anxiety, Health, Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Emma, in the park, with the iron bar.

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In order to get a good title, I may have twisted the truth. It was not me who brandished an iron bar in this board game life event. In order to paint an effective picture of the scene though, I need to rewind the clock a little and give you a brief but thoroughly illuminating insight into both my mental health and state of training for a half marathon.

Anxiety has been bothering me as an adult for over half a decade but I think it’s been going on a lot longer than that without me realising. As a five-year old, before swimming lessons, I used to bite the skin around my fingers until they bled all over the changing room floor, and the smell of antiseptic cream can bring it all back in an instant. As a pre-teen I started biting the inside of my mouth without even realising – until I saw it on a poster on the inside of a toilet door and became aware it was a thing. The butterflies, the bad habits, they’ve been around for as long as I can remember.

Fast forward to 2018, and I’m a month away from turning 28. I still bite the inside of my mouth and I live in fear that it will end up being the thing that kills me, from infected scar tissue, a jaw that slowly crumbles from friction in the wrong places, or that I’m so focussed on trying to loosen a bit of skin from my bottom lip when I’m crossing the road, that I accidentally get hit by an ice cream van. I stay in a coma for six months, then go to hell, not heaven, because no kids got ice cream that day and that’s a punishable offence, and hell is just one giant mouth, and now I’m the skin inside, being chewed for eternity, that is my sentence.

Most days, though, in spite of my wild, uncontrollable imagination, I’m functioning. I’ve had a good dose of therapy, although it’s been over eighteen months, and I think I should probably go back for more. I get my eyebrows tinted and waxed, I should probably keep an eye on those wayward thoughts of mine too. They’re just as invisible as my eyebrows but equally worth a look at. Too bad my “luxury items” budget on my four day a week salary covers eyebrows only on a good month and mental health is somewhere under “Sensodyne even when it isn’t on offer.”

I’m a strong, independent woman. Not superwoman by any means. Strong enough, say, to hang the washing up on the line without getting achy arms, and independent enough to put a tampon in without supervision. And it was in a moment of feeling particularly confident in my abilities that I signed up to a half marathon. I wanted to do something for charity, challenge myself to do something big, prove to myself I can do anything. I’m running for Mind UK, who do incredible work supporting people who are suffering with mental illness and fighting the stigmas that surround it.

Anxiety can be really inconvenient. Usually I feel the warning signs coming on, and when I do, running is one of my go-to remedies. It makes me feel strong, fills me with the good kind of adrenaline, gets me outside, often results in a return journey via Co-Op where I can pick myself up a well-done-for-exercising white Magnum. Sometimes though, events or situations happen that take me by surprise – from unexpected smear test results to anonymous phone calls – and there’s not a damn thing I can do to control it. And when these things happen during a run… well, see for yourself.

Picture the scene.

Eduardo and I ate our weight in carbs on holiday. Ed is also running the half marathon in October for a different charity. We have two months of training to go and have not yet run over 10km in training. We have some serious work to do. So we decide to run 11km on this sunny Sunday and to my surprise it’s going well.

We reach 9.5km, and we’re on the final stretch of road before the park that lies between potential asthma attack and home, and I’m feeling positively resplendent when a car reverses along the pavement in front of us. It’s fast, so we stop and hop to one side, to avoid, you know, a spine-crushing entanglement with a Vauxhall Corsa. We’re in marathon-mode, so we don’t stop, and instead run along the side of the car, whose driver still hasn’t seen us and decides to accelerate in front of us to get into the football grounds to our left. At which point Ed (not me, when I get to over 6km on a run my ability to form words is diminished significantly) yells at her (maybe with some expletives, he’s not an angel) to look at where she’s going. The driver is ultra defensive and wheel spins towards Ed telling him to get out her way.

It’s not the most fun I’ve ever had, but that could also be because I’ve stopped running at this point, and the inside of my groin is seizing up. I feel slightly anxious, because in a fight or flight situation I usually run off, apologising over my shoulder for no reason, but this woman is turning her car around and has followed us down the road, where she proceeds to get out her car, with a two foot iron bar in her hand.

