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.

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

If I can do better then I’ll be better…

I did the wrong thing today. Not a malicious thing, but significant none the less. I saw something that made me feel uncomfortable & my knee jerk reaction was to block it.

A person I’ve know for a long time posted some gross pro police content. This is someone I had previously respected & felt politically aligned with. In the context of current events & in light of the abundance of material being shared about police abuses it felt wilfully ignorant. Proclamations of how good & innocent Police Scotland are were particularly objectionable.

I foresaw exactly how the conversation would go if I replied. The same old ignorant assertions & refusal to accept reality. I was tired & angry, so took the easy option; I hit the unfollow with no comment. I immediately knew I’d done a shitty thing. I prioritised my comfort over taking the opportunity to talk to other white people about why the post was wrong.

Words how to be a better ally in red in grey background

BIPOC face & are impacted by this kind of racism everyday. They are permanently exhausted by it. To say I feel yuck so I’ll pass on this one is not using my privilege to benefit others. Having uncomfortable conversations about race is one of the easiest things that Black people have asked of us. Taking responsibility for questioning & educating other white people is essential.

I wanted to talk about this because I think everyone gives themselves a pass too often. We all think we’re mostly good people. Left leaning folk especially believe we’re fighting the good fight. Obviously this is just one small example of subpar allyship. We can let things slide because just existing doesn’t put us in danger. I know I fail in bigger ways than this. I also know I let myself off the hook too easily. Recent events have made me examine my commitment to bring an effective ally. I want to do better.

My first step in achieving that is purchasing White Supremacy and Me by Layla F. Saad. This book aims to help the reader clearly see their privilege, how we contribute to upholding the racist system & what we should be doing to dismantle it. I highly recommend investing in a copy & the work entailed.

Picture of book  me & 2hite supremacy by Layla f. Saad

Black Lives Matter.

June’s Charity of the month is a no brainer. I’m joining the chorus of white voices proclaiming that we must do better. It’s not enough to say ‘I’m not racist’. We have to act. We have to listen. We have to educate ourselves. We must fight both with Black people & against our own participation in their oppression.

We all benefit from centuries of white supremacy. It is our responsibility to teach ourselves about the institutional racism that makes our lives easier and the historical wrongs that created our current system. It is our duty to listen to what Black activists ask of us, to always pass the mic. It is essential that we act; sign the petition, write to your repressive, boycott brands who don’t walk the walk, protest & donate whatever you can.

This month I have chosen to support three organisations suggested by Black Activists.

Philadelphia Community Bail Fund does exactly what the name suggests. The American bail system is set up in way that means people without means often spend time incarcerated before they are ever brought to trial. Bail funds are even more important at times like this.

I learned about cruelty The Loveland Foundation from the work of Rachel Cargle. Their therapy fund for black women & girls provides access to mental health services that would otherwise be out of reach to their service users. As a person who has lived with mental illness my entire adult life I know how important treatment is. I am eternally grateful that I found people who could help me via the NHS. The work that Loveland do is life saving & changing.

Finally I gave directly to the family of George Floyd through Gofundme. The family intend to use the funds to cover a variety of essential expenses. Funeral costs, legal bills, therapy & of course for the care of his children. To have a loved one murdered in such brutal, public & racist way is deeply traumatic. This family deserve our support.

I urge you to seek out & amplify Black voices. Reading posts like this does not count as doing the work. I am a white women with much to learn. Please follow, read & support the tireless work of Black activists, educators & creators. Social media timelines are full of recommendations, if yours isn’t it is time to ask yourself why. And do something about it. Here are some incredible people whose work I consume.

I also want to point you towards this list of organisations doing anti racist work. I hope to donate to more in the coming months. I hope you will give if you can. Monetary Support for Anti Racist Action. *

*I did not compile this list.

I got issues, you do too…

Staying home is getting hard. My reasons for struggling may be different to yours. No doubt there will always be someone in worse situation than all of us. It’s still ok to feel whatever you feel. We’re living through a crisis that no one was prepared for. It’s perfectly normal to have no idea how to deal with such an unprecedented set of events.

A badly managed pandemic is going to mess with our heads. There’s no getting away from that. Aspects of this catastrophe might compound existing mental health issues. Such large scale uncertainty & fear may trigger symptoms in those who have never experienced them before. Please be gentle with yourself. It is totally normal to struggle with mood in extreme circumstances. It is not your fault that you find this overwhelming. It is scary to feel so powerless. Even more so to be dealing with such acute emotions in completely alien circumstances. You are allowed to be a mess. This shit is tricky, but it’s not forever.

