Saturday, 9 December 2017

Victim of Maasdestruction: Why I love becoming an emotional wreck after reading books.


In this blog entry I am going to make a case for Young Adult fiction (that captures my heart). In May, and for the first time since she started writing, Sarah J Maas has 'concluded' one of her series. The A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy has come to an end with A Court of Wings and Ruin (though there will be other novels and novella's, but those are said to have different main characters). There may be some issues with this series and this book (racial, sexual (orientation and otherwise), etc), but I will not address them here. Something that has happened ever since one of my tutor's in primary school introduced me to the wonders of reading, is that I always experience everything very vividly. Often it feels like I'm the one experiencing the events in that particular fictional (or non-fictional) story. This is not always the case, but it happens a lot when I'm reading Young Adult novels.

It's not exactly clear what classifies a novel as YA: is it written for young adults, by young adults, about young adults, etc. And who decides what's YA and for what reason? Does it have to do with the themes discussed and addressed in the novel? Is it simply an age mark? Is it the age of the characters? Again, it isn't clear, and it's certainly not the same for all the novels included in this genre. However, in my experience, YA novels often deal with raw, intense emotions and situations. They take me back to when I was still a teenager, filled with hormones I didn't understand. I felt like it was me against the (adults) world, like adults, and peers alike, did not understand me, and I was 'clearly' the only one dealing with this (which is basically what 'all' teens think).

But this is not the only thing these novels do to me. They make me fall in love, they make me upset when there is heartbreak, or when someone dies. I experience it all like I'm right there with them. This has caused me a lot of pain through the years. It is also why I had a few periods in which I rarely read at all (for example, after I broke up with my first boyfriend and I could not handle any of those emotions). But I have come to appreciate it now that I 'should' consider myself to be an adult. I no longer have these intense emotions on a daily basis. I am no longer under the impression that, if my boyfriend and I break up, "I will never, ever find love again", because I know from experience that, that is simply not true. If you're open to it, you'll find love anywhere. I know now, that every single problem, is not going to be the end of the world. Life might be hard, but it's not impossible (at least not for me).

So it has become a great pleasure to experience those intense emotions again, without all the consequences that would come with them in real life. It's nice to be an emotional wreck at times, live all these experiences and adventures, while still being myself. I appreciate it, especially because I know that not everyone experiences it like that. I feel somewhat sorry for those who do not have this when they read a book, who can't read a book because they don't have the need, patience (or courage) to do so. Or those who were never allowed to read, or even taught how to read .. Because in my life it is one of the best things. Not because my life isn't worth living or good on its own, but because it helps me deal with my emotions, and it's an amazing experience to feel all those emotions. So even though I'm 24 (almost 25), I will never (again) be ashamed for reading and loving young adult books. I enjoy them more than some novels for 'adults'.

Here's a short list of books that made me into a mess:
1. A Court of Thorns and Roses (book 1 to 3) by, none other than, Sarah J Maas.
2. Now Is Good by Jenny Downham
3. The Dark Heroine by Abigail Gibbs.
4. Throne of Glass (book 1 to 5, I haven't read 6 yet) by, you've guessed it, Sarah J Maas.
5. The Elect by Elle Todd.
6. City of Glass & City of Lost Souls (I still can't re-read it..) by Cassandra Clare.
7. The Host by Stephenie Meyer.


Especially ACOMAF & ACOWAR: they have made me weep more than I care to admit. I re-read to whole series in a week (finished A Court of Wings and Ruin yesterday). And it has me completely shook. I was crying my eyes out and I didn't know how to stop. And even now, the day after, I wake up feeling completely lost without the characters I've come to love like they are my friends: Feyre, Rhysand, Morrigan, Azriel (my favourite if I'm being honest), Cassian, Armen, Lucien and Elain (no I do not like Nesta). It's like they died the moment I finished the book. Now, all I want to do is go back and read about them again (which is what I've done with a lot with ACOMAF. I've already read it 4 times in a year, even though I have zero time to read anything for pleasure next to uni). It is not that I think these characters are perfect, or even good (of heart). They just speak to me, they touch me, make me feel like I truly know them, especially because they are flawed. And it usually takes me a day or two to mourn losing them as I move on to a new book, a new life/experience. But that feeling, no matter how heartbreaking, no matter how much it shakes up my life, I will always cherish it. What about you? Do you have that feeling too? If so, which books gave it to you?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Update on Life

