Made In Sweden

goths on a plane

Getting up stupidly early, having a mini meltdown in the check-in line and getting lost in a straight line. It could only be one thing: it’s travel time!

Holidays are stressful. We spend so long being excited about them then the day before comes and we don’t want to go. Packing is a nightmare and the cause of many tantrums. Leaving all our packing til the day before probably wasn’t the best idea but we were busy before. When we say busy, we mean we were doing pole. We only like Morrisons or Tesco own brand of soya milk, so that has to come with us. We also bring lots of food in case we can’t find anything we like.  Red Bull is never left behind. You don’t go on adventures and leave your soldiers at base camp.

Swedish Glace in Sweden!

We were so overwhelmed by the thought of packing, that we spent most of the day learning Swedish on Duolingo because we couldn’t control the panicky mess that were our brains. We eventually started packing, debated for ages about what to wear, fetched our books and started packing. Convinced they’d lose our suitcases, we put two copies of each book in our hand luggage. A copy of Soul Asylum and Bleeding Empire were slotted into our shoulder bags, because they’re the biggest novels and would weigh down the suitcases. The one hand luggage was just under 10kg. Perfect. The other was 7.5 kg. We also filled some rucksacks, as we’d paid for priority boarding so we could have decent sized cabin bags.

SoderkopingBut it’s always the suitcases that cause the problems. Weigh, moan about the weight, take things out, strop, rearrange things, add things, vow we’re never going on holiday again, weigh and after many hours we’re ready. We’d gone to bed at 10:30. Y’know, being sensible. We realised we didn’t have a luggage tag for the case we’d borrowed from our sister, so cue a panicky moment of creating one, laminating it and tying it on with ribbon because we couldn’t find our cable ties. We got up at the ungodly hour of 1:30 a.m. then drove the three hours to Stansted. We’ve never flown on our own before and we’ve never gone to Stansted. This was huge for us. We parked and got the bus to the airport. One man complained that people had their cases where people should stand. Sir, the bus is so crowded we can count the fibres on the passengers’ clothes. Don’t like it? Don’t get on.

Selma

We got to the airport, and luckily our check in desk was right by the doors. We tried logging on to our Ryan Air account to find our boarding passes. Lynx asked a guy where we could print them out. He said we didn’t need to, if we had them on our phones. Cat finally managed to log into our account and after much yelling at the speed of the Wifi, she found our boarding passes. It said they weren’t mobile friendly. We had to get the app. While Cat downloaded the passes and took screenshots of them, Lynx downloaded the ap and we joined the queue.

Luciferia

The downloaded speed was agonisingly slow. 2% and we’d already moved in the queue. 3%. We moved again. We reached the corner. 5%. Now we knew how Jack Bauer felt. 13%. Come on, app! We were getting hot with stress. 23%. We were near the desks. The queues were moving too fast. The download was moving too slow. 32%. The women in front of us checked in. Never have we wanted to be at the back of the queue so much. 33%. Our turn. Cat handed over her phone and we secretly prayed to Hermes that the boarding passes would scan. We don’t print them out at home anymore because they never scan properly. The boarding passes scanned. Lynx cancelled the download. Cat told the woman Lynx’s boarding pass was on the same phone. The woman swiped left, surprised to see a screenshot of Duolingo with an insult in Swedish. “The problem is you are too ugly.” Cat had saved it to remember to show people. Now it looked like she had deliberately saved it to be able to insult someone in a foreign language. Swipe right, lady, swipe right.

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the lockkeeper’s cottage

The suitcases were under weight, preventing another embarrassing scene like the one for Paris that will haunt us forever more. We went to security and that’s where the fun begins. Two trays for our huge coats, hoodies and spiked boots. One tray for the laptop. One tray for the power pack kindles, phones, wallets. One for each of our four bags. The lady told Cat she didn’t need to remove her boots. The scanner bleeped. Cat had to remove her boots and be subjected to a patdown. The woman poked around the boobage. Cat “That’s my bra.” The woman grabbed the hand held scanner. It bleeped. Cat “My bra.” Seriously, love, we can’t even hold a bottle with our cleavage, we’d never be able to conceal weapons.

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the mangling house

The first thing we did when we cleared security, was buy Red Bull. Our stress levels lessening, we headed towards the gates. We found somewhere to sit and while Lynx started on this blog post, Cat went to the toilets to put makeup on. She suggested we go one at a time to save lugging our bags.

Rule one in horror: never split up.

SoderkopingAfter several minutes, Lynx was getting concerned. Cat had been gone a long time. The Silent Hill siren wailed. Cat: ‘I’m lost! I couldn’t find my way out of the toilets either, neither could another woman, so we buddied up and left together. I thought I was heading in the right direction but I definitely didn’t walk this way!’

Lynx: ‘Can you see Boots?’’

Cat: ‘It was a straight line! I don’t know how this happened!”

two cats getting along

Lynx: ‘LOL! Head for Boots then turn right. I’m outside a travel shop.’

