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Let’s Talk About … Anxiety in a Relationship

Good Evening Munchkins!

Today I would like to branch into another topic to do with anxiety and that is being in a relationship. I feel like anxiety as a whole is a massive subject and no one ever really realizes the consequences it can have on different areas of their lives until it happens to them, much like this one. Therefore, similar to my blog post about Anxiety ft. Prom, I thought I would enter another subject that many teenagers go through but how anxiety is effected by it, or what it can cause. At the age of 16, I have a few friends who are in relationships and some who aren’t, and it’s kind of  a running joke that I will forever be single, but very recently I have entered a new one, (for the first time in nearly 2 years!). I sound so much like Bridget Jones, it’s not even funny! Anyway, taking my current relationship and my previous one into account, I will now press on with the blog post.

 Anxiety is something that, despite having it for so long and being able to write quite openly about on here, I struggle to speak about with people face-to-face. Even to my counsellor, which he’s still coming to terms with as I am usually such a chatty, bubbly person! It either takes a very long time for me to speak about my anxiety to you, or I have to whisper to you one-on-one, in the dark about it – I just have this mental block to talk about it! I think this is quiet common, but if I’m entering a relationship, I want that person to at least acknowledge my wavelength and how I think, even if they can’t do anything about it. I just want my partner to be aware of it, before I have a panic attack or hyperventilate and they have no idea why, and I can’t physically explain it. I would love to be able to sit down with someone and be like ‘I feel like this sometimes…’ or ‘sometimes I might go quiet; this means that..’, but the words don’t form in my mouth. I literally feel as if anxiety punishes me for speaking out about it, which is really weird to get your head around if you don’t suffer from a mental health issue, I know, but even typing it is making my heart beat that little bit faster. This kind of thing doesn’t have to be in a romantic relationship, it can also be in a family relationship/friendship.

With my first boyfriend, I don’t remember exactly telling him that I had anxiety, but I was filled with paranoia and stress throughout the whole thing, and even after. This wasn’t really helped with the fact that 3 weeks after me he got with this drop-dead gorgeous girl, and I was kind of like the ‘ex that shouldn’t have been’! After our relationship, we kept in contact, but knowing what he was like, I was still really cautious when he told me the certain things I wanted to hear. He was my first love, but the amount of stress he caused me just wasn’t worth it! Every time I met up with him I had a panic attack, and that drained me so much, but it was something he never really understood, even when he was diagnosed with clinical depression himself.

However, with this new boyfriend, I know I can tell him anything, which helps a lot with my type of anxiety. As I’ve found with my counsellor, I like to talk my ideas out (surprise, surprise!) and even just one niggling thought ends up being tracked years and years back. We are so similar to the point where I know he understands my train of thought and why I do things the way I do them – he told me yesterday that he noticed it way before we got together! I’ve never met someone who can read me so well, and knowing that my ideas aren’t entirely unheard of (one of the main reasons I don’t talk about them) really does help to reassure me. Yes, there are still difficult points where I’m paranoid, but he knows I mean it when I say it’s all in my head. If you have anxiety, you need to find someone like this! If I’m feeling anxious, he can calm me and reassure me to the point where I can laugh again – that has honestly never happened before! I need this kind of stability and reassurance in my life, particularly with everything that has happened recently.

I’ve never gone dating, but even the idea of it terrifies me. Just the idea of meeting someone and having to tell them some stuff about me but not all of it, and wondering what the important parts are about him and myself, and thinking about what to wear or to eat – nah, you’re alright! If there was ever a point where I had to date, which I hopefully won’t, I have no idea how I would cope. On a general night out I get so worked up as it is, even if it’s with people I know! I just overthink everything: every movement, every gesture, every tone of voice, every piece of eye contact and everything I could possibly dare to do myself.

So, taking all these into account, I have a few little tips if you are the person in the relationship with anxiety, because when you finally decide to open up and share your life, there’s a lot to adjust to:

  • Only do what you feel comfortable with; whether this is just choosing who you date or in a sexual way, people seem to think we’re quiet easy to manipulate or twist into their way of thinking. Obviously there’s a good form of manipulation, but it’s the people who start to control and run your life for you that become the ones that are hardest to physically leave. Speak to the person you want to speak to, not the person who wants to speak to you.
  • It’s okay to ask for reassurance; everyone’s a little bit paranoid and everyone’s going to overthink at least once in their lives, so it’s 100% fine to ask your boy/girlfriend what they’re thinking. They may appear fed up of it after a while, but your anxiety is a part of you, and if they want you badly enough, they will accept and adjust to your anxiety just as your entire life has been.
  • Talk to them about it; I know it sounds really generic, but if you form an emotional bond with someone and you feel comfortable with them (as they do you) then they will happily let you speak about it. I’ve never been the outsider in this situation, but I’m sure people wonder what the bloody hell is going through my head, so let them know what is going on in there! Mine’s kind of coming out in little spurts at the moment, but these bite-size chunks are much easier for my boyfriend to handle, I’ve discovered. For me it’s also a lot easier than opening a 1000-page book filled with all the different thoughts I have in a second! This is kind of down to you and how you decide to tackle the situation, but it’s definitely worth it. Also, if you’re having deep chats, common courtesy doesn’t allow someone to just get up and leave!

