26/12/2019

Christmas and New Year expectations

I've been thinking about something (as is the imperative for most of my blog posts!), so here it is ...

EXPECTATIONS.

These things we all have, but cannot necessarily define.

When you send someone a text message, you expect them to reply. When you go into a clothes shop, you expect clothes of perfect quality and good service from the shop assistant. When you go to see your favourite singer in concert, you expect them to deliver a performance you can rave about with your friends for weeks to follow.

You feel contentment when your expectations are met, and disappointment when they aren't.

People can crack under the pressure of others' expectations - and people can crack under the pressure of their own.

So why would all of this be any different at Christmas?

Christmas. "It's the most wonderful time of the year" - Andy Williams. "Everyone's dancing merrily in the new old-fashioned way" - Brenda Lee. "Snow is fallin', all around me, children playin', having fun, it's the season of love and understanding, Merry Christmas, everyone" - Shakin' Stevens.

Yes, if the popular Christmas songs are anything to go by, it's the special time of year where everyone is happy, merry, jolly, dancing, smiling, laughing and generally having a wonderful time.

Personally, I have a mother who has learned to 'tolerate' Christmas (and all that it entails) 😉 - and a father who starts playing Christmas songs as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 1st! (Well, exaggeration promotes understanding ... 😉) But - it's not Christmas in itself that's the issue.

It's the expectations surrounding it.

You've probably heard of the Danish word "hygge". Pronounced hoo-guh, it's a concept that's been noticed by other countries lately (the Danes are - don't ask me how - known for being the happiest nation in the world, so I'm not surprised their hygge is of interest overseas!). Hygge is basically a feeling of cosiness, often achieved when surrounded by good friends, candles and warmth, after a delicious meal - perhaps it's raining or snowing outside and you're comfortable in your armchair with blankets and cushions next to the fireplace. Hygge is homemade biscuits, quiet reading time, a relaxed ambience.

Christmas - is hygge.

Source: Jodelgrin.dk

The translation of the above image, which I found on a Danish website dedicated to the funniest stories from the popular app Jodel, is roughly as follows:

"My mother during Christmas: "Now we shall hygge! Now we're having a good time. Are you having a good time? Are you!?! Have fun!! FUN!!" #TheChristmasDictator"

((... in other words, it's NOT my mum! 😂😂))

I laughed at the time and kept scrolling - and here I am now, using a random stranger's old Jodel story in my blog post! But it illustrates my point perfectly. My point that this festive season - Christmas and New Year - is full of, you guessed it, expectations. Expectations that you MUST enjoy it, you MUST have fun, you MUST be happy ... and so on.

Now, I'm not dismissing the fact you should be grateful when someone gives you a gift, cooks a nice dinner or takes the time to call you amidst the hectic December period. There are plenty of expectations that are perfectly valid. I've just been thinking that there's an awful lot of pressure to perform around Christmas and New Year, and that perhaps not everyone can live up to it.

Here's a quick questionnaire:

Do you have a loving family?
(Yes.)
Can you afford the often manic, last-minute insanity (Black Friday, anyone?) that is gift shopping?
(Yes.)
Are you able to go food shopping, prepare meals and host get-togethers for groups of family and friends?
(My parents are.)
Do you have friends to celebrate with?
(Yes.)

If you can answer yes to the above questions, you're pretty darn fortunate. Some don't have a family. Some cannot afford to buy gifts. Some are unable, for whatever reasons, to organise and carry out social get-togethers. And some simply spend their Christmas/New Year alone.

Like the rest of us, I'm sure they're well aware of the expectations surrounding the festive period.

On a much smaller scale, I remember when I felt enormous pressure to be social, out and about on New Year's Eve - because I knew people who were celebrating it with all their friends and I thought that was what you were 'supposed' to do. Turns out there are other creatures like me who don't go about painting the town red on December 31st. Honestly, if I could, I would have told my teenage self DON'T WORRY - nobody's expecting it of you! Sometimes, what you think others expect of you can be just as detrimental to your health ... been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

(Danish friends: that's an expression meaning "I know how it feels" 😆)

Ten years and a diagnosis later, I guess I don't care so much about that kind of thing any more. And, to be honest, I'm realising that what's 'meant to be' will happen - in its own time. Why put the strain on myself to be 'all-singing, all-dancing' when I'm more of an 'all-writing, all-thinking' kinda girl? Why do anything other than what feels right for me (while not completely disregarding the needs of others, of course)? My health comes first. Only I can make it number one priority. Perhaps, in 2020, I will learn to manage my expectations so that I won't be utterly crushed if they aren't met - and will be pleasantly surprised when they are.