Cat: ‘Ooh found 5p.’

Lynx: ‘nice.’

Cat: ‘I can’t see Boots. I’m in a circular area with loads of shops. I’m going back to the toilets and trying again.’

making friends in Sweden

Two minutes later, she returned, looking sheepish. It wasn’t the best of starts for her. Lynx went to put her makeup on. She walked into the toilets and encountered a queue of women. She walked past them and only found stalls. “Where are the sinks?” A woman then said “excuse me.” Lynx headed right towards other stalls. The woman: “excuse me!” Lynx “I’m looking for the sinks.” Excuse me? Did she just accuse Lynx of queue jumping? Does she not look British? Did she not hear her clearly say out loud to herself “where are the sinks?” How insulting.

Selma has accepted us

We found our way to the gate and boarded almost immediately. Normally, we just selected ‘random seating’ so rarely sit together, but they’d put us 17 rows apart, and as it’s our first time of flying without a chaperone, Lynx paid to sit by Cat. Then we spent almost the entire flight asleep. The Sertraline makes us twitch, so Cat twitched a lot while she slept and kept getting woken by the man beside her accidentally elbowing her. Maybe he was checking she was still alive.

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St Laurentii church and belltower

Christina and Pelle met us at Skavsta airport in Nyköping with two giant cans of Red Bull. We’re not saying that’s how we expect everyone to greet us, but this is a standard we could get used to. The airport is the biggest one in Sweden. And it’s tiny. But we impressed ourselves by understanding signs. The drive to Söderköping was lovely. We spent the whole time staring out the windows, trying to spot the elk that Duolingo convinced us are everywhere. We saw a sign warning us about elk, but not elks. Day 1 Mission: Elk – Fail.

SoderkopingWe dropped our bags off then went with Christina and Pelle to return the car to Pelle’s colleague. On the way back, we stopped at the supermarket. And found the greatest surprise – they sold our vegan ice cream! We have Swedish Glace, and have never found it in any other country we’ve visited. We hoped, that as it was Swedish, Sweden would sell it, and they do! They had vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. The UK stopped stocking the strawberry years ago. We are two very happy goths. A woman saw us, stopped and stared then uttered “tvillingar?” Twins. Us “Ja.” Check us out understanding and speaking Swedish! We made sure to learn that phrase, because it’s the most common question we get asked in the UK, so we figured it would be the same in Sweden.

SoderkopingWe stopped at Söderköpings Bokhandel, where we’re doing the signing on Saturday. It’s Sweden’s oldest bookshop. We met the owner, Anders, who is lovely. Our wallets were itching to be opened and we had to resist from buying a Game of Thrones book about the history of the Targaryens. Our Swedish isn’t that good. Yet. We managed to read some children’s books, so we were happy. We also stopped at the library to get a map and information brochures.

SoderkopingLater, we took a walk around Söderköping and took photos. It’s so beautiful. The buildings are so unusual and old. It’s really peaceful and quiet. There aren’t many cars. This is not a tourist destination. It’s unusual for us not to go somewhere touristy so this has made a lovely change. We walked along the Göta Canal and called in at the local pub. The landlord is American and seems really nice. We already love it here. We explored the town, taking lots of photos.

We’ve made friends with Christina’s cats, Selma and Luciferia. Luciferia is very shy but oh so fluffy. Selma only allows three people to touch her. That number has grown to five as we won her over with our average Swedish and nose boops. By the evening, Luciferia also decided she liked us and came for fusses.

Day: 1. Number of elks we’ve seen: 0

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finally meeting Christina after years of Facebook friendship.

Press Start

She’s coming…

What do you get when you put horror writers with a game developer? Silent Dawn: Asylum.

maja 3Back in January, our friend, Steve, asked if we’d like to work on a project together, creating a choose your own adventure game. Intrigued, we agreed. We’re always up for new challenges. If Neil Gaiman can be known for multiple creative outlets then damn it, so can we. We used to love playing Granny’s Garden on the BBC computer when we were kids, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, so to be given the chance to make our own was something we couldn’t turn down. In April, we finally got round to starting it. Steve showed us the programme – Twine – and how it worked. You could create different paths and have them link back up. Or not. You could have different endings, choices. And in ours, you can die. We are horror writers. If you were expecting a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.

bubblesWe sat there for a while trying to think of a setting that would make for a great game with plenty of paths and choices. It had to be dark and creepy. We came up with several then discarded them for not being complex enough. Then we realised we had one: Silent Dawn. In the book, the characters play a game called Silent Dawn: Asylum, where they have to find missing kids, while avoiding Silent Dawn. We thought it would make a great game. Why come up with a new idea when we already had a game written out, begging to be played? We’ve always wanted to create the game, but we know nothing about coding or game development. Even the sight of code sends our brains into a panicky meltdown. Luckily, Steve likes coding. Some readers had mentioned to us that they would like to play the game from the book. Your wish is our command! This is the opening scene:

