After months and months of preparation, planning and panic, last night was the conclusion of my five years at secondary school.

When hearing stories of previous proms from people older than myself, they refer it to as a “glorified school disco”, with many of the girls coated with three inches of make-up and dresses so big they can’t walk and hair so tight they fear to turn to the side. Naturally, this led my expectations to be low.

I decided early on that I didn’t want to be too fancy or girly – a simple (not necessarily plain) but classy dress with natural make-up and curled hair. I’ve never been taken by shopping or clothes, so the prospect of my Mum dragging me around Prom shops earlier this year was a terrifying and gloomy one, especially with the hunt for the accessories that are attached with the Prom night – clutch bag, heels, bracelets, necklaces, tiaras, make-up, whatever.

When we were faced with the first official Prom dress shop, things didn’t seem too bad. I was with a friend, and the first dress I tried on in there seemed to be a perfect colour for me. However, things downgraded quickly when we saw both the price tag and the poorly fitted dress around my bust. It was a shame, because royal blue had always been my favourite colour, but the search continued. On and on. On and on, on and on. (It was a very long search.)

Two more shops and a few dozen or so dresses later, we’d given up. I was frustrated about the lack of dresses that suited my figure and my Mum was frustrated because I was frustrated. After a few days of scratching our heads, my Mum went online and found a beautiful company called Quiz which led me to the prom dress that I chose: a long, straight midnight blue dress with an empire neckline and silver jewels beaded across the sleeves and below the bust. It truly made me feel like a princess.

After a long process of two or three months, I acquired a fairly simple headband and two bracelets, a silver clutch bag along with a stunning pair of heels that were – thankfully – very comfortable.

I also decided to get my hair done professionally and then do the natural make-up look by myself. I chose to curl my hair and sweep a few strands back along with my headband. If it was possible, I felt even more like a princess, especially with my heels and clutch bag.

With the preparation and planning done, now it was time to pull it off. I posed for a fair few photos by myself, with my friends and with my boyfriend. Off we all went on the coach, all buzzing and excited, because… well, this was it. Some of us were going to college and others apprenticeships and although most of my friends were staying at sixth form, it was still quite special to share this night with them.

We arrived, had a few drinks (non-alcoholic, unfortunately), posed for a few more professional photographs, and then went for dinner and a few jokey awards. The music started and so did the dancing. Before we all knew it, the night was over.

I suppose in some ways it was a glorified school disco, and perhaps it wasn’t worth the price of up to £1,000 that undoubtedly some families were paying, but it wasn’t something that I would want to miss. If I would give any advise, it would be that your priority is being comfortable in your own skin; it sounds predictable but you’d be surprised how many girls looked so rigid, so make sure you pick something that’s comfy and, well, you.


4:23 AM. At least, that’s what the clock said, or that’s what her blurry eyes full of dry, cracked sleep that she refused to push away told her. Too early, she wanted to think, far too early. Time to go back to sleep.

Niamh closed her eyes again gratefully, trying to ignore the sleep uncomfortably settling back in the craters that were her bags of sleep. Black, black eyes, she thought to herself. Scoops of bags, doubling each night. She didn’t want that. No-one wanted that. Yet the pain in her lungs was unbearable, troubling her with each breath.

In – pain. Out – a little bit less pain. In, out. In, out, in, out, in. Out. Each breath was laboured.

“Go away,” she muttered, and turning over, away from the brightness of her digital clock. The shift in her body sent a slither of pain running across her spine, but she was happy to report that the breathing was less painful now. Eventually, the hurt churned into a regular cycle, one that she could snatch an hour or two before school, at least.

6:00 AM. At least, that’s what the clock said, or that’s what the tedious beeping sound was. Thank God, she wanted to think: sleep was over. No more sitting in the same spot and wasting her hours on willing herself to sleep, sleep, God, please let me sleep. But she couldn’t be thankful; there was a whole day ahead of her yet.

Niamh hauled herself up, coughing and hacking in a desperate process to grab more oxygen. She shook herself and slapped her thighs to bring herself back to reality – no more coughing, please, she begged. She didn’t want to explain herself to another teacher, or be in the middle of a conversation and rendering herself unable to talk, again. Not again.

