Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Why NEW YEAR NEW ME Is A Load of Bollocks

Hi Everyone

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Welcome to the other side!  It's 2019 - whoopee fucking doo!


I hope you had a great night last night.  Me, I was tucked up in bed and fast asleep by 11pm whilst the majority of the rest of the world stayed awake for fireworks, midnight greetings and resolutions.


I am going to be honest - I have NEVER understood the whole new year hoopla.   I get it from an ancient "movement of the planets" perspective, and I would probably have been quite excited in the Middle Ages, but right here, right now?   No, no and no.

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I always think there's something forced about New Year's Eve - you HAVE to go to an amazing party, you HAVE to get drunk, and you have to make bollocks promises.   I'm not good with things that are expected of me, or that are hyped up by others, and I am not a big drinker and I hardly ever do parties.  


My biggest problem though is with the cult of resolutions.  Why?  Why do we do this?  Is it good to reflect and make changes?  Absolutely.  Is it good to only do it once a year, on a forced timescale?  Absolutely not.

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From an early age, I hated the whole "you need to pick a New Year's resolution" deal.   Why do I HAVE TO????  With the lack of illumination of a child, I didn't think I needed to change at all, yet there was this weird expectation that I should.  Worse, the suggestions that were being made to me were things I enjoyed, thank you very much - biting my nails, eating too many crisps, picking my nose ...


As the years go by, you realise this conversation is about people trying to iron out your faults, and it becomes quite insulting.  Lose weight.  Dry the dishes every night.  Tidy your room once a week.  No, no and no.  Take your ideas and shove them up your arse.  I am not going to change just because you want me to.  That's not how it works!

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Eventually of course, you mature, and sometimes you CHOOSE to make a resolution, but it didn't take me very long to get to the place I am now, a battleline I have fiercely defended for 20 years - if you want to make a change, don't fucking wait for New Year's Day to do it.


The great thing about change is that you can do it at any time.  You can go big, you can go slow.  You can be bold, you can be subtle.  It doesn't require anyone else's timescale to do it.  In fact, if you do it for any reason other than your own selfish desire, it won't work anyway.

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For change to take root and become a habit and become a norm, it requires motivation.  It needs a WHY.  Compare the woman who wants to lose "some" weight to the bride-to-be who needs to drop 2 dress sizes.  Only 1 of these women will be successful because she has a concrete, endlessly inspiring WHY.

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We should never change for the sake of change.  Change when you want to, or when you need to.  Do it to please yourself, and commit to it 100%.   It's never too early or too late to change, and you can do it as many times as you want.   Just don't do it because someone else - or society - thinks you should.




Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 - A Year Survived

Hi Everyone

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So here we are, on the cusp of a New Year.   I don't believe in the New Year, New Me bollocks, but I do enjoy the looking back and seeing how far I've come (or not) and what that means for the path ahead.


2018 really tried to do me in. It's been a year of challenges, but crucially, a year of survival. It's been a year where depression got lonely, and invited anxiety in as an unruly housemate, and at times this year, that anxiety has been pure terror.  Mentally, I've had some of my worst times this year, but I've also learnt more about how to manage it.


For me, control is quite important.  Well, very important.  Some of the worst times in my life have been when I've been stuck, whilst the best have been when I've been fearless and free. Money is integral to that, and the last few years have taken a huge toll on me financially - if I could do it all again, I definitely would.

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Each month became a financial cringe.  Anxiety about my bank balance left me on a constant seesaw - what was worse, not looking and not knowing, or looking and hating what I saw? I became adept at playing the system (use your credit card before the interest goes on to get a little extra spend out of it) but eventually the margins became tighter and tighter.  It was time to grow up.


So finally, properly, I am living on a budget, with no credit cards.   And it's terrifying.  There is no spare cash for all those lovely little extras that make life fun, and without a partner or savings, there is no safety net either.   Bills increase every month and I haven't had a pay rise in 2 years.  I like that I am surviving, but I hate how scary it is.


Money has caused me a lot of anxiety this year, and as I said, that anxiety has often been pure terror.   I spiral quickly from financial concern to homelessness, and it's sometimes taken every ounce of the little mental strength I have left to keep my mind under control.



Key to my mental survival this year has been Matt Haig, who wrote a brilliant book called Notes On A Nervous Planet.   It's full of truth, perspective and illumination, all in small chapters that the scattered mind can absorb.   It's taught me a lot about myself, particularly destructive thought patterns that I didn't realise I had.   I recommend it to everyone.