            The legend of Silent Dawn dates back centuries. It changes over time and in different countries, but one thing always stays the same: wherever she appears, children go missing. Some say they become her puppets, others say she kills them and feeds off their life force to sustain her immortality. But whenever she takes them, they’re never found. Silent Dawn has returned, but this time, she has a helper.
Children have gone missing and clues lead you to the woods surrounding Nightshade Asylum. One of the patients is being controlled by Silent Dawn and has taken the children. You must collect all the patient records and work out which patient is her puppet. Find the children. Before it’s too late.

majaWe now go round Steve’s every week to add to the game. It’s taken several three hour-long sessions and we’ve barely begun. It took two or three weeks to get the character out of the woods to the asylum! That’s probably about 15 minutes of game play. There are different paths, dead ends, multiple deaths and so many variables, depending on the character’s actions. The list of variables grows every week, including character injuries and whether or not they try to mess with the game. We feel sorry for Steve having to code them all. The game starts off fairly linear, but when you reach the asylum, dear god does it go crazy. It will allow for multiple play-throughs, where you can take a different path every time.  There are checkpoints, so you don’t have to go back to the start every time you die. But…you have to find them. You didn’t think we’d make this easy for you, did you? We’ve even hidden some traps that will allow players to try to break the game. And get punished for it. Lynx is even getting the hang of some of the coding. Cat keeps accidentally putting YouTube links in. None of us know how she does it.

maja 2We’re really excited about it. It’s refreshing to do something creative that isn’t writing short stories or novels. It’s different. It’s also nice to work on a creative project with someone else, where we can share ideas and feed off each other’s creativity. Steve comes up with some of the ideas when our brains misfire. It’s given us something different to focus on, to look forward to. We don’t know when we’ll be finished yet – we’ve just got the character into the asylum – but it will be available on Twine. And it will be free to download, or with an option to make a very small voluntary donation. Steve’s cat, Maja, and his fish, Bubbles, are project managers. Bubbles doesn’t contribute much, and Maja is more intent on sitting on the router and standing on the keyboard, but we appreciate their support. 

There have been a few mini meltdowns, which happens when we work with technology. Mostly, the keyboard has a mind of its own and it seems to hate Lynx. She’ll be merrily typing away and then it’s like someone’s holding down one key. She tries to delete it and it deletes everything she’s written. We figured out Cat’s phone was causing some of the problems – it’s a wireless keyboard, and if Cat was on her phone, the keyboard would go crazy – but it’s not responsible for every hiccup. Steve’s going to buy a new keyboard and mouse before we launch his out the window. He’ll keep the current one for coding. It obeys him.

You can keep up with weekly developments on our Instagram Stories. If you want to know what the game is like, you can buy Silent Dawn.

If you go into the woods today, you’d better make sure you don’t die…

twine

SILENT DAWN TAKES YOU

Acting Up

Continuing our New Year’s resolution of doing something different, we’ve really thrown ourselves into the challenge this year. By agreeing to act in a short horror film. We are not actors. We are far more comfortable being behind the camera where our creepy faces cannot scare the general public. Unless you’re watching our ghost hunting show, Calamityville Horror, where we want to scare you. We…we make small children cry.

Our friend, Huw asked us to be in his film. Remembering our resolution, we agreed. Our acting experience is best described as ‘standing around looking creepy’. In the past, we have been the Snake Twins in Witches Abroad play (non-speaking, just being creepy), extras in Clownface (non speaking, only face planting), murder victims and newborn demon in our friend Dave’s film (non speaking, only dying) and…that’s it. Not exactly IMDB worthy. We feel slightly guilty as there are a lot of people who want to be actors and don’t get the chance. We don’t want to be actors yet have been asked to be in people’s indie films. It’s all about who you know.

On Saturday, our acting debut began. Huw wanted to film the trailer for his upcoming short horror film, School Hall Slaughter. Check out its Facebook page here. Think 80s style slasher without the big hair and terrible fashion. We play rebellious high school pupils. We’re 36. We were worried there was no way we would pass for 16 year olds. The deepening frown lines and wrinkles under the eyes, the jaded, cynical view of the world and humanity show a maturity we do not feel. However, we are short. Once we were in the uniform, standing next to the taller cast, we did look like teenagers. For once, being the height of twelve year olds is an advantage, and not just for going down mines.

For the main film, our hair and makeup will be done on set. So we showed up for the trailer looking au natural. There was no hair and makeup for the trailer. So our debut for this film is us looking our absolute worst. Hair is a mess, we’re not wearing makeup and we’ve had a lot of early starts over the past week. Yeah…we make small children cry. We’d been cleaning out the animals and walking our dog before we got to set, so we’re just glad we didn’t have hay and sawdust in our hair too.

