Me Shaped

  • Yesterday was a strange one.  It started with a trip on the bus to the cinema, which is Peterborough means a trip on the bus to as close as possible and then a frogger style dash across a couple of very busy roads.  If you manage to survive the journey you get to enjoy a film while your blood pressure returns to a normal (and then do it all again on the way home).

I digress.  We got the bus and struck up a conversation with a man sitting opposite.  He was pleasant and we talked about the weather in a very British fashion, how lovely the sunshine was, how it’s supposed to be a very cold winter and how the snow can wreak havoc with your shoes. It was all going so well until we got up to leave and he smiled, made that finger gun thing, pointed at my stomach and made that clicking noise whilst wishing me his heartfelt congratulations.

For reasons unknown to me, I had once again been mistaken for having been pregnant.  This is not rare, uncommon, scarce, unique or out of the ordinary. Granted it hasn’t happened for a couple of months but it happens all the bloody time. So much so, I have stopped denying it.  I hate that awkward look on the faces of those people that thought they were being nice only to inadvertantly tell me I have a strange body shape. So instead of saying “I’m not pregnant” and crushing his spirit, I simply said “Thank you”, got off the bus and went to play frogger with the traffic.

Perhaps it was the top I was wearing or maybe I was slouching with my back which is currently misbehaving?  Whatever the cause, I mananged to smile about it and not let it get me down. I didn’t even burn the top

Today I’m still smiling, still not bothered and actually, quite glad it happened because last night I went out for the evening and got dressed up and had a bloody good night!  I did something I rarely do and put a full length picture on Facebook and was overwhelmed by the kind words of my friends.  So who cares if a few random strangers think I have a bun in the oven?

I’m me shaped and that’s a fine shape for me to be.

Picture of me wearing black jeans and top.

The Power of Gratitude

Being grateful is one of the most practical things we can do in order to affect our mood and create a positive mindset. No matter what circumstances we find ourself in, there is something to give thanks for, to feel blessed for and to feel gratefful for.

The more we appreciate and acknowledge the good in our lives, the good things we notice. The more we notice, the more we have to feel gratitude for. The cycle grows outwards and by practicing gratitude, the bad days carry less weight because we can see and feel beyond them.

Each day make it a habit that when you wake up, before you get out of bed, or as you drink your moring coffee, you think of a few things you have to be grateful f0r.

Bluebell

If you’re struggling to think of anything make it really simple – a good night of sleep, the taste of your coffee, the feeling of air in your lungs.  It really doesn’t have to be a monumentous thing. Just the feeling of gratidude is the only starting place you need.

I promise that the more you feel the grateful, the more you will have to feel grateful for. I’m not sure how it works but it does.

We don’t need to wait for the big house, the new car, the amazing holiday, to feel grateful or happy.  Those aren’t the things we are striving for after all are they?  It is the feeling of contentment, happiness and peace we are actually wanting.  So if we are feeling those feelings for what we have, everything else is a bonus.

Life is about the feelings,  not the things.

I’m sitting outside in the beautiful heat of summer-come-early, pondering all the wonderful things I myself have to feel gratitude for.

I’ve been through turbulent times and weathered them all.  I have evolved into a more equipped person who is able to deal with the things life throws in my direction. I have found ways in all this chaos to try and help other people that are going through it now. This gives such value to what was a pretty horrendous time.

I’m so grateful for this.

bluebell

I’m able to feel the heat on my skin, to hear the wind as it plays with the leaves on the trees, to hear the birds singing to each other. I can see the beauty of the spring all around me, smell the earthy and floral scent of the season and feel the breeze in my hair.

I am fully able to immerse mysellf in today.

I am so grateful.

I have the most amazing family who bring joy into my life so often. A husband who understands me completely and who I couldn’t possibly love more. A doggy-chid who completes me and who I am able to snuggle whenever I want.

I am so grateful.

I am blessed enough to be able to eat nourishing food every day and have access to fresh water whenever I need it.

I am so fortunate.

I am so lucky.