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Beth continues to be the centre of my world and a reminder of how fragile the world can make us.   Her teenage challenges are so much more acute than they were in "my day" and I'm really glad I'm not part of her over-digitised generation.  She's probably needed more parenting this year than ever before - but I think we've laughed more too.   Parenthood is a proactive thing. We can't just let our child loose in this world and hope they will be okay.  Yes, allow them freedom, but be concerned and interested in their travels.  And more importantly, CARE.


I also had an epiphany late in the year.   The last 10 years of my life have been tough, certainly not the years I envisaged for myself, and I've realised that I have been so focussed on survival that I have forgotten to focus on LIVING. I'm going to write about this separately because it's such a big topic, but I've become so lost in the struggle, that I literally stopped seeing the wood for the trees.   And the wood can be so pretty, and magical.   And my trees had thorns.

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We all make mistakes in life, and we all fail sometimes. In fact, it's crucial.  Without failing, we don't learn.  As you look back on 2018, be kind to yourself. By all means identify your mistakes, reflect on them, and learn from them, but DON'T beat yourself up about them.  They are what will shape the YOU you become in 2019 and beyond.


See you in 2019!




Monday, 24 December 2018

Why Christmas Eve Has Always Been The Most Important Night of The Year

Hi Everyone

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Tonight is Christmas Eve and it is without doubt THE most special night of the year.  Throughout my life, it's been a time of magic, but tonight, it will pass without notice.  So what's changed?


As a child, Christmas Eve was always precious.   I am of part-Polish descent, and in the Polish calendar, Christmas Eve is IT.  We always spent it at my Polish grandmother's, hearing stories - it was like living inside Grimm's fairytales.  It was the one night of the year we were allowed to sit at the "grown up" dinner table ... and the one night of the year I couldn't sleep.

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As I grew older, I was a good girl. It never even occurred to me to find presents or unpick the wrapping, and the one time I did, I immediately regretted - one, because I knew I'd ruined the thrill (for me and my mother), and second, the other present was an alarm clock and I'd just set it ticking.


As I got to my late teens / early twenties, me and my mother started another Christmas tradition, one of our own. She would pick me up from work at lunchtime, we would go and have a chinese, then we would come home, drink, and from 6pm, on the hour, every hour, we would open a present.

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As I grew older, and earnt more money, it became everything to thrill her and take her breath away in those moments.  Often, the present would be something she mentioned months ago, or something she lacked the confidence to do herself.  One year her biggest present was a pair of gold earrings and she was overwhelmed by the extravagance.   Yet always, they only reflected my love for her.  The presents allowed her to see herself as I saw her - wonderful.


Then one year my mother died - 3 weeks before Christmas - and the pain of finding presents she had already bought and stashed away for me was heartbreaking.   I think they were the usual stocking fillers - smellies, knickers, a book - but I vividly remember crying my heart out over the panda slippers (Panda and Chi Chi being our nicknames for each other).

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From that, we zoom to my soon-to-be parents-in-law who had agreed to host us on Christmas Eve night.  It was the first year I and the then boyfriend spent together and I knew he had bought me a ring (not THAT kind of ring).  All week he insisted I would have to wait for it til Christmas Day until I literally broke down and explained why that year, more than any year, I needed a link to Christmas Eves past.


Just before midnight, he relented, and went downstairs to wrap it. He was a boy.  Why would he have wrapped it before the last minute or bought his own wrapping paper?  I heard him put on the TV and laugh along to some comedy program as I waited upstairs in bed. And this ladies, is why you should never have a single romantic notion in your head.


Despite calling him, he didn't come to bed for an HOUR AND A HALF. He hadn't heard me calling and hadn't "realised" I was awake. He just slid into bed, and when I "ahemmed" to said "oh, I thought you'd be asleep"and threw, yes THREW, the now wrapped ring at me. 


I remember sitting there speechless, too stunned to cry, to numb to even know where shoving it would hurt him the most.  No words of love.  No making this night special because my mum wasn't there.  No understanding my tears.   Eventually "well I didn't think I needed to do that cos you knew what it was".   It would take me 8 wasted years to realise this was a template, not a one-off.




So, zoom on a couple of years and we get married on Christmas Eve (partly because I needed to keep that link alive and partly because I needed a date he couldn't forget).   Turns out it's a shit day to get married (and not just because your dad refuses to come). People struggle to get time off work, and every anniversary you'll be torn between struggling to get a restaurant booking, and running out of time to prepare the daughter's Christmas.