The building we were filming in was freezing. We kept our beloved hoodies on, which actually helped make us look more like teenagers. Luckily, we were allowed to wear thick tights. Not only did this keep us a bit warmer, it also hid the multiple leg bruises from polefit. Though we hope the camera isn’t amazing quality HD, because we forgot to lint roller the cat hair off. We’re not used to the glamorous life. We filmed for about three hours and did 26 takes. We warned Huw that we were so used to being crew that we would probably just become crew anyway. We kept our promise, taking behind the scenes photos, operating the clapperboard for pick up shots and reminding the lead actress of her lines. Once crew, always crew.

Most of our role involved walking around being creepy. We were surprisingly good at this, even managing to unsettle the other actors a little bit. The minute we spied the prop sledgehammers, that was it. We claimed them and pretended to bludgeon our fellow cast members. We’d done arm day in warrior training the day before, so told them our muscles were primed for bludgeoning. How to win friends, Raven style. We were so worried that we would be terrible at acting. Everyone else on the cast are experienced actors, except us. We know how important this film is to Huw and because he asked us to be in it, we didn’t want to let him down with bad performances. Luckily, he was pleased with what we did. It seems being creepy and vaguely threatening is our forte.

The filming for School Hall Slaughter is in July and we’re really excited about it, especially as we get to do some fight scenes. We just have to make sure we maintain our youthful appearance, so we’ve been stocking up on facial toners and anti wrinkle cream so all of our 36 years don’t start showing on our ageing faces. We need to stop glaring at people. Apparently swapping out our blood for teenagers’ blood is a step too far. We disagree. They should suffer for our art.

If you want to contribute to the making of School Hall Slaughter, please check out the Go Fund Me page.

School Hall Slaughter
Team Slaughter

Sign Post

Screenshot_20190209-144714We’ve finally achieved one of our writing goals: a book signing in an actual bookshop. W H Smith have agreed to let us through their doors and unleash us on their unsuspecting customers. It would have been nice to have been invited because we’re famous and our presence would draw a bigger crowd than William Burke’s execution (25,000 in case you were wondering) but the truth is, they put a call out for authors on Twitter and past us did a stupidly brave thing and emailed them. Damn you, past us! Don’t you realise future, anxious us has to deal with your bravery? Anyway, the signing will take place in the Queen Street branch, Cardiff on Saturday 16th February from 11-1 p.m. Sorry it’s such short notice, but they’ve only just told us the time. So if you’re free, come along and make us look worth the hassle.

Just Like A Pill

In December, we finally made the decision to go on antidepressants. It was a big decision as we haven’t been on them for eighteen years. We couldn’t cope with the side effects so we kept switching tablets, but never found one we got on with. We were on Amitriptyline, Dothiapin, Seroxat and a couple more we can’t remember the name of. We usually self-medicate through exercise and submitting stories, but that’s stopped being effective and doesn’t sustain us for more than a couple of hours now. This was the only option left until we can see a mental health professional. This time, we’ve been given 50mg of Sertralin. This is our diary of side effects.

Day 1 – The doctor warned us we’d feel out of sorts to start with. Currently experiencing dizziness and nausea which ranges from mild to “dear god, might vomit on the laptop.” Combatting it by eating a choc ice and doing shoulder flexibility stretches. Update: been five and half hours since taking them. Lynx feels nauseous. Cat feels horrendous and fell asleep, waking half an hour before we had to leave for our radio show. Now sat in the station not feeling quite human. Luckily Lynx is on controls tonight.

Day 2- Nausea has lessened, though we’re feeling a little spaced out and become aware that we’re just staring into space or rocking back and forth. Fighting it and forcing ourselves to write and do flexibility. Going to switch to taking them in the evening so the nausea will hopefully hit when we’re asleep.

Day 3 – Taking them at night. Nausea and dizziness has returned, with feeling weak and a bit shaky. Lynx has abdominal pain, Cat has an ache in both sides of her jaw. Struggling to write due to the antidepressants making us feel weird and also affecting our eyes’ ability to focus on the screen. However, our anxious brains can’t cope with finishing work early so we’re doing flexibility instead.

Day 4 – Woke feeling horrendous. Lynx felt very sick, Cat was weak and shaky. Had to get up early to walk Bandit before going to work in a print company. Now in work and Lynx has a terrible headache and felt on the verge of fainting. Cat is utterly exhausted and extremely dizzy. Glad we’re not writing today as our eyes can just about cope focusing on our phone screens. Wouldn’t be able to write today.

Day 5 – Feeling nauseous from the minute we wake up seems to be our new normal at the moment. Christmas poledancing routine in advance class tonight. Yes, we’re dancing to Mariah Carey. Amy played Papa Roach and Marilyn Manson after to make up for it. Thanks to our tablets, Cat did the routine feeling horrendously sick.

Day 6 – Spent the afternoon trying to finish our new story. Quite hard when your eyes can’t focus on the screen and you can’t stay awake! Still feeling nauseous.

Day 7 – 🎵On the seventh day of Sertraline, our tablets gave to us, 1 nasty headache, horrible exhaustion, never ending nausea and sometimes feeling dizzy!🎵

Day 8 – the nausea wasn’t as constant today and we could actually focus on the laptop screen. Managed to do our radio show, but pulled out of a social event as the nausea started to worsen again. Hoping this is the beginning of the side effects wearing off.

