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Wales Again

September is definitely my favourite month. I am not much of a fan of hot summer days, I don't like sweating in the heat, my skin burns in any amount of strong sunshine and I can never find good summer shoes that don't rub. Although the shorter days do make me sad (most of the hours of daylight spent inside! :( ), I am always happy to return to boots and scarves and blustery days, crisp leaves swirling around your feet. The rain can stay away, thank you, although September is usually dry and sunny but that little bit cooler, it's great.

The weather stayed fairly nice for the work canoeing thing I did, just a little drizzle. We canoed fourteen miles along the river from Bridgnorth to Bewdley then took the steam railway back. I really enjoyed the activity, it was just a shame there were so few people who came along, there were only seven of us in the end.

Last week I had four days booked off work so only had to go in for the Monday. Tuesday I drove to Malvern (first time driving on a motorway alone!) to visit Katy who was in the country for a while. We drove to the nearby town of Ledbury and dashed between the cute shops to avoid the showers. I bought a hat from a shop selling ethnic-y goods, apparently knitted by women in Moroccan mountains or something. We stopped for tea and then lunch and had a marvellous time. After a slightly scary drive back in torrential rain, we spent the evening drinking wine, talking crap and half-watching Bridget Jones 2. I am sorry to say poor Les was also present and went off to make bread in the kitchen as the whole thing was too torturous for him, poor bloke. The bread was nice though!

For the remainder of the week, Les and I went on holiday to north Wales. We can't seem to get enough of the place, it's beautiful. A few months ago around Easter we had a short break there but our holiday was cut short due to bad weather (there was a storm we were camped in a crap site right on the valley floor, we were battered by winds and the tent collapsed!). On the way back I was mournful of having to go home so soon so we stopped at Conwy Falls for a walk around before I accepted the holiday was really over. While we were there we came across an activity company called Go Below that runs trips down an old mine in a Welsh hillside with underground activities such as traversing, climbing, zip wire, etc. Les loved the idea so I bought him a gift voucher for his birthday the following week. It gave us another excuse to go back to our favourite part of the world!

So we had that booked for the Saturday and had a lovely holiday there for the days leading up; the campsite was just idyllic with amazing views of the valley and rolling hills surrounding us, Snowdonia's mountains looming in the distance. We climbed one of them on the Thursday, Moel Siabod. It was a hot day to be climing, I reckon about 25 degrees, but it was a lovely walk. There was this beautiful lake on the way up where I stopped to cool my feet. Then we made the fateful decision to not use the path and walk up a steep incline over some thick heather. Not only was it tough going but we lost our sense of direction. We reached a summit, exhausted, then realised the actual summit lay some way off. Time was getting on and I in particular was quite tired so we admitted defeat and headed down. It bugs me so much that we left it unconquered, we will definitely be back to tackle it again!

Friday was a much more leisurely day, I drove us up to Conwy and we visited the castle, exploring every corner of it, had fish and chips and had a walk around this cute little walled town. Then we headed for the nearest beach in Llandudno to have a walk along the water and breath some clean sea air. The beach at Llandudno seemed quiet to me, it wasn't quite the old fashioned seaside resort I had imagined but later realised the town is on a peninsular and actually has two shores. We hadn't ventured far enough to reach the more developed, northern shore with its Victorian pier. Just another reason to go back I guess!

The Go Below trip was on Saturday. We arrived at Conwy Falls and were moved to a later start time than our original slot - luckily missing out on being lumped together with a grumpy looking hen party and instead were put with two other couples. The group was driven to another valley and after a walk up a hill we then into the hill as we entered the old mine. The tour was brilliant, we were told about the history of the mine, which had ceased its operations in 1953. The place felt untouched; despite the daily adventure trips, there was hardly any sign of its new usage, all ropes and equipment were collected and brought out with us as we passed through (although this was partly to deter trespassers using them and getting hurt!). Our guide was brilliant, reassuring people through all of the activities and was engaging when telling us about the history. It was absorbing, really made you think about what life would have been like for the men who spent their lives underground.

After a week of campsite cooking on a little gas cooker, on the final night we had an enormous meal at a charming little pub before it was back to reality the next day. We are both pining for mountains!

The last week at work seemed to drag, not helped by the fact I didn't go to the gym or go to any classes to break up the week. I had yet another cold and was still suffering from my thyroid medication so just felt lethargic. After a blood test on Friday I've switched back down to my previous dosage so hopefully I will start to get my energy back.

We had a quiet weekend which was welcome after all I've been up to recently and I was happy to get chance to do some housework. I actually really do enjoy cleaning, but not in the evening after I've been at work all day so it always has to wait for an empty weekend and so doesn't get done as often as I'd like. On Sunday, inspired by The Great British Bake Off, I made a Bakewell Tart. It's turned out alright, if a little scruffier than the ones on telly, although it's insanely sweet; Les loves it.

This week I have been thinking of quitting the gym and replacing my rushed lunchtime work outs with going running in the evenings instead, followed by some sit ups, push ups and weights work in my spare room, which is now nice and tidy. I went for a jog last night and really enjoyed it but I'm aware I need to instill the habit now while there are light, mild evenings so I stick with it when it's cold and dark. There's been an entire summer of glorious weather and I decide to do this now, I must be mad.

This weekend it's Annmarie's hen do; various activities at an activity centre (more canoeing!) during the day followed by a club on Broad Street on the night time. Broad Street's probably Birmingham's least classy night out but it's just what you expect for a hen do and I think it'll be good fun, it's been a while since I let my hair down with a bunch of girls!

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Taken from our campsite: beautiful pink sunset - the mountain is Moel Siabod, the one we climbed, with Snowdon just visible behind it.
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My attempt at a bakewell tart!

