Moments that make you feel alive

Last week, a friend was describing a moment that had just happened that she’ll remember for the rest of her life- one of those magic moments where it’s intense and amazing for any particular reason.  We were talking about that type of moment afterwards and at the time, I couldn’t remember any time I’d felt like that but I know I must have done.  I’m still in a bit of a negative, feeling rubbish phase at the moment (although I’m trying REALLY hard to change that) and it’s hard to think of anything positive at all most of the time but I had an amazing weekend last week where, for the first time in ages, I actually felt ‘real’ and connected, and it was FUN which is something I haven’t felt in months.  So I’ve tried to harness that positive energy and spent the week trying to think of ten moments that made me feel good, alive or connected.  It was really hard and I literally had to go through my life systematically to find them but I think I’ve got a pretty good list and surprisingly it was a really positive experience to think of them and try to recall the feelings from the time.  It’s definitely an exercise I’d recommend to anyone who’s feeling a bit rubbish- really helps to put things into perspective.  SO, in an attempt at counting down…

10) Last weekend.  This should probably be higher in the list because of the context (it was such as massive shift in feeling from the slightly detached rubbishness I’ve felt since last December) but I’m putting it here since it was the first one I remembered.  I spent the weekend with my absolute favourite people in the world and we made a blanket fort, watched my two 0f my favourite Disney films (Treasure Planet and Tarzan), went to the park and took selfies on the swings, played on the trampoline, played board games and just generally hung out which was amazing in so many ways- I felt ‘real’ and like I was actually ‘there’ instead of just existing, and the amount of love I have for those people is incredible.  Had a bit of a ‘comedown’ crash near the start of the week but have tried to focus on the positives and channel that which has been really, really useful in response to the bitch in my head- I think I’m finally managing to make a Patronus!!  Which I’ll talk about in another, Harry Potter-focussed post 🙂

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9) Running through Hampstead Heath.  Last year, I lived in London and was lucky enough to live near Hampstead Heath, which is a massive park on the top of a hill in north London.  The views there are incredible- there are spots where you can see the City and a lot of it is woodland paths.  I used to run there early mornings to see the sunrise over London which was incredible in itself but my favourite part was getting lost in the trees and following random paths which would occasionally lead to something like a magical fairy dell.  The particular moment I’m thinking of was a morning last February when I was running just as the sun was coming up and the trees had that magic stillness of not-quite-daytime when there’s no-one about.  It was really cold and there was frost on the ground, and I was pretending I was in Narnia when suddenly snowflakes started to fall all around.  It was genuinely magical- I felt like Lucy entering Narnia for the first time and there was no-one else on the planet, and I was dancing and jumping through the snowflakes feeling like I could connect with God and I was part of the world around me.  It was an incredible, magic feeling and I don’t think I’ll ever be able reconnect with the world around me in the same way again.  Just amazing.

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8) Seeing Roger Waters perform The Wall live.  This was just…WOW!  I am a massive Pink Floyd fan and so is my dad, and since I was a teenager I’ve really connected to their lyrics and the atmosphere of their songs.  I was constantly jealous that my dad saw them in concert in the 70s and that he met Nick Mason randomly at a car event (my dad’s obsessed with cars and asked Nick Mason for a ride in his Ferrari 250 GTO!!  And it broke down so he was stuck in the car with him for half an hour- so jealous!!) and I really wished that Pink Floyd would reform and do more gigs.  So when Roger Waters announced that he was doing The Wall tour aged 69-70, I was mega, mega excited!!

I went to see him in Wembley stadium with a close friend from uni.  I was genuinely terrified about going- I get panicky in crowds and have mild paranoia about terrorism, and 120 000 people in a massive London stadium REALLY isn’t part of my comfort zone- but I really, really couldn’t miss the chance to see Roger Waters so I took some diazepam and went.  WOW.  I am so glad I did!!  The atmosphere was INCREDIBLE- imagine the most intense concert you’ve ever been to times ten, mixed with immersive pyrotechnics and special effects.  It’s so hard to put into words but it was INTENSE, incredible and genuinely life changing.  There was everything from planes on zip wires over your head, red pyrotechnics and smoke, strobe lights, a giant wall which was knocked down…

The whole thing was like a religious experience with over 100 thousand people singing along to the lyrics with more passion than Scotland fans in Euro 2000, Roger’s message was passionate and scary, it was unpredictable and terrifying.  Near the end, he took out a machine gun and simulated firing it over the crowd- at that point, I was convinced he was going to kill everyone and was close to panic attack stage because it really was that intense.  Roger Waters’ presence is scary enough in itself: an intense, commanding figure in a full length black leather coat and shades, dominating the stage.  Seriously amazing.  I came out the stadium feeling dissociated and zoned out, not because of the crowd but because of the intensity of the concert and how deeply it had affected me.  INCREDIBLE.

