You’re gonna carry that weight a long time…

I had my bloods done this week. I have blood taken most weeks. This time I had a new nurse. She asked about my scars (nicely). I replied self harm. She exhaled sympathetically and said ‘it certainly left its mark’. Ain’t that the truth.

There’s the obvious scars all over my skin. The toll on my body that you can read about in my medical records and the indelible marks on my mind. Then the more I thought about it the clearer I saw that self harm has permeated throughout my life. I have so many habits, rules & thoughts that all loop back to a time when I was routinely hurting myself. The depth of it is both a revelation and strikingly obvious. Which is confusing, so I’m just going to unpack it here. Someone once told me they read my writing because it’s the best way to work out what I’m actually thinking. That’s often why I write it. So, excuse me if I explore my insides with an audience.

There are seemingly trivial things that at first glance appear to be just casual preferences. I only buy dark bedsheets. All my bedding is black or red or purple. Sure, I like those colours, but really I switched to exclusively dark tones because you can’t get blood stains out of the lighter ones. You also can’t see the stains between washing. I realise how gross that sounds, but when you always have open wounds, your sheets are continuously bloody. You get used to it. Ditto all of the above for dark coloured jammies. Along similar lines is my constant manicure. I’ve always liked to paint my nails. However, I didn’t need to keep my nails painted at all times until cutting came along. If you didn’t know, it can be really hard to get blood out from under finger nails. You can scrub for hours and still see red. Covering the tell tale crimson tinge became routine. My love of shiny black polish on my toes has the same origins. My toes don’t see a lot of blood these days, but necessity has grown into habit. My cardigan collection also has secrets origins. I have a million cardigans, shrugs etc. Whenever I buy any outfit I immediately run through what cover up I could match with it. I don’t even keep my scars covered anymore, but I still find myself buying items to hide under. Again, precaution has become ingrained.

Bed

The tentacles extend further. Years of self harm has skewed my perspective on a number of things. For instance, if you accidentally injure yourself I am the best and worst person to ask for help. I’ll definitely give top notch wound care advice. I know what dressing you need and how to clean every gash. I’ll also almost always think you’re making a fuss of nothing. I’ll probably think you can manage without medical assistance unless your leg is hanging off. When you cry or complain about the pain, I will be outwardly kind, but inside, I think you should cowboy up. Your call an ambulance is my stick a plaster on it. I know I’m wrong, but that’s how my mind works. Furthermore any accidental injury that anyone ever tells me about will arouse my suspicion. Same deal for most scars. I spent years lying about cuts and breaks and burns. I have concocted excuses of every kind. No matter how plausible your story I will have a moments doubt. It’s no reflection on you. I know you didn’t do it to yourself. It’s just that I also know that people lie. I lied. To everyone. Repeatedly. Habitually. For a very long time. It warped my thought process. Oh and if I have an accident I spend a lot of time carefully crafting how I will explain it. My head’s first assumption is that everyone shares my doubts. I’m always scared that someone will think I’ve fallen off the recovery wagon. Logic kicks in and throws the crazy out, but there’s a delay.

Black toe nails & tattoos

I never answer the door in short sleeves. Everyone knows they can’t just drop by my house. In the past I didn’t know if myself or my home would be fit for visitors. The anxiety of unexpected guests lives on even if the pools of blood do not. My first aid tin is always extensively stocked. I still can’t go anywhere without a cover up. My days of hiding every scar are gone, but my brain needs to know I have the option.

Blood transfusion

Watching cinematic portrayals of gore annoys the hell out me. I know that slash wouldn’t produce so much blood. Blood doesn’t stay wet that long. Cutting your wrists is nowhere as easy as films would have you believe. Cold water and salt is how you remove a blood stain. Rotting blood smells a bit fishy. A troponin test will determine if you’re having an actual heart attack. Stitches in the stomach don’t really hurt, don’t bother with local. The body takes 4-6 weeks to replace the red cells when blood is lost. Drs will usually insist on an transfusion when haemoglobin drops below 7 g/dl. Learning the topology of Langer’s lines allows for cuts to be made in the correct direction to reduce scarring. Inadine patches will prevent infection. Anti bacterial gel stops scars from itching. Scalpel blades can be bought in art stores. Ice can burn. Arterial blood pulses. My brain clings to all of this and more. Information, dictums & routines that no longer serve purpose, but retain a hold. That nurse was more right than she could ever imagine. Yup, self harm leaves one hell of a mark.

