If You’re Not Angry, You’re Not Awake or Everything I’ve Learnt about Anger

Pointless wars creating unprecedented amounts of refugees, whilst fat cats get richer. Homelessness. Food Poverty. Period Poverty. Brexit. Trump. If I allow my mind to spiral, the injustices of the world make me seethe. I went through a stage of ranting at pretty much everyone I knew. My favourite line was: “if you’re not angry, you’re not awake!” Usually said after a few drinks. Much more vehemently after too many drinks.

not angry not awake

My anger was making my mental health suffer. I felt helpless and useless and pointless. Then one day, I woke up and realised my anger had put me on a fast track route to nowhereville. Instead of yelling at people, trying to recruit them to become as angry as I was, I took a different stance. Before I launch into that…

A little bit about me

Mental health has been a big part of my life forever. My step-father was bi-polar as well as an alcoholic, and I grew up living with the fallout of his highs and lows. I don’t know if she was ever officially diagnosed, but I’d hazard a guess and say that my mother was depressed for most of my upbringing. It was too easy for me to slip into the “it’s all in my genes/environment I grew up in…” rhetoric. Which I did for many years.

After I left home (at 15), it took a full decade of hardcore partying, self-destructive behaviour, depression and two mental breakdowns before hitting rock bottom. This is when I made vital changes to the way I was living my life, in order to turn it around for the long term. My self-help book Become the Best You was written for others facing similar battles. Life can be hard. Really hard. Especially when we have the all-consuming responsibility of raising children to contend with. Which is why being angry at the world simply adds no value to anything.

What I do when I don’t feel okay

It should go without saying that our kids absolutely have to come first. Because if life inside our own four walls is failing everyone miserably, it really doesn’t matter what’s going on in the wider world. We become totally unable to help anyone. Including ourselves.

not angry not awakeAs tough as it can be to carve out ‘me time’ in the midst of tending to the needs of the family, recharging our tired batteries is vital if we are to cope with every day life. As a mum, certainly in my house anyway, the things I want to do are at the very bottom of a long to-do list. It took me six and a half years of parenting before I took 24 hours off for good behaviour. That was almost three years ago, and since then I have not felt guilty – in the slightest – for the odd long lunch or weekend away with friends. A little bit of separation from our darlings does everyone the world of good. Even if it feels counter intuitive.

Self-care goes way deeper than painting my nails or taking a bubble bath. My mental health gets replenished by feeling proud of my achievements, and helping others. Time spent working on my blog or books provides a fantastic boost. In the great words of Carrie Fisher, I’ve been turning my broken heart into art.

Three projects keeping me sane

I’m working with the very talented Maddy Bennett, to turn a blog post about my daughter’s autism into a kids picture book. The book is aimed to help siblings understand their autistic sister, and we’ve had brilliant feedback on it so far.

I took on my first piece of campaign management work for a company who make beautiful personalised books. The bloggers who were involved loved Librio as much as I do, and the CEO was super happy with our efforts. Rather than being only about their bottom line, this gorgeous company have good ethics by the bucketload. They’re building a brand to be truly aspired to, and it was a privilege working with them.

My novel When the Stars Weep – which is about motherhood, mental health, love and loss – is being submitted to would-be agents and publishers. Everyone who reads this book relates in some way, and enjoys it. I keep telling myself that JK Rowling got rejected around thirty times before finding an agent who believed in Harry Potter. It will happen, I just have to have faith.

By channelling my anger into my projects, I feel like I’m being useful again. Stories have the power to bring so much comfort to others, and ultimately that’s all us writers want to do.

Other ways to be not quite so angry anymore

Back to the wider world. Homelessness and poverty are very real issues for too many (approx four million working families here in the UK are affected). Where does being angry with our shambolic government – who lets face it, don’t give a flying fuck, otherwise it wouldn’t be a problem in the first place! – get us? Back to nowhereville.

not angry not awake

Although I hate the fact that food banks and hygiene banks have to exist, at least I can afford to donate to them. Yes I’d much rather see them close down because they weren’t needed any more, but that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

In a society that’s becoming more polarised by the day, the very least we can do is recognise our privilege. I appreciate that many of us are operating at almost full capacity, and it can feel like there’s no space left for anything but our daily grind. However, I don’t think it’s healthy to seek out kindling to fuel our anger. Surely, it’s better instead to find worthy causes to get behind? I’ve created an A-Z of UK grass roots charities if you’re in need of inspiration.

