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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I’m not sorry…

I believe the ‘May you live in interesting times’ debate is well and truly settled. These times are no blessing. Life has become that dog in the burning house meme. We’re all expected to carry on, but hey, I don’t think any of us are fine.

Dog in a burning room with a speech bubble saying this is fine

In recent years we’ve had the rise of the right. Politicians who have zero interest in the common good, civic responsibility or even telling the fucking truth. Police are still murdering POC without consequence, whilst they simultaneously neglect to intervene when a maniac massacres small children. The poor get poorer, the rich get richer. Footballers have to intervene to feed hungry children because our leaders have absolutely no interest in people who aren’t just like them. A global pandemic is killing millions and spawned a new kind of selfish. The same people who won’t wear a piece of cloth on their face to protect other will happily force a ten year old child to give birth to a rapist’s child. A new, extra virulent type of anti vaxxer has infected our society. Marginalised groups are more at threat than ever; hate crimes soar. The American right to a gun cannot be challenged, but abortion, gay marriage, trans rights, basic medical care and voting rights are always on the table. The tories lie, cheat and steal right under our noses. They rape and harass to no one’s surprise and the party doesn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed. Parliamentary goal posts are moved at will, Mp’s get a raise and workers whose wages don’t even keep up with inflation are shamed for striking. Covid, corruption, inequality and of course inflation rage. The PM has gold wallpaper and blow jobs in Westminster. The rest of us dread the electric bill and can’t afford butter. While he’s paying his various flings with public money disabled people can’t even co habit without losing meagre government assistance. The earth we stand on is crumbling beneath our feet and I haven’t even scratched the surface. There’s a whole world of cruelty out there, it never ends.

Did you think that paragraph never end? Where you begging for full stop followed by nothing? Join the club. This isn’t burnout. I don’t need a bit self care and neither do you. We need a revolution. Watching the scummiest humans on the planet make everything worse day after day, year after will destroy any decent person.

If you feel like you’re losing it, I think that’s perfectly reasonable. If you’re angry and sad and feel utterly helpless, I’m right there with you. I am sorry that you’re expected to carry on regardless. I’m sorry that you must live in these intolerable times without any grace. I don’t know what will make any of this any easier, but if you do, please give that to yourself. Don’t apologise for what you need or your reaction to our atrocious world. Nothing is ok, we don’t have to waste energy pretending it is.

* Obviously let’s all organise, protest, donate, vote and support each other as much as we are able. Change won’t happen if we don’t force it, but please also take care of yourself.

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Those who trespass against us…

Were you taught to forgive & forget? I think forgiveness is a virtue that most children are encouraged to embrace. If like me you went to a Catholic (or any domination) school you likely had whole lessons on it. Parables, examples of Jesus forgiving all sorts of bad behaviour and even the big man himself wiping the slate clean a plenty. Forgiveness was a given.

White stone with words ‘I forgive you’ lying on sand

That all feels fairly reasonable as a kid. I bought into forgiveness being the decent thing. Then of course you get older. The stakes get a little higher. The religious teaching no longer hold sway and the concept of forgiving becomes very different. It is much harder to offer absolution to people who do terrible things & cause real harm. It gets complicated. Do we forgive people who never genuinely apologise? What about those who repeat the bad? And what about the whole forgetting part? Is it wise to wipe our memories of knowledge that may well protect us in the future?

Then there are the people who will tell you that forgiveness is solely about you. You forgive the trespasses, no matter how bad because it’s how you heal. Not forgiving is carrying the toxicity with you. Many times I hear supposedly wise folk advise that forgiving someone doesn’t mean what they did was ok. We do it for our own health. We can forgive and walk away. The key to our own peace is in the forgiveness.

None of that has ever made sense to me. If you remove the ‘what would Jesus do’ element (which I very much do), surely we offer pardons voluntarily? If we don’t feel remotely forgiving, why should we force it? To me, forgiveness is a two person activity. First of all, someone has to be sorry to even qualify. Secondly, they have to actually take steps to do better. Without these factors forgiveness is meaningless.

