When will they stop…

I used a hand sanitiser in a train station the other day. It was one of those super strong types that you find in hospitals. As soon as it hit my skin I was whisked back in time. For a second or two I was somewhere else. Somewhere I didn’t want to be.

The cold sensation drifted through my body. A zoetrope of mixed up images spun in my head. Blurry flashes conjured by the clinical scent. I felt dizzy. I sat down, took some deep breaths. It passed. I was grateful.

Blurry spinning image of trees & sky

It wasn’t entirely gone. That night the whirl of disjointed scenes dipped in & out of my dreams. Random words have jarred memories. My mind has wandered mid thought or conversation. I have felt the panic rising. Spells of forcing my head to connect with my physical reality have emerged. Struggling to focus on what I can actually see, hear, smell in this moment. Ignoring the feelings climbing my throat.

Tonight in the shower I couldn’t shake the feeling that the hot water streaming down my legs was blood. I couldn’t wipe the hospital aroma from my nostrils. Nor soothe the ache that spread from my back to my thighs. The hand sanitiser has triggered a reaction. My body is recalling the trauma stored deep within. It’s a phenomenon associated with PTSD known as body memories.

I haven’t experienced this symptom in quite some time. It lies dormant; rising unpredictably. Sometimes reacting to obvious & painful stimuli. Or, like this week, triggered by a tiny insignificant detail. My olfactory senses seem particularly attuned to old wounds.

New born baby feet with words birth trauma Association

This time it’s the initial loss. I feel my body failing. I know it isn’t happening. I have learned how to pull myself back to the here & now. Still, those moments when I’m dragged to the past feel completely real. I am not just thinking about unpleasant events. I am feeling them. My flesh & nerves & senses are reacting to something that happened 20 years ago.

Body memories are excruciating. It becomes a battle between what you know & what you feel. Fighting strong emotions is a challenge. When you add physical sensations grounding yourself is an onerous task. I have experienced these episodes replicating the sensations I felt during miscarriages & pregnancy. At times these physical memories are accompanied by flashbacks & other PTSD symptoms. Other times they occur in isolation. They mirror my actual experience so completely that I’ve found myself taking multiple pregnancy tests when I knew it was almost impossible for me to have conceived.

Sands logo

It’s another aspect of PTSD that I rarely see discussed in the mainstream. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not only (or even mainly) associated with combat trauma. Yet, it’s the link most people draw. The violent outbursts in media portrayals of the illness are not accurate. New studies are highlighting how prevalent PTSD is in women who have experienced baby loss & birth trauma. For most of us, managing PTSD is an internal process. Distress may leak out, but the grind is with yourself. Accessing the right help, surviving that help (trauma therapy can be brutal), learning to manage symptoms, accepting the parts you can never fix & the impact they will have on your life.

It’s painful & exhausting & many of us never completely recover. To stand any chance of healing specialised therapy is essential. There are so many barriers to reaching that help. It can take years to obtain any psychological intervention without the resources to pay privately. Even longer to receive the specialised therapy that can actually help. So many people can’t afford to wait.

This month I’m supporting The Birth Trauma Association and Sands. Both organisations support families who have experienced trauma surrounding baby loss & birth. Please join me if you can.

It feels like I’m in love…

I am often asked how I learned to feel good in my body. Whilst the answer to that question is long & winding there is one thing I always suggest. I’ve noticed tonnes of folk in the Bopo community offer the same advice; immerse yourself in fat positive content.

It’s an easy starting place. You can follow social media accounts, read articles & watch shows without having to make deep commitments to changes. Removing messages that make you feel bad and replacing them with joyous fat imaging works. It was my first step into accepting my body as it is. It remains something I expand upon.

Red  gallery wall with various feminist pieces of art

This is how I came to create my sexy self love wall. The deep red wall in my bedroom long hankered for some art, but I could never decide on what I wanted up there. When I commissioned my first Spunk Rock piece a vision began. I decided to create a kinky, feminist ode to myself. If that sounds conceited, I don’t care. It’s a private part of my house. My bold proclamation is for me.

Mirror selfie of women in knickers

Which leads me to my newest pretty. This gorgeous water colour is by Mia Macauley . She reproduced one of my all time favourite selfies. I am in love. Hot curves, delicious rolls & leopard print knickers too. I cannot wait to get me up on the wall.

water colour back view of plus size womsn in leopard print knickers

Every month, that’s what the theory is…

I know things are tight in the money department at the moment. Earnings are uncertain for lots of us, but if you possibly can, these charities could really do with your help.