Day 9 – 🎶On the 9th day of Sertraline, our tablets gave to us: waking weak and shaky, teeth hurt when eating, never feeling hungry and the nausea can just fuck off! 🎶
Though our eyesight is back to normal and the exhaustion has gone 👍🤘

Day 10 – Woke feeling nauseous, but it went by 2 p.m., which was nice. Maybe the side effects are lessening.

🎶On the 11th day of Sertraline, our tablets gave to us: waking feeling normal, no fucking nausea, still looking shitty but we have no side effects! 🎶

So far, there hasn’t been any improvement to our mental health, but we’re not expecting that to change for at least another week. Feeling physically ill never helps with mental health at the best of times. At the moment, we just feel nothing. Went to the supermarket and didn’t feel like going postal with a box of cat food, so the rage has been subdued. Unfortunately, every emotion is subdued. Anger is what motivates us, so without that, we have no drive to really do anything.

Day 15 – Cat woke in the night and heard a loud bang inside her head. She attributed this to her hypnopompic hallucinations, but they’re always visual so we now think it was the tablets.

Day 17 – Took the tablet much later than normal. Cat woke up so dizzy she couldn’t move and spent all morning lying on the settee, unable to even sit up. By two o’clock it had eased. At three o’clock, we went to a yoga workshop and didn’t fall over.

Day 18 – Lynx experienced the loud bang in her head during a dream. This is why we now think Cat’s was tablet related, as Lynx doesn’t tend to have the hypnopompic hallucinations as often. If she does, she always sees spiders.

Week 3 of Sertraline. Holy fuck Batman, is this how it feels to be “normal”? These past few weeks, we’ve isolated ourselves from everyone (don’t worry newer friends, you’ll get used to this :p) and honestly, it’s been amazing 😀 We needed to be alone in order to heal. Masking was exhausting. We were very conscious that we weren’t good company, that we were boring, because it took so much energy for us to hide the darkshines that we had nothing left to act social. Our control was slipping. Rage outbursts were happening frequently. These past 14 months, depression has taken away everything that it means to be us. We haven’t done ghost hunting, urb exing, random day trips or adventures. We’ve felt lost. We hated the people we became. We reached breaking point many times. And now…we feel like we’ve reclaimed everything we once were. We’ve reconnected to our witchy sides. We’ve tackled things that were overwhelming us, we’ve thrown out or recycled a lot of things we no longer need, we got the council to empty the bins at the wenallt, we’ve submitted more stories, worked harder on our flexibility. We’re planning day trips we want to take, we’ve started a savings scheme so we can do more travelling. We feel happier and more enthusiastic than we have done for over a year. We feel like us.

We’re not naïve enough to think that this is it, that we’re cured, or it will remain like this. The darkshines is like Jason Voorhees. We can chain it to the bottom of a lake, or bury it and when we think we’re safe, we hear ‘cha cha cha’, turn around and it’s peering in through the windows at us. After three days of sorting through boxes and clothes, we’re already losing the motivation. It was making us feel good, now we’re bored and it’s starting to feel overwhelming. We feel constantly exhausted, which is demoralising us somewhat. We’re also struggling to focus on working, which is frustrating. Being productive is essential for our mental health. But we are trying to learn that taking days off isn’t us being lazy (which the anxiety tells us it is), that spending the day reading is good for us. We’re also reconnecting to our witchy sides. We used to do candle work, buy crystals, study astrology, but over the years, we stopped. We’re now starting to study witchcraft, and learn its different ways. We have an affinity with animals and nature – when we’re away from nature for more than a couple of days, we feel starved for it. We need it. And right now, studying witchcraft is helping us. We love learning and educating ourselves and it’s given us something to focus on. The kind of ‘high’ we were experiencing during the first five days of January – we had a story accepted on day 2 – has worn off and we feel…disappointed. Like we’d had a massive breakthrough and have now gone backwards. We know that’s the exhaustion – slept for most of the afternoon today – and now feel guilty about that! So we’re sorting through boxes in the attic crawlspace. Regretting that now…

It’s difficult when the two issues – anxiety and depression, are in constant battle for dominance. The depression feels overwhelmed, unmotivated and lethargic. But the anxiety is desperate to be productive, which then changes the depression into guilt. We then feel paralysed by indecision. We hate feeling guilty, so the anxiety eventually wins. Hopefully the Sertraline will help with this, but at least it’s taken away the emptiness. We don’t want to put people off trying anti-depressants, (the side effects don’t last forever) but we just wanted to give an honest account on what they’ve been like for us. Some people manage without them, others need them. When it comes to mental health, you have to do what’s right for you.

Welcome to our black parade

We’ve been speaking on social media recently about our depression and how bad it’s got. Churchill called it his black dog that followed him around. Sometimes it was small and he barely noticed it. Sometimes it was big. Right now, it’s about the size of a horse and it’s sitting on us. We can’t move or breathe. We call ours The Darkshines, after a Muse song.

