In the name of the Father, the Skeptic & Son…

I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to mass every Sunday, made confessions, took communion. I attended catholic schools. My primary school was flanked by a chapel, a missionary monastery & a convent. By virtue of attending those schools most of my friends were also catholic. We all prayed before lunchtime, sang hymns in assembly and had regular R.E. Classes. What I mean is I understand how organised religion works. I was immersed in dogma throughout my childhood.

That’s not to say I always liked it. Even early on I remember having the distinct feeling that some it was icky. I didn’t like the bullying ways of my school chaplains. Some of the things my teachers hammered home did not fit with the whole peace & love vibe. Mass was never anything other than a thing to be endured. Catholicism always felt too rigid.

It wasn’t until I hit secondary school that I really started to call bullshit. I didn’t believe much of what I was being taught. More importantly I hated the intolerance. Catholic views on sex, sexuality, gender roles, abortion and so much more simply did not align with my own. Neither did they fit with what I had learned at home. I couldn’t bite my tongue in the face of bigotry dressed up as god’s word. Nor could I bring myself to do the cherry picking that many religious folks do. The catholic faith felt like a straight jacket & I would not be restrained.

Thus, I drifted away. I stopped going to mass. I let myself question everything I had absorbed. I dug into the history of the church and its current practices. The more informed I became the less respect I had for any of it. It’s all steeped in atrocities & injustice. Organised religion it seemed was just a way to control the masses. What better way to impose your will than to tell people it was in fact, god’s will. By the time I finished school I no longer considered or described myself catholic at all. I had & have no use for any organised religion. I believe there is a higher power of some description, but not some patriarchal judge in the sky.

Most of my family still belong to the church. I have friends of various faiths & none. I’m very much a live & let live type of person. As long as no one is trying to impose their beliefs upon me or actively do harm in the name of religion; I don’t consider it my business. I do however retain a distrust & distaste for the institutions. I want no part of it.

I tell you all this in order for you to understand how I felt when I received this comment on something I wrote on the anniversary of my baby’s due date.

Anger was my main reaction. I removed the comment & blocked the (blank) account. I hated the thought of someone more vulnerable than myself receiving such a comment. I felt angry that this so called church elder was trawling for people they thought they could manipulate. However, I didn’t want to give it anymore time or energy. They were blocked; end of story.

Unfortunately not. A couple of weeks later, on my birthday, I received an email. This time from a church elder named Liam McIntosh. It was more of the same. Insulting & ignorant comments about my life, offers of ‘support’ and that suspicious claim of referral from a concerned friend. There is not a single person in my life who if concerned would ask the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to help me. This contact enraged me. I have an excellent support system, a sense of purpose and lots of joy in my life. However, I am aware that many people do not. I remember how little it took to overwhelm me when I was in the depths of mental illness & grief. I am also cognisant of how easily some people who feel desperate may be manipulated. Both messages utilised abuse tactics; belittle, claim to be doing so for the victim’s benefit and then purport to have all the answers. A church setting out to prey on vulnerable people in this manner sickens me.

This kind of behaviour is exactly why I do not like organised religion. It is predatory. This organisation is clearly seeking out people they believe to be vulnerable in order to manipulate them. I am not that person. I share my experiences in order to dispel stigma. I find the ‘concerned friend’ tactic particularly disturbing as it purposely exploits the guilt & shame that many people in difficult circumstances already feel.

After receiving that email I felt sufficiently angry & concerned to act. I tried to track down both men who contacted me. I could find no trace of either on official church websites etc nor could I find any record of professional training that would qualify them to offer such advice. The only COFLDS that I could find in Hamilton has disbanded. I called Edinburgh & Glasgow branches, but neither wanted to comment. Nor would they provide details of anyone in a senior role to discuss these communications. Some elders though are obviously reading this blog, perhaps they would like explain themselves?

I’m not finished with this. I am worried about the harm these unethical strategies could cause. As a result I am working on a more in depth piece for publication. If you or someone you know has been contacted in this way, I would like to hear from you.

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My week in spooky season pictures…

It’s the October week holidays here. Of course that means some fun adventures & more spooky nails. It’s getting chilly out there, so I’ve been getting into the cosy looks.

I went a bit horror on the nails and tried out some chuckyish stitched wounds. I didn’t want them to be too gruesome, so nothing realistic here.

Pale white hands with stitched wound design manicure

On Wednesday we decided to introduce my nephew to a place my sis & I have loved since childhood. The Burrell Collection is an art gallery/museum in Glasgow that has recently reopened after a refurb and shake up of exhibits. The exhibits are presented in the most incredible building surrounded by woodlands, but in the middle of the city. It is one of my very favourite places and it was wonderful to see the boy enjoy it too.

