Black Dog…..or Cat

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Its funny, normally I start a blog knowing exactly what I want to say, how to say it and then just tap tap tap away at my keyboard. Today not so much, today is more about how I am feeling, so please excuse me if I ramble on. About a week ago I was having a particularly bad day and started to think about how depression/anxiety can appear without warning from behind a seemingly sunny day. I normally have my most brilliant musings as I fall asleep, which is a problem as it can take me a whole week to remember them. Hence the delay in writing this particular blog about depression, it’s only just resurfaced today.

The great Winston Churchill was all too familiar with depression and named it his “black dog”, following Samuel Johnson (who, like many brilliant people, suffered from depression).On occasion Churchill was so paralysed by despair that he spent much time in bed, had little energy, few interests, lost his appetite and couldn’t concentrate. All common symptoms of depression.  These darker periods would last a few months, and then he’d come out of it and be his normal self. The ‘black dog’ metaphor is now commonly used and there are many of us who know what a formidable pooch it can be.

Mine is more akin to a ‘black cat’ winding its way insidiously between my feet, demanding attention and insisting that I listen to its meows of woe. My ‘black cat’ looks all cute and fluffy on the outside, very beguiling in appearance but then suddenly ambushes me with despair, fruitlessness and its ‘end of the world as I know it’ stories.

I try to acknowledge when I am having a bad day, to tell my family that I am feeling crappy for some unknown reason. For me the honesty part is crucial, being honest with myself and being honest with my family. The other alternative is just to respond with ” I’m fine” which I have learnt does not end well for anyone. Spending some time thinking about what is causing that black cat to have reappeared at my feet is key. I try to work through the random thoughts of bleakness, not attempt to find a solution (usually one is not required), to acknowledge the thoughts but give no credence to them. Keeping busy helps me but not so busy that I am ignoring how I am feeling. After many sessions with a councillor, I learnt that keeping busy is a great avoidance strategy and one to be avoided in itself (for me anyway, everyone is different). Some quiet time works well perhaps in the sunshine reading  or some gardening or equally curled up in front of the wood-burner. An avoidance of social media is an absolute must. There is no point comparing your internal feelings to the seemingly perfect lives of those acquaintances on social media. Its not going to end well, you are not going to feel better!!

There are many support networks and charities out there and to anyone who is struggling with any type of mental health concerns, I would exhort you to get some support. My personal recommendation is MIND  but there are many support mechanisms out there internationally, nationally and in your local area. To quote an already over used phrase………’you are not alone’

Love and hugs from sunny Devon

New Year, New Me……pah

New Year

Wow this first week after the Christmas break is a real toughie. How has it been for you, my old friend? Whilst it’s nice to see my team and catch up with  work colleagues, just the effort of getting out of bed can feel like a major challenge. Why is it that we feel the need to put ourselves through other challenges at this quite frankly depressing time of year? By other challenges, I mean the dreaded phrase…..’New Year Resolutions’. Year after year many of us put unreasonable pressure on ourselves trying to be fitter, smarter, start a new hobby etc etc. Surely we are ‘good enough’ already. Isn’t being good enough, well good enough?

Eat less cake, give up the pizzas, ditch the wine and instead love chia seeds , drink at least 8 cups of water a day, and hit the Nova class (cross between Pilates and Yoga, in case you cared!) If this sounds like your list of New Year Resolutions, can I politely suggest that you tear them up and start again. Or take a leaf out of my book and pour yourself  a large glass of wine and not bother with anything that promises to start the New Year with a New You. I like the Old Me very much.

Speaking for myself, I really don’t need to have any additional pressures added on top of my already busy  life. I am a perfectionist by nature  which is topped off by a highly organised dollop of OCD. ( I love the word dollop, don’t you? It’s right up there in my list of favourite words). The problem arises when the well-meaning New Year Resolution becomes an obsession, when we suddenly start chasing the latest health fad, fitness craze or mindfulness trend. Is mindfulness in itself a trend?

