Rest and Digest

I had my doctor’s appointment last week, and as suspected, it was a complete waste of time. After reeling off a list of symptoms, the doctor asks me ‘what do you think is causing that then?’ Um, sir, is it not your job to tell me? I didn’t expect anything else though, and although I was determined not to get fobbed off I could see that it wasn’t worth expending the energy. Let’s say I do get him to listen to me. Then what? Best case scenario I get put on a years-long waiting list.

So, I have decided to save up to get some private help, and I’ve started to do my own research. Let’s see how much I can help myself, at least while I’m feeling in the headspace to actually do that. In the times when I’m not, I’m already trying to set myself up to just bloody rest, and trust that things will get better. I feel so different now to how I felt a few weeks ago that I can hardly even remember what it felt like during that time. It seems like it happened to someone else, or that it happened years ago and is a distant memory.

Rest and digest is the opposite of fight or flight (I have been researching how to have a regulated nervous system, don’t you know) and that’s what I’ve been aiming for on my week of annual leave, which is today coming to an end. When I’m off work I usually try to force myself to get into a day pattern, but this time around I was not going to be forcing anything. When I was feeling at my worst I couldn’t read, as much as I love to, because I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Over the last week, however, I’ve been reading from about midnight till four in the morning and I have been LOVING IT. It feels like I’m back, when I genuinely feared I was lost forever. How dramatic am I.

I have also watched three seasons of a series and loved every minute. I’ve been watching The Boys, which is funny, sad, DISGUSTING at times, but a damn good series. It’s one of those things that’s been recommended to me so many times and I just say ‘yeah, yeah, it’s on my watchlist’, now I’m the one telling everyone they need to watch it. If they have a strong stomach, that is.

My favourite activity though has been the knitting. Last night I completed a little frog for a friend and I’m so excited to give it to her.

Isn’t it flipping ADORABLE? I asked her to choose the colour of the jumper from my wool stash and I think she made an excellent choice – very in keeping with the season what with it being official meteorological autumn right now.

I’m getting neater with my knitting, and I’ve found a better material for the arms and legs to make them poseable – florist’s wire.

Now I have started work on a different creature, which should be finished by the end of the week. I am so looking forward to showing him to you! He’s a gift for my sister, which again, I should wait until her birthday to give to her. But I can’t, I just can’t wait to give it to her. Patience? Never heard of her.

Today I am starting my 1,393,200 attempt at getting healthy. It’s not just the weight (although as I explained to a friend recently, I have become rotund) it’s genuinely how I physically feel that’s the problem. My tummy is NOT happy, and I have to do something about that. I also have slightly high cholesterol and the doctor wants me to take blood pressure readings for a week, so I really have to get on top of all of this.

I’m not making any grand declarations though, I’m just saying that I’m going to try. Because every time I try to force myself into a complete life overhaul, I put so much pressure on myself that I just burn out within a week. I do this over and over thinking that the next time will be different.

If I want something to change, then I have to change something. Wise words from whoever came up with that one.

Right, time now to grab my needles and get my knit on. Rock ‘n Roll or what!

Hayley x

If you want to knit your own frog here is the pattern (link) and if you need any help with it don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

Gibberish

Just in the nick of time I’m starting to feel better. Not perfect, but better. On Saturday I got out into the garden for a bit of clearing up and it was the first time I’ve done something in the last few weeks without really having to force myself to do it, or without having intrusive ‘what’s the point’ or ‘it won’t be good enough’ thoughts racing through my brain. What a relief to have a bit of peace.

Almost all of Sunday was spent working on my latest project, which is a) the cutest thing ever and b) really good for switching my brain off. Once I get started, that is. There is always the initial battle of starting it in the first place, but never mind that.

So what is this magical thing I have discovered? It is… KNITTING! It’s thanks to my sister that I discovered this in the first place after she sent me the sweetest little video on Instagram. It was of a knitted frog by a superb knitter named India Rose Crawford, and I strongly advise you to look at her photos and videos on Instagram (link) if you want to feel warm and fuzzy inside. I thought it would be such a nice surprise for my sister if I could get hold of one for her.

