Did you really just say that?

One of the things that surprised me about being pregnant the most wasn’t the swollen ankles, constant sickness or any of the other fun and slightly gruesome symptoms. No, it was other people and in particular middle-aged men – oddly enough.

From the day I began to properly show and it became obvious I was definitely pregnant and not just a bit more portly than usual, people began to make the most intrusive and ridiculous comments. The fact that strangers make comments and ask questions was not a total shock as there are plenty of blog posts, comedian’s sketches and references in general pop culture about this. However, the fact that the worst culprits were middle-aged men who were complete strangers was not something I was prepared for.

A few examples?

A male cashier in a supermarket asking if I was married or if I was a girl in trouble.

A male colleague asking if I plan on breastfeeding whilst making squeezing motions with his hands against his chest.

Another male colleague saying that I was selfish if I did breastfeed as my boobs should only be for my husband. 

Asked by a man in a hospital waiting room if I was planning on using curry or sex to ensure baby arrives on time.

Being asked what pain relief I plan on using so many times – being told an epidural was overkill and made me pathetic – being told that I was going to rip myself a new one and would need everything going – being told that if I took anything I would be being selfish and damaging my baby. All by men, who, coincidentally had NEVER given birth.

And my personal favourite;  whilst enrolling a man’s son at the college I work at the father asked me if I planned to deliver vaginally… and if so would I “be making” my husband watch? He then went on to explain that if I did I should expect him to cheat on me because it was “messed up” to expect any man to deal with that and not stray… Needless to say this man’s son and I were both sat with our mouths open and looking totally confused by his comments.

These are just a few examples of the top of my head, the ones that stuck with me the most. Now you may ask why I have only picked on the comments made by men? Because there were definitely unwelcome comments from women as well, ones that made me stop in my tracks and my jaw drop. But the reason I am picking on the ones from men is how they made me feel, I will try to explain this.

Firstly, when a woman makes a comment generally I felt happy answering back in whatever tone matched my mood at the time. Also when a women made a comment it had usually followed a conversation with them about childbirth or rearing, so I assumed it was made from a place of concern or interest in being helpful (I know this is not always the case).

Secondly, when a man-made these comments it was always completely out of the blue – I had never preceded these events with a conversation about being pregnant. Why did they feel like they had the right to suddenly ask extremely personal questions?

The scariest part is that when these men made comments or asked questions I was alone, or the only other people around were with the man. This made me feel very vulnerable and in a few situations a bit scared to respond without receiving retaliation.

Surely, by now, people are starting to understand that it is not acceptable to ask personal questions or judge extremely personal things about another person. I mean, what if I walked up to the security guard in my local supermarket and asked him what sexual position he preferred most? Or if I asked a male colleague whether he preferred to hang his penis to the left or the right in his boxers? Or perhaps asking a bus driver if he intended to make his wife go with him to a painful and invasive hospital procedure for support, and if he was then explaining why he was a selfish twat. Do you think this behaviour would be acceptable to these men? Do you think that they would just smile sweetly and change the subject for fear of my reaction? No, I don’t think so either.

So WHY is it still seen that pregnant women are almost public property? Why do you have the right to ask what I plan on doing with any part of my body? Why do you have the right to judge me for choosing one painkiller over another? Simply because I managed to grow a human inside me does not equate me to a vending machine that you get to poke and prod and input commands to your hearts desire in order to get a yummy goody out of me.

So from one woman to all the men (and women) out there, please, please do not ask or make invasive comments about a pregnant woman’s body or what choices she may make. You may not be so lucky and get one who is be brave enough to bite back and not just whimper and run away. ALSO (and more importantly) you have no right to make those judgements or ask for that information.

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Pregnancy Kicked My Ass

So, obviously it has been a while since I last posted and that is simply because – PREGNANCY KICKED MY ASS!!!

Sorry if that offends anyone, but seriously it is so true.

I’ve tried and tried repeatedly to get myself writing but it has just not happened. I have been so tired and exhausted and literally dead on my feet EVERY day that it was barely possible for me to function as a basic human never mind anything further.