I have surrounded myself in nature and bluebells and birdsong this afternoon and taken time out for myself.

bluebell with hoverfly

My life is such a blessing and I am so very, very grateful.

I invite you to share in the comments a few things in your life you have to feel gratitude for and notice how acknowleding that gratitude makes you feel.

Blessings you lovely lot.

Love always, Claire xx

How To Hack Your Brain By Smiling Like You Mean It

Firstly, to clarify, I’m not suggesting in any way that if you are suffering from a mental health condition that smiling is going to make it all go away. Nor am I suggesting you should just slap on a smile and struggle through your pain. That’s totally not what this post is about. I’m suggesting you try the exercises, much like physio, to try and give your brain a bit of “happy” each day.
Let’s continue…
I’m sure you’ve heard the song.
“Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by, If you just smile…”
It popped into my head just now while I was supposed to be sleeping and it got me thinking. At first glance it seems like an instruction to just slap on a mask and forget your troubles. Gloss over your problems until they go away is not the greatest idea). Actually though, smiling is pretty good advice.
Have you ever tried smiling and feeling sad at the same time?  It’s hard, and I mean really hard. I actually think it’s impossible.  I’m not talking a half hearted, doesn’t reach the eyes, token smile – they don’t count.  I mean a full on, eye-reaching, cheek-inflating, heart-swelling smile.
3smiles
Smiling
The reason? Science and stuff of course…when we smile properly, we trick our brain into believing we are feeling all kinds of joy, why else would we be smiling right?  All the happy hormones, chemicals and unicorns get released and start charging around us and oooh, would you look at that?  We are feeling happy! It’s amazing, but it does work.
Let’s do some physio for our brains, each day, in the morning and before bed (and any time you need a boost) grin like a maniac. You don’t need to think of a happy thought (though by all means do), you don’t need to actually feel happy (you soon will, I promise), you just need to smile.
Start it in your heart and let it spread upwards, turn up the corners of your mouth, feel your cheeks swelling and spreading up towards your scrunched up eyes, let your nose crinkle.  You’re smiling! Now notice how much happier you feel?
Trust me, it works.
It might not be a cure for anxiety, but it’s definitely a soothing balm and the more you practice, the more happy hormones you’re going to get and the more happy you will feel.
So, smile before you get out of bed in the morning, smile in the shower, smile when you’re on the toilet, smile before you go to sleep, smile like you mean it.
Much love,
Claire.

Why You Can’t Afford Not to Indulge Yourself

Self Care:The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.

Self care is all the rage these days, everywhere you look there’s another article about why it is important. The last thing we need is another one, right? But as a relatively recent subscriber to the practice I’m asking you to give it a try.

It’s not a cure all and it won’t cure depression or anxiety but it might just ease your symptoms or lay a foundation for healing. If you’re well, it’ll help you to stay well and know yourself better so you can see when you are slipping before you end up on your proverbial backside in a puddle of muddy gloom. There are so many resources out there for ideas and inspiration of self care.

Here’s my top 10 list of things to do to celebrate you!

