Monday, 29 February 2016

Single and Free

I am a person who (on the whole) likes to do things. Especially New Things. Whether this means visiting new places abroad or locally, new food flavours or new activities.

Don't get me wrong, I love doing things with my friends and they are amazing, but they don't always want to do the same things I do. And I don't want to miss out just because I don't have someone to do things with. But I have one huge bugbear, and that comes from when I tell people I'm doing an exciting thing:
"Who are you doing that with?"
Why? Why MUST there be someone else? Why do we, as a society, assume that people come in pairs or more? Why is it socially unacceptable to do things by yourself?

The thing people find most weird is when I say I am going on holiday alone. And yes, I accept that (in my experience) holidays are better with friends. But if they can't afford to go anywhere, or don't have the time, or don't want to go, then should it mean I have to stay at home until I can find someone? I don't think so.

And there are many perks of holidaying alone. I can choose exactly when and where I want to go. If I make plans but then decide to stay in bed instead, the only person I'm disappointing is myself. I don't have to rely on someone being on time, or waiting for them to get up in the mornings. Yes I would be responsible if the trip was a disaster, but I also don't have to be concerned with how much other people are enjoying themselves. There is no fear of arguments or the awkward undecisive moments (except in my own head). Being on holiday alone also gives me a chance not just to explore my surroundings, but helps me to grow as a person, discover more about myself and to gain confidence in being me. Sometimes an accomplishment can be greater if I am the sole motivator.

And yes I begrudge paying a supplement just because I'm single. But this sometimes means an extra bed to jump on which is always a bonus! And when I go for dinner and they ask if I want a table for two, I will not be ashamed that it's 'just me' and I will hold my head high when they come and take away the cutlery for my imaginary partner that is no longer needed. I've decided that I can't stop living my life because I'm single.

And just because I've decided that, it also doesn't mean I want to be single forever. But regardless, it's unlikely I'm going to ever meet anyone if I don't get out in the world. As fun as curling up in bed with Netflix is, it certainly won't help me with new experiences. I also question how happy it really makes me, when the Fear overcomes my desire to get out there. Because I do really enjoy doing things. And I actually really like doing things that are just mine and that I don't have to share with anyone else.

Because being single can be pretty great. The world is mine for the taking and a ticket for two is not a necessity.
 photo safe space bio_zps8jlgrcn3.png

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Food, Glorious Food!

Food makes the world go around. Food is glorious, sensational, yummy, tasty, fantastic and just absolutely amazing. It’s a necessary part of the human condition. Without it we would die. But, of course, what isn’t necessary is the way we indulge in food. Not that I’m complaining. I love food. I love that I can indulge.

My love of food, I am very certain, is the reason that I put on weight throughout my teen years and why I have been incredibly unsuccessful in removing the weight now. It was my comfort. When I was feeling low, I could turn to a good tub of ice cream or a bar of chocolate and feel a little better. If someone I knew was feeling low, I could bring them food to make them better too. I love not just eating it, but loved cooking too. I loved the process of turning different ingredients into a dish that is devoured quickly because it tastes fantastic. I loved cooking for others and witnessing their murmurs of approval as they tucked in too. Not just cooking, but also baking. There’s just something so wonderful about making something from nothing, right?

It was so obvious how much that I loved food that it was commented on that I act about food how people act about sex. I loved it, I wanted it, it was an amazingly pleasurable activity.

You’ve noticed the past tenses by now, right?

I still love food, I do. But it’s nowhere near what it was. Something changed. About two to three years ago, I suddenly lost part of my love of food and I am not so sure that I will ever get it back. Which does make me more than a little sad some days.

So I’m sure you’re wondering what changed, right? It’s simple…

My anxieties.

Three years ago I was officially diagnosed with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) and this has changed a LOT of things in my life but the thing that has changed the most is my relationship with food.

I no longer eat to indulge. I no longer eat to feel better. I no longer eat for pleasure.**

I now simply eat to survive. I eat because when I don’t, my stomach aches. Because if I don’t, I will die. And I hate it but I don’t know how to change it.

Now when I eat, I have so many worries and paranoid thoughts going through my head that I feel physically incapable of enjoying myself while I eat.

It started with chicken. Something simple that soon spiralled. I cut it out. Avoided it. Which is the worse thing you can do for anxieties but I didn’t know that at the time. But to me chicken related to food poisoning, a food poisoning that has a high chance of killing you. So every time I tried to eat it, I could not stop thinking about what would happen if this peice was the one that killed me.

But then it got worse. I couldn’t eat eggs either. And then just all meats became difficult because they all had the same issues surrounding them. It then spiralled to food that I ate with my hands because what if my hands weren’t clean and the germs on them got transferred onto my food? And then every piece of food became a problem to the point where food just became lost to me.

But it’s not just the fear of food poisoning. There is also a fear of allergies. I only have a few very rare allergies but whenever new food is given to me now to try, I really struggle. What if I’m allergic to it? What if this causes me to have a reaction that then kills me?

And then there’s my god awful digestive system to deal with too. There’s the fact that some foods cause me to bloat and feel awful, some foods make me feel constipated or cause me to have bad diarrhea. And I have only a little idea of what does what because once I think I know, I’ll cut it out, and then something else will affect it and going back to the first item does nothing. Meaning that eating causes me to always be on edge.

Of course all of this stems from the fact that once food has been ingested, I can’t control what happens. I literally leave it out of my control. WIth my other anxieties, I can control some of it. I can do little tasks to make myself feel at ease. I can wash my hands fifteen times if I feel I need to. I can jump in the shower and clean my entire body if I have to. I can just not get onto the train or get out of the small room. I can control the situation until I feel I have control over the outcome.

But I cannot control the outcome of what goes into my body. It just happens. It just is.

So basically, every time I have to eat, especially if it’s something new, I end up feeling a little like this:


Rocking in the Corner

Trust me, I don’t like this. And I hope that I can do something soon to reignite my love of food because I know it’s still there. I still get cravings. I see pictures of food and salivate a little, even while a part of me knows I would really struggle once the food is in front of me.

