I’m a confirming non-conformist girly girl tomboy

Twenty five. The woman I am today is not who I imagined I’d become, much to my suprise. I’m struggling to deal with the conflict between who I thought I’d be and who I really am.

Can I please explain, o faceless, disinterested Interweb?

As a child, I was determined to be the opposite of what I perceived girls to be. If girls are weak, then I am going to be strong. If girls are interested in makeup, hair and clothes then I’m interested in art, superheroes, video games and martial arts. If girls are submissive and dependent then I’m going to learn all the skills needed so I can be completely independent when I grow up. Some of this came naturally, but sometimes I intentionally built a persona, rejecting any natural curiosity or interest in stereotypically “girly” things.

As a teenager, I dealt with the pull of my femininity whilst at the same time attempting to reject adulthood, desperately hoping to cling to some vestige of childhood and slow down the growing process. I made out like I wasn’t the least bit concerned about what others thought of my behaviour in public and continued to act the clown to make others laugh. I rolled my eyes in disdain at talks of boyfriends, I was so above flirting and impressing the opposite sex. But in the meantime, I’d daydream about an older version of me getting whisked away by my latest celebrity crush, and be a stuttering, fumbling mess whenever I had to interact with any high school or college-age boys in day to day life.

My late teens were less fraught with contradictions, but that persona was still active. I learned to converse with the opposite sex more comfortably (so long as they weren’t devastatingly handsome) and a little makeup and feminine clothing made its way into my daily routine. Still, I pretended to be totally disinterested in romantic movies, I sniggered at all pampering treatments, and made my hatred of the colour pink public knowledge at every opportunity.

How many of my decisions were my own, innate personality? And how many were informed by societal stereotypes? This isn’t a deep life or death subject, I know, but here I am at twenty five torn between who I think I am and discovering who I truly am.

In an effort to shun society’s expectations of me, have I let them still dictate what I’ve exposed myself to? What I’ve let myself experience?

Here’s the thing, in letting go of my prejudices a bit, I think I’m actually liking myself more, I’m becoming more confident in who I am.

For example, contrary to my old preconception, wearing makeup is not:

  1. Worn by girly girls just to attract boys
  2. A way for society to dictate how women should look
  3. Evidence that a woman is insecure

Those things may play a part for some people’s decisions to wear makeup, and on a day when I’m feeling bad about myself or have a lot of breakouts I will admit that makeup resolves that temporarily. To my suprise, however, makeup:

  1. Has helped me appreciate my good features every day and even love how I look sometimes.
  2. Has made me less self-conscious
  3. Has made me more confident

These findings apply to so many other things: pampering, clothes shopping, getting my hair done and everything else I’d told myself I wouldn’t enjoy and didn’t “need”. All these things are a part of self-care and a way of telling myself I am worth looking after, I deserve to like how I look and who I am, and I can be interested in whatever I want regardless of whether society has historically made it a “girly thing” or a “manly thing”. Refusing to enjoy aspects of my femininity because society expects me to is like cutting off my nose to spite my face.

Since letting myself be in touch with my femininity, I’m more confident as a woman and ever closer to being comfortable in my own skin. I’m telling you this because I want to get it off my chest and hopefully start a conversation. Maybe you understand what I mean, or you might be somebody who is in one of the earlier stages I’ve been in and depriving yourself of experiences, so this could help you.

Is anybody out there who cares enough about this subject to say something? I hope so. But even if not, that’s ok, as much as it’s good to be understood I know I need to be happy to just be me.


Thoughts on… Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green (Graphic Novel)

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My first venture into the world of graphic novels has been unintentionally serious and deep. This graphic novel depicts the heartbreaking account of Katie Green’s struggle with anorexia and binge eating. Reader, I took a nose dive into a heavy, mature storyboard.


