It feels like I’m in love…

I am often asked how I learned to feel good in my body. Whilst the answer to that question is long & winding there is one thing I always suggest. I’ve noticed tonnes of folk in the Bopo community offer the same advice; immerse yourself in fat positive content.

It’s an easy starting place. You can follow social media accounts, read articles & watch shows without having to make deep commitments to changes. Removing messages that make you feel bad and replacing them with joyous fat imaging works. It was my first step into accepting my body as it is. It remains something I expand upon.

Red  gallery wall with various feminist pieces of art

This is how I came to create my sexy self love wall. The deep red wall in my bedroom long hankered for some art, but I could never decide on what I wanted up there. When I commissioned my first Spunk Rock piece a vision began. I decided to create a kinky, feminist ode to myself. If that sounds conceited, I don’t care. It’s a private part of my house. My bold proclamation is for me.

Mirror selfie of women in knickers

Which leads me to my newest pretty. This gorgeous water colour is by Mia Macauley . She reproduced one of my all time favourite selfies. I am in love. Hot curves, delicious rolls & leopard print knickers too. I cannot wait to get me up on the wall.

water colour back view of plus size womsn in leopard print knickers

Down by the sea…

Friday has taken over from Tuesday as my adventure day. This week was a really good one. We took a wee trip to Culzean Country Park & had all the fun.

Culzean castle, formal garden with  large decorative water fountain on lawn

I started the outing by throwing up in a car park, so I was really hoping the day picked up. It totally did. We had a picnic lunch (I stuck to water )in a gorgeous courtyard & then headed down to the sea. The boy has been asking to go to the beach for ages & Auntie ly has been yearning for the calming waves, excitement ensued. There’s no guarantee of a sunny July in Scotland, but grey clouds didn’t impede our jubilation. The beach was almost entirely empty, it had a conveniently large log for sitting & sand castle supplies were abundant. We all bloody loved it.

Once we shook the sand from our crevices it was time to capture the castle. Atop the ramparts awaited a serene view & rest for the older members of our party. Meanwhile our ickle companion exuberantly explored the castle grounds.

I always find being close to the sea very calming. It did me good to combine a spot of serenity with a big scoop of rascalling. The further reduction of lockdown that comes into force this week will allow me to restart my life somewhat. I’m both excited & nervous about tackling things like trains in the time of covid. Thus, it was extra nice to dip my toes in the water & recharge before facing the world.

Will you feel better…

My recent flare up has been tenacious. Stronger pain killers aren’t a practical long term option. As a result I’ve been trying other pain relief methods to back up my existing medication. Thankfully I have had some success, which I’m happy to share.

I’ll kick off with the simplest & easiest to access tool; the foam roller. I saw some insta posts about their usefulness with muscle pain. I had previously associated them with sports injuries & hadn’t realised it might be worth trying one myself. Over to eBay I go & purchase myself this neon friend. Including postage it cost around a tenner. They’re available in various sizes to suit different body parts. I opted for a bigger version to use on my lower back. It couldn’t be easier to use, simply amply a little pressure & roll the problem area. I’ve found it to be helpful for brief periods. I use it whilst sitting at my desk to reduce pain & stiffness. I also use it before bed so that I’m getting into bed in less pain. I’d definitely recommend giving this a try.

Orange & pink neon foam roller

Lidocaine patches are less accessible, but more effective. They deliver topical pain relief directly to a painful area. NHS guidelines on prescribing this treatment have recently changed due to cost. Meaning it is very hit & miss on which GP’s are permitted to prescribe them. The patches are only licensed (& mostly marketed) for treatment of shingles pain. However, this is only because shingles patients were used in the testing of the product. Pain specialists are increasingly prescribing this product for ‘off label’ uses. I found the 5% patches really effective at reducing pain in my arthritic knee & also fibro pain in the other areas. They don’t remove the pain, but I found a significant improvement. Unfortunately I’m not sure if I will be able to continue using them due the new restrictions. I will absolutely be pushing for them. I’d certainly suggest asking your Dr about them.

