Body Positivity · eating disorder

If you’re disgusted at Weight-Watcher’s app for children, remember they’re selling you the same shit.

No doubt if you’re reading this you’ve seen that WW (formerly Weight-Watchers) has launched an app called Kurbo a ‘nutrition and weight loss app’ for children as young as 8!

Kids enter their height, weight, age & goals, then begin logging whatever they eat. Kurbo used a “traffic-light” system to rate each food in terms of its nutritional worth.

If you’re an relatively intelligent human being, you’re instinct to this should be utter horror. Children do not need weight loss apps/plans. Whilst an few children may be managing obesity, this is something for a doctor to support them with not an American company trying to make a quick buck.

Critics are obviously outraged, noting this is likely to promote unhealthy relationships with food in young people and add to body dissatisfaction. I’m not going to harp on about that as you can read countless reasons why this is the worst idea in the world in far more concise and articulate ways elsewhere.

What I’m curious about is the outcry surrounding this app being sold to young people and children when we so readily accept this shit as adults. We quickly spot WW are attempting to make money off young people’s insecurities, and are rightly outraged by this, but happily continue to fund them, and brands like them, ourselves.

WW, Slimfast, Slimming World, BooTea etc. capitalise daily on our insecurities and selling us the dream that once we are thin we will be worthy. They teach us to view food as numbers and as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and not fuel for our bodies and pleasure for our senses. We have to earn our points, purge our syns and detox our toxins.

Every supermarket, chemist and ‘health’ store in the country stocks their products next to our ‘everyday essentials’ and we accept this unquestioningly.

When do stop viewing this as an outrage and accept it as part of life? 10? 14? 20? We wouldn’t dare allow our children to use this toxic app, slimming shakes, detox teas that we know nothing about, funded by self-hatred, but we allow ourselves to spend our hard earned money on their next quick fix.

So I urge you to feel the same outrage for yourself. For allowing companies to earn millions selling you the notion that you will not ever be good enough until they say so. Until the next certificate, the next milestone, the next badge.

I want you to feel rage that WW is worth an estimated $163 billion whilst you’ve thrown your hard earn pennies on their lies. On making you feel inadequate.

Feel the same anger you feel when you know they’re selling this message to our children. Because you were once that child. And you were sold the lie that your outward appearance denies your worth in this world.

And I want you to share the message that we should feel as outraged at what they do to us as you do for our young people.

You are beautiful.

You are perfect.

You are worthy.

No matter your size.

No matter your shape.

Lorna

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The Big Questions!

The Big Questions with Lauren!

 

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This month I chatted to the beautiful Lauren! Lauren is the owner and creator of Yana, a clothing brand aiming to break down the barriers for those living with mental illness and to remind us all that however dark it gets, we are never alone. Here are her answers to ‘The Big Questions!’

1. Tell us a little about your journey…

Well, where do I start and how long have you got?! So, going back to when I was 13 (I’m now 28, almost 29, so bear with!) I started to experience signs of depression – I remember being bullied during the first few years of secondary school and having a love/hate relationship with my parents – this may have been the trigger, but who knows! I continued to struggle with any hard times that I came up against (they may not have appeared like ‘hard times’ to others but for me they were) and I felt as though I had nowhere to turn, no one that could understand or help me understand what was going on inside my mind. I turned to self-harm and attempted suicide on a couple of occasions.

People used to say it was attention-seeking (the self-harm) but it was a release, from all the anger and hurt I was feeling inside.

I continued to struggle on my own (with the odd counselling sessions which I never found that beneficial at the time) until I was 17, in my first year of university. I started drinking a lot (like any other uni student!) but I noticed that the high I was getting from the drink, when drunk, was becoming addictive. I started getting the urge to drink again as soon as reality came back to hit me in the face – I just wanted to be drunk and happy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still experienced the emotional outlet that the depressant brings but for the majority of the time I was a happy drunk with no negative thoughts or a care in the world. Something told me that this wasn’t right, and I was afraid of it becoming out of hand.

I reached out to my mum, who booked me in at the Priory to start therapy which would be covered through her medical insurance from her place of work at the time. After only one session my mum’s workplace decided to stop the medical insurance for their employees which meant I couldn’t continue my therapy due to the cost. I then went to my GP to seek alternative support through the NHS to which I was just diagnosed with depression, given anti-depressants and sent on my way.

The drinking continued, the struggles continued, the self-harm continued. I gave up on talking at the time and tried to block out everything I was feeling. If you asked most of my uni friends, they would probably have no idea this was going on. Apart from one, who I lived with, worked with and went to uni with – she saw all sides of me… and we remain good friends to this day, she’s a keeper!

