Tuesday, 6 August 2019

What advice would I give a friend who wants to lose weight?


This is going to be a bit of an unusual post for me. Normally I launch straight into my opinions about parenting or some outrage about human rights. Today I’m going down a more personal route.

I am going to write to about health. What advice would I give a friend who was looking to get healthier? I am being careful with my words here for a number of reasons. Obviously I am talking about losing weight. My real life friends know weight is something I struggle with constantly. I have done since I was in my late teens. I’m actually even cautious to use the words “struggle” when it comes to weight because I don’t want to convey a message of negativity to those who are large and happy.

I’m a massive champion of body positivity. There are lots of reasons people are overweight / obese and none of them are laziness or greed, the common misconceptions. So I applaud anyone who out and out rejects societal pressure to adhere to a specific “acceptable” BMI and embraces their size/shape with confidence and enthusiasm.

I have written before about how you shouldn’t worry how wobbly you are naked, just embrace it. I have no shame about showing my chunky body on the beach.

However. I am not happy at my current size. I feel unhealthy. I feel unfit. I am scared of sitting on certain chairs or seats in case they’re not built for my weight. I actually worry when I get in my bath, whether the pressure of my weight and the water might be too much for the floor boards. I worry that the reason my new bed has started creaking is because I am putting so much weight on it every night.

I am struggling to do things which should be basic. When I stand up, my ankles can seize up a bit from the shock of the weight. When I go to the loo and twist back to get bog roll…my back hurts! Bending over to paint my toes is really hard now. This is humiliating to admit. For all the body positivity in the world, sometimes the reality of being a larger lady isn’t that fun.

I put my anti-depressants up last year after a bout of anxiety. I’ve put on 2 stone. And I was already obese before that. SSRI’s are linked with weight gain although there seems to be disputes as to the reasoning behind this. But whatever the reason, my focus now is, that I want to be healthier. A healthier weight that I am more comfortable with. Not a “skinny” weight so I can look the way magazines tell me I should. But a weight where more of my clothes fit, I feel less self-conscious walking up a hill or eating in public, or finally so I am not so ashamed when people ask me about my gastric band (because they don’t understand how it didn’t work).

I am seeing a counsellor to help me understand the reasons why I over eat. Often it can be really hard to be kind to yourself. But he pointed out that I should think about the advice I would give to a friend who is struggling with their weight. It’s much easier to be kind to others.

So here is the advice I would give. Treat yourself better. Understand what this means. “Treating” yourself doesn’t mean eating a cake or having a glass of wine. Treating yourself means taking care of your body and your mind. What would your BODY like you do for it? It would probably quite like a bit of fruit, maybe a salad. Maybe a run or a swim? Then a good night’s sleep. That’s what your BODY wants.

Your body’s probably a bit sick of that 30th bag of crisps this week that you’re emptying down your throat. Your body probably doesn’t want a glass of wine because it’s tired and dehydrated. It probably doesn’t want that coffee either.

Make better choices. Have a camomile tea with some honey!

And why? Why make these healthier choices? You may feel like you “deserve” to have a squidgy cake and a creamy latte, but what does your kid deserve? Does he deserve a mum who eats healthy? Does he deserve a mum who nourishes her body? And your body! Your body doesn’t deserve cake sugar and full fat dairy products!

My counsellor asked me what fuels my desire to adjust my relationship with food. He deduced it wasn’t a lack of confidence in how I looked (I was right…embrace the naked!) but my need to give my kids a healthy parent. One who they can look to as a role model.

To lose weight you need to change your habits and your lifestyle. You want a healthy body so you can live a longer more energetic life. If your core value is to be a good mother, then one of your main priorities should be to make healthier choices. Then you can be that healthier, more energetic parent.

Also I am very good at black and white thinking. I think in extremes. I sometimes feel like this is the only way I can deal with things…. Either go all in or don’t bother.