It's been a while since I've talked to you about my life. About a year ago, I talked about my issues with depression (though I referred to them as mental issues. It's easier for me to label it now) and the medication I decided to start using to help me with my depression. A few weeks ago, I began the process of slowly getting off these meds. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a short excerpt from the post I made little over a year ago.
"After 3 months of absolute chaos and confusion, I made another step [after starting therapy]. I decided to start using anti-depressants. It was a big decision, one I refused to think about for years because (in my opinion), it was weak to even think about it. Who uses anti-depressants at 23? Not me! I needed to do it on my own. However, in February of 2016 I realized that I could not do it on my own, not while also trying to balance university, living on my own, and social contacts that were fading and breaking due to my issues and feelings. After getting the process started, it took a while before I finally had the pills in my hands. It scared me. These things are quite heavy and they didn't take it lightly either. They weren't just going to hand it to me, there were a lot of rules that came with it. One of which was that I was not allowed to not talk about it. I needed to share it in therapy but I also needed to share it with the people close to me."
It took me (and my body) about 6 months to get the dose right and to get used to the medication. After that (during my last session with my psychiatrist) we decided that I would use them for a year and then I would have to do it on my own. Well, the year is up and here we are. I'm a few weeks into the process. I will do about half of the dose I was used to (30mg t0 15mg of mirtazapine) for about 2 months. If that goes well, I will use 7,5mg for another two months, and after that it's done. It's harder than I thought it was going to be. Honestly, in the last few months I forgot my meds at least once every two weeks and it was never a problem.
But now, I notice my body is trying to adjust. I'm tired a lot (also has to do with the season) and I have zero to no need for food (and what I do consume, or feel like consuming, isn't exactly healthy). I can feel my thoughts getting clouded more easily, more often. The annoying, negative thoughts have been a little silent for the last 1,5 years. They are not so silent anymore. But now I can at least recognize them as such. I hope this also means I will slowly start to lose weight (I gained a lot of weight, more than I  care to admit). I'm not unhappy with how I look, I can still function properly and honestly my boobs look great. I would just like to be fitter again, so I feel more comfortable doing sports. I'd like to fit into my clothes again (I'm a little tired of constantly wearing hippie-pants. Sorry Siete). I know it will take my body and mind a while to adjust, and once again the change is not easy. But I can do it, and that is all that matters. I do not need them anymore.

I am not cured, I might never be. But I feel like I finally have the tools to be able to deal with what life throws at me. Even now, busy with writing my thesis, getting ready to go to England for 5 months, looking for a master (applying for it too) and dealing with a shit ton of personal situations, I'm still no where near what I used to be. I can get myself out of bed in the morning, I can stay out of it, I can work on school without crying, I can meet with friends without anxiety, I can adjust more easily when things don't go the way I planned and, all of a sudden, I can also be spontaneous and impulsive when it's okay to do so. I never used to do those things, not while I was depressed at least.

Anti-depressants have helped me a lot in the time that I've used it. It (and therapy) made me fall in love with life again, it made me hopeful and it provided me with the necessary tools to tackle my day to day life. This year I went hitch-hiking for the first time. A friend and I went to Paris (hence the picture). It took us about 13 hours, but it was a lovely experience. Meeting those people was really meaningful. I would have never done so before the meds and therapy, my anxiety would not have allowed it. And I did it! It was exciting, stressful, but not so stressful that I couldn't enjoy myself.

I'm also looking forward to going abroad for a few months. I remember, about 2,5 years ago, I was supposed to go abroad with my previous studies. Hell, it's one of the reasons I decided to stop with that educational program. It scared me senseless, I did not want to go away and miss my family and live all by myself with no one to fall back on. I didn't even like myself, why would I want to be by myself the whole time? And here we are. I'm not required to go abroad anymore, but I've still made the choice to do so anyway. Why? Because it will be an amazing experience! The variety of classes is endless and they are  super interesting and it makes sense since I study English Literature and all. I'm still terrified, but I'm also excited. I know it will be good. I also, for the first time ever, read something I wrote (as in non-fiction) during 2 open-mic events! For that alone, I'm beyond proud. Not because what I wrote was 'life-changing' (it's really not), but because I had the balls to read it out loud with other people in the room.

I have also started to deal with situations from the past. There are a lot of things I regret: Things I did to myself, but mostly things I did to other people. One by one I've started to deal with them. I've gotten through most of it, unharmed and unscratched (even I find this hard to believe). I've dealt with things I never thought I'd be able to deal with. I've forgiven myself for things I never thought I could, especially when it comes to my ex's, who I put through a lot. But one of them also put me through a lot. I always blamed myself for everything, even if I never admitted it. Only now have I come to realise that what happened between me and this particular person, was not my fault. I was so young and naive, I just assumed I must have done something wrong because he was perfect (and older so I thought he knew what he was talking about). I was wrong, but more importantly, he was wrong. I realise that now. And I'm not angry at anyone, but I used to be so angry with myself. I used to hate myself. And now I can finally let go of all the anger and it's so liberating.

