BOOK PUBLICATION: THE HIGHS AND THE UNEXPECTED LOWS

This week has been insane. On Thursday my first book: Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? was published (I will shut up about it at some point) and I don't even know what to do with myself. This book has been everything to me for the last two years. It's been a huge labour of love and I cannot believe that after all of this time, it is done. It's out there. My secrets, my heart and soul laid bare for all to see.

(Just because people keep asking, the jumpsuit is from Asos and you can get it HERE!)

For the last four weeks especially, this project has been at the forefront of everything that I have done. There has been a countdown on the kitchen wall, it's been the focus of every conversation I've had with basically everyone I have met or seen and as for my working life? I have been pretty much incapable of doing anything else. 

The last two weeks in particular have been mad. My first chapter was published in The Daily Mail's You Magazine, another one was published in The Sun, I even made the front cover of The Times Magazine last Saturday alongside an interview that I did with them. I never expected anything like this, not even close and I haven't really known which way to turn. 

There has been a lot of love and support and for that I will always be incredibly grateful. People sending me photos of the book, telling me that they have pre-ordered, finding the blog and connecting with it, taking something from it. I cry, a LOT about this, the kindness and support, it means so much to me. There has also, obviously, been a lot of hate, 'cos, you know, it's 2017 and that's how the world works. For years I have been running this blog and during that time I have done my very best not to shout about my surname. It never really seemed relevant to my project, being the daughter of a motoring journalist, but obviously now the secret is out. A lot of people didn't care, a lot of people have shown their support and then lots and lots of people are really really pissed off with my career choice.

I don't need to explain it here, I don't want to give people the satisfaction but you know the drill by now 'nepotism got me there', 'I'm totally talentless', 'I've never worked a day in my life'. Some of it has been much nastier but mostly the consensus amongst certain comment sections was that there was no way that I would have got a book deal if it had not been for my name. That hurts, if I'm honest, because of course that is a worry that I have carried with me for my whole life. Maybe I wouldn't. But there is no way for me to know that now. I'm trying to help people, with this blog and this book, I can't imagine doing anything else. I've been working in a fireplace shop to fund it, it's been so weird but I am so in love with my job that I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I would have done pretty much anything if it meant that I would be able to run Pretty Normal Me. I worry a lot that people are going to assume that I've taken the 'easy path' but I suppose we all know that they say about people who assume. 

So back to this time last week. It was mad. I had just seen myself on the cover of The Times Magazine and I was packing a bag to run away with, it wasn't that it was too much, it was amazing, I was just starting to become a little overwhelmed and had basically stopped sleeping.  I wrote about this last week, the fact that I ran away. I'm really really pleased I did it. It was just for a couple of days and it meant that when I got home on Tuesday night (after a ten hour drive), I was filled with so much positive energy. I was so excited to be back and found myself so grateful to be home and ready for the madness that was about to ensue. 

I don't ever really remember what I did on Wednesday, although I know I definitely drank too much wine that night because Thursday morning, the biggest day of my career, started with a headache, two aspirin, three coffees and more water than you can imagine. The day was great, despite the hangover, people on Twitter were being so lovely and I basically just glued myself to my phone. My friend Omey took me out to lunch (where she poured a glass of water of her brand new and just signed book!) and then the afternoon flew by.

Before I knew it I was in a cab on the way to my launch and was so nervous that I thought if I opened my mouth I would throw up. Why? Fuck knows. As Omey pointed out, I'd done all the hard work now and THIS was the easy bit, but it didn't really feel like that. My hands were shaking, I couldn't face talking, this is what I had been waiting for, working for. 

Unsurprisingly my nerves ebbed away when I got there and realised that I wasn't the only person who was going to show up. I gave a little speech, which was terrifying, signed some books, which was totally surreal, and then headed to the pub and got very drunk with my friends, family and wonderful team. I fell into bed at 2am on cloud nine and then the weirdest thing happened.

I woke up at 7am the next day (yesterday) and I felt SO low. I've now decided to label it as my 'book comedown'. Despite the fact that the comments (that I was reading anyway) were overwhelmingly positive, the night had been amazing and I had fucking book out(!!!), for some reason yesterday I felt so flat. My anxious mind was not helped by my hangover and the fact that I had hardly slept at all and I basically couldn't bring myself to get out of bed.

What if this was it? What if this was as good as it got? What if no one read it? Or worse still, what if they read it and hated it? For years I have thought about nothing but this book and during that time I didn't spare a thought for what was going to happen afterwards. After it was published. I cried a bit, which made me angry with myself. I was also lonely but too consumed with it all to even get out of bed to do something about that. I actually just lay in bed and ate sushi watching Gilmore Girls and tried to make it look more glamorous for Instagram's sake...

Thankfully, after ten hours and several pep talks from friends and family I got up and left the house. I decided to leave London and go and stay with my mum for the weekend. Alex is in LA at the moment and I din't think I could do the whole weekend alone. The drive, as it turns out, was great. (I'd been scared about it all day because my brain is weird). I started thinking about the future, making plans and being excited again. I got home, had a good night's sleep and have woken this morning so excited for life again, for everything that is coming next. The next few days are going to be amazing, I've got a lot on and it's my birthday on Friday. 

I feel like I am supposed to feel again, happy, excited, positive. Yesterday knocked me for six and I didn't expect it, but I did want to talk about it. Because I think the comedown is quite normal, no matter how unexpected, and not just for authors, but for anyone the morning after a night that they have spent a long time planning; I suppose it's how a lot of people must feel the morning after their weddings, they know that they should be SO happy but for some reason they find themselves feeling a little bereft: it's all over.

Please don't assume for a minute that I am not so grateful and excited about this, I am, I really really am. It's beyond anything I ever thought possible and I cannot say thank you enough times. The fact that I am talking about the lows does not stem from anywhere bad, I only wanted to do it because I found it so fascinating.

The whole process has been such a rollercoaster, one that I am still riding, I'm not sure that I will ever really get off it. I'm sure that there will be times when it nose dives, like it did yesterday, but right now it is on the up again. Such is life eh?

I'm so lucky and I am so happy. To those of you who have read it/bought it already THANK YOU, your comments mean more to me than anything. 

IF IN DOUBT, RUN AWAY. (EVEN IF ONLY FOR A MINUTE...)

I’ve run away. Perhaps due to the fact that I never even attempted it as a child and feel that I’ve somehow been missing out on something, yesterday i gathered my best mate, my dog and a few spare pairs of pants, got in the car and headed north from London. 

My book, Can I Speak To Someone In Charge is coming out this week. I’ve been working on it for two years, it is everything to me, my heart and my soul laid bare for the world to see and after what seems like forever, and no time at all, it’s July and publication is imminent. As part of the madness i have been lucky enough to see my face in places that i never thought i would see it: namely on the front page of The Times newspaper yesterday. If i believed it to be real i think i’d be in shock, as it stands i’m in denial. There’s no way that yesterday was real. 

I’m not really running away. In that, i am coming back. And my phone is on and i did get it OK’d with my publishers before i left. I haven’t done a vanishing act, i’ll never be that cool or reckless. But i have run. And i am away. Because i think if i had done another day in my flat on my own, hanging in suspense, ominously twiddling my thumbs to pass the time of the calm before the storm, i think i would have gone insane. I’m so busy at the moment but i’m also at a loss for knowing what i should be doing with my time. I can’t write. I can’t really sleep. I can’t focus on things properly, constantly panicking that i should be doing something, anything, else.

There’s no guidebook for this process and no instruction manual. Part of me wants to carry on as normal but the rest of me is left wondering what the hell normal was in the first place. This isn’t helped by the fact that Alex has gone away this week. He’s had to go to LA for a couple of weeks with work and, because life isn’t fair, will be missing the launch. We’ve lived together for nearly four years and, as much as it saddens me to hear any woman admitting to needing a man, i’m not ashamed to admit that i find being apart from him difficult. Not least of all because the rest of my life is so NOT normal at the moment, not having him there to talk to in the evenings is strange as anything.

So i had to get out of the flat. Out of my own head really, away from the feeling of expectation that surrounded me at home. I’d wake up in the morning, get ready at lightening speed, wolf down my breakfast, take Bua out for a walk, make my way into my home office all before 9am. I’d sit down, open my laptop and then find myself wondering what the bloody hell i was meant to be doing. There’s plenty to do: when you run your own blog and are totally in charge of your own workload and income there is ALWAYS plenty to do, but my brain, my pesky brain, it hasn't let me focus on anything that isn’t the ticking time bomb. 

Now i am sitting beside the sea. i’m very very lucky that my mum has a house in the Isle of Man, the place that she is from and grew up. I grew up here too really. As a child we would spend a lot of time here visiting my grannie and in more recent years, since she died, we have taken every opportunity (school holiday at first and weekends now) to visit this wonderful place. I’ve had every birthday of my life out here, i’ve made some of my best memories here, i’m so happy here. It’s like nowhere else on earth, it’s always windy, always beautiful, both calm and wild, it’s home to me and I love it. So when i realised that i had three days before my next London based commitment and that my mum was out here on her own, i seized the opportunity for fresh air and booked the next ferry. It’s not even been 24 hours and already i feel like a new person. I can feel the knot in my stomach easing with every second that passes, a knot that i had started to think would never not be there. 

I know that this is the best time of my life. That i will look back at now so fondly, that i must drink it all in and be so careful not to miss a moment. But i am also so aware that i have been letting the world get on top of me. That the pressure i was putting on myself, well, the pressure in general, was going to get too much if i didn’t do something about it. And i didn’t want to burn out. It would have been all too easy to burn out. It can happen when you’re not really looking. 

You wake up every day and go to work and do your job and eat your lunch and travel home and cook some dinner and watch Love Island and call your mum and do your teeth and go to bed on Monday and then before you know it it’s seven months later and the routine hasn’t changed. Other than your television choices of course, because if Love Island went on for seven months of the year i think they would need to rename the ‘villa’ the ‘zoo’ and it would all be a bit weird. You're busy, all of the time. Even when you’re not busy, you’re so busy; that’s life these days. Because if you’re not busy then you should be and that in itself can be something that you can busy yourself worrying about with no trouble at all. And that is a hole of self-perpetuating hell that you need to get out of, even if just for a moment. Which is why i would suggest that you run away. Even if only for a minute. Even if it is just to the end of your garden. 

This is the best time of my life and i don't want anyone to think even for a minute that i am not incredibly grateful for every single minute of it. I am, i really, truly am. I’m more grateful than you will ever know. But I needed five minutes, literally just five, to gather my thoughts and work out what to do with myself. I still don't know, i don't think i will ever know, I don’t think anyone ever does. But thanks to a fabulously spontaneous decision on Friday i know that i will return to London on Tuesday with the enthusiasm that this time of my life deserves.  

THE MOST IMPRESSIVE DINNER PARTY I'VE EVER THROWN: RECIPES & INSPIRATION

Yesterday was Alex's 24th birthday and on Saturday night I threw him a surprise party to celebrate. Not only have I never pulled off a surprise in my life, I'm also not famed for my cooking (I once had a house full of people over for supper and didn't realise until 10pm, after the sound of stomachs rumbling could be heard four streets down, that I had forgotten to turn the stove on...).

