Tuesday, 11 April 2017

London, UK

"The truth is we all need a time out, time out to re-evaluate, find balance, heal, detox, and time to breathe!"

Now, as I sit down to write this post titled, 'why there is no shame in needing time out', I'm aware that there is going to be a huge degree of hypocrisy to this piece. Because I didn't follow the very advise I'm about to give you. I couldn't accept that I needed time out to focus on me. And then I didn't have a choice. Indeed, it was my body that showed that it needed time out, and the decision wasn't mine anymore.

I've been hesitant to write this post for a little while, because it's going to get real personal up in here, and I'm really not one to do that. I'd always figured that my blog would be focused solely on fashion and beauty related content, the frivolous, superficial stuff, but now I've realised that I both enjoy and feel compelled to write more heartfelt, thoughtful stuff -  It's funny how the content evolves, as your needs change.

So sit back with a cuppa and a biscuit for a rather emotional, personal post that I felt needed writing and proved rather therapeutic in the end.

So I guess we should start with a little bit of background. I've suffered with depression for over three years now, but was only officially diagnosed with clinical depression in May 2016. I can't say I was completely blindsided by this. There's a faint history of depression in my family and looking back, I can see that I've probably suffered from mild bouts of it throughout my teen years, but I could never have anticipated just how big an impact it was to have on my life, that it wouldn't just stay a nuisance that I learnt to live with, as in January 2017, I found it so debilitating that it forced me to leave university.

Now, this isn't really supposed to be a post about my battles with depression, I'm still debating whether that post is something I'm going to write about in the future, but more about the many emotions and struggles that I had surrounding the prospect of needing to take time away.

See, I knew around May last year that I wasn't really coping. I put it down to uni stress, but deep down I knew this wasn't the case. I've never really been one to let academic work stress me out to such an extent, and anyway, these issues were persistent even when I was at home in the holidays. Well, not issues, but symptoms, I guess: the constant tiredness, the low mood, the teariness, the over-thinking, the erratic sleeping and routines, the smallest aspects of life just felt unbelievably difficult, and my persistent symptoms made me feel as though this state would be never ending.

I knew then that I needed a break. A chance to regroup. To give myself a real shot at getting better, and prioritising my health. But not only that, my struggles with my health meant that I had neglected all other aspects of my life. Me, who was usually so organised and driven, always with a plan, was suddenly without a single goal. I was severely behind on uni work when I'd always been one to enjoy studying. Everyone around me was organising internships and further study or gap years, but whenever I was asked what my plans after uni were, I could only meet the question with the answer of "I'm not sure yet, I'm just trying to get through finals, haha!" Haha. Hahahahaha. A whole lot of nervous laughter. Because that question always reinforced the fact that I had no plan. I just couldn't see a future. It was so difficult to just get through a single day, let alone think about a future. And I won't lie to you, quite frankly, it shit me up. It was like, all of a sudden, I had all these goals, then nothing. I wanted a break to figure this out, to not only tackle my mental health but make up for all the time I'd lost because of it to figure out what I wanted to do, to "find myself" (I'm sorry, I know it sounds cringe, but it's true). But I didn't want to be left behind. I had uni to do, a degree to complete. I had MA applications to fill in, internships to apply for.

And then January 2017 hit with a particularly bad depressive episode. I got back to uni and was completely overwhelmed with what I had to do. The fact it was my last proper term of work before exam season. The fact that a depressive episode at the start of my first 3rd year term had meant I was critically behind on work and had that to catch up on on top of all of the new terms work. The fact that over christmas my dear Grandad had become gravely ill. The fact that I just felt exhausted and knew I was starting to downward spiral. It all came to a head when at the start of term, I left my room at uni only once in 2 weeks, completely ignored all my emails and essay commitments and literally just lay in bed for all those days, hardly even watching tv, constantly crying. I couldn't concentrate on anything, small daily tasks such as showering or making a bowl of cereal seemed so incredibly difficult, everything seemed difficult. This hadn't been my worst bout of depression, but I knew that I couldn't possibly predict when it was going to end, and could get to a position where I was at least able to concentrate on tasks. Every day I was getting further behind with my degree, and sinking further into this hole of shit. I wasn't functioning and I needed time out. And so that's what happened.

