Supercut of me…

Last year was tough. Long covid/Pots really did a number on my already subpar health. It was hard to keep on top of even basic daily tasks. All aspects of my life suffered. In an effort to shake that not quite enough feeling I’ve raided the brain for my 2022 highlights.

I contributed to the book Rebel Bodies by Sarah Graham. It’s an incredible piece of work about the gender gap in healthcare. Sarah covers the intersections of gender, weight, age & disability whilst deconstructing the barriers women & non binary people face when trying to access appropriate medical care. I am so proud to share my story of medical weight stigma and be part of this book.

In April we took my Mum on a birthday trip to Salzburg. She had a big birthday at the end of 2021 & we wanted to do something special. Mum loves The Sound of Music & has always talked about going to Salzburg. This year, she finally got there and it was magical. We stayed at Schloss Leopoldskron, where the movie was filmed, took a private Sound of Music tour and had a generally amazing time. Salzburg is incredibly beautiful and taking Mum on her dream holiday was wonderful.

At the very beginning of ‘22 I was a guest on the Anti Diet Club podcast. The pod creators Gillian Wilson and Tamsin Broster are dedicated to helping others divest from diet culture. I love the work they do and was honoured that they considered my voice worth hearing. It is such a pleasure to connect with others who are committed to fighting fat phobia.

This summer I got to revive a love from my youth. I thought festivals were a thing of the past for me, but thank to TRNSMT’s comprehensive accessibility accommodations I was back in the game. Watching bands, whilst sipping cider in the sun with my bestie & sister made me feel 22 again. Screaming along with The Strokes as the the sun went down was such a highlight.

This one might seem small, but felt significant to me. The Guardian journalist Martin Belam recommended me in his Friday Reads. Having a writer I respect enjoy my work enough to share it felt good. Especially in a year when my health has interfered with my creative output.

Last, but never least is of course being an Auntie. It is my biggest joy. I am so excited to watch all of my niblings grow. Last year they continued to surprise & impress. I am endlessly grateful to be part of their lives.

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Red Alert…

The discourse around Sarah Everard’s disappearance has been horribly familiar. The tired victim blaming about where she shouldn’t have walked. The same sinking feeling as the days go by. Duplicate faux shock from men when we recount what life is like for women. The self-same chorus of ‘not all men’. Year after year. Case after case. Victim after victim. It is always the same. None of this is new or surprising. It’s just horribly sad & terribly frightening.

Women aren’t under any illusions about the world we inhabit. We know that we aren’t safe. We’re scared when we walk home alone from the train station. We calculate the threat of each interaction with a man we don’t know. Fashion make shift weapons from handbag contents. The rules are ingrained; no headphones at night, carry your keys, shout fire instead of rape, call me when you’re home! We have been absorbing the message that we are in danger since childhood.

There is no poor decision making. We are simply living our lives. Avoiding all risk isn’t possible. No matter what complex precautions we take, we are exposed. If the journey from my bus stop to my house is along dark, quiet streets then I have no option but to regularly walk alone on dark quiet streets. We don’t have personal escorts, we can’t control who will sit next to us on the train, taking taxis can be cost prohibitive & most cab drivers are men anyway.

Dark,  foggy residential street

We know that ‘not all men’ are dangerous, but we don’t know which ones are. From childhood girls are bombarded with harassment. It never stops. Teachers & drs & bus drivers & our friend’s dad & policemen & strangers on the street & priests & guys in bars & colleagues & friends & lovers. Lots of women aren’t even safe in their own homes. We all have stories of close calls and false alarms. Most is can tell you about the encounters we couldn’t escape too. It is not a revelation that most guys aren’t going to murder us. Knowing that doesn’t change our real fear because often it’s the one you trust who will. The worst case scenario is a reality and we’re reminded of that every single time a man stands too close or lingers too long. We are adding up where this is headed when a creep makes a crude comment or gets aggressive when told no. Here’s the thing that not many men will admit, you know it too. You all know men that you wouldn’t want alone with your sister/daughter/girlfriend. You see those scary men shouting at us on the street and grabbing us in bars. Every time you tell a woman you care about that you’ll see her home or to her car it’s because you are fully cognisant if the threat. The more insidious of you get a kick out knowing you can frighten us without losing plausible deniability. Not all, but definitely enough.