My anxiety problems started that same year, which wasn’t helped by the smoking of weed, – I never smoked it a lot but now and again with friends in halls. I had one experience of a ‘whitey’ which was a BAD experience, I ended up in A&E thinking I was going to die – some may laugh, and still laugh about this but this was the start of my panic attacks and huge anxiety problem. I couldn’t work, travel, walk anywhere on my own, drink alcohol etc – anything that made me feel out of control, trapped, or in danger, I couldn’t handle.

Jumping forward slightly, since being out of university and thrown in to the ‘big wide world’, I tried to pursue my hopes of working in the fashion industry and after almost 5 years at two different high street retailers, I was worn down and forced to leave the industry for a more ‘mental health friendly’ environment. I could talk for ages about the effects the workplace has had on my mental health, but I think I have already got a little carried away!

Over the past 4 years, I have had CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) through the NHS four times and the last two rounds I have found incredibly helpful. Learning to re-train my brain, understanding my thought process and how I can intercept and change it. CBT has definitely helped with my anxiety, still a long way to go but I can tell and people around me can tell the impact it has made. I still struggle with the ups & downs of depression, but certain aspects of my life have improved following CBT, which has, in turn, helped the depression.

2. What inspired you to talk so openly?

Learning to talk about what is going on inside my mind really has helped with my recovery. Some people think talking is so simple, but it is so so hard for someone who is struggling with a mental health illness. Once you manage to start opening up and airing all of those thoughts, it is like a weight is lifted and you can make more sense of it all, see things a little clearer. And, get support from those around you.

It has taken me 10 years to get to this point and I really want to encourage others to feel ok with their illness, feel ok to talk about it and to feel less alone with their illnesses.

 

3. Do you believe there is still a stigma surrounding mental health?

YES! The workplace is a big one for me. And I’ve even experienced this from friends, who have had no personal experience of mental health illnesses.

4. Do you find it easy to speak about your mental health?

I never used to find it easy to talk about at all but now, I feel more able too. I do struggle to say what I mean sometimes as I have dyslexia and dyspraxia which then triggers my anxiety but the more I continue to share my experiences and take opportunities to do so, the more I will overcome those anxieties!

5. What has helped you maintain positive mental health/wellbeing?

CBT, social media detoxes & surrounding myself with people that love me for me.

6. What are your favourite self-care activities?

Baking, cooking, walking, swimming, getting creative!

7. Have any books/films/TV shows helped you with your mental health? If so, which?

Self-Care Journals:

365 Days of Self-Care (Jayne Hardy)

Be the Change (Gina Martin)

Podcasts:

Happy Place (Fearne Cotton)

Under the Skin (Russell Brand)

Mad World / If I Can Do It (Bryony Gordon)

Extraordinary People (Katie Piper)

8. What would you say to your younger self?

You are enough, just as you are.

Stop comparing yourself to others, it’s better to be an individual.

Put yourself first, look after number one – be your own best friend.

9. How do you think we can improve mental well-being for the next generation?

Continuing to talk and share our stories, show them that it is ok to not be ok and it is ok to talk about our emotions. Mental health should be a topic in schools for sure!!

 

10. Who are your biggest role models?

Fearne Cotton, Bryony Gordon, Hussain Manawear, Shocka Artist.

Anyone that speaks so openly, honestly about their mental health experiences in order to help others.

Myself – I have NEVER said this before, but this question got me thinking… I am proud of how far I’ve come!

12. What would you say to someone struggling with their mental health right now?

Please do not suffer in silence, reach out to a friend, family member or even me! It really does help to air your feelings. Be kind to yourself and take time for you.

13. If you could press a button, and get rid of your mental illness for good, right now, would you press it?

No. It makes me, me and I wouldn’t want to change who I am.

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You can follow Lauren on social media here:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

And please check out the incredible Yana store for amazing tee’s, sweatshirts and tote bags! 10% of every purchase goes to Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity!

You can also get an exclusive discount on ay items using code ‘LBTB10’!

yana

Review

Review: The Self Care Subscription Box

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you might have seen that I was previously subscribed to The Blurt Foundation’s Buddy Box since around Christmas last year.

Whilst I enjoyed their boxes, I often felt a bit disappointed in them. Whilst one or two items were something I absolutely loved and would use, many weren’t. I also couldn’t help feel the boxes were very impersonal. The Blurt Foundation is a huge organisation and sends out tonnes of boxes, meaning they can feel very commercial and sterile. They also often use the same suppliers, and so you end up with similar products from the same brand. I just never felt they were quite worth the £20+ charged for them. Don’t get me wrong, some of the items were amazing and I still use them daily, but many just sit in a basket in my room, untouched.

