How to Beat the Christmas Blues

Merry Christmas my deers (heh heh). Although it seems that everyone is just a little bit merrier at this time of year, some people struggle more than normal during the festive season. If you are prone to depression or anxiety, Christmas can be a really challenging and difficult time. Here are some tips to help you beat those festive blues:

1. Be sociable

It’s so easy to hide away in this cold and dark weather. Staying inside and shutting yourself off from the world, however, can be damaging in the long term. Meeting friends and family for a meal or even a coffee will automatically make you feel better and you’ll feel good for leaving your house, if even for an hour. Aim to stick to coffee or tea instead of alcohol, which is a depressant and will ultimately make you feel quite down. Hot chocolate is always delicious 😋

2. Make your ‘alone time’ productive

It’s important to strike a balance between socializing and relaxing alone. Time by yourself is necessary and healthy. For some people, however, it can be destructive and lonely. To combat negative feelings, go for a walk somewhere quiet and pretty (this time of year is so beautiful!). Alternatively, you could colour, draw, listen to music, meditate…whatever brings you peace. Don’t let those negative thoughts overwhelm you. If you’re busy, they can’t!

3. Don’t over-indulge

I know. I know. Christmas is all about going BIG. The problem is, however, for people with anxiety, over-indulging in food and alcohol and spending too money is a huge cause of stress. You should absolutely enjoy yourself but remember: moderation is key. Your belly and your bank balance will thank you for it in January!

4. Open up

Some people feel that they can’t express their negative or depressive feelings during the festive period because they’ll be a perceived as a burden or a ‘buzz-kill.’ The truth is, your mental health is important to those that love you and opening up to them shows them that you love and trust them. Bottling up negative thoughts is not helpful to anyone. Sharing your feelings is unbelievably helpful and therapeutic.

5. Find peace in the chaos

Christmas is an insanely busy and manic time. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and over-stimulated by this. Remember to take the time to unwind and switch off. Sitting in a quiet room alone for ten minutes in total silence is a wonderful way of relaxing and de-stressing. Listening to Christmas carols is one of my favourite ways to unwind. Just listen to how peaceful this is:

Carols from Kings

6. Be kind and spread the love

This time of year can become ridiculously consumerist and materialistic. It’s a lovely feeling to just be kind and thoughtful and it costs nothing! When you are kind to others, it is a wonderful and rewarding feeling that just can’t be bought. Helping out a family member, volunteering for a charity or cooking someone dinner are just some of the kind deeds you can do. The feeling of being the cause of someone’s happiness is really uplifting. You will find when you are kind, you will receive kindness in return.

There you have it guys! I hope this was helpful to some of you and I hope everybody has a peaceful Christmas 🎄

Anxiety and Me 

Hi everyone! 

Well, it’s been a while. As usual. It’s been a little crazy for me lately…well crazier than usual, anyway. 

So back in December I was diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder and put on Zoloft (and xanax to help me sleep). I have been through some rough patches in my life but I have never, ever felt so low. I thought I knew what anxiety was but nope, not until it hit me full force in the face like a wet fish. 

I had to take time off work. I felt alone and helpless. It led to huge strains with my family and with my boyfriend. I never knew what it would feel like to not want to get out of bed, nevermind leave the house. I never knew just how miserable a person could feel; how panicked and how vulnerable. 

The road to recovery will be long and difficult. Maybe I will never fully recover, but I can learn to live with this. I certainly am feeling much better and am able to do many more things now than I could have last month. My boyfriend has been wonderful, my family has been supportive and I’ve had a close friend be there when I needed her. She was also diagnosed with a GAD and we’ve been able to support each other. I think I’ve taken her for granted in the past. It’s only when you hit rock bottom that you really appreciate the genuine friends who don’t hesitate to make you a priority. I hope she feels the same about my friendship. 