Things I do now that I didn’t before:
  1. Wash my hands or use hand sanitizer right before eating.
  2. Take ages to choose food in a restaurant because although x sounds good, I know y will cause me to not have an anxiety attack.
  3. I no longer cook; because raw meat, unclean dishes, I just… can’t.
  4. I also no longer bake; Same reasons as above.
  5. Over-analyse everything.
  6. Worry that my odd eating habits get noticed and people think I'm weird
  7. Worry that people will choose restaurants where I feel unable to eat anything
  8. Worry that I can't make any changes to the food on the menu
  9. And feel I can only make two substitutions before I worry the chef will spit in my food
  10. Worry about the chef spitting in my food
  11. Feel unable to eat food where I have seen the person touch money and then touch my food
  12. Eat a buffet comfortably. Other people have used their hands to eat those things... when did they last wash their hands?
  13. Wish I could just not eat.

But the hardest part of it, is that I know everything in this post is irrational. I know that I should just get on with it and eat the food, but I just really, really struggle. And it’s really not the easiest thing to deal with ever.

**Okay, that was maybe a little bit drastic. I do still occasionally eat for pleasure and to feel better, it just doesn't come as naturally or easily to me any more.**

Friday, 26 February 2016

Because I'm Worth It

Over the last few weeks I've been noticing more and more that I put myself down.

I got invited to an event and the organiser replied to my emailed RSVP saying she was looking forward to seeing me and would save me a space in the front row. I thought "she doesn't mean it." about the looking forward to seeing me part, assuming she was just being polite. Then got part way through emailing her that I'd rather sit at the back in case my wheelchair blocked other people's view before I realised that was stupid and deleted it unsent.

An acquaintance said my blogs were really funny and I was a good writer. I should have just said thank you. I didn't believe them though so I was dismissive "oh it's nothing."

I was asked for my opinion on a project - option A or option B. I said what I thought and followed it up with "sorry, that's probably no help whatsoever."

My journalism tutor told me I'm doing well and am on track to pass the course. "You can't say that yet."

Recently a friend wrote on my facebook wall that he'd been wanting to call and congratulate me on a finished writing project (a group one that several people contributed to and I put together) but he assumed I was too busy to take his call. That made me laugh. It wasn't something to be congratulated on. It was just something I'd done. I commented back that he'd made me laugh. And he asked "why do you never believe me?"

Yeah. That made me stop.

I do put myself down often. I don't believe compliments I'm given. And I belittle my achievements.

It's crap. And I annoy myself each and every time I catch myself doing it.  I think (I hope) I'm probably more aware of my negative self talk since my friend called me out on it.

I would never talk to anyone else the way I talk to myself. I wouldn't ask for their opinion and then say it was "no help at all." And if someone else had told me I couldn't sit at the front in case my wheelchair blocked the view I'd have gone apeshit at them because it's not OK to talk to me like that.

So why do I act like it's OK to say those things to myself?

I'm now trying harder to catch myself before I say or think these things about myself but it's really hard.  They slip out before I can help myself much more often than I'd like.

navy text on blue background reading "because I'm worth it"
But I do need to stop putting myself down and start believing in what others tell me.  My journalism tutor said I'm doing well because she's marked my work and knows I'm doing well. Same for being on track to pass.  The compliments about my blog being funny are because it made the reader laugh.  They aren't being polite, kind, or nice and it's not because they see my wheelchair and feel sorry for me.

It's because they believe it and  think I'm worth it and it's true. I need to keep repeating that even though it sounds silly to me until I believe it.

Because I AM worth it.

*L'oreal style hair swish*

written by Emma signature

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Redefining Achievement

I'm 28 years old and have only held down a full-time job for five weeks. I still live at home, whilst my younger brother left close to a decade ago. I always imagined that life would be different to this. I had high expectations and was constantly pushing myself to achieve so that my life looked perfect to those around me, but I now have no experience of working for close to three years and I feel woefully inadequate.

I was always very good at covering up my inadequacies. I wanted to look like I could hold it all together. Now, my social media feeds are filled with announcements of engagements and babies born to people my own age or younger, whilst all I see is what I’m not achieving. I see just how far I still have to go. I tell myself that who I am isn’t enough when those around me are doing so much more with their lives.

Who decided that having a career and a family of your own are the only route to fulfilment? I don’t tell myself how far I have come, believing that getting to this point in my life is nothing. I’m one of many who live with suicidal thoughts, crippling depression and anxiety. Still fighting, we have so much to be proud of and yet we write off our days because we’re not where we thought we would be. #Stillbreathing isn’t trending in spite of the numbers who can claim this as their greatest achievement because we fail to see it as one. 

What I am beginning to realise is that achievement can be seen in so much more than having lots of people around you and thousands of pounds in your bank account. Achievement is in being kind to those around you regardless of how you feel. Achievement is in looking after yourself even when you want to die. Achievement is in doing the very best you can at this point in your life, even if that is through breathing in and out again and again. 

Life doesn’t follow a roadmap or a point by point checklist of age-related goals. I’m not where I thought I would be at the age of 28. I haven’t worked a full-time job for longer than five weeks and I still live at home. But I am breathing and that is my greatest achievement of all.

Monday, 22 February 2016

How I Self Care My Mental Health

Self-care is about looking after your mental health in the same way you look after your physical health.

Over the past year I’ve really been paying attention to what makes me feel better on days where my mental health is in a bad place and what makes me feel worse. I now try to put the things that make me feel better into practise regularly in the same way somebody might go to the gym three times a week to maintain physical health.

I’ve found that by making a conscious effort to self-care I’m helping look after my mental health as best I can. Everybody self-cares differently but today I wanted to share with you some of the things that help me.

Switch Off Social Media
Being a blogger I find that I’m constantly on social media sharing posts, replying to tweets and interacting with other bloggers. As much as I love doing these things they’re incredibly time consuming.

I try to switch off from social media for an hour every day. It’s surprising how much more energy I put into something when I’m not checking Twitter every 5 minutes. I love having an hour to focus on myself or give someone I love my undivided attention. It makes me feel so much more present in my life.