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Roger Waters The Wall Live at the Time Warner Cable Arena on July 10, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina – © 2012 David Oppenheimer – Performance Impressions (photo taken from http://www.performanceimpressions.com)

7) The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I know this might sound superficial and trivial to include in this list but it’s one of the moments in my life that I can remember so vividly that I have to include it.  I’m a mega Harry Potter fan and have been since 1997 when the first book was released.  I genuinely grew up with Harry and was the same age as him when all the books came out- I did my GCSEs when he did his OWLs, was emotionally on a level with the characters throughout the series and learned more from Dumbledore and McGonagall than I did from most of my real life teachers.  I used to use Hogwarts (pre-GoF) as an escapist world growing up and I’ve read all the books (apart from the first one) on the day they were released.

The build up to DH was massively intense for so many reasons.  Firstly the obvious- waiting two years to find out whose side Snape was really on and if Dumbledore was really gone which was hard in itself.  Then there was a more personal reason- right after the sixth book was released in 2005, I was admitted to a psych hospital as an inpatient and was there pretty much up until the release of DH in 2007.  This was pre-smart phones and Facebook etc and you weren’t allowed any internet access anyway or mobile phones so there wasn’t really much to do apart from reading or arty stuff.  I read the fifth and sixth books over and over during that time, partly because they were so long and intense that I could get completely absorbed in them and forget where I was and partly because of Luna Lovegood and how much I could relate to her character.  There’s so much in both of those books that I could relate to, and still do.

So when the seventh book was released, I was so excited and nervous and it was such a weird experience.  I’d had ten years where HP had been such a massive part of my life and now it was almost over, and I didn’t want it to end.  Thankfully J.K. Rowling seemed to have pre-empted that in the King’s Cross scene near the end and I am so, so grateful to her for that.  I don’t want to go into too much detail for anyone who hasn’t read it but it’s perfect in every possible way.  If anyone’s interested and doesn’t mind spoilers, here’s a link to the FB post I wrote right before I saw the last film: Thoughts on Harry Potter.  But, to end with my favourite ever Dumbledore quote, “Of course this is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”  For me, Harry Potter will continue to grow and influence me throughout my life and I love that.

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6) New Year’s Eve 2011.  I went to York to stay with my best friend and we watched Disney films, did crafty stuff and made an incredible collage which is still on my bedroom wall.  Not a massive amount to say except that I absolutely love any time I get to spend with my best friend who is one of the most amazing, incredible, talented and accepting people I have ever met.  Best New Year’s Eve ever!!

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5) The most amazing card I’ve ever been given.  From when I was a teenager, I volunteered in primary schools and in one school in particular for nearly ten years.  There were two classes especially that I worked with a lot, and I also worked in the after school club so I got to know some of the children really well.  Obviously working with kids you’re not meant to have favourites but you end up getting particularly close to certain children, usually ones who attach themselves to you for no particular reason.  There was a child in one of the classes I worked in who also went to the after school club every day and he ‘latched on’ to me a bit, wanting me to play with him every day, sitting on my lap, holding my hand and doing all the sweet things kids do.  He was very shy but one of the nicest children I’ve ever met, and when I stopped working in that school, he got quite upset.  He used to make me things and I’ve still got a ‘flower’ he made me out of paper to wear in my ponytail- I laminated it and wore it every day for luck, and now I carry it around in my purse.  The year after I stopped working at that school, his class had a lesson making cards for people they look up to and he made one for me, saying I was his best friend and listing why.  It’s genuinely the nicest thing anyone has ever given me and it’s still on my bedroom wall four years later ❤

4) The only time I have ever skipped school.  This is a weird memory- the type that you’re not quite sure if you’ve made it up or not, but it’s so vivid and detailed that I’m pretty certain it actually happened.  It must have been when I was about 17 and doing A levels (it involved driving), and I’d had a really rubbish day for some reason which I can’t remember now.  It was a Friday lunchtime and I was feeling really horrible, and my then best friend came up with the awesome idea of going to the cinema to see the (then) new film with Audrey Tautou called A Very Long Engagement.  We justified it by the fact that it was in French and it was French speaking we’d be missing (or I would anyway, I don’t think she had any lessons that afternoon) and it was AUDREY TAUTOU who we both had a bit of a crush on.  So we went to see it and I’m sure it must have been a good film, but I genuinely can’t remember anything about it!

