The Three Eye Products That Saved My Sanity…Kind Of

For the last year I have dedicated an inordinate amount of time to stressing, worrying, and moaning about my eyes. Specifically, the skin underneath my eyes. There’s no getting away from it: I am 30 years old now, and gradually but surely there are fine lines appearing on my face. And nowhere as noticeable and gutting as under my eyes.

When I first started noticing the lines, I frantically tried out all the different eye creams that I could, hoping that one of them would be the miracle cure that would tighten, brighten, firm, smoothe, bla bla bla insert marketing adjectives to infinity. As the months passed and the wrinkles did not, I started changing the way I slept – forcing myself to fall asleep on my back (which I HATE), waking myself up in the night to move if I’d rolled onto my front (which I LOVE). I cranked up the water intake. I ate more vegetables. I started wearing my glasses more to prevent squinting. I did so, so many things that are really, really good for you in general with the sole entire aim of improving the appearance of my under-eyes…and they did squat.

The issue, you see, is not just a couple of lines. That, I could cope with. Nope, my under-eyes make me glare at everyone else the same age as me, because they don’t seem to have this problem. The skin beneath their eyes is not a saggy, flabby, dry mess of thousands of tiny lines. The skin beneath their eyes doesn’t hold on for dear life to any makeup put ANYWHERE near it, with the result that the lines are chock-fulla product and look about two zillion times more apparent.

It sounds so flippant, that products could have appeared that saved my sanity. But, they kind of almost did. Here is a list of the various things I tried in order to minimise the appearance of those lines, to tighten the skin, to MOISTURISE it out of the Sahara deathzone it seemed to be stuck in:

 

  • Clinique’s All About Eyes – perfectly pleasant, did nothing
  • Una Brennan Superfacialist’s Neroli Firming Illuminate Eye Cream – fine, did nothing
  • La Roche-Posay’s Hydraphase Intense Eyes – alright, quite hydrating, did nothing
  • Benefit’s It’s Potent! Eye Cream – stung like a mother, did nothing
  • Benefit’s Puff Off Eye Gel – felt nice, did nothing
  • Clarins’ Eye Contour Balm – expensive, did nothing
  • Eucerin Aquaporin Active Moisturising Eye Cream – felt nice, did nothing
  • The Body Shop’s Nutriganics Smoothing Eye Cream  – ok, did a little, not enough
  • The Body Shop’s Elderflower Unperfumed Eye Gel – total placebo, did nothing
  • Nuxe’s Reve de Miel – this is an extreme lip balm. LIP BALM. I was desperate. It did nothing.
  • Haemorrhoid cream – I’m not kidding. I went there. IT. DID. NOTHING.

 

The shocking thing is that these are only the things I can remember. I used each one until it ran out, so it’s not like I didn’t give anything a decent shot. I began to be almost accepting of the fact that for the rest of my life I would hate my eyes, and idly wondered if Botox is acceptable in the under-eye area.

But THEN! Then, I stumbled across three products within the space of about two weeks, and together they quite literally Changed My LIFE. Since I began using them, I’ve only had perhaps one day where I’ve stressed about my eyes, and that was a day when I’d had barely any sleep and was starting to get hayfever symptoms, so even that doesn’t really count.

 

Eye products

 

The Body Shop’s Vitamin E Eye Cream

I fully admit that I used to poo-poo The Body Shop’s eye creams, thinking that as they are so cheap relative to bigger brands there was no way they could measure up. The Elderflower Gel thing didn’t get rid of that presumption. However, THIS stuff! It’s almost more of a mousse than a cream – such a light, airy texture that melts into the skin around the eyes and, I’m not kidding, has an instant effect. I’m talking, look in the mirror in the morning and sigh, apply eye cream and BEAM. It feels fresh and beautiful, and it makes my eyes look smooth and radiant and happy. I tend to use it in the mornings, and it hydrates well into the late afternoon. I will never stop using this stuff.

£12.00 at The Body Shop here

 

Eucerin’s Anti-Age Volume Filler Eye Cream

There’s no getting away from the main downside of this stuff: it stings like a BITCH if you get it actually in your eye. You will cry, and that will wipe away all of the stuff that you actually managed to apply, BUT if you’re not a total clumsy klutz with sausage fingers like me, you’ll be fine. And you should try it anyway, because this cream is genius. I don’t know how it does it, but it actually Does What It Says On The Tin. Volume is injected. Skin is firmer. Skin is quenched. I apply at night, so that there is little to ruin the work that this stuff does, and even though yes, I wake up thinking “maaaan I look rough”, I don’t wake up thinking “WHY AM I EIGHTTYYYYY” any more. Which is excellent.

£22.00 at Boots here

 

Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Concealer

Helping this area of your face look good isn’t solely down to whatever lotions and potions you use. If you’re applying a super thick, super chalky-finish concealer to ageing eyes, you’re going to be emphasising those wrinkles no matter what. Over the last year or so I have had to gradually swap out a huge number of concealers that I used to love – Maybelline’s Eraser Concealer (holy cow this is HORRENDOUS for wrinkles), Maybelline’s Fit Me Concealer (a good Nars dupe but far too heavy and chalky these days), Benefit’s anything (all of them are awful for fine lines), etc etc. I stumbled across this Urban Decay offering as a suggestion on a forum after Googling “best concealer for under-eye wrinkles” and I am SO GLAD that I did. This product, my friends, is my new God. It. Is. BEAUTIFUL. Applied lightly under the eyes, blended in with a slightly damp beauty blender, worshipped for all time. It doesn’t catch on the lines. It doesn’t highlight the wrinkles. It isn’t drying. It doesn’t look fake. It is the exact opposite of these things – natural, light, radiant, gentle, naked. It’s glorious. I’m never going back.

