Full time work and mental illness

This month marks three years since I began working full time.  The news that i had attained my first full-time job was clouded with trepidation.  I had never thought that I’d be able to manage full time work because of my mental illness.  I was sure that my depression and anxiety disorder would make it impossible for me to bear a full time workload.  But here I am, three years on and still doing the full time thing.

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Although I manage pretty well, there are some pretty serious bumps in the road.  I often struggle to cope, and at times have thought about pumping the brakes and going back to part time work.  Today I wanted to share some of the challenges and benefits to working full time when you have a mental illness.

 

Finding time for self care

For me, managing my depression consists of a carefully-structured routine that centres around self care.  Years of trial and error have led me to a series of self-care steps that generally manage to keep my mental health on an even keel. I know that in order to feel my best, I need to eat properly and get enough sleep.  My yoga practice keeps me fit and helps calm my monkey mind.  Journalling several times a week gets those anxious thoughts out of my head. All these steps are choreographed into a daily dance that helps keep my head above water.

When I was working part time, it was much easier to find the balance between working and self care.  Now, when eight-and-a-half hours of each day are spent at the office, that leaves another eight for sleeping and then a further eight for eating, household responsibilities and self care.  That doesn’t leave a lot of spare time for socialising or family time.  And I’m often jammed between choosing to spend time with friends at the detriment of my self-care regime.  If I spend too much time with my family, or my boyfriend, or my mates, then my mental health begins to slide because I’m not able to keep up with those vital self care activities.  But it’s not always easy to leave a family dinner early because you need to do your yoga or because you just need to be alone for a while.  It’s difficult for people to understand why you’re piking out early, or declining invitations.  And after a while, they stop inviting you altogether if you bail too often.

 

Working full time has made it a lot more challenging to fit in those ever-important self care rituals.  And sometimes I’m overwhelmed with frustration because it feels like all I do is go to work, come home and run through the motions of keeping myself sane.  It’s maddening when it feels like there isn’t time for anything else in the day, and when you feel like so much more is expected of you and you aren’t able to achieve it.

 

To tell, or not to tell?

I’ve grappled with the decision of whether or not to tell the people I work with that I have depression and anxiety.  I’ve had mixed responses in the past, and when I begin a new job I’m always a bit gun-shy about disclosing my illness.

There’s the risk that the people you work with will treat you differently when they find out you have a mental illness.  There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness, and it can be hard to work when you feel like people are walking on eggshells around you.  There’s also the unpleasant feeling of knowing that a workmate is internally rolling their eyes at you and wondering why you can’t just toughen up and manage your life like everyone else does.

On the other hand, many employers and workmates will be exceedingly supportive if they find out that you have a mental illness.  So it’s always a delicate balancing act of deciding whether you should mention it, and if so, when you should disclose your illness.

 

The perils of an invisible illness in the workplace

I went through a period last year where I was going through a really bad patch with my depression.  I was struggling to get out of bed each morning, and I just felt despondent all the time.  But I felt as though I had to force myself through the motions of everyday life anyway.  One morning about three weeks into this hellish patch I woke up with a fever and a sore throat.  I nearly cried with relief.  Why on earth was I so pleased that I was sick?  Well, because I felt like now that I had outward physical symptoms, I could take a sick day. Even though I’d been terribly unwell for weeks, it was only when my illness became physical that I felt like I was justified in staying home.

 

Invisible illnesses come with tricky pitfalls.  There’s always the worry that people will think you’re faking it.  That you’re making it up to get out of work or to avoid responsibility.  When you have no physical symptoms to “prove” that you’re unwell, it’s difficult to justify taking time off.  This is particularly true when you’re depressed or anxious and you simply don’t have the emotional fortitude to assert your needs or argue with workmates who don’t understand that mental illness can be as debilitating as physical illnesses.  For me, I’ve never been brave enough to call in sick when I’ve needed a ‘mental health day”.  Even though I think it would be justified, I still haven’t ever been able to bring myself to do it.

 

The mental load of engaging with others

I am a self-confessed introvert.  I much prefer my own company to the company of others.  I find being around other people (with the exception of a few of my nearest and dearest) mentally taxing.  And when those interactions take place in a professional environment, that makes it just a little more difficult for me.  On my good days, I can manage the daily office banter perfectly well.  I can smile at staff meetings, make small talk at the copier and pick up my intercom without breaking into a cold sweat.  But when my anxiety is kicking in or I’m on the verge of a crash, managing those polite, simple interactions becomes a monumental task.  Just answering a question from a colleague about the stationery order can leave me on the verge of tears.  Each time my intercom buzzes I feel a sharp pang in my chest and my breath comes in bursts.  For me, the mere task of being around other people is taxing and takes a huge mental load.  It’s extremely difficult to keep my professional mask in place and do my job like I’m supposed to.

