Setting Intentions

I started writing this post 10 months ago, a few weeks into the new year, that time of year when everyone is reflecting and hoping to manifest change in the coming months. I knew I wanted to invite change into my life but at that point I was too overwhelmed to think for more than a few minutes about it. I tend to start writing and soon lose interest but the reason I was drawn back to this topic was because, as the year comes to a close, I am reflecting on the intended and unintended things that I have experienced this year.

Now, ten months after I started, I am writing this from the echoey hall of a museum in Lisbon. Whatever change I had hoped to manifest I don’t think moving to Portugal was it, but I am trying to allow myself to not get bogged down in the things I can’t control or change. One thing I decided to change a few weeks ago was not to wait till the 31st December or 1st January to make a decision about how and what I wanted to change in 2020. I wanted to make changes immediately which I did but also to give myself time to really evaluate what I want and where I want to be, which I am doing.

One thing I decided to change a few weeks ago was not to wait till the 31st December or 1st January to make a decision about how and what I wanted to change in 2020.

There is something enticing about waiting till the very last moments of the year, or the first few hours of one, to announce a grand plan but in reality (for me at least) they are often too big and grand to last. My most effective intentions have always been ones which I knew I needed and would make me happy.

A few years ago, my intention was to go to the theatre more, which I did, last year I wanted to wear red make-up more which I also did. My friend told me she chooses a word she wants to define the year which I tried but have completely forgotten what word I chose! I will write it down next time. I like intentions like this, they don’t aim to completely reshape your life or demand you change your personality or body, they just gently nudge you, encouraging you to do things for yourself or commit to a theme for your year.

What I am trying to consider now is what intentions are most important to me, do I want to travel more or spend more time with my family? Do I want to continue to be impulsive and independent or do I want to commit to one person?  Will I move again or give myself more time in my new space?

I like intentions that don’t aim to completely reshape your life or demand you change your personality or body, they just gently nudge you, encouraging you to do things for yourself.

Maybe you don’t have these kind of brain scrambles when setting intentions, maybe you are one of those amazing people who sets your mind on something and just goes for it. I am one of those types who over analyses which is why when it comes to intentions it is easier for me to stick to things I want more of in my life than habits I want to pick up.

I think another part of it is being scared of setting something in stone, I have an all or nothing type attitude especially when it comes to achieving something to do with work.  Setting an intention to complete something or achieve something bigger and more life changing means you have to grapple with the fact you might not actually get it. It won’t fundamentally change my life if I stop wearing red eye shadow but if I don’t get to publish a book or buy a house then that will actually feel really crap.

In reality though these intentions don’t need to be any scarier, they just involve more flexibility and few small intentions along the way. Setting a big huge intention for 2020 is a great idea as long as you don’t expect yourself to have achieved in by the end of January 2020.

I’m still trying to work out what I want for the next year and the next decade. All I can say is that whatever I choose to work towards I won’t judge myself as harshly for not doing it perfectly. In the past my intentions have been about loosing weight, being better, making more money blah blah blah but the biggest changes happened to me when I gave myself space for them. When I let myself be slow or static and knew that was ok. Right now in this moment I am just hoping I reach 2030 with most of my teeth.

Self-care playlist November 2019

I started making playlists for myself about a year ago, every two months or so I make a new playlist of all the songs I have been listening to. Sometimes it will be old songs that I have been thinking about but usually it is new stuff that I play on repeat.

Music has such a massive impact on my mood. I always notice around 4pm if I haven’t listened to anything because I feel well agitated! So here are some of my go to songs guaranteed to lift my mood!

Bottom Bitch – Doja Cat

I only just put this on my playlist and it was a real surprise find for me. I didn’t think I liked the artist although my friends were always recommending them. This came up in a recommended playlist for me and I immediately loved it. With all the changes I have gone through, I felt like my confidence has taken a knocking and although this song has nothing to do with that it somehow gives me a little boost when I listen to it.

When I wake up feeling a little groggy or unprepared I play this while brushing my teeth, works every time!

The End (feat. Lady Zamar)

This is actually from my October/November 2018 playlist  but I stumbled across it and remembered how much I loved this song. I was in a very different mind space then but this song still chills me out. The meaning of the lyrics  change depending on my mood but it always motivates me whether I am stressed, tired or hopeless.

