Virtual Reality

Day 5 of isolation, and madness is beginning to set in. On Thursday, for a short while I forgot that I don’t speak French. You see, I watched an entire season of a French show on Netflix. When I watch something foreign I always watch with subtitles-I cannot stand it when it’s dubbed. After 10 hours or so of watching, partway into season 2, I looked away from the screen and thought ‘what the bloody hell are they saying?’

Oh yeah. They’re speaking French! And I do not… It’s happened before when I was watching the German series, Dark. Tell me it’s not just me?

Now for a disclaimer: I’m no therapist. But I just wanted to give you my thoughts on some things. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. None of us have ever been in anything like this situation before, so don’t for a second feel like you should be finding or even looking for silver linings, if that’s not something that helps you.

I’m someone who has been dipping in and out of things. I have so many projects I could be getting on with, but when I get into something I momentarily forget what’s going on in the outside world. That’s great, until I suddenly remember and I get a jolt of panic surge through my body. Then I lose all interest in what I was doing, I stare into the distance for an indeterminate amount of time, then later on find something else to do.

At least, that’s during the day. Night time is spent trying, and failing, to get a good sleep. I’m not going to stress over this though. Normally it’s a problem because it’s important for me to be on the ball at work, but I’m not working so it doesn’t matter if I’m zoned out during waking hours.

We’re all just finding our ‘new normal’, and I think beating ourselves up over not being ‘positive enough’ is the last thing we need to be doing. Feelings demand to be felt, and if we bury them, they’ll never go away. The only way out is through.

Over the course of this week, I’ve been terrified, but also happy. On Monday Newton did an audible fart in the forest which was quite possibly the funniest thing in the world ever. I laughed more than was probably necessary at my wonky nipples (I have no idea how to explain in words what that was about or why it was so funny) and I had a silent disco in my room.

I was listening to classic 80’s tracks which are oh so danceable. In this instance I was listening to ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by the Communards, which I think we can all agree is a belter.

Other things that have helped me are getting dressed every day and, from time to time, putting make up on. This getting ready time is one of my favourite weekday activities, as I put my AirPods in and bust out some choons while I’m at it. Normally it’s to get me gee’d up for work, but in this instance it was a great mood—booster.

Then I spent several hours de-sequining some things for a craft project I meant to start two years ago, whilst watching an interesting series on Netflix about myths and legends.

Today I made Pea’s healthy food for the next month, which is sweet potato, broccoli, pepper, carrot and kale chopped and frozen into ice cube trays. This supplements her every day organic bird pellets and a couple of sunflower seeds or millet as a treat when she comes out to play.

It’s no big thing, but that was my task for the day and it felt good to be able to say ‘I said I was going to do this thing, and I did it’. I then told Pea that if we run out of food she better figure out how to start laying eggs, but I don’t think she was listening.

How long do you reckon it would take her to lay enough for an omelette?

Since I’m lucky enough to have a garden and the sun came out, I went outside to get some fresh air and take a few snaps.

Then came the news from my old consultant that her group is going to be one of the first in the country to start running virtual Image Therapy. Slimming World are going to charge roughly £2.50 per session, but you can attend as many or as few as you like without having to pay back fees. I told my consultant that if there’s space for me in one of her sessions to count me in, and I’ll also join my regular group in theirs. I’m still not paying any more than I would ordinarily, and I get to support more than one consultant.

Plus it would be REALLY NICE to see some different faces!

I’ve been staying on track with my eating not because of any particular willpower, but mainly through being sensible about using up what food I have. By the time I’m able to go out for supplies myself again, I have no idea what will be available. Another disclaimer: THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION TO PANIC BUY. THERE IS NOOOOOOOO FOOD SHORTAGE. IT IS OUR GREED THAT IS CAUSING THIS SITUATION!

There’s also the fact that I’ve almost completely lost my appetite, and I’m only eating once I feel a bit light-headed, or my tummy rumbles particularly loudly. Then I know it’s time to get some grub.

My only task for the rest of the day is to decide what I’m going to make tomorrow. I have a block of air-drying clay, so I want to decide what I’m doing with it before I open it. I’ll have to work quite quickly to stop it from drying out, so it’s best to be prepared. I’ll update you on that in the next post.

Stay safe, stay home if you can, and don’t buy all the things!

