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

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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

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!

Yes I’m hard to love but I didn’t choose to be this way…….

When you are someone who suffers from any kind of mental health issue you will be well aware of the stigmas attached and also how difficult it is for someone who doesn’t suffer to understand.

Let’s be honest why we as sufferers do the things we do often doesn’t make sense. It’s not always rational, it’s not simple or following common sense and it doesn’t always make us feel better but we do it anyway. To give some examples things like not going a certain route to avoid seeing people, not wanting to wash, not wanting to get out of bed, feeling like everyone hates you and many more that I could spend all day listing.

What I as a sufferer find makes things even harder is when people treat you like being down, anxious or anything else you suffer from is a choice you are making. It’s almost that opinion that you could switch it off but choose not to. I can assure you I do not choose to feel low. I don’t choose to feel meaningless, worthless or anxious and I certainly don’t choose when I do or don’t feel this way.

Even someone who is medicated and well aware of their triggers will have good days and bad. Often the bad days hit you like a train when you don’t see them coming. You can wake up and just feel not right. You can feel like the hardest thing in the world to do would be to pull the covers back and get out of bed. The thought of leaving the house and people looking at you and seeing all your weakness pouring out of you is abhorrent. Even when they probably wouldn’t notice anything at all was awry but you know and to face a world knowing that can be debilitating.

I get completely that to be a friend, partner or family member of someone who suffers with their mental health can be exhausting, miserable and downright confusing however the worst thing that you can do is make that person feel like their issues are their own fault and that they are making a conscious decision to be the way they are. Just as no one would chose to have a broken bone no one would ever make a choice to feel the way many of us do inside our own brains somedays.

We as humans make mistakes. Small ones, big ones, life changing ones, ones that can affect everything around us or put our lives in danger. Many of these mistakes are made at times of crisis when actually we as people are making ourselves the hardest to love. When we are the hardest to love that’s often when we need to be shown love and understanding the most.

You as a friend, partner or family member of a mental health sufferer may get frustrated, angry, hurt and have no idea what to do for the best for your loved one. But the best thing to do is just that, love them. Don’t make them feel bad that they are suffering, don’t add to their pain by treating them like having a mental health problem is a choice and don’t take the love away. These times of crisis really are when they need you most.

I find talking really helps and support is on offer for both sufferers and those who care from them. There are massive resources online and you can search for local support groups in your area. Please ask for help and keep talking to each other.

Lucy xxx

Boys and why I will never understand them…….

You all know that I have boys. I am the only girl and I have wholeheartedly had to embrace all manner of boy related activities that I have never before experienced in my life. However recently it feels like I am seeing the differences between the sexes in ways I never have before.

I’m not being sexist nor am I trying to generalise but I talk from my experiences as a mum of boys and the only woman in my home. Friends who have little girls that I have had the pleasure to spend time with say that their girls are content to just be. A classic example of this was a barbecue at a friends house last week. She has a boy and a girl. Her daughter sat around the table eating chocolate ice cream and conversing with the adults. Our son’s collectively ran around screaming, climbed to the top of the play house, splashed each other in the paddling pool and made a new carpet out of pop corn.

I must have said about a hundred times ‘this is my life’ and it’s absolutely true. I live in a bubble of screaming, wrestling matches, Lego and food fights. My toiletries are used to make magic potions, we get through at least two liquid soaps a week due to potion making and washing Lego (yes that’s a thing) my ornaments and pretty things are used as targets for Nerf guns, there are piles of old wrenches, tools and bits of old bottles around the house that the boys have excavated from the garden and I’m never more than 30cm from something that’s come from the sea whether that be a crab shell, claw, shells or bits of stinky cuttlefish.

With half of the house being a building site we have become a world of wonder to the boys who don’t just walk out of the new extension but swing like monkeys on the scaffolding poles. They try to climb the ladders, they pile up bricks to make dens and give the poor builder palpitations worrying about the aspects of health and safety. The poor cows who are now out in the field at the bottom of the garden keep staring into our garden and I feel the Mummy cows looking at me and thinking what I am ‘those boys, they never bloody stop’. I wonder if it is a sign of madness when you start to communicate telepathically with cows? Anyway I digress.

