Please don’t wake me…

Today kicks off Sleep Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of good sleep. As a chronic insomniac I am of course acutely aware of how important sleep is. I’m writing this at 4am, so I haven’t found the cure for sleepless nights. I do though have some semi successful strategies.

My relationship with sleep has flipped from one extreme to the other. In my youth I could drop off anytime, anyplace. I loved to snooze and had zero issues dropping off. I was the queen of the long lie. Sleep became a problem when I first experienced mental health problems aged 19. Unfortunately, I have never managed to regain my easy breezy relationship with slumber. Almost twenty years on I have become accustomed to functioning on a few hours a night. Chronic pain has done little to aid a peaceful night, but an inability to calmly shut down is still a major obstacle in my quest for rest.

A decent night’s repose can affect everything from heart health to sex drive. It goes without saying that exhaustion also has a massive impact on mental health. The NHS advises that most of us need around 8hrs sleep to function properly. In fact, lack of sleep can so massively impair cognitive faculties that experts suggest driving after only 5 hours sleep is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Everyone should be mightily relieved that I cannot drive.

The long-term effect of insufficient sleep is grim. The anxiety of going to bed each night knowing achieving sleep will be a battle is wearing. The more you worry about not sleeping the less likely it becomes. Constant fatigue makes getting through daily tasks difficult, which adds to one’s stress levels. This in turn pushes that magical 8 hours even further out of reach. Long sleepless nights are lonely. There’s rarely anyone else awake leaving a busy mind way too much room to mull over worries. Throw pain into mix and you have a recipe for despair. Moving through the world in a worn-out shuffle will grind you down, which is why I offer my extensively tested tips on getting some god damned sleep.
I’m not going to waste your time with milky drinks and lavender under your pillow. Everyone knows the basics and they aren’t going to cure hardcore insomnia. I don’t have a failsafe solution, if I did, I’d snoring now. However, these are the things that I have had some success with over years.

Bedroom Tips

Keep your bedroom cool. Lowering your body temperature helps the body prepare for sleep.

In theory that’s why a hot bath should aid sleep, but I find any sleepiness gained from the temp drop is lost during the process of getting dry and organised for bed. If you do less faffing post bathing it might work better for you.

No tv in the bedroom. This is a definite for me. I find a television to be the opposite of relaxing. I need my bed and bedroom to be a completely chilled out zone. Which sits nicely with my next point.

Try to make your bedroom as pleasant as possible to be in. Obviously, that means different things for different people. For me it’s nice sheets, subtle scents, comfortable mattress.

Black out blinds are your friend. I could not live without mine.

Invest in one of those huge maternity pillows. They give so much support if you have back or joint pain. Plus they’re just super comfortable.

Sound Effects

Rain on window

I use sounds machine apps. I like heavy rain/ thunderstorm type sounds, but experiment and see what works for you. Something about being safe & protected from the elements I’m hearing sometimes helps me drift off.

Soothing music (whatever that means to you) at a low volume can also help. I like to mouth the lyrics and focus on words I enjoy rather than my own thoughts. Getting the volume just right is key for me, so again, you might need to experiment. Select specific songs and make a playlist beforehand. You don’t want anything that unexpectedly bring unpleasant or stimulating associations to mind.

Preparation

I should probably have started here, but lack of sleep melts your brain. So, you’ll have deal with my disjointed thinking.

These are all evident. I’m going over them because sometimes you miss the obvious when you’re knackered.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime.

Don’t watch, read or listen to anything that will bring up stimulating emotions (nothing scary, disturbing, sad, triggering etc).

Avoid arguing or deep conversations right before you hit the hay.

Smoking, caffeine, some meds (check with gp/pharmacist) are no goes before you attempt sleep.

Against Accepted Wisdoms

Sleeping cat

I’ve consulted many Drs, Psych’s and other practitioners over the years and some of the oft repeated advice they’ve given me has turned out to be just plain wrong for me. If you find something that really does or doesn’t help, even if everyone is telling you the opposite, do you. For me this includes:

Looking at my phone in bed. Putting it on night shift mode to alter the light tone to yellowish rather than blue is a must. Otherwise I find aimlessly scrolling can be very helpful in getting me sleepy.

