No compassion…

I’m 36yrs old, chronically ill and a size 22, I am no stranger to a bit medical fat shaming. Sadly, I have had to develop a thick skin when it comes to interacting with the medical profession. Drs & nurses will say things to me that no one else would dare to. I have had to learn to advocate for myself when necessary & brush off a whole bunch of bullshit along the way. To be honest I thought I was fairly untouchable. I am entirely comfortable with my size & though often tiring to hear the same fat phobic lectures, it doesn’t hurt me. Infuriate, yes, but I never felt unable to deal with it. Until recently. 

Earlier this year I had a miscarriage. It was not my first loss. My previous experiences of pregnancy & miscarriage were hugely traumatic and in fact played a major part in my mental health struggles. Losing another baby was horrendous. I had some complications and ended up having to spend a little time in hospital. The one small blessing was the support system I have in place and the kindness I was treated with whilst inpatient. Once home & physically recovered I visited my GP to discuss my general health & how to proceed fertility wise. That she wanted to talk about weight loss was not entirely unexpected. I know standard advice for anyone overweight talking about having a baby is lose weight. I know drs still hold rigidly to the BMI scale & that there is an upper limit for fertility treatment. I know fat women often have their pregnancies labelled high risk. What I wasn’t prepared for was this gp’s insinuation that my weight caused my miscarriage. So, unprepared was I that I convinced myself that I had misunderstood. I pushed it out of my mind & continued trying to process my grief. However, when I returned a week later and she still only wanted to talk about diet plans, what I ate, what I weighed now & how often she could weight me,I was more explicit. I explained my history of borderline eating disorders, of starvation diets & losing vast amounts of weight only to regain it. I told her I did not and would engage with rigid diets or weight loss programmes. Her response was given my multiple miscarriages, I might want to re think that. I enquired If she was saying I miscarried because I was fat & she confirmed that she thought it likely.

 

I walked out feeling a rage that quickly melted away to sadness. I was left wanting to crawl into bed and never get out again. I have struggled with PTSD for many years; my original trauma was an emotionally abusive relationship & my the circumstances surrounding my first miscarriage. It has taken me literally my entire adult life to get control of my shame and guilt. Years of self harm, debilitating depression, panic attacks, flash backs and nightmares all centred around how the loss of my child and subsequent illness was all my fault. One thoughtless dr had thrust back into that damaging thought cycle. On top of that I have fought to reclaim my body as acceptable. I have had to work to enjoy my life in this fat scarred body. My history is well documented in my medical records and I have personally discussed it with the dr. That truth is she wants me to be thin more than she wants to me be happy & healthy. Her complete disregard for my mental health was cruel. That she hadn’t even bothered to investigate my history before speaking is unacceptable. A cursory glance at my notes would have revealed that I was not over weight at the time of my other pregnancy losses. She would also have seen that I am currently taking a medication for PCOS that causes weight loss. The drug is harsh on my already inflamed digestive system meaning that I throw up daily. In addition one of it’s major side effects is appetite reduction. Hence, I have been slowly shedding pounds since I commenced this treatment. I also have diagnosed gynaecological issues, which are much more likely to play a part in my inability to carry to term. The conversation she forced upon me was not only insensitive, but entirely irrelevant. That said, it is never ok to blame a vulnerable women for the loss of her child.

I have chosen not to see that GP again. I attend a fairly large practise and as a freelancer have the freedom to wait for appointments with another dr. I have yet to confront the issue as it still feels so raw. However I feel a strange sense of duty; I feel I must tackle this to prevent it happening to someone else. I recognise that there were times in my past when this dr’s assertions would have entirely destroyed me. I hate that the responsibility to educate & challenge falls to people like me. I cannot understand why a profession who swear to ‘do no harm’ are so married to fat phobia. Why is care and compassion is so often disregarded purely because a patient is fat?


