Love Trumps Hate

Today it would be so easy to focus on the worst of humanity. The bombing in Manchester rocked the UK to its core meanwhile in other parts of the world there are atrocoties being commited every day. Yet, despite all this, today we have been surrounded by outpourings of love; for the missing, the wounded and the dead as well as for those people who have been working tirelessly to find, help and support people.

I have read of taxi drivers offering free lifts to safety, a homeless man who has nothing giving everything to help the dying and wounded, local people offering up their spare rooms and living rooms as safe havens for people to recover from the shock of the blast before they attempted to make their way home and all day today everyone doing what they could via social media and word of mouth to help find people who are still missing and reunite people with their possessions that were lost during the rush to exit the venue.

As the victims are named over the coming days I’m certain there will be offers of support be that financial, practical or emotional to all of the families and friends affected by this horrible event. Meanwhile those who weren’t directly affected in terms of a lost love one may well still be struggling. Traumatic events like this and the way our media goes in to a frenzy over them can open old wounds for victims of trauma and those suffering from mental health problems often struggle to cope also.

It’s ok to want to talk about these things, it’s ok to not want to. It is difficult to completely avoid news about the event but if you want to pretend it’s not happening and go about life as normally as possible that’s fine and equally if you want to mark the event and attend vigils etc that’s fine too. How you deal with and process events like this is a very personal thing and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

Be kind to people, be considerate and most importantly don’t let events like this stop you living your life. It is frightening and unsettling but we can’t live based on what might happen. Live, laugh, love and know that when disaster strikes, the human race has our backs.

V ❤

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Never Miss A Monday

So the original post that was here was 35 words because I was not in a good place on Monday so today I’m re-writing this and turning it in to the post I wanted to write in the first place.

I want to talk about basic self care. Online there is so much information on self care and things we can do to help ourselves relax or feel better when our mental or physical health isn’t so good. Often these tips include things like have a nice relaxing bath, going for a walk, painting your nails, meeting up with a friend etc. All these things are great but sometimes we are not able to make that kind of an effort.

The things that when we are well we take for granted become self care when we are really struggling. Things like brushing your teeth, washing your face, cooking a meal, drinking water and cleaning up are all valid self care. So is sleep!

The reason this post originally was so short was because as soon as I got home from work I went to bed. I dozed and watched Netflix and I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. Being anxious a lot, working full time and trying to find time to do all the other normal grown up stuff that we are expected to do as functioning members of society is exhausting. Every day tasks feel overwhelming and then the longer you leave them the bigger the to do list gets and it just feel insurmountable. It’s for this reason I’ve created a little self care action plan for myself that includes spending some time every day on basic tasks like cleaning. My flat is not going to be pristine any time soon but by doing a little each day keeps on top of things and it’s also something that you can tick off as having achieved.

Lately some easy every day tasks that I carry out at work have been giving me ridiculous anxiety and one of them is listening to voicemail messages. I have no idea why but when I sit down to do it my palms get all clammy and my heart raises – thinking about it now I have a horrible butterfly sensation so it’s self care for me to get that task out of the way as soon as I get to the office and as soon as I come back from lunch in order to avoid getting worked up about it.

What I’m trying to say, in the most rambling and disjointed way possible, is that self care isn’t all face masks and brunch dates. It can be washing dishes or food shopping or any number of mundane grown up tasks. I’m challenging you all to do some self care and leave a comment to tell me what you did.

V ❤

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But You Don’t Look Ill?!

It’s no secret that I’m not well at the moment and there are a few different things going on. Living in a body/mind that’s ill but outwardly appears to be relatively healthy is tricky because people are quick to make assumptions based on appearance.

Take today, for example, my friend took me out to the garden centre where we had cake and bought plants then off to The Range where we bought a heap of junk and went on a little adventure. (All documented on my instagram story, link at the bottom). I didn’t look ill. I was laughing and joking, pushing a heavy trolley around, lifting a 40l bag of compost [or soil as I kept calling it] and having a good time with my friend. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t anxious and dizzy in the shop or that I’m not suffering with a mental illness.

