Thursday, 10 August 2017

LIFESTYLE CHANGE

I dug out the bikini from my drawers that had been sat in there for 2 years, unworn, and nervously tried it on ahead of a spa day with friends the following week. I knew I had put on weight over the last year and I haven't been happy with my body for a while. I've had to buy jeans in bigger sizes than I ever have and my t-shirts started feeling too tight. But when I tried on the bikini and looked at myself in the mirror I had a little breakdown.

I despised my reflection. I looked awful and had no idea how I managed to get to that place. Now, I'm nowhere near being overweight and my BMI sits in the healthy spectrum, but I know in myself I wasn't healthy and I didn't feel good.
So I spent all night sobbing. And with a lot of encouragement from my boyfriend, when I woke up the next morning I committed to a lifestyle change.

I don't like the word 'diet'. It has such negative connotations and I think getting wrapped up in it would make me fail. So I downloaded My Fitness Pal and put in all my details which told me to have 1200 calories a day, I joined some Facebook groups (which are amazing - so supportive and motivating! I will link them at the end), I bought a copy of Women's Health, did some online research and did a good food shop.

I live at home so eating rubbish things is too easy but everyone at home was on holiday for two weeks so I did the food shop and I was very well behaved. I made a list and planned my meals ahead so I knew what I needed. I've never been a salad/vegetable eater. I don't enjoy it. Give me cheese and potatoes any day! But I bought salad and foods and dressing to make it taste better!
Being on my own for the two weeks also made it easier as I didn't have to announce I was doing this change. I have been nervous to tell people as I've never done anything like this and I do get comments about what I do or don't choose to eat and I hate it. I makes me very self conscious and having had eating problems in the past, it just brings back memories and feelings that I'd rather avoid.

Last year I saw Caitlin Moran at her book launch for 'Moranifesto' and she read a piece from it which was a letter to teenage girls. In it she says to treat yourself like you would your own child. You wouldn't starve your child as much as you wouldn't feed it just junk food. You would feed it healthy foods, make sure it was well and you wouldn't deprive it of treats. So that is what I'm doing. And I shouldn't be afraid to say this is what I'm doing for myself.

Caitlin's letter - please watch!

I'm eating my 3 meals everyday full of good things and I don't get left feeling hungry. I have healthy snacks and plenty of water, but if I want a chocolate bar than god damn I am going to have one!

A general food day

Breakfast: Bowl of Special K - sometimes with milk, sometimes Greek yoghurt

Mid morning snack: Apple or some kind of low calorie breakfast bar. I don't always have a snack

Dinner: Salad of spinach and rocket with either chicken, turkey or tuna, caesar dressing. Sometimes add in a boiled egg or too and sprinkle on some chia seeds. Will also sometimes have an apple if I didn't in the morning!

Tea: Chicken breast with pesto and spinach and side of brown rice

Snack: Low calorie yoghurt


I have managed to stick to the 1200 calories perfectly well and I am seeing the number on the scale drop slowly. I find My Fitness Pal amazing. It seems a bit time consuming to begin with logging everything but I enjoy seeing the breakdown of everything I enter in and it just makes it easy to see what calories you have left. It also tracks the steps you do each day and that ends up giving you calories back, if you need a little extra!

I am going to eventually start incorporating working out in to this lifestyle change but I have a lot of confidence barriers to break through there.
But I CAN DO IT.

In all, I am feeling good and supported and I'm motivated and I'm happy I finally did something about what has been making me hate myself.
I'm proud of myself.



Little side note: I have signed up to the Manchester Memory Walk in aid of Alzheimer's Society. My grandad passed away last week after a very long battle with the disease so I just wanted to do a little something. My Just Giving page is HERE if you would like more information and are able to donate a couple of quid I would be so grateful. I have hit my £250 target already but now I just want to smash it!
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Facebook groups:

Low Calorie Meal Ideas
Carly Rowena - #GetGorgeous


Instagrams I like to follow

carlyrowena
moonstrucktraveller
aliceliveing
zannavandijk


My Pinterest 'healthy' board


Friday, 12 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week and I have certainly been aware of my mental health this week.

