Category Archives: Features

iStock_000087025531_Small

Take those bloody earphones out of your ears.

At work, in the car, at the gym, at home, at school, along the high street, in airport, on trains and tubes, in cities, the world.

Take those bloody headphones off
Take those bloody headphones off

Wherever I go I never fail to see someone walking with earphones plugged into a mobile or iPod. 

In fact I did a quick survey, I counted 13 people, 9 had either on ear headphones or in ear earphones, that is 69% of a group of people who I happened to walk passed on my way to an appointment in town.

69% of people ranging from teenagers, middle age, elderly a good representative mix of the population.

It isn’t just teenagers, even the silver generation are getting in on the act too. Walking in the park, town centre shopping and the gym.

There is no stopping this phenomenon of headphone/earphone wearing individuals zoning out from the rest of world ignoring all that is around them oblivious to sounds, distractions and noise,

What am I missing?

I love my music and I listen to my iPhone all the time especially when I’m in the gym and almost always when I’m on a run, it distracts from the pain and anguish but I just can not get into wearing them when I am out and about. Take those bloody earphones off

I’ve tried the in ear earphones, the on ear and over the ear headphones in fact I’ve got headphones for every occasion.

I’ve walked around London shopping, travelling on the train and the tube and I can’t get into it. I feel like I’m missing out on what is around me.

I did listen to my whale sounds and meditative music coming out of London one late night, I fell asleep and ended up in Bedford.

I am a professional voyeur, a watcher of people. I like to note their idiosyncrasies, mannerisms, social graces or lack of, I look at people who I catch staring at me daring them to see how long they might hold my stare.

Does wearing earphones mean that people want to opt out from human interaction or from the world that surrounds them?

Does the thought of a long nauseating day at the office mean the only way they can counteract frustration, anxiety or boredom is simply by zoning out?

Following the cursory how was school today boys, a few short grunts and nods and my boys too plug those suckers into their ears.

Apparently it breaks up the monotony of the journey.

What is wrong with CONVERSATION, it isn’t called the art of conversation for nothing. 

iStock_000023887471SmallDale Carnegie sold 15,000,000 copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People which talks about becoming an effective communicator and engaging in conversation with people without offending them and no earphones.

How to understand and get along with people, how to make people like you and how to win others to your way of thinking, all this was written by Carnegie in 1937, pre-mobile phone although we have Nathaniel Baldwin to thank for inventing audio headphones in 1910.

There were no smartphones to plug into back then.

Has conversation become too strenuous and time consuming in our fast paced society?

The basis for any human interaction in a society is communication, talking, chatting and sharing information.

It seems we have become a nation of Z-O-O-N-E-R’S

Zone-Out-Of-Nothing and-Everyday-Rituals

Interacting with a device is more important than talking.

iStock_000087025531_SmallPeople are in their own bubble, unaware of what is going on around them absorbed in their own world bumping into other pedestrians on their way to work distracted by their mobile phones.

The government should introduce a mobile phone lane for texting and listening to music in our large cities like its counterpart has done in Beijing.

If you decide to opt opt out of texting, listening to music or any form of interaction with your mobile phone you can stay out of harm’s way and not have to worry about being carved up or hit from behind by some gormless human that has strayed into your pathway not looking where they are going.

Psychologists call our fixation with wearing headphones while using electronic devices ‘divided attention’ or ‘intentional blindness’. I call it intentional rudeness.

You can easily disengage from society and I really get that but, seeing people with headphones is sending a message that says ‘don’t talk to me I’m unavailable for conversation or social comment, I don’t want to be disturbed or spoken to’.

My own children are not immune to the solace of earphones and conveniently go deaf, dumb and blind when they are wearing them.

During the holidays I nip out to do some shopping and I ask my children to listen out for me as I am not taking the house keys.

Only to arrive home ringing the doorbell, shouting, banging doors and windows for the umpteenth time trying to get their attention with me having to resort to phoning them on the very device they are otherwise engaged whilst I am standing outside the front door.

The moral of this sad tale, when you leave your kids at home, don’t forget to take your keys.

Music soothes me pleads my 12 year old, as he winds down after a long and arduous day at the school office.

I sigh as I yank the earphones out of his ears and kiss him good night.

Less listening more doing I say.

 

chocolate cake

Diary of a sugar addict

Thursday 28th January proved to be what can best be described as one of those life changing moments when you least expect it. Scrumptious-roast-turkey-chicken-on-platter-000051408164_Small (1)

The whole of the month of January was spent feeling sick, tired and generally doubled over with stomach pain.

As a sufferer of IBS I assumed that was the problem and my gut clearly went into overdrive.

For anyone who has IBS you’ll completely understand how bloated and irritable, tired and lethargic it makes you feel.

January is a real hard slog especially after Christmas and so I aim to get through the month with the minimum amount of bother and try to maintain a positive outlook.

I know that if I get through January then the rest doesn’t seem quite so bad.

My earliest recollection of struggling with IBS was shortly after my eldest son was born that was 16 years ago. Out of the blue one afternoon I had the most gripping spasm pain in my gut.

That same evening off I went to the Dr he confirmed that it sounded like IBS prescribed me mebeverine to take before meals to calm the stomach and that was that, a one off event with occasional bouts that we’re manageable.

Jump forwards to 2013 and I had another bad attack one afternoon whilst we were on holiday in Spain. My coup de grace was to treat it with porridge which seemed to settle my stomach.

In May 2015 with the encouragement of my then personal trainer I decided to change my eating habits, drop meat not because of ethical or political reasons but because I felt that I really needed to get lean and mean.

chocolate cakeOut went porridge, toast and cereals in came natural yogurt with fruit, vegetables, pasta, salads and I seriously cut back on carbohydrates.

I like the odd biscuit dunked in tea at the weekend in bed and the occasional bag of maltesers or marshmallows but not in one sitting.

I have more of a sweet tooth than a savoury one and if you ask me to choose between a sandwich or a cream scone, guess which one I choose?

That said I stuck to my new vegetarian diet, having the occasional biscuit and bit of chocolate when I fancied it but, not everyday.

I am not a needy person when it comes to chocolate or sweets I can have a big bag of maltesers in the car and truthfully they will still be there in a month but for the kids eating them.

The final straw came when I took a day off with Mr M and went to Cambridge to meet with some spanish friends who were over for a few days.

A few tapas and a glass of Prosecco and I was sick as a dog and couldn’t eat anything else for the rest of the day.

Over night I started to worry and managed to get an emergency appointment with the Dr early next morning.

Following an examination I was left with the belief that it was IBS that had flared up and that I would need to fast and drink water for 24 hours.

I had blood tests but they all came back negative.DeathtoStock_Medium1

During this time on the recommendation of a friend, I went to see an allergy consultant that uses non invasive techniques and a form of acupuncture to determine what I might be allergic to.

I found the whole experience liberating.

I was diagnosed with candida albicans. The reason my gut is so ill is that it has a yeast infection.

And my food intolerances are sugar and yeast.

I burst into tears when the consultant went through all the symptoms, each time I nodded my head.

I explained that I have been feeling like this for so long now it is hard to imagine what normal feels like.

The sickness, constant tiredness, exhaustion, lethargy, confusion, iStock_000009024892Smallfuzzy head, headaches, heart palpitations and a hangover feeling.

The fact that I had changed my diet by substituting healthier options meant that I had overloaded my body with even more sugar.

A list of foods to avoid was provided and these included cheese, bread, cakes, pastries, mushrooms, fruit juices, nuts, in fact anything with sugar and on the yeast side this was just as comprehensive no alcohol, wine, cava, prosecco but for gin and vodka but no tonic and champagne, at this I whooped thank god for small but expensive mercies.

That evening I went through the cupboards and to my horror and I mean horror all the food items from beans, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, dolmio sauce, all had excessive amounts of sugar.

Even my so called natural live yogurt had a whopping amount of sugar.

OMG there is NOTHING I can eat.

The yeast thing I can cope with as I don’t eat loads of bread or carbohydrate but you try and find something that doesn’t’ have sugar in it?

Mr M came in late that same evening and found me with my head in my hands. There is absolutely nothing in the cupboards I can eat that doesn’t have sugar.

That night I ordered Davina Mccall’s ‘5 weeks to sugar free’ and ‘I quit sugar’ by Sarah Wilson.

