Wedding Woes

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Being engaged is wonderful, it really is. Every time I look down at my hand I get a warm feeling inside, as there was a time in my life where I believed no-one would ever want to marry me. But, planning a wedding, it has to be said, is quite bloody stressful and we’re only a few months in!

After the haze of being newly-engaged, the plethora of cards and fridge full of Prosecco settled, we sat down and looked at the reality of being able to get married within the following year. We quickly realised, given our shared priority of having everyone there we wanted and the fact neither of us make a fortune, 2018 was a sensible timeframe. So with nearly 2 years to go, we decided there was no pressure to do any real planning just yet.

How wrong we were.

Thankfully I’m an impatient Taurus and when I have an idea (as soon as Tom was down on one knee, I was planning the flowers) I like to get cracking. I started researching venues (I won’t say where as y’know SPOILERS) and fell in love with one. Thankfully Tom felt the same so we decided to get in touch and see what their availability was like in 2018. Bearing in mind it was September 2016, we assumed we’d have the pick of dates. Nah-uh. They were fully booked; but we could get married on a Tuesday in October if we liked. Given my fatalistic nature, I thought the wedding was ruined; we were never going to find anywhere as perfect and as in budget.

Long story short, Tom being the problem solver he is, gave them a ring to see whether a deal could be struck and by a stroke of sheer luck they had just had a cancellation for a Summer Saturday and it was ours if we wanted it and if we could pay the deposit right away. We did, and we got it, thanks to my very generous future mother in law and her adept online banking skills. Panic over. We have a venue, now we can just relax we thought.

Hmmm maybe not. I had no idea how expensive and how quickly things get booked up/how far in advance you have to book things. It was a steep learning curve. There were a few weeks of utter panic trying to make big decisions on things that we hadn’t even thought about yet, scrambling deposits together and making reservations. Thankfully we agreed on most things but there were a few battles…..namely Tom not allowing me to have the service officiated by my dog!

And then there’s other stuff; stuff that seems really shallow to admit but stuff that really gets me where it hurts and plays on my real insecurities.

Like most girls, despite telling myself I wouldn’t think about my dress until far nearer the time, I made the mistake of spending a lot of time pinning dresses to my Pinterest board and becoming a tad obsessed with finding “the one”. Also like most girls, I plan to lose some weight and shape up before the wedding. As I’ve mentioned before I don’t like the way I look and I’d really like to feel good about myself on my wedding day, and look back on the photos and smile rather than berate myself about the size of my thighs or my bingo wings. And with that in mind, it would make sense to wait a bit before trying dresses on. I didn’t though and jumped straight in, and whilst it was fun as I was with my best friend, it left me feeling even worse about my body and how I’m going to look on our wedding day.

No-one tells you before you go that wedding dresses come in small and that you’ll probably have to go up a size or two. And of course this isn’t the end of the world, but when you struggle with your size already, it’s quite disheartening and takes the sheen off the whole experience. Although not quite as disheartening as when you put on a dress and they try and hoist you in and it just won’t budge over your fat arse and you’re seconds away from ripping  it! I left feeling that I might just walk down the aisle in a bin bag. I really might.

And then there’s the wedding show. I had the most fabulous time this weekend with two friends sipping champagne and soaking up all the ideas, but the catwalk show added another level of self resentment. I can’t say for sure but I would bet a million pounds that none of the girls modelling the dresses were over a size 6. They were tiny; absolutely beautiful, but tiny. Each of the dresses looked exquisite with their perfect décolletages and honed backs, and I left longing to look like that on my wedding day. Of course I won’t as I have hips, a bum, and nothing remotely chiselled but the feeling that this is the ideal and that I compare myself to it, makes me sad. I know that beautiful comes in all shapes and sizes, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re constantly faced with gazelle-like, deep tanned beauties! So I vow to not go near another dress for at least another 6 months when I’ll hopefully feel better about my body and be in a better mindset to not scrutinise every single detail of my shape.

Watch this space…..and if any of you have any tips for planning a wedding (specifically for anxious/self hating people!) I’d love to hear them, please do get in touch.

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#timetotalk

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I haven’t written anything on here for a long time but I thought as today is Time To Talk day that it would be rather fitting to erm…talk!

It really is wonderful to see how many people now get behind #timetotalk; my social media feeds have been full of encouraging messages urging people to speak out and talk about their personal mental health issues or just mental health in general.