Blergh

Feeling blergh this week. A combination of suffering three colds in quick succession, predictably for the start of Autumn (when will I be too old for freshers flu?!) and my new doctor upping my thyroid medication, which I urged her not to do as my last doctor tried that and it made me feel like shit. But she insisted and now I feel like shit again.

Work's ok. I realised it's been a year since we had a company weekend thing in Buxton and it brought back to my mind how I was feeling last summer. The positivity I felt towards my colleagues and company at the time was being undermined with how bored and frustrated I was in the job itself. Since then, I've moved to a new department and I'm doing a completely different role. It's not a job I'd have chosen; being part of a close team is really stretching my limited interpersonal skills, but it's a breath of fresh air after the rut I was in after seven years in the same role.

Home life is much better. I have wanted to live with Les for a long time but it is better than I'd anticipated. I'm conscious it's the honeymoon period and we still need to settle into routines but coming home and sharing a meal with someone is quite lovely when you've lived alone for four years.

We had a really nice weekend with friends in the Peak District; went for a walk in the rain, visited a couple of pubs and went back to the house for whiskey and a movie. Really nice company in a beautiful part of the world.

Every time I visit someone who lives in a house I'm envious. I live in a large old house that's split into flats. There is a big garden behind the house (littered with kids toys) and a beautiful park behind that, but I have to walk out of my flat, down some stairs, out the front door of the building, round the side of the building through a gate and down some more steps to get there. I would love a little patch of Outside all to myself. Plus a nicer bathroom. Plus the option to have a pet. I'm definitely getting sick of renting. There are a lot of conflicting aspects to buying a house though - primarily that I can't afford to buy in any areas I'd want to live - so all I've done so far is muse, browse properties online and stuck any spare money in a savings account. I'm still hoping that Brexit will make house prices crash but that might be a while away yet.

This weekend work have organised a social thing, a canoeing trip down the River Severn and a steam train ride back. The event itself sounds great to me although the uptake has been poor, not many people seem interested. I was a little apprehensive about getting there. Since I passed my driving test in July I've only made a few journeys entirely alone and they have been mostly me popping to classes or the shops somewhere in Birmingham. I have managed to avoid going on any big roads and this journey will throw me in at the deep end a bit. It'll be good for me though; a lot of the route I'm familiar with from the journeys I've made with Les and the rest I feel better about since Les has gone over the route with me.

I am looking forward to it though, even through it's forecast to rain heavily. That won't be good for my cold!

Sep. 1st, 2016

Life is juicy right now; fine weather and nice things happening every weekend. The festival we went to, Boomtown, was awesome. Lots of stages; small ones hidden away in forests and huge exploding stages. We watched Roni Size on a stage that looked like a disused nuclear reactor. The following week we both had a nasty bug, had to have a day off work, but we looked after each other, taking it in turns to make lemsips. Then this weekend two of our friends were married with the reception in a pub. We were surrounded by friends and celebrating the union of two incredibly lovely people, it was a lovely day.

I am enjoying nesting in with Les as we get used to living together; we bought a PS4 and a stack of games and as always, our lives revolve around food. On bank holiday Monday we ventured out for a bike ride along the river and the canal and enjoyed a bit of the beautifully warm weather,

I'm keeping on top of my fitness by inconsistent visits to the gym but I haven't been to a class in a long time; either kickboxing or Drum & Bounce class. I have all kinds of crap excuses for not going to the kickboxing class I found and went to just once, months ago, but I now September is here I really ought to try it again. I watched a lot of the judo, taikwondo and boxing and it made me miss it. I am also making pathetic attempts at keeping up with tai chi but need to give myself a good talking to about that; years of bending my legs to unnatural extremes in kickboxing has left me with niggle in my lower back which tai chi really helps with - if I would only dedicate a few minutes to it!

I am frustrated with myself that I neglect these things that I enjoy and benefit me, like writing and tai chi, but that require an amount of focus and effort. It's human nature to do the easy stuff though - and at least I've updated this journal again.

We're off to visit a friend in the Peak District at the weekend. I'm looking forward to the company and the scenery!

Bulletin

This must be the 1000th entry I've begun and not finished because I have too much to say and don't allow enough time to sit and write. Always some other distraction and a crap attention span. I love reading the journals of the handful of people on my friends list who regularly update though I always feel inspired when I read other people's entries.

I have been on LiveJournal for 15 years. There are teenagers posting blogs on the internet now younger than my history on LiveJournal. Wait, do kids even write blogs any more? It's all vlogging and instagramming and snapchatting... *shakes stick feebly*

Well I miss writing and I always seem to fall over the hurdle of writing a new entry after an absence by trying to cover everything that happened in my life since I last wrote. Maybe if i just dive straight in to the present then I'll have more luck. Here's some bullet points though:

  • I moved to a new department and got a promotion at work
  • My parents moved to Malta
  • I passed my driving test
  • Les moved in
  • I got a new laptop
  • I am going to a festival tomorrow
  • I typed out the HTML code to make this list just to see if I could remember it


I could write an essay on each one of those but suffice to say I'm really happy. Just wishing the afternoon away so I can go home and get ready for Boomtown. Four days of being whatever I want to be. Can't wait!

2015

Much of 2015 has passed and I haven't kept a diary or enjoyed much time to reflect on life. It's not as if I've been busy, just that my time has been filled somehow and I have floated along with events and time passing me by and now somehow it's NOVEMBER.

As usual, the only time I have sat still long enough to write seems to be when I'm ill. I've had today off work with a typical seasonal head cold; lots of congestion, aching muscles, a headache and a pathetic feeble cough. I've slept a lot and watched some history documentaries and food programmes and news. I am frustrated that I seem to get ill successively three or four times a year when some people are never off so I googled whether that's normal... good diet and exercise is all that was suggested and they already do that, grr.

My health has been an recurring theme of this year. I've had both the best health I've ever known and the most health problems.