Still, later,with your daughter, you start your own traditions, steeped in the past.  You religiously follow Norad from mid-afternoon.  You overdose on Christmas movies, and you write Santa a thank you letter (Facebook has been just precious today in reminding me of some of those times).




But then you get divorced, and suddenly, Christmas isn't Christmas anymore.   Christmas is whatever time you can grab with your daughter, regardless of what day it is.  And as you've always hated roast dinners anyway, shall we just have a curry?  We did, and another year we had sausage and mash.


Then you get a cat, and it's a perfect excuse not to put up the Christmas tree, because she's exactly the naughty little bugger who will climb it, and then one year becomes five, and then you're throwing all your Christmas decs away, including those amazing red disco balls from Christmas Angels in York.  You loved them almost as much as the dream of the life they belonged to.





And now this year, there is no Christmas. Literally.   Beth is the only person I need to buy for (other than the office Secret Santa) and like me, she likes it before Christmas.   She likes to have a budget and pick what she wants, and that works for me.  I refuse to wrap anything, because I can't believe we all buy a product purely to rip it up and put it in the bin.   Oh and I hate turkey.


Tonight, as on every Christmas Eve, I will remember my Polish grandmother, and I will remember my mother.   This is one of the hardest days to endure without her.  It's almost as if her absence on this day of all days represents what I lost when she died.




But do you know what I've learnt?   Christmas isn't a day.  It's not a mad dash to the shops.  It's not queuing for hours in a car park.   It's not armfuls of presents.  It's not grinding yourself into the ground making the perfect meal for everyone.  Christmas is your heart.  It's family, and it's absence of loved ones.  It's a time to be grateful for what you have and raise a glass to what you've lost.


You don't need a calendar, and you don't need a turkey. You just need a good heart.


All my love.  Merry Christmas.


(And for the record, I achieved my goal and I've managed to avoid the John Lewis advert lol).


Friday, 26 October 2018

Memory Lane - Halloween Manis

Hi Goddesses



I don't get the whole American version of Halloween (never have) but I dooooo love the Season of the Witch, and this time of year was always a special time on my blog.   November always seemed like a purple month to me lol, and as the nights got darker, the witch in me would become inspired for some dark and twisted manis.


I thought you might like to see some of my old Halloween manis - maybe you're still looking for inspiration? - and we could also have a laugh over whether we still like them lol.


Let's start with the older, and therefore SHITTIER ones - 



This one's not too bad - apart from the rotting cuticles lol - and was relatively simple.   Purple base, purple sponging around the edges and stamping in the middle.  All before the days of the see-through stamper too.  Check ME out lol.  Link HERE.



A spiderfest.  Gotta be honest, this doesn't exactly scream Halloween at me, but I suspect I desperately wanted to use that stamping plate and lacked any more original ideas.  Link HERE.



Super simple.  No talent required here!!  Black base and then stamp in metallics!   Very easy if your nail art isn't the best.   Link HERE.



OMG this is one of my earliest posts!!  This is 7 years ago - 7 years !!!  Super simple, and something I would happily do again.   Hey, I love crackle and I'm not ashamed to say it.  Crackle just zazooms any mani and it's crazy easy.   Link HERE but proceed with CAUTION, the photos are baaaaad.



Another one from 7 years ago. My god that fucking date stamp aaarrrgghhh. And let's not even discuss the lack of cleanup.  As my dear friend used to say "cleanup required in aisle 9!"   That said, who doesn't love a good splatter.  Again, I could be tempted to do this again .... if it weren't for the clean-up.  I think black splatter on red .... hhhmmm.  Oh, link HERE.


Ah look, we're on the grown-up stuff now.  I always ALWAYS laugh at the difference from a newborn blogger's photos to when they know what they're doing (this post is 3 years ago).  And guess what never changed?   My love of simplicity.  A black and white horror flick with an assortment of stamping plates.  I'm so lazy.  Link HERE.




Ok, I'm not gonna lie, this is one of my favourite manis I ever did.  I was soooooo proud of the idea for this one.  No denying a more talented blogger could have rendered it better, but for me this was Ambitious with a capital A.  The Tale of the Disappearing Cat ....schpookeh!  Link HERE.  



Hhhhmmm so isn't this a weird one.  I'd actually forgotten all about this one.   And I actually think I like it, because it's so weird and different.  This is Decomposing Roses - orange base, splodges of green and purple, and then black stamped roses.  The garish, ghoulish, over-made-up side of Halloween.  Link HERE.