Joy – Bastille

When I was feeling like I wanted to scream in frustration about work or cry with hopelessness or whatever else this song saved me! I played it non-stop in between meetings at work, put it on when I was tidying up, when I needed some motivation to get out of my house, whatever mood I was in this song made it better.

Whole of the Moon – Karine Polwart

My Dad gave me a Karine Polwart album when I was fourteen. I loved her voice and her songs so much, so delicate and warm. I’ve continued to listen to that same album but when I heard this song in August 2019 it felt like it had come to me right when I needed it.

I haven’t lived in Scotland for a long time now, so it felt like a little bit of home wherever I was during a time when I was really lacking stability. The whole album is beautiful and definitely worth a few listens.

 

Community Care: Solidarity and Pride

This year my best friend got married. I’ve known him since I was eleven and I was the first person he ever came out to. He loves to tell people that I was “nonchalant” about it, that he was nervous as shit and my response was a little anti-climatic.

I wasn’t just unsuprised because I had thought he was queer for a while, him coming out was an important step for him but it didn’t change anything for me, he was the same person to me. My childhood was far from perfect but one wonderful thing my parents did for me was make sure I was raised with LGBTQ people in my life. Queer people were around me and a regular part of my life, I didn’t expect explanations as to why they were that way, they just were. My mother’s best friend was trans and although as I got older I could see that she did not have an easiest life she was always just a person in my life. She had a different life to mine but she was no less valid or valuable for it. When I say she didn’t have the easiest life, she had abusive relationships, has issues with substance abuse and struggled to keep a job but as a child I didn’t understand that.

Since Stonewall there has been huge positive steps for LGBQ people, my best friend got married this year, in a legal ceremony with both his and the other groom’s family attending and celebrating their love. This has only been a legal possibility since 2013 and an actual fact since March 2014. The LGBQ community has been so accepted that almost every high street chain has a rainbow logo and will participate in pride marches across the UK. Pride marches which were started by POC trans women in the 1960s after being targeted by police in New York. You might have noticed that I am referencing the LGBQ community, I’ve missed out the T because, while I am not ignoring the fact two lesbians were attacked on a night bus last week, the discrimination Trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming people still face is an absolute shame on our country.

Last week I watched Travis Alabanza on Instagram live, where they talked about the lack of pride they felt this month and the conflicting narrative between rainbows and pride celebrations and the fact that Munroe Bergdorf was the victim of an organised TERF campaign to be removed as an ambassador for Child Line.

Child Line provides free and confidential advice to young people, they are a crucial in providing support to young people in the UK on a range of issues like bullying and mental health. They also responded to claims by TERF trolls that Bergdorf was a porn model by removing her as their new ambassador. This happened last week. This happened in June. This happened in June, fifty years after fed up POC Trans women threw bricks at police after suffering discrimination and violence. A black trans women, who was the victim of an online hate campaign, was removed as an ambassador for a charity on the anniversary of trans resistance and the rest of us have done… nothing.

The BBC interviewed her and she received support through her own social media but other than that. Cisgender queers have remained unbothered by it, while posting about how important it is to remember the important role Marsha P. Johnson and Silvia Rivera played in starting this whole thing off in the first place, the irony seems to have been lost on us. I’ve seen ten times as many posts about the Straight Pride Parade in Boston than I have about Bergdorf being targeted AGAIN by TERFS.

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I’m white, cisgender and queer. I’ve already stated that my parents and brothers couldn’t have given half a fuck about who I was sexually attracted to. I know if I had told them I was trans they would have been supportive, I am very lucky in that respect. As someone who faces very little discrimination (outside of being heckled in the street or one or two more violent incidents as a teenagers) but the reason I am struggling this month is because the wonderful recognition and acceptance I and other white cis queer people like me have achieved seems to have halted the LGBTQ rights movement. 41% of trans people have experienced hate crime because of their gender identity in the last 12 months and 79% of them don’t report it because of the lack of support from police or fear of further discrimination. The fact they are receiving hate from the LGBQ community and feminists is shameful.

The same discrimination and violence queer people faced in the 60s globally has not changed for trans/gender non-conforming people in the UK. Trans/GNC people are not only discriminated by straight cis people but when they are the rest of the queers don’t give a shit. We happily watch RuPaul or paint rainbows on our faces while a HUGE chunk of our community continues to live in fear. They came out in force for us and now we are safe we’re just leaving them to fight for themselves.