The past few weeks have been much better. The first of the month was the one year anniversary of my aunt’s death from cancer. I spent the day with my family and just knowing how close our bond is made me feel really special. So too did the numerous messages from close friends and colleagues who remembered her anniversary. It really was as good a feeling as any pill. Sometimes people really surprise me with how thoughtful they can be. 

So guys, I’m doing well. Really well, in fact. I’m working part-time again and I love my job. I’m taking much better care of my health by exercising and eating well. I’m writing a lot and learning to love my own company. I’m laughing again and playing with my nieces and nephew. I’m running through fields with my dogs (LOL at that mental image) and bopping my cat on the head with her toys. All in all, life is good right now. There will be a time when I’ll struggle again, but I’ll be okay. I will always end up okay.

Who wouldn’t be when they’ve got unicorn slippers? I repeat, UNICORN SLIPPERS 🦄🦄


I hope all of you have been doing well, and if not then feel free to tell me about it. It’s always good to talk, right? Now let’s all have tea and freak out over how adorable my slippers are. 

Here

I see you suffer
Hiding behind the burnt skin and thinning hair
Smiling a little weakly
A feeble frail finger taps a hollow cheek to where my blood filled lips can touch
I fear a kiss may kill you

I see you moving
Crossing deserts in your kitchen
Glancing through your window at horizons you’ll never reach
The timer on the oven seems to be moving too quickly, too quickly
The dinner won’t be ready
The time will be up too soon

I see you folding children’s jumpers
Holding them close to your chest for seconds before you let them go
You’ll have to show them how to get creases out, so they will know
When the folding is done, and plans are made
You need to sit

I see you now, as you are, and I see you as you were
Vibrant, dancing, living,
Teaching, learning, yearning, dreaming
I see you now, hopeless, lost, frightened, blind…but at least

I see you

-JG

A Poem for Parents

Julie over at Musings from a workaholic wrote a lovely post about her sons and the various activities they got up to as kids.

It reminded me of an Irish poem that my parents had up on our fridge when I was young. I will post it in it’s original Irish form (and it is much nicer in Irish) but I’ll also post an English translation. I think those of you with kids will love it.

Subh Milis

Bhí subh milis
Ar bhaschrann an dorais
Ach mhúch mé an corraí
Ionam d’éirigh,
Mar smaoinigh mé ar an lá
A bheas an baschrann glan,
Agus an láimh bheag
Ar iarraidh.

Jam

There was jam
On the door handle
But I quenched the anger
That rose in me
Because I thought of the day
That the door handle would be clean
And the little hand
Would be gone

Seamus O’ Neill

Also, a big thank you to Lydia for the Sunshine Award. I know I’ve taken forever to get to it so apologies! To spread a little sunshine to your day, here’s a picture of me on my graduation day:

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Note: That is not actually me. I’m much less adorable.

Tell me your best bad joke

Hey there lovelies 😀

I had a lovely time visiting home, even if I did get lured into a banjo duet with a questionable looking kid (this didn’t actually happen, I’m implying that the area I’m from is similar to the place portrayed in the movie Deliverance and if you didn’t get that, well, maybe I’m just not that funny *cries*).

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I got to catch up with my lovely family, and even ate some Easter eggs (I’m writing this on a treadmill…okay, I’m writing this on my sofa while changing the channels with my foot, HAPPY NOW?!). Tomorrow, I’m going jogging. Or having a cardiac arrest. Only time will tell.

Anyway, I had such an amazing time with my family that I actually cried when I was leaving them. I curled up in my mother’s arms like a baby. A giant woman-baby. Well, that’s disturbing.

For the journey home, my mother amused me with terrible jokes. Here are some of her best:

What did the green grape say to the purple grape?
Breathe, idiot! BREATHE

Why do swallows fly south for the winter?
Because it’s too far to walk.

What did the Lion King say to Simba when he was walking too slow?
MUFASA!

