Holding my breath

I’ve been thinking about how good I feel in myself at the moment and comparing it to all the other times that I’ve felt similarly free, happy in myself and able to eat moderately instead of experiencing low self-esteem and using food as a comfort when I feel sad/angry/frustrated/tired.

I always felt scared with my good fortune when I felt well in myself and when my eating was not disordered. I rarely shared what was going on for me when I felt as well as I currently do, because I feared it was only a matter of time before the penny would drop and I would return to my usual pattern of feeling unhappy in my skin and ashamed of myself.

The only way I can describe how I felt is like the experience of holding my breath under water. The pressure building and building until I have no option but to return to how I was before.

Disliking my body and eating to comfort myself.

But it feels different this time.

I’m asking myself what has changed…

How am I able to share my good fortune without feeling like I’m going to break?

What leads me to feel that things are different this time?

Here are my thoughts…

I accept who I am

I am quiet, thoughtful, assuming, gentle, fierce, loving, competitive, stubborn, talented, respectful, impatient, sharp, faithful, strong, playful, determined and so much more.

I prefer to be with small numbers of people instead of a large crowd.

I hate small talk and love heart-to-heart conversations.

A good time for me is being in a bath and reading, having a coffee and chat with a close friend, walking in nature or playing with my son and my husband.

I love time alone and need it to be at my best.

I love sleep and I need enough of it to function well.

As I accept who I am, I put myself in situations in which I can thrive.

I’m proud of who I am

This goes further than accepting myself. I actively allow myself to enjoy and be confident in who I am.

I’m rejecting the rhetoric that states I should be modest and not believe in myself, because I think that I’m good, kind, hardworking and am proud of who I am.

I was brought up hearing that ‘no one likes a show off’ and, while I don’t plan on marching down the street with a banner proclaiming how fan-f*cking-tastic I am, I see that the message I internalised was ‘don’t think highly of yourself’.

I focused on what was ‘wrong’ with me and didn’t speak kindly to myself, celebrating what I was good at.

But now I speak kindly to myself and think highly of myself.

I’ve battled and overcome an eating disorder which has claimed the lives of many.

I’ve created a career for myself which is meaningful and enjoyable.

I have a loving family and have people around me who care for me because of who I am.

I’m talented.

I’m proud of who I am.

I’m grateful

Brené Brown writes about the fear we can often feel when life is going well – like when I’m basking in love for my son and all of a sudden an image of him falling down a flight of steps pops into my mind.

She says the antidote to this is gratitude.

Likewise, in the past when I was feeling happy in myself, I’d have a thought pop into my head of ‘this is never going to last’. And I’d listen to this voice – I lived in fear for when my good luck would come crashing down.

But now I’m practicing gratitude.

I’m thankful for my body which is strong and beautiful.

It shows marks of my time on this earth – the laughter lines, the grey hairs and the freckles that come out in the sun.

I’m thankful for this time where I’m able to eat with balance and where I feel attuned to myself.

I’m grateful for being able to speak up and ask for what I want and need from other people.

My anger

I used to be angry with myself for being who I was.

How could I be so weak? Why was I so sensitive? Why couldn’t I get grip?!

But now I’m more angry at our society which paints beauty and how women should be in a certain way which is so black-and-white.

Woman should be strong but not threateningly so. Women should be easy going and always up for a laugh. Women should be beautifully turned out but not through any effort. Women should be slender and toned or voluptuously hourglass-like.

And now that I see this for the bullshit that it is.

I don’t know how I can be a part of a movement of change which redefines women as the individuals they are apart from breaking the societal conventions which put non-perfect women in their place.

Going running with just my crop top on when it’s hot outside, even though it shows my stomach.

Not hiding the bits of me that don’t fit with convention.

Celebrating that I’ve donated all my high heels to charity and never want to wear them again.

Refusing to push my true self down. Being a disruptively strong woman, allowing myself to be less ‘easy breezy’.

Expressing myself

I was in bed last night and was asking the universe for guidance about how to expel the emotions I feel so strongly – anger, sadness, disappointment, anxiety.

I know it’s when I don’t have a way to release them that things unravel for me.

I wish I could cry, but this is something that doesn’t come very easily.

This morning I spent an hour dancing around my living room with Jenson to angry songs, joyful songs, sad songs…a real mix of different emotions.