So having 10 people over for dinner on Saturday, as a surprise in my own house no less, was no easy feat. But damn. I somehow pulled this one out my arse and was so proud of myself that I had to share my recipes with the world in a desperate bid to help anyone as hopeless as me make a culinary masterpiece. 

Not wanting to have to make everything whilst I had a house full, I needed to take the opportunity of Alex being at work on Friday to pre-prepare as much as I possibly could (and then borrow the fridge space of all of my local friends and ban Alex from visiting their houses...). This wouldn't have worked with a roast chicken (my normal party go-to) and I was loathed to do spag bol again (I do it all the time), so with my best friend Omey's help, we got to work on a collection of salads. (More interesting than they sound, I PROMISE you) catering for the 6 normal eaters, 3 veggies and of course me with my no gluten and no dairy requirements. 

Trust me, I know that thousands and thousands of vegetables thrown to gather in a plate don't look particularly exciting and they don't exactly scream Pretty Normal Me (Omey and I literally couldn't believe that these were the kind of people that we had grown up to be) BUT I promise you, this shit actually tastes good AND makes you look more impressive than you can imagine to a house full of people with complicated dietary requirements. 

So for anyone who a) wants to get way better at making healthy/summery food b) has a million people coming over for dinner and wants to show off c) doesn't really like salad but feels like they ought to, I got your back. 

So here's what I made and how I made it!

Raw Slaw

THIS. THIS. This is my pride and joy. Literally, the most impressive thing I have ever done, up to and including the book that is being published next week. It's heaven in a bowl. I originally made this after a friend made it for me, she had found the ingredients on the Daylesford website but made a couple of amendments. I don't love red onions or red peppers so I decided against those and I forgot the coriander but it was heavenly. The recipe is HERE and I really recommend it.

Stuffed Peppers

So I don't love peppers but I made these for my guests but they went down a treat and were super duper easy to make. We boiled some wild rice and mixed it in with a jar of pesto sauce and some chopped cherry tomatoes. We prepped those the day before and then popped them in the oven for about 20 minutes before the party and drizzled them with balsamic vinegar. 

Pesto Wild Rice 

To be frank, we made too much rice for the peppers so this is just the leftovers. Wild rice and pesto combined. Yum. yum. yum.

Minty Meatballs 

Easy breezy. Got myself some lamb mince which I mixed in a big bowl with an egg, some flour, some mint leaves, salt and pepper. I prepared these on the Friday and fried them on the Saturday night, they don't take long at all the dip is literally just mayonnaise mixed in with some more mint leaves (which considering it was easy, went down SO well.)

Summer Green Salad (with bavette steak as an added option for the meat-eaters!)

This was actually made by a veggie friend about an hour before the party. A friend of mine always makes a bavette steak salad which is heavenly and I wanted to copy her. This salad is literally just made up of leaves, (spinach, rocket etc etc) which some green beans and asparagus dressed in oil and lemon. The steaks were just fried on the night and were an additional option for people who weren't vegetarian. 

Sweet Potato Fries

Forgot to take a photo of these as they were the last thing out of the oven but they were super easy. I chopped them the day before and then just shoved them in the oven after covering them in oil and salt.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Not my recipe but golly I wish it was, I got this from the Hemsley and Hemsley recipe and I love love it. SO healthy and you genuinely wouldn't know that it was made with avocado and banana rather than sugar, cream and chocolate! Try the recipe HERE

Lemon Drizzle Cake

OK. I confess, I didn't make this. I roped in my baking wizard mate for a bit of help because we slightly bit off a bit more than we could chew with getting everything done during Alex's office hours! But it was delicious and pretty easy (at least Evie made it look that way...). We made it with dairy free butter and gluten free flour but otherwise the recipe was totally normal. 

250g butter, 250g flour, 250g caster sugar, 4 eggs and the juice of 1 lemons. (This was a double tiered cake so we doubled up and made two mixtures). The icing was made with icing sugar lemon juice and a splash of water. Mix the butter and sugar in a bowl and add the eggs, sieve in the flour and then mix in the lemons. Bake at 180 degrees until you can stick a fork in and pull it out without any goo on it. Leave to cool for a couple of hours and, like the title suggests, drizzle the icing on top and add the decorations. 

So there you have it! My first foodie article because, well, it was pretty much my first triumph with food! I hope you have taken some inspiration from it and will soon be wowing your pals left right and centre. Good luck! xxxx

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEEEASE GET YOUR LEGS OUT.

June has been outrageously hot. The weather of the last week has been particularly scorching, with temperatures touching nearly 40 degrees in London on Wednesday. Despite the fact that I have complained about it, along with every other Brit alive, I sort of loved it. But in the same way that I find myself desperately worried about animals in thunder storms, I was unable to truly enjoy the heatwave, painfully aware that for so many it was so horrible. And I don't just mean for dogs and grass and pregnant ladies. 

The weekend before the one we just had, I was in Stafford watching my boyfriend do his half Ironman in the boiling heat and was surprised to find that my sympathies were not just with the athletes, putting themselves through hell in ridiculous temperatures. I found myself cripplingly sad to see how many of the spectators were really struggling. Struggling not just because there wasn't an ounce of shade around, but because of what they were wearing. Tights, leggings, jeans, cardigans, heavy maxi-skirts and jumpers. Women putting themselves through hell so as not to show their bodies.

I used to feel like this. My sister still does. As a teenager I would truly dread the holidays, properly frightened at the prospect of having to sow my body. Entire summers would go by and I would not part with my jeans. I'd look at everyone I knew in beautiful floating dresses and hate them and hate myself that I couldn't do what they did. I convinced myself that my legs were the worst thing in the world and would do anything to avoid getting them out. My sister tells me regularly how much she hates the summer. I haven't seen her this week to know how she got on in the sun but my money is on her having suffered through it in jeans. 

For anyone not exploding body confidence, the summer can be a truly horrendous time. In the winter we can hide everything; cellulite is a problem only for our mirrors to deal with, the fact that our razors are gathering dust is something that only we notice and our lack of any tan at all is totally normal, no one is glowing in February.

But then the sun appears and BAM. Overnight we are expected to banish our layers, boast a glorious sun-kissed complexion, have smooth, toned legs and have hundreds of adorable sundresses at the ready, or so the theory goes anyway. And that thought, that fear, that theory, is enough to leave us feeling totally inadequate, inferior and ultimately, too embarrassed to put our comfort first.

At this point we do one of two things:

i) Put our comfort first and begrudgingly wear the closest thing we have to anything summery. We reluctantly shave our legs and leave our houses utterly convinced that everyone is staring at us and spend the whole day paralysed with a self-conscious fear and find ourselves pulling our dresses down about ten times a minute.

ii) Opt to suffer. Ashamed of our arms/legs/stomachs we pretty much stick to our winter uniform, choosing sweat over exposure. It's still black and it still covers everything, with jeans and cardigans being the usual torture instrument. 

Guys do you remember how long the summer went on for last year? It remained crazy hot right the way up to September. If the trend continues, we've got another three months of this and I cannot bear the thought of people suffering because of something as trivial as an exposed leg. Don't get me wrong, I do NOT like getting my legs out. In fact, last summer was the first time that I ever really did. But I finally realised that nothing was worth the discomfort of battling 30 degrees in jeans. 

(I'm not saying that you have to sell your soul to the marketing gods to find body positivity but just so you know, there were three things really helped me: fake tan, I use St Moriz, I did a piece about it HERE, wearing different types of skirts that weren't all teeny tiny, piece about it HERE and I started epilating, surprise surprise, piece about it HERE).

Now, let me ask you this. When was the last time that you noticed a stranger's legs?

Despite the fact I have probably seen over 1000 legs in London over the last week, I don't think I could remember what a single one of them looked like, literally, not a one. 

I know that in your own head getting your legs out is the biggest deal in the world, but I remise you, I promise you, that to everyone else it is nothing. Not just 'not a big deal', it's literally nothing. Your legs are two out of fourteen billion legs in the whole wide world. Our being worried about them is about as necessary as a grain of sand worrying that it is one shade darker than the ones that surround it.

I PROMISE you, it will be okay. 

So please, for me, don't suffer through this summer drenched in self-consciousness. Eliminate your risk of passing out and get your legs out. They're beautiful, you're beautiful and after feeling a bit of a breeze between them, who knows, you might just start believing me...

GIRL POWER: WE'RE SO MUCH STRONGER WHEN WE STAND TOGETHER.

T-shirt: http://bit.ly/2sPuOKe
Trousers: http://bit.ly/2ssrS3M
Shoes: http://bit.ly/2sHgBP5

My worry for women's happiness, or the lack thereof, has often come from other women. Although *most* the time we are pretty good at building each other up and supporting one another, there are times when I can do nothing but look on in horror as I see women slag each other off or worse, beat each other down.

There is nowhere that you can see this more, to my mind, than online. Even before I started blogging and basically living on Twitter I had concerns. I'd notice at school how being a girl was being made so hard by OTHER girls: I'd witness bullying, I'd partake in competitiveness, I'd see women, girls really, being trodden on or over looked or beaten down by their 'friends', by the very people who were supposed to be supporting them. A lot of the time, being a girl at school was really hard. Although many of my female friendships were beautiful and I came away with some of the best memories of the best people and the best times, I remember feeling let down by friends, by girls, a lot. Girls who picked boys over me, who talked about me behind my back, or ditched me in an attempt to be cool. You know the drill. Just 'being a kid' stuff right??

It seems not. In more recent years, since I've started blogging and the world has become social media obsessed, my concerns, these issues, have become more prevalent, or more noticeable at any rate. I have watched Twitter fights between bloggers and influencers, I have seen the subtle digs that appear in the shape of GIFs and I've been on the receiving end of some, often quite nasty, comments.

I've written in the past about the online trolling that I have been a victim of, and have expressed my shock and sadness that so many of the comments written about me have come from women. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how much the election made me hate social media after watching bloggers and twitter users go batshit crazy at others if their followers didn't agree, word for word, with their adoration of Jeremy Corbyn or their belief that Theresa May ate babies. And then of course there is the stuff that happens every day to all of us; the small stuff, the subtle stuff. The ignored tweets, the passive aggressive jabs directed mysteriously at "some people", the stuff that gets anxious, and somewhat insecure, people like me worrying at a rate of knots. 

When done right, a female friendship can be the most beautiful and powerful thing in the world. When done wrong, it can be the scariest. Because, whilst we might not like to admit it, we have the power to be absolutely brutal, to destroy and break one another. The same power that, when channeled in a better direction, is unbelievable, unstoppable, truly beautiful. When we work together, amazing things can happen. Yet so often we do it so wrong. 

At a time of true uncertainty in the world, as we are witnessing now, it is understandable that we want to shout a little louder than we normally would. We see injustices in the world and we want to call it out, we believe that our opinions NEED to be heard, because the solution that we have found seems so obvious and we can't believe that not everyone has realised it yet. We are angry and we are passionate. And we are shouting. But God I wish we were more careful with what we are saying. The right to shout about whatever we want is good, it is fair and it is deserved and important. But the right to abuse others, publicly, for not agreeing with us? I don't think that's good or fair or deserved or very important at all. 

