instagram, life, mental health

#10YearChallenge or Not

You may have seen all the 2009 vs 2019 photos on social media, you may have even posted your own photo comparison, and for the most part they’re great fun, seeing the changes 10 years have wrought. However there is a darker side to this trend.

Dr Melissa Fabello,who writes abour such interesting things as the intersection of sexuality and eating disorders, posted on her stories why she wouldn’t be sharing her 2009 photos. In 2009 she was struggling with an eating disorder herself and in a dark place. Comparing her self was not a funny topic, but a painful one.

I understand that all too well. In 2009 I was struggling with my own demons. A year before I had graduated from university with a solid 2:1 into a financial collapse. Suddenly all the great graduate jobs were gone, companies were not hiring and the industries I was interested in had closed their doors (some would not survive this).

I was pretty miserable, the depression I have struggled with pretty much all my life was reading its ugly head and I was at a loose end. I still worked intermittently for the local council’s Children & Young People’s team; but that too would end as budgets were cut.

My mum, who may actually know me better than I know myself, seeing how lost I was told me to apply for a course. I studied to become a TEFL teacher – something I’ve not exactly made use of. It was an incredibly tough, emotionally draining course. But it had me using my brain, had me reading and writing essays. I really enjoyed it.

I have an analytical mind that also has an anxiety disorder. This is not a good mix – I know this now. 2009 was a year I had to get through. 2010 was better. I got a job I would have for the next 5 years, met one of my best friends and the man who is now my husband.

I won’t be sharing my 2009 vs 2019 photos (mostly because there aren’t any) because who I was then and who I am now aren’t hugely different but they’re different enough that the comparison isn’t worth making.

lifestyle boxes, mental health, mindfulness, reviews

Review: Cancer Care Parcel

Cancer has affected everyone I know in some way or another.

When I was 18 my paternal grandmother died after a long fight against lung cancer that eventually spread through her whole body to her brain.

It was difficult to see her become weaker and more fragile. Cancer treatments were debilitating and had some pretty terrible side effects.

The people behind Cancer Care Parcel want to help alleviate some of the stress and worry patients and their families are dealing with.

Each package has been tailored with practical and fun items that meet specific needs.

I was kindly sent this Deluxe Box for women to share with you and it’s a fantastic assortment of items.

As well as their incredible boxes, which are available for all genders and children too, the website offers social networks, advice and information for cancer patients, family and friends.


I think that if you’re looking to buy a gift for someone dealing with cancer, one of these boxes could be a really good idea. And the parcels are now on sale too.

beauty boxes, happy mail, hygge, lifestyle boxes, mental health, reviews

Moi-Meme Winter Wellness Box 

This box is so luxe- and will with things to give you a boost during the rotten cold winter months. 

I love that each box is personalised and that the team at Moi-Meme do the same with the contents. 

There are five lovely things in the box and I can’t pick a favourite. 

Lola’s Apothecary Bath & Shower Oil (RRP £34 100ml) – this oil (Delicate Romance) contains rose, sweet orange, lemon, geranium, as well as several other skin loving ingredients. You only need a teaspoon for a bath or shower, so this will last a while. Based in Devon, the products are hand blended in small batches for the best quality. This smells delicious and soon so will I.  

Potion London The Beauty Formula (RRP £25 60 tablets – 1 a day) – with 19 vitamins and minerals these skin, hair and nail supplement tablets are developed to promote clear skin, strong nails and silky hair. Stocked in Harvey Nichols exclusively (and online), it’s only been around since July last year. It would be really great to see if these help my brittle, peeling nails. 

Pia Rossini Monroe Faux Fur Snood (RRP £30, available in 7 colours) – lined with soft fleece, this ridiculously stroke-able snood is warm and cosy. There are matching accessories available online. I am wearing this in my living room – the boiler’s broken and can guarantee it’s warmth. Based in Northern Ireland, the husband and wife team cover all seasons with everything from faux fur to beachwear. 


Portico Designs A6 Monogram Notebook (RRP  £8) – this stationery brand produce gorgeous products for brands including Wedgwood, Monsoon and Roald Dahl, as well as their own designs – like these gorgeous notebooks, which come in a range of colours. A 25 year old, Bath based company, their lovely things make brilliant presents. As someone who is always scribbling things down, this arrived at a perfect time.  