This was more than just a change in diet this was a massive change in my lifestyle.

The allergy consultant insisted that I start “cold-turkey” straightaway and that very Thursday afternoon I quit sugar and yeast.

Day 1 – Friday morning

How do I start today with no sugar.

Last night my beloved Mr M went to Morrisons to get me stevia and truvia a substitute natural sugar made from a plant. I can’t use saccharin or canderel.

The tea tasted strange and thankfully I had Ryvita in the cupboard so I could at least have that with butter. The jam Mr M bought me although diabetic still contained sugar.

I went shopping to Waitrose and spent 2 hours going through the store trying to find items without sugar what an uphill task even the ‘without’ section had plenty of sugar.

I am looking for 0g of sugar or <1g-0.5g per food item.

I finally come away with a load of foods including vegetables, rice crackers, irish sourdough bread which doesn’t have yeast and a whole host of other products,.

But even the low fat, low calorie natural yogurt has sugar in it and so I buy that reasoning that if I have less than the 100g portion I should be ok.

Mid morning and I think I’m experiencing a desperate need for sugar drinking water will reduce my appetite but it’s not hunger, I can feel a need to have anything sweet.

I grab a pear and the sweetness helps my sweet craving.

But I still want more.

After tea, I am desperate for Ben & Jerry’s peanut buttercup ice cream.

Friday night use to be a bottle of red wine and a tub of ben & Jerry’s not all in one sitting but a good third of it.

And now I’m in the kitchen looking for something sweet to eat and finally settle for a piece of sliced melon.

I’m never going to get through this.

Day 2 – Saturday

I have a dull headache and I’m feeling lethargic.

Saturday morning’s use to start with tea and a stem ginger biscuit dunked in it.

That has now gone and I start my day with a tea and stevia followed by porridge with agave syrup on the top.

By 11 o’clock I’m feeling restless, fuzzy headed and my head hurts.

I research candida albicans reading the books that have arrived from Amazon and one of them suggests not to take ibuprofen for the next 3 months because this too can disrupt the stomach’s natural gut flora.

I never take tablets unless I need to so I keep going.

By lunchtime I feel like I’m dying the sweetness I so crave is really Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_7taking a hold and my headache is getting worse.

I’ve been in the gym and the exercise has made me hungry and desperate for sugar.

I might have a small diet coke or a biscuit but instead I have a gluten free plain nairn biscuit, although I’m not GF these biscuits have next to no sugar.

I make a sourdough slice with philadelphia cheese this fills the gap.

I see an advert for chocolate and then a victoria sandwich with fresh cream, I would kill someone right now for a bite.

I now have some idea of what ‘withdrawal’ must feel like for drug addicts or anyone with a serious habit. This is testing my willpower to the limit and believe you me I have plenty of it.

Day 3 – Sunday

We are off to the Albert Hall, London to see the Cirque de Soleil.

I’m nervous.

What am I going to find to eat? I stash some GF biscuits and rice cakes in a plastic container just in case.

My eating habits will never be the same again, I can’t just grab something on the go even if it’s healthy, all of it has sugar.

Then I panic about the next working week how am I going to find time to make ‘everything’ from scratch. When I’ve been used to buying a salad or sandwich, not even fruit in a plastic container from Tesco comes sugar free it has added sugar in it as well as the fruits natural sugars.

The VIP area has canapés and food that is cooked for you whilst you wait. There isn’t one item of food I can have save for a Chinese dumpling with the chicken and vegetables minus the dumpling.

But, I have a glass of champagne and I wait for the gripping stomach pain to kick in on the left side, hooray, nothing happens I can really drink champagne.

It’s off to Lidl for the cheapest champagne I can get then!

Day 4 – Monday

I stay at home today and I’m relieved because I can cook at lunchtime and make something I can actually eat.

I’m in my PJ’s until gone 1’o clock. I can’t concentrate, I’m confused and I stare at the blank computer screen before willing myself to do something.

But I can’t focus it feels like my head is detached from my body.

Mid morning and I want something, anything to take away this sugar craving which, I have in the past, mistakenly thought was hunger.

Day 5 – Tuesday

For the first time since forever, there is no pain in my left side and my headache has gone.

I’m off to Birmingham for a meeting and last night made a feta cheese salad.

It’s a long meeting and the hosts have arranged a lunch – the food looked fabulous and I died when I saw the profiteroles.

I’ve had to explain my nervous energy, my lack of concentration and the fact I need to get up every five minutes because I am agitated.

They are very supportive but joke about how wonderful the food is whilst I hungrily tuck into my plastic container containing my salad followed by fruit.

There is one good thing though, I’m not eating anything in between meals.

Last night I did make some sugar free flapjacks taken from Davina’s book, thank god, one of those mid afternoon gives me the energy boost I need.

Day 6 – Wednesday

I’m alert I feel like spider man, my reflexes seemed to have speeded up I’m more aware of what’s around me I can remember things, what people are wearing, what they say.

Today I’m in London but have allowed enough time to have a quick lunch before heading off for the afternoon/evening.

I’m tired and feel like I’m lacking in energy but I know I’m not, it’s like having a hypoglycemic sugar drop but without the effects.

I am aware that my heart palpitations have gone is this what normal feels like?

Day 7 – Thursday

One week cold turkey.

I’ve made the first week the sugar cravings have lessened and I’m feeling a bit more energetic.

I’ve got more books on this candida albicans and made lists for recipes I’m going to make for the weekend.

Am I really a sugar addict?

I have a long way to go.

The candida albicans yeast is a part of the gut flora, a group of microorganisms that live in your mouth and intestine.

When it gets out of control it weakens the intestinal wall and penetrates into the bloodstream releasing its toxic products throughout the body.

It causes trouble when there is a change in your body that allows it to overgrow, this could be a course of antibiotics, a prolonged diet rich in sugar and carbohydrates or stress.

The candida albicans is kept under control by the friendly bacteria in your gut but when your immune system is down candida multiplies quickly and dominates the gut.

Death_to_stock_Marzocco_Coffee_6By producing the toxins the body’s immune system struggles to cope and finally gives up causing a wide range of symptoms from abdominal pain, headaches, depression, aches.

I ticked the boxes in every category and as I start to join the dots, suspect that this all started in 2008 when I was under a serious amount of prolonged stress at work.

Day 8 – Friday

I feel lighter and wonder if I’ve actually lost weight. I don’t need to but I wouldn’t say no to a few pounds. I won’t have scales in the house I don’t want to start that treadmill of weighing myself as I did as a teenager.

I’ve got into a bit more of a routine but still need to plan better.

I actually need to sit down and plan out the whole week’s food for me, what I need to buy so I can prepare meals.

Day 9 – Saturday

I have a sketch class, a day of drawing orchids and I wonder if I can get through the day without touching those biscuits the artist leaves for us to have with tea/coffee.

My willpower is tested because he has chocolate biscuits and I look at them longingly, stuff it I’ll have one and then I think better of it.

The consultant reminded me that if succumb to sugar I could get really sick and put my gut back again. And so I grit my teeth and continue.

It feels like everywhere I go I see sugar. absolutely everywhere, mouth watering chocolate brownies, biscuits, cakes.

How I long for a marshmallow or a cream cake or a doughnut, would it really hurt me?

For so long I’ve deluded myself into thinking I eat healthily just because I train, work out and eat so called healthier foods but lurking underneath is this poison they call sugar.

I call it a poison because what it has done to me has ravaged my body depriving me of feeling great, taken away my energy, my fun and the joy of living.

I look fine say my family but this gut infection is hidden it doesn’t come with a warning sign it takes over and infests your body with its toxins and sugar is the primary cause.

Day 10 – Sunday

I’m experiencing a sugar craving I’ve been for a run and I need to satisfy it but I can’t reach for the biscuits or a packet of crisps.

Nope, instead it’s ryvita with cream cheese and a portion of mackerel with red peppers.

I’ve had so much salad this week I’ll start to turn into a rabbit and there have been times when I swear I could eat the carpet.

But I know each day will get easier.

Day 11- Monday

Feeling tired today. Yesterday I made some lemon cupcakes with maple syrup they taste scrummy but they don’t rise as much so they come out like biscuits more than cakes. But at least it is something naturally sweet to have.