These were so bad that I inevitably ended up laughing at my mother (especially because she thinks she’s HILARIOUS!) and I was cheered up in no time 🙂

So, what’s your best bad joke? If you share it with me I will smile and I have a wonderfully creepy smile, so everyone wins. Tell me your bad jokes and I’ll have eater’s remorse while having nightmares about giant Easter eggs chasing me (I’m not even lying, that has happened). As Snoop Dogg would say, PEACE!

My Happy Place

“Just, I don’t know…kick it in.”
“I can’t just kick it in. What if I break it?”

My boyfriend and I are standing at the door of an abandoned cottage. I know the walls are whitewashed, but they now appear a sinister mossy green colour after years of neglect. The thatched roof is on the verge of collapse and as I look up, I spy a small tree sprouting up from behind the chimney.

Jack shoulder-charges into the door again. It doesn’t budge. Shoulder and ego bruised, he turns to me. “You know technically, we’re breaking and entering here.”

“Calm down Sipowicz,” I snap, “this is my grandparent’s house. I have every right to be here.”

As a child, this was my favourite home to visit. I use the word ‘home’ because it was a home in every sense of the word.

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Located miles away from a main road, down a tiny boreen (boreen is the anglicised version of the Irish word ‘bóithrín’, meaning ‘little road’), it could have been an illustration in a Grimm’s fairytale. Surrounded by lush greenery and colourful flowers, it was a simple whitewashed cottage with a beautiful straw thatched roof.
Down the garden, a swing hung from a large oak tree. A stream separated the pretty garden from my grandparent’s vegetable patch, where they grew all their own produce. Hens roamed freely out in the yard and the din of my grandfather’s beehive could be heard faintly from the front door.

Inside the house, there was three rooms. Three rooms in the entire house; the main room, which functioned as a kitchen and living room in one, and two bedrooms. That was it. When I was a very young child, my grandparents didn’t have electricity, so they heated their water in a large pot above the fire. The fire was the centre of their home; a beautiful open fire that seemed to be eternally lighting. There was a wheel beside it that you had to spin in order to stoke the flames and as kids, that was our favourite novelty activity in the house.

My grandmother was always baking. Her favourites were apple and rhubarb pies and different types of breads. Everyone’s absolute favourite was her soda bread and I can still smell the bread baking in the oven and wafting all around the cottage as we waiting impatiently at the table. She would always let me ‘help’ her, though I wasn’t tall enough to reach the counter top and I always ended up with flour all over my face. She would construct a miniature version of whatever she was baking for me and then tell everyone proudly that I made it.

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When I cast my mind back to my childhood, this is the place that I felt happiest. Whether I was acting as my grandmother’s sous chef or evading cantankerous hens in the yard, I was carefree in this idyllic haven.

Then, suddenly, my father and my grandparents stopped speaking. I’m not going to explore the reasons behind their rift here, but it was a serious falling out. When you are a child, you are completely unaware of the complexities of adult relationships and I was no different. I had no idea why we had stopped visiting my grandparents; all I knew was that we had.

My grandmother died first. When we heard she was sick, we went to see her in hospital. Although she didn’t have the strength to speak, I will never forget how she squeezed my hand. I will also never forget the single tear that slid down her wrinkled face as she smiled weakly at me.

When she passed away, my father and his father still did not mend their rift. I never got to return to the cottage while anyone was living there. My grandfather died a few years later, and the house was abandoned. As the years passed, it seemed to exist solely in my memory. I could not bring myself to visit it.

One day, I visited my own father in the house I had grown up in. As I prepared coffee for us both, I spied something hanging on the wall. It was a commemorative plate, with a prayer and a picture of Pope John Paul II. One identical to this had hung above my grandparent’s fireplace.

“Dad, where did you get that?” I pointed to the wall. His eyes followed my finger and a sad smile settled on his face.

“I got it from your grandparent’s house,” he answered. There was a silence while I attempted to figure out how he could have done this. He must have registered the look of bewilderment on my face. “I went to the house a few weeks ago.”

I can’t describe how I felt on hearing this. You know that feeling you get when you’re not sure whether you’re ecstatically happy or heartbroken? I just shook my head when words evaded me. Dad looked sympathetically at me.