 

 

My week in pictures…

It’s Saturday night & I’m watching Die Hard 2 in my jammies. I say this not as a complaint. It is pretty much the perfect end to a great week. I’m definitely on the sore side, but at least I earned the aches having fun. And, so, I give you my week in pictures.

The toy boy went to a festival last weekend, so I did a little shopping & eating with my darling sister. Followed by drinks with friends & experiments with new lippy shades. The week proper began with some catching up with my man. A home cooked meal, brand new baby doll nightie & a lot of carry on. 


A hump day movie night was disappointing for me, but a hit with the toy boy. Surely I’m not alone on thinking there are too many damn Spider-Man movies? Calderglen Country Park on a sunny day made up for the dud film. 

Amongst scans, bloods tests & pitching to editors I found time to treat myself to some beauty bits & pieces. Namely more nail products. My manicures continue to be fancy af. There has also been vegan delights galore & lots of feline antics.

I capped the week with science frolics. The adult only Science lates at Glasgow Science Centre are more enjoyable than I’d imagined. All the fun of the interactive Science malls, planterium & live shoes with added cocktails. Trust me those optical illusions get even more freaky after a few tipples. 


Of course it wouldn’t be a week in pictures without some random interspersed shots of things that grabbed my attention. Oh & project post it continues to spread some wisdom. 

Comforts in my bones…

Chronic pain is hard af. Trying to live a full life whilst always hurting is even tougher. Pain relief medications are great, but they have limitations & complications. Hence the need for back up. There are a million products claiming to relieve pain. So, if you don’t know where to start here’s a few options that make my life a little less painful. 


Let’s start with a cheap & easy product. Epsom Salts are available in every chemist for a couple of pounds & super simple. Just pour some into a hot bath, get in & relax. Epsom salts don’t offer any long term relief, but on a day when my body really aches all over they help. Sometimes even that soothing half hours soak can help me deal with a day of pain.

For more sustained relief I love my tens machine. I find it particularly helpful when I have to be on the move. Often even short journeys or everyday errands can leave me tormented. A tens works by sending electrical pulses across the skin & nerve strands. These pulses help prevent pain signals from reaching the brain & can also stimulate production of endorphins. I swear by mine, wearing my tens definitely prolongs how long I can be ‘active’. You can attach the sticky pads of the tens directly onto your painful areas & the machine is smaller than a phone. Meaning it can be worn discretely under your clothes & is totally mobile. It is possible to borrow a tens from the NHS, but they are also pretty affordable to buy. I bought mine from Argos for around £20, there are of course much more expensive ones if you want something really fancy. 


Heat is another humble, but effective analgesic. I find heat works particularly well for stomach cramps/spasms & achey pains. I use a range of products that provide targeted heat. Adhesive heated pads are great for when you have be mobile. You can pick them up in mutli packs from poundshops & they will retain their heat for 6-12hrs. When I’m at home I favour a good old hot water bottle & heat packs. My very thoughtful little sister gave me an amazing microwaveable heat pack that is filled with wheat & lavender. The smell is divine & it stays warm for hours. You can find a similar one here.


If like me you have stomach issues NSAIDs will be off limits to you. This can be frustrating as ibroprofen in particular is recommended for so many pain types. Which is my I love ibroprofen gels. Again this won’t eliminate severe pain, but it can make you a little more comfortable. I find it very helpful for my fibro knee & shoulder. It is also fantastic for back pain. Ibroprofen gel is available OTC in any chemist, but at around £6 a tube for the strongest formula that can add up. If you qualify for free prescriptions it is worth asking your GP to prescribe it. 

Bringing heat & gels together is Tiger Balm. The balm can be rubbed onto the body & has a bit of heat, but also has anti inflammatory properties. The aroma is a love it or loathe it affair, but I’m firmly the former. Bizarrely I also found this product really good when I had a chest infection. Perhaps it was just the toy boy rubbing it on my chest that felt good, but hey, whatever works! I recently discovered that a similar formula is also available in stick on patches, so you can also use the herbal remedy on the go. I know there can be ethical worries about Chinese medicine, but fear not, dragon & tiger balm are entirely cruelty free. Both products are widely available in places like Holland & Barratt. Again if you are on a budget keep an eye out in pound shops as they sporadically stock them. 


