World Mental Health Day 2017: Mental Health and Me

World Mental Health Day 2017- Mental Health and Me
World Mental Health Day 2017: Mental Health and Me || raeritchie.com

Today is World Mental Health Day.

I was commissioned to write a piece for it but unfortunately was unable to due to struggling with my own mental health issues throughout last week.

I’m not sure if this is actually ironic or Alanis Morisette kind of ironic.

Despite being thwarted in producing a new contribution to this important awareness day, I wanted to proffer something.  As all writers know, a round up is always a useful fallback when there’s no time or inspiration for anything else. That is what I’ve turned to: my previous work about mental health collected together with helpful clickable links.

A year ago, maybe even six months, I’d have felt like a failure for doing this so my willingness to accept that this is where I am perhaps to speak to some kind of improvement.  I hope so.

 

On my blog

Mental health, the black dog & speaking out: my tribute to Sally Brampton

The bottle or the blade: mental health and self-harm

A letter to my eighteen year old self at the start of the new university year: mental health, hindsight & regret

 

For Welldoing.org

‘Braving The Wilderness by Brené Brown: A Must Read for Enquiring Minds’, Welldoing.org, 22nd September 2017.

‘Is letting go of perfection the secret to happiness?’, Welldoing.org, 10th August 2017.

‘How to integrate self-care into every day’, Welldoing.org, 22nd July 2017.

Understanding Hoarding as a Mental Health Disorder, Welldoing.org, 13th June 2017

‘Managing mental health: small things make all the difference’, Welldoing.org, 19th May 2017.

‘Wise Words #15: from Caroline Knapp to Gretchen Rubin’, Welldoing.org, 15th February 2017.

‘Wise Words #12: from Sally Brampton to Oliver Burkeman’, Welldoing.org, 18thJanuary 2017.

‘When the Therapist You Choose is not Right for You’, Welldoing.org, 3rdNovember 2016.

‘My 3 Therapy Sessions Changed Everything’, Welldoing.org, 15th September 2016.

 

For Mental Health Today

‘It is not wrong to cry, it is human’, Mental Health Today, 18th September 2017.

‘We can rationalise but social media still makes us dissatisfied with our lives’, Mental Health Today, 11th September 2017.

‘And breathe….’, Mental Health Today, 17th August 2017.

‘Greater openness doesn’t mean that you always have to share’, Mental Health Today, 24th July 2017.

Borderline personality disorder is part of me but not all consuming, Mental Health Today, 26th June 2017

When I’m having a bad day, everything feels overwhelming, Mental Health Today, 14th June 2017

‘How do we maintain emotional stability in the face of tragedy?’, Mental Health Today, 24th May 2017.

‘I’ve given myself permission to thrive not just survive’, Mental Health Today, 8th May 2017.

‘Who are today’s mental health heroes?’, Mental Health Today, 26th April 2017.

‘Working around it: Finding time for mental health therapies when you have a job’, Mental Health Today, 6th January 2017.

‘I’m not Cinderella: Realising that mental health problems continue in the new year’, Mental Health Today, 16th December 2016.

‘Can wanting to bin our pills be a sign of improved mental health?’, Mental Health Today, 28th November 2016.

‘Mental Health: A Waiting Game’, Mental Health Today, 12th October 2016.

 

Other

‘Last month I tried to kill myself’, in Sas Petherick ed., Voices Rising: A Collection of Essays, Poetry, Art and Prayers To Inspire Your Voice, 8th March 2017, pp. 81-83.

 

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Thirty Five at Thirty Five: The Quest 

More amusing pictures from in my thirties

Today I am thirty five.  As I commented in Monday’s blog post about signs of ageing, getting older doesn’t particularly bother me but I feel surprised that this is now my age.

There are lots of things that I thought I’d have done by now.  I’m not talking about major life events but smaller activities that just seem to have slipped by, like finally getting round to finishing Middlemarch (I’ve read the first hundred pages two or three times).