I’m actually tired today, not much rest at the weekend and I feel down.

Is this the bit where I start to question what the heck I’m doing or is this just because I’m tired.

I want half-term to come so I can think and plan my eating requirements.

Is this what it is like to be a diabetic? Constantly monitoring what you can eat?

Will I ever be able to actually enjoy food again without having to think what is in it, where has it been made and will it harm me?

I’m not feeling quite so positive now..

Day 14 – Thursday

I’ve made it to 2 weeks. It has been the hardest two weeks ever and I’d rather have my teeth pulled then give up sugar and yeast from my diet.

The yeast diet has been easier it is mainly bread, there are whole host of other foods but not what you might eat everyday. Although I am missing marmite.

I felt crap yesterday, so tired it was a struggle just to keep going and the sugar craving seems to be back again with a vengeance.

The last two weeks I’ve really been going along by the seat of my pants just making it up as I go along but I know I can’t do this any longer.

I ordered a load of ingredients last night so I can prepare food at the weekend and then I am going to plan a 3-4 week menu so I know what I will be cooking each day.

It sounds so regimented and organised with no spontaneity.

I’m use to  either grabbing a healthy snack or sandwich or going without altogether but now I can’t do that it is too risky and the consequences on my body could be grave.

This morning started very early followed by a fitness class and now I’m tired and irritable.

The cafe downstairs at work has had a revamp and the food is unbelievable but I can’t eat any of it. I have to ask the head chef what foods he has cooked that don’t have sugar and yeast.

I settle for a parsnip and apple soup with bread I shouldn’t have the bread but I’m desperate, also it looks more like that soft red pepper ciabatta.

I know I may pay the penalty for this slip up later with a jabbing pain in my left side and feeling sick, but I don’t care.

I want to taste real bread again. I feel hunger but I know it really is sugar withdrawal.

I see it I want it but I can’t have it.

I’m still not able to concentrate 100% but I’ve noticed things are changing.

My ever so white tongue with grooves and edges on the side are lessening.

Maybe this candida albicans is real after all and not having sugar and yeast  in my diet is beginning to have an impact on my body.

I’ve read more and discovered it could be 1-3 years before my gut flora is back in balance and if I fall off the wagon it could easily flare up again.

I’ve done a lot in my life but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to manage.

Yes, I know it’s not cancer and there are far worse things but I challenge you to give up sugar in your diet and see how you find it.

Day 15 – 17

It’s Friday and the last day of term before the kids break up. I’m tired and cranky and I want something sweet.

At lunch time I eat a jacket potato with tuna and mayonnaise, the latter a no-no because it has a yeast by product but I wanted something substantial.

I paid for it later on that afternoon when the sharp left pain in my stomach reminded me what happens if I slip up.

Thursday and Friday were a disaster, I had half a scone with butter and some sesame seed biscuits even though they contain minimal sugar it is still sugar.

By the weekend I have a cooking frenzy.

I make a batch of ginger biscuits I was so excited at the prospect of being able to dunk a biscuit into my tea that I took a bite and promptly started choking.

They were so dry I could barely taste the ginger Mr M had to get me a glass of water and slap me on the back.

How can they be tasty there is no sugar in the recipe what was I thinking, believing they were going to be my life saviour. Fit for grouting my bathroom absolutely not for eating.

Still as Mr M said if I whizz them through the processor it will make a great cheesecake base.

Saturday saw me make a victoria sandwich with spelt flour and maple syrup. I substituted the baking powder with bicarbonate of soda also a raising agent.

What I later discovered is you need to add something acidic like lemon juice or natural yogurt to counter the bicarb.

I decorated it and waited to serve it up on Sunday afternoon, it tasted foul, it looked lovely but because of the baking powder substitute it was awful. I scraped off the fruit and cream and threw it in the bin.

Another one bites the dust. The veggie quiche was a disaster I decided to use coconut milk instead of my normal dairy milk just because I thought it might be worth trying something different.

It was my dinner for Saturday night and looked like it had been in a fight. I didn’t even try it and lobbed in the bin.

At this point I was in tears I had spent all Saturday cooking following the recipes and not one was coming out as I had hoped.

Who am I kidding, this is all because I’m addicted to the taste of sugar.

I felt angry.

The food manufacturers have duped me into needing sugar without me even knowing it. They’ve convinced me that I have to have sugar because it is in every food item I have in my kitchen cupboards.

I’m angry that because of them I’ve had to make a massive lifestyle change. This is not something I would have chosen for myself.

I am fit and fitness is an important part of my life but I realise that I am not healthy. Many people make the assumption that just because we go the gym, run and exercise we must be healthy too.

Wrong!

Even the healthier food options I adopted in the middle of last year are full of sugar.

In fact, most of the so called healthier options are bad for you. The recipe books I have and the research I’ve done indicate that many people who have candida albicans have reverted back to proper whole foods.

Milk instead of skimmed, butter instead of these low fat spreads and so forth.

I’m angry because if it wasn’t for all the processed sugar in our food items I wouldn’t have to be going through this now.

I am faltering. I want to stick to the plan. I know that at three weeks it should start to get easier and become a habit.

But like a recovering alcoholic, once an alcoholic always an alcoholic.

I am a recovering sugar addict but I know I will always be a sugar addict. There will never be a moment when I don’t want to have ‘just one’, or, ‘let me have a bite’.

One slip and I’m back to be being that sugar addict again.

Week 3

I made it to 3 weeks! It is half-term and the boys, Mr M and I are off to London to have lunch in the Aqua Shard.

I’m looking forward to it but still apprehensive about what I can eat.

The menu turns out to be ok and on checking with the chef my starter is sugar free.

I get through the meal with 2 bottles of champagne, ok there was 2 of us involved.

And champagne is the one alcoholic beverage I can enjoy and as Mr M points out you’ve been cold-turkey 3 weeks have a blast, and I most certainly did.

Three  weeks with no sugar other than the addition of stevia in my tea and I am starting to see the benefits.

I feel leaner, my stomach has flattened. My eyes appear bright and my skin looks clear.

Mr M remarked that my eyes looked ‘milky’ before this lifestyle change and now they look healthier.

The prolonged tiredness has gone and I wake up in the morning feeling fresh and more alert.

In the past, I would have struggled to get out of bed, feeling constantly tired and sluggish and the walk to the bathroom was the equivalent of finishing the London marathon on the mall.

I’m more aware of my senses than ever before.

For example, smells, some of which I could tolerate before are now no longer bearable.

I am full of energy and have spent more time in the gym training, running and doing yoga and pilates that even I am surprised.

My sleep is better, by the time my head hits the pillow I am out oblivious to all asunder. I have the odd disturbed night but not enough to make me feel wretched in the morning like I use to feel.

I am convinced more than ever that my menopause started early because of stress and candida albicans and I am angry about this, angry that the so called healthy diet we eat as a family has been contaminated with sugar.

If you are aware that the foodstuffs you are eating contain sugar you can make an informed choice to buy that product but prior to finding out about candida albicans this I had no idea the affects of sugar on my body.

Buying foodstuffs without sugar remains a challenge.

Week 4

I am struggling this week and I am not sure why.

I think my body is fighting a virus because I feel aches and pains.

By mid week I am experiencing hunger for the first time since I gave up sugar and yeast and I overload on carbs.

I had a pancake with chickpeas, spinach and feta cheese all ok in my new diet save for the pancake which was made with white flour not wholemeal.

The potato and leek soup I had for lunch, I can’t have any potatoes in my diet not until I come through the first 12-16 weeks, and , I didn’t ask if there was any sugar in the soup.

My stomach reminds me why I had to adopt this lifestyle change a stark reminder that any slippages will come back and bite me with nausea, bloating and a cramping stomach ache.

That’s how easy it is to slip up and then I pay for it.

I take heart I’ve reached 4 weeks and it is the first time I’ve really slipped up unintentionally. I haven’t eaten cakes, biscuits or ice-cream and there have been enough temptations I can tell you.

But it will be another 4 weeks before I really believe that my new diet will take hold and it really does become a way of life.

I would be lying if I said I don’t miss that stem ginger biscuit dunked in tea, my B & J’s ice cream  and red wine.

Just that sluggish, nausea, bloated feeling I experienced last night is enough to remind that I can never go back to that again.