I haven’t taken time off from my current job as a direct result of mental ill health but with the way things are at the moment and it’s got me thinking. I know that if my colleagues had seen me out and about today and I was signed off there’d be gossip going around the office tomorrow about how I don’t look ill. Do you have to monitor your behaviour to appear ill at all times?

Growing up, like a lot of parents, my mum set the rule that if you were too ill to go to school you were too ill to go out and play after the other kids got home and I think in a way I still apply that rule to myself as an adult. If I was off work I would struggle to justify myself going out and having fun with friends even thought that is exactly the kind of thing that can help when you are suffering from anxiety/stress/depression.

When Naomi messaged me on Friday asking if I wanted to go and get Pick n Mix today I was really looking forward to having a chat and a laugh and getting sweets. I don’t think either of us knew what we would end up getting up to but it was something to look forward to. On a Monday and Thursday night I go to the gym with my friend Megan and she’s suggested some dates for going out for pizza/having a Netflix and pizza evening and again, it’s a nice distraction. Plus this Friday I saw my friend Andie (and she brought me chocolate ❤ ), our weekly cinema trips keep me busy on a Friday evening. [I’ve only just realised that all my friends are feeders :’) ]

It’s a sad state of affairs to think that if I took the time off that I may need in order to get better I would feel guilty about doing all these things. I would probably even feel guilty about working on this blog. There would be a little voice in the back of my mind telling me that if I’m well enough to write blog posts I’m well enough to be in the office despite the fact that everything and everyone seems to be telling me the opposite at the moment.

Do you think there is a certain obligation for people to act or live in a certain way if they’re ill? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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Mooncup – First Impressions

I’d promised some period positive content in May then my period was 12 days late so my motivation to cover that topic was low however on Friday it finally arrived so I have had a couple of days to trial my Mooncup. Please note that if you are not comfortable with discussion of periods/vaginas/bodily functions this post is not for you and you should stop reading now.

I’ve been talking on social media a bit lately about wanting to find a more environmentally friendly and cruelty free alternative to the pads and tampons you buy on the high street that are normally distributed by Proctor & Gamble or Johnson Johnson and the like; Huge multinationals who are complicit in animal testing. These products are also full of harmful chemicals that are bad for your body and bad for the planet.

First off I looked in to organic, biodegradable tampons as a sort of middle ground for the time being but I soon realised that if I was going to switch over to a menstrual cup I might as well just do it. That’s not to say I didn’t have my hesitations and doubts. I was pretty apprehensive about it so I thought I would share my experience.

We’ve all heard the stories of the cup getting stuck and people showing up at A&E absoultely mortified and I won’t lie, the first time I removed it was terrifying BUT so far I think it’s the best sanitary product I’ve ever used. My first full day of using it I did spend it at home so if there was any kind of emergency I could deal with it without an issue but it was all smooth sailing.

As per the instructions on the box, as an under 30-year-old with no children I got the cup in size B. I was nervous about inserting it – and it was a bit uncomfortable at first – but as soon as it was in place I didn’t feel it at all, just like a tampon. Your muscles naturally clench around it and keep it in place plus the cup itself forms a vacuum so you don’t have to worry about embarrassing leaks. That was another concern of mine prior to trying it. I once read about a woman who sneezed and her cup spilled BUT she must not have had it in correctly.

The biggest pro for me so far, and it is an overshare but you were warned, is that I feel totally normal even though I’m on my period. No uncomfortable dryness from tampons or rash from pads, also no weird cramps that I get with a tampon like my body is trying to push it out. My body feels quite happy to have the cup in place. Tomorrow I will be using it at the gym for the first time and it’s so snug and comfy in there I have no concerns that it’s going to fall out or that I’ll feel it when moving around.

The period I am experiencing now is abnormal for me. I haven’t had the same PMS symptoms, I’m not overly crampy, it’s lighter than normal and just generally feels different so perhaps it’s not a true test of the cup however so far so good and I would really recommend giving one a go if you’ve been considering it. If it works for you it will save you so much money in the long run and also help to reduce the amount of waste you produce.

What are your thoughts on menstrual cups? Leave a comment and let me know.

