It’s been a tricky couple of weeks, so haven’t been out much. It’s so hot that I’ve been at home in my pants a fair amount. I thought I’d share the comfy & cute looks I’ve been sporting when I have crossed the threshold.
This dress was a gift from my Mum. It’s an excellent choice for this weather. It’s really light, but gives good coverage to avoid sunburn. I love the print and the flouncy skirt.
For a wee cinema trip with the boy I popped this dress on. I got it a few summers ago, but haven’t worn it very often. I didn’t realise you could see my knickers through it until I took this pic at the end of day, oops. Another excellent summer for this stifling weather. Loving the tie detail too. We saw the new Croods film & the boy thoroughly enjoyed it.
Finally, today’s outfit. I had one of my nephews this morning, but was too sore for adventures. I introduced him to minions & had a little carry on at home. This skort is my new fav as it is so easy to wear. I teamed it with the comfiest bandeau top & my trusty pillow slides.
Do you have a voice in your head? Your own personal narrator. Don’t forget your purse, ooh that’s a nice skirt, my head hurts, what should I make for dinner, did I answer that email? I’ll sit down at that next bench…
A running commentary guiding you. Questions, ideas, reminders. Busy, busy always going. An echo of you, so constant that you often aren’t even fully aware of it. Still there when you need it, though. Working through options when you’re not sure which is right. Slowing your tongue before it spits out something stupid. It searches through your memory catalogue and sounds an alarm when you might be missing the danger. It’s useful. A comfortable, familiar accompaniment to life.
Sometimes that voice goes rogue. It’ll bark at the slightest disturbance. You drop a cup & you’re a dickhead. It starts warning off attacks that aren’t coming. Tells you everything you’re doing is wrong. Maybe sometimes you are able to make peace. You both pause, think again and agree that perhaps that assessment was too harsh. Deep breaths or a task accomplished might win the other you over. On other occasions the voice knows its right. All aspects of your life are disastrous and you are entirely to blame. The inner critic skewers you; drives a fresh hole through all your crap.
It takes training to win a battle with yourself. You must master tricky moves to quiet the bitch in your head. There must be people who manage it. I’ve yet to completely get the knack. My internal voice is spiky. She (I) love to find myself at fault. Guilt comes easy and in no proportion to the perceived sin. My head is well versed in all the hurtful language I rail against. Dismissing your own internalised ableism, fat phobia, capitalist propaganda is tougher than talking down some third party arsehole. Anyway, to a certain extent I have accepted that my silent commentary will always do this. I’ve learned to challenge the initial thought. Wrestle it into logical submission. Sometimes I win , sometimes I lose, but I expect the onslaught.
Which brings me to why I’m engaging in this session of blog therapy. Lately, the voice in my head has developed new habits. She has us on perpetual clueless alert. My warning siren is stuck on active. I can’t calm down. However, when I question the need for this hyper vigilance the know it all in my head has zero answers. In fact, I can’t find answers for much at the moment. When I request help my internal dialogue tells me it doesn’t know.
What am I scared of? I don’t know.
What do I need today? I don’t know.
What should I eat? I don’t know.
Who will I pitch this to? I don’t know.
Should I take more painkillers? I don’t know.
Is this good enough? I don’t know.
What do I want? I don’t know.
Did I say the right thing? I don’t know.
Am I ok? I don’t know.
I’ve been anxious & uncertain before. Decision making has always given me trouble. I’ve just never had such a blank in my head. There’s always been a conversation. Typically I’d scroll through all the things in my life that could be a concern. I see it through to the worst possible outcome & decide how I could manage that. Once I’ve tackled that I can be less consumed by the worry. It’s not a perfect solution, but I have some success with it.
At the moment, there is no discussion to be had. This is free floating anxiety ALL THE TIME. I wake up jittery. I lie in bed nervously trying sleep and I am on edge every minute in between. Identifying real worries has no impact. At the end of that process the voice in my head is still shouting panic! I’m not a stranger to unresolved aniexty. I have PTSD, it comes with this territory. I’ve dealt with episodes of hyper vigilance. I do react to triggering stimuli. I’ve been in the depths of unknowable depression. This just feels very different.
The barbed inner voice can usually be relied upon to give me something to work with. Even if my instincts are brutal, I have a jumping off point. Now everything is so vague. I’m stumbling around in a room full of nothing. This isn’t a period of great change. I am not attempting to make life changing decisions. I have no idea what is going on & neither does my brain.
I know you all love my cranky little rants. So, here go, part 3 of all the current trends I ain’t buying.