Whilst talking feels like one of the most natural things in the world – talking about your mental health really isn’t all that easy. As much as we are lead to believe that the tide is changing and the stigma surrounding it is disappearing; struggling with mental health is still a very lonely place to be. It’s important to remember that a tweet or a Facebook status pledging your allegiance to help fight the stigma is pretty redundant if you don’t actually DO something. And when I say ‘do something’ I don’t necessarily mean campaign, start a petition or join a march (although if you want to, please do!), I mean reach out to someone and have a conversation. It doesn’t have to be a conversation directly about mental health; take it from someone who knows, it can be quite off-putting when someone you barely know comes up to you and says “I didn’t know you were mentally ill”! But it can be as simple as a “how you doing?” or “fancy a coffee?”. The mere act of engaging with someone who might be struggling and showing them you are thinking about them and more importantly that you’re there, really could help make someone’s day so much better and give them that ounce of hope they’ve been searching for.

I’ve lost count of the times where a small act of kindness from someone has changed a really dark day into a really hopeful one. Kindness really is the greatest gift you can give someone, along with your time. Time is so precious these days with the fast pace of life , there’s never enough of it; so when you spend some of your valuable time on someone it really can mean the world to them.

And if you’d like to know more about how you can help support someone who is going through mental health problems there’s some handy info on the Time to Change website, Mind‘s website and on the Rethink Mental Illness website.

 

Keep calm and carry on

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For any of you who have the misfortune of following me on any social media platform, you’ll have noticed my incessant pleading for money. Thankfully I’ve not fallen on hard times but signed up for another charity challenge. It seems that losing various toenails and damaging my hip flexors last time wasn’t enough to deter me.

This time around I’m taking on the London to Brighton challenge with my friend Nathalie (have a look at her reasons for signing up here she’s one brave lady). We’ll be walking continuously from London to Brighton; that’s round about 60 miles in 24hrs. A doddle, I think you’ll agree.

Whilst I still support Mind wherever and whenever I can, I’ve decided to fundraise for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) as their fight is one that needs as much attention as possible. It also felt right supporting a smaller charity as I know only too well now that I work for one, how difficult it is to compete with bigger, far more well known charities.

CALM strive to give men an outlet to talk about how they’re feeling. They offer support and information for those men who are struggling and have no-one to turn to or are too embarrassed to speak up. You don’t need me to tell you that suicide rates in the UK are staggering. But what you might not know is that 75% of suicides in this country are men.

Historically men have been told that showing emotion is a sign of weakness – big boys don’t cry. There’s a certain notion that men have to be strong and resilient to be a proper man. These sorts of stereotypes are wrong, their unhealthy and most of all they’re the reason many men don’t seek support when they’re going through a tough patch and why so many lives are lost unnecessarily.

I can’t attest to ever having had suicidal thoughts; but that’s not to say that I haven’t come close. I’ve felt that crippling sense of loneliness, that black hole of resentment and that overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. I’ve teetered on the edge of thinking that no-one cares, no-one loves me and that no-one would miss me. It’s quite honestly the worst feeling in the world and I’m quite certain that if it wasn’t for certain people being there for me and helping me when I plummeted into that huge abyss that is depression I would no doubt have ended up one of those staggering statistics.

No-one should feel like that. No-one whatsoever, but least of all a man who feels that he can’t be truthful for fear of having the piss taken out of him. I have a younger brother who is soon to be 17 and I don’t want him growing up in a society that ridicules men showing emotion. Like many his age, he doesn’t talk about his feelings and it scares me that he would one day feel like he had no-one to turn to. And that’s the reason I’m doing the challenge – to say it’s okay to talk, it’s okay to not be okay and there are people out there that can help. People like CALM.

As little as £7 can pay to man their helpline and save a life. It could be a friend, a boyfriend, a father or a brother. Don’t let them feel alone. Don’t let them suffer in silence.

If you would like to donate and help CALM tackle the problem of male suicide, please visit my page; every little bit really does help.

Panic On The Streets of London

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I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this post for a few days; the fear of people reading it and thinking ‘get a grip’ always overtaking the want to be completely honest. However, as I’m sat here with 10 minutes to spare before I’m called in for my counselling session, where we will inevitably talk about it, I’m going to share something that happened last week.

I’ve talked about he fact I’m currently undergoing some bereavement counselling to help me namely deal with the death of my gran and the huge sense of loss and sadness it has left me with. Intertwined with that though, is this severe daily worry that something is going to happen to someone I love. Whether that be Tom, my Mum, my Dad or one of my brothers; I’m constantly on edge thinking something awful is going to happen and that one of them is going to die. It sounds awful I know, but these are very real thoughts in my head and any time I get a call I’m not expecting I fear the worst. I have this palpable sense of utter panic and dread that comes over me whenever I see something remotely related to death or loss and I picture losing one of them. In a round about way I know where it has stemmed from but it certainly hasn’t got any easier the older I have got.

With this in mind, I like to make sure I check-in with people. I speak to my mum twice a day to ensure everything is okay at home and like most couples, Tom and I exchange texts during various junctures in our working day. Problems however arise when I get unexpected calls – they quite literally put the fear of god in me. I always assume it’s bad news and enter into periods of shallow breathing and a thumping heart until I’m reassured otherwise.

