I’m probably going to get very emotional writing this.

If you follow me on Twitter, or have read some of my older posts, you may know that I was in a bit of a crap place last year. I was having counselling, a relationship breakdown pushed me to see my GP and start taking antidepressants, and my life just wasn’t looking how I wanted it to. But by the end of last year I’d started to turn things around for myself. I finally found a job I loved, as a social media executive, and I’m so grateful for my time at that company. It helped me realise my potential, challenged me creatively, forced me out of my comfort zone and showed me just how much of a difference working with great people can make. I made friends there, both human and canine, and genuinely used to look forward to Monday mornings. The office felt almost like a second home to me and I still miss it sometimes – more on that later.

I went into 2017 feeling excited about the future

I normally hate New Year’s Eve. I don’t know why, but it always makes me feel a bit miserable. NYE 2016 was different though – I was happy with the way things were going and had so much to look forward to. Quite honestly, antidepressants were making the world of difference to me as well. I felt energised, fired up and unstoppable. I felt motivated and finally after a long, long struggle, like myself again. I knew the upcoming year was going to be an exciting one, for many reasons. Of course, there have been some unexpected curve balls and low moments, but I’m proud of myself for coming out the other side of those challenges stronger than ever. So here goes, my highs (and lows) of 2017 so far:

Copenhagen, January

My in-laws very (extremely!) generously treated me and Dave to a trip to Denmark for Christmas. We had such a wonderful time, stayed in a beautiful hotel, ate incredible food and did loads of sight-seeing (including a very wet, chilly river tour!).

We saw the Queen of Denmark!

The amazing view from our hotel.

Definitely DID NOT giggle at this.

We feasted on Gordon Ramsay’s delicious eggs at the airport.

We spent most of the holiday as a family, but Dave and I did go out for one date night, which was so lovely. It was close to our 10 year anniversary, so we had a cheeky toast. We went to Sticks ‘n’ Sushi at the top of the Tivoli Hotel, where the food was unbelievable, and the view from the rooftop bar so breathtaking it brought me to tears. An incredible night.

I also enjoyed eating ALL THE PICKLED HERRING, admiring the very handsome concierge (who had, quite honestly, the most incredible cheekbones I have EVER seen), and trying Finnish gin (amazing!) and smørrebrød.

We visited the most beautiful department store (sorry Debenhams, the Danes have got you beat!) and I bought so much weird and wonderful Scandinavian candy. The plan was to film a video of me and Dave trying it all, but I chickened out so have just been tweeting #ScandiCandy updates. I haven’t been brave enough to try the salty liquorice yet though…

Another funny little highlight of the trip was when I approached the very grumpy-looking man at border control, who eyed my passport very suspiciously (seriously, I was starting to sweat), for what felt like hours. Finally, he looked up at me, smiled and said, ‘Boyle, right? Any relation to Susan?’ before chuckling merrily at his own joke.

My blog

This wee little corner of the internet has opened up some amazing doors this year, and helped me meet so many great people. I’ve recorded podcasts (terrifying at first, but I feel like I’ve got the hang of them now), written for Metro, eaten A LOT of free pizza (arguably a career highlight) and enjoyed meeting so many people from the MH blogging community at the #TalkMH meet up in April. Perhaps most excitingly of all, I’ve been offered a book deal. I know, it’s crazy right? Who knew, when I started this little blog back in May 2015, where it would lead?

Losing my job

Right, it’s time for a low. Nothing could have prepared me for the awful moment my boss took me into the meeting room and told me I wouldn’t be carrying on with the company. I listened numbly, trying to make sense of his words and not really believing them. I made an impassioned, tearful plea, unwilling to accept what he was telling me; it was so sudden, so unexpected. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. The following day passed in a blur or tears and feeling very, very sorry for myself. Two days after I was let go I went back into the office for my final day. I packed up my desk, spent most of the day playing table tennis, and cuddled Maggie for about 10 minutes while crying into her fur (I still miss her, so much).

