What are the most beautiful things in life to you and how have they impacted you?
I definitely think one of the most beautiful things in life in when you’re with your friends, it’s warm, you’re sat in a field, beach or a beer garden. Post exams so there’s no stress. The drinks are cold and the evenings are long. You all sit around and chat shit until the early hours of the morning. Evening’s like that soothe my extroverted soul.
Another beautiful thing is when you and your friends get into a club, you’re all dressed to the nines, drinks in hand, and then your favourite song comes on. You all sing along at the top of your lungs, unspecified shapes being thrown. And the boom, another banger comes on. In favt, the rest of the night is just tune after tune until eventually they play “the time of my life”. Then you all stumble to the kebab shop, still singing one line of a song you heard about midway through the night because that’s the only thought your drunken mind can come up with.
I love my family a lot, and hearing any of them laugh with their whole body gives me such a lovely feeling. It’s something I’ve missed a lot at my time at uni. You know what, just hearing anyone laugh like that is beautiful.
I recently met someone who looked similar to and pulled the exact same facial expressions as a boyfriend I used to have. There was one time with said boyfriend after we’d just had sex; I was lying in the bed and he was stood by the door in his boxers. His cat came in and nuzzled on his leg, and he was just stood there petting it. I could not have been more in love with him. Something about watching him be so gentle and caring made my heart ache. It was a beautiful moment. When I think about what I want from someone if I marry them, that’s the way I want to feel.
It’s very superficial, but in the last couple of years I’ve been able to embrace my hair. I think the curls are beautiful. They make me feel beautiful.
I saw your feature on The Purple Diary Project, in which you stated that you became a wellness advocate at your university. Could you tell us a little about that and what you hope to accomplish?
Within my university we had a team of wellbeing advocates who can “specialise” in certain categories. The ones that I cover are sexual health and sexual assault/violence. Last year I was able to help with the SHAG and SA/SV week campaigns. It also put me in a great position to set up a Sexpression branch at my university. I would really like to set up something to help victims of sexual assault/violence, but with everything going on with lockdown, I’m struggling to get my head into gear with what I’ve already got on my plate. It’s also difficult to set something up when we’re not on campus.
We’ve also had some terrible drug-related deaths, so I am helping on a campaign for drug safety. It’s heartbreaking to see the amount of deaths of young people which could have potentially been prevented if there was a little more information out there. To be honest, any death of a young person that could have been stopped is a problem. My main focus is based around sex, but I might look into mental health with the current lack of sex going on at the moment.
I also learned that you’re a sex educator. It’s a known fact that sexual activity, whether with partner(s) or with yourself, can provide necessary emotional and psychological benefits however “sex therapy” is not commonly considered as a form of therapy. Do you think it should be? Why or why not?
It’s very difficult because you might be putting a vulnerable person in a situation where they aren’t fully able to consent to or set boundaries in, which leaves them open to abuse and assault. However, like you said, the benefits of sexual activity are there. An easier middle ground could be teaching sessions for a person and their partner, sort of like antenatal classes but for sex and intimacy. Or workshops in which the therapy is discussed so that they can go off and practice on their own. I also saw an interview with someone who was a cuddle therapist I think, and one with a dry humping specialist, so these things do exists in a very small number, and do face a lot of controversy, but they are a possibility. However, previous cases of therapist-based abuse mean that these would have to be incredibly heavily regulated.
How has the pandemic affected you mentally? What things did you learn about yourself during the course of this pandemic that you didn’t know before?
I was doing really well with my mental health and the pandemic was like being booted in the face. I didn’t feel as bad over summer and the first lockdown because even though we weren’t allowed to go anywehre and it was a scary time, the weather was nice, I could sit in the garden and go for walks later in the day. Coming back to uni and Newcastle and not being able to do all the things I enjoyed in first year was really strange. For a city that has such an incredible nightlife, it was weird to be back home in time for the 10 o’clock news. Even things as simple as going to zumba or going to a lecture were all gone. I really started pushing myself and putting more effort into my sexual health work from July, but now that it gets dark at 4 and it’s too cold to do anything and I’m living on my own, it’s really hard to feel good. At the best of times I get really bad SAD, let alone in the current situation. I want to be able to answer this question positively, but I’m not feeling so positive at the moment.