So no New Year Resolutions for this Impossible Girl, instead a few things that I would like to keep in mind at all times and not just during January

  • If it doesn’t make my soul happy then I am not going to do it. End of.
  • Say No more often. I have to remember that I am not responsible for anyone else’s reactions. Often, I say “yes” for fear of disappointing or hurting someone else…  In my case this comes from a desire to be liked, and from a lack of confidence especially in the workplace.  Think about it: how much time do you spend pleasing other people and regretting your yesses?
  • Dance like no-one is watching ……. I simply adore being able to play vinyl in the cottage and dance around the kitchen like a numpty. I should warn you that I have shocking taste in cheesy music.
  • Worry less…….Try not to worry about random stuff unless you can really do something about it. Worrying takes up a lot of time that can be spent more usefully.
  • Love like you have never loved before. And tell people that you love them. Cherish your family and your friends. Love with reckless abandon
  • Hug……..Hug a lot. Hugs increase the level of the ‘love hormone’ ocytocin. Psychotherapist Virginia Satir famously said:”We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” 

So what are your plans for the year ahead? Keep me updated with all the action please, I like to live vicariously. 2016 is going to be pretty exciting for me, of that I am sure!

Impossible Girl xx

PS Am I allowed to say bollocks to Dry January? I have 2 Black Tie Do’s to attend and I sure as hell intend to enjoy them…………

The Little Jar of Happiness….

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About this time last year, I made a plan to enjoy every minute of the year ahead. 2014 was middling to crap and I was determined to move forwards with a new attitude. A plan mind you, not a bloody resolution, which I detest with a passion. More of that in a later blog…. As part of this grand plan of 2015, I decided I needed a way to capture all of those amazing moments that was much more than a Facebook post. I wanted something tangible to be able to use as an aide memoir on the 1st January 2016 and that would bring happy times flooding back. I think I found the idea somewhere on social media, in fact I believe the original idea came from the fabulous Elizabeth Gilbert (if you have never read Eat Pray Love, then please go and do so immediately)  I duly went out to M&S and bought a uninspiring jar, with hindsight I could have done so much better! Needless to say the 2016 Jar of Happiness will be much more joyful.

So in no particular order (apart from No. 1 which will be quite obvious) I would like to share these with you. Here are my Top 10 mementos from my Little Jar of Happiness 2015.

1.Champagne Cork with a £1 coin embedded from our engagement party (The practice of placing a coin in a champagne cork has a long tradition. Corks that have been popped on special occasions, at weddings, birthday parties, or in this case our engagement, are supposed to bring good luck. I have also been told that this was once used by fishermen, who would cut a slit in the cork floats on their nets and insert a coin to pay for their catch.)

2..Olly Murs tickets at the O2

3…Birthday lunch at the Greedy Goose. If you are ever in Devon, pop in and see the amazing Ben and his team. Lush

4….Elton John at the Eden Project, followed by a night in the YHA Snooze Box.

5…..A March walk along the Mumbles with lunch at Verdi’s Cafe (I kept the sugar sachet to remind me)

6……Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield. True legends of comedy and we had such great seats. I laughed so much that I may have snorted my wine in a very unattractive fashion

7…….Dr Who exhibition in Cardiff Bay. Told you I was a true geeky girl!

8……..MTV Crashes Plymouth. Another beautiful sunny day on Plymouth Hoe, watching so many good artists including the incomparable Tinie Tempeh

9. Kaiser Chiefs gig. I have a lot of love for Ricky Wilson, for many reasons

10. Engagement lunch at the Treby Arms. Michelin starred and on our doorstep.

What are your Top 10 moments of 2015? Can you find 30 seconds each night to preserve the simplest and happiest moments of our lives? Time to start stuffing the jar with happiness! Who’s with me?

Minus One…..

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I hope dear reader, that you had a peaceful and fun Christmas,  with plenty of love and laughter filling your days and evenings, as well as a few celebratory glasses of cheer. I must confess to a few too many glasses of my favourite  gin whilst celebrating!! (God bless Tarquin and his luscious hand-made Cornish gin at  SW Distillery ) This blog comes to you during those strange few days twixt Christmas and New Year, where no-one knows what day it is, let alone what they should be doing. I decided it would be a good time to look back on the last few months and what this meant to our family Christmas.