For a year, we’ve been struggling. Really struggling. What’s surprised us though, is how very few people noticed. To us, it was obvious. We’ve been moody, angry, confrontational, quiet, unable to have fun and quite frankly, unpleasant to be around. At first, we thought that maybe our masking skills were pretty good. Then we thought “is this how people see us? To them, have we not changed?” Because we no longer recognise ourselves. Maybe The Pretenders were right. Maybe we’re only human on the inside. Whoever these people are that look like us, it’s not us. And we’d like them to leave.

We’ve suffered from depression and social anxiety for twenty years. We’re so used to it, we don’t remember the people we were before it. We sometimes wonder about the people we could’ve been without it, but those people will never exist now. Oh well. They would probably have been dicks anyway. But for the past year, the slide into the worst side of the Darkshines has been rapid and all-consuming. We normally have bouts that will last anything from a few days to a few months. But never an entire year. This is not normal for us. In fact, our depression hasn’t been this bad since we were teenagers. Back then, we were suicidal, self-harming, had a breakdown, and gave up everything we loved doing so we could live in a void of emptiness. It hurt less.

We’ve been living in that void for a year. We recognised the signs and hoped they would go away. We know the Darkshines. If we wait it out, it eventually retracts its talons. We’ve carried on, hanging out with friends, going to exercise classes, doing our usual daily routine, hoping it would pass. Hoping that if we acted like it wasn’t there, it would leave. We self-medicate – exercise is what works for us. Being out in nature, submitting work and doing everything we can to further our career. It all backfired. Cat tore her ankle ligaments in gymnastics and seven months on, it hasn’t properly healed. Our work continuously got rejected. At the beginning of the year, we were getting acceptances. Well, three. That stopped in April.

It got worse. Our therapist died earlier this year from an aggressive form of cancer that took her within four weeks. We thought “everyone else we know can live without a therapist, we’re clearly weak cos we can’t, we’ll prove we can do it.” Forgetting of course that the people we know who live without a therapist don’t suffer from chronic depression like we do. And this angry, empty void is a really shit place to live. We know it’s not weakness to have a therapist, but the Darkshines likes to make us think it is.

We don’t really enjoy anything. We no longer look forward to anything. There was a time when we’d excitedly plan adventures or ghost hunts or even the smallest, random thing would make us happy. Knowing we had a pole lesson coming up would make us happy. It’s gone. We’ve been desperate to travel since last year. We were supposed to be in Rome for our birthday in February. That was the only thing we wanted. And it couldn’t happen. It still hasn’t happened. We now can’t face it. We spend time with our friends and don’t feel like we belong any more (best friends aren’t included in this). We go out after gymnastics and sit there in silence, uploading our videos to social media. We don’t belong there either. We leave feeling empty and wishing we’d stayed at home. Our gymnastics friends have only known us 19 months. So for most of the time they’ve known us, they’ve had to know these horrible imposters. They probably think that’s who we are. Polefit has been the only thing that has brought us a measure of happiness.

And two weeks ago, we couldn’t even face going to class.

That’s when we knew something had to change. When we were kids and teenagers, we were obsessed with horse riding. You know our love for pole. That was our love for horse riding. We were going to be professional riders. And the Darkshines made us give it up. The crash after the high was unbearable. We haven’t ridden since. So when we didn’t want to go to pole, we realised it was time to get help. We’ve come so far, we cannot walk away now. We are not giving up pole.

Unfortunately, we have to wait a month for a GP appointment. This is a big thing for us. We’re not good at asking for help. We’re even worse when admitting how bad we’re feeling, because we don’t want people to know. Hence the masks. We can always tell when we’re not in a good place because we don’t wash our hair. We have short hair. It takes like five minutes. After around three weeks, we will then force ourselves to do it. But depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s also not being able to do simple tasks. It’s feeling worthless, helpless, angry, tired, overwhelmed, and so fucking guilty about everything. Sometimes, like now, it’s feeling nothing. Then throw in anxiety to the mix. Depression is not wanting to do anything. Anxiety is finding lack of productivity unbearable. Depression is feeling there’s no point submitting work because it will only get rejected. Anxiety is the gnawing feeling that you’re not helping your career goals. Depression is not wanting to go to exercise classes. Anxiety is screaming at you that you won’t be good at pole if you don’t work hard at it. The two sides fight constantly.

Around the time we were told our therapist had died, so did our beloved cat, Spectre. She was 19. She’d been with us through the worst times of our lives since we were 16. And then she was gone. We needed to see our therapist. The hospital didn’t tell us she had died. We’d been trying to get hold of her for a while and it wasn’t like her not to return our phone calls. We only found out because our sister went to the physio department where she worked and at first, they tried to fob her off, until she told them we were her mental health patients, not physio patients. Then they admitted she’d died. That hit us harder than we expected it to and all of a sudden, we felt very alone. We would’ve liked to have gone to her funeral, to say goodbye, to say thank you for helping us. We never got the chance. We don’t even know where she is buried.

