Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Highlands

Afternoon thistles,

Photography (c) John McFarland

A few weeks ago, my family, boyfriend and I went on an adventure to Scotland, more specifically, Fettercairn, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Not only was it wonderful because I got to see a panda in real life, but I also met up with a couple of friends who I hadn't seen for two years. You made the entire holiday completely unforgettable and I loved seeing you guys again <3 We played mini golf, went on some rides which me and Bridie found horrifying and visited the cafe where J.K Rowling thought up Harry Potter. We also wandered around Edinburgh listening to bagpipes, buying shortbread and admiring the surprisingly varied collections of tartan.

Gingers ft. Michael
(Please do not take/edit the photo unless you're gonna put little hearts all over it)

Another great thing about being in Scotland is that everywhere is beautiful and I felt very inspired to paint and draw whilst I was there. Sadly, I was so busy that I didn't get to paint any landscapes like I was hoping, but on a particularly quiet day I did some practice drawing. Personally, I very much prefer it to a landscape;
(c) Lauren Newman do not take it please.

As usual, this post is an amalgam of things, which is normally what I prefer, and I want this section to be dedicated to John. Quite frankly, so many people find themselves in relationships which do not help them grow, lie stagnant and, more seriously, cause damage. I was one of these people who found themselves in a very damaging relationship and feel that it has changed me irreversibly for the rest of my life. However, shortly after meeting John, my world suddenly became less painful and fearful and I felt I could truly grow. This person encourages me every single day and has shown me that I can be in love and keep my freedom and individuality. No matter what happens, I will always be so glad that he came into my life and supported me whilst I rebuilt my self-worth and confidence. 

There is lot more I want to talk about soon, but I think it would be better if I posted separately in the spirit of not uploading walls of text.

On that short note, take care seedlings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fifty Shades of Vampires.

Evening willows,

As someone who often becomes physically and emotionally overwhelmed by day-to-day life, taking some much needed time for myself is always welcome. I spent the day alone today, so not only did I get to relax, but I also finished Death Note, an anime I have been watching, and I finished a drawing as well. Quick note to any anime fans (not a death one, though), if you're interested in Death Note, I would advise not Googling anything and simply going and watching it. It's a really good anime, despite me having some qualms with it in places, and I highly recommend it. 

Before we head on to the main topic of this post, I will discuss a couple of other things I did today that weren't so relaxing. 

Trigger warnings for sexual themes, with f-bombs to match, and mentions of abuse/rape. 

Firstly, I wasted two hours watching Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyone who knows me will know that I have not read any more than a few pages of the books, and don't particularly hold them in very high regard, so what possessed me I will never know. SPOILER ALERT; I spent two hours watching a film about a millionaire introducing a startlingly innocent 21-year-old, who seems to have gone through life without being encountered by the existence of butt plugs, to his sex dungeon. Plausible, you say? Okay, fair enough. Not everyone gets more than their daily dose of the Internet so I can get behind it (haha). There are some pretty special gems in there though that I've extracted just for you;

- After Anastasia Steele repeatedly questions Christian Grey about why he doesn't want her to touch him, he dramatically crouches over the windowsill and whispers "Because I'm 50 shades of fucked up" which, I will admit, is where I lost it. The film had an average chance at being taken seriously to begin with, but I could not get past that line. I'd laugh all the way through if it wasn't so concerning. 
On that note, does anybody else find it uncomfortable that the story seems to equate experience of childhood abuse to being a BDSM practitioner? No? Not to mention that the relationship shared by Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele is not reflective of BDSM relationships, but of abuse and rape. 

-  Christian spends a decent amount of time trying to convince Anastasia that his playroom is worth compromising for, that she should sign a contract and become his sex slave. He insists that she considers it. 
Anastasia: "Will we still go out to dinner, and movies...?"
Christian: "That's not really my thing."
What the hell, Christian? 

- Christian: "If you were mine you wouldn't be able to sit down for a week"
This alone might be enough to make you cringe, but I expected this kind of thing. What I didn't expect was that he would randomly rip his shirt off, crawl across the bed and TAKE A BITE OF HER FRICKING TOAST. I don't know about anyone else, but that'd be me screaming the safe word. 

- Christian: "my playroom"
Anastasia: "like your Xbox and stuff?"
*sick* 

If you want more hilarious and also shocking examples of this painful series please do read a wonderfully cutting post here; Grey: 32 creepy extracts that prove Christian Grey is the worst

Not that anything can really top my disastrous film-watching experience but I randomly decided to make these Watermelon & strawberry slushies today. Tasted nice but, in short, I am never deseeding a watermelon ever again.

