Okay, so this title is a misnomer. In 1992 a small film about a Californian high school girl fighting vampires was released. I remember my mum renting it from the local video store. She told me the synopsis, but wouldn’t let me watch it on account of the ’15’ certificate (thanks, mum!). And I sooo wanted to watch it, because it had Kristy Swanson as the titular character, and she was in the Mannequin sequel which I had rented out an embarrassing amount of times, along with the Splash sequel and Mac and Me (as you can see, I had a high-brow taste in films back then). So it’s ironic that instead of loving the poor man’s version of a box office success, I ended up loving the cult hit.

 

I grew up devouring shiny Hollywood portrayals of high school, probably because I lived in Scotland, and the amount of rain there makes Forks from Twilight seem like the Costa del Sol in comparison. I watched Saved by the Bell, California Dreamin’ and yes, Baywatch. I got excited every time a new Sweet Valley High book came out. But I also absolutely loved the supernatural. Ghost stories were my jam, Halloween was more exciting than Christmas and I would’ve given my left arm to go to Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. So to marry the two; glossy California high school and paranormal intrigue was so perfect.

 

 

 

This concept wasn’t new. In the 80s, the teen film really came into its own. Slasher films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street featured teens been murdered in an array of creative ways, while comedy horrors such as Teen Wolf and Teen Witch showed in cheesy fashion how being different can make you the most popular kid in school (if only). It’s a clever concept because as a teenager, everything feels like a horror film, especially your body. Spots, blood, and raging hormones, oh my! (This is illustrated beautifully in the film Ginger Snaps, if you haven’t already, watch it).

 

Unfortunately, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was nothing really more than fluff. Fluff with fangs, but nothing groundbreaking. Creator Joss Whedon was so frustrated with how the Hollywood bigwigs changed his vision, that he walked off the set and never returned.

 

Now fast forward to 1997. Or more accurately, 1998, because back then in the UK, we had to wait for an age for anything good from the States and it was so frustrating! I was 16 years old and had gone over to the dark side. Perfect 30-year-old looking teens from Beverly Hills 90210, I love you, but I’d chosen darkness. Several years earlier, I had discovered Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire in the book cupboard at school. Her books, together with Stephen King’s, had replaced my earlier passion for Point Horror novels. Scream had come out in the UK the year before, The Craft was my obsession and I was still probably growing out the red dye I’d put in my hair after Angela Chase had gone ‘crimson glow’ (I know My So-Called Life wasn’t supernatural – well apart from the ghost and angel episodes – but the angst and awkwardness was scary real).

 

I remember seeing the advert for Buffy on BBC2 while I was eating my dinner. I don’t remember what I was eating – my memory isn’t that spectacular – but I’d probably just been geeking out watching Quantum Leap or Star Trek: The Next Generation. There was Buffy kicking ass and wielding a wooden stake like nobody’s business. I wanted to be her. The guys fancied her, she had cool clothes (ahem – check out twitter.com/badbuffyoutfits), she had the Scooby Gang and fought the forces of evil. What more could you want? I wasn’t to know that I’d become more of a Willow later in life. Books, research, and witchery are my passions.

 

The Scooby Gang. And Dawn. And Riley.

 

The series was a phenomenal success, and fans still obsess over it. It inspired countless other supernatural shows but could not be surpassed in its greatness (sorry, Angel). The actors are wonderful, but the real magic lies in Whedon’s savvy writing, whether he is being innovative (‘Once More with Feeling’, ‘Hush’), funny or heartbreaking. He creates characters that you genuinely care about (even, dare I say it, Dawn – or is that going too far?). He makes likable villains (Drusilla and Spike forever). He makes female characters that feminists can cheer on. Okay, so the fashions have definitely dated, but the enduring appeal in Buffy lies in its heart, in using horror tropes as an allegory for adolescence, whip-smart dialogue, being meta before it was a thing, and for using varied and loveable characters who significantly progressed and expanded in the show’s seven-season duration. It really was the perfect show. Except for Dawn. And Riley.

