THE PANG

large (1)

I haven’t felt jealous in a long time.

As in, I don’t remember getting that debilitating sinking feeling (because that’s the best way to describe it in my eyes) since probably secondary school. It was most likely in regards to someone buying a better school bag than me or nabbing the guy I fancied before I did. That’s not to say things have been peachy keen since my final day in that blue blazer, or that I don’t compare myself to others – come on, you’ve seen how often I’m on Instagram (the app that quite literally forces you to compare yourself to photoshopped bodies and ‘perfect’ lives). But that sobering feeling of being jealous of something someone else has? It really hadn’t hit me for years.

Until last weekend, that is.

No, it wasn’t that someone had bagged my dream job or bought the top I’d been eyeing up on ASOS, I actually found out a friend of mine was pregnant. I felt elated, overjoyed and I screamed a little too loudly in the street when I was told. But once the shock and joy had settled, I was left with nothing but green eyed envy, which was new, because I didn’t even really know if I 100% wanted children until then.

Although jealousy doesn’t feel great (I haven’t thought about anything but babies for the past week and my uterus is itching to be used), it does give you a pretty good indication of what you really want for the future, even if it does come as a surprise.

I think we could probably stop seeing jealousy as a negative and instead look to it as a driving force for success and dream fulfillment because it would seem that, although comparison is the thief of joy, jealousy is (can be) the unveiling of truth. And until you know what you really want, you can’t go after it, can you?

Here’s to jealousy and its impromptu, green eyed self.

THE KNOWLEDGE

large (15)

The new (and final – sob) series of Girls has unsurprisingly brought me a quite ridiculous amount of joy over the past three weeks. Each Monday, as I catch up on the latest from Williamsburg, New York, I have ended up crying with laughter, at times uncontrollably; felt awkward in the face of trying topics and screamed at the screen, which, in truth, is exactly what I’d expected from series 6 since the show has offered up all that and more since I came across it five years ago.

At 27, I am lucky in that I grew up alongside Girls. First airing in 2012, the show found its way to me exactly when I needed it most: post graduation, trying to find work in the fallout of a recession, longing for a writing career, single but also not at all single at the same time and faced with shifting friendship circles. Of course, people of all ages can appreciate the show, but growing up alongside Hannah and the girls has meant that each series has struck a very real chord with me in the way only a girl of their age, living in the now, would understand. I was so scared this final series wouldn’t deliver. That I wouldn’t get that ‘she just gets it!’ moment this time round. But, as Hannah – normally oh so self-assured and sanctimonious – opened her mouth and said something about finally realising she didn’t actually know anything, I realised that she’d done it again. Because the realisation I didn’t know shit has probably been the biggest life lesson learnt in my 20s. In fact, I’d go as far to say it has, quite literally, been the making of me.

My early twenties were filled with lots of doubt. Self, in terms of my capabilities and brain power outside of academia and in the world of work. Doubt about my future – I wanted to be a writer but was this even a thing people did? Doubt about my writing – was it actually rubbish? It’s clear to me now most of my insecurities came from the worry I would fail. That I might make a mistake or not know something. I was so preoccupied with how much I knew, with the prospect of losing and I truly believed my job title was a reflection of who I was as a person (perks of going to a top 10 university where literally everyone heads into graduate schemes the day after they toss their hats in the air and take award photos in gowns with their parents, eh?) that I wasn’t actually living at all.

But my late twenties have been different. A calmness crept over me on my 27th birthday and slowly but surely, over the past year or so, I’ve come to accept I don’t know everything – if anything – at all. I’ve realised my job title is nothing but a mark on a colourful CV. I have accepted I will be learning things about myself, the world, my friends – even my parents – until the day I die. And you know what? It’s refreshing as fuck. To realise people are too preoccupied with themselves to worry about what you’re up to. To know that we don’t know what’s going to happen in two, ten, or twenty years from now. To be able to just go for things despite them having the capacity to go wrong because, god forbid, they might miraculously… go right. To feel okay about prioritising food, fashion, and friendship over everything else because… life’s too short and, as it happens, I don’t have much control over anything at all.

So put your hand up, ask questions, fail, get hurt. Because once you’ve experienced all this, held your hands up to knowing sweet FA and opened yourself up to experiences, education and growth rather than ticking off a checklist of ‘should do’s, should be’s and should know’s’, the more at ease and yourself you’ll feel.