I’ve watched anger get the better of good people, and slay them

It’s scary and sad how quickly people spiral. How fast it happens to me if I let it. In the three days I’ve been writing this blog I’ve had a complete crisis of confidence, and deleted all the social media apps from my phone. They’re the first thing to go when the chips are down, and I find a one week break is a great way of pressing the reset button. I learnt long ago that too much Face-agram is not good for my exhausted soul.

In order to keep my own head above water I have promised myself a few things. Instead of falling down rabbit holes writing blogs comparing #45 with Pol Pot (still in draft, probably won’t see the light of day). Or being furious about the lack of school funding for SEND kids in my area (just not worth my anger). Or trying to figure out how anyone could possibly think Brexit would be good for the economy (can. not. go. there). Or a myriad other things that boil my blood, I’m going to breathe deeply.

And remind myself again and again that anger gets us nowhere, so I can try to help in any constructive way I can.

There’s No Easy Way to Say this, We Need a Divorce 

Dear A, 

We need a divorce. Our relationship has been showing signs of being toxic for a long time now. According to all the self-help books I’ve ever read, including the one I wrote myself, this is always the beginning of the end. I used to think I could rely on you, but lately you’ve let me down. In fact scrap that, you’ve been letting me down for years.

It needs to change, which is why I’m asking for this divorce

I don’t expect you to understand at this point. In fact I’m fully prepared for wanting to run back into your tempting embrace. Especially over the weekend, and more so on the weekends that we see friends. I’ve always been a sucker for your lure, since our very first encounter when I was just eleven years old.

Eleven, FFS!

divorceWe were living in Australia, and I drank half a bottle of neat Bundaberg Rum. I was ill, tried to vomit for hours, but can’t because of medical reasons. I was a state, and I’m sure it would have been the sort of classic story that goes on to put kids off you for life.

Not me though, nope siree. Our bond was too special, and wasn’t going to be broken that easily. There were other occasions prior to leaving home at fifteen, but once I was fending for myself, you became my trusted bestie.

You acted like my armour during those tough years, while I was discovering who I was and what direction I wanted to go in. Sometimes people tried to use you against me, and take advantage. Sometimes they got away with it too, but my memories are muddled, which I count as a blessing. You found me and lost me my first boyfriend at sixteen, and at eighteen I ended my second relationship because he loved you more than he loved me.

There were the nightclubs that I used to go to. Dancing to cheesy 90’s music and snogging random boys. Alcopops were my favourite back then, I used to love Hooch and Mad Dog 20/20. Oh the fun we had, until I overdid it, which I did frequently. I’d either pass out or end up lying on the filthy club toilet floor waiting for the waves of nausea to pass. I have too many memories like this, which is making me question whether you were ever my friend.

It solidifies my gut feeling that this divorce is going to be a great thing

Even when I went through my hard core, up all weekend, clubbing phase, you were always a feature. When everyone else was drinking water and gurning, I’d have a glass of something stronger in my hand. I used to think I was clever, playing silly games and often winning against the boys. Drinking Tequila shots watching the sun rise, or making healthy juices laced with you for my flatmates. I said that I would write a book one day called The Vodka Smoothie Diaries, and maybe I still will.

Going to work on a few hours sleep would be nothing for me, and even on a Monday night my rubber arm could be twisted to go out for a few sherbets. As long as you were with me, I could get through anything. The toughest of times were never that bad after drowning my sorrows.

You were a huge part of my persona – I was the Renster – bringer of fun!

divorceThen all of a sudden, it wasn’t just fun fun fun anymore. The darkness started featuring, and at twenty two it all came on top. My counsellor, Nina, tried to make me see that you were a bad influence, but I wasn’t ready to listen.