IMG_20150307_212947~2

I’ve decided that this is the year I’m going to address these niggling qualms.  Inspired by Catherine at Midlands Minimalist telling me about her husband’s fiftieth birthday resolution to do fifty things, I’ve set myself a quest: thirty five at thirty five.

Here, in the order that I thought of them, is my list of thirty five slightly random and entirely idiosyncratic goals that I plan to achieve before 19th July 2018:

 

  1. Read Middlemarch. See above.
  2. Try colonic irrigation.  Because why not?
  3. Try craniosacral therapy.  Ditto.
  4. Visit Paris alone.
  5. Visit a Greek island. Holiday already booked 🙂
  6. Hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. Ticket already booked 🙂
  7. Watch The First Monday In May. Hardly a film classic but hey, this is my list!
  8. Go to St. Ives in Cornwall.
  9. Travel to Stockholm.
  10. Try African food.
  11. Revisit Warwick Castle for the first time since 1990.
  12. Swing across monkey bars. This is the most likely not to be achieved.
  13. Drive a sports car.
  14. Get a Margaret Dabbs pedicure.
  15. Get a photo at Land’s End. Ties in nicely with number eight!
  16. Visit Bristol.
  17. Make a Christmas cake using my grandad’s recipe.
  18. Learn some German.
  19. Go up the Shard.
  20. Visit the British Museum for the first time since 1997. Shocking, I know.
  21. See Stonehenge.
  22. Learn to make Florentines.
  23. Read a book on Korean history.
  24. Master a song on the guitar. Possibly Take Me Home Country Roads as this was the first song I learnt on it when I was a teenager.
  25. Rebuild my emergency savings pot.
  26. Try a pickled egg.
  27. Learn the proper names for clouds.
  28. Come off all my mental health medication.
  29. Visit a Japanese garden in autumn.
  30. Go to a fun fair.
  31. Learn to use a sewing machine.
  32. Visit the Lake District for the first time in twenty years.
  33. Have a day out in Leicester.
  34. Clear out Google Photos.
  35. Get a ninety minute massage.

No doubt I’ll explain more about my reasoning as I chart my success (or otherwise) across the year – but feel free to ask if you’re particularly intrigued by any of them!  And I’d love to hear if you have any burning ambitions of a similar scale.  Where have you always wanted to visit?  What have you always wanted to learn?  Is there any food that you fancy trying?

Here’s to the year ahead and the thirty five at thirty five challenge!

Twenty Signs of Ageing

Photographs of me in the first half of my thirties that made me laugh

It’s my birthday this week.  I’ll be 35.  It’s a scary thought, not because I particularly dread getting older but simply because I cannot believe that’s my age.  Surely I’m really still only seventeen… 25… 32?

Over the years, I’ve blogged about signs of ageing that I’ve observed along the way.  Having spotted another only last weekend, I thought I’d collate all of them here.  If nothing else, it’s helped me to realise how much my tech skills have improved; back in 2011 I still pasted entire web addresses in brackets after the text; had I not heard of hyperlinks?!

Hope you enjoy – and let me know which resonate with you!  Are there any that I’ve missed?  When did you first become aware of the passing years in your life?

Observed at 34 years and eleven months:

1 Folding picnic chairs seem like a perfectly reasonable item to own.

Went to a music festival and commented to my partner that we should have bought folding picnic chairs.

20 signs of ageing: me in my thirties

Observed aged 28 years and eight days:

2) You & a friend discuss whether to get the bottle of wine or just two glasses. 

While on holiday, I met up with an old uni friend & we went for dinner.  We both wanted white wine.  And we genuinely debated whether ordering two glasses warranted purchasing the whole bottle.  In the end, we did buy the bottle, but only after consideration.  Clearly the days of ‘buy two glasses get the rest of the bottle free’ are no longer such an allure.

3) Fruit & nut is considered a reasonable choice of chocolate bar. 

As a child, fruit & nut seemed an outrage: why ruin chocolate with other stuff?  Especially vaguely ‘healthy’ things?  Then lo, twenty years on, I find myself thinking ‘Umm, fruit & nut – yummy’.  When & why did this happen?!

4) Going to see the Dutch tulip fields sounds like a lovely mini-break option. 

