Tuesday, 24 July 2018

I Feel Invincible

"One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away." - Stephen Hawking

This quote could not be more apt right now in this moment in my life. Recently, I have been very reflective over the past year and how I got to the point I am at now. This time last year, I was in a very different place; I was in a relationship that was slowly breaking down and it left me feeling very worthless and used by a person who did not treat me with respect, I was fearing my last year of uni and the job hunt after graduation and just generally having a wave of depression and anxiety 24/7.
Fast forward to the present moment, I have graduated with a first class honours degree and I have been awarded the DM Trust Derek Holder prize for best dissertation in the area of data driven and digital marketing. I was headhunted for my dream job in an award winning media agency and have already been working since May, working with well known clients, as well as helped to set up the 2018 World Cup Rocket League ads which were viewed by millions during the live coverage of the World Cup. I have been the face of the Samaritans February and March direct mail campaign, I have been on Sky news, on the BBC Newsbeat website and in The Guardian, The Mighty, Mind and The Debrief. 

I have also met a man who has made me realise how strong I am. Whenever I am feeling mentally or physically unwell, he pushes me through it all. He makes me feel like I am invincible. He encourages me to be the best version of me and never lets me admit defeat. He makes me feel present in life; this time last year I was extremely mentally unwell and did not feel like I was living in the present moment, it was almost as if I was watching me live my life. But since I met Brad, I feel like I am living my life again. I don't feel like I need to rely on him for happiness, but he helps me get through all the hard times. 
Although, I would not have got to this point so soon after my mental 'blip' if it was not for Samaritans. When I was at my lowest last year, I did not want to live in the present moment. It was as if I wanted to flick the off switch for a bit and just escape the thoughts and the reality of what my life was at the time. One morning when I was home alone, I decided to call Samaritans. I had emailed them in the past and that helped me to some extent, but this time I needed immediate help and someone to talk to. I had been waiting 8 months for my CBT and it did not look like it was going to happen any time soon, but Samaritans where there for me. Today they are holding an event called The Big Listen, to raise awareness of the fact that they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round, for anyone who needs help. Last year they answered over 5 million calls, however they need more funds in order to carry on helping everyone who needs them. 
A few months ago I visited the Samaritans head office and was interviewed by the CEO Ruth Sutherland on an onstage panel; we discussed how Samaritans has helped me and how we can raise awareness and funds to help others. Since visiting the office, they have all been so supportive of me (as they were before); they have continuously checked up on me and congratulated me when I graduated and got a job. Which is why I have been so eager to get involved in The Big Listen campaign. I have signed up as a Social Champion for them and will be helping recruit other champions and donors for the campaign. Would you like to join me? If you do, you can sign up here: I WANNA JOIN YOU
Throughout today, you can win prizes for spreading the word, and you will also get access to the special Champion Dashboard to help you measure your impact and see how your posts online have helped Samaritans be there for those who need them. It is such a rewarding way to give back to a charity who do so much to help others! 

You can also check out their S.H.U.S.H listening tips below!

Join me and be a Social Champion, also donate if you can by following this link: https://spsr.me/Xhwy

Thank you for all the continued support and most importantly, thank you to Samaritans for helping me get to this point in my life! 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

My Relationship With Food & Alcohol

*Trigger Warning: If anything food, alcohol or weight related is triggering to you, please click off of this post now*
We are constantly surrounded by 'thinspiration' posts on social media and social pressures to have abs and a tiny waist. I myself have battled with confidence issues since a young age; I was always the outcast at school and was picked on for my size. Looking back on it I was tiny, but at the time I was considered 'large' for my age within society. Growing up I have always jumped from clothes sizes and weights, but I have always been somewhat healthy. 

However recently in the last year or two I have let myself go quite a lot. In my defence I have been through a lot in the last two years, from deaths, family health issues, breakups, deteriorating mental health and the stress from university and finding a job. In addition to this, I have been on the contraceptive injection and the combined pill, which made me gain weight like crazy and made my mental health plummet! All of this has changed my relationship with food and alcohol quite a lot. I love food and drink as much as the next person, however I have found myself using it as a coping mechanism or a way to procrastinate. For the last few months especially, I have been extremely stressed with university and interviewing for jobs, so naturally and habitually I have turned to alcohol and snacking to 'calm my nerves' and 'keep me sane'. 
This has obviously resulted in me putting on some weight and leaving me feeling a bit sluggish! I only have myself to blame and I know I am the one who needs to make changes in order to be healthier and fitter. I want to be able to wear an outfit again and not worry about my arm fat, cellulite or stretch marks. I want to feel pretty for my boyfriend (even though he finds me pretty regardless of how I look). I want to feel confident and not be worrying about how I look or how others look at me. 