This is also my attitude to weight loss. I’ll be insanely disciplined for days, sometimes weeks. Then I’ll allow despair to kick in and I’ll completely sabotage my own efforts. What this translates to is, I’ll have lost a good chunk of pounds, suddenly have a “fuck it, why bother” moment and scoff a load of rubbish and *50 bottles of wine. Sabotaging any progress and destroying my positivity.

The normal reaction to “falling off the wagon” would be to get back on. But I won’t. I will go to town and gorge on everything I’ve deprived myself off (for all of 4 days).

This needs to stop. I need to find a way to let myself make mistakes, to acknowledge the fallibility and move on. Move on into the GREY area, rather than the black and white extremes. Try the middle ground.

To be honest, I am daunted. I have doubts. I don’t feel confident in my ability to change. But I am going to try.

If you like, I’ll keep you updated. Because if I can do it, then anyone can. Let’s kick some unhealthy habits into touch!

*exaggeration. Probs only 20.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Got Small Kids? It DOES Get Easier.


Got small kids? It gets easier.

When I had my first baby, I noticed that whenever he appeared to be peaceful, certain people couldn’t WAIT to tell me what awful things I had to come. Not sleeping through? WAIT til the terrible TWOS! Terrible twos? Wait til he’s a threeanger! You think you have problems now, wait til they’re an ACTUAL TEENAGER! BE GRATEFUL.

Actually, this is not very helpful thing to a new mum. Or in fact, ANY mum. You may be greeted with a wan smile if you say this to someone but inside that person will be swearing at you. Because NO one wants to hear that things get worse. Stop it!

I often think about whether or not I actually would have wanted to know how hard I found EVERYTHING from pregnancy onwards. I’ve had many a conversation since with fellow parents starting “no one ever tells you …. *insert awful realisation about parenthood here*…” But would I have REALLY wanted to know?
  
Would I have wanted to know that:

a) Pregnancy is sometimes not brilliant. Not everyone loves it. Not everyone “blooms”. Sometimes it’s miserable, and hard and horrible. And if it’s your first, you will probably feel terrible guilt because you haven’t enjoyed it. Who can’t even do pregnancy right? *raises hand*

b) Childbirth is sometimes (a lot of times) really traumatic. Not physically. Everyone expects that. But emotionally. And if you have any kind of trauma, you’ll probably feel guilty about that. Who can’t even give birth properly?! *raises hand*

c) Breastfeeding doesn’t “come naturally”! It’s really hard. Everyone finds it hard. Even those who go on to feed their kids until their 12. And if your child doesn’t thrive because you can’t feed him and you have to express and or use formula which will make you feel guilty too. Who can’t even breastfeed? *raises hand*
  
In fact the ONLY thing I was prepared for was lack of sleep. And that was bearable.

I don’t think I would have wanted to know beforehand. I would have been scared shitless. As I was, when they handed that bundle of cuteness over to me in the hospital and expected me to keep him alive for the next 18 years.

One thing I became obsessed with once I’d had my first, and I mean literally weeks after he was born, was how the HELL do I do it again? I knew I wanted more than one kid. I wanted loads. But I knew realistically I could probably only cope with one more. How though? How do I go through all that again AND have another small child to look after?

THIS is what I want to tell you. You don’t. You don’t go through it all again. You may have another hard pregnancy, but you know it ends. You may have another traumatic birth, but you know that it goes by in a blur. You may even struggle to feed again. But you will NEVER have that terrifying wave of responsibility crushing you when your new baby is handed over. Because you’ve already had it. You’ve accepted your lot. You’ve acclimatised to the feeling of 24/7 parenthood vigilance. And it’s ok.

The only difference in your life will be the amount of time you get to rest. That definitely changes. For a few years all waking hours before 8pm are relentless.