As I sit here writing this, I am now into my fifth week of intermission. Intermission is the official, fancy term for when a student at my university takes a break from study, usually on medical grounds. I didn't have to drop out and leave uni completely, I go back in October to do my final year and so in that sense I'm lucky that this really is just a few months out, a blip, almost, before I go back to pick up where I left off.

But I felt so pissed off for ages about the way things have turned out, and there I times I still do. So frustrated. So ashamed. A big part of this was the fear of what others would think. How was I going to explain to my friends that I needed to take time out? Do I divulge the whole story, and explain that it was health? I didn't want to say I just needed time out because it sounded like I couldn't do uni, but revealing you suffer from mental health problems is also rather daunting. It was the potential little conversations that would play on my mind. Like, how do I explain why I'm not at uni when I see people I know down the shops? When my old next door neighbour asks me "what I'm doing home" in the biscuit isle in Tesco. It all sounds stupid when I read this back, but I know these were and still are worries that I have. That people will somehow think less of me because... well, I don't know why.

But it was more than that, it was the pressure I'd put on myself. I was ashamed that I, someone who always had it so together, couldn't do it. I couldn't complete uni alongside everyone else, I feel as though I've been left behind. One thing I've realised is just how much I'd shaped my identity around my academic ability and achievements. For so long this was the only thing I've seen as 'good' about myself - I guess I was always one of the geeks. I've always had low self-esteem concerning my appearance, I was never one of the popular kids at school and, being plagued by social anxiety I find I consistently worry that I'm just one of those bland people that everyone forgets or finds odd or boring. So I struggled with the fact that it was me that was the weak one who 'needed a break to recover from mental health'. I just saw this as code for 'she's struggling and she couldn't do it, she wasn't good enough to do it, she wasn't smart enough'. These feelings were made more acute by the fact that, without wanting to sound braggy, I go to a very academic, prestigious uni and have always had a touch of imposter syndrome; that it was a mistake that I had gotten in in the first place, that I didn't deserve my place. For this reason, I've always felt that I had to prove myself, prove that I was good enough. And to a large extent, I did. When I got to uni, I realised I was on par, I was smart enough. My grades were as good as everyone else's, I excelled in my first year exams, and then suddenly, all this, and I'm back to square one. It's safe to say my confidence has taken a knock and once again I feel like the one who wasn't good enough, who didn't deserve her place, even though I know it was my health, and not my ability that hindered me. Incidentally, that's another point I'd like to raise; I guess that just shows how deep the stigma of mental health runs. I often feel like this time out from uni is because I couldn't cope with work and needed a break, that I'm a fraud, hiding behind this supposed illness to get some time off because really, I just wasn't good enough, I couldn't cope. I know that feelings of guilt and worthlessness are symptomatic of depression, but I wonder whether it's an element of stigma too, that if I could physically see this health issue, I wouldn't be feeling like a failure for taking a break to get better.

I've titled this post "why there is no shame in taking time out" and so far, all I've talked about is how upset I am at having to do such. But I guess things are beginning to change, because I'm beginning to accept both my mental health struggles, and that it's ok to need time out to tackle them. I'm trying to no longer be ashamed of all this, because I know it's what was best for me. As my parents came to pick me up from uni, putting all my packed boxes in the car, ready for the drive home and the beginning of my intermission, I remember the wave of relief that washed over me. I knew that I would miss uni, because, truth be told, I love uni. I know it'll absolutely kill me to see all my friends graduate, knowing that I should have been there in cap and gown, in those photos too. But I also knew that trying to push through my final year so I could graduate with everyone else and for the sake of my pride, was never going to end well. At best, I'd graduate with a decent grade, having absolutely hated the last few months as I absolutely pushed my health to the limit. At worst, I would have had a breakdown, crashed out in my exams, and have wasted my opportunity to reach my full potential at one of the best universities in the world.

These next few months are dedicated to recovery. It's going to be anti-depressants, counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy - I know that it's not going to be fun. It'll be tough, and in a sense, it  doesn't feel like time out - but it's time I can spend focussing primarily and wholly on me, without having the pressure of deadlines, future plans and everything else. Hopefully when I begin to see improvements in my health, I can start to think about what is beyond uni, I can start to be re-inspired by life and not see it as such a chore anymore.