My epiphany happened at 27.

What about you?

THE COIL: AN UPDATE

large

It has been two years since I had a period.

It has been two years since I bought a tampon.

It has been two years since I have had to worry about condoms.

Basically, it has been two years since having the coil inserted and it has been absolute bliss.

The last time I wrote about my experience of the Mirena, I talked about getting to know your body; about not being afraid to ask your doctor questions and about trying as many different methods of birth control as possible to find what works best for you.

Since then, I have read that The Pill has been linked to depression.

Now, although I don’t think the majority of us needed a belated Danish study to tell us that, it has made me even more determined to ensure that women, like me, seek alternative methods of contraception to the spawns of satan that are Microgynon, Celeste or Yasmin because, believe me, you do not have to suffer. They do exist and they will change your life.

When I had them, my periods were the absolute worst. Like, I can take pain and I still used to practically strap a hot water bottle to my stomach for five days while changing my tampon every hour, on the hour (no joke) and shoving pills into my gob to quash the stabbing at every opportunity. With the Mirena, I don’t have this problem because my periods have disappeared altogether. I also don’t have PMT so bad my friends and family want to drown me. I also save money on sanitary goods. And guess what? Each month, like clockwork, my boobs still get bigger – just without the blood and cramps and stuff.

I will confess, as time goes on, it has started to weird me out that my body hasn’t bled for a while. I sometimes wonder whether I am doing damage to my lady bits or whether I am affecting my fertility for the sake of having no periods and a fuss-free sex life? I have since been assured by my doctor friends that the Mirena is ‘the Rolls Royce’ of contraception, so I am back to enjoying the only method of birth control that has ever worked for me, guilt-free.

If you are thinking about getting the coil, go to a Sexual Health Clinic near you and, at the very least, talk to someone about it. They will answer all your questions and help you work out if it’s the right choice for you. Just do me a favour though, will you? Ignore the scaremongering stories of perforation, infection and pregnancy because I have some news for you: there are risks with everything we do (including crossing the goddamn road) and, FYI, no method of birth control is 100% effective.

So, unless you are happy to abstain from sex until you actually want to hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet, at least look into getting the coil.

Birth control doesn’t have to ruin your life, it can actually improve it. You just need to know your options.

Good luck, ladies; birth control bliss is just an awkward appointment away.

Any questions for me? I am more than happy to answer them

THE BUSY

large-13

I used to want to grab people by the throat whenever they bleated on about being busy.

Or when I would try and schedule a drinks date with a friend and the next available date in their diary would be six months from the moment I asked.

I used to sympathise with them aloud but then quietly berate them for showing off their busy social schedules whilst I had ten free Saturdays in a row, itching to be used up.

Until this year.

When life exploded and I had no time to myself anymore and I all of a sudden understood how stressful it can be when you just don’t have a moment’s peace.

I remember back to when I was at university and would worry about writing 3000 words in two months. I now probably write that in a day. Or when I used to complain about not having enough time to write more than two blog posts per week because I had a part time job and six contact hours. I’m lucky if I even write a tweet these days.

Now, I know it’s Christmas, I know this year has been particularly busy with all the weddings, christenings, engagement parties and birthdays as well as the grand old job of moving cities but I feel like my feet haven’t touched the ground since the clock struck midnight on 31st December last year and, if I’m honest? I am EXHAUSTED. I’m talking last legs, burnout, knackered, if you will. It has been non-fucking-stop for almost 12 months now, which has been a nice distraction from so much change, but it has absolutely had an effect on not only my mood but my appearance and my ability to stay awake past 9 o’clock most evenings.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for having so many wonderful people in my life and for even being invited to be a part of so many amazing celebrations. I am glad I took the plunge and moved to Bristol because, why not? And I have made so many amazing memories this year that I wouldn’t have if I had opted out of running around the country like a blue-arsed fly.

But if I’m honest? All I want to do – will do – this Christmas is hibernate with wine, food and family and do a whole lot of nothing.

And guess what? I can’t wait.

THE SICK DAY

large-2

As a child, I would literally have to be half dead for mum and dad to keep me off school.

