Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Trying too hard

I want to talk about trying too hard, whatever that means to you. You might be a new mother trying hard to be all things; mother, wife, friend, daughter. You might be a working mother trying too hard to please your boss and your children. You might be the new girl or boy at work trying too hard to fit in. You might be the person on Twitter who doesn't find Twitter comes naturally but desperately tries to be part of it. You might be trying too hard to force an idea to come before it's ready. You might even be trying too hard to make a person like you, either as a friend or otherwise. Or trying too hard to work out what your horoscopes mean when they say "an old fling might turn up." FYI - they mean STOP READING THEM.

You might be none of those things. 

But whatever it is that you are trying too hard to do. Stop it. Just stop. 

The definition of the very word itself comes loaded with a negative. Of course to try and achieve something is a good thing, right? Well lets look at it another way: to be tried either legally or in the sense of finding an effort trying, is to be put upon. So therefore when we try to do something are we putting upon ourselves an expectation or perimeter or weight? Because it seems to me that whenever I try to do anything I fail. But when I simply do something I always, always succeed.

If I write some words of the novel I am trying to draw out of myself, I have written some words. Words that will change a million times over but words that create the base for a story that will be drawn from them. But if I try and write a novel then the weight of the entire undertaking is too heavy to carry and I end up useless at my laptop. If I tweet what I want to tweet and not try to tweet things that other people might find entertaining then I have entertained myself and expressed myself. If I like myself instead of trying to make others like me then I have made a very important friend for life rather than a friend who had to be convinced I was likeable. And if I assert my ideas at work rather than try to guess what my client wants me to produce, I will be far more likely to have success. 

Recently I quit sugar, genuinely. I know! I did what the blog title said I was doing. What was the difference this time as to the last time? I simply did it. I didn't try to do it. I just did it. And the difference between the words "try to do it" and "do it" is success. It was helped, I will grant you, by the fact that I had secured a commission on the basis that I would quit sugar for a month. So I have quit sugar for a month. Except, I am currently in week six and still no sugar.  

Earlier this year I quit alcohol. Again, I didn't try to, I did it. I decided that I wanted to and I told everyone that I had quit. Not that I was trying to quit. By being firm with this description, everyone, including myself, took me seriously. No one tried to coerce me to drink. But whenever I have "tried to do dry January" I have failed by week two. I didn't say I was quitting forever but that I was quitting for now and that I wanted to get a better relationship with alcohol. So too sugar. I have also been careful to do one thing at a time. I would like to do lots of things but one thing at a time. Do one thing properly before tackling another. 

But lately I have noticed the try word creep into my vocabulary. It started when I noticed that someone I really admire on Twitter, someone I met at a blogging course, didn't reply to two of my tweets and then unfollowed me. I was so hurt. This woman writes about feeling unworthy and "lesser" than and with the unfollow button she made me feel less than. What had I done wrong? Had I offended her? Was I simply awful? Do I present myself badly online? And so I stopped tweeting. I stopped looking at Twitter. And every time I dipped my toe back in I felt inadequate and useless. If I tweeted someone I felt stupid for trying too hard immediately afterwards. Why? Because I was trying to work out why this woman didn't like me. A woman I don't know, who doesn't know me, who could have a multitude of reasons for unfollowing me that I will never know. A multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with me. Because whatever she has decided about me is not a reality. She doesn't and cannot know me. 

But I had desperately wanted to be her friend. She lives near me and we work in the same industry. I tried to be her friend. And by trying I failed. Because you can't try to be someones friend. You can be someones friend but it doesn't happen by force of will. It comes by genuine interchange and connection. And I was jumping forward. I might not even bloody like this woman in real life. But I allowed that little, insignificant rejection to affect me for weeks. 

The same way that every time I write something for the novel that doesn't work because I am trying to write something bigger than just the start, I fail. The same way that the mother who tries too hard to please her child forgets to please herself and fails them both. The same way the woman returning from maternity leave tries to pretend having a child waiting at home hasn't changed her perspective. The same way the athlete who went to the Olympics to try to win a gold finds the word that allows a get out clause is the comfort they use later, "I tried my best". Why try to do your best. Do your best, if your best is silver, or just outside the medals then take your best and be proud of it. 