My grandparents once went on a trip to see the tulips in bloom in the Netherlands.  At the time, this seemed liked the most ridiculous holiday I had ever heard.  The Netherlands?!  On holiday?! (to be said in a Peter Kay ‘Garlic bread?’ tone).  By my mid-teens, the Netherlands seemed far more alluring – well, Amsterdam came calling – but still the tulip fields remained off my holiday radar.  Then the other week I found myself in all seriousness uttering the phrase: ‘I’d really like to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom’.  The implications of this are profound: I am clearly now more interested in gardening & flowers than sex & drugs.

5) You know your own underwear limitations.

Some time ago, my friend & I vowed that we would give up trying to haul our breasts into strapless bras.  We were in ‘French Connection’ in Birmingham’s Bull Ring at the time.  The ‘hoik wriggle’ move every few minutes, we decided, was a) a pain & b) simply not alluring.  So sufficient have I been in my resolve to ban strapless bras, my brain now simply edits out any items requiring anything other than a standard bra before I even enter the changing room.  The saddest part of all this is that I don’t even miss such skimpy tops, halterneck & boob tube-esque numbers.

Twenty signs of ageing: me in my thirties

6) Social arrangements regularly involve breakfast & always require a diary.

I’m not exactly sure when exactly this moment occurred, but at some point in the last couple of years, breakfast has suddenly become a reasonable time of day to meet up with people.  Hangovers &/or new boyfriends no longer rule any time before 12pm on a Saturday or Sunday out of the equation for when to get together.

Around the same time as ‘breakfast = feasible time for socialising’ occurred, the diary phenomena also emerged.  Even with closest friends, diaries are required to figure out when the next meeting can be arranged.  If you haven’t got your diary with you then you dare not make any definite plans.  Want to meet up on a weekday evening?  A slot about three weeks later can usually be found.  Want to meet up on a weekend?  This requires around three months of planning – & even then it’s likely to be for breakfast.

7) The only current hits you know are familiar thanks to secondary activities.

Despite vowing to never be like our parents & become totally unfamiliar with the music charts, it seems that after a certain point, we only know current songs because we have heard them through some secondary means.  Ie, we stop saying ‘Oh yes, I heard it on MTV/Top of the Pops/the Chart Show’ & start saying ‘Oh, I think I’ve heard this in the gym/at my exercise class/in a shop/in the dentist’s chair’.

8) ‘Last time around’ includes clothing you can remember wearing.

This moment was truly frightening.  Topshop, Saturday afternoon: I spy some oversize shirts.  First thought: ‘Ooo, they’re lovely.  I could wear them with leggings’.  Second thought: ‘Oh ****, I wore them with leggings circa 1990’.  Third thought: ‘Oh **** & double ****, no-one else within a five-metre radius of me was even born in 1990’.

On the bright side, I dug out my 1990 oversize shirt (complete with ruffle, just like some of the Topshop new season collection).  I have changed the buttons & it’s ready to wear.

Advantage *1 of ageing: you no longer have to always buy vintage, you can just dig it out of the back of your own wardrobe.

Observed aged 29 years and two months, on the eve of attending the first thirtieth birthday party for someone in my school year:

9) You start to forget events in your own life. 

This isn’t just about forgetting general stuff, or specific dates, but forgetting things that you have either done or experienced.  See post below for an example of it.  I don’t know whether it’s because as you get older, more stuff has happened in your life or whether it’s because there’s a greater time/distance between some of those events and the present.  Or maybe it’s just increased forgetfulness.

20160506_195359

10) You no longer think about money in Tens and Units. 

When you’re younger, spending projections are along the lines of ‘£5 for x, £20 for y’, with maybe the occasional large expense such as a car thrown in.  Somewhere along the line, your budgetary parameters shift and everything becomes Hundreds and Thousands (at this point I suspect that describing sums in this way – units, tens, hundreds and thousands – does as much to mark my age as carbon dating does for archaeological remains, clearly linking me to a specific phase in the National Curriculum for maths).

11) You bump into people you know in supermarkets, not nightclubs.

