Another year in review…… how old am I?!

So…….. we are in that in between Christmas and new year bit for another year. I’m not quite sure how we have got here. I’m quite sure I told this year at the beginning that it wasn’t to fly by like 2017 did and that I needed some time to savour it all.

Apparently I am not in charge of the universe and am sat writing this post in a funny Christmas haze where I’m not sure exactly what the day is and I’m quite sure I don’t need to eat anything for another month at the very least.

I wrote an Instagram post about how I get so full of ideas, hopes and inspirations for the new year that I then get overwhelmed and end up just wanting to sleep and push a massive pause button (if anyone sees one please push it for me!) I’m not sure if this happens to others or whether it’s a part of me with my mental health struggles and whether it makes any sense to others at all. To be a person with low self esteem it can be really hard to make positive changes become effective as you manage to talk yourself out of them before you begin. It’s like a bizarre cycle of having great ideas, writing them down, getting excited about them, telling others who get excited for you and then saying ‘actually no, I’m too useless to do that’ and it all being forgotten. I am much better with this than I used to be but some of my inner critic still plays a massive part in my thought processes at this time of year.

2018 as years go was actually quite a good one. There were some big changes and lots of upheaval but all to good ends. We had our extension built and made our home suit us. We lived through and survived the building works without killing each other and have come to appreciate our home so much more. I have written more about mental health which for me has been a big thing. Not just because of the massive stigma that is still attached to having MH issues but also because laying yourself bare is hard. Reflecting on thoughts and feelings that hurt you or are painful is a difficult process however one which I realise for me is key. I often return to previous things I have written and acknowledge that I have made progress, been able to identify triggers have been able to smile on reflection.

This year I had an idea, an idea which started as a tiny thought in the back of my mind which was watered and eventually after my negative thoughts telling me I couldn’t do it ended up with me telling others and organising my first ‘Talking about Mental Health’ session in January. Since making the event public and the numbers of people confirmed to be attending has gone up I’ve spent a fair amount of time telling myself I’m ridiculous, that how dare someone like me think that I could help anyone and who the fuck am I to think that people might want to listen to me talk about mental health and small ways to cope with it. I’ve written emails out asking to cancel it ( and not sent them) and made numerous excuses in my head as to why it will never work. However I’m not doing that. I’m going to go and talk even if it’s just to my Mum (she is definitely coming!) and I’m going to keep talking. I will talk about mental health wherever anyone will have me. I will write about it, I will spread awareness of it and I will help people. Because my voice is worthy of being heard, my experiences real and I think I can offer something to others.

I would say that this year has become one of awareness for me. I took more time to maintain and improve my mental health because it is a necessity for me. I came off my antidepressants because of the side effects they were having. I made a conscious decision here that I needed to make a change and approached it with an open mind as to whether I would go onto others or not. I wasn’t going to give myself a hard time either way as I believe that if you need them antidepressants are amazing. As I type though I am currently not taking any. I have lots of thoughts about this as I have found the whole process very hard. It was physically and mentally exhausting and has meant I now have to increase my small measures to keep my depression and anxiety in check. If I need to go back on a different kind of antidepressant I will but for now I am on a journey with myself and it feels good to be learning more about me and what my mind needs.

My boys have grown in height and personality. They have been massively challenging and this year has been a tough one for Karl and I as parents. I am blessed and I know that to have children is a privilege denied to many and I take my responsibilities as a parent very seriously. This doesn’t mean though that I am very good at it or that I have any of the answers. I am from a family of mostly girls. I don’t get boys and I often feel sad that lots of their interests we don’t share. I go along with them of course but it’s hard to know that they would always rather talk about cars or minecraft than listen to me talk about some of the things I am interested in. I do though when I look at the bigger picture realise that they are patient with me when I stop to take pictures of flowers or they walk in when I’m doing yoga on YouTube (you should see their faces!) they are also very good at helping with my Instagram pictures and show an interest in what I am doing even if they roll their eyes when I ask them to pose holding a candle!

Boys are tough when they are young so people keep telling me, they test boundaries, struggle with surging testosterone and finding their identity. With only a year age gap and both being keen spirited and strong it makes for interesting times and due to shift work and being on my own a lot it adds to some of the parenting fun but I love the boys more everyday and watching them grow is nothing short of an adventure.