Shelter from the storm…

I’ve had a pretty blue day. There’s proper storm blowing around outside & I am incredibly tired, which definitely hasn’t helped. Mostly though, I feel shit because too many people have been horrible to me this week.

I had a very small day surgery on Monday, which went smoothly & really wasn’t a huge deal. It was on my dodgy leg & in a spot when stitches are very easy to burst, so I was told to be careful. With that in mind I got a taxi to the train station early on Tuesday morning (I watch my nephew on Tuesdays). The station has a little car park at one side, but that is not the platform I get the train from, so I need the taxi to stop on the main road. I say need because I mean need. If I get out in the car park I have to go out up a big flight of stairs to street level over the tracks & then down a smaller staircase to the platform. Getting out on the street means navigating one smaller set of stairs (which is hard & sore & slow enough). The taxi driver of course did not want to stop on the main road. He was annoyed that he’d have to go a little further down the road to turn at a roundabout & he didn’t want to pull over on a busy road. He argued that it made no sense when the station had a car park. Now, maybe I’m a bitch, but in my mind part of the convenience of paying a taxi to take me somewhere is that I don’t have to explain myself & I get to go where I want to go. I don’t relish having to explain my disabilities & why I can’t do certain things. Especially when I walk with a stick & it’s bloody obvious that stairs are not my friend. I did however tell the driver why I wanted to be dropped in that specific spot, but he still wanted to argue. Thus I had to say either drop me where I say or take me home and don’t get paid. With much muttering under his breath he did as I asked, which probably took less than 5 minutes more & was basically zero hassle to him. This, my day is off to a crap start & I’m already tired of just trying to move around in the world.

I struggle down the steps just in time to heave myself on to a packed train. The train is headed into town & it’s 7.45am, of course there are no seats left. I make my way to the seats that are reserved for the disabled, elderly etc and everyone sitting there avoids eye contact. I don’t know why people do this because not looking at me does nothing to reduce my need to sit down. All it achieves is putting me in the horrible position of having to ask for seat. This, I duly do. I politely ask the women in the closet seat if I can have her seat if she is able to stand. I am met with huffing & puffing as puts her jacket back on and a glare as she vacates the seat. I thank her anyway because I have some bloody manners & sit whilst others who previously avoided looking in my direction now recover their ability to see me. They now make full use of this rediscovered function to gawk at me for most of the journey. I’m sore & tired & anxious & very conspicuous. It isn’t even 8am. I arrive at central station & have to buy a ticket. There was no ticket inspector on the first train & I have to get a second to complete my journey. The ticket office on the platform has the barriers set up to control the queue. I have to walk around it to get into the queuing area & follow the barriers to actually reach the end of the line. I’m slow, i’m conscious of not messing with the wound on my dodgy leg & I am worried about this queue because I’m really not sure I can stand that long. Roll on more rude people. As I follow the path made by the barriers people just barge right past me. One women even does a little run just as I near the end of queue so she can get in front of me. What kind of dickhead rushes to skip a disabled person who is clearly having difficulty? I don’t know, but I can tell you there are too many of them & I don’t always have it in me to let them know that they’re a knob.

View from the train

Anyway, I get my ticket. I locate the platform of my next train. I find a seat because I can’t go any further until I’ve had a rest. I eat a lovely banana, check my messages & listen to some tunes whilst I gather myself. When it’s time to to head to the train I have recovered some equilibrium. I’m thinking today can be saved. One train journey & I can cuddle my gorgeous wee monkey. This is what I’m thinking as make my way along the platform & a large man barges right into me. He took me completely by surprise, I had nothing to steady myself on & went flying. Mr ‘catching my train is life’ didn’t even stop. No apology, no let me help you up. Kept marching right on & boarded his train. Incidentally his train was my train & it wasn’t leaving for 9 minutes. Whilst he presumably found a good seat I was lying on the platform bleeding. A nice ticket guy helped me up & onto the train. He even radioed someone the description of the guy who knocked me over, but to what end I have no idea. I’m not sure what anyone could really do other than tell him he was a prick. That surgical wound I was being oh so careful with is now bleeding furiously. I didn’t want to remove the dressing on the train, but I’m sure the stitches have burst (they had). So, I’m applying pressure & being watched by other travellers (again) as I try to put myself back together. I was pissed off, but focusing on gathering myself & getting where I needed to go.

