On Family Estrangement/In Defence of Meghan Markle

I know more than most that family estrangement never occurs without very good reason. 

In the early days of my own family estrangement back in 2005, I grieved long and hard for what had been and would never be

Cutting ties with mother and the (half) siblings I grew up with had been a long time coming. There was a lot of bad blood. Too many lies had been told. Too much drama brought to my doorstep. Too many situations which had left me broken hearted.

Although highly dysfunctional, my family are not evil people, which made walking away from them hard.

In fact scrap that, what a ridiculous understatement. It was the toughest decision I have made to date. And I sincerely hope I’ll never face a decision as soul destroyingly difficult ever again.

family estrangement

But our relationships had become toxic and unsalvageable

You see, they had always been takers. Ever since leaving home at fifteen, I’d been bailing them out in some way or another. I was the fixer upper. The shoulder to cry on. The ATM. I had tried so hard to help them, and I learned the hardest way that no one can save you but you.

In the end it came down to a heart wrenching choice. Allow these toxic relationships to continue, and sign myself up for all the associated fallout. Or walk away.

So I told my mother she wasn’t welcome anymore, and I never saw her again. My half brother and sister didn’t seem to care too much about my absence.

I was done

I didn’t have the capacity for more drama and heartbreak. It was time I started saving myself. In the year that followed I experienced full mental breakdown and rock bottom. Forced to look at every single aspect of my life and the way I was living it, I massively re-evaluated so I could become a better person.

I firmly believe I would not have been able to go through this process had my family still had as much power over me as they once had.

I am also convinced my experience as a mother would have been better had I had a great mum by my side. Oh how I’ve wept for the fairytale superhero mama I have desperately needed over the years. When autism and sleep deprivation and agonising education decisions have had me on my knees with despair. When childcare might have been the magic bullet, but was as non-existent as unicorn dust.

Fairytales aren’t real, and in the end we have to do what we think is best. 

family estrangement

There is much to be said for this great quote by filmmaker Robert Evans:

“There are always three sides to a story; yours, mine and the truth!”

Before you brand Meghan Markle a “social climber” who has “forgotten her roots”, take it from me; she would have agonised over her own family estrangement before walking away.

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.

Gut Health and Fermented Foods Course: 31st March 2019 #ad

**Disclaimer: I am co-hosting this gut health and fermented foods course, which is why I am declaring it an ad. For my full disclosure policy, click here.**

Do you have a plan to keep healthy, especially over the colder months? If the answer is no, and you know deep down your diet could do with a bit of a kick up the bum, then I think you need my top three tips.

gut health and fermented foods

Eat mostly real food

Real foods are ingredients in their natural state – fruit, veggies, meat, fish, eggs, unprocessed dairy and plenty of probiotic rich fermented food and drink (more on that in point three). A real food diet essentially means making your own meals from scratch. I understand how daunting this sounds to many, but if you want to eat your way to better health, it’s absolutely non-negotiable.

Mark Sisson, author of the Primal Blueprint and phenomenally successful website Mark’s Daily Apple, advocates eating like a saint for 80% of the time and allowing ourselves 20% leeway. I started coming away from processed food and refined sugar in 2007, went paleo in 2012, and followed the gut healing GAPS diet in 2014. Nowadays I run at around 90% awesome diet, 10% leeway. As I’m insulin resistant, because of my PCOS, this works really well for my body. Everyone is different of course, and for many people 80/20 is optimum.

Be honest about your relationship with sugar

gut health and fermented foods

I don’t have all the answers, just my own personal experience. It took me going through the GAPS Intro Diet to properly ditch my sugar cravings, and I can now go an entire week without having anything sweet. No fruit, no chocolate, no naturally sweetened puddings, nothing. If we’re entertaining, or going to friends for lunch, I’ll make dessert (such as these brownies, or this caramel slice), but I don’t feel the need to eat sweet things every day like I did prior to 2014.

None of us are able to, or are going to want to, eat perfectly, which is fine, because none of us are perfect. We do, however, have a massive problem with the way society views food in the main. We were duped, and sold the idea that fat was bad. We were told for many years that we should be eating low fat foods because they were healthy. In actual fact, they are full of sugar and sweeteners, because when you remove the fat from food you also take away most of the flavour.

Of course, now we know that sugar consumption contributes to a whole host of health problems, but largely society is addicted to the stuff. So what is the solution?

Bombard your gut with fermented foods to help the good bacteria flourish 

The only way to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies, is by getting in the kitchen and making our own food. There is no quick fix, but the good news is we can wholeheartedly reverse the damage caused by a poor diet with a great one. The way to make it enjoyable is to get into the right frame of mind.

gut health and fermented foods

Even when we are as time poor as most of us are, there are plenty of ways to incorporate healthy food into our busy schedules. They don’t get better than home made probiotics in the form of fermented veggies, kefir and kombucha.

