What is the #TBRathon & Why am I taking part?

The #TBRathon is the “to be read” readathon hosted by the loved Taryn from Sunlitlibrary or Novel Paradise Blog. Like most people I have a to be read pile that if stacked up would probably be twice my height so from 27th May through to 2nd June the aim of the game is to read as many of them as possible.

Between working full time and daily blogging I’m setting my target at 3 books with the intention to make a good start on the 4th. The books that I plan to read are:

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. This is a story about David and Leo, David wants to be a girl and Leo wants to be invisible. They go to the same school and start to become friends and it’s one of those the truth will out stories. I’m not really selling it but I’m only 165 pages in and I’m hooked. It’s also endorsed by Amnesty International so that’s always a good sign. I had started this book before so I picked it up at about page 35.

Love You Dead by Peter James. Again this is a book that I’ve started and failed to finish previously. I think I’m about 100 pages in but I may have to go back and re-read a bit to get in to the story. This is the 12th book in the Roy Grace series and I’m such a big fan of them. It’s a police procedural where each book focuses on an individual case but they also have a running story through the whole series where Roy’s wife Sandy went missing years before and new leads will crop up etc.

The Two Week Wait by Sarah Rayner. I have no idea what this book is about or if I will like it. It’s one of those books that you pick up really cheaply from a charity shop and then it just sits there for years. It looks like it’ll be a quick chick lit type thing.

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. As you all probably know I’m really in to intuitive eating but I’ve never actually read this so I thought it would be good to read a little of the research behind it and hopefully it’ll help me at the moment. My stressed out brain has been telling me all kinds of things that I “should” be doing.

Are you taking part in #TBRathon? If so let me know what you’re planning to read in the comments.

V ❤

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Things I’ve Learned Through Blogging

The blogging community in the form of the body positive and fat acceptance movement changed my life – that deserves a whole post in its own right – so this post will focus on things I’ve learned specifically since I started this blog, often thanks to the people I’ve met a long the way.

I’ll start with the only negative thing that I’ve learned so that we can finish on a high – competitive women often forget that another woman’s victory is not their failure. Quote stolen from Beyond Before & After.

What I mean by that is that this community has the potential to support and lift each and every member however that’s not always what happens as it’s become hyper-competitive. Not a day goes by where there’s not some kind of drama or aggro on Twitter and it can often feel almost hostile. I’m lucky in that a couple of larger bloggers have really supported and encouraged me from the start and I have a few people who I can DM when I’m feeling disheartened but I know that others are not so lucky.

That aside, blogging has enhanced my life in so many ways and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my views. Aberdeen is a small city and it’s really hard to meet people here. There are very few events and I’ve spoken before about the fact that most of my colleagues are significantly older than me with kids etc and have very different views to me. Through blogging I have met people who I hope will be friends for life and even though they live a long way away it’s good to be able to share ideas. It turns out that I’m not the only one who rages at body shaming fitness marketing or the fact that other young women don’t vote. And there is strength in numbers.

At 25 years old I thought I knew all there was to know about periods. I was wrong. Through blogging I have learnt so much about my own body and the different menstrual protection options out there. Since going cruelty free I’ve become so aware of the companies that distribute mainstream pads and tampons but through blogging and in particular Eco Fluffy Mama, I have learned that there are alternatives. I have since switched to a menstrual cup and I am about to try cloth pads and already know that I won’t look back.

Most recently blogging taught me to believe in my abilities more. I’ve always loved to write, mostly for myself but occasionally for other people yet I never believed I was that great. I once missed out on a job I really wanted and the reason they gave was my writing. Maybe it just wasn’t their style or it didn’t suit their business, but it really knocked my confidence. This month I have received so many compliments on my writing, including today when I received a lovely message praising me for the fact that despite posting every day I have kept the quality high.

Have you learned anything through reading blogs or writing on yourself? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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Why is this so hard to write?

I think it’s fair to say that I’m pretty open and candid on this blog about issues that people the world over still struggle to talk about but for some reason I’m struggling with this one.

Yesterday was the day of the scary doctor’s appointment. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go and then when that was decided I didn’t know what I was actually going to manage to say. With the help of a printable from an emetophobia help Web page I managed to explain the whole thing. There was a lot anxiety and some sobbing but I did it.

It’s what came next that’s the difficult bit to put out there on to the Internet – I’m being referred to psychiatry. This is a positive step as I’m being referred for advice, to see if a combined approach may be best. I’m not being forced in to anything and for the to being I’m relatively calm about the whole thing.