Coco Chocolatier Organic Chocolate Bar (RRP  £4.50 for 80g) – Caramel, Hazelnut and Isle of Skye sea salt milk chocolate – an artisan chocolate bar from Edinburgh with really lovely packaging, combining some of my favourite things – sorry I don’t share! 

Are you a subscriber? Do you love these boxes too? 

You know where I am, wearing my snood and eating chocolate.  

 

fun stuff, happy mail, lifestyle boxes, mental health, reviews

Buddy Box – Let’s go to the Beach

This month’s Buddy Box from The Blurt Foundation is beach themed. To be completely honest I wasn’t thrilled on first look. It felt a bit stingy and childish with a pencil, tin cup and stickers. 

But I do like the coconut water face mask and DIY pom pom garland Crafternoon kit. 

There’s also a lovely postcard message from the Blurt team and one to pass on to another person. 

I’ll be adding the postcard to my wall of positvity by my bed, I designed it to bring me cheer every morning and help me manage my bad days better. 

fun stuff, happy mail, lifestyle boxes, mental health, mindfulness, reviews

Buddy Box – Summer Sun

The Buddy Box from The Blurt Foundation is designed to help people dealing with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. It’s basically a hug in a box. And this month’s comes with a little summer sun. 🌞

Fruit seems to be the theme too, with pineapples and watermelon popping up on the box itself and inside. 

Inside are some bright, sunny treats to help you get through July even when inside your brain it’s more like November (that may just be me). 

There is a very cute notebook with a fox on it, I love notebooks and own about a gazillion of them, so this is welcome. 

A pineapple scented air freshener. I don’t have a car but my wardrobe/beauty cupboard will look very snazzy (and smell sweet) with this. 
Fruit Fix Pomegranate & Blueberry face mask. I love a good face mask, deep cleaning all the crap out of my skin so I will  be slapping this on for a Netflix session. 

#365 Days of Selfcare challenge card and post-its. Which you can join in with. #365daysofselfcare on Twitter and Instagram.  
Personal note from the Blurt team on a fun card, which I will be adding to my inspiration wall. 

Finally, I saved the most fun till last. As you may already know, I am a stationery nerd. And I love quirky pens and pencils. This pencil is a superhero. This pencil has a cape. 

While the crappy winter weather definitely batters on my hatches, summer can be just as hard. When the sun’s shining and fun is being planned, we need to still be looking after our mental health. It’s hard to be “on” all the time and it can feel impossible to tell people you’re feeling bad when the sun’s out and you’re supposed to be jolly. 

The Blurt team know that and I am telling you, self-care, whatever form it takes, isn’t selfish. If you need to stay in, wearing your pjs, eating Nutella croissants or a pile of toast or a bowl of mashed potatoes, or whatever your go-to is, watching crappy tv, an old film, reading a good book or even just taking a nap. That’s A-OK. 

life, mental health, updates

I aren’t dead*

*as Granny Weatherwax would say. 

I am sorry it’s been a wee bit quiet here in my corner of the ‘net. I’m stuck at home looking like a puffy death-beast with flu. I have black eyes from the infection in my head and chest, cant wear make up as my temperature keeps making me sweat it off, oh and to top it off my rosacea and eczema have flared up and I’ve got a lovely acne breakout going on. 

I have products I want to test and review for you, but currently eating cereal, reading Agatha Christie and smothering my skin in various stinky medicated lotions is pretty much all I’m good for. 

So, I’m asking you lovely people to help me boost my mood and hopefully my immune system by sending me cute things on Twitter, tagging me in pictures of your pets on Instagram (@ramblingmads) and telling me what awesome stuff you’re up to in the comments please.  

happy mail, lifestyle boxes, mental health, mindfulness, reviews

The Blurt Foundation Buddy Box

After a week in which depression kicked my butt (again) I really need this hug in a box from The Blurt Foundation.

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Designed specifically for depression sufferers, each box is filled with things to help you manage your condition and give you something to smile about.

As well as the goodies, there’s also a postcard written by the Blurt team.

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As well as one for you to fill in and leave for someone else to find and pass on that love.

In my box this month are some really sweet things that made me smile while unboxing.

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Clippers Mint Green Tea – I love mint tea, and green tea’s good for you too!

