A massive announcement…….

Hey lovely people, how are you?

For some time now I have had a little voice in the back of my mind that keeps getting louder. It has been telling me I need to talk more about mental health. Thoughts of all the places I feel I could help and how what I have to say might matter to people who are suffering have begun to fill my brain and its now got to a Jumanji like drumming that won’t leave me alone.

For sometime I have thought who am I to stand up and ask people to listen to me? Why would anyone want to and what have I got to offer that countless other people out there aren’t already offering. The answer I now realise is me. I can offer me. I can offer someone who deals with depression, anxiety and self esteem issues. I can offer someone who has tried pretty much every therapy both traditional and complimentary and can give honest and frank opinions about how each one has helped me and I am also someone who has over many years written down every nugget of information or skill that I have taken from each and every one of those therapies to help me maintain and improve my mental wellbeing on a daily basis.

I want people to talk and hear more about mental health and feel like they have a safe space to do so. I want to promote the fact that if you are suffering it’s not just the GP you can got to for help and sometimes you may not feel like you need the GP just yet. You just need some time to listen and some ideas of how things can work better for you.

So with a little help from some friends I’m setting up ‘Talking about Mental Health’ regular sessions where we can do just that. A space where it’s safe, you can listen, you can share (but only if you want to) and you can come away with tools to help YOU on a daily basis. I am not a therapist and can not offer any kind of medical advice but I am a Time to Change Campaign Champion and will offer signposting at every session.

I can’t wave a magic wand, I really wish I could (would have been so helpful in my own life) but I want to help. I want this to be Weight-watchers for well-being which is ironic as knowing me there will be cake! A regular session you can attend when you need to that can help you. Somewhere where there will always be a smiling face and someone who knows what utter crap mental health issues can cause in a persons life.

The incredibly lovely Vanessa and Jo from Farm Work Play on Monkshill Farm have offered me their amazing space on a Saturday once a month to do just this. Starting on the 19th of January 2019 in the middle of what is often the hardest most bleak month for many of us. I would love for this to grow as I feel it is my calling so this first step is to me a massive thing and I have been desperate to share my vision with you.

You can book tickets here (to give me an idea of numbers) but if you haven’t booked and feel on the day you need to be there then please don’t worry. I won’t turn anyone away. All I ask is that you bring yourselves, a notebook and some coins towards the cost of tea, coffee and cake.

You can also find out more on the new Facebook page called @talkingaboutmh I have created an event here that also links to the ticket site if that’s easier for you.

There is free parking onsite and the farm is so lovely it’s the perfect space to talk about our mental health.

Please share and support this new venture. It would mean the world to me.

Lucy xxx

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Coming off antidepressants and how it was for me

Each one of us as an individual is able to deal with our mental health in a totally personal way in the same way we do with our physical health. If god forbid we were diagnosed with cancer we would be given information about the treatments available to us, how each would affect us and given the opportunity to decide for ourselves which is the best course to take in our own opinions.

When you are diagnosed with any kind of mental health issue the idea should be the same. You should be offered a number of possible routes you can follow in order to feel better and cope with what could be a chronic condition. The good thing about the various treatments for mental health issues is that they can all be used in conjunction with each other (with a couple of exceptions) and usually at least one of these options will help you and make you feel like you again.

I like many of us who has suffered for a long time have tried most of the options available to me to assist with my depression, anxiety and self esteem issues. When I first tried antidepressants I was eighteen. I had reached a point where I couldn’t continue any longer and I at the advice of my GP took the tablets. I also agreed to see a counsellor. I have to say that my experience here was awful. I was so young and numb to everything that I didn’t think to question when the counsellor suggested a different tablet he felt I would respond better to and asked my GP to change my prescription. I didn’t even see my GP to discuss this I just collected the prescription and swapped from the one I was on to the new one in the space of a day.

