Anxiety, Eczema, It me, mental health, personal, tattoos

New Year, New You, New Danger

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I’m a bit of a sucker for a new start. I love the idea of each year being a tabula rasa filled to the brim with potential. I buzz off the excitement of new projects, the crisp lines of a new notebook, the opportunity contained within the pages of an empty diary. But, I’m also acutely aware that writing about new year’s resolutions is one of the worst lifestyle blogging cliches. And, before you say anything, I also know that reading about other people’s new year’s resolutions – many of which they’ll have broken by the second week of the year – is pretty boring. So, I’m (going to do my best) not to write about them here.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reinvention recently. I read this piece by Deborah Orr in the Guardian and was shocked by how much I related to her experiences of living with difficult mental health. Like too many people I know, last year wasn’t the easiest one for me. I was stuck in a job I hated (and was eventually made redundant from), experiencing some pretty nasty health issues, saw too many bad things happen to the people I love and – the cherry on top of this cake of shit – the return of the crippling anxiety and depression that has plagued me since my teenage years. At one particularly low point, I deactivated all of my social media accounts and almost deleted this blog because I was just so tired of seeing everyone else leading brighter, better, happier lives than mine. I hated the way I looked, I hated the way I felt and I hated logging on to discover everyone living it up while I was stagnating.

Of course, this is not a particularly rational way of thinking. Particularly for someone who works in social media and so should be totally aware of the glitter and artifice people sprinkle over their lives when discussing them online. Being alone with my thoughts only made them worse. I found it increasingly difficult to get out of bed and had to start working from home more to accommodate this. I was having panic attacks in my sleep and drinking too much. When I was at my office, I would repeatedly find myself bursting into tears and having to go and hide in the toilets. I had to finally face up to the fact that I needed help.

I went back onto antidepressants and discovered one that worked for me (I had been wary of them since a terrible experience with Citalopram in my late 20s.) I started seeing a therapist who helped me to unpick some of my ways of thinking and examine them in a new light. Being made redundant helped me to realise that one of the reasons I was so depressed was because I was in a job which wasn’t right for me and it provided me with the impetus (and money) I needed to finally go it alone.

I’m saying all of this not out of a desire to make people feel sorry for me, but more because I’m proud of managing to come out on the other side. I did some amazing work in 2016 – both professionally and personally. I’m entering 2017 happier, stronger and with much better hair. I’ve also acquired some awesome tattoos, but that’s by-the-by.

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My noble steed

Like many people, I have big plans for 2017. I want to write more, both for myself and for others. I want to make my freelance career a success. I want to be more careful with my money, not just because I am acutely aware of the precariousness of freelance life but also because I want to find methods of self care which don’t just involve purchasing things that I don’t really need.

My friend James came to visit me over the Christmas break and was kind enough to fix up the old Raleigh Shopper bike which had been gathering dust in my hallway for a number of years. Last week, I found myself going on a 13 mile bike ride alongside the River Mersey, enjoying the feel of the wind through my hair and feeling so incredibly lucky to live in such a scenic part of England. I don’t know what will happen to me this year. But I know that if I continue to take pleasure in the little things, I’ll be OK.

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fat acceptance, fat positivity, personal style, plus sized bloggers, plus sized blogging, plus sized fashion, tattoos

Sympathetic Ink: On tattoos and fat acceptance

My most recent tattoo. Isn't she gorgeous?

My most recent tattoo. Isn’t she gorgeous?

When I got my first tattoo – a small ‘Love’ symbol on my right wrist – back in 2008, I laughed when people told me that they were addictive. ‘Nope,’ I told everyone. ‘That’s not going to happen to me. I might get one or two, but I’m not going to be one of those people with ink covering both arms.’ Cut to a fortnight ago when I decided that my left arm was ‘looking a bit bare’ and it made sense to get a fantastically fierce (and gigantic) tiger lady tattooed on it. Famous last words and all that.

It’s a massive cliché, but I love my tattoos. I have eight of them (so far) and they are as much a part of me as one of my arms or feet. They’re a map of memories on my skin – markers of my constantly evolving relationship with my body, a process that has been as challenging as it has been rewarding.

Four of my tattoos.

Four of my tattoos.

Like many people, I’ve spent a fair chunk of my life waging a war against my appearance. For most of my 20s I believed I was too unattractive, too weird and too fat for anyone to take me seriously. I will never forget logging on to a forum I frequented in 2005 to discover that some people (who I misguidedly thought were my friends) had uploaded a picture of me and were poking fun at my hair, my clothes and my size. Or the time that my ex asked me what happened to the skinny girl he fell in love with. Little things, but they stick to you like tar, making you feel lumpen and useless.

This isn’t some sob story. I’m sure that everyone reading this will have similar tales to share (after all, we live in a society that encourages us to find fault with ourselves in the smallest things.) As I’ve gotten older, I’ve called a truce in the war I’d been constantly waging against myself. I don’t have the time or the energy to invest in trying to take up less space in the world. Instead, I’d much rather work on appreciating the fantastic landscape of my body – belly rolls, double chin and all.

My favourite picture of me with my rolling pin tattoo. You would never know that I'd only had four hours sleep when this picture was taken.

My favourite picture of me with my rolling pin tattoo. You would never know that I’d only had four hours sleep when this picture was taken.

I see getting tattooed as my own form of self care. It shows that I care about my body so much that I want to cover it in beautiful, interesting art that I can show off to the world. That I am proud to show off a fat body, which I am supposed to feel discomforted and shamed by. I’ve written before about my mildly antagonistic relationship with my upper arms, always believing them to be too white and too flabby. Getting them inked gave me the perfect opportunity to flaunt them and their satisfying roundness to the world. I still have days where I feel uncomfortable or anxious about how I look. But I have even more where I look in the mirror and see a super-hot, confident woman looking back at me. A woman who just happens to have a naked pin-up girl decorating her right arm.

I realise that getting tattooed is not for everyone. Good ones done by experienced artists are expensive and I’m exceptionally privileged to be able to afford mine. I am also lucky enough to work in an environment where they have never been an issue (although I do keep them covered when I have to be ‘professional.’) And whenever I’ve shown them to my parents, they’ve been met with a drama-free meh rather than a cry of you’ve brought shame upon this family!  Although my Dad did raise an eyebrow when I got a giant multi-coloured rolling pin on my right arm.

Fat positivity is expressed in a variety of different ways. Mine just happens to come in the form of signs and symbols swirling over my arms. And when people ask me what my various tattoos mean, I tell them that they mean that my body is important. My body is magnificent. My body is beautiful.

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