A knock at the door, slightly fragmented in her disorientated brain.

“Hello, sweetie,” her mum cooed. “How are you feeling? I bought up some breakfast for you.” She placed a tray on her dressing table, containing a plate full of strawberries, a croissant lathered with butter and jam, a bowlful of cereal (granola, her favourite), two slices of toast drowning in golden substance and fried egg and bacon. “Whatever takes your fancy.”

Even the smell, the delicious smell, drained through her nose and triggered her stomach to growl greedily, but her throat won again. “Mum,” she choked, gagging on the sickly smell of the unhealthy breakfast in front of her. “I’ve told you before, I can’t-”

“Baby, you can’t say no. Please eat something.” Denial. Please, Niamh begged, not this again.

“I eat two meals a day, Mum, isn’t that enough? Y’know…considering.” She didn’t want a fight, not this early in the morning, not with her lungs paining her with each breath, each word, each emotion.

“I’m just going to leave it here, and I want at least two plates eaten, no questions asked.” Anger. At least, that was as angry as she ever got, what with… well, this.

“Okay.” No point in fighting. She wouldn’t eat it anyway.

Her Mum left, but the smell didn’t. Niamh got ready, picking a carefully selected outfit that hid the fact that she was becoming skinny, painfully skinny. A slightly bagging t-shirt, and skinny jeans? No, not skinny. White jeans, her favourite, that were not clinging to her skin, but left some room to breathe. And didn’t show her as a pile of bones with skin draped carefully around the remainder of the muscles. Her necklace that Grace had picked out last year, before… And to finish off, some stud earrings.


Now make-up, but the food was on her dressing table…

“Niamh?” Her Mum came in without knocking this time. One glance at the uneaten food and a disappointed flash crept into her eyes, but only for a second. “If you eat it, I’ll… We’ll watch Pretty Little Liars tonight.” Bargaining. But what can you bargain with… her?

“I’m sorry, Mum. I’ll eat something at school.” She might do, it depends whether the rush of food sends her with a queasy stomach to the toilets again.

“You don’t have to go, Niamh.”

“I know. But there’s only fourteen more school days left until summer break. I can last that long.”

“But the cance-”

“Don’t. Please don’t.” Niamh didn’t want to be reminded that it was getting worse, that she was getting skinnier, her cheeks were hollower and her eyes a little emptier every growing day.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and picked up the tray. “Make sure you eat at school.”

“I will.”

Her Mum walked out, carrying the tray as a sign of defeat, and holding in a sniff and choking back a lump that had grown in her throat. Depression. Of course, Niamh thought, it’s hard for her. But it’s hard for me too.

She sat down at the dressing table, and picked up her tools of defence. A brush of foundation, an application of concealer around her dark circles (that had naturally grown since yesterday), some bright red lipstick that masked her cracking lips, a quick stroke of bronzer to hide the way her cheeks had become concave and a little mascara and eyeliner to make her eyes seem bright.

Picking up her bag, she walked out the door and down the stairs – not running like she used to, not because there was no rush, but because she couldn’t. Her lungs exploded when she ran. So she didn’t.

“Have a good day,” her Mum chirped, obviously brushing away the emotion earlier. “You’ll be great.”

Niamh nodded thankfully. Acceptance, finally. It was heartbreakingly brutal to go through this every morning with her Mum, but she’d grown accustomed to it. The five stages of loss and grief were already being overplayed, even though she wasn’t lost yet.


The doctors said three months.

She forced a smile on her face and looked in the mirror on her way out.


Staying Motivated

Something I’ve never been good at doing, is staying motivated.

Also, staying focused. Although they could fall in the same category.

During my exam period (GCSEs, for fellow British citizens reading this) I’ve found it easy to be distracted by the tempting screens of my phone, iPod, TV and laptop, and often I fell into the trap, only to drag myself away later on after convincing myself that I had a “good break from revision”. So, revision wasn’t strongly motivated, but I managed it at least and scraped in the vast amounts of knowledge I had to comprehend.

However, I’m not too bothered about school-related motivation, as it’s not something that comes easy to many people. I’m talking about motivation for the things that I love: writing and reading.