£17.50 at House Of Fraser here

 

Eye products

 

Of course, something else could turn up eventually that is even better than those three, but for now (with my current budget anyway) I’m highly doubting it.
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A Fiona Apple Song For Every Occasion

Fiona Apple is my inner-emo-girl damn-why-do-feelings-exist spirit animal. She’s been around for donkey’s years, writing and recording incredible songs that are one minute all SCREW YOU sassy, and the next spelling out feelings that you never even knew you had so eloquently that it’s like you looked in a mirror and your brain and heart popped out and started playing a game of Truth. Almost best of all, she doesn’t wail away in the kind of pitch that could clean your champagne flutes or constantly bellow at volumes that could function as the air-raid signal in the next war (love you, Adele, but chill k?).  Fee (we’re THAT close, ok) doesn’t have the greatest voice in the world but it seriously doesn’t matter because that just means it’s easier to sing along to all the TRUTH.

I’ve had the loose aim for a while now to write this kind of post, if only to flail to an unconvinced mass (read: small clump of a few people I know) about just how freakin’ awesome this woman is. And so here we go. A Fiona Apple song for every occasion. Well, not every occasion. But, y’know.

Sidenote: I didn’t actually mean for this to almost be structured as the story to what would be THE WORST RELATIONSHIP ON EARTH EVER, it just seemed to fall that way. Also, yeah sure, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never experienced some of these situations myself, but not ALL so let’s hold off on labelling me a bunny-boiler k.

 

Anything We Want

And I kept touching my neck to guide your eye to where I wanted you to kiss me when we find some time alone

Useful For: When you CANNOT WAIT to jump all over a certain person but it’s kind of on the DL for Reasons and everything’s getting all tense and exciting but at the same time you just want to sit and daydream about them all the live long day.

 

Werewolf

‘Cos in the end I’m a sensible girl, I know the fiction of the facts. But you were such a super guy till the second you g0t a whiff of me, and we were like a wishing well and a bolt of electricity

Useful For: When you’ve had your heart ripped out of your chest and stomped all over by a person who seemed to be actually one of the decent ones, and you’re sore and a little awkward and angry but you’re also aware (rightly or wrongly) that it’s kind of your fault for being such a bloody sack of cats…but it IS getting better now, really.

 

Tymps (The Sick In The Head Song)

So why did I kiss him so hard late last Friday night? And keep on letting him change all my plans? I’m either so sick in the head I need to be bled dry to quit, or I just really used to love him

Useful For: When you haven’t listened to your friends’ advice, or your family’s advice, or even your own bloody advice and you just KEEP on going back there to that person and you honestly don’t know if it’s because of Real Love or just because you’re an idiot glutton for punishment.

 

Not About Love

This is not about love, cos I am not in love. In fact I can’t stop falling out

Useful For: When everyone around you thinks you’re just sore and sad that you’ve been dumped, but actually you’re FUMING about how you’ve been treated especially because you really weren’t actually in love, and you wish so hard that you still had that feeling because it was AWESOME…but sadly all you’ve been left with is the RAGE.

 

Paper Bag

Hunger hurts, and I want him so bad, oh it kills cos I know that I’m a mess that he don’t wanna clean up

Useful For: When you’ve spent ages thinking That Person is just absolutely everything you want, and you still do think that, but at the same time it’s all wasted hope and energy because they don’t want you. Ouch.

 

Oh Well

What wasted unconditional love on somebody who doesn’t believe in the stuff.

Useful For: When the relationship has broken down, again, because they did the same shitty things, again, but now you’re finally in the position to tell them exactly where to go – you know you’re better than this, and you’re never going back there.

 

Get Gone

Am I gonna heal from this? He won’t admit to it. Nothing to figure out, I gotta get him out, it’s time the truth goes out that he don’t give a shit about me.

Useful For: When you’ve finally had enough of this – nobody is getting anything out of the situation and you know that in reality they don’t actually give a stuff about you, and finally, finally…you’re angry.

 

You go, Fiona.

A Slimming Cooked Breakfast?

This post has been languishing in my Drafts for literally two years. Two. Years. And I’ve no real idea why. So, because I plan to “treat” myself to one of these breakfasts this weekend to make up for three weeks of shitty illness, I’m dragging it into the light.

Since Slimming World is all about lean meats, fruits and vegetables, low fat and low sugar – a plan which doesn’t quite lend itself to a greasy fry-up – it tends to get trumpeted around a lot that YOU CAN EAT A FRY-UP OMG. The Extra Easy plan even means that one can eat FRIED POTATOES and BACON on the same plate.

Hands up, I do love a good cooked English breakfast. Who doesn’t? Bacon. Eggs. Sausages. Hash browns. Beans. Toast. Sauces. What’s not to love? The Americans even managed to improve on this with the addition of maple syrup and pancakes. Seriously, you have not tasted delicious, delicious coronary heart disease until you’ve eaten a massive plate of sausages, eggs, bacon, and pancakes, all smothered in maple syrup.

It does therefore come as a slightly strange notion that this famous diet-plan champions a big cooked breakfast. Encourages it, even. A huge breakfast, containing protein, fibre, and vegetables, means that you’re less likely to eat again until lunchtime. And that huge breakfast can be tweaked to be pretty low-fat. And still delicious. Actually, it probably tastes one hell of a lot better than some cooked breakfasts I’ve been served in the past. As someone who worked at a Little Chef as a teenager, I Know What I Am Talking About.

