Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Alcohol.

(CW/TW : Alcoholism, Addiction, Mental Health)

I remember the first time I ever tasted alcohol. Like most people's first experience of the stuff, it was away from the watchful eyes of my parents. It was in a park with friends, all of whom older than me. It was, I believe, a Summers' evening, just getting dark. It was some sort of cheap cider I'm sure, shared around the group from a communal plastic bottle. I can't remember who it belonged to but I remember the cocktail of excitement, dread and rebellion that I felt in the pit of stomach as the bottle emerged from someone's rucksack and how it increased as it was passed round in my direction. Reading this, you may think this is a fairly typical experience of someone's first experience of alcohol. You probably also imagine I was around the age of 16. In reality, it was shortly after my 12th birthday.




I had my first sip of alcohol aged 12. 

By 13, drinking was not unusual in my social life and I drank with my friends somewhat regularly. In that same park as well as others, in back lanes, in car parks, in shared cubicles in train station toilets and in fields. 

By 14, my social life depended upon drinking. Without drinking, there was no social life. I drank every weekend and often on school nights too. Sometimes for days in a row. I remember when people would ask what we were doing at the weekend, mine and my friends' response would be 'getting drunk'. As if that alone is an activity. It was around this stage that my mental health really began to spiral out of control and retrospectively, I depended heavily on that lukewarm cider and that bitter wine which I drank directly from it's screw top bottle to escape how I was feeling and to numb myself, all the while assuring myself that it was fine because all my friends were doing it too. I felt incredibly lonely a lot of the time but drinking seems to alleviate that, at least temporarily anyway. That was until, of course, I would stop drinking and sober me would resurface and I felt lonelier than ever. So I'd keep drinking and keep running away from myself.

I remember once in school, in physics class I believe, getting my textbooks and pencil case out my school bag and pulling out a plastic bottle of what I thought was water. It wasn't til half way through the lesson that I absent-mindedly took a sip. It was vodka. My friends and I found it funny at the time but looking back, I find that a sad and uncomfortable story. That straight vodka, disguised in a water bottle, was as commonplace in my school bag as textbooks or a pencil case. I also remember going out drinking the night before my Standard Grade maths exam and consuming nearly a litre of vodka to myself. I eventually went home around 6am and I can remember clear as day, sitting on my front steps of my house, giving myself a pep-talk through my drunken tears and desperately trying to sober myself up. I didn't even go to bed, but instead showered, put my school uniform on and stumbled in to school to do my exam, still drunk out my face. Sorry mum. Alongside with my issues with food (more info in this post), alcohol became as stable a part of my diet as it had my social life. 

Drinking was pretty much a core theme of my entire teenage life. When I went to university, it came as quite the shock to me that my new group of friends who came from very different backgrounds to me were only just beginning to experiment with drinking alcohol. A few watered-down vodkas in a packed Freshers' Week nightclub and they were hugging a toilet bowl by midnight while I was quite proud of the fact that, at 18, I count drink almost anyone under the table and that was always the last one standing. I never wanted the night to end and that was pretty much my stance the whole four years of uni. My classmates were content with the predictable student night out formula of pre-drinking cheap wine in someone's shared flat before all piling in a taxi to some grotty nightclub where nobody was over the age of 22, stocking up on 3 99p vodka's on each trip to the bar, mandatory chips and cheese at 2am before going home to bed while I never knew when to stop or even felt like stopping was acceptable. I never wanted to stop. Still drinking at 4am became still drinking at 9am and then still drinking the whole next day, and then the next. I had continued to use alcohol to distract me from my ever-deteriorating mental health and as a social lubricants as my circles of friends and acquaintances widened. It was also more accessible than it had ever been when I was younger, I could buy my own alcohol at any time of the day or night. And I did just that.




My confidence was so low that I felt like I needed alcohol to be the least bit worthy of conversations with anyone new which my friends interpreted as shyness so would keep buying me more and more to drink in the hopes that it'd loosen me up. I also don't appear outwardly drunk in the same way that a lot of people do. I can hold myself up, I can form sentences and maintain eye contact and walk in a straight line without falling (which often I can't even manage sober). My friends' would, and still do, often joke about how illusive 'drunk Sophie' is. People often don't realise I'm drunk when I'm absolutely gone which, while that was a blessing in disguise when I was younger and trying to hide the fact that I'd been drinking from my parents, it's a curse too because people don't believe that I'm drunk and will spur me on to drink more. They'd spur me on and I'd let them.