The boys are already showing signs of having no clue what girls are about. Nate and I ventured into a clothes shop last week and had to walk through the women’s section before reaching the kids clothes. Nate loudly gasped and said how rude it was that the mannequins weren’t wearing bras and how boring girls clothes are. No fucking clue of how many hours lots of men spend shopping with their partners. I have a lovely dressing table which when I first got I savoured filling the drawers with all my make up, toiletries and girly things. I can’t however use anymore space on the table itself than about a five cm gap because it’s always covered in lego, bogies, racing cars, shells, books, make up bits I didn’t leave there that have been stolen and used for war paint by the boys and all manner of other boy related crap that has no place on a dressing table.

Sometimes I wonder if I should just give in and get rid of anything girly because the time it would save me in cleaning up what they wreck would be immense but I still hold on to needing some girly stuff or I will lose my sanity (she lost it ages ago I hear you say!) I’m not really sure what the point of this post is other than to offer solidarity to any other mums out there who right now and sat in the middle of a game of volleyball in the living room, who have shouted at least three times today about putting the toilet seat down, cleaned up wee from around the side of the toilet and had to shut the fridge because apparently boys are far too busy to close doors.

I love them, they are my life and I would never be without them but I know now and can say without doubt or reservation that one day someone will say referring to one or both of my boys ‘Men! I will never understand them!’ Those people will have no idea how hard I have tried to get them to understand the opposite sex, to take on board how different we are and to show respect.

Must dash as my latest Ideal Home magazine is being ripped up to make paper planes. Much love xxx

Catching up……

Hello all, well I say all, to anyone who is reading this (it might only be my Mum) in which case Hi Mum!

I’ve been absent of late, I’m not so much having a writers block as a writers inferiority complex and I’m not sure how to get myself out of it.

Life has been going at about 100 Miles per hour and I feel like I’ve been neglecting so much that I’ve lost a bit of who me and the blog is about.

I’ve not written a column for the newspaper in over two months. I’ve not told them I’m having this confidence issue and it’s got to the point now that I’m too scared to contact them so I am in a weird stalemate where I’m not quite sure how to explain my absence but thinking that if no one has noticed perhaps they don’t mind it!

I’ve had to reschedule a lot lately and take stock of lots of things as there simply isn’t enough time to do all the things I was doing. I’m conscious that when I was recovering from my hysterectomy and was able to take the time I was writing like a Trojan. Well not a Trojan, maybe like someone who writes a lot, a writing machine if you like.

Nowadays I’m more likely to lay down than pick up my laptop and again I really don’t know where to start! My last post talked about how grown up I feel with all our building work going on and the responsibility that life brings. I guess this overwhelmed feeling is the one that is keeping me from chilling out and enjoying writing like I used to.

I do love to write, I love to write about life, my experiences and mental health. I love to read what others write and I love to take pictures. This has become a bit of a chore in some ways as I feel like I’m in constant competition with myself. If I lose a follower on Instagram (one of the school mums today, massive anxiety trigger!) I worry about why. I worry about whether my words are too much, I’m oversharing or just posting absolute rubbish. I worry about if people don’t like me and how perhaps taking a massive step back and not being so out there would help.

It occurs to me though it won’t. If people don’t like me (there are quite a few) then they aren’t going to start to like me just because I stop writing and close down my Instagram account. If people don’t like me there isn’t really much I can do about it. So all I can do is get on with my life and do whatever I want in order to keep myself and my family happy.

I’m going to make a conscious effort to blog more, to submit some pieces for the Huff Post and contact my editor at the newspaper. I’m going to continue to take pictures of things I love and share the message of how mental health effects us and how I suffer. Because that’s what I want to do. I want my boys to be able to read what I write one day and smile, to go through some of these feelings with me and to see how much I tried. Even if I do get it wrong (again lots of the time)

I am never going to be the world’s most confident person and I’m certainly never going to be able to get over some of the anxiety I feel walking into a room where I don’t know everyone or not knowing exactly who is there. But what I can do is smile and know that nothing in that room can have any power over me and my confidence unless I let it.

Lots of people in my life are going through absolute crap (you know who you are) and every day life has a way of putting things into perspective for me. Everyone has their demons, everyone goes through hard times and everyone has the opportunity of making you feel bad about yourself. You also have the opportunity to make people smile. It’s all up to you, it’s how you think and what you give power to. I think I need to start giving myself some more power and stop being so led by my fears, doubts and insecurities.

Sorry for the long ramble. I feel a bit better now! Hopefully won’t be so long before I’m posting again and can give you some positive updates.

Life is whatever you make of it, make it good.

Lucy xxx