I also thought I’d attempt to write some tips for the other person in the relationship if they don’t have anxiety because trust me when I say I know how difficult it is to deal with! Both people in the relationship should be accounted for in order for it to remain happy and healthy:

  • Be patient; I wouldn’t expect your partner to start dating you and immediately be like ‘I have anxiety…’, ‘welcome to the world of paranoia!’ because it’s just as scary to talk about as it is to hear. If that person feels safe enough with you and comfortable in your company, they will naturally start drip-feeding little things, like ‘I’m not keen on going here because it tends to be crowded’. It may be subtle, it may be quite obvious, but just let the person talk about what they want at their own pace.
  • Find the things that calm them; I haven’t had a panic attack in front of my boyfriend yet, but I’m still trying to look for things I can show him that he can use on me when that time comes. Some people like being held, some like colouring in, others like sitting in a corner on their own – that’s up to you and your partner to find what works best and how to adapt to the different situations you may be placed in.
  • Enjoy the good times; for both people in the relationship, I’m sure anxiety isn’t that easy to speak about, so don’t become paranoid that just going out for a drink or to the cinema will suddenly cause a panic attack. It does depend on your partner and their level of anxiety, but if they reassure you that they’re going to be fine, they don’t need you constantly worrying next to them! I know it sounds really harsh, but accept the good times, and use it to remind them that life’s good and they’re doing really well.

And I think that’s it! I hope you have been able to take something from this blog post – although writing this hasn’t been easy, I really hope it’s worthwhile by helping you, whichever person you happen to be in the relationship. I’m really sorry that this is a day late, but it also means that tomorrow’s blog post will be uploaded Friday instead and then the usual blog post on Sunday. Sorry, I’m kind of on stress overload at the moment!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you Friday,

Rachel xx

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Let’s Talk About … Parents Struggling with Mental Health

Good Afternoon Munchkins!

Once again, I have another ‘Let’s Talk About…’ for you. I’m actually really enjoying writing these, if not for some advice for you, then as a little bit of release for me. At the end of the day, I did start this blog to allow myself to express everything I want to and I don’t see why it should just include beauty and makeup, even though that is still a massive part of my life.

Today I will be talking to you about Parents Struggling with Mental Health as my Mum in particular, amongst other family members, is really going through a rough time and, as her daughter, it’s quite difficult to know where I stand and what to do. Hence, I will be including different tips of which I have found useful, as much of a learning curve as it still is, and I’m still finding it difficult to know what to do about it. In saying all that, not everyone is the same even if they do have the same illness, so just try these out and if they don’t work, just try again, taking ideas from what worked last time. Like the gay parent thing, I’ve come to realise over time that this is quite a common issue amongst children and teenagers around the world, and that my Mum’s actually a lot easier than some other cases, so just bare that in mind.

So last July my Mum started seeking help from the NHS about struggling with mental health after feeling quite low and depressed for a little while; I didn’t actually know this, it was something I didn’t really notice because we weren’t getting along at the time. I only found out after finding a letter with the NHS logo on, which immediately gave me warning signs because that doesn’t happen to us all the time. Around the same time, my Granny was being tested for cancer and the rest of the family were talking about getting tested because it does seem to run in our genes, so I initially thought it was a blood test or CT scan for that; I also want to be tested, so, of course, I was immediately curious and wanted to know more. I then read that it was about mental health and she was being referred to the NHS support thing for that (it has a particular name, but I can’t remember it right now, I’m really sorry!). I was initially really shocked because, as I say, we weren’t that close so I wasn’t expecting it, but it did kind of make sense: she was in a dead end job which she hated, had a really manipulative, psychologically abusive fiance at the time, and her Mum was about to be diagnosed with the same cancer her Aunt died of. I just saw it as another lie/secret in the mix of everything else and, of course, I was angry.

I think what happened was she had a phone call with someone from the mental health side of the NHS (I don’t want to say specialist because that makes it sound like it was private, but it wasn’t) who asked her a few questions, and she got sent a letter with one of those forms which you fill in and the answers are according to numbers e.g 5 is most like you, 1 is least like you. I don’t know when she initially contacted them, but it did seem to all happen very quickly. Once she’d answered all these questions, they let her know that she suffered from stress and anxiety, the same as me. I haven’t be diagnosed, but I’ve been having panic attacks since I was 7, so I’m kind of taking that as my answer, particularly as they can’t diagnose me at my age due to hormones and the effect that has on my brain.

In the beginning, I was actually really angry because she’d been struggling for a few months and seemed to immediately get help, yet I was here 8/9 years later with no help and no diagnosis, so no validation for what I felt. I kind of get that with a lot of people who are diagnosed before me because I can’t turn round to someone and explicitly be like ‘hey, I’ve got social anxiety’, because it isn’t properly diagnosed or professionally recognised; I look as if I’m just making it up, which I’d never do. I was also very angry at my Mum’s fiance at the time because she literally sat there and said ‘get help or I’m leaving you’, which isn’t going to make anything any better. Considering she was on anti-depressants every day for 7 years by that point, you’d think she’d have a little bit more understanding.

