Hope24 2017

WOW!!  Ran the incredible Hope24 race last weekend and it was AMAZING ❤ just as awesome as last year (see Hope24: a 24 hour run in Newnham Park, Devon).  It’s a 24 hour race held in Devon and is my absolute favourite running event of all time- it’s got everything: day and night running, awesome scenery, woodland trails, bluebells, friendly and inclusive atmosphere, really well organised, technically challenging running but also suitable for beginner trail runners…basically everything you could want in a running event!  MASSIVE thanks to Danny Slay for organising it 😀

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Started off a bit of an eventful weekend and wasn’t sure I was even going to get to Plymouth!  Had had a bit of a rubbish week last week moodwise- several meltdowns, a pretty major paranoia attack and two panic attacks meaning that I hadn’t slept much at all during the week, and was really looking forward to 24 hours of just running.  I left the house Friday evening to get the train to Birmingham and then to Plymouth, but just as I got to Birmingham Moor Street I realised I’d forgotten to bring medication with me.  Sometimes that’s not a massive problem and I can manage a couple of days without it but given how unpredictable my moods and thoughts had been last week, I was a bit nervous about risking three days without quetiapine in particular.  Luckily I was a bit early into Birmingham and went to a pharmacy to ask for advice; maybe not the best idea because the pharmacist basically told me not to go to Plymouth until I’d gone to a walk in centre to try to get a prescription or A+E to see a mental health liaison if they wouldn’t prescribe antipsychotics without a psychiatric report, but I really didn’t have time to find a walk in centre before the train and I didn’t want to waste A+E time.  So I bought some herbal sedative tablets and some Nytol, and hoped that would do as a temporary measure until Sunday.  Running’s a pretty good mood stabiliser anyway and I was going to be doing A LOT of that in the meantime!

So I finally got to the station and tried to get my tickets via the mobile app but it wouldn’t open.  Don’t have the energy to go into it now and the whole thing seems a bit blurred and surreal because of panic, so am going to copy and paste my FB status from Friday night: “NEVER try to book tickets with Cross Country online!!!  Bought them in advance online because it was so much cheaper than the crazy expensive train fare, and it said I had to download the app to get the ticket in the ‘My tickets’ section.  So I did but the app wouldn’t let me sign in even though I reset the password, deleted and redownloaded it several times and tried two different email addresses.

Then I thought I could use the website to get the ticket texted to my phone but after nine attempts of ‘Sorry, your request cannot be processed. Please try again later’ I decided to go to the ticket office at New Street and ask them.  The first woman I spoke to and showed my phone looked at me like I was stupid (although to be fair, I probably looked ridiculous since I was shaking and trying not to hyperventilate or cry by that point) and said it wasn’t anything to do with her, she worked for Virgin not Cross Country and I had to phone the Cross Country helpline.

By this time it was 40 mins before the train and was starting to panic a bit, and I called the helpline.  The first person I spoke to couldn’t understand anything I said (I couldn’t breathe properly and was stammering) and I felt horrible, and he kept repeating ‘I need to know the best way to help you’ over and over which made me feel worse, and I said sorry and hung up.  Did some ‘breathe box’ exercises and tried again, but the next person couldn’t understand me either and put me on hold before I could try to explain properly.

Was really panicking by then and tried for a third time, but the guy on the phone said he couldn’t do anything and that I just needed to redownload the app.  I tried to explain that I’d done that several times and that it wasn’t working, but he kept saying that he couldn’t help and I had to keep trying with the app, then he put me on hold without warning, and the phone cut out.

Was so so panicky by that point, 15 mins before the train was due and went back to the ticket office.  The woman said she couldn’t help and that I needed to keep calling the helpline, and I was so shaky, hot and dangerously close to crying by then that I just said thanks and went out again.  Then I really did start crying and hyperventilating, and started doing the breathing again and pinging a hair tie on my wrist to try to calm down.
There was a woman standing with a Virgin uniform near the ticket machines and I went over to her, and tried to explain the whole situation which was pretty difficult since I was trying really hard not to cry too much, shaking and couldn’t speak properly.  Luckily she’d seen me going in to the ticket office a few times and on the phone, and she was so so nice and calm which REALLY helped and was so amazing of her.

She looked at my phone and said she would talk to the train manager and explain that the app wasn’t working, and took me down to the platform.  She was genuinely amazing and talked about her own experiences with trains/buses and how frustrating it can be, and made me feel like I wasn’t a totally weird freak for panicking like that which was so so nice of her. S he spoke to the manager who said it was fine just to use the confirmation on my phone, and I got the train OK. SERIOUSLY relieved and so so grateful to her!!

If anyone knows a woman called Sarah who works for Virgin trains at New Street station, PLEASE tell her how amazing she is and that she deserves a pay rise!!  Seriously don’t know what I’d have done if she hadn’t helped, and she was so amazing, calm and kind even though I probably seemed like a more of a weird, panicky freak than I usually do!  Am so so grateful and going to drop a box of chocolates into the station next time I’m there.”

So I finally got to Plymouth (!) and found the B+B I’d booked.  It was late so the woman had left a key in a plant pot for me which was a relief because I didn’t have to speak to anyone (still jittery), took some Nytol and went to bed.  Found it hard to sleep and I’m not sure if it was because of nerves, anxiety, excitement or lack of quetiapine (or a combination of all of them!) and semi-dozed until it was time to get up.  Then I started to get seriously excited about the run, ate porridge and packed my CRAZY amount of food for the tent:

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Had the usual ironic giggle at the fact that I always have peanut butter during ultras (MONDAY MORNING PEANUTS!!  This won’t mean much to anyone who didn’t happen to be inpatient at WB in the mid-00s, but the apparent normality of a bag of salted peanuts at 10am on a Monday morning before going to the gym is something I don’t think any of us can forget!), and waited outside for a running friend to pick me up and give me a lift to the event (THANK YOU again!).  One of the things I absolutely love about ultras is how incredible the people are- even people you’ve only met one at an event a couple of years previously are like family, and everyone’s so amazing and accepting.  Then I set up the tent with food stores and lots of extra layers (turned out to be essential!!) and wandered round to the start line.  There were a few people I recognised from last year and from other events which was really nice, and started to get really excited about the start.  The atmosphere was incredible 🙂 it’s the most inclusive race ever and people are so lovely, and the supporters are amazing without being overwhelming which is also incredible.