Not everyone is going to agree with me and the day I realised that was the day that my life changed so much for the better. Was I really going to change a person's opinion of me, or of anything, using 140 characters of cap locks and emojis written with the intention of shaming someone in front of all of my Twitter follower? No. I might hurt them though. Has being nasty to another woman, no matter how much I disagreed with her, ever brought me any joy at all? All it's ever done is hurt us both.

Stupidity and ignorance exist online, don't get me wrong. You'll find it by the bucketload, but it does not necessarily have to be your problem. I'm not saying that we shouldn't debate and discuss, but to use our voices to ridicule and humiliate in response to perceived 'stupidity'? That's not OK, nor is it a good way to channel energy. Energy that could be used a million different ways to bring other woman up.

Empowered women, empower women.

God I know this to be true. I am constantly empowered by empowering women. Friends, bloggers, celebrities, people on the bus, even Camilla on Love Island. I am empowered my amazing women, by passionate women, by powerful women. And I realise, there is one thing that all of the women who inspire me have in common: it's kindness. 

I have had heroes, followed bloggers, adored friends who have let me down so massively I couldn't believe it. Over the last few months people who I genuinely respected have turned on other women in a way that leaves me so disappointed. Seeing negativity thrown around, showering women left right and centre is so depressing, it's so not empowering. It's just wrong. They might be empowering in a million ways but the minute they use their power to deliberately hurt and humiliate another woman is the day my respect falters. It's the day I unfollow, give up and walk away. 

Be Strong. Be Kind. Be You.

The Pretty Normal Me mantra. Be true to yourself. be passionate, but always, always, be kind.

To me, kindness is the most beautiful thing of all. To me, kindness is inspirational. To me, kindness is so so powerful. 

And I want to be powerful. I want us all to be so damn powerful. please don't underestimate how importance kindness is on the journey to success. It is lonely at the top, or so they say. So don't go there alone. Women are their most powerful when they stand together.

We are so much better together than we are apart. So please, rather than let trying times in the world right now divide us, let's work together, let's stand together and be strong together. Let's use our voices for good, pull each other up, educate each other and let's show the world what girl power, done right, really looks like. 

ONE MONTH UNTIL MY BOOK COMES OUT: PRE-PUBLICATION ANXIETY.

I don't remember the last time I didn't have butterflies. In my stomach I mean, not in the house. I don't have loads of beautiful insect pets. In exactly a month today my first book, Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? will be released and the anticipation is controlling everything that I do. An anxious person at the best of times, ahead of publication I find myself unable to stop random bursts of excitement and nerves bursting out of me at the weirdest times. Making my coffee this morning I actually had to stop myself from squealing with joy when I realised the date. Walking Bua an hour later though I allowed every nerve inside me to bubble up so aggressively that I had to bundle her up and rush home after convincing myself that she, like the rest of the world, would declare me a terrible writer and want to run away. My sleep pattern is fucked, my mood is violently turbulent and my worst-case-scenario setting has reached a whole new level. I am also more proud of myself than I have ever been, more inspired than I thought possible to write better and am working with a hunger and passion for the blog that I haven't had before. It's a really weird time to be me.

I've ben given an opportunity that so many would kill for, I know that, I am so painfully aware of that. So I do kick myself as I feel anything that isn't ludicrous excitement. I think of all the amazing hard working bloggers and writers that I follow who I know would love this opportunity and I think: why did I get so lucky? I know to a lot of people it's just a book but to me it is my everything. When I have thought about quitting blogging and going out to get a normal job it has been the thing that has kept me going. When I have thought about my future, it has been everything really. It is the thing that I have been working towards my entire working career and yet for some reason now, I'm getting cold feet. 

Reading chapters of it back (after it's gone to print and there is nothing I can do) I convince myself that they are rubbish. I stare for too long at the cover and convince myself that I look like a lunatic. I wake up at 2am in a terrible panic and think: holy shit, what if it's terrible???

I suppose this IS normal, part and parcel of being a first time author. But like I say, to so many people, it's just a book. So finding reassurances is difficult. My non-writer friends are proud as hell but don't necessarily understand how intimidating and intense the online community can be and my writer ones, well I feel like a total d-bag for complaining about what is ultimately, the dream for so many of us. There isn't really anyone out there telling me that it's normal. So I'm just left feeling kind of weird. 

On the flip side though, there really is so much excitement. The anticipation and work that has gone into this thing is beyond anything I thought possible. I've been supported by an amazing team of people who have my back, I get tweets daily from people who ask me about signings and pre-orders and that's just crazy, and then there is the little 'omg I've got a book coming out any minute' cloud that is permanently under my feet, reminding me how unbelievably fortunate I am.

When I wrote the book, I didn't write it for the haters. I didn't write it for the press and I didn't write it for the sad fucks who sit commenting on Mail Online articles. I wrote it for all those women who I thought might need it, all the young girls facing crippling anxieties, I wrote it for the me of 10 years ago who was calling out for something like this. And that is something that I need to remember as the countdown begins. I KNOW that not everyone is going to love it as much as my mum did, I KNOW that the assumption is that I can barely write my own name and I KNOW all too well that some people just love to hate and won't even give me the benefit of the doubt. But this book isn't for THOSE people, it never was and I need to remind myself that they don't matter.

This is my life in word form and whilst that's scary as hell, it's also the most exciting thing I have ever done. In the past I have let criticism ruin my day, trolling ruin my week and anxiety ruin my bloody life but I don't want to do that with this. I want to reap the rewards of two very long years.

And I also wanna say thanks, to everyone who has supported me. My mind does do weird things sometimes and the positive affirmations, telling me that I'm not a raving loon with a dream too big for her gives me more confidence than you know. This is the most exciting time of my life and I have got to remember that no haters (whether in my head or outside of it) are going to dull my sparkle right now. 

To everyone that has pre-ordered it already: THANK YOU. For those of you that would like to, please do so HERE

THIS ELECTION HAS MADE ME HATE SOCIAL MEDIA

I was raised with some incredibly British values, namely the idea that there are some things that we just don't talk about: sex, politics and money being the obvious ones. The sex thing I've slightly disregarded, since my job consists of me constantly providing TMI, the money thing isn't a huge issue since I very rarely have any but the politics, I get. I was always told as a child that you shouldn't ask a person who they were voting for. As such, I've never done so. In return, I've never been asked. (Apart from by the nosey guy with the red rosette outside my polling station today). 

But it seems I may be an anomaly, alone in my British tendencies, in the blogging community at least. Because over the last few weeks everyone, and I do mean everyone, has been talking about the election. Smear stories are being shared left right and centre (see what I did there???), hashtags are popping up by the thousand and statuses, tweets and Instagram posts alike are coming from people determined to share their opinion, whether we want to hear it or not. Finally it seems, us young people are here and don't we just need to shout about it. 

This election has been different, even since Brexit I have noticed a change. Most of us didn't really want to leave Europe. But since the young people didn't vote, it happened. We'll be damned we let that happen again. Labour have therefore been relying heavily on the young vote and it seems like they might just have it. The last day of registration in May this year saw 245, 487 young people register, meaning that 1.05 million 18-24 year olds have registered since Theresa May called the election on April 18th. Notoriously us young people haven't voted, we've had total apathy, it's gone above our heads. But this year we are passionate. This year we are using our voices. This year we are going to change the world. But good God aren't we being horrible about it?

I am not going to tell you who I voted for today. I am not going to ask you what you chose. But don't get used to that. I will probably be the only one. Influencers are using their voices to not only tell you who they voted for and to tell you what to do but to actually shame the living shit out of you for doing something differently to them. I've yet to see someone stand up and admit to voting Tory online but they must be doing it somewhere as Labour supporters have been kicking off. I saw one tweet this morning saying: 'How disgusting to see influencers using their platforms to encourage people to vote Tory. Selfish c*nts.' I didn't point out the irony that since this girl's Twitter name was #GetTheToriesOut she was being just as bad as the selfish Tory c*nts. It didn't seem worth it. In truth, I was a bit scared.

And that's a feeling that I've felt a lot on social media over the past few weeks. Scared. The language has been terrifying. The messages have been terrifying. The intimidation, the bullying, the shaming, it's been terrifying. We women haven't even had the vote for 100 years and look already at the things that we're doing with it. Our foremother's would be rolling in their graves watching us turn on each other like this over a privilege that they fought so hard for. The privilege of CHOICE. 

Look, don't get me wrong, I LOVE that we are talking about politics. I love that we are passionate.  I love that we are being activists, that we are doing something. I love that we are all different. But I think I might be the only one. I genuinely haven't used Facebook in the last week. I haven't wanted to see what people had to say. Politics makes them ugly. It makes me hate my friends. Not for their political persuasions, but for their desperation to be heard. I can't stay away from Twitter, it's my job. Without it I'd have nothing to do with my days, but God I wish I had, I wish I'd been on holiday. People I respected I now can't stand. I've had to unfollow people who's work I really liked. Because they were SO intent on shoving their opinions down 4000 people's throats that they became someone truly unpleasant. 

Ultimately when it comes to voting, we want to get it right. We vote, as advised, for the party that we genuinely believe will help us and our loved ones. For so many, that is Labour. God I understand that, it's so wonderful to see such a societal burden being taken on by the young, it's important, so important. We don't want another Brexit, we don't want another Trump. We want to know that we have done everything that we possibly can to get the outcome that we think will be best for our country. 

But we have GOT to learn the etiquette here. Sure, I'm old fashioned for the 'let's not talk about politics stuff', I'm part of the over-sharing generation, let's not be bloody stupid. Tell who you want. But this shaming and bullying is disgusting. This is new territory, I get it. There are more young people voting than ever before, young people all sitting in their own little bubbles on the outskirts of the internet who need to get their points of view across. Young people who need to have their say. Young people who absolutely should. 

Young people who need to learn that there is more to a person than their political persuasion. That their opinion is NOT the only one. And that social media, whilst it can be an incredibly powerful tool in elections, should always be fun and always be safe. 

Either way, I hope you voted today.

CREATE AN ALTER EGO AND ADORE HER

Loving yourself is an annoyingly difficult thing to do. Whether it's a full blown affair or just the simple act of paying yourself a compliment, self love is pretty hard to come by. I wish it wasn't, for all of us, I really do, but sadly there's no magic wand that I can wave. So what do we do, in the absence of a little pill that we can take that will provide us with an abundance of love for ourselves?

How many times a day do you compliment another person either on their appearance, what they are wearing or on a skill that they have that you are envious of? Once a day? Five times a day? 10 times a day? I think I probably surpass even that. I am the ultimate compliment giver, they explode out of me. I think something would be very wrong if I didn't tell a person how fabulous they looked the second I greeted them. And I don't do it just for the hell of it either, I do it because I really do believe it: other. people. are. great.

And yet for some reason, "you look ah-mazing" is not a thought that springs to mind when I first see myself, whether that's in the mirror in the morning, in a shop window as I walk down the street or in my forward facing camera as I prepare to update my Instagram Story. How great would it be if I could project at least some of the love and adoration that I had for others onto myself???

