Why I love my weird saggy belly.

Published April 21, 2018 by Ellie

Had my second Pure Barre class today, enjoyed it so much more than the first one a couple of years ago, I have officially become a Pure Barre-bie! Wore a long sleeved yoga shirt, because the class involved moving, instead of carefully positioning myself using angles that hide my excess skin. I actually felt safe and confident enough that I would have felt comfortable taking the top shirt off tho. Maybe. In theory.

My belly has more excess skin than these high waisted leggings would imply, and more imperfections than the filter allowed through. Of all the cosmetic issues arising from extreme weight loss and bring a certain age, my belly is one thing I’m not keen to fix…

In the years I was obese I was always dieting and working out, the usual cycle of misery. When my eldest was a toddler she overheard me talking about another newly started weight loss program and asked me about it. She knew I was fat (she told me once to be especially careful around lions because they’d probably want to eat me because I’m so fat) and that fat wasn’t a bad word, and wasn’t an awful thing to be. I was keen to let her know that I wanted to be healthy and strong, not just slimmer, but that I’d quite like to get smaller and look a bit more like everyone else (welcome to the dark days before I discovered body positivity and inclusive fashion).

I saw her eyes start to well up a bit and as her lip began to wobble she said “Will your belly look like everyone else’s?”, meaning the ones she saw in adverts and on TV. I told her that it probably wouldn’t, that she and her sister had stretched it a lot, so like a deflated balloon, it will stay pretty loose, and also stripey. She seemed relieved, and I forget what she said next, probably asked me what frogs dream about.

That was the day I fell in love with my belly. That’s where my babies were. My body held those two incredible people that we made, and I hated the thought of it looking like it didn’t.

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Recipe: turkey meatloaf roulade

Published April 18, 2018 by Ellie

Turkey meatloaf roulade

Very few people would describe me as high maintenance, probably only three people, because they live with me, and only because their comparison data is inadequately small for statistically significant results. In line with the real housewife stereotype, I am very particular about my nails. I’ll go days without washing my hair, but I’ll do it with chic fingernails. This dedication means I’m regularly exposed to daytime TV at the nail salon and have developed a very one-sided but devoted relationship with Rachael Ray, whom I suspect may be alternate reality me.  Read the rest of this entry →

FINE! I’ll share my secret recipes, stop nagging me.

Published April 14, 2018 by Ellie

recipeoverviewI cook a lot, which you’d probably expect of someone who hates leaving the house as much as I do. Plus there’s children and a husband who need feeding most days (sometimes more than once a day, how rude). You may not expect me to love cooking quite as much as I do, and for someone who spent much of their adult life obese, you’d probably be surprised (and rude) to find out I prefer to cook than get take-out. As with my knitting I get a lot of praise, unlike my knitting I don’t take this praise well, but as with my knitting, it’s tough to suck at something you’ve done every day for 14 years. Read the rest of this entry →

Walk up, not out? Nice idea, however this is real life, not a video in health class.

Published March 17, 2018 by Ellie

As a former weird student, and current weird mother of two weird kids, I can only urge you to take this to heart. ‘Nerd’, ‘Jock’, and ‘dangerous loner’ aren’t the only options for school students, never have been. See the artist who expresses themselves not just on a screen or canvas, but of course in their clothes and hair. See the writer sat alone, watching, as the random bustle you see around them feeds them stories of dynasties rising, empires crumbling, sagas of love and vengeance.

I’m old enough and wise enough to handle (and judge) your treatment of us, but they aren’t. Tying their morality into their physical appearance confuses them.

Why have I started bleating about how much Black Lives Matter, among other things? Because as my girls get older and more expressive I’ve had to explain too many times why their friends have been told to stay away from them. Why horrible lies about them are believed. Why they don’t get many social invites. Why they get asked if I’ve been to prison. Why doctors insist on extra medical tests and subtle questions about parental abuse. Why we get followed around while shopping. Why strangers gasp and pull their children closer, sometimes feeling the need to say something loud enough for us to hear.

Imagine having no choice in that. I can cover my tattoos, I can dye my hair, I can dress more conventionally. Black people and other marginalised racial groups don’t have that option, understanding my privilege compared to their experience has been a tough but much needed lesson for me since we moved to America.

Lifting the spirits

Published March 8, 2018 by Ellie

Think I did a reverse catcall this week, one of those rare times you think of something amusing and just can’t help but say it. I told a lady in the lift that I liked her hat, a guy the other side of me looked startled then said quietly “On I thought you were talking to me, sorry!” and I said “No, sorry, YOUR hat really sucks.” His friend laughed so hard he had to lean on the wall for support, I felt a bit bad! And proud.