 

 

 

P.S. when I originally watched the show, I was all about Angel. So much so, that my first trip to London sans parents was to meet David Boreanaz in person at a Forbidden Planet signing. It was awful because I was dreadfully shy and naturally had a quiet voice. Couple that with my British accent and the poor guy had no idea what I said to him. I wanted to be sucked down into the Hellmouth. Anyway, last time I watched Buffy, I realised I now prefer Giles. At least he would understand my accent, and being quiet is (silently) applauded in a library, my hang-out place of choice (because sadly, The Bronze isn’t real).

 

If you liked Buffy watch Hex. It was never as clever as Buffy but it’s still fun.

 

 

I consider myself to be a laid-back person. Easy going. Calm. But lately, I’ve been questioning whether this is my real identity or just a fabricated fantasy that I desperately want for myself in the vain hope that it will become reality. Then again, most people I know have suffered with anxiety at some point in their lives. It is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about.

 

I remember feeling anxious as a child. I moved schools several times and loathed being the new kid because it meant that all eyes were on me when I just wanted to blend into the shadows. I always felt different to other people, and I can see now that that was part of the reason I was drawn to supernatural literature and films where the heroes and heroines embraced their weirdness and had cool powers to boot.

 

I wrote a post a while back about being an HSP or Highly Sensitive Person and the huge relief I felt when I realised that I wasn’t abnormal. I wish I’d known that as a child. I discovered that my desperate need for security stems from a deep insecurity I had in my younger years.

 

In school, there was a recurring theme of me starting off every new school as the exciting new girl who all the other girls wanted to be friends with. This would soon descend into cattiness and outright physical bullying. I hated school and found escape in books, movies, and writing. I preferred my own company to other people’s because it was the only time I could truly relax and be myself without fear of judgment.

 

As an adult, I have frequently dug deep into what makes me the person I am today, and why I occasionally suffer from bouts of anxiety. These bouts have ranged from full on panic attacks and episodes of sleep paralysis to just a mild feeling of being unsettled and not knowing why. In what is often referred to as shadow work, we need to confront our inner demons face on and get to the root of what we’re grappling with. I believe it’s an ongoing process, and the work is never ‘done’ because our lives are not linear; there are potential changes and upheavals around every corner. That’s life. My magical friend Veronica Varlow uses the analogy of choosing whether you want your life to be safe but dull like the monorail at DisneyWorld, or an exciting roller coaster like Space Mountain. Or as Homer Simpson says to Marge, “I can’t live the button-down life like you. I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles.”

 

Anxiety can be that annoying person who outstays their welcome or it can creep up on you and shout “boo!” in your ear when you least expect it. I recognise certain triggers that set off my anxiety, but likewise, sometimes I have the physical symptoms of stress and I’m perplexed as to why.

 

A big thing for me at the moment is feeling comfortable in my writing. I’m writing a novel and it’s only in the first draft stage, i.e. the stage where writing is supposed to be freeing and perfection can go out the window. As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently put it, “The first draft of anything is always shit.” But I come to my work every day with a crippling fear that it’s far too terrible to ever be shared with anyone. I know this is my inner critic pulling a fast one on me, but it still gets me. I have to try and acknowledge the negative thoughts and change them into something positive.

 

I was even anxious about publishing this post. I actually wrote it early last week but kept putting off clicking the publish button because I worried that I was making a serious subject come off as frivolous. If it comes across that way at all then it’s not my intention.

 

I’m also aware of how food can bring on anxiety, especially if I drink too much coffee (I try to limit my intake to two cups a day) or consume too much sugar. Hormones can also obviously play havoc with your emotions, and I’ve found that tracking my cycle is really helpful to highlight patterns. I use the app Hormonology as a cycle tracker, but I’m not completely convinced that an app has all the answers so I also make a note of my moods and energy levels every day. For more information on cycles, I highly recommend Lisa Lister‘s books Code Red and Love Your Lady Landscape.

 

So how do I cope with anxiety? There isn’t a magical solution (believe me, I’ve looked), but I have little habits which I believe help me. The following suggestions are tips which help ease my anxiety and in no way am I advocating doing these instead of seeking help or seeing a GP. Also, these are just my go-to solutions for mild anxiety. In the past, when I’ve experienced more serious symptoms such as panic attacks, then there has often been a root problem which needed identifying and solving.