I don’t buy the forgiveness is for me spin either. It’s entirely possible to remove someone from your life without forgiving them. A person can move on without forgiving. People who hurt us don’t necessarily have to play a part in our healing journey. They don’t have to factor in our future lives at all. I do not believe that forcing myself to absolve a person I do not consider deserving of that mercy will bring anyone peace. If it feels right, it’s probably right. On the other hand, there are things in life that are unforgivable. That’s ok.

You don’t need my (or anyone else’s) permission, but if no one else has ever said it, please know you do not have to forgive. You can carry on, fix anything that person damaged, learn whatever lessons the issue presents and live a lovely life. I’ve done it. I have judged the actions of someone I once loved unforgivable. I won’t ever forgive that person. They did a heinous thing. They never offered me a satisfactory apology. Never made any effort to correct their behaviour. My refusal to discharge their wrongs hasn’t hampered me in any way. I removed them from my life. I had therapy. I had time. I took note of the signs I missed, the acts I accepted and I moved on. I don’t feel anything at all about that person now. I rarely think of them. When they occasionally come up in conjunction with other things I am unbothered. I’m good.

View of sea and cliffs off mull

Forgiveness is optional. It can’t be demanded or guilted from you. Choosing not to forgive is valid. It won’t make you bitter or stunt your healing. You are allowed to build a healthy and happy life on your terms. Never mind JC. Ask yourself what you want and do that.

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Over the faultline…

In a previous post I discussed some developments with my long covid debacle. I had to wait a while to see a specialist and have some tests done, but I am now closer to a diagnosis. I will speak on that later as I have two more tests to under go before that is finalised.

I am feeling deflated. My appointment this week didn’t hold any surprises, but there weren’t answers either. The consultant couldn’t give me any opinion on whether my current symptoms would improve or resolve. She also didn’t have any suggestions to improve symptoms that I am not already doing. Drs still have a lot of ‘don’t knows’ when it comes to long covid. That’s not anyone’s fault, but it is incredibly difficult to deal with. As I have said before, the thought of being stuck in my current condition is terrifying.

Large modern glass and steel hospital building

I am trapped within by body’s limitations. I feel useless and unreliable. In the last two weeks I have had to miss a funeral, reschedule medical appointments & cancel just hanging out at my friend’s house because I was too ill to get out of the house. I can’t keep up with housework or actual work. I am almost always saying no. When I see my niblings I can’t play the way I want to. I can’t help out my Mum friends/family the way I want to and used to. I can’t visit friends I haven’t seen since pre pandemic because the night before I am due to go I end up in hospital. Any outing I can make I constantly interrupt with my need to rest. People always have to ask if I am ok, if I can manage and so on. I hate it. I don’t want the people I love to be worried about me all the time. I make everything harder for everyone.

Women’s legs on a bench with handbag and walking stick

For me this is failing on all fronts. I’m not doing anything well. Doing everything that has been suggested to help and having no improvement is so dispiriting. Gentle exercise might help, but too much will exacerbate symptoms. I struggle to do 5 mins of gentle yoga stretches without getting so dizzy I pass out. Swimming is great, but I’ve been advised not to go alone. I’ve doubled my fluid intake. I’m resting and doing all the recommended exercises when I am sat down. I stand up slowly, clench muscles and don’t stay in the same position too long. I’ve gone for every test and treatment. I’m utilising every trick in my pain relief deck. I’ve cut back, more rest days, meditate, take deep breaths. Nothing works. My pain levels have not reduced. Dizziness & fainting will not abate. My heart continues to race and I can never get a breath. The brain fog is the worst I have ever experienced. No one has any other help to offer me.