In her fascinating book Cultured Food for Health, Donna Schwenk talks about the incredible health benefits to be gained by adding these three fermented food and drinks to our daily diets. Working in harmony with each other, they create billions of beneficial bacteria, and help with a multitude of ailments. These include: constipation, diarrhoea, acne, acid reflux, sleep issues, liver cleansing, adrenal support, candida, inflammation and food intolerance.

Knowing where to start when it comes to gut health and fermented foods can be overwhelming. Which is why myself and my very good friend Trish have created our comprehensive one day course. By the end of the day with us you’ll have learnt how to make kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, sour cream and a sourdough bread starter. We’ll feed you a nourishing, home cooked lunch, and there will even be the chance to sample home made cider from foraged apples.

Check out the flyer below for all the info, and email us to secure your place on the course. Spaces are limited and getting booked up fast! 

gut health and fermented foods

On Authenticity: How to be Authentic in a Shallow World

how to be authentic It’s a bit of an oxymoron writing the words ‘how to be authentic’ when my personal feeling is authenticity can’t be taught. If you naturally veer towards materialism and shallowness, then you’ll have to brace yourself before reading. And most definitely be prepared to do some work on yourself afterwards. This blog contains lots of links to other blogs I have written, which you might find useful. They are not affiliated links, and this is not a sponsored post. 

It’s easy to write the phrase ‘how to be authentic’ but what does being authentic mean?

The dictionary defines the word authentic as not false or copied; genuine; real. An authentic person isn’t trying to emulate anyone else. They don’t jump on every faddy bandwagon there is. They most certainly practice what they preach. Authentic people don’t say things, then behave in ways which indicate they’re not adhering to their own words. In a nutshell, authentic people are comfortable with their own opinions and values to always mean what they say.

Here’s the thing though. Even the most authentic people have to sometimes tone themselves down in certain work-related environments. Yes of course they shouldn’t have to, but when bills need to be paid, jobs need to be kept. The difference is that authentic people do not mask their true selves in front of their close friends and family. I’ve learnt quite a lot from observing my autistic daughter mask. For fear of not being liked, she presents the very best of herself to a group. This usually comes at the detriment of her family afterwards, because she knows she is 100% safe with us. Masking is exhausting and frustrating and leads to her being miserable.

If we get to full blown adulthood, and feel we have to mask to absolutely everyone we know, then it’s definitely time to reevaluate our inner circle. One of my big bugbears is when someone says something because they think it’s what I want to hear. Firstly they usually get it wrong, and secondly I’d rather they spoke the truth, come what may. Life is too short to waste time on the pointless minutiae.

how to be authenticAuthentic people don’t feel the need to share everything

Here’s a novel idea: minor difficulties can often be overcome quickly. There I said it. Society’s obsession with sharing every-single-thing-247365 means people are becoming incapable of dealing with normal challenges. I’m not talking about the big things. The bone crushing, soul destroying things. Death, divorce, serious illness, etc. It should go without saying that in these instances we need all the love and support we can get.

Do we really need to make such a big deal out of every teeny tiny inconvenience? Does everyone really need to know that your waitress was a bit shit at lunch? Or that you missed the bus and had to wait for the next one? Or that the man in the post office was really grumpy?

No good comes from holding onto anger and annoyance. It takes up too much headspace, which could be spent on being useful. Ask yourself: will these small details be remembered in five, ten years? Save your big emotions for the important stuff, otherwise you might find your reserves are empty when you need them the most.

The sad fact is, not everyone you’ll meet is authentic

I like to give everyone a chance and take them at face value. It’s really important to make our own minds up about other people. Whether or not we enjoy their company should determine our relationship with them. Allowing ourselves to be influenced by what other people think of them is nothing more than school playground behaviour.

Unfortunately social media has a way of making things blurry, and the fakery can be overwhelming and draining. Especially when a lot of the so-called celebs and high profile accounts do not even write their own content. Or have a personality to back up their witty words (which they didn’t write). Makes you think, doesn’t it?

how to be authenticSame with faddy bandwagons. Now, I am all up for people changing their ill health with good, clean food. This is a subject I have a lot to say about, and hugely advocate. I reversed my own infertility diagnosis in 2007, by cutting out refined sugar and processed carbs. I then went onto start eating the paleo way in 2012, years before it was mainstream. I also did the gut healing GAPS Intro Diet in 2014, and had brilliant results.

Now, almost twelve years after first cutting out refined sugar, guess what? I still don’t eat the stuff. How could I possibly know as much as I do about the damage it causes, and the way it makes me feel, then go ahead and eat it? That would be pure hypocrisy.

One thing I absolutely cannot stomach is when people claim to live a certain way but actually don’t. Scratch the surface and you realise that the all-natural enthusiast is as hopelessly addicted to junk (food, clothes, tv, etc) as everyone else.