Reading in bed also works for me. I can’t fall asleep without reading. I find that if I just keep going until I literally can’t keep my eyes open, I have a good chance of getting into a proper sleep. I think it’s because my mind is occupied with the content of the book rather than whatever mess is in my head. Clearly, it’s important to choose the reading material with reference to my previous points.

Sharing the bed with pets. So many people have cautioned me against this. I find my petting my cat and hearing his purrs excessively relaxing. Thus, I ignore such warnings.

Hippie Dippie

Constellation lamp

I hate to be that person, but occasionally the esoteric route gets you there.

A constellation lamp in a dark room can offer something uncomplicated to focus your attention on long enough to get to sleep.

Gentle yoga – clears the mind & stretches everything in a pleasing manner.

Desperate Measures

When you’ve been attempting shut eye for hours and are reaching the point of hopelessness; get up. By that point you aren’t going to sleep. Every toss & turn just raises anxiety levels. I find it much more productive to get out of bed and stop forcing it. Do whatever you can manage and if you get drowsy try again.

Medication – You need sleep to operate. There comes a point when discussing medication options with your Gp is the sensible thing to do. I have tried several sleeping pills over the years. Most didn’t work for me. Most are not a suitable for prolonged use due to addictive and/or tolerance building properties. There are some drugs that can be used for longer periods. I have been prescribed one such medication. It doesn’t have a 100% strike rate, but when it does work it knocks me out all night.

Sleep when you can in extreme cases. Often napping is counterproductive when fighting insomnia. However, when you haven’t had more than a couple of consecutive hours sleep in weeks that goes out the window. When my sleeplessness is at its worst, I will get so completely exhausted that my body will crash. That doesn’t always happen at bed time. Take that sleep. You need it. Sleep all day if you must.

Last but Not Least

Oxytocin

Sex and orgasms in general are brilliant for sleep. Sex works on so many fronts. You can tire yourself out, all those feel good hormones chill you out and of course it’s the perfect distraction from any negative bullshit you have going on. Flying solo releases all that lovely oxytocin and melatonin too, so don’t be shy about giving it a try.

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Keeping up with the misogyny…

Last night I watched Keeping up with the Kardashians. Someone asked me to write a thing & I thought I could include the Kardashians in the piece. Full disclosure I’ve never really followed them. I’d seen the show a few times with my sis in law & obviously know snippets from the pop culture dominance. I’ve never had strong opinions about them. Their popularity confused me, but I thought them ultimately begnin. Now, I’m not so sure. 

It may sound dramatic, but I found it pretty disturbing. In the episode Kim & a bunch of people, including her sister’s ex Scott, travel to Dubai. The whole episode centres on how heartbroken the ex is as that the  sister has moved. He’s even relapsed  into drinking because he’s discovered that Kourtney is seeing someone else. It all seems fine, everyone  is sympathetic of his feelings & concerned about his wellbeing. Then it gets really weird. 

Kim & shit load of people turn up Scott’s hotel room. Someone spots a handbag & they all decide to go trawling around looking for it’s owner. Scott, looks terrified, which is bizarre. After all he’s a single adult, surely he can have whoever he wants in his hotel room? 

Anyway, the whole troupe complete their search & discover the bathroom door is locked. At which point Kim starts acting like crazy wronged wife. She screams about ‘scaring the fuck’ out the unknown woman. Then, with her whole gang watching she forces the bathroom door open & unleashes a tirade of abuse. She humiliates, bullies & slut shames another woman for the crime of spending the night with a single man. She calls her a tramp & a whore. The bit that disturbed me most is she’s loving it. You can see she is enjoying abusing this person. It’s horrible. Oh & none of the ten ish other people intervene. They all just watch this happen. 

It’s a really nasty display of someone using their power to attack someone in a weaker position. Why did she need such a big audience (& a camera crew) to confront this women? Why does she even think she has a right to say anything in the first place? 