Four more years of hard core partying followed. Including meeting my husband, and living in one of the most rule free places on earth. Rather fitting really, to end up being drawn to Cambodia. With it’s shocking history and deep sadness at its core.

It’s fair to say that along with the back-then readily available pharmaceuticals, you almost killed me. Several times. You would have thought the night I fell off an actual bed and onto a bed of broken glass bottles would have been enough of a wake up call. But even the cut fingers, steri stripped and tightly bandaged hands that weren’t able to wipe my own arse couldn’t come between us.

A horrendous year followed. My personal annus horribilis. Too many things that I’m not proud of happened in 2006, and you were by my side every single time.

Rock bottom occurred in Reykjavík, eleven years ago to the day

I was on a work jolly, and overdid it as per. The mini bar bottle of white wine whilst having a shower is the thing I remember most vividly. I can’t really recall fighting with my then boss, falling off my bar stool, or taking a taxi by myself to the hotel on the other side of town in a strange country. I do know those things happened though, and I also know that I woke up the next day and felt truly ashamed.

For the first time ever, I could clearly see that you’re no good for me. I should have filed for divorce back then, but instead, after three months of abstinence, I vowed to learn self-control around you. I did well, but I was in a different zone. I was going to rule the world, one jar of chutney at a time. Even business failure and bankruptcy couldn’t break me. We had holidays and weddings in 2008, and although you featured, I was in control. Or maybe I was just kidding myself? I honestly don’t know anymore.

A new chapter started at the end of 2008

divorceBabies. During pregnancy number one I didn’t touch caffeine, let alone you! You’d been well and truly kicked to the curb. Pregnancies two and three were different. Your lure was a lot more tempting, and most Friday nights involved a glass of red.

I’m pretty sure guidelines have changed recently, and they are now advising pregnant ladies to steer completely clear of you, and I think that’s sensible advice.

Us parents are bombarded with the idea that we need to drink all the booze to survive the horrors that our little darlings throw our way. Whilst it’s definitely true that you are able to take the edge off the witching hour, or a birthday party, I’ve come to see that I’m not like most people.

Most people can have a glass of prosecco and get on with their day, but me?

Once I’ve fallen for your charms, I find it hard to let you go. One or two drinks is never enough, and all I can think about is having more. Which is not fair on my children, because when I’m under your spell my attention is no longer being given to them.

My kids need me much more than you do. Which is why I need you to agree to this divorce and not try and tempt me back. I can’t carry on like this. Things needs to change, and that change is not going to happen while you’re still hanging around.

It’s early days, and I’m not so naive that I don’t expect tough times. I am fully expecting them, but already without you, I’m feeling strong enough to tackle them. I’ve even set up a new Instagram account solely to help me stay on the wagon.

I wish you well in life, I really do, but please don’t knock on my door again.

38 Things I’ve Learnt for my 38th Birthday

Today is my 38th Birthday, so I’d like to share with you 38 things that I’ve learnt on my journey so far

1. Above all else, know yourself, and always be true to who you are at your core. Integrity is everything, and will help you sleep easy at night.

2. Honesty is the best policy, never be afraid to put your hand up and admit that you were at fault.

3. You can’t argue with, or rewrite history, but you can do everything in your power to create a brighter future. 

4. You won’t win a fight by getting angry. Calmness is key to problem solving. 

5. To prolong a suntan, moisturise twice a day. 

6. The world is a friendlier place at five or six in the morning after your first cup of coffee. 

7. Eating clean is a form of self respect, people who make fun of the term simply don’t understand it.

8. To eat clean without it bankrupting you, it is absolutely essential to find a way of making the very best quality food accessible. 

9. Cooking a meal from scratch (especially for guests) will always feel like an achievement. 

10. Growing your own food even more so, but it takes time, patience and a willingness to follow instructions (the latter is not my strongest trait).

11. It’s better to do five or ten minutes of exercise every day, than say you’ll spend hours per week at the gym, but never making it there. 

