The Social Media Blackhole

I love social media. I spend a lot of time by myself, so it makes me feel like I’m ‘talking’ to or interacting with people. I also like being nosey at everyone’s lives, if I’m 100% honest!

On a bad day, it makes whatever emotional roller coaster I’m on worse. Except, I know for sure it’s not just me and my endocrine-challenged mind which feels like that, other people must have similar thoughts. I have to remind myself that it’s a snapshot of people’s lives- everyone puts things on social media for some type of reaction, otherwise, what’s the point in it? I should point out that any examples I use are made up, generic (exaggerated) examples, I’m not actually subtly ‘having a go’ (which is what some people do on social media, let’s face it), or suggesting people’s posting habits are to blame. On a bad day:

It makes me feel like a failure in society. My newsfeed is full of pregnancy scans, babies, engagements, career moves, achievements… Do I begrudge anyone their happy photos or posts? No, I quite like seeing them. But once you see a few of those posts in a row and start comparing them with yourself, it’s so easy to get into a spiral of how you’re not living up to society’s expectations. Can I do anything about my place in society at the moment? No, I’ve done well if I get dressed that day, but it’s not Facebook worthy. However, it’s gone beyond people sharing their happiness, it’s now become a kind of competition with challenges and chain posts and games which ‘dare’ you to get involved and say you’re ‘no fun’ if you don’t. It’s a little bit school-playground-ish sometimes. The worst one, which doesn’t actually apply to me but still makes me cross, is the motherhood challenge where you have to post photos of what makes you feel proud to be a mother and tag other ‘good’ mothers. What happens if someone takes a few days to get tagged, or worse, never gets tagged, does that make them a bad mother?! There is nothing challenging about putting photos of you and your child up, people do that anyway and they shouldn’t feel like they need a Facebook challenge to do so. So what is the purpose of the challenge?

I feel like I’m wasting my life. Someone spent the day climbing the Grand Canyon. Or travelled to 2 places for work this week. Or went out to 2 parties last week. What did I achieve this week? I got dressed every day and didn’t have to go to the hospital *hi-five*! People have countdowns to things. What am I counting down to? Nothing. Which makes me feel like I should be counting down to something… And the spiral starts again.

I start to stress about the state of my house/garden. It was a bank holiday yesterday so lots of people were posting their gardening achievements. Ours still looks like a jungle. How do they have time to keep on top of their house and garden, still go to 3 BBQs and travel to Thailand via Australia this weekend, as well as having quality time with their kids?!

I hate my body image. Fitness and diet goals are the ‘thing’ at the moment as people try to get ‘beach ready’. Whoever came up with that phrase needs to be shot, if everyone just went to the beach as ‘them’, there wouldn’t be a definition of ‘beach ready’. By all means, be healthy and have a body which shows that, but why do we put ourselves under so much pressure?

I get paranoid that people’s vague, passive aggressive posts about how much someone has annoyed them is somehow something to do with me. How silly. 90% of the time I probably haven’t talked to that person in 24 hours so it can’t be me. Or is that why they’ve posted it, *because* I haven’t spoken to them?! ‘Seriously, how arrogant is that, thinking it’s about you’, chimes up another voice. And so the spiral starts…

That said, some people do use it as a way to make people feel bad. As in, they’ll post photos of their amazing trip or picnic or whatever with all your mutual friends there, but you weren’t invited. What’s that about? Well, people who do that aren’t worth my Facebook stalking, so I unfollow them or unfriend them. Petty? Yes, but they probably won’t notice anyway.

It’s a snapshot. I have to keep reminding myself of this on a bad day. And there are two reasons people post things:
1) Because they’re genuinely feeling something (happiness, sadness) and want to share;
2) They want to give off the impression that everything is brilliant in their life, for example, and posting on social media eases their insecurities.

 Both are legitimate reasons, we’ve all done it. This video sums it up well 😉

So the best thing to do on bad days is to turn it off. People aren’t acting any differently from usual, it’s how I react to it that is the problem. It’ll still be there when I’m in a better place mentally to deal with it. And it minimises the risk of getting sucked into the social media blackhole and wasting hours online in a clicking circle, when I could be spending them on doing something productive (and then posting about it on social media afterwards)!

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Banner Photo: Google Image

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Blogging Journey

It’s the last day of Blog Every Day in May! And I managed to do it! So I feel that’s a big achievement. I’ve enjoyed doing it, I’ve liked the challenge of a different topic every day and it was great reading other blogs. 

I think I’ve been a bit more open about things than I originally set out to be. I was just doing it for some fun, but it kind of evolved. Some people I don’t know have contacted me off the blog to chat about their experiences in relation to some posts. Blogs which I thought were pretty rubbish ended up getting a great response. Some of the topics made me think about things in a different light, and I enjoyed ‘working through’ it through writing about it.  I’m going to miss doing it every day- I quite enjoy writing, I’ve discovered! 