 

Slimming World Cooked Breakfast

BACON

Obviously use smoked bacon. I don’t understand you people who use plain. I mean…what does it taste of? Nothing, that’s right. So, smoked bacon, and the fat should be cut off. I find this easiest to do with scissors, rather than a knife. And yes, I know, the crispy rind is often the best bit, but crispy fat-less bacon is still bacon.

 

SAUSAGES

Possibly my favourite part of a cooked breakfast. There are very few sausages that are considered “free” in Slimming World standards. Instead, there are several low-fat versions that I have discovered are actually incredibly tasty. I’m not kidding. Weight Watchers sausages can be found in most supermarkets, and whilst they can be a tiny bit dry if overcooked, are lovely. Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself Cumberland sausages are also pretty good. And then of course there are Quorn sausages, which are delicious. Of course, not everyone likes the idea of Quorn, but I promise if you give it a go you won’t be disappointed. And in this most recent edit, I’m adding in the Heck chicken sausages, and also Slimming World’s own brand frozen sausages – both of which are also pretty tasty.

Grill the sausages. I guess you could fry them in FryLight, but that doesn’t make much sense…

 

POTATOES

Hash browns are possibly one of my favourite foods. Hash browns and sausages in a bread roll. Hash browns and tomatoes in a bread roll. HASH BROWNS IN MY MOUTH. But, they are intrinsically fatty, generally oily, and no good for the purpose of a slimming breakfast. You could make your own, but with the faffing of grating potatoes and onions and grappling with the extra moisture and binding them together…just do saute potatoes already.

For sautes, I slice potatoes thinly, then microwave the slices for about 5 minutes, or until they are tender. Then they get fried in plenty of FryLight, salt and pepper until crispy on both sides, before the frying pan being covered by a lid for 5-10 minutes. This ensures the armadillo-esque crispy on the outside, smooth on the inside.

 

EGGS

I’m not a fan of fried eggs. Rubbery white… *shudder* My favourite eggs are poached, but for some reason I seem to have totally lost the ability to poach an egg. These days, the main way I eat eggs is scrambled.

Of course, scrambled eggs require milk and butter, right? Wrong. They are just as delicious, perhaps even more so, made with fat free Greek yogurt, or fat free fromage frais. Lots of freshly-ground black pepper, a good sprinkling of salt, and fluffy light eggs are yours.

 

BREAD

On Slimming World’s Extra Easy plan, you get to choose one fibre-rich food from a list each day. This list includes things like nuts, cooked/dried fruits, and breads. It’s a pretty decent way of limiting bread intake, because bread, my friends, is sweet tasty evil. I guarantee that if you often get uncomfortably bloated, cutting out bread will likely get rid of that. Bloody bread. Why must it taste so good?

Anyway. Wholemeal bread is the order of the day. I measure mine out, toast it, and have it with my cooked breakfast, because obviously.

 

VEGETABLES

Really, the only traditional way to get some vegetables into a cooked breakfast is by way of tomatoes, which aren’t even vegetables. However, Slimming World calls for 1/3 of your plate to be fruits or vegetables. Tricky.

I get around this by grilling a pepper. Grilled peppers are sweet and lovely, and go far better with a cooked breakfast than you would think. As well as these and the tomatoes, I shove a load of fresh spinach onto the plate, which again works better than you’d think. Not only does your brain feel all GO ME thanks to the intake of Something Green, but it’s also a lovely cool foil to the other big flavours on the plate. Plus, iron.

 

BEANS

A well-cooked tin of baked beans is my absolute breakfast go-to. What do I mean by well-cooked? Well, I don’t mean zapped for 1 minute in the microwave, to start. For me, beans have to be cooked until they’re sticky and gloopy, until almost all of that fake tomatoey sauce that they stick in there has evaporated. First, I drain off the majority of said liquid. Then, the beans get stuck in a pan on a low heat along with salt, pepper, 1 tbsp tomato puree, some chilli powder, and 1 tsp Worcester sauce. They’re the first things I start cooking when making a breakfast, and this means that by the time everything else is ready they are gloriously thick and rich. And a MUST on any breakfast plate.

 

And, well, that is that. That is how to have a delicious cooked breakfast that is completely saintly and yet sets you up for one hell of a day. I’m SO looking forward to this weekend now…
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On Friendships

 

My son has three Best Friends. I know this because he tells me about them often, unprompted. He tells me who his best friends are, and why, and that he loves them. Which is beyond adorable, and which makes me so happy I could burst. It also, however, makes my heart catch a little. It makes me anxious. And this is entirely because of my own life of friendships, my own fears and worries and doubts generated from those.

 

Best Friends

 

I am lucky enough to have some wonderful friends in my life. There’s the one who I have very little in common with but with whom I have spent 15 years sharing great food, great wine, a lot of laughter, many travelling memories, and even some men. There are the two boys (men, really, but they’ll always be boys to me) who remain my two favourite males ever outside of my immediate family. There is the woman who is almost my twin, who I met through the magic of Twitter, with whom I can share anything and everything. Then there is the woman who now lives in Australia and who I barely ever speak to, but who will always be my Best Friend. And finally, there is the woman I met at my current work who greets me each morning with “Hi smeg head” (and who I reply to with “Morning bell end”, it’s that kind of friendship) and who is one of the only people I appear as The Cheerful One alongside.