It didn’t take much investigation before I realised these froggos are in extremely high demand, but it was equally easy to find the person who made the original pattern – Claire Garland, AKA DotPebblesKnits (link). She’s a bonafide genius – how she even begins to come up with her patterns I cannot imagine.

So, despite the fact that I cannot knit, I bought the pattern from Claire’s Etsy shop (link).

When I first opened the PDF of the pattern, to say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. Have you ever seen a knitting pattern? At first glance they look like utter gibberish, and I was quite convinced that if my sister was getting a frog, I would not be the one making it. Thankfully my mum is a talented knitter, so I printed off the instructions and asked her if she thought it would be possible for her to teach me how to do it.

She was confident she could, so I raided her wool stash and got practicing.

Do you know, it actually isn’t as hard as I first thought! First of all you have to decipher what the hell the pattern is telling you to do, but once you speak the language, that part is easy enough. Some of the actual stitches… they’re easy enough too, but with some of them, even watching Youtube videos, I just couldn’t get my head around what was happening there. Mum was on hand to help me though, and with her guidance I learned enough to be able to make the frog. I now know knits, purls, wraps and turns, knit front-to-backs, i-cords and all kinds of other things. And in the right combination, those things make up this…

I mean seriously. I cannot get over the cuteness.

It was not all plain sailing for me, because if you read my last post you know that my brain has not been in tip-top working order lately. The thing about knitting is that it’s very easy to lose your place and go wrong, and I don’t know enough yet to be able to easily rectify my mistakes. That meant starting over when I zoned out and forgot what I was doing, which was… often.

It forced me to practice staying in the moment, and then I’d get into a state of flow which was actually heaven. All that would be going through my mind would be knit, purl, knit, purl, wrap, turn, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit. Or I’d just be counting my stitches, so I’d be perfectly focused on not losing count. One, two, three, four, five… now purl… one, two, three, four, five…

Once I’d done the head and body I was well into it, and other than accidently knitting the first one-and-a-half legs I made inside out (I had to undo them and start again), I was able to figure out the instructions from that point on by myself.

Once I was finished, I could see the bits that weren’t quite right, all the imperfections, and I almost talked myself out of giving it to my sister at all. But I also knew further attempts probably wouldn’t be that much different, so I decided to give it to her anyway, warts and all. I also made a little jumper for him, but I’d already given him to my sister before I realised that in our photo session he’d been completely naked. But that’s not important.

When I handed froggo over yesterday, it got the exact reaction I’d been hoping for – my sister was over the moon. As if I could have waited till December to give it to her! Never in a million years could that have happened.

Once Mr Frog was safely handed over to my sister, we started our day. It’s become something of a tradition to have an art day together either in the summer or the winter – we just sit down together and make art just for the fun of it. How utterly wholesome!

First of all we took Newton for a walk in the park before it got too hot for him, and had a coffee at the visitors centre. I love me a good visitors centre, and what’s more, dogs are allowed in there so neither of us had to wait outside with him. Did you know that such a lot of shops in the UK are dog-friendly? You can even get a Puppucino from Starbucks (which of course does not contain coffee because giving dogs caffeine is a big no-no).

That done we sat down to our painting. I was still feeling in a frog mood, so this is what I made:

Then we had a Newton walk/coffee break before I painted my second thing of the day, a colourful sea scape:

I was so worried that I wouldn’t be in the mood for art during art day, but I needn’t have been. It was so good for the soul, and I had the best day. It was also nice to practice being out and about before going back to work tonight. I am not relishing the thought of being around lots of people, but I can do it.

Recently I’ve felt so awful that I doubted if I would ever be OK again, but now I’m starting believe that actually, I will. Just because I felt so bad for that period of time, doesn’t mean I’m doomed to stay that way forever, or to repeat it. I have to believe that better things are coming, and it’s not a given that I (or life) will mess it all up. After all, was yesterday not a wonderful day, even though I didn’t have the greatest of hopes for it? Yes, it was.

It ain’t over yet.

Hayley x

Hard Times

Whenever I have a few days in a row of feeling I good, I think this is it, I’ve cracked it! I’m going to hold on to this feeling and NOTHING is going to stop me. Then I feel bad again, and I can almost believe I brought it on myself. Shouldn’t have had a nice thought, should I, I was obviously asking to feel bad. I started to wonder if I’m stuck in some neverending cycle… well I’m stuck in a cycle alright, but I’ve likely got a good decade yet before I’m able to be free of it.