* * *

What you do think others expect of you? What do you strive for? Do you believe in New Year's resolutions?

(Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments - and feel free to not. There's no expectation from my side ... 😉)

24/11/2019

Why I'm Quiet

I'm quiet because I'm thinking.
I'm quiet because I don't want to unintentionally hurt anyone's feelings.
I'm quiet because I prefer to keep my mouth shut rather than say something that could be interpreted incorrectly.
I'm quiet because it feels most comfortable.
I'm quiet because I'm used to being quiet.
I'm quiet because I know I cannot handle the enormous pressure it is to be talkative and outgoing all the time.
I'm quiet because someone else said what I was thinking before I got round to it.
I'm quiet because I'm listening.
I'm quiet because it's interesting to hear what you have to say.
I'm quiet because I'm enjoying the moment.
I'm quiet because I don't want to ruin the moment.
I'm quiet because my words won't ever arrange themselves the way they were in my head.
I'm quiet because talking can feel messy.
I'm quiet because I prefer writing.

For the most part, you can take my silence as an expression of who I am - maybe even as a compliment!

"He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words".

^ I try to keep an open mind at all times and give people the benefit of the doubt - so, if they are curious about my silence, even though it feels awkward to have someone point it out, I will try to respond in an informative way rather than get irritated. However, a normal conversation doesn't exactly call for long explanations, so that's why I'm writing my reasons here!

Yup, though it may seem like I've only just come to this conclusion, I've always known and accepted this about myself - that I'm quiet, and like it best that way. Perhaps it's periodically been a little difficult for me to accept, though, in a world full of people who are able to talk more freely and who haven't necessarily understood my silence.

So that's what was on my mind today!

And finally, some advice for my fellow Zipped-Lips - next time someone tells you, "You're so quiet!" or asks you why ...?
Respond:
"... You can see me?!"
😜😜😜😜😜

Have a great week! 😄

What's been happening lately

Whew ... haven't written for a while!

1. I've had creative block. I got a painting commission in March and have only recently finished and delivered it. Though I love creating art when my brain's in the right place, I'm not yet so good at doing it on command; I've never been good with 'commitment'. As the months went by, the painting seemed more and more intimidating, and I just couldn't sit myself down and do it. My head and hands simply wouldn't cooperate. I did eventually end up with a result I was happy with, but the bursts of inspiration were few and far between, and sometimes it felt more of a burden than an enjoyment. Creative block, you nasty!

2. So, that's why I haven't been so active on my blog. Well, partly. I've also been doing other things that have required time and energy, and I don't have oodles of energy. Among other things, I've contacted an English publisher in the hopes of getting Georgias Stemme(r) published in English. They have confirmed that they've received my submission, but it takes a few months before you can expect a more detailed response (they get lots of submissions). So, fingers crossed!

I would SO love for Georgia's Voice(s) to become a reality and for my voice to be heard. For even more people to be helped by my words; to help break the taboo surrounding schizophrenia; to bring something fresh and different to what is considered a rather dark and heavy subject. I am so proud of my book and hope it could benefit an even wider audience - especially those who need it the most.

Again, if you have an English-speaking network, please do share this blog with them! (Thank you!)

3. Good news:

I got my førtidspension (early pension) – so, now I no longer have to go through the whole ‘treadmill’ of ‘trying to develop a capacity to work’ - a capacity that simply isn't there. Read below ...

To make a long story short:

I had to resign from my job (working in a friend’s publishing house) in 2016 because it was too stressful for me and I became completely overwhelmed by what would be considered the simplest of tasks or interactions with people. Shortly afterwards, I started the long process with the municipality/social system - with a view to getting me into regular work or a formal education (the goal of the social system appears to be to get everyone working or learning, no matter how unequipped for it they might be). I tried everything they recommended (everything!), but all of it was beyond the limits set by my schizophrenia - (I couldn’t cope with something as simple as going into town and/or interacting with shop assistants) - and it was apparent to everyone around me that coping with a job or schooling would be beyond my capabilities. After much frustration, many meetings, and consistently emphasising that work or education would be out of the question (my parents: “Georgia can’t do it - please, stop!”) I eventually got my early pension granted in October.