California fault line

I don’t know how to adapt to this. It is very hard to see how I live a fulfilling life in this state. I know I have felt this way before and found a way, but my horizons keep shrinking. Hopefully it will get better or I will rise to the challenge. Right at this moment I don’t know how to do that. I am more stuck than I have ever been.

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The Fear…

I planned a really lovely weekend. I was going to visit a friend I haven’t seen since pre pandemic. She lives by sea and always makes me giggle like a maniac. I was so looking forward to it, but my body had other ideas.

ly is in a hospital bed wearing a face mask and hospital gown. She has leads attached to her chest

On Friday evening my chest pain got really bad. Then I had a fainting spell. As soon as I managed to get on my feet I would faint again. Sitting on my hall floor with my head spinning and heart pounding I felt scared.

I wasn’t scared of one particular thing; the fear was in the uncertainty. Not knowing how bad this is. Not even knowing what exactly this is or if it will ever go away. I have felt so fragile and vulnerable in these last few months. I haven’t been able to trust my body at all.

I have gotten used to my body failing me, but this has been on a whole new level. Every time I stand up my head spins and my whole body tingles. I can’t catch my breath, I don’t know if I will be able to stay on my feet. I have always prized my self sufficiency and it feels as though it has been slipping away.

My weekend in hospital hasn’t changed anything. Drs gathered some more information, but they couldn’t solve the problem. I await appointments with specialist consultants. Hopefully they can get to root of my long covid complications. The truth is I don’t even want to consider living like this permanently. It’s just too terrifying to think about.

For the moment I am happy to be home with my furry little nurse. I’m trying to rest and not stress about all the things that I am not getting done.

Black cat snuggling on blankets being petted

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Make me feel…

Of late I have been bothered by much of the therapy speak I see cropping up everywhere. I’ve always been slightly irritated by the therapy buzz words, but it used be reserved to certain arenas. Now it feels impossible to get away from it. Some are impenetrable, some misapplied and some a little stupid. So, come with me in a little therapy rant.

Sit with it.

The ‘it’ being emotions. I doubt there is anyone who has ever sought mental health treatment who is unfamiliar with this phrase. I have been advised to ‘sit with’ all manner of feelings. I’ve never been entirely sure what this means. Nor has any explanation ever satisfied me. Let yourself feel it makes sense if you are actively avoiding emotions. I used self harm, disordered eating and occasionally alcohol to block emotions that I wasn’t able to deal with. However, when I moved past avoidance it was still the guidance I was given. When I was ready to acknowledge and tackle those feelings I needed more. ‘Let yourself feel it’ is redundant. I am feeling it; that is the problem.

Sit with it in black letters

Don’t Judge it.

Once you are sitting in all that emotion you will often be advised ‘not to judge it’. Just feel it, they’ll say. Well, I’m sorry, that’s impossible. I have already judged it. Judging is a prerequisite for finding something problematic. The judgement is automatic. More than that, it’s involuntary. The minute I find the emotion unpalatable it has been judged. I came to the (sometimes correct) conclusion that perhaps what these therapist meant was don’t judge yourself for having that emotion. That makes sense, I can work on not attaching negative connotation to what I feel or how uncomfortable that makes me. I can even get on board with attempting not to label specific emotions intrinsically negative. I’m not convinced, but I do see how in some cases that could be fruitful. However, removing the intuitive I DO NOT LIKE THIS just doesn’t strike me as a realistic goal. If I were able to control my brain in that way, I wouldn’t have a problem.

Let it go.

Feel it and then let it go is definitely the aim. I’m not sure it actually counts as advice though. I know that getting stuck in difficult emotions is not good for me. What I need is help learning the way out if that. Restating what I should do is not helpful. I know the problem, I am here because I am looking for answers.