 

Financial security and the money buffer

One really positive thing that my full time job has brought to my life is the feeling of financial security.  When I was working part time, I was making enough to pay my bills and not much extra.  I would often fall into a panic about what would happen if I had a sudden emergency and needed extra cash.  I wasn’t in a position to cover unforeseen costs, and the idea that I might suddenly require hospital care or need to pay for repairs on my flat was terrifying to me.

 

Now I feel much more secure about my financial position.  I know that my bills are covered and I have enough to put food on the table.  I can switch the heater on or take an extra shower without panicking about the spike in my bills.  And I now have enough that I can save towards some financial goals and stuff a bit of cash away for the future.  For all the stress that full time work brings, that financial security and knowing that I’m looking after myself is really reassuring.

 

A reason and a purpose

Although I’ve mentioned a lot of the struggles I have with my depression and work, taking on a full time job has helped my depression and anxiety as well.  I’ve gained confidence as I’ve learned new skills and managed challenges at work.  I’ve come to see that I’m quite capable of dealing with difficult problems and working with other people in my office as a team. Additionally, there are days when it’s difficult to get up, to shower and to drag myself through the day.  But I do it because I have to.  Because I know I have a job and I can’t afford to lose it.  Because I care about the work I do and I don’t want to let my workmates down. While that could be a lot of pressure for some folks, for me it works well as a motivator and helps me to move forward.

 

Do you have a mental illness and a full time job?  How do you manage it?  What are some of the challenges and benefits you’ve experienced?

 

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Minimalist gift-giving

It’ s just about time to start Christmas shopping (2016, where did you go?) and I’ve been thinking a great deal about giving and receiving gifts as a minimalist.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle, which has involved evaluating what I’m buying and getting rid of the things I no longer need.  I’ve noticed that a lot of the items that I’ve gotten rid of have been gifts from people, which is tricky.  I always feel extremely guilty when I get rid of something that someone else has bought for me, even if I totally hate that item.  After getting rid of several gifts, I started to really consider the prospect of gift giving from a minimalist perspective.

Now, minimalism is a big umbrella term that means different things to different people.  To me, minimalism is about simplifying my life.  It’s about looking at my habits and pruning the ones that don’t serve me.  It’s about clearing out physical, electronic and emotional clutter to allow space to focus on the things that are truly important to me.

Whether you identify as a minimalist, or if you’re buying a gift for a minimalist, here are a few ideas I have for choosing a present mindfully.

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Ask them what they want.

There is this idea that for a gift to be good, it has to be a surprise.  I think that a lot of bad presents have been purchased because the gifter madly wracked their brain too hard to come up with a surprise gift idea, and frazzled their synapses. In this scenario, the gift giver is out of pocket, and the recipient now has a gift they neither like nor need to deal with.  And neither is happy.

Instead, just go right ahead and ask the person what they want.  No really, you’re allowed to do that!  And while they will probably initially shuffle their feet and reply “I dunno, there’s nothing I can think of” if you explain to them that you just want a few ideas to avoid getting them a shitty gift, they will most likely have a few suggestions.  There might be one particular thing that they’re burning for, or they may be able to give you a few general ideas, and you can choose one thing from their list so the gift will still be a surprise.

Give an experience, rather than a thing

Most of us have homes that are packed to the brim with belongings, and the thought of trying to cram one more thing into those bursting drawers is enough to drive us to hide under the bed with a bottle of wine.

So rather than giving a thing that your loved one has to put away on Boxing Day, give an experience instead.  Book them in for a spa treatment.  Get a gift voucher to their favourite restaurant.  Buy tickets to a play or concert.  Get them a cinema voucher.  Treat them to something you know will be fun for them, with the added joy that comes from knowing that they won’t have to stress about finding a place to keep it.  If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Red Balloon.  They have some sensational “experience” gifts at a range of prices.

Give the gift of time

Time is one thing we could all do with more of, whether it’s time with our loved ones or more time to ourselves.  Instead of buying a physical present, offer to do something that gives the recipient more time.  Provide your services as a babysitter so they can have some down-time.  Offer to walk their dog or do the housework so they can focus on a project they’ve been working on.  Give them an afternoon of your own time, taking them for a drive to a cafe for coffee and a chat.  Time is a precious commodity, and any way you can give your loved one some quality time will be appreciated.