My sister has created an alter-ego. She calls her Candice. Candice is her 'fat friend'. Katya says that when she wants to make some bad food decisions, it is Candice that is responsible, in her own words: "she is one fat bitch, that Candice, she can get away with that shit." Candice makes eating pancakes easier and although Kat does sound a little crazy, I sort of love that she has Candice. That she has created a person that she can 'blame' if you like, for the decisions that she wasn't ready to own.

And this got me thinking, if Kat can create an alter-ego who she can blame her sweet-tooth on, what's to stop her, me, or any of us from creating one that we can protect all of our love onto? We already know that it's easier to compliment somebody else, so what's to stop us creating that somebody else as an extension of ourselves? You still with me? I'll continue...

For argument's sake let's say I made an alter-ego for myself and called her Sandy, (think Grease both before and after the makeover). Sandy could, in theory, be anything that I wanted her to be. She could be funny and confident and pretty and kind, she could have a nice smile and gorgeous eyes, she could be an amazing blogger and writer and be so incredibly productive. She could be anything that I wanted her to be. Because if made her, she would be mine, she could be me. 

I don't want to have to spend my life waiting for the positive affirmations of those people around me. I don't want to have to rely on a 'like' or a wolf-whistle to feel attractive. I don't want to have to tentatively publish a piece into the world and wait for the round of applause. I want to be able to congratulate and celebrate myself. I want to be able to tell myself that I look good, that my nails are a great colour, that my outfit is amazing, that my gym classes are working wonders. But for some reason I can't do any of that, or I won't at any rate. And so I plod on, choosing instead to focus on my flaws, my cellulite, my swollen stomach, my singing toenails, my hopeless spelling, my bad skin, crap photos or annoying voice. I talk about THOSE things all the time, to anyone that will listen. And it is beyond depressing. 

But let's bring Sandy into this, let's imagine that I was saying EVERYTHING to her. I'd have to stop this... Not least of all because I am far less likely to critique a person that wasn't me for all of their tiny flaws. I can just picture poor Sandy's face when I tell her that her hair was looking really dry and that her t-shirt made her look really fat. Stuff I'd say to myself in a heartbeat, but something I physically couldn't say to another person. To some poor sod like Sandy. 

I appreciate that I might sound a *bit* mad here, perhaps boarding on schizophrenic, but I can't help but feel that I might be onto something. 

It is SO much easier to be nice to other people than it is to be nice to ourselves. So really, with that in mind, what would be the harm in treating ourselves like somebody else from time to time, at least until we can start to master a little bit of self love. 

We all have so many great qualities that other people identify in us all of the time. Why we are ashamed to identify them in ourselves I don't know, but it's got to stop. So let's try it shall we? If you can't face the idea of looking at yourself in the mirror and telling YOU that YOU look wonderful, why not they to channel your inner-Sandy and say it to her instead. I think you might be amazed by what you find....

PLEASE STOP JUST WALKING BY....

Sitting in traffic yesterday afternoon I saw no fewer than ten people walk past a guy sitting on the street as if they hadn't seen him. One perhaps could have been a mistake, but when you take into consideration the fact that he was asking 'any spare change please?' loud enough for me to hear in my car, I think it's fair to assume that these people knew exactly what they were doing. It is a story that we hear all of the time in London, it's a story that I have helped to write and one that I read every day.

And it's almost understandable, our immunity to it. Between 2015 and 2016 it was estimated that 8000 people were sleeping rough and more than that were sitting on the streets every day asking for money. I don't remember the last time that I went ANYWHERE in London where I didn't see at least one person. On the average trip I maybe see five. When I'm in central London, Oxford Street, Piccadilly, Covent Garden, it's more. And whilst that is of course a huge worry, the thing that is proving most concerning of all of, is our reaction to it. 

People don't choose to live on the streets, not often. Normally this happens to people after something has gone really wrong in their life, maybe they've got ill, maybe they've lost their job, their house, maybe their partner left them or they got caught up in an addiction of some kind. The perception is of course that everyone on the streets is there because of their own doing, that they're drunks and drug addicts who don't deserve help. But that's just not the case. (And even if it were, who are we to say that we won't help them?). 

Take Gary for example. A couple of years ago Alex and I were walking down High Street Kensington quite late at night when out of the corner of my eye I spotted a man in a sleeping bag using the light from the window display in an electrical shop to read a book. He didn't look up as we walked by, he didn't ask for money or a cigarette, he just kept reading his book. I don't know what it was but something about that really affected me. This man was not what I expected at all, he was not what I thought of when I thought of homelessness and that tiny action nearly moved me to tears: could you imagine not having the ability to do something so simple as to read a book?

I couldn't just walk by. Instead I diverted course and went to the cash machine where I took out £50. Was that enough for a bed for the night? This was a lot of money, taken out of my savings, but this man clearly needed it so much more than I did. I went back to the man and offered him the money, he was shocked and refused to take it. We fought, I won and eventually even persuaded him to let me do a grocery shop in Waitrose for him. I asked if there was anything that he fancied, he told me that he 'had a real hankering for a scotch egg' and I spent the next twenty minutes filling my basket with as many non perishable, light objects that I could. I also raided the deli area of all of their scotch eggs. 

We went back to the man, Gary, and sat with him as he ate. I think we probably stayed there for three hours in total. We heard his story: how he had suffered a mental breakdown following a battle with depression and after he lost his job, his wife had left and taken his children. With nowhere to go, he moved to the streets. Within a few months he started noticing a pain in his stomach and was coughing up blood, a trip to hospital told him that he had stomach cancer. Unfortunately, it was untreatable and, since there no beds available for him to stay, he was once again moved out onto the streets. This is when we had met him. A dying man who had fallen through the cracks. A father forced to sleep round the back of the cinema where they store the popcorn because it was warm. A human being forced to sleep on London's filthy streets because he literally had nowhere to go. 

This broke me. Leaving that night was hard and in the years that have followed I have never forgotten Gary. I did call The Samaritans the next day who promised they would track him down and take care of him (if you can provide them with the whereabouts and name of a homeless person they will go and pick them up) but that did little to set my mind at ease, really, because Gary's story I realised, although awful, was not just his. This was a tale that would be told by so many, if only we stopped to listen to it. 

Since our night with Gary my eyes have been opened to the homelessness problem in London like they weren't before. I'm ashamed to say that I don't actively do enough but I do at least now see the problem and do what I can, when I can. In the grand scheme of my life, what is £10 to me? A packet of fags? (Not even...). An extravagant lunch? One quarter of a new pair of jeans from Topshop? But to someone like Gary, that's a bed for the night. Sure, I can't afford to give £10 to the 8000+ homeless people in London or I'd be wanted by the police as the money that I would have been handing out would certainly not have been mine, but even by doing it just the once, I am making a difference to one person. A positive difference to another human being, who really, really needs it. 

Results found by the website Streets of London showed that, on average, a homeless person dies at just 47 years old, compared to the 81 years that the average UK citizen gets. They also discovered that a homeless rough sleeper is 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person. 35 times!!!! Shockingly it was also found that two thirds of rough sleepers said that they had been insulted by a member of the public and one in ten had been urinated on. Homeless people are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general public and are 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft. 

So people are not only ignoring these people, they're actively being cruel. They're urinating on them. They're stealing from them. They're abusing them. And that's leading these people to suicide, if they haven't already been killed by the very real dangers of living on the streets. How we can do this to one another is beyond me, it really is. Now I know that you will be reading this, like me, thinking that these findings are horrific, that you would never do something like that, that it is disgusting and that something needs to be done. But I also suspect that, like me, you have been guilty of walking past a person in need too. Perhaps, like I do, you'll smile quickly, mouth an apology and be on your way. Perhaps you'll do as the people that I saw yesterday afternoon did that inspired this piece and walk on by as if you hadn't seen them. At this point it doesn't matter, none of us are doing enough. 

With the election tomorrow the last thing that I want to do is blame any government for this problem or bring politics into it, the fact that it is happening on our own doorsteps in a wealthy country, to our own people is beyond belief, beyond comprehension even. I don't know where exactly the fault lies here, but we can all agree that it is a massive failing by a lot of people. Long term this is a problem that needs to be solved by the Government, whoever they may turn out to be tomorrow, but short term this is something that we can do something about, even if the difference is tiny. 

We can't get these guys off the streets right now - I don't know where we'd even start. But we can start doing our bit to make their time there better. Are we really in such a rush that we can't stop for two minutes to talk to someone and see if they are OK? Are we really so broke that we can't afford to nip into Sainsbury's and buy someone a £3 meal deal? Are we really so above making a tiny bit of time for another person? Please don't underestimate how important your time is to someone who is in this position, every day we take for granted how lucky we are just to have a roof over our heads, I don't want you to feel guilty for that, but I think we should at least try to remember it.

 

 

PLEASE STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT YOU'RE JEALOUS OF HOW PRETTY THEY ARE

How often do you find yourself saying to someone: "Oh I wish I had your...."

I do it all of the time. I have friends with the most enviable boobs and hair and faces and skin, I have friends with great feet and strong legs and crazy long eyelashes and time and time again I tell them how beautiful they are and how I wished I had their [fill in the blank]. It is a huge compliment. What is it that they say, 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery'? There is nothing nicer for a person to hear (short of that they have won the lottery) than that someone wishes that they had something that they had. 

Or is there?

I normally cannot help but compliment my friends in this way, usually because I am just telling them what I am feeling at any given time and I always assumed it was a really nice thing for them to hear: 'yes!' they'll think 'I must have REALLY great cheekbones if someone else is spending time wishing that they had them!' and that will surely, give them a great boost. What could possibly be wrong with telling someone that you are jealous of how pretty they are?

Earlier this week, I found myself scrolling through Zoella's Instagram feed (as you do) and then, because it's all too easy to get sucked into the black hole that is the internet, I started reading through the comments that were left on her photos (as many of the 40,000+ that would load anyway) and I was neither surprised or heartened by what I found there. Hundreds of comments along the same vein from, what I can only assume, is mostly young girls saying: "oh my god, I'm so jealous, I wish I looked like you, you're SO pretty."

And I'd say on the whole those are some really nice messages for Zoella (real name Zoe Sugg - duh!) to receive - I reckoned if I got messages like this, by the thousand, I'd be on cloud nine like the whole time. But then I started to really think about it, about the times that someone has said to me that they are jealous of the things that I have that they want, and actually about the pressure that Zoe must be under to be told these things time and time again. And of course, it's not just her. Any woman with an army of female followers probably receives similar compliments, and whilst they are so much better than the alternative, I do wonder whether that pressure starts to take it's toll after a while.