So during July/August of last year, she was sent to these group sessions for people with mental health illnesses like stress, anxiety, OCD etc., and she really did realise she wasn’t that bad in comparison to others, but it did also help her a lot. If I remember rightly, it was like 6-8 weekly, hourly, non-compulsory sessions, but you were referred and, therefore, kind of expected to go. I think it covered things like mindfulness and how to cope with stress and other forms of coping mechanisms, some of which my Mum did take use from. I think she only missed one, maybe two, but she did complete the course of sessions. She was also put onto anti-depressants (Citalopram, I think?) whilst I was staying with my grandparents during the summer, so I was quite nervous to what I would go home to. I think they took 2 weeks until they reached their full effect and started obviously working, so it wasn’t like an overnight change. She claims they work for her, but she is kind of reliant on having 1 or 2 a day, depending on what’s going on that day and how she’s already feeling, and I now notice a more obvious difference when she’s not on them. There have been points where she’s claimed they’re not longer working and she can’t cope again, she is obviously the hardest part because you don’t know what to do; do you let them be upset for a day or risk an overdose? She’s a very petite woman so an overdose would effect her quite significantly, and I don’t endorse that in any way.

Right now, she’s actually okay. She’s had a difficult 6 months, as we all have, with the loss of both of her parents, and her anxiety has really taken it’s toll. The hardest day was when she refused to get out of bed and just cried, and I literally had to force feed her food I taught myself how to cook that afternoon. It’s difficult for me watching a woman who was so strong 2 years ago and I could once rely on become so small and dependent on the others around her. This is one of the reasons her new girlfriend has already moved in – I can’t cope with looking after Mum on her bad days, running this blog, and doing all my school work/revision. Luckily there aren’t many difficult days at the moment, but the whole family feels it when there is. As I did say earlier, though, there are so many people worse off than my Mum.

One of the really noticeable side effects I’ve come to realise since she was diagnosed/put onto her anti-depressants was how confused and fuzzy-headed she is. I’m kind of similar and I’ve been told it’s to do with stress and anxiety, but I think hers is kind of worsened by her anti-depressants relaxing her as much as they do. Obviously they’re doing more good than bad and I’m not expecting her to come off them just because of that, but it does mean that I have had to become so much more independent and kind of make decisions for her, which is kind of crazy at 16 years old.

I know there are so many people worse off than me, so please don’t think this is like a little sympathy vote kind of thing, because it’s really not. I’ve also collected a little list of things I’ve found that have helped my Mum, and would maybe help your parent/guardian/family member, though everyone and their mental health is completely different and individual:

  • Find something to calm them; my Mum’s is puzzles, but she can’t cope if they’re more than 500 pieces!
  • Feed them; even when they say they’re not hungry and how much they shout abuse at you or push you away, they will appreciate it in the end, I can assure you.
  • Let them know you appreciate them; this could be through cooking them a full on meal, or drawing them something, or anything you like to do that they know you enjoy and incorporating the things they like into it. This will just remind them that they are worthwhile and do mean something to someone.
  • Get them to do some little chores; my Mum’s new favourite is walking the dogs, especially with our 6 month old pup! This will remind them they have reason to be on this earth, and just getting them to walk to the end of the garden to water the plants can have a huge effect on them – that new-found Vitamin D from the sun will also benefit them massively!

And that’s it! I hope you have been able to take something from this blog post and it has helped you in some way – that’s one of the main reasons I continue to write these. If you are okay with sharing your story, I would love for you to because it really does help me out and realise I am not alone in this!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you Tuesday,

Rachel xx

Anxiety ft. Prom (Before)

Good Afternoon Munchkins!

Today I will be chatting to you about my social anxiety and how I think it will be affected by my school’s up-coming prom. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts about my anxiety, you will know it’s something I’ve struggled with for nearly 10 years and that I’m not seeking attention or sympathy; it’s literally just to document it and let you know, should you be going through it yourself, that you’re not alone.

Initially, I wasn’t going to bother going to prom. In my group of friends everyone had a partner to go with who isn’t in a relationship, and we had all decided to go in two’s then meet at the venue and re-group there. There’s one couple in my group and one person that already knew he wasn’t going, so I did have a little bit of a selection, but it turns out everyone had sorted it before I asked. I just didn’t want to third-wheel everyone and think of all the possibilities of what everyone would be thinking if I was to do just that. I was also struggling with the loss of both of my grandparents (as I still am, but I’m a bit further along the line of grieving now) and it was something we had always spoken about as a three; my Granny had even designed my prom dress whilst she was staying in her cancer hospital! I couldn’t face the day without them and I didn’t want to have to cope with the dress shopping and the different fears that arose from that.

In January, I was actually asked to prom by someone who I liked and did like me back, and I actually looked forward to prom. It would’ve definitely cheered my mood up and kept my mind off my grandparents, but it turned out he was on holiday for prom (something we only found out when the date for it came out after he asked me). I guess it wasn’t meant to be and it was only a few weeks after so I hadn’t been dreaming about it for too long, but you know what I’m like: a massive daydreamer who can’t help but wish! Once again, I decided not to go to prom because it really set me back and there’s still some people that think we’re going together, so that’s kind of awkward to explain after all this time! Anyone with anxiety will understand the kind of effect this could have on someone. Despite all this, I still had an idea of prom and the dress I wanted, so, after much convincing from my friends, I decided to pay my deposit. I did have a lot of time speaking to my counsellor about this, as well, who has assured me he will get the deposit back should I change my mind again (can you tell how indecisive I am?!).