[As had happened to me the previous Thursday]

12) More than one person offers to drive on a night out. 

This happened today in relation to Saturday’s thirtieth party; I text friend saying ‘I’ll drive if you like’, she replies saying ‘I don’t mind driving’.  Gone are the days when said friend used to smear kebab across my dad’s ‘taxi’ at 2pm on a Friday and Saturday night.

14) You’re no longer shocked when a friend says they’re having a baby. 

When babies first start appearing among contemporaries, my initial reaction was shock (‘OMG, they’re pregnant/going to be a dad!  How can this be?  What do their parents think?  How will they cope?) followed by a dose of reality (‘We are in our twenties/they are married/own a house with their partner/this is a perfectly acceptable age to be having a child’).  I am now sufficiently old that the shock element has subsided.  News of pregnancy is now met with an instant reaction of ‘Ah, how lovely – great news!’.  Even babies that are a bit of a surprise to all involved are not the shock that they once were.  But that is no bad thing.  One of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had recently was with some old friends, playing with one of them’s new baby and discussing the imminent arrival of another’s.  She joined the world yesterday afternoon and I am very excited about meeting her, maybe even at this Saturday’s thirtieth. [Which friend was this, I’m now wondering].

Twenty signs of ageing: me in my thirties

Observed aged 29 years and three months, while out celebrating a school friend’s engagement:

15. It becomes increasing likely that more than one person in the group won’t be drinking because they’re breast feeding.

16. You are all amazed at how busy pubs get.

17. Booty calls become “How are the kids?” calls.

18. You’re really glad you wore flat shoes.

19. You no longer even humour the strange blokes that magically appear among you when you’re dancing.

20. You think they’ve made a mistake and played the same song twice in quick succession until you realise that you’re so out of touch with current music that you just think all the songs sound same.

 

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See you soon…

Hello there!

I’m taking a step back from my blog for a few weeks.  As those of you who follow my blog and social media know, I’ve been on an at times very painful mental health journey over the last year.  I am now, under medical supervision, going cold turkey on some of the medication that I’ve been taking.  This, as I’m sure you can imagine, is taking its toll both physically and mentally.

Even though I love my work, and indeed writing helps to keep me stable and sane, I need to take the pressure of deadlines and blog schedules off myself for a few weeks while I heal.  This means that I’m unlikely to be posting here until early March.  I’ll be dipping in and out of social media as I feel able, so please do come and say hello to me there (there are links in the sidebar) as I’d appreciate some company while I do what I can for the rest of this month.

With love,

Rae x

 

Tuesday Reviews Day 13th December 2016: Get Your Glitter On (& a giveaway!)

Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com

I’ve long been particular about my style and appearance.  As an early teen I remember scouring several branches of Topshop to find the belted cardigan that most resembled the one featured on the Calvin Klein catwalk (and then getting hacked off when other stores started stocking similar ones too).  Around the same time, I saved my pocket money until I could afford to go to the big department store in a nearby city to buy the just released Yves Saint Laurent Touch Eclat and was super chuffed when the sales assistant gave me a load of extra samples too.

Now I’m a freelance writer with an interest in fashion and beauty, I spend even more time thinking about and researching lovely things.  When I write about articles, I try to place them in their broader context and discuss their significance and meaning too.  I don’t want my work to read like a fluffed up press releases.  That said, it seems daft for me to not find a way to simply and quickly share some of the products I come across in the line of work and pleasure if I think other people might like them.

As a result, I’ve decided to introduce ‘Tuesday Reviews Day’ to my blog.  Each week’s listicle will will feature a handful of products, ranging from bargain beauty buys to best biscuits (I’m lining up a festive special on that one already!).  I’m not an affiliate so I don’t stand to gain from recommending anything that I include – every item listed is genuinely something that I think warrants a shout out.

I hope that you find this new feature both a fit of fun and useful too.  Let me know if your thoughts on what I’ve included and whether you’ve been tempted to try any!