My latest discovery is Capsaicin cream. It’s derived from chilli peppers. It’s a topical cream that works by interfering with pain signal to the brain by reducing the level of a chemical (substance P) that binds with pain receptors. Studies are showing good results with Arthritis patients. I have been pleased with the relief it provides on my knee & other joints. My Gp suggested this cream & is happy to prescribe it. You can buy it over the counter (but it’s seems is not widely available yet). If you’re dealing with fibro, arthritis or similar conditions this is something to jump on.

Blue body with spine lit up orange & red

For reference I use regular pain medications along side these treatments. I’m not a medical professional, I share my experiences in the hope of helping others. If in doubt, always seek professional advice.

The Fear…

Spoonie life comes with many challenges. There are the obvious constrictions. Then there’s the hidden toll. The less apparent complications that pack a punch. It’s those tricky unseen issues that I want to talk about.

A major component of my chronic illness is anxiety. I have mental health issues which include anxiety, but my physical difficulties bring their own particular stresses. There’s the guilt; a feeling that’s perpetually nestling in the background of my consciousness. Guilt over letting people down, asking for help, using resources or saying no too many times. I have a million things to feel guilty about and every one of them has it’s own additional worries. I feel huge anxiety about cancelling anything due to illness. I worry people will be angry, upset, left in the lurch. I analyse every response and feel certain someone is annoyed. I overthink every request for help. Surely I can get this done without inconveniencing others. Am I asking too much? Always, always I worry that I’m just not worth all the extra effort.

Unfulfilled potential offers me unlimited scope for guilt. I am sure that I have disappointed. There are expectations that I have not met. Chronic illness has interrupted or ruled out so many things. I know my limitations have impacted more than me. I am haunted by the moments I may robbed folk of. To not live up to the hopes of those you respect is crushing. Not reaching your own is no party either. On an existential level it feels negligent not to maximise one’s talents. I spend more time than is reasonable worrying about all the ways in which I have short changed society. I am ashamed of all the things I cannot do.

Orange light is sunset shining in to a dark room

Shame looms large. Intellectually I know I cannot control any of my health issues. However, I’m not always great at translating that knowledge into feelings. I’m embarrassed about how little I can get done during the bad times. I often feel less capable, less valuable, just less. I stress about the judgements that will be passed. It’s very humbling to be unable to keep on top of all the housework. Likewise to have a head like a bird’s nest because your body just won’t allow you to shower & do your hair. I cringe at needing help to stand up. Wince every time I have to explain why I’m ordering a taxi to take me round the corner. Each unproductive day is a dent in the ego. It’s hard to feel worthy when writing two paragraphs & heating soup are a whole day’s accomplishments.

Then, some days you’ll wake up and feel relatively good. That should be lovely, but so often it’s tainted. Coloured with more guilt. How dare I enjoy myself when I’m supposed to be sick. Imposter syndrome creeps in. I start to feel if I can manage doing this nice thing I should be able to handle everything else. I feel bad for feeling good and I’m scared. I fear that I’ll be judged on my good days. I’m terrified that everyone else is thinking I should do better. When folk see me having a couple of glasses of wine with a friend do they think I must be fine? If I succeed professionally I’m convinced everyone believes I’m faking it. It’s such a difficult juxtaposition to live with; feeling terrible for all the things one cannot do whilst also believing the things you can will be held against you.

Yellow road sign with text, I’m scared my good days will be used against me

Even writing this is giving me anxiety. Will this be perceived as whiny? Or as me making excuses for myself. It’s not intended to be either. I just want to have honest conversations. Large aspects of the disabled/chronically ill experience are never acknowledged. Too often we’re judged or dismissed without ever having been listened to.

Darling, hold my hand…

Friday seems to have become my social hub. I’m still mostly pottering away at home. Shops & indoor pursuits still don’t feel safe, but I am down for a wee afternoon in the park.

Since the little ones no longer need to social distance my bestie & niece joined us for an adventure. We went to one of my favourite places & had a ball. It drizzled a little, but with highland cows, dinosaurs & fairies to find the rain did not dampen our spirits.