Agree to forgo presents

While it may feel a bit mean to decide not to get someone a gift, sometimes it’s the best course of action.  If you and a friend are both strapped for cash, or if there is genuinely nothing that either or you need or want, it’s perfectly OK to come to an agreement to not exchange gifts.  Just be sure that you both honour your word, and don’t be tempted to sneak off and buy a secret gift to throw them off guard.

Do you have any ideas for incorporating minimalism or mindfulness into your gift giving?  I’d love to hear them!

Why you need multiple sex toys in your collection

For years my sex toy collection consisted of a single vibrator.  It was The Rabbit, the same one that Charlotte becomes addicted to on Sex and the City.  I selected it hastily, because although I was keen at the idea of buying a vibrator, I was mortified to be in a sex shop and frankly intimidated by the selection.  When I tried it out, I was pretty pleased with it’s performance and so it took up permanent residence in my nightstand.  It remained there for four years until the motor burned out.  Heartbroken, I started the search for a replacement.

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My search led me to the Lelo Soraya.  I had known that I wanted another rabbit-style vibrator because I liked that design and knew for sure that it would get me off.  It was familiar, tried-and-true.  I chose the Soraya because it seemed more sophisticated than it’s predecessor.  While I’d been looking for my holy-grail vibrator, I’d seen a vast number of other toys that looked great, that I was keen to try.  But something in my head kept telling me that I only needed one vibrator.

But after a while, curiosity got the better of me.  I bought another new toy for myself.  And then another.  And then many more.  And I’ve come to realise that owning a few different sex toys has a lot of benefits.  Let me tell you why I think a woman needs more than just a single trusty vibrator.

It helps you break sexual patterns

Humans are creatures of habit, and this is very evident in the bedroom.  Once we find a method of masturbating that feels good and brings us to orgasm, we tend to stick to it.  While there’s nothing wrong with knowing how to get yourself off, it can make you a tad lazy in the bedroom.  When you’re just going through the same motions over and over again, you may find yourself getting bored with your sexual routine.  And that boredom can lead to dissatisfaction over time.

If you have just one toy that you use every time you masturbate, over time you’ll learn exactly how to use it to bring yourself to orgasm.  If you have multiple toys, you can be a bit more creative.  You’ll be less likely to get stuck in a sexual rut, and less likely to feel bored and frustrated.  I firmly believe that sex with yourself should be just as varied and creative as partnered sex, and having a range of tools at your disposal will help to encourage you to try new things.

New sensations lead to new pleasures

Just as running through the same routine can become boring with time, it can deprive you of the chance to experience new kinds of pleasure.  The more open you are to trying new things, the more likely you will be to find new things that feel great, and more ways to bring yourself to orgasm.

Having a few different toys in your goody drawer gives you a chance to give more things a shot and find new ways of pleasing yourself.  I suggest getting a range of different toys that do different things.  Maybe a few vibrators with different patterns of vibration, maybe some toys of different materials such as glass or silicone, maybe some anal toys.  If something excites you, it’s worth trying out, just to see if you like it. You may discover a new favourite way to bring yourself joy.

Avoiding sexual numbness

Have you ever heard someone try to discourage sex-toy use by suggesting that it will make your junk numb?  Well, that can actually happen.  While it’s unlikely that you will lose all feeling in your bits, over time using the same sex toy in the same ways can desensitize your erogenous zones.  Having a few different toys in rotation can help avoid this.  Providing a range of different sensations, vibration strengths and patterns keeps your body guessing and avoids overstimulation and numbness.

Having a collection of toys can also help avoid becoming reliant on your toy to orgasm.  As I mentioned earlier, we humans are creatures of habit, and sometimes when we find one way to orgasm, we become dependent on that method and aren’t able to come with a partner, or from different types of stimulation.  Using a variety of toys helps to train your body to be comfortable with different sensations, and breaks you out of your comfort zone, so that you’re less likely to need that one particular toy to have an orgasm.

A toy for every mood

Just like our appetite for food, our sexual appetites can vary.  On one night you might crave ice cream, while on another you might feel more like hot chips with gravy.  One time you might prefer strong, pinpointed vibration, and others you might like something a bit softer, more diffuse.  Having a selection of toys means that you can pick and choose the types of sensation you feel like on any given occasion, rather than having to rely on the same thing all the time.  I found that when I started trying more toys, I felt more confident in indulging myself when I wanted a particular type of play.  I began to learn more about my body, and I felt more consistently satisfied with my sex life.

I truly believe that having a variety of different toys to use is great for your confidence, your body and your personal satisfaction.  I don’t think that anyone should restrict themselves to just one vibrator, when there is a whole world of toys just waiting to be explored.