I’m now going with two of my closest friends who have, luckily, already sorted out their transport, so I don’t have to stress about that! I’m really excited to go now, because I know them and their families so I don’t need to worry about anything (these are the kind of things that really trigger my anxiety!). I’ve also seen the car we’re going in, and it’s a gorgeous vintage American car (I don’t know actual names of cars, sorry!) in a beautiful aqua blue. One thing that I knew I didn’t want to go in was a limo because I know I would struggle to get in and out of it, particularly in heels and a dress! My only fear is that these friends are like 9-10 inches taller than me, but they’re having smaller heels on their shoes than me so the height difference will decrease slightly. I am very short and it’s something that can’t be helped, but I still wonder what people will be thinking. This is added to the fact they’ve got darker dresses and mine will look much brighter than it already does next to them!

Unlike everyone else might’ve thought, dress shopping was something I was really worried about. I love clothes and I love normal shopping and I know what suits me (which isn’t long ballgowns!). However, after looking in a couple of shops I managed to find one that I actually like and feel comfortable in (and, most importantly, not too conscious of). I think it’s a loose-fitting fishtail shape, but it’s quite tight from the waist to the mid-thigh, then it flows out slightly. I did try on a loose-ish fishtail beforehand and loved it on me, so I knew I wanted something like that. It really brings out my small waist and curvy hips, which I wanted. However, you can see my stomach when I wear it, which I don’t like, so I’ll have to wear a corset or something underneath. It’s red (I was initially looking for dark red/burgundy, but this is a nice red, particularly with a tan!) so it might draw attention to me, but half the people there are going to be girls all wearing different dresses, meaning not too much attention will be on me. It has a skin-toned mesh-style side bit which is kind of like those monochrome dresses that were on trend a few years ago; they’re on the sides of the body so it accentuates the waist and hips even more. This is decorated with champagne beads and pearls, so I’m getting accessories to match that. There’s also quite a big hole hole in the back (there’s a clasp at the neck and it re-fastens with a zip in the centre of my back), so I’m going to have to go bra-less, but it has enough structure to support me. It does look stunning, but I’m now trying to tone my bum as it does look quite big in the dress! I also bought it from a place called Tiffany’s, which has a sentimental place in my heart, so it had to be!

The first shop I actually went to was way too posh for me. The lady who helped me was lovely but I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in there, resulting in me not feeling that way about any of the dresses I tried on. The fishtail I fell in love with in there was covered in too many jewels and I didn’t really like that look, so I just took inspiration from that. In the second shop I went into (Tiffany’s) I felt much more comfortable, there was less people in there and the woman was really genuine about the dresses I tried on and the one I eventually bought. I’m not going to lie, I was feeling really anxious so if I appeared stroppy or ungrateful or in anyway rude, I’m really sorry. That’s something else I fear when I’m having an anxious day, because I know I can appear that way.

So, finally, onto the day itself. I just hope I don’t trip over, I look alright, my dress doesn’t get caught anywhere, I don’t have a nip slip, no one thinks I’m putting this all on, no one looks at me for an extended period of time, no one slags me off, no one thinks I’m drawing attention to myself, no one thinks I’ve used my inheritance money just on a dress, I keep it together, I don’t have a panic attack, I don’t get tired, there aren’t any confrontations, I don’t get called on stage, no one tries to dance with me, no one asks me where my previous date was etc. Sorry if you’ve passed out from that extremely long sentence, but all that and more is what goes through my head in a second, and not just about prom! I’ll probably think of more as I get closer to the day but that’s it for now. Hopefully, if none of that happens, I’ll have a nice night!

And there we have it! I hope you have been able to take something from this blog post – I will be writing a follow up of this (hence the ‘before’) after prom just to let you know how it goes and, hopefully, prove that none of those bad things will happen if you’re worrying about the same thing. I’ve got just under 14 weeks left until prom, so that’s all the more time to worry and panic about it!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you Tuesday,

Rachel xx

Let’s Talk About … Gay Parents

Good Afternoon Munchkins!

After really enjoying writing the last two ‘Let’s Talk About…’ blog posts over the past few weeks, I thought I would add another one to the little series we’ve created here. Today I will be writing about a topic very close to my heart: having a gay parent. This is an issue that seems to become more common the more I hear about it and the more I research it, whereas in the beginning I really did feel like the only one going through it. I will be speaking about the issues I’ve faced, my acceptance of it and other people’s reactions (which is probably the worst, so I’ll go into most detail about that).

So my history of this has a massive backstory (as per usual!). My Mum was with my Dad for nearly 15 years before meeting a woman and coming out as a lesbian with this women, who she had an affair with. My main issue with my Mum coming out was it was really informal and the fact my Mum was having an affair – I think a lot of people think I had an issue with her being gay when it was, in fact, the way she did it. How you come out has a massive impact on how people react, by the way. She then had that girlfriend and is now onto another one who has recently moved in with us, because she’s a good egg. I found it difficult to accept it in the beginning, but I think it was because I had to cope with my Dad leaving and this new ‘step-mum’, as she made me call her. The first 18 months of her being out was definitely the hardest, but now we’re absolutely fine around it. I was never homophobic and I would hate to think I could have the capability to be just that, but it was very difficult to see my Mum (who I had know pretty well for 14 years!) go from men to women, literally overnight. But I have friends who are gay so the idea itself wasn’t too difficult for me to comprehend.