Finally, we are onto the subject of vampires. Whilst watching the dreaded Fifty Shades of Grey, I was thinking about how it started off as a Twilight fan-fiction. As the two ventured into a misty forest, oh-so-Twilight-esque, I was wondering why Stephenie Meyer made it so that vampires sparkled in the sunlight. I believe it's explained through the fact that their skin is marbly, hard and smooth, and I started to think more about how I would write about vampires. My first question was why are vampires always predominantly humanoid? despite their transformations into bats and such. I was wondering if our often romantisised and sexualised portrayal of them was to blame; wouldn't want to make it too weird right? Just a slight sense of necrophilia should do it. After doing some skin-deep research, it was immediately obvious that vampires were originally undead individuals, of course, so naturally they're sort of human-ish. I did find that little extra information I was after when noting legends of chupacabras, who were said to primarily feast on goats. I enjoyed this fact simply because of my representation of a vampire;


So I've managed to create a somewhat cute version of a chupacabra that unintentionally resembles the very thing it's meant to suck the blood from, though the head is significantly more canine. My idea was that, behind the cheek-pouches, there are long, black teeth which extract the blood and deposit it in the cheeks. The blood then transfers into the body through the throat and is stored in the tail. The image was created using my Pigma Micron liner set and, my absolute favourite medium, my Winsor & Newton bullet tip/chisel tip markers. It feels so nice to feel my way into art again. Next time I hope to share last year's Inktober! 

For now, sweet dreams saplings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet




Read more: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=fifty-shades-of-grey

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Love Yourself

Evening petals,

Where do I begin? 

Whilst the world was going mad for the 2298372934th time, because that's all it ever seems to be doing, I spent the week in Totnes in a pretty holiday cottage with very little wi-fi. Personally, I could deal with unreliable Internet because we were so busy but I felt it worth mentioning to account for the fact I have been missing a lot of news. Whilst I have been missing a lot of news, I was getting sunburnt, eating a lot of ice cream, paddling in the sea and also spending a lot of time with my two-year-old niece (is actually my boyfriend's niece but I've acquired the title of "Uncy Lauren"). I also celebrated my two-year anniversary with my boyfriend last week, which was lovely. We're not a very post-it-online kind of couple, but I'm mentioning it here because I want to. Thank you for everything.

Personal catch-ups aside, as I did say I would stop doing those for entire posts, I would like to talk about watercolour painting. I have recently made my first three attempts at watercolour paintings and, let me tell you right now, it is not as easy as YouTubers make it look. I was warned many times about the difficulties regarding technique and such, but I was very optimistic and tried my hand at it anyway. The word "can't" is definitely in my dictionary, but I try not to use it and feel disappointed if I do.

So, firstly I decided that the image was going to be a happy one. After all, I needed a suitable mood to match my enthusiasm for my new project. Next, I slathered my desk in an old copy of The Guardian (though I did wish I could have pilfered someone's Daily Mail in the hopes of giving Piers Morgan a little Pride flag and a 'snowflake' graphic t-shirt), then I clunked an old glass of tap water on a "Sweet 16" cork coaster I had for one of my birthdays (no prizes for guessing which one) and rummaged around for my paints. I've had these paints for several years and they are beautiful. The watercolours are in their own little white boxes with their wonderful colour names printed on the side such as 'viridian', 'burnt sienna' and 'ultramarine'. Each of these boxes sit in neat rows in a larger white case with the Winsor and Newton logo on the front. My grandma bought me these when I was young, as she is an artist herself, and I'm so glad that I'm finally getting to use them properly. Next, I set out my brushes; my Winsor and Newton Cotman set (which I did not pay that astronomical price for - go to Amazon) and some Frisk masking brushes. I also used the Royal & Langnickel Watercolour Artist Pad which I had seen used successfully in other artist's' work. Although any paper that claims to be for watercolours is fine, you get what you pay for so do expect some potential negative effects if you go down the cheap road like I did. Negative effects means, mainly, warping of the paper when loading it up with water and ultimately having little balls of paper accumulate on what should be a smooth coat of paint.