Anyone who has tried to change or come off antidepressants may now be screaming at the screen. This was of course a ridiculous thing to do without first weaning myself off the first one and I had what can only be described as a psychotic episode at a family friends wedding one day after changing the tablets. Luckily I had only been invited to the evening and managed to keep my meltdown to the toilets otherwise I am quite sure my bizarre behaviour would have ended the friendship. I don’t remember all of it but I can recall screaming, wailing and not being able to stop crying or calm myself. I was so scared. The room didn’t feel like a room and my mum who was trying to look after me could offer me no comfort whatsoever. It got so bad that my mum had to call Karl (we had been together a year at this point) who was working to come and physically remove me from the building and take me home. I remember him having to undress me and put me into bed and stay next to me as I just couldn’t calm down. This may have gone on for hours, I have absolutely no idea.

When I did return to see the GP he was angry I hadn’t been given any advice by the counsellor in relation to the change of tablets and the leaflets inside the boxes just didn’t make it clear that the side effects of withdrawal can be devastating. I’m incredibly lucky that the episode I had was around people who knew me and as much of a nightmare as  I was looked after me and made sure that I was safe. I still shudder to this day when I think back to that night. This was in 2003.

So fast forward to 2014 when after resisting for sometime and in the middle of an eating disorder I relented and realised that tablets were something that I needed again. I had always promised myself that I would never ever go back on them and that I would be a failure if I did. But I had two boys that I needed to think about and it was my responsibility to do all I could to make myself better and with a lovely Community Psychiatric Nurse explaining to me exactly what to expect I got another prescription.

I have never been unable to care for my children with my mental health issues and although I probably don’t need to say it I always feel like people will judge my abilities as a mother when I say about them so to make myself feel better I feel the need to make that point.

I was prescribed Fluoxetine as this I was assured would not make me put on any weight (something that at that point meant a lot to me even though I was so very ill) and I had months worth of therapy, I felt that I totally embraced treatment and wanted to get better and with time I felt the benefit of the treatment choices I had gone with. I had some raises in dosage and being honest my tablets became a part of who I was. Long after the talking therapies ended and I felt ‘better’ the tablets were there with me every morning with my cup of tea and the little green box that contained them was never far away.

As many of you know I had another massive crash in 2017 and this was the one which I think provided me with the most clarity about my mental health. I feel more at peace with my issues now than I ever have and I no longer try and pretend they don’t exist. I acknowledge I am in treatment in some way each and every day and always will be and I use what I need to in order to assist me. These are mostly things I have written about before. Its like my own personal treatment plan that involves me choosing what I need at the time whether that be talking therapies or others I will cover later in this post. The thing is though that in 2018 I was still taking the same increased dosage of my tablets I had been since 2014.

I made the decision in August to wean myself off them not because I felt that I didn’t need them anymore but because of some physical side effects I had been suffering with that my GP felt could be as a result of them. I had never been told that some of the side effects you can have from antidepressants can increase the longer you are on them and when I found this out the thought scared me. I realised that I had stayed on them because I thought I should as opposed to knowing that I absolutely couldn’t cope without them. The doctor and I came up with a plan for me to wean myself off them slowly so I could see if the physical side effects reduced with a view to beginning another if I felt I needed them.

I had to be very mindful of what withdrawal could do as well as equipping myself with ways of dealing with my mental health issues while the chemicals in my brain did their thing. Sounds so simple, right?! I also had to continue to work and be a mum while this was ongoing. I didn’t feel nervous or worried though, I actually felt empowered and like I was doing a good thing for me and my body.

At first I was exhausted but I think that was probably because life at that point was so very busy. The GP explained to me that Fluoxetine is usually one of the easier tablets to come off as it has a much shorter half life than some of the other common ones so gets out of your system more quickly but that this often didn’t work like that and particularly not for people like me who had been on them a long time.

I started to get very dizzy after about a week, not so much that I couldn’t do anything but I was aware of it. I felt spaced, vacant and a bit removed from life. That sounds ever so dramatic I know but that’s exactly how it felt. My memory seemed to suffer a bit and I felt like I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I took a few days off work to just rest and spent the majority of that time in bed. This was the end of August and very hot so not the best time to be in bed but I listened to my body and it just needed to stop.