There is barely anyone I met before the age of 16.

As a child, my parents moved around. A lot. I went to four different primary schools and three different secondary schools. These were all good schools, great schools, don’t get me wrong, but the sense of upheaval and the colossal change experienced with each move was disorientating and stifling in a way that I can’t let myself remember too well these days. If I do, the feelings of loneliness and anxiety become suffocating. Each new move was a struggle through treacle to adjust, to settle, and to somehow make friends. As I (and the other children/teenagers I was thrust amongst) got older, that treacle only became thicker and deeper. The friends that I did make at each school would keep in touch at first after the next inevitable move, but as time went on would all eventually fade away. They would all still have the people who had stayed in their daily spheres, and eventually new people. They had no need for the girl who had gone somewhere else, and I honestly don’t blame them for that.

By the time the final school change rolled around, I couldn’t bring myself to see the point of trying to make any friends. Permanence didn’t exist. Other People were things that never stayed around. Groups were already established, intimidating cliques were unwilling to take on new members. My disinterest in boys and makeup and sports and popularity didn’t exactly endear me to the majority of people anyway. My viewpoint became very much: What was the point in trying to form connections with people I had nothing in common with when they never lasted?

This is my main regret in life. On a weekly basis, people on Facebook talk about how lucky they are to have such besties that they’ve known since they were little. The few people I still have a loose social media connection with from schooldays post photos of themselves and the others I remember. They still see each other all the time. They still love each other. It’s lovely, and I’m so happy for them. I’m just also so disappointed for me.

I can’t sit here and say that I’m NEVER going to put my son in a position where he will have to enter a new school and make new friends because who knows, maybe we’ll end up moving somewhere awesome one day. But what I AM going to say is that I will never put him through the constant upheaval and pressure that I had to work my way through, blind. I want him to be an adult surrounded by the connections he has made throughout his life, having never lost the will to MAKE them. I want him to never, ever lose the will to make friends, to maintain those friendships, to return to them over and over again. I want him to get to 30 and not still struggle to summon the energy to get close to people. In short, I want him to have the life that so many other people have been lucky enough to have. I want to give him security and permanence, without monotony or entitlement.

Best Friends

 

That is likely an idealised romantic notion – after all, Philip Larkin hit the nail on the head – but it’s one I’m going to strive towards with all of my might. When I was pregnant I wrote a letter to my unborn son, affectionately termed “Fing” in the absence of an actual name. One of the things I wrote in that letter was that Other People are the most important thing in the world. This is something that I still believe and still want Fing, now no longer “Fing” but very much a little boy, to also believe. To put into practice. To live. To enjoy. To love.

Other people. Connections. Friends.

 
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7 Things That Are Better Than Pancakes

I bloody love Pancake Day. For me, it’s one of the highlights of the year. Because…how could it not be? PANCAKE. DAY. The day of pancakes. Drizzled liberally in lemon juice, scattered with sugar. Or lazily smeared with maple syrup and served with a dollop of thick yogurt. Or folded over with warm, sticky cherries in the middle. Or with ice cream. Or Nutella. Or whippy cream. OR ANYTHING OK, I JUST LOVE PANCAKES. That episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch where she gets addicted to pancakes and there’s that amazing song that goes “That’s riiiiiiiiight, the answer to the riddle is cakes on the griddle!!”? That’s me.

 

Mmm pancakes.

Pancakes

 

But pancakes cannot and should not be the Be All And End All (as much as I’d like them to), and so here is a list of seven things better than pancakes…y’know, just to help us all remember that sometimes, things CAN only get better.

 

1. Spring Weather

From where I’m sat, it appears this has arrived RIGHT NOW. Blue skies, bright sunshine, a comfortable warmth, perhaps a slight breeze scented with blossom or flowers or some such crap. It’s the weather that you’ve been waiting for, wishing for, longing for all through the dull grey rainy rubbish of the melded November/December/January/February/March cycle. And then that first proper Spring day pops its head up and life is glorious. There is a tipping point though, and that tipping point is men who whip their t-shirts off at the first sight of sun. Stop it. Please.

 

2. The Perfect Bank Holiday Weekend

Of course, this does have to be coupled with the previous for it to work, but still. These rarities are better than pancakes, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. There’s the finishing work on the Friday, with that feeling of OOH anticipation. There are normally drinks. There is always great food. There are also great friends, and probably BBQs in the park, and pub gardens, and maybe even a beach trip. There’s playing outside with the kids, and possibly some sort of local fair. Bank Holidays, man.

 

3. A Little Train

No, not like Thomas The Tank. I mean like the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, or the Markeaton Park Railway, or the Volks Railway, or this one that I’m salivating over seeing later this year. I really have a massive thing against actual trains, you know, the type run by private companies that cause the British to go all embarrassed and resentful in places like France and Germany. But a little train? Give me a little train and I’ll be as happy as the proverbial pig in poo. God I love a little train.

 

4. Your Song On The Radio

Clarification: I’m not talking about Elton John. I’m talking about when you’re driving somewhere, and you’re in a good mood anyway, and then out of nowhere one of the 9 radio stations you have programmed into your car and constantly flick between (or is that just me?) starts playing your absolute favourite song. The one that isn’t even necessarily a recent track, and in fact may well be from some distant teenage year (ye Gods). But for some reason it feels great, so up goes the volume and (if you’re feeling extra smug that day), down come the windows. That feeling is definitely better than pancakes.