I was once sick right outside of the gates (all down my mufty day best) and even then, mum definitely spent a moment contemplating whether or not she should get me changed and send me in anyway. No, my parents weren’t evil and I wasn’t neglected as a child. It was the 90s, my dad is Irish and I think they were just trying to make me resilient to life’s hurdles. And it has worked. I, like plenty of you, deem a sick day to be a sign of weakness or a nuisance and not taking a day off as having a good work ethic.

Although I appreciate my parent’s intentions and will no doubt treat my little ones in much the same way, I’m not sure this way of thinking is such a good idea anymore.

After a month or so of ignoring the fact that I have been feeling not quite right, my body decided to give me no choice but to sit up and listen yesterday by slamming on the breaks and slapping me full on in the face with a badass ear and throat infection.

Brill.

Thankfully, I had booked in to work from home on Wednesday, which meant that although my ears ached, my throat was coarse and my temperature went from 0 to 100 every thirty minutes or so, I could work in my pyjamas and drink endless mugs of hot lemon and honey. It’s not right though, that aside from a 45-minute nap on my lunch break, I continued to write content for clients, answer the phones, reply to emails and plough on even though I could barely keep my eyes open and concentrate for longer than ten minutes at a time. Despite all this, I made sure to make my way all the way to five thirty and when I did I closed my laptop and then bizarrely continued to do stuff instead of kicking back – cleaning the dishes, putting two washes on and cooking dinner – even though all I wanted to do – knew that what I needed to do – was dive under my duvet and sleep for a full 24hrs.

I would have probably continued to ignore my symptoms for another month, except for last night, at around 2am, my body had had enough. I woke with a soaring temperature and I could hardly breathe. I lay there awake, boiling hot and then freezing cold, until 8am this morning when I got dressed (lugging my work laptop over my shoulder with every intention of going into the office afterwards) and headed to the walk-in centre.

The lovely nurse (let’s take a moment to praise the NHS here) gave me the once over, provided me with her diagnosis and handed me a prescription for some antibiotics and some throat anaesthetic. I thought that was that but then she asked me another question. She asked me if I had taken any time off since I started feeling ill a month ago. I shook my millennial head at her, aghast, and said, ‘Nah, I just thought it would pass!’. She then asked me if things had been a little hectic lately. I lied, of course, and said that they hadn’t. She looked at me, knowingly, and told me I needed to take at least four days off work to rest and recuperate and I told her I absolutely could not. She sighed, ignored my protest and instructed me, again, to take my tablets, use the spray and stay in bed watching Netflix with Maltesers and Lucozade for a week or so. As she was so wonderful and I didn’t have the heart, I promised her I would but as soon as I left the clinic I fumbled around for my phone to let my manager know that I would go home today but would be in tomorrow morning for sure.

I think there’s something wrong with the fact that I felt more of an urgency to let work know when I would be in rather than heading to Boots to pick up my prescription – although, at this point, I would like to make it clear that the pressure wasn’t coming from my employer, but myself.

In 2016, we don’t seem to have our priorities in check. We don’t spend enough time looking after ourselves or allowing ourselves time to heal – be it mentally or physically – and being too busy for everything is on trend. We spend plenty of time focusing on how many abs we’ve gained and how many lbs we’ve lost but are we really paying attention to the important signals our bodies are sending out? Are you, as a twenty-something female checking those lumps and bumps and listening to what those aches and pains are telling you? Or are you too preoccupied with that new highlighter or getting your eyebrows sorted out before the weekend? I know I am but I need to keep reminding myself that illness isn’t reserved for the elderly and it’s okay to not be 100% all of the effing time.

I reluctantly took today to let the tablets do their thing and tried my best to lay horizontal while they did it. We forget that even doing mundane day-to-day things like hanging out the washing – or even writing this blog post to be honest – when you’re ill, is stealing much-needed, precious energy away from your immune system that is fighting to get your body better.

Don’t get me wrong, my throat still feels like someone is dragging razor blades across it with every swallow I take, my head continues to feel like it might just explode and I’ve still got a long way to go before I can truly let myself just be ill from time to time but I am convinced that today has done me the world of good.

To the nurse with the pink hair at the walk-in centre: thank you for knowing what I needed.

Yet another reason why we need to save our NHS.

