Monday 28 December 2020

Checking in With My 2020 Goals...

Before I get into this post, I just want to say that I'm not trying to boast about any achievements, if anything I feel the complete opposite this year, like many of you. I just wanted to write a realistic post of how I started the year with good intentions, and then Covid-19 blew a gale and I struggled to find the pieces left. Wherever you are, and however you are I really hope you're ok. However you have spent this year, was how you were meant to deal with this storm. It does feel like 2020 needs to be remastered, but it allowed a lot of us to chill, to reflect and really think about what we want from the next year.

I can only laugh at My Plans for 2020 post, and the goals I wrote down in my notes app. I know I have the hindsight now to see these plans would be majorly effected. How was I supposed to know that a worldwide pandemic would cancel races, an overseas hen do and halt my job goals. I think the other way of looking at things this year is that, I'm still here. My family and friends and mostly safe and healthy, that's all I can ask for. Anything else is a bonus. 

In the post from January I mentioned keeping up with my fitness. This has been a bit hit and miss for me. I hit some personal bests this year in terms of running distance, pace and I started doing arm workouts. As I have been really trying to connect with myself this year, I have been listening to my body and my mental health. Sometimes this means not forcing myself to do things I don't want to do. I want to enjoy things, and I want to enjoy exercise. Currently I've been taking a bit of a break, but I had been having issues with my sleep for a few months which affected my energy levels. I'm looking forward to getting Christmas out of the way, and planning for a better year with fitness starting from 1st January. I've actually signed up for a virtual running challenge for January. To run 50 miles in that month for Maggie's Centres who provide support for people living with cancer, and their family and friends.

With my reading ambitions, I didn't quite meet my plans of reading a book a month. Currently, I have read two books (Queenie and Midnight Sun), and I'm halfway through one, which albeit I started three years ago...But I'm hoping for a fresh slate for 2021. I have a stack of books I want to read first, most of which are educational and fictional literature from Black Authors. I found that if I really set a book as a reading challenge, I actually reach my goal. For Midnight Sun I divided the amount of pages by days in that month, it made it seem far more achievable and I think I actually read it all within a week! *pauses for applause* Before the year is up, I think I need to be more tactical with my reading challenges until it becomes more natural to pick up a book. 

Writing has actually been a positive for me this year. Halfway through Lockdown 1.0 I pushed up my sleeves and told myself to actually start applying for writing work, and pitching ideas. It turned out I had just been talking about doing this for over two years. When I realised this I had a new sense of urgency. Through this, I have a little cheat sheet with contacts to pitch to and how to lay out my pitches. Whilst I'm yet to be officially commissioned (watch this space in 2021), I did find MindMapper. A start up tech company aimed at helping young adults with mental health issues find the resources and community they need. I am one of a small team of amazing writers, honestly these guys are all doing amazing things and I feel like such a small fish to them (insert imposter syndrome here). Currently, our contracts are voluntary which has been fine by me. MindMapper has been a constant for me each week with our weekly brainstorms and check in sessions, and has allowed me to flex my writing muscles. 

Money money money eh? Since I started my obsession with spending back in 2013, it feels like that was all I thought about. Spending money vs oh-my-gosh-I-have-no-money-send-help. In April this year, I was officially debt free. I was out of my overdraft in January, and paid off my car in April. I actually cried when I saw I was out of my overdraft, and by a large margin. I didn't know what to make of that feeling. Other than I knew that there had been a big shift within me. I was fighting against the unhealthy habits and thoughts in my brain. Whilst it's still early days, and I've had some small and some not-so-small relapses, it's all been fixable. I actually have a savings account...with money in it. Like the most I've ever saved up by myself. I had to hit pause a few times whilst I got my main account back to zero, and fixing car stuff but I have left that savings balance alone. Which I've said for a few months is a win in itself. I need to check my budget for the rest of December, and what I need for January before my next pay day, but I'm pretty sure I can still reach my projected savings goal. Despite my slip ups this year, I can still do it. This will then put me in a good place to exceed this progress for next year.

I think it's important to note, that even if you don't tick everything off your list or your yearly goals, that sometimes it means that it's in progress. Progress it better than nothing. My whole tidy room, tidy mind is definitely a huge work in progress. I don't know how much I've talked about it on here, but over two and half years ago I moved into my boyfriends house; into my boyfriends already cramped loft room. There was very little space and I've had to squeeze in my bits and bobs. It's so easy to make our room messy, because there's a lack of storage for two grown adults, but we move. Connor and I try to regularly go through our things, have little clear outs and see what we can do to make our space more easy on the eyes. Part of my current project is that I took out a lot of my excess things to my Dad's (where I store a fair few things, as I used to stay there two nights a week before Covid-19 hit), and focus on using up what I have and not over buying products and stationary. 

*Laughs maniacally and hysterically* Boy, I wanted to have such plans for 2020 and it really did slap me in my stupid face. I was so lucky to have been able to do our anniversary trip to New York in January, and I'm so grateful we were able to go. I really wanted Connor and I to have more staycations this year to places in the countryside, or explore other cities in the UK. We had almost planned for a trip to Cornwall, but with work commitments, finance being tight and the back and forth with Covid restrictions pushed that off the table. Which is fine, we swapped that for more quality couple time. Because of lockdown, we made use of our daily walks, when restrictions kept getting lifted we started to explore other places near us for relaxing forest walks. We have spent a lot more time together this year, and that is down to me having a different job, not working as much because I'm out of debt, and actually lockdown forcing us to spend time together. Ok, that sounds super negative. Connor and I are very hard working people, and often get stuck in that "hustle" and "daily grind" bubble. Covid popped and let us actually hang out and watch films/TV shows together. 

I want to say thank you to Meg and Damian from MindMapper, for one seeing something in me and bringing me into their writing team. For two, our monthly one to one's where they ask me about my goals, and help me get there. I had long forgotten about these during the pandemic, and it was really helpful to have someone else go through these and hold me accountable. All of these "goals" were red at the beginning of the year, and now most of them are yellow and I actually have some green in there too. 