The wonderful women behind All Killa No Filla are killing it during this crisis. They’re not only creating hilarious content, but continue to support worthwhile causes. Kiri & Rachel entertained us with bonus & live from lockdown episodes of their epic podcast. In return for the merriment they asked that fans donate to Every Month Manchester. They’re a group tackling period poverty and have been struggling during the corona pandemic. If you can manage, even the price of a box of tampons would be a big help.

Red blood drop with words every month

This month I also made a small contribution to Pink Lip Day for SMA. This is Kelly Fletcher’s annual fundraiser in memory of her beautiful little girl. Spinal Muscular Atrophy UK support those impacted by the condition and fund research. It can be a devastating diagnosis, please help if you can.

Little by little, a little becomes a lot in grey on pink flower backdrop

Sister of mine…

For this year’s International Women’s Day I thought I’d stay close to home. There are of course many, many wonderful women doing important things across the globe. However, sometimes you have to recognise the people on your doorstep. Thus, I give you a special women I’m lucky to share DNA with.

When my mum was pregnant with my sister I was determined that she would be a girl. People kept telling me that I might get another brother, but I would have none of it. A sister is what I wanted and a sister is what I got. Thank god! I have loved just about every minute of being a big sister. From her cute toddler babbling, playing (& fighting) in our shared bedroom, taking her out to clubs she wasn’t allowed to be in and so much more. She has been a blessing.

  • These days I sometimes have to take a minute to remember this powerful women is that same chubby cheeked wee girl. My sister astounds me. Her determination knows no bounds. She cannot be stopped. Lauren combines running her own law firm with being a literal supermummy. She does exceptional work in an often taxing field. The impact of practising criminal and family law is frequently overlooked. Solicitors really take a bullet for the rest of us. By dealing with issues many of us do not want to think about too deeply they ensure our justice system continues to function. A service we should all be grateful for.
  • When she’s not bossing it in court my sister is a fantastic Mummy. My nephew wants for nothing. He is showered with love and attention. No bedtime story is skipped, homemade food, home made costumes, even elaborate home baked birthday cakes; my sis is not sleeping on any detail. It shows, her boy is smart & funny & a total love bug.

    If balancing career & motherhood wasn’t enough my extraordinary sibling also finds time for friends and family. Oh and she looks bloody beautiful whilst doing it all. Seriously, even her lazy days are chic. My darling sister has spent too many hours by my side in a&e. She’s ferried me about and offered very wise counsel. We have also spent countless hours gabbing & dancing & laughing. I know she offers the same support & good times to many others. Quite simply, my baby sister is a phenomenal woman.

    Inspirational women aren’t all winning Nobel prizes or running for high offices. They’re all around us. So, this Women’s day give the fabulous females in your life the credit they deserve.

    Maybe I’m amazed…

    International Women’s Day is coming right up and that feels like a great excuse to celebrate women helping women. My March charities of the month are two awesome organisations doing amazing work for women in Glasgow.

    SAY focus on providing semi supported accommodation for young survivors of sexual abuse who have no safe place to live. They also have a resource centre to provide practical & mental health support. Plus provide training for other orgs working with women who have experience sexual abuse and/or domestic violence. This is vital work. Escaping sexual abuse leads to homelessness for too many young women. Having a soft place to land can save and change lives. I am in awe of the work SAY is undertaking.

    Glasgow Women’s library logo

    I am equally impressed with the amazing Glasgow Women’s Library. This inspiring institution is the only accredited museum in the uk that is entirely dedicated to the lives of women. They maintain a wonderful lending library that is open to all. Whilst also running an exceptional education programme. Many of their courses and events are open to all. They also provide opportunities more tailored to specific groups. I can not shout loud enough about this inclusive, safe space. So often the achievements of women are ignored, it is refreshing to discover a place solely dedicated to recording our history.

    SAY glasgow logo

    These are two of many organisations working hard to support and uplift women. Women fighting to make the lives of our sisters better is a truly beautiful thing. Please give generously if you can.

    I wanna hold your hand…

    Valentine’s Day is rolling up this week. I know it’s a marmite type celebration, but I’ve always liked it. I think it’s nice to devote a day to being a little soppy or sexy or both. Obviously don’t save it all for that one day, but a bit of extra lurve in the depths of winter is no bad thing.

    That said I know that not everyone is feeling romantic. Some folk are lonely, some revel in their Singleton status, some eschew the expectation of performing on a certain day. All are absolutely right to feel what they feel. So, I thought I’d offer a range of valentine’s gifts to suit all. Buy them for a lover, a friend, yourself or just because they’re cool.