When I say mature, I mean not merely the fact it’s about eating disorders, there were some chapters that contained mature content, had I realised this I don’t think I would have read this novel. That said, I didn’t feel like it was gratuitous because it was an integral part of the plot. Generally speaking, I don’t mind a bit of mild nudity but when it got to some rather intimate images (including some between different characters) I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s me. But it cannot be ignored that this is the author’s true story, based on fact, so to omit those parts would be tantamount to altering reality.

Green’s writing is simple, to the point and sometimes remarkably understated. The illustrations are an unusual mix of accurate and disproportionate, I don’t know if this is an intentional parallel to body dysmorphia or just Green’s drawing style. I looked up her artwork and the style is easily recognisable but I haven’t noticed the same oversight with regard to proportion in her other work which suggests it may have been intentional in Lighter Than My Shadow. It is kind of comparable to Hergé in that the faces are all fairly simple and similar, but then the other surroundings are detailed. But of course, Hergé is just a legend and it is not really a fair comparison.

I didn’t notice how the pages gradually changed colour until I was quite a fair way into the novel. It’s as though when the situation becomes more hopeful there are warmer hues and when it becomes hopeless it becomes darker and colder. A clever touch.

The illness is drawn as a scribble, one that grows or shrinks depending on its hold on Katie, and this is such an accurate way of representing disordered thinking, it is insidious and subtle, appearing gradually and then becoming all-consuming. I have never seen a better way of explaining how this sort of thinking takes over.

It’s a bit of a slow starter. We see the depiction
of a fairly normal childhood with what I feel is typical school bullying, there are also subtle clues of potential for food issues, but when the illness hits it gets such a strong grip on Katie that her parents urgently seek medical treatment for her, this pursuit takes a tragic turn which sadly compounds Katie’s problem and leads to problems with binge eating. Although I was never diagnosed anorexic I can sympathise with much of the disordered thinking, the seeing your body as parts you hate rather than as a whole, the fear of unplanned food, not understanding hunger and fullness, imagining yourself becoming huge just because of eating one “unhealthy” meal… And even the daydreaming about being able to cut out sections of fat from my body – something I remember thinking when I was still in primary school! It would seem people with a perfectionist personality and low self esteem are vulnerable to eating disorders, as is the case with Katie Green. Sadly, the illness nearly drove her to her death.

This is a brilliant insight into the mind of people with eating disorders. It is the sad, personal tale of Katie Green but there are lessons from it that apply to anybody with disordered behaviours toward food/exercise.

This is a sensitive story but one that needs to be told.


“A graphic memoir of eating disorders, abuse and recovery”

–  lighterthanmyshadow.com

Thoughts on… Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

If you’re hoping this is a review about a Netflix series, I’m going to disappoint you. It’s my thoughts on the book the series is based on. I have not watched any of it, but I’ll confess that the somewhat morbid premise piqued my interest. When I saw the opportunity to read Thirteen Reasons Why, I didn’t hesitate.

Hannah took her life, but she recorded tapes of her reasons for doing it. From the very first tape, Hannah explains that the listener is one of the reasons why. She instructs him/her to listen to them all, then pass them on to the next person on the list. The consequences for not playing along? A copy of the tapes will be “released in a very public manner” if they don’t make it through all the people on the tapes. How can she carry out this threat posthumously? What will she reveal to compel the listeners to abide by her demands? These questions kept me hooked for the majority of the book.

The story begins on the day Clay receives the tapes. Asher throws us headlong into the action, by page 7 we are reading the contents of Cassette 1: Side A. The novel only spans a day and a night, but the contents of the tapes will forever change Clay’s life and how he views the people he thought he knew. I really enjoyed the pace of this book, there were very few – if any – words wasted describing the setting or the characters. Asher writes in the clear, concise and yet depictive style that I aspire to.

The story is written in two first person points of view: Hannah and Clay.

Rather than being separated by chapters, the book is divided into cassettes and which side of the cassette Clay is listening to. His and Hannah’s narratives run together, simultaneously, and it gives the sense of being right there in the moment. We read Hannah’s narrative on the tape, then Clay’s thoughts in response to her narrative or to what was happening around him, it is like being him, in his head, living it, experiencing the whole tragic, confusing and overwhelming unfolding of events.