Usually I do a post of my goals for the next year, but I'm so apprehensive over what 2021 will look like for all of us. I'll still write a list of goals, big or small but I'm going to keep them to myself for the moment. Instead I'll write a more mindful mental health post, something helpful for me to look back on, but also for you; my readers.

📸 by Connor Cleary in The New Forest


Tuesday 22 December 2020

Honest Review of 'Midnight Sun' From A Fan | Book Review

If you have not read the Twilight series, there will be a few spoilers in this review to help give fans a better insight into if Midnight Sun is worth reading.

I was actually a bit late to the Twilight (published in 2005) hype, I read the first book a little while before the film came out back in 2008 (yes, I'm starting to feel old now). During a really hard time in my early teens, Twilight was my saviour. I'd suffered bullying and harassment for several years across different schools, faced rejection from boys and this love story helped me to still believe in love. Sure, there are better love stories and we've all seen the memes, but to a thirteen year old who had never been in a relationship; I believed in their electricity.

Midnight Sun was released on 4th August 2020, when I heard this highly anticipated book was finally coming I couldn't wait. I read the leaked pages back in the day and I was tremendously excited. I was always #TeamEdward and just had to know more about his side of the story. Later in the Twilight series, Stephanie Meyer plays around with different perspectives, and I felt it really helped flesh out the story and give it stronger legs. Plus, it gave some of us a break from Bella's sometimes annoying narrative.

PJ/Loungewear from TU Sainsburys

When I picked up my copy from my favourite independent bookstore; Pigeon Books, I could not believe the sheer size of the novel. Nearly twice the size of Twilight. Already I was wondering how much of Midnight Sun was staying within the realm of the first book.

The Good

This book definitely transported me back to my youth, and nostalgia of early Twilight days was in full swing. I kept remembering the first time I read Twilight, and my reactions. I honestly think I will always keep my battered copy of the first book, just to relive my youth. I absolutely love romance, and loved the forbidden aspect and was head over heels for vampires. The fact that Edward has to restrain himself from getting too carried away - both in terms of potentially killing her for her infatuating blood, and potentially killing her by sheer force was exhilarating. To have the narrative of his inner battle, describing the sensations of every touch from an immortal being whose senses are more heightened than a humans was thrilling. I must admit his thoughts, and hearing other's thoughts were often humorous and made me chuckle. There has always been the argument that Edward was creepy and stalking Bella, and at least from his perspective he is well aware of how bad all of that looks. He even tries to tell her this information, but the dozy mare is unfazed.

The Bad

As time went on, I realised a lot of the pages were purely just Edward's tortured thoughts, and him having conversations with his family through his mind reading power. Don't get me wrong, I love a bit of Edward's pining but it can be a lot. The thing that annoyed me the most, was that I felt Meyer was trying too hard to be in the mindset of a hundred year old vampire. Yes, he's over a century old, but he's still a teenager. I also loathed when he referred to Bella as "the girl", it just didn't feel right. Personally, I think he should've used "her" in situations where it can make grammatical sense. I kept rolling my eyes every time Meyer made him think those words.

Whilst we get a brief insight into Edward's life before Bella, sometimes it's a bit overboard. There are a lot of unprovoked flashbacks, some of which we've experienced in the other books and some which were not necessary to the story. At times Edward veers into a distant memory in the middle of an interesting situation, I found myself skimming these parts to get back to the present.

Most of Midnight Sun is pretty much a retelling of Twilight from Edwards view, but I don't hate it. I do wish we had crossed into New Moon territory to understand more of his anguish and what happens when he leaves.

The Ugly

Even though I was only thirteen at the time of reading Twilight, I picked up on spelling and grammatical errors, and it's always a shame because it pulls you away from the story. I was hoping that with over a decade to work on this book it would've been looked over with a fine toothed comb; I was wrong. I lost count of sentences that didn't make sense, and silly little mistakes. I know sometimes I miss mistakes, but I don't have a team of people checking my work and getting paid to do so.

I think that Meyer left it too long, and perhaps over-worried about this book. It might not have helped that the first few chapters had been leaked. If she had been able to write this completely secretly, perhaps it could have turned out better. It just didn't flow between Edward's thoughts, other people's thoughts and the incessant flashbacks. I read a book straight after this one where it has text messages, emails and flashbacks breaking up the linear narrative and it worked so much better than Midnight Sun. I feel that there is something in this book for the fans, but for anyone just picking it up to see what the fuss is all about, I don't think it'll be for you. 

The ending felt a little rushed and the lead up to the ballet studio scene was a bit chaotic, flitting between the present and Alice's visions. We start to miss chunks of time that I might have liked to live through Edward's eyes, but we did not get that. When I was about 3/4 of the way through and saw how much there was to go, I almost thought there was going to be a different ending, or that it would be cut short compared to the first book. Perhaps we could've started the book in a flashback to a younger Edward, a scenario where he's longing for love, or thinks it's not on the cards for him. I just wanted a little bit more.


This is definitely a book for the fans and fans alone, I've seen reviews from other fans and they've slated it and they even put the book down entirely. I think you need to be sort of a Twihard and on #TeamEdward to really enjoy it. This was a missed opportunity for Stephanie Meyer and her publishing team, there were some golden moments but the whole book diminishes those. 

I decided to give Midnight Sun 3 stars, because it was enjoyable but it could've been better. I'm not sure if I'd read it again, but it's staying on the shelf for now.

Did you read Midnight Sun? If not, what do you think about it from this review?

Sunday 20 December 2020

How to Have an Online Detox

As I mentioned in my Where Have I Been? post, I had to do a big online detox for the sake of my mental health. In this post I'm not going to delve into what caused me to take this action, this post is designed to help others do the same.

I initially was just going to take one week off. I had done this in October 2019, I was feeling triggered by certain posts online so came off without warning. I felt so much better, and had a clearer head after doing this, that I still have changed the way I use social media to this day. I just had not done enough. Since last year, I turned off notifications from social media apps so that when I pick up my phone I'm not bombarded with notifications; I find it sometimes very overwhelming.