Of all the things I thought would prevent me getting to 11km on a post-holiday slump, it’s not a real life Cluedo weapon being brandished at me by an angry driver. In her words, we “could have damaged her car” when in reality, as we explained, she could have damaged all of our limbs and maybe our skulls too. It went on a bit and in the end she got back in her car, still holding the bar, and said she was “going to watch out for us and we should be careful where we run in the future.” All very comforting stuff.

I got through the final kilometre and a half but all joy of running the furthest I’ve ever run in my life had dissipated. I felt sad, and stressed out, and a bit lost for words, and could feel something inside my chest getting tight. What if she has a son who is in a gang and they find out where we live and batter us to death? What if I never feel safe going on my normal long-distance running route again, because she could turn up in her Vauxhall with the same iron bar, or worse, the rope, or the wrench, or the fucking candlestick. What if she calls the police and somehow makes it seem like we were in the wrong? Were we in the wrong? And, please, God, don’t let her get Colonel Mustard involved.

I get in the shower to try and clear my head, I have somewhere to be. When I get out the shower, I almost cheer up because my tan hasn’t entirely disappeared on the plane, and I decide to moisturise so I don’t dry out like a fig, and then I notice my ribs hurt. They feel bruised, unusually painful, and this is new to me, and number one trigger for anxiety attack for Emma = unusual pain. So I do what I never, ever let myself do when I’m functioning sensibly, when I haven’t been threatened by an iron bar in the previous hour, when anxiety strikes and I start to think about cancer. I google it.

No one is ever reassured when they google symptoms. Everyone knows this. It’s one of those facts we have inside our heads, and we don’t know when we learned them but we know they are true, like “don’t put metal in the fridge” and “George Clooney is gay.” I enter a rabbit hole death trap called “symptoms of bone cancer and how to spot them” and start to have a panic attack.

What a day. We should be celebrating our half way point in training, but somewhere between feeling fit and feeling frightened, I’ve lost my mind and think I’m about to die. One of the many reasons I’m marrying Ed is because when I come down to the kitchen in tears explaining I’m worried I’m dying, he takes me seriously – my anxiety that is, not my imaginary cancer. Eventually I begin to rationalise. Obviously there is a small, small chance I do indeed have Ewing’s sarcoma, but more likely than not, my brain has latched on to a pretty easy trigger and let rip.

Needless to say the afternoon is a write-off. There are many things that make anxiety the absolute balls. Intrusive thoughts, yes, inability to make decisions, absolutely, sense of overwhelming dread, my personal favourite. Logistics, speaking on the phone, social situations, driving, crowded places, dentists, hell, even the hairdressers. But it’s the physical effects that wipe me out. The headache that lasted until bedtime, the hoarse voice that’s a happy after-effect of your throat restricting, and the butterflies that turn into stomach pain and discomfort and zero appetite.

I wanted to write this post because, even though I feel embarrassed, a lot, about my own irrationality, you can pretend everything is great on social media, or you can be honest. I still feel shit this morning – probably because in all the madness I forgot to stretch when I got home, and my muscles currently feel like lead (if you read lead pipe, well done). I promise this isn’t emotional blackmail to get you to donate to my funding page, but if you do feel sorry for me right now, then I’m linking the fundraising page at the bottom of this post. But, I implore you, don’t pity me for my anxiety. These things happen and there are a lot of things I have to be grateful for – my limbs, my fiancé, and the inspiration to write a blog, for instance. If you want to feel sorry for me, just join me in feeling gutted that in all the commotion neither Ed or I managed to use a Cluedo reference as a retort or (my personal favourite) “pipe down, will you?” to the driver of the Vauxhall. A missed opportunity, and one that we have to live with now.