It wasn't easy. It still is not easy, but then when is life ever, easy for anyone? All I'm trying to say is that I've started to appreciate myself as a person, more and more. I'm not there completely and I doubt I will ever be, but at least now I know that as long as I keep reflecting on myself, I will be able to live with (and forgive) myself. And that is a prospect I never thought I would  have (again). So my Pirates of the Caribbean tattoo has become a reality: "No cause is lost if there is but one fool left to fight for it" (I got it years ago, but it was never really true, until now). 2017 has been a good year and I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store for me :)

Oh, also. I really love my boyfriend, who has been with me through it all. I know it wasn't easy, babe. We've been to hell and back. I know how much it hurt you to see me in pain.. I know it was hard when I didn't want to be alive and you were the only one who knew about it. I'm sorry about all those nights I was so done, done with everything, and all you could do was cry and hope I wouldn't remember in the morning. But we are here now baby. I'm not going anywhere, anymore. Thank you for understanding, or trying to understand. Thank you for coming to my house super late at night (or early in the morning) when I couldn't stop crying and I needed someone to hold me. Thank you for taking me to therapy when I was too upset to go there by myself. Thank you for picking me up when I needed it. Thank you for always getting me chocolate when I don't ask for it, but you know it might cheer me up. Your support made this struggle more bearable. Thank you for being with me every step of the way. We are still young and we still have a lot to learn from each other, but I'm grateful for what we have and what you've done for me.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Update: What did I watch?

Ever since I finished my second year of uni, I've been binging a few TV shows. I did not have time to do so since September 2016, but since I had some free time during the summer, I've been able to catch up a little bit. So here's a list of TV shows I watched and my opinion of them.

1. Westworld
This show was clearly made by HBO. Especially the theme song feels very GOT-like. BUT it is almost nothing like it. It had some plot twist I should have seen coming (but didn't, of course). And it was all together very good and interesting to watch. I often find that I have difficulty with these kinds of shows. Not because I don't enjoy watching them, but because I feel like I need to mentally and emotionally prepare for them. I feel like I need to do some reflecting after watching an episode. There's just so much to think about. Of course I watched most of the episodes after one another, but there were a few long breaks as well.

2. Stranger Things
Initially I wanted to wait with viewing this until October (because that's when season 2 is set to release), but I got really interested in it and we finished watching Westworld so you know. It took us about a weekend to watch it. We couldn't stop watching it. It's very intense but also very interesting. Gave me a E.T., 80s kinda vibe. It's nice and fun to watch, but it's not Westworld or Big Little Lies (which I will come back to). I still recommend it though, but that's basically all this post is about anyways, making you watch the shows I love haha :)

3. Orange is the New Black
I've been following this series since it came out a few years ago. However, each and every year, I neglect to watch it for a while. Not just because of the timing (during uni and usually near exam week) but mostly because I forget that I really enjoy this series over the year. It's a problem I have encountered with other shows which releases a full season in one go. I causes me to watch everything as quickly as possible and usually means that I'm done after a day or two. Which means it will take a while before the next season comes out. I lose interest in OITNB, but then I fall in love with it all over again once I start watching it. This season was really good and raised a series of interesting questions. I also realised, though completely unrelated to this series, that you lose your right to vote once you've done time in America. I don't know the exact limitations and reasons but to me that was insane. I would've understand if it was merely while in prison because you are so secluded from society at that point anyways. But afterwards? 
Either way, great show, great actors, great stories. It's an interesting combination of hilarious insanity and painful reality. 

4. Black Mirror
What can I say about this show? It's terrifying, beautiful, sad, everything at once. Every episode is its own story and each is as real as the last. Amazingly done. I mean, one of their episodes didn't win an Emmy for nothing. I don't think I need to say much about this show because everyone appears to be watching it already, so yeah.

5. Scrubs
Fabian and I got a tat bored with watching Friends over and over again. I know.. how could we. So we decided to give a few other shows a shot. We briefly watched The Office, but it just was not our kind of humour. It wasn't what we were looking for. So we moved on to Scrubs, which was exactly what we were looking for.