    She’s Angry is one of my favourite insta accounts. I pretty much love everything they create. Their Self healing piece proudly hangs on my bedroom wall. This is another triumph.

    She’s angry print. A woman wearing white pants with the words I said what I said across her collar bones

    She’s Angry

    These stunning creations are high on my wish list. They are the perfect gift for yourself & any gorgeous chick in your life. What could be better than having your self love emblazoned on your arse?

    Plus size model wearing lingerie with self brings beauty embroidered on

    Felicity Haywood Playful Promises

    If you’ve had it with the romance & just want to get physical, make yourself clear with this pendant. I love a bit of crude humour. When juxtaposed with the traditional/delicate I love it even more.

    Good love heart pendant with the inscription, less talk more cock

    Nouvelle Nouvelle

    On a sweeter note there is this cute lamp. If your house is full of love or you’re trying to will it so, this cute neon is a perfect addition.

    Desk last lamp with red neon ‘love’ inside large exposed bulb

    Not on the High Street

    Now back to the bawdy. If you want to add a bit of kink to your life; Spunk Rock is the place for. Whether it’s sexy prints, drag queen portraits or one of a kind commissions, art doesn’t get hotter. I own a few of their pieces & I cannot wait to purchase more.

    Spunk Rock

    Do you have someone special, but are still feeling a tad pissed off at the world? Why not combine the romantic with the radical. Any politically informed hottie would be delighted to sport this ring.

    Gold & silver band rings engraved with fuck the Tories

    Fuck the Tories

    I shall end on a frothy note. This cute print takes references from The Beatles & Friends. It’s gentle, pretty & the right kind of soppy.

    Print of a lobster with the words, I wanna hold your hand

    Blank Inside Design

    And I can’t help loving myself…

    Let’s start the year with my annual reminder, shall we? As we head into peak ‘new year, new you’ territory let me assure you that weight loss is not self care or improvement. Decreasing your size will not decrease your problems. Changing your diet will not change your life. You do not have to atone for any Xmas indulgence. Punishing yourself with a diet that won’t work anyway will achieve nothing. Even if you don’t believe that diet culture is harmful to you, believe me when I say it is damaging to the fat people in your life. Every time you talk in disgusted tones about how fat you are you tell us what you really think of our bodies. Trust me, we’re sick of hearing it. This is my body and it is good enough exactly as it is. I am fat and attractive and happy. Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t matter. I’m so much more than flesh & skin anyway. It’s sad & frustrating that people still need to be reminded of this.

    Snapshots of a fat body

    Easy ways to support your fat friends…

    I think most people want to be loving & supportive of their friends. Whenever I discuss body positivity (online or in person) most decent straight sized people are mostly in favour of the theory. I’m often congratulated & told it is important to spread the message. I suspect these people would consider themselves supportive of their fat friends.

    Whilst I agree that they are well intentioned & aim to be supportive I still hear the same complaints from the fat friends over & over. It can be really hard to address these face to face. So, here is a handy to guide to help thin folk support the fat people in their life. I’m starting with the basics; 5 easy steps that anyone can manage.

    Don’t tell me you feel fat.

    Fat is not a feeling. When you describe your feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness as ‘feeling fat’, your opinions on fat are very clear. In addition please don’t complain about how fat you are when you are half my size. What I hear is that you think I am repulsive.

    Don’t include me in your diet talk

    Diets don’t work. That is scientific fact. Studies show time & again that almost every diet actually results in long term weight gain. I believe that diet talk is toxic. I can’t tell you what to do with your body, but please don’t involve me in it. I don’t want to know how many calories are in my or your meal. Keep your weight goals to yourself. Food has no moral value, you’re not being good when you order a salad. You can follow whatever regime you please without telling me about it.

    Don’t expect me to always be ok with trawling around shops that don’t carry my size.

    I can’t tell you how many shopping trips I have been on where there was no chance of me buying anything. I’m not even sure that most straight sized people are even aware of this. I’m not saying I’ll never help you pick out a new frock, but please try to be aware that it isn’t all that much fun for me. There are limits to how much time I want to spend sitting in waiting rooms holding your coat.

    Don’t laugh at/make fat jokes.

    Whether it’s a character in a film or a disparaging comment about that bitch you hate at work when you include their weight it stings. When you find Thor in a fat suit hilarious you’re laughing at my actual body. If you can’t criticise Trump without mentioning his weight you are telling me that him being fat is part of what you dislike about him.