With the accusation of being one of the motives for Hannah’s suicide over his head, Clay feels nauseated, terrified, and yet he is compelled to keep listening. Likewise, even though I knew how the story ended for Hannah, I was compelled to keep reading.

Clay comes across as sympathetic and likeable protagonist, it is clear he cared for Hannah, so I wanted to know how he fitted into Hannah’s justification. But four people/reasons into the tapes and I began to wonder how exactly the events described could have escalated to suicide.

My reaction to the novel made me reanalyse my attitudes toward suicide and depression. I found myself thinking: These people were unkind, immature, and selfish at times, sure, but isn’t that typical of adolescence? It’s a drastic reaction to what are pretty common teenage problems. So far I only deemed the fourth person’s actions as the sort that would probably change you as a person, maybe make you more paranoid even into adult life.

As the plot progressed, I began to think about the way Hannah described it as a “snowball effect” and it made me realise that perhaps that was the whole point Jay Asher was trying to make with this novel. It’s not necessarily one singular tragedy or life-altering circumstance that results in depression and suicide, it’s the summation of problems, bigger and smaller, that suffocates a person’s ability to cope with daily life.

*SPOILER ALERT* The scene with Hannah and Clay made me cry. I don’t cry often, I really mean that. When tears come it’s always for a reason, of course, but because they happen so rarely, they always take me by surprise. Hannah and Clay’s side of the tape was charged with hope and helplessness. Knowing the way the story ended, I couldn’t help but be moved by the gloom that enveloped the image of the two unknowing, hopeful protagonists enjoying the happiness they’d craved. *SPOILER ENDS*

As with real life, Hannah’s “reasons” are linked and interwoven, some were scarring events, some led to her feeling guilty, sickened with herself, worthless, which ultimately became the crushing weight that led her to lose all hope and to finally end her existence.

Asher has masterfully captured a snapshot into the mind of a depressed and suicidal person whilst also portraying the mind of a healthy person who cares about and loses such a one. People who suffer with depression and suicidal thoughts are not any less than any of us, they are simply people who have lost hope and strength to keep going, they need help to rediscover the person they were when they used to feel like life was worth living. Are they seeking attention? Yes! Even if they push against it, they need to be reassured that they are loved, important and not alone.

So if you’re considering suicide, get help, and try not to give up before you find it. And if you are connected to somebody contemplating suicide or who is depressed, don’t focus on the reasons they give for taking their life, help them to feel loved and valued.

What I got from this book is that you can’t totally blame other people for another person’s suicide, you can’t totally blame a person who has committed suicide for their decision. It’s not about whose fault it is, it’s about remembering that our words and actions affect others and sometimes in ways we can never know, it’s about remembering to treat each other with compassion and kindness and make ourselves better people.

Remember: suicide is a permanent fix to a temporary problem/situation

There are some sexual themes, not recurring but two scenes stand out as being the sort which parents may not be comfortable letting their children read. That said, it is well written and hard to put down, I probably wouldn’t read it again any time soon because it made me sad (which I expected) but it also helped me get more compassion and understanding for people who committed suicide or have attempted it, for that reason I feel like it is an important community read.

Thoughts on… The House at 758 by Kathryn Berla

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Full disclosure: I chose this book for its cover first, and for its blurb second. Shallow, but true.

Initially, the blurb actually put me off reading the book. In part, it described a tale of “a sixteen year old girl who is grieving the untimely death of her mother when her father’s new girlfriend moves into their home… When a fellow classmate, Jake, takes a sudden interest in her, Krista feels excited for the first time in two years”

To me that was code for Tragic, Depressing Experience and Teen Drama Resolved By Cute Boy. I was ready to hit backspace but the words, “Distancing herself from those around her, Krista spends all of her time obsessively watching a mysterious house, the house at 758” that peculiar sentence along with the lovely cover made me just curious enough to give the book a try.

I am so glad I read it.