I started some new sessions of talking therapies at this time knowing that I would likely be going through some new emotions and not being exactly sure how it would effect me. This helped me massively as the counsellor within about five minutes made me see how anxious I was. I sat in front of her picking at my nails and making the sides of my fingers bleed. I hadn’t even realised I was doing it. At the end of that session she gave me a stone and asked me to keep it nearby and if I felt the need to pick my fingers to pick it up and feel it. Sounds so strange but it really worked. I would feel the stone and roll it around in my hands, feel the edges, the smooth parts, the rough parts and it gave me something else to focus on. It was a calming influence too and I still two months later have it with me wherever I go for if I need it. I actually have two now as I quite like picking the colour I fancy!

She also gave me a notebook and asked me every time I felt I needed it to open it and write down how I was feeling. She explained that she did this every morning and during the day when she felt that her emotions were getting out of control. I began to use the book at work mostly. I would get in every morning and while my computer was logging on I would jot down how I was feeling. Not war and peace and at times just single words but I found it a very efficient tool at clearing my mind which made me more present in the moment. This is something else I still do every morning. Funnily enough I don’t tend to do it outside of work I think because I am in my own sanctuary at home so find it a safer space to talk and be open but without failure at the start of every shift I write a few words in my book. This is something I think I will now continue to do as part of my mental health treatment as I like how in control I feel for addressing those thoughts and feelings and there is something almost like purging them when you write them down.

I spent the following month and a half feeling relatively ‘normal’ for me (don’t laugh!) I had ups and downs but no worse than when I was on my tablets and actually that made me think, do I need to start on new ones. I decided not and to persevere with my own methods and see how I could be as a mental health sufferer without tablets. All was going really well until this last week when I feel like I have had a real slump. I can honestly say I’ve been the most miserable I’ve been in a long time. I’ve just felt low, down, angry , frustrated and unsettled. It occurs to me though that I at this point am totally chemical free. My brain is working itself out on its own and that will surely be having an effect on my mood. luckily it has coincided with a period of annual leave from work where I am focussing on self care.

I have been evaluating, journaling, talking and being kind to myself (lots of hot chocolate too)  I can’t tell you how easy it would be for me to go back to the GP and put myself back on tablets but I feel like I need to give it another month and then look at it again. I think for me acknowledging that I need to give my body and brain time is a massive thing and a way in itself of me taking control of my own treatment. If I go back on another tablet that’s absolutely fine and if I don’t then that’s good too.

I am so much better at listening to myself and not expecting so much of myself and this means I don’t feel like a failure the second I get something wrong. I am also very lucky that I have people around me who know my journey and are always willing to listen. My handbag is full of stones, notepads, essential oils (lavender is amazing) bright lipsticks (an instant boost) and a couple of little things the boys have bought me that always make me smile and I like my handbag am full of things I can do for myself to take charge of the bad days. I can meditate, I can take time to breathe and if I need to I can push pause and take time out. This isn’t always easy with little people and work but it’s amazing how just a couple of minutes of time out can make a difference in a shitty day. I also have the GP’s phone number in my phone and I’m not ashamed to call it if I need to.

In conclusion I am all for doing whatever you need to do to take charge of your own mental health and I respect, admire and have love for everyone who suffers and gets through it in the ways that they can. I of course also know that there are places that in time of crisis I can go and would urge anyone to do the same if they need to. There are places for all kinds of treatments which should be undertaken in consultation with a medical professional if necessary. This is about my personal journey and if you are thinking about making a change in your own treatment please seek advice.

Wow, that was a long post! If you found it helpful please let me know and if you have any questions please feel free to get in contact. I hope I’ve not bored you too much!

An October review…….

October is one of those months where I tend to have a bit of a review. My birthday is this month and I think as it approaches every year it makes me evaluate where I am, where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved over the last year.

When I thought about it quickly I thought that this year hasn’t been one full of great things and huge achievements but then I thought again. This year I have focussed more on me than I have for a long time. I have had the at times uncomfortable realisations of who I am, what I’m about and what I need to let go of. I have dare I say it become more happy. I have allowed myself to be who I am in ways that I would have feared to in the past. Worries about being mocked or treated differently I haven’t allowed to plague my thoughts like I used to and I am for the first time in a long time  in a position where I can say that the people I have around me understand and embrace me for me no matter what. Not you Mum, you’ve been doing that for almost thirty five years now!