Change My Diet
I’m far from a healthy eater but when I notice that my mental health is flagging I consciously try to eat better.

Food can play a massive role in moods and hormones. I find that drinking caffeinated drinks when I’m anxious can make my anxiety so much worse so I try to cut back on those and switch to water instead.

For me it’s about making small, easy, changes that go a long way in improving my mood.

Tackle One Small Thing 
Although ignoring everything on my to do list is incredibly tempting on bad days I find that I feel better in myself if I accomplish something. I look for the smallest task on my list and do it. It can be something as simple as washing up or watering the plants. I find that doing one small thing makes me feel better about not being able to manage the big things and gives me some much needed confidence.

Take a Bath
When I’m feeling depressed it can take a lot of effort to do simple things like maintain personal hygiene but something that always makes me feel better is getting clean and my favourite way to get clean is by having a bath.

I like to really treat myself when I take a bath by using some gorgeous products from Lush. I make it a really luxurious experience. I especially like using products that are going to help me to relax and unwind. Not only do I come out of the bath feeling clean but also rested after having some quiet, pampered, me time.

Watch a Sitcom 
If I’m having a hard time with my anxiety I can find it really hard to concentrate which makes it difficult to relax with a book or a movie but I do love to watch sitcoms.

One episode usually only lasts for 20 minutes so I don’t have to concentrate on something for a long period of time and when I’m in that mind frame it feels so good to laugh! If you need some recommendations my favourites are New Girl, Mom, The Office and Friends.

Colouring in switches my brain off like nothing else. It’s the only time where I fully lose myself and forget about my problems. I can get lost for hours in a world where only shapes and colour exist and sometimes that’s just what I need if my anxiety is making me overthink things.

Notice earlier how I said switch off social media and not the internet? That is because I love Buzzfeed! If I’m feeling down I especially love their quizzes, sometimes you just have to know which Starbucks drink you are y’know? They’re fun, silly and pointless and can be a really great distraction.

Play With My Dog
It’s been scientifically proven that pets reduce stress and anxiety so playing with my dog is a no brainer for me.

Spending time with her makes me so happy and it’s an added bonus if we play fetch outside because it’s one of the only times that I’ll actually willingly do some form of exercise and we all know that exercise is great for depression.

Get Support
I used to struggle with my mental health alone and bottle up my feelings but over the past year I’ve been opening up more and have learned that it’s okay to lean on people and get some support when you need it.

Rather than sit alone with my thoughts I’ll talk to my mum, best friend or counsellor about how I’m feeling. Sometimes just the act of opening up and getting stuff off my chest can make me feel better. 

Having open and honest conversations is so important to me and goes a long way in making my mental health manageable.

These are some of the things I do to self-care my mental health. If you’re not sure where to start with self-care, try keeping a diary of the things that have helped you when you’ve been having a bad time (and of the things that have made you feel worse so you know what to avoid.)

Get to know your mental health really well and start working more of the things that help you feel better into your schedule. You can either spread them out over the week or take out one day to have some me time.

Looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health and although self-care doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, knowing what works for you allows you to put strategies in place to help you cope and if that can make those bad days feel a little more bearable, then it’s worth it.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

You're Amazing. Just The Way You Are.

I can’t remember the last time I felt beautiful. I can’t remember the last time someone told me I look beautiful. But I can remember the last time I felt ugly (about two minutes ago standing in front of the bathroom mirror naked). And I can remember the last time someone told me there was something wrong with my body.

In fact when I think back over my life so far, there are very, very few times in my life when I’ve felt beautiful. Even as a teenager I felt ugly and disgusting compared to everyone around me.  I vividly remember having to try and find a dress for our sixth form leaver’s ball… It was a chance for all the girls to dress up in floating gowns and for the boys to don a suit. However the dress searching resulted in me cowering in the corner of my then boyfriend’s bedroom, hiding from the mirror in a flood of tears, crying out that I felt ugly and that I’d look so awful compared to everyone else there. Luckily he was gentlemanly enough to hug me and tell me that I was beautiful but even on the night of the ball itself I felt ashamed and just wanted to cover myself in a huge blanket so no one could see me. I had honestly never felt so ashamed of how I looked in my life.

I guess my body loathing started at secondary school where I imagine it probably starts for most people. I was called ugly; I was teased about my bushy, frizzy hair and thick eyebrows. I felt incredibly self-aware when I was getting changed for P.E that I didn’t have big boobs encased in lacy bras and I certainly didn’t have a thong on (it was cotton knickers all the way for me.) I felt ashamed that I had a thin trail of hair down my stomach because everyone else had such smooth, hairless tummies. I was made to feel bad by ‘friends’ for not wearing make-up. And, one of these ‘friends’ once said, particularly loudly in front of my crush at the time, ‘don’t you think it’s gross when girls have hair on their tummies?’ To which I flamed like a tomato and as soon as I got home that evening shaved it all off. And don’t get me started on that time I realised I was supposed to shave my pubic hair. For some bizarre reason I thought it was natural and was supposed to be there but duhhhhh you have to shave it all off because…you just do?

So, really, I was sort of handed a whole barrage of insults on a plate that my mind quickly digested and started shouting at me every time I looked in the mirror.

‘You’re fat’

‘You’re ugly’

‘You’ll never be beautiful’

‘You’re too hairy for a woman’

‘No one will ever look at your body and think they’ve got lucky’

And for the last ten years I’ve been in a vicious cycle of self-loathing. Even now when I look in the mirror I feel my heart sink and my stomach turn over uncomfortably. Why do I look so vile? Why have I got such large thighs? Why do I have stretch marks and cellulite on my legs and hips? WHY AM I SO HAIRY? Why do my boobs look so bored of life? Why have I got a tummy that sticks out and rolls over when I sit down?

The simple answer is because I do. Because this is the body I have; the body I will always have.