 

5. Finishing The Latest Crochet Project

Perhaps slightly too specific for the majority of people? Ignore “crochet” if you need to. The happiness and buzz I get from that moment when I sew in the last hanging end and sigh with contentment as I look at the most recent thing I’ve made with just my hands and a little hook…it’s amazing. SUCH accomplishment. Such pride. Such swelling of the head.

 

6. Compliments That Hold Weight

Of course, “you look nice today” and “great work” etc are always brilliant to hear, but the ones that are better than pancakes are the ones that really resonate. Obviously what resonates for me won’t fit everyone else, but surely everyone has those particular things that absolutely make their day, week, month, etc when heard. Hearing that someone I’ve greatly struggled with on a professional level now hugely respects me was one of those. Almost vice-versa, hearing that a person I think the world of thinks that I’m great was another. People are so LOVELY to each other sometimes, aren’t they?

 

7. Sleepy Baby Cuddles

My baby isn’t really a baby anymore. He’s 3 now, and is all long legs and cheekiness and irrepressible energy all bundled up into a proper little boy. I can barely remember what it was like to cuddle an actual baby baby, and those that I do get to hold these days feel almost like empty shells, because they’re not my baby. But those moments when my baby bursts through my bedroom door at god knows what time in the morning and hauls himself into my bed and bundles himself into my arms…those moments are golden. And we lay there cuddling for a few minutes in total peace and quiet, just me and him. Of course, then he’s off and away to smack his dad round the face and yell “WANT TO GO DOWNSTAIIIIIIRRRRS”, but that’s just part of the fun. The rest of the cuddles throughout the day are similarly wonderful, but those are the really special ones. Those are the “I’ll always be your baby, mummy” ones. Definitely better than pancakes.
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On Medication

Be prepared: I am going to talk about antidepressant medication in this post. Does it seem silly that I’m warning you? It is silly. It is also “silly” that I took antidepressants for almost two years and yet was too afraid to admit it to anyone, until very recently. It’s even needing a huge deep breath and a cross-the-fingers-for-courage to press “Publish” on this post. Why the hell is that? Let’s go.

Despite the fact that the stigma of mental health issues has significantly lessened in the past few years (and not just in my own particular corner of the internet), the stigma of admitting that you take medication to control your mood somehow remains. My own experience focuses solely on your garden-variety antidepressant drugs (sertraline, citalopram, fluxoetine, etc).  And for myself and those who I have seen gradually, timidly admit to taking similar, it’s almost like holding up your hands, bowing your head, and saying: “I’m weak, I’m sorry”. “I’m sorry I can’t regulate my moods correctly”. “I’m sorry that some days I honestly do not have the energy to even get out of bed”. “I’m sorry that occasionally even the tiniest thing will set me off on a huge anxiety attack and then I can’t leave my house for days”. “I’m sorry for being a failure”.

Rock at sea

Because that is how it feels, isn’t it? It feels like SUCH an epic failure at being a human being to admit that you can’t not feel this huge, blank, sucking way. To admit that you can’t just BE HAPPY.

So here is my own experience of that “failure”. I actually began writing it all down back in November, and then someone else a lot more popular than me pipped me to the confessional post and so I tucked it all away, fearing being branded a bandwagoner. But screw that, now.

My own personal “failure” appeared one year later than the event that in all probability caused it: childbirth. Somehow I managed to claw myself through the first days, then weeks, then months, and then eventually the first year of having a baby. I say “somehow” because if you’d seen me in the first couple of months after the birth you would’ve frogmarched me to the nearest doctor and demanded I get treatment for postnatal depression. I didn’t, and I should have, but at the time I had convinced myself it was “just baby blues”. No, the “failure” didn’t come until I was back at work full time, and suddenly I realised that crying throughout every journey to and from work wasn’t right. That crying in the loos at work for no real reason wasn’t right. That refusing to leave the house in case I got sick wasn’t right. I’ve written about this all before on a guest post for Emma at Raising Bears (without admitting about the antidepressants, natch) so there isn’t really any more detail necessary to this than: I eventually let myself be prescribed, and begin taking, antidepressants.

And everything was better. I am not kidding you, the months after I began taking citalopram were some of the happiest, most satisfied, WARMEST months of my life. I’m not putting it all down to the medication, which only ever treats the symptoms and not the source, but thanks to their effect I was addressing that source – eating well, exercising regularly, enjoying the fruits of these labours, and doing things for myself and others. Without the medication I highly doubt I would have found the motivation and the positivity to begin doing all of those. The citalopram was a wonderful means to a beautiful end, and things were rosy.

But I was so scared to admit it to anyone. On the outside, especially in my new job, I was a capable, competent, confident mum. Revealing you are taking medication to maintain that level, happy mood can’t do anything BUT detract from that image, surely? I felt the failure of it all looming over me – the second the facade was stripped away, everyone would know. They’d know I couldn’t cope. They’d know I was weak.

And eventually I let things slide. The positive behaviours disappeared into a fug of constant doubts about being a failure. I have spent the last year yo-yoing wildly between trying to come off the medication and piling myself back on when the inevitable mental downward-turn began, because I wasn’t doing it properly. I wanted the happiness back, and some days I would think that would only happen without the medication and the sense of failure that came with it…yet a couple of days later I’d begin panicking that the happiness never would return without it and that I’d be a failure of a normal human forever anyway.

