Monday, 24 October 2016

LIFESTYLE | VeryBerryCosmo Turns TWO!


Hello lovelies!

As you can see from the title... TODAY IS VERY BERRY COSMO'S SECOND BIRTHDAY! Please insert all of the birthday and celebratory emojis here please.... 

OF COURSE I had to make something tasty to mark the occasion, plus I figured it should probably have berries in too... above is the VERY BERRY CHEESECAKE! It is white chocolate flavour, with a lovely jammy raspberry centre, coated in lots of berries and strawberry sauce. Jordan helped me make it last night, and it was super easy and super fun! We used this BBC Good Food Recipe because it had lots of fabulous ratings. We used Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Biscuits instead of the Amaretti Biscuits, this was just personal preference, although in hindsight I wish we went for a chunkier biscuit! IT'S THE BEST BIT!


You can't even see the base in the images but there is one! Promise... even if it is teeny, pretty sure it is the richest, sweetest, really bad for your diet... kind of dessert. THE BEST KIND. For someone who is the clumsiest little bean ever, and not overly brilliant in the kitchen department... I think I did pretty well!


Anyway, let's put the cake down.. just for a minute. Let's have a chat. I feel I have been a little bit hard on myself lately. I'm so disappointed in the fact that this will only be my 21st blog post of the entire 2016. I always just sit here like GIRLLLL what have you been doing. People tell me I'm doing so well, but to me, it doesn't feel like I am doing well at all. I feel I don't deserve the kind words. I feel lazy. I feel irrelevant in the blogging world. I feel unmotivated. Why do people care about what I have to say?

But today was different. I went to sit down and write this post and I wasn't entirely sure what to write about to be honest. I had a little flick back at Very Berry's first birthday for a bit of inspo, and I realised HOW much has happened since my last blog birthday. A BLOODY LOT. 


Since October 2015 I have achieved and conquered so many fabulous things. I've had happy times, and I've had a few of the saddest moments of my life.

Let's rewind a year or so shall we? This starts off quite sad, but it brightens up, PROMISE. 

This time last year I was in the first semester of my final year at University. I don't completely remember how I was this time last year... however I do know that it was not good and I have probably tried my hardest to block it out of my mind entirely.

In December I took my first *proper* step towards combatting my OCD. I began taking my anti-depressant medication, fluoxetine, and whilst beginning this made me feel really ill for a good few months as well as many sleepless nights, I haven't looked back since. It has changed my life.

In January, my whole world seemed to crumble. I lost someone in my life that meant the world to me. He was my rock at University and for some reason he decided he could just let me go... I will never understand why. I'd just got back to Uni after several really big deadlines over Christmas. It was time to start my dissertation and final project, and BOOM, he decided to drop that corker on me didn't he?

March was a month where things started looking up! It was my birthday month, and I also met Jordan, at a time where I wasn't sure if I could trust a boy with my heart again. Having a relationship whilst having a mental illness can be really really difficult, and I wasn't sure if I was going to cope with someone brand new, especially when my mind would spiral at the thought of cleanliness in *intimate* situations. It turned out that Jordan was the best thing that could ever happen to me, he really understands my thoughts. He works with food and really understands food hygiene - YAY


April was a HUGE milestone for me on the blog / life in general front. I handed in my dissertation - YESSSSS and one of my biggest blogging brand partnerships began, Penguin. I managed to secure work experience within the publicity & marketing department of Penguin General for two weeks, working on a variety of blogger outreach projects and other general work experiency STUFF. Whilst I was there I tried to network as much as I could and gain professional relationships, I still talk to Steph & Julia on a weekly basis and they are incredibly supportive. Plus I get to read books that aren't even out yet, and run giveaways for you all, and thats pretty cool <3 

I try to get as many people as I can involved with Penguin because I know what it is like to start from scratch, and I want to make it accessible for all bloggers to work with amazing brands, you have to start somewhere!

May was all about finalising off all University deadlines, particularly my Goodbye OCD Stigma project, something that is very close to my heart. I tried to include this on my blogging social media accounts as much as I could because breaking mental health stigmas is a HUGE part of Very berry Cosmo. My OCD story video and book received an overwhelming amount of comments, all very positive! People always tell me how I've inspired them to talk more about their mental health journeys, or to even take that big step to the doctors to go and get themselves help. I love this.

We WILL get our message out there!