    Don’t comment on weight loss/gain

    The aim of my body positivity is reach a point where body size is neutral. I would dearly love for my bulk or lack there of to just not matter. With that in mind, please don’t comment on my weight fluctuations. Weight loss is not inherently good. Any changes may be unintentional. They may not even be benign. The size of my person requires no discussion. In the same vein don’t expect me to congratulate or castigate anyone else’s weight change.

    I know some readers will be thinking this is all very demanding. No doubt the, we can’t say anything anymore mob, will have lots to say about my suggestions. Remember, though, they are only suggestions. No one can stop you from saying anything you feel you must. I’m simply letting you know that when you do, it hurts. It comes down to respect. The choice is yours.

    It’s a me, myself kinda attitude…

    Self care is a phrase that makes me boak. It has so many bullshit connotations that I just can’t be doing with. I’m not interested in the healing powers of green tea, crystals or turmeric. A cup of tea and a chat won’t fix my crazy head. Neither will congratulating myself for brushing my teeth. If any of that works for, knock yourself out, I’m genuinely happy for you. It all just leaves me with a bad taste (literally in some cases) in my mouth. However, I do believe that you have look after yourself. It’s important to pay attention to the little things that make a difference to your day/life. And every now and again you have to go BIG.

    Hotel do not disturb sign

    That’s exactly what I did last week. I’ve been walking the tightrope of mental & physical health flares. I’m tired, I’m sore, I’m sad and with the arrival of my 39th birthday I’m old too. I was in need of a treat. So, I gave myself a 5 star escape.

    I booked a couple of nights at a boutique hotel in my city. Checked into my beautiful room and checked out of reality for a few days. I told no one. I drank champagne cocktails in the epic roll top bath. Ordered room service and watched old movies in the gigantic bed.

    Hotel room with roll top bath Grand staircase and stained glass window, dining room with chandelier and champagne cocktail

    It did me good to dip out of my real life. It hasn’t solved any of my problems, but man alive was it good to have some respite. It also felt really amazing to be able to do a lovely thing for myself. It’s great to be treated by others, but there is a deep satisfaction in giving yourself something you need.

    ly looking in mirror in white hotel robe, ly soaking in roll top bath

    My advice would be less ‘self care’ and more taking care of yourself.

    It’s later than you think…

    I think it’s universally acknowledged that getting older is a wee bit scary. As one approaches those big milestone ages it is hard not to ponder the big questions. 39 is frightening mainly because of its proximity to 40 & all that entails.

    I remember being worried in the run up to the big 30 too. Mainly because I felt like I wasn’t where I had imagined I would be at that stage of my life. That little measure of fear probably helped in the long run. It helped me make some needed changes. My thirties have been far happier than the preceding years. I believe what made that possible was time. I had time to think and plan and manoeuvre.

    Ultimately, though, I’m approaching 40 still missing the crucial piece of my puzzle. However, this time I am very nearly out of time. My options are ever shrinking. That is frightening on a whole other level.

    I sometimes feel like the proverbial guilty feminist when I have this conversation. Fear of ageing is often assumed to be about vanity. It’s thought silly to worry about grey hairs or crows feet. It’s assumed the desire to stay young is about adherence to sexist beauty standards. Or if it runs deeper the biological clock is referenced in demeaning tones. Ageing childless and/or single women are often perceived as desperate or pathetic. I suspect much of this is internalised, but I had to get these messages somewhere!

    Balloon with sorry about my internalised misogyny

    Where am I going with this? I suppose I just want to say it is ok. Things become a cliche for a reason. Ageing is scary. Whether that is because you are worried about physical changes, not achieving goals, your own mortality or a all of the above. It’s ok. Most folk struggle a little with change. It’s perfectly understandable to feel uncomfortable with the alterations you see on the mirror. It’s fine to be concerned about the irrevocable biological changes that age brings. Knowing that some opportunities have passed you by can be hard to accept. The unstoppable nature of the passage of time can be alarming.

    In many ways age is just a number. Nevertheless, ageing does have concrete ramifications. It isn’t anti feminist to accept or care about them. A big part of the significance of our appearances is routed in living in a patriarchal society. It isn’t merely a shallow obsession with attractiveness; women’s ageing is not as viewed sympathetically. There are real life implications beyond aesthetics. Career prospects, financial considerations, medical and fertility issues are a big deal. Even if you just really lovely your hair and don’t want it to go grey, you’re allowed to have a wobble about that.

    ly looking in mirror sign towel around body and hair

    In the end the thing that makes it so worrisome is also what helps me deal with it. You can’t stop time. It is entirely out with our control. Feel whatever feel. Talk it out. Then carry right on living because it always later than you think.