As I do every year I learned a lot about myself in 2018 and grew to appreciate the people I love more and more. There are always hardships in any relationship but I honestly believe that if you can rely on the people you love no matter what you do, have done, your mood or how hard work you are then you have it made. Some of the hardest lessons I have learned is that not everyone will stay in the dark times and actually those people never loved you anyway. You become very wary of those kinds of people and you learn a lot from them (it may not feel like it at the time but it will all be good lessons) I hope that the people around me know that they in turn can rely on me in the same way and that I will fight for those I love when I need to. There simply isn’t time in the world for false friendships and toxic relationships and this I’ve learned over the last couple of years is something I am totally allowed to walk away from. We are all entitled to take things out of our lives that cause hurt or upset and we must never forget it.

I am excited for 2019, to build on the lessons from this year, to host more mental health talks, to become more aware of my own mental health and to help others to do the same. To spend time with the people I love, to smile more, to visit places I have never been and to have a better relationship with my own body. To be kind to me for once instead of filling myself with negative thoughts and to know it’s okay to not be okay all the time and to acknowledge that no one has a perfect life and if they say they do they are lying!

I’ve met some amazing people this last year and can’t wait to spend more time with new friends and meeting some new ones along the way.

I am so grateful to each and everyone of you who reads my blog, who takes the time to say hi, to click like, to follow me here or on my social media and who accept me for who I am. The glorious mess that I am and to not make me feel bad about it. I hope you continue to read in the coming year and that you know how much I appreciate you listening.

Here’s to 2019!

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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

Tension headaches, power problems and pesky button holes…….

Hey all, how are things? I am now on day six of what has been diagnosed by the doctor as a tension headache. This is something I feel like I have been suffering with for sometime but have never really been sure of the cause. The doctor asked me what do I have to be stressed or tense about. Now I didn’t cry or list off the things I feel are contributing to my stresses but it has caused me to do some serious reflecting and to think about all the things that I currently have going on. From a serious renovation and extension project to a change of role at work to my normal battles with my anxiety and depression and of course being a mum to two boys who have spent far more time in the local minor injury clinic this last week than I am happy with.

Life is as always fast paced and terribly busy. I am slowly realising that this is my life and I just need to work out ways within it to keep me on an even keel and not suffering from brain splitting headaches. I am going to try and get more into meditation, I am going to make more time for reading as I always find that escapism in some way comforts me, I am going to try and eat right (yes I acknowledge this means I have to stop eating all the peanut M&M’s!), cut down on alcohol and appreciate the tiny things more. I also am going to put more into my journaling and to make a point of writing a little something every morning before I begin my day about what I am worrying about, what I would like to achieve and what I am grateful for.

I realise I need to identify times that are the most likely to cause extra stress and tension and plan better for them. For example this week when the plasterers are in the house and everything is a total whirlwind coupled with Karl being in Ireland I have been in a massive spin. I as always put some of my thoughts and feelings on Instagram and some of my lovely friends there were able to give me some reassurances. A very wise lady who I have met through Instagram Gabrielle Treanor asked me what I could put to one side this week to not add to the additional stress. She also asked me what I could do every day to make time for my own wellbeing and offered to check in on me to see how I am doing. Today being the first day I have done nothing so far but write as I am waiting for delivery of our new wardrobe doors so I’m stuck in a sense. I will of course let you know how I get on with this as I am not keen on just taking pills to get rid of these headaches and would rather try and fight them naturally.

So to start the day as I meant to go on I came to my mums this morning for the boys and I to get ready as the plasterers were arriving early. Now this means even more dust and it was just easier to make use of my parents house. They were out this morning so I started pottering about to get ready. I was upstairs when I could smell toast being cooked downstairs, I smiled as it’s nice that the boys are taking responsibility for themselves but also had a shudder wondering what could go wrong. I sorted the clothes and came downstairs to make some tea. I opened the fridge to get the milk and noticed the fridge light wasn’t on. I thought this odd but that was it and continued to fill the kettle and put the teabag in the cup. It was only when the kettle wouldn’t switch on that it finally twigged that something wasn’t quite right. It was only then also that I heard a loud pitched alarm type sound that continued to beep every minute and a half thereafter. The power was quite clearly out.