Let me tell you what this book is not:

  • this is not a depressing book
  • it’s not a teen angst book
  • it’s not a cliché YA romance
  • it’s not what I expected

Berla writes this story beautifully, her prose is descriptive but not wordy. Her character development is lifelike and endearing. She writes from the point of view of Krista, an introverted teenager struggling to adjust to life after the death of her mother. In this story we are not given an in-depth confession of her grief and pain, but it does become subtly apparent (which I was glad of seen as I wasn’t in the mood to read a book in the tone of The Bell Jar.)

Krista’s summer is the timeline in which this 158-page novella is set. Short, huh? And yet, just long enough. We are taken from her listless days before her best friend goes away for the summer to stay with family, right up to the resolution of the mystery of the house at 758.

The romance with Jake features in this story as much as I feel it should – just enough to progress the narrative yet leave you wanting more. A lot else happens in Krista’s journey, and the lack of focus on the romance was both refreshing and realistic. Krista is tasked with looking after her grandfather for the summer, I was expecting my interest in the story to decline with his arrival, but to my delight he was so charming, interesting and fundamental to Krista’s progress in moving on with her life that I was sorry to see him go.

There were times I just couldn’t work out where the story would go, which is something I love in a book. There was far less dialogue than I have become used to, having read a lot of YA recently, but I didn’t miss it much. I guess that since Krista is more wrapped up in her thoughts than in conversation, it is only natural that we would get more summaries of conversations than play-by-play until we get to something worthwhile. Perhaps this is the author’s style, I don’t know since I haven’t read her before.

Berla made me care about the characters, especially Krista, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to her. I guessed what the deal with the house at 758 was, but the way events unfolded with that was unexpected. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book like this, and it has made me interested in reading more books by this author.

I would recommend this novella to anybody who likes to read empathetic but non-melodramatic stories, enjoys a little romance, and is marginally interested in either San Francisco, Budapest or the Holocaust. I don’t go out of my way to read books on any of those three topics, which made this even more interesting since it offered me first person glimpses into events and places I’m not very familiar with. This was a 4 out of 5 for me and I’d definitely read it again.

Publishing Date: 17 Oct 2017

Thoughts on… The Selection & The Elite by Kiera Cass

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers to follow.

To begin with, let me clarify my intention in sharing my thoughts about these novels: I don’t wish to review them so much as to somehow resolve the conflicting thoughts and feelings that I have toward them. Of all the many books I have had the pleasure or displeasure of reading, I cannot recall reading any that have left me quite so emotionally confused. My hope is that once I have written out my thoughts (and hopefully elicited some response from people who have also read these books or can relate to what I say in some way) that I can learn some lessons in story writing and feel less unsettled.

One review I read on Goodreads about The Selection made an excellent analogy: it is like a literary equivalent of Nutella. Nutella is nutritionally empty but easy on the taste buds, likewise The Selection is intellectually vacant but a guilty pleasure to devour (but I would argue it’s more like ‘Everyday Value’ chocolate spread than the branded expensive stuff).

With each plot “twist” I already knew what was coming, with each not-so-subtle “detail” I guessed it’s future relevance and eventual consequences… and sad to say, I was right every single time. Cliché followed cliché followed cliché.

The inclusion of the “rebels” seemed contrived, the dystopian government and caste system was flimsy, the characterisation was underdeveloped and verging on caricatured, the reappearance of Aspen was disappointing, leading to the beginning of a will-they-won’t-they plot-line that was exploited to within an inch of its life.

And yet, either as a result of her writing or my brazen sentimentality, Cass was able to draw me in so that I started to actually care just enough about the unfolding of America Singer (queue dry hurl) and Maxon Schreave’s romance to keep reading. Every time I hoped he would appear on the scene, he did, and inevitably said or did the things I hoped he would. Cass hooked me in so that I was spurred on to keep reading until the wee hours of the morning… and then borrow the sequel The Elite from the library and read it within 24 hours. Why?


