Yellow Paint

It’s no secret that Vincent Van Gogh had a tumultuous life. Now regarded as one of the most influential and recognisable impressionist painters in history, he died at age 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound after suffering years of severe depression, anxiety, and frequent bouts of mental illness. For Van Gogh, the colour yellow was a symbol of happiness, and because of this, he used to eat yellow paint as he desperately thought it would get the happiness inside him. Many people decided he was mad for doing such a thing — because the paint was toxic — and it was blindly obvious to observers that eating paint could not possibly have any direct correlation to one’s happiness. 


 If you were so unhappy that even the maddest ideas could possibly work to bring you peace of mind and fleeting relief — such as painting the walls of your internal organs yellow — then of course you are going to do it. 

It’s really no different to falling in love or taking drugs; yes there’s a very tangible risk of getting your heart broken, or overdosing, but people still do it every day because for them – there’s always that chance it will make things better, that it will numb the pain… even for a little while.

Everybody has their own yellow paint.

Mental illnesses aren’t “cool”

I see far too many status updates on social media written by teens claiming benign factors in life are giving them ‘anxiety’, that they ‘suffer’ with ‘depression’, or that their ‘insomnia is a bitch’. Nothing irritates me more than uninformed ‘cool kids’ throwing around these words and thinking it gives them cred to be troubled, angst-ridden and suffering with grown up problems.

Real depression is not being able to get out of bed in the morning; a feeling of such profound emptiness and literally thinking you have nothing to live for. It’s not a fleeting feeling of sadness following a TV episode or crying because your parents just “don’t get you”

Real panic attacks and anxiety disorders make every little social event – and the build up to it – excruciatingly difficult. Real anxiety is not ‘triggered’ by not being able to find something to wear, or your hair “not behaving itself” – if you were really suffering with bad anxiety, you wouldn’t be capable of worrying about such trivial things – all your energy would go into worrying about where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, planning to find all the exits just in case, and working on trying to calm yourself down. Stop saying you’ve got fucking anxiety when you haven’t. It’s insulting to people who suffer with this fucking thing every single day to no prevail.

Oh you have ‘insomnia’? I’m sure I would have ‘insomnia’ if I was tweeting and tumblring all night and taking selfies until 7am, too. Real insomnia is lying in the pitch black, tossing and turning for hours on end desperately willing your mind to just shut the fuck off and let you sleep. It’s not being in a bad sleep routine, either. You might be up until the early hours of the morning – but what are you doing during the afternoon and early evening? What’s that? Sleeping? But I thought you said you have… Oh never mind.

I’m part of a generation that think it’s intensely cool and ‘s0o0o hipster’ to suffer with mental health problems. It’s good that at least these things are seemingly becoming less of a taboo and getting talked about I suppose… But if that means having hanger-ons joining the bandwagon because mental illnesses are the latest ‘trend’, I’m not so sure.

I just wanna be calm

I can’t remember the last time I was.

Uncomfortable, overwhelming, uncontrollable. A sudden head rush of irrational thoughts and then I’m suffocating in an enclosing headspace of adrenaline and dread. Rapid heartbeat, tight chest, throat closing up. Everyone and anyone and anyone and everything feels unfamiliar, obscure. Everything goes quiet. Do I fight or flee? More panic. How do I get out of this situation? What if this intensity never dies down? The colour and rationality and spontaneity from the world is gone. But it’s all in my mind, right?

I used to think I was scared of dying – but now I know that I’m scared of living, if living is like this.


Overcoming depersonalisation and derealisation

DP/DR are two symptoms which anxiety and depression sufferers will most likely be familiar with. They are terrifying feelings which played a huge part in my prolonged anxiety state and agoraphobia last summer. Before I give you my tips and help on how to control and ignore these feelings, let’s make sure you understand just what they are; the first step to overcoming a problem is understanding it.

Depersonalisation (DP) and derealisation (DR) are first and foremost, symptoms of anxiety, depression, prolonged stress/trauma or PTSD. They can also occur due to lack of sleep, and by the use of recreational drugs. People can get sudden, unexpected onsets of DP/DR – most often during or just before a panic/anxiety attack; or the DP/DR can be more chronic depending on the individual.

These two symptoms, although very similar and often co-existing, do carry distinctive differences:

Depersonalisation (DP)
You feel as though you are watching yourself act, running on autopilot, with seemingly no control over  situations. You may feel as if you as a person have changed, that you are not familiar with yourself, you feel almost dreamlike and unreal. Depersonalisation can result in very high anxiety levels – which often increase the perceptions – a vicious circle for sufferers.

When I suffered with depersonalisation I would pinch myself  to convince myself I was, in fact, awake. I would also cry into my bathroom mirror trying to recognise the reflection (sounds crazy, right? I had to avoid mirrors for a while).

Derealisation (DR)
Similar to DP, but different; you feel as though the external world is unreal; it’s lacking spontaneity, emotional depth. It almost sounds like a field of existential philosophy (and I, being interested in that, only found it made dealing with DR 100% times worse, haha).