When I was younger I sort of had to 'girl crush' in secret. Although my obsessions with various women came and went throughout my teenage years, there wasn't actually a space that existed where I could air my feelings. Instagram wasn't a thing, Facebook was brand new and I was very busy trying not to make an absolute tit of myself in front of everyone I'd ever persuaded to be my online friend. So instead, I internalised my feelings. In many ways, this was probably quite damaging, I would sometimes wish SO hard to look like somebody else, to have their flat stomach or long hair that I would get myself into a state of total and complete misery; hating my own body. But since I only thought of these women when I saw photos of them or when they were acting in a film or as a gust on a panel show, I was lucky that I could get away from them, in lessons, in bed, walking down the street, I wasn't totally confronted with their beauty, I didn't have to compare myself to it all the time, and I certainly didn't need to admit it to anybody.

Don't get me wrong, my fan-girling hasn't stopped as I've got older, if anything I've just found more people to think are great, but thankfully, my overwhelming jealousy does seem to have stemmed and although I do tell my friends all the time how much I would like to look like them, I'm generally pretty happy in my own body. I am not so jealous anymore. Not like I used to be, not like the people commenting on Zoella's Instagram are. 

Now, I know that, particularly where bloggers and vloggers of this scale are concerned, they slightly count on people being jealous of them, without that they wouldn't make nearly as much money out of affiliate links and they wouldn't have millions of people watching their YouTube videos, but I do wonder if there is a line between people being jealous of their clothes and material possessions (an incentive for the viewer to work harder to get to that place) and a jealousy of the person themselves, the things that they were born with that make them special that they can't do anything about (an incentive to make people bitter and insecure.) I noticed a blog post that Zoe wrote a few years ago about her weight and how so many people tell her how jealous they are of how skinny she is - in it she points out that there is nothing that she can do about it, she physically cannot put on weight.

I notice this too sometimes in my life, obvi I'm no Zoe Sugg but people sometimes do say to me that they wish they had my figure or my eyes or my hair (take it!!!!) or whatever it is, and although that is obviously hugely flattering, I do sometimes end up with some slightly conflicting emotions, and mostly, it's guilt. Guilt that I have something that somebody else wants, guilt that I don't appreciate it enough, guilt when I don't love it, that I'm taking it for granted. And sadness too, sadness for that person that they are wasting their time wishing that they looked like me. 

It's weird isn't it, this idea of jealousy. They say that the colour green doesn't suit many people, and they're right. Jealousy IS an ugly emotion, but it's also human nature. I know that that isn't going anywhere, it's something as old as time so it's not the jealousy that I have a huge problem with here (since I'd be wasting my time fighting something so inherent), it's the vocalising of it that I'm worried about.

Because I'm not sure that anyone benefits from you telling someone that you are jealous of how they look. In your head all that happens, is you have validated a concern in your own subconscious and made it really real. Like when you're nervous about something and you say it out loud for the first time and then you become absolutely sure that you are going to totally fail at it. And then in their head, the person who is the focus of your admiration? I'm not sure it's very good for them either. OF COURSE it's nice to be told that you are beautiful, of course it is, but to have people WISHING that they looked like you, that they were you? It's a huge responsibility. And maybe not one that is very fair.

I don't know if I'm making a whole tonne of sense here and I might be barking totally up the wrong tree, who knows, but I think it is food for thought.....

YOU WEREN'T PUT ON THIS EARTH TO SPEND YOUR LIFE ON THE SOFA

I really need to get out more. Despite the fact that I live in one of the most wonderful cities in the world (to my mind, THE most wonderful), I spend an awful lot of time on the sofa. In fact, tonight will be the first night since Saturday that I don't eat my dinner on it. Granted, Alex and I have been on a money saving mission, Bua has not been very well and Line of Duty is THE BEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO THE WORLD but I think it's time for me to give my poor sofa a break.

According to a study done by UKTVPLAY, a typical adult now watches around 24 hours of television a week with one in 14 spending more than 40 hours doing it. And who am I to judge? Two weeks after starting it I'm already onto the fourth series of Line of Duty, so far this year we've watched all of Our Girl, Billions, Broadchurch and Fortitude to name but a few (all seriously recommended btw, but that's not really the point of this article). Living in London is expensive, having a dog can be a tad-o restricting and sometimes at the end of a long day, there is nothing more needed than a night in. 

But if we're honest with ourselves, really honest, how often do we SAY we NEED a night in, when in actual fact, we just can't be bothered to do anything else. And is there a difference?

Alex and I decided last weekend that we needed a whole week in. N-E-E-D-E-D one. Money is tight tight tight, we've been total social butterflies as of late and we both know that this summer is going to be mad busy so we need to make the most of our time together, and more importantly, if we're honest, the opportunity to get our teeth into several really good box sets. So, barring Tuesday night when I declared that we MUST go for an hour's dog walk because the weather was heaven and I was stir-crazy and heartbroken having not turned the news off all day, this week has been Groundhog Day, with only our dinner menus changing. 

And now it's Thursday and I've had enough. I work from home, I'm self-employed and as a result I spend a LOT of time at home. Although I could go out, like they do in the films, and work from a coffee shop for a couple of hours, it is a faff and when there is stuff to do, I'm generally better off just doing it rather than getting choosey about the location. Normally I try to at least organise something each day so that I'm not left totally devoid of human contact, but some weeks that's just not easy to do. I don't know many people doing similar things to me, I'm crap at networking and most of my friends work proper 9-6 jobs. So my socialising happens in the evening, I'm a bit of a loser during the day but by night time I can talk and listen and talk and listen until I've filled up my human interaction fuel tank. 

For Alex this is probably different. It's going to be hist fifth night in in a row for him too but I'm not sure he's had enough yet, he leaves the house every morning and is surrounded by people, he is exhausted by the travel and the stress and the polite smiles at people he doesn't know or like and so when he comes home, it's nice to be back, it's comforting and to a degree, still a novelty. And most people, you included probably, are, I suspect like Alex. Still needing your nights in and never imagining a time when you could become bored of your house or your sofa. But from someone who HAS become bored of it and has let it lose that novelty completely, let me warn you: you need to get out, now.

What do they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder? This expression describes relationships, traditionally, but I think we can apply it to this scenario as well. Let's pretend, for the purposes of this article that your sofa is your love interest. If you spend every waking moment of every waking day with them, they'll start to get on your nerves a whole lot quicker than they would if you only saw them a couple of times a week. If you find yourself busy as hell five nights in a row, by the time you get to see them on the sixth night it will be so much special than it would have been if you'd just flopped home again and fallen into the same routine. I love Alex every minute of every day but there is nothing more special than time together when we've spent time apart. And yes, I do realise that I just compared my boyfriend of 4.5 years to my DFS sofa. Sorry Alex.

Look, you know this already. But it IS all too easy to fall into a routine where your sofa is concerned. It's so easy to talk yourself into feeling that you NEED it and after a while, that relationship can become toxic. I've said it before and I'll say it again, on your death bed you won't remember the time that you watched every episode of Downton Abbey back to back. 

Some people are naturally introverts, I understand that. I don't think, by nature, I am one - I'm incredibly needy and do love to be out, but I am also very anxious and so do show a lot of symptoms of a hermit from time to time. So I do have to force myself to go out sometimes. Remind myself that I am absolutely NOT as busy as I think I am. That there is always time for an old friend and that ultimately, my sofa isn't going anywhere in a hurry. (It took four men two hours to get the bastard thing into the house, it can literally never leave.) 

I want to do lots of amazing things with my life, and as fun as it is to sit and plot my future from the comfort of my sofa, I'd gain a whole lot more by just going out there and DOING it. So if you are, like me, planning another night in tonight, perhaps it's time to pick up the phone and plan something else. Take your partner with you, take the dog, take the cushion if you must, but just get off the goddamn sofa. 

FAILURE IS A PART OF LIFE. BE OKAY WITH THAT.

How many times do you fail at things? Whether that's an exam, a job interview, or just oversleeping your alarm *again*, failure is a huge part of day to day life. But despite the fact that failure is a thing that happens all the time, it is something that a lot of us are very afraid to do, it is the thing that stops so many of us from doing so much. "But what if I don't get it?" "But what if I get it wrong?" "But what if I embarrass myself?" are just some of thoughts that we have on a daily basis, thoughts that prevent us from trying something new or going after what we want simply because we are concerned that we are going to fail. 

I fail all the time. I oversleep my alarm, I get rejected or turned down, something I do isn't good enough, I give up on something before I have given it a chance. Some days are successes, some days are failures. But most of the time, my days are a combination of the two. You win some, you lose some, right? Take this morning for example. I overslept. Already I felt like I had failed before the day had started, so when I went for a run, or attempted to go for a run I should say, I was not even slightly surprised that I gave up. I stopped running after 1.4 miles. Why? Because my head told me that I couldn't do it. And since my brain lives in my head and the rest of me is nothing more than muscle, fat and organs, I allowed my body to do as my brain said: it must know better, it's my brain for Godssakes. 

So I walked home in a bad mood, I was angry with myself, disappointed that I had failed at something. I felt like I had let myself down, that I was stupid and pathetic and worthless. But then I got home, turned on my computer, made myself a cup of coffee and checked my emails. There was nothing particularly exciting there, mostly just the Monday morning press releases but amongst them there were things that cheered me up: comments on articles that I had written, messages from readers, an email from a friend, all making me feel like what I was doing was important. And I took these little victories and ran with them, the shame that had come with quitting this morning ebbed away as I realised that it wasn't the end of the world and that today might be more of a combination day after all. 

The fact is, most days are combination days. You would be incredibly unlucky if every single thing you did went wrong. If you overslept, put your pants on inside out, got rejected from a job that you wanted, maxed out your credit card, lost your keys, crashed your car, spilled your lunch down your shirt, set fire to the kitchen, lost your television remote, dropped your phone down the loo and broke up with your partner. That would, admittedly, be a failure of a day from start to finish. But mostly, things don't happen like that, Mostly, we win some and then we lose some. So we oversleep, but then we get to the tube just in time to catch our train. We have a fight with our other half but find a fiver in our jacket pocket. We spill coffee down our shirt but then get an email from our boss telling us to keep up the good work. We smash our phones but then get home and make the best damn spaghetti bolognese the world has ever seen. Sometimes it feels like the bad has outweighed the good, sometimes it actually has, but most of the time, something good happens every day. 

And we need to learn how to not just see the good, but to accept the bad too. It's all too easy to feel like the world is ganging up on you, to let yourself feel hard-done by, to blame yourself and beat yourself up for various short comings. Trust me, I do it all the time. But that's not right, and it's not fair. Why do we talk to and about ourselves in a way that would be TOTALLY unacceptable for someone else to do?

When we fail at something, we feel that we are letting the world down. Despite the fact it was only me and Bua on my run this morning, when I stopped I just remember thinking: everyone will be so disappointed. But now I'm looking back and thinking: who are these other people exactly? Who even knows that I'm here? What business is it of theirs? When I get an email back from an editor, or worse still, no email back from an editor or a PR, telling me (using one of the two methods) that they don't think I'm a good fit, I find myself feeling really embarrassed. Again, why? Does it affect anyone else in anyway at all that I've missed out on something? Nope. The email was meant for me, it was about me and it was read by me. The only person who has to deal with that, is me.

