I bought a Dell XPS 15

I’ve been trying to justify buying a new laptop for nearly 2 years. Despite it being the only thing that allows me to earn an income, I have been stuck in this “the old one still works” mindset: even though it’s slower, heavier, and has approximately 6 minutes battery life these days. Given the Acer’s approx value at purchase was circa £400 and that’s my daily rate, I’d paid for it through work several hundred times over; I was holding on to it because I’m a miserable scrooge.

So, after convincing myself that it was a sensible business decision to invest in some faster / better tech at some point, I had to decide what to buy. I read review after review for lots of top spec laptops: HP Spectre series, the Microsoft Surface Pro 4s, and various Dells including the Dell XPS 15. The only problem was the price tag: the build I wanted was £1500. My car is worth less than that.

Towards the end of June, on a whim I checked out the Dell website again and noticed that they had a series of offers on: £100 off certain laptops over £1000, £150 cashback on laptops over £1299 bought before 5th July AND Dell are on topcashback, which I knew would recover about £75 which would bring the final price down to just under £1200. Probably still worth more than my car, but enough of a saving that — combined with my recent celebration of 5 years in business — sealed the deal. One Dell laptop, in the bag.


(Not my photo, soz.)

It is a fucking beast of a laptop, with tech specs as follows:

  • 7th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor
  • 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge display
  • 16GB, DDR4, 2400MHz; with support for up to 32GB should I feel insane enough to upgrade
  • 512GB PCIe Solid State Drive
  • 97WHr battery with estimated 19hr use
  • NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5(!!!)

First off, I have to state that the 19hr estimated use on the battery is optimistic at best. That said, I can do a full working day of heavy dev running XAMPP, Photoshop, PDF reader, Microsoft Word etc and only just start to worry about charging at the end of it. I can get a good 12 hours out of casual web browsing.

It’s a surprisingly lightweight laptop for the spec (I was expecting it to weigh half a ton) at approx 2kg, albeit heavier than some of its competitors, but 100% looks the business for it. With a smooth aluminium chassis and massive screen filling virtually every bit of space available, it looks every bit as expensive as the price tag it carries. Unfortunately the palm rest and internal casing let it down a little as it picks up grease from my fingertips like woah.

Visuals aside, the laptop hasn’t faltered yet. I’ve thrown a heavy workload at it from the get go (things are busy right now) and it’s hit the ground running. On Friday I was running Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator simultaneously while working on a CSS3 heavy website with multiple instances of Chrome open, as well as the various dev tools in the background. To top it all off, it wasn’t plugged in so running on a reduced power mode and I hadn’t noticed: there was not even a stutter from the processor. I honestly think I have outdone my personal needs here, and would love to see what this thing can truly handle.

It’s the quietest laptop I’ve ever owned, although that’s not necessarily hard given the old acer sounded like a plane taking off if it got in the slightest bit stressed.

I’ve previously expressed my concern about laptops shipping without e.g. CD drives (admittedly, back in 2008!) and the XPS 15 is one of them but I’m prepared to eat humble pie: I can’t remember the last time I used the CD/DVD drive on my Acer & I’ve yet to miss it on the Dell. Admittedly, growing USB drive capacity and “cloud” back-up services are the main reason behind that, with media streaming being my main source of music consumption a close second.

Aside from the case marks I touched upon earlier, my only other complaint is that I sometimes struggle to open the lid. It sounds silly but if I don’t have my fingers in a very specific placement, I find it difficult to get enough grip on it to get it open. Nobody mentioned this in any of the reviews I read prior to purchase, so that might just be me being a total bellend.

I’m also led to believe that the built in webcam is not positioned particularly well, which could lead to some interesting chats with my clients, but if I ever double up as a cam girl might produce some interesting chest shots ;)

All in I’m really pleased I finally took the plunge in buying some new hardware and I like that the Dell has offered me so far. I only hope it’s more reliable than my bloody car.

Radical Self Love

I posted this picture to instagram at the end of May:

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The general gist of the caption was that, while I don’t agree on everything my mum says & does, I did appreciate her “don’t give a fuck” attitude growing up and it helped me develop a similar approach to society’s pressures to look a certain way.

Of course, this wasn’t the full story (because seriously, nobody wants to read a blog post in an insta caption).