I woke up on Tuesday, after a great weekend and no problems on Monday, struggling to get out of bed. My head and body was heavy and my brain was cloudy. I eventually forced myself up (because I can't bring myself to ring in work sick for a bad brain day) and I went to work. I was empty and heavy all day. I had a little cry on my break and tried to tell myself it's a bad day and tomorrow will be okay.

Tomorrow wasn't okay. Neither was the day after and so far neither is today.

This is the worst I have been for months and although I know that there doesn't have to be a reason, it makes me angry when it shows up without reason.

I'm angry and annoyed because I was recently thinking about dropping my dosage again to start coming off my medication. I'm angry because this has deflated me and made me think I'm not ready. It's made me think that I'm not doing as good as I thought I was. I'm just angry at my brain for doing this to me.

But I have been honest and told people that I'm struggling at the moment. And I'm lucky that I know such good people.

It's been worse and I got through it. So I got this too.

Hopefully the clouds blow away over the weekend.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A Big Update

Well. It's been a while. 9 months to be precise.

My last post was about being on antidepressants for 6 months and the progress I made. I had quit my full time job and started working from home, still having bad days and just had my medication dosage increased.

9 months later... 15 months since being prescribed antidepressants... I am still taking them daily. I have recently reduced my dosage back to the 20mg I began on, my "bad brain days" are happening more rarely... and I am back in full time employment. And generally, I am happy. 

That is massive for me. Saying that I am happy. I wasn't sure I knew what being 'happy' felt like because I felt nothing but emptiness for so long. The last year has been great for me, I'm in a great position and I am so proud of my own progress.

So what's been happening in the last 9 months...

At the end of June/start of July I had my dosage increased from 20mg to 30mg of Citalopram. I had noticed my bad days becoming more frequent and started to feel like I was before I took medication. I was brave and went to the doctor once I realised what was happening. We agreed to increase the medication and I responded well to that. I definitely felt the improvement and I stayed on 30mg until February this year, when I felt comfortable and ready to start decreasing the dosage. 

With working from home I was only doing a small number of hours a week just to give me a bit of an income whilst I took the time to sort myself out. I enjoyed what I was doing, I could manage my workload to how I was feeling and could take time out when I needed to. Around August time I was half feeling really good and half worrying about my financial situation. Being a spreadsheet lover though, I set one up mapping out all my incomings and outgoings. I took into account how I was feeling and decided I'd give myself the rest of the year to continue keeping myself as number one and not putting any pressure on myself. By September, I was feeling really good and positive. I found myself on a job website and saw an ad for a receptionist. It was full time, which did worry me a little, but the job role itself sounded manageable. So I sent my CV.
The following day I got a phone call to go for an interview. I went for an interview. I was afraid of having to explain why I left my job/why I was working from home and that being an issue. But it never came up and I didn't want to bring it up. The role was explained to me and I felt like I could do it no problem. A few days later the job was offered to me and I took it!
I've now been there a little over 6 months and I love it. It's a relaxed environment, I don't have too much responsibility right now and everyone is lovely. It was the perfect job to get me back in to the swing of things. I have opened up to some of the people, including bosses, about my struggles with mental health and they've been very understanding which reassures me greatly.

A new job also meant a new car! I had to get rid of my old little baby around May/June time due to the running cost and the fact that I wasn't having any real need to use it anymore. It was a hard choice as it did make me feel like I'd lost some of my independence and freedom. I have to travel by car to my new workplace and so I got myself a brand new car! My first car that wasn't a little old thing with 3 previous owners. A brand new one. I got my freedom back!
I also drove on the motorway for the first time..! Yep, despite being a driver for 5 years, I never went on the motorway. I was always very afraid and nervous and felt like my cars have always been too old and shabby to handle it. And now, the motorway is basically my second home. The first time I drove on the motorway may have a little something to do with the next point...