Do you own more than one toy?  Or do you prefer to stick with one faithful model?

Style icons: Harley Quinn

I was pretty rapt with the Suicide Squad movie.  Even though the critics have kinda panned it, I really enjoyed the film. There can be no doubt that a huge part of my love for the film came from the presence of one of my favourite DC characters, Harley Quinn.  After seeing the film, I was so inspired by Harley’s awesome sense of style, and I wanted to dedicate a Style Icons post to the mad clown queen of Gotham City.

 

 

Mod Harley

 

There can be little doubt that Harley is the queen of colour blocking.  She likes large panels of bold colour, usually in a half-and-half style.  Her favourite combos are red and black and blue and red with splashes of white thrown in for good measure.  Her two-tone look even extends to her hair, often worn in pigtails with dip-dyed tips for dramatic effect.
Casual Harley

 

Harley’s outfits are usually form-fitting or scandalously brief.  She loves being the centre of attention so eye-grabbing pieces are a must.  But although you might want to touch, you’d better keep your mitts to yourself.  Harley’s relationship with The Joker is anything but open.  He keeps her on a tight reign, and while their relationship is pretty dysfunctional, there are also strong elements of dominance and submission present.  I really liked the way that bondage gear and winks to Harley’s BDsM relationship with Joker were woven into her costumes.  Her “Puddin” collar, ”Yes Sir” cuffs and “Property of Joker” bomber jacket all speak to her submission to Mr J.
Daddy's disco princess

 

It’s the tiny details that are key to Harley’s outfits.  She particularly partial to diamond shapes, which harken back to her harlequin-inspired costume in the original cartoon.  Jagged edges and circus-goth finishings are also perfect for a girl who is more at home on a tightrope or aerial silks than with her feet firmly planted on the ground.
Rev her up

 

Interestingly, a large number of items in Harley’s wardrobe are inspired by sporting apparel. From her triple stripe sneaker stilettos to her baseball tees, Harley likes to blend a bit of activewear in with her outfits.  This possibly has to do with the fact that her weapon of choice is a baseball bat (when she’s not wielding her comically-huge mallet).  Harley likes to match her baseball jacket with teeny tiny shorts and a liberal application of bling.
I’m head over heels in love with Harley’s look, and it’s so tempting to sprinkle a bit of madcap circus-gal fun into your own wardrobe.  You could quite easily add a few small touches, or go for the full-shebang in two-toned gear, a collar and booty shorts.  It’s up to you how far you take the look, but once you get going, it’s hard not to go a little bit nuts.
Are you a fan of Harley’s look?  Which parts would you like to incorporate into your own wardrobe?

What I learned from my breakup

I was slightly stunned last week when I realised that it’s been nearly three years since the end of my most serious relationship.  That breakup ripped me up in the worst possible way.  I’ve never felt quite so adrift as I did in the weeks and months following that event.  But as horrible life events often are, my breakup was a real learning experience.  At the risk of sounding utterly trite, I learned so much about myself and about love from the aftermath of that breakup.  And now that I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I’d like to share some of those hard-earned insights with you.

 

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There is no such thing as “The One”

For years I hung onto the idea that there was a single person out there for everyone.  I think it comes from being raised in a family with two happily-married parents, with happily married grandparents and aunts and uncles who have long and happy marriages. In addition to my home environment, pop culture was also a guiding force in my firm belief in “The One”.  And for a very long time I believed that my then-boyfriend was The One.  And when that relationship ended I felt utterly shattered because that’s not what’s supposed to happen.  I worried whether I was wrong about him being my Person.  Or if he was my Person and that meant that I didn’t get another One.

 

After a lot of reflection and dating, I’ve come to the conclusion that The One is a myth.  There will always be people who are so compatible that you believe that the two of you were made for one another.  And for some people, that feeling comes only once in a lifetime.  Some people find it multiple times.  And some people don’t find it, or perhaps aren’t interested in romance.  I truly believe that my ex-boyfriend was The One for me from the ages 17 through 27.  But after that we were no longer compatible.  And I believe that I’ll get to have that feeling again.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is tear everything down and start fresh

After our final fight, I left and found a flat for me and my two cats.  I had almost no furniture because I’d sold most of my shitty second-hand stuff when I’d moved in with my boyfriend.  So I spent many, many nights in a very empty flat feeling alone, bereft and very sorry for myself.

After a long period of wallowing, I started working on filling my flat and my life.  I took a full-time job, which ultimately led to my current job which I really enjoy.  With the money I earned I bought furniture and household items that I actually liked.  I spent time with my friends and made new mates.  I started exploring new interests.  I did some online dating and had a series of incredible experiences there.