For sketching, I initially used a plain old HB pencil but I went over it with a brown Brunel and Franklin watercolour pencil, which I could only seem to find a link for at b&m for some reason. Then I lightly brushed over the sketch with an eraser which left the brown marks, which I went over again in the same brown. My hopes for using a watercolour pencil was that it would blend in when I started to apply the paint, which it kinda did. Next, I decided that I would tackle masking fluid for the first time. Although it looked pretty simple when done online, darn those YouTubers, it was an absolute shambles when I started slapping it down on my page. I don't know if it was the quality of the paper or if I had spread it in far-too-thick globs, but the end result was ripping off much of the top layer of paper with the brown pencil attached. I used, what I deem to be, a good quality masking fluid (Winsor and Newton again) so I can only conclude that practice must make perfect. I was a bit put off by the eggy white-yellow colour at first, but it did go tacky and pull away quite satisfyingly without any discolouration, so I think I will wait until I have a higher quality pad. If anyone has any tips, it'll be much appreciated. Anyway, after I had masked the outlines of the sketch, washed the background a 'cadmium yellow', and rubbed away most of my poor outline, I redrew the brown lines and used a small end-of-pencil eraser to get rid of the frilled, jagged paper that had been torn away. After this, I happily blocked in the base colours, waited for it to dry and added shading in darker colours. Part of my issue with watercolours is that it requires a lot of patience. You must wait for the previous layer to dry before adding another or you will basically ruin the painting. I find the concept of patience quite easy until it comes to art, and then my brain is rapidly rendering the image I want and urging my hand to make it happen instantaneously. However, I did manage to do some waiting this time and didn't waterlog the page too much.

Finally, after being satisfied with the colouring, I moved onto the outline. Originally I was going to have no outline and allow the blended brown pencil to remain as the only visible lines. However, this didn't prove to be a good idea considering the mess that was the masking fluid and the blurriness there was once I'd applied water: I have a soft spot for sharp, crisp lines. I had initially been lining with a very fine brush and a shade of black called 'hook' but I found I couldn't quite get the right consistency and it was fluctuating between being grainy and dry or translucent and difficult to keep control over. This is when I decided to use my beautiful Pigma Micron liners. I own a set which contains Sakura Pigma Microns with sizes that range from 0.05 to 0.8 and an extra brush pen, which I adore. I began by lining the entire image with the 0.05, the smallest of the pens with a minute nib. This looked okay, but I didn't want the lines to be a monotonous thickness so I added thicker areas with the 0.8, which admittedly makes up most of the lines. I then began to taper out the thicker lines with the 0.05 on parts such as folds in the clothing and facial features, which I like to keep quite thin and sharp. Finally, I added in some pupils, which were originally a more saturated version of "cadmium yellow" which didn't pop enough for my liking, and scribbled my name and the year.

If you're still here at this point, I am deeply sorry for the piece of artwork you're about to see. I usually prefer using markers and pens, so watercolour is really out of my comfort zone. Therefore, I did something incredibly simplistic, though still undeniably my style despite a new medium. There's some warping and bleeding of the colour, but overall it's not a bad attempt. I think I'll stick to my favourite markers and pens for the most part though!


Oh, also she's a pastel princess alien who doesn't give a damn, frankly.


Love yourselves,

Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The Second Summer: what now?

Good afternoon wallflowers and wildflowers,

 To be frank, toddling out of second year and wandering, dazed, into third has felt a bit like this;

Hercules. (1997). [film] Directed by J. Musker and R. Clements. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.

I've started to hear the word "dissertation" spoken aloud as though it is now an impending reality. Those of you who already have their degree, and may even be brandishing a Masters or a PHD, will likely look back on your dissertation as comparably easy to the work you tackled from then on. However, that does not take away the knock-kneed, trembling-lip, nervous-stutter approach I'm going to take to mine (though that is my general demeanour when I approach anything remotely new). I'm sure I'll let you know in the coming weeks when I have finally decided on a topic, though I imagine it will definitely reside in the field of stylistics. I must make sure that, before I leave, I thank one of my lecturers for the infinite amount of confidence and reassurance she has given to me throughout my two years at university so far. I began by regretting the aspect of language in my degree and was thinking about changing course, but her enthusiasm and excellent teaching style has meant that, not only do I love studying language now, but I am opting to do an independent study in it. Then again, the entire English department at my university are nothing short of wonderful, in my humble opinion. 

Anywho, aside from work-related business, I will admit that my summer is still very much in full-swing, despite some wobbles in trying to pin down a specific study topic for next year. 