Having periods suck. I’ve always struggled around that time, and thought it was just normal and that I was weak for feeling dreadful at least two weeks out of every four. But then as things like this get talked about more on social media, it seems that what I’ve been going through since puberty is not a universal experience. Every single GP I’ve ever seen has shrugged it off, but it’s not normal.

I get by though. Well, usually. As time goes on it gets harder and harder to cope with it, and it’s all mixed up with other issues I have. Basically right now I don’t know my arse from my elbow, and I am not ok with that. I feel like I’m drowning. One thing I know is that things are usually quite bad for me, but once a month, it’s infinitely worse. I also know something has to change because I cannot go on like this.

There’s also past things to deal with. I’ve always been someone who struggled with regulating emotions, then after a bad five-year relationship I hardened a lot (read: turned into a cold-hearted bitch). I opened up later, got hurt more than ever, hardened again, then just recently I started to really feel things again. All well and good until something bad came along and I couldn’t deal with it. Feeling things means feeling all the things. I forgot about that part.

This started off with someone being a bit mean to me at work, which resulted in me absolutely spiraling… like, crying in the toilets and completely unable to stop myself. I just had to wait for it to pass. Absolutely absurd. The person in particular was mean because I was basically doing my job too much, which would normally have me telling said person where to go, but it turned into a paranoid week of ‘absolutely everyone I’ve ever known and loved secretly hates me’.

Then little Newty got sick. He’s OK now but there were a few days there where we really weren’t sure if he was going to make it. At that point I just… shut down.

I was worried sick about that doggo, who thankfully is recovering nicely and well on his way to being his old self, but it was just one thing too much and I couldn’t handle it. After we knew he was going to be ok, I thought I’d go back to ‘normal’ myself, but since then things have been… weird.

I have even less energy than usual, concentrating on anything has been virtually impossible, I’m clumsy (I even fell over the other day) and if I’m trying to think (as in, I’m trying to concentrate on not totally losing my mind) I need COMPLETE AND UTTER SILENCE otherwise I feel an almost uncontrollable rage. It’s like I need to use all of my energy on staying in existence. On top of that, things don’t exactly feel real right now, or maybe I don’t feel like I’m real, not sure which, which may well be dissociation.

Not that a medical professional could enlighten me, because when I finally got an appointment with a ‘mental health practitioner’ she asked me if I’d tried PrActicING MindFuLNesS. Yes, sure, after thirty years of mental illness, I’m calling you because I’m at breaking point, I’ve just spent 40 minutes on the phone to you telling you about all of my issues and that’s what you suggest. I asked to be signed off work while I’m feeling spaced out because it’s really not safe to drive a forklift truck when you aren’t sure if you’re a person or not, and her response? Well, you really should have asked for a note a week ago, you’ve left it a bit late.

Except… I DID ASK FOR ONE A WEEK AGO AND THEY TOLD ME I HAD TO HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU FIRST. THAT IS ONE OF THE REASONS WE ARE SPEAKING NOW.

Response? ‘Oh’.

This is why I never try asking for help. This is the ‘help’ you get.

But I’m at the stage where I can’t not ask for help, and I know it’s going to take a fight to get it. I’m so tired though, I don’t want to fight!

Aaaanyway. I have booked a face-to-face doctor’s appointment, and I only have to wait a month for that. During that time, on my good days, I’m going to be researching to get all the information on the things that are most likely wrong with me, and when I see the doctor I am not going to let him dismiss my symptoms. Because the first doctor did that nearly twenty-five years ago when he told me it was normal for sixteen-year-old me to have a beard, and do you know what? I’ve had enough of not being listened to. Carrying on day-to-day means having some kind of belief that things might actually improve somewhere down the line, and they haven’t been improving with me trying to do it alone. I’m taking a deep breath and seeing where this goes.

In the meantime, even though it’s the very last thing I want to do, I’m going to make a concerted effort to get outside. I know it will help, and I know I need to do it every day. It feels… naughty, being off work and going for a walk in the woods, but what else can I do at this point?

