“There isn’t a tangible reason for depression darling. It’s a bunch of rubbish chemicals in your brain that run riot”

“Depression is grey. It’s that gloomy feeling that lays above your head. It’s a storm cloud. It clears up, and then it starts to pour.” 

The Colour of Depression by Sarina Montano

It’s such a familiar feeling that creeps up on me completely out the blue. I can be sitting on the sofa watching some videos on my laptop, or I can be at work talking to a student and I can feel what is like an upcoming sneeze that I have got no control over.

It’s a feeling that I have had since I was really young and never understood until I got a bit older.

It’s the feeling of a grey day.

My grey days are unpredictable most of the time. Now and again I can anticipate them, for example if they are an anniversary of something big in my life, or the day after I’ve had a really good day and the thought of “you won’t have another day like that again” sets in and sucks up all my energy. But days like today I don’t and can’t anticipate.

I was sitting on the sofa watching a “Life Is Strange” game playthrough on youtube and the sneeze like feeling came across me, but I didn’t need to sneeze.

The numbness spread across my body and I felt my eyes begin to glaze over. The voices of those talking in the video becoming muffled, as if someone cruel had come up behind me and put headphones over my ears to make me feel isolated from the comforting sound of other people.

I tried bargaining with my own head, asking it not do this today as I had booked a day of leave from work to relax and be productive, perhaps go to town and get my hair cut for the family wedding we are going to next week, but my brain didn’t pay much notice to my polite questioning.

I won’t be going out today I don’t think.

When I feel like this the worst thing I feel is the frustration at myself, because I think after how ever many years of this feeling why hasn’t it stopped yet? Why does it still continue?

I’m in a good place now, I am lucky and have wonderful things around me and day to day I am happy. Yet these days still happen, not as much as they used to however, but they still do.

When I talk to my best friend about this she always says something along the lines of – “there isn’t a tangible reason for depression darling. It’s a bunch of rubbish chemicals in your brain that run riot” which is completely true and I always try and remember that when I feel like this.

It offers some comfort but not enough to lift the headspace I’m in.

The greyness is so consuming I physically can’t think of anything else.

When I’m happy I see the world in such a shiny way, everything glows around me and I want to smile and laugh all day and take everything in and experience everything around me.

When I feel like this though it always feels as if someone has thrown paint remover all over everything around me, and every inch of colour is dripping away. I can try and paint the colour back on but it continues to drip off and eventually I give up and sit with colour staining the floor and just grey walls around me.

Depression does feel like a bunch of chemicals in your brain sometimes, but other times it feels like the world around you is changing and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I don’t know which one I feel like today.

 

 

 

 

 

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“And then Sunday comes along again…and you can play on your favourite childhood game once more.”

Sundays are perhaps my favourite day of the week…

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They’re the perfect day for relaxing and re-charging before the working week begins again. Today (Sunday if you hadn’t guessed) I spent the day playing Final Fantasy 9 on the Playstation and it felt fantastic…

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If you haven’t played Final Fantasy 9, for me personally, it is the best of the Final Fantasy series. “Not Final Fantasy 7?!” I hear you cry…

(Sorry Cloud…)

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I spent the whole day re-living the many lazy afternoons of my childhood when I would play this game for hours and hours on end, without having to worry about anything else.

A time when I was able to fully immerse myself in a world full of incredible characters and storylines that would set your brain into over-drive that you would still be reeling from days after playing.

And the soundtrack…

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Despite all these wonderful things from this game, despite the joy it was giving me whilst playing, I found myself feeling, undoubtedly, deeply sad.

Why was I feeling so sad when I was playing my favourite game? What had this triggered in me?

It took me a bit of time to really work it out, but I think it is linked to that worry we all have that time is moving so much faster than we want it to. My childhood years of playing this game for the first time are over now, I will never be that age again and I found myself really struggling with that today.

If someone had said to me this afternoon I could trade everything I have done and everything I have achieved to just go back to when I was younger playing this game in my bedroom, I would have done it in a heartbeat. No hesitation.