They both seemed like decent guys (tall sturdy contractors in high viz jackets), the hat in question was just a standard issue black beanie, but the idea that I might have really strong negative feelings about a completely innocuous hat on a stranger really tickled me! I think they didn’t expect such an earnest response, especially delivered in that fancy British accent of mine. It was such a sweet nugget of an exchange, like a tiny brilliant gem in my day!

His friend walked off the elevator giggling “sorry, your hat sucks, ahaha haha!!”.

How to fix social media, and get your sanity back: Part 1 – Facebook

Published November 2, 2017 by Ellie

Facebook is so great, it’s the easiest and therefore best place to keep on track of the lives of your friends, enemies, and family, and for them to be kept updated with pictorial evidence of those times you put on pants, brush your hair, and go outside.

iknowthis

Oh you can spend HOURS on Facebook, even without playing Words with Friends, scrolling through your newsfeed to find out who’s going where, who had a surprise birthday, who’s pregnant, and who got a new puppy! I just love it so so much!! Personal hygiene and having a house fit for visitors is a sacrifice I’m willing to make in the name of making real connections with people I love who are far away.

Read the rest of this entry →

Part One: I used to wish so hard that I had depression.

Published October 11, 2017 by Ellie

Depression is such an awful illness, it’s sneaky, and it lies, and it takes people from us all the damned time. Almost all the writers who inspire me write wonderful accounts of their life with depression (Wil Wheaton, Jenny Lawson, and Allie Brosh jump to mind first) which makes me wonder if surviving depression pushes some people to become more compassionate but funny.

As such, I tended to post fairly regularly on social media about depression and mental illness. It’s not shameful and it’s vital to talk openly so people know they aren’t alone. The most helpful resources I’ve found are the wonderful Black Dog YouTube cartoon, the comforting Boggle the Owl (an empowering account to follow, this was the first of their cartoons I saw), and helpful campaigns aimed at giving people practical tools to support friends and family who may be suffering from depression, like the Make It Okay project.

So clearly I was being a Really Good Mental Health Ally! I’m open about mental health! I’m ending the stigma! I’ve found all these good resources to share, both for people living with mental illness, and people living with people who are living with mental illness! Yay me! Do you see what’s missing? I still felt too ashamed to talk about my own experiences with mental illness.

Looking back, I can recognise that my depression started before I knew what depression was, around my early teens. I assumed that depression was something to do with feeling really really sad all the time. I didn’t feel sad all the time, so I clearly didn’t have depression.

This is when I started to wish I had depression. 

If I had depression I could get treatment, I could see a professional for talk therapy, maybe take some medication to help balance out the problematic brain chemistry. But I didn’t have depression, I was just an awful person, there’s no treatment for that. I was so disgustingly lazy that I neglected basic personal hygiene and slept so much. I never met deadlines, my homework was never ever on time, I was so forgetful, and seemed to struggle so much with really simple things that everyone else had no problems completing. I was such a useless garbage person, it didn’t seem fair to make other people endure the burden of my presence, I was a monster but not THAT much of a monster, so I kept away from regular humans as much as possible. If only I had depression!

It took two children, occasional flings with antidepressants, and an uncharacteristic level of self awareness, but I came to understand that I did have depression, and my depression is linked to hormones and my menstrual cycle. When the children were still babies (my body reeling from building and expelling two people in an irresponsibly short amount of time, plus chronic sleep deprivation), I had two weeks per month of gradual escalation of despair, utter desolation, and bursts of terrifying rage. Somehow I found the kindness to permit myself to take antidepressants again, and allow myself to keep taking them, though there was still self loathing. I suspected that everyone felt the same way, but they just get on with it. I ought to be better than this, I ought to do better than this.

The happy ending (and to cut short a long exciting story full of dragons, battles, true love, and probably ninjas) is that I made some pretty huge changes in my life, with a lot of help from my wonderful husband. I’m gradually learning that the world doesn’t actually end if I find ways to have my own needs met, and sometimes that actually makes other people’s lives better, and has nothing to do with being a selfish garbage person. With a lot of therapy I came to accept that it’s okay to disappoint people sometimes. My hormones settled to the point that I was able to stop taking antidepressants about 5 years ago. I implemented various coping mechanisms for the few days of my cycle when I was feeling complicated: usually telling my hubs that my period was due so he didn’t worry too much if I got fixated on some tiny thing because I’d convinced myself that if I didn’t stay up until 2am to finish making those cupcakes then there was an unavoidable domino effect which meant that our children could never go to college.

Has it all been sunshine and rainbows ever since? Of course! However mental health is a wonderful and exciting journey, as your body ages and its biochemistry changes there are always new things to learn about your own mental health, and new connections you spot.

Part two of this blog post will be published soon, in which I’ll open up for the first time about being recently diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. Am I the only one who had no idea that panic attacks come in many different flavours?