Back in March I signed up for the gym across the courtyard from my office. It's a crappy, no-frills place, the changing rooms always need cleaning, there's no rowing machine, sometimes the machines aren't even plugged in and it's more expensive than the budget city centre gyms. But, it's convenient and it's quiet; sometimes I'm the only customer in the whole place. I figured out that with a bit of coordination and practice I can fit a decent session into my lunch break:

  • 10 mins from desk to treadmill (walking over there and getting changed)

  • 25 to 30 minutes gym time

  • 15 minutes shower, change and get back

  • 5 to 10 minutes for lunch (depending on whether what I'm eating needs to be heated up)


I have to be rather disciplined! But I made myself go three times a week, religiously, up until the last month or so when it's dropped down to twice a week (much to my shame and disappointment!).

At the same time, both my kickboxing and tai chi classes have dropped off. I was genuinely gutted when my kickboxing instructor announced he couldn't continue the classes due to health problems. I went to one of Les' kung fu classes on a Thursday (which is more of a fitness/sparring class) and I enjoyed it but it's at 8.30pm which is too much time after I get home from work to allow me to sit on my arse and then not feel like going out again. Plus if I want to go to the technical class, on a Monday, it's kung fu and not kickboxing, so learning a whole new discipline from scratch. I think I will keep going but I do miss kickboxing a lot and may look for an alternative soon. The tai chi I'm keeping up a little at home but I wasn't getting much out of the classes so have been going less and less. It's been a weird few months as I've adjusted to having a lot of free time in the evenings. I'm not losing fitness due to my gym habit but I am missing the social side of things and missing training towards something and improving a skill.

I've drastically changed my diet and although at first I thought it might be a fad, I've actually stuck to it and it's made a noticeable difference to my weight.

First, I simply recognised that sugar was really, really bad for me. Some people can eat a chocolate bar a day and still be healthy, but I just can't. I work in an office and it seemed like every day someone would come back from the shops after lunch with biscuits or cakes. I found it impossible to resist, using it as a boost to combat afternoon sleepiness. It took a lot of discipline to keep saying no but eventually I stopped, used natural yoghurt and fruit as replacements, and turned to coffee to get through those dragging afternoons.

Next, I researched about low-GI diets. There is diabetes in my family and I was aware that I would get that feeling of "crashing" if I didn't eat which was a worrying sign. I became stricter about cutting out white bread but learnt that things like baked potatoes are not actually good for you and basically anything that breaks down quickly will quickly turn to sugar. I read loads about it until I began to make healthier choices.

Then, I had a long conversation with one of the trainers at the gym. Although I remain a little sceptical about this one, he asserted that we should all be eating like cavemen. I am still not convinced but the essential message behind what he was saying, that all processed stuff is bad for you, essentially goes along with what I had been learning about anyway.

Also, protein. You eat protein, it fills you up. You eat carbs and sugar and it's empty nutrition so you eat more of it. I can eat a tonne of pasta and not get full.

All this stuff has become a religion to me, I am living my life by it. It might raise eyebrows, but it's working.

From Sunday night until Friday evening, when I have the routine and discipline of the working week, I have a fairly strict diet.

  • For breakfast I typically have an egg (boiled or poached) and sliced tomato. If I don't have time for that I make breakfast when I get to work; porridge made with water and sliced banana.

  • For lunch I eat a salad with fish (mackerel, smoked salmon, sardines, tuna) and a little dressing. If I ever don't have time to make lunch I try to pick something from the shop that goes with my diet... it's really hard to find something that doesn't have bread or carbs! I have found that rice dishes, soup and Tesco sushi is pretty good. If I made a big meal the night before I sometimes have leftovers to heat up.

  • In the evening I do sometimes have potato or pasta but I am trying to cut down on portion sizes; reduce the carbs and proportionally more meat and veg. It's hard to cut them out completely!

  • For snacks, I stick to natural yoghurt (full fat - the fat free stuff is disgusting!) and fruit and little mini flapjack bars from Aldi that are made with honey and fruit.



I don't do this at the weekend. It's just too much of a pain to insist on not eating bread when you're with your partner and there's an offer of a bacon sarnie. We have a lot of take aways and we eat out. I think it would drive me crazy if I couldn't eat something Les was having, but I also don't pig out either. In fact the longer that I'm following all this in the week, the more I make mindful choices even when I give myself time off.

I haven't managed to cut out sugar completely. The good habits are becoming more instilled but I do give in all too often and have chocolate. My guilty pleasure is eating cereal in the evening! I still love baking so I get enormous pleasure in making a cake and then realise I have to give up the diet for the three or four days it takes me to get through it.

It's working though. I think on the scales I've lost about a stone, but I've built muscle which weighs more; my muscle/fat ratio has improved so I am looking much trimmer and more toned. I've had comments from colleagues and random people we meet (even our bike mechanic!) noticing my weight loss. I tried on a top the other day in a size 8 and although it was a little tight, it wasn't far off fitting... that is incredible.

The reason it's such an achievement is that I have struggled to lose weight my whole life. I've cycled to work, six miles a day, for four years and at one point I was training in high intensity kickboxing classes three times a week. I was still a size 12, I was always around 10 stone (I'm only 5'1" so that is chunky) and nothing I seemed to do would change it. I honestly thought I ate healthily in that I'd be cooking food from scratch and not eating chips and burgers or guzzling crisps every night. I just didn't realise that I hadn't tried cutting out the right things. I didn't know what else I could do.

Sugar is evil, bread is bad, pasta is pointless, meat is good, protein is brilliant. That's it, really.

My next hurdle is trying to get enough sleep each night. I read that it's not good for your metabolism to be sleep deprived and I always push back my bed time for no good reason. I'm getting better but still got work to do. It's good to have something to work on.

As for the bad health problems, well thankfully it's nothing serious. After a bout of feeling sorry for myself I have now accepted things could be a lot worse and I'm not too unfortunate but after going most of my life with very few health problems, I suddenly had them piled on top of me one after the other.

