The Fear…

I planned a really lovely weekend. I was going to visit a friend I haven’t seen since pre pandemic. She lives by sea and always makes me giggle like a maniac. I was so looking forward to it, but my body had other ideas.

ly is in a hospital bed wearing a face mask and hospital gown. She has leads attached to her chest

On Friday evening my chest pain got really bad. Then I had a fainting spell. As soon as I managed to get on my feet I would faint again. Sitting on my hall floor with my head spinning and heart pounding I felt scared.

I wasn’t scared of one particular thing; the fear was in the uncertainty. Not knowing how bad this is. Not even knowing what exactly this is or if it will ever go away. I have felt so fragile and vulnerable in these last few months. I haven’t been able to trust my body at all.

I have gotten used to my body failing me, but this has been on a whole new level. Every time I stand up my head spins and my whole body tingles. I can’t catch my breath, I don’t know if I will be able to stay on my feet. I have always prized my self sufficiency and it feels as though it has been slipping away.

My weekend in hospital hasn’t changed anything. Drs gathered some more information, but they couldn’t solve the problem. I await appointments with specialist consultants. Hopefully they can get to root of my long covid complications. The truth is I don’t even want to consider living like this permanently. It’s just too terrifying to think about.

For the moment I am happy to be home with my furry little nurse. I’m trying to rest and not stress about all the things that I am not getting done.

Black cat snuggling on blankets being petted

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Make me feel…

Of late I have been bothered by much of the therapy speak I see cropping up everywhere. I’ve always been slightly irritated by the therapy buzz words, but it used be reserved to certain arenas. Now it feels impossible to get away from it. Some are impenetrable, some misapplied and some a little stupid. So, come with me in a little therapy rant.

Sit with it.

The ‘it’ being emotions. I doubt there is anyone who has ever sought mental health treatment who is unfamiliar with this phrase. I have been advised to ‘sit with’ all manner of feelings. I’ve never been entirely sure what this means. Nor has any explanation ever satisfied me. Let yourself feel it makes sense if you are actively avoiding emotions. I used self harm, disordered eating and occasionally alcohol to block emotions that I wasn’t able to deal with. However, when I moved past avoidance it was still the guidance I was given. When I was ready to acknowledge and tackle those feelings I needed more. ‘Let yourself feel it’ is redundant. I am feeling it; that is the problem.

Sit with it in black letters

Don’t Judge it.

Once you are sitting in all that emotion you will often be advised ‘not to judge it’. Just feel it, they’ll say. Well, I’m sorry, that’s impossible. I have already judged it. Judging is a prerequisite for finding something problematic. The judgement is automatic. More than that, it’s involuntary. The minute I find the emotion unpalatable it has been judged. I came to the (sometimes correct) conclusion that perhaps what these therapist meant was don’t judge yourself for having that emotion. That makes sense, I can work on not attaching negative connotation to what I feel or how uncomfortable that makes me. I can even get on board with attempting not to label specific emotions intrinsically negative. I’m not convinced, but I do see how in some cases that could be fruitful. However, removing the intuitive I DO NOT LIKE THIS just doesn’t strike me as a realistic goal. If I were able to control my brain in that way, I wouldn’t have a problem.

Let it go.

Feel it and then let it go is definitely the aim. I’m not sure it actually counts as advice though. I know that getting stuck in difficult emotions is not good for me. What I need is help learning the way out if that. Restating what I should do is not helpful. I know the problem, I am here because I am looking for answers.

Inner Child

Many years ago when I first experienced therapy the inner child thing was kind of a joke. It never came up. Of course therapists talked about childhood experiences & being compassionate to past versions of yourself. However, a psychologist would never say the words ‘inner child’. Now it is everywhere; from woo woo spiritual healers to actual trained therapists. I’m sure it applies to some people, but it’s just not relevant to me. My inner child is a ok. I had a remarkably lovely childhood. I was loved, appreciated, supported, safe and very well taken care of. My ‘inner child’ is probably the healthiest part of me. I’m not carrying any painful scars from childhood. So, I have found it incredibly frustrating that everyone and their granny wants me to get in touch with my inner child and heal her. Even when I proffer my history and explain that my upbringing is not a problem area, I am still pressed to explore it. I don’t know how or why this happened, but I really don’t love it.