And here she is. Ah, still very proud of this.  I even remember famouser, betterer nail bloggers saying they couldn't replicate it.  My beloved Halloween ghost cat ..... So simple (but you have to be lucky with the the water blobbing) ... and can you ever really beat a black matte base?  Link HERE.



A slightly better spider mani - I called this one Toxic Spiders lol.  Link HERE.




Again, I had COMPLETELY forgotten about this mani!  How is that possible, cos looking at it now, I actually love it (once you realise I've spelt out the word blood on my nails).   Maybe that's just what happens when you churn out so many manis in a short amount of time.   Link HERE.


I hope you've enjoyed this midnight stroll with the ghosts of manis past.  All the old posts are still on this blog - you can search Halloween and Hallowe'en to see them all.   I was also very religious about labelling everything, so if you're viewing this blog on a device that shows you all the labels at the bottom of the page, you can look up pretty much ANYTHING .... if you want to.

Happy spooking!



Thursday, 25 October 2018

If You're Writing, But No One's Listening, What's The Point?

Hi my lovelies

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Transitioning this blog from nails to something else is ... interesting.  Good interesting - loads of great new topics to write about - not-so-good interesting - a lack of interaction.


The world has changed since I blogged at least once a day (sometimes twice or more - crazy times).  I remember blogging and moaning with my fellow bloggers about the lack of comments, how everyone had become 1-click happy and just wanted to "like" posts and photos.   This time around, there aren't any pretty pictures, so I'm not even getting likes lol.

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Of course my readership numbers have gone down.  People who joined for a sexy polka-dot aren't necessarily going to stay around for a meander through mental health, but I've been surprised just how low the numbers are, and especially the lack of interaction through Twitter (I thought everyone did Twitter, maybe I'm wrong).


In the old days I obsessed about my numbers, but I am finally more relaxed this time around, although it did pinch slightly this week when my Facebook likes fell below 10k for the first time in years.   When you don't blog, it's easy to maintain your numbers, because people forget they were following you (no one really goes and declutters the pages they like) - when you start to blog again and they don't like the story, of course they're going to Unlike, and hey, I've done that lots myself.

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The problem, if it is a problem, is that I feel I have a lot to say.   I feel I have a voice.  And I want to be heard because I think I can help a lot of people, whether through mental health or just a good old chuckle, but finding a new audience is tough.  I'm oh-so-grateful to the followers who always loved my writing and are still following me, but how to connect with different people who might need to hear that voice in the dark?


I'm going to be honest.  I thought a few hashtags would do it.  Stick a #mentalhealth here and a #leadership there, maybe @a-famous-person and boom! they would come!  The @a-famous-person would retweet me and their thousands of followers would flock to me like bees to blooms ... but no, lol.

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So does it matter?   Well at the moment, not massively.  I'm enjoying writing, and knowing I am connecting with a few people is enough.  But how long will this sustain me?  If I'm writing, and no one's reading, doesn't that suggest that what I'm writing is shite, or of no interest?   And if I am of no interest, why blog?    Why spend time writing and putting emotion and energy into something that will never be seen or FELT?


Well, in my head, someone at some point is going to stumble over my blog and turn it into a book or a new career lol but until then, it's ok.  At the moment.   I caveat that because I can be fickle, and lose interest, and I don't want to this time.   My head is still full of the lovely Rachael Hodges who recently died from cancer whilst writing a book for her son.  Now, I'm not suggesting that's why I'm writing this blog, but I like that Beth will one day be able to look back at the pieces of me, and understand how I fitted together.

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More than anything though, I love to write AND it's cathartic.   Writing about post natal depression and The Cry was like an outpouring - and a really cleansing one at that.  I think I've said before, writing is the only thing that takes me out of time and out of myself.   It's the only thing that stops me eating lol.  I have issues I want to explore within myself, and writing them on a blog might help more people than if I just jot them down in a notebook.


So for now, I write and I blog, and if you read, I thank you. If it helps you, I'm grateful, and hey, if you want to invite all your friends along for the ride, I don't mind lol.



Tuesday, 23 October 2018

How BBC1's The Cry Provides a Brilliant Examination of Post Natal Depression

Hi Everyone

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Sooooo, in the UK we were recently gripped by Bodyguard, a fab thriller on BBC1.  That ended 4 weeks ago and a new series started - The Cry.   From the trailers, it looked mesmerising - a child goes missing - with haunting echoes of Madeleine McCann, the dingo baby and a thousand other awful stories.