After finding myself wheezing for breath on my cycle home, I finally got the doctor to diagnose me with exercise-induced asthma. This isn't actually asthma, it's just a nickname for the fact I can't breath when I exercise too heavily too suddenly if I haven't warmed up my windpipes. He's given me an inhaler for it. This summer I went to a festival, spent four days in a field, forgot to take my inhaler and wasn't bothered at all. Came back and I could taste the air in the city. Poisonous, dirty fumes. All that stuff about the Volkswagon emissions broke our later in the year and I wasn't surprised at all.

I think I wrote previously about being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid. This was a shock as I hadn't been expecting it. It means I have to take pills every day for the rest of my life but I don't get the crushing tiredness I used to get in the evenings. Also I used to get really bad circulation in my hands, they would go yellow and numb, and that has disappeared, and my psoriasis has got better.

One one of the blood tests I had they found out I was pre-diabetic (which I had guessed) and my B12 was low. I was asked a thousand times if I was a vegetarian and kept saying no and eventually they figured my deficiency was due to me not being able to absorb it in my stomach and I would have to have regular injections.

This triggered an old phobia to rear back up. When I was a teenager having the health jabs you get in school I developed a phobia... No, if you're thinking, "Oh yeah, well no one likes needles, I hate needles", it's NOT a dislike, or a fear, it's a phobia. It's entirely irrational, outside of my control and I hate it. It's so bloody frustrating to explain. Unlike most phobias, where people become short of breath and have panic attacks, this one has a unique response. My blood pressure plummets and I faint. It hadn't happened to me since school days and I thought I was over it but I got a call from my doctor's receptionist while I was at work who told me I'd need injections and steadily began descending into an attack until I fainted at my desk. It was mortifying.
I read about it afterwards and apparently there is some evolutionary basis for this condition but I still feel like a freak. It's extremely unsettling to not be able to control your own body in the workplace and find yourself face down on your keyboard with a worried colleague trying to help you.

The doctor told me I'd have to have five loading doses of B12 and then come back once every three months for the rest of my life. I completely flipped out for the first one, I was in floods of tears and shaking. Les came with me to the others and has been brilliant at trying to talk to me about shit to distract me from what's going on. I think part of it is that I'm terrified I'm going to faint again. I'm very grateful to Les but I'm annoyed that I can't find a way past this and find a way to cope.

The whole thing got me down and then I realised the inflamed skin condition on my face that I'd been suffering from for a while, pretty much since I started the gym, was most likely rosacea. One of the pages I read said it affects "middle aged women". That made me feel great.

That was just about enough and I felt battered. Psoriasis, underactive thyroid and the B12 deficiency and possible the rosacea are all auto-immune conditions and I became terrified I would develop some of the really nasty auto-immune things. No one knows what causes them and no one knows how to fix them and no amount of healthy living or lifestyle changes seem to prevent them. For a little while I became utterly depressed, I felt old, I felt like my body was attacking itself.

Then I got a grip and stopped feeling sorry for myself and reminded myself that things could be a hell of a lot worse. It was a bit of shock to have faced so many conditions in a short space of time but none of them are debilitating or life threatening.

So what else...

Well I got really fed up with work. I have been doing the same job for seven years and in many aspects it really is exactly the same job. That is a long time to be doing something where not very much changes. I'm an administrator and that is seven years of a lot of menial office work. It's tolerable because it pays well (I work in financial services) and I have nice colleagues but I wasn't jumping out of bed every morning at the thought of going in. I was bored. I was getting so bored I was feeling unhappy in general. After all, you spend most of your waking hours at work and if you find it unsatisfying then it's going to affect your well-being. Well I was almost at breaking point when things changed internally at the company. As of next year I'm being moved to another department in a new role, slightly more senior. New challenges. We're starting to prepare things already. The other day I asked a question in a meeting (I was in a meeting!) and I was told, "Do it however you think, you'll be running things". That was quite a shocker, I've always been told things will be done in a certain way and just get on with it. It's been a nice confidence boost for me and I can't wait to get on with it now... just have to keep doing my old job in the meantime!

Les and I are as close as ever and I'm still crazy about him. He is just so, so good for me in so many ways. I feel like he understands me.

I don't seem to have much of a social life. I keep trying to keep in touch with friends for the odd meet up but I would like it if I had someone I could just ring up and go to the pub with. Although having said that, there have been a few social events at work recently and I'm happy enough in my own company in the week and in Les' company at the weekend so in general I can't complain.

Ooh, the big thing I'm doing at the moment is learning to drive - again! I first learnt to drive while I was at uni, juggling it between studying and two or three casual jobs. I had a crap instructor, only I didn't know he was crap because no-one ever taught me to drive before so I didn't know how badly I was progressing. After about a year of lessons I asked if I should take my test. "If you like", he said. I tried twice, I failed twice. It was expensive and I was upset. In hindsight I was no where near ready, my manoeuvres were awful and I was lacking in confidence and road sense and I had little encouragement from my instructor.

I thought I'd just get back to it sometime after I finished my degree but that was eight years ago and I never had. I have always lived in cities with good transport links and shops in walking distance so I didn't need a car. Some people are baffled by me coping without one but I'm baffled by their dependence.

I had made half-arsed noises on how I really should get around to it but then earlier this year I suddenly acquired my own car. My brother had taken over one of my parents' cars, the little Peugeot that had been our family car for years, when he became car-less and needed a vehicle for work and a couple of years later was back in the position to buy his own car again. I was quite happy to have it off him and my parents got it fixed up and I've owned it ever since. I've had it over six months now, both Les and I are insured on it but I can't drive it unless he's there and there's L plates on which means I get limited practice. It's really frustrating because practice is all I need but I only see Les at the weekend and the car's sitting there without me being able to use it.