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SO what does this lengthy rant have to do with self-care you ask? Well pride has had me thinking about self-care and what it means. Self-care is packaged as a good chat with a friend, indulging in a hot yoga class or walk in a park but we don’t consider that for many in the LGBTQ community (especially trans people) self-care would be avoiding a yoga class because they will be at best given shady glances or that going outside has to be tactically planned in order to avoid being attacked or worse. So, this month I am not interested in self-care I am interested in community care. How can I as a cis white queer person, other queer people and heterosexual people care and support the most marginalised members of the LGBTQ community.

Our job is to amplify the voices of those facing the worst discrimination, it is not to tell them how to be safer but tell other cis people to respect and protect their bodies and voices. I know we all go through a shed load of shit, being cis and white isn’t always a golden ticket to a great life but it is far easier to exist as a cis white person. So what can you do, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of gender and sexuality

  1. Educate yourself

It isn’t trans/GNC people’s job to explain their existence to you. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in a room with a trans/GNC person just chat to them like you would anyone else. If you aren’t sure which pronoun to use then you can ask that, don’t make a big deal out of it, ask and then utilise that knowledge. Treat them like the regular people they are, even if they may look more fabulous than other people. If you do have questions then have that conversation with google. Do research in your own time, reddit is a fountain of knowledge – use it. Or you can look on websites like Mermaids, they have all sorts of info

  1. Support Trans/GNC/Non-binary people

Follow them on social media, show them love, support their creativity, make sure your workplace is inclusive and has protective measures for trans people and don’t stay silent when you hear or see transphobia.

Buy Trans Britain, supporting trans writers AND educating yourself!

If you call yourself a feminist then make sure you educate yourself on intersectional, inclusive feminism, don’t let TERFS convince you that trans/GNC women are somehow going to damage feminism. They aren’t.

Make some noise about Trans rights, it is much less risky for cis people to do this than it is for trans people. In order for change to happen people outside of the LGBTQ community need to demand change too. Join Stonewall’s Trans Equality Campaign

3. Ask yourself what your problem is

I don’t know if anyone reading this is transphobic but in the off chance you are… Before you leave a shitty comment, shout at someone in the street or make some derogatory statement, ask yourself why it bothers you?

Trans people aren’t forcing themselves on you, they aren’t stalking you, they aren’t bullying you online, they aren’t kidnapping you and making you hang out with them. Most changing rooms and bathrooms have individual cubicles, why is it such a big deal that they go into one next to you?

They are asking for the same basic rights and human decency that everyone else has. Ask yourself why you think one group of people deserve to be attacked in the street, fired from their jobs and basically live in fear.

why do you hate them?

Trans people aren’t the problem, we are. We need to be less complacent about this. We need to look after ourselves but we need to look after each other too. Do what you can, everyone deserves self-care but sometimes they can’t give it to themselves.

Holding your ACEs

ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) refers to negative experiences children and adolescents go through such as physical abuse, neglect or household dysfunction. Since the original research was done in the late nineties further studies have been conducted showing the negative impact they can have on the adults. Unsurprisingly, for children who go through some really fucked up shit they have some problems as adults. Those with a ‘high score’ (i.e. have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences) are more likely to suffer from chronic depression, more likely to smoke, more likely to experience sexual assault and attempt suicide, there are a whole range of increased risks which (if you are in the mood for a downer) you can read all about here.

I never really accepted that my childhood was really fucked up, I went to a school where I could hide in plain sight. I was poor but there were poorer kids. Parental separation was really common by the time I got to secondary. A lot of my friends’ parents were alcoholics, used or sold drugs and only a few people outside my immediate family knew my mum would beat us in mad rages, but I knew my friend’s parents did the same sometimes.  Being surrounded by it normalised it, I didn’t know until I was much older that these were not the experiences most children lived through. I also had nice memories from my childhood, summers spent with my cousins at the beach and sleepovers with friends. As an adult, I used these to minimise the darker aspects of my childhood, focusing on what I did have and blocking out what was too difficult to deal with. Blocking the memories didn’t stop me struggling, I just didn’t make the link between them and my poor mental health.