Now that it’s over and my little man is finally here I am so grateful that I am not pregnant any more. I feel awful that every morning I wake up and think “thank god it is over!” I know that I should be thankful that I managed to conceive, carry and birth a healthy happy baby – and believe me I am. Yet, I reiterate – PREGNANCY KICKED MY ASS!!!

Line Severinsen’s book of comics about pregnancy is hilarious and worth a look.

I struggled with Pelvic Girdle Pain, horrific heartburn, sickness throughout my pregnancy, sheer exhaustion and oh just being ridiculous uncomfortable. By the end of my pregnancy I was attending weekly physiotherapy sessions for my PGP and basically living on the sofa as any movement at all was horrifically painful.

Basically I am writing this post as a bit of catharsis, because I know how lucky I am to have my baby boy here. However, I feel really guilty for feeling so awful and hating pregnancy so much. I feel like I am mocking women who aren’t able to get pregnant or have happy healthy babies of their own. But I need to remember that by hating pregnancy, I am not mocking them or minimising their experiences. I need to remember that I am entitled to acknowledge that I was uncomfortable and I really couldn’t wait for the experience to be over. I need to remember that every woman’s experiences of fertility is valid and not to be ignored.

Looking at the discussions about pregnancy and women’s experiences you can see that it is fraught and difficult. Firstly because it is a difficult experience, not necessarily a bad one for every one, but the process of getting pregnant, carrying to term and birthing a human being is complicated no matter who you are. Secondly, because of the way that people treat women regarding their fertility – from constantly asking “so when are you going to pop one out” right through to treating pregnant women as public property (something I’m going to go more into). Finally, the way that the woman feels about the whole process is something no one can quite quantify and yet is judged and picked apart at every stage.

Anyway! I am now three weeks postpartum and I am currently juggling my laptop, bouncing the bouncy chair with my foot and repeatedly sticking the dummy back in my little boy’s adorable gob (why has dummy sellotape not been invented?!). As you can tell if you have got this far, my writing is rusty and my brain a bit like mush – but – I am glad to be at least giving it a go!

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What on earth is that?

So I’m determined to think and write about the funny things I’ve experienced in pregnancy so far. I know 15 weeks in I have much more to come but here’s just a few for starters. I am starting to feel more like myself and being able to find humour in things again, so here’s my list…

(Quick heads up some of these may be a bit nsfw)

1. Oh what the hell is this bloody itch?!

Itching PowderSeriously, itchy doesn’t cover it. If someone offered to turn my office chair into a cheese grater I’d take them up on it, purely so I could scratch scratch scratch. I’d sort of read about this on the apps and in the books but they did not prepare you for the reality of sitting in a traffic jam trying to itch your backside on your seat. There have been mornings where I’ve seriously considered that my husband may have put itching powder in my clothes, to the point I’ve gotten irrationally angry and searched his bedside drawers to make sure there was none hidden. Although the highlight has to be slathering my entire body in cream and standing butt naked, legs akimbo, elbows high and holding my boobs up (no one wants boob sweat mixed with body lotion). As ridiculous as I felt, oh god the relief was indescribable.

I’d like to make a quick note here that extreme itchiness is a sign of some nasty stuff in pregnancy so if you at all relate make sure you mention it to your midwife.

2. Whose boobs are these and why are they stabbing me?

Being a bigger boobed gal, with a family history of cancer, I have become very well acquainted with my boobs over the years. Thanks in equal measure to many occurrences of standing in front of mirrors and trying to self-measure for bras as well as regular checks for lumps. That is why I can safely say, these are not my breasts. Nope. They were one of the first things I noticed a change in, not only did they start to get bigger but they changed shape! Like seriously dudes I’m 27 don’t start going all weird on me now! I thought we were friends. So now my favouritist comfy bras no longer fit as well as they used to, plus those fuckers are expensive and I challenge you to find a pretty 36GG sized nursing/maternity bra. So for now I’m suffering along with sort of comfy bras.