Hayley x

Tough Times Ahead

For someone who is normally a great big ball of anxiety, I’m strangely calm. I’ve been worrying about this coronavirus for about a month now, and finally spoke up to my family just before the ‘delay’ phase was introduced. They thought I was overreacting, though even then I wasn’t panicking.

When covid-19 started hitting the news the very thought scared me, so I decided to look into it further to allay my fears. I figured it was just scaremongering, but what I found was the opposite. I found plenty of evidence to suggest this is a very real threat that’s going to hit us hard (not just one of those things that happens in ‘other’ countries) but the thing that caused me the most stress was that no one in the UK seemed to be taking it seriously.

They still don’t. I don’t know what it’s like in other areas, but here in Essex it seems to be complete disbelief. We have the panic-buyers going crazy, but it doesn’t seem to be because they’re scared of the virus, just that they are scared they’re going to be left behind when everyone else has taken all the food.

I am worried that there won’t be anything left when the greedy people have had their fill, but I’m much more worried of the increased risk being in a packed supermarket would bring. In our house we have an online shop ordered (same as we do every week) and what we get, we get. We aren’t going to starve! I know I’m not setting foot in a supermarket unless I absolutely have to.

There’s so much selfishness. I couldn’t give two hoots whether I catch the virus or not, but I’m painfully aware I could pass it on to other more vulnerable people. Boris has only just suggested we start our social distancing (see this great resource about that) and it’s baffled me that it’s taken this long.

This is a flipping disaster, but we as individuals have the chance to alter the course of this thing. If we slow the spread (see flattening the curve) we can make sure the NHS isn’t too overwhelmed and the mortality rate could be much, much lower.

We aren’t being asked to do much – just wash our damn hands and stay the hell at home! WE CAN LITERALLY SAVE LIVES BY DOING THAT!

Yet, there are some idiots who still go to work with symptoms. I get it – if you’re self-employed it’s an impossible situation, but I know people who get FULL SICK PAY, doing non-essential jobs, who are going to work sick. If you CAN do something to help then please, DAMN WELL DO IT, whether you believe it’s real or not.

Ok, rant over. As I say, I’m surprisingly relaxed about all this. I think it’s because I’m simply doing all I can as a responsible member of society, and also that I’m a total home bod who was made for this very situation.

I took Newton for a walk today, which I figure is practically risk free. We didn’t see many other humans, and those we did encounter were from a distance.

Being in nature was so grounding. Newton was happily sniffing all the things, and got dew drops from sticking his snoot in the long grass.

If it gets to the point where we aren’t recommended to visit the park, then I’ve been gradually getting the garden tidy. Newton absolutely loves it out there, but planting flowers may be problematic.

He loves to run around and rip up chunks of stuff (he’s particularly taken with the primroses right now) so I guess investing time in planting stuff directly into the soil is inadvisable. I have some little seed bullet things I was going to scatter in the garden next month, but since he would probably eat them I figure it’s safer to start them off in doors.

That brings me nicely to the fact I have a load of fun things planned to occupy my time indoors, which I’ll share in the next few posts. Cultivating the plant lady aspect of my personality is one of them, now that I’m emboldened by managing to keep a cactus alive for several months. One is even growing!

This was a round cactus that is gradually getting long. The lighter green at the top is all new growth. This really is an achievement, coming from the girl who managed to kill an air plant.

I’ve decided not to go back to my Slimming World group for the time being. I do feel bad, because I know my consultant’s income will be affected, yet I simply cannot take the risk. Hopefully Slimming World’s head office will help their franchisees through this time, and I’d happily get an online subscription if I knew it was going to help consultants.

The last time I weighed in I lost 5 pounds and I’m still absolutely smashing it! I’ll now weigh in from home every Tuesday morning instead, and I reckon I’ve had a good loss this week too. My clothes feel a lot more comfortable, with 1 stone 3 lbs gone in only three weeks. I thought my ability to do this well was long gone, yet I’ve proven myself wrong.

Now I just need to keep my motivation up without the help of group. It’s going to be difficult, but not impossible, and I’ve resisted the urge to by junk food ‘just in case’. If I’m quarantined at any point, I’d rather not come out of it feeling worse than at the beginning. I’m optimistic for the future, and have no intention of throwing the towel in now.

Hang in there everyone, we’re gonna get through this.