And I have to stop being ashamed of that, we all need to stop beating ourselves up and punishing ourselves when we 'fail' at something. No one thinks any less of you, not least of all because most people don't even know that you've tried - let alone failed. Most of us are so scared of this feeling that we say no to things because of the chance that we are going to be rejected and lose face, it's tragic and it's such a waste. Failing is nothing to be ashamed of, so why do we keep feeling that it is???

It's no secret that we are too hard on ourselves. We are mean to ourselves all the time, we talk ourselves out of doing things and beat ourselves up when we get things wrong. But we need to stop doing that. We need to remember that failure is all part of being a human being. Just because we have failed at one thing it does NOT mean that we are a failure. And it definitely doesn't mean that we won't succeed another time. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again." That's something that my mum used to say to me so much and something that I never really adhered to. But I realise now that it's perfect, sure I didn't succeed at first today, lots of us don't succeed first time, but we try until we do. And we will. 

We need to stop being scared of failing and for beating ourselves up when we do. Failing is NOT a sign of weakness, all it actually is is evidence that we tried, and isn't that so much better than not even trying in the first place? 

 

I'M NOT SURE THAT I'M A VERY GOOD BLOGGER

I never saw myself as a blogger. I don't think that anybody I've ever known would have seen me as a blogger. Slightly uncool, hopelessly unfashionable and always the last to learn any beauty 'hack', I don't think this is a path that I ever envisioned myself on. But then I started a blog. At the time I literally did it because I had something to say and I needed somewhere to say it. Thankfully, some people listened and now I have a blog and I have a book coming out and when the people at the airport ask me what I do I tell them that I am a blogger. But despite this, despite the fact that I RUN A BLOG SO I AM BY DEFINITION A BLOGGER, I still don't feel like one at all. And it is something that has really started to stress me out as of late. 

When I started Pretty Normal Me I was totally unaware of how massive the blogging community was. In fact, when I started it, I didn't even get a Twitter page, instead opting to share it all over my personal Facebook Newsfeed. I was very late to the party with Instagram, don't understand Snapchat and still don't have a PNM Snapchat. I didn't really see it as a forever job, or a job at all, I literally just thought it was a place where I could write without fear of rejection (as does happen when you pitch pieces to newspapers and magazines). Slowly I got into the swing of things, but totally in my own way. I still hadn't really opened my eyes to what other people were doing and I continued looking inwards, writing what I wanted to write, uploading it with photos that I had taken on my iPhone. 

And then the book thing happened and it all got a bit mad and, in part due to my research and in part because I was suddenly having to up my game (trying to make blogging my full time job), I realised QUITE how massive blogging is. In that, I realised how many millions of bloggers there were out there. As far as I can tell, everyone is a sodding blogger. And yet, in my own personal life, I don't know a single one. 

This threw me off I'm going to be honest. All of a sudden I looked up from what had become quite a self-focussed little life and realised that there was a LOT out there that I didn't know about. I had NEVER taken a flat-lay photo in my life. I did not use hashtags. I didn't follow blogger-RT Twitter accounts, I didn't know what #OOTD was and had never recommended any beauty product in my life, on account of the fact I wasn't entirely sure what to do with most of them. And it scared me. I went on a huge following rampage and started manically stalking every account on there, flat lay after flat lay, red lip after red lip, Lush bath bomb after Lush bath bomb and I panicked. 

All of these women were SMASHING their blogs. They all had SO many more followers than me, they were collaborating with brands, they were wizards when it came to photography and they had the most beautiful damn Instagram 'themes' going. I was also aware that these bloggers all seemed to know each other, they go to the same events (events that I have no idea about), they talk in the same blogger-chats (ones that I don't know about until they are over) and comment on each other's BlogLovin' pieces (I don't understand BlogLovin'). 

This is when I started to find blogging stressful, this is when I started to feel myself falling out of love with it. How am I ever going to make it my full time job (which it has kind of needed to be since the book thing took over) when I don't know how to get in touch with PRs? How am I going to get noticed by anyone when I have the shittiest Instagram feed out there? How will anyone take me seriously if the only time they see photos of me on the blog are when they're selfies on my iPhone rather than candid ones set up and posed for against a wall with an ice-cream in a #primark dress with a #charlottetilbury lipstick and a #girlboss face on? I started to really feel the pressure.

So, slowly but surely, I tried to change the brand a bit. To update it. To take some good photos and start posting content that I thought other bloggers might be interested in and that would make me more marketable and relatable and popular. I basically did everything that I did at school, changed myself ever so slightly, in the hope that I might fit in. 

And just like at school, it's done nothing good for me at all. Rather than suddenly seeing me being invited to hang out with amazing bloggers who will fall in love with me and take candid photos of me sipping soya-lattes, I have instead found myself surrounded by doubt: why is no one reading this? Have my hits gone down? Why didn't she reply to my DM? Is it weird to post this? Will this make me unpopular? My blog had gone from something that I totally adored doing and something that I NEEDED to be doing to something that I felt wasn't really good enough. And it has been heartbreaking. 

It has also, interestingly, racked in the lowest number of hits that I have had for the last year. By almost half. And I think that has happened because I have not been doing things MY way. Sure, they're all posts that I love and that I am proud of and that I have worked hard on, but they are also ones that I think I've thought too much about. Rather than just exploding words like I used to do, I've been waiting for the right time, trying to find the right picture, doing my best to make it Instagramable.

And it's exhausting. I realise now, after writing this, that I've got to stop trying so hard. I didn't start Pretty Normal Me so that I could be just another influencer, I started it because I was genuinely passionate about what I was saying, desperate to make a difference, however small, to somebody's day. And I think it's time for me to stop trying so hard. I think it's time to take it back to basics.

BY THE WAY. Here's what my kitchen looks like behind the beaut marble shit I took ages trying to do....

Sure, I'm billy-no-mates in the blogging community, I don't get approached by PRs and yes, my flat lays are a little bit shit. But so-be-it. I'm not sure that I'm a very good blogger but I'll be damned if that will stop me from doing what I love. 

THE ODDLY MEANINGFUL LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED WHILST MAKING A BED.

Today has been huge. It shouldn't have been. For normal people, today's task would literally have been the easiest thing in the world, but for me, for a number of reasons, it has been massive. You see, I made a bed today. A couple of weeks ago some of you may remember, I did the Stratford Half Marathon and, in a moment of madness and exhaustion, I bought myself a bed that afternoon as a congratulations present. I've had my old bed for ages and before that it belonged to my parents, it's ancient and SO uncomfortable and has meant that, every night for the last umpteen months, I have complained to Alex about it. So, after ordering my new one (because Feather & Black had a half price deal and I saw this to be a sure sign) I have been counting down the days (at one point telling Alex that my excitement for this was on par with the excitement I felt about my book coming out). 

So when the Feather & Black delivery men called me at 6.30am this morning to tell me that they would be here in half an hour I was not angry at having been woken, as I would have been for any other delivery, but excited. I jumped out of bed, had the quickest shower of my life and got to work taking apart the bed that I had just got up from. (It was literally a wooden box in two parts so took very little work).

Since Alex was at the gym the delivery guys really sweetly helped me carry all the boxes up to my room before wishing me luck (get fucked if you think I'm paying £50 for someone to do something that I am more than capable of doing myself, am I right?!) and leaving me to it. 

I started, as I felt that I should, by hoovering the skirting board. If I'm honest, this seemed like a really grown up and boring job, but one that seemed appropriately sensible. When Alex got home from the gym he only had twenty minutes to gobble down some eggs and head off to work so I told him that he mustn't worry, that I literally do stuff like this all the time - (in the four years that we've been together, when exactly?!) and that he should head off to work. Six hours has passed since Alex left, eight since the bed was dropped off. And boy have I learned a lot in that time, some of it, surprisingly deep. Here are just some of the life lessons that making my bed taught me today:

It's OK to ask for advice

This applies to any DIY situation and most times in life wherever it is available. Instructions are there for a reason and advice is accessible by the bucket load these days: UTILISE IT. Without it, I'd have been screwed this morning.

Talking to yourself is legit fine.

I spoke out loud ALL morning, before I even headed over to my Instagram to publicly air my frustrations I laughed and I cried and I chatted everything through with myself a million times and it was so liberating. Chest stuck in the hallway? Talk it through. No one answering? Come up with the solution yourself. 

Fucking up is a-OK.

The main reason that today was a total shit show was simply because I fucked up. I put half the pieces in upside down and did not have the foresight to measure the bastard thing before buying it and then building it. There were lots of times today when I fucked up and every time I thought to myself: ah, we can fix this. And fix it we did. 

Improvisation is important.

Chest stuck because the knobs/handles (what are they called) are catching on the bannister? Light bulb moment. Take them off. As it transpired that wasn't enough in the end but that little bright spark was great and allowed me to carry on optimistically for at least half an hour.

Whether you go above it or below it, you can get around pretty much anything.

I spent a good 10 minutes physically stuck in my office today after getting the chest jammed in the doorway. After the initial claustrophobia and panic that I would be stuck there until Alex got home subsided I realised that if I took off my socks and scaled the wardrobe like a monkey then I could get out. Similar thing happened during the slat-laying in the bed, I trapped myself in but worked out that if I lay on my stomach and bear-crawled out then I could be free. There's always a way out it often just takes a change of perspective.

Your friends are very important

For two reasons. One, some of them will literally work things out for you using a scrap piece of paper and a pen (as shown above), two, they give you the best reaction ever when deliriousness leads to typos and all you can do is laugh until you can't breathe anymore. (below)

A positive mental attitude is everything

After four hours I had finally rearranged everything in the bedroom, laughed, cried, sweated and swore and I thought that I had made it onto the home straight, only to discover that there was a piece of the bed missing. Thank god I laughed. It was a 50 50 and tears felt imminent but, altering whipping out my PMA I realised that actually, in the grand scheme of life, everything is alright.

You're much more capable than you give yourself credit for

Had Alex been here this morning, today would have been totally different. I'd probably have given up and definitely left more to him than his fair share. Since there was no Alex and I was totally on my own I smashed the damn thing in a much more capable manner than I would have thought possible. Lots and lots of times it would have been VERY useful to have a second pair of hands to help but since they weren't there I had to do it solo and I surprised myself with all that I managed. 

Nothing worth fighting for is ever easy

OK am I taking it too far with the exaggeration now???? Maybe. But SERIOUSLY. Today was a bloody struggle and, had it been easy, I would not appreciate quite how wonderful everything now is nearly as much. I will sleep better tonight than I have in ages because I worked really really really hard to ensure that my bed even existed. All worth it in the end eh?

OK. Maybe this is ridiculous. Maybe I'm dehydrated and reading too much into an epic DIY fail. Who knows. I feel like I might have learned something and sort of had to share it. 

To see the whole ridiculous debacle, head over to my Pretty Normal Me Instagram story. 

GOING TO BED IN A GOOD MOOD

How often do you go to bed in a good mood? For me, I don't think it happens enough. I normally find something to complain about (right now I'm banging on about how much I hate my bed, but I have a new one coming tomorrow so that'll be a void complaint soon!), I will moan that the bed is either too hot or too cold, I'll have a lot on my mind, sometimes I'm still working and then there are just those times when nothing you do will put you in a happy place. 