After graduating, my university friend group quickly disintegrated. People moved home from the big city to their family homes in the countryside or to their graduate jobs down south, work schedules clashed and soon the friends I saw every day and drank with several times a week became people I'd occasionally text and very rarely saw. As I was working full-time as well as doing an internship and writing in my free time, I was going out less and therefore drinking less. Student life felt like a different life time and I missed it dearly so whenever I did go out, I went incredibly hard to compensate. 

As I've moved through my twenties, drinking remained a huge part of my social life. I don't have any friends at all who don't drink alcohol and most social events in my life involve the stuff in some way. I think this is common for a lot of people in their twenties. My relationship with alcohol and the ways in which I use it though are very different to how they once were, but I still at times rely on alcohol to have a good time. The thought of going to a bar with friends and not drinking while they all do feels both daunting and unnatural to me. The idea of going to a nightclub sober sounds ludicrous. The very notion of celebrating anything, no matter how small, without toasting the occasion with a tipple feels bizarre. And it's never just one drink either. It isn't the same type of dependancy on alcohol as in my teenage years but it still was, in some respects anyway, a dependancy on alcohol. Whether that's a personal thing or a knock-on effect of my social circles or of the society I live in, I'm not sure, but either way, it is definitely there.

At the end of last year, this video was recommended to me on my YouTube home page. If you haven't watched it, please please do. It really hit home with me. I'd never seen any of Lucy Moon's videos before but I really related to everything she was saying. I would never have said I have a problem with alcohol as such, but that video really made me reassess my relationship with it, both at present and at various stages in the past and the relationships, friendships and opportunities that I've lost as a result of excessive or careless drinking. There is alcoholism in my family and in my social circles, and while I wouldn't consider myself addicted to alcohol, I knew the absence of it in my social life made me feel very uncomfortable and almost scared. 

Earlier this year, I decided to give up alcohol for Lent. Although I'm not religious, 13 years of strict Catholic education has left me with a strong internal obligation to give something up for Lent each year. More of a personal challenge than to prove something to the big guy in the sky I guess. This year, I choose alcohol. And caffeine and chocolate but that's another story. Almost all my friends told me I was crazy and were quite open about the fact that they didn't believe for a second that I'd manage it. A reflection again, on both my generations' attitudes towards alcohol as well as my own personal relationship with it. It seemed wildly ambitious of me and to many, like too big a sacrifice for no reward as such. But on Saturday evening, as my girlfriend poured me a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits in the pub she works, a pint I drank in under 5 minutes, I felt like I'd really achieved something of value and proven to myself that I could not drink if I tried hard enough. It was something that I didn't think I would manage and something that I knew other's almost wanted me to fail at. Of course, that one pint turned into many, with tequila, vodka and rum following, a bruised knee from falling up the stairs and a taxi ride home at 4am that I barely recall.

Whether I have a dependency on alcohol, I don't entirely know. I don't think I do, or at least not the same extent that I thought I did before I conquered Lent. Alcohol has been a part of my life since, I suppose you could argue, I was a child, and I quite honestly, I think I'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face to think the presence of it could ever be completely gone from my life, but I'm proud of how well I've done over the last 7 weeks and it's shown me I have a control over alcohol rather than it having control over me which, at points, I've very much doubted.



Friday, 17 March 2017

Falling Out Of Love With Fashion

Fashion has been a big part of my life since I was a kid. I always loved dressing up and didn't want to look like my friends or classmates, I wanted to stand out. From my first school bag made of jungle print fabric with animals hidden amongst the palms like Where's Wally to the gold lamé pleated skirt that my mum bought us from a charity shop for playing dress up, but that I begged and pleaded her to let me wear to non-uniform day despite it dragging on the ground beneath my little feet. I've always loved clothes and fashion and how experimenting with my own tastes and styles gives me confidence and allows me to be creative. I studied for a degree in Fashion Business in the hope that one day, I'd style models and celebrities for high end photo shoots and red carpet appearances. When I started this little blog is mine over 5 years ago now, my vision was to showcase my love of fashion and my personal style for the world to lust over. Dream big, right? But recently, my lifelong love of fashion has begun to somewhat dwindle and I'm feeling myself loosing the fun in it.





Brogues - ASOS
Vivienne Westwood Handbag - eBay
Sunglasses - Primark
Necklace - H&M
Pom-Pom Earrings - eBay
Belt - River Island
101 Dalmations Scarf - Vintage

As I wear black for work 5 in every 7 days, I don't have the opportunities I had as a fashion student to experiment as often as I'd like to. I feel myself deciding against buying pieces that I truly adore because I just know I won't get the use out of them. I also don't treat nights out in the same way at 26 as I did at 18. Sure, I want to look good, but I've learned that the higher the heel isn't always the better and that not taking a jacket to avoid a cloakroom queue in a night club in a silly idea. Plus I don't frequent the dancefloor nearly as often as I once did.