But that’s impossible of course…

The only time we truly have is the here and now, this very moment. But what do you do if you don’t want that?

What do you do if you want to go back in time to a happier moment, or go forward in time in the hope that things will be better? What do you do with that feeling of deep sadness that makes you physically ache and you can’t really understand it but you just know it’s there?

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I decided to sit with it. Just sit with the sadness for one minute…two minutes…three minutes…

However long it takes.

I sat with it, and after I had thought about it a little and felt it, I wrote it down in my notebook that I write quotes in that I like or any random thoughts I have and that kind of thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I still felt like shit. That’s the reality of mental health and just because you’ve sat with a particular feeling for a bit it doesn’t magically go away, but it definitely helps.

Just by accepting it and letting it in I felt better.

I still wish more than anything I could go back in time to when I was younger, even if it was just for a day, but then if I did I imagine I would have that feeling you have when you’re younger when you just want to be an adult.

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It’s impossible to do anything with time, it just is what it is. And as I’m getting older I am getting better at just enjoying every moment as it comes. But sometimes I do wish more than anything I could go back or go forward…

That’s what Sundays are for though. To reflect on the previous week and embrace it for all it’s flaws and wonderful moments, whatever they were. And then you can look forward to the coming week and whatever it may bring…

And then Sunday comes along again…and you can play on your favourite childhood game once more.

Unless the game disc breaks. Then I think I’d just crawl into bed until they released a re-mastered version…

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“You go Glen Coco!”

Last weekend I watched Mean Girls again for the first time in years and not only did it remind me how close it is to my heart (seriously, that film can still have me hysterically laughing even after seeing it countless times) but it also got me thinking about my teenage self and how much I have grown since I was in that awkward phase of my life.

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Recently I have started a new job which is extremely exciting, busy and new, but for someone with anxiety it can also pose some uncertainties which is pretty much the main thing those with anxiety fear most.

So when I sat down to watch Mean Girls last weekend I could feel I was beginning to have a bit of a mental dip and worry about things perhaps more than I had in a little while and the familiar tightness in my chest was coming and going in waves. Watching this film though sent me back to my old teenage mind set, and reminded me how far I have come as a person.

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When I was a teenager the anxieties I had included my friendship groups falling apart at any moment, if my hair wasn’t perfectly straight would everyone laugh at me and just generally what other people thought of me.

As I have grown older I have realised that although these worries don’t matter as much, you replace those teenage anxieties with more adult ones – how am I going to afford that phone bill, will I get that job I applied for or my personal favourite…if the cat escaped out the flat would she find her way home? (Genuinely this terrifies me.)

So perhaps you do replace old anxieties with just new and improved ones, but the difference is as you grow older you work out how to deal with them as they come and you develop coping strategies. You’ve gained that experience to know the world won’t stop turning if you don’t get that job, you just have to try again.

As my mind has developed so much, particularly over the last year, although there are uncertainties with my new job I feel like I can cope with it, and process it as it comes. I’ve been diving in head first and taking on as much responsibility as I can and just getting involved where I can too because it is a job I wanted for so long I have to go in hard!

I did find myself feeling quite guilty about feeling anxious about it all too because I thought this is exactly what you’ve wanted, you shouldn’t be feeling like this, that’s ungrateful, which of course feeds into the bad mind set even further which isn’t good!

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I think it’s important to just ride the wave sometimes and also remind yourself anxiety around certain things in life like work, relationships and cats escaping is totally normal and it’s okay to feel like that. Just remember to go with it, and not say “I’m okay” if you’re not that day.

I’m constantly working on opening up more to people around me, I haven’t told anyone at all really about this little dip and how I’m feeling at the moment and that’s linked into that feeling of guilt and why should I be feeling this way when I’ve just got the job I’ve been gunning for for so long. What I need to do is work on some kindness towards myself, but like everything you have to keep checking in and working on it.

So keep riding the wave and just remember…

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“I will however never ever ever ever WILLINGLY touch a car roof.”

“The truth is that troublesome things tend to remain troublesome no matter how many times you do them, and that you should avoid doing them unless they are absolutely urgent.”