Last year was a fairly dark time, but in the last few months I began to turn against the concept of failure surrounding the medication, and have now managed to both come off citalopram and feel happy in myself. What was the biggest help? There were few things:

 

  1. Taking charge of a decent withdrawal. The doctors suggested strategies but I tailored my own from listening to my own body. From 1 tablet a day, to 1 every other day, to 1/2 every day, to 1/2 every other day, to 1/2 every 3-4 days, to 1/2 once a week, and then none. If I ever felt hideous side-effects I would test how long they lasted and then slightly adjust the dosage from there. I did this over a period of 3 months. I’ve been medication-free now for 6 weeks and have had no side-effects, and no mental downward-turns thanks to managing this so tightly.
  2. Realising that NOBODY is “A Normal Human”. I could almost kick myself sometimes. What exactly is “normal” and why would anybody want to be it? Average and nondescript? Basic? The growing in-joke with a close friend of “basic” things helped hugely here. Would I rather have not gone through these things and not have learned about them? Or would I rather have beasted through them and come out knowing that I and the entire rest of the population of the world are not “Normal”?
  3. Gaining the knowledge that there are far, far more people out there than you would think who “fail”. Whose brain goes wrong, either from a situational response or for no bloody reason whatsoever. People who you would never expect. People who struggle just like me to admit that they are on or that they might need medication because of the “failure” aspect.
  4. Understanding, finally, that I could help people rather than add to the “failure” problem. A cloud of judgment was removed from my head and I realised that rather than cling to my “with it” front, I’d be doing people one hell of a lot more service by letting them know that you CAN be successful and yet sometimes have to rely on medication to be level, let alone happy. Understanding that precisely because I do not appear to be a failure to most people is the most powerful tool in helping myself and others realise that taking antidepressants is not a failure.

 

Field Meeting Grass

Obviously there were a few lifestyle things in the mix here as well – I finally began regular exercise and enjoying good nutrition again. I found an amazing hobby/interest/brain-relaxer this year in crochet and I now have the 10,000 blankets/hats/scarves to prove it. But those four points above, those were The Big Ones. Those are the ones that I wish I could shove in front of everyone, not even just the people who do at some point in their lives have to take antidepressant medicines, but everyone. Because how amazing would it be if people just Got It?

From now on, I’m going to be one hell of a lot more relaxed and open about this topic. I’m not saying I’m going to announce in meetings “FYI guys, I’ve been on antidepressants for the last year” or recruit people to my team with “Work for me, I totally get it if you have bad mental health because I was on antidepressants for two years” – no. Obviously not. But it’s not a big secret any more. It doesn’t diminish from who I am now, what I do now, what I have achieved. In fact, it probably helped with a lot of that. Thanks, medicine. You’re pretty awesome, aren’t you.

 
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Current Favourite Products

It feels like years since I last wrote a products post, so here goes: my current favourites. These are the products that over the last few weeks I either haven’t been able to stop using, or have loved SO MUCH that I’d quite like to shout about it from the rooftops. Some of them are re-introductions to me, some of them are completely new. Some I’ve been using for quite a while now, but when you get a good thing you shouldn’t let it go, right?

 

Current Favourites

Bath & Body Works Fresh Sparkling Snow Hand Wash

This was actually a Secret Santa gift from work, alongside the hand sanitizer from the same range. I’m not going to lie and I don’t care if it’s Basic, I LOVE Bath & Body Works stuff. The Sparkling Snow range is a delicious pear and melony scent that never fails to lift my spirits! Even better is that TD sees this soap as some kind of special treat, so getting him to wash his hands is never an issue. Beautiful stuff. Unfortunately the gifter has relatives in the U.S which is how I’ve come to be an owner…it’s going to be hard to get your hands on it via any other method, however I have managed to find an eBay listing:

£9.88 via eBay here

Indeed Labs Hydraluron Moisture Jelly

I’m fairly sure I’ve waxed lyrical about this stuff before. It’s a miraculously moisturising thick, clear jelly that is dispensed through a magical pump system. Plump and smooth skin is literally minutes away when using this. I ran out back in March but didn’t ever re-purchase as I thought I could find something cheaper that did just as good a job…WRONG. Now that I’ve finally got it back, I’m never going to be that stupid again. My skin went haywire over the last couple of weeks, looking horrendously dry and dull, but thankfully Hydraluron came along and woo! I look like I’ve had some sleep!

£16.66 (hurry!) at Boots here

Hylamide Booster Low-Molecular HA Serum

Second in the return of my skin from Crone to Actual Only 30 Year Old Woman is this beautiful serum. London Beauty Queen wrote a fantastic blog post about the science behind this stuff here – in a nutshell, the low molecular weight of the hyaluronic acid in this serum means it can penetrate deeply into the skin and actually have a very decent effect. And it does. BELIEVE ME. After only two days of using this coupled with the Hydraluron, I felt all plumptious and bee-yoo-tiful again.

£18.00 at Boots here

 

Current Favourites

 

NUXE Reve De Miel Lip Balm

Oh HUBBA HUBBA. I resisted buying this stuff for SO. LONG. because I thought it just had to be some kind of blogger fad. I have zero idea why this stupid idea got lodged in my head. Perhaps the price tag put me off – it’s a lot for a lip balm. But it is worth it. OH it is so worth it. I am a serial lip biter and even though some products can repair the damage caused by this if I apply them constantly throughout the day, this pot of wonder can fix all of that in just one overnight application. And not only that, but I have also used it on dry patches on my face, the wrinkles forming under my eyes (woe), and even spots to provide some much-needed nourishment, and it is FANTASTIC on all of these. I will never, EVER be without a pot of this now. BALM OF DREAMS.