It should be mentioned that the people working in the social system are all very nice, dedicated people and they did their best to help - it’s the ‘system’ that makes it excruciatingly difficult to get an early pension. You need a lot of documentation, have to attend several ‘courses’, must prove that you have tried employment and further education and must attend several rounds of interviews with the commune, social workers, doctors, etc. to prove that you cannot provide for yourself (even when it’s patently obvious to everyone around you).

4. I'm seeing a new psychiatrist in January. So, that will mean a goodbye to the familiarity of Distriktspsykiatrien (the district psychiatry), where I've been since 2012. It's not a huge leap, but it's a leap all the same. I hope the psychiatrist I have chosen is a good match for me - but the quality of the Danish healthcare system has (in my experience) been excellent all the way, so I'm not too worried.

That's all for now. Thank you for reading.

15/09/2019

Re-introducing myself!

To those of you who are reading my blog for the first time, I feel you deserve a proper introduction 😊

Who am I (aside from a girl with a schizophrenia blog)?


I am Georgia. I am 25 years old and live in Denmark with my family (Danish father, Scottish mother, little brother Oliver and our dog, Viggo) in a house on the banks of a fjord. We moved here from London when I was ten.

I have always been creative - constantly drawing and writing as a child - and, in September 2018, my lifelong dream came true when I became a published author. My book, 'Georgias Stemme(r)' ('Georgia's Voice(s)') is available in all good Danish bookshops, libraries, as an audiobook and online (in Denmark). It tells my story about the reality of being a young, intelligent woman living with schizophrenia. What began as an essential (and therapeutic) means to express myself soon became a project to reach out and help others in the same situation. I hope for it to be published in English one day!

Though my illness sometimes makes it difficult, I continue to create art and go to ceramics every week with my wonderful grandfather. I have also received commissions for my drawings and paintings (especially of dogs and people).

In ceramics, my 'signature piece' is my little white mouse, as pictured below.



Why a mouse? Well, my favourite teddy as a child was my "Mr Mouse" and I've always had a fondness for the cute little creatures ... so, naturally, I had to start making them out of clay!

My creativity has been a vital factor in my recovery. When I was at my most ill, I found it impossible to create at all - it was as if my brain didn't have room for anything other than the enormous task of just 'being'. But, over a long period of treatment (and with the amazing help and support I've had from my family and friends), I have found stability - and my artistic streak (and the joy it brings) has returned. My illness, and its myriad of symptoms, means that I am unable to work in a 'normal working environment', nor cope with any type of formal education (I have tried both, but it is simply not a possibility for me) and so I have had to find my path through my art - and my voice through writing.

I was bullied for most of my school years, a topic that I touch upon in my book. Being bullied damaged my self-confidence and potentially triggered my schizophrenia (it should be noted that bullying, in itself, cannot cause schizophrenia - but it can be a 'trigger' in someone who is already predisposed to the illness). A substantial part of my recovery has been spent working through the pain caused by the bullying and regaining the self-confidence I need to progress forward. It's an ongoing process, but I'm gradually putting it all behind me and moving on - greatly helped by having been able to write about my experiences!


One of my illustrations from Georgias Stemme(r) :-)

When I was young, my IQ was measured at 152 on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, placing me in the top 0,01 % of the population. Having a very high IQ is both a blessing and a curse: a curse for the reasons explained above (because deviating from 'the norm' often leads to becoming an easy target for bullies) but a blessing in so many other ways. I wouldn't trade it for the world and hope to continue using my gift for good and not waste it 😊

My favourite things include the original 151 Pokémon, Ben & Jerry's dairy-free Chunky Monkey (I have an insatiable sweet tooth!), Ricky Gervais' "Flanimals", the red Quality Streets (anything strawberry-flavoured really), Taylor Swift's music, Ariana Grande's music (pop music in general), manga, origami, chinchillas (so fluffy!!), the colour blue, mint chocolate chip ice cream, silver jewellery, notebooks, brightly coloured clothes and handbags ... not to mention the plane scene in "Bridesmaids" 😃 Kristen Wiig's comedic timing is absolute gold!