Yes, my unhealthy relationship with food has certainly contributed to the fact I’m bigger than I want to be and weigh more than I want to (but that’s an entirely different topic.) And yes my lack of physical exercise every day definitely contributes to the flab and dullness of my body. But I just wish I could stop hating it.

In the past when I’ve come up with epic plans to lose weight, eat healthier and get back to a more comfortable and ‘happy’ size I’ve always ended up thinking ‘what’s the point?’ I’ll still have the same face, the same hairiness, the same stretch marks, the same everything… it might all just look a little bit smaller that’s all. I still won’t be beautiful.

For a long time my fear and hatred of myself was due to my perception of how other people would see my body, namely men. I felt that no man would like my body because it looks nothing like a woman apparently should look like. It’s not tanned, my boobs don’t touch my chin, it all wobbles, it’s hairy etc. And so many times I tried to drill it into my head that any man who didn’t appreciate my body wasn’t worthy of my time. Beauty is more than just looks…right? But why do I still feel compelled to see my body through other people’s eyes? Why is it when I look at photographs of myself I just see a dumpy potato and criticise everything I hate about it instead of looking at what I like about it? I used to take selfies quite often; it was a thing that made me feel better if I could just get the right filter and lighting. I haven’t dared take a photo of myself in at least half a year…I don’t even like looking at my face in the mirror. Let alone on a camera. All the photos I use for social media are old; some even from 2014…

I keep trying to ask myself WHY I feel such hatred towards my own body. Is it because I genuinely hate it? No, I don’t think so. Is it because society and those around me tell me I should hate it? Yes. My family tell me I’m a bit on the ‘big side’ and my mum loves to make a joke about the size of my thighs or bum. Society tells me I should look a certain way and be a certain size; because that’s what’s attractive and what men want.

I hate that I hate myself. I wish I could look in the mirror and think damnnnn gurl, you looking fine. But I don’t. Instead I say fuck. Look at my double chin, my spots, my horrible hair, my bushy eyebrows, oh god, you can see a fat roll under my jumper etc. etc. I verbally abuse myself on a daily basis. I tell myself I’m not beautiful. I stand in front of the mirror, sigh and say, you so ugly. And then walk away. That’s not normal or healthy.

I don’t have people constantly telling me I’m beautiful or gorgeous or they think I look lovely. And to be honest, even if they did tell me that I’d probably just think they were saying it to make me feel better rather than actually meaning it. See? Vicious. Circle.

I fear so much for the younger generations of women. If I ever have a daughter I will do all I can to make her feel like she’s beautiful every day of her life. That’s she’s perfect just the way she is and she doesn’t need to rely on anyone else to love herself. I wish every woman felt that way. I wish every young girl felt that way. I wish there wasn’t such a divide between what people think is normal and what is actually normal. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Some thin, some fat, some short, some tall and that’s OK. It’s OK to be the way you are. It’s OK to look in the mirror and like what you see. It’s OK to think you’re looking hawwwwt.

It’s OK to love yourself.

I wish I could go back in time and hug that sixteen year old me as she sat crying on her boyfriend’s bedroom floor. I wish I could tell her to wear whatever damn dress made her feel beautiful and screw what anyone else thought. I wish I could go back and speak to thirteen year old me and tell her that she doesn’t need to shave anything off and that cotton knickers kick ass and, most importantly, that real friends aren’t critical of your body. I wish I could go back to all the nights that I’ve cried in front of the mirror and just give myself a big hug.

I hope as I grow older I can learn to love my body…I want to look in the mirror one day and think ‘you are so beautiful.’

And I want that for every woman. I want every woman to look in the mirror every single day and realise just how gorgeous they are. We are all beautiful. Whatever our shape, whatever our size, whatever our height, our skin colour, our ethnicity, our religion, our age: We. Are. Beautiful. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Hair Today - And Probably For Good

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole and razorIn June last year, I read Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O’Toole, non-fic on feminism recommended to me by numerous people as a book to help me along my newbie feminist journey. It’s a book that talks about the role of Woman, how we act out that role and the costumes we wear as we perform our gender. Not only is Girls Will Be Girls absolutely fascinating and educational, it’s also a book that got me thinking about how I, personally, follow the script of Womanhood, and why.

There is one chapter in particular that really had me asking questions of myself: Oh Hair Lair Dahling! – a whole chapter devoted to body hair. O’Toole discusses the triggers that led her to stop shaving all together, and society’s idea of a hairless female body as feminine.
‘Hair became a symbol of all the crap about gender, femininity and what’s normal that we just accept as common sense when it’s clearly misogynistic. Body hair became a symbol of the extent to which the pressure on us to modify our bodies – merely to be considered appropriately feminine – was getting so much more extreme.’ (p138)
I finished this chapter full of questions. Shaving had become a beauty ritual that, until this point, I didn’t really think about. It was automatic: hair grew, I shaved, and so on it went. But O’Toole now had me questioning my personal grooming. Why did I shave? Who was I shaving for? At the time, I was shaving every day; shaving my legs, my underarms, my pubic area every day. I used to shave every three days, but shaving felt like such a chore every time, so when I saw someone say on a TV show that they shaved every day so they were always smooth, I thought I’d give it a go. And shaving became much quicker! You don’t have to be so careful when you’re shaving every day. Any hair you might accidentally miss will be taken care of tomorrow. Shaving every day was just easier. But why did I shave in the first place?

I decided I would conduct an experiment; I would change my shaving habits once it got cooler (because no-one wants to deal with the itch of regrowth in the height of summer), and really think about why I shaved. Although the removal of female body hair has happened for centuries, it only became what it is today fairly recently; check out this article by Renae Regehr on Everyday Feminism about the history of pubic hair removal. Not only does this article talk about the removal of pubic hair over time, but it also has some fascinating and shocking (at least to me) statistics about the number of women shaving today, and their reasons why – some of which, looking back on my own my own shaving history, used to be my own.

Once I hit puberty, I started shaving my legs and my underarms because that’s just what you did. Women didn’t have hairy legs or hairy armpits. I knew this because my mum shaved, and adverts for shaving and waxing products were all over the TV. Women had “silky smooth” legs. It was the done thing. When I bought my first razor, I felt like such a grown up! It was part of the rite of passage; I had started my period, my boobs were growing, and I now had a razor and was shaving – I was becoming a woman!