And it felt good to have a physical experience of jumping and dancing and swinging and singing. An outlet for everything going on for me.

I think this might be my way of expressing what is going on. It feels good to discover this.

Taking care of myself

In the past when I felt at peace with myself and balanced in how I was eating, I would only eat exactly what I needed.

Worried that one bite too many might make me free fall into a cycle of eating too much again.

But this time I’m feeling able to treat myself with more generosity and kindness.

I’m eating enough food. I’m having treats. If I’m still hungry after a meal, I know I can always eat more.

I want to eat well. I want to nourish myself. I want space for cakes and treats as well as vegetables and salads and fruit. I want to be able to have my favourite drink at the pub – currently alcoholic ginger beer – instead of opting for the ‘healthier’ G&T.

It feels like I’m taking good care of myself and, with this level of self-care, it feels like I could eat this way forever.


So these are my thoughts and I hope they’ve been helpful to you, dear friend.

The truth is that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring – I may well have other periods of time where I feel like I’m holding my breath under water. But I’m grateful for the current reprieve and the beauty of loving myself, being proud of who I am and taking as much care of myself as I take care of my son.

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A narrow set of rules that just don’t work

I’ve been thinking about my age old stumbling block – my body – since I went to see the Guilty Feminist Live a few weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to hear the amazing music of Grace Petrie who is a singer/activist and also a self-proclaimed butch lesbian who never felt she fitted until she came to peace with who she was and how she looked.

And in hearing how she felt she didn’t belong because she didn’t fit into the ideal of femininity, I realised just how much I only feel I belong if I’m at my thinnest and fit into the female ideal of beauty.

I don’t really understand why I feel this way, but I do.

I don’t hold other people up to the same standard. If someone is overweight it doesn’t make me question their worthiness or think less of them.

I might wonder whether there’s a reason for it – some hurt they’re trying to bury with food, a medical reason, because they love food and don’t feel ashamed of being who they are in their body.

But with me, I believe being a bit soft round the edges shows me as weak, not able to cope, lacking in self-control and so many other things…

But after seeing Grace and marvelling at the idea of fully embracing myself, I’ve been wondering about a few things.

What if I lived by Grace’s words?

Some of her song lyrics – and the title of this post – are ‘a narrow set of rules that just don’t work’.

And that’s, in my ‘logical’ thinking moments something I understand about my thoughts about my size.

Not everyone is made to be a size 6/8/10/12.

And by saying ‘you must control yourself to stay thin and within these narrow views of beauty’ I’m saying to myself that it’s not ok to not be perfect.

But perfection isn’t real and these rules about what is ok to be, food-wise, is too narrow.

It’s not realistic.

It’s not something that works for me.

It’s not ok to not be ok

Food and body image becomes more problematic to me when I’m not doing ok.

When I’m treading on new and tricky ground.

When I’m challenging myself in areas that I’ve not challenged myself before.

And that’s what I’m doing at the moment – I’m out of my comfort zone and so it’s no wonder that the old self-critical voice and comfort-eating behaviour is creeping back.

It’s not a wonder really with the strides I’m taking in my life:

  • I’m shedding the thought that I mustn’t stand out or ask for things for risk of being thought of as a nuisance.
  • I’m getting the self-belief and assurance to take time for myself in my personal life. Seizing time for myself just as my husband does when he goes to park run on a Saturday or football on a Wednesday evening.
  • I’m doing different things at work which are new and uncomfortable – having challenging conversations, staying in ‘adult’ mode when I want to be the rescuing ‘parent’, considering how I might work as more of a team instead of staying safe through being self-sufficient.
  • So I suppose what I’m saying is that I’m not entirely ok at the moment.
  • But that’s ok.
  • When I am going through periods of growth, I tend to turn to food for comfort before I slowly unfurl into new territory.
  • And that’s ok.
  • I don’t quite believe that I could be a size 14/16/18 and still think of myself as fantastic, worthy, brilliant. But I’m recognising this and trying to change my inner dialogue.
  • I’m making headway.
  • What if I loved my body like I love my son’s body? 

    Like with other people, I don’t measure my son by his body. But it’s a part of him that I love. His beautiful, plump arms and legs ripe for the biting, his cheeks so soft to stroke and kiss as he lies next to me, sleeping.