1. Pick a duration for your detox

I have previously found that a week is a good amount of time, I just think it depends on the circumstances for the break. In both cases for me I had variations of mental/emotional breakdowns, however my most recent episode was very strong; therefore needing more time away. In the end I spent one month completely away from social media.

2. Delete all social media apps from your phone (check that you've backed up apps like WhatsApp to easily reinstall later)

For this to really work you need to delete them all. If you're worried about certain people needing to contact you, then inform them that you won't be accessible via that platform and perhaps then contact them just through text messages. Remember, that part of this is being away from your phone, so it might be good not to have it blowing up every few minutes. Pick your key people. I only let one friend know beforehand because I spoke to them the most, and saw them almost weekly. I didn't want to message everyone, because I didn't want everyone to know how much I was struggling. I didn't want questions or sympathy, I just needed time.

3. Stop news notifications

I found that the onslaught of Covid-19, Lockdown updates and US news was frying my brain. It's information that is easy to obtain within a few seconds, but I've tried to keep it all at an arms length. There's many worldwide events and movements that I'm invested in (for example Black Lives Matter and the protests in Nigeria), but I needed to fix myself before I could help and support those causes. 

4. Resist the urge to head over to social media platforms on computers or other devices 

I am the worst for procrastinating during work, and quickly opening a new tab and heading over to Twitter to scroll for 20-30 minutes, losing precious productivity. I am so happy that I have resisted this old habit, and I have been so much more productive; I spent a good week applying for 20+ jobs and researching either for jobs. 

Even after I checked my messages on my social accounts, I did a really soft return to social media. I didn't want to have a relapse straight away and be back at square one. Even now, I'm getting better at scrolling past negative and triggering posts. Not letting that energy take over my brain. I'm just about ready to come back to my activism, my heart and mind has never been as heavy as this year. I really want to try and give as much support to causes I care about, and help the fight for true equality. 

With the festive season upon us, I think it's a really important time to have an online detox. Whether that's the week over Christmas, or just the day itself. It's so damaging to compare your Christmas with others, especially when we might not be with our families at all this year. Personally, I'm either going to be offline for the whole day, or I might just post photos with Connor and his family, and our Christmas meal; nice and easy wholesome content. 

Let me know if you've done something like this before, or if you're willing to give one a go! Honestly, there's nothing like a clear social-media-free mind. You can't buy that kind of clarity.

Stay safe x


Thursday 17 December 2020

Where Have I Been?

Some of you may have noticed, some of you might be like "you were gone? gone where?". Well, half way through October my mental health finally caved in. I knew throughout the first lockdown that I was struggling, but I didn't really have any signs or symptoms. It wasn't until around August that I could feel myself snapping at small things, having emotional breakdowns whilst at work and starting to feel physical symptoms of anxiety. Most of my anxious thoughts were in my head from January, and I think I had no idea what was happening in 2020 so I couldn't process these worries.

I feel like the beginning of the pandemic was the earthquake, and now I'm feeling the aftershock. 

Shot by Connor Cleary at Durdle Door during my break in October

There was nothing special about the day where I completed broke. I woke up as usual, a bit groggy but nothing out of the ordinary. I had been wanting to start writing down my moods and emotions since I had been feeling extremely angry and anxious a lot, so I began to write a mixture of positive and negative events and feelings. Whilst doing this I started to feel off. My body just didn't feel quite right. I had to start doing deep controlled breaths, but the panic was already there. I began to feel queazy, thinking I might actually throw up. I felt hot and claustrophobic, although I was in a spacious room on my own with easy access to open the windows. I headed to the bathroom because I knew something was wrong. A few days prior to this I had been worrying that I had anxious IBS symptoms, and on this day I was granted my answer. I don't often get my IBS symptoms unless there's a particular nervous occasion; like a job interview. 

Of all the places to finally have a huge breakdown, the toilet would not be my first choice. My depression and anxiety finally took over my mind and body. I was crying, shaking, struggling to breathe and my head hurt so much. I knew I wasn't alone in the house and I did not want an audience so I had to try and keep my sobs and gasps of breath quiet, which is super hard when you've lost all control of yourself. Once I managed to get off the toilet I curled up in the bed; a safe comfy place to try and calm down. I needed something comforting so I popped Gilmore Girls on the TV. I could feel myself start to slowly float back down to earth. Trying to comprehend what the hell happened and why. Before my episode I had texted Connor so say I wasn't feeling well, and I wasn't sure why. He was out working, and I don't normally message him stuff like this when he's at work, but I was alone and worried. He called me up when travelling to another job to see what was wrong. I was still extremely fragile and I didn't really want to get into it. Over the years Connor has really tried to understand my mental health, and has been a huge part of my support network. However, now was not a great time for his questions and lack of understanding. The whole phone call ended up being very triggering and my episode turned into a two parter. I was just wailing on the phone and not getting anywhere. I knew I had to end the call if I had any hope of recovering quickly.

I returned to controlled deep breaths and trying to clear my mind of everything that made me lose my mind.

What happened? I hear you ask.

If I had to draw a timeline, I'd say I still had a lot of loose ends from my cognitive behavioural therapy sessions back in 2016. The therapy was amazing and really helped me get back on my feet, but unfortunately as a free service the course had an expiration date. I had learned coping mechanisms and unlearned unhealthy behaviours, but I hadn't really learned how to look after myself and how to check in with my mental health. I had a lot of traumatic things happen between 2015 and 2016 and they really did a number on me.

As I threw myself into my university work and getting a job when I graduated, I was just refocussing my brain and distracting it. When I was made redundant in April 2019, again I threw myself into getting another job and having money to pay my bills and get out of debt. I never really processed the redundancy, and cracks in my emotions and mental health started to show a little while into these new jobs. So much so that I had a breakdown in the first week of a new job, and had to take the whole weekend off work because I was struggling and was so overwhelmed. I am not someone who likes to call in sick. Even after this, I continued to shut off my emotions. I told myself I didn't have time to crumble, I didn't have time to tune into what was going on with me. That it was the best course of action for me.