Lemony Snicket

I’ve been in a really strange head space recently. Work is very quiet, the students are too busy stressing out about their exams to spend any time at Reception these days…ahhh remember being a student?

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So as a result I have had perhaps a bit more time than normal to think about things, how I’m feeling and where I’m at in my own head and I realised that I’m not feeling amazing.

That’s okay of course, you don’t have to be singing and dancing 24/7 because then you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the really super times in life, but what do you do when you are having those dips?

Well part of me instinctively wants to just climb into bed and fester there for a few days and hope that that’ll fix everything…that works right?

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Okay no it doesn’t work and to be fair it just isn’t a viable option…I have a cat to feed!

My self-esteem is quite low at the moment as I am paranoid about the weight I have put on recently and I’m very aware of the fact I feel like it’s showing on my face if you look at me from the side. Just bleurgghh!!

So because of that I then feel like any kind of make up I put on is just a bit of a waste of time and people will think “why bother?”. Of course I am sure that isn’t true, but when you get in that kind of  thought process it’s sometimes tricky to break it right?

So I did what all sensible people do when they are feeling self conscious…I changed my hair colour.

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*Now obviously I look as good as Beyoncé.

(*Disclaimer: I don’t look even remotely like Beyoncé.)

It’s been a change up, so now rather than looking at my fuller cheeks in the mirror I think “your hair is lighter than it was before. Nice!” and it’s been refreshing, and I’ve had some nice compliments on it too which was great!

Another old sensation that has cropped up again, and one that is quite closely linked with my anxiety and OCD, is feeling really claustrophobic constantly and I kind of find wherever I am sat whether it’s driving my car to work, or just sat at home, I feel like there’s too much stuff around me and I can’t focus properly. It’s really unpleasant. I could be in an empty room the size of a football pitch and still feel like I was stuck in a hoarder’s front room with no way out.

How do I fix this? The easy answer is…I have absolutely no idea.

This is part of my personality that I’ve had ever since I can remember. Just a real feeling of uncomfortable-ness and hyper-awareness of every object around me and the feeling that the clothes on my body are suffocating me…

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And not being able sit in a comfortable position no matter what I try because however I sit I feel frustrated and suffocated!

I think it also links into my difficulty to process over-stimulation too – if something is moving too fast, or too bright or smells too strong or basically is too much of anything my brain literally ceases to function and I can start to feel really sick and unwell. Certain fabrics literally make my blood run cold!

(The fabric on the roof of a car…oh my god. If I catch my nail on that…literally even typing that made my whole body shudder.)

I think the key to all this is although I can’t necessarily totally remove it from my mind, I can use tools to soothe it. For example, grounding myself, sitting in an upright, but comfortable, position and taking deep breaths is a big help! Much like when you’re having an anxiety attack, regulating your breathing is so important and key to bringing you back into the present.

As for my weight, that’s just an on-going process to solve I think, making sure I exercise more is a big one!

So yes, I’m not feeling great at this moment in time, but like all good and bad things eventually it’ll come to an end and I’ll feel better again…I will however never ever ever ever WILLINGLY touch a car roof.

Never.

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“A detox. A big, massive, see you later detox.”

So I was talking to my boss at work this week about my car insurance renewal and how it’s more expensive that it was last year which is weird because I have 2 years no claims…

“So this is the weird thing…I got the paperwork through yesterday evening, saw the price and sort of shrugged it off because I had just got home and couldn’t be bothered to think about it and I didn’t think about it for the rest of the night and went to bed and that was that. Then at 5am on the dot this morning my eyes snapped open and a voice in my head went “that car insurance price isn’t right” And at 5am I was on a comparison website on my phone, putting in my details and getting car insurance quotes. What is wrong with me?!”

And my boss replied…

“Because I know you quite well Abby…that isn’t that weird and doesn’t surprise me much at all.”

And I got thinking about the countless amount of times I have woken up bolt upright at a stupid time, whether it’s late at night or ridiculously early in the morning and had to investigate something because that voice in my head woke me up and said “that’s not right.”

No brain, you’re not right!