6. Danny Phantom
I used to watch this show as a kid (in Dutch obviously), but my boyfriend and I decided to re-watch it in English this time. As a kid I didn't notice how almost every episode is exactly the same. It has the same formula in terms of plot, but it´s funny and the perfect thing the watch right before bed. I also didn't notice how the teacher in the show (cause really there´s only one teacher in the whole school) curses with famous book titles, among which Moby Dick and The Great Gatsby. It makes me really happy, because there was probably a literature nerd involved in the production of this show. 

7. Game of Thrones
Holy shit man. Just holy shit. So much has happened in this season. I don't even know where to start! I've been a faithful fan of this show since it aired, but this season was everything to me. Fan-theories confirmed and expanded, it's all super insane. No words. We decided to re-watch the whole show from season one, since we have to wait super long before the new season is released. It's especially funny because my boyfriend had never re-watched it before. I almost forgot how annoying Sansa used to be. Aside from all that.. I understand that most people are quite disappointed with this season, simply because it's just not as good as it was before. It is painfully obvious that the creators of the show ran out of books to base their show on. It means that all the writing is now their own and it is so obvious its not even funny. But since I generally love happy-endings and I am a sucker for this kinda stuff, I quite enjoyed it. Nevertheless, it is not the show I fell in love with any more. I recognise it, accept it and moved on. Now I'm in a mind-set where I can still appreciate and enjoy the show.

8. Gravity Falls
Lea made me watch it and I'm very happy she did. Man, that was an emotional roller-coaster. I didn't expect it to become so dark and real at the end. It's so funny too! Like really funny. At one point Fabian and I had to pause an episode because we were laughing so hard we couldn't continue watching.

9. Will
I'm not too fond of William Shakespeare in this adaptation. Not just because he's constantly cheating on his wife. Mainly because Jamie Campbell Bower is playing Christopher Marlowe and I'm just too fascinated by Marlowe and Bower to notice anything else. It is like Jamie was meant to play him! He channelled his inner-rock-star perfectly for this role. I felt like I was watching him live all over again, singing his anger and frustrations away. Other than that this approach to Shakespeare was really refreshing. It was honest (even though it's probably not all that accurate). It's a bit steampunk and a bit rough (especially with language, violence and nudity) but that's what made it so great. I hope they'll extend for another season but if they don't its fine too, because it was pretty good like this.

10. Big Little Lies
I've said it on Facebook already. The message of this show is painful, but it's real and happening all around us and we don't even know it. It's a story about divorce, bullying, rape, abuse, everything. I know people might be critical of the man vs woman fight in this show, because one man especially is made into a villain. But lets not forget that the other men are all supportive of their wives (and somewhat vice verse, a bit too far in some cases). And women of each other, especially. It's an important story. Definitely worth your time! Like seriously. 

That's it for now. Too busy with my thesis to watch anything. 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

13 Reasons Why: Book vs Netflix

Since I recently started talking about my mental problems, openly, it felt like a good idea to discuss this book and TV series as well. For the purpose of this review, I thought it might be a good idea to include my initial review on the book from November 2014. But before I do that, I want to briefly introduce you to the concept of 13 Reasons Why  by Jay Asher. It is about Hannah Baker and Clay Jenkins (mostly). Hannah Baker has killed herself, but before doing so she made 13 audiotapes, on which she explains her 13 reasons why. Each tape is about a specific person or event that happened in her life that evidently 'caused' her to kill herself. She has set a plan in place. Starting with the first tape/person. Each person included has to listen to all 13 tapes and then pass them on to the next person, on the next tape. Until it finally gets to Clay, our protagonist, who is/was in love with Hannah. This is what it comes down to in both the book and the Netflix Series. My initial review on the book goes as follows:

Clay is number 8 on this list. 7 people have heard her talk before him. While going through the tapes and the reasons, he keeps wondering why he is on this list. He doesn’t feel like he ever did her any harm. I hated Hannah for putting him through this. This boy, you learn to know as such a sweet guy. I couldn’t imagine that he, like the other people she talks about, did something horrible to her.

I thought I was going to have a hard time while reading this book, but that didn’t happen. The actual event is not mentioned in the book because by that point she is gone and she can no longer tell Clay, or the others, about it. The book consisted of hate and anger. She blamed everything and everyone for what had happened to her. She was somewhat right on most points. It is the circumstances and what people did/do to you, talk about behind your back, but we let it influence us. In a way that we let it beat us down, but also in the way that we listen to what people say about others. Clay was scared of approaching Hannah and telling her how he felt because he thought the rumours might be true. Even though he knew her better than that, he knew the real Hannah.