No matter what is a big statement. No matter what is in good times or bad, when I have had successes or failures. When I’ve made good decisions or hideously awful ones. There really is a huge amount of truth in the saying ‘find your tribe’ and when you do you need to hold on to those people with all you have.

I have talked about my mental health more this year and I feel with more authority. I am on a journey that evolves on a daily basis and it’s a journey that I am at peace with as opposed to fighting against. I have made the decision to come off my antidepressants and to take more control in other ways over my mental health. I have started small practices to help me on a daily basis that are becoming habits. I write down how I feel, I meditate, I read more and I am more realistic with myself.

I have put on about two stone and I’m currently wearing a size eighteen. This is a big thing for me to tell you but after all the peanut m&m’s and those yummy Ikea biscuits I am hardly surprised but for once in my life I am being kind to myself. I have realised that limiting myself is a way I used to self harm in the past and denying myself nice things as some strange way of punishing myself did nothing other than make me miserable. I have cut down on alcohol and started running again (slowly and with a very interesting style but still) I have realised that I am meant to have big boobs and they need to be comfortable so I’ve started buying my bras at Victoria’s secrets because they don’t only make sexy, tiny underwear but they make the most comfortable bras I have ever worn. They are expensive and I only buy them in the sale because that’s what I can afford to do but it feels good to be looking after myself and taking pride in doing so.

I see the beauty in having no plans, in living simply and taking each day as it comes. I love to see friends and walk around taking pictures even if it is somewhere we have taken a million pictures of before. I have realised I like yoga and just because I am not as bendy as most people doesn’t mean I can’t do a downward facing dog as well as the next person.

We have made a small house into a big house and have taken pride in doing so. It’s been a massive lesson for us as a family and a couple but it has bought us closer together and bought pure joy. I look forward to getting the garden finished and starting my flower garden and the thought of cutting flowers I have grown myself next year to display in my home brings a huge grin to my face.

I have realised that there are so many things in this life that are so much more important that I ever thought. Sitting with my parents over a cup of tea talking about the birds, seeing my boys play with their friends, listening to the boys read, eating cake with Karl, taking my mum out and treating her like she deserves to be treated and laughing with my friends. These things are priceless, these moments to be made memories that I can cherish forever.

I want to continue to write and talk about mental health. I want to help people, to give blood (once and counting) to explore more creative pursuits, to spend more time with the people I love and to see them go from strength to strength. I hope that when  I write this post next year it will be another year of little things that have added up to massive things when I will be meeting another year older as a welcome friend full of excitement and promise.

Thanks as always for reading, for listening, for being here and being you. You have no idea how much each and every one of you that has taken the time to email, comment on my social media, hit the like button and talk to me about my blog and writing have helped me this year. You are amazing and I hope you never forget it.

Lucy xxx

Things we say to ourselves….. Self Esteem Project part two

I have to say that I was blown away by the response I got to my last blog post. I never thought that talking about self esteem in the way I have been would strike a chord with so many of you. I want to thank everyone who took the time to read, to get in touch and who took part in that first task.

I have been thinking lots about future newsletters and how I can make sure that each one is different and looking at self esteem from other perspectives. This week I have been thinking about small things I do on a regular basis to boost my own self esteem. When I say small I mean tiny. Things that others probably don’t even realise I am doing but I am constantly. These things help me get through every single day and I think they will be able to help you too.

I like to call this process ‘things I say to myself’ and I think on some level I have done it since I was small. I realised quite early on that I wasn’t the same as other people. I didn’t have the self confidence and belief that others seemed to and I had to work that bit harder to see the stars through the darkness. In these early days I realised that it made me feel better to hear and read positive things. I would listen to music that I found uplifting and that had lyrics that resonated with me. Some of this music I would turn to at times of upset and need. It was often different music for different things. I recall a Backstreet Boys song (don’t laugh, I’m old!) where the lyrics went and I still remember them by heart ‘if you ever feel like no one cares, when you try your best but you get no where, don’t give in’ yes this is full of emotional teenage angst but it helped me through hard times.