While that is mostly true, as I said on instagram, I have poked at wobbly bits with an element of self-doubt. In the depths of PMDD-fuelled anxiety I have questioned whether my own husband could truly love me with all my scars and stretch marks. I liked myself most of the time, but I’m not “perfect”, and I knew it, but I accepted who I was.

When I got sick in early May, and a week of excruciating gallbladder pain stopped me from eating, I dropped ~10lbs quite quickly. Any other time this would be cause for celebration, but I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise the person looking back at me. My skin looked pale, my stomach was shrivelled up like a weird dry prune and I felt myself shrinking: the opposite of what I want to achieve. I looked like shit, and it terrified me.

I hated it. I hated how I looked, I hated feeling weak, and I hated being less ‘me’.

As I got better, I had what can only be described as an epiphany. It hit me: when I’m not ill I can run, I can lift heavy weights, I can kick arse in the dojang, and I am strong, capable and confident. Weighing 10lbs less didn’t give me superpowers, it didn’t make me suddenly more attractive or physically fit (quite the opposite in this instance).

And so I realised that if I hated myself like that, I had no choice but to love myself when I’m 10lbs heavier, when I’ve not shaved my legs in a fortnight, when I’m bloated to all hell because I’m due on, when my brain is telling me I suck because my hormones are going haywire. Merely accepting myself wasn’t enough. I accept bills, and taxes, and having to get up at 7am to get the kids ready for school and those things all SUCK. And so that caption also said something quite radical: I think I love myself.

I gave myself permission to enjoy the comedy of the wobbly belly, to celebrate the origins of the stretch marks, to find mystery in my scars. I gave myself permission to say fuck yeah, I actually look pretty good. And I’m cool with that.

Spend your time wisely

With the recent announcement over on my professional blog that I’m now celebrating 5 years of working for myself as a freelance developer, it feels somewhat bittersweet that I am also announcing the closure of one of my side projects: WAHMweb.

It has been a labour of love over the past 5+ years. Designed originally as an outlet for my own work at home rants, discoveries and so on, it has evolved into a decent resource for parents (and in particular, mums) who are looking to either move into working at home from a full time position, or simply just want to earn a few extra quid while they stay at home with young children.

Unfortunately the project has never been close to profitable, and while that was never the key aim, I can no longer afford to push money into hosting and content development to not even get close to breaking even.

As my notoriety(!) in the WordPress space increases, and demand for my services is reaching new highs every week now, I have to spend my time wisely: choosing to continue with projects which are self-supporting, self-financing, and concentrating the rest of my energies in best serving my clients (and my kids).

I have moved the most popular of the WAHMweb content pieces to this blog, and will transfer and other bits I feel are important in due course. While this is a sad announcement, it does mean that I will be able to focus more time and energy on sharing the things that have helped with my personal success as a work at home mum right here where it belongs.

Thank you to all those who’ve supported WAHMweb over the years.

Insta fitness and chasing tiny

(This post doesn’t have an image attached to it because the search for “thinspiration” to demonstrate what I am getting at turned up some fucking horrific images and I don’t want to contribute to that.)

Despite being a late adopter to Instagram (as per usual; I only downloaded snapchat this week) it is easily my favourite social network for procrastination. As well as engaging with the people I follow multiple times a day, I also frequently make use of their ‘discover’ feed and randomly like/comment on other people’s photos. It’s actually a good way to find new people with similar interests (which I guess is the whole point).

Unfortunately, because I use Instagram as a half-hearted fitness log, and as such follow other fitness folk, my insta discovery feed is absolutely rammed with weight loss posts and “transformations”: picture after picture after picture of women — always women — before their “magical transformation” and after. The before pictures usually feature someone obese or significantly overweight, and the after can be anything up to and including skeletal women (that quite possibly have an eating disorder).

Sometimes the women are even the same person & it’s hilarious how bad some of the fakes are, but that’s another post for another day…

And people LOVE it. They lap it up. Thousands of likes and comments applauding the desire to shrink, to be smaller, to better fit into society’s normal. “Thinspiration!” they cry. Lots of supportive comments, but as is the norm on the Internet, a whole fuckton of fat shaming too.