I had no idea where the circuit box is in my parents house but assumed it was under the stairs. I couldn’t find it so called Karl as I couldn’t get hold of my mum. He was just getting on a plane and you could tell giddy at the prospect of a child free few days but told me that the circuit box was in my parents garage and that I would need to move a few bits out of the way but should be able to sort it. So I opened the giant garage doors (still in my pyjamas as I planned on showering at mums) only to find what I can describe as a mountain of gardening equipment surrounding the worlds smallest circuit box. I had to move a garden mower thing, a wheel chair, camping equipment, two scooters, a go kart and all manner of other heavy garden type machinery before I could even get near to the circuit board. All the while I was doing this I could hear the boys screaming at each other. I managed to flick the switch and went back inside to check that the power had turned back on. It had and I ignored World War Three raging between the boys to go back outside and try and get all the bits back in the garage.

I have never been much good at jigsaw puzzles so this life size version wasn’t going well. Not helped by the fact that the giant lawn mower leaf blower thing kept wheeling itself off along the driveway every time I let go of it. eventually I managed to get it all in and got back into the house dripping with sweat and looking like stig of the dump. I then had to deal with the broken items that the boys had damaged while waging World War Three and still had both them and I to get ready. I clicked the kettle on and the whole lot shorted again. You can imagine how my stress and tension levels were then!

Leo had a Royal Wedding themed day at school today and along with his smart wedding attire we foraged in the garden and made a beautiful button hole for him out of cow parsley, forget me nots and other greenery. I put it in a bowl with some water last night and into the fridge to keep it nice and fresh for this morning. The only trouble was that when it came out of the fridge it had turned into an ice cube and had to spend much of the morning defrosting before I decided that I couldn’t send him to school with a floral ice cube strapped to his shirt so gave up. I did however tell as many people as I could on the school run that we had made a button hole but I’m sure the vast majority thought ‘yeah whatever, what idiot turns a button hole into an ice cube?!’

I hope that my ramblings have in some way made you smile and I admit that because I can’t do anything else other than wait for wardrobe doors I am going to make another cuppa (and hope it doesn’t short the power again!) and just sit and be for a bit. What’s the worst that can happen?

Have a great day lovely people, Lucy xxx

If you want to read more about the work of my lovely friend Gabrielle Treanor click here.

My bullet journal for 2018

Earlier this week I put a post on Instagram about how I had started a bullet journal for next year and whether people would find it useful for me to write a post about how I had put it together, how it helps with mindfulness and my mental health.

So, here you go! Last year I saw many a YouTube video on setting up a bullet journal and thought it was a fab idea. I loved the idea of a mood tracker, sleep tracker, keeping up with social media followers and many other tables and graphs that I could colour in. The reality was I made the whole thing far too complicated and when I fell behind with the various trackers I had created it made me feel stressed, anxious and like a failure.

This is if course an overreaction but when you are someone suffering with anxiety and depression you really don’t need anymore pressures that could potentially make you feel even more shitty about yourself so I gave up. But as the year has gone on I’ve thought more and more about how much I like to doodle and how a much more simplified version would actually be a very good thing.

I bought a cheap as chips notepad from Home Bargains which had lined pages and dots along the top and bottom for ease of lines.

I have a pot of pens and pencils that I dig out for doodling when I can so felt that I could use those so didn’t need to buy anymore stationary than that. I mostly used Berol felt tips, some thin nibbed black gel pens, pencils and a ruler. I decided to incorporate my favourite parts of the bullet journal I had done last year without all the stress so started with a simple drawing on the front page. This could be anything but I chose to make it displaying the year and my name.

For anyone who knows me or follows my Instagram you will know I love stars so these seemed to be perfect for the front page. I wanted inspirational quotes to play a huge part in this years journal as they do in everyday life but decided that the front page was good as it was. I then went on to a simple Index, I left four pages for this so I can have room to Index the whole book. This is really important for how I’m doing the journal as it will make finding what I’m looking for so much easier throughout the year.

I love lettering so really enjoy this but was amazed by how many lettering tutorials there are on Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram so even if you are someone who isn’t too keen on lettering you can find a font that looks good and that you can master simply. I then added pages for goals and aims, blog ideas and hopes and dreams for the year. I can fill these in as I go and reflect back on them at the end of 2018. As you can see I’ve not quite finished the colouring in but it gives you an idea and is really simple. I’m not tracking anything, giving myself dates to get stuff done by but simply jotting down things as they come into my head.