After that though, it SPEEDS away. Suddenly they’re going into primary school years and you have to think about high school and wtf?! They were 3 last week! And it gets SO much easier. Sure kids go through bastard phases, but in general life is CHILL. They’re so much more independent. You don’t spend hours of the day wishing they weren’t crying or screaming because they’re actually just playing with their lego or their mates. And they’re ace company. And you don’t have to wipe their bums, or fetch snacks and drinks every 2 minutes.

You can watch a tv programme do some work because they’re in their rooms doing something for longer than the attention span of a gnat. You can finish a cup of tea. You could have a little nap. They can get up and get themselves breakfast. (this might include arguments but sssssh, don’t spoil it).

 I look back at their toddler years and think, why is it so long ago? It felt like it lasted a million years at the time. When all you did was slave away. But now my babies won’t stop growing! But it’s lush really. And it isn’t harder or worse. It’s MUCH better. It’s what I expected and hoped motherhood would be. And I anticipate that the teens will be a challenge but for now, I am immersing myself in the easy years and relishing every second. The easy years ARE a thing. It DOES get easier. For now.


Wednesday, 6 March 2019

For All The Glorious Women In My Life


For International Women’s Day I want to celebrate all the glorious women in my life. I’m so lucky to have some amazing ladies around me. I thought about trying to write something worthy. Something about trying to celebrate unheard women’s voices from around the world, but as David Lammy pointed out about Comic Relief, it’s time we let their own voices be heard. We don’t need another white, middle class woman clumsily trying to write about inclusivity, without awareness of privilege or agency on the subject.

So. I’m just gonna write about my mates and my family. My female loves. To tell them how much I appreciate them, need them and adore them.


The Girls Who Are My Rocks

I don’t have a “girl gang” or “tribe”. But I have a fantastic selection of super close friends who I’ve made since leaving school. They’re an eclectic bunch. I met them all over the place: Uni, work, friends of friends, family friends I’ve known since we were teens, Zumba, baby classes (which weirdly wasn’t the reason I signed up to NCT classes but was the reason I returned), some through my kid's schools and a chunk I’ve met through writing.

These are the girls I turn to for coffee or messenger/whats app convos about homework or inset days. The girls I go for coffee with after school drop off, who made maternity leaves cope-able, the ones who took me to soft play cos I couldn’t drive, the ones who I gossip with endlessly about school politics. The ones who made my mornings bearable when I wanted to cry after another battle on the school run or even worse in the playground (with everyone staring...don’t tell me you haven’t been there!).

There are the girls I spent my 20s getting drunk and ridiculous with. The ones with history. Our kids are different ages, everyone is at different stages but we still make time to check in on each other as much as we can. And never let it go too long without wine and food and longer conversations that won’t fit into our whats app group chats. These are the girls who know all my secrets, I can turn to for anything and have been there for me through thick and thin.

There are the girls I don’t see so much because we don’t live close but we chat almost daily if not weekly (thanks whats app again!). Ones who when we get together no one comes up for air for 5 hours straight. The girls I can talk to about almost anything and who make me laugh til I cry (or at least annoy my husband when I am weeping hysterical tears over my phone).

There’s the friends who are close but also double up as WHOLE family friends so the kids and the blokes get on and we spend the whole days trying to fit in “catching up” conversations, food, “appropriate” conversations (hard) and slurping coffee whilst herding kids around National Trust properties (cliché) in a bid to exhaust them so we can shove them in front of a film at home, open the booze, swear freely and lament our “going out” days.

The Women Who Made Me

My Mum. The second person I ring in an emergency. Or the first if it’s a ridiculous emergency (most of the time and not really an emergency). The person who’s advice I may ignore but I want it anyway, the person who is honest, who wants the best for me, who supports me but keeps me grounded. The person who I giggle at with about nothing annoying my husband and dad simultaneously, the person who will pour the wine whether its good news or bad or will let me weep on her sofa when I’m not able to adult. The person who always told me I was beautiful when I was sad, and never expected too much when I was in school, never made me feel pressured to be a certain way or fit in any mould. The person who bought me up to never question my equality with the opposite sex. The best person to go on a spa day with.