  1. Check In With Yourself Often.
    The better we know ourself the easier it is to notice when things are out of sorts.  If you’re starting to go downhill, a couple of days rest could be all the difference between a bad patch and a full on crisis. Ask yourself daily, “how am I feeling?” Acknowledge it and give yourself permission to feel what you’re feeling. If you’re not feeling the ticket, do someting kind for yourself.
  2. De-clutter
    Have a rummage through your cupboards for things you no longer want, need or use and take it along to a charity shop. Preferably of a cause close to your heart. Bask in the warm glow of a good deed. (Or you could stick it all on eBay and treat yourself with the proceeds).
  3. Dear Me
    Write a letter to yourself. Tell yourself about all the wonderful things you’ve done that you are proud of, all of the positive attributes that make you who you are. You’ll be surprised when you sit and think about it, how much you actually like yourself.  If you’re strugging to do it, write to your inner child or childhood self.
    Only an arse wouldn’t be able to find something positive to say to a child!
  4. Be Unsociable.
    Believe it or not you are not obliged to go out or socialise with people you’d rather not be sociable with. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology.  If you don’t want to do something, put YOU first. It’s OKAY!
    We have so many constraints on our time, people pulling us every which way. You matter most, it’s okay to be selective.
  5. Digitally Detox
    As I mentioned in my previous post, shutting myself away from the constant bombardment of the digital age did me the world of good. You don’t have to completely hide yourself away, but do give yourself some genuine “me time” when nobody can contact you, make demands of you or take from you.
  6. The Obligatory Bubble Bath
    No self-respecting Self Care list would be complete without mentioning the all powerful bubble bath.
    Like a baptismal font to cleanse our troubled soul. the bubble bath promises to make us whole again! Personally I’m no fan of the bubbles but I’m all about the bath. A few drops of essential oils, candles and a bit of relaxing music and I’m set – assuming I can get in there long enough without JJ banging on the door for a wee (but that’s another story entirely).
  7. Treat Yourself
    Drink the wine, eat the chocolate, order the pizza! Pick your favourite treat and let yourself wholeheartedly enjoy it. No explanation, no justification, just do it. You deserve it.
  8. Just Be You
    Stop comparing yourself to other people. You aren’t them.  This includes your former self, you aren’t that person anymore. Let go of any guilt about who you were then or who you are now. You’re fine just as you are. Just keep going! This is actually the hardest one for me. I tend to judge myself harshly, especially the way I look.  Yes I know that is the least important part of who a person is, but I am so often angry with myself for not being enough.  (I’m lucky enough to be working with a body confidence coach in the near future to help me address this – watch this space).
  9.  Get Out
    Go outside and breathe. Take in your surroundings, enjoy the fresh air and the sounds of nature. Get away from everything for 15 minute and just be in the moment. Put some space between yourself and the world and just be still. Listen to your breathing and try and forget everything else, just for a while…just be.
  10. Belt Out Some Music
    Find your favourite, most uplifting music and listen loud! Feel the music, don’t just hear it. Find the most inspiring, energising songs you can and give yourself a daily dose. Your soul will thank you.

So there you have it. My top 10 mood boosting, kind to me, self care techniques to try and stay on track and healthy.

If you have any of your own, share them in the comments…I’d love to hear them.

Time Out

I was fortunate enough recently to go on a holiday to Wales with JJ, supporting our friend Jimmy, who is Deafblind. I never expected the holiday to be much other than work. It was so much more.

We had a wonderful time and made new friends who I hope will be in our lives forever. The views were breathtaking, the air clean and rich with smells of the country (yes – all of them).  I fell head over heels in love with every hill and valley and with the family that welcomed us into their home. I can’t wait to go back.

The most surprising thing we discovered when we arrived in this little patch of paradise was that there was no phone signal in the house. I didn’t know such places still existed! Our hosts generously offered to hook us up to the wifi but in what can only be described as a temporary lapse in sanity, a fleeting moment of wreckless abandon, I said “No thank you” and went off grid.

What happened next was magic.  I was present, truely present in the moments, in the room and in my head. I was no longer half listening with one eye on my social media. I was learning interesting things about the interesting people around me, I was spending time outdoors and playing wholeheartedly with the children…

I WAS BOTTLE FEEDING BABY GOATS!

BABY GOAT

All of the crap that life seems to constantly bombard us with dispersed and as the week went by the urge to check on what I was missing out on ebbed away too.

According to an offcom study, the average British Adult checks their phone every 12 minutes and is online for 24 hours a week! I’m one of them.  Phones are fab for keeping in touch but when I think about everything else I’ve been letting in with it…Brexit, War , Crime, Global Warming, Donald Trump, plus the constant media portrayal of perfect bodies, perfect lives, perfect lies… it’s no wonder I’m so overwhelmed half the time.

I realised during that week that my fear of missing out on what the world is doing can be the cause of me missing out on my own life. So I’m putting down the phone, even if it’s only for an hour a day.  I’m getting out there, for a walk, or taking time to sit and write or read a book. I’ll spend more time catching up with loved ones.  I will do something to bring myself more into the world and enjoy these moments while I can.