I read a story recently about a guy who got a big cash in hand payment & had to take public transport home with the money. He was on high alert for the whole journey. Everyone looked suspicious. He second guessed his every move. When he relayed how stressful the journey was to his wife, she replied ‘ now you know how I feel everyday’. The solution to this problem isn’t changing female behaviour. Our awareness is at code red. Let’s tackle the predators not prey.

Instead of rushing to shout ‘not me’ men need to listen. They must examine their own complicity & learn what would actually help others feel safer. Challenge your gross friend. Know when your voice is helpful and when it is silencing. Let’s begin to have real conversations about getting more women into key positions. Our criminal justice systems approach to violence against women still needs an overhaul. Perhaps most importantly we all need to think about how we raise our children. The cycle must be broken. Too many women have already been lost.

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My sign is vital, my hands are cold…

CW: Self Harm

Lately I’ve been having regular checks for the heart rate thing. The nurse who took my blood & vitals last week was really familiar. I had that strange I’ve definitely met you feeling, but also knew I didn’t know her, know her. I couldn’t place her at all until a loud clatter startled her. Her sharp intake of breathe shot me back in time.

She was the nurse I stunned with my self destruction in this same hospital many years ago. She either didn’t recognise me or correctly judged it best not to indicate that she had. She was friendly & kind, but the sound of that inhale shook me. I was back there, covered in blood & guilt.

I can so clearly remember walking into that triage room. Concisely explaining why I was there & seeing the doubt in her eyes. I could tell she thought the large towel on my arm was overkill. I knew she was weighing up how to nicely dismiss me. I was too tired to do anything other than unwrap the makeshift dressing & expose the truth.

Foggy picture of cars outside hospital. Words ambulance only painted on ground

The inner layers were blood soaked & the final one stuck to the wound. When I yanked it off with same the lack of self care that had led me to that room, she gasped. An entirely involuntary expression of what; shock? disgust? fear? I couldn’t discern, but I knew it wasn’t good.

The speed that she whipped through the triage routine was more about her discomfort than mine. I had long lost my objectivity. I sought treatment as a means of calling a halt to that cut. I had given up seeking enough. I knew that enough was a lie. When I looked at my arm I really couldn’t tell anymore if it was any worse than anything else I had done to myself. It was just another failed attempt to carve out some peace.

Peace that I knew was never coming. I already felt stupid & ashamed & so horribly guilty. For all the usual reasons and now also because it was obvious I had ruined this women’s night. She hadn’t bargained for my level of determined self loathing; I’d upset her. I felt selfish for not being more clear. I shouldn’t have allowed anyone to be caught off guard.

I wanted to be better. Do better. I wished I could give this nurse & everyone else the explanation they needed. I yearned to be somewhere else. I didn’t even want to do this anymore. My blades had long since lost efficacy. I could never cut deep enough. Never shed enough blood. The quiet I needed was evermore elusive. I was desperate and so fucking tired. Yet, I still couldn’t stop.

As I waited for her to finish with my blood pressure I was stuck in the past. Mired in the dread. Reliving the experience of having my arm stapled shut whilst already planning the next assault. Knowing I couldn’t escape the nagging voice in my head that insisted I must cut. I must earn any rest. I had to atone for sins I wasn’t able to articulate. I had to release all the fetid emotion with my blood.

When I left I felt blessed. And cursed. Blessed that I was wrong. I did escape. I have hushed that internal need for penance. Cursed because I still haven’t silenced it. There will always be triggers pulling me back. Days when my scars itch to be opened. You can’t play with fire & not get burned. The magic is remembering I know how to make it stop. I just have to wake up every day and choose this new, better life. Easy, right?

Black and white photo oh plus size woman looking at scarred arm

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New year, Same me…

I am preparing for the onslaught of new year, new you bullshit. I suspect a global pandemic will make no dent in the diet industries’ shame tactics. I am starting the year as I intend to go on; as part of the fat positive fanfare.