V ❤

Image is taken from Mooncup.co.uk. This is not a sponsored post – simply me sharing my experience.

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Public Panic Attacks – What To Do When They Strike

Yesterday I had a bad panic attack complete with sobbing and inability to breathe at the gym. It was so bad that I didn’t have a chance to consider my surroundings or the reactions of other people but public panic attacks can be particularly difficult, especially if they feed off concerns about what people think. That in turn leads to panicking about panicking. We’ve all been there. Here are some tips, tricks, snippets of advice on things that have worked for me in the past.

Rule number 1 is to focus on you. Yesterday I lay down on the floor, before I fell down and I let my body do its thing. In that moment I felt like I couldn’t breathe but in reality I was gulping in oxygen so hard I got a tingling in my extremities and couldn’t move them. Meanwhile I was still overcome by emotion and an absolute snotty mess but at no point did I exacerbate the situation by worrying about other people. There were a few people around before it happened so maybe they were staring but it doesn’t concern them so I owe them nothing. If you feel yourself starting to panic about what others are thinking, close your eyes and focus on all the sensations you can feel, or focus on your breathing, or even picture yourself in a comfy armchair.

If you’re out in public on your own and you feel panic starting to build try to find yourself somewhere a little quieter, and give yourself time to let it pass because it will always pass. If you have a particular distraction technique that works for you at home like reading a book, colouring in or drawing, it’s a good idea to carry something with you that you can use if panic strikes.

It’s ok to talk to someone. Stranger danger is real, of course, but there have been a few times where strangers have really helped me out in the event of panic when I was out on my own. Very recently and older lady saw me panicking at the Dr surgery and asked if I was alright then we talked for a bit to take my mind off it until I was called for my appointment. There are a lot of lovely people in the world who are happy to help others. Even if you are in a shop/cafe you could strike up a conversation with a member of staff to give you something else to focus on.

Sometimes being out and about when anxious is just too much. In those cases it’s totally ok to give up and go home. Yesterday my day was a write off. I was anxious and couldn’t concentrate at work and I wanted to go to the gym and smash it but after the panic attack my heart just wasn’t in it so we left. I got home and practised some self care and rested up ready to face another day.

Do you have any other tips I’ve missed in this post? If so, leave them in the comments.

V ❤ 

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It Still Counts

TW: Emetophobia, Anxiety, public panic attacks

A blog post about why there’s not a blog post today definitely still counts as part of my daily blogging challenge in May.

Things have certainly been difficult since I wrote my last post. I’ve had three what I can only describe as panic crying fits, one very publicly at the gym. I got up and we tried to finish the workout but my heart just wasn’t in it. Today has been a write off although all was not lost as I got coleslaw and a reduced papaya to cheer me up.

All this was triggered by a rash decision that in order to get better from all my other mental health issues I have to get over my phobia so I can consent to a medical approach (SSRI medication). Unfortunately I hadn’t taken the time to consider in it’s entirety what that would involve and as that realisation sunk in I was a mess. Like a lot of people with a phobia or anxiety I hold on to the misguided belief that my phobia keeps me safe but to a certain degree it does. I live my life in such a way that at every possibly opportunity I minimise my risk of vomiting. To have that and the so-called control my phobia gives me away taken away is too much for me to deal with at the moment.

Needless to say following all that anxiety plus the fact I’m already suffering from stress I’m not up for writing a great deal so I gave you a little confessional instead.

Roll on the weekend!

V ❤

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Watch Your Language!

So we all know that we’re not there yet in terms of gender equality. We see and experience a patriarchal society every day. Here are some of the commonplace words and phrases that, in my opinion, further cement this on a day to day basis.

Girlboss – what does this even mean? The implications seem to be that it’s so extraordinary for a woman/girl to be a boss that we need a separate phrase to describe it.

Bossy – When was the last time you heard a man or boy being described as bossy? Need I say more. Maybe this isn’t as much of an issue with children growing up now, I’d genuinely be interested to know, but certainly growing up in the 90s assertive young women were shamed for being bossy meanwhile their male peers could take the lead without comment. “She’s not bossy, she’s the boss.’