Christmas was very different this year in the cottage on the edge of Dartmoor. As some of you may recall my father and my step father both passed away nearly 8 years ago. It goes without saying that it was a difficult time. My mother is a formidable lady and decided that mid 60’s is no time to give up on life or be lonely and a few years ago married a wonderful man called Pete. Whilst I never referred to him as my stepfather, he was a large part of my life and that of my family.  To be honest with you, it was a conscious decision not to refer to him as my step-father, I think it was a half-arsed attempt to protect myself from any further heartache when you lose people. Yes I really know how daft that sounds!  Anyway my mothers life became full of fun and long holidays abroad during the winter months. They were very happy together and whilst no-one could replace my father, I was indeed very fond of Pete. The short version of this story is that he passed away quite unexpectedly in October this year. My strong, smart, beautiful mother has been struggling ever since. And I have been struggling to become the grown-up in our family, the one that sorts out problems, that organises things and that comforts others in their time of need. Not so much of a coping mechanism from me but more an avoidance tactic.  Too busy to think about emotions………………

So Christmas this year was a houseful of love, minus one, plus quite a few tears. This in no way made it a sombre experience, indeed it was quite the opposite, it was just different and of course there were plenty of amusing anecdotes and time for reflection.

The purpose of this blog was to remind me (and you, dear reader) that life is super short, we need to take the time to grasp every moment and to relish every new experience that comes our way. These few days between Christmas and New Year is a good time to look back, before looking forwards to the New Year. This time last year one of my resolutions was to start a Jar of Happiness, where I keep mementos of things that made me smile during 2015. Needless to say the jar is stuffed full, ready to unleash on New Years Eve when I will smile, remember the good times and look forward to many more.

The picture is Burrator Reservoir, just a few minutes from home x

A Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

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I adore Christmas and everything about it. Having all my family in one place; lots of love and laughter; all ages from 72 to 7; plenty of food and many party games. All of this makes my heart happy as do the many traditions that each family surrounds themselves with. Some heavy with tradition or religion and some just very daft and infused with alcohol. Have any of you played the After Eight game where you attempt to slide it from your forehead to your mouth? You should…………Hilarious

However what I don’t like about Christmas is the frenzy that surrounds it and the many magazine and newspaper supplements about having a ‘Perfect Christmas’. We (and I do mean mostly women) do not need to add additional pressure on ourselves at any time of the year to be ‘perfect’. I think most of us are already pressurised by juggling work, families (young or old caring responsibilities) day to day chores and some time for ourselves without trying to find the ‘perfect’ party dress or recipe for the ‘perfect’ Christmas cake. I love reading magazines and admit to devouring a great many on a monthly basis, some delivered to my cottage and I scan read as many as possible at the hairdressers whilst waiting for the magic to happen. But ‘Perfect’ has been a common theme over the last couple of months and to that I would like to loudly object.

I don’t need or want perfect. It is way too much pressure to add onto my already well honed perfectionist traits. I just want something that is right for me, makes me feel good, doesn’t cost too much money, is easy to cook/buy/wrap. The perfect turkey, perfect present, perfect wrapping paper, perfect door wreath, perfect party dress and perfect sparkly shoes all hold no interest for me. Errrrrr possibly apart from the shoes, I do have a weakness for great shoes, but I am sure as hell going to wait until they  are 50% off in the sale. Only then will they be good enough!

So dear reader, let’s all embrace a perfectly imperfect Christmas, the wonky tree (as demonstrated in the pic above), the shop bought mince pies, a frock that is old & much loved but makes you feel amazing, and whatever the hell makes us happy. With that in mind here is the much used  and often found on social media ‘holiday to do’ list………….

  • Be present
  • Wrap those closest to you in a hug
  • Send peace and love
  • Donate food or time or whatever you can
  • Make love
  • Be the light

Cheesy but true and we all know my love of cheese is legendary!!!!!!

Whatever you do at this time of year and however you celebrate (or not) be happy, be safe and embrace the perfectly imperfect Christmas

Big Christmas hugs from the Dartmoor Diva xxxx

 

A Disappearing Act……..

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I would like to apologise to you, my constant reader for my rather spectacular disappearing act. I realised earlier this month that I had in fact been away from my blog for nigh on two years. So it is with heartfelt words that I apologise for vanishing and to thank you all for continuing to read old blog posts. Thanks to the wonders of WordPress I can see that my posts are still regularly read from the UK to Switzerland and from Belgium to the Philippines. So thank you, thank you, thank you…………………

Of course life has changed over the last two years, who out there has a life that has stood still? Mine certainly hasn’t and indeed the direction of travel has been so wondrous, so new and yet so scary at the same time, that I haven’t really had time to think about who, why and how. Until now of course, when I attempt to rediscover my love of blogging.  I guess that a brief synopsis would be in order so that you don’t blindly stumble onto the next blog with a ‘what the actual f**k is she talking about’ type of reaction.