Last week we looked at how to get festive with your appearance without losing your sense of style by using burgundy cosmetics and accessories.  This week I’d like to put forward another perennial Christmas trend: glitter.  Anything that shimmers or sparkles seems fair game in December but it doesn’t have to be dramatic or gaudy.  There are lots of easy ways to add a bit of fairy dust to your outfits without looking like you’ve fallen off the top of a heavily decorated tree!

One style I love is a suggestion from this month’s Harper’s Bazaar to just add a glittery nail varnish around the crescent and one edge of each nail.  I don’t have the manicure skills to pull this off myself but am sure many of you out there can, or you could ask your beautician to create the effect for you.

WAH nail varnish in Roma's Ruin & Schrager's Touch || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
WAH nail varnish in Roma’s Ruin & Schrager’s Touch || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com

Even full on glitter nails, whether on one finger, several or all of them, is a nod to the sparkly trend without too great a commitment.  Some sheer glitter nail varnishes look great over the top of other colours but if you’re looking for a standalone polish then check out WAH‘s offerings.  This brand du jour, with a newly opened must-visit nail salon in Soho, has two outstanding options in this field, classic gold (Roma’s Ruin) and silver (Schragers Touch).  They retail at £9 each and both are densely packed with pieces of glitter that you can build up thin layer at a time to amazing effect.

 

GIVEAWAY!

I like these two products so much that I’m going to offer them in my first Tuesday Reviews Day giveaway!  If you’d like to win both Roma’s Ruin and Schragers Touch, then simply share one of my blog posts on social media over the next 24 hours (and tag me so that I see it) and you will be entered into the prize draw.  I’ll select a winner at 21:00 GMT on Wednesday evening.

[The giveaway winner is Jill Axon]

Glitter giveaway! || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
Glitter giveaway! || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
Blush Sparkle

I’ll also include in the giveaway another little product that’s great for adding a bit of Christmas sparkle to your look.  I picked up a Blush Sparkle pot of Fine Snow White Sparkles  (£3.50) at the Clothes Show Live recently.  There were numerous stalls offering similar goods but what stood out for me was the subtle look that the stallholders themselves were demonstrating.  Rather than full on bling, their products were used gently as highlighter, eyeshadow and lip covering.  Also the sparkles themselves are really teeny tiny and fine, although Blush Sparkle does offer a chunkier range too (as well as lots of different colours – there’s something for everyone on their website).  Simply apply a thin smear of Vaseline then add the glitter as you wish on top.  Simple, sparkle.

Dune shoes || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
Dune shoes || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com

My personal favourite way of wearing glitter is on my feet.  If you’re uncertain about trying out a new trend of any sort, shoes are a good way in, allowing you to nod to a new look without the full on commitment of a head-to-toe outfit.  Almost two years ago I splashed out on some flat sparkly shoes from Dune and they’ve pepped up many a party outfit since.  If you’re looking for a pair this Christmas then Kurt Geiger is the place to go.  They’ve everything from flats to heels with bows – even sparkly trainers.  If I didn’t have my silver numbers then I’d definitely be tempted by their block heel gold ones.

 

 

Goodwill bag || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com
Goodwill bag || Get Your Glitter On || Tuesday Reviews Day 13-12-2016 || raeritchie.com

Like shoes, another easy way to integrate a bit of glitter into your wardrobe is with a bag.  My beaded purse, covered in small pearls, sparkles all year round but particularly gets used in December.  I picked it up at a Goodwill store but obviously charity shops don’t have guaranteed stock!  A good alternative is to look on Ebay, where you’ll find hundreds listed under glittery, sparkly or metallic bag.  They don’t have to be evening bags either.  Last week I spied a woman in Friends House Cafe toting a beautiful silver leather shopping bag that was ideal for daytime; upon enquiry I learnt it was from Kin by John Lewis but alas it’s not this season and I can’t track it down (purely for research purposes, of course!).  I regret not asking to take a picture of this beaut as it just goes to show that in December at least you can get your glitter on any time of the day or night.  Make the most of this time to sparkle.