    He could be twice or half the size and I would still look at him as perfection. And, although I love his body, it is a small part of who he is.

    He is his cheeky smile and his ability to spot small details at such a small age.

    He is his obsession with bubbles and his pushing around of Harold the Bear in his little pushchair.

    He is the ‘woof’ he says when he sees the dog and his concentration as I read story after story to him.

    He is his strong legs that allow him to toddle around.

    He is his hands that clap and his fingers that he moves to try to mimic ‘baby shark’.

    He is his body – and I love it for all it is – but he is so much more than that too.

    And to view it in isolation is to do him a grave injustice.

    To view my body in isolation is, likewise, to do myself a grave injustice.

    What if loving my body was a great act of rebellion?

    It does feel rebellious, the thought of accepting, loving and cherishing my body, whatever its size.

    To see rolls around my waist (just the act of writing this feels disgusting!) when I sit down without any sense of disappointment or judgement or disgust.

    To no longer look sidewise to see how narrow my body is because it’s just not a priority for me.

    To look at my body as I did just after giving birth to my son – with wonder, respect and gratitude for what it does for me.

    To not be defined by how I look.

    To not think I’m less deserving because of not being a small size 12 or that my body and my size has anything to do with my worth or my worthiness as a person.

    When I look at myself through this lens, it feels like a deeply rebellious act.

    It’s not an act of self-sabotage – pushing as much food as possible in myself to defy a society which tells me who I should be.

    It’s an act of deep self-love and freedom to nourish myself, give myself food I love and food that provides nutrients without any heed to my size.

    Without any pressure to my anything other than I am.

    Without any rules defining what I should or shouldn’t be.

    So where do I go from here?

    I accept that I still have far to go on my journey.

     I remind myself that it’s ok to not be ok.

    I send gratitude to the divinity of motherhood for the chance to see a love I want for myself mirrored in the love I have for my son.

    I see the small seed of hope for the future me.

    I am reminded to look at myself with love and compassion.

    And I’ll end this blog with some words from Grace’s beautiful song:

    “You will figure out what’s yours and that it’s got nothing to do with fitting neatly in a box that was constructed to make it seem like people come in just two teams and anything that’s in between ain’t good enough”

    Self-care

    I’m finding it really hard to write this post. I’ve written and deleted, written and deleted but still nothing seems to be coming out right.

    My words seem mundane, I’m worrying about who might take my words personally and read into them more than I intended, I question whether these are words to share or if they would be an overshare.

    And this all points in one direction – I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should have recently.

    It’s been a mentally and physically exhausting time and the effects are taking their toll on me.

    You see, the start of this year has been wonderful – celebrating my son’s first birthday, having two full weeks off work to spend with family – but it has also been trying beyond my limits with my routine out of kilter and, most distressing, Jenson not settling into nursery.

    It was hell to leave him screaming with distress at our nursery ‘settling’ sessions and difficult to come to terms with the fact that our little monkey might not be ready for being separated from us. For a week Gregg and I were left in the unknown of whether we would both need to reduce our hours at work to provide full-time care for our son since he was finding the transition to nursery too distressing.

    And as life as we knew it hung in the balance, it was unbearably hard.

    Did we parent him in a way that made a transition to nursery more difficult for him? Would Gregg still be in support of all the parenting decisions that are so important to me – co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, sling carrying – with his desire to support Jenson to be ‘independent’? How would our lives be if we were to cope on one salary? Would this impact plans that I dream for us as a family – plans that rely on our savings.

    And the stress was too much for me.

    Despite the fact that we turned a corner, he settled into nursery just in time – I’ve been left feeling broken and out of kilter.

    My back was agony since I was carrying so much tension and I turned back to my old habits of eating too much.

    Eating for comfort when things were too much.

    Eating sweet stuff at work when this is something I’ve rarely done over the years.

    Supplementing my lunch with crisps and other food that I didn’t need for hunger.

    Eating more desserts than I usually would.

    Eating more in social situations to squash my awkwardness or just because I was not being mindful of what I was eating.

    And I’ve been worried more about what other people think of me.

    I’ve clung onto the things that haven’t gone well at work and with friends and family.

    I’ve pulled out all the things from my past that I didn’t do well to beat myself up with.