12. Running is great in perfect conditions, or with friends, or as a head clearer, but Unless you’re a natural runner, it will feel like torture. 

13. Good friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget. 

14. Unless you’ve behaved in an appalling way, and only you will know that, other people’s mean-ness is them projecting their own hurt and little or nothing to do with you.

15. Never go to sleep on a fight, it’ll give you nightmares. 

16. Wasting time on people who don’t appreciate you will make you feel like crap. Beware the fair weather friends who only chat small talk.

17. However, it’s good to remember that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. There is a deeper meaning to everything, and everyone we cross paths with has a purpose.

18. You cannot change another persons behaviour, but you can control the way you react to it, which in turn will help control its effect over you. 

19. The only way to have a small influence over rubbish behaviour from another person is to kill it with kindness (the behaviour, not the person, obvs). 

20. Travelling while you’re young will provide memories forever. 

21. Sometimes the only option is to walk away, but good eggs will find a route back to each other. 

22. Saying no is a great skill to learn.

23. As is properly distinguishing between your wants and your needs. 

24. Buying clothes and household goods second hand is not only kind to the bank balance, but easy on the environment. 

25. To combat sleep deprivation, go to bed as early as you possibly can and take the Zzzzz’s where you can. 

26. When the chips are down, Instagram is not your friend. However, a Facebook group hug of proper old mates will do more to pull you out of a deep dark hole than a lot of other things. 

27. Don’t fall foul to FOMO, the grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence.

28. Not doing something you love, every single day, will start to chip away at your soul.

29. Tapping into your creative side will make your heart sing.

30. It is possible to write a book amid a super hectic life, you just need to form a solid writing habit.

31. If it’s important you’ll find the time, if it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. 

32. Sometimes it’s best all round if you zip your lips and throw the key away.

33. There is no shame in taking an extra long loo break with your phone for ten or fifteen minutes whilst hiding from your children. How do you think I’m writing this?

34. No matter how much you love your kids, time out from them is the only way to recharge your batteries.

35. It will pass, no matter how raw or painful it is right now.

36. Laughter is always, always, the best medicine.

37. Some days are best written off with a large glass of vino. 

38. Other days you’ll swallow down all the unpalatable memories, put on your brave face and happy pants/knickers, and conquer the world.

 

All you need is… 😍😍😍

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Our Kids Need and Deserve Good Role Models 

Our Kids Need and Deserve Good Role Models Role models were in short supply when I was growing up. In fact, by the age of eleven, my only good role model was dead.

My childhood was full of women who were deeply unsatisfied with their lot. Almost every one I encountered before leaving home at 15 had a story of heartbreak to tell. Mostly due to settling down with (settling for) awful men who treated them like crap.

They got beaten, raped, cheated on, emotionally tormented

This makes incredibly sad to think about, but there’s no way to dress it up. Keeping afloat was the best they could manage, being role models wasn’t on their radar.

Unsurprisingly these women were consumed by life’s challenges, desperately wanting a brighter tomorrow with no idea how to create it. They didn’t live, they existed. They survived. Just about. They were stuck in the past, marred by the deep dark secrets that ate away at their souls.

From as young as eight or nine, I remember thinking that I didn’t want to end up like them

Every one of them were vocal about their kids not going through what they had been through. But their words and crossed fingers were not enough to prevent the inevitable from happening.

That’s the thing about not letting history repeat itself. It doesn’t just happen organically, we have to actively make sure it doesn’t happen. If we want to break the mould we have to work damn hard to smash it to pieces.

For people like me, who didn’t come from a privileged background, it can be a constant battle just to keep our heads above water. Especially when life keeps dealing out the shitty cards, but no-one becomes an inspirational poster girl by having an easy ride.

If we decide to become parents, not continuing the cycle of dysfunction is paramount. Everything we do has an impact on our children. Every action has the ability to shape them, for better or worse. Which is why dealing with the demons of the past is so important. So we can let go of our hurt and move forward. So we can get to live the lives we deserve, and become great role models for our kids.