In July I graduated from the University of Leeds with a SHINY SHINY 2.1 in Graphic & Communication Design, something that I NEVER thought would ever happen. University was tough, so so so so flipping tough. I shed so many tears over those 4 years, thinking I would never make it until the end. I had so many *I need to drop out right now* moments, but I am a fighter and I didn't give up. ALOT happened during final year, break ups, a lovely friend passed away, battling against my worrisome mind / nasty compulsions and I tried to carry on blogging alongside it all as much as I could. I guess you could say it's not surprising that I have blogged so little? 

I'm all about quality over quantity though, and if I'm not in the right frame of mind to write a blog post, I won't make myself.... even if it means zero posts for weeks. 

August was quite a slow moving month. I had been looking forward to graduating SO much, that I kind of forgot what I was going to be doing once I had finished University. Job-hunting, job-hunting, job-hunting, began to be my priority. I also started to brave it and ask for payments for blog posts - BABY STEPS!! I've always been too anxious to ask for money, but all they can do is say no, and I work DAMN hard on all of the content I produce.

I must say, September was a BOUXtiful month. Yes, that is right, another big brand partnership began - I became a brand ambassador for one of my favourite companies, Boux Avenue! This was one of my biggest blogging achievements to date - for some reason little ol' me was selected to promote the most BEAUTIFUL pieces of nightwear and lingerie alongside some pretty amazing fashionistas! Whenever I feel low, I think of times like this. I must be doing SOMETHING in the blogging community right. 

& here we are! This year has sure had its ups and its downs. I've met so many wonderful faces this year at various events all around the country. Bloggers Ball, Blogger Tiki Party, Bloggers Blog Awards, The Alchemist, Wren Kitchens, all sorts - the list is endless!

I guess what this post is trying to say is.... even on those days where you FEEL rubbish and life seems very still and not an awful lot is going on for you, you just need to take a step back. Have a think of all the GOOD and positive things that have happened, you will probably surprise yourself, it is so easy to forget about all sorts of brilliant achievements and get yourself swept under.

I just want to say, thank you so much for all of your amazing, wonderful, kind messages, there is NO WAY I would have continued this life adventure without you all. Your support means the world. I wonder where we will go this year? I'M EXCITED. Hope you are too. 

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

LIFESTYLE | Mental Health & Employment

Mental Health and Employment

Hello lovelies!

It's been a big week for the 'mental health' scene on the Internet. Monday was World Mental Health Day, and it was great to see all of the positive energy surrounding this, all the tweets of illustrations, the story shares... simply everything was portrayed in a good light. Encouraging people to talk, find support, and not to be embarrassed about their thoughts. This is great, but I do agree that it shouldn't only be 'one day a year' where this happens. 

It was also OCD Awareness Week, which holds a truly special place in my heart. Unless you are a new reader of Very Berry Cosmo, I am also certain you all know how passionate I am about breaking the stigma of OCD, and educating as many people as I can about the disorder. Weeks like this are BRILLIANT because as a community we can all come together and spread the word. Little ol' me can't make a huge impact, but everyone TOGETHER sure as hell can. 

People still don't know what OCD is, they think all sufferers are all 'super clean FREAKS' and that we go round cleaning all day and everyday, swabbing everything to see the germ count, and that we ENJOY doing these behaviours, which is simply not the case. 

If you enjoy cleaning, you don't have OCD. You simply like cleaning. 

If you enjoy everything in order, colour coding all your spreadsheets, you don't have OCD. You simply like being organised.  

I can tell you now, us OCD sufferers do not enjoy our compulsions. We like them because they provide us a sense of relief... for a short amount of time. But then we have to do the compulsion again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again... you get the picture., it get's tiring. We do not 'enjoy' doing them, we have to do them. We will be completely anxious the entire time we act them out, the sheer terror we feel is not enjoyment at all.

I was interview by a local newspaper this week, take a look at the article here!

Mental Health and Employment

Anyway, let's get into the main point of the blog post shall we? flip I love to babble don't I. As most of you know, I completed my degree in July earlier this year. These days I am pretty much lounging around the house in my pyjamas trying my HARDEST to get myself a design graduate job. It is so much harder than I ever thought it would be. 

A family member said to be me the other day.... do you think you're having less luck on the job front because you make it publicly aware that you suffer with OCD? and I sat there for a moment and had a think.

Mental Health and Employment

I will be honest, it is something that has crossed my mind briefly, in the beginning I wanted to write an anonymous mental health blog, but it turns out that just didn't work out. About a year and half ago I began to open up about my experience with nasty thoughts on this blog. The feedback I received was amazing, people said I was inspiring, refreshing, and educating people a lot about an illness that has so many misconceptions in the media. 