Week 5

I made it to 5 weeks with no sugar or yeast. I’m feeling stronger, revitalised and more healthy. My sugar craving has vanished and I don’t crave sweet things. Of course I miss doughnuts, toast and marmalade, marmite with cheese and red wine.

It has been a tough uphill struggle but I feel better and stronger for it. I get the occasional reminder in the left side of my gut that tells me I’ve overdone it on sugar somewhere during the day but that is my red flag to make sure I drink plenty of water to flush out the toxins.

Week 8

Two months since I went cold turkey, I made it.

Following my seven week check up with my allergy UK consultant I have made great progress.

My candida albicans is in check, my gut flora is in balance and my hormones which had been so ravaged by this infection are more or less normal.

I was under no illusion that this was going to be a long drawn out process. I have to continue with my yeast and sugar free diet and it is challenging but I have persevered.

How I feel eight weeks on is the distance between the North and South pole, in other words I feel so much better.

I have had some critics along the way suggesting that I am mad even considering the advice of an alternative practitioner.

My Dr couldn’t diagnose my condition and the fact that I feel so much better, why would I seek a second opinion?

Our lives are dominated by what we should or shouldn’t be eating, the media has been dominated by the sugar levy which will be introduced in 2018 and obesity.

Does the Chancellor really think that taxing sugary drinks will make a difference?

It is a start but what is earnestly needed is education about nutrition and balance when it comes to diet.

The proposed food labelling campaign could see the introduction of a sugar wise logo that identifies foods low in added sugar is another bold step in the right direction.

But, I believe all this starts in the classroom. The proposed PSHE (personal, social, health) taught in schools should be expanded to include basic nutrition.

Providing our children with an understanding of what is good and bad for them is a good start in increasing awareness.

I miss red wine, stem ginger biscuits, my favourite ice cream, a sandwich, toast and marmalade but the sharp jabbing pain in my stomach, sickness and the symptoms I’ve endured for the last year are a stark reminder that sugar and yeast can no longer be a part of my life.

 

 

Do you have a favourite child?

What’s your flava? Child favouritism who do you love more?

Since the start of the holidays a competition has been silently waging between my two sons and me.Do you have a favourite child?

‘Mum, who do you love the most me or MJ?’

‘Mum, do you have a favourite son?’ Asked the eldest.

Child favouritism, motherhood’s dirtiest secret, to favour one child over another, to love one child more than the other.  

At some point, parents succumb to child favouritism, favouring one child over another, it could be that one sibling is causing fewer problems or a child is naturally more talented, it might be that during exam times that one child requires more attention and support than you find time to give to the other.

I’m sure I can speak for most of us when I say at some time or another we’ve all experienced the feelings of child favouritism.

When I delivered my eldest son, now sixteen years old no one was more in love with that little bundle than me.

Do you have a favourite child?He gave me his first smile on day two and in spite of the pain I endured after the most horrendous cesarean section due to preeclampsia, the overwhelming love I felt for that little one was more than I could ever put into words.

When I fell pregnant with my second son I was filled with fear, worry and apprehension about how I would feel if my second child was also a boy.

I recall a conversation with my mum who reassured me at length that having two sons would make no difference, I would love and favour them equally but uniquely.

I pointedly looked at her and said ‘but you had a boy and girl what makes you qualified to know how I will feel?’

Her response was immediate, ‘because even though I had one of each I love you equally, unreservedly and completely differently’.

When I quizzed her about child favouritism she simply answered just wait and see.

My worries were unfounded because when the second bundle arrived the love I felt was overwhelming, intense and as deep as I felt for my first baby.baby-foots-000047992342_Small

Even now I look at both of them and there is this unimaginable, indescribable feeling of love and I recognise that what I feel for them is unique and different but I am at odds to describe what those differences are.

Child favouritism, not me!

They test me to the limits especially when I discipline the eldest often his retort is ‘you love MJ more than me’ and the same when I discipline the youngest, ‘obviously mum you love OC more than me’ .

But I admit there are days when I could cheerfully ask for a refund for the both of them if only Tesco did teen refunds.

Do you prefer one child over the other?

My eldest has an addiction to public toilets, he always needs to go to the toilet even though he went just before we left the house.

He slows down when I need him to speed up and no sooner are we in the car he remembers he has forgotten something and needs to go back into the house.

Then there is my youngest’s apparent disregard for the word ‘silence’ as he goes about his everyday tasks singing either beat box or banging some object.

Then there are his mega strops when he gets told off or reminded to do the chores he should have done in the first place.

My punishment – the silent treatment!

Both have perfected the ‘answer back technique’ something I thought I had mastered very well at my age. It is the truculent attitude and the I know more than you that drives me insane.

Kids turn from being smiley and compliant to the angels from hell.

The summer holidays only served to highlight the many differences between my boys and child favouritism.

My eldest went off to Germany on a rugby tour and I admit I was relieved not to have him around the house for five days.

There was an air of calm and tranquility without the fighting, it was so quiet.

Two of the same sex is hard work and I have always tried to be fair in the raising of my kids but I admit there are times when I prefer one over the other.

My eldest is challenging at the best of times with OCD that makes Jack Nicholson in “Something’s Gotta Give” look tame and it can be difficult trying to accommodate the way he is and I selfishly think why do I have a son like this.

The youngest is equally frustrating he is bright, intelligent and everyone likes him but he has a temper that makes the incredible hulk look lame.

He is the John Mcenroe of our household.

He can go from being a lovely smiling helpful chap to a stroppy little shit.

Portrait of boyAt a cricket match he showed his temper when he was given out by the umpire (a contentious decision I might add) because his foot was out of the crease.

He threw his bat some 30 metres in a rage and was seen thumping the pitch as he cried his eyes out in anger and frustration, at one point I thought he was going to go back onto the pitch and club the umpire with his bat.

I scurried off and hid dying of embarrassment as his temper had not gone unnoticed.

In less than five minutes he can make a calm and centered mother turn into a seething eruption of fury and frustration.

The answering back from the both of them and the ‘you have no idea, MUM’ with the emphasis on the word MUM, drives me crazy.

My boys are at at the age where I expect them to do chores around the house.

I give them tasks to do and they can barely recall the next job. Do I really need to write it on the wall in blood?

Finally with one job completed they forget to come and ask what needs to be done next conveniently.

I admit I have to stop myself from saying I hate you both, leave NOW!

All of the above are the same feelings and emotions you know doubt feel at some point.

A love hate relationship, but with a deep rooted love that endures the test of our patience and time.

Do I love one more than the other?

The answer is very definitely NO.

Do I have a favourite child.

Yes I absolutely do but it changes by the week, day, hour, minute!

But, as long as they know they are very much loved and go to bed knowing they are both my favourites that’s all they need to know!

 

 

Mother and daughter

When I sound like my Mother

I’m going through a bad phase when things come out of my mouth often without thinking and when that happens my brain says OMG, I sound just like my mother. Anger

I always promised myself that this would never happen, that I would not become the reincarnation of my mother and probably my much loved and missed grandmother.

But, ‘they’ say it runs in families so therefore I have only my mother to blame for sounding like my mother.

I find myself in situations repeating the same catch phrases I heard my mother say and it makes me die with embarrassment.

Shopping with my eldest son recently who was looking to update his wardrobe with the clothes vouchers he’d been given for christmas, I found myself saying to him ‘why would you want to wear that‘, or, that’s completely impractical’.

CRAP! I’ve just said something my mother would have said!

When I buy things I inadvertently say out loud you can’t get the same quality as you use to, it’s not the same as it was when I was fifteen.

I moan at bad customer service, ‘it just isn’t like it use to be, I wish the person on the end of the phone could actually speak english, or how long does it take to get served,’ are all part of the long repertoire of catch phrases and comments that my mum had stashed in her verbal armoury.

Ahhh I check myself in the mirror and note to my my slowly growing horror I am actually metamorphosing into my mother.

There I said it, scary but true.

I’ve even got the same ‘roman nose’ and the fine lines that run down either side of my protrusio,  a feature that has been passed along the female generations.

family father mother daughte dispute reproach silhouetteI can’t seem to stop myself because when I say something that reminds me of my mum, the look on my face is one of shame, because I can recall those exact same words that were said to me when I was my children’s age.

I sound like my mother.