I sit writing out these random thoughts that've been consuming my mind every morning as I've gotten dressed for a few months now, on my day off from work, and I'm wearing blue skinny jeans (you know, the wardrobe staple that everyone and their mother has...) and a plain grey poloneck jumper. Had I not been out this morning, I'd probably be wearing pyjamas. I can feel 20 year old self disapprove at how boring and practical I've became, my 16 year old self recoil in shock at she discovers that I'm not wearing anything vintage or second hand, my 13 year old self rolling her eyes at my lack of creativity to see that I haven't coloured in the toecaps of my Converse and my 8 year old self shudder at the mere thought of going a day without wearing orange or fuschia pink or something glittery or beaded. But I have and while on some levels, I'm proud of myself for getting to a point in my life where I'm comfortable to not always look completely put together, I miss fashion. I miss it like an old friend who's moved away. Who I occasionally see or catch up with but who isn't the part of my life that they used to be but who I wish was.




But I don't want to loose my love of fashion. It's a huge part of who I am, it's my career, it's my degree that I worked my tail off for and as vain as some people might think this sounds, it has been a part of my identity my whole life. I have so many amazing pieces in my wardrobe, pieces that I feel and look good in, pieces I've acquired second hand or vintage, pieces I've set alarms for the middle of the night to bid for on eBay, pieces I've felt a true sense of achievement as I found them on sale in my life. I feel like I'm having to remind myself that they even exist, lurking in the deepest depth of my wardrobe behind clothes that I don't dislike per se, but that don't inspire me. I want to get use out of my 7 pairs of leopard print shoes. I want to wear that tacky costume jewellery that turns my fingers green. I want to wear sequins just because I can. I want to clash prints. I want to rock those gold brogues I bought 3 Black Fridays ago and still haven't left their box. Skinny jeans, trainers, practical outerwear and breton stripes, I love you, but I have room in my heart for more. Even if I don't necessarily have room in my wardrobe...!



Tuesday, 7 March 2017

My Experience With Norethisterone (The Period Delay Pill)

Periods. They can be a bit of a neaucence at times. Whether it's for health reasons or purely the impracticality, I'm sure more people who have periods will agree that at times, it'd be pretty handy to just have an on-off switch. Last month, ahead of city break to Dublin, I visited my GP to discuss what I could take for my fear of fighting. While I was there, she prescribed me some medication but also suggested that maybe being due my period while I was away would heighten my anxiety and recommended that I looked into Norethisterone, commonly known as the period delay pill.

I'm very fortunate with my periods. I started around the age of 13 and aside from the odd bit of back pain, hormonal spot or cry for no obvious reason, me and my period get on pretty well. It comes at almost exactly the same date each cycle, lasts roughly the same amount of days and doesn't cause me any massive or long term discomfort or health affects. So when the doctor suggested this, I was torn. On one hand, I've got a good thing going, do I really want to mess with that for something that isn't strictly necessary? But on the other, my body & my period are consistent and I've never really taken contraceptive medication for any real length of time, so maybe I was worrying over nothing. After reading up on it (which there's really really isn't much on, hence this post!), I decided to try it. I've been really scared of flying for years so anything that could help, I thought was worth a try and as this was just a short trip rather than a long holiday away, this seemed like a good time to try it for if i ever wanted to use it again in the future.






Norethisterone is availlabe from Boots, Superdrug, Co-Op Healthcare Online & Lloyds Pharmacy and of course, via your GP. I personally opted for Lloyds Pharmacy but mostly just for convenience. It's available from Lloyds Pharmacy in 2 doses, 7 days worth for £24.99 and 17 days worth for £28.95. I opted for 17 days. You apply online, filling out a few standard health questions - height, weight, allergies, that sort of thing. From there, an online doctor assesses your answers and then emails to either confirm or deny if they have authorised your prescription. On approval, you pay online and book when and where you will collect your dose from. When I went to pick up the prescription, I had my height, weight and blood pressure taken but was pleasantly surprised that I wasn't asked any other questions such as why I wanted to delay my period or  about my sex life etc. If for any reason they decide it isn't suitable for you, they refund your order then and there.

The pills themselves are tiny, only about 3 or 4 millimetres. The pamphlet inside only says you've to take 3 a day but didn't actually same when or how (after food, with water etc.) so I thought it best to take them roughly 6 hours apart at approximately 9am, 3pm and 9pm. That's purely guess work though but it seemed to work for me.