I get the appeal. They do produce lots of really cute clothes for a total steal. The obvious fast fashion issues aside Shein has another dirty habit. They steal. Specifically, designs from small brands. They are notorious for ripping off independent creators & massively undercutting the price point. A quick google will show you just how often they do this. This is beyond scummy. It seriously harms those small brands & I’m not supporting it.
Let’s stay on fashion, but stray into I just hate it territory. The return of early noughties style is not pleasing me. Every site is packed with ruched barely there shiny satin. I was around in 00’s and I knew then that this was fashion death. I do not understand the resurgence of the Paris Hilton X early days Girls Aloud look. Some looks need to be forgotten and this is definitely one of them.
Next up will be no surprise. ProLon is the latest diet fad and it’s gross. Disappointingly this product keeps coming up in my socials. It claims to mimic a fast without actually having to fast. It consists of everything you’re supposed to eat for 5 days. Including soups, shakes, olives & kale crackers. In other words, hardly anything at all. ProLon makes all the usual quack claims; kick starts your metabolism, cleanses your system yada yada. It’s all the usual diet culture nonsense. Barely eating doesn’t clean out your system, whatever that’s even supposed to mean. Starvation diets damage your metabolism they don’t fix them. You may well lose weight eating soup & olives for 5 days, but you’ll put it right back on again as soon as you return to eating actual meals. Diets don’t work. Fasting is not healthy. Please don’t waste your money on this
DISAPPEARING BIKINI BOTTOMS
I’ll finish on a lighter note with the laughably small bikini pants. These are back strong this summer. I’m not denying they look great, they really do. I just have one question, where do I put my vulvu? I don’t care how petite you are down there the minute you move that fabric is gone. Your lips are absolutely going to munch those tiny bikini bottoms. I’m convinced that some sort of glue is involved and I’m not here for it. Neither is my pandemic bush.
For August my charity of the month donation was a no brainer. Priti Patel’s deranged plans to criminalise asylum seekers entering the UK by crossing the channel has highlighted the amazing work done by the RNLI.
If you aren’t aware of their work. Lifeboats provide a 24hr rescue service for ANYONE who gets in trouble at sea. They also provide lots of excellent sea safety education, flood rescue & international work with people most as risk of drowning. They are voluntary charity organisation who risk their own safety to save others.
The Tories quest to criminalise rescuing asylum seekers at sea is abhorrent. It also has significant implications for RNLI volunteers who’s policy is to rescue any person in trouble without judgement. The organisations has received harassment from right wing anti immigrant groups. The idea that we should ask questions before saving someone from drowning is repugnant. Lifeboat stations need our support now more than ever. If you can please make a donation here.
If you would like to make a donation & stand a chance of winning a unique piece of art l have a tip for you. The lovely & talented roseylivesonaboat is running a raffle in aid of RNLI. You can win lifeboat themed needle point art. Full detail are in her latest post.
Last week I headed north for a wee break by the sea. Our cottage was perfect. Exposed stone walls, cute nautical touches & the most beautiful view.
My nephew was along for the ride, so I needed cute unfussy clothes that allowed for much carry on. I also had to account for the crazy heatwave. First thing in my suitcase was this adorable skort that I’ve just bought. I’m not usually a shorts girl, but I really love the teenie skirt/short combo. It was ideal for early morning shenanigans with the rascal.
For our trip to Stonehaven I opted for this polka dot dress. It’s super light and easy to wear. Whilst still offering coverage to prevent burning in the sun. The wind was blowing so you can’t see just how cute this dress is. You’ll have to trust me that it has a lovely shape. Oh & pockets!
Finally for a blowy day at St Cyrus beach I opted for this trusty jumpsuit. Again, it’s super light and easy to wear. I added the cardi later in the afternoon when the wind got up. When I fancied a paddle I went old school & tucked my jumpsuit in my knickers!
Chronic illness is great at kicking you when you’re down. Lamentably, it also likes to give you a dunt when you’re flying too. It would be taxing to say which is worst, but falling from a height certainly hurts.
That was me last week. I was on a lovely break in the cutest cottage by sea. Soaking up the calming sea side views and thoroughly enjoying time with my nephew. The sun was out, we headed to an incredibly beautiful beach. I watched the boy run around having the time of his life. I paddled in the refreshingly cold sea. Took deep breaths, listened to the lapping waves & felt happy.
As it edged towards late afternoon people started to leave. I began to worry about the hill I’d have to climb to leave the beach. As we packed up I saw people stroll up. I knew it was going to be a problem.