Whilst we’re in the thick of it, it’s important to look after ourselves. Bin all the shoulds. Whatever gets you through the night really is alright. If you need routine, create it. If video calls & comfort food are your heart’s desire, do it. There are no rules. Complete your magnum opus or have a lot of long lies. Both are reasonable reactions. As long as you’re not endangering yourself or others, it’s all good.

Pale legs with green tattoo lying in bed

If you’re starting to find that you don’t know how to handle the ‘new normal’, I have a few pointers. I’ve had years of wrangling a crazy brain and unruly body. It’s left me quite well equipped for societal disaster.

It’s my experience that taking care of everyday practicalities can relieve some stress.

  • Make a budget. If you know exactly what’s coming in it is easier to juggle what’s going out. If there are bills you will have difficulty with contact companies ASAP. Most big organisations are offering payment breaks, reduced payment plans etc at the moment. It feels so much better to not have the worry hanging over you. Check what financial aid is available to you during this crisis. There are various government schemes that might help make ends meet.
  • Plan in advance. Check each day for shopping delivery slots. You can usually have two booked at a time. Some supermarkets offer priority to people most vulnerable to covid 19, it’s worth checking if you qualify. I always buy some food that needs little preparation in case I don’t feel up to cooking. Speak to your GP about how to best request & collect prescriptions. Don’t wait until you need your medication, running out is incredibly stressful. There are delivery services available for people who cannot leave their house.
  • Make lists. I love a list. When everything is swimming around in my head it feels hectic. Order resumes when I can see what I need to do on paper. Plus ticking things off is very satisfying. I make a list for each day. I spread housework, life admin & work throughout the week. Leave time to rest & between hated tasks. Prioritise what’s most important for each day. Do not freak out if you can’t get everything done. Focus on the essentials for that day. Dishes in the sink won’t hurt you. I usually make separate lists for things I need to buy, calls I need to make & appointments I need to keep. Our current situation limits those things somewhat.
  • Permission to deviate. Let yourself scrap it all if you really need to. Just don’t ditch it forever.

Most of all, be kind. Indulge in whatever makes you feel good. Eat the treats. Send yourself flowers. Drink the tequila. Keep talking about how you feel. Ask for help if you need it. Everyone is dealing with their own variant of yuck; let’s try to take care of ourselves & each other.

Margarita in cocktail glass with lime wedge

This week I have mostly…

Been having a different emotion every 5 minutes. All this isolation is taking its toll. I always find a well selected tune can help me ride whatever feeling washes over me. Thus my recent listening has been a seesaw.

Patsy Cline has been featuring in my playlists fairly frequently. She’s the perfect accompaniment to a melancholy mood. Her voice manages to be sad & comforting at the same time. Strange is a particular favourite at the moment. The wistful cynicism feels familiar.

Yellow vinyl of patsy cline  strange

On a more sanguine note is I’ll Be Your Mirror. I’m not a huge fan of The Velvet Underground, but this is one that gets my insides swishy. I think we all have times when it is difficult to see the good in ourselves. Having someone believe in you enough to reflect them for you is beautiful. The vocals are so gentle; listening feels like sinking into a dream.

Meghan Tonjes is a Bopo Queen. I love her work, so I don’t know why it took me so long to discover her music. Turns out she is a talented songwriter too. Habits is one of those heart wrenchingly honest break up songs that still manages not to be depressing. I’ve definitely had loves I struggled to get out of my head. There’s nothing worse than that everything reminds of you the loss stage. Maintaining an avoidance high sounds appealing (& entirely I’ll advised).

I’m late to the party with Catfish & The Bottlemen. Which isn’t unusual for me. I often discover music long after it has ceased be novel to everyone else. I’ve fallen for them all the same. It’s probably a little cheesy to select Glasgow as my favourite, but it extracts happy sighs me. The slight rasp in the singers voice chills me right out. The lyrics take me back to being young & drunk on sauchiehall st. Days when I never knew where a night out might end. Ah, the glory of misspent youth.

Pink sunset

Sexual by Neiked is a surprise fav. I just can’t resist its ebullience. It is impossible not to bop around to this tune. It feels like a summer fling. All the sexy fun & carry on with none of the long term issues. After months in lockdown I am more than ready for this summer to get heady. I hope to soon be turning this one up loud & enjoying it with someone yummy.