Although I had 17 days worth, I only actually took it for about a week in total, meaning I still have more than the same again if ever I should want to use it again in the future. In terms of stopping my period and helping with my flying anxiety, Norethisterone did work a treat and I can't fault it from those points of view. I didn't experience any physical side effects at all and my period that followed was as normal.

However, in taking Norethisterone to help with one mental health issue, anxiety due to my fear of flying, it really messed with another, my depression. While I was taking it, I was fine, no major issues or effects on my overall piece of mind, but within a day of coming off it, I felt so so unbelievably low. My first day off of it just so happened to be my birthday, which I spent feeling so empty and lonely, despite being with my nearest and dearest, enjoying lovely presents, cake and lots of yummy food. After coming off Norethisterone, your period typically arrives within 3 days (which was pretty much spot on for me) but those three days and for the duration of my period, I felt lower than ever and constantly tearful and mentally exhausted.

Overall, I don't regret trying Norethisterone and it did to the trick in delaying my period seamlessly. However, the mental side effects of it just weren't worth it for me and in future, I'd rather deal with the heightened anxiety than the steep comedown from coming off it. 

Any questions about trying out Norethisterone, feel free to ask away :)



Friday, 3 February 2017

January Round-Up 2017

One month of 2017 has been and gone already and I don't know about you, but New Year's feels like 2 seconds ago. January's been an odd month for me, mostly good with a few personal challenges but I somehow feel like I've had a bit of a slow start of the year. Like most people, but particularly most fellow bloggers, I started off the year with all kinds of plans and ideas and with my creative juices well & truly flowing. I don't know what happened though, but this first month of 2017 hasn't quite been the start I'd hoped for, not in terms of blogging anyway. Watch this space though because although it's been a slow start, it's not been a no start and I'm a firm believer that it doesn't matter how slow you go as long as you don't stop moving forward.

On a slightly related note, I've decide for 2017, rather than doing monthly favourites posts focussing on products I've been enjoying, to do monthly round-up posts instead. Still talking about products, but also places I've visited, fun days out I've had, what I've been up to, what I've been watching, reading & listening to, and maybe even my thoughts on what's been happening through the month in pop culture, politics & current affairs from time to time.

I kicked January off with a romantic and relaxing getaway to Edinburgh. We stayed in the beautiful Principal Hotel on George Street - great central location, beautiful & comfortable room and great service. We walked around the city, soaking to the culture of the capital, enjoying cocktails & dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, brunch at Word of Mouth cafe (which I can highly recommend if you're planning a trip to Edinburgh), a beautiful winter walk around the castle and down the Royal Mile and pints in the Black Rose Tavern. It was a perfect first trip away together and a lovely relaxing way to kick start our year together.



I've also been really enjoying spending a lot of time outdoors this January. Back in September, I wrote a blog post about getting in touch with the great outdoors and how it helps clear my mind and I've been taking full advantage of this through January. 

A couple of years back, I took a really incredible (if I do say so myself!) photo of some geese (featured in that blog post from September) and bizarrely this month, I just so happened to have been at a fair few places where there are ducks and swans and the likes so I seem to have developed a rather random new hobby of photographing birds. Don't ask, I've just been enjoying it, okay? Okay...




A film I watched this month that I really enjoyed was the 2015 film 'Race', telling the story of Jesse Owens, a young black runner training to represent the US in the 1936 Olympics taking place in Berlin under Hitler's rule. It was recommended to me by my friend Ryan who usually doesn't share my taste in films very much at all, so I didn't go into it with particularly high hopes, but I actually ended up enjoying it far more than I expected. As it's set in the 1930's, it has a beautiful vintage feel to the cinematography and styling and although it's quite a long watch, I remained gripped the whole way through. Despite initially sounding like just another sports film, I found it focused more on issues of race and class which was what really swayed me. It's on Netflix too and you can watch the trailer here.




I also got my hair cut back up to my shoulders again this month and let me tell you, I never realise how much I hate my hair long until I get it cut short again. It's just so much easier to style in the mornings, quicker to blow dry and looks and feels a million times healthier. 




An item of clothing I can't get enough of this month is my awesome Girl Power t-shirt. This beauty popped up on my eBay suggested items section and for £8.08, I knew I had to. I just had to. I ordered the XL cause I love oversized t-shirts and the fit is exactly how I wanted it. Although I couldn't be at one myself, I wore it on the day of the Women's Marches and received so many compliments on it. It's lovely quality cotton, comes in a fitted ladies style or a looser unisex style and the slogan is actually printed on rather than that horrible thick fabric paint that some cheap t-shirt manufacturers use. For £8.08, I think it was a great find - buy your own here. (WE CAN MATCH, YEY!)