Mr nephew was, as always, a delightful little bundle & I got through the day. I arrived home last night utterly exhausted & dropped into bed almost immediately. After a fitful night of sleep I awoke feeling just as tired. My leg is swollen & the wound can’t be restitched (it’s been open over night & restitching would be an infection risk). It will heal, but slower & messier. I had things to do today, but I didn’t do them. Partly because I was in a fair bit of pain and exhausted. Mostly, though, because there was a strong wind & yesterday shook my confidence. The accumulation of the rudeness, arguing, staring & knocking me to the ground was that today I was acutely aware of my disabilities. I didn’t feel up to dealing with the world & perhaps ending up worse for wear again. That realisation made me feel like shit.

cheeky baby
Cheeky monkey trying to steal my stick.

I don’t like to think of myself as fragile or incapable. I know my limitations & I try really hard to work around them. I have to think ahead. I do things a bit at a time & I sometimes have tackle things in ways that might not make sense to others. I know I can be awkward. I know that the accommodations I need can be a pest to others. All disabled people know this. We aren’t asking for seats or giving specific instructions for a laugh; it’s the only way we can live in the world. I already feel stressed & anxious about needing these things. I am certain I’m not alone in it that. So, when you force me(us) to explain ourselves it’s horrible. When you make a fuss about being stuck behind me as I move at glacial pace, you are making my life a nightmare. Your stares & sighs can ruin my day. Limping along with a stick at 37 is not my ideal life situation. Fainting on public transport is not a thing I relish. I did not choose to hurt all the live long day. I do not want to have to ask you for anything, but I can assure if I was in your shoes I’d offer my seat with good grace.

I’ll heal. I’ll give myself a shake & force myself back out the door again. I will hold my tongue (most of the time) as you push past me & roll your eyes. I shouldn’t have to, though. Living with my disabilities is hard enough. I don’t want to manage your arsehole tendencies too.

Woman of the week…

This week’s celebrated woman is someone I have the pleasure of knowing. She is a bopo goddess, a thrifting maven, accomplished public speaker & possibly the bubbliest person I’ve ever met. Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you Hayley Angell.

I met Hayley at a blogger event in Glasgow & was instantly impressed by her vintage look. I was also a little intimated by her polished confidence. I don’t find these events very easy. I have a lot of anxiety around new people & situations. I have even more anxiety about hiding my discomfort. The moment I spoke to Hayley I felt more at ease. Her sincere warmth allowed me to collect myself & have a good time.

Taking Shape blogger event, Glasgow

I obviously immediately commenced following her on social media and have done so since. Hayley’s accounts are bursting with life affirming energy. Her honesty about her body positive journey; discarding control garments, trying new activities & generally enjoying her body is inspiring. She recently discussed her experiences as a plus size women taking burlesque classes. Despite outward proclamations of inclusivity she still felt it was assumed that fat women would be less assured. She got the sense that fatter folk were quietly ushered into the background. It takes guts to be open about this stuff. Even more to be honest about how often we convince ourselves that we belong at the back of class. Thus, she used her Instagram account to launch #stepforward a reminder to all plus size people that we are worthy of taking up space & being seen.

The Body Positive community has given me so much. I always want to say thank you to those who inspire me. I also want to spread their work because I know it can bring others happiness. Hayley is one of those fabulous women who can help you change how you see yourself. She is an insta must follow.

Hayley Angell

*

Bopo aside Hayley is, as I mentioned, a thrifting magician. Her Instagram is worth following for her second hand style alone. If you need tips on trawling the charity shops for fashion gold, Hayley is your woman. If you simply enjoy seeing a person enjoy themselves & clothes, she is still your gal.

I’ve only met Hayley in person once, but I would not be without her online presence in my life. For a shot of genuine self love, go press those follow buttons.

* Photo credit : Hayley Angell

You make me sick..