In times of hardship or need I recall talking to myself and saying things I needed to hear such as ‘you can do this’ ‘just get through it Luce’ and various other words of encouragement. Of course we know that I say some awful and nasty negative things to myself but even though I do this I am able to acknowledge that if I say positive things to myself then I feel brighter and able to carry on.

I’m not for a second saying that this method always works. For me it doesn’t. When I am at my lowest few things can pull me out of it and saying kind things to myself won’t all of a sudden make everything better but they will help. They will offer a glimmer of some light even if at the time it is hard to see it.

Last year when I was at my lowest I listened to Jess Glynne on repeat. I have written before about how much her music helped me and her many mantras about not being too hard on yourself and moving forward became the words I would say to myself just to get through the minutes of the day.

I got to the point where it helped me massively to write down all these positive things I would say to myself as constant reminders that I could refer to when I needed it. I had notebooks all over the place full of doodles with inspirational quotes and positive mantras filling the pages. I have written before about my ‘Quotes to live by’ Pinterest board which I still fill on a daily basis with these positive things I can say to myself that will at any time of need give me a boost.

This concept isn’t a new thing. Daily affirmations are practiced by many, positive quotes adorn the walls of houses across the world and the wartime slogan ‘keep calm and carry on’ is uttered all over the place on a regular basis. There is a reason for this. The things we say to ourselves are important. They can make us feel things. They can help us. It doesn’t cost any money and you can use them at any time day or night.

So….. this weeks task then is to come up with some things to say to yourself that are personal to you to help to boost your self esteem. I would like you to write them down, doodle them, make them pretty, stick them on your wall or keep them on a piece of paper you carry with you. Have them accessible and near so if you need that boost you can always use them. I am going to share some of my favourite ones with you and also some resources that can help you come up with your own or find some that suit you.

I understand that this may seem daft. In a world where suicide is so prevalent and mental health issues are so common surely if it’s as easy as saying some nice things to yourself then we would all be fine. Of course that’s not the case but surely if anything can help even in the tiniest of ways then it’s worth a try?

Here are some of my favourites:

‘Life is tough darling, but so are you’

‘You are enough’

‘You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your way’

‘A woman is unstoppable after she realises she deserves better’

Go to Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and look up motivational and inspirational quotes, create yourself a board, favourite some tweets or save some Instagram posts so you have a bank of motivation whenever you need it and add to it as often as you can. You can do this in a notebook or diary too so you always have something with you that can help.

I would love to hear your ideas of things you will say to yourself to help boost your self esteem. Please share them and I can create a list to share with you all. Even if you are only able to come up with a couple of things that you can use if you incorporate them into your day I assure you they will help.

I hope you have enjoyed this second instalment of my self esteem project. I still haven’t worked out how to set up a newsletter but as soon as I do I will let you know!

I love to hear from you so get in touch if you need to.

Lucy xxx

Self Esteem… Can we help each other?

I haven’t written anything for some time purely and simply because I haven’t been in the right frame of mind to write. Today however I took some time for self care and went for a massage as I felt like my poor back was about to snap and while I was laying on the couch an idea hit me that made me excited and fired up enough that here I am tapping away on my keyboard for the first time in months.

I have harped on here for about two years now about my ongoing battle with depression and anxiety. In particular my issues with low (well, lack of self esteem) and it occurred to me that I have built up some pretty amazing tools to help me and how much I would like to pass these on to others. I am in no way a counsellor or therapist and I have no particular qualifications in anything in this field (I do make an amazing cuppa though!) However I know it helps me to set myself little tasks every so often to promote self care and make me appreciate me a bit more. So, what I would like to do is this, I want to write a fortnightly piece about self esteem and set a task or a challenge that you can take part in to help you boost your own self esteem and to let us all know that we are not alone.

Clearly this will start on a small scale but my vision is that I can set up an email subscription for my ‘self esteem newsletter’ and that as the words spreads more people can get some benefit from taking steps to boost their self worth and promote self care. I just have to figure out how to set up an email subscription bit on the blog, write a privacy policy and comply with GDPR guidelines. Sounds massively easy, right?!