Wrong. That's the worst thing I could do.

All I was doing by putting everything in crammed boxes in my brain, and pushing them to the furthest side, was letting the problems brew longer. Letting them multiply until they finally burst out at the most inconvenient moment. When actually I need to set aside time, pick a box and begin to organise and process its contents. Being aware of what's in those boxes is far more healthier than being ignorant. Still I did not put this into practise. I changed jobs, and kept my head down whilst I proved my worth and got myself out of my overdraft. 

In January of this year, we all started to pay attention to the coronavirus outbreak in China. When I saw this news, I knew immediately that this was not good. I've only lived through two similar events; bird flu and swine flu. Both of which were quite mild in the end, but I remember it taking over our lives and taking hand sanitiser everywhere. Yet we all carried on going to school and work, nothing stopped. I was worried that Connor and I weren't going to be able to go to New York; should we wear masks? Can we cancel? Well, there's no reported cases so it must be ok, right? To my knowledge we were fine, but I remember being very conscious of touching surfaces and making sure we sanitised, just in case. When we got back a fellow Brit arrived in the UK from France the same day, just a different airport. This man unknowingly had infected his group on holiday and tested positive when he arrived back. I couldn't believe how close I felt to it. But it was all fine, not our airport, no symptoms. 

When I started obsessively checking the news at the beginning of the year, I noticed that my eating habits started to rise. More binge eating, snacking and pudding intake was on the rise. Usually I'd just give myself some time, get it out of my system. However, my appetite didn't seem to be slowing down. After awhile, I put it down to stress eating. I was subconsciously really stressed about this virus, and was eating as a coping mechanism. I remember when we started to have more and more cases being reported, that I'd look around at work and in public spaces. People were just walking around like normal? But there was a pandemic unraveling? I started to try and leave plenty of space between myself and others, not touch door handles and wash my hands a lot more (not that I was an unclean person before). I began to social distance from my parents as a precaution because I did not want to be a part of the spread. I wasn't scared about catching it at this point, I just didn't want to feel responsible for passing it onto vulnerable people. 

On 23rd March, the prime minister announced an immediate national lockdown and I was officially terrified. This was now serious in the eyes of our nation, and many others. All of a sudden five adults were mostly confined to our house (with the exception of work or exercise). Usually we all come and go because of varying schedules, but now the house felt very small and cramped. Trying to find a space to unwind became more difficult. I could feel my mind on edge because of all of the uncertainty, and having no answers. It did not help that for the majority of the week I'd be at work with around 50+ colleagues, and sometimes not able to maintain social distancing and at the time; no masks. Being so afraid of other humans and trying to picture in my head two shopping trolleys to see if there's appropriate distance. Running in the road and holding my breath as I pass pedestrians. Recoiling when anyone outside of my household tries to touch me. All of this was chipping away at me. I had no physical symptoms of anxiety, but I could feel it there, just below the surface. We're good friends, basically family so I know it quite well now. Just not well enough to know how to stop it. 

Lockdown came and went, restrictions were lifted. I gladly saw friends and family following the rules, however feeling very drained and feeling anxious, but only temporarily. I'd sometimes limit how much I'd socialise in a week, to stop this drained feeling. 

Then, the outbursts started. At work I could feel myself getting irate and a bit irrational, I could feel myself on the verge of hulking out. Of course I'd try and use my rational voice to calm down, I don't want to actually have a violent outburst whether it's verbal, punching or kicking objects. I'd have to take myself off for an impromptu toilet break to neutralise. On the opposite spectrum for me, was emotional breakdowns. Almost for no reason bursting into tears uncontrollably for lengths of time. As I started to lose count of these episodes, I knew something more was coming. I didn't know what, or when but I could see a huge breakdown on the horizon and I couldn't change paths. When talking to my lovely MindMappers we rate how we are on a scale of 1-10, and I kept finding that I had been at 4/5 for quite a while. In limbo. Not ever really feeling consistently happy, but not always feeling down either; neutral. Knowing that all over the world we were all feeling the same uncertainty, people suffering and being scared. We are all united in this one horrible event. Yet no one knows the way out. I thought that maybe it would help, knowing I wasn't alone. But knowing that no one can help, or have any answers just made me feel worse. 

A few weeks before my major breakdown, I downloaded Headspace and started to make fairly regular time to meditate, just take some time out for myself and breathe. I really enjoy meditation, but I'm terrible at sticking with things. I also think it was too little too late. I was grasping at straws to try and mend the wreckage in my brain.

During my episode I was overwhelmed with thoughts of: Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, our bumbling government making terrible decision after terrible decision, my less than ideal job, not having a house, a handful of health problems all running through my brain and frying it like an egg. I was focussed on all of them at once, and it was like multiple people were shouting inside my head. It felt like my head was going to EXPLODE. All rationale had gone out the window. I had lost myself. I hadn't felt like this in so long, so weak and small. Fragile. One blow of air and I would shatter.

One of the biggest, immediate things I wanted to do was to come completely offline for a period of time. I had been struggling with the bombardment of horrible events, negative and bitchy posts everywhere, everyone fighting with each other online and looking for arguments. I had done a social media break before for a week last year, and it did wonders for clearing my head. At this time my head was a deep thick fog, so I didn't second guess this decision. All social media apps were deleted: Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and WhatsApp (I realised too late that I didn't back up my messages and that I couldn't access this on my computer; idiot). I also turned off news notifications and avoided it whenever possible. I have a post coming all about my whole online detox. 

The thing I hadn't planned, was being offline for a month. No, you don't need to adjust your screens; I said one month. I don't think I've ever been offline for that long since before social media was created. It's really been a blessing and I definitely needed more than a week, I reckon I would've had a relapse shortly after. I am not ready for another one, I do not have the energy to keep dragging myself out of this dark pit. Depression and anxiety separately are awful, but together it's an even more monstrous cocktail. In this time away I've had a lot more time to think, to assess my life and make changes for the better. This may include a complete rebrand across my blog and social media (possible post to follow).