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The first mile was pretty much the same as last year’s course: a ‘gentle’ uphill to the top of a field, although it looped round and up this year instead of straight up which was a nice change and gave your legs more time to adjust.  There were sheep and lambs like last year, and the views from the top of the hill were incredible.  I was lucky to meet up with a woman I got to know during the run last year and who is incredible, and we ran the first couple of laps together which was really nice (thank you!!).  It was so nice to catch up and really didn’t feel like I’d only met her once a year ago, felt like we’d known each other forever!  Made the first couple of laps go past really quickly, and I decided to use the third lap as a ‘photography’ lap because the scenery was so amazing.

After the hill, the course went through a woodland trail with lots of bluebells which was so pretty and my favourite part of the course.  There was a short section where you run through tall trees and it feels surreal and magical, like running through an enchanted wood of some sort.  The path was easy to run on (at that point) and there was a heavy woodland air that you could feel as well as breathe, and the smell of bluebells was incredible.  Could run that part forever!  Then the path opened onto a short stretch across a field and back into the woods, although the second woodland stretch was more ‘busy’ and less magical stillness than the first one.  The trees were smaller and leafier with branches bending down towards to path or overhanging, and it felt like the kind of wood you’d make treehouses or go for long walks in.  It was a bit trickier to run because of roots and rocks but there were bluebells everywhere and it felt like you were really in spring.  So, so pretty!!

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After a mostly downhill wooded trail, the course looped back around a relatively flat pathway before back up onto wooded trail again and spilling down the hill towards the campsite.  I loved the last mile: undulating wooded path along the side of a hill with glimpses of the tents through the trees then running down an open hillside towards the campsite.  Really did feel like coming back home at the end!  After that lap, I made a quick pitstop at my tent (which felt like a sauna and my peanut butter had melted!), ate  few spoonfuls of PB and grabbed a few cereal bars for my water pack.  Refilled water then back out for another lap of awesomeness.

I was feeling pretty amazing by this point: getting into the rhythm of running, loving the scenery, connecting with God and my Granda Sam through bluebells and trees, and best of all the bitch in my head seemed to have taken a nap and was nearly totally silent throughout the whole run!!  The last few races I’ve done, she’s been a bit quieter but still annoyingly there, but for the first time in probably about six months she seemed to have shut up completely and my brain was relatively quiet for the first time in AGES.  It felt AMAZING; I could think more clearly, everything seemed slowed down and manageable, and I felt calm and connected with everything instead of jittery-hyped or detached.  It really was an incredible feeling.  I decided to put Bowie’s Lazarus soundtrack on my iPod (I saw the musical last year and it was the most amazing stage show I’ve ever seen, even if it didn’t make a lot of sense at the time) and ran continuously until the album had finished.  And then amazingly, the meaning of the music started to make sense and it felt like Bowie was actually talking to me through the lyrics and the way the actors sang the words.  Won’t bore readers with too much pseudo-significant Bowie, but some things seemed really important:

  • Your only reality is your own.  You just need to come to peace with your own thoughts and learn to accept them without having to react or act on them.
  • Sometimes the most helpful and influential people in your life only exist in your own head.
  • Judging yourself is so much worse than other people’s judgments.  People are selfish and inevitably caught up in their own lives- any judgment on you is a passing comment whereas self-judgment is a poisonous seed that can control your mind from within.
  • The only true way to escape the reality of life is to fully accept it.  Any attempts to escape or numb it only lead to more suffering.
  • “We can be heroes.  Just for one day.”  The second part of that quote is the most important part: anyone can be a hero in any given moment if you only focus fully on that particular moment and don’t have the pressure of trying to be a ‘hero’ for a lifetime.  The ‘we’ is also important: ANYONE can be a ‘hero’ if they learn to make peace with their own mind in order to escape its control.  And that’s pretty much my mantra for running: accept the run for what it is, try as hard as you can but don’t put pressure on yourself to achieve any particular time/distance, relax into it.  Metaphor for running and for life!

Anyway, Bowie aside…!!  It started to rain towards the end of that lap so I put on my first layer of waterproof, ate a cereal bar and carried on.  Unfortunately the rain got gradually heavier until by the time it was dark enough to need head torches, it was pretty much impossible to see properly and I was on my fourth layer of waterproofs.  That lap was genuinely terrifying :/ I could hardly see at all (my headtorch isn’t brilliantly strong to start off with but my glasses were covered with rain so really hard to see through, and it was very, very muddy).  The first part of the lap wasn’t too bad going across the field, but going into the woods was very, very muddy and hard to navigate.  I was slipping all over the place and trying not to fall by grabbing onto tree branches, and tiptoe/climbing rather than even walking!  It was so, so scary on my own, and started to panic which really didn’t help because I was genuinely convinced I was going to die of saturation, hypothermia or falling in mud.

Then halfway through the lap (and thankfully before the main downhill part of the route), I met a running friend who had walking poles and a VERY strong headtorch, and asked if I could stick with him for the rest of the route.  He was amazing and basically let me walk right behind him so I could see where he’d put his feet, and pointed out any roots or rocks with his poles.  Made such a massive difference and felt so much safer with someone else there.  I was starting to have a bit of an ethical dilemma about what to do: I REALLY didn’t feel safe carrying on with that amount of mud and poor visibility but I felt too guilty to stop until it got light, and I knew that if I took a break, I’d never get going again.  I was feeling really trapped and stuck, and still wasn’t sure what to do by the end of the lap but thankfully when we got back to the campsite, the race had been postponed because of the conditions.  I had genuinely never been so relieved in my life and felt like crying with relief!

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They said they were going to reassess in an hour, so I went back to my tent which was SOAKED- the inside was about as wet as outside with rain and condensation and I was FREEZING.  I couldn’t stay inside the tent any longer so I took my blanket and hot water bottle to where the friend who’d given me a lift had a gazebo and a FIRE with other runners from his running club.  I sat as close to the fire as I physically could in an attempt to warm up, and made some porridge which tasted amazing.  Then we found out that the race organiser had made the very difficult decision to postpone the race until it was light (5am) and would be safer for running.  It must have been a very, very difficult decision to make but absolutely the right one.  Most people went back to tents (or home if they were local) to get some sleep, but my tent was so wet and cold that even being in it felt like I was going to die of hypothermia and I couldn’t stop shivering so I went back to the main marquee.

