Tag Archives: wellbeing

Bloody Vegans!

‘Oh just go and kill yourself!’ That’s what someone said to me after I turned down a mouthful of juicy and delicious looking fried chicken because I am now a ‘Bloody Vegan.’ I would normally have been rather disturbed by this outburst, but it came from a jovial friend and it was very much said in jest.

It did however inspire me to write about my foliage-loving ways, because this was not the first time I had been publicly shamed for eating plants. ‘What do you actually eat then?’ and ‘how do you survive without bacon?’ and ‘YOU’RE A BORING RABBIT’ are some of my favourite utterings from vegan poo pooer’s.

I'm a boring rabbit

 

I must say that the disbelief from many in my veganism probably stems from the fact that I was once a supreme championer of meat. A warrior of ribs, and devourer of chicken. I bloody loved the stuff. I’ve never had a sweet tooth – so pork pies, scotch eggs and chicken & stuffing sandwiches with beef & onion crisps were my poison. I wasn’t sorry, I ploughed through burger after burger, copious helpings of sweet and sour chicken and sticky slow cooked pork. My social life happened with meat, dates were full of meat, i just loved meat. I was a funny, jolly, pork lover. ‘Everyone love’s a good sausage’ was my favourite phrase.

Now though, apart from the occasional relapse with oily fish – I am a complete herbivore. I am no longer the fun-loving eat-anything sausage-roll baker and stewed chicken maker. This remarkable change happened when I snaffled myself away to the highlands of Scotland to meditate with a group of Buddhists. I was fed nothing but vegan food for a whole week, and although I missed the richness of meat for a while, the saltiness of bacon and the smell of a roasting chicken, I got used to it.

The first thing I noticed about switching was the fact that it seemed to clean out my entire gut (discontinue reading here if you are eating.) The sheer number of times I pooed per day doubled, and they were ‘good poo’s.’ Yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Perfectly formed and effortless to evacuate. I shall say no more. My skin cleared up and felt softer, I had more energy, I was never bloated after meals, my stomach was flatter. Over a period of 5 months I lost a stone.

It was a new habit that felt constructive, adding a new layer of self-care for mind and body – let alone the World. Anyone who has watched Cowspiracy knows that the livestock industry is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than all the cars, planes, and other gas guzzling vehicles in the world. Not to mention the fact that the food grown to feed livestock could more than adequately feed all of the 1.4 Billion poor and starving people around the world. I didn’t know any of this until after I became vegan – but this knowledge has certainly kept me away from that chicken sarnie.

The second and most remarkable thing I noticed was the adverse reaction from others when I mentioned the word vegan. Instead of a jolly pork-loving Shropshire lass with pink cheeks from meat over-load, I had become (in their eyes) a fussy, anti-social middle class bore. There is nothing like the conversation killing power of the sentence ‘I’ve just made a vegan casserole’ compared to the animated response you might receive by saying ‘I’ve just roasted a whole hog in my garden, would you like some?.’ It seems that pork is funny, lentils aren’t.

Yes I am aware that the current movement around ‘eating clean’ and ‘getting the glow’ spurred on by Deliciously Ella‘s Instagram is a little tiresome, but I am not convinced by the idea that my personality has evaporated in the absence of meat. I am still the same person, I’m just less meaty.

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Refusing that golden fried chicken was no mean-feat. It was hard –  and it took all of my will-power to look away and focus on my curried lentils. So if you’re a carnivore and you have a vegan friend, show them a bit of love – they probably aren’t being snobbish, and they most definitely aren’t being boring. They are just enjoying their new life of good skin, boundless energy and harmony with cows – not to mention the pleasure of a healthy pooing gut. Let them get on with their legume-filled adventure without pressure, and no they most certainly do not want any of your eggy bread and bacon, although I have to admit – it smells delicious!

Annie x

 

 

 

Depression = Guilt

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The worst thing about depression – when it has you by the balls / boobs and is holding your head underneath the pillow, when it’s at its most debilitating and downright exhausting – is the guilt. There is guilt about the fact that this might all be your fault. The guilt that you lack normal amounts of energy because you’ve been worrying too much. The guilt about feeling like a big fat lazy sloth whilst everyone else is whistling along cheerily to the sound of their 7am alarm. The guilt that your brain isn’t working properly and it might be your fault because of that time you got absolutely shit-faced on ecstasy and didn’t sleep for two days. That your life choice and your lifestyle may have some how had an adverse effect on your brain and therefore this depression is most definitely YOUR fault. There is also the very unhelpful thought chewing away at the back of your mind that you might be making this all up and that you’re actually OK because you managed to laugh at Deliciously Stella’s Instagram earlier so you can’t be that sad. Therefore you feel very, very guilty about it all.

 

Deliciously Stella being unashamedly brilliant.

 

Then there is the guilt experienced by those closest to you. Your Mum, your Dad, your Dad’s Dad, your best friend, your dog, your spider plant. In my experience, they too feel guilty. They think that perhaps they could have done something differently, and they should have tried to program your brain not to feel anxious about speaking in meetings or cripplingly worried about the fact that you have to do a speech at your best friends wedding and you are festering at the thought of fucking it all up. Maybe it was something they said to you when you were three that made you feel like you should be worried about life. This might absolutely be the case for some, but from my experience and from listening to lots of other people, it isn’t always. I would like to say now that even though there are certain behavioural patterns learnt from our parents and those around us in our early years, depression is not necessarily any bodies fault. The worst feeling I have felt when opening up about my anxiety and depression to my parents has been the reaction that they are worried they did something wrong and it made me like this. For me to experience my parents hurting because of me is incredibly painful, and, you guessed it, makes me feel VERY VERY GUILTY. So I would like to expel the idea from everybody’s minds and let them know that none of this is any ones fault.

