Book Reviews, Education, Personal, travel

2017 reflections

Initial plans

Before 2017 started I was determined that this year my main goals were:
1. to beat depression (my new year’s resolution that failed in 2015)
2. to hold down a proper job and pay my bills, and
3. to re-ignite my love for reading

What I have accomplished this year is more than I, and more than my family, could have possibly imagined. The first thing that changed was I decided to stop going out every day to ward off my depression with coffee and talking to random people in coffee shops. What this first step did for me was gave me time to relax at home, in my own space, and focus on myself. What happened was, I stopped wearing make up, took time to write and, wait for it, READ. I told myself to read for 10 minutes every day, that’s all, but within days I had gone out and bought new books. I was reading two a day, sometimes three! It was like magic that my passion for reading flooded back.

Once I’d realized it was back, I looked for a reading challenge and decided to go with PopSugar’s version! I’ve enjoyed it immensely and recommend any book-lover to do it too! Total books read in 2017: 44!

This is honestly one of the best parts of 2017. I had forgotten how much reading influenced me. How moving words can be and what an effect they can have on us.

I’ll briefly share a few of my favourites with you.

A man named Ove, by Fredrik Backman – This had me laughing, crying and feeling so many mixed emotions as I saw parts of my grumpy self in Ove, but also parts of my Grandpa in that the love between husband and wife is unbreakable even after death.

Mad Girl, by Bryony Gordon – The first book I read this year that I couldn’t put down and without a doubt reminded me of how much I’ve missed reading. Despite the struggles of Bryony, she lets us into her world through humour and showing us that it is okay, ‘not to be okay’. I can’t thank her enough for sharing her story.

Baby Doll and The Walls by Hollie Overton – wow! Neither of these books were read lightly. Absolutely gripping at the pages as I read both of these, each in one sitting. The Walls actually gave me nightmares, it was that good! Twisted, warped stories that had my heart racing start to finish! Must, must read!

All the bright places by Jennifer Niven – oh my poor heart. What a moving story! It took me a few days to read this, as I started back in January when I wasn’t fully in the swing of reading but by the end of it I had quotes on little post-it notes around my room, I wanted tattoos, I couldn’t stop following Niven’s fans on instagram and twitter. I was sucked into the world of Violet and Finch.

My weight loss

This was a pivotal part of my year because growing up I was always extremely skinny, and sporty, and even at Uni I wasn’t ever more than a size 8, but once the depression crept in, then the medication, I ate and ate and ate… I never stopped. Dr Pepper, doughnuts, pizza hut, crisps, chips, chocolates, beer, wine… whatever I wanted, I ate. Immediately. I was eating anywhere from 5 to 10 times a day and I didn’t care. It wasn’t long before I was pushing a size 16 and 70kilos. My family were shocked, my friends of course didn’t say anything, and I felt repulsive. This year I put an end to it. How? Believe me, people have asked.

  • I started off by cutting out eating after 7pm. This made a huge difference to my bloating and discomfort.
  • The next stage, I stopped eating dairy products. No milk, chocolate, cheese, none of it! This made a massive difference and the weight started dropping quite quickly.
  • Then it was time for some hard work, I had to stop eating junk food. I cut out cookies and crisps, I went nearly 6 months without a single pizza (this was painful!). It meant daily smoothies, veggie sticks for snacks instead of crisps, soups when it was cold rather than 2 plates of pasta or pizza.
  • Then the real work, exercise! This was tough. My knees are weak and running is always painful for me… so I had to buy some weights and do things at home. Mostly squats, sit ups, crunches, jumping jacks, lizard crunches (seriously guys, do these!!) Plus the occasional swim or trip to the gym…

I’m still working on my weight, and I hate my stomach, but to lose 16 kilos in 12 months is a massive achievement for me and I feel surprisingly proud of myself!

First real job

After a few part-time job stints in 2016, I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d been doing. I’d enjoyed my job at the Little Red Roaster immensely, but because of my mental health I had to resign. My boss there was amazing and most of the customers were lovely, and in the jobs that followed I didn’t find either of those bonus points.

Someone recommended I apply for Coffee #1 in Winton and I had a great trial shift… two days later they called and asked if I wanted to train up as an Assistant Manager. Jeez… Where do I begin? A week after signing the contract they said I couldn’t stay in Winton and that I’d have to go to Eastleigh. Every day. I agreed, since I had no other option but that journey was awful. Getting the bus to Southampton, then a train to Eastleigh took about an hour in the morning, but coming home was awful. I had to get a train back to Southampton, which depending on what time I closed up that night could have me waiting in Eastleigh for an hour. The coach times changed and sometimes I was waiting in Southampton for an hour, or longer. On average, coming home took between 2 and 4 hours, for a 30 minute car journey. I didn’t get paid for my travel time, as promised. I didn’t get compensation half of the time either. I enjoyed the job I was doing but most of the time, I was on auto pilot. The hours were awful, the travelling was even worse. I’ll skip the other finer, irritating details of what I had to put up with, but eventually I handed in my notice. It was absolutely the right decision for me and I’m so glad I walked away from that place.

No money

With my first solo trip booked, Switzerland!!, and no job… I was in panic mode. Do I cancel my holiday? Do I retract my notice? No no no! I went to Zuerich for three days and had the best holiday ever! I saw old friends, went to the FIFA museum, walked along the river and I barely bought a thing except for food. Have any of you been to Zuerich? What did you think of it??

The turning point

One of the biggest points of 2017 was my Taiwan holiday… Leigh and I had argued, big time, before I flew out and I was back at a really low point. I didn’t know what to do next with my personal life, my career, my education. Everything felt like a complete mess. However, I took myself off to a little coffee shop and explored my options.