In the templates I have seen many others use the pages after this for all the various trackers, favourite quotes, meal plans and all manner of other bits and pieces but again I found this hard as I wasn’t sure how many pages to leave before I started my actual diary and if I wanted to add others in it would look odd after so I’ve kept it simple again and just gone straight into the year.

For every new month I’ve used a double page spread for the month with a drawing and a notes section but this could be adapted in anyway which suits you best. That’s the thing, it needs to suit you and help you not confuse you and leave you feeling daft for not doing it in the way everyone else is. Again these aren’t all finished but these give you an idea and I have to say it’s so relaxing doing that monthly page that I am really looking forward to doing all the others.

Again the beauty of this is that you can do it however you want so January is a bit different but as I went on I found what works for me best and what I enjoyed most drawing. Then I went really controversial and used a double page spread for the month so a line for each day of the month, it’s much quicker to do, will still give me the space I need but didn’t need so much effort put into it that I ended up giving up after the 76,000th shout of ‘Mummy!’ From the boys. I managed to get the whole year marked up in less that a day and with opportunities to add on as I wanted which felt like a real achievement.

At the end of every month I put a gratitude page and a reflections page for the month and there is plenty of space to add favourite quotes, doodles and stick things in should I want to.

Then after the year I started to add on the additional pages I wanted to, no trackers as I have neither the time or the pressure of them but a page for meal ideas, a page for house ideas and I’m sure there will be others to come as the year goes on. Here I can doodle my favourite quotes and stick in pictures. All of these can be found easily by the Index and I have loads of room to add on as many pages as I want up to the end of the notebook because I’ve kept the journal so simple.

There are so many different ways for doing these bullet journals and none are right or wrong. I’ve kept it simple, functional and easy to maintain so I can make the most of the mindfulness and organisation while not pressuring myself to keep up with trackers and charts. I can write down as little or as much as I want or I can simply use it as a diary to keep up with all the things going on in my life.

I hear you say that I could just go and buy a diary but as I said the thought that I have created something totally bespoke to me and suitable for my needs is a great feeling. It also gives me somewhere to be creative and something to share with others (I’ve already had some questions about where I got the idea from) now I don’t have masses of free time and run around like a mad woman (oh the irony) most of the time but one of my biggest moans of the last year was feeling unorganised. This will assist and can always be with me only being in a small notepad.

There are lots of journals and planners already made up for this purpose and some that are fantastically aimed at those with MH issues to all degrees however because I love to draw this option suited me better. So many people have acknowledged that next year they want to live life more simply and this is one of those ways for me, doing something I want to do but in my own way in a simple manner.

I would love to hear what you think, to see if you’ve been inspired to do anything similar and how you are going into 2018. Feel free to get in touch!

Thank you for reading this year, for being there, for taking on board me and all the crap I go on about and for supporting Tired From Whitstable, both here, in the newspaper and across my social media. I am blown away and can honestly say you make a crazy woman very happy!

Happy new year you lovely people xx

The simple life…….

Hey all, how are we? 

I’ve been thinking today about happiness, gratitude and how I use them in my life. I was thinking this while out on a ‘power walk’ on the Crab and Winkle Way which as most of you know is one of my favourite spots in Whitstable.

Thinking about the little things that keep you happy and grateful is an essential in life and it occurred to me just how much I long for the simple life. I keep seeing and reading things about living a simpler life, the best life you can and getting ‘off grid’ for a while.

My husband wouldn’t be able to be ‘off grid’ for long, he is a gadget man who loves technology but then it occurred to me that he is also at his happiest outside in the garden, doing jobs, enjoying the peace and making things. All of these things are relatively simple and usually involve minimal gadgets (other than his drone!) 

The boys too are usually happy when they are playing outside. I actually find that the more time they spend on tablets (we limit this as much as we can) the more grumpy and irritable they become. They get lots of built up aggression and you can tell that they have been having screen time. 

Earlier this week we visited the Elmley Nature Reserve and had a night of no television or tablets. Karl and I had our phones but mostly for pictures but neither of us used them that much. We walked, talked, played cards and the boys got lost in nature. There was a huge hill at the back of our fishermans hut and they were up and down it constantly, looking out over the fields and playing little games they had made up. 

