School reunion: 5 years later

You know all those films you watch where you see your favourite teenage stars get to season 5 or 6 and end up at a really awkward school reunion where there’s one pregnant one, one engaged one and one who’s gone off the rails? Well that’s where I was this weekend! Except there wasn’t a pregnant one or one who’s gone off the rails, just an engaged one I’m very happy for, and it actually wasn’t awkward AT ALL, I had a lovely time!

Here’s that fabulous bunch…

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In this picture you’ll see a soon to be Doctor and 2 lawyers amongst many other impressive sounding careers, such as a Data Analyst and something to do with building which is like Architecture but not quite, I forgot what that one was called! Anyways, all of these were much more impressive than my ‘Social Media’ job title and so when met with the inevitable ‘soooo what do you do now?’ question I felt a little bit silly saying that and was mostly met with looks of ‘is that even really a job?’.

Can we also just discuss that I haven’t seen this group of people in FIVE YEARS!? When I was in sixth form the thought of even being a functioning adult in 5 years time was laughable and yet now I live in London, as do all of these lovely people, and we’re all fully functioning, like we can feed ourselves and house ourselves and even buy alcohol in All Bar One without being asked for ID, crazy world I tell ya!

A reunion involving Siana French wouldn’t be complete though without some embarrassing moments where I tried to keep conversation going or make a joke and instantly regretted the words coming out my mouth. For example, I basically admitted that my agreeing to attend this event had made my mum so happy because I would ‘make more friends’…fully aware that makes me sound like a very sad loner. I also admitted a crush that I had for the entire of secondary school. When you’re at school and keeping a secret you automatically think your entire year group knows just because a few people tease you about it, turns out no one knew until now. That wasn’t enough though because after several glasses of wine I felt the need to create a ‘funny’ story out of it and delve deeper into the absolute insanity that was head over heels in love Siana in years 7 and 8, safe to say once the words had left my lips they didn’t seem so funny and I’m praying everyone else had had enough prosecco to forget because I’m majorly cringing. Siana where the hell is your filter?

Taking this back to a more serious note though, I find it amazing that people I went to school with, that I was chucked into classes with purely based on the first letter of our last name or our sixth form subject choices could still be in my life after all this time. Granted i’ve not seen them in 5 years and can’t take any credit for the great idea it was to stage this reunion but I’m so happy that a little piece of my childhood still exists. Looking back on my school life I had such a good time and that is partly down to these people. We didn’t all have the same interests or even hang around in the same friendship groups but we did all spend at least 7 if not more years of our childhoods experiencing the same things day after day amongst the same people and being forced to do the same boring school rituals and celebrate the same amazing life milestones like 18th birthday parties – 2010 to 2011 really was a great year!

I hope I can stay in touch with these people and this be just the beginning because despite not quite recognising all of them straight away due to significantly more facial hair and a much more developed Irish accent, we all have a lot more in common that I may have given credit.

I’ll leave you with this blast from the past, all the girls featured above are in this picture from our last day in Ladies’ College Sixth Form in 2011…

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You’re all lovely 🙂 xxx

Trip to Europe: Part 2

On the second day of our little European adventure we leapt out of bed anxious to see what the weather was deciding to do today…it was DRY! but for how long? Just in case it decided to take a turn for the worst we quickly got dressed, popped to our favourite patisserie across the road…

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…’nibbled’ on our sweet treats…

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…and were on our merry way to central Paris to begin our second day of sight seeing. Of course the weather didn’t hold out very long and by the time we had to walk to our hotel it was raining again. Key memory from the walk to the hotel? Amy being slapped on the bum by a far too forward French boy who she literally ‘shooed’ away like some sort of rodent, well done Amy! When we found out our hotel room was on the top floor and there was only a lift halfway we thought we were in trouble but it turned out to be a gorgeous, modern room, so modern the shower was IN the room *ooo errr* but don’t worry there was just enough frosted glass to cover your modesty, unless someone was lying in the bed next to the shower (yep that was me!).