August is an expensive month. If you have any money left after holidays or Edinburgh Fringe or that aircon unit you invested in for your bedroom during the record-breaking temperatures, then may I direct you to my fundraising page, right here. It’s for a genuinely brilliant cause and the only thing that will get me back out there, running, praying I don’t encounter any more weapons. Other ways you can do good – look after each other, look after yourself, and never drive on the pavement.

 

 

 

 

Health, Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Roundabouts.

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Sometimes I think I’m in control of my life. I look at my impressive selection of Tupperware. I regularly buy courgettes. I think about insurance from time to time. And often I feel in control of my life when I’m driving, even if it’s just to the local swimming pool. I feel content, have a purpose. To be honest, I probably enjoy any mode of transport that isn’t the tube, but cars are the best. I can play music out loud, fill the passenger seat with snacks, feel the sun on my right arm and hope I get a lopsided tan.

It must be something to do with the fact I’ve made life decisions that mean I lack stability and a sense of direction in a general way. Sometimes, genuinely, I feel like I’m more likely to win an international snooker championship than ever actually write for a living. Sometimes I’m okay with that. Sometimes I feel happy in the decision I’ve made to chase a seemingly impossible dream and never pay off my student loan. And then other times, I pretend I’m fine and then I have a breakdown at a roundabout for no apparent reason, in the vehicle that’s supposed to represent me at my most sane (a Daihatsu Charade), and realise it’s all got a bit too much.

Recently I lost the plot at a roundabout and realised I’m not superwoman. And I learned that the biggest risk behind being in denial is finding yourself crying in a farm shop car park on the phone to your dad on a Saturday morning. I should have realised, by the level of anxiety the thought of filling my car up at the petrol station on the motorway was causing me, that I wasn’t in a good frame of mind. I should have known, from the fact I woke up, wondered why Ed hadn’t texted me from Scotland to say good night, assumed he’d died and started planning his funeral, that perhaps I wasn’t in the most balanced of moods. Nevertheless, I persisted, and it didn’t go so well.

Of course I’m no longer at the roundabout now, because I drove home, made a cup of tea and called it a day, but I am at a roundabout, permanently it feels, going round in circles, and I don’t know which way to go. I’ve talked before about coming out the other side of a battle with anxiety, dosed up on therapy and ready to rock the universe. And to a degree this is true – most of the time I’m much better than I was before. But right now, it’s not as good as it could be. Part of me wonders if it’s ironic, a twist of fate at work, because in a moment of ambition I signed up for a half marathon to fundraise for Mind UK, and since deciding to try and run 21 kilometres through the city of London in the name of the country’s biggest mental health charity my anxiety has gone through the roof.

One of the most frustrating triggers is a sense of restlessness, boredom or loneliness. It makes me feel like a failure, it makes me panic, it makes me cry. It’s why I don’t spend much time alone in my house. I see plays. I do classes. I run around the park. I see friends. I fill my time with work. But this is complicated because another trigger is exhaustion, doing too much and high levels of stress, and so I often find myself trying to find a balance between doing too much and doing too little. I suppose this is the reason why I seem to have developed a perpetual fear of making decisions and a rather debilitating sense of potential regret or guilt. I’m constantly over-thinking what I should and shouldn’t do, with my day, with my job, with my life.

I’ve become slightly allergic to people asking me ‘How I am’ and ‘How things are going.’ Something bottles up inside me. Genuinely, I have no words, and this is a scary thing for someone who enjoys words. Succulent. Discombobulated. Refrigerator. I feel like I have nothing to say – or that if I did start to actually try and describe how I feel it would be extremely inappropriate in the theatre green room, or during a smear test. But that’s why I have a blog – to open a lid on things unspoken. The other day on Twitter I saw the description for the 19th century equivalent of “meh”; “flobly-mobly,” which means somewhere between well and not-well, and in need of sunshine.

I am extremely flobly-mobly right now.