Lets just stop trying to be or do or say things and actually be and do and say. We're all so much better when we stop trying. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

I'm sorry

Remember no matter how shitty your day is, this picture will always exist  

I just wanted to pop in to say that I am calling in sick with a depression day. I am working a temp job today that is quiet enough for me to write here but my brain has decided not to show up. Some depression days just need the sofa, a duvet and sleep. Today is one of those days but I am in the World with my mask on, smiling politely and trying to ignore the butterflies in my belly. I have three posts lined up in my head, so hopefully I will be back next week. 

Be kind to you and yours and always remember it's okay to take a duvet day when you need to :-)

Thursday, 26 May 2016



Focus on the breath, breath in through the nose and out through the mouth...

Let your thoughts just go, acknowledge them and then let them go on their way.


As an asthmatic I find the art of meditation extremely traumatic. I don't want to focus on the breath because focusing on the breath reminds me that I can't bloody breathe properly and now I'm having a panic attack. So thanks. Thanks for that. So look, don't be scared come back, I am not talking the kind of hippy self-love here but the really simple kind, the kind we eat.

I have not had a drink in two months, I decided to quit when I first went back on Citalopram whilst the side effects settled, which for me include dizziness, but then I found that I just didn't want to drink, so I haven't. And this has been the beginning of a realisation about my diet and my body image. 
This morning I read this brilliant piece by Amy Jones about how she is caught between body image and a healthy lifestyle and it resonated with me, as I am sure it will resonate with a lot of people. I too have hated my body but not for the reasons I thought I did.

When I went through my big breakdown five years ago I stopped eating properly mainly due to a fear of the supermarket but that then turned into something more destructive. The lower I felt the more crap I ingested, be it food or alcohol. The more I hated what I saw in the mirror the more I ate the food responsible for the figure staring back at me. 
Now I have to stress here that the weight I gained has bought me up to a size that most women would be happy with, a size that I wouldn't blink at on anyone else. In fact, I would think they were mad for thinking they needed to lose weight. Which meant on top of not liking what I see in the mirror I felt guilty for not liking it. I have never, ever looked at anyone in a swimming costume and thought they looked bad, but I have looked at myself and criticised every single part of my body. Why do we hold ourselves to standards we wouldn't dream of holding anyone else to? 

As I found myself replacing alcohol with sparkling water and forcing myself to make three meals a day my body began to change and with it so did my attitude. In the past when I have quit alcohol it has been because I felt I should, or because I wanted to lose weight quick, it was never because I truly just didn't want to drink. So what has changed? What has made me not want to drink? It was a recognition that just happened one day that I was drinking destructively. Not in the, “quick call the AA way”, I am not an alcoholic, but in the "I feel shit, I'll have a drink" way, in the "I know I don't need this next drink but I don't care enough about myself to want to stop" way, in the "I feel fat so I am going to eat an entire big bar of dairy milk" way. I was eating and drinking with self-hate.

Every time I have tried to force abstinence on myself for 'external' reasons I have replaced alcohol with sugar or sugar with alcohol. But this time I just started thinking about why I was eating or drinking things. The new rule is that if I feel miserable I can't eat chocolate or sweets, except during my period, I'm not a monster. What I have discovered is that I don't crave sugar half as much when I am happy as I do when I am sad but when I do crave it when I am happy, I enjoy it more, I appreciate it and I can have one bar of chocolate and move on. Whereas when I am sad, one becomes two, becomes four, becomes who cares? 

I have lost a bit of weight over the past two months but for the first time ever it isn't the motivating factor and it isn't the end goal. The end goal is to look in the mirror and see a person who cares about herself staring back, in whatever shape that naturally makes her. I can eat anything and when I want to drink again I will drink again, but I will only do it for pleasure, not to block out pain. I am beginning to like myself more simply because I am treating myself as someone who likes herself more. I have cellulite, my thighs still rub, there's still more weight on me than there was before my breakdown but I am learning to love whatever shape I am supposed to be naturally by being it through a healthy diet and not an unhealthy one. And by healthy diet I don't mean in the traditional sense of eat only 'good' things (whatever that means) but in the sense that I am learning to be healthy in my approach to why I eat.

So eat everything you like but acknowledge what actually makes you feel good. If I binge on sugar my mood crashes with it, if I know that, why do I do it, because I don’t care about myself. So when I do care and think about why I eat something I am still allowed sugar but not in the "fuck you World I'm going to eat all the candy and be miserable" way but in the "fucking hell chocolate, you are awesome, that was pleasant, it was good to taste you again, looking forward to our next date" way. 