  A while ago, I made a Summer books list for what I wanted to read this year and in accordance with this I have started reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is long awaited and I will likely make slow progress on it, but reading it I am. In an exciting turn of events, I am also attending one of the book signings that Matt Haig is holding this summer! I don't think I could possibly explain my excitement for this, but if I tried it would be that my boyfriend observed that when I hear the word "author" said on the tv I always look to see if it's Matt Haig, however unlikely. As far as other reading goes, and I know I said I'd stop talking about this, I think the majority of it is going to be about research methodology and stylistics, which I'm weirdly looking forward to planning and making some notes on. 

   Also on the agenda; video games. I will admit, with only a hint of shame, that my teenage years were spent mostly playing video games. After starting university, naturally, they took a back seat and I very rarely make time for the lengthy gaming sessions that I used to (all of my waking hours). However, as it's the summer now, I am very happily slotting back into Stardew Valley. This is easily one of my favourite games and is a welcome substitute for gems such as Harvest Moon which I used to play on my battered baby-pink Nintendo DS. Though I haven't quite found a suitable exchange on PC for Animal Crossing, games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon have always been appealing because they aren't based on real-time, whereas Animal Crossing requires that you are logging in regularly to ensure that your neighbors don't start to hate you or, at the very least, you don't end up with bed hair or a weed-infested town. Although I was able to take on Stardew' in the place of 'Moon, I don't think I could replace Animal Crossing quite so easily, as it's a staple of my childhood in gaming. 

  Additionally, I have also managed to one-hundred-percent Grim Fandango on Steam. For those of you who don't know, Grim Fandango is my favourite video game of all time. This masterpiece by Tim Schafer, who also gave us the Monkey Island series (good ol' Guybrush Threepwood), was genuinely my favourite game to play since I was old enough to use a computer. My uncle Rob used to let me and my brother play it on his Windows 95 PC and had never-ending patience with us as we tried to work out the pretty obscure puzzles. Now I can, quite proudly, say that I have completed all of the in-game achievements, one of which included completing the entire game in the original tank controls. Strangely, I preferred the tank controls as it was what I was used to playing the game with as a child, though I did enjoy the smoother graphics that the remaster offered. I could not have been more thrilled that such a classic, that happened to be so close to my heart, was given a full remaster and put on Steam. 

  Finally, in terms of gaming, I am half-way through Alice: Madness Returns. Now, I'm not a huge fan of EA Games, but ever since I saw the teaser trailers for this I felt compelled to purchase it. I love Alice in Wonderland and fully intend to complete this game and it's individual take on the story and upload a review at one point or another. 

  Books and games aside, I'm hoping to complete some art and series I've been meaning to watch for a long time now. Art takes a lot of time, motivation and enthusiasm, so I imagine I will begin churning it out when my plans for my dissertation have been submitted. Series, on the other hand, will have their own post in the form of anime - my favourites and must-watches. Hopefully my blog posts will consist of less catching up and more specific themes from now on, I have some as work-in-progress pieces.


 Be green, 

 Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet





Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Playing Catch- Up: Mental Health Awareness Week

Good evening fellow mammals,

After what I can only describe as a turbulent couple of months, my second year of university will be officially completed on Thursday 18th of May. You might be thinking, "why the heck are you writing a post if you're not even finished yet omg" give or take a few words. The honest answer is that I'm resting in the name of self-care after a day of panicking and revising; do with that information what you will. 

Unfortunately, due to assignment stress I was unable to get around to writing a post last week. I regret this particularly because it was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which naturally I feel very strongly about. The truth is, talking about mental health is really difficult. You might not think so if you've spoken to me recently, as I've been making a conscious effort to be a lot more open about it to help eradicate the stigma, but actually being open about having a mental health issue can be terrifying. The truth is, I wrote an entire paragraph detailing some specific experiences I have with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and deleted the entire thing out of fear; 

"What if they think I'm self-absorbed?"
"What if someone thinks I'm an attention-seeker?"
"What if everyone just reads this and thinks it's pathetic or insignificant?" 

This in itself shows me that we have a serious problem with how we approach mental health. 
Talking about mental health is vital because right now it is often quicker and easier to get a box of emotion-altering tablets than it is to get someone to sit and talk to you about your emotions for an hour-long appointment. 