Got chatting to some amazing people in the marquee including the race organiser’s partner who was INCREDIBLE.  She was lovely and so friendly, and we work in similar jobs so had a really nice chat about that (and I ranted a bit about fidget spinners which had been driving me up the wall all week at school!).  I was so so cold and she let me sit in front of the heater, then gave me a buff and said I could curl up on a mat in the marquee which was so so nice of her and amazing; I had my blanket so curled up like a hamster with the hot water bottle and the buff made such a massive difference to the amount of heat I must have been losing from my head.  Thank you so much!!!  Stayed there till the race restarted, then went back to my tent to drop off the blanket.

It was so, so hard to motivate to start up again because it was still freezing and wet, but I put on my hoodie (which was still damp but had been in front of the heater so not too bad), got a coffee and decided to walk a lap to see how I felt.  After a mile or so, I felt a lot better and started to get back into the running again.  Early morning is my absolute favourite time of day and the sky was so clear that you’d hardly believe the weather from the night before.  It was still very muddy and slippery (although I only fell over once!), but a lot better now you could see properly.  Running through the tall tree woods with early morning mist felt like a newborn Narnia, and the stillness was incredible.  The damp in the greener woods made it feel like the world was coming back to life, and you could hear birds tweeting and lambs bleating.  Seriously amazing feeling!  Felt so ‘real’ and connected.

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The hardest part about the enforced break was that the cold and damp had made my muscles seize up a bit, and one of my knees was a bit ‘creaky’.  It got better as the morning went on though, and soon it felt almost summer-like hot as the sun came out properly.  My body doesn’t deal particularly well with temperature extremes and coming up to midday, I was starting to feel a bit ill with hands and feel still freezing numb but my body starting to overheat, but I’m not sure how much of that was linked to two days off quetiapine (I’d had similar symptoms when I stopped taking it last year) so I took some paracetamol and Nytol, and that helped a bit.  The buff was amazing and really helped to stop my head from overheating!  Definitely going to use it again next ultra…

The last couple of laps were hard because by then, I was totally exhausted and feeling the effects of no sleep and the damp cold.  But I was also feeling amazing; my brain was still quiet, I hadn’t had any obsessive or paranoid thoughts for nearly 24 hours and I was feeling calm and connected.  I even managed to finish on 13 laps which would usually be an absolute NO for me (12 or 14; odd numbers are unlucky and 13 is about as bad as it can get) which meant that ironically I came 13th place out of 148 female solo runners which I was MASSIVELY happy with.  Feeling a bit edgy about the 13 laps now though and thinking it as 65 miles doesn’t help either because it’s still an odd number and it’s 13 x 5, but at the time I had the horrible thought that I shouldn’t finish on 13 and needed to push for 14 but amazingly it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t bother me that much, which was amazing in itself.  Although if I lose a friend or really upset someone this week without realising it, that will be why…  Need to be super careful and I am being; have taken my usual anti-paranoia precautions on social media so I *touch wood* shouldn’t do anything stupid or impulsive.  Still can’t believe I ran 13 laps!!  Also really cool because last year I ran 16 in 24 hours and we lost 6 1/2 hours this year because the race was postponed, so actually ran ‘more’ in the time than I did last year!  MEGA achievement for so many reasons 🙂

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MASSIVE thanks to all the organisers and marshals for such an incredible event, and to all the awesome people I met over the weekend and who were so amazing and supportive.  THANK YOU ALL and can’t wait till next year!!! 😀

Twelve days in…

Nearly two weeks into Lent and amazingly still going with it!  Seriously didn’t think I’d make it this far.  I’m really sorry I haven’t posted during the week, been totally exhausted and had a lot going on, will try to post more next week.  Also been a bit lazy with DBT skills so definitely going to focus more on that and write some DBT/ACT specific posts…

This week hasn’t been perfect- I’ve been feeling rubbish mood-wise most of the week, underlying anxiety and intense obsessive thoughts which have been hard to manage and that always makes the bitch in my head louder and harder to ignore, but made it through the week without any major slips or meltdowns which given everything that’s happens this week and the amount of stress it’s caused is a massive positive!  And I’ve also managed a couple of pretty major challenges which were a mega achievement for me so not the worst week I’ve ever had.
The start of the week was pretty stressful for various reasons and found it really hard to stick to the meal plan.  Every meal was difficult and the bitch in my head kept reminding me that I didn’t need it, I’m putting on too much weight and everyone thinks I’m selfish and disgusting, and that no ones really cares anyway so there’s no point following through with it.  I managed most of it but felt horrible and so anxious about it, and spent more time on the cross trainer or running than I maybe should have but sometimes it’s the only way to shut her up and I needed to so I could focus on sticking to what I should be doing.

Wednesday was pretty awesome though and a massive positive- I ate food that someone else had cooked and ate it with them at the table!!  It was a challenge for lots of reasons- partly because I hadn’t cooked the food and even though my friend said she hadn’t used oil and I trust her more than anyway, the bitch in my head was reminding me that she could just be saying that and I hadn’t actually seen her cook the food; partly because I had no idea what the right portion was and had to trust my friend’s judgement; partly because it was 7pm which is an hour and a half after I’d usually eat and the bitch in my head really wanted me to just skip tea and not have anything because it was too late and I didn’t need it anyway; and partly eating in front of people at a table which I hardly ever do (I usually eat on my own in my bedroom and have done pretty much always if I’ve had the choice since I was a teenager) although that was easier than it would be anywhere else because I was with my favourite people in the world and at their house, which is the place I feel safest.  Felt really, really anxious about it but it went so much better than I thought would even be possible.  It definitely helped that the food was all ‘healthy’ and foods that fitted into my meal plan anyway, I used a bowl I’ve used a lot before and which I know is about the right portion size (literally- it’s exactly the same size and shape as the bowls from when I was an inpatient) and it was really, really nice to eat with people I love spending time with.  Still can’t believe i actually did it though, especially as it wasn’t planned!  And I did a front flip on the trampoline for the first time ever so double achievement!

