Because You Fell Out Of Love With Me

Thought Catalog

I won’t even count the number of days, but it feels like a lifetime already. 

I can’t remember the last time I thought of you and smiled genuinely. When I think you, I’m brought to tears. I miss you. 

I miss all the random laughs we would have talking about nonsense. Now when we talk, we don’t really talk. We just stay on the line while doing something else. That’s how we talk nowadays. 

It used to be me talking about my day; you telling me all the great things that have been happening to you. Now, we have the fights. You’d be arguing about how I don’t understand you, I’d be crying while I do the same. And then we’d give up the fight and just sleep it off. 

And then we try one more day. We try to forget last night’s pain by starting fresh the next morning…

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“If you are chronically down, it is a lifelong fight to keep from sinking” – Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

The untimely death of Robin Williams brought up a whole tsunami of emotions in me and now I’m consequently sat here at 2am writing this. Happy Tuesday.

So.

Depression.

I bet that made someone feel uncomfortable.

Broken leg.

Pretty sure that didn’t. Feel free to challenge me.

It makes me feel physically sick that mental illness is still a taboo subject in 2014. And before you say it, I’m well aware that there’s something overwhelmingly oxymoronic about that sentence. If I were to fall down with a crippling physical illness right now, I could confidently bet that a small army of people would come rushing to my side, positively showering me with sympathy and Anadin Extra. Now, if I were to fall down on the pavement sobbing and holding up a repeat prescription of Prozac, people would most definitely alter their route to avoid me.

But we don’t do that. We don’t cry in public. We don’t show people we’re hurting. And why not? Because we’re not broken on the outside, we’re ever so inconveniently broken on the inside. And that’s a problem. A big one.

As a general rule I tend to refrain from talking about my mental health (making this post seemingly self-contradictory in places, I know) but, nevertheless, here I am. It used to terrify me that people would label me an ‘attention seeker’, but over the past few years I’ve started to view those two words in a completely different light. There’s nothing wrong with seeking attention when you’re trying to save your life. If I hadn’t sought attention, I may not be here today, much like many others. I would’ve been labeled ‘tragic’, or something equally cliché by people who barely knew me. Oh, and the old favourite, people definitely wouldn’t have ‘seen it coming’. Of course not. Because if you don’t seek attention, then how the hell are people supposed to foresee the inevitable? They’re not. And that’s that. All of a sudden you’re in a vicious circle with no guidebook, no phone-a-friend, and no sparkly iPhone app to tell you what the heck to do. Well… Great.

I’ve had my heart broken a grand total of once. And when I say broken, I mean blended (definitely just wrote that as ‘blendered’). Juiced. Chewed up a few thousand times and violently spat out again. Spat under a bus. Under a double decker bus. I think you get the point. I got hurt – really hurt – and it sucked. Bad.

Throughout this period, of which we shall ever so affectionately call ‘Missing: Natalie’s Smile’, I learnt many a life lesson. One being that people will walk out of your life because of mental illness. They’ll cross the street to avoid you. They’ll block your number. Yet, the greatest part of all, they’ll always turn up at your funeral. They’ll probably round it off with a melodramatic performance to rival Meryl Streep too. Salt, wound, anyone? I’ve seen it happen more than once and I’m sure I’ll see it happen again. It’s the age old saying that people only care when you’re dead. Well, some people appear to only understand mental illness when you’re dead too. But it’s not understanding, is it? It’s following the crowd. It’s putting up the Facebook status that everyone expects. Much the same if someone were to die of a physical illness, only this time there was no sympathy beforehand, no ‘Get Well Soon’ card, and definitely no phone call. Mental illness has a habit of driving people away and, just sometimes, there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. As I’m loving the clichés this evening, you well and truly find out who your real friends are when something like this hits you.

Bringing me back to Robin Williams, it’s become increasingly evident that people are forever portraying themselves to be far more understanding when it’s a public figure associated with depression. I’m in no way belittling the situation. Every death is devastating and of course people within the public eye will gather more attention. Rightly so in Robin Williams’ case, especially after all he contributed to society. My point is this. Where were you when it was your friends struggling? Your family? Where were you when your best friend was crying on the bathroom floor at 3am, terrified to call anyone in fear of being laughed at, patronised, or dismissed? Where were you?*

*For all I know, you might well have been there. If so, great. You’re an awesome human being and I hope that one day I come across you.

In reference to the above ramble, Stephen Fry sums up my point way more eloquently that I could ever dream of doing (definite subtle fangirling, don’t judge) –

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

Puuuuuh-reach. Thanks to my friends who stuck by me. You’re totally amazing and I love you to pieces. But you already knew that, right? Now you reading this (so impolite of me, I apologise) go and do the same for someone you love. Go and ask them if they’re doing OK, how their day’s been, how their job is, even how their morning coffee was. Anything and everything. Please, if you do just one thing today, give someone 5 minutes of your time. You never know what someone else is going through (and nor should you, unless they’ve shouted it from the rooftops), but nevertheless, a kind word can really brighten someone’s day. In the most urgent of situations, it can save a life.