...Around May time I was having a brew with some girls I used to work with. One was complaining about a guy she was speaking to on Tinder. I'd never used it and told her to let me go on hers to find her someone. It was a laugh and she made me download it. I thought why not? A bit of fun. But it was quite nerve wracking. It was something completely new to me. But I also was at a stage were I felt comfortable and good about myself and I wanted to meet somebody. I was always a bit afraid in the past to meet someone. I've never liked myself before. I always hated how I looked, I didn't think I had a personality or anything that anyone would be attracted to. So I hid away. How can I expect someone else to like me when I don't like myself? Would I have to tell them I have mental health problems? Would that scare them aware?
But I found some confidence and downloaded Tinder.
I had the kind of messages you see online from the assholes (probably another blog post on its own). But I got chatting to a few decent people. I met up with someone (which was terrifying!). I let one of my friends know what I was doing and where I was going. And kept it during the day. It went well, we saw each other again but there was nothing. Hey ho!
And then I got a new match...

He had a Disney related image and he was cute. We met. A few times. We hung out for a couple of months and then... we were together. And I am beyond happy. He gets me and understands as best he can that some days aren't easy, and he's always there on those days. I am so comfortable and relaxed with him. I could get super soppy but nobody needs to read that..!
He's good though. I like him quite a lot.

So a lot happened since last summer. I still get the odd Bad Brain Day but I'm getting better at managing them and telling somebody when I am struggling. I'm feeling good and happy with my current life choices. I am so proud of myself.

I'll try to not leave this empty for as long this time. This was actually quite therapeutic. 

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

6 Months On...

Back in February I made a post called "Time To Talk". I discussed finally getting help for depression and anxiety after suffering in silence for 8 or 9 years.
I've now been on medication for 6 months so I thought I'd give an honest update of how these 6 months have been for me.

I began my prescription of 20mg Citalopram at the beginning of January. The first day was horrendous. I felt very light headed, unbalanced and nauseous all day and I just spent the day laid on my bed. I did a lot of Googling (as always...) and this seemed to be a thing that happened to others so I just put up with it. I remember being a bit scared to carry on taking them but I did and the feelings from the previous day didn't continue.

However, the first week I got the majority of the common side effects stated in the leaflet. I felt sick constantly. I couldn't eat anything. And my main problem was that I couldn't sleep at all. In January I was still working and that required me getting up at 7am and being in work 8.30-5/5.30 but, I'd still be wide awake come 4am. I would be exhausted all day and my eyes would be dropping but the moment I got into bed, I was wide awake. I ended up sticking Netflix on for hours in the hope it would make me drop off. (I did find out that I love Brooklyn Nine-Nine though and powered through it very quickly. Swings and roundabouts.)
The other side effects of feeling sick and having no appetite went after a couple of weeks but the insomnia was destroying me. I wrote about not being able to sleep too, here.

An odd side effect I have had is that I've lost the ability to cry. I have Googled this but I can't find many others that have had this and other people I know on the medication haven't really experienced it either. It feels like all the emotions I could feel have just been drained out of me. The second week I was on the medication, I went to see The Danish Girl at the cinema. I am a crier. Especially a film crier. This is the kind of film I would have cried at. But I just sat there, and I felt nothing. My friend was sobbing and I knew it was sad but I just didn't feel anything. Since then I've only managed the odd few tears a handful of times. It sounds odd to complain about not being able to cry, when I previously spent so much time crying, but it's frustrating not being able to. Sometimes you just need a good cry!

In February I gave myself the whole month to do whatever I wanted; to be selfish. I let myself wake up whenever I naturally did. It was really nice to not have to be woken by an alarm, even though I wasn't actually getting that much sleep still. I managed to nap for an hour or so a few times during the day, which I never used to do. I just did whatever I wanted, when I wanted and I really needed that time to just feel relaxed and free. I also began my course of CBT. I was doing it online via an app. The app is full of programmes, tools and techniques to control and manage anxiety. My reviewer checked in every two weeks to see how I was getting on and ask me questions. I can send him messages and there is a journal I can put everything that's on my mind in that I find really useful.