I’ve also found a new craft which is absolutely perfect for turning my brain off, because I don’t have to concentrate too much, but also if I zone out completely I have to go back and start again. I’m using it to practice not zoning out before I go to work, and also to stop unwanted thoughts. It’s nice to have a little break from my racing mind from time-to-time. I would tell you what it is now, but I’m making a gift for my sister and if I tell you what it is she might guess what I’m making. It was supposed to be a gift for her birthday in December, but in reality there’s no way on earth I can wait that long to give it to her. I can’t wait to show you guys either.

After a very moany load of paragraphs (I felt like I just really needed to get that out) I will leave with something positive. So here is a beautiful dahlia, ‘cafe au lait’, which has somehow survived heatwaves, slugs, snails and neglect to turn into an absoute stunner. What can I say, she’s more resilient than me!

Hayley x

Fool’s Spring

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Fool’s Spring, but it’s quite renowned within the gardening community. Every year, it seems, it looks like spring has arrived and everyone rushes to get their plants outside. Yet it’s a ruse and we get one final week of winter before spring proper arrives. The only plant I shouldn’t have put out but did was a dahlia seedling (I completely forgot it was there) which is now no more, but other than that everything I have outside is hardy enough to take a little frost. Hopefully, that’s it for the minus temperatures (at least until late autumn) and I can really start to get going with the gardening.

Last weekend I attended my first boot sale of the year and bought two ENORMOUS plastic pots for a mere £5 each. The guy selling them only sells pots so I think he’ll be one of those sellers that return every week. You can guarantee he’ll be seeing more of me this year. My pots are second-hand and have weathered in a way that makes them look like real terracotta. I can’t wait to get those babies planted up.

Despite the chilly evenings my tulips have been doing well and varieties I planted last spring yet didn’t make an appearance at the time are starting to make themselves known. I don’t remember buying parrot tulips, but evidently, I did.

I am in love with this pink tulip, but I didn’t make it out with my camera when the light was actually good. Did I cheat with my edits and add a little sunshine? Yep, I certainly did. I figure I needed to do this beauty justice.

The same goes for the anemonies. They’re just too beautiful to not show those creams and pinks off.

Operation sort-out-the-front-garden is also underway. The neighbourhood cats currently use it as a toilet so I’m going to fill the ground up entirely with flowers and vegetables. The vegetables will be in pots (definitely at least one of the HUGE pots) because I read it’s not safe to eat food that has been fertilized by cat poop. Even if it was, it’s somewhat unsavoury. The front garden is a little heat trap so I’m envisaging some tomatoes growing nicely out there.

I myself have been more than ok with the cold snap because during that time I entered a state of semi-hibernation and played the absolute hell out of Sims. The Cottage LIving expansion pack was finally on offer at a reduced price so I treated myself to that and spent most of my spare time milking pretend cows, collecting pretend eggs and growing pretend oversized produce. I won some competitions at the village fair, and one of my prizes included a top hat for a chicken. Does life get any better than that? Not by much.

My simple plans of NOT THINKING TOO MUCH are working out really well. If the thinking isn’t useful, it gets thrown out. On top of that even when I wake up feeling a bit down and anxious, I have been making the conscious decision that actually, no, I intend to have a GOOD DAY and FEEL HAPPY and will MAKE IT HAPPEN. So far so good!

Feeling your feelings is good. If something bad happens then I don’t think you should push it to one side, otherwise it will come back to bite you at a later date. My problem is that if I feel my feelings when nothing in particular is happening, I would just feel sad all the time. In my opinion, some feelings don’t belong and should not be invited to stay.

My art plans are under the category of ADVANCED PLANS and said plans are coming along nicely. One of the most important things right now is for me to start living more frugally, something I’ve been banging on about for the last five years or so without doing a damn thing about it. I have now completed two full weeks at work with no unpaid early finishes (something which never happens) and have stopped buying crap I don’t need. It hasn’t been easy. After Christmas is a very quiet period at work and there has been the opportunity to knock off early every single day of the week.

I think that because my plans are doable and because I have a real passion to see them through, it’s enough to get me through the preparatory stage where not-so-exciting things need to be done. Like getting some savings behind me. And not letting unfounded doubts talk me out of it. Rest assured there will be more about these plans at a later date!