I don't plan on going anywhere anytime soon, but my habits with social media need to change. I've always been very susceptible to the negative side of social media, and I need to do more to look after myself. After giving some time to recover from my breakdown, from the bad news of my car's MOT and an eye injury (yeah bad stuff tends to happen all at once for me) I've been trying to work out things to keep me grounded, and in check with my mental and physical health. I started doing yoga before bed thanks to the #21DayChallenge with the MindMapper crew and it was so refreshing to set myself some time each day just for me. 

I'm going to continue with certain activities, and I'll do a write up if I find that they've helped - because they might just help someone else too. 

This post turned out to be much longer than expected, but I wanted to give a good insight into why I've been quiet online and hopefully you can relate to my experience as well. You are not alone, there are plenty of people out here to help.


Wednesday 16 December 2020

In Isolation | Day One

Before I get into this post, I just want to make it clear that the purpose of this piece is to purely write about how I feel. It's not meant to be political, or pointing blame, this is something that is currently happening in my life and I want to be able to express myself. For me, for others who have been in the same shoes, or those who just want to know what it's like.

Taken in The New Forest by Connor Cleary a few weeks before my self-isolation

It's 1am, I just finished my first break at work. I returned to the aisle I was working down, and wanted to play some music to find a new notification from the NHS Covid-19 App. My first thought was that it was just going to change our tier alert to something vague whilst they review our cases. I was actually slapped in the face with this message:

"You need to self-isolate for eight days"

I think I was just in shock at first, on a whim I sent screenshots of the message to my manager and she said I had to leave the store immediately. It's every colleagues dream to get sent home, yet I didn't want to go. I grabbed my things, clocked out and left with the promise that my pay will be covered for the shifts that fall within my isolation time. Colleagues leapt back five metres when I told them I had to self-isolate, they knew it was odd that I was leaving halfway through the shift, and as I said I was in shock. It wasn't until I got home that it really sunk in. I had been somewhere with a person who recently tested positive for Covid-19. I have to self-isolate for eight days, no work, no walks or outdoor exercise. I texted my boyfriend (who I live with) and left a note for his parents to see in the morning, because I felt I had a duty to let them know. I have no idea who this person was, where this exposure was, I am completely in the dark. 

That's when the anxiety and panic set in. My heart pounding, struggling to breathe at a normal rate, my thoughts running at a million miles an hour. Everyone was asleep, I couldn't talk to anyone about this and how I was feeling. I was alone. So many questions running wild in my mind: who was this stranger I'd been in contact with? Do I have it? Is my throat sore? What is happening?

The app literally doesn't give you any information other than when you're free to go back into the wild. I can see all the places I checked into, and I believe the app is active when I'm at work. It doesn't really help narrow it down. Whether it was from work or a restaurant, there's not much else I could've done. I wear masks when I'm supposed to, I sanitise and wash my hands like an obsessed person, but I'm relying on this infected person to have done their best. My fate rests in everyone's hands. I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true. We all have to work together to protect one another, to one day become a Covid-19 free country. By refusing to wear a mask for political reasons, because it's uncomfortable or unfashionable, you're putting us all at risk. Covid-19 is our enemy and that's where the fight should be.

To make things clear, I'm not and have never been worried about myself in this scenario. I've been worried about the domino effect, if I catch the virus. I don't want my actions to cause another person ill health, or worse. It's been my ethos this whole time. 

For the next week, I will be following the guidance on self-isolating. I'm quite lucky that most of my upcoming events are online, or any errands I can pass on to someone else. The moment I realised I couldn't leave the house at all, I felt trapped. Since Lockdown 1.0 I have enjoyed going on walks, getting fresh air and getting out of the house. I wasn't planning on seeing my family over Christmas, because I just didn't think it'd be a good idea. Living separately from both of my parents adds more households, and nearly all of us in my household and my parent's households have public facing jobs. If we were able to all self-isolate before Christmas then maybe it might work, but for us that's not possible. With this new potential exposure for me, I definitely will not be seeing anyone outside of my household.

Currently, I don't think I have any symptoms but as a young person I could be asymptomatic, so I want to take precautions. I don't want to scaremonger, I just want to inform you of what it's like as a person with anxiety and mental health issues, how something like this can affect you. Also, what to expect if you are to get a self-isolation notification. 

I will most likely post mini updates on my Instagram page related to how my mental health is coping with this sudden isolation. 

I sincerely hope you are all well, and coping as best as you can in these strange times. My heart truly goes out to all of you struggling with all of the Covid-19 information, if you're shielding, isolating or working on the frontlines. I also hope you're able to have a safe and Merry Christmas. 

Please keep taking precautions as best as you can 🙏 


Tuesday 8 December 2020

My Favourite Etsy Shops for Christmas Shopping | Blogmas

I think like most people, this year I really utilised Etsy and all of the amazing small businesses that have set up shop there. I'm always looking for new shops to buy from whether it's a little treat for me, or shopping for presents. There's something for everyone on Etsy. I've rounded up some of my favourite shops in time for Christmas! 

By The Seaside

This shop has actually been created by one of my close friends; Sofia. I'm so proud of her, and have loved seeing her business grow and develop. I have bought plenty of amazing scented wax melts for presents for friends and family members, there's a scent for every one and they look so cute. By The Seaside is always improving how they can be more environmentally friendly, with recyclable packaging; what's more to love?

Favourite item: Soy Wax Melts Custom Gift Box


I found a lot of small businesses through Twitter this year, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw AlicexLizzy's gorgeous homemade clay earrings. I love the variety of designs and sizes, I have quite small lobes and was glad to see sizes to suit me. Since finding her store several months ago I have definitely expanded my collection of clay earrings.