As well as a new shape and size my nipples are a thing to behold. I was always quite proud of my nipples, bizarre I know,  but they were a good size and a pleasant pink – not any more. They have ballooned, ballooned I tell you! Not only the areaolas have gotten bigger,  but the actual nipple itself – to the point that I am wondering if I do decide to breast feed how these things will fit into a baby’s mouth. It gets worse, the colour! I distinctly remember ringing my best friend and screaming down the phone “why the fuck are they fucking brown?!” My best friend being childless was completely nonplussed and freaked out just as much as I was. Apparently this is normal,  but I am not a fan.

But, aha, that is not all! The pain! There is the stretchy, full pain, the stabby someone’s just poked you with a hot poker pain and my personal favourite the just-been-tasered pain. Now I know pain is normal, but again why does it strike at the most ridiculous times? Driving on the motorway, in meetings with students and their parents at work, in a room surrounded by only men. You get the gist. But I defy you to not flinch or react or suppress the urge to grab your boobs and swear.

3. Gas, gas and more gas

Now I’ve had IBS for around a decade and thought there was little more my Fartnot so little backside and its accompanying organs could do to surprise me. Oh boy was I wrong. Gas is a thing of insanity, it has literally had me crying from laughter at the noises coming out of my backside all the way to crying in agony clutching a hot water bottle from the completely ridiculous amounts of pain. I don’t know how anyone could have prepared me for it, but I wish they had tried. Somehow the baby books just can’t convey that feeling of I’m about to explode, like literally my chest and stomach are about to explode like something out of one of the alien films. It has been horrible and I will never again say to someone, “why not just force a fart, I mean surely it can’t be that bad”. I apologise for my previous utter stupidity.

4. Where do you think you’re going?

Bone movement! That one I was definitely not ready for. My pelvis slowly turning was one of my first symptoms, I literally felt like a very slow pin up girl rotating my hips towards the adoring crowds of sailors. Very odd but not too painful thankfully, right now I’m praying it stays like that and the dreaded SPD stays away. But, ladies and gents, we come to the one thing I have not shut up about – my ribs! What the actual fuck? Why have they moved? I am not happy with that! My lower ribs have literally moved apart, by quite a significant amount. My clothes sit funny now, my waist shape has changed – with no bump to blame – when I rest my hands on my chest it feels like someone else’s body. And let me tell you, that process hurt like holy hell and resulted in a snot and tear filled 3am phone call to my mum to find out if this is normal. It is apparently.

5. Going to the toilet will never be the same 

Now this one isn’t totally restricted to pregnancy, it’s been a factor since we started trying, but I’d hoped it wouldn’t carry on once I got that second blue line. I have not been able to go to the toilet and wipe without then double checking the tissue. And by check I of course mean have a good old inspection like some creepy scientist. I know I know it’s totally disgusting and I wash my hands really thoroughly but I can’t help myself. Apparently this is not uncommon, but I can’t quite figure out if it’s driven by fear and worry or something else – either way I hope the compulsion goes away soon!

And on that delightful and pleasant note I’m going to leave it here for today! If you’ve got any symptoms you fancy sharing I would love to hear them.

Lucy At Home
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What’s happened to me?

I’ve been trying to write a post for over a week now. Having loads of ideas about the books I’ve been reading, the funny things that no one tells you about pregnancy, doing my best not to have a massive political rant etc etc. But it’s just not been coming, I can’t get the words out and I think I finally know why. I can’t seem to find myself and my voice because I don’t know what’s happening to me, as in my mental health “me”.

Pregnancy Mental Health

I’m finding each day a chore, struggling to put a smile on and enjoy things I normally love. Struggling to find interest in my work or hobbies. Struggling to properly interact with people without having to put a fake face on. Now that the secrets out of the bag I’ve had so many friends and well wishers getting excited for me and wanting to share in my joy, but the thing is I can’t find the joy? I can’t seem to find the excitement? Where is it…?

I have worried that maybe I’m getting a bit depressed, I’ve had depression in the past and working with teenagers all day I definitely know the markers. But I don’t think it’s quite that bad yet, I’m just not me and I really want to know why and get back to it. I want this pregnancy with every fibre of my being, I want to be excited and coo and squeal and stare longingly at miniature sleepsuits. I want to check my 9 pregnancy apps every day to see what if anything has changed. But I’m just not.