So I know what you are thinking, why am I doing this? Well it’s a long answer. Because I feel I need to. I am not a company, I am not a life coach or someone who has all the answers but I am someone who has been through the hell that low self esteem and mental health issues can cause and am committed to improving my own life using the many tools I have been given in my journey. These have come from many sources and some I have adapted myself to assist in my battle. I will reference some of these amazing people but I am not sponsored or affiliated with them in anyway. I simply want to help and I know that something like this would help me and that can only be a good thing.

If you would like to get involved and find that the tasks and reading what I write is helping then please let me know. I would be really grateful for any feedback. Perhaps one day I can set up local self esteem meetings and have events but for now lets start with a little bit on self esteem and a little task. I will do the task here for you to see.

Self esteem is defined as ‘confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect’ I wonder how many of us on a daily basis have some sort of crisis in our self esteem. Have you ever told yourself that you can’t do it, that you aren’t good enough or that you aren’t worthy of something. Only this morning I talked myself out of putting on a pair of jeans I hadn’t worn in ages as I am too fat for them to fit. This is my brain telling me this, not based on any kind of scientific weight measurement or actually trying on the jeans themselves just my brain being nasty to me which sadly it often is.

Our self worth and respect is often something that we do very little with as we are used to it being a certain way and you almost fall into a habit of carrying on with a negative pattern of thinking. ‘I can’t run, there is no point in trying’ so you don’t run, you don’t try in case that nasty inner voice is right but you don’t feel any better for not trying you just feel crappy as you have told yourself you are useless at something. My Dr recently said  something to me that really resonated. He said ‘there is nothing you can’t achieve, all you need is time and effort’. When you put it like that it seems really simple doesn’t it. You can run marathons if you train and build up to it, you can pass exams if you study and revise, you can lose weight if you eat fewer calories and exercise more and you can believe in yourself and make changes in your life if you focus on doing just that and give some time back to yourself.

Time is one of those things that none of us have enough of and so often we put ourselves on the back burner for other things that take a higher priority such as the weekly food shop, housework, tasks at work and any other number of pulls to your time on a daily basis. My family comes first because that is the way it has to be, I work to earn money to go towards the mortgage and provide all the things we need. That means that alongside the time spent being a mum and having a career time for me is limited BUT I still make it where I can because I have found it is an absolute essential for my mental health.

You can’t pour from an empty cup and all the things I mention above would collapse if I am not okay and to be okay I need to be happy with who I am no matter what my negative and nasty inner voice is telling me.

Here is task one……. I want you to write down three things that have affected your self esteem this week. If you are anything like me this will be easy in fact you could probably write twenty but lets keep it to three. Here are mine:

  • I am so fat its grotesque
  • I am a failure and I always will be
  • People don’t like me

Now what I want you to do and this is the hard bit is to write down something to challenge each negative thought. Whatever that may be. So here goes……

  • I haven’t been eating well as I’ve been down so I know that if I cut down on things like sharing packs of peanut m&m’s on a nightly basis I will lose some weight
  • I have failed at things in the past but hasn’t everybody and doesn’t it make me a stronger person for next time? I can’t let it break me, I must let it make me
  • Some people don’t like me and there is nothing I can do about it so I can make myself miserable worrying or I can smile and know that no one can please everybody. Plus I am blessed to have some pretty amazing people who do like me and for that I am massively grateful.

Now I want you to read back over both sets of points. How does it make you feel? I didn’t like reading over the first three points but when I read the second three challenging those thoughts my mind opened up a bit. I thought about these challenges and how much more logical they are than my irrational, nasty thoughts to myself. In fact they are quite obvious and I almost feel daft feeling the way I do about the top three points. But that’s the thing with low self esteem. It’s not rational, it doesn’t follow common sense and it doesn’t allow us to feel the most sensible way.

By taking the time to look at these negative thoughts head on we can challenge our own thoughts about ourselves and this practice can massively help at a time of crisis or just self reflection. How did you find this task? Was it helpful and would you like to do the next one? Please get in touch and let me know.

I hope this has been useful. I would like you to remember that you are enough and that your own negative thoughts to yourself about yourself are just that. They are what you think and not what others think as they are wrapped up in dealing with their own thoughts about themselves and fighting battles just as you are.