My experience is quite an extreme case of needing time out. As I said, in the end, I didn't even get a choice in the matter, I wasn't functioning and therefore I wasn't fit to study. But I think this is relatable on some level for a lot of people, whether you suffer from mental health problems or not.

So many of us get stuck in the monotony of everyday 21st century life. Wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. And so many feel stifled, that we're somewhat stuck in this cycle that we're unable to break out of. And that's where the importance of taking a break comes in. I was fortunate that I was at a time in my life where it wasn't too difficult, nor was it too damaging or consequential for me to take significant time out for recovery. Though ultimately, even if I'd been mid-30s and had had a similar experience with my health, and need to get a sabbatical from work, that's what I'd have had to do! But I think it's important to realise that, for some, quenching that need for space and something different can be as simple as a weekend away from it all; you come back feeling refreshed, and in a better headspace. Maybe it's a case of using your annual leave to travel somewhere you've always wanted, to experience a new culture or lifestyle to gain some perspective. I'm guessing a lot of you reading this will be a similar age to me, uni students and young adults. I feel so many of us who are on the road to finishing uni and having to leave the comfy bubble of education for the big bad 'real world' feel pressure to have to go straight into the work world, into your chosen career because we all put so much pressure on ourselves to 'get ahead'. You know what I say? I say bugger that. Of course it's important to have goals you're working towards, and by all means do whatever you can to get there, but don't do so at the expense of time and experiences that you may not be able to have again. If you're nearing the end of your educational career and you're feeling a reluctance to charge straight ahead into a career or are unsure where you want to go next full stop, don't be afraid to take some time to figure it out. Travel. See new things, meet new people, get an interim job, like in part time retail or temping, from which you can earn some money but still have some time to explore different career paths, have some breathing space to think and plan your next move. I know I run the risk of sounding naive here, but I say we make excuses, we say, 'I can't simply get up and leave', because sometimes, we're secretly quite scared by what we'd love to do. It pushes us out of our comfort zones so we put it beyond the realm of possibility. Because quite simply, why can't you? Why can't you take that trip, or move to that city? The world really is yours for the taking.

Sometimes I think we overcomplicate things. We see one set path and think that we have to stick to it, otherwise we've failed. We don't take the time we need to truly think about what it is that we want to do, or what we want out of life. And I'm beginning to realise that's a big mistake. Even after my intermission, I will hopefully graduate, and then I don't know what! Hopefully I'll fall back in love with studying, and I'll still do the Masters I've always dreamed of doing. Maybe I'll travel. Right now, I kinda think I want to do both! One thing that I'm sure on is that I certainly won't be rushing into a career, and more importantly, a career I don't want. An ex-teacher of mine once told me that when we're in school and uni, it's consistently instilled in us that we don't really have time, we should know what we want to do, that we need to make decisions, and make them quick. But in reality, all we have is time. For ages, I silently scoffed at this. I had a plan and I was going to stick to it. I knew I wanted to have graduated by 21. Masters by 22. Law conversion course, legal training contract - every single element of my life was planned. And now I've thrown it all out, and I haven't gone back to the drawing board. I've thrown that out too. I'm slowly discovering that that teacher was right, we have our whole adult life to work, so you don't need it all figured out by the time you're 21. Your 20s are the years where you learn to adult and can make mistakes, so make them - that's how we grow, after all.
So I guess the take away point is this: It's ok to take a little time out of your hectic, overly routined 21st century life to just focus on you. For whatever reason it may be. To focus on you health and wellbeing, to figure out what you want to do, purely to indulge a sense of adventure. And don't be afraid or ashamed to do so! Don't doubt yourself because of the fear of judgement, the accusations of 'drifting' or being 'work shy'. Follow your gut, you know what's best.

I don't know how the next few months of my intermission will go, but I know that by taking time out, I've given myself, and my mental health particularly, the best possible chance. All I can hope now is that somehow, everything falls into place, I'm told that they always do.

Until next time,
Bisous <3



Jumper: H&M (sold out, grey version here)
Jeans: H&M (sold out, very similar here)
Trench: Next
Mules: Ego
Bag: Zara (sold out, similar here and here)
Twilly Scarf: Dior
Sunglasses: Ray Ban
Necklaces: Na-kd Fashion and H&M

p.s. I hope this post didn't come across too much like an ''Eva pity party', because that definitely wasn't the intention. I guess I wanted somewhere to let out everything I've been holding in, but also, I hope, provide comfort to anyone going through the same thing. Let me know what you think in the comments below, I always love reading them! Have you ever taken time out to 'focus on you'?