Maggie and Me

My colleagues were lovely; they got me a card, gave me loads of hugs, took me for a coffee at lunchtime and for drinks after work. I left knowing I’d made some great friends. I’d never experienced working somewhere I really loved before, and the pain of losing my job was honestly akin to a break-up. Removing myself as admin from our social media accounts felt like changing my relationship status back to single. I still get a little pang of sadness when I see posts of my old colleagues at the office. The couple of months afterwards were a truly shit time. I ate a lot of crap food and sherbet Dip Dabs, and put on a stunning amount of weight. But then…

Getting a new job…

In July, after several interviews, a few promising opportunities and a bit of freelance work, I finally found a job as a copywriter. Sadly though, it took all of about five days before I realised it wasn’t going to be the job for me. I had a decision to make – stay and try to stick it out, or quit before they’d invested too much in me. I went for the second option. A social media position in a company very similar to my last one came up, and it seemed like a sign. Two interviews later and the job was mine.

I felt awful handing in my notice so soon after starting, but I knew I had to do what was best for me.

…and then another one!

I’m back where I want to be, working in marketing again. I love it here – the people are great, the job is exciting and I’m so glad I took that risk.

Welcoming Marty and Plum to the Boyle family

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll definitely have seen at least one or two (hundred) photos of my beautiful kittens. They’re a pain in the ass, but I love them so much. When I’m all snuggled with Dave and the cats on the sofa, I genuinely can’t believe how lucky I am. Or when Marty wakes me up in the morning with a little nose kiss and snuggles under the covers with me – MY HEART. They bring me so much joy.

Marty and Plum

Cornwall, July

Dave and I rented a gorgeous little house on a farm, with two of our best friends and spent a few days exploring Devon and Cornwall. We went back to the Eden Project, celebrated Julie’s birthday, took many trips to Morrisons, hired a pedalo (much more hard work than you’d think!) and ate loads of great food. We also tried our hand at herding sheep, with surprising success!

View

The view from our cottage.

Moving house

You might remember, a long time ago, I announced that we’d found our dream home. Well, it turns out, not quite. In fact, the second house we came very close to buying didn’t end up being our dream house either, despite having a perfect little Wendy house in the garden for Josh. But you know what they say, third time’s the charm. I couldn’t be happier in our new home, it’s honestly like a dream come true. I’ve turned it into a bit of a Christmas grotto, as I always planned to. Sadly, we had to do away with the second Christmas tree as someone couldn’t quite contain himself.

Marty in the Christmas tree

Closure

Some pretty big stuff came to a head this summer. I was able to finally close the door on a huge and horrible chapter of my life; it was a strange feeling. To an extent I found closure and acceptance, though there is still a slight, simmering anger beneath the surface that won’t quite fade. I know this is all very vague, but I will be delving into the whole mess in my book (damn, that feels so weird to say!). For now, all I will say is that it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done and I am ridiculously proud of myself for keeping a cool head and getting through it like a damn boss.

So there we have it

What a year! I’m so excited see what 2018 brings…and to kick some ass!!

If you’ve met me, you’ve probably realised that I’m a very awkward person. I stumble over words, never know how to greet people (is it a handshake? A hug? A kiss? Two kisses?!), and have been the perpetrator of many a social faux-pas. Trust me, I’ve got enough to fill a whole other blog post. Actually, I just might; it would certainly make for some entertaining reading!

I feel constantly paranoid about my appearance and spend hours after a perfectly normal conversation, cringing about something I said. However, in recent months, I’ve developed a few methods of easing my worries and alleviating some of my social anxiety.

Here are some of the things I tell myself:

“[Friend’s name] isn’t giving our conversation a second thought”

Are you worried about something you said in an earlier conversation? Take a moment and think about it. Are you over-analysing all the things the other person said? I doubt it. You probably don’t even remember the exact words they used. So chances are, they probably don’t either.

If, however, you have genuine reason to believe they’ve misconstrued something you said – ie. they confirmed what you said back to you and it wasn’t quite right – you can always send them a message to clarify. Make a joke about it, if appropriate, or apologise if you’re concerned you caused offence.