Man up – I catch myself using this phrase still. I call myself out on it of course, and I’m using it less and less, but growing up this was a totally normal phrase. It’s damaging for men and women by instilling the ideal that men can’t show emotion and can’t be weak and that women are required be more like men.

Skinnie Minnie – This one on first glance maybe doesn’t fit with the theme of this post however when we note that this is apparently the ultimate compliment for women in our culture. Congratulations for not taking up space… Ummm ok. Women seem to be on the receiving end of the worst of diet culture and by using phrases like this we are encouraging our own oppression.

“That’s so gay” – Thankfully people are using this less and less but I still hear it, particularly when the school kids are out at lunchtime. Another phrase I’ve heard from them was “you’re such a bender” which is particularly troubling as you have to question where they are learning this. We no longer get that kind of language in the media so they must be getting this stuff at home. It’s not difficult to understand how wrong these phrases are – gay is not a synonym for rubbish. No matter which definition for the word gay you use this makes no sense. Homophobic slurs are not cool, witty or clever so why are children still hearing this, learning it and repeating it?

“[Insert adjective] for a girl.” (Strong, clever, articulate etc etc.) Why are we still using these phrases as “compliments”? There is nothing complimentary about it. And while we’re at it why are we infantilizing grown women.  

In that same vein “the girls in the office” is a phrase I hear at work A LOT and it makes me squirm with rage. Let’s stop belittling women, it’s very tiresome to be fighting this same nonsense day in and day out in 2017.

Are there any phrases that you think I’ve forgotten? Leave them in the comments below.

V ❤

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Why I Still Struggle In Recovery

TW: Eating disorders, weight loss

Recovering from disordered eating is very complex. There’s the physical aspect of it, your body readjusting, but the really daunting part is the mental and emotional side. For me, I don’t think it will ever fully leave me and I think that tends to be the consensus among most people who have struggled with these issues. I wrote earlier this month about what recovery means to be but I thought I’d be brave and be honest about what I still struggle with.

The biggest thing that really affects me regularly is diet talk and body shaming. This ranges in severity from people moralising food, which is irritating but not the most unsettling, through to people shaming themselves and berating themselves and pledging to “make up” for what they’ve eaten. The worst bit about it is the fact that it’s totally normalised. No one bats an eyelid at someone calling themselves fat (and using it as a negative) or broadcasting to anyone who’ll listen, that they have to be “good” and not have certain foods. And they do so without any thought for the people around them. The quote that always sticks with me is that every time we shame our own bodies publicly children (and all other people really) are listening and learning. Maybe it’s too late for my generation and possibly even for the next one growing up now but you have to hope that things will start to change.

Along the same lines is people commenting on what I’m eating. This is rife at my work and it’s so infuriating. It’s a difficult thing to confront people on because it’s so ingrained in our culture. The majority of people probably just consider it making conversation, or at worst mild teasing when in reality it can make things very difficult for those of us who are just trying to eat without comment or judgement.

Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while will know where I stand on before and after pictures. They are troubling on a purely theoretical level but for someone who is in recovery or recovering from an eating disorder they are so hard to deal with. Even when I wasn’t well the last time and was talking about my weight loss a lot I never posted a “transformation’ picture. I’d like to think that no matter how sucked in to that world I got I never would. Selling the idea that one body is better than another because it’s smaller is messed up. It’s not the images themselves that are the problem necessarily, in a lot of cases it’s the caption. “Can’t believe I ever let myself get like that” “I’m disgusted looking at the picture on the left” are examples of the kind of thing that’s heartbreaking and deeply disturbing to read.

Although, in the moment, when these things crop up, I can be very unsettled and anxious I don’t blame the individuals. Diet culture permeates every form of media, it enters the classroom and the doctor’s office, it’s no wonder that so many people buy in and don’t even question. They don’t question the system that they are supporting whether directly or indirectly and in most cases they don’t question, or have no idea, about how they are affecting others, across society in and in their direct social circle. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 10 American college women suffer from a clinical or near clinical eating disorder, statistics on that don’t exist for the UK but it would be hard to imagine they would much better. Due to the fact that eating disorders are massively undiagnosed the chances are there are people around you who have suffered or will in the future. That’s worth thinking about.