My final suggestion is swimming. I love to swim. My body rarely allows to me do much in the way of exercise, so swimming is a boon. Since the water supports the body stress is lifted from weight bearing areas, which can relieve pain. I find can stretch my body whilst swimming in ways I simply cannot outside of the pool. Swimming is also a great low impact form of aerobic exercise, meaning you can stick two fingers up to the notion of ‘ no pain, no gain’. Even if you aren’t a strong swimmer or can’t manage actual laps, getting into a swimming pool can still be beneficial. Just treading water, holding onto wall/float & kicking your legs or simply walking in the water can really help. Best of all, you can finish your session with a soak in the hot tub or a sauna! 

Obviously you should consult your Dr before trying anything new. I’d also like to be clear that I suggest these to compliment medications & traditional treatments. I take a cornucopia of medications plus physio & other treatments. I could not function without them. I would never advocate ignoring medical advice. 

Fathers be good to your daughters…

Last Sunday was Father’s Day, so my sis & I treated dad to a bit of lunch. We also bestowed upon him soppy cards & our delightful chatter. As the sun still had it’s hat on, we also snapped some outfit photos. 


I had opted for a wee bit of gold brocade dressed down with a vest & some pins. 

Skirt – Glad Rags

Bandeau Vest – Primark

Cardigan – New Look
The cardi wasn’t really required; a lighter floatier cover up would have been more suitable. It’s hard to choose outfits when the weather might change at any minute. Glasgow fashionistas have it hard! On the plus side, finding a bit of greenery for a an impromptu photo shoot is never a problem. 


These songs of freedom…

Wow, it’s hot. This little heatwave we’ve been having is just what I needed. Sunshine puts a little spring in everyone’s step & it’s certainly lifted my mood. Part of the fun of summer is shedding some clothes & indulging in some flirty fashion. In years gone by I’ve missed this pleasure due to ALL the things I felt I had to hide. So, once again I want to celebrate the beautiful freedom the body positive community has brought to my life.


For so many years I believed that my body was ugly. I had completely internalised the fat phobia that society is drenched in. I felt ashamed of my scars & my flab & my uber pale skin & often unshaven parts. I’ve always had a healthy disregard for other people’s judgements, but aspects of my physicality were weak spots. I did what many women do; hid the shameful bits. I protected myself with loose fitting clothing, long sleeves & maxi hemlines. Additionally I built a wall of false, self depreciating confidence. I was always the first person to make a fat joke at my expense because it hurt so much less if I got in there first. 


I often doubted why romantic partners would want me. I felt huge & unattractive when socialising with slimmer friends. Shopping was a battleground of anxieties. So many special occasions were ruined because I never felt comfortable or even worthy. I missed events because I couldn’t find anything cool to wear that covered all the things I was scared to show. Countless opportunities to capture significant moments were lost because I hated how fat I looked in photographs. Most of all, I felt trapped.  I was caged by the standards society told me I had meet. 


Then came bopo. This idea that I was enough swept into my life & blew away a lifetime of bullshit. Immersing myself in a community who told me I was enough changed me. Actually seeing other fat bodies portrayed in a positive light was magnificent. I realised that when I looked at these women wearing amazing clothes, doing exciting things & generally rocking their lives, I saw beauty. 

From there is has been a gradual acceptance of myself. A growing appreciation of how my body looks. These last few days of scorching heat have made me realise that I might have reached peak self love. Not once have I worried about flashing my flesh. In fact, I have loved selecting outfits & enjoyed wearing them even more. Stares don’t phase me because I feel fantastic. I am sexy & cool & deserving of respect. Anyone who feels differently can kiss my fat arse. 


I find myself truly taking pleasure in my body. Be it snapping pics because my butt looks cute, being unabashedly naked with my boyfriend or feeling the fresh breeze on my scarred arms; I feel free. And it is joyous. 