I really hoped that I could start referring to ‘my anxiety’ as just ‘anxiety’ – something separate from myself, like ‘crunchy nut cornflakes’ and ‘nuclear war’ but I can’t, because it’s a part of me, like my ability to play on words, and my hair. And just like my hair, sometimes my brain behaves, and sometimes it gets a bit frazzled. My anxiety means I spend a lot of time thinking about cancer. It means stomach butterflies. IBS. Chewing the inside of my mouth every day. Not picking up the phone to unknown numbers. Thinking about getting home before I’ve even gone out. Fearing decision making. Intrusive thoughts. Thinking about cancer some more. Restless nights. Palpitations. Distraction. Procrastination. Dread.

However…

My anxiety makes me a caring person. Empathetic. Forward-thinking. Organised. A good party planner (even if once everyone arrives and has a great time I go upstairs to bed). Without anxiety I doubt I’d have acquired my sense of humour. My cynicism. To be honest, I doubt I’d have such good Tupperware, because I’d probably just chill out about routine and money and just buy lunch out more often. My anxiety makes me hungry – for success, for fulfilment, for crème eggs when I’m feeling really low. My anxiety makes me me – a Wednesday’s child, a good friend, a funny person, a writer.

It’s 6.50am. I set my alarm to go on a morning run.* I’m trying to break through this distaste I have for running first thing in the morning. I once had a terrible experience involving a Park run and hay fever and it put me off. But most half marathons seem to be at the crack of dawn, so I need to somehow get through it. I’m in bed, having a cup of tea, waking up, writing, and then I’ll leave the house. It’s sunny outside. This week, I’m doing me. I’m doing the things that make me happy, and giving myself a pat on the back for just getting through it. Often I fall into the trap of thinking anxiety is a weakness, a failure, a system breakdown of sorts. What I forget when I’m panicking, and remember when I’m calm, is that it makes you strong. It’s not easy getting up and going to work on an average day, let alone when your brain has spent all night telling you you probably have HIV. Sometimes it’s really hard just to get on the damn train.

I am lucky. I live in a world where we are beginning to talk about mental health openly. The sun is shining outside. I have a support system. Freak shakes exist. This is a reminder to myself that I need to get back to operating on a scale of gratefulness, love and joy, and not a scale of fear, pressure and guilt. I’m running this damn half marathon whether I like it or not, and I’m running it for brains, and health, and honesty. So you can expect some more from me on this topic. I’ve shut it off for a while, because sometimes it’s quite nice to think you’re chill all the time and crack on like a normal person. But the door’s wide open again. Because I’m hardly normal. I have two pet sharks. And normal is boring.

*I wrote this blog post yesterday and forgot to post it. I’m not going on a run this morning. I have an 8.30am hospital appointment for a colposcopy. The third year in a row that my smear test has come back abnormal (told you I wasn’t normal.) Don’t want to sound like a preacher’s daughter, but go get your vaginas looked at, mates. It’s not the most fun I have on an annual basis but I’d rather this than, you know, my vagina falling out or something. Book. Your. Smears.

 

 

 

fitness, Home, Lifestyle

This girl can… (very slowly).

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Being a somewhat unrealistic and over-ambitious 26-year old with next to no spare time, I decided to set out quite a lot of goals for myself in 2017. Some were reasonable; trying to sleep more than a restless toddler and to speak Spanish more regularly than just calling my mother madre in every text message.

If you counted stopping biting my nails, a bound-to-fail tradition I keep up purely to entertain myself, along with not straightening my hair anymore and trying to avoid the biscuit tin, I’d be so busy trying to keep my goals I’d forget to do the important things like licking the cake bowl tin, and trying to watch six seasons of Girls in one month.

Either way, I had a lot of fun on New Year’s Eve with my friends trying to outline what I want to achieve this year, the person I want to be, and apparently I didn’t drink all the gin because amongst ‘singing an entire song in public in a different accent’ lay two more realistic, helpful, turn-your-life-around kind of goals.

The first of which was to become a vegetarian. I’m now four and a bit months in, having only failed once in the first week of January when I forgot about the new me and accidentally had chicken dippers at Wetherspoons to make myself feel happier about the tube strike. Not only do I love my new diet but I’ve found it easy to commit to, satisfying in more ways than one, and guilt-free (now I can enjoy the sight of baby lambs on a hillside without feeling like a criminal.) Success.