After a few months of driving around with Les I realised I needed to get some more focussed tuition to take my test. Les was great and very patient but he learnt to drive when he was 17, took to it easily and his driving habits are instinctive now.

I picked up a too-good-to-be-true driving offer off Group On and my instructor then ditched me after four lessons and a couple of last minute cancellations. She had the audacity to blame my driving errors on it when it was clear she just didn't want to offer the reduced price lessons any more. I tried not to be undeterred and went with another driving school and really liked my new instructor... Only for him to ditch me after one lesson when his personal circumstances changed and he could no longer teach evenings and weekends due to childcare issues. My school found me another instructor and now I'm two lessons in. He is fine but I hate the car. It's a brand new car, I can barely hear the engine and it has a stupid little switch instead of a handbrake which is really disconcerting. I'm trying to just get used to it though as I don't want to move instructor again. I have my theory test booked at the end of next week. Previously I had wanted to pass my test by Christmas but since I had so many new instructors it's set me back and I've heard there are a limited number of test slots available in the winter so there's a waiting list. I need to get more practice in the week really.

Writing this has made me realise how soon my test is coming up, I'd better get studying!

Other than that, not much is going on. Christmas is coming but until this week it's seemed so mild that it doesn't feel like November at all. I am looking forward to seeing family though and hoping to see more of them next year when I'm driving.

I have enjoyed writing this so I wonder if it will spark a new habit of diary writing! I am not sure. The internet seems a much more public place than it used to be and I find it hard to write but remain guarded. If nothing else it gives me a place to dump all my diet/exercise blatherings, which I would try not to bore anyone with normally. So maybe I will be back soon with more ;)

2015

Happy 2015!

I've been missing LiveJournal lately. Well, not the site as such. It was mentioned flippantly in an article I read the other day about dead online communities and I felt a pang of nostalgia. But that was a long time ago and mostly nowadays I miss having an outlet to pour thoughts.

I have a boyfriend and work colleagues that hear most of my ramblings but I am feeling increasingly isolated at work as more and more people join the company, it just seems to emphasise how much I'm an odd person who doesn't fit in. I have some lovely friends but see them sporadically, not regularly, so I get days and weeks in the gaps in between when I feel frustrated. Today I felt fed up in such a way and found myself back here, writing to myself and anyone who will read, as I always have done.

Things in general are going rather well . I'm healthy, I am comfortable financially, I have a secure job and I have a great relationship with a lovely man who makes me feel like I can be myself and he loves me for it. I can gush all day about how good that is for me. I wasted far too much energy in my life trying to fit into this idea of what I ought to be before accepting it was ok to be odd and some people actually might like me the better for it.

Over the last few months I visited Laura in Bristol, visited Jess and Tom in Portugal, spent Christmas at Les mom's (as my parents were away in Malta), NYE at the Hare and Hounds, a trip to Amsterdam with Les and Katy, and then back for my birthday. This weekend Les and a bunch of friends are DJing at an event; they've booked the upstairs room at a pub in Digbeth and are hoping it might turn into a regular night. After a couple of quiet weekends (which I probably needed after Amsterdam!), I'm excited to be doing something sociable.

I'm reading... Russell Brand's Revolution because Les bought it me for Christmas because he thought I might be curious. I was pleased with the gift but MY GOD it's hard to real his drivel. I'm not far through it but I'm waiting for him to get to the point about something. Before this, I finally finished The Silmarillion and I have to say it was easier to stay focussed on Tolkien endlessly describing mountain ranges and the various strands of each elven family than to figure out what the fuck Russell is trying to say. I'm determined to finish it though, partly because I'm still wondering what point he's going to make and also because I half fancy getting back to writing reviews on Good Reads. It's especially fun when you can lay into a book you dislike and I get a kick out of someone liking my reviews.
Also I'm reading Sherlock Holmes books on the Kindle app on my tablet and just downloaded loads more free classics like a greedy kid in a sweetshop.

I'm watching... Girls. I'm on Season 2. I love and hate how much I relate to Hannah and that is such a cringe-worthy thing to admit. I know, you're supposed to relate to her, but she's just like I was in my 20s but with way way more self belief. Les and I are also watching Breaking Bad, and we're on Season 2. I keep falling asleep and missing the last third of every episode. To be fair, last time there was this whole scene about accounting that sent me to sleep... It reminds me of Dexter. Lots of things building to things. Well, Walking Dead is on a break so no zombies for now.
Patiently waiting for the final half series of Mad Men to arrive. I became obsessed with that show last year.

I'm playing... Oh god I'm so slow at gaming, I just don't dedicate enough time to it. I am still slogging along with Dragon Age from time to time (the first one, not the new one) which I am enjoying and this weekend I bought pre-owned LA Noir and Beyond Two Souls which I'm excited about because I LOVED Heavy Rain and this one is two player so me and Les can play together (aww).

Exercising... is not going all that well. I skipped kickboxing class tonight because I felt run down and anti-social. I missed a lot of training in December and January and now when train I feel inflexible and unfit and just old and fat. I know I need to get back on the horse but it just doesn't feel like fun at the moment. I keep wanting to go for a jog but I'm most definitely a fair-weather jogger. When it's dark and cold I just want to hibernate. Bored of winter now.
Also I definitely have asthma, the inhaler I've been given doesn't seem very effective, and not being able to breath whenever I exercise really hard tends to put me off exercising really hard, even though I don't want it to, it's almost subconscious - I'm not pushing myself when I cycle up hills because I don't want the asthma to kick in. I'm going to get fat :(
Tai Chi is going much better because I've been training at weekends with Les and in my classes lately I've been partnered with more senior students so I've felt I had some good coaching. I'm not practising at home much but that habit comes and goes.