A few people that I’ve confided in have been really helpful and reassuring. My husband is fantastic, looking after me despite being exhausted and stressed himself; letting me sit quietly when I need to, encouraging me to sleep properly, making me laugh and distracting me when he can see it’s getting too much. My very northern best friend has given me the “be reet” chat and helped to cheer me up and distract me with the oddities of house sharing and a new relationship. My mum friends have reassured me that this is normal, just to remember the insane amount of changes going on not only in my body but the baby’s too. Not to mention the many many hormones pinging their way around my body, it’s bound to have an effect. And then there’s my friends who haven’t understood why I’ve been hiding in the house hugging hot water bottles and avoiding all contact. The ones who ignore my apologies and don’t even bother replying, that hurts and then sends me right back to feeling not “me” again.

So what to do now?

I’m determined I’m not going to let this feeing overwhelm me, I’m going to make myself do the day to day things. Try and smile and take joy in the stupid and inane things that cross my desk each day. Try and look at the baby books and apps, get excited about names and size of the baby and of fingers and toes (I’ve got a kiwi sized little one right now).

I’m also doing my best not to let the negative things cause more problems; the friends who don’t reply, the things that go wrong at work, money worries or stress, just anything. Water off a ducks back – that’s my goal!

Anyway. I think I’ve now got these rants/thoughts out of my system. Hopefully. I know the feeling isn’t going to go away just because I will it, but I’m stubborn and I’m not going to give in. I also know where my line is and I know when I need to ask for help – luckily for me I have a fantastic support network.

If you’ve read this to the end, thanks for sticking with me and if you’re feeling this way yourself – please talk to someone and don’t try and struggle on alone!

Lucy At Home
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Sooo big news…

So I’ve been a bit of a ghost recently and that’s because of some really great news! I’m pregnant! 12 weeks and 5 days to be specific and that’s why I’ve been so quiet recently.

TFG's Bean

Firstly, I’ve been so knackered its unbelievable! I mean seriously! I don’t think I’ve slept this much since I was a kid! You think you know what to expect from pregnancy when you read the books and the blogs and talk to friends. Let me tell you, no you don’t! There is no possible way to know what pregnancy is going to feel like for you, but don’t be scared just keep doing your best to look after yourself and most importantly – ASK QUESTIONS!

I’ve also been struggling to keep my mouth shut and not scream it from the rooftops. I really am useless at keeping secrets like this, other people’s sure! But not mine. The thing is, as much as I wanted to tell everyone, I was terrified to do so after I lost a pregnancy last year quite early on. It’s like someone was holding a pillow over me, I was fighting to be strong and happy and excited but I was stifled and scared. It’s like my own emotions and hormones were stopping me from being excited and doing what I wanted to – shouting it from the rooftops.

This feeling of numbness and almost pressure and detachment from the excitement I wanted to feel was a bit scary. Was this normal? Do other people feel like this? Will it pass? Is there something wrong with me?

I think these feelings are pretty normal from people I’ve spoken to and other stories I’ve read, the problem comes when it becomes too much to cope with. When you feel down and horrible all the time, this is time to definitely get help. Luckily I just feel numb and not bad about anything, I can still get excited and coo over things I just wish it didn’t feel so unreal!

British Book Challenge 2017ANYWAY! So that’s my big news, I’m hoping that now I’ve hit the second trimester I’m going to have a bit more energy and can get back on track with my personal reading challenge, the British Books Challenge and hopefully get back to blogging more often!

Lucy At Home
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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I am usually one of the last to any party, especially when it comes to interesting books and music. This is one such time. I learnt about the existence of this book by seeing the many fantastic trailers for the film adaptation that has recently been made. From these trailers I was totally hooked and had to find out more! Lo and behold there was a book! Totally made my day as whenever I see a film that looks great if there is a book behind it then it is usually awesome. I wasn’t wrong about this.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.” 
(Goodreads)

Now, without giving too much away,A Monster Calls by Patrick Nessthe basic story of this book is of a 13 year old boy who is dealing with
the ongoing serious illness of his mother. In this horrific time he conjures a monster, a being from the ancient world, who goes with him through this journey.