Right now there’s time for one more cup of tea then I’m spending the morning with my little sister, something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Suddenly I See

Sometimes I’m such an idiot. I mean really. I looked back on a post I made this time last year and, yep, my theory is correct. I don’t think I am depressed as such, I think I just CANNOT HANDLE THE WINTER. The sun has been back for a total of five whole minutes and I swear I am a different person. It begs the question – going forward, how on earth am I going to make future winters less hellish? I don’t know, but that’s a problem I’ll come back to in December. For now I will be making the most of the good times. Let’s make hay while the sun shines, right?

Right!

Ok I haven’t actually been making hay, but I have been sowing alllllll the seeds. Last year I was too busy beating myself up for not gardening enough to garden enough (is my brain its own worst enemy or what?) but this year as soon as those extremely unhelpful thoughts started up I gave them a firm ‘NO’ and carried on with my business. Sometimes I even say it out loud, and it’s working out really well!

I still haven’t got around to having that blood test because I have to go and pick up a form for the doctors, and I keep forgetting. I will get around to it, because it’s worth getting everything checked out. I just need to remember at a time when the doctors is actually open…

I do have another theory though, one that I wasn’t going to share on here because it felt a little… dramatic? Anyway, as I would be so quick to tell others, better out than in, so here we go. I’m fairly sure I have some form of ADHD. It was like slap in the face when almost everything I saw about ADHD on social media turned out to be a) not what I thought ADHD was and b) EXTREMELY relatable. I’ve been talking to a colleague at work whose partner is trying to get a diagnosis through the NHS, but after being told she’s looking at a minimum seven-year wait they are saving up so she can go private. I’m reluctant to do that (because think of all the plants and paint I could buy with that money) but in the meantime I have been treating myself as if I do officially have ADHD and what can I say? Life is better! Whether I do have it or not, some of the strategies seem to be working so what does it really matter?

Just finding out it’s not just me who feels this way has been such a big deal. It’s not been the same as finding out others feel the same way about depression and stuff like that, because this feels so specific. I’m reading about other people’s experiences and it’s really hitting home like nothing ever has before. Sometimes social media is a turd but at times like this, well, I’m glad it’s there.

A big part of this has been my constant overthinking, and when my brain gets seriously damn loud instead of thinking ‘whyyyyyy is this happening?’ I’ve given myself permission to say ‘Nope, we aren’t doing this. SHUT UP’. And what a huge difference that little thing has made. We’ll see how it all pans out though. I’m going forward with an open mind and finding out what works for me and what doesn’t, without judgement. What have I got to lose?

My art has taken a bit of a back seat over the last couple of weeks, purely because I’ve had so much to do in the garden (which I’ve just run with because I’ve been enjoying it so much). I also have no room for the art I particularly want to make right now, because my art space is currently home to about 200 baby plants. It has been a struggle trying to cater for every seed’s special needs so they can germinate, but next year I am choosing easy grow varieties that can be started off outside. The idea is to grow lots of maybe five or six different varieties and go for huge, colourful, impact. Maximum effect, minimum effort. Yes please and thank you very much.

Once I can be reasonably sure there won’t be another frost (probably in the next week or two) everything can go into the garden where it bloody belongs and I can get going with some artistic plans. Of which I have many. The gardening helps with this, it helps spark ideas. Ugh, why can’t it be spring all year round?

Since an eternal spring is not on the cards, I’ve been outside recording the events of this spring so that the images can see me through when I need them most.

I have SO MANY tulips that are almost ready to go, it’s so exciting. And this is just the beginning, there is so much more to come.

Here is a bonus Newty picture to say thank you for reading. Until next time!

Hayley x

Time to Digest

Since I last posted I’ve been trying to take my own advice. I haven’t felt like doing much, and there’s that fine line between moping when you should be picking yourself up and taking the time you need to rest. I’m attempting to listen to my intuition a bit more and my intuition told me to STAY IN BED! I have been feeling that something is amiss, something more than the usual depression, so I spoke to my doctor about it who suggested I get a blood test in case I’m ‘short of something’.