In March I began working from home. For the first couple of weeks I left my alarm off and let myself wake up naturally. I put my alarm on from the middle of the month and have it on for the same time every weekday now. I make sure I get changed everyday even if it is just putting on my scruffy jogging bottoms. Just as long as I change out of what I slept in. I really enjoy the work I'm doing now and being able to do it at home in my own time. My bosses have been so supportive to me during all of this.
I could definitely tell I was feeling a lot clearer. My mind didn't wander off to dark places and make me think bad thoughts. I talked to my family a lot more and joined in conversations at tea time. The sleep problem was still bothering me and my doctor prescribed me sleeping pills for 10 days. I mentioned in the sleep post that although the tablets got me to sleep quicker, they didn't make me feel any better and once they ended I had the worst night yet. I decided with my doctor, and also my CBT reviewer, that it would have to be something I have to just let pass and use relaxation techniques etc to help make getting to sleep easier (easier said than done).

I have missed one day of medication and I was okay until later in the day when I didn't feel well at all. Could have been coincidence? There have also been a couple of times when I have taken the pill a few hours later than I usually do and this also makes me feel very sluggish and I don't tend to have good days then.
I have now finished my course of CBT and my results from it show that my anxiety levels have improved from when I started. I found it really useful and doing it online meant I could work through it in my own time. I still get access to the app and materials on it for another year too so I don't feel like I've been thrown into the wilderness to go it alone.
I definitely feel like working from home has helped. I love what I'm doing now but I am getting a bit worried about my financial situation and the future. With working from home though I do need to make sure I go outside most days. I've got really into walking around the park where I live but some days that seems like too much and I end up just walking to Tesco and back!
Also, after 6 very long months... this last couple of weeks I have managed to sleep!! I don't want to jinx this but I haven't struggled getting to sleep. I haven't lay awake wondering when my eyes will close. I haven't been tossing and turning for hours. I'm still going to sleep quite late but I've got into the habit of only going to bed later now, however I ham managing to get 7 or 8 hours in most nights! Hallelujah! Hopefully this isn't a blip and it continues...

And now, this last month or so I have noticed I have had a lot more bad days than I've had since beginning medication. Once I started medication I was just having the odd bad day and then I'd be good to go again the next. Recently it's been constant bad days for about 5 weeks. I was scared that I've got too used to the medication and the effect is wearing off but I did the right thing and went to the doctors before I started feeling worse and back to my old self. I have been prescribed a slightly higher dosage so hopefully this will have a positive effect. And hopefully it doesn't sned my sleeping crazy again..!


Overall I am pleased with my progress in such a short space of time. It makes me even more annoyed at myself that I let myself struggle for so long. I'm so lucky and grateful that I have good people in my life who have been supportive.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Monthly Playlist: June

Another month, another playlist. This month is quite upbeat, which seems necessary right now.

Orange is the New Black was back this month so obviously the theme song is in there. As well as the song from the closing credits of episode 1... I'll see if you can work out which one it is.
New songs from Kaiser Chiefs and Bastille came out and I love them both quite a lot.
Plus a few new finds and a bunch of rediscoveries.

Enjoy!


Monday, 20 June 2016

When Twitter Attacks...

I had quite an eventful couple of days on Twitter last week. I have written my full version of the story over on Freudian Sluts so please go read that - LINK.
I did just want to briefly mention it on here though.

So what happened? Gymnast Louis Smith posted an image onto Instagram which sexualised a woman (who was 16 in the photo) and the woman was a member of the same sport as Smith. He was called out on this by others but I shared screenshots and tweets on Twitter after Smith replied to my on Instagram proving he did not understand why people were complaining about the image.

A day or so later I began getting a lot of tweets. A LOT. Curious, I did a twitter search. The Daily Mail used my tweets to make an article about the situation. And then a lot of other national news and viral sites ran the story. I'm sure you can imagine the type of tweets I was getting. I must have got over 300. It became quite the exhausting day with comments ranging from "lol fucking feminist" right through to actual death threats.