“It’s OK to make mistakes”

Life isn’t scripted. Sometimes we mess up our words or accidentally interrupt each other. That’s absolutely fine. Again, make a little joke, or apologise if you’ve interrupted someone, but don’t sweat it. We’re all human.

“It’s not always up to you to fill the silence”

Obviously if you’re hosting a dinner party, you probably should try to keep the conversation flowing. But I’m talking more about those awkward situations at work – you know the ones. Whether you’re trying to make a cup of tea around someone washing up their Tupperware, or enduring a silent ride in the lift with your boss, it’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to fill the silence. Remind yourself that they’re not saying anything either, so if they’re happy being quiet, you can be too.

“We’re all in the same boat”

Worried the person you met at that party last weekend thinks it’s really weird you kissed them on both cheeks? Chances are, they’re sitting at home stressing about the fact they shook your hand when you left, rather than giving you a hug. We all do it. Every one of us lies awake at night replaying these moments in our heads. They’re honestly probably too busy worrying about how they came across, to think about anything you did.

“It’s fine to step away from situations that make you anxious”

Sometimes I find large gatherings, especially with a lot of people I don’t know, very overwhelming. If things become too much I excuse myself to go to the loo, or step outside for a moment of fresh air. No-one’s going to think you’re rude or weird, and it’s OK to be honest with people. If someone judges you for telling them you need a moment to clear your head, quite frankly there are probably better people you could be spending your time with!

Other things that can help

In social gatherings I often like to have a drink in my hand. And no, it’s not because I’m a boozehound. Having something to hold (that isn’t my phone) means I don’t gesticulate wildly, which was something I found made me feel very flustered when I talked. It also gives one of my hands something to do, as I often feel self-conscious about how I’m holding myself and what I’m doing with my hands. Also, I find it really helpful to have something to sip while I talk, as it lets me pace myself, stops my mouth from getting dry, and gives me a couple of seconds to clear my head if I’ve lost my train of thought during a conversation.

I’ve learned to make jokes if I accidentally say something silly. I know – it’s easier said than done, and it definitely takes time. But I’ve really found that by not taking myself too seriously and just embracing my own ridiculousness, I’ve become much more relaxed in social situations.

Saying no

I try not to plan too many social events in one week, as I know I need time to recharge. You don’t have to accept every invitation – your friends will understand. Use whatever helps you feel organised, whether it’s a paper diary or the calendar on your phone, to manage your social life. Not only will planning ahead help you feel more in control, but scheduling regular self care time is a great way to avoid feeling burnt out. By being more selective, you’ll find that the social events you do go to are so much more enjoyable.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help

It can feel really daunting turning up to a large gathering by yourself. If there’s going to be someone there you know, why not ask them to come out and meet you at the door so you can walk in together? Obviously this won’t always be an option, but when it is, please don’t feel too embarrassed to ask. They’re not going to think you’re being silly but again, if for some reason they do, I would argue that there are plenty more supportive and understanding people you could be spending your time with.

Just be honest

Everyone has certain things that make them uncomfortable. What makes your needs any less important than someone else’s? For example, if you don’t feel safe in crowded places, let your loved ones know. In the same way they probably wouldn’t take their vegetarian friend to a steak restaurant, they shouldn’t want to take you somewhere that makes you feel anxious either. Your needs matter and you deserve to surround yourself with people who are considerate of your feelings. 

I’ve been mulling this idea over for some time now and I thought today – with #thrivingatwork trending on Twitter, and the topic of mental health in the workplace being widely discussed – would be a good time to share it.

I want to create an ‘openness in the workplace’ scheme

Now bear with me here, I haven’t worked out any of the finer details, but the basic idea would be that managers can sign up to have a little sticker or badge on their desk which shows their team they’re open and sympathetic to mental health struggles. Other members of staff could also display their support, with the goal of creating a safe environment, where people feel comfortable being open if they’re struggling. Anyone can sign up – whether they have personal experience of mental illness or not.

This would only be a small part of a wider campaign and I have yet to think of a catchy name, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

I’m aware there are potential pitfalls

For example, I in no way want this to become a ‘counselling’ service. People involved in the scheme shouldn’t be treated like a substitute for qualified mental health professionals, nor should they give any sort of advice – just support and understanding.