So, that was January, eh? With my 26th birthday, Valentine's Day and a city break to Dublin, I predict February will be a great month! What was the highlight of your January 2017?



Friday, 13 January 2017

New Years Resolutions, Body Image & Diet Culture

(TW/CW : Food, Weight Loss, Eating Disorders)

Hello all and a very happy 2017! It's been a lot longer since I last posted than I ever intended it to be, but sometimes life just happens and that's perfectly okay. Life is good at the moment. I'm back though, that's the main thing, and I'm just bursting ideas for what I want to create and who I want to be as a writer and a blogger in 2017. Watch this space as I try to make those ideas a reality.

January is a funny old month, isn't it? It symbolises to many, a fresh start, a clean slate and an opportunity to set goals, big and small, for changes they wish to make in their lives and things they want to do, see and achieve over the next 12 months. The possibilities for self-improvement seem endless in January as the future stretches out in front of us, so it only stands to reason, I guess, why so many of us use this time of year to set New Years resolutions.

Every year, I feel slightly differently about the whole concept of New Years resolutions, usually depending on the year that's just concluded was and how I'm feeling about myself and my life. On one hand, I'm a huge advocate for self improvement and always aim to be working on myself in some capacity. While some may say that "If you want to change something, change it, why wait for the new year?", I'm someone who likes time frameworks so I guess the idea of New Years' Resolutions does appeal to me from that point of view.

We see the same old favourites every time January rolls around - stopping smoking, saving money, getting married/pregnant/a new job/a new car/a new home (delete where applicable) and possibly the most common and certainly the most marketed, losing weight. Well, losing weight, toning up, eating better, slimming down, getting in shape. However you want to word it, the premise is the same and while I fully support any grown adults decision to change their body how they see fit in a healthy way, I can't help but feel a little uneasy about the emphasis on vanity and the drive for a narrow ideal of beauty than health or well-being at this time of year.



Only last month, every retailer and brand were pushing indulgence, in every capacity. Eat more, drink in excess, wear the sparkliest dress, the highest heels, the most glamourous make-up. Spend, shop, consume, that's what's important. It's the season to treat yourself, go wild, you deserve the best. A stark contrast to January, when now we are told the polar opposite by the very same retailers and brands. Limit your eating, don't you dare let alcohol pass your lips, you better be spending every free moment exercising or at the very least feeling guilty for not exercising. Don't you dare indulge, you're lazy and ugly. Change everything about yourself, you slob. In my local Debenhams, the very same area of the store set aside for Christmas chocolates, shelves of boxed biscuits and food giftsets now houses workout clothing, Nutribullets and cook books. It's almost as though these brands are constantly telling us that we aren't good enough and the only way to redeem ourselves is to keep buying so they can compete for our money and profit from our insecurities. Diet and weight loss industries are in overdrive at this time of the year and I, for one, am finding the constant diet chat and the push to 'fix' ourselves via our physical appearance exhausting and dangerous.

I've always sat right on the line between 'straight sized' and 'plus size'. Which, for the record, are both terms I dislike. I've worn roughly a dress size 16/18 since my early teens and while I'm fortunate enough to be able to shop in most high street retailers and find something that fits me at a reasonable cost, I'm bigger than the target market for straight sized retailers and smaller than the target market of plus sized retailers therefore I'm often left feeling unsure. It's the same in the blogging world too. If I post a photo of something I'm wearing, I feel too big for the 'regular' fashion blogging community yet somehow like I'm cheating by trying to identify as plus size. I fully appreciate that in a lot of respects, I do benefit from thin privilege, but straddling that line between straight size and plus size for so long has left me feeling a little lost at times and has greatly influenced my relationship with my body, my self confidence and naturally, with food.

When I was a teenager, I was always the biggest one in any friendship group. In high school, one of my best friends was a girl who I'm sure at the time, I would have described as perfect looking. She was tall, she was slim, she has long thick hair and clear skin without an ounce of make-up on and while we were really close and she personally never did anything to make me feel in any way less beautiful or worthy than her, I always felt so ugly and like I was living in her shadows. I was the black sheep of our friendship group and we all knew it. As a child or teenager, I was never taught, by my peers, my parents, school or the media that my body type was common, desirable or even acceptable so naturally I was very insecure about it. At school, I refused to eat in the company of anyone else, even my own group of friends meaning that every day for about 2 years, I wouldn't eat anything at all all day long until dinner with my family in the evenings. I'd save the money that my parents gave me for lunch in the hopes that one day I'd be able to buy myself clothes in the same size as my friends. I never was able to. Even being around other's eating made me feel physically ill and panicky at times so I'd tell my friends that I'd wait for them outside the lunch room alone rather than have to endure the sounds and smells and sights of other people consuming food. I couldn't think of anything worse.