So I decided to see what else was around.

I wanted something of a similar price, that was still focused on self-care. A box that sends me things I would never think to buy for myself, but that I would none the less love and utilise. The Self Care Subscription Box had been on my radar on social media for a while, and so I decided to see what I could find out!

What is the Self Care Subscription Box?

The Self Care Subscription Box used to be called the MeriBeeMee Subscription Box after it’s creator, Merida, who suffers from a range of chronic and mental health conditions. It is a monthly subscription box of carefully chosen goodies designed for those who need a little extra self-care (those with chronic illness, mental health difficulties, bereavement etc.). Merida herself writes that the purpose behind the boxes is to make people feel less alone and loved, as she truly understands how isolating chronic conditions can be. Each box is themed and contains a range of goodies based upon this. Previous themes have included sleep, sloths and strength!

With the rebranding of the box, there are even specifically designed boxes for children and teenagers. This is a great way to show the young people in your life that you value teaching them about their mental health, and support them through challenging times. They’d make ideal gifts for those starting secondary school this September!

Past boxes can be purchased from the website, and one-off gifts can be given.

What’s included?

The thing I love about TSCSB is that you can tell all items were handpicked by someone who just gets it! Rather than hand creams or lip balms (which don’t get me wrong, I love) past boxes have included travel mugs, wash bags, socks and even a power bank for your phone! The products are far more useful than other’s I’ve seen, as well as including treats I’d never think to buy for myself such as enamel pins and bracelets. Products per box are worth around £45-60 (RRP), which is way better than other boxes of a similar price.

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How much does it cost?

Only £24 on a month to month basis. This goes out on the 11th of the month, but Merida is super real – she gets that sometimes this isn’t possible and so is happy for you to pay late if needs be, providing you let her know and pay by the end of the month. So if you pay-day is closer to the end of the month, no problem!

So, I subscribed. It was super easy, and I pay monthly via PayPal. (It was also super easy to cancel my Buddy Box subscription, which I really appreciate!)

The Personal Touch

What I love the most about the SCSB is the personal touch I’ve received right from the start. Merida is a one-woman band and so she’s super accessible. She is easy to get hold of via email and answers questions quickly. She even sent out a list of questions to each of her subscribers to personalise boxes (beginning next year) which I absolutely loved! Questions included things like T-shirt size, favourite hobbies, special dates in your life, all so she can add a personal touch to your subscription. You actually feel special when someone takes the time to really get to know you with a view to making something magical for you.

There’s also an opportunity to get involved in a real community via the Facebook group, and to gain additional items to your box when you refer friends, review/vlog/share about the boxes. It really feels like you’re shopping with a friend.

July’s Box!

July 2019 was my first box. The items were released ahead of time on social media, but this is the last time this will happen. From now on only the theme will be released, which I prefer. I want my box to be a joyful surprise each month! Nevertheless, my box was still pretty special when it arrived. This month’s theme was summer based, and you could choose between a ‘Vacay’ or ‘Staycay’ box. I don’t really enjoy travel so I was pleased to see there was an option for people who prefer summer’s relaxing at home. When you have a mental illness and everything is geared at living you best life in the sun you can feel pretty crappy in comparison, so it’s nice to have the hermit life normalised and celebrated.

The box included a total of 6 core items. It was packaged beautifully, on shredded cardboard and even included little thank you stickers and messages to recycle. There was a lovely welcome postcard, a quote, and little thank you card.

The items included can be seen in the image below.

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I absolutely adore the box. It’s so adorable and I have no doubt I will use every item in it. I’ve actually wanted to try my hand at a craft for a while so a beginners crochet kit falls firmly into the category of something I’d never buy myself but actually love! The candle smells beautiful (mine was a Jasmine & Ylang scent), the body scrub is a good size not just a mini sample bottle, and the socks are just completely adorable! I got a watermelon pattern, which is super cute! The standout is the unique bath bomb – I’ve never seen anything like it before! I also love the inclusion of a proper book. A lot of subscription boxes include mini-books full of quotes or activities – the kind you find next to a checkout – which are lovely and cute but not something you really bother to read much so it’s nice to have something to really sink your teeth into.

Next months theme is Back to School – I’m guessing it will involve plenty of stationery, so I’m super excited about that. Other themes coming up include Pusheen and a Spoonie specific box (which can be adapted for those without a chronic illness).