 

  • Breathe. Perhaps this is an obvious one, but focusing on slow deep breaths really calms me
  • Olfactory goodness. The right scent of perfume, flowers, candles or food can transport me to a better place. I tend to carry essential oils with me when I travel and a large inhalation of lavender is so soothing. I adore floral scents such as rose and lavender, uplifting citrus notes and woody comforting smells of old books and leather. I have an embarrassing amount of perfumes and scented candles for different emotions and seasons. When I’m at home I like to burn Palo Santo. Long used for its reputed purifying properties, I definitely feel a sense of calm after a deep inhale of the stuff. I also love using herbs when I cook, and I always take a sniff before adding it to the dish.
  • Tea. In Japan and China, the tea ceremony has long celebrated as an art form; a traditional ritual of preparing, infusing and serving tea for others. It holds many spiritual aspects and philosophies. A simple way to enjoy tea is to just enjoy the act of drinking tea. Smell the tea, taste it and be mindful – that is to say – don’t just gulp it down while you scroll through your newsfeed.
  • Meditate. This is a tricky one and possibly a method which wouldn’t work in a full blown anxiety attack but more as a preventative method. Find a way that works for you. There is no ‘right way’ as far as I’m concerned. You could sit in silence for a few minutes, you could listen to relaxing music or a guided meditation, and if you wanted, you could build up your practice to 30 minutes or more every morning.
  • Switch off. I definitely think that our society’s dependency on technology is a big contributing factor to anxiety. We often look at our phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. We are well and truly addicted, and let’s face it, the constant stream of bad news and unrealistic beauty ideals are not healthy. Try and give yourself time away from your electronic devices on a daily basis. Go for a walk, dance, cook. Rest your eyes and your brain, because information overload is real.
  • Be in nature. Go to the beach or take a stroll in the woods. I find that my anxiety decreases after an hour or so soaking up the sounds, sights, and scents of natural spaces.
  • Exercise and avoid processed and sugary foods. Cut down on caffeine.
  • Listen to music. I have so many playlists for different moods. Sometimes I want something totally relaxing while I read a good book, and sometimes I want to sing at the top of my lungs and dance around the room.

 

 

 

Today is the Winter Solstice, traditionally a time of the death and rebirth of the Sun God. Today is the shortest, darkest day of the year, and the longest night. Despite the usual planning, prepping and stress associated with this time of year (as we often have to shop, travel, cook and gather with our families) today is a day to rest and reflect.

 

A perfect way to celebrate the Solstice is to confront the darkness and delve into some shadow work. Darkness is not to be feared. Light many candles to illuminate your space. Write down your fears, pain, secrets, and anything you are holding onto that you no longer need in your life. What limiting beliefs are holding you back? Dig deep. It’ll be hard, but it is more painful to carry past trauma, grudges, shame than to release them. Once you have written down everything you need to, fold up the piece of paper and light it in a cauldron or fire bowl. Be safe. Watch your fears and pain dissipate with the smoke.

 

We need to let that part of ourselves die before we can be reborn. Just as the days start to become lighter, so must we.

 

I happened to pull the two oracle cards today purely by chance, but they perfectly illustrate the importance of this festival. The Welsh Goddess Cerridwen is also known as The White Lady of Inspiration and Death. She tends to a cauldron which represents the cauldrons of inspiration, transformation and rebirth and therefore the eternal cycles of life, of continuous birth, death and regeneration. The Shadow card urges us to take off our masks, and to shine light on our darkest shadows so that we can move forward into the light.

 

Cards are from The Goddess Orcale by Amy Sophia Marashinsky and ilustrated by Hrano Janto, and the Awakened Soul Oracle Deck by Ethony Dawn and illustrated by Danielle Mulligan.

Hello!
Heather Blanchard

Welcome. Are you a writer, a bookworm, a daydreamer? Are you still clinging on to that magic that pervaded childhood? Pull up an armchair and get cosy. This blog is my dreamscape through an enchanted forest to a world of stories and the little things that make me happy; a chance to add a dash of sparkle to the daily grind. Here you will find the whimsical, the coveted, the Gothic and the romantic. Happy exploring!

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