I'm obsessing about food about as much as ever. I watched an episode of Horizon where they explored why people overeat and decided that as well as being the type of person who is genetically inclined to always seek out food, I also am missing the gut enzymes that sends the signal to tell you when you're full, which I why I eat really fast and am usually wolfing down a third slice of pizza while everyone else is still nibbling on their first slice... So I decided I needed a high protein breakfast because even though I was eating a huge bowl of porridge for breakfast (and late breakfast at that) I was feeling knawing, draining hunger by about 11am, which was probably my blood sugar crashing. I made these little omlettes in a muffin tin for midweek breakfasts. I HAD intended to make them with smoked salmon, but the shop didn't have any, so I bought smoked mackerel, forgetting how much it stinks. My plan to freeze them and microwave them when I got to work wouldn't have worked out - they were just too smelly for me to inflict them on my workplace. Oops.
Mostly I'm still trying to kick the mid-afternoon sugar habit. I hope I never criticise anyone for not being able to give up alcohol or tobacco when I can't even give up sugar, jeez.

That's mostly what occupies my time and my thoughts, as well as reading everything on The Guardian online and incessantly checking Facebook news feed. FOMO! It's draining. I've got to say I'm excited about UK politics this year though. I became obsessed with the 2005 election as it was my procrastination from doing any work at university and I feel like I might get similarly excited about this one. I already looked up the 2010 results for my constituency the other day simply so I could make a point against the value of voting tactically in a first past the post system in a facebook discussion. I'm a massive politics nerd and this election is like the FA cup final for me. What's more, I haven't even made my mind up who to vote for. Hey, maybe I will finish Russell Brand's book and he will convince me not to vote at all..! Ha!

So, that's it really. Oh, and one last thing I wanted to note as it was quite a milestone for me. I used to write quite openly about how I struggled with debt. I took a lot on when I was younger not understanding the consequences of it, underestimating how difficult it would be to pay back, and then had a couple of people treat me like shit that got me into yet more debt (one I gave him my debit card and he maxed out the massive student overdraft, for another I took out a loan to buy a car - I ended up with the loan, he ended up with the car). But then I instilled some strict habits in myself, such as always working in cash and not putting anything on a credit card. At one point I used to write down every time I spent money on anything. Also, I had a lot of help and support from my parents and for the last two years it's felt like I have been working towards a light at the end of the tunnel. This week I finally reached a point where I have more money in my savings (6% interest!) than on my credit card (0% interest!). I am effectively in the black, overall. I was quite shocked when I realised, I am pleased with myself and relieved and grateful for my parents' help.

Like I said, things are going pretty well for me :)

Scrump


A lot of the time lately I have felt like Lilo. The weirdo no-one wants to play with.

But I have to say today I mostly feel grateful for my lovely boyfriend and brilliant friends. I am making plans and sending emails and feeling very fortunate and positive :)

Diagnosis

I'm experiencing a rather life-changing event in my life at the moment.

A few weeks back we had a period of warm, muggy weather and cycling to work each day through congested city streets, the air quality was really bad and I noticed I began to develop respiratory problems. After I arrived at work I would be wheezing for a few minutes, not through lack of fitness (I've been cycling for years and my heart rate was the same as normal) but it was as if the air just couldn't get through my windpipe.

I get anxious and embarrassed by the scrutiny of medical attention and find it difficult to describe what the issue is and assert myself properly, so I avoid doctors until it seems really necessary. But after a couple of weeks when it hadn't cleared up and one bad experience of trying to go for a jog one day and having to repeatedly stop to try and get my breath, I reluctantly conceded I would have to go to the doctor.
So I explained, he asked some questions, and then he asked how I travelled to work, which had been almost the first thing I said to him. It was if he hadn't taken in any of my initial explanation. So frustrating! He said it was probably bronchitis but I'd need a blood test and a chest x-ray to rule stuff out before he could comment further, and after a delay where he was on holiday then I went on holiday, I finally got my test done and got a phone call a couple of days later asking if I could come in that evening.

Well when your doctor's rings you and asks you to come in offering an appointment at such short notice, you don't say no! Thankfully it turned out to be nothing terrible, but he called me in to tell me I'd been diagnosed with something entirely unrelated to what I went in there for: I have an underactive thyroid.

It's something in my family so I guess I must have always known I could develop it but I hadn't actually initially gone to the doctor complaining of symptoms of underactive thyroid, I went asking about something else. Looking at the blood test he seemed sure though and he only expressed some cynicism of the diagnosis when he looked me up and down and told me I didn't look like someone who had an underactive thyroid - which was basically him saying I don't look fat!

Although unexpectedly being called in to learn I had an uncurable life-long condition was something I took a little negatively, being told I don't look fat I did find slightly cheering...

An underactive thyroid is your immune system attacking your thyroid gland so it doesn't produce enough thyroxine hormone and that slows your metabolism. The reason I never went to the doctor about my symptoms was simply a stoic assumption that the symptoms I was suffering from were nothing to complain about and everyone must feel the same as me...

Fatigue is the main one. Les has told me it's not normal to be as tired as I am but I never took it seriously. I just thought I was "one of those people" who needed 8+ hours of sleep and then could easily fall asleep again two hours after getting up. I often come home from work feeling so drained that I need a nap to garner the energy to do anything, but I always put the blame on my own bad habits of not going to bed early enough, staying up late past the time I should have gone to sleep to extend my free time as much as possible before I'd have to get up and go into work the next day. I just thought I was childish and trying to cram too much in.