Favourite item: Clay Earrings Christmas Bundle

Ugly Lines Art

Again, I know the talented owner of this shop. Connor has both an Etsy shop for his uniquely hand drawn artwork, and another online shop for Football prints and accessories. I love that this shop has diverse products depending on your tastes, from sport to notable actors and my local Spinnaker Tower. 

Favourite item: The Din-Naker Tower Print 

Holly Emily Designs

I found Holly Emily Designs when browsing for presents, and I have my eye on a few items...You've got Christmas decorations, presents and products for everyday use. I'm also a sucker for personalised options on gifts, this shop has all kinds of items you can add a personal touch to.

Favourite item: Rainbow Ceramic Bauble Decoration

Dunbar Print

If you're looking for prints, I love this shop. There's a variety of memorable location prints, sassy fun quotes and even custom lyrics to jazz up your home. 

Favourite item: Met, Engaged and Married Print

Hello Marilu Studio

I found this shop when looking for Christmas decorations, and love the gorgeous baubles pictured above and found lots more interesting items. There is something for everyone whether it's Christmassy items, prints, and plant pots. 

Favourite item: Bauble Brush Lettering Craft Kit

YR Candles

This time of year is perfect to add a few new additions to your candle collection. There's nothing cosier than getting wrapped up in blankets, popping a comfort film on and having the subtle flicker of a candle with your favourite scent filling the room. This store has so many different scents that I wouldn't have thought of before. Reading on a Rainy Day is perfect for book worms and it wouldn't be Christmas without the smell of gingerbread.

Favourite item: Christmas Gingerbread Candle

Have a huge Disney fan in your family? This shop is your answer. Whether they've visited the Disney Parks or are major fans yet to visit, these patches and prints are perfect for them.

Favourite item: Attraction A4 Art Prints

I'd love to have some more recommendations for your favourite Etsy shops, leave them in the comments and let me know which of the above you like!

Friday 18 September 2020

An Evening at Koop + Craft | AD PR Event

I was delighted to see on the Pompey Bloggers page that Koop + Kraft were hosting an event to try some of their food and drinks. I had actually only ever heard of the restaurant from fellow blogger Kat, she posts about a lot of local restaurants and events - definitely go and check her blog out! My excitement levels were very high from seeing Kat's posts.

Located just on London Road, Waterlooville it's a lovely location just outside of the town centre. The restaurant has a nice cosy feel to it, with aesthetic lights dotted around. I really loved the kooky pattern on the wall pictured above. There are mostly several semi circle booths, which is great for social distancing and keeping to your party, but also enables you to see and talk to everyone. I ended up sharing a booth with Jacob from The Eats Sheets as all of the evening's food was for sharing (I know, I wish I didn't have to share food either) but actually there was too much for the both of us! 

When I saw K+K's rather large drinks menu, I had no idea what I wanted. There's local spirits, so many cocktails and mocktails as well as your usual beers and soft drinks. I went for the Isle of Wight Distillery - Mermaid Pink Gin with lemonade, and my word it was delicious. I've had a few variations of pink gin, and after awhile you start thinking most of them taste the same. But not this one. It had an ever so slight extra sweet fruity flavour to it. I saw a few of the other guests have a Sunrise Sour that is made with a ball of smoke that you can pop before you drink it - I kind of wish I ordered one for myself, but the gin did hit the spot.

I wasn't sure just how much food was on offer for the evening, but when the waitresses started bring over dish after dish, I knew we were in for a challenge. Above we had Chicken Wings, Cheesy Fries, Halloumi Fries, Curry Fries, Cheesy Garlic Bread, more Halloumi Fries, Dirty Fries and Buttermilk Chicken Tenders. A carb lovers dream. I think I've only ever had buttermilk chicken in burgers or BBQ stacks in big chain restaurants. It was nice to read about the process that K+K do to create their buttermilk, and really experience the taste on it's own. It has a very distinct flavour, I was expecting the taste and texture to be similar of southern fried chicken, instead of the outer coating sliding off the chicken in a greasy way, it stays softly to the chicken. I found it to be more of a softer eating experience.

Then we had two halves of two burgers; Cheese Please and Bacon and Black, yup you read that right. "Black" as in black pudding. I was sceptical too. I don't think I've ever had black pudding before, and to be honest I had been put off trying it. However, I thought I'm at a nice event with free food so what's the harm? At first I really couldn't taste much difference, then I asked Jacob what it's supposed to taste like. He described it as a sort of peppery spicy flavour, then I noticed that I could taste it and it wasn't what I expected at all! In a good way. Both burgers were so delicious. 

And some people might call dessert the most exciting part of a meal, I must admit I am one of those people. I bloody love a dessert and I don't care who hears it. I will always make room for pudding. Boy, was I happy to see Churros come out on that platter. Partnered with Deep Fried Oreo's and Kinder Bueno Bites. I had never seen or heard of anyone deep fry an Oreo, but it was amazing. I loved that it was picky puddings, as they felt "lighter" and you had the chance to try a bit of everything.

I had such a lovely evening, the staff were really friendly and helpful and it was great to meet George - the owner as well. I will definitely be back to try more sides and burgers, they also have a variation of classic meals as well as burgers. If you are vegan or veggie, there are options for you as well. I also just saw that they make some tasty looking milkshakes, and one in my favourite flavour at the moment...Biscoff. Since lockdown restrictions have been lifted (sort of) it's been so nice to explore more local independent restaurants and new food. 

Thank you so much to Koop + Kraft for having me, your food and drink were absolutely amazing and I can't wait to introduce more people to the restaurant! Also thank you for the wonderful goodie bag of freebies and discounts for independent and local businesses (Make Up By Hope, Village Gym, Time 4 Nutrition, Prepped By Koop, Elle's Salon, Graceful Scents, Valerie Rose, Gym Buddy, Lixir Drinks and HMS Spirits)

*This opportunity was gifted as a free experience to try some of K+K's menu, all words and opinions are my own, with no obligation to post a positive review. 