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Sunday Suggestions 11th December 2016

Sunday Suggestions: a round up of things to read, watch, listen to and do
Sunday Suggestions 11th December 2016 || raeritchie.com

Welcome back to my regular series with suggestions of awesome people and things to check out, read, participate in and follow.  The festive season is much on my mind today, with a couple of great ways to transition from this year to the next as well as some bits of reading about Christmas.  This is followed by two pretty serious pieces about extremism and the controversy around recent revelations about Last Tango in Paris.  Lightening things up towards the end is another article about kawaii and our attraction to cute culture.  Last up, as I like to finish with a funny video, is the first viral video I ever saw (I was a bit late to the game with this phenomena): a hilarious send up of Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind.  Enjoy!

Do

Susannah Conway has been offering her free ‘Unravel Your Year‘ workbook for several years now and it’s an essential part of Christmas for hundreds, if not thousands, of women around the world – myself included!  It’s completely free to sign up for and contains lots of gentle but powerful questions and prompts to help you reflect on the year that’s passed and look to the one ahead.

Susannah also offers a free five day course entitled ‘Find Your Word’ which helps you to discover a word or phrase to guide you through the coming year.  I’ve also done this a few times and recommend it highly too!

 

Christmas reads

Gender equality is for life, not just for Christmas: Kat Lister writes for the always brilliant The Pool on the extra emotional and physical labour that December’s festivities place on women in ‘The “perfect” Christmas doesn’t exist so why are women still expected to provide it?’

If that one might stir up anger then the next two may well generate some tears:

Fi Newsam’s ‘Father Christmas didn’t come’ for The Huffington Post blog tells of what it was like to grow up in a family who belonged to a Christian denomination that didn’t celebrate Christmas.  At all.  No presents, no special food, no nothing.  The emotional impact upon Newsam is fascinating and also so sad.

Totally contrary in tone is the story from this week’s Independent that a Muslim-owned restaurant is opening up its doors on Christmas Day to offer free meals to the elderly and homeless.  Welling up just writing this plug for it!  Just goes to show that even a holiday traditionally associated with one religion can actually provide an opportunity for different communities to come together.  A gorgeous story.

 

The serious stuff

Also from the Independent, and also about Muslims, but very different in tone, is an in-depth report on what make young British women turn to an extreme form of Islam known as Salafism.  This branch of the religion is associated with the Islamic State and very strict rules and regulations.  This article provides a nuanced insight into these women’s lives and experiences that will undoubtedly make you think.

The Pool provides a second recommendation this week: the also brilliant Sali Hughes (whose work appears here quite regularly) wrote a powerful piece for them about the revelations that have recently come out regarding the notorious rape scene in The Last Tango in Paris.  Even if you’re not familiar with this debate, or the wider issues that it draws upon, ‘The callous abuse of Maria Schneider, and the impunity of Hollywood men’ will make you care.

 

Now for something completely different: kawaii

If you’re looking for an intelligent read on a diverse range of topics, the Conversation is great resource.  The site features blogs from academic experts on all sorts of subjects, including this analysis of kawaii  and what the attraction of this Japanese cult of cute is.

 

Finally…

I was a latecomer to the world of viral videos but I clearly remember the first one I saw: it was late on a Friday night at my friend Mel’s flat in Wandsworth and I’d gone round at the last minute in order to do a 5k Race for Life with her the next morning.  She was incredulous that I didn’t know what a viral video was nor had seen this particular example of the genre – a parody of Alicia Keys’ epic song Empire State of Mind featuring the Welsh town of Newport.  Clever, so clever – and hilarious too.  Point of information for readers outside of the UK: the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is a government organisation that deals with driving licenses etc and is based in Swansea, another south Wales town.  Because so many people have contact with the DVLA, it’s well known for being based there.  In fact, the agency’s address is DVLA Swansea SA99 1TU – that’s how intertwined the two are.  There are probably lots of jokes in the video that need explaining to non-Brits but that’s the one that jumped out for me!