I paired up some striped staples with my new kimono and felt cute. The rain might not have spoilt our fun, but it did ruin my hair. Oh well, no one’s locks look tip top during a pandemic.

Skirt – Asos Curve
Vest – Primark
Kimono – Boohoo
Sandals – Next (kids)
Glasses – where.light
Both in need of trim.

Despite now being predictably sore all over, I regret nothing. These little rascals are irresistible & their Mummies aren’t bad either.

Coming out of my cage…

The R number is going in the right direction & phase 3 is here. Is everyone else as excited as I am? I’m still going to be staying at home rather a lot, but at least now I have options.

Obviously, I chose the boy & his Mama for my first excursion. I’m elated to know I can also see other people I’ve been missing like crazy. Today we tried out Cranside Kitchen , a lovely outdoor bar & restaurant. It’s entirely outdoors, but has a some shelter if required. I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to relax, but I actually felt very safe. The tables are nicely spaced & the staff have gloves etc. It was so lovely to sit in the sun & eat some yummy food (that I didn’t have to make). I even had some new purchases to try out making it an excellent Friday.

Brunch food
Plus size woman reading toddler a story
Plus size woman in beer garden wearing sheer dress with yellow skirt & crop top underneath
Sheer Dress – Monki
Kimono- Boohoo
Skirt – Primark
Crop Top – Primsrk
Sunglasses – Where.light
Sandals – Next

The boy seemed to enjoy being out in the world again. He loved his sausages & was very taken with the Finnieston crane. We followed up brunch with a trip to an almost empty bookshop. Again I was pleasantly surprised by how considerate everyone was. Hand sanitiser by the door, everyone in masks, folk very careful to keep their distance. I’m hoping Glasgow is going to smash easing lockdown sensibly.

Toddler in shorts & rainbow jacket looking at books on shelves

Books purchased & nap taken there was just times to hit the park. We had it mostly to ourselves & I discovered a kids toy that makes my aching back feel much better. How do I go about having one installed in my garden?

I don’t understand how it can be, but this is most comfortable I’ve been in weeks.

Say the word…

I’m fat. It’s not a secret or a problem. Whatever I wear & from whichever angle you view me; I am most definitely fat.

Fat isn’t an insult. It’s merely a word that describes a type of body. A body type that is an entirely normal human variant. There is no shame in it. There is nothing taboo about the word or the fact of it.

If you are fat, own it. Reclaiming the word takes all the power to hurt you from it. If the worst someone can do is describe your size, that’s really not that bad. People aren’t crushed by the word tall. Why should we allow fat be any different?

I don’t skirt around my size. I don’t consider it a bad thing. I’m not embarrassed to wear a 22 or have flabby bits. I like my fat body. I see no reason to shy away from from an accurate descriptor. We don’t have to permit idiots to use it as a slur.

Part of de weaponising the word is removing negative connotations. With this I need everyone’s help. If someone chooses fat for themselves, respect that. Denying that I’m fat when I very obviously am only highlights that you think fat is bad. Phrases like ‘you’re not fat, you have fat’ or ‘you’re not fat, you’re beautiful’ are just another way of saying that fat is gross. It’s fine to be fat. Fat people can be beautiful, happy, successful and all manner of great things. It’s not an affliction. It’s not a bad word. Some folk are are fat. Say it.

We need to talk about Yemen.

I’ve been trying & failing to find the words to explain what’s happening in Yemen & why we all need to donate. The scale of the crisis is beyond my powers of description.

Unicef reports that 80% of the population (including 12 million children) are in need of humanitarian relief. Food, clean water, sanitation & health facilities are all in short supply. The spread of covid 19 has made an already untenable situation worse. Yemen’s plight has all been ignored by the world.