Later in my teenage years but still while I was at school, I joined Weight Watchers with my mum in a bid to regain some control over my food intake rather than having food control me. Not that my mum had any real idea about how I was struggling with my body or with food. While I lost a little less than 2 stone on it, the attitude towards food that Weight Watchers taught me was possibly the most damaging thing in my entire relationship with my body and with food. Our leader, Angela, was very petite and made sure we all knew about it how tiny she was. A lot of her comments were very fatphobic and it was clear from the start that she was only interested in helping already relatively slim people become even slimmer. Often she'd publicly humiliate people in front of the group for not losing enough that particular week or pass unhelpful comments about self-control or emotional eating. The way she'd talk about 'good' and 'bad' food rather than healthy or unhealthy and how clear it was that vanity should be, in her eyes, the sole purpose for weight loss, really messed with my relationship with food.

It would be irresponsible of me to say that I had an eating disorder because I never saw a doctor or was diagnosed with one, but my relationship with my body and food was very dangerous at that time and in a lot of ways, it still is as a result of those teenage years. 

As an adult, my relationship with my body is overall much better. I never did shed the masses of excess fat that my warped teenage brain imagined I ever had to begin with and my lunch money never did go on the clothes I longed for but over time, I became more and more okay with that. I still have go through times where I hate my body and wish I could change almost every part of it, but by and large, I am pretty confident that this is how I look. My relationship with food though, still leaves much to be desire.





I am a classic example of someone who has too close of a link between food and feelings. If I'm having a tough time, I'll either eat terribly unhealthily at all kinds of strange hours of the day and night or not at all, sometimes for a couple of days at a time. If I'm happy or I've achieved something, I'll reward myself, buy myself a treat. I still find it a challenge to eat in front of certain people or in certain environments and the very idea of knowing I'll have to eat has sometimes been enough to put me off going somewhere or doing something. I have certain associations and connotations of food that mean I can't eat them or if I do, I convince myself that people will make assumptions about me. Just one example is that I have a horrible fear of ham. No, I don't just not like ham, I really really hate the stuff and the very sight of it, never mind smell, touch or heaven forbid taste of it, makes me skin crawl and I've been reduced me to tears before because of it. Some friends find it funny, one of which has even taking to sending me Snapchats of ham whenever he's eating it. It might sound funny but it's really not, I fucking hate the stuff. Even writing this is making me feel sick. I'm not aware of any reason why this is, it just is. A couple of years ago, I visited the Head Office of the company I work for. The managers of every store in Britain were there, retail directors, designers, the works. After a 4:30am rise for an early morning light to London, we were all starving by lunchtime. I assumed we'd have a break to go and buy lunch, but instead there was a buffet lunch provided. The thought of this alone was enough to make me feel so anxious and uneasy and I was unable to bring myself to eat anything at all. I stood nervously sipping water that I'd brought with me but that was it. But then there was the worry that people might noticed that I hadn't eaten. I'm sure in reality, nobody cared but those thoughts played on my mind the whole rest of the day.

All too often, how I feel and how I eat are linked and rather than a pledge to change how I physically look or my size, weight or body in 2017, my New Year's Resolution is to work on my relationship with food. How I plan to do this? Well, your guess is as good as mine. I don't yet know if I'm honest, but it's something I really want to be more aware of and make conscious decisions about rather than eat (or not eat) out of comfort or anxiety. I'm not interested in weight loss, I'm not interested in being made to feel like I'm not allowed to be happy with my body and I'm really really not interested in FitBits or NutriBullets or spiralisers. Like, at all, but I love food and enjoying it with friends and trying new things and I think it's so important to maintain a relationship with it that is good for your mind and your mood as well as for your body. 



Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Outdoors.

lot of my childhood memories involve being outside. My parents, but particularly my dad, was really into hillwalking and while I'd go to school on a Monday morning and hear tales of how my classmates had spent their weekends going swimming or play video games or reading, I had spent mine in the coutryside. To this day, those memories of being in the middle of nowhere and running around in fields and climbing trees and exploring little makeshift paths and country roads are the very encapsulation of my childhood. We have never been a particularly close family so maybe that's why I hold those memories so close to my heart. It was our time together. 

My family, my parents' best friends and their sons used to always go hillwalking on the 2nd of January. It was our little tradition to bring in the year ahead with beautiful scenery, crisp Winter air and if I remember accurately, often a little more than a light sprinkling of snow. I have the most vivid memory of it starting to get dark (or maybe it was just one of those Winter days where it had never fully gotten light at all) and being near a water dam. It was very still and we had found loads of bullets on the grass. Remembering this now, I can only assume they were from hunting but at the time, my sister and I were in such awe at them and filled the pockets of our waterproof jackets with them to take home as a souvenir.