What I do remember is that we went to get a pizza afterwards and this is the part that sticks most in my head.  I had a barbecued chicken pizza without chicken or cheese but with added pineapple and mushrooms (I’m vegetarian and dairy intolerant), and it was the first time I’d actually eaten pizza in years.  It was AMAZING and the magic part was that, sitting with my then best friend who I still couldn’t quite believe wanted to be friends with me and eating pizza during school time, NOTHING MATTERED and I could eat the pizza without mega anxiety, panic or urges to get rid of it.  Then I felt like I was flying and I could do ANYTHING so we shared a dessert which was waffles and maple syrup (she had ice cream on her bit) and it was the most amazing thing I had ever eaten.  It was a really big deal at the time because I’d had an eating disorder for about four years by then but wasn’t really aware of it (it wasn’t diagnosed till I was 18 and an inpatient and even then it took another four years to actually accept or believe it) and most of my teenage years were fixated on avoiding food or throwing it up without anyone noticing, so being able to sit in a restaurant and eat ‘normal’ food without running to the toilets to throw it up straight afterwards was a mega big deal!  The only time I’ve felt even close to that since then is when I’m running an ultramarathon but one of my mega aims is to feel like that again someday without having to run for ten hours first…

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3) Sleeping in a tent last summer.  Last year, I camped in the garden with some kids I babysit and it was the most awesome, amazing night I’ve had in a long time.  It was FREEZING and their mum had made the sleeping compartments (it was a massive tent!) into mini nests with mats, blankets, sleeping bags and more blankets, and it was the most cosy and comfortable place I think I’ve ever slept!  I had three hot water bottles and two sleeping bags as well as the blankets because I’m a lightweight who gets cold really easily, and the kids had lots of blankets around their sleeping bags.  We played Fluxx (an awesome card game) and messed around with teddies, and it was such an amazing experience- their mum had hung lights up in the centre part of the tent and it was like a magical den!  The kids loved it, I loved it and I love hanging out with the kids anyway so it was like a magical surreal experience and so much fun.  Definitely worth spending most of the night feeling like I’d got hypothermia because even though I had a ridiculous amount of warm-making stuff, I still managed to feel freezing!!  Woke up with purple hands and white feet but was one of the most awesome experiences ever 😀

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2) An amazing moment babysitting.  To be honest, I am lucky enough to have LOTS of amazing moments babysitting and I genuinely love some of the kids, but one moment in particular sticks in my head.  It was from last year and I was sitting on the sofa with a boy I babysit (and have known since he was tiny) cuddling into me and we were watching Brother Bear.  I’d had a really rubbish day because earlier that morning, my then best friend of 20 years had just told me she didn’t want to keep in touch any more and that really, really hurt more than almost anything else I’d ever experienced and I was feeling zoned out and horrible so one of the kids I babysit suggested watching Disney.  Brother Bear happens to be one of my absolute favourite films but there’s one part of it (the song near the end- No Way Out) that I find really, really hard to watch and it makes me cry every time I see it, even when I’m not already upset.  It reminds me a lot of how I was feeling when the film first came out in 2003 and I was trapped in ED thoughts and behaviours that I didn’t understand, and the lyrics could actually have been written to describe how I felt.  So I ended up crying while we were watching it, partly from the song and partly because of losing my friend, and weirdly it kind of helped to let some of the emotion out.