I genuinely adore the box, and the whole process of subscribing has felt special and exciting, unlike just placing any other online order. The boxes are unique and clearly created by someone with a genuine passion and genuine care for her clients.

I also think the unique option to tailor boxes, be this for those without chronic illness or for younger people is something really wonderful. There is an evident care and compassion for customers radiating from each box, and I have no doubt going forward I will look forward to each delivery!

Lorna

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borderline personality disorder · Mental Health

I was ghosted by my best friend. It destroyed my confidence.

Four years ago, I went for a drink in town with one of my best friends.

I’d spent the day on a date with a guy I was seeing (my now boyfriend) and went straight into town to see her.

I never saw or heard from her again.

As far as I’m concerned, we had a nice evening. I remember being tired, and not really feeling it, but nothing out of the ordinary happened. I told her how my diagnosis had been changed to BPD, and when she asked what this meant I told her I wasn’t really too sure myself yet and so didn’t want to dwell on it. I told her about the guy I was seeing and we chatted about uni and people we knew from school. We left and went our separate ways.

It took me a while to even realise that something was wrong. She wasn’t the best at replying to messages so I didn’t think too much of it when she didn’t text back the next day.

But after 4 or 5 messages, a few days apart, I stated to wonder if everything was okay.

Then it turned to weeks.

I sent her a message apologising if I had done/said something wrong when we met and told her I wanted to be friends as she meant the world to me. She’d been one of my best friends for years and helped me through my breakdown, diagnosis and beyond. We’d visited each other at uni and saw each other at least weekly when we were home. I hated the thought of losing her.

More time passed. I tried apologising again. This time using Facebook in case something happened to her phone. I watched as it changed to read hopeful… Nothing. I must have sent an apology message 5 or 6 times over the following weeks. Each met with a deafening silence.

Weeks became months, and then years.

I was crushed.

To this day I still have no idea what happened, or why she stopped speaking to me. I’ve replayed out last drinks over and over. I’ve beaten myself up over being tired, over not being in the mood, over things I can’t even remember doing or saying.

I lost one of the most important people in my life and I don’t know why.

This had a huge impact on me. I now hate seeing friends, in case I do or say something wrong and lose anyone else. When j do see them, I agonise over things I said, wondering if the other person might have misinterpreted something I said or did. I desperately want to hear from them again as soon as possible, to know they still want me in their life.

I hold zero malice towards my forner friend, but I’m crushed by what they did. They didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me what I’d done, or simply to let me know they no longer wanted to speak to me. That I could have managed. If I understood why I could have learnt from it and moved on. But having no idea what I did means I now fear all social interactions. Because I never know when it might be the last time I see someone.

I’ve been left feeling like I’m an awful person to be around. When I meet new people I clam up, afraid they’ll hate me. With friends I try and focus on them, not me, to avoid seeing self-absorbed or disinterested. I think so care fully before opening my mouth, and then replay every single word I uttered later on.

But more often than not I avoid social situations. Because then I’m in control. I don’t have to feel like I did again.

I’m not writing this to berate my friend, or to shame anyone who ghost their friends, I’ve done it myself in the past. But experiencing the reality of how it feels has been significant for me. And I wanted to share it.

Lorna

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Body Image · Body Positivity

I have a naturally red face. I’m tired of feeling like I have to hide it.

Let’s talk skin.

We all know the struggles of trying to get that celeb skin. That blemish-free, baby-like glow. I’ve suffered from acne since my teenage years so I totally get this.

But what I want to talk about is skin tone.

My father’s family are Irish, and I have naturally very pale skin. I never tan, only burn. But my skin has a red undertone too it, particularly on my face. My dad’s skin was the same, and I always remember him having a very red nose. Bascially, I have very typical Irish skin.

When I was a child, it didn’t bother me. I had red cheeks and it was somehow cute (see below, adorable right?). People would compliment me on it. I never really paid much attention to it, I didn’t care about my appearance that much.

Fast forward to my teenage years and I noticed none of the other girls in my year seemed to have this issue. I had acne, which only exaggerated the ‘issue’ and I began using make-up to cover it. Everyone was wearing foundation and appeared to have flawless skin and I felt self-conscious.

This stuck.

I’ve become so used to covering this part of myself I didn’t even realise how embarrassed I felt about it. Last year I went to a show at the NEC with a friend and a woman approached us offering to show her make-up products. She immediately pointed out how red my skin was, even though I was wearing make-up and suggested she could “fix” this for me. I felt so embarrassed. I felt like a ‘flaw’ had been pointed out, in a public space, and I must work harder to fix it in future to avoid such humiliation. I’ve since even gone as far to purchase green primer to try and counterbalance my skin tone.