My long departed Nana, who loved me unconditionally. Spoilt me rotten and made me feel like the most special little girl in the world. She’s probably to blame for my terrible ego to be fair. The person who’s house I hid in during my monstrous teenage years. The kindest, silliest, loveliest person. She was my foundation. I was so lucky to have had her.

My crazy Grandmother. She’s not a saint, she’s made me cry many times. But she’s also given me a wild yearning to travel, to know about other cultures, to know about history, her history and my dad’s. She’s hilarious and fun and bonkers, and despite the crying I know she loves me fiercely and I her too. She’s one of the most sociable people I've ever met and I think I get her need for company from her.

I need my girls. All these women enhance my life in ways I can barely begin to describe. I haven’t really done any of them enough justice and this is a ludicrously self indulgent post. But I just wanted to share how lucky I am to have them all in my life. And this International Women’s Day I will be celebrating them all!

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Sex Tapes and Selfies: In Defence of Kim Kardashian.


Keeping up with the Kardashians…. A programme that divides and unites. I’m assuming that you’ve seen at least one episode but even if you haven’t, you’ll have most definitely seen and heard about the various members of the family. In my experience it tends to unite people in their shared negative opinions about their vacuous, vain, uber-privileged life style and perceived lack of discernible talent. I am here today to put forward an argument that most of the vitriol aimed at this family, in particular the daughters and specifically KIM, is based on internalised misogyny and double standards and that there is more to selfie culture than just vanity.
Lets get started with the first thing that people think about when the name “Kardashian” pops up: Kim’s 2003 sex tape. I haven’t linked to it, not because I don’t approve of it, but because it was sold without her consent. What, a woman didn’t give consent and the guy didn’t face any consequences? Welcome to the rape culture of the 21st Century peeps! But the fact that she didn’t consent for it’s publication, doesn’t detract from the fact that she was a willing participant in that tape. Enjoying a lovely sexy time with her then boyfriend, Ray J.
And that’s what I think so many people, including scores of WOMEN have a problem with. She allowed someone to film her enjoying sex with her own partner. What kind of woman would DO that? What kind of dirty, depraved whore would lower herself like that? The puritanical disgust that woman like Kim K, Paris Hilton et al have made sex tapes is astounding to me. Why on earth is it a problem? What is that disgust based on? It’s based on a dangerous, deeply rooted belief that is still prevalent in our society…. Women who enjoy sex are whores. And whores are bad. Because I don’t see Ray J being accused of being a whore? Oh but he’s a guy! It’s OK for him to have sex and it’s ok for him to enjoy it! Ugh.
This fetishisation of women as virgins or sluts, stems from a culture still heavily influenced by values of a patriarchal religious society. And as a result I believe most of these attitudes about women who enjoy sex and their own sexuality are not even conscious. It’s a default response to be horrified by them. Open any magazine or newspaper and the representation of women who have dated/slept with a lot of men is starkly negative in comparison with the “Lothario” type male celebrity who is back slapped or at worst, eye rolled at.
This is the double standard I can’t cope with. Kim Kardashian had a sex tape. It was published the same year Keeping up with the Kardashians aired, in 2007. Did it help launch her career in the public eye? Almost certainly. But so what? Good for her! She took back some control when she had none. She’s made millions marketing her remarkably rotund posterior. She’s harnessed that sexual attention, she’s acknowledged the male gaze and she’s taken back control. Her body. Her choice.
Talking of her body, we come to the next point. Selfies. The other accusation about the girls in the show is that they’re vain, selfie-obsessed airheads. Rather than astute business women with an eye for marketing that’s made them millions, specifically harnessing their “looks” and using them to sell make up to the millions and millions of young folks clamouring for a taste of Kardashian glamour.
Selfies are seen as vain and I find this a problem. It’s now so much a part of life, that a recent Austrialian study has discovered that 90% of selfies are NOT for the soul purpose of self promotion. Most bloggers I know use selfies frequently in their work to connect with their readers and followers. As the keen photographer in my family, I often will take selfies when we’re out and about or at family event, because if I didn’t there wouldn’t be any evidence that I was even there!
In an age where the pressure to look and feel attractive is arguably more intense than ever before, it seems strange to me that we would castigate those who have the confidence to put themselves out there. Rather than branding people as vain, I think we should be rewarding self love. According to this article, one of the ways to overcome the affect of the male gaze (in short the objectification of women/femmes), is mirror therapy. To centre yourself and become familiar with your own reflection rather than see it through the eyes of others. Not for vanity but as a form of self acceptance.
So whilst I wouldn’t say that the Kardashians are totally unproblematic… promoting weight loss aids, cultural appropriation and benefiting from a level of privilege most people will never experience etc., I don’t believe they deserve all the vilification they receive. Sex tapes and selfies shouldn’t, in my opinion, equal shame. And if you think differently, then shame on you.