Whilst I know my mum only had the very best of intentions and my interests at heart, I felt I couldn’t comfortably express or be myself for fear of her disapproval.

Disco night on a Friday, I’m fifteen and I have chosen an outfit that I believe will seek her approval. After having left the house I sneak back into the garage to get out my grungy army dungarees, big fluffy jumper and Dr Martens boots.

That and my mod badges running up and down my parkka you’d be forgiven trying to figure out if I was punk or mod.

But if my mother had seen me dressed like this her indignation and scorn would have reverberated in my mind and still haunts me now.

I can picture her face when my friend came with her mum to pick me up as we headed off to the disco at the local sea scout community centre.

I waited until the last possible minute before slowly coming downstairs desperate to avoid her cutting comments but I failed and there she stared at me as I headed toward the door to exit as fast as I could, I can recall her saying ‘is that what they are wearing now!’

In the scheme of things my dress sense was really tame and boring I didn’t have a need or want to be boho or hippy chic, rock or punk I just had my way of dressing.Mother and daughter

But often during my teenage years it was her way or no way.

Looking back I realise that her comments weren’t malicious, it was her way of expressing disapproval.

I have, since becoming a mother forced myself to behave differently with my own children which is challenging to say the least especially when my eleven year old co-ordinates some very interesting and colourful combinations of clothing.

At which point I find myself saying very gently not sure that orange really goes too well with maroon, go and have a look in the mirror and see what you think?

As parents I believe it is our job to encourage self-expression in our children, why shouldn’t they feel comfortable in their own skin and choice of clothes, without being put down or being made to feel small.

But, as daughters of mothers who were perhaps less than approving the effort to seek parental approval was hard work and the sense of failure at times was  difficult to bear and I am certain I do not want to pass on this trait to my children.

If you do that again, I’ll tell your father when he comes home!

 

 

chocolate cake

The sweet smells of childhood.

Last weekend, Mr M, my two boys and me spent the weekend with my parents for the first time in a very long time.

I could bore you with my tirade on the journey taking 3 hours and 10 minutes, a time that would make Mo Farrah proud of, travelling from Bedford to Walsall a distance of some 95 miles and a usual travel time of around 1 hr and 20 minutes.

We hadn’t spent a whole weekend up there since 2011 and I couldn’t contain my excitement.

You’d think I had won tickets to see Take That with Robbie.

I was so looking forward to going up there for the whole weekend rather than the customary quick visit on saturday when time afforded us or my parents two or three trips a year down to visit us.

For me there is nothing like home, ‘home is where mum is’.

I have many fond memories of childhood and it never ceases to amaze me how we remember only the good times and not the bad ones.

Spending the weekend with my parents allowed me to indulge those chocolate cakememories and with the smell of home all those memories came flooding back.

Why do smells evoke such memories?

The same can be said of a song or a piece of music but there is something unique and special about particular smells.

And what one smell might mean to me might be vile to you.

When we finally arrived, my mum was busy getting dinner ready but the smell took me back to when I was young. Even when I smell a fruit cake baking in the oven or the smell of ginger I am transported back in time.

Group Of Elementary School Pupils Running In Playground

 

My childhood like many of us, had its ups and downs. The best way to describe the  relationship I had with my parents was ‘war and peace’.

But with age comes a sense of self reflection and awareness and in spite of those ups and downs my family home still instills a sense of peace and safety.

As I grew up home was ‘safe’ as I ventured into adulthood and at times depressing jobs, terrible bosses and relationships that made my head spin, home was where I felt safe and warm.

Just being in the comfort of my family home with my parents and its homely smell was all I needed to know that the world wasn’t that bad a place.

What is it about ‘smells’ that whisks you back down memory lane?

When I smell cresote I am literally transported back to the first family home in Walsall, it reminds me of school holidays and how we use to race around the block on our bikes.

After tea when we had our fill of the day we’d lie on this long patch of grass that snaked up the side of a neighbour’s house and the smell of cresote lingered in the air, it was comforting.

I smell pine needles and I’m instantly transported back to a lovely place, Grado Pineta, Italy. Pineta literally means pine forests and it was a place where my grand-mother would loan an apartment from a friend where we would stay during the summer holidays.

Bouquet of lavender in a rustic setting

Lavender is a smell I associate with my baby boy Michael now 11 years old. He called the lavender bush outside our back door the bee bush and when I smell lavender I think of that cute little bundle toddling around pointing at his bee bush.

Smells evoke powerful and emotional happy memories and now I am older certain smells are a reminder of a lost childhood, laughter and fun, moments that transport you back to a time of innocence and ease, where life didn’t seem quite so complicated as it is now.

 

 

Baby butt

The confessions of a naked mum

I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend.Chest of a young woman

We were talking about how quickly the kids are growing up and how we both wished we could hold those tiny bundles in our arms again.

Then, the subject turned to puberty and she happened to say;

‘I haven’t seen my son naked since he was 7 years old.’

Aghast, I looked at her and said but how do you know if everything is all ok ‘down there?’

I see both my sons naked all the time, coming out of the shower, on the loo, sneaking  downstairs both hands in the biscuit tin and getting dressed in the morning.

There is nothing more natural than them seeing me naked too, granted I am not an exhibionist nor will you see me parading in front of the car cleaner or stripping off running free spirited into the sea.

I’m not ashamed to say that ‘nakedness rules in our house.’

Following that conversation with my friend, I asked my 15 year old son what he thought about seeing me naked and how he felt about me seeing him.

He was quick to retort: “Mum it just doesn’t bother me, so what if I see you butt naked it doesn’t really register that my mum’s naked. I dont see what the big deal is.”

Baby butt

I thought about my childhood, shared with a younger brother and I wondered if ‘nakedness’ has anything to do with mixed siblings in the household?

I do remember that from about 13-14 years I wanted privacy and I didn’t walk around in the nude especially not in front of my father.

Likewise, he extended the same courtesy to me. He would never barge into my bedroom or bathroom without knocking first.

There was seemingly an unwritten rule that said you are a teenager so going naked is probably not the right thing to do.

I freely admit that whilst I can sunbathe topless in front of strangers and friends I could never show my  top half to my own father, even though he is one half of me.

Do you go naked in front of your children?

My upbringing has fostered a good sense of self worth and yet this is a contradiction because when I look at my body it is with a reluctant acceptance of ageing.

I do not recall my mother promoting a good or bad body image, a body is a body and that was it.

As a gymnast I trained as hard as I could and my body was fit and strong but there were constant reminders from coaches about the importance of weight.

I remember on one occasion a coach saying to me how strong I was and that I was short and stumpy, a perfect gymnastic physique.

In my head I wanted to be tall, lean and skinny and so his comments cut me like a knife.

Not only were they way off base but he single handedly made me foster an unrealistic body image of myself that has stayed with me.

All I could see was a blob in front of the mirror.

In reality I had a fantastic physique and recently when my god-mother showed photos of me when I was 14, it came as a surprise that I wasn’t the blob I had become so familiar with in the mirror.

But I had spent the last 30+ years of my life convinced that I was.

How a few inapproriate words can change the perception of your own body image!

I believe that might be why I’ve never made any rules about the boys being naked or made them feel uncomfortable.

Nudity is healthy and very natural and growing up unashamed of being seen naked with all your bodily imperfections raises uninhibited children who have a realistic body image.

When I researched the idea for this post opinions made by people, posted on forums, blogs and articles all had a view on nudity ranging from it being perverted to being ‘au naturale’.

I am sure that at some point my sons will cover up and will lock the bathroom door for feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed.

Likewise, they may ask me to do the same, but until then I see no need to close the door whilst I undress or cover up when I walk along the upstairs landing to put my clothes in the linen basket.

As far as I’m concerned they will make that decision, not me.

What do you think?

loneliness

The age of loneliness

If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before and people continue to disappoint them. Jodie Piccoult, My Sister’s Keeper.

I met with some friends recently for afternoon tea, a rare occasion where I forgave myself for leaving the office for a couple of hours to catch up with gossip and have a laugh. loneliness

After we said our goodbyes I experienced a real ‘low’ as I walked back to the car I couldn’t understand how after a couple of hours talking about kids, work, life and husbands and having a good old laugh, why I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach.

Then by sheer coincidence I stumbled upon an interesting article about a woman of 48 years married with two young children who described her feelings of loneliness.