In fact, this may be a crap idea altogether, so please feel free to tell me if you think it is! What I’m hoping is I can get enough people interested in getting involved and we can have a bit of a brainstorming session and bounce ideas off each other. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved in any way.

People shouldn’t feel afraid to phone in sick if they’re having a bad mental health day

I’ve seen far too many people on Twitter saying they’ve often felt too afraid to be honest with their boss when calling in sick. We shouldn’t have to lie – mental health is as important as physical health. The goal of this campaign is to reduce stigma and help people to understand this.

I want talking about mental health at work to be as commonplace as talking about having a cold. In the same way you might grumble about having a headache, if you’re feeling anxious at work, I believe you should be able to mention it to your employer and be able to take a few minutes outside without it being a big deal. I have personally experienced working in an office like this and it was a wonderful, supportive environment that everyone should have.

If I can be a part of making that happen, even on the smallest possible level, I want to. Let’s do this!

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that I tweeted about getting some MEGA EXCITING news yesterday.

I sort of planned to wait until everything was finalised, contracts signed etc., but I just can’t wait any longer.

I am thrilled to announce that…

GIF of Mel doing a drum roll

Drum roll please!

I’M WRITING A BOOK!

I will reveal more details later, but for now let me just say that I am ridiculously, deliriously happy. It’s a memoir, so I’m going to have to dig deep and get nice and personal – I hope you’re ready!

It’s all thanks to this little blog that I’ve been offered this incredible opportunity, so I’d like to thank you all for your support, encouragement and kind words. I really feel like I’m part of an amazing online family and I’m grateful for that every single day.

All my love,

Mel

(A soon-to-be PUBLISHED AUTHOR – WHAT?!?!?!?!)

EDIT: Unfortunately, this event is now cancelled. If you’ve already bought your ticket, I will be arranging a full refund.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a few tweets about the mental health blogger convention I’m hosting next year. I’ve had a few questions about it, so I wanted to answer them all here. I’m so excited (and nervous!) about this event and I hope to see loads of you there.

Where is it?

It will be in Bournemouth, at the Queens Hotel.

This is roughly a ten minute walk from the train station and a two minute walk from the beach if anyone fancies wandering down afterwards. If you’re driving down, there is free parking at the hotel, but it’s limited. Don’t worry though, there is plenty of street parking around, though please be aware it’s all pay and display.

When is it?

Saturday 14th July 2018, 11am-6pm.

Will there be food?

There will be tea and coffee on arrival as well as a light buffet. If you have any allergies, please check with hotel staff on the day.

Where can I stay afterwards?

There will be a small amount of discounted rooms allocated to this event. Please contact the hotel directly to make a booking and explain that you are attending the event.

Failing that, there are loads of hotels nearby; my recommendations would be any of the Oceana Hotels or The Orchid, which is very affordable.

What’s the running order of the day?

I’m still nailing that bit down, but currently I have plans for the following:

  • Talks from people in the MH blogging community
  • Exhibition stands with products
  • A booth with a make-up artist/eyebrow lady (sculptor/artist/stylist/whatever the term is…!) giving makeovers
  • Potentially readings from authors and a stand-up set
  • Selfie area (I will also be running a competition for the best selfie!)
  • Lots and lots of mingling and great conversation with like-minded people, in a relaxed, comfortable environment

Sounds great – how can I buy tickets?

Tickets are £15 each and you can buy them here.

You won’t get a physical ticket, but I will be sending email confirmations, which you will need to have with you – on your phone is fine!

Can I vlog the event?

Please feel free to take photos on the day and write blog posts after – the more the better! However, at the moment, I think I’d prefer it if there wasn’t any vlogging (though I may film some of the talks myself). I only say this because I want everyone to feel comfortable and some people may not feel relaxed being on camera.

Is the venue wheelchair accessible?

Yes!

Help! I have more questions!

If you have any questions or concerns, please let me know in the comments, or drop me an email: geekmagnifique1@gmail.com

MH Blog Con logo