I think the writer means to teach the reader about consequences. That we don’t always realise what our actions and words do to others and mostly that is true. We sometimes don't consider what someone else might be going through when we say things to them and vice versa. Like bullies who have a hard time at home and therefore lash out at someone else. We all have our reasons. We all have issues and hard times. Why does she give up? I don’t know. I guess she lost hope.

In the Netflix series, things are a bit different because the other characters get a lot more screen time. We get to know the other characters, their lives, their stories. But also we get to see Hannah, what happened and what she did (quite vividly I might add). It's quite heavy and the way I look at it, it really took its time with this story. The cinematography was amazing, the music was good, as was the acting. However, they sometimes sat on one thing for far too long. I understand why they did it the way they did, 13 episodes for 13 tapes, but at that point it took longer to watch the series than it did to read the actual book (because each episode was between 50 and 60 minutes). It got frustrating at times.

At this point it seems as though they might want to do a season 2. There are a lot of things left unfinished. I hope they do, because the ending ... pfff. Nevertheless, I really appreciate that this is out there now. That people are talking about 13 Reasons Why. It's an important issue. Very important. It's a big problem, that is often not taken seriously, as also shown in the series. I could have gone without some of the visuals, but I guess they need to be there. It's a serious issue and that's really emphasised by all of this. Also, I think sometimes our society only really pays attention when things are shocking or extreme. But that might be too much of a generalisation. Of course I hope that others will also read or watch this story. However I do want to warn anyone who is thinking about watching it: it's really honest, and with it quite rough. 

There has been a lot of critique on the story, how it romanticises mental illness and suicide. How it is an insult to people who have mental problems. I saw an article that said "Suicide isn't cause by other people", "suicide is caused by mental illness, not bullying" and "a real-life Hannah Baker would not commit suicide - because Hannah Baker is not mentally ill" (Serena Smith in "13 Reasons Why is an insult to anyone with mental health issues"). I strongly disagree. Every single case is different. I'm still on anti-depressants and I never even considered this show or book, to be an insult, not even a little bit. And really, bullying is not a factor? Do some research before you make a statement like that. Some cases of bullying are so intense and severe that yes, it may have caused suicide for some people. Especially if the bullying goes hand in hand with sexual assault. And can you then still say that it's not caused by other people? I don't think so... bullying is a big problem. That being said, stating that "we all killed Hannah Baker" goes too far. She made the choice to kill herself. She may have felt that way, but there are two sides to every story.

Mental illness and suicide do go hand in hand sometimes, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen when mental illness isn't recognised. We see the story through other people. Just because Clay did not pick up on the signs does not mean they weren't there. Hannah clearly went through some difficulties. The reason it so difficult to recognise is because each and every single case is slightly different. Sure there are a few key symptoms, but what works for one person does not work for another. I think saying that 13 Reasons Why is an insult, is more of an insult than the actual book or series. It's just the tip of the iceberg. What helps me on a day to day basis, still, is the following: suicide does not solve the problem, it just passes the problem on to someone else. And I think that's very vividly shown in this series. So I appreciate it. Even if it's not perfect, but then again, who/what is?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

What I've been up to

Last time I posted anything on this blog, was about three months ago. Sorry guys, I guess I've been a bit preoccupied. But here I am! I won't say I'm back, because in a few weeks I'm going to be taking on an extra course (again) so uni will keep me busy, but I will try to write more. I promise. So what have I been up to that has caused be to not write here? Basically, I've been reading, a lot. Due to uni I haven't been able to do so for awhile, for pleasure at least, and I finally got around to reading some books I've been dying to read. 
    • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Sáenz
    • The Chemist by Meyer
    • Hero of Ages by Sanderson
    • Furthermore by Mafi
    • Dubliners by Joyce
    • Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Clare
    • Caraval by Garber
    • Northern Lights by Pullman
    • And I re-read Maas' A Court of Thorns and Roses
    • And A Court of Mist and Fury (twice).
I've got to be honest, not all of them were well received - Caraval for example, felt like I was re-experiencing The Game (the film) and I did not like that experience the first time, let alone the second time around, but that's just my opinion. The Chemist felt like I was re-reading twilight with a twist, but I really enjoyed it nevertheless, didn't expect that of Meyer, but then again. I really enjoy the suspense she works into her stories. 