Two activities that have felt laborious, chore-like and tedious over the past six months. I’ve barely picked up a book that didn’t have the words “revision” and “GCSE” on the cover, let alone read a chapter or two, and you can definitely forget about writing anything.

Goodness, far too much effort.

I knew that this was not a good sign, yet I didn’t try to stop it. I didn’t motivate myself to keep writing and reading during the tough exam and revision period that school-life forced me to swallow, and in some ways perhaps it was for the best. It would have been stressful, keeping up with my family, social life, relationship, along with the heaps and piles of school work that lingered in the corner of my mind. (Even now, it’s there. My last exam was on Friday and there’s a niggling in my brain saying “Where’s that revision timetable, Becky?”) But doing the thing I’ve always loved since I was knee-high…

It would have been worth it.

Churning the same stuff in my mind over and over again rather than learning, experiencing and feeling new things… yeah, that really wasn’t worth it. Some people would say that it has to be done: in order to be accepted by society, there are some things you have to sacrifice. And sometimes, maybe I would agree with them. But my happiness was not one of the things I was willing to sacrifice, and I did.

A word of advise to the future me: stay motivated, and put aside time for the things that you love.


Going to London is quite a shock for me, since I live in a small town in the countryside, and it’s nice to see how city life is.

Yesterday, I went to the Natural History Museum with my mum, who’s never been before. It was interesting, although extremely busy, and I’ve decided that cities definitely intrigue me, if not captivate me.

I’m not sure entirely if I’m decided between city and countryside yet though.

Ten Ways to Get Through a Monday

We’ve all struggled with heaving ourselves from the comfy heaven that is our bed at 6:30 AM, whether it’s for work, school, college or university. Either way, it’s not something we want to be doing as the dim outdoors faintly slithers into our rooms, especially after two days of lying in and relaxing. However, I’ve found these five ways make Monday mornings, afternoons and evenings, or just generally the whole day, slightly bearable.

  1. Make sure you’re organised for the day – or the mornings at least. This is something you should do at the weekend, or in my case, rushing around on Sunday nights to try and finish last minute homework and organising school bags, assignments and books. But by doing this, it means you don’t have to put as much effort into the day and can slowly ease yourself back into the five-day routine.
  2. Make a playlist of all your favourite current songs and call it “Getting Rid of Monday Blues”. Pretty much what it says on the tin. Get some of your crazy, upbeat favourite songs (no sad songs for this playlist, please, that won’t help the mood, will it?). My favourites include: “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Walking on Sunshine” and “Footloose”.
  3. Tell everyone you actually did what you wanted to over the weekend. Don’t let them know that you watched Friends on repeat for ten hours a day with a McDonald’s takeaway.
  4. Smile for no real reason. I don’t want to sound cliché, but smiling is proven to release chemicals in your body that technically trick yourself into thinking you feel happy, even if the smile is forced.
  5. Overdose on caffeine. Not literally, of course. But having a cup of coffee from Starbucks or grabbing a quick can of Coke can often help with Monday’s energy. Not that I’m suggesting to do this every day!
  6. Don’t overdose on fast food. I realise I just told you that it’s acceptable to have a can of Coca-Cola or some coffee, but fast-food does you absolutely no good as a wake-up call. Sure, it can be a nice enough treat when you’re feeling a little down, but please don’t have a Big Mac and large fries every single Monday. For one thing, it can give you a painful headache, and for another, you may feel like you’ve let down your weight target for the week.
  7. Make sure you look and feel good about yourself. Nothing can be worse than feeling grubby and ugly on a Monday morning, so give yourself time to give yourself a shower and a full makeover.
  8. Get some fresh air. The cool breeze air after sitting in a stuffy office is essential for a clear head after your lunch break. Try and make sure you have enough time to go for a five-minute walk outside.
  9. Give yourself a treat for the day. Whether it’s a chocolate bar, a phone call or your favourite TV show, give yourself something to look forward to.
  10. Only four more days until the weekend now! And if all else fails, eat some chocolate and sleep through to Tuesday, which has got to be a blessing.

Another Monday is over and done with now!