During our conversation it was asked whether or not I would consider removing all my blog posts mentioning my battle with OCD... just until I managed to secure a job...

The answer was no. 

I'm not going to remove them. I try to not let the label OCD define me, but at the end of the day it IS a part of me and I am really not ashamed about it - I have helped out SO many people coming to terms with their own minds! If I'm completely honest, if an employer DID feel this way, I really wouldn't want to work for an organisation that had those values anyway.  

Mental Health and Employment

In my last couple of jobs I didn't utter a word to anyone in the offices about my mental health, and I also didn't tell them about my blog. It made it really really hard for me, and made me feel even worse because I felt completely alone in the workplace. It was also when my mind was at an all time low.  

I was going to therapy at 7am on Monday mornings, a therapy technique that was known to make you feel really drowsy. It also MADE you remember thoughts that were particularly uncomfortable, because that was the point of it, bringing out thoughts and feelings that you may have repressed. Mondays at work were hard, I was seriously tired and seriously worried, with no-one in the office to turn to. I guess that is kinda why I started writing my thoughts on Very Berry Cosmo in the first place. 

From then on, I promised myself that I would be open about my mental health with my next employer, right from the application process. I haven't been all over my application like... I HAVE OCD,  I SOMETIMES HAVE REALLY NASTY THOUGHTS. I tend to not even mention it in the equal opportunities section, because personally I don't feel that having OCD makes me disabled, or any less capable of an amazing career. I have simply linked my blog in my application, if they see it, they see it. If they don't, they don't. Obviously I also talk about my OCD design project in my interviews too - so they find out there... I am just being honest. I want to be employed for ME and for ALL of me. 

Flowers Wentworth Castle Gardens

Then it gets to the point of... SO WHAT if I have a mental illness. It doesn't make me any less capable. Yes, I might have the odd blip every so often, but who doesn't? I honestly, truly think that everybody in the world will have some experience of mental health problems in their life. Whether it is themselves directly, or a family member, problems with the mind are far more common than people realise. It doesn't make you crazy. 

I feel I am one of the most reliable, hard-working people within the workplace. I rarely take days off and I put my all into any project thrown my way. During my placement year I only took one day off, it turns out I was sent home from the office at around 10am because I was really suffering from the flu. But that is the point, I STILL went in, even though I felt awful. 

I NEED to work. Working makes me feel better. Working means I have less time to mope about and overthink EVERYTHING. It provides a distraction for my anxieties. I hope employers realise this.

Flowers Wentworth Castle Gardens

Whenever I talk about my OCD design project in interviews, I try to reassure them that I am doing pretty well. Because I am. If I was stood in the interviewees shoes I guess I would be rather freaked. Hearing a little girl talking about how horrible it is to have OCD.. so I try to calm them as much as I can and say that I genuinely am doing okay these days, but it is sadly not always the case for all sufferers.

My anti-depressant medication is AMAAAAZING and has totally changed my life. I rarely act out on my compulsions at all these days. I find I am experiencing more depressed symptoms these days, but I feel that is simply because I am sitting around all day and rarely leave the house.

On Sunday, Jordan and I and his dad and step-mum went for a lovely national trust walk around Wentworth Castle, in Barnsley. I remember feeling so content, surrounded by beautiful scenery, (the photos in this blog post show this) amazing company - and all around amazing day. I had one blip in the public toilet, but then I have to remember SO many people don't like public toilets.

Life is getting better. I am getting better. I am very capable. 

Flowers Wentworth Castle Gardens

Hope you found this post interesting! I would be rather intrigued to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic. Do you think work-places judge the equal opportunities section of job applications? ... even though they say they 100% don't! Let me know in the comments!

I just want to say, I certainly do worry that my mental health status IS having an impact on my job hunt initially, but I have had interviews at about 11 companies. From general feedback, I have interviewed well - there has just always been another candidate in the process with more appropriate skills for the role. Who knows?

All photos in this post were taken and edited by my lovely boyfriend, Jordan. He is extremely talented at photographing architecture and *things* but I am training (hehe) him to take portraiture photos, who knows - it could be his new hobby! Do give him a follow on his Instagram because his shots and compositions are brilliant, and deserve so much more love! Plus... he's the reason my mental health has dramatically improved, so why wouldn't you love him for that? 
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