    I’ve worried that I’m going to be ‘found out’, found wanting and that people will see me for the failure I am.

    I’ve felt not enough.

    I feel like my internal axis has shifted and suddenly I feel intrinsically ‘not ok’. I feel like my foundations have been shaken with the force of an earthquake and are full of cracks.

    So how do I get back to where I was before all this happened?

    The first thing is admitting that I’m not ok. I’ve been telling people – speaking to friends, telling my mum about how I’m feeling this weekend, sharing with my sister about what’s going on, speaking up when topics are causing my anxiety to spike to protect myself, talking to my husband about it all.

    The second thing is reminding myself that food is not the issue. It’s the manifestation of what is going on underneath. And so, while I need to pay attention to the food stuff and try to not stuff myself silly, the most important thing is what’s going on underneath – not loving myself, not expressing myself, not having a release for the emotions that I am feeling, not being kind to myself while everything is a bit trickier than normal.

    The third thing is remembering that this is just a moment in my life. It’s a hard moment, but just because I’ve gone a step back doesn’t mean that life will always be like this. It feels all encompassing at the moment when it’s just a short period of my life.

    The fourth thing is that I need to put my self-care at the top of my priority list. I need to take a lunch break at work, find some sort of exercise (apart from running around like a headless chicken to get everything done in life!), I could benefit with doing some short meditations, writing a bit more than I have recently, painting my nails, reading a good book, cuddling up more with my husband, checking in with close friends, spending time with my son doing nothing but playing, putting down my phone more, having some ‘cave time’ cooking alone in the kitchen with a podcast on.

    And finally I’ve requested some counselling through work to try to work out how I can be kinder to myself and how I can cope with my anxiety when everything feels a little bit harder than usual.

    I hope this post can help you if you’re going through a hard time. I hope you can take comfort from knowing you’re not the only one who has a dysfunctional way of coping with hardship – I’m in the same boat as you!

    It certainly feels better to have everything out in the open – to say I’m not ok, but that’s ok.

    Life is full of ups and downs and just because this bit is down doesn’t mean that it always will be.

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    Out of kilter

    It’s easy for me to think about and work on being authentic, true to myself and steadfast when I’m in my comfort zone.

    It’s another thing to be this when I’m thrown into another dynamic – Christmas with my in-laws, when I feel vulnerable at work, with old friends when I’m trying to be seen in a way that I haven’t myself to be allowed before.

    I’m wondering how I might try to be true to myself when I’m slightly out of kilter and feeling a bit unbalanced.

    My go-to in the past would be to wrap myself into different forms to fit the situation at hand.

    Swallowing my own thoughts and feelings. Showing or feigning interest in other people. Being the ‘happy one’, easy, breezy Amy, go-with-the-flow when I’m not often that sort of person.

    I’d drink myself away.

    Or secretly eat my feelings in moments of solitude.

    I’d worry about being too much or not enough.

    And I’d get frustrated with other people for not being like me. Not getting me.

    But now I find myself in a different situation.

    The people pleasing Amy doesn’t seem to fit me anymore. I feel such a desire to be true to myself, to show the real me.

    But I don’t know how to do this in a way that doesn’t cause offence or marginalise other people as I assert myself.

    I feel this way much of the time. Walking a tight rope between knowing who I want to be but not knowing how to put that into practice.

    And so I find myself seesawing between the ‘me’ of the past and my real self.

    One no longer fits and the other doesn’t know how or doesn’t feel safe coming forth.

    It’s hard.

    Really hard.

    But just writing this and acknowledging it makes things easier to bear.

    And I hope in me sharing how I’m feeling, you might not feel so alone if things feel similarly hard for you too.

    As I sit here pondering on all this, I remember that we’ve just celebrated the winter solstice.

    The darkest day of the year.

    Now, as the days get lighter, there is promise of new growth, the turning of the seasons, a new start in the new year.

    And so I take hope that what I’m longing to see this year – being able to step into my full self – will mature in 2019 and, when Christmas arrives next year I will be able to look back and see how I’ve grown.

    And with this thought I wish you and all those you love a very merry Christmas.

    Validation

    I was in London last weekend with my parents, Gregg and Jenson to celebrate my birthday. It was a lovely time and also a time that has left me thinking about some body stuff.