Child victim of crisis on Yemen

You can help by donating here:

And take action here:

You keep making me ill…

Body Positivity has crept into the public conversation. On the surface it seems body diversity is gaining ground. We see larger models in ad campaigns. The high street is beginning to pay a little more attention to fat customers. Social Media is awash with bopo content. However, if you scratch the surface virulent fat phobia still thrives. Any progress is good, but the dangerous aspects of weight stigma remains strong. Medical bias against fat bodies wreaks havoc. As a chronically ill fat woman I frequently face this issue. In ten years of battling illness and the medical community, I have seen little improvement.

When I began having health issues, I accepted the consensus that was fat was bad and thin was good. I was in the process of some seriously unhealthy dieting when I initially experienced quite serious gastric pain. There were other symptoms, vomiting & difficulty eating, but pain was the standout. I progressed from short bursts to hour long stints of excruciating pain. My GP said it was most likely indigestion and/or heart burn. They could be surprisingly painful, I was told. Change my diet, lose some weight and things will improve. I tightened up my already drastic diet and continued to lose weight. My symptoms did not improve. In fact, they worsened. I began to have prolonged periods of pain. It would last for days at a time, leaving me unable to eat or move or sleep. It felt torturous. By this time, I was being sent to A&E by my GP and attending myself when the pain become unbearable. Drs continued to tell me it was heartburn/indigestion. They all said the same thing, change your diet and lose weight. I was prescribed omeprazole but had no investigation. No one listened when I told then I was hardly eating. No one cared that I was losing lots of weight. All the DR’s were dismissive of my pain. Most were patronising. Some were hostile. No one helped. This continued for over a year. On my penultimate visit to A&E I was in so much pain I could barely talk. I had thrown up so much that I was only bringing up bile & blood. I saw a deeply unpleasant man who vacillated between me being an hysterical woman and being convinced I was an addict seeking drugs. He gave me a cup of peptac (which I promptly threw up) and sent me home. I felt utterly beaten that night. I knew something was very wrong.There was no way I could feel this bad and there not be problem. But no one would listen. I was tired of being judged and looked down upon. I went home and cried.

Luckily, my mum visited me a few hours later. She was shocked when she saw the state I was in and insisted we return to A&E. With someone fighting (& I do mean fighting) fit to advocate for me I was finally taken seriously. A Dr finally ordered the simple blood test that would diagnose me with pancreatitis. By the time those bloods results came back my body had gone into shock. Had I not returned to the hospital that night I would have likely died. I spent 7 days in HDU. I was catheterised. Fed only fluids via drip and given a morphine pump. I don’t even recall that first week in hospital.

Afterwards I discovered that although I didn’t fit the usual profile for pancreatitis (often older men, big meat eaters, heavy drinkers), I did have classic symptoms. The pain I had been describing was textbook. The onset and progression of symptoms was exactly what was to be expected of pancreatitis. Had someone taken a minute to listen to me I could have been diagnosed on my first trip to A&E. I really believe if I hadn’t been a fat woman, that’s probably what would have happened.

I had several more bouts of pancreatitis and a number of gallbladder issues were diagnosed in the subsequent months. Ironically, I was to discover that my weight was not the problem. The most likely culprit was spending my 20’s yo-yo dieting. The fad dieting & resultant weight loss that Dr’s had always encouraged made me ill.

Almost dying because medical professionals wouldn’t look past the size of my belly wasn’t horror enough, I have also since been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A condition I did not suffer from before all the trouble with my pancreas. Pain specialists have told me that the physical and emotional trauma of such a prolonged period of undiagnosed severe illness is likely to have caused the fibro. So, I not only had to suffer multiple times with acute pancreatitis, I will now deal with chronic pain for the rest of my life. I wonder how different my story would if I were a size 10.