Admittedly, I was far more infuriated with the sequel. The whole will-they-won’t-they “drama” became increasingly stale, the indecisiveness of the protagonist and the prince showed up their inherent fickleness, fully exposing the thinly veiled shallowness of the romance, consequently I couldn’t help but discard the rest of the story that hinged on it. Seen as the dystopian element was so poorly developed, I had no reason to borrow the third book in the trilogy, The One, so I happily settled for reading the full summary on theselection.wikia.com (wishing I’d done the same thing for The Elite)

To my disappointment, the author totally copped out of giving the trilogy a realistic conclusion (why hadn’t I seen that coming?) Rather than taking the opportunity to make a point, leave it on a cliff-hanger or at least surprise the reader in some way, we are left with everybody having a happily ever after and TWO epilogues! Y’know, just so all your questions about what happened next are answered. I’d never heard of a bonus epilogue until now. Mind you, all the prequels and sequels and mini-series should have been the giveaway that this author and her agent were prepared to milk the franchise until it dried up.

To Cass’ credit, not killing off either of the love interests (Maxon and Aspen) did surprise me as, after all that backwards and forward, it seemed the only way for the author to have the protagonist make a decision – having it made for her!

Perhaps I misunderstood the age group this was aimed at… when I saw it was a YA dystopia I thought it would be written with readers of Divergent at best or The Hunger Games at worst in mind, when actually it is probably written for readers of Princess Tiara magazine or whatever.

I feel like it’s a shame because there are ideas in the book that I think have potential, and clearly the author can write well enough to produce a first novel that many people find readable (whether begrudgingly or not). I think it is the latter point that has left me most flummoxed, because I have been tentatively working on a dystopian sci-fi story and I really felt like the synopsis had legs… but now I am doubting my judgement when it comes to what is good reading and good writing. I don’t want my story to be the corny chocolate spread tsunami that this series is, but I want it to have that engrossing quality that keeps the reader hooked.

And for that reason, dear reader, I ask for your thoughts and your experiences on this matter – especially if you have read The Selection or another book that has left you with that reality TV guilty-pleasure feeling. Why do you think stories like this can keep you hooked? And how do you know if what you’re writing is going to appeal to other people? Are there even concrete answers to these questions?

I look forward to hearing whatever you have to say. And, of course, I apologise if I have offended you with my opinions! Ultimately, I probably should have gone with my gut instinct and not read them – the front cover repelled me for a good year or so, but then I ran out of books to borrow on the eLibrary I use and I caved. Paradoxically, it’s not that there’s so much I disliked that surprised me, it’s that I felt compelled to read the book to the end.

Hello world!

(Please note: Featured image was made by artist Gemma Correll)

To begin this post by making even the slightest attempt at summarising the last four and half months is futile. I simply cannot figure out where to begin. I’ve taken a break from blogging and from writing in general for the most part, I’ve been focusing more on living and less on reviewing or analysing my life and hopefully I’ve done a lot of growing as a person.

Tonight I felt like getting back to blogging, so I thought I’d at least write an entry to follow through on my intent.


Some things I have achieved over the last five months include:

  • Removing the batteries from my scales and keeping them out of reach. I don’t know how much I weigh and I’m very rarely curious to find out! (I won’t dispose of my scales altogether though, we might need them to weigh luggage)
  • A significant reduction in depressive moods. This is in part because I can more readily identify thoughts that trigger the slippery slope into dejection, as soon as I feel that sinking feeling that tightens my chest I start to fight to get out of my head rather than allow myself to be swallowed up by the darkness.
  • Building a creative habit. I have successfully made art part of my life again, and I’m so glad! I make time several times a week to be isolated with my art supplies and it does me so much good! I guess it’s what they mean when they talk about “self-care”, it’s me-time, with the perk that it is also productive time that builds my self-esteem a bit.


