We need to talk about Yemen.

I’ve been trying & failing to find the words to explain what’s happening in Yemen & why we all need to donate. The scale of the crisis is beyond my powers of description.

Unicef reports that 80% of the population (including 12 million children) are in need of humanitarian relief. Food, clean water, sanitation & health facilities are all in short supply. The spread of covid 19 has made an already untenable situation worse. Yemen’s plight has all been ignored by the world.

Child victim of crisis on Yemen

You can help by donating here:

And take action here:

Got the city on lockdown…

How are you? We’re deep into lockdown now, are you managing to feel sane? It’s hit and miss this end.

I’m realising that although I spend a lot of time at home alone, I really do love the things I do get up to. Recent weeks have been lacking on outside interest. Throw in a nasty flare (& injury) and I’ve really been dredging the spoonie resources to fill the days.

The obvious place to find gentle entertainment is my beloved library. I have been re reading some old favourites. Thus providing myself with diversion & comfort. If you haven’t ventured into the world of Barbara Trapido, you’re missing out. She creates seemingly sedate middle class stories. On closer inspection her interwoven plots & sprinkling of the otherworldly are magical. One of my tattoos is partly inspired by a Trapido book. I never tire of her words.

Thumb & forefinger  holding book open

Podcasts have been another lifesaver. Excellent insomnia salve. Equally good played loud to ease me through the dreaded housework. My latest discoveries couldn’t be more different, but I am loving both. True Crime Brewery is pretty much what the name suggests. A married couple who like beer & true crime take us through a different case every week. They pick a beer from the location of the crime & give a wee review too. Dick is a paediatrician & Gill a nurse, their medical input really adds to the analysis. They both possess soothing voices that make listening to even gruesome events relaxing.

Chachi Chats is a must listen. Danni from The Chachi Power Project welcomes a new guest each episode to discuss all things Bopo. The first two episodes have blown me away. Packed full of information that everyone should know. Full disclosure, yours truly will be popping up in this podcast soon, but I am learning so much from the other guests. I can not recommend this one enough.

I did get out of this house, but only for hospital nonsense. I had a transfusion & a chest X-Ray, which revealed two cracked ribs. The good news is I look exceptionally cute in my mask from Rosana Exposito.

I’ve taken full advantage of our move to phase 1. I had some lovely garden visitors. It does me good to see these faces in person. Long may the good weather continue.

Two mum’s sitting in garden with toddlers on their knees
Black and white image of plus size women in sunglasses

In between times it’s video calls galore and taking advantage of my garden. It is a real luxury to be able to relax outside. Especially when the sun helps a little with my joint pain. Not to mention all the gorgeous wild flowers that bloom in my borders. I only wish I knew how to reach Bronan’s level of chill.

Wildflowers in a vase, women eating an ice lolly, girl laughing on FaceTime
Toddler on a swing & with shark filter
Sleeping cat
Women & child with dragon filter on video call

I got issues, you do too…

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

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

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

Pale legs with green tattoo lying in bed

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

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

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

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

Margarita in cocktail glass with lime wedge

My quarantine in pictures…

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

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

Hair day filter candy floss colours

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

Pencil sketch of house plants

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

Plus size women  naked apart from teal pillow

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

Digital portrait and photographs on wall

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

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

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

Two women doing tik tok dance on summer dresses

I need a little space…

If this crisis has taught me anything it’s how grateful I am to have a safe & comfortable home to quarantine in. Not everyone is so fortunate. That’s why this month I have chosen to support Refuge.

I’m sure you will have read about the increase in domestic violence incidents since lockdown began. This quarantine is far more than an inconvenience for people living with an abusive partner or parent. The choice of being locked up with someone who harms you or leaving with nothing during a global pandemic is a horrible dilemma. That’s why organisations like Refuge are even more vital at the moment.

Sun shining beneath  dark clouds

Refuge provides a range of services for men, women & children. They offer safe houses, advocacy culturally specific help & a 24hr hotline. These services save lives. I urge to support them if you can.

You can make a one off or monthly donation of your chosen amount. Or you can opt to buy a Refuge Parcel. These fund specific items like hygiene packs, child support, emergency parcel and so on. I opted for a children’s parcel containing items to help a little one settle into a new life. I think it’s a wonderful idea. It makes me feel really happy that I can help make a child’s world a little better.

Refuge logo and helpline

Now everything’s cool as long as we’re getting thinner…

I had thought that the world being turned upside down might put a dent in diet culture. It seemed that having a real and very serious health issue to contend with would get our collective perspective in order. Turns out that was naive.