Hayley x

Five Years

It’s been a bit longer than I intended between blog posts. While things have been quite wonderful, I’ve also had a bit of writer’s block. Things have really shifted for me over the last couple of weeks, however on the face of things not much has really happened. It’s hard to put into words.

Last week I really started getting my energy back. Whilst my medication makes me pretty much unconscious as soon as I take it, when I am awake, I’m really awake. I hadn’t realised how much of a monumental effort it was taking me just to exist until things started getting better.

Somehow I managed to stay on top of things as far as work goes (although I have lost a significant amount of money in unpaid leave in order to not lose the plot entirely) and have had a good enough performance to hit my targets and stay out of trouble.

But now… I’m actually smashing it! Last week I was top driver on the department. Everything is just kind of flowing, and it feels good having a spring in my step again as I jump (not quite literally) on and off of the forklift truck a hundred or so times a shift.

When I had to transfer stock over by hand to an empty pallet, I’d inwardly groan if I saw that it was particularly heavy. Now when I see I’ve got to haul a load of 20kg boxes, I’m glad for the opportunity to flex my muscles. It feels good to feel good to move, if that makes sense.

I feel like I’ve spent most of the year so far horizontal, which probably isn’t far from the truth. During February I barely moved at all in fact. Now I’m coming out of hibernation.

On Monday I walked into town for the first time since I don’t even remember when. Apart from to exercise, I had one single other objective- to pick up a free paper from Wilkinson’s. I use them to line Pea’s cage and catch the poops you see. Of course that is the one thing I came home without. Typical.

I did however see some lovely signs of spring, even if it was a grey old day.

The next day Newton came out on a nice long walk with me. It’s the first time we’ve been out walking together, just the two of us, and it was lovely to have a furry companion. He had a great time too, even if he was thoroughly disappointed that I wouldn’t let him eat goose poo. He loves the stuff. He was also not impressed that I wouldn’t let him eat used chewing gum, poop from other dogs and a jelly baby. It’s a hard life, being a dog.

After that my medication got adjusted, so although I’ve maintained my energy levels for work, I’m absolutely zonked as soon as I get in. I’m not worried though- I know there will just be a short adjustment period and I’ll have a good balance going again.

It does feel as if I’m entering a new season of life now. Five years ago, I’d just got my first DSLR and was starting to venture outdoors in search of things to photograph. I made a lot of headway in those five years. I figured out what I really like doing. I started to tackle my weight. I started to get a life.

In recent years I let myself get distracted and wasn’t really thinking about my future. It’s not surprising, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. Since leaving school, it’s been a case of ‘this will do’ in an absence of knowing what I really wanted my life to look like. All this time I’ve just been getting by.

So, five years later, and I’m finally starting to think about what I’d like my next five years to look like. I’ve always been terrible with money, and over the years I’ve said countless times that this is the moment I get on top of things once and for all. But it’s really happening! Last month I stayed within my means for the first time in living memory, without having to play catch up at all. I tracked all of my outgoings and I spent £500 on food, £200 of which was on takeaways, and nearly £400 on non-essentials. Before you start thinking I’m minted, I’m not. I just had extra money that month from working over the Christmas period.

Since pay day at the end of February however, I have spend zero pounds on takeaways. My non-essential spending currently stands at about 20 quid. I have a couple of really short months coming up, because of the unpaid leave, but even then I can still live within my means. Just about. When I’m back earning my full wage, I can start to pay off all of my credit, put aside some savings for the first time ever, and stop buying things to distract myself when I’m feeling bad.

That’s the key word. Distraction. It’s at the root of all my troubles – my weight, my finances, my relationships. Everything I’ve done in my life so far has been focused on making myself feel better for the next five minutes, without a thought for the effect my choices would have on the next five years.

That changes now though, and do you know what? I’m thoroughly excited. The single spanner in the works is that I’m currently freaking out about coronavirus and envisaging something akin to the Walking Dead in my near future. Hayley’s anxious brain is braced for the entire breakdown of society, or, you know, being dead. But positive Hayley is preparing for the future where everything turns out ok. What will be will be.

So, my spending has improved. I’m not engaged in any destructive relationships. How about food then? As it happens, I’ve been smashing the weight loss too with another 3.5 pounds off this week, plus Slimmer of the Week.