Self-respect (or lack of it) is contagious

It’s a tall order to expect a young woman, or man for that matter, to emerge into adulthood with self-respect if they didn’t witness it growing up. If the people who were supposed to be their role models were anything but. Good role models exude true confidence, which comes from respecting ourselves and knowing our worth.

role models It’s impossible to teach confidence, we can only learn it through behaviour. Which is why it’s so important for our children to observe us respecting ourselves and each other. How are they supposed to know how to behave appropriately if they aren’t shown?

I don’t believe in ‘faking it until you make it’

I think our energy is better spent living as authentically as we possibly can. By getting to properly know ourselves, and what we want out of this life. By learning to not care what others think about us. Not being afraid to go against the grain, and stand up for our beliefs.  

Surrounding ourselves with awesome people who lift us up is a great place to start. When we have genuine friendships we have no need or desire to second guess their motives. We know they have our back, and we could turn up on their doorstep in the middle of the night if we were in trouble. They wouldn’t ask questions, they’d simply listen to our woes and dry our tears.

Something I’ve learnt on my own rocky journey, is that it’s impossible to properly screw up when we have great friends.  

In our always on, selfie-mad, celebrity obsessed world, the best thing we can do is set a good example for our children. We need to show them love and kindness through our actions. We have to let them see via us how important it is to have great friends around. 

I don’t claim or aim to be perfect. Far far from it. But I do know that I have to be happy and positive if I expect my kids to be. It’s not easy, but I’ll never stop trying.

10 Sure Fire Ways to Boost Your Long Term Happiness

10-sure-fire-ways-to-boost-your-happinessI’ve come to the conclusion that happiness has many variable parts, and the pursuit of it can leave us exhausted.

During the course of my colourful, roller coaster of a life, I’ve learnt a few golden rules, which I’d like to share with you today.

Cards on the table: none of these will bring you the short term gratification that a glass of wine or slice of cake will, but trust me they are tried and tested long-term happiness boosters! I’m sure most of us could do with a few more of them in our lives.  

Learn to distinguish between your wants and your needs

This one is perhaps the most important, because people often place too much value on the wrong things. It’s a common train of thought to believe that if we were wealthier then life would be better. Here’s the thing though: unless we have attained our happiness first, all the money in the world would be pointless.

We hear time and again about how miserable a lot of celebrities are. Not to mention every day people who win the lottery and became filthy rich over night. There is no denying that money can make life easier, especially when we’re in debt and see all our problems relating back to finances. It can seem that money has caused our unhappiness, but it usually stems from something much deeper rooted than money. Which leads me nicely on to my next point.

10 Golden Rules of Life which lead to HappinessMake peace with your past, otherwise it will haunt you forever

Unhappiness, depression and anxiety always comes from somewhere deeper than the surface problems in front of us. Having been through two mental breakdowns, and seeing numerous friends suffer from mental health problems over the years, I am more convinced than ever before that our own behaviour and the environment we live in has the biggest impact on our well-being. 

Coming to terms with a dark past or facing up to an unpleasant reality can be a scary prospect. The fact is that unless we face our demons and make peace with whatever has gone down, we will never be able to properly move forward and experience true happiness. Our demons will haunt us forever, and we might even pass them onto our children, which just isn’t fair. If you feel you’re ready to start facing your demons, but don’t know where to start, check out my book Become the Best You

Trust your gut

In a nutshell: if something doesn’t feel right, then just don’t do it. I’ve only gone against my gut once in the last few years, and I am living to regret it BIG TIME. I’m not even allowed to blog about my situation because I’ll get sued. What a sorry state of affairs. I knew what I was doing didn’t feel 100% right, but went with it anyway because it seemed like the easy option. Unfortunately it rarely works out this way, our gut instincts should always be our guide in life.  