Saturday 15 August 2020

Getting the Chop for The Little Princess Trust


If you know me, you will probably have realised my long hair has been a part of my identity for quite a few years. I rarely ever go short or medium length, because it's my security blanket and my most beloved accessory. Where I've been working in retail I mostly have my hair up when I work, to keep it out of my face and to prevent myself pulling on it. I realised over Lockdown that it had gotten extremely long; I had been struggling to put my hair up in one of my easy buns, due to it's length. It got me thinking; "what could I do with this mane, but also could I use it to help others?". I've always tried to be a charitable person, and help where I can. But I could do more. More donations and more fundraisers. Since my last major chop back in 2011, I have seen many women cutting off their hair for The Little Princess Trust. Yes, my hair is long enough to give a good donation, but it is in no way healthy enough to donate. TLPT ask for a minimum of 7 inches of hair up to 16 inches of hair. It needs to be healthy, no split ends/damage and natural colour or the same "natural" dye. My hair is also multi-coloured because of previous bleach, brown dye, red dye and whatever the sun bleaches it to.

I was disappointed that I couldn't actually donate my hair for wigs to help children who've been through cancer. They are always after donations, and I imagine it's a really hefty job to go through the donations, modify the hair to make the best wigs to make a child smile. I thought the least I could do is raise money for this charity so they can either use it for wigs or research into cancer. I set myself a small goal of £100 because I don't personally do a lot of fundraising, I wanted something achievable otherwise I'd feel let down, and that I'd let the charity down. At the time of this posting the donations come to £135, which I was ecstatic over.

When deciding how much to cut off, I thought 10 inches was a good number to try and get people interested and involved in my fundraising. I even umm-ed and ahh-ed if I went shorter would I have any quality hair to donate, but I think a lot of it is damaged from not being looked after, and as previously mentioned too many different colours. Oops. In my fundraising photo I roughly drew where I was having the chop, and just seeing it even just as a drawn line was scary for me. I have quite irrational haircut "anxiety" (I don't know if this is actually a thing). Any sort of change or drastic change; I freak out. I wanted these changes, and imagine them for quite a while. I don't do anything impulsively. After I get these new cuts and dyes, it takes me a while to get used to seeing the new change. In past times I've had a little cry to myself, but then a few days later I'll love it. 

The day of the cut; Friday 14th August.

I washed and brushed my long hair one last time. Sad to see it go, but also happy for a new change. Fae is my hairdresser and we were both excited for this (Fae is mobile and you can also find her at Wispers). I had also decided to go back in time to 2014 and get a fringe again, as well as have a new colour; darker brown mixed with warm tones. The first thing we did was the chop. Fae took chunks off and asked if it was ok, it did feel a lot shorter but I felt I could go a tad further after dyeing. When the dye was done, and my hair dried I assessed the outcome so far. It still looked quite long, but technically short for me and my previous 29 inches of hair. We took some after photos and when I got out my measuring tape Fae said we were at 21 inches, not the 19 inches I had promised everyone. Although the idea of going even shorter was terrifying, I had to keep my morals and have the other two inches off. I went back to the chair and nervously waited for Fae to stop snipping away until we hit 19 inches. I just kept telling myself it was all for a good cause and it'd grow back if I didn't like it.

I forget how different a fresh cut and a good chop feels like. Your hair becomes all bouncy and full of life again. It feels all silky from the new dye. Plus I always love having my hair styled after a trip to the hairdressers! Then it was all over. My old identity laying on the ground beneath my chair, a new colour and fringe that takes me back half a decade. Plus a lovely donation for The Little Princess Trust. It definitely makes me want to look after my hair, not just because you should, but so I can do this again with longer and healthier hair to donate for wigs.

At the moment my Just Giving Page is still open if you are able to donate! Anything will do to help an amazing cause.

Thank you x

Links to information and social media pages:


Sunday 9 August 2020

25 Things I've Learned Before Turning 25

Hello it's my birthday! 

The big 25. It's a bit weird to think I'm now the equivalent to a quarter of a century...And also edging ever so closer to 30. I'm trying not to worry about it because life happens. To enjoy the moments that I do have. I thought now is a good a time to do one of these "lessons learned" things. I love reading other people's posts, because we all have different journeys that means we all learn slightly different things. 

Well here's what I've learned so far (and probably missing a few but my memory is awful lol)...

Taken by Connor Cleary

1. You can have different friendships of varying qualities, you don't have to be best friends with everyone.
2. Treat yourself like a plant, you need watering, feeding and sunlight - but also maybe like a dog?
3. You don't need to wash your hair everyday. It's too much effort and is bad for your hair.
4. You are the only one in control of your happiness, don't push that responsibility onto anyone else.
5. When you feel like you're going to explode with anger, take a minute and breathe. Let your rational thoughts have time to surface. You don't have to react to everything right away.
6. There is no set path for life, everyone's is different. So stop comparing.
7. Stop living month to month, prepare for the future.
8. Even though having a skincare routine and moisturising your body is a hassle, it's worth it and you'll feel great afterwards.
9. Only buy one extra of essential items. There's no need to clutter cupboards and drawers.
10. You can really do it if you put your mind to it. JUST DO IT.
11. Take breaks from social media, I promise you no one will even notice that you've gone.
12. Sing and dance your heart out in your car, if you don't make eye contact with anyone it's like no one can see you.
13. There's always another side to a story. 
14. Believe in second chances, but always be careful.
15. SPF moisturiser is a game changer.
16. Always make time for self care, whether that's reading, meditation, exercise or face masks, it will make you feel more human. 
17. Family is important. Make time for your loved ones, get off that couch and go grab a coffee with them.
18. It's ok to say no to social events, sometimes it's best not to force yourself to go out.
19. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is ridiculous, only go somewhere that you really want to go.
20. Laughter is the best medicine, be it if it's from a comedy, funny video or out laughing with friends.
21. To do lists are a lifesaver, and really help you stay on stop of things.
22. If you can do it today, do it. Save tomorrow-you the task, you never know what tomorrow will bring.
23. Actions speak louder than words. There are plenty of nice words to say to people, but if you prove it in actions, it's priceless. 
24. Don't be afraid of ageing, it's a blessing to have the opportunity to grow old.
25. Be humble, sometimes you have to realise there's so much more than you in this world.