I’ve also been super organised. Everything is clean and tidy, and I have grand yet frugal redecorating plans which will be carried out over the course of the year.

Yep, everything is pretty damn good. It’s nice to be able to say that.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

So Fresh

I’ve had this WordPress account since 2012, and various different blogging projects have come and gone. Last year I rather fancily upgraded to a premium account, but this year I’m being sensible (ish) with money, so the premium has to go.

This presents a problem, because I’ll lose out on storage and I’ve blogged a lot of photographs. They simply won’t fit when I get downgraded. So I decided to wipe the slate clean and start completely over.

This comes at an opportune time, because I’m doing other kinds of starting over too.

I took a complete break from Slimming World for a few weeks, and to be quite honest, spent a lot of time curled up in bed in the fetal position. It hasn’t been a great.

Last year was really tough, with lots of changes and lots of challenges. But when everything eventually calmed down, I realised there was still something seriously wrong. I didn’t have any destructive romantic interest in my life. My family was healthy. I had a roof over my head, enough money to live comfortably, friends I could talk to and rely on. Yet I felt worse than ever. How could that be?

I spent way too long looking for some elusive thing I could change in my life, in the belief that when I found it, everything else would magically fall into place.

I thought if I could find the exact right time to go to sleep and the exact right time to wake up, it would fix everything. If I could find the exact right things to eat, everything would be ok. If I exercised for the optimum amount of days per week, I’d be happy again.

Unsurprisingly, none of it helped. When I realised I could barely force myself to leave my bed and it became a battle to get through a single night at work, I figured it was time to see the doctor.

I was prescribed antidepressants, which take 2-3 weeks to build up in your system and start to making a difference. It’s now day 13, and right on cue, I can feel the darkness lifting.

While they were kicking in (they also make you feel worse before they make you feel better) I curled up under my duvet at every available opportunity and obsessed. My brain was telling me that the pills wouldn’t work, that there was no hope. It didn’t help that every time I had a reasonably good day, it was followed by a really bad one. I had to keep reminding myself, over and over, to just hang in there, to just keep going. I read to distract myself, and have demolished seven books so far this month. That’s a new personal record.

Then just like that, an ok day was followed by another one, then another one.

Until now, every time I made an attempt at anything, be it weight loss, getting my spending under control, exercise, keeping my room tidy… I’d have overwhelming thoughts of there being no point to it all, that I’d just fail anyway. It was all so tiring.

I knew deep down that it was nonsense, that I can do anything I put my mind to, but the depression wouldn’t let me hold those thoughts in my mind. It pushed everything positive right out of me.

Since I now have space in my brain for good things, last night I got my butt back to Slimming World. I rejoined a closer group, which is just around the corner from me. I stopped going there originally because it’s on a Tuesday and I have to work after, but I’ve realised with proper planning I can get a nice nap in before work and it should work out ok. I’ve actually learned how to clear my mind and relax myself enough to get to sleep quickly, which is a massive bonus.

As it happens, I’m the heaviest I’ve been since May 2017. Yet it’s not a complete disaster.

I got my mum to take a fresh ‘before’ picture of me, to go on this freshest of new posts along with this fresh new start. Looking at it now, I’ve been in complete denial at how much weight I’ve put on. I haven’t properly seen myself in months, yet here it is, clear as day.

I am quite pleased that I managed to squeeze into one of my favourite outfits, because I really didn’t think I’d manage to get it on at all. Thankfully we did not have to call the fire brigade to cut me out of it again, but it was a close call.

I hunted down some pictures that I thought I had deleted from May last year. Rather than being utterly dismayed at the difference, I am for once more excited and focused to get back to that point than I am disappointed and angry at myself.

I visited my sister on Monday and got her to take yet another comparison shot, but this time I wasn’t the main focus. Whilst I certainly am bigger in the second photo than I am in the first one (taken last October) the change is not quite as dramatic as in young Newton.

Look at how handsome and grown up he is!

I did manage to get out on one river walk with my little brother, between storms that is, and although it wasn’t the most inspiring of walks ever we are definitely going back later on in the year. We are going to hire a boat, and hopefully not drown. I bet the area will be transformed with a bit of sunshine.

Once the wind has died down and I can be reasonably certain that my woodland walks are not going to result in a tree falling on my head, I’ll start increasing my exercise again, too. Better days are undoubtedly just around the corner.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x