It was a little while before I started shaving my bikini line, and that only started once I noticed hair start poking out the side of my underwear. I was about 14 then, and this coincided with me reading my friends’ women’s magazines, which kept mentioning the landing strip. They were all talking about that style, and so, to my mind, it was “normal” to having a landing strip. It was sexy, it was feminine. I wanted to be normal, and so I complied. Really, women’s magazines have a lot to answer for.

I started shaving too soon, though, because I soon started believing that shaving caused more hair to grow; rather than just having a triangle of hair over my pubic bone that grew once I hit puberty, hair had now started to grow underneath, and what the hell?! No, no, no. I had never heard of any woman having hair underneath. I didn’t ask about it, I just got rid of it. It shouldn’t be there, it needs to go, now. This, of course, is completely ridiculous, but I was so ashamed and embarrassed of having hair grow in the “wrong” places, it just had to go.

Skip several years to my late teens when I a guy I was completely infatuated with mentioned that he liked the bare, completely shaved look. Now, at the time I knew there was no-way he would be getting any where near my naked body any time soon, so there was no way he’d know whether I had pubic hair or not. But knowing that he liked women to have bare pubic areas, and the thought that if he was to see my pubic area he might be turned off... well. I guess I don’t really need to tell you that off it came. Let’s just take a second to really let that sink in.

I changed my body to be more attractive to a guy.

Are you as appalled as I am? Because... wow.

That guy ended up being not such a nice guy. He hurt me, and I was so angry. And it hit me that, for all intents and purposes, I had starting shaving off my pubic hair for a guy. Not for me, but for a guy. It was so bloody ridiculous! I was so angry with myself! I decided I wasn’t going to shave my pubic area to suit some guy (who, to be honest, didn’t even know about it; he never got that far) again. Back came the landing strip.

Only this time round, I found I wasn’t very good at keeping it tidy. I almost felt like I wanted a ruler to keep the lines straight. I was always trying to perfect the edges; I missed a bit there, but while trying to correct it, I shaved off more than necessary, so now there was a weird patch, so I need to straighten it out again and... it just got thinner and thinner. I had this wispy little line that wasn’t really worth so much agro, so in frustration, I shaved it all off again.

And this was the point I was at when I read Girls Will Be Girls. Completely bald and shaving every day. Once it started to get cooler in August, my experiment began. Baby steps at first, I decided to stop shaving my thighs, and tried to grow back my landing strip. My thinking was, it was winter and no-one is going to see my thighs; even if I wore a dress, I’d be wearing tights, so no-one would notice, like they might do my calves. That way, I could privately work out what exactly I thought of my leg hair once it grew, just for myself. Before my landing strip really grew too much of anything, I stopped and asked myself why a landing strip? If this experiment was about seeing what I thought of my body hair and why I shaved it off, surely there should be a fair amount of it there to base my opinions on. And so, aside from keeping a tidy bikini line, I grew it all back. I decided not to stop shaving my underarms, because I know I have ever liked the look of. Soon after starting this experiment, I read an article by YA author Louise O’Neill in which she talks body hair, and how a teenage girl she knew was insulted by a guy for having pubic hair. It had me so raging, and even more determined to go through with my experiment.

I am now over four months into my new shaving regime. I say “regime”, but it’s not, really. Although I’ve only stopped shaving my thighs, I can go several days to well over a week without shaving my calves without worrying about it. And what do I think of my body hair now? The hair on my thighs is nothing. It’s no worse than the hair on my arms. In fact, it’s better; my leg hair is almost colourless, so it’s only really noticeable if you’re looking for it, and it’s also softer than the hair on my arms – which I have never had a problem with. If my leg hair wasn’t practically colourless would my views be different? Maybe, but I couldn’t say as I’m ginger and have never had really dark leg hair. As things stand, it’s just there, and I’m completely indifferent to it. At the moment, I’m undecided as to whether or not I would stop shaving my calves altogether; on the one hand, I don’t think it would bother me to let it grow, but on the other, I actually like the feel of having soft, smooth, hairless calves. As I said, I don’t worry about shaving my calves all that regularly anyway, so it might be something I stop altogether at some point.

As for my pubic hair, I’ve kind of fallen in love with it – and this is mostly down to the fact that in the last few years I’ve come to really like my pale-skin-and-ginger-hair colouring. I’m liking this shock of colour below the expanse of my pale stomach. (Before you ask, no, it doesn’t look like copper wire. I had enough of those remarks at school, thank you.) In regards to the hair itself, I don’t dislike it. I have started shaving underneath again because I simply don’t like it there, but that’s my personal preference, it’s not for anyone else or for society. But the hair on my pubic bone, now it’s passed the itchy phase, doesn’t bother me. I don’t find it unsightly; on the contrary, I think it’s sexy.

It’s like choosing to let go of the crap society bashes us over the head with about how a woman should look, and giving up trying to conform to that, has lifted a weight off my shoulders, and coming to accept my body’s natural way of being (with a few adjustments for personal preference) has made me love my body more. I have my neat and tidy little lady garden, and I feel sexier and more womanly. Society might say it’s more feminine to be hairless, but I feel more so for embracing my body, as is.

No longer will I let society dictate to me how I should look, and I have Emer O’Toole to thank for that.


I asked a few ladies to join the discussion and share with us their shaving habits and their reasons.

Ailsa, 24:

"I only really shave when that area of the body is going to be visible. So I shave my armpits fairly regularly because I wear sleeveless dresses at work, but I really don’t shave my legs through the winter very often. If I’m going swimming though I will shave my bikini line so nothing peeks out from my swimsuit - I don’t really care about strangers seeing leg hair but I’m much more embarrassed about pubic hair showing - I think because it’s quite intimate, in a way? However in the summer if I’m on holiday somewhere with an outdoor pool where I might be sunbathing, rather than swimming for exercise, I will shave my legs, and I know I’m definitely doing that to ‘fit in’.
I do feel like I should [shave] for certain situations (like sunbathing by the pool) because that’s our cultural norm, for women to have shaved legs, no visible body hair. If I’m in a relationship then I shave my legs more often, and I do groom my bikini line back a lot more than if I’m just trying to keep everything covered by a swimsuit. That’s something that’s changed as I’ve got older - I had my first intimate relationship when I was 18 and I don’t think I ever ‘tidied up’ then."