Sunshine reggae…

After a tough week I was ready to let loose a little today. Happily, the sun shon & I had fun plans. All I needed was a killer outfit to rock Saturday. 

The answer was another of my sheer dresses. I have a surprising number of see through garments & I rather love wearing them. This full length lace number is soft & lovely to wear whilst also being pretty damn sexy. Teamed with a pale nude slip it gives the illusion of nudity. I was amused by all the lookiloos today as even hardest stare won’t actually reveal anything shocking. 


Dress – Forever21

Slip – Simply Be

Cardi – John Lewis 

I also went bold with my make up. I never go this heavy on my eyes, but I’m loving the results. 

We spent the afternoon enjoying some Scottish reggae in the form of Umbongo Nambarrie & sipping some boozy refreshments. The music suited the balmy weather. Plus you can’t really go wrong with a band who does a reggae version of a Star Wars tune. We finished the night with Sushi & headed home to snuggle on the sofa. 

And so it is the colder water…

It’s been around 8 weeks since I miscarried. I think all things considered, I am doing ok. I mean, I’ve not completely fallen apart. I haven’t turned to scalpels for comfort or absented myself from the world. I’m getting up & painting my face & taking part in life. I wish I could say it was easy, but on days like today, it feels like drowning. 

I am attending the recurrent miscarriage clinic to see if there are any issues I am not already aware of & the midwife I see has been wonderful. She had given me info on a ‘support group’, which I’m considering. I’m on some new meds to help with PCOS & tracking my periods etc to keep on eye on things from that side. I’m socialising & blogging & getting more politically active. I’m doing everything i can think of to keep moving forward. So why do I feel like I’m wedged in wet sand?

I think about what might have been every day. Not all day long, but it’s never far away. There are so many reminders. So many painful things that can’t be avoided. From appointments at the maternity hospital & other people’s babies to just the scent of something that made me nauseous when I was pregnant & doesn’t anymore. I don’t want the world to stop. I don’t want to rob anyone of their joyous moments; it’s just so hard. The happiness I feel for others comes with a stab of sorrow. It’s been this way for so long, but my recent loss has given that sadness renewed potency. I let all my hopes out of a place I kept tied up tight. Blueprints for a life that I hadn’t dared to examine sprang to life & folding up those plans is proving difficult. 
I have my period again & I know that impacts on my mood. All of the sensations of menstruating mirror miscarriage symptoms. The cramps & sensitive nipples are reminders I don’t want. The blood remains wrapped up in my trauma. Forever a trigger. And yet, I’m glad to have the period. Not so long ago I had practically none. It’s a relief to have this increasingly reliable sign that my ovaries are doing something. Like so many other things the positive is marred.


I think from the outside I probably look fine. I want to look well. No, I want to BE well. I’m really fighting not to let my life slide. The truth is I’m struggling. My creative output is vastly decreased. I lack the motivation & clarity to write. Not writing is not good for me. I process my experiences through words on the paper. The less I write the more anxious I become. Of course the more I stress about it, the less I am able to curate my thoughts. It’s a predictable cycle. There are obviously more practical concerns; my words keep a roof over my head. 


My physical health hasn’t been good. My sleep is appalling. I know that takes it’s toll. I attempt to rationalise myself out of days like this. My exhausted, pained, grieving & traumatised self will obviously have lows. I know this is to be expected. That knowledge doesn’t change the dread. It does nothing to chase away the fear when I awake to a complete inability to function. When nothing shifts the weight crushing me or the desire to disappear. 24 hours isn’t a long time except when your swamped in depression. I can get through the bad days. I’m just terrified of the days multiplying. 
That’s the crux of it. Mental illness feels a bit like being an alcoholic. I will never completely recover. The lows will always come. Life will always have ways to trip me up. The fear of everything unravelling sits quietly on my shoulder. It’s a bad day. I’m still grieving. I hope for better.