Bank Holiday 

Day 30 of Blog Every Day in May is Bank Holiday… And it’s also my birthday! My husband and I had a day out for my birthday on Saturday, so I’m writing about that today. 

It was a surprise until the morning, when he told us where we were going. For lunch he’d booked a table at Turtle Bay, a Caribbean restaurant. I’d never had Caribbean food before but it was really good- I had mango and chicken wings to start and prawn and mango wrap for main. We shared some rum cake for pudding as well. It was pretty spicy food, so not a place to go if you’re not a fan of spice, but we loved it. The restaurant is designed to make you feel like you’re on a beach in Jamaica, so it had a nice feel to it. 


After lunch we went to the Hippodrome to watch the Sound of Music. I love musicals but I hadn’t seen this one (except for the film). It was pretty good, definitely worth seeing. The person who played Captain Von Trapp was an ex-Coronation Street star and sang out of time a couple of times which threw the kids a bit, but overall it was a good show. 

Afterwards, we came home and watched TV and ate Ben and Jerry’s- less exciting, but still a nice end to a day out! 

Self-Care Sunday

Today I’ve decided I’m having a ‘sleep/pj day’, which means sitting up is a bit too much effort, so I’ll spend the day asleep or lying down. So it fits well with day 29 of Blog Every Day in May being Self-care Sunday. It also means this will be pretty brief!

Things I like to do which I guess fall under ‘self-care’:

– basic things like have a shower. I didn’t fully appreciate this until it became a bit of a challenge some days, but it makes me feel so much better!

– watching a favourite TV programme. New Girl is my current favourite.

– colouring. I love colouring. It doesn’t require much brain power but the end product is pretty. 

knitting. I’m on the look out for some new ideas, so let me know if you have any good ones!

– looking at photos. I’m not good at taking them, but I like looking at other people’s! 

– talking to friends. Mostly via Facebook messenger/text. 

– going out to the cinema. It’s basically still watching TV but a bigger screen and with other people.

– getting food or takeaway. Always a safe bet. 

Most people use ‘self-care’ as a way of slowing down their lives and doing something just for them. I spend a lot of the day by myself doing things slowly, so I suppose my version of self-care would be making sure I have some kind of human interaction every day. Blogging helps with that, as does social media! 😊

Sukin Botanical Body Wash

Day 28 of Blog Every Day in May is ‘Beauty and Skincare’. I used to have a skincare regime (of sorts), but now I tend to look for things which don’t require much time or energy to do. I’ve always had fairly sensitive skin, as in some products make me come out in a rash, but it’s got a lot worse in the last few months, to the point where I can’t use most moisturisers without wanting to rip my skin off and coming out in big, angry spots. But if I don’t use moisturisers, my skin feels like it’s shrinking and burns. Even expensive ones and E45/Doctor prescribed cream were making it worse, which made me think it was possibly also something to do with how the product reacts when I get hot or wear certain fabrics.

So I did some research and asked an aromatherapist friend and came across this:

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My friend recommended rosehip oil because it helps keep the skin ‘elastic’. I decided putting oil on before getting dressed would end up with me looking like I was about to be put on a roasting spit so I started looking at shower gels. This is an Australian company, which makes 100% natural skincare products. This product contains rosehip oil along with jojoba and avocado. You can buy it online from many retailers, between £10-£15 for 500ml depending on the site/delivery charges.

I started using it in February every day and haven’t finished the bottle yet. It seemed a bit pricey for me, but then again, I haven’t used any other of my ‘usual’ moisturisers or shower gels since, so it does work out cheaper in the long run. The other advantage I’ve found with it is that it seems to be reducing the redness of stretch marks as well- an added bonus which the Bio-Oil and Palmer’s moisturisers I tried before definitely weren’t doing.

It’s not completely cured my itchy skin, I still take antihistamines, but it definitely has improved it a lot just by swapping it for my old shower gel and moisturisers.

 

I love Knitting

Day 27 of Blog Every Day in May is Passion Project. I have a confession to make…I’m in my 20s and I love knitting. I used to laugh at people like me for being ‘old’ and ‘boring’ and made WI jokes. But then I started knitting and found that I loved it.

A few years ago, I had a period of uncontrolled asthma and couldn’t leave the house for a few months. Even when I started getting better, I was really limited with what I could do for a long time. The most frustrating thing for me was that talking made it worse, so I felt like I was in prison. Apart from not being able to breathe, I felt fine, so I woke up one morning and thought ‘Arghhh I *need* something to do, maybe I should just admit defeat now and become an old lady who knits’. So I sent my husband out to Hobbycraft and started.