Why? Why do we — women — strive to take up less space in a world that tries so hard to keep us small and meek and fearful? And I don’t mean the act of weight loss in itself: I am happy to support anyone that wants to lose weight if they so desire, whatever their motivation for doing so. I have obviously pursued my own weight loss goals to better fit the way I feel most comfortable and confident… but chasing “tiny” just for the sake of being tiny?

In a world that has us fighting to exist on an equal footing for pay, for health care, and in some countries for access to basic human rights; in a world that is led by men who brag openly about sexual assault so that we know our place? Deliberately shrinking ourselves seems so counter-productive.

Where are my insta-fitness shots of growth: growing muscles? Growing more confident? Growing competence in a discipline that pleases you? Growing more secure, or growing capacity for fitness? Growing the distance you run or the friends you make through a mutual enjoyment of a sport?

Fuck, grow your plate of cookies for all I care – just demand more. Be MORE. Not less. Never less.

The essure sterilisation procedure, one year on

I say one year on… it’s actually 15 months on, but it’s taken me so long to finish writing this post (as with all posts) that my original draft and actual life timeline are way out of sync.

Anyway, so: the essure procedure. The last time I wrote about it was 3 months post-procedure and I was having a bit of a head wobble about the whole thing. I’d had some heavy bleeding, which at one point put me in A&E with a suspected ectopic pregnancy, and some contact dermatitis caused by a nickel sensitivity. I spent a lot of time googling essure side effects and found some bloody terrifying scare stories.

15 months on this is all but a memory. The random heavy bleeding stopped almost as quickly as it came on (assumed “settling in” / scarring – i.e. part of the process that causes the actual sterility). I have only recently started wearing my watch again after the initial irritation from the strap occurred, but it hasn’t flared up at all. I no longer have issues with painful intercourse or discharge, and other symptoms I’d worried about – weight gain and fatigue – turned out to be mostly related to my drinking (surprise surprise).

My periods are regular as clockwork most months and, most importantly, I’ve not popped out any babies lately. Surprisingly, I’m also yet to experience any feelings of regret either. I occasionally get a bit broody when I see other people’s cute babies online, but mostly I look at how happy and comfortable I am (despite life’s stresses) with how things are, that I wouldn’t want to change anything. I will never not miss baby cuddles, but I know for a fact that I would miss sleep, and flexibility, and freedom, and time with my existing babies more.

With something like this it’s easy to get carried away with panic at the first sign of a problem — as with all things in life, people are quicker to complain when it goes wrong than compliment when it goes right — and with essure there’s no shortage of scare stories to terrify women into avoiding the procedure, but I would have no problems recommending it to anyone wanting a permanent birth control solution.

Is this it?

I have spent a large part of the past few weeks jumping from one ‘chaos moment’ to another (as per usual) and I was sat on the toilet recently wondering… is this it? Is this what adulting is about? Just about hanging on while you ride the waves of life?

I’m being melodramatic — I’m not having a mid life crisis — but after a few weeks of intense hard work (covering for a friend/dev at a local agency as well as doing my own stuff) AND housework AND kids AND pets AND volunteering AND all the other day to day thankless bullshit which we seem to have to do as grown ups, I can’t help but feel if I’m missing out on some greater truth: there’s something I forgot to do that makes all this fulfilling and worthwhile?

Tomorrow marks 3 months since I decided to stop drinking. I’ve had a bit of a wobble this month with some INTENSE pre-menstrual cravings for wine, which I seem to be missing quite a lot all of a sudden. I did resist, although had a shandy over the weekend. Gaz says it counts as alcohol and I know he’s technically right, but the ABV is barely above what can be legally classed as alcohol free and it certainly didn’t make me drunk so I’m giving myself a free ride on it.

A few people have asked me if I plan on staying sober for life and I don’t know the answer to that question. Now the novelty of being newly-sober has worn off I can see occasions where a glass of wine or bubbles would be lovely, but am I ever going to be the sort of person that can just have one glass? Having the willpower to not drink is one thing, but having the willpower to say no once you’re under the influence is a different kettle of fish.

I’ve completely lost my gym mojo again, despite having lots of goals in mind and the support of awesome sexy gym-going people all over my instagram. I’m hoping to get back into it next week once the work commitments back off a little, so feel free to give me a kick up the arse or a hearty nag. I need to not undo all the effort I’ve been putting in this year with blatant laziness.