I’ve found telling people that my Mum’s gay actually a really awkward experience. As I’m planning to start part-time work soon and college come September, I’m going to be meeting loads of new people who I will have to tell, should we form that close a relationship. I’m really worried about what people might ask me, but I have the answers and I’m not one to quieten down if I have an opinion! I’ve had people ask if it’s a midlife crisis, if I was a test-tube baby, whether I had an inkling to the fact she might be gay when I was younger, and I know to expect more as I go through life. I really don’t mind answering these sorts of questions (depending on how people word them, of course) because I know if it was the reverse, I would have a massive list of questions for them myself. What would grind my gears is if people ask really explicit, unnecessary questions because there is this whole stigma around lesbians and they’re used in the porn industry etc., but I can assure you that my 44-year-old mother will not be featured on Porn Hub, thank you very much!

Homophobes have also become apparent since Mum coming out, especially in the family. One of her uncles has been quite blatantly against her sexuality, including not speaking to us at his own daughter’s wedding. I’ve kind of got to that point where I don’t have time for homophobes and, as much as they anger me, I would literally rather hold the door open for them to walk out of my life, because I really don’t need them here. I think it does upset and anger me more than it does my Mum, but that is because I am so passionate with my beliefs! I’m a massive supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, as I’m sure you know by now, so I’m not going to even associate myself with people like that.

So I’m just going to give some pointers or advice to those who may have just learnt that their parent is gay because it’s as much of a difficult time for you as it is for them:

  • Just be calm. They’re still the same person they were as they raised you (no matter how old you are) and, as far as I’ve noticed, doesn’t mean they change personality-wise at all. They’re still your parent.
  • Support them. They are your family and nothing will change that, so it’s better to support them even if you are struggling because it will be beneficial to all of you in the long run. I’ve also found it could bring you closer, as well.
  • Treat them as you’ve always treated them. This kind of follows from the first point but there is no point in changing your way around them (i.e. treading on eggshells) because they will sense your awkwardness and then they will feel awkward themselves.

And there we have it (I think!)! I hope you have been able to take something from this blog post – I feel like I haven’t covered everything, so please don’t hesitate to ask me for any more advice I may have missed out on! If you’re going through this or have gone through this, please comment down below with your story because I would love to find someone to talk to about this properly, instead of just in a little blog post!

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see Tuesday,

Rachel xx

Let’s Talk About … Being Friends With People Who Are Trans

Good Afternoon Munchkins!

Today I decided to write another ‘Let’s Talk About…’ because I actually really enjoyed writing last week’s as upsetting as I found it. I just thought it was quite therapeutic and it helped get a lot out of my system, which I needed. So this week I decided to talk to you about being friends with people who are transgender!

With the openness and ability to accept anyone and everyone in this society, there is a very high chance we will at least meet one person who is transgender in our lifetime, and I’m actually fortunate enough to have a couple of my best friends going on this journey. Obviously they’re not my friends because they’re trans, they were my friends for years and years before they came out to me, but I am so grateful that they are welcoming me as openly as they are to be with them every step of the way. As amazing as it is, I kind of feel like there isn’t that much support or guidance for friends who are cisgender (feel as if they fit the gender they were assigned at birth), like myself, because it was a bit of a shocking and unsure experience. Basically, this is just me telling my story and giving people in a similar situation some support because I really felt I had be thrown into the deep end and unknowing as to what to do or say. Just a bit of background information, they’re both female to male.

So I was first told about one my friends in the summer of last year. I wasn’t overly shocked with this one because he appeared pretty masculine anyway and would always be the person to wear a shirt rather than a dress on a night out. He came out to the rest of our friends a couple of months later, I think, and I don’t think they were overly surprised either. At first he was very chilled about it, but after a while he would become very distressed if he didn’t use the right pronouns (e.g. ‘he’ instead of ‘she’) which is completely understandable, and for the New Year he really wanted our entire friendship group to start calling him by his male name and use these correct pronouns. I completely understand why he became so distraught about it, I just wish he told us straight away what to say or when. Not everyone in our school knows so there are still some people we have to be cautious around and I now have to remind myself to call him by his female name around people like his parents or friends of his who don’t know or don’t accept it. So, on that front, I would just say clarify some ground rules or what they want from this so you don’t get the backlash of slipping up every so often. Since him coming out we have done this, but I would suggest doing it earlier as it’s better for both/all of you. I guess it wasn’t the first thing on my mind because it is a very crazy time being told this person is planning on getting x, y and z done to make him more physically masculine in the future.

My second friend that came out is actually the boyfriend of the first friend, and has been my best friend since we were 4 (if you can follow that!). I really did not expect this one, but at the same time I didn’t expect him to come out as gay! This one was much harder for me to get my head around due to knowing him for the past 12 years and remembering how feminine and girly we were as kids, and even in the past few years. I now see that this was an act to stop himself feeling this way or not get us to guess or something like that, but it was still really difficult and I still struggle to see it. At first he came out as gender fluid (when you feel like your one gender one day and the other the next) like a month after the first friend, but recently he’s been making it apparent he is also transgender, not just gender fluid. I think looking back at this occasion, I would definitely say keep an open mind and support the person in question but be there with them through everything and whether they decide they’re transgender or change their mind, or whatever other path they choose to take.