£9.50 at Feel Unique here

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation

It took me a long while and countless reads of countless glowing reviews on countless blogs before I managed to pluck up the courage to take the deep breath and plunge into purchasing this. I’ve been happily foundation-free for such a long time, but when I do apply foundation at the moment I hate all of the ones I own. So I am SO GLAD that this has lived up to the hype. The smallest amount is required, and despite being called Sheer Glow it is actually a fairly medium coverage, and not ridiculously glowy. I’ve come to the conclusion that is called Sheer Glow because it doesn’t LOOK like foundation, despite giving a good coverage, and intensifies the healthy appearance of your own skin. See? Sheer. Glow. It’s good.

£31 at Space.NK here

Charlotte Tilbury Air Brush Flawless Finish Powder

I lusted after this for so long last year. It featured on all of my wishlists. But a girl cannot catch a break, and nobody bought me the beauty. Instead, I used a John Lewis voucher I was gifted for my birthday to purchase it, after doing a happy dance that FINALLY Charlotte Tilbury products weren’t just available via Selfridges (extortionate postage costs). And it is just as good as I had dreamed. I’ve already hit pan, which is hideous because soon I’ll have to pay that eye-watering amount again, but I can’t possibly return to anything else after this. Mattifying, smoothing, natural-looking. It’s just beautiful.

£33 at John Lewis here

Batiste Stylist Texturizing Spray

Batiste totally lured me back into the fold when they released this affordable and effective range of styling sprays. I also adore the XXL Volume Spray, however this particular product is my absolute FAVOURITE. Just a few quick sprays adds volume and texture to both roots and ends, and the best bit? It never actually FEELS like there’s anything in your hair! I constantly have at least two cans of this, one upstairs and one downstairs, so that I never miss an opportunity to use it. Plus it smells divine – it’s actually lodged itself into my memory as one of the Smells Of 2015 (yes I’m weird and have massive Smell Nostalgia).

£4.49 at Boots here

 

And that’s it for the moment – just some awesome products for you. Now, if I could only find a perfect concealer and a perfect eye cream my life would be complete…
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13 Things I Learned in 2015

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Following in the footsteps of likely thousands of other people out there, I had a think earlier today and came up with a list of things I learned in 2015, the year that was. The year that is over. The year that SUCKED. Learning things however…in my opinion, everything is an experience, everything is a learning opportunity. 2015 was rife with them. And so here are, for me, the most important things I learned in 2015:

 

  1. Good coffee is literally worth anything. ANYTHING.
  2. The contraceptive injection will Fuck You Up. Especially if you have polycystic ovaries. It’s not a good plan. Nearly one year on and I still have an insane cycle. Literally insane. I’m talking 7 weeks period free, 1 week of period, 1 week of nothing, 1 more week of period round 2, The Period Returns. And then repeat. Forever. What the hell.
  3. I actually prefer going foundation-free. I prefer it SO MUCH. I prefer the way it looks, I prefer the way it feels. I mentally droop when I think I need to wear foundation now.
  4. The “new” (it’s actually from 2012 but it’s taken me that long to get into it) Fiona Apple album is brilliant, just as brilliant and maybe even more brilliant than her older stuff.
  5. Never, ever underestimate the cowardice and laziness of Other People.
  6. I really, really, REALLY want a dog.
  7. Clean eating really is dangerous bullshit.
  8. However, eating shit and drinking too much wine and not doing consistent exercise WILL definitely lead to excessive weight gain. You’re not 20 any more. Come ON. It will make you miserable. Buck up.
  9. If you know the answer, and you know that the other person knows the answer but they aren’t admitting it, keep pushing it! Yes it scares people but then look at point 5.
  10. My hair is never going to look perfect because I can’t be arsed to spend the time and money on it that is necessary for that kind of perfection. And I’m OK with that.
  11. It is still possible at the age of 30 to be made to feel like a teenager when older people comment on your ripped jeans with “Did you BUY them like that?!”
  12. I’m fairly sure that I’ve got this Parenting thing nailed. For now.
  13. Sometimes, amongst the horror and the nothing, something wonderful will appear and thrive. Rather like that little green shoot in Wall-E. Rather like Nigel, the lovely green plant on my desk at work who I have miraculously kept alive pretty much all year. Don’t kill the green things. Feed them.

Yes, that’s right, the most important thing I have learned this year…is that I really REALLY want a dog. Gimme gimme gimme.

Vagina Monopoly

I was introduced to the ultimate Face Palm this morning on Twitter – a GIRL’S version of Monopoly! Of course, that means the entire board is bright pink, the properties are spas and boutiques, and Chance/Community Chest cards have become Text Messages. Of COURSE. Because as we all know, if you have a vagina you are rabidly, frothingly incapable of resisting the allure of PINK. And SHOPPING. And fucking SHOES. And JEWELLERY. And whatever else it is that having a vagina means you like. Spas, clearly. 