Running seems to be back on the agenda though, with a 5k Race for Life with the ladies from Source (aforementioned agency) that raised over £1000 for Cancer Research as well as a potential PB of 28 mins 17 seconds although my Garmin reckons the course was 400m short. Either way it was well under 30 minutes which is something I’ve struggled with for a while.

I’ve got another upcoming half (the Piece of Cake trail half marathon), the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k booked for November and the Edinburgh Half Marathon in the calendar for next year, so just need to keep up the momentum.

At least I’m not being completely lazy…

Is it time for another coffee yet?

Detox teas, crash diets and the gallbladder

I recently supported a short instagram campaign by the UK Fitness Bloggers highlighting the dangers of so called ‘detox teas’ and their call to use “teas for biccies, not weight loss”. Here I am post-run and covered in sweat, enjoying my ‘biccie’ (admittedly I had a cup of coffee, not tea, but the sentiment stands):

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Detox teas — under brands like Bootea and Skinny Tea — claim to “spring clean” your body, “eliminate toxins”, as well as aid in weight loss.

Firstly, let’s be 100% clear here: detoxing is a marketing scam. None of these teas (or any other products marketed as “detox”) do anything for supposed toxins in your body. If your body had a build up of toxins, you would either a) be dead or b) in need of serious medical attention, because it would indicate kidney and/or liver failure.

These teas generally contain either a laxative, or a diuretic, or in some cases both. In other words, they’re designed to make you poop or pee. If you’re lucky, you’ll spend the duration of your “teatox” on the toilet shitting water or pissing it. (More on if you’re unlucky in a moment…) Yes, you’ll be slimmer at the end, but only because you’ll be dehydrated and have lost water weight. A few days of normality and you’ll put it all back on.

Crash/fad diets generally involve heavily restricting calories or eating only certain food groups but the result is often the same: dehydration and potential digestive upset. Unless you’re unlucky.

I spent last week in various states of agony. I was in A&E doped up with morphine twice:

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I haven’t been on a crash diet and I sure as hell haven’t succumbed to any detox marketing, but I have had some of the busiest weeks of my career on top of running races, half marathons, training for a taekwon-do grading, kids, pets & all that entails, volunteering, work outside of the home, a wedding anniversary and general social calendar chaos. And I wasn’t careful: I missed meals to fit in meetings, and forgot to take lunch on volunteer days. I drank coffee instead of protein shakes post-workout and I fell into bed at the end of the day too tired to cook.

Like people who drink detox teas and risk crazy crash diets: I was stupid, and I was unlucky, and I pissed off my gallbladder.

When you don’t take in enough calories to meet your body’s demands, your body starts to eat itself — stored fats — for energy. This stimulates the production of bile; a liquid produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder that helps break down fat. If you lose weight (because of restricted calories, or shitting all your food out before it’s properly digested because of your laxative tea) too fast the amount of cholesterol in the bile increases and it turns into thick “sludge” which can prevent the gallbladder from emptying properly.

Even worse, as bile salts accumulate, it can crystalise, turning this thick sludge into hard lumps: gallstones. Which, if you’ve known me for long enough, you’ll know I have past experience of thanks to a little bastard of a stone that blocked a bile duct when Isabel was a baby, putting us both in hospital for a week.

So anyway, back to me pissing off my gallbladder… when your gallbladder gets annoyed, it gets REALLY annoyed. Gallbladder pain is excruciating. Anecdotal reports (including mine) put it as one of the most painful things you can experience, and I say this having been through a “natural” birth to a boy with an abnormally large head which was PAUSED MID WAY so that the midwife could unwrap the cord from his awkward bloody neck.

I was in so much pain last Monday that I had cold sweats, I was delirious and at one point I thought I was hallucinating. I drove myself (stupid decision, don’t do this) to A&E and was rushed through and hooked up to morphine. The first time in my life an A&E visit hasn’t taken over 4 hours.

Just over a week later and (one further visit to hospital) and I don’t really have any news on my situation. My agonising pain is gone and I’m back to eating (properly!) but I have bloating, discomfort, and persistent indigestion type pain. I’m due an ultrasound at some point in the next week to figure out what’s going on, and to make a decision on whether or not my gallbladder needs taking out.

Is it really worth this pain, ill health, and potential surgery to lose a few pounds a bit quicker? Is a stupid marketing trick worth risking your gallbladder for? I was stupid, and I was unlucky: you don’t need to be.