Thursday, 31 January 2019

Gender Neutrality for kids: Busting the myths.


Let’s tackle some ridiculous myths about not labelling kids toys and clothes with specific genders OK? Because flipping HECK, I’ve heard some bloody stupid stuff making the rounds. From people who really aren’t stupid and should definitely know better.

It’s over a year since John Lewis took down their signs for “boy’s clothes” and “girl’s clothes” in store but it seems there are still a lot of people out there who haven’t grasped the concept. I’m gonna break it down for you:


Gender Neutral Clothing / Toy sections aren’t full of beige clothes / toys or not trucks or dolls.

This is the silliest thing I’ve heard so far. That all kids clothes will become grey and beige…. akin to when you hedging your bets buying baby clothes pre birth. No. It means that we stop deciding for kids what colours they are limited to wearing / toys they are limited to playing with. If anything, the best thing any clothing or toy shop could do, right now, is add MORE colours to their palate. I’ve lost count of how many mums have complained to me about the lack of colour options other than pink or cream for girls. And boys like reds, yellows, greens, oranges and EVEN PINK. Just start widening the selection folks...it’s not hard! The same with logos…. Not all clothing needs to be fairies / unicorns vs superheroes / trucks. What about just having dinosaurs and pirates and cars and teddies in ALL colours?

YES IT’S OK IF YOUR GIRL WANTS TO WEAR PINK AND YOUR BOY WANTS TO PLAY WITH CARS. This isn’t the issue here. It’s to give ALL kids the choice of ALL the colours/toys. Both my kids play with Lego. Both play with the (pink) Walkie Talkies my daughter was bought for her birthday. (But why are they pink????)

Let’s not force stereotypes onto kids and start pigeon holing them before they can even spell pigeon! Not all girls want to play mums and dads, not all boys want to be policemen or doctors.

Gender Neutral Clothing sections aren’t going to make your kids become transgender.

This is a biggie…. unless your kid suffers from gender dysphoria …of which only an estimated 0.08% of the UK populationcurrently being born is, then they will not be “made” or encouraged or persuaded into becoming a trans person. This is very important. Broadening clothing choice and letting your boy play with My Little Pony is not going to have any impact on his life other than to make him happy.  Gender dysphoria is not common, it’s an inherent condition over which the child has no choice. Sure there are kids who want to experiment with different looks, clothes, toys…. Some of those will have gender dysphoria and will go on to seek treatment and possibly surgery once they are 18. Most of them won’t. 

But if your child does have gender dysphoria then the last thing you want for them is to be made to feel more at sea by clothing brands telling them what they should and shouldn’t be wearing to feel accepted and “normal” in society.

Gender Neutral Clothing / toy sections aren’t going to make your kids “gay”.