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Not easy but essential: make that difficult decision

Not easy but essential: make that difficult decision || raeritchie.com
Not easy but essential: make that difficult decision || raeritchie.com

My school friends and I have just booked our annual weekend away, going to Center Parcs next March. It’ll be our second trip there. Before that we went to a couple of 1990s weekends at Butlin’s holiday camps. These were lots of fun but after two of them I felt I’d had my fill of reliving my youth. When the subject of the next group getaway came up one lunch together, I seized the chance to say I didn’t want to go there again. Turns out some of the others felt the same so changing the destination was really painless but when I raised my objection I didn’t know that would be the case. There were no signs that the others felt as I did so I was taking the risk that they would all simply go to Butlin’s without me – in fact I even encouraged them to do that if they were still enjoying the events.

In this instance the situation worked out really well but rarely can we be sure of this when we speak out about a difficult decision we’ve made. Although we may hope that our choice will be welcomed, we have to accept that others may not react as we want them to. We may fear the response of our parents or friends or children. We might be so worried about what others will say that we are deterred from taking the path we wish to follow, whether that’s emigrating or separating or abstaining.

For all of us, there are occasions when we make a decision that is hard enough in itself then find that the response we get makes it worse still. Even when the change is positive for us (getting fit, a new job which we love and pays more) – or perhaps especially when the change is positive for us – the new situation may seem like a threat to our nearest and dearest, triggering a defensive stance from them.

In such circumstances, we are perhaps breaking a rule, whether stated or unwritten. Maybe we’ve always enjoyed a boozy Friday night with a friend which they’ve assumed is a never changing fixture in our diaries yet suddenly you’re cutting out early so you’re fresh for a run on Saturday mornings. Maybe splitting up with your partner challenges your family’s treasured determination to stick relationships out no matter what the cost. Maybe quitting your job to pursue your dream breaks the complicit understanding between you and your husband that work has to be a source of unhappiness which you can moan about together.

Even more insidiously, friends and family can make the right noises about changes we make yet in reality strive to undermine or sabotage our efforts. We all know people like this: the parent who seems to encourage weight loss but sulks when we refuse second helpings, the friend who says they’re pleased we’re in a romantic relationship then proceeds to dig for the new beau’s flaws, the sibling who remembers all our previous failed attempts at habit change (“The only thing you could run is a bath!” – please say I’m not the only person whose younger brother has said that to them?!).

Not easy but essential: make that difficult decision || raeritchie.com
Not easy but essential: make that difficult decision || raeritchie.com

This time of year is often a crisis point in terms of trying to make changes or instigate a significant new choice as we find ourselves spending more time than usual with our loved ones. It’s tempting to just take the path of least resistance and stick to the status quo…tempting except that while this is easier for those around you, it may be considerably harder for you. Maybe you just can’t bite your lip any longer. Maybe you simply cannot tolerate the bad behaviour of another or the condoning behaviour of yourself. Maybe the prospect of waking up in the same situation in twelve months’ time makes you feel sick.

Perhaps you’re a lucky one and you don’t have any such big decisions to face. If there’s no painful choice that you deep down know you have to face sooner or later then I envy you. I wish I could say it were so for me or indeed many others. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more of us who have a tough decision decision lurking near. I suspect this because over the last six months I’ve heard many telling me I’m brave for doing the things I’ve done, such as walking away from a seemingly enviable career, and saying they’d love to do something similar only someone in their life is holding them back from it. Any time you wonder “But what would X say?”, you’ve touched on this.

I wish I could tell you that making big, hard choices actually works out really well and you’ll be supported in the end, only this is not true. You might run the risk of ruining a relationship. Things might never be the same again. But I can tell you that if you don’t do what’s right for you then you’ll end up hurting yourself far more than your choice will hurt others. You will always suffer for this sacrifice.

The other thing I feel sure in saying is that there is rarely, if ever, a right time. Sometimes we think that by leaving things a while longer that it’ll get easier or the situation will change enough that our decision is redundant. This is simply not true. How it is now is how it is. You could be waiting your whole life for better circumstances and they may never come. Accept what is and act now. Step towards your decision today, tomorrow, over the weekend, in the next week. Act before the end of the year. Start 2017 having taken the decision you know you need to face. It may not be easy but it will be done.

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