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Time to head to the Big Bus Tour but only far enough to take us to somewhere we could eat! What an ordeal that was. After walking around in circles we decided on the cafe with heaters outside it, for obvious reasons, but choosing our meals wasn’t the greatest success and poor Amy (a fussy veggie, never easy to cater for) ended up with eggs mayonnaise from the starter menu because that was all she would eat. Picture 2 boiled eggs chopped in half and served with a dollop of mayonnaise on top of them, oh and a little bit of salad on the side YIPEE! Luckily the crepes we had for dessert were much better and the customer service was highly entertaining with our waiter taking it upon himself to test our French skills and laugh at us when we said things weirdly. With some questionable food in our bellies it was time to hop back on the tour bus and head to the sights such as The Louvre, Notre Dame, L’Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, you know all the usuals! Unfortunately due to the extremely poor weather, did I mention it was raining? We didn’t get off anywhere other than the Eiffel Tower. Instead we sat on the top of the bus with macs on, free Big Bus Tour ponchos covering our legs and my umbrella shielding the wind (pictures below for comic value).

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You can’t go to Paris without at least standing in front of the Eiffel Tower though so we did get off there and as if by some miracle the sun decided to come out for us, it couldn’t have been more perfect timing really. To make the most of this we made our way up the tower, lift not stairs don’t worry, and took in the amazing view from up there. We also met a lovely Australian lady who offered to take some group pictures of us, always an awkward thing trying to make eye contact with someone and get them to photograph you so it was a relief when she offered and of course I did the same for her!

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Trip to Europe: Part 1

Picture the scene, 4 girls who haven’t spoken French in about 5 years (and even that was only GCSE level) arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport with very little idea where they’re going or how to get there…

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Part one of our mini European trip was a visit to Versailles/Cheville just outside of Paris. Not going to lie the main reason for this was because much like London, staying outside of the main city is a lot cheaper, and we thought whilst we were there we might aswell explore Versailles a little too. After figuring out which tickets we needed we proceeded to get on our first train into central Paris…whilst on this train we were met by two French rappers who positioned themselves right next to us and sang VERY loudly. Everyone on the train avoided eye contact with them and each other although I did share a little giggle with the lady opposite me. Once they had FINALLY finished their extremely repetitive song they walked up and down the carriage asking for money, we said we didn’t have any even though they were saying they were happy with any currency. After they left I exclaimed “My Mum definitely would have given them some” (Mum if you’re reading this then don’t deny it you so would have!). Train one successfully completed we then had to get ourselves to the Metro. Having managed to find it I was SO excited to find that underground trains in Paris are DOUBLE DECKERED! A double decker train…underground! How cool is that!? Whilst on the train to Cheville it began to rain, the rain we had been expecting when we all accidentally bought matching Mac in a sacs prior to the holiday. This was just the beginning of what was to be a very wet holiday. We put our macs on and exited the train. On the platform there was an escalator, an outdoor escalator, in the rain! Forgive me for being slightly concerned to mount an electrical machine whilst it’s getting wet, I thought I was going to be fried. Being the brave soldier I am though (HA!) I offered to go first and we did all survive the escalator ordeal…success! Then we had to find our way to our hotel, in the very heavy rain, with suitcases! We were using google maps which…did you know…doesn’t work very well in the rain! I was trying to use my nose, my chin, my elbow, my knuckle, anything that may be dry just to make the darn thing cooperate with me enough to get us to our hotel quickly and in a semi dry state. The semi dry state definitely didn’t happen but we did find our hotel and stumble into a reception which was hosting a Chinese conference looking like drowned rats. Thank god our room was ready but unfortunately we weren’t going to be able to eat at the hotel due to the event they were hosting…we NEEDED food! Once we got to our room we began to remove wet pieces of clothing and hang them anywhere and everywhere in the hope they’d dry enough for us to put them on and get them wet again the next day. Food time…there was the most delicious looking patisserie across the road and so lunch on day one consisted of a pommes au tatin, half a baguette and some sliced Gouda, mmmm!