Since I am a very lucky girl I received the perfect ‘flaunt it’ lingerie for Xmas. I am so happy to finally get my butt into this fabulous set. Body Liberation is about so much more than just self love, but feeling good is really important. Battling fat phobia is a tough, high stakes business. Feeling upbeat about your body helps fuel the fight.

Large bum in pale blue mesh pants with sel love brings beauty embroidered in pink

I want to start the ‘21 by recapping some easy ways to leave internalised fat phobia behind. Self love doesn’t happen overnight, but anyone can learn to appreciate their body. Aim towards acceptance & take it from there.

Step One

Stop consuming anything that makes you feel bad. No, I do not mean food. You eat whatever your body needs. What you must cut is magazines, social media, films etc that give you the idea that you’re not enough. I cannot articulate how big a difference this made to my self esteem. When you are constantly bombarded with the message that there is something wrong with your size, it sinks in.

Step Two

Replace all that negative chatter with joyful body positive content. Fill your feeds with happy fat people living their lives to the Max. Educate yourself on fat politics. Learning how wrong the things we’re taught about fat are is a revelation. As is witnessing people with bodies like yours succeeding.

Large boobs in pale blue harness bra with self loves brings beauty embroidered in pink

Step Three

Explore your body. Look at yourself. Discover how you look in different clothes, in your undies, naked. Let yourself see what you like. Question what bothers you about the parts that you don’t. Practise being kind to yourself. Appreciate the magic of all that your body allows you to do. Touch yourself. Get comfortable with your softness. You will be amazed at how many aspects of your body you already already value.

This is not a route to complete body liberation, but these are tried & tested first steps. You are more than enough. Go forth & love yourself.

ly is posing with her arms above her head wearing pale blue bra & knickers
Bra & Knickers – Playful Promises x Felicity Hayward

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Not your pin up girl…

I recently received delightfully BoPo gifts that instantly inspired an idea. Since the presents in question are a hat & socks, they seemed perfect for a cute top to tail photo.

As I put my vision into action I became frustrated. My attempts to capture a simple, joyful picture of my fat body were complicated by the reaction I knew it would receive. No matter how carefully one covers provocative areas or unseductive the pose female presenting bodies are sexualised. Marginalised bodies receive even more pressure to up the sexy in order to be perceived as worthy of viewing.

Nudity isn’t inherently sexual on green and purple swirly background

As a fat woman I know from experience that any picture I put in the public domain will be insulted & ogled. No matter the context or reason for my showing the world the image I can predict a portion of the responses. Some creepy men will always make creepy remarks and fat phobic comments will appear. It can feel like I am being asked to either apologise for or eroticise my form to make it acceptable.

I’ll never apologise. I won’t forever play the sexy fatty either. My body is just as worthy as any other. I am attractive, I can be alluring. I’m also just a person. I like myself in jammies & unwashed bun. I like myself with hairy legs and tired eyes. I’m worthy when I’m limping along with my walking stick. I can find pleasure in my body just as it is.

Plus sizesd naked women sitting on floor one arm across her breasts and one leg crossed to cover pubic area.Wearing a hat & socks
Riots not Diets Beanie – The Spark Company
Socks – Crudely Drawn
Glasses – Where.light

Naked doesn’t equal sexual. All bodies are glorious and remarkable. I Iove the idea of embracing the normal. I want to celebrate all the different incarnations of me. I want others to see that they are enough.

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I am ready now to fall…

Dear Baby,

I still write baby even though you’d be almost grown now. You’d be pretty much a man, which is very scary. I bet you’d be amazing, though. I picture you as tall & sensitive & just a tiny bit reckless. I know we’d have butted heads, but I’d love your fire. 

 I’m feeling pretty raw this year. You have another sibling who didn’t make it to life. I have another reason to cry. I have reasons to smile too. I’m doing ok. 

I’d be better if I was buying cake & wrapping presents, but life had other plans for us. I had to learn to be strong & you were destined for somewhere more beautiful than this world. 

I’m ready now. Love, loss, life, I can take it all in my stride. I am ready to to mother a child I can hold in my arms as well as my heart. I have wonderful new little people to cherish, I have hope & I will always carry you with me. That’s enough for now.

Love always,

Mum.

Xxx