I started working on my mindfulness, writing a journal again and learning how to be more reflective on situations.

NOW was the time to step out of my comfort zone. I signed up for a CELTA course. After years and years of uhmmmmmm-ing and aaaaaaaaah-ing about whether to go forward with teacher training, this was it! I started the day after I arrived home in Bournemouth.

I’ve said it time and time again lately but it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That CELTA course pushed me to study again, to make some wonderful new friends and, believe it or not, almost cure my stage fright! I honestly had no idea if I was going to pass the course or not, but I applied for a summer teaching job at the sister school, BEET. I had a few interviews and finally, as long as I passed, I had a 4-week contract!

Now I won’t go into too much detail about the job, because I’ve blogged about it a fair bit already but this job has changed my life. I have found a passion. I love this job with my heart and soul, and the people that I’ve met through it have inspired me, supported me, and some have also left me feeling totally drained (but that’s a rare few!)

I’ll be forever grateful to those two people who gave me this opportunity, and to everyone who has supported me along the way. If I could work there forever, I would.

 

If you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it…

Okay. We did. But I’m not going to blog about that now…
August 30th 2017 – Leigh and I got engaged.

Closing

As the year draws to a close, I’m still glowing from my wonderful holiday in Germany with our friends, a lovely Christmas with my family and Leigh and I are in the process of signing contracts for teaching jobs in China.

We went up to London yesterday for our medical exams, and have a week to wait for the results. In the mean time, we are going to enjoy THREE WHOLE DAYS OFF together! Then it’s crunch time. Packing up my things, throwing away what I don’t need, etc etc.

I cannot believe that I’m about to move to the other side of the world and finally move out of my parents house. Hopefully for the last time! Does this mean I’m officially an adult now? Let’s hope so.

I hope everyone has a lovely New Year’s Eve and that 2018 is absolutely wonderful for you. Please let me know what you’re looking forward to, if you’re doing any book challenges or if you’re also going to be teaching abroad!

 

Lots of love

Claire

xoxo

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health, Personal

Holiday on hold, my immune system is at war.

This is not something I’ve had the courage to openly discuss with more than three people before, so please be kind whilst I explain my current situation, as it’s taking over my life. 

After yet another trip to my doctor two weeks ago, I am waiting for an appointment for a scan, to see if I have Endometriosis. What’s that? Well, Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (the endometrial stroma and glands, which should only be located inside the uterus) is found elsewhere in the body (endometriosis.org) and what it brings is hours of excruciating pain, painful bowel movements (and Irritable Bowel Syndrome type symptoms), heavy and painful periods, pains in the back and legs, fatigue, nausea, depression and a few other issues (Endometriosis-UK) which will inevitably vary between women, but can severely impact the quality of life for those suffering.

Whilst many people may laugh it off as ‘just period pains’ or someone being a ‘typical dramatic woman’, I strongly urge you to think twice before using these sorts of phrases, as this is so much more than that. I am talking about hours and hours of crippling pain, to the point where I cannot even walk to the toilet, or make myself a drink. It is lying in a bath for four hours because it is the only way to even slightly reduce the pain. It’s crying hysterically for hours because of the pain and nothing that will stop it. It is calling for an ambulance because something is clearly not right, only for them to take four hours to arrive and then give you a shot of morphine and say you’ll be fine in the morning. That is rarely the case. 

Once an episode of pain starts, it can, in my situation, last for days. Sometimes weeks. Paracetamol? Ha! What a waste of time. It has absolutely no impact on the pain whatsoever. Hot water bottles? Most of the time the pressure of one being on my stomach only makes it worse. Eating? Why eat when I’m already bloated enough to look 5 months pregnant!? I would also like to quickly mention how awful the bloating can be. It’s painful, uncomfortable and also distressing being asked if I’m pregnant. No, I’m not. Don’t be so rude! 


It’s a no-win situation some days. Nothing I do will ease the pain and it feels like I am fighting world war three inside my own body. 

I have had months in the past where I have been in bed for up to 10 days, barely able to move from bed to bathroom. Some months the pain just carries on into the next month with barely any rest. Which has caused me to call in sick for work, only to be laughed at or been given written warnings for time off. Out of the three employers I have tried to explain my condition to, not one of them has even attempted to understand. I’ve had the typical, judgemental responses of, ‘you’ll just have to toughen up’ or ‘well all women get periods, get over it’ or something else along those lines. Is that really acceptable? No. I do not think so.

Endometriosis affects over 176 million women worldwide (Endofound) and people clearly need to be more aware of this illness, and stop dismissing it as period pains, woman troubles, or any other lame excuse people come up with, instead of doing some research and stop being so ignorant. 

That’s all I have to say right now, as once again I’m dealing with a horrible amount of discomfort. I have prepared myself for the night ahead, and can only hope I can find a way of staying just slightly comfortable tonight.


Uncategorized

Snap out of it.

The words I had to tell myself this morning as I spent over half an hour scrolling through various social media feeds, wading through utter nonsense that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on.

I had to forcefully tell myself to get up and do my morning breathing and exercise rituals that I have set for myself.

I fed myself some positive vibes, straight from my own mind and made myself a 4-cup dripper full of coffee as I read through my mindfulness book.

It’s working, honestly.

Even if my days are not 100% positive I am already feeling a little more confident, a little less angry at the world, and a little more proud of myself. Despite that evil voice in my head that tries to suffocate me, I am learning to fight back.

I got this.