Feelin’ good as hell…

Global warming has given us another insane heatwave. It’s hard to keep cool in this weather. If you are concerned about what others may say about any flesh you reveal, it’s even harder. So, I thought I’d cover some old ground just in case any new readers need some tips. Here’s my guide to getting comfortable with your body.

Look at yourself.

I think the first step is looking at yourself. Really look. Stop avoiding mirrors and rushing to get dressed after a showers. Get comfortable naked. And in your underwear. And different types of clothes. Touch yourself, not the way (well, that way if you want). When it comes to your body familiarity does not breed contempt. Getting to know your body leads to acceptance, which is the first step to self love. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn to enjoy your jiggle.

Various images of body parts

Take pictures.

Photograph yourself every chance you get. Selfies, nights out, big events, pictures of your feet, anything. Get used to looking at yourself living your life. I used to duck out of pictures because I hated the way I looked in them. Forcing myself to be present in those pictures plus taking hundreds of myself is the only thing that let me see the truth. I didn’t like the things society had taught me not to like. I hated my rounder face, flabby arms & chunky calves because I thought I had to be something else to be worthy. Once I started appreciating those pictures for what they were; a record of living, I could enjoy them. The more I looked at images of myself and others the more I could see that everyone had those terrible unflattering shots where they look nothing like themselves. Everyone had those snaps that amplify their perceived flaw. Everyone has those pictures in which we miraculously look like a model version of ourselves. None of it matters. What matters is having the memory of that time & place. Capturing that moment of you living your life. Seeing myself living & loving in those pictures showed me that my body was absolutely good enough. Your body is just the vehicle that allows you experience the world. What you look like at any given time matters much less than what you’re feeling & seeing & loving.

Happy fat snap shots

Positive consumption.

Surround yourself with things that make you feel good. Change your reading, watching & following habits. Ditch investing in anything that is focused on diet culture & traditional beauty standards. Discovering the Body Positive blogging community changed my life. For the first time I was seeing fat people who liked themselves. People with bodies similar to mine proudly taking up space & looking amazing. When you submerse yourself in spaces that reject fat phobia you begin to feel differently about yourself. To begin with I was in awe of those plus bloggers. I thought I could never have their confidence or be so beautiful. As I learned more about bopo and started unlearning all I previously been taught about my body, I had a revelation. If these fat women I was admiring were stunning, sexy & elegant then I could be too. If I see beauty in other fat bodies then what I despise about myself is not my wobbly belly. Click unfollow on anything that makes you feel not good enough. Replace that stuff with content that embraces diversity and honours people who look like you.

Start doing

Make a list of all of the things you want to do but feel you can’t because you are fat. Not just wild ambitions, everything. Do you worry about eating crisps on the bus? Think you shouldn’t wear a short skirt or even shy away from getting on top with your lovers? Put it all on the list and then start doing them. Start living your life. Pick the easiest ones first. Trust me, your confidence will grow. There will always be someone who does not like you loving your fat self. There will sometimes be looks or comments. You will stop feeling crushed by them. When you realise how much you gain from accepting your body as it is and experiencing your life to the max, someone saying you’re fat no longer matters. Losing weight will not make you happier. All you problems shrink to fit into your smaller body. You can live now.Fat woman living

Stay tuned for my advice on avoiding all the discomforts summer can bestow on is chubs.

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And I think of you…

I’m off to an excellent start with doing things that make me feel good. After months of things getting in the way I managed to get a last minute tattoo appointment.

The whole tattoo process makes me feel kinda wonderful. I love the sensation; it’s a nice pain, if there is such a thing. I adore the results even more. My tattoos are mostly words that stir me. The latest addition follows that theme.

e e Cummings tattoo

It’s a little section of e e Cummings’ In The Rain. I’ve wanted these words on my skin for a long time. They’re beautiful and touch many of my sensitive spots. Cummings has always made my heart thump and it’s amazing to carry his genius with me.

I can’t praise True Colour Tattoo enough. It’s such a warm, friendly studio with incredibly talented artists. Chrisse was super lovely and her work is fantastic. Bring tattooed by a woman always improves my experience.

Tattoo in progress at true colour

This is my first colour tattoo. I swithered about it, but green was definitely the right way to go. The tattoo is gorgeous. It’s aided a tiny bit of healing. Oh & it’s helping me tick off one of my 40 before 40. Not bad for a spontaneous Wednesday decision.