Something else I really want to talk about is when your friend goes to get treatment. My first friend has been referred to people who can diagnose him as transgender (in the UK you can only get treatment and fully transition once you’ve been medically diagnosed) and even to a gender clinic in London so that as soon as he turns 18 next year, he can get the treatment he wants. My second friend hasn’t as of yet because he hasn’t come out to his Mum and referrals mean getting parents/guardians involved at this age, so that isn’t possible right now. My first friend also has a binder and wears boxers which he wears either every day or most days, depending on the other clothes he wears (particularly with our school uniform). I’m really happy and comfortable with talking to them about transitioning and their plans as a couple/as individuals because I know they are and I want to be in the loop as much as possible – I’m a huge believer in I can’t help you unless you help yourself. I also find it really interesting and I just think it would be more beneficial to them if I’m like ‘I’m here, all ears’, rather than expecting them to make the first move. I don’t want to put them in an awkward situation, but at the same time I want to assure them I am here to listen. I can understand why they wouldn’t want to come up to me and be like ‘I’m wearing a binder today’, but you also need to approach it very delicately and appropriately. As I said earlier, be with them every single step of the way and don’t let them fall without you picking them up afterwards.

Another thing I’ve found is the tensions it can have between friends, particularly now that our whole squad knows. There’s been a few friends who have had major fallout’s with these two because they refuse to use the correct pronouns after constant reminders or have explicitly offended gender in some form, which I have had to stand up against for them. This clearly doesn’t benefit my friends mental health or feelings surrounding being valid, but it does build other relationships with other friends much more and proves that strength, and who blatantly doesn’t want to be there throughout the whole thing. Even though it seems difficult now, it will all balance out and be good in the end, I promise. Just hang on in there because there will come a day where you will meet your friends in their truest form and that is something I am most looking forward to. I might cry to be entirely honest with you!

And there we have it! I hope you have enjoyed this blog post – I loved writing this blog post much more than I thought I would, to be honest! If you are trans, let me know if these sound good to you, or if you’re going through a similar thing to me I really hope it’s helped. Just be you; you’re their friend for a reason and they would only tell you if they thought you could handle it. I can assure you, they are much more scared about it than you! I’ve also tried to step really delicately around this subject because I know how easily people can get offended around it, so I’m really sorry if I have offended you because that really was never my intention.

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you Tuesday,

Rachel xx

Let’s Talk About … Losing Someone To Cancer

Good Afternoon Munchkins!

Today I will be talking to about Losing Someone To Cancer. This is something that I’ve wanted to write for a while now because it has happened, very sadly, to me a few times, and the chances are it will happen to everybody at some point in their lives. Obviously this is a fact I want to refuse to believe wholeheartedly, but it’s something we physically can’t escape. Anyway, I’ll just be talking you through my experiences and how to ease the pain a little bit, though it is one of the hardest things to go through, other than having going through it yourself I’m guessing.

My first encounter with cancer was 11 years ago when I was 5 years old. My granddad, after a while of back pain, was diagnosed with bone cancer and died 3 weeks later. He was a chronic alcoholic and smoked like a chimney, so I guess it wasn’t much of a shock, especially with his consistent complaining of back pain. Because of this I never really knew him and don’t remember him much, if at all, but this is what I’ve been told. The thing that upset me about this is that I constantly question the ‘what ifs’ and it’s little things like I’ll never know the sound of his voice: he was born on the Isle of Man but he grew up in London, so I could guess what it was like but it wouldn’t be anywhere near accurate. I don’t remember being told he had cancer or that he’d died, I just remember a time ‘before’ and ‘after’, which I suppose is a positive, but I think the timings were so close they just merged together anyway. Sometimes my Dad will tell me little things about him, but he isn’t on my mind constantly because I didn’t really know him. When he was alive, he spent most of his time in the pub. That doesn’t mean I’m not sad when I think about him, but I do wonder if he would’ve been the exact same as he was 12 years ago, before the cancer, as what he would be if he was still alive now. I think it was so far along he didn’t even have any treatment, or have the time to think about it, but it has led to me being very aware of cancer being this death sentence-like illness. I feel more sorry for my cousins who were around 10 and 12 at the time, as they obviously knew him a lot more than what I did.

A similar thing happened to my great uncle a couple of years ago; he was diagnosed with cancer and died a week later. This was the first funeral I actually cried at, because it was so unexpected and it was my Nan’s younger brother so it wasn’t in the ‘correct order’, if you like. It was a massive shock and he died a couple of days after my parents split up, so all these emotions were just mixed together. It’s so sad, but he wasn’t expected to live past 21 due to some issues he had, yet he survived 3 times that, so he did have a good life and I did know him. However, it was distant family so in some respects it didn’t effect me as much.

The most recent thing that has happened to me is the passing of my grandmother, and this is what I will go into most detail about. Even though it’s still raw and I literally think I’m going to cry as I write this sentence, it’s still something I feel should be spoken about. In May of last year my grandmother starting getting back pain, but at first she thought it was just her not being able to get comfortable in a seat or whatever, and wouldn’t tell anyone (not even my granddad). In July-ish time she started getting tested and the week after her brother’s funeral (how timely) she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, with secondary in the liver. I’m going to be completely honest, we weren’t shocked as both of her younger siblings had died from cancer (her sister died of the exact same type of cancer as her when I was 6 months old). I never really thought that she’d definitely get cancer because of her chances, but it didn’t surprise me too much. Obviously it upset me, but it just didn’t overly shock me.