I have uploaded many posts in the past about self-confidence, embracing yourself, talking about my insecurities, sizing of clothing, self-love and learning to love yourself again and this post is not much different. I want to love myself again and I want to feel comfortable at the size I'm at, but at the same time I want to change my relationship with food and alcohol and not rely on it as much as I have done. Binge eating and using alcohol to mask the pain and act as a comfort blanket, can be considered self-harm and I don't think it is spoken about enough! It's a lot more common than people think and you can find yourself in this downward spiral very quickly. 

In no means do I drink to get drunk, but I definitely turn to alcohol in social situations or when I am feeling particularly stressed. It has got to the point where I drink every day and I drink more alcohol than I do water. I need to change this habit and cut down. I need to get back my self control and not let alcohol be the first thing I reach for when I feel anxious or stressed. I need to stop binge eating to procrastinate or cure boredom. I need to change my relationship with food and alcohol and not let it control me. I have got to the point where I don't even care about the effects it has on my body. This needs to change! 
Today I decided to re-download 'MyFitnessPal' and track my daily intake. This stops me from overeating or drinking and allows me to gain some control back. I am not going to push myself to do hours of exercise a week, because it becomes a chore to me, but I am definitely going to gain back some control over my relationship with food and drink, in the hope that this makes me drop a few pounds. I don't expect it to happen overnight and I definitely don't expect to have a model figure, however what I do want is to love myself again and feel happy in my own skin. I don't want food and alcohol to dictate my life. I want to be able to have self-control and look after my physical and mental well-being. 

I've never spoken about my relationship with food and alcohol before, as I have never really seen it as an issue. However, I am beginning to see the effects of constantly eating and drinking and I want to nip it in the bud now, before it is too late. Hopefully when I start my job in the next few weeks, that will keep me active and busy and with hope I'll lose a bit of weight. For now I am going to do what I can to help cut down and feel happy in my body again. 

Any tips or advice would be great!
Have you experienced this?
Let me know in the comments below or Tweet me @petalsofperfect!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Taboos, Trivialisation and Turn Ons

We often see articles online with the title "How Many People You Should Sleep With Before You Settle Down", or "The Ideal Number of People to Have Sex With". Sex is in the media 24/7; we are engulfed in explicit images posted by our most loved celebrities. It has become the norm to see a sex scene in any film you watch (minus the children's films of course). So is there still a taboo? 

It is evident that sex has been in the past, a subject that is not widely spoken about in public. It is something that has been seen as a taboo. My sex education at school consisted of gory images of STI's; merely showing us what sex was in the first place, and by that point most of the girls in my school were on their second pregnancy. 

We can fool ourselves all we want, by saying that the topic of sex is no longer a taboo. So many people are talking and writing about it, breaking the stigma that comes with such a natural act of love. But, this does not mean that there is no longer any stigma. (Included in this post, are quotes from a man *He chose to be anonymous*; as I wanted to give you all a point of view from both sides). 

I have been going on a few dates for the past couple of months. I have met new people, shared new experiences and just generally had fun! It has been nice to 'get back out there' and do what I want, while I am still young! So why, when the topic of sex comes up (excuse the pun), do we shy away with the fear of being judged? If it is something that is so openly spoken about, why are we worried about the reaction of our date, when we say that we've only slept with a handful of people, or hundreds of people for that matter? 

Someone I have been speaking to said, that they had only slept with one person and for me to not 'run away' when I hear them say that. He then went on to say, that many girls had dismissed him and turned him down after finding that out. Which confused me. Why would I run away, because a guy has only had one sexual experience? Which then made me think, why do guys feel under so much pressure to 'get laid'? Is it because people do not see them as 'experienced', therefore they do not want to waste their time pursuing something with them? 