I hope you've enjoyed my post, I still have plenty in the works (I know even I'm tired of hearing this from me). I have had a lot of little projects going on so certain things have had to take a break but I will be getting more posts out on a semi-regular basis!

What's on your list of things you've learned? 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Visiting Restaurants in a Pandemic When You Have Anxiety

I don't know about you, but this whole pandemic has really been feeding my anxiety. I've had a lot of moments where I have been feeling quite agoraphobic. Which I haven't felt in quite a few years. In the height of my mental health problems I often felt scared to leave the house, and I had to use public transport a lot which would also set off the feeling trapped part of agoraphobia. I have only left the house when necessary; for work or essential errands. Even then I'd wear a mask and take my hand sanitiser everywhere, and would start to get panicky feelings when someone got too close. Most of the shops I have been in were quick in and out jobs. That is until I had to queue in Wilko's and the system wasn't very clear, a few customers nearly got into an argument over it. That feeling of knowing that people were behind me and too close had me on edge. The queue was going down an aisle, and I started to feel nervous if customers wanted to get to the products next to me. It also didn't help that when I was walking round the shop, the staff didn't seem to care if you were there or not. When I'm wearing a mask it makes me really claustrophobic because it can feel like my breathing's restricted, but it's not. I wear one to protect myself and others, and would rather deal with feeling uncomfortable for a few moments than risk catching or spreading Covid-19.

I know that shops and restaurants have to open up so that people can keep jobs and the economy can keep going, but going to them just terrifies me. I've seen the lack of social distancing and lack of common sense from some of the public. We've all spent three to four months mainly confined to our homes with the same people. I found it really jarring when I could meet up with my friends and family members, because it felt kind of weird. At least in shops and socialising there's usually an easy exit. I just feel like in pubs and restaurants it might not be that easy. I don't want to be in a busy environment. I don't want to feel trapped.

As much as I miss "normality" and going out for food and drinks, I'd rather be cautious about returning to that way of life. To me, nothing about this is normal. This is a whole new world for most of us, and it's better to be safe than sorry. I have made myself relax to a certain extent, to test the water and visit a few places and thought I'd write about my experiences here for you.

My first mini trip out was to Whiteley, Fareham where my other half and I had a meeting at Starbucks (we sat outside), and afterwards we were a bit peckish and stopped by Five Guys. We love their burgers and fries, we usually only have this as an every now and then treat, as we don't indulge in a lot of takeaway food. Whiteley have tried to limit the amount of people visiting their shopping centre by closing off some of the car parks. It was really quiet walking around, and they had a pedestrian traffic system, by keeping customers to the left and having barriers in the middle of the walkway. There were only a few small groups of customers in Five Guys and plenty of spread out seating, we decided it would be ok to sit in as it would be quick. We sat in a booth near an open door so it felt nice and open. I didn't feel worried about sitting inside at all, and the staff were really friendly. Usually at Five Guys, you order at the counter and wait for your number to be called further along the counter. This time however, they gave you a number placeholder to take to your table and brought your order to you, whether you were taking away or sitting in to stop people gathering in the same spot.

Our second trip out was for a nice cheeky lunch meal, we walked from Fareham to Portchester to visit the Salt Cafe as I had heard so much about it online. Unfortunately, it was really busy with their outside seating and I felt uncomfortable being so close to other customers. They had also stopped serving lunch when we got there so we looked for somewhere else nearby for some pub grub. The Wicor Mill was only just up the road, and we had never been there before. When we walked in we were greeted by a member of staff and asked if we had booked, we hadn't but that was fine as there were plenty of tables at that time of day. They took our details for the track and trace of Covid-19 and showed us to an outside table, which was more than 2 metres away from the next tables; perfect. You could either order through the app or order at the bar and the staff bring your food and drinks to you. For some reason the app wasn't working for us so we had to order at the bar, but that wasn't an issue as I said before, it was quiet.

It was a much needed little treat out, and so great to have a couple of pints and enjoy the sunshine. We are both so busy at the moment juggling work and a few other projects, so it was nice to take some time out and get out of the house. We both had steak and melted cheese ciabattas and shared a little portion of chips, it was a gorgeous little lunch meal.

Last but not least, my friend and I had been having some coffee dates at CrumbleJack down Fareham high street. Before lockdown this was one of my favourite places to have avocado and egg on toast, I have no idea what they do to it, but it's so damn delicious. At our first coffee meet up we were able to sit outside (you can see a pattern here) and it was really comfortable. Next time we thought we'd have a bite to eat, and we indulged in their masterpiece. They had perspex screens by the tills and brought food and drinks to the table, and had a little hand sanitiser station as you walk in the coffee shop.

Even though I've only been out a handful of times eating and drinking out, I've been fairly happy with those experiences. A lot of my friends have had successful trips to pubs and restaurants and it's good to hear people enjoying themselves again. I'm just not ready to be sat inside a busy pub or restaurant yet, but I'm getting there.

My advice to you if you haven't been out yet, and are feeling apprehensive is to research the places you want to go to first. I find it helpful to read about how the businesses have altered their establishments to make them safe for customers, and if they have photos of these then that's a bonus. If that doesn't make you feel calmer, then why not pop them a message or call them up? Most independent businesses will get back to you really quickly. If that also doesn't work, just be cautious and have a look from outside when you go to visit. You don't have to commit to staying there if you have walked in and gotten a table, you have the choice to leave if you're uncomfortable. If you do book a table and change your mind before going, please contact the business to let them know so then they can give the table to someone else. I've seen a few posts going around social media where restaurants have lost out on money because people didn't cancel their booking.

Have you been out to any pubs and restaurants yet? Pop me a message in the comments, I'd love to hear about your experiences!
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