So we had found our way to France, we had a bedroom, we had changed our shoes to pairs that didn’t resemble a reservoir and it was time to begin the tourism regardless of the monsoon currently happening outside. We decided to brave public transport and got the bus to Chateau de Versailles, a huuuuge house with a lot of gold, a lot of tourists and free entry for EU citizens (bargain!). Jess being the history enthusiast I recently learnt she is, was super keen to get a tour headset and learn everything about every room in the house, I on the other hand was just more interested in taking pretty pictures of pretty rooms, either way we all enjoyed the visit and felt like we had succeeded at making the most of a rainy day. Day one was a wet success and spirits were still surprisingly high, little did we know how many more wet days we were going to have to swim through. See what I did there?

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I GOT A JOB!

Well today definitely seems like something that needs blogging. I FINALLY got offered a permanent position at AKA. I’ve been interning there since 13 October 2014 and today (13 May 2015) I got asked to stay permanently.

Dream job?

YES! When I was leaving uni I told everyone I was going to get a marketing job within the arts industry and I don’t really think anyone believed me because it was such a niche role within a difficult industry. But hey look…I did it! I pinpointed AKA as the agency I wanted to work at and was thrilled when an internship came up, not only that, a social media internship which I am pretty sure was made for me. I clung on desperately despite there being no job at the end of it and am so excited to have got here and achieved this alllllll by myself.

Quite a few people have asked me what I actually do so here you go (in a nutshell):

1. Manage the social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) for a number of West End plays and musicals. This involves posting everyday and replying to comments, tweets, private messages etc.

2. Create content ie. Editing photos and videos, doing backstage photography, attending events with the cast in order to photograph/document.

3. Social advertising – something new that I have learnt since starting. You know all those ‘Sponsored’ posts you see on your newsfeed? Yep that’s us. We create the posts, upload the images, choose who we want to target based on their interests and ages and put money behind them to push them out to lots of people.

4. Report on what people like and don’t like on each show’s social media channels, how much engagement we have had, how many people have used our pages to go through to the website and buy tickets etc.

5. Report on how our advertising has performed. Which age and interest groups were most engaged, how many people clicked through to the show website, how many people we reached etc.

Personally I currently work on 1 musical and 5 plays alongside helping the rest of the team on creating content for our other shows, of which we have about 17 between us, and doing advertising and reporting for about 20 other museums, galleries, theatres and production companies.

Oh and did I mention I LOVE it? Ye I do. I am such a happy bunny that I get to stay there carrying on doing a job I love with sooooo many lovely colleagues and seeing new shows all the time.

Basically, dream come true.

On this day…

Picture the scene…

On this day last year I woke up with a feeling of dread. I showered, got dressed and looked in the mirror wondering if I had made my outside look too put together for what I was about to tell someone was going on inside. I stood for 10 minutes in the middle of Alexandra Square in Lancaster, waiting for a friend to meet me and take me to the doctors because I couldn’t go by myself. I had to go by myself. I sat in the waiting room trying to imagine how on earth this was all going to happen, picturing what the doctor might look like, wondering what she was going to say and how we were going to start this conversation. I sat in the chair next to her desk, pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from my pocket and started reeling off symptoms which I thought made me sound like a loon or attention seeker…
– I’m scared all the time
– I shake, I can’t breathe, I feel sick
– I feel like I’m a burden to all of my friends and I’m losing them
– I feel lonely all the time
– I wake up every morning with butterflies in my stomach regardless of what may be happening that day
– I can’t concentrate
– I can’t sleep
The list went on…

Never had I ever told anyone this, not out loud anyways. Usually I am really good at keeping a strong ‘front’ and that was what I was convinced I would do today but I completely broke down, my voice cracked and my hands started shaking uncontrollably. I couldn’t even get to the end of my list because I knew I would cry and I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried in front of someone.

That was when she told me I had anxiety and depression. In some ways it was a relief because that was what I was expecting to hear but in other ways it was terrifying, I was actually mentally ill, I was one of those people! I was given leaflet upon leaflet and offered medication, of which I took because it felt like the only way out.