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I’ve researched things to do with my health, my cats health, cars, music, mental illness, how to plan a wedding, TV aerial installation, flats, money help, essays, Xbox games, Playstation games, dream meanings, films, directors, artists, dinosaurs, sharks, Lady Gaga (big love to LG!) – honestly the list is extensive and it’s like my brain is constantly shouting “don’t sleep Abby! You don’t need to sleep…look at all this stuff you could be looking at!”

I’ve heard from a lot of people who have this problem, not just those suffering with anxiety. It’s really common for people to not be able to shut off when they are trying to sleep, or wake up late at night with their thoughts going on and on. But the thing I wonder is if people have these thoughts then act upon them like I do and that’s probably the thing that frustrates me most about this.

If it was just thoughts it’d be annoying but I’d just sit there with it but I think because of my anxiety combined with my OCD it then results in me going “I have to check this right this second.”

HOWEVER, I think I may have found a way to help soothe this part of my mind…

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A detox. A big, massive, see you later detox.

I decided one of the possible causes for my brain over-thinking sometimes was spending way too much time on my phone, purely out of habit. So I did the unthinkable and deleted the Facebook apps from my phone.

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I know, I know. I hope you were all sat down for that bombshell.

So I deleted those little blue buggers and within a couple of hours I felt better. Literally a few hours.

I wasn’t sitting there scrolling through my Facebook news feed or checking messenger to see if anyone had popped up. I had left my phone alone.

Even now I still haven’t re-downloaded the apps and I have no interest in doing so either. I feel so much lighter and more able to focus on my immediate surroundings and enjoy the moment a lot more.

Learning how to enjoy the moment has been key for me in helping my busy thoughts and mind and who would have thought something as simple as deleting some apps from my phone would also prove to be vital in my personal growth.

So maybe just have a little think (it seems a bit counterproductive to say to someone who is over-thinking to think I know) about what things you can perhaps cut out a bit. And by no means does it have to be permanent at all, just try it.

Even if it’s for one afternoon, just try deleting an app you’re constantly scrolling through or try and get away from your laptop. Whatever it is you feel is distracting your mind and draining your energy.

I guarantee Facebook will still be there when you get back.

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PS. I have every intention of sharing this on my Facebook page yes, but I shall log out immediately afterwards! Don’t judge me!

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Why “13 Reasons Why” is Important

Chances are if you haven’t watched Netflix’s new teen drama “13 Reasons Why” you have probably heard about it.

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The series is based on the novel by Jay Asher of the same name, and I pretty much binge watched it in the space of 2 days.

The premise behind the story is a young girl called Hannah commits suicide at the start of the series, and throughout the 13 episodes we follow one of her friends Clay as he listens to Hannah speak to him through cassette tapes she left behind, explaining 13 reasons why she chose to end her own life.

Now, I was pretty excited to delve into this series when I first heard about it. As someone who has suffered with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts I am always optimistic, if not wary, when I see a TV show or film cover this complex topic as it has the ability to bring things into light and get people talking. However, the first few episodes of this little series disappointed me.

Don’t get me wrong, I was interested in certain characters and how their stories would unfold (except Bryce. He was pretty unlikable from the get go) and I felt the underlying vibe that Hannah was narrating us through each scene, taking us into her world through cassette tapes was quite interesting and compelling.

But one thing both myself and my fiancé noticed, was how chipper Hannah sounded in these recordings. Baring in mind when she made these tapes she had already decided she was going to end her life, so presumably she was feeling pretty depressed by this point but there was no indication of that.

Okay I get that having a “mopey” narrator throughout the series would perhaps also not be ideal either from an “audience” perspective, but have some middle ground maybe? She makes no mention of her mental health at that moment in time, or how low she’s feeling, and instead focuses all her attention into explaining each person who did her wrong at the start of her mental decline. This isn’t necessarily wrong either mind you, as the bullying, and “slut shaming” dealt by these people are definitely crucial parts of Hannah’s story, and the early stages of what she identifies herself as a butterfly effect and perhaps she didn’t want to draw attention to how she was feeling, and wanted to focus more on those who did her wrong.