But going to bed in a bad mood can actually be SO bad for your mental health. If you get into bed in a grump, the chances of you waking up in the morning in a state of bliss is incredibly unlikely. Chances are you'll actually wake from a bad night's sleep in a messy-ish room that you all of a sudden hate, with a headache cause you ground your teeth too much and all the same stresses on you that you felt as you closed your eyes the night before. 

Going to bed in a good mood however can make the world of difference. Finding something to be positive about before you go to sleep or spending time in an environment that makes you happy can seriously alter not just how you sleep but how you feel when you wake up in the morning. When I go to bed in a good mood I notice the difference almost immediately when I wake up; I don't snooze my alarm a million times and I pretty much jump out of bed actually excited for the day.

But how do we do that? Surely, if it was that simple, then we'd all just do it right? Well, kind of. It does take a bit of work, but, since my teeth grinding got to the point where it kept Alex awake at night, I've had to explore my options to find things that will put me into a good mood before I go to sleep. Here are some of the things that I have come up with:

Make your god-damned bed.

(Lots of cushion inspo at the bottom of this piece)

(Lots of cushion inspo at the bottom of this piece)

Even if you didn't get around to making it this morning, make the thing before you get into it. I KNOW it seems counterintuitive but trust me, this will make the world of difference. Getting into an unmade, as my mother would call it, 'sordid' bed just puts you into a sloppy state of mind. I know it looks glam as hell in the movies with all those crisp white sheets but in real life there isn't much better than getting into a bed that you are proud to call your own. It only take a couple of weeks for something to become a habit so start now and by this time next month you'll be pleased as punch with your bedroom. Trust me, it helps.

Read.

I don't care what it is, but always make sure that there is a book next to your bed. I'm currently reading Emma Gannon's Ctrl Alt Delete and I am LOVING it. I'm only really being able to do a couple of pages a night at the moment but it doesn't matter, it's SO much better for me than scrolling through Instagram and it's so nice to have a bit of a routine when I get into bed. Sure I won't get around to it every night but as long as your book is on your bedside table you will start seeing it as an option more and more often and it will really help you to switch off. 

Find a little bit of positivity.

I suppose, if you really wanted to you could do this on Instagram but I'm old school so I do it with The Little Book Of Positivity that stays next to my bed. I don't do it every night but whenever I feel that I need a bit of a pick me up I open this book and read a quote or story that will cheer me up, make me laugh or actually, just give me a boost of positivity. This was a great present that I got from one of my friends a few years ago and it's probably one of the things I use the most in the world. Keeping a source of inspiration next to you in bed is so useful.

Look back at your day.

Similar Diary.

I always thought, if I'm honest, that this was horse shit. If I'd had a bad day the last thing that I would want to do would be to look back on it BUT recently I've started keeping a diary of sorts and it is changed everything. So now every day I write out the date into my diary and describe the day in one sentence. Sometimes it's literally "lost my glasses in the park, spent two hours looking for them" (last Friday) and then sometimes it's "had the best meeting of my life with my publishers and am so excited for my career right now" (last Wednesday). Even if it's been a really boring day finding one thing that was noteworthy or memorable has really helped me to look back at my day with a much nicer outlook on things.

Get it smelling like a candle factory.

White Company Diffuser
Jo Malone (similar and this one is out of stock)

Tell me this, is there anything worse than getting into a bedroom that just smells of sleep? You know the smell, and you know that it's minging. I'm a really big 'smeller', as in, nothing makes me happier than a house that smells delicious. I'm candle and diffuser obsessed and think it is very good for your mind to be somewhere that smells great. The bedroom should be the room where this applies the most. My White Company diffuser (highly recommended) makes the room smell ah-mazing all the time but when I know I really need to de-stress I'll go up to my room and light my candles before going back downstairs to do my teeth, wash my face etc. That means when I get back into my room it is candle-lit and smelling heavenly and to be honest it works fairly well every time. 

Back away from your phone.

What do they say about practising what you preach? I'm the WORST for this BUT I have noticed a huge change in my mood and sleep patterns when I spend a bit of time away from my phone when I get into bed. Although it took a lot for me to do it, being a blogger I would argue that everything that happened on my phone was work, I realised that actually nothing that was coming in at 10pm at night was urgent, nor was it going anywhere. I would therefore leave it until the morning and actually spend a bit of time doing the things that help put me in a better mood. (Reading, spending time with Alex, cuddling Bua etc.). If you're really struggling with this one then plug it in at the other side of the room and remember what I said about habits, after a couple of weeks you'll be so used to not being on it and you'll sleep so much better. 

Take care of yourself.

I know you think that sleep is the answer, and it very often is, but you need to remember that there is a connection between the mood that you go to bed in and the state that you are in when you wake up. If you can actively remember this when you get into bed then your mind might surprise you and you can work together to ensure that you get into a good place before drifting off. Taking a bath, watching a movie or doing a face mask are all great options and it's really just about doing the best for you. Be aware of your mind though and remember, where you can, to think positive thoughts. 

Nothing is greater to me than waking up in a good mood, excited for the day and I know for a fact that it is all connected with the state that I am in when I go to bed. I would not be surprised if it was exactly the same story for you. So here are some of the things that I do when I get into bed that help get me ready for a better and brighter day tomorrow. 

Oh just btw, here are some cushions that I think will really help you go to bed in a good mood, you're welcome...

I'd love to hear what you do, let me know in the comments! xxx

MAKING FRIENDS AS AN ADULT

It's a funny thing isn't it, the idea of making friends as a grown up? At school, or as a child, we talk about it, we actively work on it and we ultimately are expected to do it. But making friends as an adult? It's not as easy and for some reason we find ourselves feeling so different, so tragic even, asking if somebody wants to hang out, asking if someone wants to be our friend. All the inhibitions that we just didn't have as a child, inviting people to our birthday parties left right and centre are here en masse now and we are left feeling lonely. 

You feel like the only one, like everyone else is paired up and you're the sad loser who is left begging people to hang out with you. But you need to know, that you are NOT the only one, that actually this is a problem that effects so many more people than you might think. People move cities, countries even, people who hate school, people who feel like they have changed or people who's friends have let them down. So what can you do? How do you make friends when you are an adult?

MeetUp

We look for partners online, so why not friends? The app/website is available anywhere in the world, events happen everywhere and it allows you to meet up with people with similar interests to you. Cycling/gardening/site-seeing/dancing/cooking/board games, you name it. And the best thing is, if, on the day you find yourself too nervous to go, it won't be the end of the world as no one is relying on you.

Volunteer

I know you're busy as hell with work and stuff but volunteering is a great way to make friends. You'll find something that you are passionate about and meet people that are passionate about the same things, so you already know that you have something in common with them. Even if you don't make BFFL, you're still out doing a great thing with your time so either way you will win something. 

Use social media

How many friends do you have on social media that you never ee? I have LOADS. But recently I have started to ask people to meet IRL for no other reason than that I would love a catch up and a drink. I know that this takes balls but sometimes it really will pay off. Social media is a very useful tool and I've actually made some great friends throughout Twitter. This isn't for everyone, but it might be worth trying. 

Join a club/group near you

Let's take running for example. Near me there is a great running club that meets on Sunday mornings at 9am in the park for a 5k jog. This might be scary but I promise you, even if you hate running, you will not be the only one who is nervous or a beginner, so this might be SO worth your time and effort. Even if it's not running, have a look online to find events near you, I'm sure that you will find something that you'll enjoy and it's so worth trying. What have you got to lose?

Night school

This might not be for you, you might be done with school or not have the money or the time but if you do, this can be a great way to make friends. It won't be like school the first time around with the bitchiness and competition BUT there is an element of unity that you did have at school and psychologically it might be easier for you to do it there. Worth a try eh?

Talk about it

Don't be ashamed of not having as many friends as you would like to have, it is a much more common problem than you might think. Saying to a friend or family member: "can you introduce me to some of your friends? I want to meet some more people" is not embarrassing or a weird or unusual thing to do. They will not laugh at you, it's so worth trying.

I know that the idea of making friends as a grown up is scary and I know that you feel that by this point, you ought to be established with hundreds of cronies, but you DON'T. This is not abnormal, I promise you. I moved to Dublin a few years ago to live with my boyfriend and I knew no one, I went through all of these emotions then and, when my boyfriend came to live in London with me, he experienced the same thing. People grow up and change and it's not uncommon to lose touch with your school friends, I did with lots of mine. And it's definitely not something to be ashamed of to find yourself alone on a Friday night because somehow you grew apart from your school friends.

If this is something that you have/are going through, could I please ask you to leave what you do/did in the comments section so that anyone else going through the same thing might be helped? Don't feel isolated or go this alone, it's totally normal and it is something that you can change. 

TO TRULY END THE STIGMA AROUND MENTAL HEALH, WE NEED TO HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. So far I feel that 2017 has been an incredible year for Mental Health awareness. The London Marathon's chosen charity last month was Heads Together and the press surrounding that was truly incredible, most poignantly of course being the interview that The Telegraph's Bryony Gordon did with HRH Prince Harry about the therapy that he got after the death of his mother.

With 1 in 4 of us now struggling with a mental health illness in some form, there has never been a more important time to have this conversation, to do what we can to rid the world of the stigma that has somehow attached itself to illnesses that we can't 'see', that aren't 'physical', that are all 'in our heads'. 

Doing what I do I am lucky to see the work of some truly incredible people fighting to end that stigma. My Twitter feed is full of the most inspirational women talking honestly about their issues and friends of mine regularly send me news stories and pictures that they think I will be interested in relating to these issues. Through my work with Help For Heroes I have learnt about PTSD and the extraordinary things that the charity are having to do to help the 70,000+ sufferers of it. I have known friends who have been consumed totally by eating disorders and watched others battling with the darkness in their mind that is depression. And me? Well I'm incredibly anxious. All of the time. Parties scare me, people scare me, the worry that something has happened to my dog/mum/brother/sister/dad/boyfriend/neighbour/dog-sitter/childhood friend when I can't physically see them safe and well in front of me? That TERRIFIES me. I have read incredible stories from people, had some heartbreaking conversations with people and negotiated the whole thing out in my head over and over again. Mental health is very important to me. 

And so that is why I have loved 2017 so very much. I can feel the change this year, something feels different, conversations are being had, we're being more open, I can't pinpoint the change exactly but deep down I feel that something magnificent is happening. And about time too. For so long we have battled mental health illnesses, alone. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45. The BIGGEST KILLER. More men are taking their own lives than dying of cancer or being killed in a car accident. They're suffering in silence, afraid to speak out until they physically cannot go on anymore and they take their own lives. Eating disorders, anxiety disorders and OCD would go undiagnosed for years as the sufferers either got a) too good at hiding their conditions or b) were brushed off as attention seekers or weirdos. Depressives were told to get a grip, were assumed to be going through a 'phase' or were ignored and undermined. And all of this happened because we didn't know how to deal with it.