Inner Child

Many years ago when I first experienced therapy the inner child thing was kind of a joke. It never came up. Of course therapists talked about childhood experiences & being compassionate to past versions of yourself. However, a psychologist would never say the words ‘inner child’. Now it is everywhere; from woo woo spiritual healers to actual trained therapists. I’m sure it applies to some people, but it’s just not relevant to me. My inner child is a ok. I had a remarkably lovely childhood. I was loved, appreciated, supported, safe and very well taken care of. My ‘inner child’ is probably the healthiest part of me. I’m not carrying any painful scars from childhood. So, I have found it incredibly frustrating that everyone and their granny wants me to get in touch with my inner child and heal her. Even when I proffer my history and explain that my upbringing is not a problem area, I am still pressed to explore it. I don’t know how or why this happened, but I really don’t love it.

Picture of ly  with her hands on her hips and drawing of a child in her belly

Be vulnerable

This is another one that totally has merit in the right situation. There have been times when I have been scared of touching memories and emotions that made me feel vulnerable. I did need to work through that. Being vulnerable can be frightening, but it is also necessary. I would argue that engaging in therapy is already submitting to vulnerability in many ways. The showing up is a great first step. However, the canonisation of vulnerability has gone too far. There is definitely a time and a place for vulnerability. We can’t and shouldn’t always expose weak spots. We live in a fairly brutal capitalist society and being completely honest about your vulnerabilities will not serve you in many situations. People will take advantage, they will bypass you based on their perception of that vulnerability and many folk will judge you. Still I hear professionals who really should know better urge everyone to embrace their vulnerability throughout their life. It drives me crazy; we need to protect ourselves. Let yourself be vulnerable in safe spaces only.

Drawing of hands holding a heart on green background

Am I just jaded? Or do you feel frustrated by these therapy catchphrases? Maybe you have your own therapy pet hates. I would love to know your takes.

Close up of sleeining cat face and paws
Adorable Bronan for rant tax.

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An ideal husband…

In real life I have discovered that I’m just not the marrying kind. Gone are days of planning what flowers & venue I’d like. Except of course in my fantasies. I know I don’t want the traditional set up in reality, but I could definitely live happily ever after with these fictional husbands.

Frankie Boyle

I’ve taken a tip from Joey & Chandler and gone local. Frankie is Glasgow born & bred. He lives here, we share a cultural background, we would understand each other’s accents. Obviously, he’s hilarious which every woman knows is a knicker dropper. He’s also intelligent, thoughtful & socially conscientious. He gives me good partner vibes. In my mind he is the perfect mix of old school Glasgow & talk weird poetry with you all night guy. Total fantasy husband material.

Bearded, smiling man in thee piece tweed suit

Ian Hislop

My Hislop love is no secret. This man’s wit & intelligence knock me out. You can see him striving to maintain integrity while he uncovers the lack of it in others. He’s been married to the same woman for a long time; proof of husband material abilities. Ian will say his shit right to whoever’s face and that’s a quality I am into. There’s also a supreme underlying confidence which I believe all adds up to literal big dick energy. I do, I really do.

Laughing man in a suit with arms crossed

Pete Davidson

Pete is a change of pace. I have only recently become aware of his existence when the internet went wild about him bagging hot ladies. I wondered who this dude was & why everyone was so shocked. Ten mins googling & some YouTube videos later I was smitten. I totally get it. His gangly honesty is appealing. This is a man who would keep you laughing & be delighted to follow your lead. I can handle a bit of chaos. The Kardashian thing is a problem, but hey, this fantasy.

Smiling man in black suit and tie with plantinum blonde hair

Kevin Whatley

Or more specifically Inspector Lewis, the character he played. Lewis is your classic family man. He adored his wife, couldn’t look at another woman for years after her death. Loving Father, doting grandfather, caring friend & all round nice guy. He has all those cute Dad jokes & soulful eyes. In short, he’s a keeper. The cop thing would be a spanner in the works in real life, but again, we’re in dream land.