The rest of the week was pretty rubbish, lots of anxiety and feeling horrible and guilty but still sticking to the meal plan as much as I can.  Definitely need to make a conscious effort to engage with it properly next week.  Especially because I’ve got the London Marathon coming up next month, am genuinely terrified about it and could really do with being able to fuel in front of people which is still an issue I need to work on…

New week and feeling hungry??

I didn’t sleep particularly well last night and really wasn’t ready to get up when my alarm went off at 5.30am.  I felt totally exhausted and, weirdly, HUNGRY.  I haven’t felt genuine hunger in nearly ten years and it was very, very weird.  My stomach actually hurt with hunger and I felt like it was being sucked inwards- not in the vertigo-y suction of feeling rubbishness but real, physical aching.  For a few moments, I wasn’t sure what to do and wanted to hide under the duvet and try to get back to sleep, but if I did that I’d be late for school so I had to get up.

When I went downstairs, I made some coffee and automatically sipped it slowly so it wouldn’t make my stomach burn any more (weird how things like that come back to you!).  I started to feel really anxious which didn’t help the stomach issue, but I had no idea what to do.  Breakfast wasn’t for another two hours and I still had a cross trainer session to do first but the hunger was making me feel really weird, and I wasn’t sure I’d be OK on the cross trainer.  It wasn’t the physical discomfort that was making me nervous; it was the weird ‘muscle memories’ it was triggering- I felt like I’d fallen back in time about 15 years and I kept having vivid semi-memories of being in Glasgow and feeling my stomach burn with hunger, being at school and feeling like my stomach was clenching itself inwards, doodling pictures of ice cream and chocolate bars during lessons to distract from the burning sensation of real stomach hunger.

The weird thing is that all the times I’ve experienced it before, I’ve been either underweight or losing weight but this time I’m actually eating more than I have done in nearly decade :s it seems totally wrong and counterintuitive to feel that bloody hungry!  Especially since I’d eaten fish, polenta and vegetables the night before and felt totally bloated afterwards.  I compromised and had half a glass of smoothie before the cross trainer (even that felt too much since I hadn’t actually done anything yet) and took a can of diet Coke with me.  I LOVE early morning cross trainer sessions- it’s such an amazing way to wake up and feel like you’re fully connected with the day before it’s started, and the hungry feeling subsided a bit by the time I’d finished so it was just a mild achy sensation in my stomach rather than intense clenching pain.

The rest of the morning was pretty standard- porridge, coffee and medication which amazingly isn’t hurting my stomach the way it used to (it used to feel like a mild burning when I first took it even with food), and I think maybe my stomach’s just trying to get used to eating so bloody much?  I had a pretty full on day at work today and had to stay late for CPD training so I felt like I was packing for a hiking trip instead of a school day!  I think the hardest part was trying to accept that I was going to eat all that food (the bitch in my head was trying to convince me I only needed the baked beans) and that it was OK to have snacks and more than one thing for lunch, and it was exhausting trying to deal with that as well as psyching up for school.  I kept rationalising that it was OK to take the food and if I genuinely didn’t need it, I wouldn’t eat it which made it a bit easier and less anxiety-provoking to pack it in my bag, although I spent most of the day worrying that someone would see it and think I was massively greedy or selfish.

The day went OK- nothing major apart from a few intense anxieties about getting things wrong which is pretty typical for a Monday especially, and I think the Lent resolutions are really helping with managing that because in the scheme of anxiety I’m feeling about foods pretty much constantly atm, a potential mistake that might not even matter to anyone which would usually cause a mini meltdown/panic attack actually doesn’t seem that important and is a lot easier to deal with than it usually would be.  I don’t think my brain or body have enough space for that amount of anxiety without going into shutdown!

After school, the teachers from my department were going for a meal and I wasn’t sure if I was going to go (usually I wouldn’t), but they’ve been so lovely and supportive of me working with them that I decided to risk it and go with them.  Amazingly, it went OK!!  I was so nervous about it and scared of ordering food I didn’t know, but the restaurant had a salad bar with lots of different stuff (including several of my ‘safe’ foods) and it was totally acceptable to just have salad so I did and made a ‘meal’ out of a mix of proteins, carbohydrates and salad in a similar structure to the meal at home would have been.  And no one said anything or commented which was amazing and such a massive relief.  Can’t believe I did it!!  Achievement for the week.

SO TIRED now though, exhausting trying to keep up with it and talk down the bitch in my head who takes every available opportunity to tell me how greedy, SELFISH and ridiculous I’m being and how everyone’s going to be judging me and thinking how horrible and selfish I am, and it’s hard not to listen to it because there is a (pretty big) part of me that really does believe that.  But part of Lent is challenging toxic thoughts and ideas, and I keep reminding myself that if Jesus could last 40 days and 40 nights in the desert with absolutely no distractions while the Devil was tempting him, I can ignore or accept the bitch’s words without acting on them…

Survived the weekend!

First weekend of Lent down and it actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be!  I always find weekends difficult- too much time, no structure, loneliness and no distractions, and I was really nervous about trying to stick to my Lent resolutions without the structure and distraction of school to help.  It was bloody hard, especially yesterday, but nowhere near as difficult as I thought and *touch wood* have managed to stick (mostly) to the plan, no major ‘behaviours’ and even had a soya latte in Coffee Nero which was a massive personal challenge!

Saturdays are the hardest day of the week- start of the seemingly endless mass of too much time also known as the weekend, no structure, the pressing feeling that I ‘should’ be doing something productive and absolute exhaustion from the school week.  I met a friend yesterday morning which was really nice, and since it was ‘snack time’ I’d decided to have a soya latte instead of black coffee which I’d usually have.  I was really nervous about it, partly in case my friend commented (even though I know she wouldn’t) and partly because the bitch in my head kept telling me that I ‘shouldn’t drink calories’, it was an extra that I didn’t need, it was way more expensive than americano and that I was just being greedy.  I repeated in my head over and over some ‘facts’ that I’d already memorised to challenge her- that it wasn’t any worse than the banana I’d had that I’d had every breaktime at school, it was calcium and protein which are both necessary for runners, nearly everyone in Caffe Nero drinks a ‘calorie drink’ and none of them have immediately gained half a stone because of it, and that one of my closest friends who I really look up to drinks lattes at least once a day with sugar and is one of the slimmest people I know.