When the film finished, we were watching the credits and the boy I was babysitting said that he loved me.  I know kids say stuff like that all the time and it’s not a big deal but it was to me- I can count on one hand the people I’ve said ‘I love you’ to (not including pets) and I genuinely love the kids more than anyone else in my life- I’ve known them forever and they accept me without judging me, and their mum is incredible.  They’re like my ‘pseudo-family’ (that’s how I think of them anyway) and I love them, and I am so lucky to have them in my life and that they let me be a part of theirs.  At that moment, my heart was literally stinging with emotion which is REALLY not like me and I realised again how lucky I am.  Much as it still hurts really intensely that my then best friend doesn’t want to be friends with me any more, I need to keep reminding myself that there are other people in my life who are genuinely amazing and accepting, and I need to appreciate that…

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1) Running my first marathon.  This was amazing for so many different reasons!  Partly because I genuinely didn’t think I’d ever be able to run a marathon and I’d only been running properly about a year and a half by that point, and even then I was averaging six miles per run.  I got into distance running really randomly in 2011- I was doing an MA in Creative Writing and found it hard to write poems.  My poetry tutor, who is also a distance runner although I didn’t know that then, lent me Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ because it linked running and writing, and I started to run a bit more to match what Murakami was doing in the hope that it would help write poetry.  Weirdly, it did and even after the poetry module was over, I carried on running every day and until a few months ago, I still was and am trying to get back into it after a bit of an unmotivated phase.  I think it helped that I really, really look up to my tutor- she’s an amazing poet, runs marathons and is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and she was so encouraging about my running that I actually felt like a ‘real’ runner instead of someone just pretending or messing about.

After a few months of daily running, I signed up for my first half marathon and amazingly managed to complete it.  Then my tutor (who I’m still in touch with) suggested running a marathon which I really didn’t think would be possible but signed up and tried to start increasing my runs.  Even right up until the day of the marathon, I didn’t think I could do it but my tutor was so encouraging and positive about it that I decided to give it a go.  She even offered to come and watch which was so, so nice of her and made the whole thing a million times less scary.  Right before the marathon, she lent me a rubber foot (marathon foot) to run the marathon with who’s been in her pocket during her marathons and is charged with good karma, and that seriously helped probably more than anything else during the race which was an AMAZING experience but really hard because it was so bloody hot!!  Then after the race, she said I could keep marathon foot as long as I kept him safe and he’s been my good luck charm ever since.  That was genuinely the best day of my life and not just because of the endorphins- ten years ago, I would NEVER have believed I’d run a marathon or even 5K and now I run ultras!  Distance running has changed and improved my life in so many ways, and I am so, so glad I ran that first marathon.  Having run nine more since then as well as at least nine ultras (losing count!!), I can genuinely say that starting distance running was the best decision of my life and I learn so much from every running event.  And marathon foot is still karma-charged and awesome!! 😀

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SO, having written those, I’m now feeling weirdly positive and grateful for all the amazing moments and especially people in my life.  THANK YOU to everyone who’s been a part of any of the moments on this list and to all the other awesome people in my life- I didn’t mention any family events but all of my cousins are amazing people who deserve a whole post to themselves, and I have some incredible and accepting friends who it would be too hard to choose just one moment with.  One thing I have realised and am going to try to internalise is that the people involved in moments on this list (apart from my ex-best friend) are all people I’ve met as an adult and now they’re probably the most important and influential people in my life.  I need to keep reminding myself of this because when I turned 18, I felt like my life was over and I’d never survive as an adult but actually most of the most significant and amazing things that have happened to me have been as an adult, and I think that’s really, really important to remember.

Friendships and mindfulness

I really, really wish I could believe this!  This quote came up on my Facebook feed recently and it got me thinking again about how DBT skills (particularly mindfulness) can relate to and be helpful for managing friendships and social relationships.  I find friendships particularly difficult, both the practical aspects like actually meeting people and making friends as well as the confusingness of boundaries, knowing what is a friendship and what isn’t, managing paranoia or intense feelings of guilt about social interactions, and keeping a friendship in a healthy way.  Some of the interpersonal skills from DBT have been really, really useful for this (particularly DEARMAN which I’m going to talk about in more detail in another post) but also, surprisingly, some of the mindfulness skills.  To be completely honest, mindfulness is the aspect of DBT which I find hardest and often miss out, partly because it’s more abstract and not as ‘practical’ or logical as the other components (distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal skills) and partly because it’s genuinely HARD and takes a lot of practice to actually have any effect at all.  But recently I started to fill in a DBT diary every day which has a checklist of skills from every component of DBT so I’ve been reading more about the mindfulness skills, and one in particular really got to me and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  I would never have thought to look at friendships in this way but it really makes sense- here’s the extract from the book (‘The Dialectical Behavior Diary’, Matthew McKay and Jeffrey C. Wood):

I can really, really relate to this!  Even though I’ve done a lot of work on black-and-white thinking over the last fifteen years, in therapy and trying to apply it to life situations, I still find it really difficult not to think of everything in extremes.  This is especially true in friendships and I know I tend to either over-idolise people and think they’re amazing in every possible way or think that they hate me, aren’t talking to me or don’t trust me, and there’s very rarely anything in the middle.  I’m not as bad with it as when I was a teenager (when nearly everyone I knew fell into one of the two categories and I was in a state of constant paranoia about upsetting people) but it’s still something I find hard to balance.