Thank you so much Mark, Sarah, Joe, Erin and Elliott (and a special mention to my best goat Wicket) for bringing me a bit of peace and a bit of perspective.  I can’t wait to see you all again soon.

Hold On

Hold on and have faith in whatever you believe in, be it god, yourself, the healing power of time, modern medicine or a combination of any or all of them. Hold on, because it’s all just temporary an none of it is real. It might feel real – unbearably so, but it isn’t. It is valid and it is legitimate and it should be acknowledged, but it isn’t real.

These moments of crushing despair, impending doom and a fear so thick you can feel it trying to strangle you, are all the figments of an unwell mind and you WILL come through it and you WILL get better…just hold on.

You won’t always feel this tired and life won’t always ache. You will move beyond this yearning for a quiet relief and a release from this malaise that makes your soul itch unrelentingly. Just hold on.

It’s okay if you don’t feel ready to race forward and embrace recovery. These things take time and you’re only ready when you’re ready. It’s as important to feel these feelings as it is to let them go.

You can’t just think yourself well again. If it were that simple we’d all be happy all of the time, because nobody would choose this. Life has its lessons and we all learn them in our own time. Don’t be hard on yourself if you aren’t getting better as quickly as you think you should be.  It takes as long as it takes and it can’t be rushed and that’s okay.

The most useful lesson I’ve learned is to be in the moment and have faith in the future. Once I stopped worrying that I’d never be okay again and trusted that I’d come out the other side. I relaxed into the moment and felt what I needed to feel. I cried my tears and had patience that if I held on, I would one day be okay again.

I’m certain there will be relapses, times in my life when the walls start closing in and it all feels like too much. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows. But in those moments of chaos, to the best of my ability I will continue to hold on and trust that I will weather the storm as I have time and time again.

Hold on, because better days are coming and you deserve to be happy.

Dear Me

We all have bad patches and they aren’t necessarily anything to be worried about, but when you are in the midst of them, they are all you can see, feel and believe.

Cartoon version of me with short red hair looks depressed.

Since coming off my anti depressants I have started to scrutinize every low mood, every bad day and every tear. Is this a relapse? Am I destined to once again being medicated? Or is this simply what life feels like when it is experienced raw, glaring and without a buffer?

Generally speaking I find it quite hard to write about things while I’m going through them. It’s only as I come out through the other side of it all, and I can see the situation from another perspective, that I feel I can go back and write it all down. I think that’s partly why I’ve been so quiet on the blog of late. I don’t want to tempt fate when things are going well, but then when the doubt creeps in, everything becomes too real, the water gets murky and I can’t bring myself to put pen too paper for totally different reasons.

But now I think I need to, because maybe that will bring me the clarity I’m hoping for. I appear to slipped backwards into old habits, becoming my own worst critic and seeing myself through whatever the opposite of rose tinted glasses might be. Crap tinted glasses? Disgust tinted glasses? Shame tinted glasses? Whatever the lens prescription, I have noticed myself doing it and I’m currently trying to prize them away before they become permanently fused to my head and require medical intervention to get them back off.

I don’t really get why I’m like this with myself when I’m so different with other people. I encourage and support other people and yet discourage and rebuke myself and then devalue my efforts. I know we all go through stuff, we all struggle.  So, once again comes the need to remove myself from the situation and view it from afar, as an impartial third party. When I consciously try I’ve learned to do it quite well.

Cartoon me with the word This is my life now.

For me one of the easiest ways to forgive my own shortcomings it’s try and imagine I’m talking to someone else, to afford myself the patience and compassion that I would extend to any other person.

And so, during this moment of clarity I have decided to write myself a letter and to read and reflect upon this when the self-loathing rears its head. When I can’t bear to be around myself anymore.

Cartoon me sitting at a desk with a quill writing a letter.

Dear Me,

I want to remind you that you are beautiful. You have a kind heart and although you struggle to believe it at times, you’re doing fine.

You matter and you have the right to exist and the right to be happy.

You try so hard to be a good person, you do your best to help other people when they need you and you try to write about the Demons in your head that would have you believe that you aren’t enough in order to help other people understand and fight the demons of their own. But the thing is, you are enough. It’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to feel less than happy, it doesn’t mean you’re failing or relapsing it just means you’re human.