If you have mental health issues, advice or have a personal story to share - my advice is to allow yourself to talk about it. As I have demonstrated above, sharing personal experiences can be daunting but letting yourself share it in a way that you are comfortable with (counselling, family, friends, online) is a healthy way to raise awareness, receive support, fight stigma and encourage others to speak up as well. I truly believe that human connection and compassion is the best possible way to combat mental illness. 
If you're worried about what people will think, remember- "those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind". 
Of course, my pal Steph has written a beautifully eloquent piece for Mental Health Awareness Week; check it out here. I will always commend my friend for how wonderfully she tackles the issue of mental health and the experiences she has had. 

In other slightly less serious news, I drew a comic about anxiety and also purchased a stress ball. 

Firstly, the stress ball (product link)was an unfortunate impulse buy on amazon and I didn't think to check the reviews before just adding it to my basket of stuff and clicking check out. I realised that most people had managed to burst it within the first 30 minutes of use and had been covered in sticky gel. So when the bubbly sack of strange slime flopped out of the cardboard Amazon box, I wasn't entirely prepared for the fact that I could potentially have it explode in my face. I took it upstairs, held it over the bath and squeezed. Low and behold, my freakishly limp, cold hands were literally too weak to force the little gel bubbles to pop out of the black net. Anyway, after some cautioned two-handed crushing I managed to loosen up the rubber, or whatever, to make it so I could squeeze the weird bubbles out. After doing this for about five minutes, leaning over the bath, I realised that I was never going to be able to actually use this stress ball the way I want to because I'll be constantly terrified that it's going to burst and I was probably going to end up causing some injury to the tendons in my arm if I had to keep squeezing it with as much effort as I was. 

Basically, you guys, I bought a ball that is causing me stress. A literal stress ball. At this point in my life, I'm not even surprised that I've managed to achieve making a stress ball actually stressful. 

With that tragic confession out of the way, I'll leave you with the doodle I made during Mental Health Awareness Week. 

Have you ever thought you were a fraud because you deemed other experiences of mental illness as more valid than your own? You didn't think yours were that bad or that you are somehow wrongly claiming you have something when you don't? I do this all the time with anxiety and have realised that it's just best to trust how you feel. If you feel it, it is real. 

Merry May everyone, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shrInking violet










Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Get To Know Me TAG

Happy (late) Chocolate Egg Day! (or Happy Easter/Happy Normal Sunday if you prefer)

It's mid-way through the Easter holidays so naturally I feel sick because I've eaten a stupid amount of chocolate. I have also been experiencing heightened anxiety since beginning my assignments. I'd like to say that this is because it's especially difficult this semester, and perhaps it is in its own way, however, April was very similar last year. April is the dreaded month of little money and lots of work. After writing a detailed to-do list to empty my head of assignment stress (I love lists), I decided that a blog post would be a therapeutic way to end my evening. 

A little catch up, as I haven't posted for a little while, is that I have have purchased several books that are squirrelled away in my room until I can fully enjoy them over the summer - but I have been unable to stop myself from tackling the shorter ones. Last week I completed Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me; and Other Essays. I was a little bit hesitant about the title, as I've not always been very fond of the term "mansplaining" though I can sympathise with the experience, but it was a good read. I would be lying if I claimed to be fully clued in on everything that Solnit wrote about, as it was politically historical in parts, but the point that she was trying to make very much hit the mark. I have finally reached a point where I am not frightened to identify as a feminist. 

In other news, I'm currently halfway through Nicholson Baker's Vox which was a lot better than I was expecting. Fifty Shades of Grey did rather darken the doorstep of adult novels for a while, and I was reluctant to purchase one considering I had made it approximately three pages into Anastasia Steele's life until my eyes winced along the phrase; "floor the pedal to the metal". Needless to say, eyes rolled and book was closed. Vox is considerably less cringe-worthy, though still creates a very necessary weirdness and sense of discomfort. I'm still trying to make up my mind about it, so perhaps there will be an update in the future when I have read it.

I know that I made a summertime list for the books I was going to read this summer, and I intend to gather the remaining ones on my list, however, I worked with what little money I had to treat myself to some affordable books!

- All the Bright Places - Jennifer Niven (Steph inspired this!)
- Making Friends with Anxiety - Sarah Rayner (I know)
- Men Explain Things to Me: and Other Essays - Rebecca Solnit 
- The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath 
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky (My lovely friend Bridie let me borrow her copy a while ago and it was so lovely I had to own one!)
- Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher (I must see the hype)
- Vox - Nicholson Baker
- Watership Down - Richard Adams (I adore the film)

I think that's it for the general roundup of things-Lauren-has-been-doing-in-between-worrying-about-stuff. I have decided, after seeing several of these things on YouTube recently, that doing a Get To Know Me TAG thing might be a nice thing to do. 