The second goal, and shamefully not for the first time, was to do more exercise. And not only do more exercise but find a routine that I can stick to, that can become embedded in my lifestyle, to the extent that I miss it when I don’t do it. Like Twitter.

So I wasn’t asking much and it, my friends, has been easier said than done.

I used to be a sporty kid. Until the age of sixteen I was on every team at school, competed in national athletics tournaments (I know), ran without wanting to kill myself, took my swimming costume everywhere and didn’t see daily exercise as a battle. Somewhere along the line of studying more, taking up drama full-time instead, losing my confidence and not wanting to be sweaty and ginger, simply losing interest, meant I left that lifestyle behind.

Fast-forward a decade and I was a different person. Whilst I still walked a lot, did the occasional set of abs exercises when it became an emergency the day before a holiday, ran around Clapham Common every now and then but often got distracted by the ice cream van, tried to run up the escalators on a good day, and did a bit of yoga when my head was overflowing, I wasn’t exactly in shape. And something about naturally having a flat stomach when it isn’t disguised by an IBS food baby means you forget you might not be the healthiest person on the planet.

Over a period of time, you start looking in the mirror and thinking you could do better. That determination increases ten-fold when someone you know gets seriously ill, and suddenly you want to start looking after yourself a bit more, basically because I’m very sensitive when it comes to doctors judging me.

I kept hearing about how running, or any form of activity that isn’t Netflix, is not only good for your heart and your muscles, but also for your brain, your posture, your skin, your digestion; basically all the things I haven’t exactly got under control. I’m easily influenced, so when Lena Dunham starts talking about how running has been the most effective cure for her anxiety, or some fresh-faced Youtuber puts her clear skin down to cardio, I get swayed.

Suddenly I don’t want to be that person who’s proud of staying thin without doing any exercise. I want to be the person whose muscles ache from a weekend workout, whose heart is healthy, who has good stamina for drunk rounders in the summer, whose doing everything she can to grab life by the balls and live it in the best way.

So where did that leave me?

Well, I had a long way to go. This is coming from someone who used to put that Cocoa Butter Toning moisturiser on nightly in an effort to try and get a firmer bum. Who burnt most of her calories sneezing on a high pollen day, or trying to get into a tight pair of jeans. Who wrote a blog called “24 things to do instead of going for a run” that included writing a musical and making a toothpaste mural.

I’ve learned it’s as much a psychological battle as anything else. So in January I did two things to win over my mind. I downloaded Couch to 5k, in an effort to start over again, build up stamina properly, stop giving up at a stitch, and compete with myself. And I bought a whole load of new exercise gear, because it turns out the most effective thing to get me out the door is guilt that I’ve spent money on a new sports bra and not used it enough.

Reader, it has worked.

Now I’m not encouraging you to go and spend all your money in TK Maxx because I don’t get paid for that but it was the push I needed. Part of the problem in the past was every time I tried to do more than walk around Clapham Common I was ending up with shin splints, sore ankles and clicky knees. Which are all nice excuses to order Dominos instead but also rather inconvenient.

So this time I went to Runners Direct and got my gait tested, which involves running on a treadmill in front of a lanky eighteen-year old who tells you your knees and ankles are not aligned, before prescribing you the most unattractive, bulky, electric blue trainers in the home counties.

I’m not lying when I say these trainers not only look worse than bowling shoes but are so bright it’s possible for someone at the top of the Shard to point and laugh at you. And you have to pay for them. But, sigh, they work, the eighteen-year old knows his stuff. I can run without feeling snappy or pained the next day and apparently you’re not supposed to look good running anyway, who knew?

And despite just gagging a bit because I sound like such a wanker, I really love Couch to 5k. It’s got into that part of my psyche that makes me hate it as much as I love it, I have to obey it, and it’s mildly manipulative but in quite an alluring way. Basically it’s the most complicated relationship I’ve had in my life but four months on and something inside me has changed.