Like most teenagers though, laziness, vanity and the crippling fear of being seen as uncool by openly admitting you enjoyed anything overtook and I decided spending my weekend hanging around parks and train stations and city centre lanes was much more fun. For the best part of a decade, I didn't see the countryside unless it was absolutely necessary and even then I didn't get any joy out of it despite there being some of the most amazing scenery in the world (in my humble and patriotic opinion!) within a half hour drive from my front door. 

The only positive memories of being outside at all during my teenage years was in my final year of school when I took part in a 5 day residential stay at an outdoor centre just outside of Fort William. I remember not really feeling part of the group I was in, it was only myself and three other girls from my school, none of which I was that close to, and I don't know what came over me, probably just being outwith my comfort zone , but for the first time in my teenage years, I though 'Do you know what? I'm going to give this everything I've got and not assume I can't do it, or give up before I've even tried.' And I did. And I loved it. I built (and sunk) a raft in freezing cold Loch Eil, I absailed down a cliff edge, I even climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. I mean, I took an allergic reaction to a peanut M&M a couple of hundred metres from the peak and had to get taken to A&E by mountain rescue, but I still did it. Retrospectively, I now realise those 5 days shaped me a lot.



As I've gotten older, my tastes in most things have became less concerned with what's cool and more driven by what I enjoy and what genuinely makes me feel happy and as shocked as I'm sure teenage me would be, I have regained a lot of my love of the outdoors. When I was 20, my best friend was working up in an island off the west coast of Scotland called Uist and her mum and I decided to take the 9 hour trip to surprise her for her 21st birthday. I've known her mum all my life so she picked me up at midnight and in our pyjamas, we set off for Skye to the ferry port. After a few hours of chatting, I folded my seat back, pulled my travel blanket up and over my head and off to sleep I went. I remember telling my friend's mum to waken me when it got light so I could see some of the views and not miss the scenery entirely. 

Just after 5am and I'm woken up. But now how I expected. A deer had ran into the quiet country road we were driving along just as the sun was rising, causing her to swerve to avoid it and ending up coming right off the road. Thankfully we were both fine, a little shaken but not hurt, but neither of us knew where we were. We called the AA and were towed to the nearest garage, 6 miles away, the beautiful, picturesque loch side village of Port Agusutus. From there, we took 3 buses. It was a scorcher of a June day, and while I wouldn't ever want to say I'm glad that happened, I got to see so much beautiful scenery that I wouldn't otherwise ever have seen and all this was before I'd even reached Uist, which having visit twice now, I stand by is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. 

When I was 22, I volunteered to help open a branch of the company I work for in Inverness, Scotland's most northernly city, a little over 3 hours by train from Glasgow. I'd been to Inerness once before for Rockness music festival but was too completely intoxicated for 3 days straight to fully appreciate any of my surroundings so when this opportunity arose, I took it 'to gain valuable experience opening new stores' although secretly to get an free trip to Inverness and lap up all that contryside beauty on the train. 

These days, my idea of of a great weekend day wouldn't be going shopping or for lunch or to the cinema like a lot of people my ages would be. My idea of a great weekend day would be an adventure. A walk, a cycle, a countryside drive. I'm not sporty, I never have been and doubt I ever will be, but as I've slowly but surely started to regain the love for the great outdoors and the amazing country I'm so lucky to live in, just the very idea of spending time outside is becoming evermore appealing to me.



At the weekend just passed, I spent 3 days at Millport, a small island only an hour's drive and 10 minute ferry crossing from Glasgow with my family and friends. My parents have a holiday home there and having spend huge chunks of my childhood there, it's still my happy place, even to this day. On Sunday, my sister, her girlfriend and I set off to cycle round the island. At just short of 11 miles, it's the idea distance and pretty much the main activity for day trippers. Leaving the town, I had just a tshirt and jeans on, feeling the sun on my arms and the wind in my face and feeling so grateful for the beautiful day. Less than an hour later, at the top of the island, the most exposed part, the heavens burst and the most horrendous rain came on. 

From sun on my arms to raindrops rolling down my neck under my waterproof jacket in just an hour, I couldn't help but laugh and smile. So maybe it wasn't the ideal cycle weather, but I just felt free and happy and energised and that's a truly irreplacable feeling. Doing something outdoors makes me feel small and insignificant to the rest of the world, but in the best way possible. It makes me think about how much else is going on outwith my life and it just makes me feel peaceful and gives me perspective. Recently, I've been enjoying using just the act of being outside as somewhat of an escapism and while it seems like a tiny thing, it works wonders for clearing and focusing my mind and I'm so very glad I've started to regain that childlike wonder and eager curiosity for the great outdoors.