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Then I opened my purse and realised I’d got a fully stamped Nero card which meant a free drink, and that seemed like a good omen to get a more expensive drink so I asked for a soya latte with sugar free caramel syrup.  WOW, it tasted amazing!!  Drinking it was hard though- part of me wanted to drink it all straight away because it tasted incredible and was like liquid candy but the other part of me wanted to throw it surreptitiously out the window because it was dangerous and greedy and I wanted more.  So I drank it probably quicker than I’d meant to to get it out the way, and kind of regretted it when I realised I hadn’t really tasted it as much as I’d have liked to.  That’s the horrible part of ‘liking’ foods/drinks- it feels scary and dangerous and you want to get rid of it as fast as you can but there’s also a part of you that you don’t want to admit that wants it (I’m not sure what the best word to use to describe it- it’s not ‘enjoyment’ because of the anxiety and guilt that’s there too but there’s a definite sense of something potentially positive as well).

The rest of the day went OK- didn’t experiment too much but stuck to the plan, and tried to keep some sort of structure with school work and cross trainer.  Today was pretty uneventful- again, stuck mostly to the Lent plan and didn’t really experiment outside of what I’ve been already trying.  I haven’t been feeling great today mood-wise and found it hard to motivate to doing anything; I just want to curl up on my bed with my cat, a hot water bottle and a fleecy blanket, but I did force myself to go for a slow run in between rain showers which helped a bit.  Still feeling drained and a bit zoned but not as bad as I did this morning and without the run, I don’t think I’d have been able to stick to the meal plan.  But on the positive side, still no bingeing!!!  FIVE DAYS ❤ longest I’ve managed in nearly eight years…

Lent Day Three- tough day :/

Day three of Lent and starting to really struggle with feeling full ALL THE TIME.  Found it really hard to motivate to getting out of bed this morning :/ felt totally drained and disgusting, like someone had sapped all my energy and replaced it with heaviness and sludge.  Not nice!!  I literally had to force my body into moving through the motions this morning- coffee first, shower, putting on one item of clothing at a time and really had to concentrate to make sure I actually remembered everything.

Was running late so didn’t really have time to think about porridge which was probably a good thing- made instant porridge and ate it quickly because I hate being late for work.  Didn’t even have time to think about eating when I wasn’t hungry and it was only halfway to work it suddenly hit me!  But by then I was stressed about being late, feeling anxious and trying to manage lots of ‘rule-type’ thoughts which always seem worse when I’m late (radio volume on an even number, swallowing even number of times, making sure I could see exactly half my left eye in the rear view mirror, not looking at the clock at 8.13 and when I did accidentally, having to look at the clock even more times on 8.14 etc) and didn’t have enough brain space to worry about the porridge too.

When I got to school, I had a pretty full-on morning with some of my favourite but challenging classes and I was so exhausted by breaktime that I actually really needed the banana energy boost.  Was really busy again right up to lunchtime, and didn’t have time to worry about how I was going to manage the baked beans and bread.  I was so, so nervous about it- partly the logistics of making and eating it (is it OK to eat food with a knife and fork at lunchtime? and is it OK to do that in the staffroom?) and partly in case someone commented on it and that would make me feel even more anxious and self-conscious, but luckily it’s Friday today and not many people around (lots of staff are part-time) so there were only two other people in the staffroom anyway.  I decided not to risk toasting the break because getting the toaster out and plugged in would draw attention to it and I was nervous enough anyway, so I had bread with cold baked beans.

I felt really sick when I started to eat it and felt full almost immediately, and I really wanted to just eat the beans and leave the bread but I know that would be cheating and would defeat the point of following the meal plan, so I forced myself to eat a few beans at a time then cut the bread into small pieces and ate them too.  Felt like I was going to explode by the time I’d finished and my stomach was bloated and uncomfortable, which was really horrible.  I had a horrible, intense urge to throw up and was very close to going to the toilet but the bell rang and the child I work with in the afternoon was waiting at the staffroom door so I couldn’t.  I felt really trapped and jittery but Friday afternoons are one-to-one work with a child I mentor so couldn’t do anything about it which was really, really horrible.

Then the bitch in my head started up, saying I shouldn’t have eaten it and didn’t need it, beans are OK on their own and bread is another meal in itself so I’d basically had two meals in one which was really, really greedy especially after the banana at break, feeling full is my body’s way of telling me I’ve eaten too much and I was really selfish for ignoring that and eating anyway, I’m a disgusting bitch and that’s why people don’t like me…  I couldn’t challenge her with a child in front of me and ignoring her isn’t really an option because she just gets louder, so I dug the staffroom key hard into my hand (inside my fist so the child couldn’t see) and bit my tongue, and the pain helped to distract enough that she started to quieten down a bit.

It’s a pretty intense afternoon doing one-to-one work which really helped to distract from how I was feeling.  The lesson went OK but way too quickly (I love working intensively with kids because takes so much energy and when I’m jittery-hyped, it’s a great way to channel it positively and the kids really seem to respond well to that), and I stayed late after school to write up notes to try to calm down a bit before going home.  I still felt really bloated when I got home and it’s the first time I’ve seriously considered missing food from the meal plan.  I felt SO FULL and horrible, and I’d got pretty bad heartburn as well which really didn’t help.  I couldn’t face a yogurt so ate some dates instead (needed an energy boost) and played Minecraft for a while to try to distract from feeling sick.

I hate evenings- my mood and energy levels seem to crash and it’s hard to focus on anything properly.  Friday evenings are the worst because I don’t even have school the next day and my anxiety’s really high without structure, and because I don’t ‘have’ to do anything which is really difficult to deal with.  Had to force myself to eat tea again and felt even worse afterwards, and I just wanted to binge then purge it all out, stop feeling so disgusting and bloated and escape form my body for a while.  But I’ve decided to follow the contract for the next 37 days and that means NO BINGEING, and I can’t break the main rule.  My brain’s been spinning all evening :/ trying to manage intense binge urges while the bitch in my head is screaming at me for messing everything up, being a disgusting lazy bitch, making myself even more fat so people will think I’m even more selfish than they already do etc is bloody hard and I am EXHAUSTED.