"Unfortunately, as a guy, I can confirm that the whole “lad” culture surrounding sex is still very much a thing, even if more men aren’t so fixated on the idea of “conquests” determining manhood anymore."

In my opinion, no one is ever truly experienced or advanced at sex. Especially, when you bring numbers into the situation. I've slept with someone who has had a lot of sex, with many different people; and I've slept with someone who has been in a long term relationship and only slept with a couple of people. My first 'sexual experience' was not exactly the best, but it will always mean something to me. Each person I have been with, has had a different number of 'sexual experiences'; and do you know what?! They have all been completely different. No single person, has been the same as another person, or better than the other person. 

Men usually give it the 'big I am' when they talk about their sex life. Explaining in graphic detail, how they have had sex with multiple people in one night; or saying that they had sex in, said unique place. I've been told by a guy that his group of friends share who the last person was to have sex, and they then give them a nickname of some sort. I don't know about you, but that kind of thing does not impress me. I will not judge someone purely on the amount of people they have been with, because that feeds into the taboo even more. 

"There is a pressure, often more subconscious and unspoken than explicitly outlined, amongst single men to go out and sleep with as many people as you can, playing the field."

Someone could sleep with hundreds of people and class themselves as a 'sexpert', when in reality, no girl or guy is the same; we all get turned on and off by different things. To me, I see sex as something that should have no pressure. Something that is fun and a connection between two people. Having said that, it is so important that you are on the same page. Sex is about learning and experimenting; finding out what works for you. So, why should guys or girls feel embarrassed when they share their 'magic number'?

"The idea pervades that the more people you sleep with the more successful or desirable you are, if you aren’t doing so (even if you aren’t that fussed) you are viewed in a slightly different light to everyone else."

"Nights out for a group of single men, for example, can be wholly focused on “conquests” - the pressure being that there should be nothing stopping you from adding to your “total”, even if you don’t want to. The culture still inherently suggests that this is the done thing to do."

I started this discussion on Twitter and I had mixed reactions. Most people did not care about how many people their date had slept with (and rightly so, in my opinion). However, others (mostly men) said that they feel embarrassed that they've only slept with one or two people, due to being in long term relationships. Which raises another question... why should people feel embarrassed for being in long term relationships? 
I've been cheated on by someone who had admitted to having a very sexual past. I was not fazed by that and did not judge them. However, since this has happened, I have found myself wanting a guy who can show they are loyal. So, when a guy says they have slept around and disrespected girls, this does not impress me. The 'alpha male' vibes they are *trying* to give off, do not do anything for me. But at the same time, there is nothing wrong with someone who sleeps around and does not want anything serious. The main thing is that they are honest from the start. If you want a hookup, just say it; it is normal and fine! 

However, when I brought up the conversation about women sleeping around; men didn't seem too keen. Society has made us believe, that women need to be 'pure' and are deemed 'sluts' if they have had a lot of sex. So why do men feel the need to either lie about how many people they have slept with, or express that they have slept with hundreds of girls, in order to impress their date and make them think they are more experienced? 

The point I am trying to make with this post is, no one is classed as 'experienced'. Having sex with hundreds of people, does not make you experienced, as everyone is different. Sleeping around does not make you a slut, slag, whore... whatever you want to name someone who is carrying out a 'natural act'. Sex should not be the be all and end all of a relationship. Men or women should not be embarrassed to tell a girl or guy that they have only slept with one person. Men or women should not be embarrassed to tell a girl or guy that they have slept with hundreds of people. Sex is sex. Make of it, what you will. 

Sex is still very much a taboo, especially if men feel the need to lie and say they have slept with hundreds of girls, in order to look impressive and experienced. Sex is still very much a taboo, especially if women feel the need to lie and say that they have only slept with a handful of people, due to the fear of being called a slut. 

We need to start being more open minded when it comes to sex. Do not feel the need to hide who you truly are, or lie about your experiences, in order to fit in with society. Those who judge others based on their sex life, are not worth your time. So let's stop fooling ourselves when we say that, sex is no longer a taboo. Yes, we may have come a long way (clean minds please haha), but it can still be very much a taboo. 

What are your thoughts?
Let me know in the comments below or Tweet me @petalsofperfect!