I hate to be obvious, but I’ve played If The World Was Ending to death. How could I not? There has been a touch of apocalypse hanging in the air. So many sad stories surround us all. I can’t help but think about who really matters. Of course, part of that will always be the one that got away. It’s impossible not to be swept up in the plaintive request at the centre of the song. If the world really was ending none of the details that couldn’t be worked out would matter. I can’t be the only one tempted to curl up in the arms of Mr I wish he were right.

If the word was ending you’d come over right in black on drippy green background

I miss you like sleep…

Too much time in my head is distinctly bad for me. Not getting stuck amongst all the crap i’ve crammed up there is an ongoing project. It is not an endeavour that is aided by inaction.

Staying home alone all day, everyday is not ideal. I require distraction. I need people who make me feel swell and to do things that help me feel worthy. I like knowing that I could jump in a taxi and go anywhere. Having a sense of control is massively important.

Being entirely reliant on others for almost everything makes my insides jitter. I feel more of a burden than ever. Which activates my guilt & anxiety. I’m obviously also worried about myself or someone I love getting ill. Plus the horror of all the people who are suffering & dying every day. I’m basically a big ball of negative emotions.

I’m struggling with pain. I miss my little ones. I miss all my people. I can hardly sleep. There’s very little work. There’s too much time to think. All this on my own time thinking about what I miss inevitably highlights the major omission.

When left to its own devices my is brain predictable. It clings to trauma. If not occupied with the business of living, I regress. Slip back into dreams of the births I’ll never labour through. Flashbacks of the blood & pain I did. Haunted by the over used phrase that always signaled it was over.

There are so many what ifs. Too many of my own actions to question. Huge & tiny alterations that could have changed the outcome. Things I never said. Words others can never unsay. Blame to place. Regret to carry. Penance to complete.

I feel trapped with all I’ve lost and every little thing I can’t share. The good memories are as painful as the bad. The selfies I took when my belly began to change shape. That magical second line on the test. Marking midwife appointments on my calendar. Blood tests with the right numbers. Making lists. Checking what ridiculous object the app tells me my baby is now the size of. Plans & scans & the bam bam of heartbeats.

Rainbow reflection on pale either arm

My body remembers it all in such intricate detail. I recall the fractionally altered taste of mint tea. Sex felt different and the smell of everything intensified. I was heavy with fear. Dulled by fatigue. Yet still floating on hope and entirely delighted to experience whatever this new life threw at me.

It never goes away. I can never take my foot off the pedal. I’m always close to skidding off the road. Lockdown is like a battle not to drift to sleep at the wheel. Spending too long contemplating my past or the what might have been is dangerous. Finding ways to keep my eyes open is getting harder.

Two lines to indicate positive result on pregnancy test

My quarantine in pictures…

It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that I haven’t been developing new skills in lockdown. My novel remains unfinished & my sour dough never got started. I’ve mostly been entertaining myself with much less useful activities.

Internet nonsense has been a fairly good diversion. I’ve killed some time with insta challenges and silly filters. I alarmed my mother with candy floss hair (I’m almost 40 & she still doesn’t want me to touch my ginger locks). I’m a little bit tempted.

Hair day filter candy floss colours

The cosmetics procedure filter was less enticing. This is not a good look. Neither was the art work I produced when. I joined in on one of those Instagram tags. It was rather pleasing to do, though.

Pencil sketch of house plants

The pillow challenge was a bit more successful & even more fun.

Plus size women  naked apart from teal pillow

I’ve done a fair bit of online shopping. Mostly treats for little ones, but the odd random item for myself too. I seem to be more easily influenced during lockdown. I baked more biscuits than I could eat. Got this gorgeous digital portrait oh my niece & I to add to my wall art.

Digital portrait and photographs on wall

I’ve made a million video calls. Tonnes of Hi jinks with the the kids. Cocktails & gabbing with adults. I’ve done foot peels & face masks. Organised sock drawers, finally arranged my photos into albums & listened to podcasts galore. I even had socially distanced picnic lunch in the driveway.

FaceTime of toddler in ball tunnel
Video  call with two faces in lemonade filter
Video call with dragon filter

Basically I’m trying to defeat cabin fever & stay sane. The fact my darling sister talked me into learning a tik tok dance questions if I’ve managed it.

Two women doing tik tok dance on summer dresses