A conversation with myself:
Self-conscious me: Nobody cares! Why would you do something so self-centred? 
Self-loving me: Do whatever you want, it's your blog, you crumpet. 

Here we go! 

Are you named after anyone?
Yes. I'm named after my Grandad whose name is Laurence

When was the last time you cried?
This afternoon. I'm a very emotional and sensitive person, as I'm sure you've all gathered, and I was experiencing a lot of anxiety which caused me to cry. 

Do you have kids?
Only if pets and cuddly toys count.

If you were another person, would you be a friend of yourself?
Of course. I think we would all benefit from imagining what it would be like to be our own friend, we would be a lot kinder to ourselves and put more effort into self-care. 

Do you use sarcasm a lot?
Not usually. I tend to use sarcasm in writing or texting etc when I have time to plot how I'm going to use it. Otherwise I would fear that I had upset someone with it. I will occasionally use sarcasm with friends if I know it's commonplace. 

What’s the first thing you notice about people?
Would it be cliché to say their vibe? Probably is. But I genuinely build up a little caricature in my head and then the more I find out about the person the more it changes in my mind to suit the person. Admittedly, I'd be better off starting with a blank slate but I'm human and I like to guess at the personalities that people might have - I just have to make sure I can easily accept it when I'm proved wrong. 

What is your eye colour?
There is some debate about this, but I've settled on grey. Photos rarely depict what they usually look like. 

Scary movie or happy endings?
Happy endings. I don't particularly mind sad endings, but I will pick absolutely anything over scary films. Dark films? Great. Scary films are the worst.

Favourite smells?
Any kind of food being cooked (though Italian always smells the best). Clean washing. Petrol. Winter. Summer. The seaside. 

What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home?
Wisconsin - USA. My family have friends living there who we visited for a couple of weeks in 2005 (if I'm not mistaken). 

Do you have any special talents?
Give me any situation and I'll tell you how it can go catastrophically wrong. 

Where were you born?
In my hometown, in the same hospital that almost everyone here was born in. 

What are your hobbies?
Art, eating, listening to music, reading, painting, video games, watching films and writing. I have also dabbled in crocheting and polymer clay modelling. 

Do you have any pets?
A border collie by the name of Jack Jack (yes, the baby from The Incredibles)
A black cat called Salem (Again, yes - Sabrina The Teenage Witch)
A ginger and white cat called Alistair who we usually just call Ali because Alistair is a bit of a mouthful for a cat. 

Do you have any siblings?
A younger brother.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
If I think about this question I will inevitably panic again. 

Who was your first best friend?
She is a lovely individual, who I very rarely see now, who I met in reception in primary school. I was playing with a plastic Pongo from 101 Dalmatians, having him trot around a dollhouse, and she asked if she could play with me.

How tall are you?
5'8 the last time I checked, though I may be taller now. 

Funniest moment throughout School?
I spent most of Year 10 and 11 with two particular friends who constantly made me laugh. I couldn't possibly extract a single memory from those two wonderful years of school - it was all lovely. 

How many countries have you visited?
I have only been abroad once to the aforementioned Wisconsin. 

What was your favourite/worst subject in High School?
Favourite: English. I adored Art, but English has always been the one I genuinely looked forward to every lesson. 
Worst: Maths. I have never felt more stupid than when I was sitting in a maths lesson. 

What is your favourite drink? Animal? Perfume?
Drink: Tea.
Animal: I've always said pandas, but I genuinely adore all animals. 
Perfume: I don't really know. I liked one by Britney Spears, but I don't particularly agonise over perfume. 

What would you (or have you) name your children?
I used to have a pretty solid list of names I liked for potential future children, but I don't remember any that I still like now. Except for Violet, which completely coincidentally is linked to this blog.

What Sports do you play/Have you played?
I used to love badminton, basketball and netball. I haven't played any sport for a long time though, apart from a game of badminton with my boyfriend once which nearly killed us both.

Who are some of your favourite YouTubers?
A Thousand Words - she is actually my mom's favourite, however, I recently emailed her about giving a shoutout to my mom and she did!

I probably have a lot more but I'm tired.

How many Girlfriends/Boyfriends have you had?
None-serious? Probably like seven?
But things that I would actually class as proper relationships: two.

Favourite memory from childhood?
The one that makes me laugh from when I was a toddler is when I was on the beach and kept putting pebbles in my pockets until my jeans got too heavy to walk in. 