If anything, it’s worse. The fat phobia has amplified. It’s coming from new & unexpected directions along with all the regular ones. It’s demoralising to realise how quickly all those supposed body positive allies throw the fatties under the bus. People I respected didn’t take long to start posting the weight gain jokes. Support for my own & other fat activist’s work has begun to feel like a part of a cultivated image. One that cracks under any pressure at all.

When you joke about the horror of gaining weight in public forums it isn’t harmless. Not only does it perpetuate stigma towards fat bodies; you’re also telling fat people what you really think of them. If you like your smaller body I’m delighted for you. Enjoy it. However, if your only response to inhabiting a slightly larger form is mockery or revulsion, you are not a Bopo ally.

This applies even more in the current crisis. During a deadly pandemic that grinds entire countries to a halt there are many things to fear. If top of your list is weight gain you might want to reassess your priorities. I am the after picture in those hilarious memes. Looking like me is not the worst thing that corona virus could do to you.

Barber before & after quarantine meme

When I’m not disappointed by folk I expected better from I am bombarded by the diet industry. The weight loss world has never missed an exploitation opportunity. Diet plans & work out programme ads have multiplied. Disreputable influencers can’t wait to wring some cash of out skinny whatever collaborations. Millionaire celebs holed up in mansions are giving us food plans to guard against stress eating. Meanwhile regular people struggle to cope isolation, lost income & fear of critical illness. The focus on the waist line is gross.

I’ve saved the worst for last. The truly terrifying part; medical discrimination. In the wake of covid 19 fat has been pathologised to an even greater extent. BMI has been incorrectly identified as a risk factor for both contracting the virus & suffering more severe symptoms. Weight has been used as a disqualifying factor when resources are scarce. In other words, fat people have been deemed dispensable. I know we’re not alone. Other marginalised groups (some I also belong to) have been marked cannon fodder too. I am ready to fight for the rights of all those people. It’s startling how many members of those groups do not reciprocate my solidarity.

If you’re thinking the jokes & fears have nothing to do with the medical discrimination, you’re wrong. By partaking in the toxic diet conversation you help create a society that considers fat bodies to be less worthy. We live in a world that permits Drs to ignore research on weight & its implications. We accept inaccuracies & damaging advice because the majority still believe that fat is bad. Fat phobia is profitable and fat people are paying the ultimate price.

Black & white photo of plus sized women in knickers holding her breasts

It’s just the way I’m feeling…

There’s nothing like a nation wide quarantine to really hammer home the fact that you’re childless. All anyone can talks about is their kids. How the silver lining of all this chaos is extra time with their cherubs. How being stuck in the house with them is driving folk crazy or all the creative ideas for activities to keep them occupied. It’s a non stop child frenzy. Unless you’re barren.

I hate that word. It feels accusatory & cold. It is, however the descriptor that keeps pushing itself into my head. Being alone in my house for over a month has contracted my world. There’s nowhere to hide. I’m content in my own company, but I’m accustomed to regular interruptions. Being unable to see friends, family or get involved in any outside work projects is tough. Those are my escapes. Adventures with little people. Laughs with big ones. Putting my skills towards something worthwhile. When you take all that away the only bit that’s left is empty.

Lilac & pink sunset over houses

There’s too much opportunity to be in my head. I’m not sleeping well, which facilitates bonus peak anxiety hours. Plus all this stress & uncertainty has opened the door to nightmares. Mostly relating to being pregnant & threatened by various dangers. With little snippets of real flashbacks thrown in for extra distress. When I’m not feeling powerless, I have a sense of being robbed. This strange, crazy time has necessitated hunkering down in family units. I don’t have one.

I have plenty of amazing people. I’m grateful, believe me. Lockdown has reinforced my belief that a husband is so not for me. With a little help from folks who are allowed outside I can manage my life just fine. If anything, it’s people to care for I want. I can’t stop myself from thinking how old my children would be now. I unintentionally look out for age appropriate lockdown activities. I imagine baking my Gran’s fruit loaf with tiny helpers. I caught myself constructing a home school lesson plan in my head. Fantasising about passing on one’s insights of the works of Lewis Grassic Gibbon is a lonely pursuit.

I have this sensation that I spend my life trying to squash. Hollow and raw. It’s as though someone scraped out all the essential parts of me with a dirty, jagged instrument. I occupy my time trying to keep the chasm sufficiently full. Packing in as many beautiful moments as I can find to prevent an inward collapse. Now my world is on hold, that void is ever present.

I know I am fortunate in many ways. I am able to stay safely at home. My housing is secure. I can video call the people I love. I will have access to healthcare if I need it. Life will resume. I do know that. I’m just struggling with the realisation that I’ll never fully heal this. Every time I think I have accepted my situation the wound is reopened & it feels fresh all over again.

Silouhette of toddler on sunny day

Underwater love…

I suspect we’re going to be adjusting to major life changes for a while yet. One of the ways I like to ease my way through trouble is the lure of a reward. In other words when this all over we are going to need some treats!