So many people advocate a certain way of life but don’t actually live it. They’re desperate to, they want to so badly, but they just can’t. They don’t have the inner resources, and the strength it takes. Unfortunately these same people are easy targets for con artists to take advantage of. I think faddy bandwagons can be a very dangerous thing to jump onboard. Have a read of this if you’d like some help breaking out of bad habits, and forming some good ones.

I asked my Instagram followers if they considered themselves to be authentic

I found it astonishing that so many correlated authenticity with how much they were comfortable with sharing. Lots of people commented along the lines of “I am definitely authentic, but I don’t share everything online…” I genuinely do not agree with sharing every last detail online. Even during my earliest days of anonymous blogging, I didn’t. There might be plenty you all know about me, but there is a crap tonne you don’t. Especially over the last few years.

It would be all too easy for me to chase after the potential viral posts, by writing about autism. I just can’t bring myself to do it though. Every now and then I will, if I feel I have something useful and unique to say. Writing about it day after day basically meant reliving the hardest parts of my motherhood experience, and not moving forwards. Plus my daughter became hype aware of my online presence, and it didn’t feel fair to share such personal details about her.

how to be authenticChoosing to share certain elements of our lives does not make us inauthentic. Providing we aren’t misleading our readers with a false version of ourselves. The absolute best part of my job as a writer is when a reader gets in touch and tells me that my words have had an impact. I for one wouldn’t be able to live with myself if it was all a pack of lies.

The reason bloggers are getting such a bad rap at the moment is because this is so rife. Especially on Instagram. Surely if we have a public profile, the least we can give our readers is our integrity?

How to be authentic? I have come to this conclusion

Authenticity cannot be packaged up and sold. It can’t be copied or taught overnight. Values such as kindness, compassion and honesty cost nothing, yet they are so lacking in today’s society.

We are all a work in progress, living authentically simply means being true to our core beliefs. Not selling out for five minutes of fame or a few ££. Saying what we mean, and meaning what we say. Knowing not everyone will like us, and that being okay.

Authenticity is looking in the mirror, and genuinely being comfortable with what we see. It’s about owning our story. War wounds, warts and wobbly bits included. If you don’t, then it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee/tea/kombucha, my friends.

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I’m writing a piece on authenticity, and would like to pose the question to you all, my dear readers. Do you consider yourself to be an authentic person? 💖 Now, I am certain everyone would be inclined to immediately answer with a yes. In case you didn’t know, the dictionary defines the word authentic as: “not false or copied; genuine; real” 💖 Now ask yourself again. Am I authentic? Or am I just another wannabe in a sea of shallowness? I’m not asking this to start a fight, or be mean. I really do welcome interesting debate on here, and I love knowing that I often spark thoughts in people’s minds that most definitely weren’t there prior to reading my words. I’m hoping to spark one this evening…please discuss in the comments, and don’t forget to be kind! Can’t wait to see who replies!

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Thoughts on The Greatest Showman | Will I Ever Be Enough?

The title of this blog started out “Why The Greatest Showman Turned Me into an Emotional Wreck!” Whilst I could wax lyrical about the beautiful portrayal of diversity and overcoming adversity, I feel that’s been done to death on the interwebs. Not that it isn’t those things, it very much is, but I blubbed my way through the two hours at the cinema for a multitude of reasons. The film resonated with me on so many more levels than I was expecting. Ultimately, it’s left me asking myself: will I ever be enough?

I was late to the party for The Greatest Showman, and only saw it this weekend. It’s not an exaggeration to say I cried my way through the entire thing. Last time a film got to me like this was twenty years ago, when I watched Sleepers. I was hungover which is always a recipe for trouble when it comes to setting off unexpected emotions. Those were the days before therapy. Before facing up to my demons and addressing the elephant who’d been sitting in the corner far too long.

The Greatest ShowmanFor those of you who are new around here, I’m the survivor of a dysfunctional childhood

I moved house a lot as a kid, and was always the new girl – aka an easy target for bullies. I was sexually abused from the ages of eight to ten, and emotionally abused too many times to recall. I left home after a punch in the face when I was fifteen years old. I made my way into adulthood with fifty pounds in my pocket and zero education. I slept on people’s floors for the first few months, until I met my first boyfriend. His parents kindly took me in, and I lived with them until things went pear shaped a few months later.

Jobs and homes came and went in those first two years. It’s a blur if I’m honest, I’m sure I’ve blocked most of it out. I worked for some very grubby men. People who only employed under aged girls to work in their shops. Mostly so they could get us drunk and take advantage. I consider escaping their advances one of my biggest achievements from those days.