The thing that makes the guilt extra horrible, is the idea that we can’t be open to people in our daily lives about what we are going through for fear of not getting that promotion, or not being trusted in our decisions or appearing weak. It breeds a feeling of shame, that there is something to hide. I can wholeheartedly say, that this lack of discussion and understanding about depression is stiflingly unhealthy to everyone, and actually if people felt comfortable to discuss the fact that they are having a bad time mentally as freely as they feel discussing their head cold, then things would be much easier for everyone.

Recently I spent 5 weeks off sick from work after suffering from a nervous breakdown (my therapist doesn’t like this phrase but I’m going with it.) Prior to this, I had developed a shiny exterior of lovely bubbliness in the office. I was positively bouyant around all of my colleagues and I undertook my work with gusto. This meant that because I was pretending that I was doing brilliantly, my brain was trapped in a pressure cooker and I would cry in the mornings at the sight of a very small needy pooch on the tube, or be overly empathatic to anyone expressing any kind of emotion. Basically, I packed my emotions into a tiny tiny box for work, and I wouldn’t let them out all day. Of course the emotions eventually out grew the box and the box would be forced open, resulting in me crying in meetings or having to vacate my desk to sob in the park (there are many small needy dogs there so you can imagine my state.) I’m telling you this because I feel that if I had allowed myself to be more honest with my colleagues about my mental health, then I might not have ended up in such a ball of pickle.

During this period of ‘sick leave,’ I made the decision to be honest with everyone and I sent an email to my colleagues explaining what had happened to me. I told them frankly that I had been suffering with anxiety for a long time which had resulted in a nervous breakdown, and that I missed them very much. I had to tell them that last bit because I felt guilty (that old chestnut) about not being able to do my job and for leaving everyone else to pick up the pieces. After I sent that email, a steady stream of messages began trickling into my inbox from colleagues offering genuine support and incredibly kind words. They too had each been through their own mental pickles, and it was clear that they valued my openness.

I know of course, that this is a very sensitive and personal subject to discuss in public, and I know it isn’t practical for everyone to be this open. But what I’m saying is that if one person opens up, then five others might feel better about doing so too, and by discussing what it is like to experience depression will no doubt enable others to understand and therefore help break a taboo that is exceptionally unhelpful and therefore help to dispel THE GUILT.

So, I stick to my decision to go forth boldly, and when someone asks me where I’ve been or what I’ve been up to, I’ll tell them. Unashamedly, just like Deliciously Stella does about how she’s just eaten 10 donuts in a row. I can already tell you that this has not been as painful or awkward as you might imagine. Instead it has been an empowering exercise, and I haven’t felt guilty or ashamed once.

Annie x

The Taming of the Dog

They say you need to be settled down to own a dog. You need to have bags of time and money, a home with no sharp edges and a garden where it can poo. I was given my dog when I had none of these things.

I dreaded Maths on a Monday, I worried I wouldn’t make friends at Brownies, I worried about my Mum having a car crash on the way home from Sainsbury’s, and about making conversation with my teacher as she drove me to school. I was gnawingly anxious that underneath my gingham school dress I was wearing a Country Companions vest while my friends were all in training bras. On bad days, I worried that my entire family would die and I would be homeless. You might have called me ’a bit of a worrier,’ and you might think It’s all a little bit dramatic. But this is all very real for someone who has what I like to call an ’apocalyptic view of the world.’
My dog was tiny at first, and sort of manageable. I got used to having it around, it had been there since my mum dropped me off at the creche. But as I grew, it grew too. As I became an adult It became so big that people couldn’t see me anymore. It sapped my energy with its demands for attention – and there was absolutely no room for anything or anyone else in my life. When I was 23 it left me hopelessly looking for a way out in a messy heap on the kitchen floor, staring at the bubbling brown plastic lino.
The peculiar thing about my dog though, is that it isn’t always big and suffocating. Yes, I have days when it’s alarmingly larger than the day before, it makes me dizzy and my words get jumbled. But more often than not it is small and discreet and we can exist quite happily together. In fact, I need the dog sometimes. We all need some anxiety, some worrying thoughts and some stresses to stayed switched on to life and to physically go forward. So through a lot of trial, error and therapy, I have learnt a pack of survival techniques to keep this over-anxious dog at a manageable puppy size, and snoozing in the corner.
My biggest lifeline during my darkest moments has been writing. Under my bed I have notebook upon notebook of anxious scribblings, mythical stories about magic, diary extracts and silly poems. I’ve written about all sorts to stop my mind ruminating or running on a never ending chain of unhelpful thoughts. None of these notes have seen the light of day. But during the recovery of my most recent depressive episode spurred on by months of writhing anxiety in my abdomen and broken sleep, I decided to create something positive out of a big fat negative. I decided to get my writing out into the open and I decided to create this blog.
It is going to be simple. I am going to write openly and honestly about this condition, and I am going to record the things in my life that help keep the dog in the corner. I might write a comedy sketch about a conversation, or about an uplifting song, an experience, a recipe, a particularly helpful meditation practice or a place. I want to join the conversation about mental well being, a conversation that is thankfully getting louder. I am one of over 8 million anxiety sufferers in the UK, that’s an enormous number of anxious dogs. That makes this conversation a conversation worth having.

Anxious Annie.

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