Being overweight, from having a slow metabolism, is another symptom. Well, like most women in this appearance-obsessed society we live in, I've been concerned about my weight for most of my adult life. I have never been thin. My default setting is that I enjoy eating and I'm lazy so I have never considered it to be unusual that I was overweight. Although I have been through periods of eating very carefully (I remember clearly once upon a time I was so obsessed about food I was horrified when I "gave in" and ate some crisps!), it that was never sustainable and I never used to exercise much more than a weekly swimming session or the occasional jog or bike ride. It's only in the last few years I have developed habits of being constantly active as part of my routine since I took up kickboxing and began cycling to work. The cycling has been fantastic as it's meant I get exercise daily, even if I can't make it to a class. Nowadays I go to kickboxing once a week and try to have a short work out in my spare room on another week day evening. At one point though, I was training 3-4 nights a week. Even then, I was overweight. I know BMI calculations are crap but it was more than that; it's the bulge that spilled over the waistband of any jeans I tried to wear and the wobble of my bingo wings and how I seemed to look so wide in any photos I saw of myself.

Still, I did not think for a moment I had any kind of condition, simply that I was "one of those people" who puts weight on easily. I also knew I have am a greedy guts when it comes to food and concluded that to make any difference to my weight I'd have to be more careful about my diet.

I have been meaning to make a LiveJournal about this for a while as I have put so much energy into thinking about my weight and nutrition over the last few months. This unexpected news about my thyroid has turned it all on its head slightly..

Back in June I decided I wanted to take part in the "30 Day Abs Challenge" - an increasing number of sit ups and holding the plank for an increasing amount of time each day for a month. I was determined I was going to do this and I'm proud to say I achieved it! Even though June involved a trip to Scotland and a holiday to Turkey, I kept it up wherever I was and whatever I was up to. It took up a lot of time and it took a lot of determination not to give up but I felt very proud to complete the challenge. I took "before" and "after" photos in the hope I would actually be able to see some abs...

But no. No difference. Same flabby stomach. The photos were almost identical.

After a month's dedication and the inconvenience of fitting it into my life each day, it was incredibly disheartening. It was also during this month I watched the documentary The Men Who Made Us Fat and became convinced that my new enemy was processed sugar. Over subsequent weeks I've become a fervent believer in this. There's a history of diabetes on both sides of my family so it's something I knew I should take seriously.

I generally eat food made from scratch and so usually avoid the sugar in processed meals but I was aware I ate too many sweet treats and it had reached a silly point where I was probably having a chocolate bar or cake every single day. There is ALWAYS confectionery on offer at work, where colleagues tend to buy multipacks and leave them out for people to help themselves. I would get sleepy and crave the post-lunch afternoon sugar hit to get me through the last few hours. It became a daily habit. I tried buying alternatives like fruit and nuts and natural yoghurt but all that would happen is I'd eat those in addition to the crap. It was nutritionally empty, it's not as if it filled me up. And sugar is addictive.

It's taken a few weeks but I finally got to the point that I felt I was winning the battle. I hadn't lost the cravings but I was substituting pretty well and I would no longer mindlessly eat anything with processed sugar in it. I would have an internal argument with myself before I allowed myself a treat and more often than not, would convince myself to eat some fruit instead. I was actually doing it!
(If I'm honest, I did fall off the bandwagon when I went on holiday but there was a lot of cake on offer and I figured all the cycling I did probably balanced things out ;) )

The thing is, giving up sugar actually made a noticeable difference. My stomach podge and bingo wings seemed to reduce. I couldn't believe this. All those years pointlessly suffering awful low fat spreads and all the while it was sugar that was the enemy! Hooray!

Now after everything, after this wonderful conclusion, there is another twist to the tale. I've suddenly been diagnosed with a condition which slows your metabolism. So in fact, with the amount of exercise I do and a generally healthy diet, maybe I am in fact supposed to be thinner than I actually am. Maybe being overweight isn't all just due to my bad habits.

I've been so obsessed with monitoring my nutrition and exercise and so mindful of my body (partly a consequence of tai chi) that it has knocked my sideways to learn that all this time there was another factor at play that I hadn't even considered. I'm shocked, but excited to find out what differences I might see now I'm being treated...

As for other symptoms, but there is a few more I've seen listed that I never would have thought pointed to another condition. And of course, I never thought to bother the doctor with them so it's not like anyone else would have picked up on them either.

Dry skin, specifially psoriasis, I've suffered from my whole life. It's another auto-immune disease, irritated skin producing too much replacement skin that then goes flaky. It's gross, but it doesn't hurt so I never sought treatment. It has become worse in the last few years but I figured doctors couldn't do anything about it so never went to see anyone about it.

Cold hands. I researched on the internet and diagnosed myself with Raynauld's. Also has no cure, so I thought no point going to the doctor about it. It has been getting worse over the last few winters. My hands get so numb with cold that they start to hurt. In winter months I can't touch my boyfriend's skin affectionately without him exclaiming in shock at how cold my hands are. Nothing that you can't live with but still not terribly nice. This, perhaps, I might have raised with a doctor if it had continued to bother me this winter. I will have to wait and see if there is a difference.

Also snoring, which I was urged to get treatment for by both my boyfriend and my ex as it was getting to pretty bad levels. I did try to get help with this and when the NHS failed I bought an uncomfortable device from the internet that fixes the position of my jaw forward as I sleep and solves the problem. It would be nice if I could give up wearing that but I'm not too optimistic that will happen.

For the last week and a half I've taken pills every day to replace the hormones I've not been getting from my thyroid. It's been a bit of a rollercoaster but it's been eye-opening.

I cannot believe that other people go around feeling like this - this, NOT TIRED - all the time! I have so much more energy. I am chatty and positive and responsive when people talk to me. On Thursday my tai chi teacher commented on the difference in me. I am taking things in much better and can focus much better. It's like I've had caffeine or something, but all the time. Amazing!

I am going to take each day as it comes but obviously I'm enjoying life immensely at the moment. I have had an easy going weekend anyway but it's the daily routine of work where I've really noticed a difference, and weekday evenings which always felt like a struggle. I just thought everyone felt like this.

Holiday in the Woods

Hi LiveJournal! I'm feeling positive and it's made me realise how not-positive I had been before now. I've been a little bit fed up of things but I was also letting silly things get to me too much, feeling insecure, not liking myself very much. A smashing holiday and hanging out with some lovely people at the weekend has been quite restorative.