Yesterday was Easter Day, a day I used to reserve for bingeing and perhaps a stroll around the local duck pond if I felt particularly ambitious, but I forced myself to get up and run, dragging Eduardo with me so he could yell at me when I try to hide behind the children on the swings. I just went on the most active holiday of my life, where if we weren’t surfing or hiking, we were playing tennis and kayaking, and, again, I felt something shift in my attitude towards everything. I like being this active, and I like feeling noticeably fitter. Ed no longer has to tempt me up the side of a mountain with Haribo which means we save at least one Euro every trip.

At the risk of sounding like the next Rebecca Adlington, I want to start strength training; four months ago I didn’t know what that was and would have taken a guess at it being a kind of advanced hair conditioner for brittle ends. Because it’s fine being able to run 5K without stopping (I say that hypothetically, I still need an inhaler and to be slightly drunk to achieve that), but I’d quite like to be able to do a press-up just in case I change my mind about working in theatre and want to join the army, or something. I’d quite like to know what it feels like to have definition in my arms, to carry a rucksack to work without my back caving in, to have strong thighs so I can pin my boyfriend down on the floor and steal the remote.

The thing about exercise is that it can feel like slow progress. I find running in the morning really difficult, so much harder than in the evening, partly because my antihistamines haven’t kicked in and also because I’m still half-asleep, and every time I force myself to go out I feel terrible, like I’ve taken ten steps back. Similarly, the other day I looked at myself in a wetsuit and thought, why do I not looking like a surfer babe yet? But the problem is, no one actually looks good in a wetsuit and I can’t really surf, so it was unfair to ask myself that question.

The reason I’m writing all this down is twofold. Firstly, I’m really only at the start of all this and need as much help as I can get; I need to be able to read this back to myself when I feel less enthused about going out in the rain, or testing out the weights at the gym in front of scary gym people, because I’ll be letting down my audience (of approximately two people) if I give in. Secondly, if there is anyone else out there who is as easily influenced as me, and also wanting to integrate a bit of movement into your routine without becoming a dickhead or exhausted, perhaps this will help.

It’s really hard to commit to doing exercise when you have a life. I’m out of the house at work for at least eleven hours a day, and if I’m not seeing plays in the evening, I’m rehearsing or doing my improvisation class, or am too tired to function, let alone do up the laces on my trainers. Summer helps; on an evening off I am better at forcing myself to get some fresh air because it eases off that feeling of being trapped in an office all day, and I’ve started enjoying morning runs at the weekend because it means I can eat the entire contents of the fridge for the rest of the day.

I love food, I think about it all the time, am queen of snacks, work my holidays around it, sometimes think I might like to marry a pain au raisin, and the thought of it is pretty much the only thing that gets me around a park run. Never have I wanted to become a person who thinks twice before having a second cookie, or who honestly chooses nuts as their favourite snack, but I do see the plus side of being a little more balanced.

Kate Moss once got in a shit load of trouble for saying “nothing tastes better than thin feels” which is completely mad, because croissants are heaven, and feeling your hip bones dig into a sun lounger is unbelievably shit and leaves you with an uneven tan because you can only lie on your front for approximately seven seconds. So in the sense of cancelling out her motto, here’s mine: “nothing tastes better than eating an entire cherry pound cake after panting round your local park for half an hour like an arthritic gorilla.”

Happy bank holiday friends, and wish me luck. X

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

Paint The Town Red

Sometimes I worry about what people think of me.

And sometimes I don’t.

So this is a story about periods.

Dedicated to anyone who’s ever worried about a tampon getting stuck and ending up in their brain. Am I right?

At least once a month I am convinced that periods are absolutely the worst thing, right up there with violent crime, natural disaster, and accidentally licking the inside of a banana skin. This post was inspired at a wedding. This idyllic event landed on the second (read: most lethal) day of my period. Since coming off the pill my periods have become as unpredictable as a pigeon shitting on you just as you look up at the sky and yawn. They are completely out of control and I no longer trust my body.