Picture of ly  with her hands on her hips and drawing of a child in her belly

Be vulnerable

This is another one that totally has merit in the right situation. There have been times when I have been scared of touching memories and emotions that made me feel vulnerable. I did need to work through that. Being vulnerable can be frightening, but it is also necessary. I would argue that engaging in therapy is already submitting to vulnerability in many ways. The showing up is a great first step. However, the canonisation of vulnerability has gone too far. There is definitely a time and a place for vulnerability. We can’t and shouldn’t always expose weak spots. We live in a fairly brutal capitalist society and being completely honest about your vulnerabilities will not serve you in many situations. People will take advantage, they will bypass you based on their perception of that vulnerability and many folk will judge you. Still I hear professionals who really should know better urge everyone to embrace their vulnerability throughout their life. It drives me crazy; we need to protect ourselves. Let yourself be vulnerable in safe spaces only.

Drawing of hands holding a heart on green background

Am I just jaded? Or do you feel frustrated by these therapy catchphrases? Maybe you have your own therapy pet hates. I would love to know your takes.

Close up of sleeining cat face and paws
Adorable Bronan for rant tax.

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You’re toxic…

If you are at all interested in dismantling diet culture you will be aware that new government legislation regarding calories on menus has now come into force. The legislation is part of the government’s plan to tackle ‘obesity’. Whilst I have a lot to say on that larger topic, I’ll stick to the calorie information for now. It will come as no surprise that I am not in favour of this development.

As a fat woman who spent years of my life embroiled in yo-yo dieting I know how dangerous constant calorie counting can be. In the depths of my disordered eating I was obsessed with calories. They were my enemy and required constant monitoring. I had calorie based rules for everything. Limits for every meal and limits for the entire day. If I was going to drink alcohol I wasn’t allowed any food. I counted the calories burned during exercise in an attempt to cancel out what I had consumed. I knew & counted the calorie content of everything; a smint, a grape, a sip of wine. Calories were omnipresent. It was an exhausting battle against my body’s basic needs and I was miserable. My quest to be thin damaged me, physically & mentally.

I’m not the only one nor am I the most severely impacted. We live in a world that is constantly reinforcing the message that smaller is better. Putting the calorie content of every item in every menu only compounds that. It won’t encourage ‘healthy eating’, everyone already knows what foods are full of saturated fat. What it will encourage is distorted view of what a healthy lifestyle is. It will support the diet culture narrative; fewer calories are better. Looking at the numbers every time we go out to eat will reinforce an unhealthy relationship with food. People will feel guilty for ordering the dish they want. It’ll trigger obsessive thoughts and behaviours in those who are dealing with or have experienced disordered eating. It will cement the connection in the collective mind between health and calorie control.

I posted about this legislation on my Instagram stories today and have already received multiple messages from people who have been distressed by seeing these menu additions. These are people trying to claw back control of their eating. People who have worked hard at ignoring that voice in their head telling them what they can and cannot have. They’re scared. Genuinely frightened of how they feel when they see signs telling them how many calories an adult shout eat in a day. Worried about the thoughts the calorie count on their coffee provokes. This isn’t a surge towards a healthier society, it’s a huge step backwards.

The problem with this move is the thinking from which it stems. Our government is telling us that being fat is a problem. That fat people are a burden we must shift. That isn’t true. There is no proven way to permanently make a fat person thin. Diets do not work; within 5 years 95% of those who intentionally lose weight will regain all they have lost and more. Calorie restriction is not sustainable. More over, it is not good for you. It ignores the intersections between weight and poverty & disabilities. Not to mention the impact of medical weight stigma on the health of fat patients. There are many lifestyle changes a person can explore if they want to improve their health. Focusing entirely on calories and weight loss is not one them. Health and weight are not intrinsically linked. Adding the calorie content to menus is dangerous. It sidesteps the issue of public health and props up stale old diet culture tropes.

I am not a doctor or an expert. I am merely an informed former victim of the diet industry. I am a fat activist and as such I can see that many people may dismiss me as having an agenda. With that in mind I point you towards the following resources.

Dr Asher Larmie

Marquisele Mercedes

Dr Joshua Wolrich

Gillian McCollum

Alishia McCullough

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Something’s gotten hold of my heart…

As I have mentioned, more than once, I having been some extra health issues. Yesterday I saw my GP and she gave me some answers. Unfortunately they were neither want I expected or wanted them to be.