The last time that I blogged, I was red-headed, dipping my toes into the world of dating, wondering about love and life, living in the city and working as an HR professional (and yes I can see you laughing but I do have moments of brilliant professionalism…honestly)

Today, I am happily engaged, living in a village and working as a Research Operations Manager. The red hair has disappeared but fortunately my fiery temperament remains and I still wonder about love and life (as well as the size of my butt). My passion for frocks, F1 and cocktails is very much in evidence but is mixed with a love of Dartmoor and an eternally pair of muddy wellies by the stable door. My cottage is full of love and laughter, a fiancé with a calm, loving nature and a beautiful Turkish Van kitten constantly demanding my attention. Boy Wonder is in the final year of University but pops home regularly for clean laundry, food and to help out at the village pub. Life is good my friends, better than I could have ever wished for.

Is that enough of an update, do you need more? It would be great to hear from you and I can promise that there will be another blog prior to Christmas.

PS Just in case you wondered, the kitten is called Clara, which is only right as my nickname is the Impossible Girl…………..’From the beginning she was impossible. The impossible girl.’

Flumping……….

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Possibly breaking a bone in my foot was one of the best things that happened to me this year and yes I know that sounds completely weird.  Generally I am a whirling dervish of a girl, always busy, never stopping, always running, never letting anyone get too close.  The girl with a cocktail in her hand and a witty retort on her lips. I have been described as being the epitome of the Impossible girl, whatever that means!!

Mid November and I managed to successfully avail myself of a broken metatarsal, crutches and orders from an impossibly handsome moustached consultant to get some rest.  I find it so hard to stop, to be still, both physically and mentally that the very thought of stopping filled me with dread.

I stopped…..I flumped on the sofa, I read a lot of books and watched many classic movies, I slept when I needed to sleep and generally mooched around in the confines of my home. The joy of watching a black & white movie in the afternoon, snuggled under a blanket is one that I intend to revisit often. Ok, well I did feel like I had a severe case of cabin fever for the first week but after that I kinda got used to doing ‘sod all’. One thing that I did not get used to was the ignominy of having to wear trainers constantly. Anyone that knows me, knows that I am firmly attached to my heels, at all times!!

Mostly during the stage of extreme flumping I spent my time thinking about the year that I have just dragged myself through. It’s been a crappy year to be honest but in the spirit of positivity that I intend to adopt for 2014, I’ve decided to concentrate on the highlights of 2013.

Formula 1……..thanks to my utterly lovely friend J, Boy Wonder and I spent 3 amazing days at Silverstone being treated like VIP’s. The racing was amazing, the pink champagne was divine and we met so many interesting people.  I have to admit being completely smitten after meeting David Coulthard.

Summer Wedding……..despite being ever so slightly cynical about love, it was a joy to watch my girlfriend Ashleigh marry her childhood sweetheart Dan. It was a beautiful day in Cornwall and I have to admit that there were tears in my eyes to see them walk down the aisle. I have rarely met a sweeter couple who were quite obviously meant for each other.

Bank Holiday Baby………I was blessed to witness the early arrival of baby Levi in August who decided to start his journey into the world in my living room. He was a joyous addition to our clan of single girls & our children and is adored by everyone that meets him.

September and he’s leaving home…..Boy Wonder moved into his student house with 3 friends. Whilst I missed him dreadfully, I am so proud that he is self sufficient, studying hard, partying even harder and managing to hold down a job.  I have to admit it is lovely to have him at home for the Christmas holidays though.

The Great Storm of October………naturally I was in a caravan on the cliff tops of of Perranporth with my girlfriends and their children. The caravan rocked for all the wrong reasons and needless to say that there was little sleeping over the long weekend. But there was a lot of laughter, copious amounts of wine and I was crowned the Queen of Jenga. Cos that’s what you play in a storm, right???

Now that I am literally back on my feet and slightly precariously back in my heels, I am looking forward to 2014. I think that a large dollop of gumption will be required in my quest for new experiences, a new career, a new house and hopefully some love. All things to explore in the first blog of 2014.

In the meantime, I am so grateful to everyone that takes time to read the musings of a girl lost in Devon. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year ……..

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