Monday, 3 April 2017

St. Paul's, London

Hello lovelies! 

I know I know, it's been a while, well, more than a while - four whole months in fact. But this time I haven't just been sitting on my arse lazing about as is my usual measly excuse (well, perhaps a little). Unfortunately the last few months have been rather turbulent, but that's a whole other story for another day (stay tuned for that, it'll be up Monday.) 

But for now, I just knew I had to get a post up to celebrate 1 year of 'What Eva Wears', this little space on the internet that I've come to cherish so dearly.

For it has been one whole year since I decided to get my shit together, get over my stupid insecurities, put myself out there a little, and create my own little space on the internet to witter on all day about my (rather unhealthy) obsession with fashion and beauty. So, on April 3rd 2016 I published my very first post, an outfit post in fact - click here to read it for a good giggle at my horror at taking posey photos in public for the first time, it was quite the ordeal!

So to mark the occasion, I thought I'd have a little reflection on what I've learnt about this weird and wonderful blogosphere in the past year, and also consider in what ways I'd like my blog to evolve in the next one.

1.) It's much harder to build a following than first thought.

Now if you're anything like me, seeing little to no growth in following seems to be a major set back. You can sit for hours trying to think of interesting and unique content, spend some more hours (and probably some money too) creating said content, only for you to hit publish on a post you're extremely proud of, check google analytics the next day, and see you've had 3 views. To top it off, one of those views is most probably from your home address - so you know that's your number one fan aka you dear mother offering you a bit of support. For me this was incredibly frustrating at the beginning, and I won't pretend that there aren't occasions when I still feel this way. But what I've come to realise is this: it is the waiting game of growing a following that weeds out the fickle from the dedicated and determined. Building a true, engaged following in the honest way will take time and effort, but it will be far more rewarding in the long run than having gained that following through shadier means (*side-eye to those buying followers*).
I suspect the follower frustration is that which causes a lot of people to quit blogging so soon after they begin. But I've realised that numbers really aren't everything. I've watched blogs grow greatly in such a short space of time and have mulled over why the same hasn't happened to my own, why my formula 'doest work', but I always end up plodding along with creating content, purely because I love it. I love the process of putting an outfit together, of editing the imagery and just writing whatever I want, and whether 30,000 of you read it or just 1, I've realised that it's the process that is so rewarding for me, everything on top is just a bonus. 

2.) You won't feel perpetually inspired, and that's ok. 

When I first started blogging I was on an absolute content creating high. I had tonnes of ideas, pages and pages of scrawny notes scribbled into an old notebook of outfits I planned to shoot, think pieces I wanted to write, products I wanted to review, so on and so forth. So you'll understand my complete surprise when 2 months into blogging, I was completely stumped on what to post. I had no ideas. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. And of course, this led to a little dry spell of no content, me fretting about displaying a lack of consistency and therefore losing followers (which did happen), which then led me to feeling more uninspired. I guess what I didn't realise is that one will not feel constantly inspired. In hindsight, this is something I should have anticipated, seeing as I studied Art at both GCSE and A Level, and would often go through periods where I would experience total apathy towards it, and would begrudgingly get out my sketch pad to draw or paint. I'd have nothing innovative to produce and I'd feel completely fed up. And then the next week I'd have a wave of creativity and I'd be working all day and catching up on all the coursework I got behind on during my dry spell during the night too.
Sometimes the creative juices just flow, other times there's a complete drought - and that's fine. Relax, don't put pressure on yourself - it's surprising how quickly you'll get your mojo back. 

3.) Blogging is a rather expensive hobby.