Some of the things that I need more work include:

  • My relationship with food. I’m not a binge-eater anymore, and I’ve made no effort to count calories for absolutely ages, so that’s good. Still, I’m a long way for becoming an intuitive eater, eating mindfully has not become a habit and I am not in tune with my hunger signals most of the time.
  • My relationship with exercise. At this very moment, exercise and I are getting along, but it’s not become something that is as regular a part of my life as I would like it to be. The aim is to view exercise as a way of showing respect for my body rather than to try to beat it into submitting to the shape I would prefer it to be. For instance, I really enjoy cycling and strength training whereas I absolutely hate HIIT and circuit training. However, I’m often tempted to start HIIT and circuit training regimes in the hopes of losing excess fat… even though experience has shown that I do them for a time and then become sedentary. I need to really root out that thinking at its source and come to truly believe that the best kind of exercise is the one that I will keep doing for a lifetime.

That pretty much outlines where I’m at with some of the things that I’ve discussed on this blog before. It helps me to see how far I’ve come, but I won’t be doing a regular update on these subjects, only when the mood takes me. For me, I find that it is counterproductive to monitor these things too closely.

Until next time!

An old fairy tale poem I wrote

It’s been a long time since I’ve written poetry. In my late teens I got really into it and wrote several long poems, some of which I still like. My favourite, however, is the one I want to share today. I remember picturing this beautiful fairy-tale like princess in the woods, innocent and lovely but cursed with one disturbing feature… from there my imagination formed a story that became this poem.

I tried to find a photo to go with this, but they all looked a bit too creepy, so I’ll have to leave you to imagine something sweet and melancholic.I’d love to hear what you guys think of my amateur poetry. Also, have you ever found yourself inspired to write a slightly strange poem or story? Did you go ahead and finish it? Send me a link to it in the comments below, I’d love to check it out.

A Story About Melancholy

Once upon an unfortunate time,
Lived a father and daughter, in her prime.
In a forgotten forest, far and away,
Visited only by those that had gone astray.
Protective and loving, he always secured her,
Curious and naive, his rules she’d deter.

Her mother’s beauty, she mostly inherited,
But with eyes like the night she was afflicted.
Blackest black, dark like the coal,
Who would care for a defect so small?

Sheltered from the rest of mankind,
With eyes gently shaped and defined,
Sweet Melancholy Bass stayed unaware
But her father knew they’d harshly stare.
He wrote her songs to confirm her beauty,
She knew however, it was only his duty.

“A radiant ray from the gleaming sun,
Could not your beauty have outdone.
With auburn locks of flowing hair,
And softest skin, so delicate, so fair.
Precisely drawn lips, colour of blood,
Wide eyes, the forest could easily flood.”

One thoughtless day, at dawn she crept,
Unaware, her lonely father in his bed slept.
For hours she ran to find civilisation,
And finally came across a village celebration.
The music stopped and the folk stared,
Some laughed, some cried, all were scared.

Melancholy Bass fled back to the forest,
Back to an anxious father, but she was honest.
For weeks she cried into her father’s lap,
And soon, their forest, drowned out of the map.

Thoughts on… loving winter

Winter. My lifelong nemesis.

Dramatic, yes, but for as long as I can remember I have despised winter. It isn’t simply my least favourite season, it’s approach fills me with dread while I’m trying to enjoy autumn, it’s first dewy signs inspire gloom in my heart, and every day it lasts I spend daydreaming about living someplace where it’s icy grip cannot reach. I could go on, but you get the picture.

This year is different though.

Sometime toward the end of September 2016 I made the pledge to love winter; a conscious decision to embrace the season that has darkened every year of my life to date. And when I say love winter, I mean adore, relish, delight, lust, become so weak with fondness that I will arrive in spring with longing for the season left behind.

So far, so good. But we have been fortunate to have an extended autumn this year, so I’m not going to blow my trumpet at my success since it may well be short lived.

I realise I have set the bar unrealistically high. Some would suggest simply learning to appreciate the little things about winter, or to plan things, social things, to look forward to. No doubt, that method has and continues to work for many individuals. I have tried some of those suggestions in the past and found that I do get little bursts of joy interspersing the long periods of the blues. But last year I had the longest and most serious bout of depression I have ever experienced.