Thanks for reading, Lucy xxx

Good advice……

Sometimes I genuinely wonder why we as people are so good at giving advice and helping others and yet we absolutely can’t take on the advice we so freely give to others for ourselves.

We have all been there, a friend or loved one is low and down so we offer help, we do what we can to make them feel better and loved. Yes of course it sometimes doesn’t work but at least we know we have done what we can and if nothing else that person knows they have someone thinking of them or to call if they need to.

So why then are we so awful at doing it ourselves. Why does it feel self indulgent to sit on a Sunday afternoon when there is so much to do around the house watching a film with my little people. Why am I sat here making excuses in my head as to why I’m doing it as opposed to thinking that this time for me is well deserved and actually needed.

Many of you who follow me over on Instagram will have seen my stories over last weekend where I exposed my absolute pit of a house. We don’t always live like this. We have as you know had a massive building project going on and rooms had to be emptied so the builders could move in. So it made sense to make the house a bit like a massive jigsaw puzzle where we moved boxes and furniture around according to where the builder needed to go next.

This resulted in most rooms ending up piled high with possessions which were in desperate need of a sort through and when the builders finished we had to battle the building dust and various other things that come with new buildings such as dust and sand from the screed on the floor and couldn’t comprehend actually getting all the bits moved out. So for now the house is still very much a work in progress. Added to normal work and life in general we just aren’t getting the time we want to get it sorted as quickly as we would like to.

But after an exhausting week and getting up early to get some jobs done (which I did) I still feel bad sitting and chilling for a bit. I think life very much should be about being lived for now and not just focusing on what it will be like or what you want it to be like. I’m not for a second suggesting not to look to your dreams or have ambitions. Goodness no, I have so many dreams and hopes that I’m working towards and I will never lose sight of them BUT I’m conscious that if I get run over by a milk float tonight (yes it could happen) will I be sad about my house not being as tidy as I would like or the fact that I didn’t take the chance to sit and watch Hocus Pocus with my boys when that’s what they want me to do.

We cannot give ourselves a hard time for doing what is good for us. Whether that be downing tools and going for a walk, stopping to eat that bar of chocolate, sitting amongst chaos with people we love or any other thing that makes our souls happy. Life is about balance, we are about balance and we need it in our lives to be happy and at peace. Now I hear you laugh as you know that I am someone who is rarely at peace as I worry so much, criticise myself so much and drive myself a little mad with stress and anxiety however….. I am getting better. It takes massive amounts of time and effort but I am making headway and I know that I need to work on me everyday in order to continue making that progress for myself and my family.

So the next time you go to give help and advice to others I want you to ask yourself ‘have I done this lately for me?’ I would be very interested to know if you have!

Have a fab week, Lucy xxx

A trip to Warner Brothers Studios for a Harry Potter adventure

We like so many other families will happily call ourselves Potter fans. I have the joy of seeing the boys read, watch and love the Harry Potter books and films while I have memories of reading them myself.

I came to the books later than most but once I did in my teens I couldn’t put them down. I vividly remember reading the last book and spending the whole of the day it was delivered laying on the sofa reading it on a day off work. By the time I had finished I was in the total darkness as I hadn’t been able to tear myself away long enough to turn on the lights or shut the curtains.

Leo, my youngest son in particular is a total Potter head. He knows everything there is to know, he was writing out spells before he could write most ‘normal’ sentences. He uses spells in day to day life even today and spells such as ‘nox’ and ‘lumos’ are common place in our house.

You can imagine then that when I received an email last month from The Warner Brothers Studio Tour London – the making of Harry Potter inviting us along to a family bloggers event to explore the studios and their special Goblet of Fire features that I actually shrieked. It was quite loud, I think Karl thought I had finally given into the madness! I was so honoured to be asked and felt like I was waiting for Christmas while I counted down the days.

We made a bold decision and didn’t tell the boys what we were doing. It was a Friday afternoon so picked them up from school and told them we were off on an adventure. There were numerous guesses as you can imagine. My favourite was a goat sanctuary and we managed to keep them believing that until we pulled up outside the studios.

You can imagine the excitement, the delight and all the questions. Nate asked if there were any goats inside which I will make sure to remind him of when he is older to embarrass him! When you arrive you realise just how massive the scale of making the movies was. The studios are huge and the excitement builds the minute you get to the ticket office due to large posters from the films.