Long white corridor leading to huge window looking out to forest

The revamp is great. They have maintained the heart of the collection whilst adding excellent interactive aspects. The boy loved playing the games & puzzles, all of which helped him better understand the exhibits. The cafe has a great vegan & child friendly menu. The Burrell also ticks the accessibility box. Lots of space to manoeuvre, lifts to all exhibits, loads of places to sit down when you need to rest.

White woman and child playing an interactive game
The Burrell Collection interior
The Burrell Collection interiors

After The Burrell we checked out the also revamped swing park. Thus I needed to be both cosy and waterproof. I opted for this lovely jumper dress & light weight rain jacket; both presents from my Mum.

Fat white women with hands on her hips wearing blue jumper dress& khaki rain mac
Dress – In The Style
Rain Max – Marks & Spencer
Tights – Pretty Polly
Glasses – Where Light

I chipped my Chucky nails, necessitating a premature change. I went for some creepy trees and sparkly bats. Let’s hope I can manage not to wreck this design right away.

My nephew has recently developed a love for golf; crazy golf in particular. Today we indulged that new found passion with a trip to Paradise Golf. He loved it, claiming two hole in ones & ultimately the game. Auntie ly struggled a little, but luckily I had my perfect little man to play for me when I needed a sit down.

Child playing crazy golf

We had a little sushi for lunch, picked up some shark wellies & grabbed a doughnut before heading home. It’s always too hot at Xscape and I kept that in mind when choosing my outfit. I wore a bunch of old favs today including my comfy shoes & a skirt with pockets!

Fat white woman with hands on her hips wearing swing skirt and t shirt
T-Shirt – Curated By Girls
Skirt – Lindy Bop
Tights – Snag
Pillow Slides – Primark

A very big house in the country…

It was my birthday last week. I have reached the enormous age of 42 and it was a chill affair. I spent the actual day with my wonderful bestie and her little monkeys. Then at the weekend I was whisked off for a lovely surprise. I was instructed to pack a bag and bring a swimsuit. No further information was forthcoming.

We set off early on rainy Saturday morning and four ish hours later we arrived at Thainstone House. The sun was shining up north and our destination was perfect. A beautiful country house hotel set in gorgeous grounds. Complete with swimming pool & spa; I was in heaven.

Country house hotel covered in Ivy
Thainstone House

My Mum & Sister were behind the treat. Of course my nephew was along for the ride. We had a weekend of fine dining, swimming and carry on in luxury setting. It was a gorgeous birthday present.

Is it a hotel stay without a pic in my pants?

After dinner and late swim on Saturday we introduced the boy to Monopoly. He had been dying to try it and it turns out he is a shark. He showed no mercy as he bought up streets and flung hotels on them. His absolute glee every time I landed in jail was hilarious.

On our way home we stopped in Inverurie for a little shopping and outfit photos. The boy managed to leave with a monster truck & Gran stocked up on enough expensive scarfs to last a good few winters. All in all a successful weekend.

Not bad for an old bird.

This week I have mostly…

doing not much. It’s been mostly sedentary activities and background music has been essential. These have been my most played.

Obviously Lewis Capaldi’s new song has been on repeat. Like the rest of the sane population I have been dying for him to release new music. Forget Me doesn’t disappoint. Poignant lyrics and epic remake of a wham video clearly add up to a hit. I even bought the single. The first single I have purchased since the 90’s. It must be good. Factor in the bonus of having him back of social media and the world is a better place.

Forget Me vinyl single

Reflecting Light wormed it’s way into my play list via Gilmore Girls. I’m currently very annoyed at that stupid show. I started it in a fit of insomnia because a friend told me it was great (you know who you are!). Gilmore Girls is not amazing. It is a sort of ok sitcom with a few really annoying characters and main folk doing occasionally hideous things. I couldn’t stop watching, though because they suckered me in with Lorelai & Luke. I can resist a meant for each other but keep fucking couple. Thus, I had to press on to ensure they ended up together. Amongst my tears & frustration came Sam Phillips singing Reflecting Light.

I rode the pain down, got off and looked up Looked into your eyes The lost open windows, all around My dark heart lit up the skies’

The waltzing and those lines got me. I’ve been humming it all week.

Another Love by Tom Odell is the song you hear in the videos of Iranian protests. An uprising prompted by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22 yr old woman beaten to death by morality police for not wearing a hijab. The courage of women refusing to submit to these laws is immense. It is incredible to watch people stand up to this totalitarian regime. Their bravery is awe inspiring. I get shivers every time I get this song.

Protester holding up photo of Mahsa Amini

Last but not least we have Harry Styles’ Matilda. It’s just such a beautifully sad song. I can’t relate, my family are wonderful, it’s still making me cry. Something about that reassuring voice saying it’s ok to let go just gets me. Poor Matilda.