How would you describe your fashion sense?
If I had the money to afford all the clothes I want then it'd be 50% retro/vintage and 50% gothic/punky? But who knows? I don't really know how to label it. 

What phone do you have? 
iPhone 6!

Tell us one of your bad habits!
I think my worst ones are pulling all the skin off of my lips and plucking the mascara from my eyelashes (resulting in some very sparse eye-hair).

Source: here.

It's now almost midnight and I've successfully vented out my worries through writing!
Sweet dreams saplings, 

Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Anxiety

Good evening fellow Earth-dwellers, 

After a somewhat strange week, I have returned for another look into some of my previous work and a post I have been wanting to make for quite some time. As I've grown up, I have generally stopped vigorously typing hourly life updates on social media due to a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is that the people I love in my life have taught me that you really don't need to shout it from the rooftops for it to be special - in fact it's usually quite the opposite for us. I also found that the worse I was feeling, the more I felt I needed to post things online to make me feel better - it was a way of compensating for the things I felt I could not fix. Now I am a lot happier and where I want to be, so the desire to post on social media about my private life has drastically lowered. 

However, I think that something different can be said for mental illness. Sometimes the stigma associated with mental illness is far more difficult to cope with than the symptoms, which means that we must be proactive. We must speak out loudly and truthfully. Those who have a voice should speak up and lift up others who do not. The last couple of years I have openly and, without shame, admitted that I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and panic attacks. The mere fact that I wrote that sentence with "admitted" and had to clarify "without shame" indicates there has been a problem with how we deal with mental health. Nobody "admits" to having the flu, asthma or cancer, unless you know particularly cruel and unsympathetic people, because people generally accept that it's through no fault of your own. Even if you never wash your hands, smoke a lot or take part in high-risk activities, they will often not attack you for gaining physical illnesses as a result because they realise that you are not being ill on purpose. So why don't we carry the same assumptions for mental illness? I'm not going to go through full scientific reasons why we should, but all I'm going to say is that the brain is part of the body and no amount of willpower can stop your body from getting sick. 

Today I decided that having the next two weeks off meant that it was safe to tidy my room. Yes, I use the word "safe". When you don't have time off, you turn up to university and you get given even more work to complete, so planning any time for other activities is difficult when you're as disorganised as I am. Having two weeks free from university with my assignments and reading requirements set means I am free to plan my remaining time - some may relate to the consuming feeling of being completely occupied by one thing at a time. As I was tidying, I came across these;


These are Worry Dolls. Quite a few years ago (which I was panicked to discover was actually a decade ago), when I was just entering the pain that is adolescence, my mom handed me the little purple bag. She explained that these were 'worry people' and that at night-time, when my worries were always the worst, I could whisper my worries to the 'worry people' and they would take care of them for me whilst I slept. At that point, my life was completely devoid of smart phones so I didn't claw at Google to find out more about them. I simply whispered my worries to them and left them under my pillow every night. I didn't actually realise they were a common thing, however; 

"In traditional and modern times, worry dolls are given or lent to brooding and sorrowful children. They would tell their doll about their sorrows, fears and worries, then hide it under their pillow during the night. After this, the child will literally sleep over the whole thing. At the next morning, all sorrows are said to have been taken away by the worry doll"

(Wikipedia - an incredibly reliable source that you should always turn to for academic writing.)

Personally, I laughed at the idea of calling myself a brooding and sorrowful child. It conjured up an image of being a moody tween complaining about boys, ripping your jeans and plastering your eyelids with blue eyeshadow and rhinestones (obviously I grew up in the nineties/noughties). 

Finding these dolls reminded me of how involuntary my experiences were and that I had GAD long before I could realise it. As life got more stressful and I gained the responsibilities that come with getting older and older, my anxieties worsened and I was about to realise just how much it affected my life. 

Firstly, I want to address the actual symptoms of anxiety. They are different for everyone, but there are some classic elements that most anxious people have in common. If you know of, care about or love someone with anxiety, or any mental illness for that matter, then please take the time to educate yourself about it. The time you take to research the illness of another person is infinitely valuable and it will enrich your relationship endlessly if you are able to gain a better understanding. 