I particularly enjoyed the first book on this list. It's a captivating story, just a story of two teenagers, best friends, and life in 1987. It's heartbreaking because it's easy to relate to (no matter your gender, race or sexual preference). I fear that if I talk about it too much, I will spoil the plot. It was especially interesting for me, because it is nothing like my life: I'm white, female and I guess I'd qualify as heterosexual when asked to put myself in a box. I'd rather not put myself in a box, though. And this is a story about two males, partly Mexican, otherwise American. Anyways, I feel like anything I can say about it will just take away from the amazingness that it Aristotle and Dante, so here's the synopsis:
Dante can swim. Ari can't. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari's features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other - and the power of their friendship - can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.
Another reason I've been kind off distracted lately is because I've picked up writing again, and I don't mean on my blog (clearly) but I mean on a story I've been developing for quite some time now. This won't tell you anything because, well, I can't really tell you much about it other than the fact that it's very close to my heart. But the fact that I'm writing again, really says something about my mental state. I've had years where I barely wrote anything (blog or otherwise) because I didn't think there was a point to it. Yet here I am, writing again. It makes me happy.

I've also been preoccupied with TV shows, but then again, who isn't. I've recently finished watching The Vampire Diaries, Revenge (though to be completely honest, it's not that I've finished watching it, but rather I decided that I was done with it), Sherlock and Switched at Birth is also coming to an end next week. Come to think of it ... Game of Thrones is also coming to an end this year... In the mean time I've picked up watching 13 Reasons Why, Westworld and The Originals (there was a vampire-diaries-shaped-hole in my chest, so naturally, I filled it with the next best thing). I'm also still watching Once Upon A Time, Shadowhunters, Friends (for the .. I don't know how manieth time), Modern Family and Grey's Anatomy.  I'm still waiting for the next season of Orange is the New Black. I really want to pick up Stranger Things as well, but realised that the next season won't come out until October so I figured I'll just watch it then. Did I miss anything? Probably, I always do.

Another big thing that's happening in my life right now is the fact that I was selected to go to my preferred University next year. I get to go on exchange to the University of East Anglia. Again, this might not mean anything to you, but they have a very extensive and amazing creative writing program, so it's very special to me. I'm very excited and also terrified, because even if it's close, I will still be leaving home to live in a foreign country for about 4 to 5 months. But we shall she where that journey takes me. It will be a while because I decided that I want to write my thesis before going on exchange, so I will go to Norwich in January of 2018. That's it for now. Hopefully, I will write about fairy tales some time soon.

Monday, 9 January 2017

TBR 2017

In this blog entry I will address books I'm dying to read in 2017. Of course, I have about 2 shelves in my bookcases, which are filled with books I still have not read (not to mention the books I still have to read that I do not (yet) own). Here I will list 7 novels (which are on my to read list on Goodreads) I plan on reading this year. Next block (beginning of February until the first week of April) is the first time I will not have one or more literature course(s) since I started studying English, which means I might have some time to finally catch up on some reading. Especially because I thought it would be nice to have only two courses instead of my overly motivated idea of taking on an extra course (like I did in block 1 & 2).
  1. Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson: I started the Mistborn series I do not know how long ago and I never got around to reading the last novel of the trilogy. At this point I probably have to re-read the other two books before I will be able to read the last novel but I really really really want to read it as soon as possible (probably in the last week of January, I think). 
  2.  Atonement by Ian McEwan: I was in Perth (Australia) in the beginning of 2013. One day my aunt and her husband took me to a town called Fremantle, for some fish and chips. It so happens that there was a rather cute second-hand bookshop in this particular town. I saw this novel and was obsessed with the note that was put onto it by one of booksellers. I had previously seen the film (because I love James McAvoy) and thus my aunt bought this book for me. However, I have never gotten around to reading it simply because I had already seen the film.. but I'm taking a course on cinematography this year in which this novel will be discussed so I will officially have no choice but to read this book.
  3. Falling for a Dancer by Deirdre Purcell: When I was still a little girl (well not really a little girl, I must have been 14 or something), I once ran out of books to read during a vacation in France. I borrowed a book from one of my mom's friends and it turned out to be this particular novel. However, when I later tried to find this novel (because I rather enjoyed it), I could not find it anywhere because I read it in Dutch. Turns out it's no longer available in bookshops, but I was able to buy it second-hand. I'm really excited about reading this novel in English though.
  4.  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: I read Hard Times (by Dickens) last year (for one of my courses) and I enjoyed it. For any of you who don't know, I own a small Charles Dickens collection. They are absolutely beautiful and I would never ever take them anywhere because they are quite fragile. This means that it's quite difficult to read these novels. Nevertheless, ever since I read The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, I've been wanting to read this particular novel. 
  5. A Reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann: In the summer of 2015, Fabian and I went to Vienna for a few days and visited the royal apartments in the city as well as the summer residence Schonbrunn, of empress Elisabeth of Austria (and her husband Franz Joseph I). It is said that the situation around her and her son's death is what initially caused the first world war (because someone killed the guy who was appointed to take the thrown after Franz Joseph). However this is not the reason I really want to read this novel. As an 8-year-old girl my mom took me to see the musical Elisabeth in Scheveningen and ever since I have been sort of obsessed with her. She has a rather tragic story and even though I already know a lot about her, I want to know more.
  6. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson: As a kid I absolutely loved the film Treasure Planet in which a young male goes on a journey with a group of space-pirates in search of a gigantic treasure. Needless to say, this film is losely based on this particular book. I found a beautiful edition of the novel in my local bookshop and since then this novel is definitely super high on my list.
  7.  The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer: As a teen I was in love with Twilight (who wasn't right... uch..) and I am not ashamed to say that I would probably still enjoy the novels if it wasn't for the fact that I don't own the first three novels in English (nor am I planning on buying them in English). However, I always loved Meyer's The Host loads more than I ever liked Twilight, which is why I am really really interested in reading this novel because I want to see whether it's like Twilight or The Host in anyway and whether or not Meyer has grown in her writing. Please don't judge me 😀