My depressed brain was feeling quite hopeless, and I’d forgotten that just being short of a vitamin or two can have a huge impact on your health. My diet has been ATROCIOUS over the last two years, and although I’ve been eating more veggies lately and taking extra vitamins, at this point it’s probably like peeing into the wind. Maybe something as simple as a couple of vitamin shots will get me feeling better. Who knows.

Something of note that has happened since I last wrote is that my dear friend Mar gave me a tarot reading. Now I am the world’s biggest cynic, but I went into the reading with a completely open mind. This was a few weeks ago now I think (time passes in weird ways when you don’t feel great) but I’ve been quietly mulling over and digesting what she told me since then.

A few things have been floating around the edges of my consciousness lately and it wasn’t until the cards started coming out that it brought them to the forefront. It was something of a ‘YES!’ moment for me, and it really helped me to start organising my thoughts. A lot of career-type things were popping up, and I hadn’t realised until that moment exactly how much work and money had been worrying me. Not that either of them are exactly a problem right now, it’s just that life as it is now is not sustainable. Not if I want to hold on to my sanity. I don’t think I have many more years of night work left in me for instance – I SO miss my circadian rhythm! And I’d like to work with creative people and people who share the same values. As an all-or-nothing kind of person, the idea of going from easy peasy forklift driving to, well, anything else, absolutely terrifies me.

However, Mar was there to remind me that I don’t have to COMPLETELY change everything all at once, and to give me a good dose of self-belief. So I have a wee little seed of a plan that I’m nurturing and I’m not convinced it would have germinated without a bit of outside help.

If you would like to try a reading for yourself (which I CANNOT recommend enough) then Mar offers Zoom and email readings that are totally affordable. Check out her Instagram page for all the details: @the_gentle_spiritualist

PS She is also the most lovely and wonderful person ever. You won’t regret it!

I must admit that after my reading, despite still struggling, my heart has felt a little lighter. With that lightness I have been slowly, gently, starting to get back into my gardening. Over the last few weeks I have been through my seed collection and picked out things that are easy to grow and things that I would absolutely love to see in the garden this year. Then once a week, I’ve been sowing just a few at a time.

This approach has worked really well – I have some chillies, sweet peas, rocket, a nasturtium and one really cool dahlia that I’m very excited about, germinate.

This is my current setup, although the seedlings that already emerged have been promoted to the windowsill. I have been trying out coconut coir to start my seeds off, which is a really affordable alternative to compost (and much better for the environment). Apart from the price, my favourite thing about it is that is comes in small blocks which expand massively when you add water. Until now I really hated lugging huge compost bags around, and the quality of the compost is so hit and miss… I shan’t be going back!

Coco Dots are definitely something I’ll be using a lot in the future. They come in a kind of little net, which holds the coir in place but as roots develope they grow through the netting easily. When the time comes you just plant them on as is. I’m naturally a very messy person so the lack of mess these create is a real bonus for me. I got mine here.

In the garden things are starting to come to life. The first thing to emerge was this iris, which I originally planted last year. I’m glad to see it doing so well this year as well. For next year I plan to plant more of these to make more of an impact. Since they’re so early to emerge, I think it will be a joy to see a lot of them at once from the kitchen window while everything else is so grey and miserable.

In my painting life I believe I have turned a corner. Getting a likeness is something that’s INCREDIBLY hard but also something I think it’s only really possible to achieve if you just keep practicing. In order to get to this point, I have drawn and painted many, many horrors. However, I have now completed a self-portrait that I’m actually happy with.

My eyes, nose and mouth are in the right place (more or less) and it is unmistakably me. What’s more, I am sharing the picture here with you! As my mother pointed out, it wasn’t that long ago where anything I painted (even something I was fairly happy with) would never again see the light of day. This is a nice little confidence boost, because there’s always that little voice telling me I’ll never be good enough.

I never thought I’d be good enough to paint what I’ve painted now, so clearly my inner self is full of crap and shouldn’t be listened to. In matters of art, at least.

What I would like to do in the future is offer pet portraits, but I didn’t think I’d be good enough for that, either. I started a portrait of our cat, Chester, last October. Part of the reason I didn’t work on it again was because he passed away and it hurt too much, but another factor was that I really liked how the initial sketch came out and I was scared to touch it again after that.

