.

Journaling these experiences, then, seems like a smart move for posterity: at least this way, I’ll know what happened. I think through describing things we understand them better, and I’m the kind of person that needs an audience, even if it’s a contrived one.


What do I mean when I say, perhaps ignorantly, that I feel like I’ve had a mental breakdown?

It’s hard to analyse the last few months with any semblance of clarity; after all, it’s really hard to see patterns in yourself, especially without the benefit of hindsight. Instead, I’ll describe January and February through an anecdote. This is the most concise, least brutal memory I have to illustrate the place I was in:

I was in my flat, and the lights were off, and all the dishes were dirty and my clothes were on the floor. I hadn’t been outside or opened a window in a couple of days, and the air was stale and thicker than it should’ve been. I was sitting on my rug; I’d taken all the cushions off my sofa to make a nest under the kitchen table where I spent most of my days. My phone had run out of battery and the silence was deafening – I’d been trying to fill the flat with noise, listening to endless podcasts and clips from panel shows I’d already seen a bunch of times. I couldn’t stand music – it seemed to cut through the flesh of my brain and invade my being – but I needed to hear something other than the sound of my own breathing and my own thoughts. My phone charger was plugged in on the other side of the sofa, and I was sitting and looking at it and looking at my dead phone. I remember writing in my diary that I felt like a hole had been drilled in my head and that all my willpower had drained out. A car drove past and I abruptly heard loud American voices from the bar across the street as someone stepped outside for a cigarette; the door closed and it was quiet again. I didn’t know what time it was, but since the bar was still open I guessed it was around midnight. Time seemed to flow differently – sometimes a whole day passed without me noticing, but more often hours stretched out achingly empty in front of me.

I reached out to take a drink of water, but my hands were shaking and I knocked the mug; it fell with a loud clonk but didn’t smash. The water spilled over the floor. I lifted the mug away. My throat felt unbelievably dry and I stared at the puddle. I didn’t remember how long the water had been sitting there, probably hours, but in my mind it was the freshest mountain lake – you know you’re properly thirsty when you start fantasising about gulping down a glass of water. Fluorescent orange from the streetlamp outside was leaking in through a chink in the curtains. I could see flecks of dust floating in the puddle.

I keep my towels on the floor of my wardrobe. The wardrobe door was open and my clothes were spread about the room in piles, clean mingling with unclean, but my towels were still neatly folded from whenever I last brought myself to do laundry. I needed to reach out and grab one of the towels to wipe up the pool. They were slightly more than an arm’s length away; I didn’t even have to get up – I could just tilt my body and I’d be there.

Some of the water had been soaked up by the edge of the rug. I imagined getting up and grabbing a towel. I knew what it’d feel like, the texture, and I knew what I had to do to get one – but I felt too tired. I felt achingly, deeply exhausted, not physically, but in my soul. I didn’t have the willpower to lift up my arms and cover that short distance, and, instead, I just sat still, thirsty, barely blinking, and watched the puddle dry up on its own as the sky got lighter outside.


I don’t really feel like detailing the medical interventions I’ve pursued. For one thing, they’re not that interesting – perhaps with the exception of my visit to a Czech psychiatric hospital, which was an incredible culture shock – and for another, they were singularly upsetting and, frankly, humiliating. I feel like I’m filling this post with trite phrases, but medical intervention is just so invasive.

What’s more, although I’ve certainly felt the benefit of having my medication increased, I’m not sure any of the other medical routes I tried have had such a lasting effect. I’m sure that for some people something like the psychiatric hospital would’ve been a godsend; but as it is, I’d attribute any improvement up to this point to medication and CBT, as well as to my friends’ and family’s unending support.

Clean yer mirrors

I’ve taken the same medication – Citalopram – since I was eighteen. Citalopram is an SSRI, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, which works by preventing Serotonin from being reabsorbed into the brain.