Look, the point of this post is not to say, aren’t I fantastic having not drank in two months and being all holier-than-love-myself-thou but just to acknowledge that maybe the reason we don’t like what we see in the mirror, and this is definitely true of me, is because we know we are looking at someone who isn’t looking after themselves. Not because they should look a certain way for it to mean they are but that maybe we can embrace whatever shape and size we naturally come in, and we all do come in different shapes and sizes, when we know that shape is got through self-love and not self-hate. If you are eating all the ice cream in the World with all the joy in the World then carry on. But if you are eating all the ice cream even though you’ve stopped enjoying it but because you don’t care how crap you feel afterwards, then maybe it’s time to stop and think about it.

We are all beautiful, all of us and if we could see ourselves the way those around us do then we might not be so critical of that reflection. Body image is about a lot more than just diet but diet can be a quick indicator of how we’re feeling. Your body shape doesn’t have to change for you to start to love it, only treating yourself as you would treat anyone else has to change. That might have nothing to do with food or alcohol, but could be in the way you criticise yourself for insert today’s issue here. It’s important to remember that you are you, in your body, that is only yours and made for you and if you can find the thing that unlocks in you how to be happy in it, then please let the rest of us know, in case it can help us too.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

We need to talk about the 'S' word

Shit! It turns out there are a lot of 'S' words that we really don't need to talk about, a few we do and a lot we don't like to talk about like shame, stress and struggle. We like to keep quiet about sex, generally, unless we're in a gaggle of girls where we review it in minute detail. We really shouldn't ever mention sleep to new parents and never, ever complain about sleep to them. No one should say soccer BECAUSE THE GAME IS CALLED BLOODY FOOTBALL YOU IDIOT. If you absolutely must then sure, add an English or British or European in front of football but under no circumstances is it called Soccer. Please don't say software unless you want to induce sleep in your audience, and you really don't want to say software around some poor sleep deprived parents because they are already battling to stay awake. And for everyone's sake let's just leave spiritual out of all of this shall we? I mean we know we all believe something even if it's simply evolution but let's not bang on about it to anyone else. Let's just agree we all have a right to believe or not believe whatever we like when it comes to the Great Spirit in the sky. Good.

As I searched for a list of words beginning with ‘S’ there was a word that was glaring by it's absence, mainly because it is a word we really, really don't like to say and that word is suicide. However as it is mental health awareness week this week, we really do need to talk about it.

It is a difficult subject to address because at all times the needs of those who might be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts must be considered. It is important that I stress here that suicide is always a tragic waste of life and that if you have suicidal thoughts you should seek help immediately, you can find out more about how to find help here. Everyone reading this and everyone around you wants you to live, unless of course you happen to live near a psychopath, because they might actually not want you to live but they probably don’t want any of us to live, so that doesn’t count.

For many reasons it is a really hard subject to talk about but does not talking about it help? We know so much more about mental health and mental illness today but we still don't really understand that at it's worst it can be and is a killer. In fact it is the largest killer of young men. Think about that; a huge number of people, who have presumably been wired the same way as you and I, with an instinct for survival, have taken action to not survive. 

Depression robs you of logical thought and the ability to process information whilst at the same time telling you all your nightmares, over and over and over until you believe you live inside them, until you believe you will never escape them and depression tells you that this is hopeless, life can never be good again. Depression lies and it lies very convincingly, it is a better liar than Tony Blair but maybe a little less smug. Depression wants to destroy you the same way a cancer cell wants to. The difference is depression is happening inside your thoughts instead of inside your cells; where cancer eats at your organs, depression eats at your conscience, your very sense of self. Which is why it is so important that we understand suicide is not something to be ashamed about. It is a symptom of an illness that wants to destroy the mind.

Last week I felt that the death of Sally Brampton was announced with a subdued quietness that might not have heralded her death had she died of cancer and that left me feeling deeply sad and worried for all those who had sought comfort from her words. Perhaps it is just me but I felt a sense of “being buried outside the cemetery” about it. Sally herself once tweeted that when questioned in interviews about a previous suicide attempt the question was always asked in a whisper.

It is unusual for someone like Sally, who had an incredible career in media, despite her debilitating depression, to be mourned so quietly. Many of those reporting her death will have known her personally, which must have been deeply traumatic. As a well-known writer Sally didn’t enjoy the fame of Robin Williams whose death by suicide was reported extensively. However she was a voice well known by the vulnerable people I am sure the media were trying to protect, I just wonder if the quietness around her death could inadvertently have a negative impact.