Source: Giphy

So, yeah - that was a little about me! 😊

As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I will do my best to reply as informatively as I can - but, be warned: I might take a while (because over-analysing everything is my middle name) 😜

Until next time! *goes off to listen to Ariana Grande* ♫♫

//Georgia

04/09/2019

End-of-summer reflections

One year ago today …

A year has passed since my book came out (now also available, in Denmark, as an e-book and an audiobook!), and I have some thoughts on what’s happened from then till now.

Shortly after the release of Georgias Stemme(r), I was interviewed for Dagbladet Roskilde (local newspaper), Roskilde Avis (local newspaper) and Jyllands-Posten (national newspaper) and my book hit the national bestseller list! I had a wonderful book reception and was so grateful for everyone who turned up and supported me. I cannot thank you enough 🥰🥰 It felt so special to become a published author – my lifelong dream – and to have all this media attention was surreally overwhelming, but what was at least just as moving was having strangers come up to me and thank me for writing my book. I was overcome with emotion and happiness – everything I’d done up until that moment culminated in an altogether fantastic day.

The next interviews I had were for Ude og Hjemme (a Danish family magazine) and Psykologi (a Danish magazine focused on personal development), but the latter ended up getting published in Femina, one of Denmark’s most popular women’s magazines, which was cool! I had a good experience with all the papers and magazines that interviewed me, especially as I was allowed to read through the articles before they got into print (and suggest changes, if I had any – very important). However, they had written quality articles and I didn’t alter much, and continue to be pleased with the results to this day (also the wonderful photos!). Imagine getting interviewed in magazines you’ve read so many times in the past! Again, somewhat surreal, but nonetheless a great feeling that my book – my words – were impactful enough to make ‘mainstream media’. Wow. I try to remember this every time I feel frustrated with my progress or writing 😉

Georgias Stemme(r) was positively reviewed in Psykologernes Fagmagasin (a magazine for Danish psychologists), Helse (a Danish health magazine), Psykiatriens Puls (a newsletter for psychiatric professionals), Liv & Sjæl (a Danish health magazine) and was shared on Facebook by SIND Ungdom (a psychiatry youth organisation), Københavns Professionshøjskoles Bibliotek (the library of the college of Denmark’s capital), Bedre Psykiatri (an organisation for relatives/carers of people with mental illness) – not to mention individuals who had simply read my book and enjoyed it! I regularly receive positive feedback from people who have read my book – people with no prior knowledge about schizophrenia, parents of schizophrenics, professionals, even schizophrenics themselves – which makes the experience all the more rewarding. I started off writing – posting that first blog post in February 2016 with shaking hands – because of a need to express myself, and since then it’s morphed into a little ‘movement’; a movement to help other schizophrenics, wherever they are in their lives. I have always communicated best via the written word, so, of course, Georgias Stemme(r) – Danish for “Georgia’s Voice(s)” – was the perfect title for my book 😉 Not only about the voices in my head, but also finding MY voice – the voice that all too often had been subdued by years of bullying, exclusion and ostracism by my peers.

I have posted often about my experiences with bullying; it was partly incredibly therapeutic to get it out, partly distressing reliving the trauma, and partly gratifying seeing how my tales affected others. The pen is mightier than the sword … and that’s all I’ll say about that. 😊

In February, I held a ‘speech’ for members of Junior Chamber International in Copenhagen. It was in the style of a sit-down interview/dialogue, and I was greatly assisted by facilitator Karen, who visited me several times at home to prepare the questions/answers and to help me find a way that I could manage the ‘conversation’ without becoming completely overwhelmed – because standing alone on a stage, trying to recite things from memory, with a bunch of people staring at me, would be impossible for me. I was determined to do it, and it went well. However, although it was a good experience, it took an enormous amount of energy (physical and mental). I had to prepare months in advance, keep myself calm on the day and was utterly drained for weeks to follow (months, actually). So, although I’m glad I did it, I’ve thought about it and have decided not to continue down the path of public speaking.