A stroke of luck came when I moved into a lovely house share at seventeen. I had a job in a department store, and new friends who were not complete losers. Far from it actually, and two of them are still a huge part of my life to this day. When I was almost nineteen I managed to blag a temp job at a big financial house in the City. The two weeks turned into a month, then three, then a permanent job, then better jobs. Those were the days when nobody bothered checking your credentials. Now I’d have to have a degree just to walk through the door.

Can you see where I’m going here?

There were many lines from The Greatest Showman that set off the lump in my throat. This is the one that’s been playing in my head like a broken record:

“My father was treated like dirt. I was treated like dirt. My children will not be treated like dirt.”

People sometimes question my motives for doing everything I do for my kids. I’ve been accused of trying to give them a perfect childhood. Oh how wrong you are! I’ve never aimed for perfection. All I want is for my kids to never EVER be treated the way I’ve been treated.

I want them to instinctively respect themselves enough to never be taken advantage of. To formulate their own ideas about the world and not be too easily influenced. To have enough confidence to tell people to keep their small minded opinions to themselves. I never want them to be so desperate for work they have to compromise their safety. I never want them to be so close to homelessness they have to sleep on someone’s floor.

The Greatest Showman Unless you have been in that position yourself you will never understand what it’s like. I might live a life of privilege now, in comparison to too many, but I have been a piece of meat. A piece of dirt. I have had people look at me like I am completely worthless. Those scars run so deep, I wonder whether they will ever truly fade.

Which leads me once again to ask the question, will I ever be enough?

I’ve come a long way from where I began. I started facing my demons after my first mental breakdown at the ripe age of 22, thanks to an absolutely incredible counsellor. I embarked on this long old road I’m still on – the path to authenticity. Cutting out the BS – the fake friends and toxic family. I have great friends, an amazing husband, and have been (hashtag!) blessed with three little humans. Yet some days I am so incredibly lonely it feels like I might drown under the overwhelmingly enormous weight of it all.

When the hurt pulses through your core, just keeping your head above water can be a monumental achievement. I used to think I had it all sussed out. It was so simple. Work hard, reap the rewards. Then along came three children. Severe sleep deprivation. Autism. Home education forced upon us. And now? Well, now I wonder how the hell I could possibly be enough.

I’ve taken some serious knocks this year. People I thought would be around forever have disappeared. Seems everyone loves your honesty and no nonsense approach to life, until you point something out to them. Oh the irony.

Each time I have to pick myself up and dust myself off it gets harder 

I concluded recently that my mental health goes through cycles. Even when the rollercoaster is on a down, some days I still manage to ace life. On others, even when there are plenty of ups to be had, it’s as if a happiness gremlin has snatched away all my smiles. How can I expect my littlees to laugh if I’m not able to?

Self-esteem has been too low of late, so I’ve invested a lot of energy in getting my novel up to submission standard. It’s given me a focus outside of the grind. Something to feel proud of. I’ve needed it, desperately. My daily yoga and weekly four hour slots of respite just haven’t been cutting the mustard.

There’s so much to say, but ultimately we will always be judged on our actions rather than our words. So, I’m taking a big deep breath and putting on my positive pants. First round of would-be agent emails have just been sent. Wish me luck!

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me”

Mental health is a precarious thing isn’t it? I’ve dragged myself out of many quagmires over the years, and will no doubt need to pull myself out of many more in the future. Why? Because I’m a human, and us humans are imperfect and flawed. I know I’ll f**k up at some point, and that’s ok. 95% of the time I make good decisions and am entirely dedicated to my family and friends. I think I’ve finally (at the ripe old age of 38 and three quarters) made peace with the odd 5% here and there. ♥️ If there’s one change I’ve been successfully working towards over the last few years, it’s not beating myself up over that 5%. Self-flagellation gets us nowhere, but can have the ability to grind us into the ground, rendering us useless. ♥️ This life can be such a stressful one, but the smallest things can have the biggest impact day to day. Taking a few extra minutes in the shower to breathe deeply or sitting with the kids and doing a jigsaw puzzle or some colouring makes all the difference to my mood when it’s all got a bit too much. Not to mention my beloved yoga snacks (see the video from Monday two posts down on the grid) and diffusing essential oils. Hubby said the other day “it smells like a pilates studio in here!” ♥️ Amid taking care of everyone else, it’s vital to look after ourselves, but I know so many people who don’t. As hard as it is to process at the time, when things come on top it happens for a reason. It’s nature’s way of telling us that we need to stand back and reevaluate what’s important. And believe me when I tell you, that nothing, absolutely NOTHING is more important than our mental health. So embrace that hard time and those pesky emotions, because the other side of this is going to feel so damn good. . . . . . #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthmonth #mentalhealthwarriors #thereforher #wednesdayvibes #yogasnacks #essentialoilswork #takecareofyou #mummytries #freefromgang #fearlesslyauthenticblogger

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