That was one year ago today…

Today I am sat at my dream marketing agency, doing a job which was basically made for me and makes me extremely happy. I have successfully moved to London, carved a life for myself teaching dance to a lovely group of children who make me smile every Saturday, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones and continuously proving to myself that I am so much braver than I thought. I haven’t a clue if I am any better, if the medication is working or if a change in environment is what has caused these changes but I can definitely look back on the past year and be extremely grateful I’m not still lying in the bed in my attic room, unable to even think about moving let alone doing anything.

Motto for the day: things will change if you try hard enough. Even if it scares you.

Just another blog post about mental health.

I never wanted to be one of those people I see so frequently on my newsfeed. The kind who post ALL the time about the same thing, like a message they want to spread or a cause they feel passionately about. And yet it looks as if I may be becoming just that! The truth is, so many people with mental health problems are talking about it now that I almost feel stigmatised in a different way, like now I am one of those people who’s sole purpose in life is to spread the word, ‘end the stigma’ and educate people. As much as I do enjoy reading other people’s stories and get some comfort from them, I also know how annoying it is to see my Facebook newsfeed cluttered by people trying to sell their opinions, not that understanding mental health is an opinion, but I feel it is being forced upon people and in an effort to rid sufferers of one stigma, it is just pushing us into another as the annoying kind who always want to tell people the deepest, darkest feelings we are experiencing on a day to day basis and share our ‘sob’ stories. Having said all of this, here I am, writing this blog post and about to share thoughts and feelings which really, nobody needs to know. But it helps me, writing has become a very therapeutic thing for me and unfortunately despite it having been almost 1 year since my initial blog post about all things mental, I still have no other way to share things with people as I just really suck at talking!

I have recently started attempting CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) however due to my unwillingness and inability to access counselling or therapy, I am attempting this via a book. Shock horror, me reading a book at all is like major news!! The reason I am mentioning this is because I have only read 2 chapters of the book and have already been left pondering over the past 21 years of my life! This may sound scarily philosophical but honestly, I don’t feel like that and am simply treating this recent self exploration as scientific research. Apparently mental health isn’t all chemical, I had led myself to believe that the anxiety and depressed feelings I experience were all down to a chemical imbalance in my brain which I can do nothing about and was simply something I was born with. However there is little scientific proof of this. In fact it appears that perhaps my brain is wired a little differently, but it is environmental factors which have triggered it to react the way it has and develop unnecessary anxieties and fall into depression. Now how on earth do I figure out what caused this!? Last night I was watching a TV programme where a psychotherapist claimed that receiving a diagnosis or a label was one of the worst things a person with a mental health problem could do. Her reasons for this were that the minute you are given a diagnosis you feel like it is an illness, something which can never go away and you simply have to find coping mechanisms and medication to manage the illness. This however means that you stop exploring why you could be feeling like this. She was carrying out a study on 2 people who suffered with Bipolar Disorder and concluded that one had been bullied very badly as a child and it seemed as though every time he was in a depressive state he was actually reliving the bullying therefore feeling the negative thoughts which that past action once instilled in him, and the other was an obsessive ‘winner’, he always had to be number one and this had massively affected his ability to cope with everyday life triggering his manic or depressive states depending on his social standing at the time. The truth is neither of these findings help me in the slightest, but it was interesting to note that perhaps if I could unlock where this all started, I would maybe be able to start tackling it from the root of the problem rather than simply masking the symptoms with medication.

As I mentioned it has been almost a year (10 months in fact) since I first started on anti-depressants and I am still on them. I recently went to the doctors and after a very brief conversation about how I was, in which she seemed very uninterested, it was decided that I shouldn’t come off of them and that I would get another 4 months worth to ‘experiment’ with, changing my doses as and when I wanted. Now I am no doctor but I am pretty sure telling any patient to experiment with their medication and take their health into their own hands is risky business! Luckily I feel pretty stable at the moment and as if I know what works and doesn’t work for me, but at the same time, the thought of any small thing changing and me spiralling back to how I was this time last year terrifies me and honestly I don’t think I would have the courage to come back out of it again! Right now, I feel like I am stuck in the middle between cured and square one, literally unable to go either way! Whilst I feel miles better and rarely have a bad day now in comparison to this time last year, I also only feel like I am coping, rather than continuing to get better. Without the help of a caring doctor like the one I first spoke with in Lancaster, I am finding it hard to believe that I can move on from my current status without figuring out what caused it in the first place. The thought of coming off of my medication scares the life out of me because I feel like I will fall back to square one, but I also know that things can still be better than they are right now, I just don’t know how to get there! Truth is I don’t think the medication is going to get me there so maybe some soul searching will help?