It seems that long covid has become permanent a more of a problem. The tachycardia and breathlessness that I have been experiencing since having covid in Oct 2020 have been significantly worse over the last few months. I am breathless after a few steps. My head spins the minute I stand up. I faint daily. My heart tries to burst out of my body and my chest hurts. All the time. In the past when I felt like this it has been related to aneamia & b12 deficiency. I have had lots of issues with really low haemoglobin and although I never get to ‘normal’ my bloods aren’t dangerously low at the moment. We did a bunch of treatment, but I didn’t feel any different. I had some more tests, kept a symptom diary and recorded my heart rate a few times a day. My GP’s conclusion is that covid has damaged my heart function.

She is fairly certain that I have some kind of heart arrhythmia or PoTS. The prospect of neither fills me with joy; PoTS in particular is very frightening. I have been referred to cardiology and more tests will ensue. I really expected these issues to be related to existing conditions. It was a shock to be presented with a possible new diagnosis. The thought of these symptoms not improving or even worsening is overwhelming. I have enough health problems. I don’t need anymore.

All of this to say two things. Covid is no joke. Even if you get through the initial illness ok, there is no telling what it will do to your body. Please don’t pretend this pandemic is over. There are still huge communities that of sick and disabled people who are high risk. Even healthy people can be really badly effected. Wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands! None of these things are hard to do. And, I am feeling scrambled. I don’t know how to process this new information. Physically I am a mess. I’m very apprehensive of what is to come & my head is all over the place. So, please bear with me if things get inconsistent around here.

close up of ly’s  face wearing brightly coloured mas and thick black glasses

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Caught in a trap…

I’m stuck. Chronically stuck, you could say. My body has been refusing to behave for months. I’m operating at minimum capacity & maximum exasperation.

My pain levels are high and brain fog is impenetrable, but I also have a variety of ‘bonus’ complaints. This is a thing my body seems to do when I am particularly run down. A change in medication from injectable to oral about 18mths ago resulted in some messed up test results late last year (I had been against the change, but hey, what do I know?). Around the same time I had a bad cold that would not shift (definitely wasn’t covid) and culminated in Labyrinthitis. I was fairly lucky with that as I didn’t have pain, but the vertigo & nausea stuck around for ages. Into the new year the impact of that med change has made all my Long Covid symptoms more pronounced. The fatigue was never ending, a few steps left my heart rattling & my lungs crying out for air. Add a uti that quickly turned into a kidney infection. Then the three weeks of treatment required to correct the impact of changing the delivery of that medication left me vomiting all day & unable to eat. That of course messed up my electrolytes and landed me in hospital hooked up to a drip to get me back in shape. All in all it has been rough and I have struggled to get anything at all done.

That’s where feeling stuck comes in. There are so many things I want to get done. From big career moves (finish the book) to everyday task (mop the floors) it feels like everything is on hold. I am so exhausted and sore and foggy brained that it really is baby steps all the way. I write to do lists that are never completed. Every task takes a ridiculous amount of time. Proof reading each email you send three times cuts into available working time. If I put some washing in the machine, I need to rest. Some days a shower will be all I can manage. Spend a day out of the house and I need two or three days to recover. The ‘to dos’ get longer, the ideas go unexamined and I am trapped by all the unfinished everything.

It’s impossible to break free. There are things that could make my life easier, but they are of course costly. Usually a person could take on extra work, get a side hustle, but I can’t keep up with the bare minimum. If one has a deadline they could work all night. However, I can barely get through an afternoon without a lie down. Pushing myself to keep going not only results in less than my best work, but also puts me out of work entirely for days. Chronic illness pens me in. I can’t afford to buy the services & items that would make my life easier. The lack of those things contributes to worsening symptoms and limiting my ability to earn. See how it goes around & around?

I also feel welded to the spot. There are jobs I would love to accept, projects I badly want to complete, but I just don’t have the capacity at the moment. Thus, my career feels stagnant, it is heart wrenching to so badly underperform. My life is similarly entrenched. I want to see more people, have nights out, try new things. Of course, I can’t. My body simply will not allow it. I am so tired of saying no or rescheduling. It’s a no win situation my mental health suffers from being home alone so much. My physical health declines if I do too much. Again, the balance seems impossible to get right.