We were greeted by some of the lovely staff and given a Goblet of Fire lanyard with a number of tickets inside the plastic pocket. These included a chocolate frog from the studio shop, a Butterbeer, dinner and a photograph each from the green screen area.

The entrance area is huge and you can see the Weasley families flying car, giant pictures of the cast throughout the years of filming and for the Goblet of Fire special the huge goblet used for the premiere of the film in London which I would say is at least twice the height of Hagrid. Here there is the studio shop, a cafe and an area where you can store bags and coats. We were quickly greeted by lots of other family bloggers and asked to wait ready to be called in for our adventure.

I’m not going to give away all of the secrets as you need to be surprised by all the magic they have to offer. You are literally blown away by being taken into the world we know and love. The staff knowing they were talking to bloggers and their families all of whom were massive Potter fans had us cheering along like children (even the grownups) and were so welcoming and clearly loved working at the studios. They were happy to answer as many questions as we had to ask (Nate and Leo as usual had loads) and there were lots of staff on hand in each part of the tour to offer guidance and show off added extras. The Forbidden Forest in particular had lots of special effects on offer.

I imagine you will have been reading up to this point thinking that I’ve not mentioned awful behaviour from the kids or any kind of unexpected disaster which usually is a key theme around any of my blog posts. Don’t worry I’m not going to disappoint you! Nate and Leo being their usual selves did quite a lot of rushing ahead and then running back to us to tell us what was next and how amazing the studios were.

At one point we were on the Hogwarts Express (yes you can actually go on it!) and looking through the windows into the compartments that were each set up around one of the films. Karl and I were discussing how amazing it was and how we felt like we were really there when we heard a massive crashing of metal outside the train windows. I actually and quite stupidly said to Karl ‘at least for once we know it’s not our two’ then both looked up the train to see no Nate or Leo. I then looked out of the window of the Hogwarts Express to see Leo entwined in the rope and metal railings that ordinarily make the area you queue in to get onto the train. Staff members from the railway shop had run over and were helping him and Nate was stood looking sheepish knowing as soon as we turned up they would be in trouble.

I absolutely dreaded the looks we would get, not only from all the other parent bloggers of impeccably behaved children but also from the staff but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The staff were kind, thoughtful and tried to put Leo at ease acknowledging we were in one of the most exciting places we could be. I was really touched when one of them came and found us a little later to find out how Leo was and ask if we were having a good time.

Shortly after the Hogwarts Express incident we stopped for dinner. We were all really hungry and thirsty and I cannot resist Butterbeer. There is a lovely range of food and we all were able to find some yummy food we wanted. I then had the delight of trying Butterbeer ice cream for the first time and I have to say I would have happily eaten 27 of them. So so yummy, you really need to try it if you can!

There are outside sets and props too for you to look at and explore and we spent a good hour here. The boys loved feeling a massive part of the magic and we took so many pictures of them enjoying themselves. My face hurt from all the smiling! As with any attraction we were able to learn lots about how the books were bought to life for the big screen and to see how the geniuses who worked on the films made it so magical. You wouldn’t imagine that some of the things you see were possible and yet there they were ready for Leo to knock over!

On purpose I haven’t gone into what to expect in great detail as for me and my family part of the joy was not knowing what is around the next corner and as the studios change the exhibits and themes throughout the year you can always expect something new. What I will say though that the studios are a family trip that you will never forget. For the young and the old it was a magical wonder and I haven’t smiled so much in a long time. There are few things that ignite the spark in all of us and Harry Potter is one of them. There really is something for everyone to see, hear and do.

We were lucky enough to be invited along as guests and to buy tickets isn’t cheap however you can stay all day. They don’t rush you and you can stay in each area for as long as you like. The only thing you can’t do is go back so make sure to drink in each and every area before you move on. You can find more details and book online here. I would say that for a family treat it is one of the best days out we have had and has something to offer to all. I plan on taking the boys back for Christmas to see the Great Hall in all its festive splendour.

I also hope that we are not on the banned list after Leo’s accidental attempt at destroying Platform nine and three quarters!