Hayley, 19:

"I only started shaving because it makes me itch. That's it really. I can go a couple of months without shaving my legs. Armpits and pubic hair, not as long because of the itchiness. There's no time limit for me as such, I just do it when I feel it's necessary for me. But, at the end of the day, my body = my rules!"

Tanya, 39:

"I shave because I much prefer how it looks and feels, personally, but I don't do it nearly as often as previously because I have a partner who values every single hair on my body and, because he's not bothered, I force myself to allow the growth to be a bit more natural.
I would absolutely give [shaving] up completely tomorrow if I had a young daughter. I would be worried about her sense of self in society and would want, through example, to make it perfectly clear that it's entirely unnecessary to shave/remove hair from any part of one's body. It should only be internal desire that influences hair removal choices and, should my daughter express such desires, I would be sure to discuss the matter at length to explore why she felt the need, the subconscious societal pressure from the media and peers in an effort to educate her about her own choices and healthy body image."
Thank you to the women who contributed their own thoughts about their body hair and shaving habits. How about you? Why do you shave/wax? Would you ever try giving up the razor?

Jo's signature

If you enjoyed this post, you can find more on:
Bloglovin' | Twitter | Jo's Scribbles

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Liveblog your Period - a bloody nuisance

So I hadn’t intended my first post to be so very personal but hey this is Safe Space where we can gripe about our periods at length without it being weird. I thought it would be amusing to chronicle my thoughts & feelings during this period rather than just venting my spleen to my OH. At this current moment of writing (Sat 30th Jan) I haven’t started bleeding yet but that odd spidey sense I have that says it’s imminent is making me run to the bathroom paranoid every hour or so to check that I haven’t murdered my underwear. Do other women get that odd feeling that you’re leaking? But then it’s not blood? It’s extra discharge that just makes you pissed off, like you're being trolled by your vagina.

I’m one of those very lucky women who has always had regular periods since they started when I was 12. I can’t honestly remember if I found them super troublesome when I was a teen but now I’m in my twenties I’ve gotten good at recognising the different stages of my cycle & reading the signs that my period is due so I can start packing pads in my handbag (I’ve never been a tampon girl, pads are my jam). The only time I’ve gone a while without periods is when I tried birth control pills (Cerazette which you can take all month) but that ended rather badly when I had a serious reaction to the pills about four months after I started on them.
Yes those are my bare legs, yes I do have pixie feet.
Autumn/Winter 2014 was possibly the worst period of physical health I’ve ever had; I came down with Glandular fever while in Verona and then 2 months later I had to have over a week off work because I couldn’t walk due to the swollen lumps that appeared on my legs (Erythema Nudosem was the eventual diagnosis). Since I don’t take any other medication we surmised that it had to be the Cerazette causing the problem. No more birth control pills for me then.

I honestly don’t mind having periods since without some kind of reminder to take my pill every day I’d very quickly fall out of using it at all. I have thought about getting the implant but without knowing if I would have a reaction to it I’m wary of having it in case I suddenly need to get it dug back out of my arm because my legs start ballooning again. Yikes.

So it’s Sunday. Still no period. Paranoia is still rife. *exasperated sigh* Now just feeling listless & sleepy. I’ve not even started and I’m already fed up with the whole affair.

Monday Afternoon - Well hi there period, nice of you to show up finally after I was expecting you all weekend. I had cleared my schedule all nice and welcoming like and then you leave me hanging. Instead you decided to gate-crash my afternoon at work like a rude bitch. Murderised my knickers to boot. At least I hadn't risked my nice fancy pairs ¬_¬

So now I have cramps to make life all the more delightful. I shouldn't complain though since compared to some of the horror stories I've heard from friends about *their* cramps mine are fucking mild as shit. By tomorrow the cramps will have pretty much subsided and by next Monday it'll all be over for another month anyway.

I am feeling pretty “bleh” this week. I imagine the wacky hormones are partly responsible for my low mood but it still sucks to get home from work to just sink into the sofa for the rest of the night, too lacking in fucks to actually do those various important things I need to do. I hope this lethargy buggers off tomorrow or I’m going to have a rather stressful weekend trying to catch up with everything.

Well now it’s Saturday again and we’re nearly at the end of another whirl of the unmerry-go-round. For me once the first two or three days are done then it’s just a pretty boring affair of downgrading the pads until you can risk going au naturel. It’s normally around this time that the urge to hurry things along kicks in and by that I mean giving your body a little helping hand in clearing the last lingering icky feeling of being on your period *lusty wink*.

Putting it bluntly – have a bloody wank. Quite, er literally? *ahem* Anyway, there is scientific proof that says having an orgasm helps relieve pain & in my experience (there will be a whole post on that in the future) it does a damn good job of both tricking your period into starting when it’s just fannying you about and also helping it to bugger off when it’s lingering like an annoying door-to-door salesman.

So yeah, love yo’selves or if you have a significant other who’s up for it then I highly recommend that you check out this video that the amazing Gracie did with The Site talking about Period Sex. And just check out Gracie’s blog if you haven’t already because her posts are fucking epic :P. Seriously though. Go read her blog. Now.

Before I am run away with my feelings I think it’s time for this post to be ending otherwise I’ll still be writing it when this whole bloody business starts again. Just give it two more weeks and there Mother Nature will be, looking smug af like.

It’s so lovely being a woman isn’t it?

Monday, 15 February 2016

Growing Up With Big Boobs

For most of my life I’ve had big boobs. In my experience that phrase strikes envy into the hearts of women far and wide. Having a fuller bust is something that is praised and celebrated in our society and means that you’re one step closer to that “perfect body” that we see splattered across television screens, magazines and posters everywhere.