Kim has railed against people slut shaming her for her sex tape, naked selfies etc, but relishes tearing into this stranger with the same kind of language. It’s toxic. 

The whole incident had a very sinister feel to it. Not least the scared man who allows it happen. It’s very creepy that he didn’t just ask them all to leave, right? Even weirder that her friends don’t tell her to stop. Seriously, would you watch your friend do that?

In summation they spend their trip talking about how not together Scott & Kourtney are. They celebrate her healthy decision to move on. Then they collectively lose it when the 100% single guy has a girl in his room. Kim searches someone else’s hotel room, forces her way into a locked room & viciously harasses someone for maybe having consensual sex. Let’s face it, that’s really cunty behaviour. That’s before you even figure in how intimated you’d have to be to hide/ask someone to hide in the first place. 

This is not my idea of entertainment. It’s just abuse caught on camera. For all Kim’s talk of female empowerment & body autonomy this is sheer misogyny. It worries me that hoardes of young women & girls look up to this family.   I’m watching & hoping for a backlash. This bullshit is not ok. 

This week I have been mostly…

Horny. My stupid sore body has curtailed my sex life somewhat. So, yes I am confined to Jammies, heat packs & elevating swollen feet right now. I can still I’d hark back to the days when my legs were in the air for more enjoyable reasons & the music that calls them to mind. 

Madonna’s Music album is blasting in our kitchen. I’m making tea wearing just knickers & a vest when he comes up behind me. His neck kisses are more sexy than sweet; before I know it I am pinned against the wall & he’s pulling a breast from my vest. We are right in front of a large sash window & the folk in the tenement opposite can look right in if they want to. My protestations that someone might see melt away as his mouth drifts from my nipple & heads south. By the time he’s pulling my knickers down I couldn’t care less if the whole street is watching. As Madonna provocatively demands  the dj plays a song I’m having my first ever standing up orgasm. His tongue seemed to move to the irrististable beat, I definitely ‘danced with my baby’. Thus, from the electro popish intro to the classic Madge lyrics, Music spells sex to me. 

Sometimes you meet someone & you just know something significant is going to happen. That feeling was instant with this man. At first we talked. We liked talking. Those conversations stretched from hours to months. So, when we finally crossed the line into more than words there was a certain amount of anticipation. We needn’t have worried the moment our bodies slammed against each other everything worked. He knew exactly what I wanted without a hint of direction. He dominated me to exactly the right degree. As he flung my legs over his shoulders I had Dave Matthews Band playing in head. I loved that he knew I could handle it rough. Crash Into Me was that night set to music. It was hot & kinky, but also tender. As the bite marks faded in the days after this was the song I had on repeat. 


When an ex was left with the keys to lock up his workplace I ceized the opportunity to indulge in some gross misconduct. I turned up wearing not very much & offered to perform a strip tease in his boss’ office. The song I chose to shed my lingerie to was Touch Me. Dj Rui De Silva created one of the very few dance tunes that does it for me. I loved how it felt to dance to its seductive vibe in a heaving club & it translated to one on one. The lyrics were in synch with where I was at; intense, intimate sex was my thing. I liked that this club anthem was about more than just random fucking. The sultry tones & insistent dance track still makes me feel like a siren. 

I hadn’t been with a women in a long time when I felt a connection with a chick I had thought would be just a friend. Our feminist politics got us sparking, but her curves & penchant for spikes pushed us into bed. 212 was the song that got us on the dance floor that summer & it was the theme to our fling. The pounding drum that never quit felt like how she made she cum again and again. And again. Azelia’s fierce words mirrored our ferocious feminism. When the music takes on a rolling composition like waves breaking on sand I’m drawn right back to the sensation of breasts meeting soft stomach ripples. The song is forever a metaphor for the joy to be found in female flesh & intellect. 