New tattoo ly h Kerr

Truth will mess…

I’ve scaled back my ‘social engagements’ of late for various reasons, meaning note worthy outfits have been sparse. If I’m not in my jammies I’m doing medical nonsense or carry on with the little ones. High fashion has not been my go to.

Upping my #ootd game on my mind I planned something cute, did my hair & painted face. Then I made the stupid mistake of waiting until the end of a baba filled day to take any pictures. The rain wrecked my hair, I look frazzled and I’m really not loving how my arms look. I was going to abandon posting this look, but then it occurred to me that this is life. Flabby scarred arms, crumpled clothes & tired everything are reality. All the things you do to make the mess are worth more than the perfect picture anyway.

ly h KerrBaby playing

Close up eating broccoli ly h KerrBabies lunchingly h kerr rumpled

T- Shirt – Forever 21

Dress – Hearts & Rose

Shoes – Primark

You’re gonna carry that weight a long time…

I had my bloods done this week. I have blood taken most weeks. This time I had a new nurse. She asked about my scars (nicely). I replied self harm. She exhaled sympathetically and said ‘it certainly left its mark’. Ain’t that the truth.

There’s the obvious scars all over my skin. The toll on my body that you can read about in my medical records and the indelible marks on my mind. Then the more I thought about it the clearer I saw that self harm has permeated throughout my life. I have so many habits, rules & thoughts that all loop back to a time when I was routinely hurting myself. The depth of it is both a revelation and strikingly obvious. Which is confusing, so I’m just going to unpack it here. Someone once told me they read my writing because it’s the best way to work out what I’m actually thinking. That’s often why I write it. So, excuse me if I explore my insides with an audience.

There are seemingly trivial things that at first glance appear to be just casual preferences. I only buy dark bedsheets. All my bedding is black or red or purple. Sure, I like those colours, but really I switched to exclusively dark tones because you can’t get blood stains out of the lighter ones. You also can’t see the stains between washing. I realise how gross that sounds, but when you always have open wounds, your sheets are continuously bloody. You get used to it. Ditto all of the above for dark coloured jammies. Along similar lines is my constant manicure. I’ve always liked to paint my nails. However, I didn’t need to keep my nails painted at all times until cutting came along. If you didn’t know, it can be really hard to get blood out from under finger nails. You can scrub for hours and still see red. Covering the tell tale crimson tinge became routine. My love of shiny black polish on my toes has the same origins. My toes don’t see a lot of blood these days, but necessity has grown into habit. My cardigan collection also has secrets origins. I have a million cardigans, shrugs etc. Whenever I buy any outfit I immediately run through what cover up I could match with it. I don’t even keep my scars covered anymore, but I still find myself buying items to hide under. Again, precaution has become ingrained.

Bed

The tentacles extend further. Years of self harm has skewed my perspective on a number of things. For instance, if you accidentally injure yourself I am the best and worst person to ask for help. I’ll definitely give top notch wound care advice. I know what dressing you need and how to clean every gash. I’ll also almost always think you’re making a fuss of nothing. I’ll probably think you can manage without medical assistance unless your leg is hanging off. When you cry or complain about the pain, I will be outwardly kind, but inside, I think you should cowboy up. Your call an ambulance is my stick a plaster on it. I know I’m wrong, but that’s how my mind works. Furthermore any accidental injury that anyone ever tells me about will arouse my suspicion. Same deal for most scars. I spent years lying about cuts and breaks and burns. I have concocted excuses of every kind. No matter how plausible your story I will have a moments doubt. It’s no reflection on you. I know you didn’t do it to yourself. It’s just that I also know that people lie. I lied. To everyone. Repeatedly. Habitually. For a very long time. It warped my thought process. Oh and if I have an accident I spend a lot of time carefully crafting how I will explain it. My head’s first assumption is that everyone shares my doubts. I’m always scared that someone will think I’ve fallen off the recovery wagon. Logic kicks in and throws the crazy out, but there’s a delay.