Well this weekend I bit the bullet and got back to it, and I’m really pleased with how it’s going. Again, I have that likeness, but the most important thing for me is that I now believe that if I lose that special ‘thing’ I’m going for, I am good enough to bring it back. it’s not just a fluke – if I do something cool once, I can clearly do again. It was not just a happy accident never to be repeated!

I am enjoying practicing just for me, but from the middle of the year I am going to open up a few commission spots for pet portraits. It scares me, because what if someone really doesn’t like it? Am I strong enough to deal with the rejection of something I put so much love into? I can either take a leap of faith and find out, or stay where I am now and never know. I think it’s time to put it to the test, don’t you?

I think I’m giving myself very healthy goals where it comes to my art – enough to get me out of my comfort zone but not enough to overwhelm me. I am tentatively quite excited!

When the time comes I’ll give more details if you’d like a piece of original Hayley Murphy art of your own. Which is something I never thought I’d ever be writing, yet here we are.

Who knows what else the future has in store.

Hayley x

Friends

This year has already been challenging. I decided that, no matter what happens, I’ll keep working towards my goals. I didn’t expect to be challenged quite so soon, but the first week of January was a tough one.

In October last year, we had to say goodbye to one of our pets, our little Chester. Pet doesn’t cover it, he was our little friend, our family member, and he was with us for eighteen years. He had a good inning, as they say, but no matter how much time we have it’s never enough. I knew I’d be upset, but I honestly had no idea just how hard it would be.

He was such a good cat. And so funny! He had the loudest cat snore I’ve heard in my life but at the same time the most pathetic little squeak of a meow. He liked tummy rubs and he would always dart into the bathroom and keep me company whenever I needed the loo. Yes, he was a bit strange, but that’s why he fit in with our family so well. We’re all a bit odd here.

It was only once he was gone I registered that he greeted me at the door nearly every single morning when I got home from work. Even now I always expect to see him sitting there waiting for a cheek rub.

I guess I’ve been struggling since then. Then on top of that, we have the crappy weather and the usual January blues. I was determined to make a good start to the year in spite of not exactly feeling in the mood, and I have been doing a good job, but then my sister unexpectedly had her parrot, Petrie, pass away.

Petrie and I had a rocky start – the first time I bird-sat she bit me quite a lot and even drew some blood, but as I got to know her and learned her boundaries we became really good friends. I will miss hanging out with her so much, she was the coolest little bird and it was such a privilege when she let me scritch her cheek feathers. I always felt so honoured when she would do a kind of little bow to let me know it was ok to stroke her. So special!

When I sat down and allowed myself to be completely honest with myself, I realised how much I have been using food and alcohol to manage my emotions over the last two years. I’ve always been an emotional eater, even at the best of times, but just lately I realised I simply have to stop. I want to be able to cope with my emotions in a healthy way, and I’ll never learn how if I don’t face up to them instead of pretending it’s not happening and smothering them with wine and pizza.

So that’s been HARD, just letting myself feel sad. I can’t say I’m a fan, but I’ve been really feeling in my body how my lifestyle has been affecting me and I simply couldn’t carry on that way any longer. It was a make or break moment, and so far I’ve made it through without sabotaging my plans for this year. Given my current mood, I’m fairly proud of that.

Crappy things will always be happening in life. I can’t let them put me back every single time, because that will get me absolutely nowhere at all. As evidenced by the 39 years of my life so far. Opening yourself up though and letting yourself feel after years of pretending you’re not bothered… oof, that’s painful. But even though it’s almost unbearable, the good stuff that comes along with it is worth it. Every time. Feeling a loss like that means you got to feel the love, too. Cheesy, but oh so true.

So, here’s what I’ve done in terms of ‘self-care’. I’ve made an appointment to have an assessment for counselling. I’ve started to increase my exercise levels and have even been OUTSIDE for a couple of walks. I have been eating VEGETABLES! I have been sleeping when I needed to. I took a couple of sick days from work instead of pushing through.

The outside has been lovely, actually. Bitterly cold, but when the sun has been out (and I’ve had the energy) me and my camera have been out adventuring. Oh, I had missed doing that!

Everything is coming to life again already. Even in my poor neglected garden there is so much to discover, so I’m going to make the effort to get out there this weekend and do some jobs that should have been done weeks ago. A bit of gardening is always good for the soul.