Recipe: Gluten Free Lemon Mousse Cheesecake

A recent(ish) meeting with some of my BFFs necessitated the creation of a cake, and there’s no cake like a cheesecake, but I could not for the life of me find a cheesecake recipe I liked the look of. I wanted a baked cheesecake for flavour, but something super tangy to offset a sweet lemon mousse I envisaged to go on top. Unable to find that perfect recipe, I concocted my own – with a gluten free buttery biscuit base to boot!

Ingredients

Biscuity Base
1 pack gluten free digestives (I used a 160g pack but in hindsight ~200g would be better)
100g butter

gluten free cheesecake ingredientsCheesecake
min. 400g marscapone (I used 500g but it was huuuge)
360g cream cheese
150g caster sugar
4 large eggs
2 lemons

Lemon mousse
2 lemons
300ml double cream
2 large egg whites
60g caster sugar

Method

Making the buttery biscuit base

  1. Melt the butter gently in a pan.
  2. While that’s melting, put the digestives into a freezer bag, then bash the shit out of them til they’re crumbly.
  3. Mix the butter and biscuit crumbs together and press into 9 inch cheesecake pan.
  4. Refrigerate.
  5. Ask on twitter why ‘fridge’ has the letter D in it.

Making the cheesecake

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (or approx 170 if it’s a fan oven)
  2. Separate the eggs, keeping both yolk and white.
  3. Whisk the whites & caster sugar together until soft peaks form.
  4. Mix together the soft cheese, marscapone, and egg yolks.
  5. Zest the lemons and juice them into the cheese/egg mix. If you want a really lemony flavour, fish the lemon seeds out of the juicer and then tip in any pulpy lemony bits too.
  6. Fold the egg white mixture into yolky cheese mixture, aiming for a nice even mix without beating the air out of the eggs.
  7. Tip the mixture into your cheesecake pan on top of the biscuit base then place in the oven.
  8. Cook for 40 minutes then turn off oven, but leave the cheesecake in there (this means it cool down slowly, which helps prevent cracks and stops it from sinking – but my first one did anyway and it was still gorgeous).
  9. After approx 1hr remove cheesecake and refrigerate.

Making the lemon mousse
I used the lemon mousse recipe from Penny’s Recipes for this bit – it was so simple and exactly what I needed, so I didn’t see the point in re-inventing the wheel.

Don’t start this bit until the cheesecake is completely cool!

  1. Grate the zest from the lemons into a bowl and then whisk together with the cream and sugar until thick but still soft.
  2. Stir in the juice from the lemons.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.
  4. Fold the egg white into the cream mixture.
  5. Spoon the mousse mix onto the cheese cake, level out and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours.

And tada! It’s ready…

gluten free lemon mousse cheesecake

This is a very decadent cheesecake, perfect to share with friends. Or eat it out of the tin with your fingers, I’m not going to judge.

Anniversaries, Races and …. this is a terrible title

What a month. WHAT A MONTH. Is it just me, or is May easily the busiest month of the year? (It probably is just me.)

The end of April (that’s basically May, right?) saw this blog – well, domain – reach 15. FIFTEEN years of dodgy web design, blogging about everything from poop to programming, as well as documenting massive life changes and my ongoing adventures.

May 4th, which came round far too bloody quickly, was the date of my trail marathon. That one with multiple ascents of circa 2000ft that I entered because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Predictably, I did not train for a marathon, so ended up ‘downgrading’ to the half on the day.

We (myself & some local friends) walk/ran/walked the half in 3hrs 37 official time, but again a Garmin moving time of around 3hrs 15 mins. Some of that walking was because my choice of trainers left a lot to be desired; despite running regularly in minimalist barefoot shoes and loving it, they’re absolutely sod all use for hilly half marathons comprised of slippery rock faces, gravel paths and the like. I was expecting to run in some Asics trail running shoes but they didn’t arrive in time, so I’m holding these back for July (because I’ve entered another trail half!?!)

The 5th of May saw me celebrating my ‘freedom’ anniversary – 3 years since I asked the ex to leave. As per usual, this meant my annual donation to Women’s Aid which after a quick post on Facebook was nearly tripled by friends.