When a fairly new boyfriend stumbled upon some of my sex toys whilst looking for condoms his reaction spoke volumes. Next time he stayed at mine I gave him a treat. To the triply strains of Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry, I cuffed & blindfolded him. Once I’d stripped to nothing but a corset I uncovered his eyes. I processed to straddle him & drive him a little crazy by demonstrating a shiny pink vibrator. The power of having him completely enraptured was so hot. His eventual begging to be freed & allowed to touch me came during the seriously seductive Strict Machine. As a result the 70’s/electro mash up never fails to make fails to make me feel like a sexual goddess. 

Tell me lies….

The older I become the more I realise that the world lies to me. I am keep coming up against perceived wisdoms that just aren’t true. In particular I feel some life events are so surrounded in supposed gravitas that we’re all set up for a fall. So many situations that I was led to believe were scary, amazing or life changing were in fact no great revelation to me. So, here’s a my top five non milestones.

  
Losing my virginity was no big deal. It wasn’t planned, I was just getting it on with a teenage boyfriend and it happened. I can’t even really remember the details. We progressed past our usual stopping point and I realised I didn’t want him to cease. So, we continued and had sex. It wasn’t fantastic and it wasn’t awful either. I didn’t feel any great pain; I didn’t really feel much beyond a sharpness when he first penetrated me. I didn’t bleed other than slight spotting in my knickers the next day. Afterwards we didn’t have a big discussion, there were no I love yous or promises. I think we went to sleep. It was nice. We had a cuddle and kiss in the morning then I left with my best friend to find food to cure our hangovers. I honestly didn’t feel changed in anyway. It seemed to me just a natural progression. I hear other women talking about regretting who they first slept with, wishing they’d waited for someone really special or even they person they married. I’ve never felt that way. The guy I shared my first time with certainly wasn’t a great love, he turned out to be a bit of a pig, but it’s never given me a moments pause. I was a teenager, even then it never occurred to me that he would be The One. I think that’s how it should be. Sex doesn’t define a person. It’s entirely healthy to experiment, make mistakes & learn from them. For girls especially we need to remove the idea that losing your virginity is somehow losing worth. We also need to ditch expectation that your first time should be an amazing, cherished moment. It hardly ever is and that’s ok.

  
Graduation was another milestone that didn’t rock my world. Sure I was proud of myself for attaining a good degree. I had to wade through some adversity during my university years and I was glad I had made it to solid ground. Other than that, it was unspectacular. I didn’t even attend my graduation ceremony. The thought of the gown and marching on stage when my name was called made me feel nauseous. So, I didn’t bother. Neither did I have a fancy dinner or party. At the end of all our exams my friends and I had a mighty piss up, but come graduation time we were all onto the next stage. We were trying to find jobs we actually wanted whilst working jobs we needed to pay the rent. In short I was getting stuck into being an adult. Graduation already felt like old news.

  
Getting my period was another supposed life changer that left no discernible mark. I can remember my friends getting theirs before me and feeling a tad left behind. The actual details of my first period have left no imprint. I have a vague memory of perhaps calling my mum into the bathroom, but that may just be the influence of countless teen movies. My mum had gone over what to expect long before the event, so there were no shocks. My early periods were unremarkable. I didn’t suffer from cramps or mood swings. I merely found the whole thing a messy nuisance. I didn’t feel like a woman, I felt inconvenienced. 

