borderline personality disorder · Personality Disorders

I’m tired of having to explain what BPD is to GP’s

In March 2019 I suffered a period of significant deterioration in my mental state. I was more anxious than I had been in years, paranoid and struggling to make it through an hour without crying. I was self-harming regularly and suicidal thoughts were coming hard and fast.

So I did what I needed to and booked an appointment with my GP. Having recently relocated back to my hometown, it was a GP I hadn’t seen about my mental health before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I outlined my history, diagnosis, medication regime and current symptoms. I made it clear these were reactive to a situation in my life at the time, that my BPD was struggling to keep in perspective.

After around 5 minutes explaining everything as clearly as I could manage, she paused.

“Well it sounds like your depression and anxiety is getting much worse.”

What?! What depression? I don’t have a diagnosis of depression. I haven’t for 4 years, since my diagnosis was amended. I accepted my anxiety was getting much worse but reminded the doctor of my BPD diagnosis.

“Right” she paused “and what exactly does that mean to you?”

I told her I struggled to explain it articulately, particularly given my low mood and overwhelmed mental state at the time. I asked if she was familiar with the diagnosis. To her credit, she admitted she wasn’t. I sighed. Here we go again.

Eventually we muddled our way through, me forcing myself to try and think logically and explain a condition which felt far too hard to explain in a 12 minute appointment. She amended my medication, doubling my Quetiapine dose and referring me to the CMHT.

I wish this was a one off example. Having lived up and down the country with university and graduate roles I have seen more GP’s than I can remember. And to my recollection, only one has ever known what BPD was, without me having to prompt them.

Whilst I am empathetic to the role of a GP, and appreciate how many conditions they are expected to know, recognise and treat, it is incredibly disheartening having to continuously teach them about my disorder.

Often I only visit the GP in times of crisis, when I have tried to manage for a week or too but the emotional turmoil becomes just too much. My mind is so fuzzy and overwhelmed I can barely find the words to describe it, let alone give a psychiatry lesson.

I would honestly prefer if the GP was honest and admitted they didn’t know and simply looked it up, instead of expecting me to explain. I always feel under a huge pressure to explain it accurately for the next person this GP encounters with the same diagnosis, to help make their appointment a little easier than mine.

It frustrates me that Personality Disorders impact more people than Bipolar and Schizophrenia and yet still medical professionals know nothing about them.

It simply isn’t good enough.

Lorna

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borderline personality disorder · Personality Disorders

Anger: The unexpected key to my recovery

For years, I feared anger. It terrified me. Having been raised in a home with domestic violence anger signaled danger, an impending threat.

I learnt to avoid anger at all costs. I’d avoid any form of conflict. Whenever someone raised their voice I’d go silent, retreating inwards, in a manner similar to animals playing dead to avoid harm. Don’t poke the beast, right?

Growing up within an environment with domestic violence I also was raised to believe I deserved all I got. I didn’t feel upset or frustrated at any ill-treatment I received as I wholeheartedly believed I deserved it. My experiences were also invalidated repeatedly, meaning I stopped trusting my emotional instincts.

This has continued for most of my life. I’ve avoided all conflict, however small, and rolled-over playing dead more times than I care to admit. I’ve let people mistreat me, without ever feeling much other than a sense of shame, accepting that I deserved it.

When I got diagnosed with BPD I remember reading about BPD rage and not having any sense as to what this was. I couldn’t relate.

But surprisingly, my journey to recovery has included an activation of the anger I so long repressed.

A key part of my recovery has been developing a more stable sense of who I am, and what I deserve in life. With this, I’ve stopped accepting poor treatment as something I deserve, and come to realise I absolutely do not. This had meant I’ve felt anger when I have been wronged, for the first time in my life.

To begin with this felt scary to me. I felt I’d lost control and worried what might happen. I felt an uncontrollable emotion I had never experienced and had no clue how to manage it. I desperately feared speaking up or acting out in case I was abandoned.

But slowly I’ve learnt to accept this anger, and even to welcome it.

I think we forget that anger is an incredibly valuable emotion. We fear confrontation, particularly in the UK, as immediately view it as a negative. I too was guilty of it.

I see it everywhere. Someone disagreeing with an opinion is deemed confrontational, someone enforcing their boundaries makes them aggressive and those who dare to call out others for their poor treatment are petty and bitchy.

But anger allows you to know when you have been wronged, motivates you to assert your boundaries and help you form a life where you are treated with the respect you deserve. For me, learning to listen to my anger has been incredibly valuable. I’ve walked away from toxic friendships, safe in the knowledge that I deserve more. I’ve called out those around me when their behaviour has hurt me, refusing to accept poor treatment.

Anger has helped me create better relationships with those I love. I feel comfortable asserting my boundaries, and am learning to do this as appropriately as I can, without expecting abandonment.

We too often confuse anger and rage. Rage brings with it aggression, vindictiveness and impulsivity. Anger brings motivation, action and boundary assertion. And anger can be an incredible friend when you learn to welcome it.

Lorna

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borderline personality disorder · Personality Disorders

How my BPD diagnosis set me free

That title probably sounds weird right?

Borderline Personality Disorder is a really complex, life-interfering condition with a huge negative stigma attached to it. And don’t get me wrong, living with BPD is incredibly hard. But I’m equally incredibly thankful for my diagnosis.