Monday, 2 January 2017

Reflecting on 2016

I almost feel silly doing this because everyone is doing this. Nevertheless, it suits my blog to talk about my 2016. Overall, it was an interesting years. A lot of awful things happened in the world, but for me it has been a pretty good year. I made a lot of important choices and steps; especially the latter half of the year was really good to me. I have a few notes on my wall (ever since I moved in here) which have goals on them and through the course of this year I was finally able to take a few off. So maybe it's appropriate to talk about the things I achieved this year.
  • I finally wrote about the fairy tales of the Grimm brothers. Not as much as I may have planned but I did manage to include Hans Christian Andersen (among others) and I'm quite enjoying it.
  • I sufficiently completed my first year of university!
  • I applied for the University of East Anglia. I want to study aboard for a few months during my bachelor and I was able to apply. This doesn't mean I will be selected for this particular school and I'm super scared but it will be a good and exciting experience.
  • I have improved my sleeping pattern. I'm still struggling with it a tat of course but still, most nights I sleep around 8 hours, which used to be around 5 hours a night. I'm pretty happy about this because it has greatly improved my grades.
  • I sufficiently completed therapy.
  • I finally got to see The Phantom of the Opera (may seem like a silly accomplishment but it's huge to me).
  • I bought new bookcases because my books no longer fit into my old ones, which is an accomplishment because I'm working towards my own personal library.
  • I can cook! I still don't like it but I can do it (and by that I mean I am no longer scared something will go wrong if I have more than one pan on the stove).
Of course I still have a few things I want to accomplish in the following year(s) and I'm not really good at keeping up with resolutions but I can still try right. So here are some things I still want to do/accomplish:
  • Like last year, I want to watch as many Oscar Nominated films as possible before the actual Academy Awards, simply because I want to be able to discuss the nominations and winners with my brother. In order for my opinions to be valid, I have to watch the films we are talking about).
  • Finish my book. I've had this on my list for a loooong time, but this year I want to make it happen. It's been on hold of so long because I started writing back when my English was not as easy to me as it may be now so whenever I start working on it I close it again because the use of English makes me cringe. BUT! I feel like 2017 is the year.
  • Improve the way I consume food. May seem like a silly resolution but dude, .. I love anything sweet and I don't particularly enjoy cooking. I never order food (because it's expensive to order food and I waste all my money on books) so it's not that I eat a lot of junk food or anything.. 
  • Find a way to enjoy exercising again. I used to love dancing and exercising, but recently I've been slacking at it a little bit. Simply because, in my opinion, I have better things to do with my time (like study and read).
That's basically it. Happy new year everybody and let's make it a good one :) At least this year is so far so good. Going to Brugge tomorrow and I'm really excited about it. Hope to provide you guys with something useful about fairy tales on Thursday but it might not happen due to Brugge or studying :)

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Depression and Friends

A while ago I talked about my therapy and my medication. I got a lot of positive reactions from those blog entries. Loads of people telling my I'm strong and courageous for (publicly) speaking up about it. Or that they were there for me if need be, if I wanted to talk or something. This was heart warming, especially because I felt so alone before. A friend of mine told me she felt bad for not talking to me more. She pointed out that, even though she wished she could have helped me more in some ways, she did not know how to talk about it because she'd never been in my position. For her it was a difficult and uncomfortable subject because she didn't know what to say.  She ended with asking what she could have done (or do) for me. I realized that I talked about what happened, how I solved it and my ongoing journey to a better version of Alyssa. But I have not pointed out what it is I needed from the people around me.