Now as an adult I have found myself in a sector that supports children going through even worse things than I did. It sounds strange but it wasn’t until about 12 months ago that I realised why I might have been drawn to this kind of work. It doesn’t pay well, it is really hard and it is emotionally draining, but I have always wanted to help people. The irony is I didn’t want to help myself, I never looked after myself, I didn’t think I deserved it. Being beaten and threatened scared me into silence and made me believe I was a bad person, who must have done terrible things, to be treated like that. Combined with the neglect and deprivation that I lived through I didn’t have a healthy sense of what I need and deserve.  One of the most detrimental aspects of ACES is that often those who experience them internalise them and they manifest in a lot of self-hatred.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, it might be hard to understand why you would hate yourself because someone else violated you. For so long I was ashamed of my upbringing, I didn’t want people to know how poor I had was and the rest of my family didn’t really know how bad it was with my mum. I felt isolated by what I had been through which meant I wasn’t able to reach out to people for the support I needed. I didn’t know what being cared for was. I was too ashamed and shut down to address it even when I found myself in therapy.

My therapist tried and failed to get me to recognise that these experiences had moulded my mental health and perspective as an adult. Being confronted so forcefully and trying to stifle the memories and emotions exacerbated my problems, I internalised the conflict and went back to the coping mechanism I had relied on as a teenager – bulimia. It was after a lot more individual therapy, that I came to family therapy with my brother, where I finally felt safe enough to speak about and accept that the stress of my childhood was not my fault but had real affects for on me now.

But now that I am working to accept and properly process what I went through I feel so much freer. More open to admitting to people how hard it was for me growing up and accepting that I need to deal with it. Different experiences will manifest themselves in different ways but holding your ACEs (whatever they were) with care and compassion can help you manage where you are now. You are still that child, you need to give yourself the love and care you were denied in the past.

So, although I am still very early into this process I have found a few things particularly useful.

  1. Read “The Body Keeps Score”

If you are like me and you love a bit of context for your mental health, then you will love this book. Not only does it outline the physical impact of a huge variety of mental illnesses it also discusses different non-traditional treatment approaches. It was incredibly informative and opened me up to different therapeutic approaches, beyond traditional therapy. Big trigger warning though, it is not an easy read, it has taken me months to finish this book. If it isn’t safe for you then you can also access author Bessel van der Kolk through interviews like this one or message me and we can discuss the treatments without the case studies

  1. Do your research and look into specific therapies

I didn’t address my childhood experiences until I got into family therapy. It was not a purposeful decision, I went into it to find a way to discuss my eating disorder with my brother but the sessions became a space for us to speak about the trauma we had experienced. We had both shut it down in different ways and this was one of the first times we could speak about it in a healthy way. Therapy is sadly still a luxury not everyone can access but doing your research can avoid you ending up with the wrong type.  If you don’t have the means or motivation to get into therapy, then you can find lots of information online on ways to resolve or heal your childhood experiences.

  1. Don’t feel guilty about avoiding/removing toxic people

Whether this is someone from your childhood who you need to shift away from or someone you have met as an adult who triggers you, don’t feel guilty about taking space from them or removing them from your life. My guilt around doing this myself still surfaces, it is natural, but ultimately it is the healthiest choice for me. If I don’t put myself first then who will?

rupi kaur

i made change after change

on the road to perfection

but when i finally felt beautiful enough

their definition of beauty

suddenly changed

 

what if there is no finish line

and in an attempt to keep up

i lose the gifts i was born with

for a beauty so insecure

it can commit to itself

-the lies they sell

Moral Self Defence with La Cher

Depression and anxiety make your world small. Taking even the tiniest step forward can feel impossible. If you are lucky you will have people around you who can help you take those steps to get out of your emotional pit. Sometimes all it takes is little inspirations to help you move along.

So far my 2019 has been full of pits, pits full of shit that I keep getting tripped into. With every fall I have felt angrier and more pessimistic. There is only so much shit a person can shovel before giving up becomes a pretty tempting offer.

When you are in the shit pit, and have been in it for a wee while, it is easy to feel like ‘maybe this shit pit is the one I’ll never get out of’ or even ‘hey it’s a shit pit but it’s not the shittiest pit I’ve ever been in’.  The antithesis to this kind of thinking is a martial-arts badass. 