What I wasn't prepared for, was that the series would start with the nightmare of new motherhood, and specifically post-natal depression (and don't worry, there are no spoilers in this post.)   It's one of the very first times I can remember PND being portrayed so accurately in a drama, and for me, as a survivor, most of that accuracy comes from how it is *under*played.

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Post natal depression isn't some big blasting melodrama; it's the very opposite - silence, absence of self, a desire for everything to just fade away.   We can be functional or semi-functional on the surface, but inside we're shitting ourselves, waiting to be found out, feeling useless and just wanting that baby to stop crying.


Jenna Coleman's portrayal is spot on.  It's in the little moments.  It's when she's so sick of the baby crying, she locks him in the bedroom and turns up the TV so that she doesn't have to keep hearing that DAMN noise.   It's the filthy look she shoots her husband as he slumbers blissfully and she absorbs all the stress.  It's the way she lies to a friend about loving motherhood, when every fibre of her being screams otherwise.

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I hated new motherhood.  Not going to lie.  Hated it.  I felt out of control (not a control freak's favourite modus operandi), hopelessly unprepared, thrown in, and worst, alone.  I had no nearby family, no nearby friends.  I am an only child so babies weren't something I'd ever been around.  And the day after I got home from hospital, my husband went back to work.


I was terrified.  I used to the count the minutes down, to prove that I was getting through.   I had no clue what to do with the baby between meal times. I didn't want to leave the house, but I didn't want to be stuck inside either.   And oh, I so badly wanted to run away.

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The isolation of early motherhood is extreme.  You are thrown completely out of yourself and into an existence you are completely unprepared for.   You live only to serve the baby-tyrant, and if you're not naturally maternal, there's not a lot of joy to be had in this phase.   I am so thrilled for all the mums out there who enjoy motherhood, but for some of us, it's a struggle, as alien as trying to juggle knives without stabbing ourselves.


I see myself in the moments where the husband, as hero, and after he is glutted with sleep, takes the baby and tells Jo to get some sleep.  What a joke.  In a state of stress and fever-pitch anxiety, we can't just go "oh ok" and switch off - although men, maddeningly, can.   Even when we are given help, it's hard to take the time back for yourself, to repair yourself, because PND has taken you so far away from yourself that it takes a long long time to travel back.

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When the baby is taken in The Cry, Jo barely reacts.   She stands, not quite comprehending what is happening, as the husband-hero goes into rescue mode.   Her disconnection from the world is profound and this is the kicker - the mother terrorised by PND doesn't know what's just come true, her worst nightmare, or her dream.


For a split second, for Jo, the trauma is over.   The crying has stopped.  The tyranny is over.   It's as if a tumour has been removed.   She's still too stunned to speak and react, and her lack of emotion scares others, and implies her guilt.  But how do you convey that although you would do anything to get your baby back, you're secretly relieved to have this breather?   That secretly, a version of this is what you've wanted since you came home from the hospital?

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One final point.   At some point in the future, Jo is asked how she got through it.  She tells us she remembered she used to be strong.  Motherhood can slay anybody.  It is all-consuming and never-ending.  In the process, most of us lose ourselves (some willingly, some not).  We step out of our own lives and into the life of our baby, and each day it gets harder to step back.   We become absent from our own lives, and our own selves.  We forget who we were.  But when we remember, the strength comes back to save us.

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Post natal depression is akin to suffering a trauma.   Those of you who have never felt this way may feel this is an exaggeration, but I promise you it's not.  It's a profound place of shock, sadly with very little awe.   If you have any of these symptoms, please see a doctor - 

* struggling to get out of bed
* lack of personal hygiene - not showering, getting dressed
* not eating
* resentful of your partner
* wanting to escape

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And if you can, these are the best ways to get through it - 

* see a doctor.  I know not everyone likes medication, but it can help and it helped me

* accept absolutely every offer of help and support - don't say no!

* if you're on your own, invite people round.  Being less alone will ease the struggle for a little while

* time-keeping.  I was a control freak.   Counting down to when I next had to feed Beth / take her to the doctors / bathe her, helped me get through the minutes LITERALLY 1 AT A TIME

* don't be ashamed to tell people how you feel.  The myth of motherhood as something that completes us and gives us nothing but joy is just that - a myth. Tell people how you feel and you'll not only feel less alone, you'll find out some of them felt that way too.


Love.




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