Last week I was helping to manage a residential conference in Nottingham. As always, when one of us is away, I sent Tom a good morning text and jumped in the shower. I returned to no reply and decided to give him a ring. No answer. It was 7am, he was probably in the shower too. He’ll ring back I thought. I proceeded to dry my hair, persistently checking my phone. Still nothing.

Half an hour passed and I started to panic. Tom is pretty much surgically attached to his phone (he has to be for work), so the rational thoughts of he’s left his phone at home or it’s in his pocket on silent just didn’t wash with me. I knew he just wouldn’t go to work without speaking to me. Something had happened. And then my body went into sheer panic, I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating out of my chest. I felt faint. I felt sick.

I started visualising him in hospital. I started visualising him run over, electrocuted, unconscious, murdered; you name it, I visualised it. I checked Sky News as I visualised him on a tube in the middle of a terrorist attack. Now, I know all this may sound incomprehensible to some of you but I can’t begin to describe how real it felt. All the while ringing and ringing him with no answer. With every ring, my fear heightening.

I ended up convincing myself that he was dead and that this was the only logical explanation. I then felt the very real pangs of loss akin to those when I had a phone call to say my gran had died – the feeling that I was never going to see him again. There was a very real pain in my chest at this point. How could I get to him? How could I say goodbye? How could I live without him? How could I possibly go on without him? I went from 1 to 100 in a very short space of time and all the feelings of panic and loss I’ve ever felt all came flooding back.

And then the phone rang. And I’m guessing you don’t need me to tell you who it was!

But in a way that didn’t matter, yes I knew he was safe but all those feelings of loss and death had entered my head and weren’t going to budge. And that’s why I wanted to share this with you. I wanted to try and highlight how a seemingly ridiculous worry to some, can actually cause a huge amount of physical and mental trauma that can be felt for days afterwards.

100% Cotton

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A few weeks ago, something spectacular happened; Tom asked me to marry him. I knew it would happen one day, but he caught me totally unawares and it was perfect in every way. The setting. The ring. Everything. And I’m still on cloud nine.

He’s going to hate this post, so Tom I apologise now, but you are, and have been ever since I first met you, my rock, and this ring you have so delicately placed on my finger has only reinforced that.

Like most people, I spent many many years thinking I would never find someone to love me. Feeling like I would never find someone who would make me feel good about myself. Thinking that no one would ever understand my anxiety and depression. Destined to be alone. I surrounded myself with boys who made me feel not-worthy, boys who made me feel, quite frankly, like a piece of shit. And that’s not a great place for a hopeless romantic with little confidence.

There comes a point where you start believing that you’re undateable, unlikable and unloveable and you resign yourself to the fact that that’s just how it’s going to be. I was at my worst in every which way. A mess. Battered and bruised and afraid. I didn’t think I had it in me to feel anything for anyone ever again.

And then I met Tom, and as cheesy as it sounds; the rest was history. My life changed in a split second.

Whilst many people are going to flinch at me suggesting such a thing; Tom has been the single most effective treatment for my anxiety and depression. Having him in my life has infinitely made everything 10000% better. Of course he’s not been able to rid me of all my problems or worries but knowing he’s there makes everything that much easier. Having someone to talk to when you’ve had a bad day, a panic attack or a bad dream instantly reduces the distress. Having someone to return home to at the end of the day is the best feeling in the world when all that you are used to is locking yourself in your room with a Boots packaged sandwich.

Tom gave me a reason to live, a reason to wake up in the morning when I was struggling to find one.

Having this hugely important person in your life inevitably brings with it a whole multitude of worries, because you then have the fear of losing them. And whilst many boys would frustrate at the continuous insecurity, Tom has each and every day helped to instil confidence in me and helped me get to a point where I feel completely secure and contented in our relationship and its future. It’s something that I never thought possible, but he’s done it!

He has this innate way of just making everything seem okay; my darkest days, my worst anxieties, my horrible nightmares…..and I’ll never be able to thank him enough for that.

Never does he get annoyed when I have to cancel plans, never does he shout at me when I can’t get out of bed, never does he tell me to stop being silly when I’m worrying about something completely and utterly ridiculous.

He takes me as I am; at my best and at my worst. He never makes me apologise for who I am or what I am feeling. He strives to make every day better than the last. But most of all he makes me feel good enough.

I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him and I hope that one day I can be a stronger, happier person as no one deserves it more than him.

Fix you

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If you’ve read some of my other blogs you’ll know that I recently underwent a programme of CBT to try and help me manage my anxiety and depression. The therapist decided that despite 6 years of being told I had depression it might be PTSD that I’m living with. Long story short, she referred me to a bereavement specialist who would see me for more intensive counselling. As we all know, waiting lists for such services are huge so I was told to expect an appointment in 6-8 months.