THE PLUS ONE

If you know me IRL, you’ll know I love to talk, that I live for socialising and admittedly, at times, enjoy being the centre of attention, but there is simply not a chance in hell I would attend an event of any kind (except for a work one) on my Jacobs.

In fact, walking into a room full of people I don’t know without someone on my arm (be it pal or partner) fills me with dread and panic. I find silences and standing alone oh so awkward, filling them at any opportunity and the thought of having to twiddle my thumbs while everyone around me has a good time fills me with fear.

As someone who would happily take a lone ranger under the wing of me and my friends, I’m not sure where this fear that no one in the room would want to talk to me has come from, and why I don’t have enough faith in other people to do the same for me, but tonight, I found myself at a loss for people to attend an event with, and instead of going it alone, I let this fear get the better of me and bailed.

I would secretly love to be the sort of woman who can rock up to events alone and work the room as confidently as when surrounded by my posse, but I’m not convinced even the most confident of women could manage it.

But I’m all for self reflection and improvement, so I’d like to know if I’m wrong.

I’m not talking going alone to a party where you’ll know other guests by the way, I’m talking going alone to a party where you will definitely, 100% know nobody. Is it lame I can’t do it? Should I work on being able to? Or is it simply natural human instinct that I’d like back up.

If I’m alone and you think I should’ve been a bit more brave, then I’m going to add it to my ‘Before 30 Bucket List’ – (eesh, how am I there already?)

If you’re with me, I’ll stop beating myself up about it. Sometimes humans don’t need to be brave, they just need to do what feels right.

(If you were wondering, the event I was supposed to go to before everyone bailed on me was Lauren’s Girl Vs Cancer, #notapityparty – If you would like to support her cause, buy a banging t shirt today.)

THE SLUMP

large (2)

I had high expectations for this Easter holiday.

Very high expectations, in fact.

I envisaged sun soaked sessions outside local coffee shops with my laptop perched on my knee in an oversized jumper. I pictured lazy days in the park spent scribbling in a notebook. At one point, I was booking a very expensive holiday to Cape Verde that I couldn’t afford, hoping to tan and write at the same time. Basically, I predicted that wherever I was in the world, I would be being (at the very least) creative, although of course, the reality of any sort of writing I do consists of my bed, some snacks and a pair of unwashed, faded pyjamas, so I’m not quite sure why I all of a sudden saw myself living in some sort of Hipster paradise, churning out great works of art on the other side of the world…

But anyway, two weeks into a two and a half week break from work and all I have posted on here are two ‘Sunday Papers’ pieces (which literally consist of nothing other than other people’s fantastic writing) and a couple of ‘Monday Mantras’, which, of course, everybody needs at the start of a working week, but it’s not exactly rocket science and/or a work of creative genius to find a quote and share it.

But it’s really not that I haven’t wanted to post anything. On the contrary, I was determined to become the next Zoella or whoever else is now living off the fruits of their online presence in the space of 17 days. But, surprisingly, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps I aimed too high? Perhaps ‘becoming Zoella’ was a little too optimistic? Perhaps I’ve lazed in bed for a little too long each morning? Spent too much time cooking delicious food or getting on with adult things like finding a flat and a new job?

Truth is, I really couldn’t tell you; I haven’t a clue why I haven’t been writing. I could list five thousand reasons why I might not be feeling particularly creative at the moment, but I really have no idea where my words have gone. The problem though, is that when these slumps strike, and I go into some sort of creative coma, it’s very difficult to hop back out of it and pick up a pen or start typing. Much like working out, once I haven’t written or posted anything of any significance in a while, the thought of doing so becomes scary and – at times – impossible. I question my abilities and grow uncertain about why I even do this.

And then I get an email.

Or a private message on Twitter.

People start questioning why I haven’t posted in a while and my hearts lifts a little.

I start to hear the familiar little cogs turning and get the urge to post something… anything.

So that’s why I’m here on this Wednesday evening.

I am hoping that by typing words and hitting publish without thinking too much about them, a creative valve hidden somewhere deep inside my body will open and, just like that, the juices will start flowing once again.

Here’s to thinking, writing and being more creative over the next few weeks.

Watch this space.

THE SPRING

large

I spend a great deal of my time writing about the importance of having a positive outlook and a healthy attitude towards life, body image and decision-making. I consistently preach self-love, resilience and optimism.