Finally, there is the mundane. I’d really like to have an empty washing basket. I want to be able to spend a day tidying the spare room. Instead, I do ten minutes a day for weeks and never quite get it done. It would be lovely to go out spur of the moment; but having a shower and putting on clothes can wipe me out. I never thought I would long to walk to the corner shop for cat food. Yet, here I am stuck in my house unless I can get a taxi or a lift. It is exhausting and demoralising. There is no easy way out. All I can do is wait and hope that I feel a bit better soon. I ran out of patience a long time ago.

An hour glass with iron filings

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Comfortable…

We’re all familiar with those comfort zone quotes, yes? Basically the message being you have to step out of your comfort zone to achieve success. There’s a grain of truth. Sometimes you have to try new, scary things. There are certainly times when you must push yourself. What happens to that wisdom when comfort isn’t exactly part of your repertoire?

Magic is on the other side of your comfort zone in blue letters on cloudy sky background

Perhaps I bring my own hang ups to this, but I’ve all read this kind of advice as a dig. To me it feels like being told I’m not brave or ambitious or working hard enough. Long before I had physical health issues I struggled with mental illness. As a result, comfort has been hard to come by. When your head is making you feel that everything is wrong, you’re never very comfortable. The world is an assault. Every decision is fraught, navigating daily life can be arduous. Living in that state makes running away from comfort the antithesis of healthy.

Jump to now, when I am somewhat healthier mentally, but much more unwell physically and it seems more nonsensical. I’m not sure I remember what real comfort feels like. I wake up in pain, I go through my day in pain and I lie down at night still in pain. My mind is continually balancing what I can do against what needs to be done. Even in moments when I am physically resting my thoughts are rarely in repose. When washing ones hair or making a phone call is ‘out of the comfort zone’ is doesn’t feel like the magic lies there.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say my best work comes when I can create as much ease as possible. I have a tiny office in my home with a desk etc, but I do much of my writing with my laptop on the sofa. I rebel against traditional work clothes and wear what I feel like me in. I say no to projects that I know will be too much. I give realistic timescales and I guard my boundaries. When my body/mind or both are screaming, I stop. I do so because I know what lies beyond that line is breaking point. I am aware that this may go against much of hustle culture, but I believe I produce magic when I am whole.

A line of matches.  Going from unspent to cmpletelt burnt out o

This doesn’t mean I don’t stretch myself. I give talks when public speaking is absolutely not my strength. I do so in ways that are safe for me. I spread them out, I’ll talk only on topics that I feel passionate about & to groups that I think are worthwhile. I lay myself bare in articles, but only on my terms. I have undertaken things that I doubted I was capable of; I did them when I was up for the challenge. I have never found bulldozing my limits to be productive.

I live in a world where comfort is rare and precious. Almost everything involves some kind wrestling with myself. I do not enjoy it. I am not prepared to make that a virtue. What’s more, I contend that this applies to most. You shouldn’t have to go to war to succeed. Your level best is good enough. We all need a hard no in our vocabulary. My best lives in a cocoon of measures that help me feel my best. I’d suggest that yours might too.

Ly  is wearing an aqua dress with floral leggings leaing against a post with a hand on her hip n

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I live by my own design…

January has been a slog. It always is, right? It’s cold, we’re skint and coming down from the festive season. It always drags, but we’ve made it through. In the spirit of silver linings I thought I would share the things I enjoyed about Jan ‘22.

Carry On

I spent a lot of time having a good old carry on with my little ones. My 3yr old nephew thrashed me at arcade games. My 4yr old niece decided she only wanted to be in photos if they involved crazy filters. I taught my 2,3 & 5 year old nephews how to play ‘pile on’; their parents were delighted. The twins are now in the move & finding their voices (noisily). Last, but certainly not least my oldest girl has been texting me in French & Russian. What’s not to love about this amazing bunch?

Montage of toddlers & babies having a carry on

Yellowjackets

Stumbled upon this by accident and I’m so glad I did. It’s a bit ridiculous, but also so good. Strong (kinda crazy) female leads, which is totally my jam. Oh & it’s half set in the 90’s. It’s American 90’s which is not quite as good as home style, but still awesome.

Yellowjacket’s promo pic (a close up of a girl with green eyes, a tense expression & a wasp on her face)

The Ordinary

I am a picker. If I have a blemish or a scab or blister I am entirely unable to leave it alone. Thus I have long been in search of product that will reduce blackhead etc and shrink my pores. I think I may finally have found a winner. The Ordinary salicylic acid 2% solution has been having good results. Hopefully it will stop me spending hours in front of my magnifying mirror. The Ordinary are vegan & affordable, so I’m a fan.