    My mum said to me at one point ‘you look slim‘ (or something like that). She meant it as a lovely compliment but then corrected herself and said ‘oh, I’m not supposed to say that, am I?‘.

    This came from an article she had shared with me earlier in the year (which I can’t find now), but which is similar to this article in psychology today.

    The main headlines are that if you don’t want your child to have body issues:

    • Don’t talk about your body in a negative way. Instead of saying ‘I hate my stomach‘, say ‘It’s incredible that my tummy kept you safe inside me for 9 months!
    • Model eating a variety of foods in moderation
    • Don’t diet, but talk about eating healthily and exercising for the pleasure of feeling good and taking care of yourself
    • Don’t comment on what other people look like, praising those who are thin and criticising others who are larger. Make body size a non-issue by not even mentioning it.

    But I understand my mum making that comment because, in saying it, she was noticing me, connecting with me, wanting to say ‘I see you and I think you are lovely’. (I think she was, anyway!).

    And it’s what I do to people as well. When someone has lost weight, I give praise. And when someone mentions how dissatisfied they are with their body, I try to make them feel better by saying how gorgeous they are or how I haven’t even noticed that they’ve put on weight.

    It’s how we are conditioned in society – to say ‘you look well’ (which most always means something about body size) or to comment if someone has lost weight.

    It’s normal validation.

    But I don’t want to be part of it anymore.

    And so I’ve been thinking about what else can be said to validate someone instead of commenting on weight/body size.

    Here are some of the things I’d like to hear myself:

    • I love you
    • I’m so proud to call you my friend/daughter/son/part of my family
    • I think you’re a wonderful person
    • It looks like you’re really taking care of yourself and I think that’s great.
    • You’re glowing for someone surviving on such little sleep!
    • I really admire X in you
    • I love your top/skirt/shoes
    • I think you’re gorgeous, inside and out!
    • I’d love to know how you’re really doing

    It was really hard to think about these phrases and I’m still not 100% convinced by all of them, because they all feel a bit more intense.

    A comment like ‘you look great’ feels safe. Whereas saying how proud you are of someone feels more vulnerable. And asking how someone truly is, listening fully to their answer takes more effort and engagement.

    So I don’t have any answers really. And I suppose this is normal because observations about weight are conditioned in most of us.

    All I know is that I’m determined for Jenson to not grow up with any weight phobias and so I’m going to see how it feels to not mention my body negatively or to mention someone’s size as a validation over the next month or so.

    This means:

    • Praising my body, especially the bits I find imperfect
    • Not engaging with conversations about how someone looks
    • Avoiding the ‘you look well’ ‘have you lost weight’ comments

    Let’s see how it goes!

    Weight

    I’m getting so angry with this fixation we have as a society on external appearance, specifically people’s weight. This anger was triggered as I went into my work kitchen earlier this week and saw the headline of a trashy magazine blaring out “I’m size 18 but I’ll loose the weight for my son”.

    It was a declaration of a celebrity who has just had a baby. Just entered motherhood.  And her seemingly key priority was getting back to tip-top shape physically.

    Ok, I know. This lady probably never uttered those words – most of the stuff in these sorts of magazines is made up and sensationalised to pull in people and make a sale – but it makes me livid that others may read these words (especially young women) and have the idea reinforced that losing weight and being skinny is the epitaph of success.

    It’s a load of bullshit.

    When we’re lying on our death beds we won’t think ‘if only I had been thinner‘ or ‘if only I had lost those last 2 pounds’.

    We’re more likely to think ‘if only I had laughed more, worked less, told my family how much I loved them more frequently, traveled the world, taken myself less seriously, been braver, had more fun, put less importance on how I looked’.

    Our weight doesn’t matter.

    It doesn’t measure your courage, your humour, the strength of your heart, the uniqueness of your thoughts or anything else that makes you, you.

    I’m not saying that being healthy isn’t important – doing what we can to take care of ourselves physically is something I believe should be a priority. Eating a balance of foods, keeping active, sleeping as much as we need, drinking enough water. These things are all good for us.

    And of course, I’m not saying to stay as you are if you’re stuck in unhealthy cycles of eating to comfort yourself or to push down your emotions. I know the hell that this is – stuck in a spiral of shame and despair.