I found the story compelling and the writing undeniably brilliant, in the early pages it reminded me a lot of The Hobbit. The way that Patrick Ness deals with the everyday, the fantastic and the serious in factual, simple and yet humorous language is irresistible. Written for teenagers I think the balance of the language strikes a good mix of being simple and direct enough for the younger ages, whilst still being irresistible for young adults and older.

Being someone who has lost a close family member to cancer, having been through it step by step, a carer and a fighter alongside them, this book inevitably struck a serious and painful chord for me. The book did it in such a powerful way that it made me proud of the way it deals with the topic. It made me want to go out and give a copy to anyone I know who has been through such a situation. It is important because it deals with such serious themes, but doesn’t diminish the situation or patronise the reader. Yes it was painful, yes the last 40-60 pages of my copy are now tear and snot stained but at the end I heaved a great sigh and felt like a kind of poke-the-bruise, cathartic therapy.

You may now be thinking, this is not the book for me – too mushy – too emotional – too serious – too painful – I’m too raw for this. Quite simply put, you are wrong. This book is a must read. I am starting to realise I am saying this a lot recently, but I’ve just been spoilt with fantastic choices! I can honestly say I am so glad I picked this up and have no doubts that my copy will now be doing the rounds of my close family and friends – but I will make sure that I get it back and revisit it again, probably many times over!

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

British Book Challenge 2017

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Fat Activism and Me?

Recently I have started to think more and more about Fat Activism, what it means and how I relate to it. Obviously with a nickname like The Fat Girl and a blog about my life as a plus size woman, it may seem a bit stupid that I hadn’t really thought about this properly a lot sooner. I think that’s because I never really associated my feelings and attempt to build my own self confidence with those who put themselves out there to loudly defend bodies of all shape and size. Maybe that makes me part of the problem, maybe it doesn’t – I honestly don’t know.

Fat Activism and Me?

Becoming more active on twitter and following some fantastic men and women who are amazing people and also Fat Activists. Seeing their daily fights and arguments against those who judge people based on their size or shape. Reading their posts, that were articulately written, make brilliant and important points it became impossible to ignore my role in all of this, where did I stand? What is all of this? What do I have to say?

To be honest when I was prompted on this and I started to think about this I had to google it! I read articles in the media, on Wikipedia, blog posts, parenting sites – you name it! I read from lots of different points of view, being the good student that I am, I had to make sure that I had been properly exposed. All of this did lead to a specific conversation which helped me to really asses and voice my feelings, thoughts and opinions.

So, here it is!

I think fat activism is a big concept, it means a lot of things to a lot of different people and cannot necessarily be explained in a single sentence. But if you were to try it would be something along the lines of –

Everyone should be accepted for who they are, regardless of their size and essentially it is none of your business.

I’m sure people will be along to pick that line apart and tell me how I am wrong – I am more than happy for someone who means well to inform and educate me. But if you want to shame me, tell me off or have a go at me keep moving!

To me, in my little world, this is not necessarily something that I get involved in as much as I should. I realised that my little corner of fat activism is mainly centred around myself and how I cope in my little bubble. That’s not to say I sit back and ignore things, more that I’m quietly building my own confidence and ability to love myself. For example, I’ve started wearing clothes that make me happy but aren’t focussed on slimming me down. I’ve also started to love myself in random ways – like nice pretty bras, learning more about makeup that I enjoy, doing things I enjoy and not things I think should be doing because I’m plus size.

My main difficulty comes in my work environment, working in education there are the inevitable comments from teenagers. These hurt sometimes, no matter how thick-skinned you are. There also comes the inevitable office obsession with dieting, exercise, new years resolutions and self-hatred. Sitting in the office listening to them slagging off certain numbers on a scale or a label without thinking about what they are saying really gets me down. But if I am being honest I do tend to sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut, as the only plus size person in the office I’m scared that they will judge my size and not my words.