In my blog entry called Life Lessons & Therapy, I pointed out that I had a lot of things going on, one of which was the fact that my social contacts were fading and breaking due to my issues and feelings. This was a problem, because I hoped the people around me would notice I wasn't doing so good without having to actually tell them. I realise now that, even though it was what I thought I needed, it was a crazy expectation, one no one would ever have been able to figure out. Simply because everyone has their own things going on and I was doing my very best to hide what was really going on. Whenever I had one of those days in which I felt like crap, I would just avoid people. Not necessarily ignore them but just cancel appointments with little lies so nobody would see how weak and pathetic I was (my own thoughts at the time, nobody actually said this), even if I secretly just wished they would come over anyways and hug me.

I remember lonely days and nights, with loads of crying and just wondering why I was alone. Why didn't anybody notice? Doesn't anybody care? But how could they if I did my very best to never show them scars, tears, or bad days? I wasn't explaining it to anyone so how could they know? How could they help me if I didn't want them to know? Well.. they couldn't. That does not mean that there weren't things that would have helped, or things that did the exact opposite of helping. What didn't help was not being invited. That may seem like another impossible expectation because nobody gets invited for everything. Also, who wants a gloomy person on a fun night out? Nobody I guess. But I remember, especially when I just started my meds, people wouldn't invite me because I wouldn't be able to come (or wouldn't want to) anyways. But you see the thing is, I'm not a mind reader. 

If my friends have a fun night out and (together) did not think to invite me, I assumed they didn't want me there. If they wanted me there, I would have been invited, right? Especially when they would tell me all about it afterwards. Aside from all this, what I really needed was just hugs and shoulders. I did not need great advice, or life lessons, or "hey, it'll be okay". I just needed company. The best days were the days when Fabian would just show up and hug me while I cried. We'd watch Disney films of Friends or whatever I felt like. In my case that could have been the best thing ever. Or when he listened on to me crying over the phone, just being there. I never expected anyone to solve my problems or to have all the answers. I just needed people around me, I needed love. I needed phone calls and text of people who told me they wanted to hang out with me. Or responses to the texts I send to people when I was lonely. My sadness may have made people uncomfortable. Especially if you don't know what to say. But I just felt so lonely most of the time. After I moved to Utrecht, I was living on my own for the first time in my life. And it was horrible. I didn't know how to do that. I would just sit in my room, looking at my walls and wondering why it was so quiet. I was so alone and vulnerable. 

Whenever I see a picture on the internet that says 'depressed people don't need pills, they need a good walk in nature', (example on the right) or something. It really pisses me off for two reasons. First of all, everyone has a different way of dealing with problems and sadness. Now it may be true that a good walk never hurt anyone, but in some cases the big and wide environment of nature (especially when alone) made me feel so vulnerable and small. Two: it makes it seem as if the person saying that your problems aren't problems. It has absolutely no regard for whatever someone is going through. That's the thing I hate most I think. People who don't know what's going, who have never experienced therapy or whatever themselves, telling me what it is I need. Saying: 'just go out and exercise, you'll feel better', without realising that their 'just' is really difficult for someone who has a difficult time (this is an understatement) getting up in the morning, let alone getting out of the house.

It's difficult to really pin-point what it is I needed, because I don't feel like I did a year (or even a few months) ago. I couldn't keep up with my social-contacts for a while (next to therapy and uni and everything) which means that I have 'lost' a number of friends. All I have to say about that is that it's okay. I remember freaking out after primary school because I was so scared of losing my friends, but I moved onto high school and made new friends. Same thing happened when I went to the HU. And again when I went to from the HU to UU. It's just what happens. It doesn't mean people get replaced, it just means it's okay to move on. It does not take away from the amazing times you had before. It just means that people get out of touch. It's why I adore Facebook sometimes. I love seeing how people are doing. Who's travelling where or who has graduated from college. It shows me that those people I once talked to every day are okay too.

I hope this cleared some things up. I hope this may help anyone with maybe helping and connecting with friends who are struggling. Of course it doesn't mean that they need the same thing.. but I think showing someone you care, or that you're there for them, really helps. I know it helped/helps me, which is why the responses I got are so amazing and heart warming :) Thank you!

Lots of Love,
Alyssa