I could relate to this woman entirely. They had recently moved house to a new location, had left old friends behind and this was clearly affecting her well being.

And that is when I realised that what I was experiencing were symptoms of loneliness.

As a working mother of two boys, the extra school activities and everything else in between, there is little time for socialising with friends, conversations are online using Facebook or Whatsapp and not much face to face time.

iStock_000009024892Small

How can you be lonely in a society that is 24/7, always  connected, always on.

You are only three steps away from someone you know.

Are these relationships just acquaintances rather than real friends?

If you have a best friend are you more likely to share personal stuff with them face to face rather than on facebook?

The more I thought about this the more I became aware of the difference between being lonely and being alone.

I hardly consider myself alone, I have a family, husband and friends but I do admit to experiencing feelings of loneliness.

Married with a family doesn’t make you immune to loneliness.

Conversation with your partner usually takes the form of how the working day was, money issues, holiday planning, kids well-being, schooling, ideas, dreams.

This type of conversation is mostly transactional that is a series of daily conversational transactions. For example, can you pick up some milk, I’m doing the shopping thursday night, John has a dental appointment on friday.

Or, focused exclusively on parenting leaving little time for talking about how you are feeling. Drought

Many of us are connected socially in the online world but five million of us don’t have close friends according to Relate.

In a study by YouGov commissioned by Relate, 1 in 10 said they had no close friendships, 64% of those with children had daily contact with their sons and daughters, only a quarter kept in daily contact with a parent.

The study found that there was more contact with the boss and work colleagues than friends and family and in spite of an increase in the use of email and mobile phones, 1 in 4 said they had no real friends at work.

Loneliness affects many of us at one time or another and the “Lonely Society” survey by the mental health foundation in 2010 found that 22% of those surveyed (2,256) never feel lonely with 11% or 1 in 10 said they felt lonely often.

Four in ten or 42% felt depressed because they felt alone. Over 48% of those people surveyed felt that society is getting lonelier

When I was a fourteen year old, I can recall befriending a new girl who had recently moved along way from her former Yorkshire home.

I was given the job of looking after her as she became acquainted with her new school and we got on right from the outset.

I was protective of her when she was mocked by others for her strong Yorkshire accent and generally made sure she settled in okay.

We had the same interests – boys, music and sport and went everywhere together and were almost inseparable.

Saturdays were spent at her mum’s flat where we would talk and share our hopes for the future; we would listen to the bee gees and declared that we would be best friends forever.

Then after a year or so, something changed and another school friend started to muscle in on our friendship. It wasn’t done in a malicious or nasty way but I started to feel left out like an equation without the + sign.

Suddenly my best friend and our mutual friend were together and I was cast aside like an old shoe.

I can still recall a history lesson when the ‘other friend’ said to me I hope you don’t mind me being friends with Andrea we’ve become good mates, you can still be our friend.

At that moment I felt slighted, hurt, dumbfounded. I wasn’t aware that I had done anything to upset my best friend. I did ask her if I had done something wrong but she responded with ‘not a thing’.

She went onto say that she had become good friends with Rita.

There was no animosity or hate at all and I was told that ‘two could be three.’

But it didn’t feel the same and then I found out that Rita would often be invited somewhere without an invitation extended to me so I left feeling hurt and dejected.

I can remember that hurt and sharing my feelings with my mum that Andrea and I were no longer best friends.

At that age friendships are transient, they come and go, this week you are top of the pile the next cast out like a leper until the next amazing thing you are seen doing and then you are cool again.

That’s growing up.

But I didn’t realise until I walked out of the coffee shop just how much I missed real friendships.

I’m talking about deep down tell all, through ‘sick and sin’ admit all best friend relationships.

I suspect that my experience of loss, insecurity and aloofness is the fallout from that lost friendship.

I have met many different people, in life and work, made many friends and acquaintances some have come and gone.

My Italian grandmother told me that in life you can count the number of friends you have on one hand, the people who stick by you through thick and thin, those you can turn to in the hour of need and who will not be angry if you don’t speak with them from one week to the next.

Research shows that lonely people share certain characteristics like loss, trauma, negative or critical parenting.

Loneliness brings feelings of anger, sadness, depression, worthlessness all of which have a negative impact on our health.

As we navigate through life we lose friends and make new ones, sometimes we choose to or want to be alone, few of us have escaped the pain of loneliness but, it is part of the experience of growing up.

Our relationships begin, change and end from being an infant to a toddler who experiences separation anxiety.

As children we try to be part of the ‘in crowd’ by making many friends and trying to get acceptance amongst our peers.

Then, as teenagers and the prospect of first love, good or bad and finally into adulthood our social relationships change and shift.

Relationships ebb and flow like the tide and so does loneliness but true friendship endures like a fine wine.

 

 

 

 

The diary of a frazzled holiday traveller or is that holiday travel madness

Holiday travel madnessWe are half an hour from supposedly getting on board our plane to head back to the UK and its the usual holiday travel madness.

I am asking myself as I look up at the flight departure board why have 4 flights arrived and are all set to leave at 12:00 midday so how does that work then?

New game, musical airplanes!

How are you going to get four flights off the ground at the same time, worrying don’t you think!

Now the announcer is shouting for all passengers to Liverpool to get to the front of the queue as the plane is ready to depart.

The public once again are at the brunt of bad communication regarding flight information.

The typical british holiday maker is on show for all to see.

Flip flops, shorts, crazy hats not one of them appear to a have any regard for their safety on a plane. A quick exit requires good robust trainers or shoes not flip flops, ideal if we happen to have an emergency landing on the sand!

They are hot and bothered, flustered and fed up they can’t go any faster through security control as they are reliant on the security men and women who are checking and frisking them!

Did I mention that there are only four security people in attendance to check and frisk 600 potential passengers groovy.

You are too scared to shout at the security people to get a move on for fear of being further frisked in an exploratory way if you get my drift especially as they are now all wearing rubber gloves.

It’s the power they wield over you they sense you are tense and in a hurry yet they couldn’t go any slower if they tried, but the voice inside your head is screaming get a move on.

There is another word I feel I could insert here but for those who abhor swearing I’ll keep it clean.

Now on the plane, the flight attendants shout at you with a smile on their faces and tell you to get a move on, find your seat and sit down as “we will miss our flight slot” as if it was your fault you single handedly caused the plane to be delayed.

Having established myself in the seat, I get stuck with the proverbial passenger from hell.

He looks alright until he flashes his beaming “I had my teeth whitened especially for my holiday so I can pick up a bird and get laid” and he’s wearing flip flops too with feet that look like they’ve been through a mincer then I then get the story of his holiday.

I shut up as I feign minimal interest with a faint smile as he rattles on about his holiday exploits.

He looks at my ipad and ‘says is that an ipad,’ no it’s a toaster I feel like saying what the heck do you think it is.

In front of me I have a family of 6, no I mean 6 kids and 2 adults they are the kids from hell, 6 teenagers both boys who have clearly OD’d on coke and mini cheddars mega super-sized pack who are shouting at each other whilst mum is doing her best to calm her clan down.

How do you get time to have 6 kids, I barely have time to manage 2 let alone 6 of the smiling monsters.

One boy decides to literally climb over me to get to his seat.Holiday madness

Horrified at the thought that I’m going to be saddled with one of these monsters on a two and half hour flight, I glare at the mother, she turns to look at me, smiles and it’s the smile between two women who are unwittingly bonded through the virtue of being mothers. It is the look that says sorry and I know that you know how I feel!

Thankfully I breathe a sigh of relief when I discover the boy monster is actually sitting in the wrong seat.

In the midst of all the shenanigans his lordship my beloved husband whom I might add is sitting with our boys in the next aisle seat thinks it’s sooo funny he’s wetting himself with laughter as its always me that appears to get the short straw.

But guess what I’ll have the last laugh because the passenger from hell seated next to me has alluded to the fact that he doesn’t like flying so when we hit clear air turbulence over the channel I’ll be the one screaming WE’RE GOING DOWN BRACE, BRACE!

Ode to the joy of travelling!

See you in the UK. That’ll be next week then!

 

social media addiction

Social media addiction. Do we need it or can we live with out it?

social media addiction
Social networking accounts for 25% of the time we spend online

Imagine a world without smart-phones, mobile phones, computers and laptops, social media, ipod, televisions.