Near death experiences aside, almost every medical interaction I have involves some discussion about my weight. With multiple chronic conditions I am a complicated case. Every new symptom no matter how unconnected involves answering questions and listening to lectures about how fat I am. I must push for investigations & interventions because the first advice is always ‘lose weight’. Often, I must identify possible problems via my own research. You would be shocked at the number of times professionals have dismissed my concerns only for my theory to be confirmed when they finally do the necessary tests. I have my cholesterol, blood sugar and pressure tested an inordinate number of times and am usually met with shock that they all measure within ideal levels. When I tell medical professionals that I do not wish to discuss weight loss, my request is usually ignored. Explaining that I endured years of disordered eating and misery related to trying to reduce my size has no impact. My mental wellbeing seems entirely unimportant. Even when I am brutally honest about the fact the I used to starve myself, purge & use appetite suppressants Dr’s still advise diet plans. When my eating was at its most disordered, I was never dangerously thin. So, I was never considered at risk. The sizest attitude towards eating disorders is a whole safety issue in itself. For the record I am vegan with digestive issues that limit my diet. It would be difficult for me substantially change what I eat even if I was inclined to. All this falls on deaf ears. Weight loss remains a priority for almost every Dr I see. When I have stomach flares and lose weight because I can’t eat, I am congratulated. When I am in hospital unable to stop vomiting nurses will joke, they wish they couldn’t eat for a while. It is relentless and exhausting.

*

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Fat does not necessarily mean unhealthy. Even for those who would benefit from lifestyle changes will not be motivated by harsh judgement. The impact on mental health of all this fat shaming is enormous. We know that diets do not work. Most people regain all the weight they lose and more within a year. We also know that yo-yo dieting damages our bodies. Medical weight stigma makes people less inclined to seek medical advice. If you know you will be shamed and belittled and ultimately get no help anyway, you stop asking. This bias against fat patients is dangerous on so many levels. It’s a risk to our mental health, to our physical wellbeing and to our very lives.

* health-and-the-fat-girl.tumblr.com

Got the city on lockdown…

How are you? We’re deep into lockdown now, are you managing to feel sane? It’s hit and miss this end.

I’m realising that although I spend a lot of time at home alone, I really do love the things I do get up to. Recent weeks have been lacking on outside interest. Throw in a nasty flare (& injury) and I’ve really been dredging the spoonie resources to fill the days.

The obvious place to find gentle entertainment is my beloved library. I have been re reading some old favourites. Thus providing myself with diversion & comfort. If you haven’t ventured into the world of Barbara Trapido, you’re missing out. She creates seemingly sedate middle class stories. On closer inspection her interwoven plots & sprinkling of the otherworldly are magical. One of my tattoos is partly inspired by a Trapido book. I never tire of her words.

Thumb & forefinger  holding book open

Podcasts have been another lifesaver. Excellent insomnia salve. Equally good played loud to ease me through the dreaded housework. My latest discoveries couldn’t be more different, but I am loving both. True Crime Brewery is pretty much what the name suggests. A married couple who like beer & true crime take us through a different case every week. They pick a beer from the location of the crime & give a wee review too. Dick is a paediatrician & Gill a nurse, their medical input really adds to the analysis. They both possess soothing voices that make listening to even gruesome events relaxing.

Chachi Chats is a must listen. Danni from The Chachi Power Project welcomes a new guest each episode to discuss all things Bopo. The first two episodes have blown me away. Packed full of information that everyone should know. Full disclosure, yours truly will be popping up in this podcast soon, but I am learning so much from the other guests. I can not recommend this one enough.

I did get out of this house, but only for hospital nonsense. I had a transfusion & a chest X-Ray, which revealed two cracked ribs. The good news is I look exceptionally cute in my mask from Rosana Exposito.

I’ve taken full advantage of our move to phase 1. I had some lovely garden visitors. It does me good to see these faces in person. Long may the good weather continue.

Two mum’s sitting in garden with toddlers on their knees
Black and white image of plus size women in sunglasses

In between times it’s video calls galore and taking advantage of my garden. It is a real luxury to be able to relax outside. Especially when the sun helps a little with my joint pain. Not to mention all the gorgeous wild flowers that bloom in my borders. I only wish I knew how to reach Bronan’s level of chill.

Wildflowers in a vase, women eating an ice lolly, girl laughing on FaceTime
Toddler on a swing & with shark filter
Sleeping cat
Women & child with dragon filter on video call