At the time, I was set on ‘proving’ I could ‘be like everyone else’; that I could do the things ‘healthy’ people could do. I wanted, in some way, to be a role model for others like me and felt the only way I could do that was by excelling at whatever I put my mind to. But, eventually, I stopped and thought: Hold on – I’m NOT like everyone else. I HAVE limitations. Perhaps I’m sending a confusing message to those who follow me by trying to be ‘so much’. So much that, in the long run, I cannot keep going.

Unfortunately, these limitations have meant that I have had to turn down an amazing, unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In 2018, I was offered the chance to be a protégé for the most talented porcelain artist in Denmark, if not the whole world. She contacted me after reading my blog saying I could come to her studio anytime. This is by no means something she ‘just does’ and I knew what a golden opportunity it was. Sadly, I found it too stressful/demanding –just like with the office job I had for a while, the realities of getting myself from Roskilde to busy, noisy Copenhagen (testing my limited planning skills and low threshold for stress) and my struggles with concentration, completing tasks and making conversation meant that I eventually had to ‘resign’. Maria and I are still in contact with each other (and she is one of my greatest supporters) but, oh, how I wish I could have managed this fantastic opportunity! It is one of the times where I really resent my illness and the barriers it throws up in front of me.

On the other hand, I have always been inordinately privileged. I have a close, strong, supportive family. Wonderful friends. Intelligence (truly a gift). Creative abilities. Mobility, vision, hearing and ability to speak. I’ve never lacked anything in my life, emotionally or materially – and I am well aware of the true value of a great ‘network of support’.

On the subject of ‘material things’: This year, I was due to receive ‘library money’ for my books. In Denmark, authors (who enrol) receive a sum of money each year for the books they have in libraries. However, there is a catch – the ‘money due’ is calculated in such a way that one receives the money only if the amount is over the ‘payout limit’.
This year, the payout limit was Kr1,301.
My amount? Kr1,298.37 (about 158 British pounds).
That’s right - I was Kr2.63 short of receiving my ‘library money’.
So frustrating!
I was sad to see it go after all the time, toll and effort writing the book had taken on me.
Ah well, such is life – better get started on a new best-seller!

So that’s basically my ‘year’ in review. I’ve had a quiet summer, ‘just’ here in Denmark enjoying the sun. I’ve needed it. I guess you could say this past year has also been a lesson in understanding my own boundaries and the importance of rest and understanding my limitations. I am getting better at saying no and taking time out; not doing things just because I think that’s ‘what others expect of me’ and realising that my health (physical and mental) must come first.

All in all … an eventful year. Here’s to the next one! 😍

02/09/2019

A fresh start ...

Hello, dear followers!

Welcome to my new blog :-)

From now on, I will be posting my thoughts here - in English. I hope to reach and attract a broader audience this way.

So, please do follow this blog and share my posts as far and wide as you can - I'd really appreciate it! :-)

If this is your first time reading this, my name's Georgia, I'm 25 years old and live in Denmark in a town not far from Copenhagen. I moved here from London with my family (Scottish mother, Danish father and little brother) when I was ten. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2012 after seven months in a psychiatric ward, and since February 2016 I've blogged (on a separate blog - now closed) about my experiences with the illness, which, by the way, is NOT multiple personalities - that's a completely different disorder. Unfortunately, an uninformed media contributes heavily to the lingering of this myth and, sadly, all too often it's only the horror stories about "schizophrenic murderers" that make headlines - these tragic cases make up a very small amount of all schizophrenics and portraying solely this one aspect in the news only adds further to the stigma and taboo that surround the disease (which is difficult enough to live with as it is!).

My book, "Georgias Stemme(r)" (Danish for "Georgia's Voice(s)"), was published in September 2018 and is based on my previous blog. I covered a variety of topics related to schizophrenia - voices, hospitalisation, ambivalence, struggles with communication, just to name a few - and have illustrated the entire book myself. (Did I mention I looove being creative? :-D) My hope is for it to come out in English one day!


Fingers crossed! :-)

The title of this blog reflects the fact that, in spite of my illness and all it entails (including hearing voices), I have found my voice through writing. I have always been "the quiet girl" and endured years of bullying during my school years, which made it incredibly hard to express myself the way I wanted. But, armed with my keyboard, pen and extensive array of notebooks, I hope to continue shedding some light on this illness and expressing myself in the process! :-)

That's all for now. I hope you will enjoy reading!

Love, Georgia
xx

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