Friday, 2 September 2016

My 5th Blog Birthday - Mistakes & Lessons

What would you say if I told you that this Sunday, my little blog will be 5 years old? That's so crazy, right? It doesn't seem anywhere near that long ago that as a bored student, I decided to try my hand at something I knew absolutely nothing at all about and start a blog. That was September 2011 and I didn't for a second believe that it'd stick with til the end of the same year never mind that half a decade later, I'd still be doing it and more importantly, still enjoying it.

I've always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a little girl, and I started a blog to give me a place where I could write on my own terms, write what I wanted to write and make my own rules. Blogging has definitely been a learning curve for me (as I'm sure it is for most bloggers) and it has taught me so much, both personally and professionally. I was completely clueless when I first started and I've developed a lot of skills I didn't even know I had. With an learning curve though, naturally comes regrets and lessons.

One thing that really baffles me in retrospect is that I started my blog as a fashion blog. I was a fashion student at the time and wanted to showcase my style but soon felt restricted and uninspired. Not to meant that taking photos of your own outfits is hard! Don't get me wrong, I still adore fashion and personal style is still something I love reading about and experimenting with but I've also found other topics that I enjoy writing about too, such as feminism, social issues and personal ramblings.

Blogger lesson : You change as a human being as time progresses, especially over a period as long as five years. It's perfectly natural for your blog content to change to reflect that and boxing yourself into a corner doesn't help.

Another big regret would be my original blog name. As I'm sure a lot of you will know, I've only been 'Once Upon A Sophie' since May of this year. Before that, my blog was called 'Filthy Paws & Silky Drawers', a nod to the film Grease. I'll pause while you cringe. I regretted that name within a matter of months. It was too long, it wasn't catchy or an obvious enough reference and as it didn't contain my name, I found that I struggled to establish myself on social media and at blogger events. I'm so happy with my new name though and feel it represents me and what my blog is all about perfectly, I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to change it. 

Blogger lesson : if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right & it's your blog so make changes as you see fit.

Something I still struggle with is dedicating enough time to my blog. I so often have ideas that I'd love to blog about but one thing leads to another, life gets in the way (ie. I plan to write then someone suggests a night out and that takes priority!) and the moment passed and before I realise it, it's been 3 weeks since I last posted. I've always been open about the fact that my blog isn't, nor do I want it to be my career, but I still find myself using that excuse to put everything else first then feeling awful about my blog.

Blogger lesson : There's no shame in setting time aside specifically to blog rather than just trying to fit it in round your life and blogging is the very embodiment of 'you get out what you put in'. Don't be annoyed about the results you don't get from the work you didn't do.

As a young clueless little blogger out there alone in the world, I had absolutely no idea the importance of social media. None whatsoever. I didn't even get a Twitter account until March of 2013, a year and a half after I started my blog and I didn't have a blog email address til the end of 2013. I wasn't even that aware people used social media to promote their blogs or interact with other bloggers and I certainly didn't understand that your social media presence is just as, if not more, important as a blogger than the content of your blog itself. Nowadays, I break out in a cold sweet if I've not tweeted in a few hours and the very idea of trying to promote my blog without social media is quite frankly hilarious.

Blogger lesson : Investing time in your social media is so important to the success of your blog and getting your blog out there for people to see matters, because trust me, they won't just happen to stumble upon it.

Finally, I regret having no little to no consistency for the first few years. I'd post similar blog posts three days in a row, at all kinds of weird times of the day or night when nobodies online, then it'd be weeks before I posted anything again. I didn't pay any attention to creating a 'brand' for myself. Heck, I didn't even know that was a thing bloggers did. I thought any old photo of a product would do, I didn't spend any time of ensuring it was actually a good photo. I didn't plan and I didn't organise my blog at all for a very long time. I've never been someone would benefits from a strict schedule but I've gotten a lot better and try really hard to be consistent and to utilise my resources well.

Blogger lesson : Readers, followers and companies enjoy when bloggers have a consistent brand and individual posts don't matter as much as an overall impression does. 

Even 5 years later, my little slice of the Internet isn't perfect and it probably never will be, but for as long as I continue to enjoy creating my blog, it'll always be a learning experience and that's kind of empowering. I can't thank everyone who reads my blog or follows me on social media enough for their support over the past half a decade but hope you enjoy what I put out and hope you're looking forward to the next 5 years as much as I am - CHEERS!