But in my experience having big boobs has been far from ideal.

I was an early developer. My boobs appeared literally over night when I was ten years old and I hated them with a passion. I hated the feeling of having to wear a bra, I hated that I still had to get undressed for PE lessons in front of the boys in my class, and I hated how these two bumps on my chest suddenly made me stand out amongst my peers.

One of my earliest negative experiences with my boobs is from one lunch time, back when I was in junior school. My “friends” wouldn’t talk to me and had spent our entire lunch break whispering behind my back. I was so upset and didn’t know what I’d done wrong. I ran to the girls toilets in floods of tears only for a girl I barely knew from the year below me to ask if it was true that I stuffed my bra to get boys to notice me? Because that was the rumour that a girl I considered a friend had started about me that lunch time.

I remember sitting in the bath that night wishing as hard as I could that these things would go away so that I could have my friends back, so people would stop talking about them, so I could be a kid again. I was so upset and disgusted by my body that I faked sick for the rest of the week so I wouldn’t have to go into school.

The first time I remember being street harassed was when I was walking down the road to my friend’s house. I must have been around twelve years old. It was summer, I had on a tank top, and I was making the short walk over to the next street from my house when a group of middle-aged men in a work van slowed down and shouted “Show us your tits, love! Go on! Get them out!” I was twelve years old and I was terrified. I crossed my arms over my chest and ran the rest of the way to my friend’s house with them following along honking the van horn and laughing. Sadly, this would be the first of many incidents throughout my life where men would feel that it was okay to comment on my boobs in public.  

Things only got worse when I went to secondary school. By then I was a thirteen year old girl with a C cup chest - mix that in with a school full of horny teenage boys and well, let’s just say that it was like a lamb walking into a field full of lions.

New rumours flew around that I was a slut and that I’d let boys touch my chest. Boys would reach out and try and grope at them in school corridors. I got asked out a lot by older boys who thought that me having big boobs automatically meant that I was up for sex, and that because we were going out that they had a right to it.

Occasionally, if one of the PE teachers was off sick, the girls and boys would have to do PE together. One time I remember a particularly excruciating hour of trampolining - let me tell you that was a show and a half for the boys in my year group and something that makes me wince even when I think back on it today.

For the longest time I hated my boobs. They didn’t feel like mine but something that belonged to other people and something people could judge me on. It felt like everybody had something to say about my body and my sexuality in relation to my chest size. As a shy, awkward, teenager, I had far more questions asked about my boobs than I was comfortable with and experienced things like people asking if they’re real, boys only being interested in one thing, and street harassment on a daily basis.

I finished school as a D cup and now as an F cup still experience these things from time to time. It certainly helps that I’m not in a testosterone filled high school environment anymore. As an adult woman my problems now usually involve back pain and trying to find a store that carries my bra size.

Having a large chest can be such a coveted thing for women, but for me personally it’s something that I’ve always struggled with. I’d love to be able to say to you that this is all a thing of the past and that I now love my boobs but although I’ve gotten better I’m still not there yet, but I’m working on it.

Having big boobs can be far from ideal. They can draw unwanted attention, cause physical problems from the weight and are often used as a comical talking point. I hope I’ve shed some light on that by sharing my experiences of growing up with big boobs today.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

What Makes Me, Me - Faye

One of the things I struggle with most is defining who I am, so when I was asked to write this post, I froze a little. How does one actually explain what makes them, them, when they don’t know the answer. And honestly, I don’t know what makes me, me. It’s one of the reasons that I wanted to join this team, so that I can start to explore exactly who I am. This is what they call an identity crisis. And it is something that I have really been struggling with lately as I have been staring down the barrel of the gun that is “my future”. I’m twenty-five, working in a job that I both love and hate, and trying to only apply to jobs that I would love to do and would be good at. But as it stands, I don’t think I even know what that is. At this point in my life, I feel like I’m only adequate at everything I do and excel at nothing. And trying to apply for jobs when that’s your mental state is not exactly the easiest thing to do.

But that is all just the icing on the cake. Is my future, my skills and my abilities all that define me? Definitely not. In fact, the hardest part about understanding what makes me, me, is in defining what that actually means. But when I go to answer the question, I almost always jump to those things. I’m a blogger, a writer, a graphic designer, a library assistant, a reader. These are parts of me, but they don’t exactly wholly define me. And just upon looking at those things, it shows that I’m a little all over the place - or is that just how I see it? And thus today, for this blog post at least, I want to move a little further past these things, and dive a bit deeper into who I am.

So to start, I want to give a little bit more about my personality. From the above, I’m sure you can probably already tell that I struggle a little with confidence - something which I will be touching upon further on this blog - but that’s just a small part of me. I’m also an introvert - and proud. I’ve had a lot of trouble over the years with this as it seems that very few people understand what it actually means. A lot of people see the definition as a way of saying that you’re anti-social and prefer to spend life cooped up and alone. And while I do enjoy my own company and could quite happily do a lot of things on my own, I do also very much enjoy socialising. I love spending time with my friends, laughing and just having meaningful and wonderful conversations. Being an introvert doesn’t mean I hate people (well, I mean, not completely), it just means that I cannot be around people all the time. It means that my energy gets sapped completely if I’m in a room full of people for too long. It means that a long day is made longer if I get no alone time and it means I can become quiet and distant if it all gets too much for me. This is also something I want to explore further, but best to move on before this post gets too long.

Another part of my personality is that I have hyper-moments. Usually this occurs when I’m over-tired or had a little too much sugar. But it usually ends up with me being really silly, joking around, making funny noises or dancing or jumping about. It means that for a short while at least, my brain gets shut off and I end up saying things like “I have no idea why I said that”. It’s a part of me that I both love and hate because it feels freeing but I often end up feeling embarrassed and anxious after it all happens. But if it happens around you, it may also mean that I feel comfortable enough in your company that you won’t judge me. I’m also a bit of a hypocrit in this state. Because for all my hyper-moments, I’m wanting the world to look at me, to see me and then, as soon as it does, I wish it didn’t.