This fear ain’t new. There has always been drama. The time my younger brothers found my labrador choking on a tampon he’d dug out the bin was an all time low. The time I thought I got toxic shock syndrome was another. Luckily it was just hayfever. Not to mention the day I got my first period, when I cried and missed my train to school, so my Dad drove me and picked up some Always en route, but forgot to tell me I probably didn’t need to carry the entire packet around with me at school. I spent the whole day with a bulging blazer, that either made it blatantly obvious I was on or, worse, that one of my boobs had swollen to three times its size overnight. To this day I don’t know which was more emotionally or socially scarring and all of this is definitely partly to blame for my frequent fear of period-related disaster.

Period photo

So the wedding was pretty stressful. Because all the chairs had white cotton covers, my dress was pastel and my womb has a vendetta against me. I have this very unhelpful habit of imagining the worst in every scenario and as we waited for the bride to arrive my mind began to wander and I started to anticipate my absolute worst nightmare coming true. I looked around at the other ladies sitting, waiting and looking perfectly beautiful and fluttery and I wondered if I was sticking out, sweating as I tried to shift and slyly sit on my cardigan, so that if what I was dreading did happen it wouldn’t look like I was bleeding to death when I stood up for the big entrance, like the worst possible reincarnation of that Game of Thrones finale.

Persistent clenching-like-never-before throughout the entire ceremony (because daym I got the moves) and an emergency message to any higher power going miraculously proved successful and no chairs were harmed in the shedding of this womb. However, I’ve struggled to shake off that sense of dire frustration at having to deal with this every single month. Weddings are traumatic enough what with having to self-regulate Pimms consumption and competing with small children on the dance floor, without spending the entire day in fear that I’d reach into my bag for a handful of confetti and accidentally throw emergency tampons at the bride.

I abandoned this post a while ago because I have the attention span of a mosquito and I forgot about it completely until I read an article about marathon runner Kiran Ghandi who ran the most recent London marathon not only on her period (hero) this year but chose to bleed freely throughout, because who the fuck has time to deal with tampons when they’re smashing a personal best? Now I’m not about to compare a wedding to a marathon. Believe me I know weddings are more exhausting. But I was blown away by her courage, determination, and enviable ability to prioritise and succeed in the face of shitty period times. Reading about Kiran has been the wake-up call I and perhaps all of us need at times. Yes, I definitely still want to find a form of contraception that doesn’t wreak havoc with my body, because there’s only so much crying into ice cream I can afford and my hot water bottle keeps leaking, but until that point I need to remember that I definitely don’t need to sit and clench with fear. I need to start running.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to get my tampons out on the floor of the commuter train and start a game of Dominoes, nor will I begin a protest conga line for all freely menstruating guests at the next wedding I attend. But I am going to chill out a bit. And remember the ever-so valuable sides to the period blues. Like having an excuse to cry about guide dogs if you feel like it. Or dedicated “you-time”, in bed, researching the nutritional benefits of eating an entire pack of caramel digestives whilst watching The Holiday. And that we can do what we want, when we want it. And that is something I’m on board with any time of the month.

fitness, Health, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Over the moon.

Last week, in all its reflective glory, the moon made my days and nights the absolute opposite of fun.

I couldn’t sleep, for one thing. Light was streaming through my bedroom window, an emblem of my dysfunction. I wouldn’t have felt so bad about it if I’d at least had some warning, so I could use my newfound talent for being wide awake all night in a useful way, like being a superhero. But I checked, and there was no bat in the sky. I was not Batman. I was wide awake. And I stubbed my toe.

On top of the insomnia, everyone and everything upset me. I felt disconcertingly sad, lonely, anxious, paranoid. I was going into what I like to call my extreme worrying mode – I realised I was spiralling out of control a bit because my hair wouldn’t straighten and I kept gagging on my toothbrush. Friends told me the moon was to blame; it was full, it was present, it was manipulating us all.