But making very little mention of her embarrassment and shame or a decrease in self-worth felt really unrealistic and like a missed opportunity in explaining the more in-depth feelings behind depression, but I persevered and carried on watching despite my initial thoughts.

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As the series went on, I felt myself settling in. Yes the lines were cheesy, yes there were cliches around every corner and Bryce’s character was still just as awful but it was okay. I was feeling more and more sympathetic for Clay, the guy who loved Hannah from afar and was desperate to just be there for her despite what other people said. He had been sucked into this world he quite frankly was better off not knowing about so he could just mourn the loss of his friend in peace.

Clay discovers he is on tape 11, but Hannah makes it clear he isn’t one of the reasons she “did what she did” although this doesn’t make Clay feel any better. Again, this is something else I struggled with.

The reason Clay is on tape 11 is because Hannah explains how she came to watch one of her friends be sexually assaulted, and the reason she was in the room, alone, hiding in the first place is because she asked Clay to leave her alone in there (which he did) after she couldn’t bare the thought of being intimate with him because of how she had been treated in recent months.

Again, I totally get Hannah’s point of view. When you have been labelled as “easy” and taunted and touched inappropriately, if someone is kissing you it’s definitely a logical reaction to think they only care about sex and not you as an individual. Fair enough, but laying that out to Clay, someone Hannah regularly admits to be the only one she cares about, in the recordings as though his leaving her alone is another part of the ever growing butterfly effect is just wrong. Poor Clay…now he’s got a lifetime of guilt on top of him too…but I digress.

By the final few episodes it seemed clear to me that this show had missed the mark completely on what should have been it’s main focus. Hannah’s decline in mental health.

As I said before there was no mention of her personal shame and embarrassment that she probably would be feeling initially, which would then cause her to feel lower and lower, causing her to ultimately reach the decision to end her own life. There was no physically indication of her decline either, even in the very last episode when she “gives life one more chance” (her words not mine) by talking to the school counsellor about her own recent sexual assault, she is still wearing a face of make up, and is dressed nicely.

Yes I understand that everyone processes trauma very differently to one another, and yes perhaps Hannah’s way of dealing with a horrendous and life changing situation she should never have been put through was to carry on as if nothing happened, but to have her look consistently the same throughout each and every traumatic event in the series just doesn’t add up in my head.

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I could sit here for hours and type out why I felt this show was full of inaccuracies, how they could have made it better and why Bryce is just a terrible, terrible human being…

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…and yet through all of that 13 Reasons Why did actually do something really right.

Like most of us do, throughout my time spent watching this series I would google and wiki all the actors, the tv show, the producers etc, and through doing that I also saw the huge amount of independent blogs and articles on this show. Some slating it for the same reasons I had in my own head and others praising it for it’s frank depiction of teenagers, and how cruel they can be to one another. Some blogs said the final scene when Hannah ends her life by cutting her wrists and laying in a bath was far too graphic, where-as other writers felt it was perfect because it felt so real, despite it being hard to watch.

People were voice their opinions about the show all over, and by doing so, they were talking about mental health and suicide.

This is amazing!

The internet gives us the platform to discuss things to a huge audience of people that we wouldn’t have been able to do before, and this show has poured petrol on the fire and caused more discussions to take place. I haven’t seen a show do that for mental health in a while, and because 13 Reasons Why is being shown on Netflix hundreds of people will be able to access it really easily.

Perhaps some scenes are too much for those who are vulnerable, and could easily be triggers for people too, but for those who can watch it without those reactions it is perhaps a key starting point for them to develop an understanding into mental health and the impact it has on those suffering and those around them. Admittedly the TV show itself doesn’t always portray things as accurately as it perhaps could, and there could have been more research put into the real in-depth parts about Hannah’s mental health, and how those around her reacted to it but maybe this show is crucial for our continuing need to discuss these issues as a group.

It is crucial that we continue to have these discussions to educate those individuals who perhaps have never come into contact with those suffering with a mental health disorder (that they’re aware of).