Bronan approves of both the tunes and the sitting still.

Black and white cat sleeping on his paw

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Pale September…

I just lit the first pumpkin shaped candle of the season. It is rainy, windy and cold. The timing is right.

Today did not bring my favourite autumnal weather. The gloom did, however suit my mood. I had the long awaited appointment with the consultant this week & she had no good news for me. PoTs ✔️ Treatment to improve symptoms ✖️. I can’t take beta blockers & I’m already doing everything that is supposed to help. She also thinks I need to see someone else about the extreme breathlessness. So, it’s status quo with the passing out every two seconds. Oh and back to square one on referrals & tests re breathlessness. I’m very tired and exceptionally fed up. This is what happens when I pin all my hopes on one Dr.

On the bright side I live in Glasgow and it’s nearly October. I am certain I will have many opportunities to wallow in gloomy weather. I also know a very annoying man. No doubt he will frustrate me so much that I will occasionally forgot almost no part of my body works.

Gold pumpkin candle holder on bookcase with picture frames

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Up in my air balloon…

I’m still not getting out much, but I did wear two cute outfits & have a little fun this week. I used my auntie time to try out some new thrift finds. I’m quite pleased with the results.

First up was some time with my littlest niblings. The babas are walking now and so much fun. I tried my new twirly skirt and it was perfect for sitting on the floor and wrangling babies. Getting back up was a bit of a challenge, but hey ho.

Skirt – Thrifted
Vest – Primark
Shawl – Gift

On Saturday I had my first big day out in quite a while. We headed to The Hot Air Balloon festival in my Mum’s village. It was wonderful. I have always wanted to go up in a hot air balloon, but watching them take off was a close second best. My nephew was crazy excited watching them launch. He also had a lot of fun on various rides & bouncy castles. He even managed to convince his Mummy to let him have green hair. For this outing I wore another of my 2nd hand finds; an amazing cat print skirt. I went full crazy auntie & teamed it with a petticoat and nirvana vest. Then finished the whole look with a deeply hippie dippie shawl. I got some looks, but I loved it!

Vest – Very Old
Skirt – Thrifted
Petticoat – Lindy Bop
Shawl – Gift

Today I am in recovery mode. I expect it’ll be jammies for the foreseeable. Bronan approves.

Why am I like this?

If you are a regular reader you will know that I have been going through a process of diagnosis related to Long Covid complications. I had hoped that I would have definitive answers by now, but alas, my body is being a dick.

When last we spoke I was awaiting tests to confirm or rule out POTS. Well, after it seemed unsafe to continue with the first part of that test, the second was scrapped. Now I have more waiting to do. The consultant will decide our next move. I’m really disappointed as I had thought we were close to diagnosis. I know the idea of hoping for positive tests might sound strange to most, but the sooner my condition is labelled, the sooner it can be treated. Being chronically involves so much limbo. Waiting to see drs, waiting for tests, waiting for treatment, waiting to see if you respond. Having someone say this is definitely the problem and here is the plan, is a huge relief.

White women wearing large glasses and a mask is looking at camera
Worn out after test fails.

In the meantime my spoonie adventures continue. Lots of pain, fatigue and dizziness are the norm. Fainting at the drop of a hat and constantly fighting to catch my breath have further restricted my activities. I spend way too much time at hospital appointments, and too little doing what I love. I’m struggling, but trying to remain even a little upbeat. On we go.

Long hospital corridor

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Charity of the Month

This month I decided to support Animals Asia. As the name suggests the work to improve the life of abused animals in Asia.

Animas Asia logo, white graphic bear and the words animals Asia in white on black background

I’m a life long animal lover. I have always been involved in animal rights activism in whatever capacity I am able. When I read about the plight of bears in bile farms I was simultaneously heartbroken & enraged. After further reading I discovered that Animals Asia also fight for the welfare of cats & dogs in China and captive animals across Asia.

No animal should spend their life in a cage. Be ripped from their mother at birth. Endure pain & suffering for their entire existence. Animals are intelligent, sensitive creatures who deserve so much more than they are subjected to for human profit.

A bear with sad eyes looking through bars

You can help them run their sanctuaries and ensure the welfare of countless animals. If you can, please consider making a donate.

Black and white cat sitting in a  sofa
Bronan approves this message.

All you need to do darling, is fit in that little dress…

I got an email from photobucket. Actually, I got several that I had ignore because I had more pressing issues. I should have continued pressing because opening the 12th email and clicking that link was a mistake.

Amongst page after page of self harm photos I found pictures of a girl I don’t fully remember. I don’t know why I say a girl, I was a woman. I seem more like a lost girl, though. I look like someone who wants to disappear. I was someone in the process of vanishing. Looking at those photos hurt. It’s painful to see how desperately Ill and unhappy I was. Even more agonising to realise how much the world approves of that version of me. A person who hated themselves so much they wouldn’t eat properly & spilling their blood felt reasonable. But hey, look how I thin I was.