It began in the middle of summer 2015 and I can say I only feel like I started to recover around the beginning of August this year. I was in a dark, lonely, scary place that I have no intention of returning to. I still struggle some days with the thoughts that led to the feelings that sunk me into that darkness, but I have strengthened my mind so that I can dismiss the thoughts sooner, before they start to do real damage. This year, as a result of overcoming depression, I realised just how powerful our thoughts and imagination are when it comes to the reality we experience.

With that in mind, I am confident that telling myself and the people around me that I love winter is the first and most important step to making that a reality. I am also employing a few strategies to make sure I see that through. These include:

  • A change of vocab. Some people may argue that this is ridiculous and they could be right but I genuinely think that coming up with new adjectives to describe cloudy wintery days other than “dreary, grey, dim, gloomy, miserable” makes a significant difference to my perspective. Much to the annoyance of the people around me, I have been labelling cold days as ‘crisp’ and dark greys as ‘atmospheric’. It seems naive, but I have personally found that I am looking at the days in those ways, I actually find grey days pretty cool now, and if it’s foggy even better. It helps that the clear light on overcast days is optimal for painting.
  • Do nice things for others. Dropping in to see friends and relatives, particularly ones who can’t get out the house because they’re old or poorly, taking them a treat or some flowers, these are all things that warm me up from the inside. (Queue the retching noises and mocking laughter). It’s true though, when I’m thinking about how I can help other people it takes the focus off me and my problems.
  • Hand cream, face cream and lip balm. Sounds superficial but the discomfort of chapped lips and scaly hands that are too far gone to heal properly is a major source of resentment for me when it comes to winter. Wearing gloves when house cleaning and washing up helps with this too.
  • Wrapping up like the Michelin man. Who cares if I look like I’m two sizes bigger? If I’m cold, it’s hard to keep up my morale. I get grumpy and I complain. I know this and rather than stop myself from complaining (which is just not gonna happen) I need to do what is necessary to prevent me from getting cold so the complaining never starts.
  • Hygge. Pronounced something like “who-grrr”. This is a Danish term I learned when I listened to the audiobook A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell. It can be defined as “Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge.”  So this to me means a cosy house, hot drinks, blankets, movie nights, curries, chillies, and all other warming, comforting, snuggly things that come to mind.
  • Looking after my appearance. I’ve been surprised by how much more confident in myself I feel when I like the way my clothes look put together, my hair is relatively presentable, and my blemishes are covered up with a bit of concealer. Even if I don’t look at myself for the rest of the day, somehow it puts me in a better frame of mind from the start of the day.
  • Getting active. I’m not talking about the gym or a workout video as punishment for all the stollen and pastries I’m undoubtedly going to indulge in. I just mean going for brisk walks and bike rides just because it feels good and gets me out in nature. Sometimes I may get a workout in but it’s just important to get out of the house and face winter like a boss. To look it in the eye and say, “I’m not afraid of you, I’m not going to cower at home because you’re too cold. These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what I’ll do.”
  • A daylight bulb. I don’t know if these actually do anything as far as curing SAD. They apparently do. But the reason I have one is so I can paint and draw and all that good stuff even though it gets dark early. I love art and in previous years I’ve been put off doing any in my free time because it’s been in the evening when it’s dark and all our bulbs emit that orangey yellow light which I think is cosy to curl up and watch Netflix in but not so much to draw in, and definitely not to paint in because you can’t see the colours properly. So my daylight bulb has totally livened up my evenings.
  • Not overindulging. I have often turned to comfort eating in previous years to alleviate my blues but I end up feeling bloated, lethargic and overweight so it is counterproductive. I am trying to have a little bit of what I fancy but to continue to listen to my body by not overdoing it.

Those are the things that are helping me love winter. I’ll let you know if it has worked around Spring next year. In the meantime, tell me, do you hate winter? Or have you always loved it and don’t know what I’m talking about? Please share your thoughts below, especially any tips for making winter enjoyable. I need all the help I can get!