It is crucial that those suffering with these illness’ continue to voice their own experiences to further help those who are also suffering, so they don’t feel so alone.

And in some weird way it is crucial, if you are in a good enough headspace to do so, to watch 13 Reasons Why.

It will probably annoy you for lots of reasons, and yes I know Bryce is awful, but if you’re like the rest of us and watch a series and do the research around it you will come across some really informative and well thought out articles (like this one I hope) around this show and the themes behind it, leading to more understanding in an issue really close to my heart.

In the words of Clay “It has to get better” and I 100% believe if we continue to talk about these issues…it will get better.

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If you can get yourself just one quiet moment in this ever growing noisy world, why not just grab it?

I’m in quite a good place lately.

My mental health is good and in check, it’s been sunny and I’ve been enjoying the wonderful company I keep around me.

There’s been an interesting development in the past week or so as well…

My fiance sent me a message on Wednesday afternoon, on his day off, telling me he had made an investment. He sent me a photo of some Warhammer 40,000 he had got. Now I have no idea what this game really is, all I know is that you put together some figures and paint them.

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What I didn’t expect however was what taking up this old hobby would do to Adam.

Adam suffers with quite bad ADHD. Sleep is a real struggle for him, sitting still, remembering things etc etc. You name the symptom, he’s got it. And ever since I met him I’ve never seen him sit still and focus quietly on something for long, that was until he got his Warhammer again.

When I got home on Wednesday we had dinner, and straight away he was putting all his models together and painting them. He was so calm, focused and thoroughly enjoying himself! Completely at peace. It was so lovely to see because I know how frustrating it is for Adam when he can’t switch off.

The next day we went into town and I bought Adam some more Warhammer, because I could already see the benefits it was having on him and if it’s helping even a little I’ll do what I can to keep that support around him.

Then I started thinking, if an old childhood hobby Adam took up again could soothe a busy ADHD mind, could one of my old childhood hobbies do the same for my busy anxious mind?

One hobby I’ve never stopped is gaming, so I thought I’ve got that as a little mind soother that I use quite regularly.

But what else did I enjoy?

A tv show called Yu-Gi-Oh!

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For those of you who don’t know Yu-Gi-Oh! is a Japanese (English Dubbed versions are available too!) anime series, based around a card game called Duel Monsters. Lots of magic, good guys fighting bad guys and monsters looking awesome. Everything you’d expect from an Anime Series…

When I was younger I was literally obsessed with this show and the card game. I used to record the tv show onto blank VHS tapes (yep VHS. Remember that?) and watch them over and over and over again. I had hundreds of the cards and I made my own cards.

My names Abby and I’m a Yu-Gi-Oh-Aholic.

I re-watched the show on Netflix about a year ago and got a couple of the comics too and fell in love all over again. So how could this old obsession help me in my adult life?

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That’s right. On Thursday 30th March I went onto Amazon and purchased a set of 2 starter decks of the Yu-Gi-Oh card game.

Thanks to Amazon Prime they came the very next morning. I’m not going to try and downplay this either. I was excited. Like really excited.

Admittedly they’re not what I remember from the cards when I was younger (“alright keep your hair on Grandma”) but it didn’t mean the nostalgia was any less.

On Saturday Adam went off to a gig in Luton which meant I was at home by myself with the cat…and an amazing card game I had missed dearly.

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I set up on the kitchen table and I was away. I spent a good 2 hours straight playing this game (against myself technically) totally focused and engulfed. It was incredible.

I was remembering all the trap cards you could play to win over your opponent, and how with one good move you could tip the whole battle in your favour. It was a full on nerd out.

I didn’t touch my phone, I didn’t look at a computer and my mind was calm.

If there’s something you remember that you loved doing when you were younger, why not try taking it up again? Whatever it is!

I think going back to a really simple mental place I was in when I was younger just made all that adult stuff I’m always thinking about stop for a moment.

It doesn’t make that stuff disappear, but if you can get yourself just one quiet moment in this ever growing noisy world, why not just grab it?

Plus, I’m always up for playing Yu-Gi-Oh! with someone…

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