On Sunday 7th May I then ran again — the Market Drayton 10k — which as well as being the first race I ever ran back in May 2015 is also up there as one of my absolute favourites. The support from the locals of Market Drayton is always fantastic: such a huge buzz being cheered on for 99% of the route by everyone from tiny toddlers to old pensioners. Bloody great goodie bag at the end too (important facts)

Next Tuesday (16th May) is my first wedding anniversary. One whole year of being married to the smartest, funniest, most amazing man I know. At this point in time I have completely failed to do anything about an anniversary present despite knowing what I want to do for well over 6 months (Jem in “leaving things til last minute” shocker) so this could be a very short lived marriage. :D

In between all this I’ve been juggling huge workloads both of my own stuff and as a WordPress ninja for Gaz’s firm locally; revising and practising for an upcoming taekwon-do grading for my yellow belt with a green stripe; usual kids / house crap; and lastly, multiple social engagements… because I am nothing if not a social butterfly (with great boobs):

To end this month of chaos we have Olly’s 5th birthday (May 30th) rapidly approaching which also marks the 5th anniversary of working for myself shortly after (no, launching a business with a newborn isn’t a good idea). I am not sure how my little spud managed to get to 5 (benign neglect / second child syndrome) but here we are. Should probably get him a present too…

What a munchkin.

All photos taken from my instagram because I’m too lazy to download them from my phone & re-edit them.

Orange & Lemonade Pt 2: 5 weeks

It’s now been about 5 weeks since I decided to stop drinking for good.

I am sleeping better. Aside from a couple of weeks of intense drinking-frenzy dreams where I got completely smashed off my face (in the dream, that is) I have slept solidly every night since I stopped drinking. My sleep cycles have gone back to normal and I don’t feel tired all the time.

The puffy dark circles under my eyes are mostly gone. Partly because I’m sleeping better, and partly because I’m not in a state of perma-dehydration.

My weight is slowly dropping. I was able to wear a pair of size 12 jeans again this week, which I’ve not been able to do in 12+ months, since I lost a huge chunk of weight initially. I’d convinced myself that my drinking was not to blame for weight gain because I moderated input and calculated calories but this was completely ignoring the science behind alcohol consumption (in simple terms, when you eat & drink, food is stored as fat so your liver can prioritise dealing with the poison you’re voluntarily taking into your system). Ignorance is not bliss, after all.

And most importantly: I’ve not had a single anxiety related episode despite going through the tail end of one cycle and another complete cycle. What this basically means is that I was worsening my own PMDD by constantly drinking (despite often doing it to self-medicate the symptoms themselves!)

It’s not a huge surprise, alcohol is a known depressant, but what is surprising is just how much difference it makes being completely sober. The scale of change in my symptoms is massive. I can’t attribute this entirely to drinking/not drinking — my circumstances are more stable, and I’ve implemented strategies to better cope with workloads and stress — but is a massive help.

I am still INCREDIBLE HULK ANGRY in lead up to menstruation, but angry on its own is a hell of a lot easier to deal with than angry AND anxious/paranoid.

In the space of 5 weeks I could have easily consumed 1-2 bottles of wine a week, and the equivalent of a bottle of vodka on a ‘going out weekend’ – of which there has been a couple. So in 5 weeks I’ve “missed out” on approximately 10 bottles of wine and 2 bottles of vodka.

Except I’m not missing it at all.

Your anxiety is not my anxiety

I started writing this post a couple of months ago, but decided not to finish it because it came off too ‘special snowflake’ or a dig on other types of anxiety (which it definitely isn’t) but my good friend Aisling posted recently about atypical depression and how it differs from typical depression, and I realised that it’s important we talk about how things affect us differently purely on the off chance that someone sees them and thinks “ah!”. Not everyone experiences mental health in the same way, so here it is, this is my anxiety…

Anxiety seems to be the topic of choice right now. I can’t go five minutes on any social media platform without seeing articles, blog posts and comic strips about it. It’s great! It’s raising awareness of a very real Thing that I was basically oblivious to until one day I suddenly realised that the Thing I felt had a name. Yay!

Except the problem is that all these blog posts and pseudo-articles and comic strips all seem to follow the same theme: “10 reasons your friend doesn’t want to come out to play”, “Here’s why your mate keeps cancelling all your plans”, “Your anxiety-ridden pal just wants to hide at home under the duvet”, “5 reasons you can’t make a phone call” … and so on.