Black toe nails & tattoos

I never answer the door in short sleeves. Everyone knows they can’t just drop by my house. In the past I didn’t know if myself or my home would be fit for visitors. The anxiety of unexpected guests lives on even if the pools of blood do not. My first aid tin is always extensively stocked. I still can’t go anywhere without a cover up. My days of hiding every scar are gone, but my brain needs to know I have the option.

Blood transfusion

Watching cinematic portrayals of gore annoys the hell out me. I know that slash wouldn’t produce so much blood. Blood doesn’t stay wet that long. Cutting your wrists is nowhere as easy as films would have you believe. Cold water and salt is how you remove a blood stain. Rotting blood smells a bit fishy. A troponin test will determine if you’re having an actual heart attack. Stitches in the stomach don’t really hurt, don’t bother with local. The body takes 4-6 weeks to replace the red cells when blood is lost. Drs will usually insist on an transfusion when haemoglobin drops below 7 g/dl. Learning the topology of Langer’s lines allows for cuts to be made in the correct direction to reduce scarring. Inadine patches will prevent infection. Anti bacterial gel stops scars from itching. Scalpel blades can be bought in art stores. Ice can burn. Arterial blood pulses. My brain clings to all of this and more. Information, dictums & routines that no longer serve purpose, but retain a hold. That nurse was more right than she could ever imagine. Yup, self harm leaves one hell of a mark.

Most of the time…

I haven’t cut myself for a long time. Realistically speaking, I cannot ever cut myself again. They call this recovery. Apparently, I’m recovered. I just don’t always feel it.

Tonight I looked through my old self harm pictures. Yes, I have pictures. When I was in the thick of it I always took photographs. Firstly because I felt compelled to, it was part of my ritual. Also, because I couldn’t trust myself to judge the severity of my wounds. Those pictures gave me the tiny bit of distance required to see what level of medical intervention I could get away with. Now, they’re a stop gap.

They’re the thing I do when I want to cut so badly it hurts not to. I look at those images of gore & miss it.

I miss the blood. The hot, flowing, staining everything I own blood.

I miss the smell & that crackling sound my skin makes when I slice into scar tissue.

I want the pain. I want the deep, sharp trauma my blade inflicts & the hot throb of infected tissue. I long for the ache of putting a butchered arm into a sleeve.

I know that doesn’t make any sense. I know it’s sick & crazy. It is still true. There’s a reason I yearn for the carnage; it works. Only briefly and, sure, it also fucks up your life, but those moments of respite are everything. Physical pain is nothing compared to the relentless agony that can exist in my head. Most of the time it’s manageable. Most of the time I can make it sleep. Most of the time I’m in control. Control isn’t easy. It is work. Exhausting, consuming labour.

The blade is easier. In the short term it’s beautiful relief. All those horrific feelings pour out with the blood. I can slash through my anguish just as easy I hack through my flesh. That’s why we do it. In case you were wondering. The reason some us do insane things to ourselves is because it’s effective. We hurt ourselves to heal ourselves.

The calm just doesn’t last very long. The sickness comes back. It returns stronger every time. The crazy grows. You need bigger, deeper, scarier cuts to keep it quiet. Then the self harm becomes a crazy of its own. You need it. You find yourself listening to drs who say you’re going to die. And even though you really don’t want to die. It’s hard to care. Now the crazy is trying to destroy you & the cutting is competing to do you in first.

So, I don’t cut anymore. I can’t cut anymore because I cannot control it.

If I want to be in charge,

If I want a chance at living a life I love,

If I want to not hurt everyone who cares about me,

I can’t cut.

Sometimes, though, I desperately want to. The easy way out looks good. The horror movie in my head wants to come to life, but I can’t let it. I don’t cut.

I just look at old pictures

And

Write all the things I can’t bring myself to say out loud.

I don’t cut anymore & most of the time I’m glad.

Why don’t you mind your own business?

I had an interesting twitter conversation this week. Some people wanted to know how I deal with strangers asking questions about my scars. Unfortunately this is a thing that happens & one the reasons many people feel they must conceal their scars. Fortunately it is not an everyday occurrence & you can learn to handle it. I wanted to quickly share some tips that I hope will help you do just that.

First of all I feel it’s essential that you realise that no one has the right to ask you these questions. It is rude & intrusive. You do not owe these people answers, you don’t even owe them a polite response.