It got me thinking more about the stigma around mental illness. I’ve never been dissuaded from talking about it before. That’s not to say I haven’t faced stigma, only last week someone laughed at me for my anxiety and phobia, and growing up I was told not to tell people that I had it because they’d think badly of me. Thankfully in the main my experience hasn’t been negative however I think the word psychiatry carries all kind of connotations.

It’s no different than be referred to orthopaedics or cardiology, it’s just a different part of the bid but for some reason we say the word in hushed tones or carefully consider who we will tell. Well, other than my grandparents, I’m not hiding it from anyone.

I may end up chickening out and not pursuing any help from them but I’m not going to be ashamed of going to a psychiatrist. No one should be worried about other people’s reactions to their medical care.

V ❤

Progress Not Perfection – Self Care Goals

Today I did a scary thing, tomorrow’s blog post will be all about it, but having that hanging over me for a while among other things has made this month a bit of a write-off. I know what you’re thinking, I’ve blogged every day, held down my job, looked after my crazy elderly kitty and you’re right. But that doesn’t mean that other areas of my life haven’t suffered as a result.

I’ve been terrible at self care in the most basic sense like eating healthily, drinking enough water and getting enough good sleep. I’ve missed three of my closest friends’ birthdays – Tamzin, Cat and Kirsty if you read this I’m really sorry – and if you’ve been waiting on a reply from me on Facebook messenger you’re still waiting but as I’ve done the scary thing now and going forward it’s just a waiting game I figured now is as good a time as any to create an action plan for the next week/month.

  1. Drink 2l (or there about) of water a day. This one should be achievable especially now the weather is getting warmer but sometimes I forget to drink anything until lunchtime when I’m exhausted/anxious.
  2. Eat 3 meals a day. Usually I’ve still been managing this but for example today I didn’t eat anything from breakfast until 4.30pm and then squeezed in my 3rd meal at 8.30pm.
  3. Get in to a bed time routine. It’s not very exciting or sexy but tossing and turning then eventually falling asleep to Seth MacFarlane and co’s dulcet tones at 1am is not conducive to a productive day.
  4. Spend an hour every evening doing something not related to internet/blogging. This one may be a challenge especially as I’m at work all day so my evening is full of writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others’ posts, tweeting, scheduling tweets etc etc BUT I think it’s really important to have some genuine downtime.
  5. Do a 30 minute clean every day. Like most people when my mental health is rubbish my flat becomes an absolute disgrace. I found a really great “quick clean guide” on YouTube by chance that I will be sharing on the blog within the next few days and it’s really motivated me to be proactive.

I will do an update next month on how I am getting on. The most important ones but probably the most difficult will be the sleep and relaxation. Fingers crossed I will have good news.

Do you have any self care goals at the moment? If not, would you consider setting some? Let me know in the comments.

V ❤

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The Realities of Daily Blogging

Blogging every day this month has been tough at times. It’s not easy to come up with meaningful content everyday while working full time and trying to carry on as normal. For example I went out to meet a friend tonight and I’m now writing this at 11pm hoping that I will be finished before midnight.

The main thing that this month’s challenge has taught me is that blogging every day is possible. Maybe I would run out of things to say or maybe I would burnout but I have almost come to the end of the month and I’m managing. It makes me feel more confident in my abilities and also a bit more prepared for blogmas this year.

Blogging every day has allowed me to use my blog as more of an outlet for things that are going on in my life. This month I’ve been able to talk openly about mental health whereas if I was only blogging twice a week I wouldn’t have been able to go into anywhere near as much detail.

Daily blogging has also shown me that I do have support within the blogging community and outside of it. I have received incredible messages and comments, and even tonight, meeting up with a friend I see seldomly, she knew that I was working on this and had been reading. For a while I felt that maybe my blog was too niche and anti mainstream media to garner support within the blogging community but after this month I will definitely keep chipping away.

I’d love to say that this month has taught me to be organised, manage my time and plan posts but it hasn’t. Other than Monday’s post (which I will rewrite while I’m off work tomorrow or Friday) I am happy with the content I’ve produced but I’d be lying if I told you I knew what I was going to be writing from one day to the next. I’ve been lucky that this has been a month filled with inspiration even if it wasn’t always for positive reasons.

Have you ever blogged every day for a month or would you consider it? Leave me a comment and let me know.

V ❤

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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