Still feel like my stomach’s forcing my clothes to stretch and I’m so scared none of my clothes will fit by Monday.  What if I genuinely have nothing to wear?  What if I get so fat people don’t recognise me?  What if the kids say something?  Feeling disgusting and so horrible, and it’s really hard trying to rationalise it and stick to the plan.  Only three days in and it’s BLOODY HARD.  But I managed two years as an inpatient on a much more difficult diet than this one (WAY more food and variety) and didn’t die, so I know rationally that it IS possible.  Just need to keep trying…

Day Two of Lent

Day two and still trying…!  I’m not going to detail every aspect of every day because I know that too many food details can be really triggering for people at any stage of ED recovery, and because I don’t want to affect anyone by talking about specific thoughts or behaviours.  So I’m going to focus on a few things each day that have been particularly challenging, useful or interesting.

Most of today’s been OKish which was a relief after the mega emotion swings yesterday.  Had to talk myself into eating a banana at break because it really is hard to make yourself eat something when you’re not hungry at all and it’s not a mealtime, but I kept reminding myself that I did it yesterday and survived, and it had actually had a positive effect on energy levels and mood during the day.  Felt horrible and shaky after it again but had to go straight into lesson which was a really good distraction again- I think school is a really good time to challenge new foods/behaviours because it really is a forced distraction/supervision!

Year 11 mocks meant that I had to work through lunch which completely threw me off track.  I had no idea what to do and the bitch in my head started reminding me that I didn’t have to eat it, I’d already had a banana so didn’t really need lunch as well, it would be really selfish and greedy to ask for time to eat etc and I started to feel sick and really, really guilty.  It was so hard to know what the best thing to do was, and I was trying to rationalise the bitch in my head by telling her that I had rules I needed to stick to, it’s only for six weeks and I won’t know if it works or not unless I fully commit to it and that I can always go back to my usual routine after Lent is over.  It was so exhausting having a pretty much constant brain argument all through the morning’s lessons and luckily the kids were doing an assessment so not too much concentration needed but felt really zoned out and nervous which wasn’t great in lessons.

It was a bit frustrating because I really did want to try to have beans on toast for lunch (since I’d chickened out and had porridge yesterday) and decided to compromise by eating the bread in between lessons three and four (ate it quickly in the toilets which took me straight back to being at school and eating cereals bars in the toilets at lunch; really need to work out a more ‘normal’ alternative to that!) which was ‘lunch’ then I had two oatcakes as well as yogurt when I got home to make up for it.  Which seemed to make sense rationally but the bitch in my head didn’t agree and started telling me how greedy and ridiculous I was being, and I felt guilty-sick and really edgy about it.  So I went for a walk to try to shut her up and calm down, which helped a bit.

Still felt really anxious when I was making tea and had a bit of a freak out about carbohydrates (I genuinely have no idea what constitutes a ‘meal’ and what a portion of carbohydrates actually is), and decide to compromise by having baked beans (one of my ‘safe’ foods) as carbs with fish and vegetables.  It was OK, mostly because all of them are relatively safe foods but the bitch in my head started up again when I came to eat the beans because I don’t really need that as well as the fish and it’s basically another meal which made me feel even more jittery and sick.  But I finished it because that’s the rules, and had a peppermint tea afterwards to try to ease the bloating feeling.  It hasn’t really worked though and I feel like I’ve put on about half a stone just since this morning.  Even though I know rationally that’s not possible, I’m feeling horrible and disgusting and wish I could vacuum off half my body just to feel more comfortable.  I think it maybe didn’t help that someone at work said I looked nice this morning and that I looked different somehow, and I know that probably means I’ve put on weight.  Hate it!!  I hate not knowing what’s happening with my weight but I’m even more scared to weigh myself- I haven’t known mu weight since 2009 (when it went over my then highest ever weight) and I’m really, really nervous of what it actually is.  Bitch in my head would probably kill me or something if she found out :/

Anyway, day two down and still managed not to binge!!  Seeing that as a mega positive at least.  Only 38 days to go… 🙈

Lent Day One…

First day of Lent and survived!!  Totally exhausted already though and it’s been a very weird up and down day, but made it till nearly bedtime with (mostly) sticking to the plan and no bingeing or any other massively destructive behaviours *touch wood* so went better than I thought it would…  It’s weird, I’m feeling a bit spun out and overwhelmed so it’s hard to try to put into words how the first day of ‘simulated inpatient’ has gone, and I’m kind of feeling the same as I have done at the start of every admission which is WEIRD.

It also really doesn’t help that yesterday we had a geography field trip which consisted of doing site surveys in different locations around town, one of which happened to be right outside the ED inpatient treatment centre (which is an area I’ve avoided ever since) and that felt really weird and surreal, and I was so scared I’d see someone I know.  Luckily I didn’t but it still felt really strange.  I can’t really describe the feeling- it was like underlying anxiety but mixed with a sort of guilt and intense pain too, no idea why and really didn’t like it.  And then when we went up into town to do another site, I bumped into the psychologist I used to see at the ED service which was even more weird and surreal, and REALLY not the best timing.  She recognised me and started talking to me which was nice of her but so weird and I wasn’t sure what to say, especially in the middle of a school trip!  Still feeling weird and surreal about it today, and starting Lent has sort of added to that.

I’ve basically approached Lent like an inpatient contract- I’ve got the plan and I’ve got to stick to it because that’s the rules.  It’s a lot harder on your own though even though I’ve gone over the rules so many times in my head.  The morning was OK because it was porridge like I usually would, and the first ‘challenge’ was break time at school when I’d planned to have a cereal bar (would usually be biscuits but I forgot to go to the supermarket yesterday).  It was SO BLOODY HARD to make myself eat it and I was shaking so much but luckily it was Wednesday which happens to be the day that my department at school eat cakes at break time (it’s a weekly tradition) so that really helped to justify eating it, and no one commented on it which was a massive relief.  I felt sick afterwards though and so guilty for eating when I wasn’t hungry and it wasn’t a meal time, but one of the plus sides to working in a school is that you’re straight into lessons and don’t really have time to dwell on it.  THANK GOD.  It’s like distraction and supervision merged into one.