There’s been a few times recently where we’ve had enough and can’t face the thought of carrying on. But we’re too fucking stubborn to quit. Our stubbornness is what kept us alive when we were suicidal. People will tell us others have it worse and they do. But depression doesn’t care about that. Also, that sentiment is bullshit and all it does is make depressed people feel even guiltier. It’s like telling people they can’t be happy because others have it so much better than they do. Depression is a disease. It whispers to you, tells you people hate you, tells you you’re not good enough, you’ll never be good enough at what what you do, you’ll never be good enough for people, you’re a failure, people only put up with you cos they have no choice, you’re fat, you’re ugly, you’re boring, everyone will be better off without you and they won’t even notice you’re gone.

Maybe it’s right.

Maybe it’s wrong. And it doesn’t matter what others say to contradict those thoughts, their voices will never be louder than the Darkshines’. Because as they’re saying this, the Darkshines is whispering in your other ear ‘they’re only saying this to make you feel better. They don’t mean it.’

We find ourselves crying over stupid things. We don’t cry. We’ve never been ones to cry over anything unless it’s the death of one of our animals. We don’t want to hang out with our friends and the Darkshines tells us they wouldn’t miss us if we cut off the friendship. The temptation to withdraw from everyone and revert back to our reclusive selves is getting harder to resist. We don’t have to wear masks when we’re alone. We find ourselves pushing people away. We came very close to quitting writing. When the Darkshines isn’t that bad, rejections don’t bother us, it’s part of a writer’s life, but when the Darkshines is drowning us, each rejection is more proof that we’re shit and quitting will ease the pain. But there’s nothing else we can do. Writing is our life and if we can’t even bear that, something is very, very wrong.

Our warrior trainer, Si, has been really good for us. Despite the abuse we shower him with, we’re so glad he’s in our lives. He understands us. He understands the Darkshines. We signed up because he said it would improve our pole. And it has. But warrior training is more than just hard, physical exercise. It’s about building a mentality for when you’re on the battlefield, and it seems you’re about to be defeated, you have the strength to pick up your sword and keep fighting. We don’t have that strength at the moment, and we really want to drop that  sword, but we know we can’t walk away. So we’re calling in reinforcements.

We’re going to ask for a new therapist. They give you six weeks with one. We don’t trust people easily and it will take longer than that to build a relationship with someone new. But six weeks is all we’ll have, then they’ll cut us off. Yes we can pay for a private therapist, but with what? Tokens from a cereal packet? We doubt they accept Clubcard vouchers. We got lucky with our other ones. We’ve been in therapy for 15 years. We’ve been toying with the idea of going back on antidepressants. We haven’t touched them since we were 17 as we hated how they turned us into zombies. But they don’t prescribe those any more. Coming to that decision has been tough. But right now, we feel there’s no other option. We cannot go on like this. What always worries us is how much will they change us? Will they help us or make us worse? Will they make us even angrier or even more numb? Or will they bring back the version of us we like? We don’t know. But what we do know is we can’t live like this any longer. We do not like the people depression has forced us to become. So in a few weeks, we will ask for therapy and hope they give it to us. And we will ask for medication. It takes around 3 weeks to work. So we’re stuck like this until January or February probably. And they might not even work. It can take months or years to find the right medication.

Then hopefully we’ll be different people.

We don’t know those people yet but we hope they won’t be dicks.

See you on the other side.

Fan Fare

Brecon BeaconsRaising money for charity could be as easy as asking people to donate. But where’s the fun in that?

Brecon Beacons

the top of Corn Ddu

One of our gymnastics friends, Lloyd Bowen, works for Kidney Wales. They support families and people with kidney disease, raise money for research and help out with dialysis machines. Every year, they organise a Walk for Life. This year, our warrior trainer, Si Dwyer, would be leading it. So we knew he wouldn’t do something easy. We were right. It was a 12 mile hike around Pen Y Fan.

Naturally, we signed up. You’d think after falling for his ‘sign up to the Wolf Run’, we would’ve learned our lesson. Apparently, we still trust him when he says things will be fun.

Brecon BeaconsWe did it for one of our best mates, Andrew, who had a kidney transplant last year after suffering kidney failure four years ago. We knew nothing about kidney failure and poor Andrew was grilled about every aspect of it so we could understand what he was going through. So when the walk was suggested to us, we instantly accepted. There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for him – we were even planning on harvesting some cheerleaders in the bid for the perfect kidney. But apparently that is ‘illegal’ and ‘morally wrong’. So we did the walk instead.

We had no idea how tough it was going to be.