Chronic illness is a shit show. Sometimes literally. Which is thing a that often goes unmentioned. Beyond the pain, being incapacitated & generally hindered in life there is the embarrassment factor. Believe me, that’s no small thing.

Disability brings many embarrassments. Perhaps most notably, for me, is the discarding of a layer of delicacy that I cherished. I am not by nature a person who cares to discuss certain bodily functions. I don’t find toilet humour funny. I don’t need the details of your bathroom trip. I have weird anxieties about toilets/bathrooms that are not my own. I’ll hold a pee for ten hours because the toilets in the bar aren’t spotless or because I saw a hair in your bathroom. A pee used to be the absolute limit of what I would even consider doing in toilet outside my own house. Now, I long for the time when I could reject toilets willy nilly & only go in the privacy of my home. Those were the days.

These days I always need to know where the nearest ladies is. Often I can’t leave the house because I cannot be more than a few feet from my bathroom. If I go out the choice of where & when I deign to use the facilities is no longer mine. My stomach now reigns supreme. It’s not a benevolent ruler. IBD has put paid to any friendly relations between myself & my digestive system. Throw in a hiatal hernia, GERD, anxiety & fibromyalgia and you have the making of all out war. In short, my digestive tract rarely behaves. Whether it’s vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation it’s always up to no good.

Sick emoji

Now, along with cramps & heartburn & nausea & wind & reflux & horrible, horrible pain I get to deal with the crippling embarrassment. I have to worry that the public toilet will be packed when my stomach is in distress. I panic that I won’t get off the bus in time to not ruin everyone’s day with the smell of my vomit. I have to use friend’s bathrooms & worry if I’m taking too long. My boyfriend gets to listen to me throwing my guts up whilst he lies in bed; trust me, it’s not sexy.

I am constantly trying to manage these symptoms in ways that allow me to avoid talking about them. I time eating around when I will be in locations that I can easily to escape to the facilities without drawing too much attention. I’ll avoid eating before car or public transport journeys. Often, I’ll just stay home. At heart I’m still a person who doesn’t want to even allude to any of this stuff. I’ll say I don’t feel great when what I mean is one way or another the contents of my stomach are going explode. I’m embarrassed to talk about it. I’m embarrassed for other people to know much about it. I’m mortified at the thought of it getting worse.

Embarrassed chimpanzee

As hard as I find it I’m now a person who has to do these cringe inducing things ALL THE TIME. I find myself having a near panic attack in a cubicle because maybe people can hear my insides trying to get out. I’m quietly dying whilst Drs question me about my bowels. I am rushing into pubs you usually couldn’t pay me to step into to use toilets worse than the one in trainspotting. It’s awful. I hate every twinge & cramp & wave of nausea; partly because they feel rotten, but mostly because I’m embarrassed.

So, here I am talking about it. I’m hoping if I just put it out there for all to see I can stop freaking out. I know other people experience this stuff & I’d hate to be part of the silence that makes anyone else feel this rubbish. If nothing else perhaps being a bit more open will alleviate some stress, which can only be good for my tum.

Things I can’t believe I have to say again… Part 1

It may be a little over optimistic to say that summer is in the way, but I think I can at least say that winter is over. Whilst I can’t wait to enjoy more lazy days in the sun, hot days always give me a moments pause.

The reason for my second guessing is our old friend shame. As much as strive I to love my body there are still so many people who’d rather I didn’t. My body does not fit societal standards of beauty. Scrap that, I don’t even fit societal standards of normal. The fact that I refuse to hide my fat, scarred flesh rocks the normality boat even more vigorously.

It has taken me years to be able to celebrate my form. My ability to wear whatever I please & shed layers in the heat is a hard win victory. I won’t lie I often still have to steel myself to step outside in a vest. Not because I feel ashamed of my a scars or my past or flab or peely wally complexion, but because there are tonnes of folk who really, really want me to.

Staring is a given. Staring combined with nudging a mate & directing them to also have a gawk is also fairly frequent. Less common, but still occuring more than you would think is the person who thinks they should actually comment on my body. Oh & I give them so much to work with. Strangers just love to get angry, sad, concerned and curious about my body. Sometimes I can just shrug that off. Often I will snark back & think these strangers pathetic. However, there are times when for whatever reason, I’m just not up for the judgement of unknown members of the general public. Their stares, nudges & comments ruin my day. I do momentarily feel ashamed and scared and like I should never leave the house again. And, my friends, is not ok.