Please don’t quote me on this. I’m a humble barista and don’t really have any business talking about drugs. That said, though, a lot of people who should know a lot about antidepressants seem not to. Before I started taking Citalopram, I told my counsellor that I was feeling edgy about taking medication when I didn’t know how it worked. She replied, “Oh, no one really knows how they work.”

Like, dude. Come on. Although, to be fair, the more I read about antidepressants and other neuroactive drugs, the more I accept that no one really knows exactly how they work. Still, not a comforting response from a mental health professional.

A couple of very close friends who feel comfortable enough to ask this kind of question have wanted me to describe what antidepressants are like. Is it, as is so often said, a numbing of everything? Are the lows less severe, but also the highs levelled?

I don’t want to seem like I’m trying to speak for everyone: I am one person who has only ever taken one kind of medication, at varying dosages. My experiences with Citalopram have been largely positive; I’ve experienced some side effects, but nothing as bad as *cough* untreated depression. Taking the right dose of Citalopram seems to shift my base level from dreadful to OK. That sounds pretty weak, but when you’ve had a few months of feeling dreadful, feeling OK is amazing.

That kind of context – ie I’ve only felt the effects of antidepressants after, obviously, having been depressed – might explain why I don’t relate to the idea that antidepressants lower your capacity to feel good. When it’s been so long since you’ve experienced a high of any kind, it feels kind of by-the-by to have that capacity limited. I’ve heard people who are hesitant about taking antidepressants cite that as a reason – that they don’t want to have their emotions limited, or have the possibility of experiencing intense happiness taken away from them. It’s a matter of perspective. I don’t feel like antidepressants have had that effect on me, since I was already so limited anyway.

The worst thing about taking this medication is the way I’m affected if I skip a dose. I’m sure a large part of this is placebo, but I’ve definitely noticed massive effects, both on my mood and on my body. Missing one dose makes me more anxious and prone to feeling depressed, but I also sweat more, shake a bit, and even get the sensation of electric shocks through my body. I’m told this is normal. Skipping one pill isn’t really the end of the world, but it’s very physically uncomfortable, and it’s always accompanied with much stronger feelings of, to put it theatrically, doom.

Missing several doses is a lot more serious. I’m certain that this was a contributing factor to what I’d term the Y2mentalbreakdown – I’d had a stomach bug over Christmas and it occurs to me that I couldn’t keep water down for a few days, let alone a cheeky antidepressant. It’s significant, I think, that it wasn’t until I’d had the right dose of medication in my system again for a good few weeks that I started to feel any better.

The author hopes this photograph will convey the concept of neutrality

A couple of weeks into February, I remember waking up and being overwhelmed by the sensation of feeling OK – I lay in bed and savoured the innocuousness – nothing hurt. If depression feels like a huge, aching emptiness, then being on the right level of medication is like being filled with neutrality. You don’t feel good, but suddenly your resting state is just fine. And fine, after a long time of feeling dreadful, can be euphoric.



I’m not in crisis at the moment. The last month or two have been much better, although still not good.

The good

  • I’m holding down a job (this would’ve been impossible even relatively recently, and I feel truly proud of myself every time I have a shift);
  • I’ve been pursuing some creative hobbies (which would’ve been unthinkable when tapping into my creative side sounded like a terrifying prospect);
  • I have a full and vibrant social life (which is a hecking success); and
  • I’m working on developing positive thinking patterns and strategies to help me when everything feels bleak.

The not so good

  • I still struggle with thought patterns I recognise are unhealthy; and (as a result)
  • I’m still self-harming regularly, perhaps even more seriously than before.

It’s strange, then, that even though the self-harm (which is what people most quickly recognise as a sign that things are not OK) is worse, I’d still say that I’m doing better. I think this is linked to the idea that people have that self-harm is in and of itself a problem, which I don’t think is really accurate. The greater problem is the depressive thought patterns, which sometimes, but not always, leads to self-harm. Strangely, although I’m getting better at dealing with those thoughts, I’m cutting myself more regularly. I expect that as I get even better at combating those naughty thoughts, I’ll feel the urge to hurt myself less, or be able to withstand the urge better. I hope.