I wasn’t very good to start off with. I think I cast on 50 stitches to make a scarf, and ended up with 90-something by the end. The problem was, at the end of a row, I kept getting the last stitch ‘upside down’, so it looked like 2 rather than one, so I knitted it twice, therefore increasing my stitches. IMG_0531

After my husband watched a few knitting videos and taught me properly, I got better. So, for some bizarre reason, despite my ‘interesting scarf’, my second project was a jumper- I like challenges. Which actually fitted and turned out quite well!IMG_0627

Here are some other projects I’m proud of:

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Hot water bottle cover

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Stocking Christmas Presents

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Newborn baby tiger sleeping bag and hat, modelled by Baby Oleg the Meerkat.

I still knit a lot now, I’m always looking for new things to knit. I like doing it because:

  • there’s something really satisfying about making something yourself
  • It gives me something to focus my mind on when I’m wound up
  • It improves my concentration
  • You can make it as challenging or easy as you like depending on the pattern
  • I haven’t had to buy wool for months because I’ve got a big enough stash to make random projects from

I spend a lot of time watching TV, so knitting (and adult colouring, now that it’s a thing) gives me something to do which makes the day go by quicker.

 

PTX World Tour: Birmingham UK

I saw Pentatonix in Birmingham 02 Academy last night- what an amazing concert! They’re just as good live as they are on their albums.

The show started with opening acts from Erato and Us the Duo, both performing alternative covers of well known songs, medleys and some original material. The audience was pretty diverse- a lot more teenagers than I was expecting and a fair few people in their 40s/50s.

The 02 Academy is a mainly standing venue. We decided not to try to get into the ‘crowd’ and stood by the bar on the ground floor- this was a good choice because it got really hot towards the end! The sound there was really good and balanced, and being pretty short, I probably saw as much standing there as I would have done if I’d been further forward.

I’m the first to admit that I’m really judgemental when it comes to live music. But I can’t think of anything that wasn’t amazing about their performance. They’re also likeable people, they seemed to be really privileged to perform for us.

Some favourite parts of the concert were: ‘Evolution of Michael Jackson’; Prelude No1 Cello Cover featuring Kevin; Daft Punk; Radioactive…actually, who am I kidding, I loved pretty much all of it! Massive respect for Kevin playing the cello and beatboxing at the same time- that’s real musicianship right there. And, speaking as a music teacher, thank you for making Bach cool for young people! Likewise for singing ‘Christus’- how low did Avi go??

A really special moment was when the group came back on stage to sing ‘Light in the Hallway’. They ditched the mics, dimmed the lights and performed to an (almost) silent crowd. You don’t see something like that often- a cappella and unplugged in a venue that size with that big a crowd. And, despite being stood right at the back, we still heard everything.

It was a brilliant concert. It doesn’t matter how old you are or your musical tastes, Pentatonix have something for everyone.

Photo: Pentatonix

Photography

Day 26 of Blog Every Day in May is Photography. I won’t offer tips, I’m hopeless at taking photos. As well as BBQing, my husband has ‘banned’ me from taking other people’s photo because my hand is too shaky, I can’t make it focus or I stick my finger over the lens.

Here are some of my ‘finer’ moments from the last fortnight:

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Here I’ve captured the knee of my pyjamas and the carpet. Neither of which are in focus. Don’t know what I was aiming for.

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My colouring in the back garden. And my finger.

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This is a fantastic composition of a partial yellow box (?), a white line, someone’s foot and what I think is a mic stand. Again, not a clue what I was actually aiming for. Presumably the person.

Why are these beauties/monstrosities still on my phone? Because technology hates me, and if I try to delete things, I risk deleting them all.

I do take some surprisingly good photos with my ‘point-click-hope for the best’ method though. As in, my husband is surprised and everyone else assumes my husband took it.

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Lausanne in Switzerland

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Top of the Rock and Central Park, New York. I actually took this without the viewer in it, and then thought ‘what would my husband do?’ and took it again.

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Derwent Water, Lake District

IMG_4745Alnwick Gardens, Treehouse Restaurant, Northumbria

#nofilter on all of the above. Mostly because I don’t know how to add filters…

All photos taken by me

To my 10-Years-Younger Self

To my 10-Years-Younger Self,

Things work out differently from the way you plan, not necessarily in a ‘that’s life, it’s unpredictable’ kind of way. It doesn’t mean that it’s all negative, but there are some lessons which will save you a lot of hassle and heartache if you learn them sooner rather than later.