There are so many useful points in this extract and I’m going to look at them one at a time.  The first one is the main point of the section- the idea of beginner’s mind.  Beginner’s mind is where you try to look at a situation or interaction as though you’ve never experienced it before and that counts both for the actual situation and for the people involved.  So there are no judgements, preconceptions or anxieties about it at all- it just IS.  This is really hard to get your head around (at least for me!) but it basically means that you don’t have any expectations at all about how the situation might go (I did another post on this recently- see Celebrating 400 years of Shakespeare with DBT skills…) and in theory this should reduce any anxiety around it, stop you from acting according to emotions or judgements, and minimise negative interactions that could come from anxiety or paranoia.  I really like this concept but it’s so hard to do in practice!

The next part which I find particularly useful is how this concept links to black-and-white thinking.  The part about best friends really, really got to me and I can relate to it so much, and hadn’t thought about it in that way at all but it makes so much sense.  I recently lost a very close friendship and I’ve found it really, really hard to deal with.  It happened in December and it’s now May but the intense feelings of guilt and hurt, the inner ‘vacuum’ as though someone’s punched me in the stomach and sucked out my insides, obsessive thoughts about wanting to contact her or get back in touch, and the bitch in my head telling me constantly that it’s completely my fault, I’m horrible and obsessive, and that I don’t deserve any friends haven’t eased off at all and sometimes even seem to be getting stronger.  I’ve tried distress tolerance skills to manage them which work temporarily but after a few months, it’s starting to feel like I’m just ‘existing’ and that there’s not really any point because my default state is paranoia and I don’t have the energy or motivation to keep fighting it, so I really need to try a different approach.

I think that one of the reasons the loss of the friendship hit me so hard was because I genuinely thought that the friendship could never break and that we’d be best friends forever.  We’d been friends for 19 years which is a really, really long time and although we didn’t see each other much in person (she lived a long way away from me), we texted and emailed regularly and she’d always be the person I’d message in a crisis or if I had any particularly exciting news that I wanted to share.  I think that’s the part I miss most- being able to message ANY TIME about basically anything without it seeing weird or inappropriate and I still get urges to text her about something on an almost daily basis then have to cope with the fact that I can’t, and the hurt hits all over again just as intensely (if not more) than it did the first time.

This is where I think the mindfulness idea is really, really useful- one of the reasons it hurt so much was because of the ‘expectations’ from how I saw the friendship.  She was my ‘best friend’ and I thought we’d ‘always’ be friends, and we would ‘never’ fall out or lose touch.  It really was a black-and-white perspective and I think that’s something that made the friendship break up really hard to deal with.  In the Shakespeare post, I talked about putting people on a pedestal and how that means it hurts more if something happens to knock them off the pedestal and the same idea applies here.  It’s really important to realise that people are people and no one’s perfect, and that sometimes friends change and move on and that’s OK, and part of life.  It’s not realistic to see any relationship as ‘perfect’ or faultless, and disagreeing is part of any social relationship.  It’s important because it shows you that you can disagree on something and still be friends, which helps to reduce unrealistic expectations about the friendship.  It’s hard because, for me anyway, there’s a big part of me that thinks that I’m lucky that person wants to spend time with me in the first place but that’s not a healthy relationship.

I like the concept of beginner’s mind in relation to friendships because it takes away anxiety/paranoia about how a friendship ‘is’ or what the other person’s thinking.  It’s impossible to be paranoid about upsetting someone or what they think of you when you’re taking the friendship as it comes, treating every interaction like a new encounter and trying not to fixate on the friendship when you’re not actually interacting with that friend.  It’s really, really hard and you can’t ‘stop’ yourself from thinking about it, but another DBT skill which can be helpful with this is the ‘leaves on a stream’ thought defusion exercise (also a mindfulness skill) where you acknowledge thoughts but don’t fixate on them, and visualise them like leaves floating down a stream- you’re aware of them but not focussing on them.  By trying to get rid of thoughts, especially obsessive thoughts, you actually reinforce them so this is a really useful skills to practise although, like nearly all the mindfulness skills, it takes a lot of practice to actually have an effect.