Side note, just as I finished writing this, I refreshed my Twitter page to see the following.

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Firstly, unfollowed. Secondly, really? REALLY, though?

You matter. You really, really matter. To me, to your friends, to your family. You are loved beyond comprehension and you contribute so much to the world. Please, if you take anything from this, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. People do care if you’re miserable, I know I do, and there is certainly no law obligating you to be happy. People have bad days, it happens. Sometimes, people have bad months, years, lives. That happens too. It’s time to stop acting like it doesn’t.

Finally, I hope you’re doing OK today. I really do.

Nat x

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Some helpful links:

Samaritans (27 hours a day, 365 days a year) – 08457 90 90 90 / http://www.samaritans.org

Mind (9am-6pm, Mon-Fri) – 0300 123 3393 / http://www.mind.org.uk/

NHS – http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

Because I’m 21. And that’s what 21 year olds do.

Disclaimer: To prevent the inevitable backlash from people arguing that I’ve generalised an entire age group, this is what SOME 21 year olds do. As do some 19 year olds. And some 99 year olds.

Recently I’ve been called the following: Childish, Young, Only Just 21, and my personal favourite, Adult-In-Training. Yes. Thank you. I am, obviously, 21 years old. Since we’ve established that fact, let’s examine why this is such an issue .

I go out with the intention of being home at a reasonable hour, yet still, without fail, manage to end up missing one shoe at 4am, crying on my friend’s shoulder about where my life went so horrifically wrong. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And that’s what 21 year olds do.

I procrastinate on every single assignment and I make to-the-second revision timetables with no intention of ever sticking to them. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And sometimes 21 year olds don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes they just can’t. 

I love you one day, I hate you the next. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And 21 year olds are still learning how to love themselves, never-mind someone else. Give me a few years. 

I twist my words when I talk to ‘adults’. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And your patronising look coupled with your meek attempt at a sympathetic smile is massively off putting. You were all 21 once. Give us a break. 

I have nightmares about my £27,000 uni fees. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And the Government totally screwed me over. 

I book 3 holidays when I really, really don’t want to revise. Why? 

Because I want to believe there’s something else out there other than revision, exams, coursework, and education-induced misery. 

FYI: There is. And it’s great. Do it. 

I order wine instead of tequila. Why? 

Because prospective employers don’t take to salt and lemon all that well. Nor does my liver. Oh, and especially the taxi floor. (Sorry, 760760. My 19th Birthday wasn’t a great one, was it?)

Despite this, I still do a tequila shot or two. Why? 

Because I’m Only Just 21. And I’m still not ready to let go of my teenage years. Or tequila. 

I eat Dominos and immediately complain that I’m fat. On Twitter. On Tumblr. On the train to the poor unwilling participant of my rambled conversation. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And I genuinely do believe that I’m fat sometimes. Roll with it, I’ll have bigger things to worry about next year. Just hopefully not my stomach. Hopefully my boobs. 

I cry at Grey’s Anatomy on a weekly basis. Why? 

Because I’m 21. And they write bloody good story lines. And everyone needs a good cry every now and again, I just happen to do it at the hand of fictional characters. 

I’m in a long-term love affair with London. Why? 

Because I’m 21. Because I am. Because it’s home. Because you can lose yourself within 10 minutes of being there and forget that your own reality exists. 

I worry about what people think of me, despite every Tom, Dick, and Harry telling me not to. Why? 

Because I’m 21. I have yet to forge a career or marry the person I love, amongst many other things. It still matters to me what people think. It may always do, but right now it directly concerns my future. Please don’t tell me otherwise. 

I spend hours perfecting my makeup, only to sneeze at the last minute and cause a Marilyn Manson-esque picture all over my face. Why? 

Because I’m a human. And humans sneeze. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and do all of the above while simultaneously taking pride in my actions.* Why? 

Because I’m 21. And I’m not done being 21 yet. 

*Apart from the tequila. That’s a lie, Mum.

 

West End Gala Concert – Congress Theatre, Eastbourne, 22nd June 2014

Put the date in your diaries, OK?

Why?

I’m producing a concert!

Why?

Well…

On the 18th February 2010, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, she had been to the GP twice, both times being told that she had simply pulled a muscle and she needn’t worry about anything else. In fact, she had invasive ductal carcinoma. Stage 1, Grade 3.

Fortunately, my mum is still here.