Let me explain.

Before I was diagnosed with BPD, I had a diagnosis of anxiety and depression for around 2-3 years. I was on antidepressants, which helped somewhat, and had attempted CBT, which sadly left me feeling worse.

Whilst I was on a placement year at the University of Exeter, I regularly saw the same GP, who specialised in mental health cases. She picked up on a pattern of behaviour which she felt did not match my diagnosis. I wasn’t having long periods of low mood, but more triggered episodes of crisis often linked to difficulties in relationships and challenges to my self-image. I had some marked impulsively, largely in regards to self-harm and suicidal behaviour.

She calmly explained to me that she felt I might instead have Borderline Personality Disorder. Fast forward around 4 weeks and a 2 psychiatric assessments and it was all confirmed.

This period of my life feels like a blur. I was largely dissociating for most of the time, experiencing a complex relationship loss and coming towards the end of my placement year, facing the dreaded return to university. But in and amongst the fear and confusion of this period a sense of relief.

For a while I had suspected my behaviour wasn’t quite fitting my diagnosis; I had friends with depression and anxiety and I wasn’t quite like them. I was much more reactive, and my symptoms, although more short-lived, were far more intense. Having the right diagnosis meant I finally felt I had a label that fit. It was validating to know I wasn’t alone in my experiences and to know my diagnostic label would allow professionals and those around me to have a clearer understanding of what was going on for me.

Getting a diagnosis also opened a lot of doors for me. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it got me the right medication, in my case, Quetiapine. I’ve already written about how this truly changed my life, and how thankful I am that my GP suggested this course of treatment, so I won’t bore you with repeating myself.

Although I wasn’t able to engage with a DBT programme due to having dual-addresses (as is often a complex barrier to treatment for students) I was able to learn about it and apply the skills myself. I was actually running a DBT group at the time as part of my placement so I had access to the programme and all materials indirectly. It also helped me to understand why CBT hadn’t worked for me, and had left me feeling worse. I began to understand the importance of feeling validated in my emotions, as opposed to having my very thoughts challenged.

I learnt where my behaviours stemmed from (largely exposure to domestic violence and psychological abuse in childhood) and this allowed me to challenge the unhelpful ones as and when they occurred. I was able to recognise the behaviours that were once adaptive had served there purpose and no longer needed. I learnt ways of reassuring myself I was safe and was able to communicate to those around me what was going on internally during periods of crisis.

I also learned the power of acceptance. For so long I believed that my intense emotional responses meant I was somehow broken. I believed I was too much for people (which wasn’t helped by an ex who told me this outright) and my entire sense of self depended on how others treated me. But since diagnosis, I am now able to view them as things I learnt to survive a difficult situation, which are no longer needed.

One of my favourite DBT phrases is as follows

You are doing the best you can right now with the skills you have, even if you could do better

Having a diagnosis has taught me so much about myself. It’s taught me about my past, and helped me in vision a different future. I’ve learnt I am hugely compassionate and empathetic, and harnessed these skills in my work with offenders. I’ve learnt the importance of allowing my emotions to play out, as opposed to trying to force them away. I’ve learnt I need regular self-care days to manage, and that this doesn’t make me lazy or selfish. I’ve learnt how to fall in love and to be loved, but to not allow my sole sense of worth to come from another. And I’ve learnt how to quieten that inner child, scared and desperate to keep my safe. To thank her, but also to reassure her, and to care her.

My diagnosis means my mind finally makes sense to me, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Lorna

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anorexia · Body Image · Body Positivity · eating disorder

Confession: I feel like a fraud.

Sometimes, I feel like a fraud.

To be more specific I feel like a fraud in terms of my anorexia.

I have been largely recovered (although I prefer the term weight-restored) from anorexia for around 4 years. I still struggle with the mentality of an anorexic on a regular basis, and occasionally dip back into some behavioural patterns (pacing, excessive exercise, food restrictions etc.) but generally, I do not ‘suffer’ in the same way I once did.

And sometimes, this makes me feel like a bad anorexic. Like I’ve failed. Like I didn’t commit. Like I gave up. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m so fortunate to have survived and recovered from anorexia, but a small part of me feels like I somehow failed.

I feel like I should still be battling like I see so many others doing. Like I should be trapped in the vicious cycle of relapse and remission others inhabit. I have this voice telling me I can’t call myself a real anorexic as I never relapsed. I recovery took a long time, years even, but once I got there I’ve largely stayed put. And I have a voice in me telling me this makes me a failure.

I also never got a diagnosis. As I’ve written and spoken about before my GP was unable/refused to diagnose me as my BMI straddled the line between ‘underweight’ and ‘healthy’. I was never referred, never diagnosed, just told not to worry and monitored. I never got a formal diagnosis, despite obviously exhibiting all symptoms of anorexia, and losing a drastic amount of weight in a short space of time. So when I tell people I had anorexia I sometimes feel like I’m lying, because a medical professional never confirmed this. That doctor made me feel like I was exaggerating, it couldn’t jve been that bad if a doctor said it wasn’t.

Of course, the reality was I was incredibly unwell, and I served my time. But I don’t know if that voice will ever leave, and if I’ll ever be truly free of the anorexic voice, so determined to tell me I failed.

Lorna

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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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yana

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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