I wish I could blame bullying for everything…that seems to be most people’s answer but I wasn’t bullied. The only real trauma I can remember from my childhood is the many divorces and near divorces I have been through. I wish I could blame those, certain family members and my constant travel as a child…but actually, something I finally realised last night was that this all started when I was about 12. Before the turbulent divorces and family dramas. I was always a really bubbly kid, just like I still am, but I vividly remember being sat in my room on MSN (yep remember that thing!) night after night, head in hands just waiting for people to talk to me. When people weren’t online I used to be paranoid that they had blocked me and would set up fake accounts just to check they were actually offline. That is not normal! I would sit at my desk feeling miserable and lonely almost every night of the week, even though I was speaking to friends and had my parents in the house with me! During secondary school there was a girl in my year group who suffered very badly from anorexia. She got painfully thin and went away for treatment 3 times throughout our 7 years at that school. I remember people worrying about her and checking she was okay and I used to wish that I could have something wrong with me or something bad happen to me to give me a reason to be miserable and for people to care about me. That makes me sad just thinking of my younger self like that! I had NO idea that I was depressed, I don’t think I even really knew that I was miserable or sad, I just know that there were times I used to wish I was that anorexic girl, I used to think about something happening to someone I knew and how this would give me a reason to be sad and feel the feelings I was currently trying to hide. I wouldn’t have to tell people, they would just know and look after me… that is not right!

Beyond that soul searching I haven’t got any further with my quest to pick my past apart and figure out what happened to my little fragile brain but lucky for me I have roughly 70 years of my life left to figure this all out..woohoo!

Current questions:

– Stay on medication?

– What caused me to be like this?

Answers: none yet.

Check back for another episode of ‘Siana writes her whole life publicly on the internet’ soon.

Love xxx

I am proud of myself.

A pretty self indulgent blog post I’m not going to lie…
To put this post into context you may need to read THIS first.

In May 2014 I pretty much hit my rock bottom, or at least I hope things don’t get worse! But now, at the start of 2015 I am genuinely so proud of myself. I still have a very long way to go but I can feel things (very slowly) changing and I don’t think we as humans give ourselves enough credit, so here I am saying;

  • I am proud of myself for moving to London all on my own. For attending job interviews, arranging flat viewings, phoning utility companies and registering for a doctors surgery. There was once a time when I hated change! My dad always likes to remind me of the time I said ‘I don’t like change, I don’t even like it when people change their phone number!’. Well 8 year old Siana…look at yourself now!
  • I am proud of myself for securing an internship at my dream agency with no help from family connections or my ‘fairy godfather’ dad who until this point had arranged every opportunity I had.
  • I am proud of myself for meeting new people and making new friends.
  • I am proud of myself for no longer being afraid to be alone. For going to the theatre or the cinema by myself and being completely content.
  • I am proud of myself for saying yes to more, even if I am afraid, for not hiding away in my flat and for making my time here so much better because of it.

As I said I still have a long way to go, there are still a lot of things I avoid, and things that make my stomach turn just thinking about them, but I honestly feel like London life is slowly but surely changing me for the better and bringing me out of my shell. I have absolutely no idea what this year is going to bring, or where I am going to be come the end of it, or how I am going to feel, but I’m going to fasten my seatbelt and attempt to stay on this roller-coaster (wow what a cheese ball I can be!).

I don’t think I say this enough but thank you to everyone who has helped me in some way, big or small, it doesn’t go unnoticed!

Lots of love xxx