If you're looking for something simple then please do allow me to direct you to the NHS GAD page which explains in general terms what GAD is. A general understanding is better than no understanding, of course. However, I will detail some more in depth symptoms that many of us experience; 

  • Constant fear, dread and restlessness - If I had £1 for every second I felt relaxed I would never magically receive £1 coins. 
  • Excessive and unrealistic worry - Is that a molehill? Let me just get my magnifying glass. 
  • Feeling constantly overwhelmed, on edge, exhausted and stressed - "No, I don't take [illegal/recreational] drugs. Why do you ask?"
  • Being irritable and finding it difficult to concentrate - Becoming overstimulated by subtle changes and starting my work at 4pm because it took me all day to get into 'the zone'. 
  • Feeling shaky, experiencing trembling and being easily startled - Basically one of those little dogs that constantly shake and need to be held and reassured.
  • The inability to sleep - I have heard of this thing called an early night but I'm not entirely sure I can grasp the concept.
  • Panic Attacks - If you have ever had a panic attack or experienced someone having one then you will understand why they are called 'attacks'. Your heart beat rapidly increasing until it feels like a steam train is rocketing across your ribcage, your body becoming hot and sweaty and claustrophobic, and being undeniably convinced that you are dying. Panic attacks are often accompanied by other symptoms of anxiety such as dry mouth, cold, numb or tingling extremities, nausea, dizziness and shortness of  breath. Naturally, it is very hard to tell yourself that you are not having a heart attack. 


Questions Some May Have

I realise that the stigma facing mental illness is often a product of simply not being informed, and not out of malicious intent. Therefore I will do a mini Anxiety FAQ.
(c) Lauren Newman - 2016 
Always credit me for my artwork.


I know that you might be itching to say to someone with anxiety, "hey, just don't worry so much about things". That is probably one of the most unhelpful things you could say. Although it is always easy to tell who genuinely means well by this statement, it can make some feel uncomfortable about confiding in that person. 


Do you worry about how having anxiety will effect being employed?

This is a common point made to me and my answer will always be the same; if someone does not want to employ me because of anxiety then I am glad not to work for them. 

Would I rather be unemployed than lie about my anxiety though?

Yes and no. I would never lie about my anxiety, and if I am asked I would freely talk about it. However, I'm not going to write that I have a mental illness on my CV or use it as a topic of discussion in a job interview any more than someone with Crohn's disease or carpal tunnel syndrome would. If I can get a degree with anxiety, I expect I can do many other things too. I always work to the best of my ability, and I don't expect to have to lie about having anxiety when I don't have to lie about having migraines. 

How can I help someone with anxiety?

Accept that no matter how much you love someone, you can't fix it for them. Anxiety can often be made worse if the sufferer feels that they are letting you down every time they feel unwell or that they are making you feel inadequate. Just love them, be there for them and listen to them and that is all you need to do. Mental health is a personal struggle and responsibility and, just like any illness, they are the only ones who can figure out how to deal with it. The best you can do is create a loving and supportive environment for them to grow in at their own pace (they might not grow at all - that is not your fault). In addition, do not tip-toe around them. Be kind, considerate and loving but they are still a human being and are capable of making choices. Do not stay with someone who is treating you badly just because they are ill. You are a human too and you must not forget your own mental wellbeing.

How can I cope with having anxiety?

This is a difficult one because everyone is different and it is unlikely that the same thing will work for every single individual. I mean, of course it couldn't possibly. The key word here is 'cope'. When I was very young, my family and I thought that I would grow out of worrying. Obviously, we didn't realise what was to come, but since then I have never actually thought about curing anxiety. I have accepted anxiety as part of my life, and furthermore, I don't think I know where I end and anxiety starts. It has taken me a few years to work out some coping mechanisms that are actually healthy and I will share these with you;

  • Counselling. 
  • Taking a break from technology and/or social media. 
  • Write down how you feel at length - pen and paper is usually best but if you only have a phone it will do.
  • Let it all out - vent and cry to a trusted person.
  • Regular exercise or outdoor activities.
  • Learning breathing techniques and ensure you're not taking shallow breaths.
  • Good diet and drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Keeping your environment clean and tidy.
None of these will fix anxiety, they might not even help, but they are all things that have contributed to a little less stress in my life. Sometimes it's simply giving yourself one less thing to worry about (though you will inevitably find something to take the empty slot).

This was a very long and general approach to having anxiety which I will definitely revisit when discussing more specific aspects of it. The topic is far too large to cover wholly in one post! 
I will leave you with my mini comics on anxiety and the situations which can cause us some bother!

Stay freaky, 
Lauren Newman a.k.a shr-Inking violet









(c) Lauren Newman - 2016 
Always credit me for my artwork.