The sadness I’ve been feeling lately, it’s almost like it’s physical pain. Like I’m… bruised, somehow. At the same time I feel like it would be weird to not feel that way, given the circumstances, and in actual fact in the long run feeling like has got to be a good thing. Better out than in.

Whilst it’s important to honour those feelings it’s also important to be grateful for all the good stuff in life. I feel like I appreciate the positives deeply lately, and that is what can come from letting yourself feel all the things.

Friends, thank you for reading. I am glad you’re here.

Hayley x

Something to show for it

Roughly two days after I was sooooooooo motivated to finally lose some weight, it all went tits up and I had a massive gain. I’d been already been thinking about rejoining my old Slimming World group, even though it was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I realised that although I might not want to do it, I needed to do something. Fortuitously, my consultant sent out a text a few weeks ago saying that group was reopening, but due to Covid we had to book. Since we have to be spaced out, less people can fit in the venue and spots are in short supply.

I didn’t think about it, I just replied back straight away. SIGN ME UP.

I could have written about my intentions at that moment, but I didn’t want to do that then eff it all up. I waited until I had something to show you.

My first week, I got my half stone award. My second week (this week) I got Slimmer of the Week and I have lost a total of 10lbs. I’m ACTUALLY DOING IT! FINALLY!

It’s been a bit of a mind f**k so far to be honest. Again because of Covid, we have to keep our shoes on when we weigh. That first week back was hard because what with the shoes being on along with wearing more clothes (no more weighing in undies for me) and switching to an evening weigh from a morning weigh, the difference between my home scales and the SW scales was astronomical. I know the number doesn’t matter, as long as I see a difference week after week, but it didn’t stop my heart sinking when I saw it.

Still, I pulled myself together and got right into it.

The key is going to be consistency. If I lose 2.5 pounds a week, which has traditionally been my average, then I should be at target by Swingamajig 2022 as planned. I just have to KEEP GOING.

It hasn’t been too hard so far, but since I’m going through a spot of depression all I want to do is sleep. Nothing is bringing me a buzz like the garden did last year, or like I had when I started getting back into painting and drawing. I decided to come off of my anti depressants some months ago, because although I felt just fine in the end I didn’t feel anything else at all (apart from extreme anxiety) and it wasn’t sitting right with me.

I’ve learned some coping mechanisms over the last couple of years, and I think if I really look after myself then I can be happy without pills. It’s just going to take some time to adjust. Don’t get me wrong, they were great for getting by when I needed them, when the alternative was something much, much worse, but I didn’t want to rely on them forever.

I was getting more and more stressed out at work, and I felt if I could just sit and have a good cry it would be a great release. But when I was medicated, the tears wouldn’t come. I couldn’t cry the whole time I was on them. Shortly after I stopped taking them I cried whilst watching Bridgerton, of all things, and it felt wonderful to finally be feeling all the feelings, even the painful ones.

At the moment everything is a little flat again, but I know I’m just in a dip and if I practice some self-care I’ll come out of it again. I haven’t had alcohol since I went back to group and I’m getting moving again. That, along with at last eating some gosh darn vegetables, should do me the world of good. Same as with the diet, I just need to keep going. And getting a bit of extra shut-eye isn’t the worst thing someone who has being working nights for nearly 13 years could do!

The garden has been a bit of a mixed bag. We are having a lot more problems with pests this year, particularly snails, who have eaten the majority of the seedlings/young plants I’ve grown. Some of what they left has been eaten by the sparrows, so I’ve been feeling quite disheartened. Until my brother pointed out it still looks lovely out there. He’s right, it does.

My favourite bits are the area above underneath the apple tree, which looks better every single day (those poppies though!) and my little raised salad bed. The rocket is coming thick and fast now and the lettuce and kale is coming along nicely. It’s one of the few areas I have properly protected so the damn snails can’t get at it.

Next year I’m concentrating on things that are easy to grow and don’t get eaten too much. Simple is best I reckon.

It’s nearly time to begin another working week, and as it happens I’m still doing really well at staying at work and actually earning some wages. Dare I say it, things are actually going ok right now. Ok, I’m off before I jinx it.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x