The ordinary salicylic acid in a brow glass bottle on tartan background n

Emmy Meli

Another accidental discovery that I am very happy about. Emmy Meli apparently posted the hook on Tik Tok and the went out for some drinks with friends. The next day it gone wild, spurning thousands of videos of women acting out her lyrics. She of course decided to finish the song and it is a massive hit. I first heard it on tik tok and then searched it out online because it was instant love. I am so into how fresh & empowering she is. I love the sound of her voice and how upbeat this song is. I really like how spontaneously this song into life. Emmy at full volume has been helping me get things done all month.

Emmy Meli I am Woman Tik Tok video

Clogs

I’ve always been partial to a clog, but the whole Croc thing put me off. Well, the clogs are back. I found these animal print beauties that are also exceptionally comfortable. I will be buying them in every variety. They’re from Vegan Flats.

Even cooler with clashing socks.

Wilde Mode

Forever in love with this brand. The second I knew there was a new was a new fuck u print I had to have it. These are the bat knickers on the planet. I always feel better knowing I’m wearing my frustrations on my arse!

plus size women wearing wildemode knickers & holding boobs with her hands r
Pants – Wilde Mode
* Brand Ambassador

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Baby, you’re the words & chapter…

After some recent ‘market research’ I discovered that folks would like me to share more of what I’m reading. I have always been a total bookworm & am pretty much constantly reading. I always intend to share books I enjoy, but never remember. My goodreads is neglected for months & then a tonne of books of are added at once. Now that I have confirmation that people do actually want this type of content, I am going to try much harder. Starting right now, with a rundown of some of my favourite books.

Delusion of Grandma, Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher was incredible in every single way. I absolutely worshipped her. Her acting, comedy & activism were all top notch. Her writing was sublime. I have never found anyone else who writes in such a poetic stream of conscious like style. Carrie draws from her own life to create works of fiction that take my breathe away. Delusions of Grandma centres around Cora, a script fixer who discovers she is pregnant just as her relationship ends. She then goes on a road trip with her eccentric Mother to fulfil her failing Grandfather’s last wish to return to his home town. Her Grandfather has dementia & so may not actually know when he is ‘home’, but they feel duty bound. Her mother is loving, but A LOT. She has a writing partner & best friend who is wonderful, but A LOT. Cora herself could be described as, you guessed it, kind of A LOT. Cora becomes convinced that she won’t survive child birth & starts writing long letters to her unborn child. These letters detail major relationships & events in Cora’s life. They give the reader insight into who she is and how she feels about herself. The way Fisher handles mental illness through these narratives is one of the most lucid accounts I have ever read. I knew exactly the feelings she was describing. Her writing is so exceptional that I practically felt them as I read. If you haven’t experienced Carrie Fisher’s unparalleled writing talent I urge you rectify that as soon as possible.

Delusion a of Grandma cover art   Yellow rubber duck with book title on blue

The Travelling Hornplayer, Barbara Trapido

The Travelling Hornplayer consists of multiple intersecting stories. The connections in the characters lives are revealed as the book unfolds. Each of the tales are woven together so skilfully that it feels somewhat magical. That hint of magic persists within the little cosmic drops throughout each character’s narrative. Trapido’s storytelling is beautiful. All of her books feature the same families of characters, but explore different aspects of their lives. Background characters from one novel push centre stage in another. This particular book became my favourite of the authors by virtue of featuring a cycle of poetry I fell in love with at university. A quote from which is now permanently inked on my body. Words have always been my religion and this book is part of my bible.

The words ‘ the stars are too high’ tattooed on freckled arm
The travelling horn player cover art

My Thoughts Exactly, Lily Allen

This book is of course Lily Allen’s autobiography. I’ve always liked her music & most of her candour. I felt a sort of fellowship with her after her first child was still born, which made me more interested in her work. What I admire most about this book is Lily’s honesty. She speaks so openly about her life even when it is not remotely flattering. She lays herself bare as she recounts her childhood, mental health battles, experiences of motherhood, fame, sexual assault & infidelity. It is a brave and raw book. Not at all the typical show biz memoir. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

My thought exactly cover art  (yellow background with photograph of Lily Allen)

There you go, some of my very best books. I have a million favourites, so there will probably be more posts like this. I will also endeavour to post what I am reading (& enjoying) on Insta.

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