  
For me, leaving home was also accomplished without a fuss. I had always had a good relationship with my parents, but I craved independence. So, when I fell head over feels with an inappropriate guy, I leaped at the chance to move in with him. I was young, yes, but I wasn’t scared. My mum thought it an ill fated idea and told me so. I ignored her and she knew me well enough to know she had to let me make my own mistakes. There were no arguments or tearful goodbyes. I didn’t have a lot of belongings, so the actual moving was a simple task. I had already been spending most of my time at the boyfriend’s flat, so there weren’t any ugly surprises. I had to learn to be a little smarter with my money and the bf obviously turned out to be a big error in judgement. That said, I have no regrets. I wanted to spread my wings and I did. I loved the autonomy of having my own place, even more so once I freed myself of the stupid first love. I never looked back. I have lived independently -mostly on my own- since & I wouldn’t change a thing.
Now for the one I was actually scared of, but turned out just fine. The big 3-0. In last couple of years of my twenties I had begun to slightly dread turning 30. It wasn’t the aging, but realising I was nowhere near where I thought I would be at 30. I had for some reason believed I would be settled, own my home & be well on the way to motherhood. Turns out that’s not what life had in store for me. So, I made the usual jokes about mourning my youth and felt uneasy. The funny thing is when 30 became a reality, I was completely fine. It dawned on me that my, childless, less than settled state was not actually a problem. I hadn’t met anyone I could be happy with, so singledom was clearly a better option. Living alone suited me, in fact I wasn’t sure I really wanted anyone else invading my space. As for children, yes, I wanted them, but I knew It wasn’t my time. On top of that I felt pretty good. I didn’t feel old & I still looked rather nice. My 30th birthday ended up being a lot of fun. My family and friends organised various lovely events. I was whisked away for a spa weekend and glammed up for a drunken nights out. Yet, again I had been deceived. 30 wasn’t scary, it was a blast.

  
So, what’s my point? Relax. Hardly anything ends up feeling the way we’re told it wil & that’s just fine. 

Upgrade Yourself

Recently, something has been getting on my wick. It started a few weeks ago when I overheard some boys talking on a bus. They were discussing their weekend exploits & one boy said that he’d pulled a certain girl. One of his mates said ‘ but, she’s fat’ to which the original lad replied that fat girls let you do anything. Much laughter ensued. Those pathetic fat girls are just so funny. Succumbing to any sexual pressure because no one else might ever want them ha ha ha

Ever since then I’ve been noticing the fat jokes more. Comedians, films, Facebook, they’re everywhere. All basically saying the same thing; fat women are not sexy. People only sleep with us because they’re desperate or for a bet or because we’ll be so incredibly grateful we will forget how to say no.

FUCK THAT

I am sexy. Men (& women) desire me. I am chatted up rather a lot actually. I have dated extensively. Some of the folk I’ve been with were seriously hot and shock horror, they thought I was hot too. 

  

My sex life is fantastic. I have all the agency & choice of my thinner sisters. I have never felt thankful that someone deigned to fuck me. I would have nothing to do with a person who entertained such notions. 

I am smart, passionate,weird & smoking hot. People are attracted to me for all those reasons. I’m a whole person with lots to offer & so are you. I want fat girls to know that your romantic/sexual life will be no different from anyone else’s. Do not let popular culture’s representation of fat get under your skin. You will meet arseholes & sweethearts. They will come on all shapes & sizes. You will have amazing sex & really quite bad sex. People will love you. People will find you utterly beautiful. 

You do not have settle. Do not put up with anyone who makes you feel less than. You deserve love, passion, companionship & fun. Believe me, you will get it. 

Now, take a deep breath & get out there. 

  

Big is beautiful….

The Cosmopolitan website featured an interview with two fat women that caught my eye. Cosmo is not usually a publication I favour, but this interview was a rare beauty. An honest & mostly positive account of life as a plus sized woman. The article was a big hit with the plus size blogging community & a number of bloggers have answered the questions in their own words. I have decided to join the pack because the world needs more body positive voices.

How do you feel when other women around you complain about feeling/being fat?
This is a hard question for me because I have such mixed feelings. Of course it can make me feel bad when women who are much smaller than me complain about being fat, but I don’t think I have the right to police their thoughts & feelings. I am learning to love my body and I would like others to feel the same. However it’s not my place to tell others how they should feel about their bodies. I will always be supportive & body positive, but I’m not going to censure people for having insecurities.
How has your body image changed since high school/college?
I was slim when I was younger. I started to gain some weight at university, but I was far from plus sized. Despite that I always felt fat. I believed I was the biggest in my group of friends, wouldn’t wear certain types of clothes and generally didn’t feel very attractive. When I look back at pictures I realise this was nonsense. When I did actually become fat there wasn’t a huge shift in how I felt about myself as I already thought very negatively about my body.