At first we were told it was ‘inoperable’, and that it would just be controlled and shrunk with chemotherapy. Being the positive person I am, I kind of took this as ‘she’s getting help’, ‘aren’t we so lucky to have such amazing healthcare’ etc. but quite quickly things didn’t seem right. My mum, my brother, her ex and some other’s went on holiday for a week in the summer and when we came back, she had lost so much weight that it was crazy and I just couldn’t believe it. When you hugged her, you could feel her spine and suddenly her usual pink lipstick was no longer complimenting her tanned skin; it just made her look paler. When I stayed with her that summer just before she was diagnosed, we were joking around with her wedding dress because I’d never seen it before, but it wouldn’t do up because she was something ridiculous like a size 8 when she got married (!) but very quickly she managed to phone up and tell me she could now fit in her dress where she’d lost so much weight. The original memory is one that I will honestly treasure, but it’s still dimmed with that line she said to me. I had never seen my granddad so stressed, trying his hardest to give her all the medication he could, and that’s when he turned back to alcohol (this isn’t the one that died 11 years ago, if that wasn’t before obvious!).

She was struggling with the chemo and it made her really constipated, meaning the only way things could leave her body was by throwing it all back up. I bet she’s looking down at me wishing I hadn’t written that, but I want to just fully document this! This meant she lost her appetite very quickly and lost weight even more. She was then sent to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton, Surrey (I’m not from there which is why I’m quite happy to share that with you), which is a specialist cancer hospital. I know I’m not exactly an expert on cancer hospitals, but as far as general hospitals go, it was really nice. She shared a ward with three other women, some of whom were discharged to go into hospices and others who were at the end of their treatment and getting better. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like, basically looking at your future, but she was still so happy when we went to visit her. She was in there for around a month and was sometimes allowed out on special visits with us or when she went to visit my granddad before he died (unlike everyone else, he didn’t die of cancer!).

She was released just under a week after my granddad died and received a live-in carer who was one of the kindest women I’ve ever met. Very suddenly she’d seemed to have lost even more weight in hospital and would sometimes update me or my mum what her weight was (her lowest weight was 6 stone something, but she was 5 foot 3, so it’s not exactly rocket science to know that wasn’t healthy). Most of the time we could chat fine, and we’d speak about things like college and my up-coming prom, neither of us realising she won’t be there to see it. She was over the moon to find out I was accepted for A Levels, though! This kind of life gradually progressed, and a lot of my October/November was spent visiting her and caring for her on weekends when her carer couldn’t due to family arrangements. She became a lot more emotional (well, wouldn’t we all) and she was put on some anti-depressants just to mellow her out a bit, which would work to the point where we could leave the house and have a really nice time. Something I noticed quite significantly was how tired she became. I guess I never realised it until it was forced into my system, but we’d go out for the morning/early afternoon, then go home so she’d nap and she’d only come down when we’d made dinner. I remember one weekend we went to the garden centre, and even though she’d been reduced to a wheelchair, we were still looking at the Christmas displays and talking about the different colours and themes we would make with all the stock they had. It was a very nice garden centre, I will admit! It felt as if I had her back, even if it was for a few hours.

All of this did feel like a dream and I did put on such a brave face for her, though before, after and during I would cry  before I went to sleep just so I had some release, but wouldn’t upset anyone else. I felt as if I’d already lost her before she did physically pass because my fun-loving, kitchen-queen grandmother was now this skinny, pale woman who had to washed, fed and sat in her armchair all day until someone came to visit her. Seeing someone change so dramatically is so much harder than the actual loss. I never really got used to that version of my grandmother, because I did know it was only temporary and wouldn’t take up the majority of my memories with her.

At the end of November, her cancer was diagnosed as terminal and she was given 6 months to live. Two weeks later she died. She’d started having these falls, which I still believe was just due to her becoming much weaker and more fragile and not being able to hold her weight. Anyway, there came a morning where she woke up and had such terrible pain she just went to bathroom. Her carer (who wasn’t her usual carer, it was a temporary one) didn’t know what to do, but my grandmother fell to the floor in pain and asked for an ambulance. The paramedics had to carry her downstairs to where her shower was and wash her down as she sat on floor. I’ve been in that bathroom and the toilet faces the shower so I have sometimes sat there envisioning what happened, though I know I shouldn’t.

This was when the hospital bed was moved in. She hadn’t really had time to decide whether she wanted to go to a hospice or not, but she wasn’t keen on the one we’d viewed as a family, so we let her die at home as she would’ve wanted could she verbally say. My mum and her girlfriend went up to her’s that day and apparently she slept in her hospital bed in the living room all day, only waking up to watch a little bit of Strictly. People went in to visit her, not that she knew. She died at 1 in the morning in her original carer’s arms. She had formed such an unlikely friendship with her carer that when we told Rose she was dying, she knew she had to be there. The only reason she wasn’t there was because her own mum had died the week before. And then the usual funeral plans were arranged, and two and a half months after my granddad’s death, they were reunited once more.