Self-harm, naturally, really freaks people out, but depression is bigger and more frightening than those relatively superficial wounds. However, depression is less visible.

I owe a lot of any even minor recovery to people who support me. Caring for a person with depression, be it as a friend in a relatively casual capacity, or on a more day-to-day bring-me-food-and-hug-me level, is really demanding. I recognised that even when I was putting loved ones through genuine hell, not that knowing that made me any less of a burden.

I’ve made an album of all the lovely things people have said to me so I can look back and feel loved. I was going to share it here, but that level of PDA made me gag so I’ll leave it. I’m so grateful for my friends and family, though. They’ve shown patience in the face of me being seemingly endlessly rotten, and I look back on those messages often. Sometimes I feel very alone, but I have an entire album of evidence: Ro, there’s people that care about you.

Prague feels like home now, and a lot of that is down to the people I know and love here – people I can talk to about my darkest thoughts, but also share joyful moments with.


Work is both an indicator of and a reason for the fact I’m doing better. I mentioned before that I quit my job as an English teacher – partly for practical reasons (couldn’t leave the house) but also because teaching is pretty physically and emotionally draining. I took a lot of pride in teaching in an interesting way; I’ve been a languages’ student for long enough to know just how shit bad language lessons are, and I was determined to be the kind of teacher I’d want.

I got pretty decent feedback from my students and from the schools I worked at; I was inexperienced, sure, but I do think it’d be fair to say that I was a decent teacher. I have a good grasp of English and being a student of languages means I’m fairly well placed to explain the intricacies of our language beyond the classic native speaker line: “It just is.”

After I came back from a particularly long break in the UK (which I spent, mostly, in or under my bed), I translated my CV into patchy Czech and sent it to every café in a two region radius of my house. Although the thought of going outside was still deeply troubling, I sensed that I’d spent enough time breathing my own air. This was probably a week or so after the not-having-the-strength-to-grab-a-towel incident; it’s strange how quickly things can change after having been the same for, seemingly, ages.

I got a job at Prádelna, a café round the corner from my house. I love my job. The girls I work with are singularly lovely, and now I have a concrete reason to get out of bed. Plus, and I know this doesn’t make my mother happy, I’m completely addicted to coffee, and working as a barista gives me near-endless near-free access to espressos. Best of all, the job provides me with victims to test out my shoddy Czech on – I now speak, if not well, at least reasonably quickly and with a somewhat less obnoxious accent. This, as I see it, is a success.

Language learning, I think, is quite humiliating – possibly especially when your first language is English. Not only do I struggle through even the most basic Czech phrases, but I’m also acutely aware that almost everyone I speak to would be able to communicate with me better in English. That said, once you get to a level where you can express your personality and get across most of what you want to say, there’s something exhilarating about it.

I’m not a very good barista – I can froth milk now, but latte art still escapes me – but I love café culture – people are kind, the stakes are fairly low, there’s down time for me to catch my breath if I ever feel overwhelmed. I expect that this will be the most laid back job I’ll ever have, not that I anticipate pursuing any kind of high-powered career. Imagine me in a blouse.

I’m not really sure where I want to go from here in a where’s-my-life-going sense, but on a day-to-day, I feel pretty secure in what I want from life. I want to

  • work in Prádelna;
  • get better at photography;
  • write more; and
  • spend time with people I care about.

Luckily my lifestyle allows me achieve all of those things, so that’s all positive. I have to leave Prague in September at the latest to finish my degree, which feels pretty brutal since I feel like I’ve only just started building a life I enjoy for myself here. Still, university terms aren’t that long and, as I’m reminded by adults in my life, Prague’s not going anywhere.

Even though I had some really shaky moments last week, I’d say that I’ve started to feel something other than bleak about the future.

The truth of the matter, I guess, is that life’s a combination of the lights and darks, but I seem to only be able to see one at once.