23 June 2017

Key Google Analytics terms explained

Key Google Analytics terms explained

Key Google Analytics terms explained

Google analytics is a pretty scary place. I avoided it for my first year and a bit of blogging because hell no was I trying to work that out. Anyway, a few very helps pins later (seriously, where would we be without Pinterest?!) and I'd pretty much worked out how to use the damn thing. It can be really hard to understand what people are talking about, or what you're seeing on the screen when it comes to GA, so here's a handy little guide of all the important terms you'll need to know. 

20 June 2017

Meet our new baby hamsters!

Meet our new baby hamsters

Is there anything cuter than a squishy little baby hamster munching on something with his little paws though? For real? 

A couple of months ago, my hamster Jeff passed away and I was gutted. I missed him so much, and I genuinely missed having a happy little creature pottering about his home in my office. So, we got two new little additions to the family. They're both very different, and I'm so excited to introduce them.

Meet Sid

Sid is the little furball pictured at the start of this post. He's a Russian Dwarf hamster just like Jeff was. These are a lot smaller than normal Syrian hamsters, and have a distinctive dorsal stripe. That's the strip of dark fur you can see along Sid's back.

I get asked this question every time somebody sees Sid, so yes, he does have red eyes; it's not a trick of the camera. 

We've had him for a month and a half now, so he's almost four months old. He's still very skittish, but is quite happy to be picked up. If you swoop down on him whilst he's in his nest he will give you a good nip. We still very much have to wait until he's ready and waiting to be bribed with a treat or two. At the moment, his favourite is a little bit of kiwi. 

He loves to burrow under the bedding in his cage, and will only pop his head up to munch on a bit of food. Once you've got hold of him, he's very easy to handle, and quite happy to be carried about and stroked. He's still not tame enough to sit still on your hand, and likes to roam, but he doesn't run for the hills! 

Meet Frank

Meet our new baby hamsters

Meet our new baby hamsters

Frank is a whole other kettle of fish. I'm totally not squeezing him in the first picture by the way, I had him in my hand (he's weeny) and he popped his little head out to see what was going on!

Frank is a Roborovski dwarf hamster. They're smaller than Russian ones - he's actually two weeks older than Sid! 

Frank is a LOT harder to handle. As in I've not yet properly held him. And he's escaped eight times. You have to be really careful with these little guys: any tiny gap in their cage, or your hand and they're gone. The first time I tried to hold him I assumed he was like a Russian hamster. He was in his plastic house, so I picked it up, put it next to my hand and expected him to slowly clamber on. Nuh uh. Instead he saw the opportunity for freedom and whizzed right over my hand, into the air and onto the floor. Oh, and yeah, they can jump really far as well. I'm not even going to explain the stress of waking up one morning to find that I'd left a door in the roof of his cage open at night ...

But he is super cute and very loveable. We've got a taming box for him, which is what he's in in the picture above, and he's gradually getting used to the idea of taking bits of food from us. Another perk is that he never bites or nips. He just scarpers instead.

So there we go, there's my two new little babies. They are so cute, and I love them already. I'm doing everything I can to keep them cool in the heat, but it's important to remember that you can't get either breeds wet. They've got a little sand bath in each cage instead! They also can't be housed together, and it's unlikely that we'll ever put them near each other; hamsters can be very defensive, and I'm pretty sure Sid would give Frank a nip or two to protect himself! 

Have you got any pets? What are they?

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19 June 2017

Does having a mental health problem mean I need to help others?

Does having a mental health problem mean I need to help others?

Does having a mental health problem mean I need to help others?

This is a conundrum that I've struggled with for years. I've gone through periods of spending all my energy trying to help others with similar issues to what I've struggled with, and then periods of avoiding the same situation with a barge pole. Ultimately, I've finally come to the realisation that either is totally okay, as long as it is what you want to do, and it doesn't impact your own mental health.

In my first year of university I was at the lowest point in my life. Add into that equation starting to drink alcohol for the first time, living with people I'd never met before, who knew nothing about my past, and having to balance academic work on top of things, and things weren't looking good. It was tough, but I had a best friend who looked after me through everything that was changing. The problem was, I wasn't looking after her too. We both suffered with incredibly similar mental health problems, but lived far away from each other; contact was almost always through social media or our phones in some way. 

My poor mental health took over, and if I'm completely honest, it made me a selfish bitch. I stopped replying to some messages from this girl who was just trying to look after me because I wanted to go out drinking, and find solace flirting on the dancefloor after a lot of drinks. If anyone knows me, they'll know that that's not really 'me'. I'm someone who's much happier curled up with a book in a snuggly nest of blankets. My mental illness had taken over, and suddenly I didn't really know who I was anymore.

One day, I was truly struggling, and she wasn't at the other end of the phone for me. It was a position I'd put her in time and time again, but she'd never done it to me. I was angry and upset and confused and took it all out on her. It was wrong, and it ultimately cost me the best friendship I've ever made, and the ensuing fights had me crying for months. For years afterwards I'd dream (as in in my sleep at night) that we'd get back in contact with each other, and things would get back to how they used to be. Obviously that never happened.

What I should have realised at the time, and what I failed to realise, is that we were both suffering, and it shouldn't have been an expectation to be hand-held every day. Our mental health problems didn't mean we were responsible for each other. And that's what I didn't get. I thought she'd let me down, but she never really did.

For eons after that, I rarely spoke up about my mental illness, and didn't, or even couldn't become close friends with someone who had suffered with similar problems as me. I was trying to recover from self-harm, and it took so much mental energy that I didn't have any leftover to spare for anyone else. Anyone who got in contact with me online was honestly left with a message saying that I couldn't help them. It was harsh, but it was true. I'd put myself first in order to recover, and I wasn't going to jeapordise that for the sake of a stranger, or even someone I knew.

What I'm trying to say here, is that if you're going through a similar period you are under no obligation whatsoever to help others. It's not your job to help people because you've suffered with the same mental illness, and it should not be expected of you. There are trained professionals that are there to help people (you can always talk to the Samaritans) and it's okay to say no. It's not something to feel guilty about, or agonise over (I know I have).

If you want to help people, or talk about your experiences then that's great as well. You should feel as though you can cover the topic, especially if you blog. It's cathartic, and can often be much more helpful for you too to let it all out.

All in all, what I'm trying to say is you do you. Having a mental illness does not mean you have to be a therapist to the internet.

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