Of course they did some arguing and some wrestling but they are my children and wouldn’t be if they didn’t! 

I loved the peace, the views and the feeling of being at one with nature. There were pretty butterflies, all manner of birds and rabbits running around which made it all seem quite magical.

So as I was power walking in my maroon shorts and running top which is way too tight because of all the chocolate I was thinking about how much I just want to spend my time simply being. Taking in beautiful views, walking and conversing with the people I love and enjoying where we live. 

In our home we seem to be embracing simpler things, not focussing so much on smart storage solutions from modern shops but loving things with a history and that were made by hand. Things that will still be around and usable when we are old and the boys are able to appreciate them like the table Karl made using the base from my Grandads old Singer sewing machine table. 

Gone are the days where if we had a free weekend I would feel like we needed to fill it with all and sundry, we now take life at a much slower pace and I actually try to plan in time where we can choose what we do whether that be a walk in the woods, on the beach or some time with Nana chatting and drinking tea. I love seeing friends and family but they too have similar feelings to us so it’s nice that we can all enjoy our times together. 

I am so very happy when I am out walking, it opens my mind and allows me that space to think and be me. To go over what’s been going on and to plan for what’s coming up. To think about all the things I am grateful for and to process things that I’ve not been so good at in recent times and how I can improve next time.

This is a key element of moving forward for me after my CBT has come to an end. Originally I was massively scared and felt like I needed that session each week to be okay but the more I have thought about it the more I realise that I have the tools I need and I need to keep using them, building on the foundation the therapist and I built and making them habit. Walking in the fresh air is a huge part of this for me.

This morning I walked for half an hour, no time at all really when you weigh up what is important or not but the feeling afterwards was immense and is carrying on throughout the day. Of course not all days will life be so simple and some days or even weeks there won’t be time for a long walk but life is after all about balance. We make time for the doctor or dentist when we need to and being mindful is just as key to our health as these visits are.

How do you keep your life simple? What things would you like to improve on or to change? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. If you can take half an hour for yourself this week and do something you love, something that is good for your soul. Walk, run, sing to loud music, catch up with a friend, draw, knit, have a chocolate bar, bake a cake, build Lego with your children, buy some flowers, take some photos, cook a meal from scratch, light a scented candle, have a bath (you get my drift?!) I bet you will feel much better for it. 

Applicants please……

So when I was at school, 1995-2002 (yes I am that old!) I went to an all girls grammar school. It was a very good one, high on he league tables, full of amazing teachers and somewhere I could absolutely flourish.

One of the strongest memories of school was that we as women could do anything, we could be whatever we wanted to be and were encouraged to think outside the boxes convention had in the past put us in. I couldn’t tell you just how many conversations I was involved in about what we were going to be when we grew up, what our further education would be, what in the world would we change and how exciting those prospects were. I actually remember once totally judging another girl who said she wanted to be a mother and have a family. I wasn’t thinking about anything like that at that time in my life. My ambition and drive would get me a career way before I had the time to think about marriage and children.

How wrong and misguided I was. Please, please don’t get me wrong every single person in this world should be able to be what they want, who they want, to do what they want to do and to be happy but I also think we should remember that one of the most important and hardest jobs we will do will be to raise others in this world.

I have a career and it is massively important to me, I have worked hard and I have achieved things that make me very proud. I however back in the days of sixth form and dreaming of the life ahead of me would never have read the following job description and even considered applying:

‘WANTED: unpaid vacancy, 24 hour cover, sole responsibility at certain times for small human boss. Always on call, can never be absent without prior planning and permission, ability required to deal with situations under pressure, on demand and with a view to taking a lesser role after an 18 year probationary period however may be longer depending on the needs of the employer. Always financially responsible and expected to assist with all kinds of personal hygiene and bodily fluids.’

It’s funny as I wrote this I had to stop as Leo loudly exclaimed that he needed his bum wiping!

As women we have the ability to rule the world, we are also responsible for raising the future leaders of our world, the people of tomorrow are down to us and that is one hell of a job description. This is course the same for men and women but I do feel like at my school in particular we could have been more open and honest about the fact that although we could do whatever we wanted we also would have another hugely important and massively rewarding job if we chose to and that it would be the hardest, most testing and possibly the one we should be the most respected for in the future.

Just a thought for all for today xx