“The door is unlocked. It is abandoned and no one has been there for a long time. You should go and see it but…be careful.”

Be careful. I still remember him saying that, because it seemed an odd choice of words.

I asked Jack to come with me. I felt apprehensive and I didn’t quite know why. This was the place where all my happiest childhood memories lived.

The pathway to the house was completely overgrown, so we had to negotiate through briars and brambles. Several cuts and swear words later, we were standing in front of the cottage.

It was different. Of course it was, it was years later. Still, I felt a profound sadness looking at it. The clean whitewashed walls were now covered with years of fungal growth. The roof was beginning to cave in. I imagined the house like a soldier returning from war; damaged, ravaged, broken and changed forever.

Tears streamed down my face as I took in the nettles, the briars and the green moss that seemed to have infested every beautiful inch of the house. Jack squeezed my hand and planted a soft kiss on my head.

“Are you okay?” he asked tentatively, as I dried my eyes.

“Yes. I’m okay. There’s just such a profound sadness in knowing that this is what that beautiful, magical place has become. This house was the most beautiful part of my life and now it barely even exists.”

We stood looking at it, until I felt ready to go inside. When Jack finally got the door to open, the smell of dampness and neglect welcomed us. I stepped in gingerly to the main room. Dampness crept up the walls. The whole place was shrouded in darkness.

As dreary as the place looked, it wasn’t what affected me the most. The mouldy surrounding moved out of focus. Everything was exactly as I had remembered it; perfectly preserved like it had just jumped from straight from my memory. My grandmother’s Blue Willow China adorned the large oak cabinet, my grandfather’s patchwork blanket still rested on the back of his rocking chair, cutlery lay in the drawer by the sink just as it always had. The beds were still made. Pictures of relatives hung on the walls. I could almost hear the squabbling of all of us children over the wheel by the fire. I could almost feel my grandmothers gnarled and warm hand on mine as we baked together. The stories that a neighbour used to tell of the púca and the banshee when he visited echoed around the room.

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I stood still, taking it all in with a find smile. Jack slid his arm around me.

“It’s beautiful,” he whispered. I nodded. It was no longer confined to the deepest recesses of my memory, but instead was here in front of me; a house filled with stories.

“I’m ready to go. At least this time, I can say goodbye.” I felt a strong sense of comfort leaving and I feel it now. Knowing that the house is preserved like that, with all the utensils that my grandmother lovingly used still hanging up over the cooker, gives me a warm feeling that I will hold onto for a long time.

As we drove back to our own home that summer’s evening, I considered my dad’s words- “be careful”. I now knew what he meant. Revisiting old memories can be a painful business. It can leave you weary and unfulfilled. This wasn’t like that for me though. I left that house that day knowing that it was just as perfect as I had always remembered. I realised that it belonged in my past, and it was a part of my life that I would never forget. It’s time for me to make some new memories.

Do you have a cherished childhood memory? A place you go to (even in your mind) when you need comfort?

My First Poem

I have never written a poem on my own before and I don’t know how this happened. I wrote this, on my phone (which is very unpoetic of me) and in less than ten minutes. It just poured out (probably because it’s not very good, but I suppose you should never ignore what your mind sends you). It is dark and personal but I felt like posting it. I teach poetry comprehension on a daily basis, but I have always struggled with writing it. So here you go guys, my first poem:

Mother

I couldn’t have known when in your arms
That you were longing for something else, somewhere else
Away from my cries and outstretched arms

I couldn’t have known why the tears in my blue eyes
Mirrored the tears in your blue eyes
I couldn’t have known how my screams echoed around an empty room
Bare
The pictures of faraway places ripped from the walls
You would never go there

When I laughed it broke your heart
I didn’t understand, you thought
I didn’t yet know pain, yet I saw it everyday
In your white knuckles and your strained smile
Assuring visitors of my placidity

Now, a woman, I see you smile
Sometimes you laugh
But she knows the pain you harbour
She remembers the tears
She remembers studying your face, searching for comfort and hope

The baby
The girl
The child

Don’t worry guys, I’ll be back to my weirdly humourous self soon.