  1. Your stubbornness isn’t a bad thing. It keeps you alive on more than one occasion.
  2. Your gut instinct is usually right, follow it every time. Especially when people are telling you you’re wrong.
  3. Not everyone has the same morals as you. Don’t expect people to do the ‘decent’ thing just because you would.
  4. You don’t always have to put everyone else first. Sometimes it’s ok to prioritise yourself. But still be a nice human being, ok?
  5. You can’t change other people. Some ‘friends’ will let you down, that’s their issue, not yours. Remember point number 3?
  6. You’re a lot stronger than you think. Mostly because you don’t even know that half of the stuff coming exists yet.
  7. Asking for help isn’t the same as admitting defeat.

Enough of the depressing things. Here’s some positives:

  1. Friends come from unlikely situations. Go with it!
  2. You have the opportunity to make some positive changes and impact on other people, take it.
  3. You’ll get the chance to have a clean slate- not many people get that.
  4. You’ll appreciate the little things more and the big things are even more amazing.
  5. The things that you worry about aren’t actually as bad in real life as you think they will be.
  6. Living abroad is great and you get lots of travel opportunities.

And just some general things:

  1. Stop watching X-factor, BGT and Dr Who because everyone else does. Join twitter earlier so you can watch the highlights videos and talk about those bits instead. It’ll save you hours at the weekend and they don’t get better!
  2. Stop worrying about weight gain. Because when you’re 8 sizes more in 10 years time, being a size 10 rather than a size 8 really isn’t that big a deal!
  3. Embrace the curly-frizz that is your hair. It doesn’t like to be tamed and fighting with it is a waste of time! And for some reason everyone else seems to like it…
  4. Labels save you loooaaads of time when marking books. Discover those earlier! Plus your handwriting is terrible.
  5. Taylor Swift is amazing. Stop fighting it! So are One Direction before they get long hair and beards.
  6. Avoid travel by trains. They hate you. You’ll get stranded a lot. But then it does also help you make friends!
  7. Don’t eat snails or frogs legs. Just don’t. And goat’s cheese.
  8. Take photos more often. Most will end up blurry and with your finger over the lens, but you end up taking some really good ones sometimes by accident.
  9. Why haven’t you been watching Grey’s Anatomy all along?!
  10. Discover Ben & Jerry’s and Domino’s as soon as you get to Uni, while it’s still acceptable to have those as a separate food group. It’s frowned upon as an adult for some reason…

Enjoy!

Asking HD Questions

In general, children are a lot more accepting than adults. They see things as more black and white, adults tend to think in grey. I kept teaching for about a year after being diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency. I didn’t update the students about it in lesson times, that’s not professional, but if they asked a question, I’d answer it honestly. Some of their questions were out of curiosity about ‘practical’ AI things, but some questions caught me by surprise to start with. One question I found hard to answer which has stuck with me was ‘do you not find it really upsetting feeling ill all the time, doing everything your doctor says and still not getting better? I mean, your illness can kill you quick, right?’

If adults asked about it, I would answer honestly too. But adults don’t tend to be as direct. They tend to make their own assumptions and judgements based on the information they have, rather than asking and making a qualified judgement. Adults ask ‘how are you?’ and you’re supposed to reply ‘fine thanks’ or something similar. There’s also this unwritten code that if something is perceived as ‘bad’ then we don’t talk about it. I don’t like talking about illness all the time because it isn’t a cheerful subject, but I’d rather have people asking me questions than getting it wrong. It doesn’t help that Adrenal Insufficiency isn’t the easiest illness to understand and empathise about.

It’s when people assume they know the answers that things start to fall apart. What someone thinks is helpful might actually not be. Making a decision on my behalf or cutting me out without asking me what I think, and following it up with ‘I just assumed you wouldn’t…’ irritates me. All that happens is that both people feel bad unnecessarily. My pupils’ questions were brilliant, to the point, and tended to be phrased differently, like ’what can I do which would help you right now?’; ‘What does it feel like when….?’; ‘How do you manage to….?’ and ‘So, it feels like….?’. Most adults won’t ask those questions- few adults have asked me those in conversation. I don’t know why, but they don’t. But those 30 seconds long conversations helped my pupils to understand and empathise, and meant they ‘got it’ better than most adults. Because they had asked their questions and processed my responses, my pupils were a lot more sensitive and accommodating, and considerably less anxious about me and my Adrenal Insufficiency than most adults I come across (NB some adults are already great at this, like close friends). I could be more proactive in explaining to people, but different people understand different aspects, and it would be wrong for me to assume everybody requires the same information. Plus I don’t want to be a broken record stuck on repeat.

My pupils were HD/3D ready with their black and white questions.Having a brief conversation about it meant we were both able to see in colour. I think that adults sometimes need to give their grey, pixelated TVs a whack and go back to seeing (and asking questions) in black and white.

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