Again with the “breaking it down for the dumb”. Firstly, this section is purely for those who think homosexuality is in anyway a negative. Secondly, people are born with their sexuality. Just as they are born with gender dysphoria or not. So nothing external, like a pink fucking t shirt, is going to make your kid gay. Kids need to have access to whatever toys they want (within economic reason!) because it encourages their imagination and creativity. If you take that doll away from your little boy, then you’re an idiot and you’re doing your child a massive disservice.

Gender Neutral Kids Clothing isn’t about Androgyny.

It’s not about taking ANY gender away from kids. There are some schools of thought (and literal schools!) who think that taking any gender markers away from kids’ means that children won’t be constrained by the barriers of their gender. E.g. girls might be more likely to go on to study stem subjects, boys won’t grow up with toxic masculinity. Some may see this as a step too far, but as a general rule, just rallying for clothes/toys to be made and marketed with both genders in mind would be a good start.

Has Gender Neutrality gone too far?

Some people seem to take it as a personal affront that other parents let their kids decide what clothes they wear or toys they play with?! I’ve been met with the opinion of “taking this gender neutral business too far!” when a couple of friends saw that a little boy was ALLOWED by his parents to wear a dress in public. Why IS that though? Is because you are bringing up your kids to laugh at kids with different taste to theirs? No? What are the genuine fears they have of kids dressing how they want, based on?

So until any kids feels safe walking down the street with their friends wearing WHATEVER they want, then nope. The conversation about gender neutrality hasn’t gone far enough.
Cuddle Fairy

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

How Clean is YOUR House? #Hincharmy Update!

I often wonder how clean other people’s houses REALLY are. You see, I am an awful mix of complete neat freak and terminally lazy. I think people who often have WAY too much going on in their heads often have neat-freak tendencies. If I can “just sort this room out” then my brain will be all calm and my thoughts will be in order. Perhaps it’s a sign of an anxious person? “I got all these things to think through AND a stinky, messy pit to clean up…GAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” 

Actually.... that does sound like me.



And I like my house to be clean. REALLY clean and tidy at ALL times. But it isn’t. And it never has been. Even before I had kids. Even when I only had one cat or even when I lived abroad and had NO cats. It was never, ever shiny spic and span. Because as with everything in life, my expectations do not meet reality.

So then I wonder how clean other people’s houses are. Because I am secretly weirdly competitive about stupid things like this. Now, I am not talking about the super messy, life’s-too-short brigade where stuff is everywhere and no fucks are given. And just for the record, I have NO ill judgement of that either. I don’t care if you live in a pit. And I do envy your no fucks given attitude too. Because if I had that attitude, I’d either have been chasing the dragon, or have had my brain entirely re-wired. My M.O. is worry about everything at all times and that includes the state of my house. 

(It’s not necessarily the best M.O.)

I am talking about the ones whose houses are relatively clean looking and tidy, as much as they ever can be with small kids involved. So usually one room, at least during waking hours, will resemble a jumble sale but that’s NORMAL. But how often do they really clean their kitchen floor, change their sheets, wash the towels, dust the shelves, hoover, scrub the bath? Do I do it enough? Sorry, I mean do WE do it enough? Is it weird to ask? Would you tell the truth? Is it normal to care? Is it a feminist issue?! 

The reason I got to thinking about this is two-fold. Firstly, this month is the start of having one full day a week with children in school. I was thinking this is a great opportunity to do some stuff around the house that we never get around to but also to clean and get up-to-date with washing...perhaps even IRON something. But it's also a great opportunity to write and exercise a creative muscle that's been on the back burner for a good while now. (thanks meta anxiety!) Which would make me happy but would it make me happier than a clean house?  

Secondly, if you have an instagram account then you MUST have heard of Mrs Hinch and her #hincharmy? A bonkers girl from Essex with killer lashes and an obsession with Zoflora. She's hilarious. A few weeks ago she had a couple of thousand followers. Thanks to her crazy cleaning stories she now has 500k! It's made me a teeny bit jealous. I mean, I just don't think I am committed enough. She was even on This Morning this week! 