24 hours without any distractions from any of the aforementioned gadgets.

No emailing, no SMSing, texting, internet access, no Facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, no music or news media.

A utopian ideal?

For some maybe but for many the reality has resulted in an over-dependency on the internet and social media for staying in touch with friends, keeping up to date with news items and checking to see what is going on in the social universe.

The very name implies to be social. Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. [Wikipedia]

Social media exists in a world that is digital where relationships are transient and superfluous where the individual is at the centre of a digital universe in which they reside.

It is a form of voyeurism, eavesdropping into another person’s world willing to share their daily tribulations. There is a compulsion to ‘check in’ and see what is going on with our ‘on line buddies’ in fact we rely on our smart phones for constant connection with the digital world.

Phone checking has become an unconscious compulsive behaviour a form of social media addiction. It feeds the need to be liked, tagged, mentioned, favourited the downside is that social media can be a lonely place to be.

Social media platforms have now become vehicles for expressing banal to deeply depraved thoughts.

In May 2010 the Mental Health Foundation released a report called ‘The Lonely Society’. 53% of 18-34 year olds had felt depressed because of loneliness compared with 32% of people over 55. Nearly a third of young people said they spent too much time communicating on line and not enough in person.

This is prevalent amongst the teenage generation where being tagged in an album ostracises a teenager leaving them feeling bereft and worthless.

Posting updates enables a person to post what they are doing, where they are going, what they ate for breakfast but is also a vehicle to inflate ones self-worth.

Social media gives a person the opportunity to share moods, events, ideas, celebrations and intimate personal details about oneself whether good or bad. It allows the individual to promote self-esteem, self-love and self-regard without fear or reproachment.

It also gives the individual the feeling that they matter to this world, that the connections they have are interested in them as a human being and provides a platform to share details that they may not share openly in conversation.

The competition for internet popularity means there is a shameless fixation on the number of ‘likes’, views, shares and +’s which in turn encourages narcissistic type behaviour whereby bragging and showing off are the mainstream in order to inflate a deflated ego.

social media addiction
Social networking accounts for 25% of our time spent on line

Are our digital friends real friends and people that we truly wish to be connected to so we can share our everyday life experiences or are they connections made only in a digital world?

Social media platforms give individuals the opportunity to get close to companies, people, brands, businesses and celebrities.

People are more connected than ever before and social networks facilitate the way people learn, communicate and interact with each other.

In the UK britons now send on average 200 texts a month compared to 70 in 2006. Calls from fixed landlines have fallen by 10 per cent to 116 billion minutes in 2011 along with mobile phone calls falling from 125 billion minutes to 124 billion minutes.

The UK is texting more than it is talking.

In the same year more than 150 billion texts were sent compared to only 50 billion in 2006. (Ofcom)

Text based communications are usurping traditional phone calls or meeting face to face. This is attributed to the demands of peoples modern lifestyle and fast track living making social media very appealing on a variety of different levels.

The other day I was in London and I watched a young mother trip over along with her pram and baby in toe. She was busy looking at her smart phone unaware of the trip hazard that lay before her on the pavement.

I went to help her and was obviously concerned about her baby who if hadn’t been strapped in could have fallen onto the pavement.

I said coyly, ‘be careful, they’ve been known to kill you, you know’ referring to the iphone she held in her right hand cupped to her right ear.

She was totally unaware of anything or anybody around her because she was so absorbed with whatever she was reading or doing on her mobile phone.

Would we rather lose our connection to the real world than our connection to our on line world?

Is the need to be socially connected and online inherent in the way we live and interact as human beings?

Does being socially connected reduce or increase our social insecurity?

Has social media addiction made us more anti-social?

It use to be considered rude to answer your phone when you were in the company of friends or worse at a business meeting. Now in business it is the accepted norm to text and send emails whilst in meetings.

Social media allows us to be connected to people without intimacy or any real association.

I see people on facebook with 1,000+ friends and I view this cynically. I may have many acquaintances that I’m connected to, share statuses with however they are not my best friends but people I know through school or other encounters.

I would not be sharing my innermost feelings in my status updates but more like a casual hi, yes the weather is great, or did you see last night…

The paradox of the networking sites like google+, facebook and twitter has lessened the need to ‘meet up’ and have a physical interaction. In reality they are digital interactions with digital connections and not human meaningful interactions.

It is easier to keep people at an emotional distance and ‘friending’, ‘liking’, texting and tweeting in 140 characters or less only reinforces that distance when picking up the telephone or meeting face to face allows the other person to become engaged and really get to know us.

Sherry Turkle, MIT Professor and author of “Alone Together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other” suggests that social media gives the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.

We are getting use to being alone ‘together’.

At breakfast time it’s common to find working couples checking in on what’s arrived in the inbox, going on to Facebook to up date statuses or dropping a quick tweet whether its business related or personal.

Recently on holiday we shared a few days with friends their eldest daughter Rebecca, 19 was with us but not really ‘there’ happily texting updating her status on facebook and twitter.

I asked her what makes it so compelling for her generation to be on social media all the time.

FOMO fear of missing out on what’s going on in her world and a great way to share updates and photos with friends.

I asked her if she felt she was a social media addict: ‘no its just what we do its the only way we stay in touch with friends and now we’ve all gone our separate ways to University, employment its the only way’.

Rebecca is a by product of our digitally obsessed world with an addiction to technology that is so beguiling that it is almost impossible to stop.

A generation of computer users capable of finding any information on google in less than a minute but incapable of being able to gather and research using traditional methods like books or libraries.

Addiction by its very name implies a total and utter reliance on something we can’t live without – drugs, gambling, sex or alcohol. The idea that social media addiction exists sounds extreme and yet a study conducted by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda and students from the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism University of Maryland, USA found just that.

In 2010 when the research was undertaken, 200 students were asked to abstain from using any form of media for 24 hours.

The responses ranged from being addicted, isolated and lonely, comments included ‘texting and IM-ing my friends gives me a constant feeling of comfort’, ‘being unable to communicate with anyone via technology was almost unbearable’.

I admit to doing the same thing. My husband said to me when we were out one night on holiday in Spain: ‘I’m really enjoying the company of your smart phone’.

In defence my interest is largely driven by business rather than updating my own personal statuses and is easy to do in the evenings when I have some time.

Has social media made us more isolated or are we just a by product of technology?

The pace of technology has made it easy for us to be connected on line rather than meeting up physically.

Turkle makes the point ‘that with technology we can exist among a group of friends on facebook yet feel lonely because we are not known by them’.

Turkle argues that isolation was always there and technology has merely enhanced it.

Rebecca and many of her peers have developed an unhealthy relationship with social media. Like many compulsive behaviours people who engage in addictive behaviours find initial pleasure only later to develop an all consuming dependence.

My generation have had to learn how to work with this technology and how to make best use of it. We’ve become hooked to social media too we are engulfed by mass communication bombarded with texts and emails on a daily basis.

When we hear the ping that shows there is a new message we jump to attention like its all too important. We automatically respond without thinking.

It’s commonplace to be in the playground and see parents avidly looking at their phones, texting, checking in with little or no human conversation or interaction.

Perhaps it’s time to turn off, tune in and drop out for an hour a day and maybe regain some sanity.

What do think?

How do you manage your social media activity?

What about your teenagers? How do you manage the time they spend on social media platforms?

Share with us your view how you manage your time to?

If you think you are a social media addict here’s a great fun article to read by Jacky Tan.

You can find us on twitter, facebook, pinterest, linkedin and google+

To receive our blogs straight into your inbox subscribe by email and they will be delivered automatically when a new blog is posted.

Thanks for the follow.

 

 

 

 

Social anxiety disorder – are you S.A.D?

Slide1

People who have social anxiety disorder have an irrational fear of being in the company of people, being watched, judged and are fearful of embarrassing and humiliating themselves by doing or saying something which causes acute anxiety and fear.

It is the third most common psychiatric disorder after depression and alcohol abuse and yet very little is known about the disorder and its negative affect on a person’s social well-being.

The anxiety and discomfort associated with SAD become so acute that people simply can’t perform the daily functions we take for granted like buying a newspaper, shopping in a supermarket or going to a restaurant with friends.