How to be Irish

On Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone likes to be a little Irish. If you would like to pass as genuinely Irish, follow these tips:

1. We like to talk about the weather. A lot. If you utter any of the following phrases, you will pass as Irish every time:

Grand day, isn’t it?

Grand soft day out now.

Jaysus, it’s roasting (anytime the temperature rises above 15 degrees Celsius).

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2. We can’t take compliments

“Oh this? €5 in Penneys, girl. Makes me look like a heifer.”

3. We can’t give compliments

“Happy birthday, ya dope!”

4. We can make fun of ourselves…

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5. …but if someone else does:

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6. We blame everything on the English

“It’s raining out. The English probably sent it.”

7. We can’t be affectionate

We leave that to our cheek-kissing, randy neighbours on the continent. As my Grandfather would have said: “hugging every time they say hello, pah! Cop on to yerselves!”

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7. We are unimpressed with anything fancy

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8. If you’re not drinking, there has to be a valid excuse

“Oh, you’re not drinking? Are you on antibiotics?”

9. We are superstitious

“I’ve a job interview tomorrow, so I’m going to go wave at some magpies for luck.”
Natch.

10. Every illness can be fixed with flat 7up

“Oh, your appendix is about to burst. Flat 7up. Be grand.”

“Oh, you’re bleeding internally? Flat 7up. Be grand.”

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11. We really do love potatoes, but we call them “spuds”

“A dinner without spuds? I mean, I just never thought about it before…I suppose I could try it but I’m skeptical.”

12. Our mothers are brilliant…but terrifying

“You failed your test?! Right, I’m getting the wooden spoon.”

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13. Leaving the immersion on fills us with dread

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Are you annoying?

I may have already written a post about this, but I’m going to do it again (which is an example of one of my worst habits: laziness).

I have lots of habits that may be deemed…undesirable. But hey, I’m not perfect and I don’t pretend to be (except when my boss is around).

Here is a list of my annoying traits: (I’m doing this to make you feel better about yourself, how great am I?)

1. I’m lazy

I used to be the definition of organised. Lately though, I’ve been giving less and less of a crap. It’s usually this time of year that I’m at my worst. Legend has it that I was a grizzly bear in a past life. So technically, I should still be hibernating.

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2. I don’t finish interesting stories because of afore-mentioned laziness

My conversations with people usually follow this format:

“Oh my God Jane! What happened then?”

“Erm, dunno. Can’t remember really.”

(Which is a lie, I usually can remember. I’m just too lazy to say.)

3. I zone out easily

I lose concentration very very quickly. Very, very… SQUIRREL!

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4. I have a terrible memory

“Hey Jane. Remember when we went on that shopping trip to London?”

*Blank Jane face*

“…and we met Richard Branson?”

*Blank Jane face*

“…erm… he gave us a ride in his private jet?”

*Blank Jane face*

“…but there was a fire? We had to have an emergency landing in the middle of the Pacific?”

*Blank Jane face*

This happens a surprising amount.

5. I always predict the end of films

What can I say? It’s a talent.
But I do appreciate that it’s incredibly annoying for my friends.

“It’s so obvious that Pablo is the killer. He just bought a shovel.”

“JAAAAANE!”

It’s not my fault that I have an imaginary degree in criminology.

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6. I have all of the emotions

Jack: Love, why are you crying?
Me: That old lady *sniff* got scammed out of hundreds of euro…
Jack: Um… You’re crying at an insurance ad?
Me: SHE HAS NOONE TO LOOK AFTER HER!

7. I don’t really eat meals

I just go to the fridge and pick at different foods. Jar of Nutella? Breakfast. Pickles? Lunch. Cheese? Dinner. Sorted.

What are your worst habits?

Jack is thinking of starting a blog which makes me have all the feelings.