This whole idea reminds me of a Harry Potter quote from Prisoner of Azkaban where Sirius says to Harry, “Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters.  We’ve all got both light and dark inside us.  What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”  Even though I’ve read the book over and over since it was released in 1998, this quote still really gets to me and can still make me cry.  And it’s so true- no one’s perfect and it’s important not to expect people to be.  People have different perspectives and grow and change, and sometimes that means that a friendship can break down not because of anyone’s fault, just because of natural growth and change.  In the book, Sirius was betrayed by Peter Pettigrew who he had considered a friend but who had chosen to act on his ‘dark side’.  I think talking about Snape would need several posts to itself but the whole concept of friendship, love and change is prevalent throughout the Harry Potter books and it’s really helpful to look at it sometimes.  I love Luna’s quote “I liked the DA meetings.  It was like having friends” and for Luna, people accepting her and spending time with her is enough to count as friendship.  She doesn’t fixate on the relationships and genuinely does have a ‘beginner’s mind’ approach to friendships, and that really seems to work for her and she ends up with several ‘real’ friends which means more to her than it does to any other character (the linked pictures in her bedroom still make me feel emotional).

I’m going to finish by reposting the list of things I’ve realised recently about friendships from the Shakespeare post.  Hopefully some of this has made sense!

  1. Take every friendship at face value. Don’t overthink it, make assumptions, have unrealistic or idealistic expectations, or make any judgements at all. Try to take the friendship as it comes and use mindfulness or grounding techniques to manage anxiety.
  2. Friendships are fluid and changing. There is no such thing as a ‘best friend’ or ‘forever friendship’, however amazing that would be. Enjoy the relationship when you can but don’t have any expectations that it will last forever. Practise ‘beginner’s mind’ (seeing every experience as the first time you’ve experienced it, without any preconceptions or judgements) and don’t overthink it.
  3. People change and that’s part of life. If a friendship ends, it might not have anything to do with you whatsoever- the other person might have changed or moved on and THAT’S OK. Growth is part of life and people move on at different rates. That doesn’t make it any painful, but taking away the guilt or self-criticism will help you move on from it a lot more easily.
  4. Be open with people. Honesty and openness in relationships is the most important part of a healthy relationship and will reduce anxiety more than almost anything else. Anxiety and particularly paranoia come from uncertainty and thrive in self-doubt or assumptions. If you’ve got a gut reaction to something- check it out. Don’t let it spiral into full-on paranoia or depression because then everything’s skewed through a fog of thoughts and judgements and you’re likely to damage the relationship without realising it. Sounds cliched but if the other person’s worth being friends with, they’ll be honest with you.
  5. TRUST. This is one of the hardest ones for me and there’s different ways it’s relevant to friendships but the some of the key points are to trust that the friendship will still exist even if you’re not constantly contacting the other person, trust that the other person will be honest with you, and trust that the other person really does want to stay friends with you. I find all of these really hard, especially the last one, but they’re so important and I think they get easier the more you do them… It really relates back to the mindfulness idea and I’m trying really, really hard to use that in my current friendships.

 

Occlumency

At the risk of sounding like a slightly obsessive Harry Potter geek, Occlumency is actually a surprisingly useful way to deal with obsessive or paranoid thoughts!  The principles of it are similar to mindfulness in that you have to “empty your mind of all emotion” but I’ve found that by actually visualising it as closing off your mind from penetration by Voldemort (read: paranoid thoughts) it’s been weirdly helpful.  I got the idea completely by accident- I was having an intense paranoia attack where I was convinced that the reason I couldn’t see a friend’s WhatsApp ‘last seen’ was because she’d blocked me, thought I was messaging her too much and never wanted to speak to me again, and I tried to externalise the thoughts by imagining them as my ‘inner bully’ talking (see previous post).  Then Snape’s voice suddenly came into my head saying “I told you to empty yourself of emotion…You are allowing me access to memories you fear, handing me weapons!”  WOW.  It suddenly hit me that by allowing the bully in my head to access incredibly vulnerable and intense feelings and thoughts, I’m basically giving her the tools to make me paranoid and anxious.  So I’m making a conscious effort to reduce the ‘free floating’ emotions and anxieties in my mind to make them less accessible to the bully.  Watch this space!!  Will definitely be blogging more about this as I practise it…