It was SO frustrating that neither Smith nor the people tweeting my just DID NOT UNDERSTAND why the whole thing is a problem.
Everything is in the Freudian Sluts article so please please go read that. It has all the details and screenshots and I'd really appreciate if you would have a read of it.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

May Favourites

Monthly favourites time. I feel like May lasted AGES and I have a nice little selection of things I have enjoyed this month. HERE WE GO...

PLACE

OBVIOUSLY it goes without saying that Disneyland was my favourite place everything this month. I have posted some photos already that you can see here. It was so magical and I got to spend it with my best friends. I can't wait til I can go back again.



FASHION

I decided a bit ago I wanted a denim jacket and I was going to put a load of awesome patches all over it. In my head I saw the perfect jacket - as is always the case - and I managed to find it on ASOS. It was the perfect length and colour and I've hardly taken it off since I bought it. I did have patches on it, however they have fallen off, dammit. Going to have to see if I know how to sew...
The jacket is here but it looks like most sizes have sold out now, sorry!




BEAUTY

There's actually a few products to mention here... Firstly, the Rimmel Lasting Finish Concealer. I saw this getting mixed reviews but then I saw a video and it looked like it did a good job so I decided to try it. I'm not a huge fan of how grubby it looks after sticking your finger in a few times BUT the product itself is amazing. It has great coverage, works perfectly under my eyes and on blemishes and it sticks around all day.



Next is the Ultra HD Matte Lipcolor from Revlon. I have the shade Seduction. It feels very comfortable on the lips and doesn't dry them out, like "ultra matte" suggests. I tend to wear the Rimmel Exaggerate Lip Pencil in 'Eastend Snob' underneath and the colour of the two of them together is perfection.


My friend bought me a H&M mask for my birthday. This was my first delve into H&M Beauty and I think I am hooked. She got me the Charcoal & Pumice mask with walnut and fig and, is for tired looking skin. It is an exfoliating mask so it contains little gritty bits (scientific name). I put it all over my face for 20-30 minutes then rub it in with a little warm water before taking it off with a flannel. I noticed a difference immediately! My skin looked so bright and felt so soft. I managed to get 2/3 uses out the little pot and I have already bought more. H&M, please can you put this is a big pot!?



When I went to buy more of the mask my eye was drawn to a can of "dry conditioner". Dry shampoo, sure... never heard of dry conditioner. But I was more than intrigued so I bought it. It claims to provide instant softness as well as being lightweight and hydrating. I don't know what witchcraft it possesses but my hair definitely felt softer and it doesn't feel heavy or like I have a lot of product in my hair. I even managed to get away with third day hair as well with this stuff! HURRAY!



BOOK

I finally jumped on the bandwagon a year after everyone else and read The Girl On The Train and oh boy does it live up to the hype. I have wanted to read it for a while and then with the film coming out later this year I wanted to read it first. I'm not a great book reviewer but the story is great and I was hooked. I kept telling myself I'd just read a couple of chapters and then 2 hours would have passed. If you liked Gone Girl, I'd definitely recommend this. Very much looking forward to the film now.




DOCUMENTARY

This month I watched a documentary on Netflix called She's Beautiful When She's Angry. It follows American women during the second wave of feminism in the 60/70s. It talks about gender gaps, abortion, jobs, women of colour, sexuality and so many more feminist issues. It has clips from during the time as well as interviews from the women who where involved in the movement. It is incredibly good and I'd recommend it to anyone. It shows how just how much things haven't changed a lot in 50 years in terms of equality and how important feminism is.



TV

Since Better Call Saul season 2 finished (which was INCREDIBLE!) I decided to rewatch Breaking Bad. Now that I've recently watched BCS, the connections between the two shows are even more obvious and my rewatch has just confirmed that Breaking Bad is probably my favourite TV show ever. The characters are amazing, the cinematography is beautiful and man, that soundtrack!



What have you been loving in May? Any the same as me?

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Monthly Playlist: May

This month's playlist is actually the shortest so far. I was in Disneyland for a few days at the start of the month, and I managed to only put one Disney song on the playlist. That's quite impressive, no?
I did rediscover some old favourites and found some new music this month though. Also... totally obsessed with the new Justin Timberlake song.