The last time I saw her it was her birthday, 8 days before she died. It was a good day. If any of you have experienced losing someone to cancer, you will know that a good day means they ate all their chips on their plate and only had to top-up their morphine a couple of times. We went out for a meal, and despite being the smallest I’d seen her, ate a small main course and a desert – better than I did, anyway! The waitresses there were lovely and took care of her needs, ushering us to the nearest table so we didn’t have to walk so far and offering us free extra water so she could take her pills with us. She loved it, we all did. I just hate the fact I left earlier than I could’ve because I had a party to go to. I know she wanted me to go out and have fun, but I’m going to go to however many parties in my lifetime. I’ll never hear her voice again. I remember she loved Dexter that day though!

So in terms of tips and such, just allow yourself to cry. I still haven’t properly because I’ve been so busy with school, but just let yourself do that. I still haven’t really got over my granddad yet, and that was in October. Just don’t do what I did/am doing, because I know once my exams are done it’s going to hit me really hard.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk about it. If someone asks how you’re doing, don’t say the generic ‘yeah’, because we all know it’s not true. Just pull your closest friend aside and be like ‘I’m going to talk to you, you don’t have to respond, I just need to have another human hear my words’. It’s worked for me many a time!

And finally, live your life as they would’ve wanted you to. Stuff happens, but it is how you overcome it that determines where you end up. My grandmother died of cancer, that doesn’t mean I’m going to give up my passions (i.e. blogging and media) and that certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to limit myself. Chances are I’m going to get cancer, so I’m going to do all those things I want to and give anyone who wants to argue with that a good talking to because it’s my life! But don’t go as revolutionary as I am!

And there we have it. I’m not going to hope you have enjoyed this blog post – I’m going to hope that you have taken something from this and have been inspired to share your own story surrounding cancer. We still act as if it’s a massive taboo, but it happens and there’s no stopping that. I really want you to share your story because I do kind of feel like there’s a weight off my shoulders after saying all that, so it may be the same for you.

So, thank you for reading and I’ll see you Tuesday,

Rachel xx

My Cartilage Piercing

Good Evening Munchkins!

Today I would like to chat to you about my cartilage piercing, which I literally had done earlier today (Saturday). This is something I’ve wanted for over a year now and I kept putting it off because of the pain so I thought I would just explain my experience to you guys to relax you or just reassure you of what will actually happen. Rest assured, I absolutely love it and it was much more of a positive experience than negative.

Before I got it done I was so so nervous. I haven’t had a great experience with my original lobe piercings because it really hurt and I ended up getting loads of infections over the years and finding out I’m allergic to this, that and the other. I do feel this has educated me well enough to safely keep this one in, though. I was also really scared of the pain because the cartilage, in theory, is going to be much thicker than your lobes because it’s the thing that hold’s your ears structure, at the end of the day. My friend who’d already had his done was also very much enjoying scaring me at the process of having it done, and even in school last week was telling me it would ache so bad because I have ‘particularly vein-y ears’. Don’t ask! The stubbornness in me, though, kind of made me want to do it some more because he’d said that. I also advise you to do your research about different places in your area you can have it done; basically, don’t go to the first place you find. If done wrong, the cartilage can shatter, hit a nerve and paralyse you, so it’s worth doing your research beforehand! This was something else my friend really enjoyed scaring me about!

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Please ignore my tangles of hair! This was when it was first done, hence the redness.

But despite these points, I really wanted it done and Saturday morning I woke up and just decided I wanted to do it. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve wanted it done for ages and I asked my Mum to put some money aside she would’ve otherwise spent on other birthday presents for if/when I got the nerve to get it done. I was very much set on having it done on Saturday and I’m a really ‘now or never’ kind of person, so when the place I initially wanted to get it done told us their piercer-person wasn’t in, I started to get a little bit nervous. I then headed to my local Claires and decided to get it done there.

My friend had got his done there, but told me that using a gun as opposed to the needle could cause the paralysation so the lovely woman who did it and my Mum had to really convince me and I went for it! The lady drew 4 dots on my cartilage so I had some choice and it was done so quickly! Better yet, I hardly felt it! I got a 3mm aquamarine stud which goes really well with my everyday orange studs (I’m not going to get into that now!). I wasn’t in there for much more than 10 minutes I’d say, which is pretty good for a Saturday morning. I was so chuffed though and only really felt it once it was in and it became really hot when the blood rushed to it, like normal piercings do. I genuinely think it hurt less than my lobes, which I really wasn’t prepared for! I think because I was preparing myself for the worst, it seemed easier once it was done.

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This is my ear on the Wednesday (yesterday) morning. It’s healing really well, so much so that I can now sleep on it with very little pain, though it can become red in the morning, as you can tell!

It’s still really sore to the touch and I can feel it’s heat against my head even now, but I am so in love with it! It’s one of those things where I seriously wish I’d done it earlier. I’ve been given all the aftercare stuff for the next 8 weeks so I should be able to change earrings in April-ish time and be all prepared for prom! One of my biggest fears was getting away with it for school but I’m hardly in PE because that’s when I have my counselling sessions and that’s the only time I have my hair up. Also, I have my first exam in May – I’m sure they want me more than I want them by this point!

And there we have it! I hope you have enjoyed this blog post – I love updating you on little life bits, so if you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments below. If you have your cartilage pierced, let me know what it was like for you or if you want yours done, please let me convince you! I cannot rate it highly enough, I absolutely adore it! For more information on Claires Ear Piercing specifically, you can click HERE.

Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you Sunday,

Rachel xx