Toucan badge – my favourite Spike Milligan cartoon is the Strawberry Moose one but my second favourite is the One Can Toucan one (google them and grin) so this colourful badge is going on my bag to cheer me up.

Letters To My Future Self – a paper time capsule. This little book has themed envelopes and papers for you to write letters to your future self, so you can look back and see how things have changed.

Six Colour Pen – for writing those letters! I had one of these as a kid and loved changing the colours.

Cooling Panda Eye Pads – sometimes you need to cry it out and these soothing eye pads will reduce puffiness and made you look like a panda too! Pop them in the fridge and then on your face, for instant refreshment.

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This is such a wonderful box of joy, and something I really needed this week.

life, mental health

Money for being mental?

I have dealt with depression and anxiety since my teens, and in the last few years struggled a lot.

My Mr suggested applying for PIP – which is a payment from the Government to help people with disabilities, mental health issues and long term illnesses afford all the extras that go along with their condition. It’s means tested and requires an interview in person.

I filled out about a million forms, submitted evidence in the form of a letter from my doctor and from the mental health centre at the hospital where I did CBT and psychotherapy.

My assessment interview was ‘near me’ in that it was in London, on the other side of town. Bizarrely it was done by a physiotherapist – obvious choice to assess someone with a mental health issue.

I was rejected on the basis I was able to walk – the application form and interview were very obsessed with mobility as a factor. Except that on my very worst days getting out of bed is impossible. So I can’t walk on those days, I can’t eat, sleep, talk, function at all.

It’s a really bizarre and completely illogical way of deciding whether or not to award someone the benefit of some money to assist in managing their condition. There are days when my anxiety is so bad I can’t use public transport so this money would have been useful to cover a cab to the doctor’s or hospital.

It affects my ability to work and manage the basic things, we’d discussed how having even a small amount would help cover costs when I’m too ill.

But no, a physiotherapist and the worst assessment ideas ever mean that I, like hundreds of others with all sorts of complex and exhausting conditions, are denied even the smallest assistance.

There are plenty of people for whom this is even more devastating – they need that money to survive. But more and more disabled and terminally ill people are being found “fit for work” by these assessments and stripped of their benefits. Never mind that there are no jobs for these people, that employers won’t employ people who need lots of flexibility to attend appointments.

Disabled workers take less sick leave than your average employee, as they feel they have to prove something, and it is illegal to discriminate, but it still happens. It’s just not given as the reason they didn’t get the job. Hidden conditions, invisible illnesses or disabilities, mental health conditions are even harder to prove discrimination against, and likely to receive less empathy.

My last full time permanent job ended because of a complete lack of understanding and support in my attempts to manage my health and continue working. Now I temp and the Mr covers much of our expenses while I look for something longer term.

I don’t expect the government to support me, I don’t intend to demand benefits and sit at home. I want to work, the stimulation and mental exercise of work is good for me. But a little extra to help out during the really bad days isn’t a lot to ask for.

This new system is so flawed that it’s already caused deaths, some people genuinely can’t work, and probably contributes to so many conditions worsening and costing the NHS more money to treat and manage.

It’s cruel and unfair and dangerous. The people behind it, many of them with zero medical knowledge, should be ashamed.  

life, mental health

Trying to find a balance

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that about 18 months ago I had a breakdown, my depression and anxiety went into overdrive following an incident at my then job.

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I spent most of the last year and a half on long term sick leave while I fought with myself and mental illness. I went to CBT and group therapy. Neither seemed to help.

I found the right medication with the help of some super dedicated doctors and started blogging as a means of getting outside of myself, even on days when getting out of bed was impossible.

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Thursday was #timetotalk a nation wide initiative aimed at breaking the silence around mental health. It’s still taboo, treatment is patchy on the NHS and the media paints everyone with a mental health issue as a danger to the public.

We might be nuts but we’re mostly harmless. In fact people suffering from a mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than you. Which means they (we) need support and empathy all the more. Our own brains are against us. It can be absolutely terrifying when you’re at war with yourself. 

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I thought I would share some of the things that have helped me find some balance again. Please be aware that these do not replace the advice of your doctors/therapists etc. I am not an expert in the field and this is all based on my own personal experience of surviving two mental breakdowns in my life and battling depression and anxiety for over ten years.