I have also listened to Cake By The Ocean literally every single day, numerous times, but it was on February's playlist so I have tried to restrain myself from just making a 90 minute playlist of that song.

Here's May...


Tuesday, 24 May 2016

I'm A College Drop Out

It's got to that point of the year where students are doing exams in order to get in to college, university or, a job with their degree. They're stressed, the pressure is high and it feels like if you mess up then you will have ruined your life.
So, I wanted to share my story with education...

Without being big-headed, I am intelligent. I was in the top sets at school, I did my Maths GCSE a year earlier and I got straight A's in my exams. In school, our form tutor used to give us all end of year "awards" for things we had done throughout the year. In final year my award was "Most Likely To Succeed".
At school we were all just told the route is GCSEs > A Levels > Degree > Job. That terrified me. I had no idea what I wanted to do (I still don't) and in the back of my head I also knew I didn't want to go to university at all. Nobody in my family has ever been to university so we have all grown up around the idea of going to school and then getting a job... and that's what I wanted to do.

I did my GCSEs, I did incredibly well and I enrolled for A Levels. All my friends did and I didn't know what else to do. From the very first day of college I hated it. I presumed it was just the change I didn't like so I left it to settle and to get used to things. But I hated it more and more every week. In hindsight, I knew that it just wasn't for me. I wasn't doing things I enjoyed and I wasn't getting anything from it.
Whilst I was at college I got my first job in retail. It was just a weekend job and it was a very low wage but it made me feel so good. It made me feel good to be earning money, meeting people, feeling useful and being independent.

As the college year got further on, I struggled more and more and I started skiving a lot of lessons. I live so close to college that I'd just go home and couldn't be bothered going back. I remember going to the doctors at one point because I was feeling constantly sick and I was told that it was stress.
You should not be suffering from stress at 17 because of education.

My mental health suffered badly. I wasn't eating properly, I wasn't motivated to do anything but I didn't know what to do to get out. I felt like I'd be letting down my family, friends, teachers if I quit. They all expected so much from me - "Most Likely To Succeed" was in my head constantly.
Around March/April time I decided to speak to someone. I did Psychology and I loved it. It was the only thing I enjoyed, I loved the tutor too and, felt comfortable around her. I went to find her during break but she wasn't in her room. That tipped me over the edge. I sat on the floor in the middle of the corridor and sobbed. She eventually found me crying outside her room and told me she knew I wasn't okay. She was amazing. She put me in contact with the student councillor, who spoke to all my tutors on my behalf.

I was then able to decide that I knew I had to leave college, for my own health. At this point, I only had a month or so left of the first year and whilst I couldn't bear to be there and I had so much work left to do, I stayed to do my AS exams. I saw the councillor every day and I did my work in a room with her where I could be on my own in the quiet.
I sat my exams and by some kind of miracle I actually did incredibly well. But I knew I couldn't carry on and do it all over again, especially with no intention on going to university. I signed a form to officially say I was leaving and I instantly felt lighter.
I called work and told them what I had done and they immediately gave me full time hours. I have worked and been independent ever since and I'm so proud of myself for that. I've now been working for 7/8 years, earning my own money and buying my own things without relying on anyone else.

I'm not writing this to put anyone off going into further education. If you want to go, that's amazing and I wish you all the luck in the world. This is just my story. I felt pressured into going to college and university when it wasn't what I wanted. I was made to feel that by dropping out, I would have rubbish jobs for the rest of my life. But that's not true.
And I wish I had known that sooner and I wish school hadn't put so much pressure on. Some people don't belong in education and that is okay.

And hey, whilst I don't have a degree... I also don't have a load of debt ;)

Monday, 9 May 2016

Disneyland Paris in Photos

Last week I spent four days in Disneyland Paris. I have been before when I was three but I barely remember anything so I'm taking this time as my first real time in Disneyland.
The weather was amazing, we got to do everything we wanted and just had the best time!
Instead of me rambling too much, here are some photos I took over the few days we were there.

Obligatory castle photo












I already can't wait until I can go back again.