That is wrong, so wrong. To be afraid to voice an opinion because it may be ignored and judged on something totally irrelevant – oh wait that happens the world over. Gender. Sexuality. Race. Age. Size. Why are these things more important than what the person of whatever combination is saying?

If I am honest I do need to start being more active, stop being scared and start voicing the rants and arguments in my head. Not to be combative, more that if I don’t how can I expect any change to happen in my little world? The people I spend my daily life with aren’t spontaneously going to change their minds and opinions without any input or information.

I’m not going to go into the individual points of looking at fat acceptance as I think The Militant Baker, Jes Baker, has said it so much better here.

Instead what I am going to do is say that one thing that disappointed me when reading up on all of this, was the level of angry back biting and fighting “within” the fat activism/fat acceptance movement. This made me quite sad, not because I thought their arguments were invalid, or that its wrong to have disagreements. But because this type of childish finger-pointing and judging, belittling each other and hitting each other personally takes the attention away from the overall idea. This allows the bullies and trolls to grab hold of this and belittle the movement.

I’m going to keep working on this personally, what I think and feel and what my opinions are. Encouraging myself and others to stand up for what they believe in, but also to think about those around them and if they really have any right to comment on some things.

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After You – Jojo Moyes

I’ve long been pumping myself up to reading Me Before You’s sequel – After You by Jojo Moyes. After literally shedding pounds in tears whilst reading Me Before You it has taken me half a year to get to reading this, mainly because I feared the emotional scaring and not because I didn’t want to.

After You by Jojo Moyes

“Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.
Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home.
Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.
Then, one night, it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in…” Goodreads()

I fell back into the world of Lou and co quite easily, like putting on a pair of comfy joggers – well except for all the heartbreak and pain. Falling in with Lou a year or so after Will died gives you enough time to get past the pure, raw pain of loss and on to the nasty, complicated way of figuring out daily life.

Moyes cleverly introduces new characters with the ease, presenting undeniable personality with the ease of an undeniably fantastic writer. Trying not to give too much away! But I was totally hooked by Sam and found myself zooming through pages to find more of him and never left wanting (sort of).

I read somewhere – sorry I’ve been struggling to find the link – that After You by Jojo Moyes showcases Moyes skill at portraying the day to day minutae of life and making it irresistable and this is completely true of After You. There are of course a few stand out events which you hope don’t happen to you, but its the every day stuff which has you hooked.

After You by Jojo Moyes

Overall, I enjoyed the book but I struggled a bit at first as I was constantly referring and comparing back to Me Before You which is inevitable in a sequel. To be honest with this in the back of my head i was a bit disappointed and longing for Will and their always fascinating exchanges, this is something that After You misses out on. BUT THATS THE POINT!!! Once i’d gotten this through my thick skull, that it should be harder because you are going through all the pain with Lou then i found it so much easier and really enjoyed the book.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has read the first book as a necessary follow up, I will also definitely be visiting Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes again in the future!

British Book Challenge 2017

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Fed Up February

As you may or may not have noticed – being that my only loyal fan is my husband – I haven’t written much recently. I seem to go through this every year at the end of January and February, I get fed up and give up for a few months. I get fed up of my job, of my company, of my colleagues, of my house, my car, my town, my hair, my dogs, my husband (shhh) and this year I can add trying to conceive to that – just everything. I’ve taken to calling it Fedupruary, I know snappy isn’t it!

Fed Up February

The thing is I have no real reason to be fed up of my life, I have a decent-ish job in a nice-ish company, a house that we own and not rent, my hair is just fabulous so shut your mouth, my dogs are gloriously cute little troublemakers and my husband actually isn’t that bad I suppose. However trying to conceive, that I just can’t seem to square off in my head and I think that is what is what is dragging me down so much this year. Because of this dragging me down I can’t seem to make any of the previous statements cheer me up, I just brush them off and come up with some crappy excuse.

Anyone who has tried to conceive will know that there are good times and bad, no matter the length or difficulty of your journey. We are coming up to our ninth cycle, although I’m praying it will be our last it more than likely will – with one early miscarriage, which was just frankly pretty darned shite. The last month or so I have really struggled to want to carry on with it all, of course I still want baby but to actually want to carry on with this shitty journey is something all together.