Amazingly, I didn’t explode or spontaneously combust after the cereal bar at break and managed not to think about it too much until lesson four (right before lunch) when usually I’m getting tired and a bit lightheaded thanks to long lessons and lunch being relatively late at school.  Today was different though- I had way more energy than usual and still jittery after breaktime which translated into mild hypomania through the whole lesson which I really hadn’t expected.  I was literally twitching with hypedness the whole hour, couldn’t stand still so flicked from one child to another pretty much constantly and talking way more than I usually would.  Everything seemed to have sped up and I kept going ‘out of sync’ with what was going on, and I was aware that a few of the kids were looking at me a bit strangely.  I kept taking deep, abdominal breaths (subtly) to try to slow down, but my thoughts were going a million miles an hour and I was seriously jittery.  At first, I thought I must have forgotten to take quetiapine last night but I wouldn’t have slept if I hadn’t so I very rarely forget it and if I do, I realise pretty quickly.  Then I realised it was energy from the cereal bar- I’m not used to having a sugar boost mid-morning and I think I must have been on an anxiety-mixed sugar rush which was why I was so hyped and jittery.  When I realised that, I found it really hard not to giggle hysterically (no idea why- it was a weird mix of guilt and excitement) and had to make a massive effort to ‘slow down’ for the rest of the lesson.

After that, I felt a bit too anxious and jittery to try anything new at lunch so I had porridge as usual (not great I know but definitely going to try beans on toast tomorrow), then calmed down a bit before the afternoon.  After school, I went to the supermarket which was another massive challenge (I HATE supermarket shopping and am usually in and out in less than three minutes), and I managed to go round most of the shop and get DIFFERENT FOODS to try.  I got soya yogurts to have after school, bananas and biscuits for breaktimes (alternating), white fish and vegetables for tea.  I kind of cheated and bought a mixed bag of ready prepared vegetables which also had potato in so I didn’t have to work out a portion of carbs, but I think that’s safest for the first attempt and even thinking about preparing it was giving me mega anxiety.

When I got home, I put the oven on straightaway so I wouldn’t chicken out and put the veg and potatoes in, and fish wrapped in tin foil.  Was feeling seriously nervous and sick by then but I managed a yogurt and took a coffee upstairs to distract with school work.  I’d completely forgotten how much of an amazing distraction doing school-related work is (now I can see totally why I loved homework so much) and definitely going to make that a daily distraction in the evenings even though *technically* it isn’t part of my job.  When I went downstairs to get the food, I felt really, really sick and nearly put in back in the fridge for another day but the guilt and anxiety about ‘breaking the rules’ overrode the feeling sick horribleness of eating the meal, and I started to eat it.

It was really, really hard, way harder than the cereal bar this morning because I started to feel full and bloated really quickly and felt like I was forcing myself to pick up the fork over and over, and actually swallow the food.  I realised that the mixed veg was a bad idea- I couldn’t figure out which order to eat it in (is onion more or less carb-y than courgette?  how can you tell the difference between squash and sweet potato?  is sweet potato a vegetable or a carbohydrate and should you eat it before or after fish?) and my brain was going even faster than it had done earlier in the day, thoughts merging and not making sense and I couldn’t work out what parts of the meal were what even though logically I know it probably doesn’t matter.  It also brought back horrible memories of being an inpatient and being told off at the table for eating things in a certain order (veg then protein then carbs) and only one thing at a time, but I have to eat it that way and if I don’t get it right, my anxiety skyrockets and I feel even more spun out and sick.  Maybe something I need to challenge later on, once I’ve got my head around the food…

But managed to finish the meal!!  Felt SO BLOATED afterwards (and still do), I can feel my stomach pressing against my trousers and feel disgusting but I know that’s part of it and I’ve had that every time I’ve tried to change my diet before, and I know you need to just ride through it until it subsides.  So hard though and it really doesn’t feel like it’s going to ease off :/ I’ve been looking through old ED stuff and keep reminding myself that I’ve eaten A LOT more than this in a day before in the past and survived it, but all I can see in my brain at the moment is a pile of all the foods I’ve eaten today and I feel sick.  But it’s definitely a bigger step than I’ve taken in the last eight years, and the logical part of my brain knows that’s a massive positive.  Really, really hoping it’ll get easier..

Lent resolutions…

I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in so long!  Haven’t been feeling great again recently, no energy or motivation, feeling like someone’s compressing my brain with weights so it’s like constant pre-migraine where your thoughts are slowed down and don’t make sense and just feeling generally exhausted.  So have been finding it really hard to actually finish blog posts in order to post them- sorry!!

REALLY wanted to post this one though because it’s Lent on Wednesday and I’ve made a pretty big decision this year- I’m going to use the six weeks of Lent as a trial ED ‘recovery’ programme using the same structure as inpatient and really, really trying to stick to it and see what happens.  Usually at Lent, I give up anything sweet, not healthy foods etc but over the last few years it’s got a bit ridiculous as I don’t eat anything like that anyway, so I’ve decided to try to simulate being an inpatient instead to try to get more regular structure into my eating and to vary it from basically porridge.  So so nervous but I’m so fed up with feeling the way I do and how it affects both my work and other people that I really think it might be worth trying…

I found some old inpatient folders recently which gave me the idea, and it’s so weird re-reading them!  The assessment period on the ward was six weeks which is the same length of time as Lent, and I know rationally that even with eating ‘real’ inpatient diet (my version is a bit more manageable to do on my own) it’s impossible to gain massive amounts of weight in that time, and I’ve got my old weight charts to prove it.  I’m so scared about gaining a lot of weight though, but I’m trying to justify it with the fact that I already hate my size and how I feel with it, and that can’t get much worse.  And if it really does feel like too much, I can always stop and go back to porridge- unlike being an actual inpatient, I’m not going to threaten myself with sections or NG tube!  But I really, really do want to try to manage it…

The weirdest thing was finding a copy of the ‘rules’ on the ward:


I remember how nervous I was about signing a copy as an inpatient (this is a stabilisation version- the original contract also had rules about staying on the ward at all times, no exercise, reaching target weight and staying there etc) and I’ve got the same sorts of nerves about trying it again now.  But I know it’s so important to address everything- behaviours, food patterns, taking responsibility for diet etc as well as just following the rules and I’ve got strategies for managing that which I’ve tried before and am writing into my plan to try to stick to it.