Credit to my constantly nagging mother for that annoyingly truthful sub-title. One thing I didn't really anticipate was how much getting sucked into the blogging bubble would encourage and influence my own shopping habits and if I'm honest, I'm not sure how I feel about this. I mean, yes I love indulging in the latest trend, or seeking out a highly sort after item, almost consequently feeling like one of the 'in crowd' when my efforts are met with success. Nevertheless, scanning my room right now and seeing the numerous packages, clothes, and just stuff in general, I have to pose the question, has blogging ultimately sparked a wave of negative spending habits? I fear blogging has sucked me ever deeper into the perils of consumerism, further blurring the lines between 'want' and 'need'. I'm ashamed to admit the number of times I've sulked when something I've been lusting after has sold out completely in my size and I've pathetically whimpered something along the lines of, "but I need that wide sleeve shirt to match my stepped hem jeans and it's the biggest trend of this season!" It's all fun and games until you're deep in your overdraft and realise student loan isn't due until next term - beans on toast diet it is! I've actually prepared a couple of posts already on the possible negative impact the blogosphere has on our personal style because I think there's much to discuss on this topic. Let's be honest, how often do we truly love and enjoy a trend and how often are we just 'doing it for the 'gram'? Something to think about. 

I bet at this point you're thinking, bloody hell, Eva, do you want to be any more of a debbie downer? If there's all these negatives, why the hell do you still blog?! So, let's look at some more positive pointers..

4.) You'll love the feeling when you hit publish on a blog post you've worked really hard on. 

I always feel so completely accomplished when I've sat fixated on my laptop for a few hours, and finally hit publish on my work. We all approach our content differently I'm sure, but I approach each blog post as a mini project, and I love it. There's really nothing like seeing all your work come together, having watched the project progress from a few scribbled notes in a notebook, to images ready to be edited, to piecing it together with the text you've spent so long writing. Then suddenly you hit publish, it's all over and you're onto the next. 

5.) There's nothing better than reading the comments of those who engage with your content.

Yes, generic, cliché and maybe slightly cringe, but after all, we create content for it to be read and commented upon. For me, so much of the fun is seeing what other people have to say about what I've produced. From the vanity perspective, there's no denying that there's that feel good factor, that little 'pick me up' every time I read one of the lovely comments left on a post. But more than that, it's hearing people's opinions and on not just the general aesthetics of an outfit, but whatever I've taken so much time to sit and write. My absolute favourite post that I've created to date was my very first 'think piece' style post about insecurity and the blogosphere (read here if you missed it) - so many of you left such insightful comments which really generated discussion and which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Really, this is what I hope to see more of in the future. 

So, what are my goals going forward?

1.) Consistency - Now, I know I sound like a hypocrite as I've just nattered on about creating when the creativity flows and all that malarkey, but what I mean here is that there is many a time where I have an idea, and just don't execute it because of 'other commitments'. Whilst I do lead a busy life which blogging is only a small part of, I know for a fact that if I were more organised and not the winner of the procrastinator of the year award, that I'd be able to produce regular content. So this is what I'm going to try and do this year; get my arse in gear, sort myself out, and create more!

2.) Write more think pieces - As I say, my favourite post was my first think piece, and I'm most definitely a person with a lot of opinions on just about everything, especially things in the blogging world. This year I'd definitely like to write more of this style post as it seems popular with you lovely readers (my insecurity post is still my most highly viewed to date!) and I'll never pass up a chance to natter on about my opinions and why they're right. (looool!)

Most importantly though, I want to remember to have fun with it.  I've seen many a post recently from individuals becoming ambivalent towards the blogging world, cynical about brand collabs and money making in the industry, and frustrated at the constant numbers game. I'd like to hope that I'd kinda be able to rise above all that. I'd just like to keep my blog a hobby in which I can indulge as an escape from the more mundane, monotonous aspects of my life, and therefore there's no need to stress when I don't have time to shoot, or when my following stagnates. 

It's so incredibly important that you blog for you; the fact that you love it and nothing else, and it'll always be a rewarding hobby to have - no matter your follow count or how much money you may or may not be making.

I hope you enjoyed this post lovelies! Did any of you experience similar thoughts after starting out in blogging? What are your goals for your blogs? Let me know in the comments! Oh and lastly, let me know if there's anything you'd like to see on 'What Eva Wears'!

Stay tuned as there'll be another post this week! 

Until next time, 
Bisous <3



T-shirt: Missguided (old, similar slogan tees here)
Jeans: Bershka (old, v. similar frayed hem jeans here)
Coat: H&M (sold out -  Similar pink coats here and here)
Shoes: Topshop (sold out, v. similar here, here and here)
Hat: Asos (Here)
Bag: Zara (sold out - my oh my I'm not doing very well with these links! But here's something similar)
Silk Scarf: Dior
Necklaces: H&M/Na-kd Fashion


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