These are some cute wallet friendly bits that I’ve put on my buy list. I’m aiming for proper little treats; things I see & like, but hardly ever pick up for myself. Here are some lovely shiny things that you don’t need, but sometimes wanting is a good enough reason.

These delicate fancies have been popping up on my timelines for ages. I am very attracted to the tulle sock concept. I have thus far resisted the urge for fanciful socks for practical reasons. Since I now know all hell an break loose at any given moment, I’m thinking sod it. I’m having all the fripperies even if I don’t know how or when I will wear them.

Three pairs of feet in tulle socks with metallic stars

Tulle Socks

I’m not a fan of the mindfulness craze. Mostly because it seems to encompass a lot of bullshit masquerading as being somehow good for one’s mental well being. However, these little guys feel genuinely mindful. It is often hard to remind yourself to take a little time out to breathe. My head is always too busy & it does actually help me to stop. I love the idea of these candles measuring out that pause.

Mindful Moments

The benefits of a hot bath have long been touted. Lying back in a deep tub soothes the body & mind. Bath bombs are great, but this gadget takes a soak up a notch. I am very into the idea of psychedelic baths.

Bath Light

I’m not a tv in the bedroom person, but occasionally it would be lovely to chill in my comfy bed and watch a film. This cool doodah makes that possible.

Smartphone projector

Smartphone Projector

If you’re setting up your own cinema you’re going to need snacks. These personalised letterbox sweets are ideal. I’ve sent these as gifts & they’re always well received. It might be time to give myself some yummies.

Sweets in the Post

I’m holding off ordering for the time being. Obviously people have to facilitate delivery and I don’t want to encourage business to make people attend non essential work. Whilst I wait I’ve got my feel good hit by donating to Shelter to help with the influx of emergency calls they a fielding. It would be amazing if you could spare a little too.

Feel good factor in white text on rainbow background

All that fear and all that pressure…

I’m thinking we probably have some newcomers to the world of overwhelming anxiety. Panic is a no win kind of game, but there a few cheat codes. Since I’m an old pro and a real darling, I’m going to clue you in.

Full disclosure, none of these are a cure. Anxiety is a fucker and you should definitely seek professional advice if you are worried about your mental health. However, none of these calming hacks will do you any harm & so you can totally give them a bash. They might buy you a little temporary peace or even just knock the steam off your panic attack.

Gratitude Lists

I know that sounds wanky, but bear with me. Sometimes when I’m dealing with that grinding, slow burn type of anxiety this can be helpful. I go through things I’m grateful for in my head. It can be anything. Often I’ll do the simple I have a warm house, comfy bed, not being pursued by the mob type of thanks giving. Other times I’ll get specific about factors that mitigate whatever I’m worrying about. Either way it switches my head away from catastrophising for a minute & lets me catch a breath.

Slow Sips

If you’re wholesale panicking, slowly taking small sips from a bottle can help. It forces you to regulate your breathing, which can ease the physical symptoms of a panic attack. Thus giving you an opportunity to stave off a really bad episode.

Waves of Sound

Get yourself a sound machine app. Lying awake all night feeling scared is awful. Waves, thunder storms, pouring rain are all rather soothing. This can also be helpful via earphones if you’re feeling freaked out in a public space.

Waves on Scottish beach

Play it Out

On a similar note I like to prepare playlists of songs that I know will be good for certain situations. For instance I have calming bedtime tunes, waiting somewhere stressful songs, help me do these things that need to be done lists and so on.

Child’s Pose

I know yoga isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it does work for me. Child’s pose in particular is very helpful for chilling my body out and making my brain stop for a minute. You can access loads of good yoga vids on YouTube. It’s worth a try to see if anything helps you feel more ok.

Repeat Yourself

This probably sounds a little dumb, but it can be surprisingly effective. In moments of panic/fear simply repeating a reassuring phrase can help. I usually go for ‘you’re ok’. The repetition and saying the words out loud has an impact.

Text ‘you’re ok’ repeated on pink & green swirly background

Hide

This probably sounds even more daft. Again, it can work. Taking yourself to a small, safe space can reduce your body’s desire to flip out. I’ve taken myself into my tiny home office & given myself a minute many a time. Being somewhere that I know no one can see me or even know I am there is great for combatting rising panic.

Dark & Loud

When the world is really too much, blocking it out us the way to go. Find yourself a dark room, get comfortable and turn some beloved music up really loud. Assaulting the senses like this aids a positive disconnect from whatever is distressing you.

Write

This one obviously works for me. Getting the terror out of your head and onto the paper/screen is a lifesaver. Something about making those words concrete rather ever growing worries is hugely cathartic. Give it a try.