    If you’re suffering with comfort or binge eating, I’d encourage you to get some support to get a hold of it, dear friend. Perhaps even get in touch with me – I work with people specifically on stopping the comfort/binge eating.

    So while I am not advocating for unhealthy lifestyles or staying in a cycle of unhealthy relationships with food, I feel deeply against this fixation we have with being young, lithe, thin.

    I want to shout to the world “it doesn’t matter! We’ve got it round the wrong way! It’s the inside that truly counts!!!’

    But really as I think about this more, I know deep down that my reaction – the anger – is also a frustration at myself for still basing my appearance as a measure of my worth when I know at an intellectual level that I’m so much more than my physique.

    I find myself sometimes standing side-on to see how flat my stomach is. It’s a habit I’ve not yet been able to kick (although I’m able to check myself more and I do it less frequently).

    I also struggle with how I look at myself physically when I’m tired or upset because my neural pathways still interpret these feelings as being linked to my weight. I catch myself judging my appearance more critically than I usually would when I’m in these states of fatigue or upset. And it’s only when I ask myself what’s really going on that I realise it’s nothing to do with how I look – it’s about the feelings that I am trying to hide away or the lack of care I’ve given myself when I’m tired or sad.

    I’ve not yet been able to kick these two habits and I so sorely want to do so. I want to live free from any obsession with my physical appearance, but it’s so hard to shake it off when I’ve got constant reminders around me – in magazines, TV shows, conversations, adverts – that ‘thin is better’.

    So I suppose this blog post is as much for me as it is for you, dear friend. It’s a cry to myself to stand free from the unhelpful, dysfunctional thoughts that my importance, acceptability and belonging has anything to do with me being thin.

    Writing this post has made me realise that I need to have a conversation with the person who is putting those magazines in the kitchen. I need to ask her to stop bringing them in, because they’re really unhelpful and are triggering to me and my continued recovery from the eating disorders of my past. I commit to you, friend, that I’m going to do this when I next get the chance to.

    So yet again, I’m left astounded that what was really going on was not my anger at the world (although I do feel enraged by these magazines and the perfection expected from our bodies). Instead it’s a frustration at how I’ve not yet shaken off the remnants of the thoughts and behaviours that no longer serve me.

    So I’m going to be mindful in watching out for this behaviour – on order to change the side-on glances and critical eyes on my body when I’m tired/upset. But I’m not going to be unkind to myself or frustrated that I haven’t yet reached the nirvana of not caring about appearances.

    I know that this will all come in time. I’m on the right path and that, for now, is enough.

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    Have I…?

    I was sat in my living room tonight, just relaxing while my husband got us a little pudding to eat. Instead of busying myself – reading, texting or doing something or other – I just sat and breathed deeply, observing what was going on for me.

    And I realised in that moment that some part of me still judges a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ day based on what I’ve eaten. A vestige of my days ruled by disordered eating.

    I knew it wasn’t a way that I want to live. For I know that I am so much more than what I eat or don’t eat. And so I asked myself what other measure I’d like to have for deciding how I felt about my day…and the following questions came into my mind:

    • Have I tried my best today?
    • Have I been the best mum I could possibly be?
    • Have I been the best wife I could possibly be?
    • Have I treated myself with as much kindness as I could possibly show myself?

    And in that moment I knew that I could say ‘yes’ to the above. I had done my best at work, I had been the best mum I could be – patient, loving, encouraging, I had been the best wife I could be – grateful, loving, helpful, and I had shown myself kindness. Especially in the act of redefining how I want to measure myself and my success.

    Not focusing on what I had eaten – an arbitrary amount that I’ll forget in a few days. Not focusing on what size I am – something that isn’t a reflection of the the size of my heart, the speed of my brain or the measure of my courage.

    Instead judging myself with kindness and care.

    Today has been a good day.

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    Our NHS

    I saw from a friend’s profile picture on Facebook that the NHS is 70 years old and I’m so grateful for all that this epic institution has done for me in my life as well as for those around me.

    I can’t express eloquently enough the role it has played in my life – it has saved me multiple times. And that’s not an exaggeration.