Are we afraid to talk about suicide because we fear it, because we don’t understand it or because we fear encouraging it? Suicide, for most of us is thankfully impossible to imagine, it goes against our very instinct to survive. But suicide has very little to do with wanting to die, it is about escape, it is the moment the heat of the burning building feels too hot, it is the moment before the firemen break down the doors to rescue you. It is the moment that no one wants to happen.

Suicide is avoidable and preventable but surely that starts with being open, with sharing our grief, with lamenting that anyone ever feels that help will never come, when help is always there. It might be around the corner but it is always there when we ask for it. Perhaps it is time we let those who are vulnerable know just how much we value their lives by mourning loudly for the people we have lost to mental illness, by speaking the word suicide with sadness but without shame, by letting them know that we really want them to live.

If you are worried about yourself or someone you know then please contact the Samaritans who offer support for anyone who needs it.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Quick Hello and a sad goodbye

The blog is on holiday this week but I wanted to pop in and say two things:

One - this Thursday has not defeated me! 

Two - I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sally Brampton yesterday. If you don't know who she is, she was a very talented writer and editor and an important voice for people with depression. I urge anyone who has or hasn't had experience of depression to read this brilliant article she wrote after a suicide attempt.

Thursday, 5 May 2016


I had planned on writing a post about running this week, in fact I even wrote it this morning but I was bored whilst writing it and feeling very much 'meh' about it. And that is because today is Thursday. 

Thursday, for reasons I am yet to understand, has become my weekly anxiety day. Some weeks I am blessed (ahem) with more than one anxiety day but every week, for whatever reason, I wake on a Thursday feeling useless, anxious, tired and a failure who will never achieve anything ever. And because I am a fan of the old deadline pressure and Thursday is the day I have to post a blog, which I never write in advance, I have to force myself through a blog post before I can go and hide in a hole and pretend the World does not exist. This Thursday I cannot do that as I am writing for a competition and the deadline is tomorrow, me being the deadline Queen, I probably need to do at least another four drafts till the blasted thing is ready. So Thursday or no Thursday I have got out and voted and I am bloody well just going to have to work until I cry. 

As I walked back from the poll station with my existential Thursday head feeling that my little X in the box really doesn't mean much and reflecting that it's bad luck that voting always falls on the evil day of Thursday, it's probably the entire reason the Tories keep winning, I thought to myself, why Thursday? What is it about Thursdays? I shall get to the bottom of it, I thought, like the journalist I am trying to be and thus was born, the history of Thursday.

Our journey begins with the name itself, Thursday is named Thor who is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder and lightening. I mean, I could rest my case here but this is the history of and not the 'reasons why Thursday's are evil' - although they are evil. Thunder makes you jump, lightening can kill and hammers are pretty violent when wielded, so no wonder I wake with anxiety and the Tories gain power on Thursday's. 

Even the nursery rhyme dismisses Thursday's child. All it can say about Thursday's child is that it has far to go. So basically, if you were unlucky enough to be born on a Thursday you are going to spend your life chasing behind everyone and not quite being good enough: you poor bugger. 
Oh fuck...Mum...I wasn't born on a Thursday was I? 
Do you know what, I've got enough problems as it is, just say no. 

But what about events that happen on a Thursday? Well, there was the Last Supper; that happened on a Thursday and we all know how that ended don't we? If a friend kisses you on a cheek on a Thursday, be afraid be very afraid. Black Thursday was the start of the Wall Street crash of 1929, which sparked the great depression. The terrorist attacks in London 2005 happened on a Thursday. James Horner of the Titanic soundtrack fame was killed in a light air craft crash on a Thursday and Prince was found dead on a Thursday.

After an hour of googling Thursday's and then googling "What day did 'insert historical event' happen" that's your lot, that's all I could find.

Do you know why? Because Thursday's are evil, so evil that they have stolen the cloak of invisibility from Harry Potter's ridiculously named son Severus and they are now using it to hide themselves from history, like they don't even exist. 

But lookit, I have learnt that Wednesday could well be Thursday in disguise and if you're booking a flight, I'd avoid Tuesday's, there have been lots of crashes on a Tuesday in the last six months.

Still, any day that could bring a thunder storm is a day worth avoiding.