And that is something I well and truly struggle with about my personality. I crave to be invisible and seen all at the same time. Invisible because then I only have myself to worry about. Seen because I don’t want to feel truly alone. The power of the double-edged sword.

Along with all the above, I also like being funny. Causing others to laugh is something I love to do. Especially if that laughter comes at a time when they’re feeling down. Caring comes strongly into this and I do care deeply for other people. I worry for the world sometimes and wish that I could fix every problem that my friends go through. But I also struggle to let people in. Yes, I would do anything to help a stranger feel better but it takes a lot for that stranger to finally knock down the wall surrounding my heart. Though, I am not very good at telling people they’ve made it past the foundations. But it also means that if, once on the inside, my trust is broken, I find it very difficult, if not near impossible, to let those people break the wall again. Sometimes they can climb over the top to see in but won’t be able to actually clamber over.

But all of the above on my personality, still hasn’t really touched upon what really makes me, me, does it? Sure you know some things about me, probably even some things that you didn’t know before, but does it really paint a good picture on who I am? Does it tell you that I can get crippling depression? Does it tell you that sometimes I have to deal with my serious anxiety issues? Does it explain that I worry about my health so much that I’m probably causing it to decline before my very eyes? Answering the question of who I am, and what makes me that way is difficult. But the reason it’s so difficult is simply because I am a human being. I am complex and unique. So in my struggle to answer this question, I can at least attest to feeling less alone because I know that I am more than likely not the only one who has or is struggling with it too.

So to end this post, I want to say that what makes me, me, is every single aspect of my life. My experiences, my skills, my hobbies, my jobs, my friends, my idiosyncrasies. I am who I am because of everything.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

What Makes Me, Me - Laura

When Jess asked me to write a piece about ‘What Makes Me, Me’ I hit a bit of a wall. What does make me, me? For so long I’ve labelled myself and presented myself as Laura: the one with anxiety and depression. Instead of letting my mental health problems be a small part of me, I chose to let them define me. Whenever I met someone new I’d try and slip in a “oh by the way I might have a panic attack so don’t panic if I panic” kinda thing. Instead of saying, “Hi, I’m Laura and I have lots of other identifying features aside from my scrambled brain.”

There are so many other things that make me the person that I am. So I sat down and took my anxiety right out of the equation to see what I had left; what else I was made up of. I thought I’d make a list instead of things that make me Laura. 
Here’s what makes me, me:
  •         My insatiable appetite for books
  •         My insatiable appetite for pizza
  •          My addiction to cats, cat videos and the idea that one day I can have LOTS of cats
  •         My love for writing about and reading books, in fact anything to do with books.
  •          My aspirations to be a published author. (I once met with a publisher who liked my writing…WHATTTTT)
  •          My insistence that pyjama bottoms are acceptable every day clothing. (only indoors)
  •           My perpetual need to sleep
  •           My hatred of driving (much to my boyfriend’s annoyance)
  •           My love of Devon (I’ve only been there twice but want to be there foreverrrr)
  •           My lack of travel (I’ve never left the UK or been on a plane. Booo)
  •           My lasagne making skillz
  •           My love/hate relationship with the word ‘bae’. Boyfriend and I started using it in jest and now it has become the third wheel in our relationship
  •           My love for the word pulchritudinous because it sounds like the complete opposite of what it is
  •           My love of crisps (salt and vinegar Tyrell’s if you’re offering, please)
  •           My overuse of exclamation marks, the word ‘just’ and commas
  •           My love for baby things. i.e kittens, puppies and fluffy ducklings
  •           My addiction to stationery and notebooks
  •           My complete disregard for fashion
  •           My complete disregard for makeup that isn’t eyeliner, eyeshadow or mascara.
  •           My lack of interest in TV unless it’s funny or dark and murdery
  •           My love of musicals
And now I’ve got bored thinking about me. (I think I have some sort of brain filter that says NOPE too much self-analysis.) But, there we go; a short-ish list of things that make me, me. Excluding my anxiety and depression and agoraphobia, I’m pretty normal…right? Everyone loves cats and pizza…? (They do, even if they don’t admit it.)

N.B. My anxiety and depression also make me the person that I am today. If I hadn’t spent nearly ten years in the grip of perpetual anxiety and waves of depression then I wouldn’t be as strong and determined as I am today. It’s so easy for people looking in from the outside to say ‘hah, you haven’t left the house in months, you’re not living your life to the full’ but I know that sometimes just getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement. Managing to engage in conversation with my family without spiraling into a panic is an achievement. Heck, even going into the back garden to put some bird seed out is an achievement. Yet I feel bad about this. I feel like I shouldn’t see these things as achievements because no one else does…no one else pats me on the back and says ‘well done for making it through another day.’

But I’m still here, I’m still standing, I’m still trying to find a way to get better and without these years of suffering, of tears, of panic attacks…I wouldn’t have the determination and strength to carry on. Everything listed above makes me happy – they’re the things that compel me to get up every morning; they’re the things that make me feel like a normal person. They give me hope I can one day be the person who walks down the street without crying and running back home.

My anxiety, depression and agoraphobia do contribute to the person that I am, they influence the way I behave and the way I see the world but they’re not the only things I want to use to define myself anymore. I want to feel unashamed to say to people ‘nope, sorry, not today, I don’t feel up to it’ without feeling horrendous guilt and wondering if anyone will ever like me again. I want people to understand that depression isn’t just ‘feeling sad’ and anxiety isn’t just ‘being a bit nervous.’ I want people to acknowledge that something they find a doddle is actually really, really hard for me. I want society as a whole to be more understanding of mental health and how we can all support each other. I want people to ask me how I feel instead of just pretending that my mental health is fine. And, most of all I want people to stop passing judgement on my life and telling me how I should feel and what I should do.

I think I completely went off point there. (Oh, that’s another thing – I like tangents.)

So, that’s me. That’s what makes me the person that I am today: anxiety, depression, cats and pizza.

And I’m cool with that.