Luckily for me I found find myself at a self-defence class run by La Cher. Two days before, I had been in another shit pit thanks to a bout of sepsis (a consequence of another shit pit I don’t have time to get into here!) which landed me in hospital. I had very legitimate reasons not to go to this class, I was still really unwell and I was sleeping a solid 14 hours a day, so maybe a self-defence class wasn’t the best idea.  I’d like to say I was motivated by some higher purpose but it was a combination of having paid and wanting to know how to wrestle people to the ground.

It was far from what I expected. The class was not just physical self-defence but La Cher went into ways to protect yourself from verbal attacks, from yourself as well as twats on the street. It was a room full of women of all ages and I left not only knowing how to get myself out of a strangle hold but also feeling very inspired. I hadn’t written anything in so long but I’d found someone who I knew I had to write about.

I met with La Cher to find out more about her tips for getting yourself out of shit pits.

  • Find the right tools for you

The only thing that works is you, therapists can give you tools but they don’t make it right.  I went to a therapist and I was like “the only thing I want you to do is erase a memory from my mind, that is all that I need you to do” and she was like well I can’t do that but you can re-programme your mind.

You are the only who can make yourself happy, you are the only one you can dig yourself out of hell, out of depression. You are the only one who can have the confidence to say you are amazing. Someone can tell me all day long “you inspire me, you are amazing” but if I don’t believe that too, it doesn’t mean anything.  It comes from within us, nobody does it except us.

Facebook used to be my newspaper, so I realised I had to fill my newsfeed with happiness. I stopped watching the news, because the news 90% of the time they just want to talk about negative things and that isn’t what the world is.  I started creating positive messages around me, it’s one tool, one tool doesn’t work alone you have to use other tools. I used post-its, I started sticking them everywhere so I would see them in the morning, in the mirror and I’d see the messages.

  • Reflect

We need to start from the inside out. The mirror became my friend, I hated the mirror at first but what really helped me was talking to myself. Looking into my eyes in the mirror, if you can’t look at yourself… that is you! If you can’t love yourself how can you expect other people to love you. So, I had to start loving myself first, so what did I do? I had to dig back to when came that I thought I was hopeless. What happened to me?’ When I was a kid I was so vibrant I had so much energy. What happened that I felt worthless? I had to go back and that’s when I went back to a time when I was violated.

I want to show women that this happened to me too and you are going to be ok. Everything will be ok. When I did the self-reflecting, I had to apologise to that little girl, because for so long I blamed her, I told her she deserved it, I was so mad at her and I had to apologise and let her know that I forgave her. We have to forgive whoever we blamed in the past. That is the only way you can get past it, it is the only way you can cleanse yourself.

Recently, I went through something again and I almost took myself back two years. I had to grab hold of myself, I took myself away, I needed to get myself back. I just spoke to myself in the mirror and meditated like morning, afternoon and evening and I spoke to one of my girlfriends. She gave me some advice. I didn’t take her advice but just being able to talk about it made me feel good. Eventually, I did the right thing that I was supposed to do. I still go through that today but I know how to get myself through it so much quicker.

If it keeps coming back up, you never learned your lesson. If you don’t want something to keep coming back up you have to learn from it. You have ask yourself ‘what can I get from this? How can I benefit from this?’ and that’s how you push forward. You have to go through it to get through it.

  • You have to fight

A lot of people look at me like she is this strong female like I am just built strong but the strongest people come from so much adversity that they had. My whole vision is to unite and empower women, to say we are ok, we are enough, we can trust each other, its ok to talk about stuff, its ok to be vulnerable.

I went to a therapist, that didn’t help, my mum took me to a doctor for medication and that didn’t work. It wasn’t until a situation three years ago that I got out of, everyone was so worried about me but none of it worked until I realised, I think it was a Tuesday, I woke up and I thought “no more’.

I’ve been through a lot of shit, I don’t need to go back there, I am powerful I am strong. People might call it cocky it doesn’t matter. We have to fight every day to focus on the positive, even if that means telling myself “you are the best bitch”. I know if I allow it, I can get sucked back.

A lot of people look at me like she is a strong female like I am just built strong but the strongest people come from so much adversity that they have had.”

I’m still amazed by La Cher’s emotional strength and motivation to stay mentally well. I can’t thank her enough for sitting down with me to tell me more about her work. She has reframed recovery and wellness for me as a process of getting your mind to a place of power not just treading water.

So if you are lucky enough to identify as a woman and be near or in London La Cher is hosting another event on Sunday May 12th in Brixton, more details can be found here, come down and meet her and other like-minded ladies!