I lost ridiculous amounts of weight in a very short time. I started with what I believed to be a very reasonable calorie restriction. A nice round number that I saw in magazines & tv shows. The weight came off quickly. People around me were pleased. I enjoyed the positive reinforcement. Everything else in my life was a disaster, I liked doing something that everyone was happy about. I also liked my discipline; how strict I could be. I began to relish the hunger pangs and how good I was at ignoring them. When the weight loss slowed I reduced the calories. I limited how many each meal could contain. I couldn’t eat before or after certain times. I filled up on Diet Coke. I had ‘fast’ days and just eat veg days. Rules piled up and weight fell off.

I did this more than once. The weight loss was never maintainable. Each time I started again I believed I would just follow a ‘healthy’ diet. Every attempt at lifestyle change descended into extreme behaviour. The only people who questioned this were the few who’d had their own food issues. I assured them I was ok. This weight loss was good for me. I wasn’t doing anything crazy, in fact I felt so much healthier. I’m sure the believed (or almost did) me because I didn’t think I was lying. I honestly thought the means justified the ends. Being fat was horrible. I was disgusting, I ate too much and it was terrible for me. Having some restraint was improving my body inside and out. I knew I was fudging the details a little, but I really didn’t think I was doing anything dangerous. I did eat. I very rarely threw up. The things left in my diet were all ‘good’ foods. The congratulations rolled in. Besides, I wasn’t even very thin.

I don’t even blame the people who did all the high fiving. They knew I had been unhappy with my bigger body. Those close to me knew how appalling my mental health was. It looked to the outside world like I was doing something good for myself. I seemed more confident, more at peace with my body. Of course we all live in diet culture. Thinner bodies are better. I understand why my weight loss was something to celebrate.

The professionals are another story. They should have known better. I was so very Ill. I was in regular contact with all manner of Drs. My self harm was out of control. I was getting stitched up multiple times a week. The blood loss was wreaking havoc. I had angina attacks, constantly passed out. No sooner was a blood transfusion in than I was working on getting it back out. I had already started to experience the problems that led to pancreatitis. They watched my weight rapidly drop. Climb back up. Then fall off again. Not a single medical professional ever thought to question that. They were the opposite of worried. I was praised. They loved seeing the change on the scale. I was explicitly told how good this shrinking was for me. I didn’t even lie about how I was doing it. I’d joke with nurses about ‘just not eating’. I explained my calorie restrictions and the extent of my diet to Drs. It was all excellent. Keep up the good work. Well, done you!

Even the mental health teams I was working with didn’t raise any alarms. We only ever talked about my weight loss in positive terms. They were glad it was helping my self esteem. There was never any in depth conversation about how I really felt, what I was doing or why. There should have been. They knew my history and my problems. There are so many links between self harm & disordered eating. Control being the most obvious. The triggers for the behaviours can be the same; shame, self hatred, feeling a failure, punishment. They can achieve similar results like a feeling of release or a sense of achievement. My self harm was compulsive and so was the weight loss. I was atoning and deleting the parts of me I despised. The only real difference between the two was how acceptable it was to want to be thin.

As I write this I recognise all the signs of an eating disorder. Yet I cannot accept that diagnosis fits. I can admit I had an unhealthy relationship with food. I know I used extreme methods to lose weight, but disordered eating is as far as I can allow myself to go. Intellectually I know why. I was never dangerously thin. In the midst of it I didn’t ever believe I was thin at all. Those old pictures were shocking because I have no recollection of being as slim as that person. I began my diets fat. Eventually I always returned to fat. That’s why no one ever considered an ED a possibility. It remains why I could never accept the label. For all my learning and activism there is an internalised fat phobia that I’m not sure I will ever shake.

I have compassion for my former self. I am angry at the people who should have helped me. I am happier in my fat body than I ever could have dreamed of in my dieting days. I don’t want to go back. Nor do I want to be smaller. I do however still hold this feeling that I have no right to talk about myself in certain ways. I feel fake. Despite knowing all that I know, I still can’t change the feeling that it wasn’t bad enough for an official title.

That realisation is painful. It hurts to know that nothing has really changed. There are people in the same situation right now. The medical community is still exceptionally fat phobic. If you are fat, disordered eating is encouraged. Prescribed, even. We’re still insisting people fall below a certain BMI before they can be referred for treatment. The fact that Drs are even using BMI is in itself horrendous. People are hurting themselves and the world loves it.

This is why body liberation is essential. It is so much deeper than loving one’s body. Weight stigma is systemic. Built right into the places we are supposed to turn to for help. Fat phobia is in us all. It is insidious and deadly. We all deserve better.

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