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Depression makes you unbelievably selfish. You just stop caring about anyone or anything else around you. Eventually you stop caring about yourself. You couldn’t care less if you never got out of bed again. You stop eating, washing, wear the same pyjamas for days on end. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.

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My boysies

We got Algernon and Justin last May, they’re part emotional support, you cannot be depressed around them, and part un-selfish device. They need to be fed, fussed over, talked to, cuddled and spoilt all the time. They were joined by three girl rats, sadly Peaches and Cream crossed the rainbow bridge but Custard still rules the rat house.

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Boss Rat

Pets force us to think about something outside of ourselves – I’m not saying go out and buy an animal to make yourself better, but for me, these little balls of fur have been such a great joy.

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I can’t always articulate why I am having a bad day, depression steals my words and anxiety stops me from locating them. But books are always there. On the days when crawling into a novel was too hard, there were graphic novels/comics, poems and declaiming speeches from Shakespeare (I knew my degree would be useful one day). Other people’s words when mine failed.

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Adult colouring books were huge in 2015, and I was there, scribbling away, mostly mandalas, but finding the edge taken off my anxiety by the repetitive nature of the activity and the colours. No wonder little kids seem so happy when they colour in.

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Blogging helped me immensely, it distracted me from the war in my head. Same with Instagram and twitter, though I had to step away from Facebook and its barely controlled anger, I explored more of the things I enjoy, finding my way back to me.

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Going back to work, just not that work. I tried to go back to my old job, I’d been there five years, but there was no support, I was treated like I’d been off with the flu, not a serious illness. So I left again, this time for good. The relief was amazing. Then I started temping, and while I now know that’s not for me, it gave me back a lot of confidence.

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A "cookie"

Finding the funny – above is what should have been chocolate chip cookies, I honestly have no idea what happened, but instead of panicking about how I’d messed up, I took a photo, sent it to my best friend and reminded her of previous baking fails. Then I laughed, proper deep belly laughs. Because life is ridiculous and none of us are getting out alive.

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Lean on others – I’ve been really lucky, the Mr has been the most amazing support. And I know it hasn’t been easy for him. Lean on the people who love you, whether it’s a friend, family member, your mum, partner or Samaritan. Let them take the strain for a moment, don’t be afraid of letting others in.

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Asking for help is probably the hardest thing you can do. But it is also the most liberating. We fight our monsters in silence, but it is OK to say “I can’t do this anymore” and ask for help. I cried in my doctor’s office as I finally admitted I couldn’t cope and needed help. I am so glad I did. I’m honestly not sure if I would be here now if I hadn’t.

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ramblingmads

family, friends, life, mental health, relationships

This Is Not A Gift Guide

I was skimming along my twitter timeline the other day and saw a link to another gift guide on some website or other, where a gift was recommended that was “only £4,995”, that “only” just kills me.

A lot of people are struggling at the moment, finances are tight, a shop assistant I spoke to today said that they were still waiting for the Christmas rush, she was worried that if there wasn’t one she’d lose her job.

Five grand is a lot of money, and completely out of many people’s ability as a one off spend on a Christmas present.

Growing up there were times money was tight, when my dad was made redundant, when my mum was not working because she had two small children at home, when my parents bought their house. But we never went without.

We always had presents, I remember getting a new bike one year, and my auntie used to send us dresses every year, which we wore for Christmas day lunch, there were pyjamas, books, board games, toys, but not more than we could actually play with, we certainly weren’t spoiled.

So when I see these completely unrealistic gift guides being promoted, and there are more realistic ones out there, with presents that very few could buy, it makes me cross.

You don’t have to be religious to celebrate Christmas, Jesus was probably born in June and people have celebrated the solstice/yule etc for thousands of years, but it shouldn’t be all about stuff.

We’ve become too materialistic, yes I blog about beauty products, but I am also passionate about things that matter, I’m a proud feminist, I speak out against injustices, I am currently furious about the foul way some people treat other members of their communities due to race or religion.

Christmas, for me anyway, is about family, friends, being together, doing things like decorating the house, eating a meal, watching cheesy films, together.

Not about how much stuff you get, or how much money you spend.

So, I won’t be suggesting gifts, I won’t be telling you that spending £4,995 on a gift shows someone how much you love them. Just be with them, do things together.

ramblingmads