Secondly, and this is apt, whilst we were all out ignoring house work one weekend, I stumbled upon the fantastic and seemingly anachronistic 70s book “Superwoman” by Shirley Conran. Its preface stating “Life’s too Short to Stuff a Mushroom”. I had actually picked it up to scoff at its outdatedness…. Who gives a monkeys about being a domestic goddess these days?! Pah! GET with the times, love! But then I actually started reading it and I was HOOKED! It’s ace! It’s witty, and funny and SO handy! A million tips on everything to do with running a house, from making your own washing liquids to weekly budgets and shopping tips. Having done a little background research I’ve discovered it was quite trailblazing publication. It was aimed at the emerging working woman who had little time to dedicate to cleaning her house.

Of course it IS vastly dated in that it suggests you never ask your husband for help, even if you ARE cutting corners a bit in your domestic duties! My reply to THAT is here. But some of the tips are fantastic! This is a good one:

Clean one room at a time because you can stop right there if time runs out or you get bored. Stop half an hour before you had planned, because then you won't be too exhausted to clean up properly.

So true! My normal cleaning mode is “OMG so and so is coming around in 10 minutes and I need to vacuum the whole house and clean the bog at LEAST.” By the time the person has arrived I’m a sweating heap and in need of a rest, and they have to make their own coffee!

But one big thing I took from the book was the LEVEL of cleaning that was expected, daily weekly and even annually. I mean, do you take down your curtains every spring and have them dry cleaned? Do you EVER hoover your sofa or mattress? (This is a weekly job apparently). Is part of your weekly routine to clean all the cupboards out and the fronts and dust all the high bits in the room and door frames?! How the bloody hell did women ever get anything done if this was a guide to skipping corners! How is taking down ALL YOUR CURTAINS skipping any corners?

My thing is, if it ain’t broke…don’t fix it! Cupboards need cleaning when something spills (including fronts); curtains need cleaning if some outside force has interfered….spillages / mould / cats; cobwebs get dusted at BEST when I can be bothered. I’d LOVE to have someone else do all of those things for me weekly but even I know that this is beyond reasonable.

But as I said before, I am weirdly competitive. I need to know if we’re normal or if we’re scumbags.

So. In 2018: How clean IS your house? What are your weekly routines? Are you a Hincher? I need to see if our level of cleanliness meets acceptable standards. Comment, Facebook or Tweet me. I NEED TO KNOW, like NOW!!!!!

Monday, 30 April 2018

If you think Anxiety is fun, try the new improved META version!


What the heck is META anxiety? It’s anxiety about anxiety (also known as Generalised Anxiety Disorder). And up until a little while ago, I was suffering from a big fat dose of it. It’s not fun.

If any of you have experienced episodes in your life where you’ve had anxiety or panic attacks, you’ll know it’s one of the worst feelings you can experience, ever. I wrote about it here. As I say there, it’s hell. But usually when we suffer from episodes of anxiety, there’s an underlying cause that’s definable. E.g. grief, stress at work, post-natal depression etc.

Usually when I have experienced anxiety it’s linked to events or circumstances which I could identify. I had generalised anxiety when I knew I needed to change my job in 2001. I changed jobs and within 6 weeks my anxiety symptoms disappeared.

Previous Periods of Anxiety

In 2004 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, just as her mother, my beloved Nana, was in hospital with secondary cancer of the womb. 7 weeks later my Nana was dead. I developed anxiety whilst my mum was receiving chemo. After a traumatic year, my mum had recovered well from the cancer and I went travelling in the Far East for 2 months. My anxiety went.