Whilst it sounds like a long time, I was quite relieved. Weekly sessions are intense especially when you have to go into work afterwards and put a brave face on. It throws up a lot of things you might not have thought about before and for a time it made my symptoms slightly worse; so I was looking forward to a rest from talking about all the convoluted thoughts in my head.

No such luck.

I had a phone call on Friday to say that a space had come available on Monday evenings and it was mine if I wanted it.

This was unprecedented. Never have I been on a waiting list that didn’t exceed the predicted time, let alone turn 6 months into 4 weeks. And never have I been a given a set appointment that meant I didn’t have to take time off work to attend. The stars had finally aligned!

But of course my happiness was short lived as the anxiety of talking about my anxiety kicked in. I didn’t much feel like getting into the deep and dark thoughts that haunt me especially as work is insanely consuming at the moment and fatigue is at an optimum high. Do I really have time between meeting with florists for a fanciful ball and fine tuning guest lists for an event at the House of Lords to be grappling with my overwhelming fear of death on a weekly basis?

Not really. But, and it’s a big but (see previous blog!) this is not just for me, this is for Tom. This is for my family. This is for my friends. And I owe it to them. I owe it to them to figure out why I can’t enjoy every moment with them for fear of thinking something terrible is going to happen. I owe it to them to figure out why I picture them dying and spend a lot of my time worrying about them dying. I owe it to them to learn to live in the present and not be a burden all the time.

So with that thought, I left work today with sweaty palms, a throbbing head and a tight chest. With every bone of me telling me I couldn’t do it, that it wasn’t going to help. Panic engulfed me at the thought of having to once again talk about my parents’ divorce, my gran’s death and my illogical fears.

Yet, as soon as she opened the door and welcomed me with a big smile it all melted away and I purged, cried and purged some more. We might have only spent an hour together, but I feel completely comfortable with her. I feel like I can tell her absolutely everything without feeling embarrassed or silly; I trust her implicitly. Akin to dating someone, I always feel you just know when you know with counsellors. And I know.

She might not be able to fix me or cure me or rid me of all my worries but I’m hopeful that she’s going to help me work through things and learn to enjoy life a bit more.

We can but try.

Does my bum look big in this?

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I did vow when I first started writing this blog that I would try and bring a bit of humour and as yet I haven’t really delivered. So with that in mind I thought I’d write something about one of my biggest anxieties, that is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty ridiculous.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a post about my sizeable backside (translated as; my big arse) and the daily insecurities it brings.

It all started when I read a text a friend sent to another friend at secondary school which said “is lorry arse there?”. Knowing full well they were referring to me, despite their resignation, my complex began.

We can’t have been much older than 12 or 13 at the time and I’d never really given my appearance much thought. There wasn’t the same pressure that now engulfs teenage girls to look a certain way then. But this comment really seemed to light a spark that still burns today as I’m standing here on the train; self consciously yanking my top down for fear of the person sat behind me judging my ample rump.

A chubby, spotty, bushy eye browed teenager I most certainly was but so were all my friends so it didn’t seem to matter. But as soon as I started thinking that other people might be judging how I looked, I ran into a spot of bother.

I went through a phase of fainting and being sick on a daily basis; on the way to school, in school, you name it. I still don’t really know how it started but in hindsight I do think it had something to do with insecurities about the way I looked. I didn’t really tell anyone at the time, but the more I was sick and didn’t eat the better I felt as I started losing weight. And I vividly remember aforementioned friend telling me when I wore a pair of very tight stonewash Levi’s to a subsequent no-uniform day that my arse looked great. God it felt good.

Whilst the likes of J-Lo and The Kardashians have since made big bums fashionable it’s still most definitely something that blights me. It’s sad to think that a part of my body causes such great anxiety but it does and I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of people. And whilst it sounds a bit frivolous, it can at times be really debilitating and tear jerking.

And boy does it make shopping difficult. Everything is judged on whether it makes my bum look big. Even handbags. And don’t even get me started about jeans. It’s nay on impossible to find a pair that fit well on the arse and waist. It’s a true case of first world problems really. Walking also has its problems. Whether it be walking out of room or walking past a group of people. I sometimes hold my breath as the thought of their scrutiny whilst I’m stationary let alone moving is overwhelming. In fact you’ll be hard pressed to find a picture of me where I’m side on too, the fear of ever being captured with it anywhere other than firmly (pardon the pun) behind me, unthinkable.

I mean of course I know that 99.9% of people haven’t given my arse a passing glance let alone a thought and that it’s not exactly on par with Kim K’s but I can’t help but picture that text in my head and wonder whether everyone thinks of me as ‘Michelle with the fat arse’ and instantly sit down or lean against something.