Really though, the main reason that I was so madly upset, at the moon, my hair, everything, last week was because my period was three weeks late. I will never stop marvelling at the magical power wombs have to change the way you view the world.

Sorry, by the way, if this is too much information, but it’s good to talk, you know, and I imagine my hormones are still a bit askew and also, I don’t care.

This joyful delay, the kind that puts Southeastern Railways to shame, has never happened to me before. So obviously I was on high alert. You see, I have to think very carefully about bringing children into this world because it takes an awful lot of responsibility to get a child with my hair through school safely. So I spent a week taking pregnancy tests every other day, falling apart with worry and reconsidering all my life choices.

I’m definitely not pregnant. It turns out any combination of anxiety, stress, the bloody moon, lack of routine, and potentially even exercise, could have been the reason why it was so excessively late. It was unbelievably stressful. I have slowly begun to relax. I can just about look my boyfriend in the eye. Not because I blame him for the pregnancy scare. It’s just his first ever word was ‘moon’ so he was never going to be on my side.

I had to be really on it last week, for two different jobs, rehearsals, a photo shoot, several late nights and more than several occasions where I had to very much be there for other people. It was tiring and I felt like I was unravelling whilst trying to so hard to keep myself together. That sounds very over-dramatic (if anyone wants to make the feature film, please email me with a copy of your CV and your favourite flavour of crisps).

I was also skipping a week of CBT for work so I felt like I was working really hard by myself at being happy and functional – it was really important to me that I didn’t let anxiety win, period or no period. This was beyond difficult, because if I wasn’t lying awake at night worrying about carrying a child, I was convincing myself it was a sign of multiple tumours, or the beginning of my entire reproductive system shutting down.

BUT…I totally got through it. I literally forced myself to think happy, act happy, be happy. I stumbled a lot (I cried when my hair dryer made me too hot. Again – please think twice before bringing a child with too much hair into this world) but I went to sleep on Sunday night happy and grateful. So I wanted to share how I got from Monday to Sunday last week and ended it with a smile.

I struggle with anxiety big time in the mornings, even when I’m not weeing on a stick. So for anyone else who struggles here are some of the ways I’ve managed to switch up my morning routine a bit and started my day with a smile, rather than absolute fear, waking on the sunny side… like a perfect egg.

Happy Time.

It’s a shower gel. Not masturbation. I’ve always showered at night but it’s really helped switching my routine up by jumping in the shower first thing instead. I like to think I have the happiest shower gel ever. It’s Nivea, it’s called Happy Time, it’s cheap and cheerful if you’re poor and work in the arts like me, it’s my little citrus miracle worker. It smells like orange starburst and I genuinely get excited about washing now. You are very welcome.

Breakfast.

I’m a breakfast girl anyway, but part of all the mindfulness I’m being told to exercise, is concentrating on enjoying every moment of my day in its present form. I’ll be honest, right now I’m averaging two breakfasts per day all in the name of happiness but it’s hakuna matata in a bowl, so sod it. What I’m really going to say is – eat, something, anything. Vitamins, endorphins galore, look after yourself.

F.R.I.E.N.D.S

I tell you, this show is genuinely a part of my soul. If ever I’m stuck inside my own head, which I am most days at 7am, I’ve found one utterly consistent way of breaking out of my mind and laughing. I’m distracted, I’m positive, I’m happy. If you can find something that does the same for you, it really works wonders.

Fresh air.

I am positively rubbish at dragging myself out for a run in the morning because my runs are usually motivated by chasing an ice cream van. Every time I do, though, I feel a million times better and can actually justify two breakfasts. So mega snaps to you if you manage it. If not, taking even five minutes of fresh air before my day properly begins clears my head, freshens my senses and reminds me of the bigger picture. Walking over bridges or anywhere with trees hits the spot.

That’s it for now. I have overshared to excess and I really need to go and at least try to brave the hair dryer again. I wish happy days to each and everyone one of you! Thank you for reading 🙂 x

Photo credit: Paperchase