Fed Up February

So what do I do?

I can’t carry on feeling like this, I will only feel more and more crappy and eventually start to seriously damage my mental health. So I follow the lyrics of a Kelly Clarkson song that I clung to as a teenager –

“I’m forced to fake

A smile, a laugh every day of my life”

Depressing isn’t it? But I learnt a long time ago that the only way to I could get past things was to barrel through them, get up and put a smile on your face and go do the thing you really can’t face. It takes time but eventually forcing the routine helped me to start to feel like me again. So that’s what I’ve done.

MumsnetI’ve gone back to Mumsnet and to my lovely group of ladies that I chat to on a regular basis – all complete strangers that I feel I share this journey with so intimately I kinda missed them whilst I’ve been shut down and avoiding it all.

I’ve planned a trip away with my husband, I am so excited that I’ve spent a fortune on new clothes and shoes obviously. Lion King is going to be awesome! Although I haven’t picked an outfit for that yet… Hmm, more shopping?

Finally I’ve forced myself to write this sort of self-pitying and self-indulgent post and get back to writing!

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Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson was another book recommended by Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday Book Blog, it is by the Author of the Month book for January for the British Book Challenge 2017. I wasn’t too sure at first as I never quite manage to finish non-fiction books, however the subject of this one intrigued me – even more so after I’d read the Amazon sample.

Mind Your Head by Juno Dawson

We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people’s mental health – whether fleeting or long-term – and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world. (Goodreads)

At the tender age of 27 and as someone who works within the Great British education system I found the premise for this book interesting, a way to talk about, outline what it is and potentially help those with mental health issues. This is definitely the topic du jour at the moment in the press, whether for good or bad. I was curious if this book could honestly and openly discuss these issues without being patronising, generalising, stereotyping, judging, or just down right preaching – and you know what? It did and I was very impressed.

As a young adult I struggled with my own serious mental health issues and fought my way through some very dark days and I often wonder if this experience colours how I see and react to the information that is now in the press about those who struggle with illnesses such as Depression and Anxiety. After reading Mind Your Head I can honestly say that each page resonates with me and I found myself nodding, agreeing and laughing along with Juno Dawson. Yes, laughing, you read that right. One of my favourite part of the books was the screenshot above, the one explaining that yes mental health issues are serious and tough to deal with, but they are a health issue and just like a broken wrist – sometimes a bit of humour is needed to help us deal with them and find ways to cope. Making something special or unique or only discussed in a quiet whisper in a private back room makes them harder to deal with, not easier.

So! The book! The reason I often struggle with non-fiction is the lack of pace and movement, I feel like i’m reading a text-book at school again and that was never fun. With Juno Dawson’s Mind Your Head I didn’t think that once, the writing is engaging and moves at a steady natural pace from topic to explanation to discussion to personal experiences and on again to the next. The voice is lighthearted and amusing, but also compassionate and serious where needed and they tackle some extremely difficult issues in a very impressive manner. The addition of explanations and opinions from Dr Olivia, personal experiences and stories of other people and glossary terms throughout give the feel of sitting in a chic London coffee shop all chatting and exchanging experience, help, advice and most importantly an understanding ear.

The resources used in the book, that is the links to websites and companies currently available to help people in the UK is invaluable. In other cases of texts like this it often simply refers you to the GP or school counsellor as a place to get help, Juno looks at more than just these two resources and honestly analyses what help they can give and what other resources are out there, indeed linking to them and sharing experiences.

The bit I want to stress most about this book, the bit that I think is the most important is that it is honest and kind, it addresses the very real issues that young people today are dealing with and could honestly help someone understand what it is they are feeling. Covering everything from recognising every day stress to eating disorders to self harm to drug and alcohol use. I can honestly say that this is a book I will be strongly recommending to my friends, those who may benefit from its help personally, those with children, my colleagues who work with children to young adults alike and yes, those who have no idea about any of “that stuff” and maybe just need their eyes opening a bit. A very useful book and definitely much needed in today’s society!

British Book Challenge 2017

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