I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself during the pandemic is that I can get better just by not getting worse. They say “time is the greatest healer” and I definitely believe that. The last major trauma I dealt with was when I was 15, and dealing with my most recent trauma has been very different. I was doing remarkably well and then everything I’d put into place (councelling, socialising, exercise, freedom) had gone. I had the biggest breakdown I’ve had for maybe 4 years in April. I think a lot of what we think about healing comes from the idea of doing things to make what’s happened better, but actually it can be as simple as making it through each day. I am doing better than I was then but when lockdown first started I didn’t think I would.
What self-care practices do you recommend? Furthermore, why is it important to scope out time for yourself each day?
My favourite self-care practice is dancing, singing, or having a wank. All of these are pretty convenient and don’t necessarily require any equipment. Also I make a good playlist.
It’s important to take time for yourself because your mind, brain and body will be one of, if not the first thing to tell you if something is wrong. Knowing where you’re at emotionally, mentally, and physically is so incredibly important in ways we don’t realise until we start putting practices in place for ourselves.
Are there any specific psychological conditions/disorders that mean a lot to you? Why do they hold importance and how can we, as a community, help and provide support to people who go through them?
I hold a soft personal spot for schizophrenia. It’s something that is so strongly stigmatized and it pisses me off. There was a survey done a while ago in the 00s I think about what group of people was feared the most. Schizophrenics were at the top of the list until they added drug addicts. It wasn’t a particularly nice survey to have done. There is this idea that people with schizophrenia are only these wildly delusional people who talk nonsense and are a threat to everyone and themselves that we see so often portrayed in the media. It needs to be recognised as more of a spectrum. I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel like this. Just because there might be more than one voice in one’s head, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that is a threatening voice. It can literally just be an extra voice, and extra part to an internal monologue. Extra company if you will.
We have to change the way we think about it so that if people need help, they can get it without fear of judgement or punishment.
Why do you think prioritizing mental health is so important, especially for youth?
Because suicide is the second biggest cause of death in under 25s and it really shouldn’t be. We would never look at something causing physical harm in the same way and just leave it, so why would we do that with mental health?
When I got to uni, my mental health was fantastic. Truly something else. I cannot even begin to explain the difference it made in my life. My resilience was phenomenal. It doesn’t mean I didn’t struggle with things, but it meant that I could be a whole lot more than what I was.
Who have been your biggest role-models or resources in times of unsureness, grief, and healing?
Absolutely my mum. I swear if there was a fair usage policy on unlimited minutes, I would have used them on her. She has been my rock throughout everything this last year. I knew it was going to be hard to live so far away from home (I’m from just outside London living in Newcastle) but she has been there for me through and through. Even when I had to call her at stupid o’clock. She wasn’t impressed, but she did answer nonetheless.
My friends are phenomenal. I always refer to my group of friends as my team because the always have my back. I’ve dealt with some brutal stuff over the last year and I would not have been able to pull through in the way that I had if it weren’t for them. You know when someone says “call me/come over anytime, or I’m always here”? Well I’ve needed that on a couple of occasions this year and each of them did as they said they would. I have no doubt in the strength of my friendships, and they play a massive part in what I am able to heal from.
One thing that really helps me in times of unsureness is doing what I can to know where I’m at. It sounds really obvious, but given the way everything has panned out since March, having my own projects to work on has really grounded me. Do I know what is going on with university work? No. Do I know what content I’m posting this week? Defintiely. Do I know what’s going on with my living situation? No. Did I plan, create and launch my own merch? God yeah I did. Doing things in my life that I have complete control over soothes me when everything else has gone tits up.
What does mental health mean to YOU?
Mental health means not saying “kill myself” when something goes wrong in my life. First of all, it’s incredibly insensitive. But having my mental health at a point where I don’t want to die is something I have to work on – it’s not just going to come overnight. I saw a post about how not saying “kill myself” is one of the first steps to changing your mental health (I think) and you know what? They were right. I want to feel like myself, and good mental health comes with that for me.
Is there anything else you would like Revive’s audience to know about you?
As a young child, I was sometimes incredibly shy. Now I’ve been on BBC 3 explicitly talking about my sex life. I am one hell of an incredible woman now, but I have not always been like this.