And I was correct. That little sand dune fucked me up. I started trying to ascend it alone, but quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen. It’s hard to get your footing on slopping sand. Even harder to get purchase in moving ground with a walking stick. With every step the sand slid down the hill pushing me back. It was all working against me.
My sister saved the day. She let me lean on her, literally & half dragged me up that hill. Every step was excruciating. My knees felt like the where going to explode. My back, wrists, elbows & shoulders were all screaming. I couldn’t catch a breath, my lungs felt as though they were filling with the sand I was slipping on.
That little sand dune appeared to go on forever. The bench at top a promised land I’d never reach. Listen, the pain was bad, it wasn’t the culprit of tears at the summit. As my sister helped me struggle I saw my 3yr old nephew gamble up the slope. An old couple comfortably passed us. A nice man with a very concerned look stopped to ask if he could help. I focused on breathing whilst my little sister pepped talked me up that hill. I repeated ‘you’re nearly there’ in my head and tried my upmost to hold back the tears.
When I finally had my bum on that bench my nephew ran to give me a cuddle. The tears started streaming. I looked at the beautiful view as I silently cried. I didn’t want to make eye contact with my loved ones. I didn’t want my little rascal to see me in this state. I recognised the concern in my sister’s voice & the love in the silent shoulder my Mum offered to hold me upright. As much as I loved them for it, I hated that I have to be this way.
It was another one of those ‘how did I get here’ moments that chronic illness brings. I never imagined it’d take a support team to get me up a hill at 40 years old. I’m not a person who likes to be publicly vulnerable, yet here I am. Regularly fragile & exposed as I try to scratch out something close to a normal life. I felt guilty and embarrassed and pathetic and grateful and burdensome and scared and loved. All crashing over me with more force than the waves below could ever muster.
I concentrated on the nature around me as fought to compose myself. I attempted to ignore the curious looks from strangers & the pain coursing through my body. I listened to the the waves and birds. I let the blue horizon pull me through all the heavy implications placed on the people I love. I dried my eyes. I got back on my feet.
The day continued. Me, making my way slowly behind the others. Stopping to rest. Taking pain relief. Zoning out when we got back in the car. It was all so much bigger than that stupid hill. I was hoping I hadn’t distressed the others. Dreading the pain that I knew was still to come. Feeling sad at the thought that I probably wouldn’t ever return to that blissful beach.
It is painful to accept one’s limitations. I find it incredibly hard to let more & more go. I hate that I’m always the one who has a problem with the plans. I despise that my difficulties are so visible. Gasping for air at checkouts that take a fraction too long. Sitting on floors when there’s no seats available. Calling in advance to check if my malfunctioning body can be accommodated. I don’t like being on display, don’t want to answer questions about my stick, shake off the exasperated sighs or smile at pitying strangers. No matter how kindly meant, I’d rather be suffering in private. I’m exhausted by the knowledge that I’ll pay for every slice of fun. Even more so by the battle with myself to keep reaching for those good times anyway. Most of all I’ll forever regret how much this impacts all the wonderful people in my life. I wish I could stop being a hindrance. I never want them to have to worry. I appreciate every tiny thing they do for me, but I still wish they didn’t have to.
This is chronic life. It’s not just the pain & illness. It is all encompassing. Lots of the time the only way to deal with that is to push it to the very back of your mind. These moments of brutal clarity never stop taking me by surprise.
‘It’s ok not to be ok’. I can’t remember when it started, but it certainly picked up steam. It’s now the standard social media friendly, I support mental health awareness tag line. I know it is well intentioned, but increasingly, it doesn’t ring true.
Of course, in theory, it is true. It is normal to experience mental health issues. It’s fine to admit that you struggle. It is important to normalise mental illness. If you say it out loud, I am not ok, what happens next? If you’re lucky someone listens; someone cares. Maybe they ask what you need. Perhaps you get that help. The first time. Maybe.
What happens when the person you tell has no idea how to respond. What if you spill your guts to a doctor who doesn’t take you seriously. Or who does want to help you, but only has waiting lists to offer. Around 70% of those referred for mental health assessment in Scotland wait at least 18 weeks*. That’s a very long time to feel helpless, especially when there is no guarantee of treatment. What do you when the not ok doesn’t go away? Or if it keeps coming back? You try really fucking hard to be ok. You do the therapy and the meds and the hard work. It takes a long time. It’s gruelling and painful. All the time you know lots of people aren’t getting any treatment. You feel guilty that your receiving assistance that others aren’t. Even more so when the help hasn’t helped. You’re aware that the people who love you are scared. Your hurt hurts them. They want ‘ok’ as much as you do.