It’s ok to want Solitude from time to time, it doesn’t mean you’re turning into a hermit. Give yourself permission to say no thank you to say I need some me time.

Well done for stepping out of your comfort zone and daring to go to Liverpool by yourself and to stay in a hotel away from home on your own. That was a big deal for you and you should be proud of your achievement. Now you know you can do it give yourself permission to say no thank you if you don’t want to do it again. But you never know, the next time maybe easier and you might enjoy a little bit more. Either option is fine.

It’s ok that you didn’t feel a late at the moment you got home. Doesn’t mean you aren’t grateful for all deserving of the experience. Emotions take time to process and understand, and each day that passes give you a better view of the events that transpired and that elation and pride is starting to seep in.

Well done Claire, you did great.

Blips will happen and when they do don’t panic. Wait it out. Read this letter. You’ve come so far and you have a bright future ahead of you if you just believe nothing is permanent and everything is possible.

Trust in yourself because you’ve come this far, you can carry on and you can do great things.

Keep on keeping on the Claire, I’m proud of you, I believe in you and I love you.

– Me

Cartoon me smiling and the words Love Ya

 

 

Another Day In Paradise

It’s a beautiful day and something in my soul that has been dormant for far too long is waking up.  The magic of the mundane is begining to glisten like the sunlight on morning dew and I am feeling renewed. For too long I have been sleepwalking through each day, ignoring the ordinary beauty and the wonder that makes up the patchwork quilt we call life. I don’t know if I became depressed because I stopped noticing the beauty, or if I stopped noticing the beauty because I became depressed, but somewhere along the road, I put my head down and  my blinkers on and just kept looking forward trying to find my way out of the fog. But today, I felt as if the fog was lifting.  I could see colour again, and feel, really feel…joy once more.

Never the sort of person that can just enjoy the moment for what it is, I started reflecting on this and why I was again able to tap into my happiness and what feels like a soul level. What was it?  Well, I think the catalyst that started this all off is I started to care about myself again.  My lovely friend Nicola started selling Bodyshop Products and I wanted to support her in her venture so I started buying bits here and there.  And because I’d bought them, it seemed logical that I should use them. And each time I used them, I was subconciously affirming to myself I mattered, I was important, I deserved love. So it took it a step further and intentionally directed loving thoughts towards myself when using my Bodyshop products and wonderful things followed.

As I started feeling better about myself I started taking better care of myself too.  I started eating better, cut out the junk food (not deliberately, I just stopped desiring it) and I’ve rediscovered my love for aromatherapy and all things hippy-dippy.  I’ve started wearing funky eyeshadow again and feeling like I like the person I am.  I’m reading books and going for walks and enjoying the colourful world that envelops me.

For the first time in a long time I feel as if I am recovering from this depression as opposed to just adapting to it and it feels wonderful. For the first time in a long time I feel like I could possibly get better, and thrive, not just survive. I feel like I could have a life filled with confident happiness, not fear. With our without the tablets (we’ll see) I feel like I have a chance of a great future and it all started with a bit of pampering and TLC.

Love yourself, because when you do, amazing things can happen.

 

 

Ponderings

I look around at everyone else and wonder if they struggle as I do. If this is normal? If I am normal?

I hadn’t planned on writing about Mental Illness again for a while but I’ve been having a bad couple of weeks and it got me thinking…what if I’ll never be rid of this?

People live with conditions that can’t be cured, only managed, all the time.  What if this is one of those?

What if this is just how I am, forever?

The tablets, that seemed to be a miracle cure, have stopped being quite as effective as they were.  Is this just a bad patch?  Am I going to be able to climb back up again?  Or actually, is this just a normal thing that happens to everyone? I get confused as to what I should be feeling while I’m taking my medication.  Should I be feeling happy, elated, sad or desolate?

Should I be feeling anything at all?

I look around at everyone else and wonder if they struggle as I do.  If this is normal? If I am normal?