I’ve written a weekly ‘plan’ which is loosely based on the inpatient stablisation plan, and I’m going to make it a ‘rule’ to follow it for the next six weeks.  I’m really hoping that seeing it as a contract I’ve signed and that I ‘have’ to stick to the rules with help to follow it, and that knowing it’s time-limited to six weeks should make it more manageable and achievable.  I’ve thought about it a lot and although I’m absolutely bloody terrified about so many parts of it, I can’t feel much worse than I have done over the last year-ish and structure usually helps me to feel better and less out of control.  This is the plan:


I’m lucky that since I work in a school, I’ve already got a ready-made structure and distraction during the day which should make that part a lot easier, and I’ve also made a ‘timetable’ for evenings too which are usually my hardest time because my mood seems to drop and my brain starts on mega anxiety/paranoia mode, and it’s harder to manage with no distractions.  I’ve got an hour and 30 mins scheduled for ‘therapy’-type stuff which isn’t as much as you have to as an inpatient but I don’t have the energy or concentration for any more than that, plus it’s a million times harder when you’re trying to motivate yourself to make changes and challenge the horrible voice in your head which seems to get louder and louder instead of easing off so it’s like a constant brain argument just to make a simple decision.  It’s definitely A LOT easier as an inpatient when it’s not your decision and the guilt for actually choosing to eat and stick to the meal plan is horrible and causes so much anxiety.  But I keep reminding myself that by NOT making changes, I’m affecting people I care about and that even if they are amazing and tolerant, I want to be able to be actually ‘there’ when I’m with people and not zoned out or feeling rubbish.

So, that’s the plan for the next six weeks…!  So, so nervous but I really, really want to make it work.  The main things I’m nervous about are totally ridiculous though- I’m scared of people commenting on my food or thinking I’m eating too much/being greedy or selfish, putting on weight, eating carbohydrates and proteins in the same meal (I haven’t mixed them since 2009), eating between means and what people will think of that, putting on more weight, feeling fat and selfish all the time, not being able to stop eating, actually wanting to eat…  But I’ve had similar anxieties for the last 17 years and listening to the birch in my head and doing what she says hasn’t solved it, so maybe it’s time to try a different approach…  Will see how it goes and keep the blog updated!

ED relapse warning signs

I’ve been looking through some of my old stuff from when I was an inpatient nearly ten years ago, and found this list I wrote with the psychologist I saw at the time about warning signs for relapse into ‘severe’ ED again.  It’s actually still kind of useful!  Some of it isn’t relevant any more (eg college-related) but a lot of it still is, and it’s helpful to think about. I’m going to be 30 in December and I really, really don’t want my 30s to be the same as my 20s, which have been mostly influenced by ED thoughts/behaviours,  both directly and indirectly.  I want to be free from the constant brain arguments, restrictions and urges to binge/cut, and I want to be able to do things spontaneously without stressing about how it’s going to impact on my daily routine/meal times.

I’m trying to make my own ‘treatment plan’ atm based on the inpatient ‘programme’ I’ve followed several times before, DBT skills, acceptance and commitment therapy ideas and solution-focussed which a friend recently introduced me to and I really like the concept of although it’s kind of hard with ED because I genuinely can’t think of times when it’s not an issue apart from running ultras, and even then it’s only because I’ve ‘earned’ the break from the restrictions by running over 40 miles.  But I really do want to change and learn to mange it properly this time- it’s been 17 years and I’m exhausted with feeling like I’m going in circles but getting nowhere.  Hope this list is helpful to some people 🙂

Yellow

  • Not sleeping much at night
  • Drinking a lot of diet Coke
  • Being irritable/snappy
  • Sleeping during the day
  • Weighing regularly
  • Only eating at certain times
  • Change in exercise habits- less intense exercise, lots of walking/swimming
  • Spending a lot of time on social media
  • Eating in a certain order or with specific plate/cutlery
  • Feeling ‘hyped’, can’t switch off
  • Feeling sick/dizzy
  • Getting obsessed with recipes or cooking programmes
  • Skipping breakfast or lunch
  • Using a lot of salt

 

Amber

  • Eating meat
  • Fixating on certain foods (often not healthy) eg reduced calorie chocolate, lower calorie sweets, low fat biscuits etc
  • Cooking food for other people
  • Staying in, watching TV, not doing anything ‘active’ or productive
  • Focussing on nutrients of food instead of actual foods eg need to eat 10g of protein, doesn’t matter what the protein is but also needs to be under 100cal per 20g of protein
  • Taking on several jobs/courses at once, need to be busy all the time
  • Neat handwriting, being unusually organised
  • Don’t want to cook or be around food in front of people
  • Not interested in reading, writing or drawing
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Feeling shaky all the time
  • Prioritising walking over anything else eg walking three hours to college and back every day to ‘fit it in’
  • Bedroom messy and not cleaning because of stuff all over the floor, feeling overwhelmed
  • Driving too fast or erratically
  • Feeling like time is speeding up or slowing down
  • Getting angry more often
  • Feeling like there’s no point
  • Becoming fixated on numbers about food- timings, grams of nutrients in food, weighing foods, number of chews etc

 

Red

  • Not eating in front of people
  • Passing out regularly
  • Losing weight even after periods have stopped
  • Dissociating more than usual
  • Sleeping a lot of the day
  • Not going out for days at a time, don’t want to see people
  • Not exercising at all
  • Thinking about food all the time, having binge dreams
  • Lying about food or weight
  • Eating less than twice a day
  • Skipping college
  • Getting angry or snappy talking about food
  • Having panic attacks or similar several times a week
  • Tired all the time, not feeling ‘with it’
  • Fixating on a certain weight (usually around 7.5 stone) as a ‘magic’ solution
  • Throwing up not just after a binge
  • Going several days without eating
  • Not feeling ‘real’
  • Only thinking about food or weight

Quick apology post!

Hi, just a quick post to apologise for the fact that I haven’t posted in months!  had a bit of a rubbish summer, decided to try to come off medication because I was fed up with the side effects and feeling rubbish for relying on drugs which really wasn’t a good idea and my mood started swinging from totally jittery-hyped to wanting to not exist on a nearly daily basis which was exhausting and nearly lost any friendships or close relationships I actually have.  So I’m taking them again and have just about settled back into ‘normal’ or whatever that means when you’re on high doses of psychiatric meds!  But I feel ‘real’ again, my mood’s more stable and I’m nowhere near as paranoid as I was over the summer so definitely a good thing.  And am hoping to get back on track with blogging!  Sorry again for disappearing off the face of the blogosphere 😉