    When I was younger, I was a troubled young thing. So sensitive, bullied at school and unsure of my place in this world. There came a time in my young, naive life where I was so low I couldn’t see a future for myself and I took an overdose. Not a huge amount but enough that if I hadn’t told my brother in tears what I had foolishly done, I most probably would have died. It seems like another person’s story – not mine – and yet it was a page in my life. And thanks to the NHS, I had my stomach pumped, received counselling and started my wobbly journey to finding my footing in this life.

    Sadly this isn’t where my mental health improved completely and, as I’ve shared with you on this blog before, dear friend, I went through another dark period during university where I battled with eating disorders. At my lowest weight of five stone I felt that I wanted to curl into a ball and hibernate against the brutalities of this world. Again, my sensitivity, people pleasing and feeling torn between my (then) Christian belief and what seemed like a polar opposite world that I wanted to fit into and be part of all culminated into a period of extreme mental sickness and it was the NHS that picked me up and gave me the support I needed to survive. An amazing specialist, access to medication, regular medical checks to protect my health as best it could whilst depriving my body from much needed nutrition.

    Thankfully that’s a long way in my past. Again, this Amy and who I am now feels a lifetime away. A lifetime I’ve had thanks to the medical support and services of the NHS.

    And at the start of this year the NHS again saved my life as I experienced severe blood loss following the birth of my son as my uterus failed to properly contract. In the moments following his birth, my midwife sounded an alarm and suddenly I had five expert doctors surrounding me. Giving me medical support, pumping me with liquids, putting an oxygen mask on me for the shock, guiding my husband and our new baby down to the unit where I was being treated. It all happened in a blur but I never panicked because I knew that the medical experts had my health firmly in their competent hands. Again, I was saved by the NHS.

    These are the big ticket uses I’ve made of the amazing NHS and they don’t even begin to cover all the other times I’ve been supported and treated by our medical system. The tetanus jab I received when my finger was bitten by a friend’s rat when I was young. The injections I received for free before coming away on my current travels. The midwife appointments I had when pregnant. The free contraceptive implant I have used for years.

    And it doesn’t cover all those who I know whose life the NHS has saved. My cousin, Tom, who had life saving heart treatment as a baby. Charlie, the baby of an NCT friend who had similar treatment for his heart condition and continues to receive outstanding support. My grandma who developed and was treated for pre-eclampsia when pregnant with my mum. My grandad who was cared for by the NHS when he developed gangrene in his foot. And the list could go on…I’m sure we all have stories of what the nhs has done for us.

    Sure, it’s not a perfect system. Far from it. I know this all too well after reading ‘this is going to hurt: diaries of a junior doctor‘ on this recent trip away.

    But it is special. Granting all access regardless of social standing or how much you have contributed to its running costs. As an institution, I believe it should be cherished and supported and protected.

    NHS, I love you. Happy 70th birthday ❤️

    Knowing myself

    I’ve been thinking a lot about what truly matters to me. I think it’s to do with the changes of becoming a mum and finding myself with different priorities. But it’s more than that.

    It’s to do with me starting to know what I want from life and being clearer in my resolve to go after it. I know this is possible for me only because I’ve started to fully accept who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. Before I used to feel that I was too much. Too bossy, too headstrong, too headstrong, too different.

    But now I am able to accept myself as I am with less judgement. I know I don’t need to base my decisions on whether I’ll please other people or whether my actions will make me seem less bossy/intense/headstrong. I accept me and know that’s enough. I’m enough.

    It’s so exciting to feel this way; able to go after what I truly want. I feel able to follow what feels right to me and go after what I truly want.

    But what does this mean in concrete terms? Well, an example of what I’m talking about is with my coaching.

    Some of you may have seen my coaching pages on my website. For those of you who haven’t looked, they explain who I am as a coach and detail what types of coaching I do.

    When I first started out coaching, I worked with people on every type of coaching under the sun and advertised all the coaching I did – coaching for those starting a business, looking for a change career, people wanting to improve relationships, increase their self-esteem or overcome comfort eating. Technically, I can coach on all these areas…but I realised recently that I don’t want to do all these types of coaching. Instead I want to coach in the areas which really light me up and where I know I can make a real, deep and profound impact in other peoples lives:

    And so that’s what I’m going to do – coach in these areas and, if someone contacts me wanting career coaching, for example, I’ll refer them onto some great coaches who specialise in these areas.

    It feels so good to know myself and to go after what I really want in life.