So, here’s a little advice.

OTHER PEOPLE’S BODIES ARE NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

Your thoughts on other people’s appearance are not important. Strangers do not want to hear them. Your moral judgements are your problem, don’t make them anyone else’s. Likewise your hang ups.

STARING IS RUDE.

Always. There are no excuses. If you find yourself accidentally staring, stop. If you see someone you think looks weird, bad, crazy just remember plenty of people find your visuals unappetising too. Oh & don’t oggle them.

In short, don’t be that person. Don’t be the one who spoils someone’s lovely summer day. You do you & let the rest of world do them.

Don’t worry, my arse…

I worry. Quite a lot actually. I stress over things great, small & possibly non existent. I probably worry much more than is either necessary or prudent. That’s the nature of worrying, though.

So, I while I confess to sometimes wishing I could turn off the worrying I find it incredibly frustrating when people suggest that is possible. There are of course strategies to deal with disquieting situations, merely deciding not to worry about it is not one of them.

I keep seeing this sort of thing offered as some kind of wisdom. This isn’t wise, it isn’t even sensible. It just displays an inability to understand what worry is. If it were possible for a person to decide no to worry, worry wouldn’t be a thing.

Obviously this is abelist. Anxiety is not always rational. Many people struggling with mental illness have spiralling worries. Ranging from the practical (money, employment, relationships) to the irrational & far reaching concerns that mental illness can bring. When you tell someone they can choose to stop, you’re kind of saying their anguish is their own fault. Advising a person to just stop worrying is as pointless as telling them to just not be ill.

Setting aside the ableism it’s still infuriatingly useless advice. Let me break it down,

Do you have a problem?

If I didn’t consider the issue a problem, I wouldn’t be concerned about it. So, yes, regardless of what an outsider might think, I clearly think it’s a problem.

Can you do something about it?

If I can, the solution must still be troubling or uncertain otherwise I wouldn’t be worrying.

If there is nothing I can do ignoring or pretending the issue doesn’t exist will not help me. Plus, lets me face it, if you are facing a problem that you cannot solve it’s unlikely that you can just magically forget it.

Saying this to someone in distress is unkind. It basically translates to I don’t care. Telling someone not to worry is not a suggestion of self care. It’s dismissive. Instead, perhaps try listening. Sometimes just saying it out loud can be helpful. If you can offer practical help, do. If you don’t know what someone needs, ask. A simple ‘what can I do’ can be so valuable. A little bit of time goes a long way.

Body language…

On Tuesday night I braved the first flurries of snow & headed to The Body Shop’s blogger night. I haven’t attended many blogger events recently because they’ve just been a bit too much for me, but I am so glad I pushed myself to get to this one.

Sauchiehall st, Glasgow

The Body Shop really know how to do a blogger night. They had all the usual snacks, fizz & goody bag bases covered. More importantly the actual substance of the evening was fantastic. The staff gave detailed, enthusiastic & succinct presentations on products & campaigns. They really took their time with product demonstrations. I was very impressed with how knowledgeable everyone was & how well they tailored free samples to individual blogger’s needs.

The Body Shop goodie bagi

ly h Kerr

It was a particular delight to discuss skin masks with Dawn. Her product knowledge was spot on & she guided me expertly to the perfect mask for my skin. Along the way we had a really nice talk about body positivity. It was lovely to meet someone so charming, comfortable with herself & supportive of other women. I’ve already given my British Rose fresh plumping mask a try & my face felt divine apres treatment.

Along with discovering new products I was reassured that the Oils of Life range I currently use is a good fit for me. Plus the skin moisture analyser proved how good a job it’s doing. My initial reading was 60% hydration, which I’m told was good. After application of Oils of Life moisturiser & the rose mask it jumped up to 85%. That’s a pretty impressive result.

I was happy to hear that The Body Shop intends to increase it’s vegan reach. They aim to ensure every new product the introduce is entirely vegan. I look forward to seeing this roll out. They also continue their work to end animal testing, which I of course fully support. You can sign their petition here.

Follow up posts on my new Body Shop discoveries will be surfacing as & when I give them a thorough trial.