Man in light coloured suit  sitting on park bench with hands in his pockets

Owen Hunt

My Grey’s Anatomy fav is Owen. I like his intensity. This is not a man with commitment issues. He will marry you at the drop of hat. He’s dying to be a Daddy and he’ll tenderly nurse you through any traumatic event that occurs. All the while saving lives & maintaining a raw ‘do you in the boiler room’ hotness. Forget McDreamy, McSteamy & even Evil Spawn, Hunt is my medical dreamboat.

Red haired man in blue scrubs with arms crossed over his chest

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Feels like home to me…

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody. Be you a lover or a hater, I hope you’re having a good day. I’ve always liked it. It’s nice to have day to celebrate love. I mean sure, we should be spreading it all year round. It is still nice to have day dedicated to getting smoochy.

I don’t have one true love this year, but I can still have a little fun with v day. Fun aside, I find this year that I am thinking about someone in particular. Someone I probably ought not to ponder over, but I can’t help myself.

Sometimes you feel a connection to a person even when it makes no sense. You go through the hurt and happy. Back to pain Then more happy. It’s impossible, puzzling & never going to work. You still can’t entirely walk away. Or is this just me?

Cléa Lala

I’m not sure why easy rarely features in my romantic choices. Perhaps I like a challenge. I do know it’s hard to give up on a person who feels like home.

Comfortable…

We’re all familiar with those comfort zone quotes, yes? Basically the message being you have to step out of your comfort zone to achieve success. There’s a grain of truth. Sometimes you have to try new, scary things. There are certainly times when you must push yourself. What happens to that wisdom when comfort isn’t exactly part of your repertoire?

Magic is on the other side of your comfort zone in blue letters on cloudy sky background

Perhaps I bring my own hang ups to this, but I’ve all read this kind of advice as a dig. To me it feels like being told I’m not brave or ambitious or working hard enough. Long before I had physical health issues I struggled with mental illness. As a result, comfort has been hard to come by. When your head is making you feel that everything is wrong, you’re never very comfortable. The world is an assault. Every decision is fraught, navigating daily life can be arduous. Living in that state makes running away from comfort the antithesis of healthy.

Jump to now, when I am somewhat healthier mentally, but much more unwell physically and it seems more nonsensical. I’m not sure I remember what real comfort feels like. I wake up in pain, I go through my day in pain and I lie down at night still in pain. My mind is continually balancing what I can do against what needs to be done. Even in moments when I am physically resting my thoughts are rarely in repose. When washing ones hair or making a phone call is ‘out of the comfort zone’ is doesn’t feel like the magic lies there.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say my best work comes when I can create as much ease as possible. I have a tiny office in my home with a desk etc, but I do much of my writing with my laptop on the sofa. I rebel against traditional work clothes and wear what I feel like me in. I say no to projects that I know will be too much. I give realistic timescales and I guard my boundaries. When my body/mind or both are screaming, I stop. I do so because I know what lies beyond that line is breaking point. I am aware that this may go against much of hustle culture, but I believe I produce magic when I am whole.

A line of matches.  Going from unspent to cmpletelt burnt out o

This doesn’t mean I don’t stretch myself. I give talks when public speaking is absolutely not my strength. I do so in ways that are safe for me. I spread them out, I’ll talk only on topics that I feel passionate about & to groups that I think are worthwhile. I lay myself bare in articles, but only on my terms. I have undertaken things that I doubted I was capable of; I did them when I was up for the challenge. I have never found bulldozing my limits to be productive.

I live in a world where comfort is rare and precious. Almost everything involves some kind wrestling with myself. I do not enjoy it. I am not prepared to make that a virtue. What’s more, I contend that this applies to most. You shouldn’t have to go to war to succeed. Your level best is good enough. We all need a hard no in our vocabulary. My best lives in a cocoon of measures that help me feel my best. I’d suggest that yours might too.

Ly  is wearing an aqua dress with floral leggings leaing against a post with a hand on her hip n

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