I totally understand that depending on a variety of factors unexpected questions about your scars can strike different chords. Sometimes I feel enraged, other days I panic & sometimes I’m just over it. Thus, my responses can differ. That’s ok. You are entitled to feel however you feel. You are not obligated to be nice or to hide those emotions from ill mannered strangers.

I tend to have ready made responses for the most common comments. They range from just shutting someone down to embarrassing them the way they tried to embarrass me. (Note : most people who ask already know what your scars are. They know their questions are akward & unkind).

So, let’s get to it. I’m going to give my to go to answer to my most often asked questions.

Q/ What happened to your arms/legs/body part?

A/ What happened to your manners?

A/ Shark attack.

A/ Me.

A/ Exactly what you think.

Q/ Why did you do that?

A/ Why do you think it’s your business?

A/ Why are you a nosey bitch?

Q/ Why don’t you cover those up?

A/ Why don’t you mind your own business?

A/ Why don’t you cover up your horrible personality?

A/ Why don’t you fuck off?

All of these responses are blunt & let nosey people know you are not all impressed with their questions. I refuse to pander to other people’s rudeness, but I know there are times when you don’t feel confident or just want to avoid a possible confrontation. I find the perfect answer in those instances is ‘it’s a long story’. It’s vague, but it is also obvious that you have no interest in pursuing the topic.

Whatever you say the important thing to remember is that you don’t need to reveal details to anyone unless you want to. It’s not your responsibility to make strangers feel comfortable & it’s certainly not your job to safeguard the feelings of people who don’t care about hurting yours. Shut them down & live your life.

Something to talk about…

A couple of weeks ago I got in a taxi (not an unusual occurrence) & engaged in the usual polite conversation with the driver. The weather, had I had a nice day & so on. Then he went quiet for a minute & said ‘can I ask your advice on something?’

This is the kind of question that usually rings alarms bells, but for some reason I decided to give this guy a chance. He had talked about his children in our short conversation & came across as a decent person. I’m glad I trusted my gut. He wanted advice on how to help his son, who had been self harming.

The taxi driver never alluded to my scars, but I presume that’s why he thought I might have advice to offer. He explained a bit about his son. How he had changed schools after a move, found it hard to make new friends, become more insular. Then how his wife had discovered their son had been injuring himself & how they were both lost. They’re son didn’t want to speak to anyone about it, they didn’t know if they should force the issue. He was increasingly unhappy, so far their attempts to help had been unsuccessful. It broke my heart. This man clearly loved his child. It was just as clear that he was utterly out of his depth.

So, I told him I had experience with self harm. Explained that it could serve a few functions. That is was habit forming & yes, it was a sign that his son was really struggling. I stressed that I wasn’t a professional mental health worker & that everyone was different, but in my experience it was best to get help as soon as possible. It was also important not to make his son feel forced into anything. Research some options & present them to his son, try to let him make choices. I suggested he make it clear that he & his wife were always available to talk about anything & offered some organisations he could contact for more advice. That was about as much as I felt able to say to a stranger during a taxi ride. I didn’t know any details of what was going on for his son, so I didn’t know what would be best for him. It felt insufficient, but when we arrived at my destination he refused to take payment. He said my words had lifted a load because now he felt like there was help for his son & he had an idea of how to find it. I got emotional, wished him the very best & thanked him for my free lift home. We parted & are unlikely to meet again.

So, why am I telling you this? I’m sharing because the more I think about it the surer I am that this kind of thing should happen more often. I think the reason it doesn’t is stigma. That taxi driver took a chance; he shared sensitive information & asked me to do the same. He dared to break a taboo & admit that he needed help. The result, hopefully is that his family will find that help. How many people struggle with mental health problems and never find the courage to ask for help? How many people just never know who they can turn to?

I’d love to live in a world where it didn’t even take courage to tell someone you’re hurting. It shouldn’t be so hard or so hidden.

If you are experiencing mental health difficulties it is imperative that you seek help right away. Mental Illness almost always get worse & harder to treat when left to fester. There is no shame in not being ok. You deserve any & all hell to feel as good as you can.

Your GP is always a good first step. Take someone you trust to advocate for you if you can.

MIND offer a variety of local services. You can find the in your area here.

SANE offer specialised mental health support. You can contact them on 0300 304 7000.

You can also call The Samaritans 24/7, 365 days a year on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org