And yes, each of these refer to different symptoms of anxiety but these pieces are generally specific to social anxiety, and that isn’t all there is to anxiety. It’s not my anxiety.

My anxiety doesn’t stop me from going out with friends. In fact, it pushes me to socialise as a much needed distraction but often then results in me over-analysing friend’s behaviour to look for clues as to whether or not they really like me. And, if we’re socialising outside of the house, it causes me to constantly assess my surroundings and the people nearby in case of Some Big Disaster.

My anxiety doesn’t stop me from making phone calls, it just causes me to spend hours afterwards wondering why I said That and not This and, especially in a professional context, causes me to question the entire conversation and whether or not they’ll want to work with me ever again. (Ironically, this has caused me to withdraw from clients causing the breakdown of a great working relationship anyway.)

My anxiety doesn’t cause me to avoid strangers and public interaction — I will play up to a crowd — but it does cause me to freeze or shut down when offered even the most basic of choices. I can’t go into a Subway and ask for a sub as I get ‘analysis paralysis’ and start to panic … over whether or not I want salad on a fucking sandwich?

My anxiety doesn’t rule out crowded places, but it once crippled me on the tube because I saw someone who looked like a person from my past. My anxiety lets me wear outfits verging on obscene to command attention but doesn’t like me being the first person to walk through a door.

My anxiety isn’t every day, and it isn’t even every period, but it is real, doctor-diagnosed anxiety. And it is my anxiety.

Orange & Lemonade

Yesterday lunch time I went out with Gaz’s team from work for an unexpected light lunch. It’s the kind of situation where I’d usually indulge in a “cheeky” glass of wine or a cocktail (or two) because a) unexpected social interaction mid-PMDD-monster-times and b) who doesn’t love to break up the day with alcohol?

Except I ordered orange juice & lemonade. It was lovely: a little tart; cool and refreshing.

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know that I decided to stop drinking last week. No more attempting moderation, no more weeknight wine, and definitely no more binging on 12 or more double shots of vodka on a Friday night. No booze, none, nada. It’s been a long time coming.

After a couple of years of trying to bring my intake under control and ultimately failing — because “I needed a drink”, “just one more”, “I’m under a lot of stress” — I realised that the only way for me to control it was to not drink at all. Not only that, but to never drink again.

Alcohol is quite literally a poison that I have voluntarily taken into my system time and time again, to the detriment of both my physical and mental health, and yet I hold on to it like a crutch… a lifeboat for the days I feel like I’m drowning. For what purpose or benefit? None that I can think of.

When trying to moderate, there’s always that choice: do I have one? Can I risk two? Is today a drinking day or not a drinking day? If I have one glass today does that mean one less at the weekend? What is a moderate amount of alcohol anyway? If it takes me a bottle of wine to get drunk where some people might need a glass, does that justify drinking a whole bottle? What about two?

And that generally leads to eating a little less at lunch to ‘save up’ calories for the drink later, skipping a meal altogether because you know it’s going to be a heavy night, and before you know where you are you’ve consumed more calories as liquid than food. Add that to waking in the morning having forgotten chunks of an evening, general brain fog that is a perma-hangover, disrupted sleep, weird twitches and persistent dehydration… it’s not exactly a boatload of fun I’m opting out of.

If I were the sort of person who could have a glass of wine and then stop, this wouldn’t even be an issue. But I’m not and never have been. I am not an “in moderation” person when it comes to anything in life. Give me all or nothing!

I still dominate the dance floor when I’m out (I can’t dance but that doesn’t stop me). The conversation, jokes and “banter” still flow easily. I still act like a prat, make loud/rude jokes and generally behave inappropriately: because I have never needed alcohol to do that.

The questions — because when you go from notorious pisshead to completely sober there will always be questions — are easily answered honestly: I am concerned with my drinking and have decided to stop. No, I am not pregnant. No, I don’t need you to stop drinking in front of me. Yes, I can be designated driver.

And so back to lunch… around the table, some order diet cokes, some order white wine, and now it’s my turn to choose. Except I don’t drink now, so there is no choice, no anxiety over what I should do. No rationalising what I should consume, when or how. No justifying excess consumption. I just don’t drink.

Orange & lemonade, please.