Learning of my mum’s cancer was undoubtedly the worst day of my life to date. I don’t recall much from that day; only that I went into my room and called my best friend (who was in London at the time waiting to see Priscilla – the things we remember, huh?) The following days were a bit of a blur, although I do remember going for a meal on Mum’s 47th Birthday, the 19th February, and also mountains of flowers arriving at our house, most of which I grumbled about and stormed off back to my room. In hindsight, I could’ve handled the first few days of my mum’s diagnosis 100x better, but I guess you don’t fully understand your actions until you’re out the other side. I guess I was just sick of everything around us reminding me of ‘The Big C’. Every little thing around the house just screamed ‘illness’ at me. I even had a few of Mum’s friends give me the ‘you’ll be ok, people will look after you’ chat. That’s not what I needed. I needed my mum and only my mum. I didn’t want anyone else in those first few days. Eventually, I learnt that I needed to allow others to help, as I certainly wasn’t going to help Mum fight this all alone, and until this day, I’m happy that each and every one of those people were there. It’s very true that you find out who your true friends are in times of crisis.

On the 1st March, Mum went into Eastbourne DGH for her operation and the first part of her treatment, a lumpectomy. At the time I was studying for my A Levels at Sussex Downs College, conveniently right next to the hospital . As if I’d even consider the alternative (ha!), my parents made me attend my Politics and Economics classes that day. During my Politics class I received a call from Dad saying that Mum was about to be taken down to pre-op and I could leave my lesson. I remember frantically answering my phone in the middle of my lesson (Sorry, Tracey) and dashing out. Little did he know it was another 4 hours before Mum was taken down!

Following Mum’s operation, she endured another few months of adjuvant chemotherapy and radiotherapy. We shaved her hair off, we bought (and named) wigs, and we carried on as normal as possible. Mum even took her Brownies on Pack Holiday to the Isle of Wight straight after her final chemo treatment. Cancer treatment is harsh, as most will know, but it thankfully didn’t stop my mum from living life just as she wanted to.

My mum is one of the lucky ones. She’s a survivor, a beautiful woman both inside and out, a wonderful friend, colleague, daughter, and wife, but most of all, she’s the most incredible Mum I could wish for. She taught me to never be afraid of anything that life throws at me, and not only did she teach me, but she showed me. Irregardless of being 17 at the time of Mum’s diagnosis, I still desperately needed my parents in my life, and Mum didn’t ever entertain the idea that she wouldn’t see my 18th Birthday. Thankfully, she’s now seen my 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st.

Thanks, Mum. 

Another massive inspiration is the wonderful Bernie Nolan. I didn’t know Bernie for long, only a few weeks in fact, but the impact she had on me was enormous. As I work Front of House at Eastbourne Theatres, I spend a great deal of my time in the Devonshire Park Theatre over the Christmas period for pantomime, as do the performers, musicians, backstage, etc. I distinctly remember meeting Bernie for the first time – this amazing woman who just oozed determination, warmth, love, and laughter. During our annual pantomime Christmas meal, Bernie stood up and made a speech, mainly thanking everyone for their hard work over the past few weeks and also to wish everyone a Happy Christmas. Despite the fact that she was very unwell at Christmas with a terrible cough, in true Bernie style she still had the capacity to fill a room with countless smiles and a big round of applause. The admiration I have for Bernie is immeasurable and I am so honoured to have known her, albeit for a very short amount of time. My friend, Rob Cousins, and also the MD for our concert, knew Bernie in a more personal capacity, so I am incredibly honoured to be doing this concert both with him and for him.

Bernie worked tirelessly with Breakthrough Breast Cancer, our nominated charity for this concert. One of her aims was to get people to ‘TLC’ – Touch, Look, and Check their breasts for signs of cancer. Early diagnosis in breast cancer is vital, as the survival rates of early detection prove. For more information on this particular campaign, please take a look here – http://www.breakthrough.org.uk/about-breast-cancer/touch-look-check. You can also order your free TLC booklet by filling in THIS form . I religiously TLC, make sure you do too.

To acknowledge the invaluable work Bernie did with the charity, a Bernie Nolan Tribute Fund has been set up in her memory. If you wish to donate, you can do so HERE.

She was, is, and will always be, an inspiration.

Thank you, Bernie.

Finally, in addition to Mum and Bernie, two of our close family friends are also massive inspirations for this concert – Marita and Steve, my mum and dad’s best friends respectively. Marita is still here, fighting strong, and sadly has just undergone another surgery for secondary cancer, but nevertheless is courageously fighting her battle every single day. Devastatingly, Steve died in 2011, after a short battle with lung cancer. They have both showed heroic levels of determination and I am so proud to have had them influence my life, both as a child and now an adult.

Thank you, Marita and Steve.

Cancer is cancer, no matter what type, size, grade. In memory of Bernie, all those we’ve lost, all those who are still fighting, and all those who have fought and won, we have chosen Breakthrough Breast Cancer for this concert. The money raised will significantly help with their vital research and that’s all that I hope for at this time. In the future, much like everyone, I would like this vision to cover all cancers.

Please support our concert on the 22nd June. It promises to be a night full of West End talent and stunning musical arrangements.

Tickets are available here: https://www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/What’s_On/show.asp?showID=3016

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Nat xxx

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With Mum (L) and Marita (R) at Race for Life 2013 in Brighton

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Thanks for everything, Mum. I love you x

Some more photos from Mum’s journey:

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