Brecon BeaconsIt was originally scheduled for July but an electric storm cancelled it and it was moved to November 18th. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t moan about how cold it would be. A week before the walk, we had to buy walking boots, waterproof trousers, a base layer and a hat. Trousers caused an issue what with us being pixies. Apparently, 27″ is ‘short’. *Stares at our 24″ legs* We don’t think so. We insisted on buying Avengers hats in the kids section. No-one would out-hat us! We were all given a list of essential items to pack and suggested items. We packed everything on both lists and wore five layers plus our huge winter coats. We would not die of hypothermia on the Brecon Beacons. Not today.

Brecon Beacons

looking at the top of Pen Y Fan

We showed up with bulging rucksacks filled with all our kit, including first aid kit and ice/heat patches should anyone (ok, us) get injured. And also three skulls bags filled with snacks, ice blocks and drinks. They were heavier than our rucksacks! Brecon BeaconsThe Scouts would’ve been proud of us. As the wonderful philosopher, Fin Sheppard (from Sharknado) says “semper paratus.” Always be prepared. We were prepared for everything. Except bears. No-one expects bears. Especially in a country that doesn’t have them. Everyone else except Si and Bryn, travelled light, their tiny rucksacks looking like they only contained their lunch. It was a 9 a.m. start. We hate mornings. We hate people. There was about 17 in the group. We went and stood by ourselves.

Brecon Beacons

view from Pen y Fan

Then it began. Uphill, from the very start, all the way to Corn Ddu. Dear god that was tough. Thigh burning, breath stealing, chest tightening kind of tough. We regretted packing for the apocalypse. Part way up, our coats came off, but not for long. The higher we climbed, the windier it became. When you only weigh seven stone, being in high winds isn’t particularly safe. We kept getting blown over, even having to put our hands on the mountain to save ourselves. And we weren’t even at the top yet. Never mind dying of hypothermia, the winds threatened to throw us off the mountain to die in a broken heap and get eaten by sheep. That would be a low end for lives that haven’t seen many highs.

Brecon BeaconsWe reached the top and the views were spectacular. Si said this was the hardest part. Thank god. These are not mountain climbing thighs. They used to be – we climbed Pen Y Fan and Snowdon twice each before we were 12. Then we began the walk to Pen Y Fan. That was much easier! Still a bit of a climb to the top but nothing like what we’d just done. Half the group turned around at this point. We had no intention of turning around. Even if we had, Si had probably packed Scorpion’s (Mortal Kombat) Kunai, to drag our escaping arses back. People were having their photos taken by the sign at the top. Everyone crouched by it. We did one of our acro poses and other hikers were impressed. We would’ve done a more impressive one, but it was very cold and windy at the top and we didn’t want to risk being knocked down like a Jenga block. We stayed away from the edge.

Brecon Beacons10 miles left. We descended Jacob’s Ladder, which was very steep, so we took it carefully. Once we were down the bottom, the hike became incredibly easy and we strode along at a blistering pace, pausing only to take photos. We stopped at one bit to let everyone catch up and it was just as well because we were about to turn off. We had lunch at a beautiful reservoir, wishing we had paddleboards with us. It wasn’t windy in the valleys of the mountains and we relished the warmth and easy trekking.

It was about to come to a mountainous end.

Brecon BeaconsWe now had to climb back up. We were expecting the rest of the hike to be easy, like this part had been. We were at the bottom of the Beacons, so we just had to hike to the car park. We were in for a steep awakening. Rocky steps led up the next mountain. They were a bit too high for our tiny legs and we found this bit almost as tough as Corn Ddu. Brecon BeaconsAt the top, it was extremely windy and we had to walk along the ridge of the mountain. We are terrified of heights and the wind made it worse, though luckily, it was blowing us away from the edge. And onto the slight embankment. Si had Bryn stay behind us to look after us. This was definitely the most mentally challenging part for us. We really didn’t like it. But we eventually got to a flatter, grassy part, which was more pleasant to walk on. Though it was a slight incline that never seemed to end.

Brecon BeaconsThis final part we found very tough. We were tired, our shoulders burned from our rucksacks and lunchbags, our feet were sore and it felt like we had been walking for hours. Well, we had. Then we finally began the descent down Pen Y Fan. And that wasn’t easy! Walking downhill is hard on your feet and knees and it seemed to take forever. Near the end, we decided to run, as Si said it was easier. It was. And it meant we got down quicker.

Brecon BeaconsWe finished at around 4 p.m. We had been hiking for 6 and a half hours. Everything hurt. Si gave us all medals and we trudged back to the car park, which was quite far away, stopping to pick up litter other people had dropped. We’d brought a bag with us for this purpose (we do this every dog walk) but the mountain trails were remarkably free of litter and Si kept reminding people to leave the area as we found it.

Brecon Beacons

with the phenomenal Si Dwyer

We got back to the car exhausted, aching but with a sense of achievement. That was one of the toughest physical challenges we’ve ever done (second only to the Wolf Run) and we raised money for a good cause, which you can donate to here. Thank you to Si, Bryn and Lloyd for organising it. We highly recommend hiking around the Brecon Beacons. It’s brutal, but beautiful. And the views are absolutely worth it.

medals!

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