I feel things too deeply, I think too much, I go over and over it all in my head until I’ve forgotten what exactly it was I was worrying about in the first place.

I want to stop taking the tablets, I know that isn’t going to happen.  I’m not well and this is a real condition, it’s not in my head (except it is) and I need medicine to help me control my intensely low mood.  But, even with it, the self-doubt creeps in.

I’m not good enough, I don’t do enough, I can’t cope with enough, I am not enough.

And it feels so ridiculous that I would feel this way because my life is wonderful.  I am happy, I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful dog and wonderful family and friends.  I enjoy my job (save for the moments when I lose faith in myself and start to believe I’m no good at it).  I have no justification to feel the way I do and that’s how I know it’s an illness, because if I was well, I wouldn’t feel this way.

Life is a tightrope between tears and laughter and it’s hard to stay balanced.  Ultimately, this is me and that isn’t going to change any time soon but I’ll keep treading the rope and moving forward.

I know I’m not the only person to feel this way.  I know there are so many of us out there.  Perhaps this IS normal. Just needed to get that out there. Keep on keeping on guys, we got this!

When You Assume You Make An Ass out of You, Not Me!

Unless a woman is holding a picture of an ultrasound whilst pointing at her belly and saying the words “I am pregnant”, don’t ask her because, odds are it’s only a matter of time until you’re wrong and you get a slap.

I’m in two minds about what to write here today so I’m going to go with both because both points are important and both points are valid.

So, where to begin?  Well, I was recently (and not for the first time) in the rather undesirable position of being asked by a well-intentioned stranger when my baby was due. Great, thanks for asking, except I’m not pregnant, nor have I ever been. God It upset me. I was inconsolable.  At the time I awkwardly laughed it off with a brave face and a throwaway comment about just being fat, but when he had gone I sat and I cried.

I went home and I cried some more. Then I had a couple of glasses of wine and I cried into them until it was time for bed at which point I cried myself to sleep.  I woke the next morning and cried some more, until finally at around 10 am I snapped out it and started to realise his words didn’t matter.

Until I had processed everything and cried it out of my system, nothing anyone could say was going to make me feel any better.  I felt ashamed, ugly, worthless, unattractive and grotesque. Not that I think pregnant ladies are any of those things but their bellies are swollen with human life, as opposed to burgers and trapped wind.

I decided I needed to write it all down but I wasn’t sure if I should write about the power of your words and how you should be thoughtful and kind when choosing them, or, if I should write about the fact that we are the ones who give power to other people’s words by choosing to let them hurt us.  Well, after some thought I’ve gone with both, and here’s why.

They are both true.

You, as a human being have a moral responsibility to not be an arse. By all means be assertive, insist on being treated fairly and demand good service, but don’t be an arse!  Saying hurtful things out of spite is not big and it’s not clever and your words can do real damage, so cut it out, immediately.  That’s not the issue here though.

Thoughtlessness can be more damaging than horridness.  In my case, a person asking me if I was up the duff, with child, had a bun in the oven, was having a baby, was hurtful on many levels. It made me feel like I must look bloated and fat for somebody to assume this when the only bun in my oven are the Belgian, and from Gregg’s.

If you are commenting on somebody’s appearance keep it polite.

“You look nice” – Safe

“You look pretty” – Safe

“I like your hair” – safe.

“Are you storing small human in your distended abdomen?” – RISKY!

If somebody is pregnant and they want you to know, they will probably tell you. So, unless a woman is holding a picture of an ultrasound whilst pointing at her belly and saying the words “I am pregnant”, don’t ask her because, odds are it’s only a matter of time until you’re wrong and you get a slap.

On the other side of this though, is the thinking that I could have chosen to just say, no, this is just me and I’m me shaped. I am no different to how I was in the seconds before this inaccurate assumption was made. I was happy and confident(ish) and generally feeling good about myself. Why should this person’s opinion affect or alter anything? I’m exactly the same person. Literally NOTHING has changed!

So, I can either cry into my wine or I can hold my head high and say, actually, I’m awesome.  Quite frankly, life is too short for watered down wine.

Cheers.