The perceptions also stretch to looking at people (mine was particularly bad with family members) and feeling they’re unfamiliar, distant, and unreal.

To summarise; depersonalisation (DR) is a heightened sense of one’s self, whilst derealisation (DR) is more to do with your surroundings. They are both very disturbing, frightening feelings which unless someone has experienced them, it’s very hard to appreciate just how scary they are.

Some keywords for you to remember; symptomtemporary, acceptanceunderstanding.

DP and DR cannot exist without the core problem; whether it be your anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ocd, sleep depravation, etc. People go to seek help for these two symptoms alone (understandably, as they’re very prevalent and unpleasant), but to rid yourself of them – you have to understand what is causing them.

Believe it or not, DP and DR are defence mechanisms used by your body when it’s had enough – too much stress, trauma, anxiety, they exist to mentally protect you from more damage; temporarily shutting off, and somewhat detaching you in order to protect you.

What helped me:

  • Understanding DP/DR, what they are, and why they occur.
  • Acceptance. Philosophically, don’t question everything! (sounds rich coming from me – who’s #1 problem has always been questioning…) but seriously, I’ve learnt that sometimes, regardless how interested I am, it’s better to not know all the answers and secrets of the universe. Chill out and live.
  • Distraction. whether it’s school, being creative, babysitting, falling in love, these ‘normal’ (and very ‘real’) distractions can work wonders as they force you to focus on other things and so, you don’t really have the time to think about yourself. Distracting your mind is key. You have no idea how much I’ve spent on iPhone/iPad “brain game” apps over the past year. But they work!!
  • Spirituality. I bought “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama, and it changed my life. I’m not saying you have to become a buddhist, it’s just that book contains techniques which really helped me. I definitely recommend it.
  • This book also helped me a lot. It’s nothing that I didn’t know already, but I guess just having a self-help book right there in front of you is comforting in a way.
  • Don’t fight it. When I first started suffering badly, these sudden onsets of DP/DR used to terrify me, and I’d try and block them out (mainly shoving my headphones in and listening to music). Now this can work for some people, but it’s much better to face these feelings head-on and learning your triggers. This sort of applies to the next two bullet points, but start to try and notice patterns in your anxiety. 1) is there certain environments/people who make my anxiety worse? 2) is there certain places I’ve found myself avoiding? 3) is there certain (‘safe places’) environments/’safe people’ which help to subside my anxiety? 4) how long does it usually take for the initial panic to pass in a certain situation? etc.
  • Experience: sudden onsets of DP/DR used to really scare me and almost instantly bring on a panic attack. Now I’ve learnt that these feelings are harmless, no matter how intense they are initially, and that the longer I keep myself in a situation, the quicker they’ll pass. Fight or flight, you really have to fight all negative aspects of anxiety.
  • Documenting Progress: making notes/taking pictures/etc documenting your progress and how things have changed for you is really important in recovery. I still have screen shots of status updates I wrote absolutely terrified of driving ten minutes down the road. Now on bad days (which we all get), where I feel I’m “never going to get better” or I feel nothing much has changed, I look back and appreciate just how bad I was and how far I’ve been able to come. The good days will outweigh the bad days 100%
  • Knowing that nothing lasts forever. People change, situations change, and nothing ever stays the same. No matter how hopeless or difficult things are now, life does inevitably change and one day all this will seem like a drop in the ocean. Don’t linger on this, keep positive, and stay strong. You can do it!

Suffering with anxiety made me a less dismissive, more patient person. I’ve always been hyper-sensitive, but I’ve noticed I appreciate other peoples struggles a lot more now – because at one point, every living second was a struggle for me. Everyone really is fighting their own hidden battle.

Agoraphobic teen releases her first single

Meet Jemma Pixie Hixon; a 21 year old from Worcester who’s grown increasingly popular singing covers on YouTube. She’s beautiful, talented, has been featured on Kerrang! radio, MTV, various news websites…

Oh, and she hasn’t left her house in over two years.


Jemma’s suffered with severe panic and anxiety since the age of 6, which unfortunately developed into agoraphobia during her teenage years, and now she’s been left completely housebound. Still, this doesn’t stop Jemma — she recently released her debut single “Never Let Go” — which was completely recorded in her bedroom.

Her story has touched me in a very personal way; although nothing like Jemma’s condition, I have been through similar issues throughout the past year. I developed agoraphobia due to anxiety and was housebound for a few months… it’s a terribly isolated, lonely, depressing thing to go through and I find it completely inspirational that Jemma isn’t letting this stop her from achieving her dreams.

When you’re suffering with agoraphobia it’s so easy to be sucked into an abyss of self-pity and depression. You feel trapped, helpless, frustrated. You give up. It’s clear that Jemma is not even close to giving up. Battling with something so intense at such a young age… it’s obvious that she’s a determined and incredibly strong individual.

I wish her all the happiness and luck in the world, and when she recovers – which I’m sure she will – I will be first in line to her show.