And you want it for them. When it slips from your grasp it’s harder to say it again. People have their own lives. Sometimes they might be struggling. Or they may be fabulous; enjoying some well deserved happiness. Everyone has stresses and responsibilities. Our lives keep us busy with the good and bad. Everyone must earn a living, manage their relationships, have fun. Who wants to be the person who complicates that? Not me.
When you’ve already done everything you’re supposed to do it’s hard to know how to banish the cloud. If the expert advice doesn’t do the trick how can well meaning friends help? Even when you really want to reach out there’s always an impediment. You don’t want to add extra strain when they’re in trouble. Nor do you don’t want to darken joyous life events. Sharing begins to feel less a problem halved & more a problem spread.
Very few mental health problems are a simple fix. None of the big issues in life are that black & white. When you fall back into the grey it’s terrifying. Especially when you know you’ve already had your shot. Ask anyone who has tried to access mental health services after discharge. It’s almost impossible. Drs will say you aren’t sick enough for referral. The NHS lacks the resources for early intervention. Access to talk therapy is limited. Almost 40% of those who received treatment reported that they did not have sufficient sessions**. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is by far the most frequently offered intervention. Not because it is the most suitable, but because it is the cheapest & easiest to administer. Recovery is hard enough with appropriate support. When treatment is bungled it can do more harm than good. As already stated, re referral is doubly hard.
While you wait or fight for professional help (that may never come) your life is disintegrating. Friends who were initially supportive fade away when you never quite get all the way better. Employers sprint. They’ll talk a good game; train a mental health first aider or make a donation. Test their commitment with sick time or requesting accommodations & watch them run. You are left with the people who care enough to stay. Your predicament remains. You don’t want to worry them. You don’t want to ruin anything or be the thing that tips their bad news scale. It’s never the right time. We all want to believe that catch phrases are enough, but buzzwords will never cut it. What happens after I say I’m not ok?
The truth is, more often than not, nothing. The pandemic has only increased strain on an already buckling system. I don’t have all the answers. I do know that a cute Instagram post during an awareness month isn’t it. We need huge institutional shifts. More money, more training, more oversight. Our political representatives need to know that we want action. 1 in 4 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime. Telling them that’s ok isn’t enough. We have to be advocates.
If someone in your life is suffering without help you can contact your Mp & express your concern.
Find out how long waiting lists are in your area & ask you Mp what they’re doing about that.
Stop voting for people who are actively defunding our health service.
Be proactive. Ask loved ones what specific help you can provide.
Use your social media to contact politicians directly. Ask questions publicly. Embarrass those whose voting records go against their constituents interests.
Accompany a friend to appointments if they require support. Insist that interactions are recorded in medical records.
We have to demand more of ourselves and of those with the power to make changes. Truthfully, it doesn’t feel ok, not to be ok.
I love supporting small business & independent makers. When I went on a little treat splurge last week I hit up some vendors I’ve been admiring on Instagram & I thought I’d share my treasures.
I’ve tried various symptom trackers and all have fallen short. Be they apps or physical products they never seem to grasp what I need. So, discovering a collection of trackers/planners designed by a person who is chronically ill themselves was a relief. These products give me the space to personalise & encompass all my varied symptoms. They also understand the kind of things I want to keep track of. Impractically Imperfect know all of that. Plus they get that I need it to be easy.
My little purple laptop has been needing a makeover for a while. I started with a couple of stickers I received as gifts with orders, but got waylayed. When I realised that one of my favourite pin makers was also doing stickers I got right on it.
My last treat is one of those practical things that is also beautiful. I am sick of digging around on my bag for my mask when I need to put it in. This colourful chain will put an end to that problem. Even better I can also stick it on my sunglasses to stop me losing them too. Does this mean I am an old lady? Probably, at least I’m ageing with style.
I still can’t quite believe it, but my baby sister got married on Saturday. It was a wonderful day. She made an absolutely beautiful bride and everything went perfectly to plan.
My sister will always be stunning, so I had no fears about her finding the perfect gown. I, on the other hand was at panic stations. I searched & searched, but couldn’t find anything that worked. Finally, I found this pretty little number. I’m not usually one for sparkles, but this dress captured my heart.
I felt awesome in my swishy skirt & shiny accessories. I loved watching my little sister seal the deal with her person surrounded by the people she cares most about. I’m so proud of the cute wee pest who has become the most incredible woman. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.