My parents have owned a caravan for years, they love it, and until recently it was kept in storage close to where they lived and they would take it out to visit various places whenever they wanted a weekend away. Earlier this summer they decided to move it to a site to be kept there constantly over the warmer months so that they could pop over to visit whenever they liked. My brother recently moved back to the nest temporarily and since they live in a bungalow I think it proved a useful getaway when they needed some space!

My mom mentioned we were welcome to go and stay there whenever we liked and it's only in Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire, not much further away than Kidderminster, so not far at all from south Birmingham. We decided to hire a car for a week and got a nice deal from Europcar - a car big enough to throw two bikes in the back (albeit removing the front wheel off mine!) for £100 for week. Not a bad price for a holiday :) With the caravan's location on the edge of the Wyre Forest and the weather not only holding out but being bloody beautiful, it felt like everything lined up wonderfully to make for a fantastic little break. We cycled in the forest and spent an afternoon in Ludlow (we had a cheese and wine evening in a caravan!) and on the last day we did Go Ape and went for a big walk in the forest. It was all perfect.

On Friday we came back and did a few chores while we still had use of the car. I have taken a momentous grown-up step of buying paint for the first time in my life. I never lived anywhere longer than a year until I moved to my current place but I've been here two years now, I really like it here and I don't want to move, but I am really sick of the neutral magnolia colour on the expansive walls. Obviously I could put up a few more pictures or art work but I think it will make a difference to the mood of the place if I painted it. I've never done any DIY in my life (it was always my stepdad's department when growing up and I've only ever been a short term tenant since) but Les has been really encouraging. I decided to be brave and pick a peachy colour for the walls and I'm painting the woodwork brown. It's supposed to be chocolate brown. We painted a section to test and I'm trying to convince myself it is more like chocolate and not poo!

I'm slightly apprehensive of the landlady complaining if and when she sees I've painted the place as I'm not sure it's actually allowed but hopefully I've been here long enough for her to be happy for me to add my own touches. It's only paint, I'm sure it could be painted back to magnolia if I come to move out. The rental market in this country really sucks with how insecure tenants are, I wish I could get a long term tenancy like they have in other countries. Anyway, I have guests next weekend but hopefully the weekend after we will get cracking with it.

On Saturday we returned the car and then on the night time we went to Jude's 40th Birthday party. Les and Rob both had slots DJ-ing and all of Jude's mates were so nice. Most of them we met at a party about six months ago but it felt like seeing old friends.

So this week I've been back at work and tried to stay positive at work despite having a crappy first day back. I'm feeling way better about me and my life though and more resilient to deal with all the shitty daily grind stuff. I am afraid it won't last but I'm enjoying it while it does!

Sep. 1st, 2014

On this particular Sunday night I feel more certain about my life. I know one of my immature little flaws is that I always need to be doing or planning to do something and until recently I became all petulant that I didn't have a holiday booked and it felt like there was nothing on the horizon... I'm too easily affected by working in an office environment where you hear about others' plans, but offices do things to your head and so many of the people I am around are fully signed up unquestioning consumers and it rubs off on you. Oh they bought shit, I wanna buy shit too, etc... And my job is unchallenging, which I wouldn't complaint about, but sometimes that can wear away at you inside and having something to look forward to can be a crutch for that.

I was on the verge of doing something stupid with a credit card just to feel like I was tackling the frustration I was feeling, but with a little patience it all worked out in the end. We made holiday plans that didn't involve masses of debt and I finally got the break from the mundanity of the working week that I had desperately, desperately needed when we went to Shambala Festival last weekend.

We had booked tickets to Shambala Festival on a recommendation from a few people, the event was set up by Brummies and it's about an hour's drive from the city, it's the festival of choice for a lot of locals. In the end, there was just three of us going and not the crowd we'd anticipated. Les and I wondered if we should have chosen it over Beatherder with its more dancey line up and proven record. We needn't have worried though as Shambala was ace. Laid back, alternative, welcoming, non-commercial yet well organised and with great venues and activities and music. We got there on the Thursday and I don't remember doing such a long stint at a festival before but it was great - the weather stayed dry except for the last day which was a big help and everything seemed to float along at a lovely pace.

On the Saturday there was a fancy dress parade with a "Seas of Shambala" theme. Here is me in my homemade octopus costume:
P1090151
We also took part in a couple of the tai chi sessions and made a clay pot on one of the craft stalls but the main thing was obviously the night time with all the music and that was awesome. There was a big main tent with some DJs on but we loved the hidden bar in the woods and the "secret" little places that were more intimate. Bumbling around the different venues for four nights was just a hell of a lot of adventure and fun.

We arrived home on the Monday lunch time feeling tired, soggy from taking down a tent in the rain but otherwise ok and we had a massive Chinese. Then I woke up on Tuesday with some nasty flu virus thing. I didn't feel like I couldn't call in sick the day after everyone at work knew I'd been at a festival so I dragged my ass in but felt worse and worse and then ended up going home before it got to the point I physically wouldn't be able to cycle home. I went to bed and could barely move for two days after that. Horrible head cold congestion thing that zapped all my energy.

I recovered well enough to go in Friday and for this weekend. Friday night, although we both still felt battered by illness, we went for a nice curry near Les' house. Yesterday we went to a wedding reception in Rugby for a couple of people from the tai chi class. This afternoon was probably my favourite part of the weekend though. Just me and Les, a gorgeous Sunday roast in a local pub, making plans for the future and for our holiday next weekend.

We're keeping it cheap and simple, making use of my parents' caravan which is on a site in Shropshire. The plan is to hire a car for a week, visit all the sweet little nearby villages and go for walks and bike rides in the Wyre Forest. Sounds perfect.