The same rule applies to people, if you have ‘friends’ who aren’t supportive and don’t have your back, then don’t be afraid to ditch them. A true friend would want nothing but happiness for you. They would not be jealous of you, or try and sabotage your success.

happiness boostersDon’t resist change

Life constantly evolves, and we must be prepared to adapt when necessary. Refusing to change, and being stuck in our ways rarely leads to happiness. It leads to bitterness, resentment and feeling like everyone else is happier than us.

I think most people have ideals they feel they’ll adhere to when they have a family, but once we become parents we realise that it’s best to make decisions based on our circumstances. It’s useful to remember that what worked beautifully for someone else’s kids more than likely won’t for our own.    

Never assume

When we assume we make an ASS of U and ME. Think about that. This rule is most poignant when assuming that people are out to get us. It’s equally important to learn that not everything is about us, and we are not the centre of the universe. (Can you hear Carly Simon singing in your head too?)  

Listen intently (especially to our children)

parentingYes I know that we all have lots of wisdom to impart, and that’s great, but properly listening is a underrated skill in this day and age – especially when it comes to our family. Listening to our children is the only way to properly connect and understand them. 

Earlier this year Clara (almost five) declared that she didn’t like being called darling anymore. We had to correct ourselves multiple times a day because it would automatically roll off the tongue, but it clearly bothered her. She would get even more upset when people outside our fivesome called her darling. Rather than make a show of telling her how silly she was being, like I’ve seen many other parents do, I made a point of telling them that she would prefer to be called Clara. It made her so unbelievably happy when everyone stopped calling her darling.

Freddy is going through the same thing at the moment, because lots of people call him Fred. He corrects them every time, saying ‘no my name is Freddy.’ Little things matter to little people.

Concentrate on finding solutions, rather than getting bogged down by the problems

Day to day life can be overwhelmingly grinding, and it can feel like curve balls are being thrown left, right and centre. However, focusing on the challenges, instead of putting our efforts into finding ways to overcome them is a straight road to a negative rut. Anyone who has been in a rut will know how hard it can be to get out of it. There are always solutions, and often they are staring us in the face. We just need to be willing to open our eyes to seek them out.      

happiness boostersI never for one single minute expected family life to be all sunshine and rainbows, but not once in my wildest imagination did I consider that I’d face some of the obstacles I have. I’d barely heard of autism when I was pregnant with Polly, but over the last few years have had to get very cosily acquainted with it. Life is hard for us, I’ve written about that many times before, but we’re still very fortunate to have all we do.

I have been known to get bogged down by our problems, and my husband is always the one who pulls me out of my hole and gets me focusing on the solutions instead. Concentrating on the negative is bad ju-ju all round.     

Don’t buy into the fallacy of perfection

There is nothing wrong at all with aiming high in life, but don’t become a slave to the idea of perfectionism. It’s possibly the biggest lie we’re sold: the myth that other people are perfect. 

If you have a warm house to live in, food in your belly and love coming at you then you’re a very lucky person. No matter how difficult our lives are, there will be plenty of folk who would give a limb to have it. Absolutely no-one is perfect, even though Instagram would have us believe otherwise.

We are what we eat

happiness boostersIt is now common knowledge that what we eat has a huge impact on our physical health and state of mind. The gut/brain connection cannot be underestimated! I’ve thought long and hard about this, and have decided to go back onto the highly controversial GAPS Intro diet (hopefully with Polly too).

I need to be functioning as optimally as I possibly can to have any chance of surviving these challenging early years. Here’s the thing though, I don’t want to just survive them, I want to thrive and enjoy them. Knowing how clear headed I felt whilst on GAPS in 2014, I am confident that it’s what I need to do again. Take a look at my other blog for more info on the GAPS diet.    

In the mean time I’ll leave you with my biggest piece of advice for healthy eating. The fewer ingredients the better. The only way to fully control what goes into your body is to make it yourself. That’s not always possible, so when you’re buying pre-prepared food, you should always scrutinise the labels, and aim for the smallest amount of ingredients. 

For truly healthy food inspiration, check out my recipe archive here

kindnesspemaAlways be kind to yourself

Just for the record it’s not something I’ve mastered yet, but I am working on it ❤️

 

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