V ❤

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Straddled By A Stranger – A Tale Of Men At The Gym

We hear a lot about the struggles of being a young woman on the internet, I’ve covered it on here myself, and among friends and over social media we discuss this struggle across other arenas as well. “Manspreaders” on the Tube, “mansplainers” in the office, and men at the gym. I want to prefix this by saying that it’s not only men that are guilty of some of these things, we all see people who catch our eye and watch for a little too long for example, but it’s mainly men who are the culprits when it comes to the examples below.

Since sharing what happened to me tonight, that inspired this post, someone has said that this kind of behaviour is the sole reason they wouldn’t go to a gym. It’s sad that gyms are not an environment where people feel comfortable.

First and foremost I should explain the incident that provided the inspiration for the post. I workout at a lovely, well equipped gym with a huge variety of free weights and machines which is ideal for me because I love to lift weights. I’m there at least twice a week, usually more, and I know what I’m doing. On a Monday and Thursday my friend Megan comes with me and she spots me during heavier lifts in case I get into difficulty. Tonight we were enjoying a particularly brutal arm session. Having just completed a triceps super set we moved over to the bench and in order to continue using triceps we opted for a close grip on the bar. This is harder than a normal bench and a lift I’m not 100% comfortable with yet so I went light, lifting the 20kg bar without additional weights. It wasn’t a doddle but I was ok, Megan had checked in seconds earlier when a man came rushing across the gym, snatched the bar out of my hands and racked it. As if that wasn’t enough he then lectured Megan on where she needed to stand to spot me and demonstrated by straddling me. As we needed a lighter bar for one of the exercises we chose to just leave that area at that point but it really got me thinking.

It’s fair to say that the vast majority of men at my gym are stronger than me and it’s also fair to say that had I been in real difficulty it’s reassuring that people are paying attention and would help you out but the problem is when people who are stronger think that they automatically know best or that their workout is more important than yours. This is definitely not exclusively men but when was the last time you saw a woman hog the leg press machine at the gym for an hour – also to all the people who do that, what are you doing on there for all that time? Please explain.

The other biggest annoyance for me is unsolicited advice. I can concede that sometimes it can turn out to be helpful but sometimes people just don’t know when to stop. Suddenly because a guy has a few muscles he thinks he’s a personal trainer, physiotherapist and nutritionist. I know my body better than you thanks very much. Sometimes it’s nice to share ideas with people in the gym, shout out to the woman who gave me a safe alternative to leg curls, but knowing when to back off is key.

Have you had any bad experiences with people at the gym? Let me know in the comments.

V<3

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There’s No Such Thing As A Wasted Day

You know the days I’m talking about right? You wake up late, you had planned to go to the gym or clean your house and now it’s lunchtime and you can’t be bothered moving so you roll over, fire up the TV/laptop/tablet and start catching up on your favourite TV shows, before you know it’s 5pm and you’ve done nothing all day. What a waste, right?

Wrong! Sometimes we just need a break and that’s ok. Resting is self care and we don’t have to be productive all the time. Social media has made us all obsessed with documenting all the fun and productive things we get up to over the weekend and comparing ourselves to our friends and colleagues. Just because Karen from Accounts was climbing Ben Nevis and Bruce from Marketing was at a whole foods market in North London doesn’t mean that you can’t have a day at home lounging around in your pants. You do you.

This weekend I was wiped out. On Saturday morning I got up at a reasonable hour and went walking with my friend Megan in the Aberdeenshire countryside. It wasn’t a challenging walk. It was probably around 2 hours and we were home by lunchtime yet afterwards I was so exhausted I spent the rest of the day in bed. By 7pm I was starting to come to and realised that I’d “wasted” the afternoon and thought I should definitely go to the party I was invited to at night but I just couldn’t do it. Instead of beating myself up about it I fired up Netflix and finished watching Dear White People. If that’s not a Saturday night well spent I don’t know what is.

The weekend is a chance to re-charge and allowing yourself to do that is not a waste. It’s essential, especially if you are suffering from any kind of ill health, be that mental or physical. What have you done to relax this weekend? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