Social anxiety disorder or SAD is the subset of anthropophobia a generalised term used to cover a wide range of anxiety related issues such as a person who is paranoiac of being harmed or of being judged for the way they look. (Body dysmorphic disorder)

Sufferers with the disorder are worried about what will happen when they interact with people socially and their concerns are centred around how people view and judge them.

In fact the anxiety can be so extreme it can affect a person mentally and physiologically.

Jo, 52 years of age has struggled with the condition from childhood: “I knew these feelings I was experiencing weren’t normal. If I was invited to a children’s party to their house after school straightaway I had an automatic reaction of panic I was very anxious and frightened. I was terrified in case they noticed how nervous I was. I was frightened to death that I would stand out for all the wrong reasons”.

SAD is actually more common than you might think.

Surveys conducted in the U.S found that in a 12 month period 7% of people had SAD.

What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety affects 7% of people.

Over a lifetime it’s more like 12% of people who will experience the symptoms associated with SAD.

Professor Clark Founder of the Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma at Kings College London and University of Oxford says “that SAD in the general community tends to be more common in women, yet in the clinics he oversees, the prevalence of SAD is similar in men and women.”

What are the symptoms of SAD and how do they differ to shyness?

There are some marked differences between shyness and SAD and this relates to the severity and longevity of the symptoms that are experienced by the individual.

Shy people tend to be uneasy in social situations and Princess Diana was a classic example of a shy and reserved person. People with SAD  are extremely anxious in social situations.

Emotional symptoms include:-

  • an irrational, intense fear of a particular situation even before the event may have taken place
  • fear of an up and coming event weeks in advance
  • fear of being judged by others
  • worry of being embarrassed or humiliated
  • fear that people will notice your anxiety

Physical symptoms include:-

  • profuse sweating and blushing
  • rapid heart beat
  • trembling hands

In Jo’s case her symptoms range from stomach turning, heart palpitations, hot and sweaty, fear and panic.

“Until recently I couldn’t even answer the front door bell without experiencing all of the above symptoms, by the time I had calmed down and answered the door the person had long gone.”

Catriona, 47 years has recently been diagnosed with SAD. For her it was the relief of finally giving her illness a label.

“I hate labels but in this case having experienced the complete and utter terror of being in social situations even with family and friends, it was a relief to find out that I wasn’t the only one with SAD.”

For so many years I couldn’t understand why I dreaded friends or family visiting the home, why I would shake when I knew we were going out.

When friends and family visited I was obsessed with making sure the meal was perfect, the home clean and tidy, at the same time I felt sick and anxious and I would physically shake. It was like I was being judged in a competition. The relief I use to feel when people left the house was huge.

It didn’t stop there if I go shopping and I see someone I know, I run and hide behind the veg counter or disappear down an aisle so I can’t be spotted or have to engage in any conversation, often they are people I know. As for any social invitation my heart rate increases and I am anxious and sweaty.”

How extreme can SAD become?

Jo tried to take her own life, “I was suicidal in fact I took an overdose and ended up being hospitalised. At the time I was working as a receptionist in a Dr’s surgery. The whole environment pushed me to the limit of coping. It was a small working area and I felt trapped.”

Jo and Catriona know that their anxiety is out of proportion with the situation they are experiencing but for SAD sufferers its the norm and they are unable to take control of the anxiety and feelings of fear.

For Catriona, “Its frustrating because you look at the situation and you tell yourself that wasn’t so bad but the fear and anxiety is overwhelming. Afterwards I am physically exhausted.”

When?What causes SAD?

Professor Clark’s observations of adults being treated with the disorder concludes that it starts in childhood or adolescence. About half of the people who come forward for treatment say it started before the age of 13.

He points out, “In adulthood its quite a long time before its recognised and in the clinic the average age of adults coming forward for treatment is 33 years. It’s almost 2o years before people seek treatment and a very long time for people to be living with the problem.”

The evidence would seem to confirm this.

Jo recalls: “I was very clingy as a child and was terrified of being separated from my mum. But it wasn’t until I was 17 when I visited the Dr to talk about my anxiety. I was referred to a local psychiatric hospital but I couldn’t relate to the psychologist. It was a good ten years before I was referred again.”

Can a traumatic event trigger SAD or are we just born with this condition?

Research lead by Professor Clark at the University of Oxford Department for Experimental Psychology suggests that there isn’t a single cause but a combination of social experiences that a person has that could makes them pre-disposed to SAD.

The loss of Jo’s mother when she was a teenager made her anxiety worse but it wasn’t the main trigger.

Jo explains “my father had anxiety attacks so we rarely had people around the house because dad didn’t like it. I possibly think its genetic as I inherited the same characteristics.”

A contributory factor that affected Catriona was a specific event in her teenage years, ‘”I was only 14 years old and a good athlete, a coach at the athletics club I trained at happened to remark one day that I was chunky and strong and I interpreted that as big and fat.
Far from being fat or big, it seemed to trigger a vicious cycle of making me conscious of my weight and how I behaved in the company of people.
Even now I am so very self conscious being in social situations and of people looking at me it feels like I’m being judged, its a horrible feeling.”

Professor Clark suggests that parental modelling such as an overbearing or critical parent who is controlling and over protective, a child being bullied or teased at school, parent relocation resulting in a child losing friends and changing school, finding it difficult to fit in and being shy and withdrawn as a child are some of the other factors that increase the likelihood of SAD in a person.

There is also a genetic vulnerability that puts a person at a higher risk to depression, anxiety and SAD.

Although there are no distinct personality types that pre-dispose someone to being affected by SAD, the characteristics of the disorder include avoidant personality types and people who are fearful of finding themselves in socially challenging situations that might cause humiliation.

SAD sufferers tend to set the bar very high for themselves because it’s an issue of performance and how they are judged by others around them. They believe they should have many interests so they aren’t perceived as boring, they want to be socially ept, clever and fluent in conversation.

This makes it even harder for someone with SAD because the fear of humiliation and failure is greater whereas for most of us if we are inept in a social situation or aren’t as fluent or confident we don’t necessarily feel a failure.

How is S.A.D diagnosed and treated?

One of the reasons SAD is not diagnosed or recognised by general practitioners is because the sufferer may be reluctant to talk about it with their GP and are unaware that treatment is available.

In the last decade more research on the disorder and available treatments has proven fruitful.

SAD was first recognised as a medical condition in the 1960’s yet there is still much about the disorder we don’t know and Dr Clark says “we still think it is seriously under recognised by primary care and there are several reasons for that.”

Many people have lived with the condition for as as long as they can remember they’ve always been shy since childhood they assume that it’s a characteristic of their personality rather than a treatable condition and therefore are less likely to bring it up with the GP.

Diagnosis of the condition becomes more complex as many people who have SAD are likely to have depression or generalised anxiety not attributed to a specific disorder.

GP’s may not recognise the symptoms of SAD because a person feeling hopeless, frustrated, anxious is more likely to be treated for depression rather than examining the underlying causes.

The treatment of SAD is by a combination of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and medication.

Psychological treatments like CBT focus on SAD in the individual. For a long time it was widely believed that treatment in a group setting was more productive allowing the individual to share personal experiences and participate in practical exercises.

Medication can be prescribed in the form of SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and benefit people in the short term but CBT is highly effective in the long term and the preferred choice for SAD sufferers.

At the University of Oxford’s department of experimental psychology, Professor Clark and his team are developing on line virtual therapy treatments for SAD and other related disorders. It is an internet version of face to face therapy where the recipient manages the process of getting better in their own time.

SAD is a life long disorder and many people who receive treatment whether CBT, medication or a combination of both do recover but it depends on the person. In Professor Clark’s experience treatment is a great help but for some sufferers they are able to manage their condition much better but the fear is still present.

Other sufferers report that life has changed, they can do their job and they are accepting of their limitations.

In Jo’s case, “I would like to get a job, travel, meet people and do normal things. I’ve not really had a life up until now. This is not a life choice, not something I’ve chosen to be, I think I’ve paid a big price for it.”

As Professor Clark’s explains, ‘we are aiming to help people discover that they can be accepted for who they are and not what they are’.

For more information, help and advice you can visit Anxiety.co.uk

or call their helpline on: 08444-775774

additional information can also be found at

The Centre for anxiety disorders and trauma Kings College London