  
The brilliant Daisy Buchanan (@NotRollergirl) clued me into the fantastic satire opportunity here. And although I imagine there has likely been several hundred tweets so far better than any of these, here are my suggestions for the cards that one could end up drawing in this super special, super pink, vagina-tastic version of GIRL’S MONOPOLY:

  1. A bloke tells his mates you friendzoned him. Pay £10 to every player.
  2. Your male colleague does the exact same job as you but earns £10k more. Go to Glass Ceiling.
  3. You don’t understand intersectionality and get abuse on Twitter. Pay reputation repairs, £10 per tweet.
  4. You get catcalled in the street and the man slinks off when you fling abuse at him. Advance to Go.
  5. Beauty Pageant! You protest on Twitter about how demeaning this shit is to women to be judged on their appearance. Collect 10 new followers.
  6. Bank pays you a dividend of £50. Shock horror you don’t spend it on pink shit.
  7. Make general repairs on your house – and no, you really don’t need to resort straight to a big strong man. Women can use hammers too.
  8. It’s your birthday! Collect £10 from each player and do whatever the fuck you want with it. As long as that isn’t getting drunk, because everyone knows that alcohol is a factor in 50% of sexual assault cases.
  9. On that note: Get Out Of Jail Free – this card may be kept to give you false hope of any possible rape or sexual abuse claim you hopefully don’t have to make in the future being taken seriously. And ending successfully.
  10. You mature! There goes your chance of any parts in Hollywood films starring opposite a male the same age or younger than you. And suddenly you’re a cougar. Or a MILF.
  11. You have been elected Chairperson of the Board! Obviously you’ve shagged your way there.
  12. You finally have enough of all the bullshit that women have to put up with, snap, and rampage through the streets screaming DOWN WITH THE PATRIARCHY and burning effigies of Samantha Brick/Katie Hopkins/Meghan Trainor/whoever. Go to Jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200.

Guys, I think this version has legs. Let’s get it on Kickstarter.

A Few Of My Favourite Things 37 & 38/46

What a packed two weeks! Last week’s edition of lovely things didn’t occur due to being on a wonderfully long and relaxing weekend in Copenhagen – more on that later! The last two weeks have featured wonderful people and wonderful things, even if I did go on a bit of a downer about turning 30.

 

01. BIRTHDAY PARTY!

Two Saturdays back, Emma and I threw a joint 30th birthday party at The Oakford Social Club in Reading. It really was the perfect venue for such an event – the bar had reserved a large area full of sofas and tables for us, and even though it ended up overflowing it was brilliant. We drank the bar out of Prosecco, we partied with our closest friends, and had an all-round fantastic evening. Definitely the best way to say goodbye to our 20s.

30th Party

 

02. MAN WHO HAS IT ALL

This Twitter account has to be one of my favourite of all time. It cleverly and hilariously parodies the absolute bullshit that is fired at women, constantly. It’s so, so hard to choose my favourite tweet, but I’ve attempted:


 

03. A TOY DINOSAUR STUCK…

This article in The Guardian had me in tears of laughter. Basically a woman gets a toy T-Rex stuck somewhere inappropriate. Which is funny enough in itself, but when you get to the bit…you’ll know. I’m giggling again just thinking about it.

 

04. COPENHAGEN

Here it is! Emma and I headed to her mum’s apartment on the outskirts of Copenhagen for a late 30th birthday treat. Four days of sleeping late, wearing lots of PJs, drinking lots of Prosecco, listening to lots of music, doing lots of crochet, and having NO RESPONSIBILITIES. It was brilliant, and what’s more I absolutely adored the place. I could quite happily live there, I think. A brilliant atmosphere, beautiful (if flat) scenery, my kind of People, a LOT of (very) hot men…it’s a fantastic place. Also featuring The Best Cake In The World at the Royal Smushi Cafe, The Best Gin In The World at The Bird & The Churchkey, and The World’s Happiest Plug Sockets. I want want WANT to go back.

Copenhagen

 

05. TODDLER LOVE

And related to the above, although I enjoyed the time away from home immensely, it was also beyond wonderful to come home and be showered with unconditional snuggly love from my little TD. I really thought he wasn’t giving a crap that I was away – he barely spoke to me when I FaceTimed him. However, the second I got back he wrapped himself around me like a limpet and barely let go. And it was lovely.
 

06. GARY NEVILLE & RYAN GIGGS

Yes, there was the whole Super Injunction thing that forever tarnished Giggsy as a human turd, but this story about them letting squatters stay in their hotel over the winter was a ray of kindness and hope amongst the usual bullshit that comes out surrounding footballers. Props, guys.
 

07. BOWIE ROUNDABOUT

Because, obviously:

Bowie Roundabout
 

08. BLUE CHEESE

This is a new one for me. All of my life I’ve hated blue cheese, but continued to try it constantly because, surely there can’t actually exist a cheese that I don’t like?! But it has never seemed to be – the second those veins hit my tongue and that bitterness bursts forth I’ve gagged, spat it all out, wiped my tongue, etc etc. HOWEVER. On my birthday evening my husband and I went to the local wine and cheese place and got a cheese platter (amongst all the wine), and in an amazingly CORRECT Drunken Decision I tried the blue cheese. I loved it. I’ve eaten blue cheese since. I still love it. HUZZAH!

 

09. HIGH-RISK TUMBLR

As is the name that Emma christened this place with. It is high risk, so if you’re reading this at work best not to click…also if you get offended easily, probably best not to click either…if not, CLICK AWAY. HILARITY.

 

10. ALL-ROUND LOVELY FOLKS

There have been so many people who have made the last two weeks wonderful. The people who came to my party, the people who gave me cards and presents, the friends who were in touch on the day of my actual birthday, my work colleagues who decorated my desk and bought me a brilliant personal present, the Danish people, the various new people I have met and loved…the list goes on and on. One friend in particular has cheered me and boosted me during 30-angst even when having their own particularly awful shit going on. What a human. I’m so lucky to have such lovely folks in my life *plays cheesy music, throws ticker-tape around*