Four months after my first child was born in 2009 I developed post-natal anxiety. This time I used therapy and an increase in anti-depressants to deal with it. I’d gone on anti-depressants in 2005 for depression (I wasn’t experiencing anxiety at the time). I knew that I couldn’t just “change” my situation! I had to deal with being a mum because it’s for keeps! So therapy and increasing my drugs helped me overcome the anxiety. It took a good while, a couple of months, but then having a baby is a pretty big adjustment!

I got a small bout of Meta anxiety about four months after having my second child in early 2014. I’d assumed that I would get post-natal anxiety with her because I did with my first, but of course the second time around everything is different. You know the sleepless nights will eventually get less frequent, you know the crying will stop, everything is a phase. So when I got anxious, I went to see my therapist and she told me I was anxious because I was expecting to be. There was no reason for it and within a week, my symptoms disappeared again.

Between now and then, I’ve THANKFULLY had hardly any brushes with anxiety. The odd panic episode (not even enough to call a full attack). But mostly I’ve been completely free of it.

What's Happening Now

Just before last Christmas I had a panic attack. It was a one off based on cumulative stress but I think it might have opened the floodgates. The fact that the panic feeling seemingly came out of nowhere (e.g. not one specific event to trigger it) made me feel a bit more vulnerable to it. If I could feel panicky about CHRISTMAS, which is historically my most exciting time of year, then I could feel panicky ABOUT ANYTHING AT ANYTIME.

So when I got ill at the beginning of March with a flu during heavy snowfall that kept us house bound for 4 days, I started to get anxious. And after my daughter had also come down with it and I’d been stuck inside for nearly two weeks, I felt the full force of it. I couldn’t eat or drink properly, I felt sick and shaky the whole time. Desperately exhausted from the adrenaline pumping around my system 24/7. I couldn’t concentrate on much. I couldn’t look forward to any plans because I couldn’t see that I’d ever feel normal again. It makes you so incredibly insular and in a way, selfish too. You can’t think about anything other than the anxiety.

I went back to my therapist and after my first session, I felt better. I could see why it might have come back, quite often people can feel quite down after a viral illness so I expected that it would just peter out, the way it has done in the past.

Except this time, it didn’t. It lingered. That nasty, pervasive, gnawing feeling that things aren’t quite right and you might at any moment start REALLY panicking and lose contro was there almost constantly. And I didn’t know why! It impacted every part of my life. I couldn’t fully enjoy anything because I couldn’t ever relax. Thinking about plans I’d made pre-meta (!) filled me with  dread because there was an evil voice in my head telling me I might have a panic attack. I MIGHT properly lose my mind and unravel in front of EVERYONE. Even though intellectually I knew it was unlikely. There’s a lot of evidence from my past to suggest that I have lived a happy, non-anxious life for MOST of my adult life (and almost all of my childhood/teens). But I might. I might start to feel that rising panic, crawling up my throat from my jelly-like stomach, making my legs weak, my heart beat faster, my head feel lighter and my throat drier.

At the next session I had with my therapist, she reminded me that what I was experiencing is Meta anxiety/GAD. I cried. I cried because it felt like I was going to feel like this forever. It felt like I was never going to get rid of it. It felt like if anything remotely bad happens in my life, I won’t be able to cope because I’ll be in a permanent state of anxiety. I cried because I am ashamed that I can’t cope and I don’t know why. I cried because I didn’t know how to stop it.

We talked some more and she reminded me of the fact that I haven’t always felt anxious so I won’t always feel that way. It WILL go. 

I was unconvinced.

But guess what? I am fine. I am over it. For now. I am back to not waking up with crippling stomach ache and feeling shaky. I wake up and don’t even THINK about it. I am NOT worried about feeling anxious in the future. If anything I feel emboldened by it, I've proved to myself that I can get through it!

So YEY! I am SO GLAD TO BE BACK!

The only positive thing to ever come out of a period of anxiety is how grateful you feel afterwards for everything good in your life. Right now I am absolutely thrilled with life! Woohoo! Let’s DO this!





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