Have you ever tried dieting? What happened?
Yush! I have dieted on & off for years. I am very successful at losing weight, but have never been able to maintain the loss. This is mostly because dieting always becomes very extreme for me. I start off trying to stick to a healthy eating plan, but it descends into a crazy regime. I usually end up restricting myself to about 500 cals a day, which anyone will tell you is not sustainable. I have also occasionally resorted to making myself sick. I’ll be honest, I feel fantastic when I lose huge amounts of weight. It just isn’t worth what I do to myself to achieve it.
Do you think in your case your weight is partly or entirely genetic?
I don’t think I have the kind of body that is ever going to be skinny, but no, my weight is not genetic.
Do you consider yourself healthy? Have there been instances where people assumed you were unhealthy?
I’m not healthy, but that has nothing to do with my weight. I am plagued by a number of chronic conditions, which greatly impact my life. On the other hand my cholesterol level is very good; my blood pressure is low and so on. Losing weight would not improve any of illnesses I suffer from.
Are your parents both supportive of the weight you are at? Have they always been?
Neither of my parents is ever cruel or forceful about their desire for me to lose weight, but I am aware that they would prefer me to be smaller. They have both been very happy when I have lost weight in the past.

How do you think retailers can improve clothes for plus-sized people?
Basically, I want the same clothes as smaller women. Just make all your clothes in bigger sizes & let me decide how I want to dress instead of making assumptions about what fat women want to wear. The only retailer I am aware of who do this are ASOS. I highly recommend their curve range. Oh & stop charging me so much.
Do you think plus-size women are judged differently than plus-sized men?
Yes. There are so many visible fat man on tv, films etc. Large men are portrayed as successful and attractive. You often see very fat men with gorgeous partners and fulfilling lives. On the other hand fat women in the media are usually the joke. They’re the stupid big women who thinks someone might be attracted to her (haha, gross) or the miserable failure. Male actors are allowed to be fat in a way that women are not. There is one version of female beauty in mainstream media and it is not fat.
Do you think there is an assumption made/stereotype that exists about plus-size people? How would you respond to it?
Lazy, unattractive, unsuccessful & unpopular. I respond to that by living my life complete with friends, accomplishments & hot men.
Do you think there is ever a right way or time to express concern about someone’s weight?
Do you suspect that someone has an eating disorder? If not, no.
What are the worst things people have said to you about your body?
I think I have been lucky in that I don’t often get negative comments about my weight. I’ve had men I’ve turned down resort to fat slurs. Similarly I have had a few people throw some names at me during arguments/disagreements. That doesn’t happen often & I tend not to keep folks like that in my life.

What have people said (or do you wish they’d say) that would complement your body or appearance?
I want to hear the same things as anyone else. I don’t need specific compliments because I’m fat.
Do you find yourself hanging out with women who are closer to your size?
Nope. I have friends of all shapes and sizes. Physical attributes have no impact on whom I form friendships with.
How has weight affected your sex life, if at all?
It hasn’t. To be honest I think I have a more active & exciting sex life than most of social circle.
When you’ve been single, has your weight affected your dating life?
Only in that I haven’t always felt attractive. I get the same amount of romantic attention fat as I did thin. It hasn’t stopped me dating anyone I wanted to date. Nor has anyone I’ve been in a relationship with ever had a problem with my size. I am sure there are people who look at me & think yuck, fat. Since I have no desire to date anyone harbouring those feelings it has no impact on my life.
Do you feel weird if the guy you’re with only dates larger women?
I would if he was only with me because I was fat, but that goes for any other single attribute. I want a person to want all of me. Having said that I have no problem with someone being attracted to larger women. If I did I would be saying there is something wrong with being fat. Why shouldn’t folk prefer fat women? As long as that’s not the only attraction, it’s fine with me.

Do you feel weird if he’s only dated slimmer women before?
No. I’m not really interested in who he’s dated before. He’s with me now; he clearly likes & fancies me. Who cares about the past?

You can find the original interview here
http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/fat-women-real-talk