But recently, I’ve been thinking about what utter bullshit this all is. My skin is the colour it is. It’s not a problem to be fixed. It’s not something I should feel a need to hide.

I started to think of celebrities, and the people we see on TV and the wider media, and why so few seem to have skin like mine. The answer is simple. Every single person on TV, male or female, is plastered in make-up. We all know it. We’ve seen it in ‘behind the scenes’ footage. I remember seeing the Impractical Jokers getting it applied – 4 middle-aged New York men who literally take the piss out of one another for a living have to have their natural skin covered in order to be on TV. Why!? I’m sure no one would complain if their natural skin was on show – that’s not why they’re watching it!

Even Piers Morgan, Alan Sugar and Danny Dyer are expected to do it! They’re wearing make-up to cover any and all flaws and no one questions it! In fact, we are so blind to it we don’t even notice.

This behaviour just reinforces the view that natural, blemished, imperfect skin is unacceptable. That it needs to be masked, fixed and hidden. I wish I saw people on TV or in magazines showing their true skin tones, their real faces. It would have completely changed the way I felt about myself as I grew up.

Don’t get me wrong, I love make-up, I love enhancing my face, but sometimes I just wish I didn’t have to work so hard to cover my redness.

I’m hoping, moving forward to feel more able to embrace this and to accept it is part of myself I cannot change, and do not need to hide. But after years of watching people with perfect skin, this might take some time.

Lorna

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Mental Health · Mental Health Stigma

Seatle Grace is the workplace we should all strive for when it comes to mental health

Please note this blog is NOT spoiler free and I use ‘Seatle Grace’ as this is what I prefer – plus Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital is a bitch to type.

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2019 will always be known as the year that I began watching Grey’s Anatomy. A little late, I know, but my commitment to the show makes up for the 15 seasons I’ve missed so far.

I’m currently on season 12 and whilst it’s been an emotional rollercoaster, I have found the writer’s commitment to addressing mental illness powerful.

For anyone who might not be familiar, Grey’s Anatomy is a TV show set in a hospital in Seatle. It follows the hospitals surgical teams – from the Chief of Surgery, right down to the new interns. And they all seem to have it pretty good when it comes to their mental health at work.

Let’s first talk about the shooting. A widower open-fired within the hospital after losing his wife there some episodes prior. Several staff members lost their lives, whilst others were held at gunpoint or witnessed shootings. Now, granted this isn’t the most realistic of situations, but the response was pretty great. The hospital shipped in a trauma counsellor to assess each staff member involved. Doctors were allowed to keep working (some on restricted duties) and given support when they needed it. Hell, Christina even quit her job but they kept it open for her and allowed to return once she had worked through her PTSD. Lexie was committed (sectioned) and still allowed to return to work without any major fuss being made.

Webber, the Chief of Surgery and the most senior doctor within the show, struggles with an addiction to alcohol. Whilst harm to patients means he lost his position, he is actively encouraged to attend rehab and return to work. His reputation as a fantastic, inspiring teacher outweighs his personal struggle. He is promoted to head of the residency programme, shaping future surgeons lives. He is commended for overcoming his demons and plays a vital role in supporting others with their own battles.

When Bailey developed OCD following the loss of her patients to an infection she passed through faulty gloves, they didn’t deem her unfit to work or insist she take time off. They provided her with a (slightly annoying) occupational therapist and compassionately encouraged her to use medication to aide her, with Webber, her former boss, kindly encouraging her to “accept that you have a disease…Accept help.” It also didn’t stop Bailey from going on to become Chief of Surgery herself, leading the entire hospital. As she quite rightly asserts…

“Yes, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But it is not my story. It’s just one piece.”

The show repeatedly highlights that a mental illness does not stop the characters doing incredible things. They hold down jobs, have happy relationships, families and save lives. They keep going. They thrive. They are more than a diagnosis. Their conditions do not stop them. They do not lose their positions, their patients, their friends. They keep thriving.

And when they do wobble, they are met with support, compassion and understanding. They are not deemed a danger, or a liability, but a human. They are given time. Time to heal. Time to process. Time to move on.

Seatle Grace accepts mental illness as it does any other illness within its walls. It offers care and treatment to those in need, be it staff or patient. They remeber the person behind the diagnosis, and help them find their way back. They provide support and compassion to allow those suffering to thrive once more.

It is the way all workplaces should be.

Lorna

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