You can also find her on all the usual social medias!

https://www.facebook.com/pg/badassladyl/posts/

@sadisticcoach

https://sadisticcoach.co.uk/

Autobiography in Five Chapters Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk

I fall in.

I am lost…

I am hopeless.

It isn’t my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I’m in the same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it is there.

I still fall in…it’s a habit

My eyes are open; I know where I am;

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Books and Bulimia

On Monday I got an email reminder that it was Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  I haven’t written about this before but thought this week was as good as any to give it a go.

Although, I have a lot of friends who have experienced depression or anxiety I don’t have anyone else in my life, who I know of, who has struggled with disordered eating. As a teenager and in my early twenties I felt completely alone with it, the only one who spent every day battling with my body and food. Of all the problems I have had with my mental health my experience with bulimia is still the one I struggle to speak openly about. It took years for me to feel comfortable to admit to even having a problem.  I was so ashamed of myself, angry that I couldn’t just snap out of it and scared of being judged for something I thought was disgusting and reckless.

Shame is a common emotion associated with mental health problems. For people who don’t understand them eating disorders are a skinny, teenage, white girl’s disease. These two factors make it hard for people who suffer from bulimia or binge eating disorder to seek or receive the medical support they need. Not looking completely emaciated can make it hard for people to get the help they need. Some GPs and treatment centres still use weight as a diagnostic criteria for treatment and most people will be complimented by friends or family if they lose weight. I first sought treatment when I was 19 and was seen by a counsellor who told me it seemed like I was looking for attention. I didn’t seek help again for years. By staying quiet (and not telling my doctor the counsellor was an idiot) my shame took a greater hold of me and I told myself I wasn’t strong enough or deserving enough to get better.

My route to recovery was not smooth, I had many more problematic responses from medical professionals before I found a team who supported me how I needed. I didn’t go from actively bulimic to recovery overnight and it took time for me to feel comfortable enough to speak to people about it.

Before I could speak about it, I read about it and listened to other people talking about it.  Finding other ‘normal’ people who understood the shame and isolation of an eating disorder, people who like me didn’t ‘look like they had an eating disorder’ helped me to find a way to speak about it with non-medical professionals and accept it as part of me but not a shameful defining factor.

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Eating in the Light of the Moon This book genuinely changed my life. Author Anita Johnston uses fables and fairy tales from around the world to create metaphors for disordered eating. Reading it helped me realise how isolated I was, by hiding my eating disorder I was blocking myself off and ensuring I could never overcome the shame I had about having the eating disorder in the first place. It has activities and strategies to help understand the roots of your disordered eating and how to combat them.

You can access more information on the Light of the Moon Café website, which has blog posts, resources and free books all aimed at helping you tackle your issues with food.

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Sensing the Self This book was recommended to me by a therapist. It is quite academic but hearing testimonies of women who were in the middle of or in recovery from bulimia definitely helped me feel less alone. Seeing myself in other women’s experience was so powerful, hearing their shame made mine feel less scary and it helped me visualise a place where I could be free from my eating disorder.

So the blog title says books but I am also a big radio/podcast lover and my recovery has really been boosted by shows which promote body liberation and mental health.

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Food Psyche Moving on from my eating disorder wasn’t easy and maintaining it while surrounded by messages which promoted weight loss and thinness was a real struggle. I tried a few different podcasts about eating disorder recovery, and although they had good advice, I didn’t enjoy listening to them. Food Psyche has a really diverse guest list; activists, dieticians, psychologists, yoga teachers, Instagram influencers all speaking about their relationships with food and being happy with the shape, size, abilities and colour of their bodies. I’m far from a beacon of body positivity but this podcast has really helped me feel ok with not being ok.

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Getting Curious I was already in a stable recovery when I found the beautiful sunshine that is Jonathan Van Ness but this episode fully made me cry. Hearing someone who I looked up to and admired so much speak about suffering with and recovering from bulimia was incredibly powerful. The podcast in general is fantastic, and definitely a good shout for feel good listening, but this episode was a nice reminder that eating disorders effect all sorts of different people who go on to be successful and brilliant!

 

Money and Mental Health

So it has been a while!  After a few weeks of beating myself up for not being productive enough I decided to take a break to focus on studying and working. With the pressure of coursework and regular work I had to put some things on the back burner.