But let’s be honest, these things can be quite difficult to put into practise on an uninspiring afternoon in winter.

I have been reading lots lately about women in their twenties putting too much pressure on themselves, questioning why they aren’t reaching milestones within particular age brackets and wondering why they haven’t reached ‘perfection’ – whatever that may be – yet. And every account I read speaks to me. I am as worried as they are that I won’t be successful in the way that I want to be. I panic about leaving having babies too late and then struggling to conceive. I worry about fat deposits, cellulite and financial difficulty. I worry about ageing, hair removal and gender inequality. In fact, I worry about pretty much everything. But the thing that lies at the heart of my troubles is time. A fear of running out of it, not having enough of it and simply just wasting it.

And I don’t think I am alone in this.

I am lucky enough to be able to walk to work, but even outside the sweaty confines of the tube, I can still see the greying cheeks of those on their morning commutes, the same people in line waiting for their coffee and the familiar look of misery on everyone’s face. In all honesty, I wake up every single day and wonder what the hell we are all doing: sleep, wake, coffee, work, gym, sleep, repeat. I can’t help but wonder whether or not we’ve all sort of… missed the point?

Don’t get me wrong; I understand how the world works. I know that we have to work to eat and I know that employment keeps us sane. But I’m starting to feel like life is passing us by in a flash without any of us taking the time to actually enjoy it.

Thinking about it though, I started writing this post on a particularly low (very chilly) lunch break at work last week and I am finishing it at the end of a pretty okay (sunny) Sunday. And it’s at this point that I realise that (however scary it might be) we actually need time to pass to snap us out of things. The beginning of the year is always tough. The departure of festive joy and drop in temperature is enough to make anyone miserable. We’re all so busy huddled under duvets, abandoning new year’s resolutions and yearning for some sunshine that we forget to appreciate January to March. But then, just when you least expect it, spring arrives. And everything is okay again.

Things aren’t perfect – I still can’t feel my toes and the trees are bare – but there are glimmers of sunshine and change in each day that goes by and, for now, that’s alright with me. Just be sure to inject a little bit of something you love into your life, whenever you possibly can.

Welcome to spring.

THE INFECTION

large (17)

I like to think I’m pretty knowledgable when it comes to matters of the vagina. I read lots of magazines, I google NHS symptoms more often than I probably should and I actually sat up and listened during my Sex Ed lessons at school. I know the difference between a diaphragm and an IUD, I know that Herpes is for life, that Chlamydia is curable and – after entering into a somewhat unfortunate conversation during this year’s Halloween celebrations – I now know what a ‘dental dam’ is. (You should absolutely google it by the way, you won’t know contraception until you know this.)

But it seems this weekend was a weekend full of adult sex education, because – after 26 years – I was introduced to Cystitis for the first time.

Yes, Cystitis. Something that many of you have probably suffered from several times over, but I am new to and am therefore going to want to talk about.

It happened after an action packed weekend of cycling and hanging out with my man friend. I woke up on Monday morning to an overwhelming urge to pee. So I peed. Then I felt like I needed to pee some more. But I couldn’t pee. And it hurt when I did. A lot. And there it was. The very moment this god-awful infection walked – or rather slithered – into my life. Brilliant, I thought. Another triumphant loss for womankind. But I then discovered that men can suffer from it too and I put my pity party hat away.

And that’s basically all I have to say. That it really hurts and it’s really annoying. And I hate it.

You’re probably wondering what the purpose of this post is. Truth is, I just needed to voice how difficult this little infection has made my life over the last couple of days and to let you know that no matter how much it seems as if there’s no light at the end of the urinary tract infection tunnel when you’re inside it, there is a way out. Just stick to the home remedies and hot water bottle and you’ll get there. Trust me.

After sixteen cartons of cranberry juice, fourteen gallons of H20 and 48hrs worth of Sodium Citrate sachets later, it’s sort of gone. And MY GOD, I’m loving being able to pee again. Just like when you get over a week-long cold and you swear that you’ll never take your healthy nostrils for granted ever again, well, the same goes for my urethra. I love her and her ability to let me wee with success and I will worship her and take care of her until the day I die.

So here’s to cystitis, one of the very few things to put me off ever having sex again.

Welcome to my life you awful, awful thing you.