FEEDER at Nottingham Rock City

Brilliant set list including Feeder classics as well as new material. Vibrant crowd of excited fans made an electric atmosphere. Great venue choice – good acoustics, and felt intimate because it’s not a huge space. Grant’s vocals were spot on. Will definitely buy tickets for their next tour!

If you’ve never heard of Feeder, give your ears a treat and look them up, they have been around since the early nineties and still going strong. Check out their latest album All Bright Electric on Spotify.

When a friend is diet-obsessed

If you’re reading this blog post, maybe you have somebody you care about whose eating behaviours are causing you concern. Perhaps you’re thinking there will be advice you can use to help this friend or relative wake up to the dangerous course they’re travelling on. Let me save you the disappointment right now, this isn’t that kind of article.

“What do you eat on a typical day Esse?” that’s how the weary subject of dieting entered our conversation today. Lily and I have been meeting up for a coffee almost every Friday morning for the last year. We spend an hour or so talking about our work, our friends, our families, and inevitably the subject veers onto Lily’s latest diet and weight loss efforts.

“All sort of things. I don’t have a set meal plan. I just try to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.” I said.

“Well, yeah, ok. But what do you have for breakfast each day?” she said.

I felt like I was treading dangerous territory. I’ve told Lily before that I don’t believe in diets anymore and tried to help her understand why. This is a truth I came to realise before Lily and I got to know each other, a couple of months before our coffee dates became a regular thing, and I have been making steady progress toward recovering my relationship with food and restoring a positive body image.

“It depends. Sometimes I have cereal, sometimes I have toast, or fruit and yoghurt. Sometimes I have  pastry and a coffee! It changes.” I groaned inwardly. Even after last week’s attempt to get her to see the futility of dieting, the importance of not measuring her worth by her appearance, following it up by sending her links to videos on healthy lifestyles and articles on positive body image… even after months of my politely but consistently changing the subject when it she steered it onto weight loss… here we were, Lily on the verge of asking me for diet tips.

“What about for lunch and dinner? What do you eat during the rest of the day?” she said.

“Like I said, it varies.” I said, purposely being vague and hoping she would give up.

“Ok, but what do you usually have?” she insisted.

“Well, we have a lot of stir-fries and curries. I mostly cook from scratch. We hardly buy anything ready-made. We have pizza once a week or once every couple of weeks.”

“Hmm. Ok.” she said, thoughtfully.

“And crisps, biscuits, cakes, they’re in there too.” I added, laughing.

“How do you do it though, how do you stay so nice and slim?” she pleaded.

It was meant as a compliment so I took it as such, I swayed my shoulders in a mockery of showing-off and jokingly said, “Ah, thank you, you’re very kind.” then added seriously, “I just try to not eat too much or too little.”

With this, Lily told me about her latest endeavour to eat less carbs and have no more than 3 meals a day. She told me she feels bloated most of the time, she can’t get her lower abdomen to shrink and she is sure her legs could be thinner… etc etc. Lily and I are not very different in shape. To be honest, I would be surprised if I turned out to be lighter than her because I would guess my dimensions are a bit bigger than hers. Yet, there she was, thinking I am enviably smaller than her. Oh, and did I mention? Lily is 17 years old.

It’s frustrating. I have been there, I have reduced my self-esteem to the size of a set of scales, I have dived into the starving, calorie-counting, fat-free, sugar-free, flavour-free whirlpool. I was sucked in for nearly 9 years, and I have steadily and with great difficulty fought my way out of it. There have been times when I thought I was free and got sucked back in, there have been times I’ve been on the edge and daring myself to dip my toes in, but gradually I’ve left that part of my life further and further behind. I have slowly rediscovered the Esse that was sucked in and trapped by the binge-eating, body-hating, diet-addicted monster that could have easily turned into an eating disorder.

In Lily I see a reflection of my past, and it tears me up to see her making the same mistakes. I feel so helpless, no matter how many times I have tried I just can’t make her see how futile this pursuit of thinness is.