We still don't really. Despite the fact that we will all know someone who is struggling with a mental health problem in some capacity, many of us still don't have a clue what to say to them. We're out of our comfort zones and out of our depths. It's not simply a question of telling someone to pull themselves together and dust themselves off, nor is it a question of trying to heal everyone with the same stroke, every condition is complex and differs massively from person to person. The NHS is overstretched, assuming that people feel that they can ask for help in the first place and the combination of all of these things? Well it makes conversations about it difficult, to say the least. What do you say to someone who is starving themselves to death? How can you say ANYTHING to a person fighting a disease so powerful that it is killing them? A person who perhaps doesn't want to die, who wants to be better, but who physically can't bring themselves to eat? What do you say to someone who's mood fluctuates so massively that over the half the time they can't control what they are saying? How can you be angry with them or reason with them or talk to them when they can't hear what they are saying, let alone what you are saying? How can you help someone that doesn't know how to accept help?

So how can we blame people for not understanding? For lacking empathy or compassion? I can't. I get frustrated with them, I get angry with them, but I can't blame them because our total lack of understanding has come about as a result of a complete lack of education. And that's what needs to change, that's, to my mind, what Mental Health Awareness Week and every week after this should be dedicated to: helping people who don't understand, to understand. 

I asked people on Twitter to tell me the one thing that they would say to people who didn't understand their condition and the answers all struck a similar theme: "please be patient with me", "please don't be too frustrated with me" - this is people feeling like they need to apologise, that they need to ask for you to understand them, they're having to make an excuse for their behaviour, for their ILLNESS. And I shouldn't have received these answers to this question. People shouldn't have to feel like this.

Would you say to somebody that had broken their back that they needed to just 'get over it'? Would you fuck! Would you say to somebody in a coma that the should 'stop attention seeking?' NO! Would you say to someone who had lost their leg that you 'understand what they're going through' because one time your whole toenail fell off? Not unless you were an actual and literal moron you wouldn't. So why do we think it's okay to say these things to people who are suffering with mental health issues? Telling people with depression to 'get over it'? Telling someone who is having a panic attack that they are 'attention seeking'? Telling someone who is experiencing an episode that you 'know what they are going through' because when your cat died twelve years ago you were like, SO bummed out? Because these things happen, so much more than you might think.

"Just because I don't look ill, does not mean that I am not struggling."

This was a response to my question on Twitter and this is something that we need to understand. We really don't know what anyone else is going through, until you have walked a mile in a person's shoes you can neither understand what they are going through, nor can you comment on it. But that does not mean that we cannot try to be more understanding and more compassionate. 2017 is going to be the year that attitudes towards mental health issues changed, I can feel it.

But we really need to work together to ensure that the hard work of not only the people that ran and campaigned in the London Marathon but of all of those who took the time to read a story about a mental health condition or open their eyes to these issues over the last four month hasn't gone to waste. Now is the time to talk, to help and to try to understand. 

A NOTE TO ANYONE TAKING PUBLIC EXAMS RIGHT NOW

It's exam season, which often translates to: hell on earth. My sister had her first 'academic' A-level today (she had her photography exams a couple of weeks ago) and so this is a blog post inspired by her but that I would like to share with everyone facing the pressure of exams over the coming weeks. 

I took my A-levels five years ago. I took English Language, History, Politics and Photography and I did OK. I was supposed to get a lot of As, (AAAB I think?) but things did not go to plan and instead I got A*, B, C,C. (A* Photography, B English, C Politics, C History). Despite the fact that I had worked SO hard revising and thought I loved what I was doing, when it came to the exams I choked. 

And although they weren't 'fails', the results that I got meant that I did not get into university to study what I wanted to study which was, weirdly, politics. When I got the results I was in America on a family holiday and I felt two things: 

1) Crushed. I had thought I would do so much better, my friends had all done well and this meant that everything that I had planned to do could now not happen. I was so disappointed with myself and felt that I had let everyone down.

2) Relief. This came a little bit later and I didn't recognise it at first, too busy being mortified I suspect. But come it did, and after a while I embraced it. When I was told that I now couldn't go to university the following year, I realised that I actually didn't even want to go, and definitely not to go and study politics in Leeds. All of a sudden I was off the hook, the pressure wasn't there, I was technically free to do what I wanted.

We debated with the idea of re-sitting my exams and I looked at colleges in London that would allow me to do that. After getting home though, and really thinking about it, I decided that I really didn't want to do that. I didn't know what I wanted to do instead, but I knew I didn't want to go through all of that again. 

So I didn't and instead I threw myself into work, I got a job at a charity in London and, after I had saved enough I went travelling for a bit with my friend Tom. When I got back I bounced around a bit before moving to Dublin to go and live with Alex (who had dropped out of uni after just a year to join a boyband), where I did every single shitty job that you can think of: waiting tables, delivering Thai takeaway food, pulling pints, working at the races. In truth, I didn't love all of that, not least of all because I couldn't keep a job for more than about two shifts. Eventually Alex and I decided to make the decision to move back to the UK where once again, we pulled pints. But then, after a bit, we both settled into 'career' jobs. Him, with the charity that I had worked at the year before and me on a marketing internship. After time I started my own social media business (2014 was a GOOD time to be doing that freelance) and Alex got a job in PR. Since then he has stayed with the same company, despite having no official qualifications he has moved up the ranks and I went on to start the blog and then a few months later, write the book and now here we are. 

When I got the news that I hadn't done as well in my exams as I had hoped I would it was an incredibly difficult thing to get my head around. I hadn't really thought about what would happen if I just didn't get the grades. I had had it drummed into me throughout my whole life that, after school, you do well in your exams and you go to university, that was the path that I thought I had to take. And when I was told that I literally couldn't go on that path, it was scary. What was I going to do? I didn't know, but I trusted the world, and it sorted me out. 

Now I am not saying that you are going to fail your exams, of course you're not, I suspect you will all do much better than I did (my sister definitely will), but I just wanted to tell you my story so that you realise that life will carry on after these exams, no matter what happens. If you pass, if you surpass your expectations, then that is great and I am so happy and proud of you. But if God forbid, you fail? The world won't stop spinning, of that I assure you.

By this point you have done everything that you can. You might be sitting there, as I am sure I did thinking 'Jesus Christ why did I not study more? Why did I miss so many classes or sleep for so much of my holiday?' You might be regretting all sorts and pulling your hair out that you haven't done enough, but I'm going to tell you now, that that is totally pointless. By the day before, or the morning of the exam that you are due to take, you realistically know as much as you are going to know. You can't stop time or really do much about the situation, other than just to do the best that you can. I know that school have put a LOT of pressure on you, you might have a lot from your parents too, but you need to know that all anyone can ask of you at this point is that you do your best. 

I thought, before I took my exams, that if I failed, that would be it for me. My parents would hate me, all my friends would ditch me and call me stupid and that no one would give me a job. I was SO wrong about that. Yes my parents were disappointed, but FOR me, not OF me. My friends? They were gutted on my behalf but didn't patronise or leave me, instead I think most of them just gave me tequila. And the job thing? Granted, I haven't tried to be a nurse or a lawyer but no one, and I mean no one, has ever asked me how I did at Alevel. And GCSE? I can't even remember. 

At this point, you can only do your best. No one wants any more from you than that. I am sure that they will go so so well and that you will be fabulous, but you need to know that whatever happens, you're going to be alright. Enjoy this time if you can, I know that sounds mad, but THIS is what you have worked for your whole life. This is your chance to show off, to throw caution to the wind and to show the world what you are made of. You'll be absolutely fabulous, breathe deeply, sleep, treat yourself and do your best.

Good luck! xxxxx

THE PRETTY NORMAL ME PODCAST! EP #1.

Hello and welcome to the first ever Pretty Normal Me podcast.

I am SO SO excited to announce that after yonks of fantasising about this, the day that I have been waiting for is finally here!! 

So what can you expect? Well, this podcast came about totally by chance after a Twitter friendship blossomed between myself and the wonderful radio presenter Louise Hulland. I can't believe we've pulled it off (or have at least got the first one under our belt's!) and am so excited to be sharing it. So, this is the Pretty Normal Me Podcast - half an hour every week of chat, advice and general oversharing.

We want it to be chilled as hell and would love for you to consider us your friends in your phone, your pals in your pocket, and your mates in an emergency. We’re here, bringing everything you love about the website to life. From keeping your head in a crisis, to getting what you want out of your time on this great planet - life can be a challenge, and we’re on this journey with you.

The podcast will be coming out every Thursday at 5pm from here on out and I canny wait! Please enjoy. Big love to all xxxxxx

THE OVERWHELMING KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Today I was brought to tears by kindness from a stranger. Although I technically run a blog, I'm not sure I count as a proper blogger yet as I very rarely receive any post, (so can't partake in #POBoxOpening, #Haul, #FreeShitAllTheTime trends) and so today, when something arrived from AMERICA of all places I was so beyond confused. I hadn't ordered anything and I don't really have any friends over there, and definitely not ones that would be sending me some fairly weighty packages. I opened the box to find more gorgeous stationery than I know what to do with which was sent by one of my B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L readers because, she explained in the card attached, I once tweeted asking where I could get some great stationary from. I honestly don't know what to say.

I know that the world is full of good people, of course it is, but we would be forgiven for forgetting that sometimes. America is run by a lunatic, the news is awash with terrible stories and living in a city like London it is easy to feel isolated. We don't often see the goodness that is around us. But today someone did something so sweet and so kind and so thoughtful, unprompted and unasked, just because she could, and it has given me faith in people that I didn't think possible.

The person responsible for this kindness, by the way, is called Chelsea. Chelsea has supported the blog for a really long time and I'm not sure if she will ever know how much her presence and kindness, even before today's parcel, has meant to be. Receiving kind tweets and messages means more to me than I think anyone will ever understand and receiving something like this? Well it's got me in tears. Happy tears. Tears that have reminded me how truly wonderful people can be. How great the world can be. 

To my mind, there is nothing more magical than a random act of kindness. Than doing something nice for someone, just because you can. We forget, I think, the potential that we have to bring joy to other people. How much it means to someone to know that you are thinking of them. How much it means to them to know that you care. 

We're the social media generation; we're the: 'why send a card when you can send a text?', 'why waste money on an invitation when you can make a Facebook post?' creatures of the world. The postal system has taken a battering since the invention of Facebook and we, we have become lazy. But today I was inspired. Today I realised what a difference that effort can make to someone's life. My life changed today, because someone did something so kind for me. My day is better, the sun seems brighter and I'm overwhelmed by the warmest, fuzziest sensation in my tummy. 

A sensation that I want everybody in the world to have. And so I am going to set you a challenge. Next week we all need to be a bit more like Chelsea. A girl who I have never met, who I do not know, who went out of her way to not only buy me presents but post them the whole way across the world. A girl who has written me a letter and made me cry with her kindness. What Chelsea did today was the ultimate random act of kindness; I did not expect it and I certainly do not feel that I deserve it, but it was so truly beautiful. 

So I wanted to use this space to say two things really. One, thank you Chelsea, thank you so much for being so thoughtful. And two, to everyone else, let's take some inspiration. Let's be more like Chelsea. Let's scoop together the addresses of our friends and do something randomly wonderful for them. I promise you, it will mean more to them than you could ever know.