I struggled a lot trying to maintain healthy routines for myself and avoid relapsing, with so little down time outside of work and studying it was hard to practice regular self-care. It has only been a week or so and I am trying to be patient with myself while I try to get back into a routine of self-care and healthy coping strategies. I haven’t relapsed, which I am very proud of, but am conscious that I need to get into a better routine to maintain my mental health.

Although, I wasn’t posting regularly I found a lot of inspiration from people around me. This time of year, post-Christmas, tax returns, winter weather etc means most people have been feeling pretty broke and pretty low, and most of my conversations with friends have been about how crap they feel.

A few weeks ago, walking round Brixton with my friend, she told me about a friend she wanted to introduce me too. “He has been really depressed recently but he just got funding to do a big theatre tour so he is doing much better! … I actually said to him – do you think you were really depressed or just poor?”

It might seem flippant to chalk depression down to not having money but as an environmental factor it has a pretty big influence. It’s well known poor people have poorer mental health outcomes (do a quick google search and you’ll see the outcomes for children and adults living in poverty are pretty grim!). Although, I did already know that being poor and depressed could be linked something about my friend’s comment really hit me.

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I’ve said before that the absolute worst my mental health has been coincided with the poorest I have ever been.  2015 was terrible and to be honest 2016 wasn’t a million miles better but I was out of the financial skip I had been in.  A week after Christmas I was reminded of this when I went to go see Hamilton, for the third time in 2018.  When I first heard of the show in 2015 I fell in love immediately! But I couldn’t afford to buy the album. I listened to the songs out of order on youtube, dreaming of seeing it in real life. As I left the show with my friends at the end of 2018 I thought back on that year, would I have believed three years later I would not only have the money to see Hamilton but see it 3 times?

Is that the most significant change that has happened to me since 2015? No

Is being able to go to the theatre the key to improving mental health? Not at all, a few weeks later I was so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed!

But for me that moment reminded me that not having money is limiting not just in terms of your opportunities but also your aspirations. If this coincides with other stress or mental health dips, then it can become a toxic mix and navigating your way out of it isn’t easy.  Making more money or paying off a substantial debt won’t happen overnight but recognising that having less financially will affect your mental health could help you to work out small ways to counter it. Winning the lottery or living on a diet of boiled lentils aren’t realistic or  practical solutions.

Financial deprivation has a real impact on your optimism about life and you need to apply realistic solutions to manage your money and allow yourself to feel better.

Stop telling yourself you should have more money

One of the most depressing thoughts is that you are the only one who is out of control or has no money. Everyone else is going on wonderful holidays or buying houses and cars and you’re sat wondering how you are going to afford to travel to work next week.

Telling yourself you should have saved more two years ago or you shouldn’t have bought such and such a thing three weeks ago isn’t going to help. Feeling guilty or angry about it won’t motivate you to change your behaviour. Tell yourself it is a problem you are capable of solving, that managing the stress, deprivation and frustration all this time is a sign of your resilience not weakness or recklessness.

Come up with a realistic strategy

Recognising that having a crappy paying job, living in an expensive place or having huge debt (or all three!) is important. Deciding you won’t go out for the next six months or will only eat cornflakes for a month is unlikely and won’t make you feel beter. Depriving yourself when you are already feeling deprived won’t improve your well-being.

Clearly define what the problem is, are you spending too much in rent? Is your debt repayment costing too much? Is there somewhere you can make a saving?

Identify clear areas where you can make changes and set dates to review it. Tell people you are doing it so they can support you with it.

Do research on websites like Money Saving Expert to find out if you could change your debt repayments, find deals on food and utilities and blogs on financial literacy. When you know better you do better.

Find cheap thrills

Saving money doesn’t mean you have to give up on treats for yourself. Some things are expensive, going on holiday for example, but it is possible to find cheaper alternatives. Save for your holiday and check or cheap alternatives for when you are there. Get rid of your gym membership and join a running club or do yoga online.  If you go out with your friends don’t drink so it is less expensive.

Don’t deprive yourself of the things that make you feel good, just adapt them to fit into the budget you have not the one you want. Be grateful for what you do have and don’t tell yourself you need something else to make yourself better or more valuable.

You’re already awesome and you don’t need any amount of money

or fancy looking pillows to prove that!