But the point is, I would never have done those things if my relationship had remained on track.  I would never have needed to buy new things or meet new people.  Although it sucked at the time, stripping that floundering relationship from my life made room and space for things that have made me feel happier and more “me” than ever before.

Fear of failure is worse than actual failure

I’m a very anxious person.  For years one of my biggest fears was that my relationship with my partner would end.  Even when our relationship was good, I would sometimes lie awake at nights freaking out about how awful it would be if we broke up.  And when we did, it was like a nightmare had come true.  Only it wasn’t as awful as I’d imagined it would be.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, it was pretty fucking brutal.  But it wasn’t as all-consuming and insurmountable than the scenario my very active imagination had created.  I managed to deal with it, survive and thrive.

 

This realisation has helped dramatically with my anxiety.  When I’m about to take a risk or I feel scared about something, I reassure myself with the knowledge that the fear is worse than the actual scenario of failing.  And that’s not just a cliche that I placate myself with. I know that to be true.

 

Letting a partner be your plan for the future is a mistake

I did a very dumb thing during the course of my relationship.  There were many moments when I should have been planning for my future, and I’d brush away those scary thoughts about superannuation and mortgages and let Future Vanessa deal with them.  You see, I thought that my relationship would last forever, and I thought that meant I’d be set for life.  My partner worked hard and had a well-paying job.  He knew what he wanted from his career and I was happy to just go along with that, getting away with working part-time because he earned enough to take care of the bigger, scarier expenses.

 

But then we broke up.  And I realised I was screwed, financially.  I’ve always been good with my money, but I’d never earned much.  I’d saved some cash, but I never thought to put anything into my superannuation, or worry about my financial future.  My plan for the future was to let my boyfriend take care of it.  I’m ashamed to admit that, but it was the truth.  And I paid dearly for that error.  But after some panicking and nervous crying I got my butt into gear.  I took on a full-time job to better support myself.  I opened a dedicated savings account.  I put money into superannuation.  I started researching investments and cutting my discretionary spending.  And now I’m in a much more comfortable financial position.

So now, if I wind up on my own for good, I’ll be set up to take care of myself.  And if I do end up getting married down the track, I’m coming into that union with a solid foundation and the knowledge that I’ve got my own back.

A “successful” relationship doesn’t always mean “One that doesn’t end”

For a long time I nursed a deep wound caused by the feeling that I’d failed.  I felt that because we’d broken up, my relationship with my boyfriend was all terrible and all wrong.  I tortured myself thinking about all our happy memories, and tainting them with the idea that they were somehow flawed because we had broken up.

 

I had an epiphany while watching How I Met Your Mother.  In the final episode, where Barney and Robin reveal that they are getting divorced after a few years of marriage, Robin mentions that their marriage hadn’t failed, but rather that it was a successful marriage that only lasted three years.  That hit me so hard, because it’s really true.  Not all wonderful, successful and important relationships last forever.  And not all long-term relationships are successful.  For so much of our time together, my relationship with my ex was awesomely fun, romantic and nurturing.  I felt supported and truly happy.  And that isn’t tainted by the fact that our relationship didn’t last.  It was what was right for us for a portion of our lives, but after that we were no longer compatible.  It happens, and it doesn’t make me or my ex a failure.

 

Have you learned any hard lessons from a breakup?  If so I’d love to hear about it in the comments section.

How to deal with a body that’s changed.

So, over the last year or so I’ve noticed a lot of changes in my body.  And I don’t mean like, growing hair in strange places.  I mean that I’ve gained some weight.  Not a huge amount of weight, but enough that I feel uncomfortable in my own skin (and in most of my jeans).  And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been pretty hard for me to deal with this change in my bod.

Now, I’ve written before about gaining weight, and how it’s troubled me. And a lot of the feelings I discussed in that post are still ringing true.  I’m finding it quite hard to manage the feelings that are cropping up with the weight that I’ve gained.  So in an effort to move forward, I sat down and thought carefully about why I’m so bothered by a few extra kilos.

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While my negative feelings about my body are complicated, there are a few key issues that have bubbled to the surface during my ruminations.  The first is the realisation that even though I try hard to be body positive, even though I try not to internalize the messages I’m bombarded with about how thin is better, and how being fat is a terrible thing, I’m still affected by them.  Even though I know countless people with a wide array of body shapes and sizes who are all incredibly gorgeous, even though I constantly tell people to be kind to themselves, I still feel the weight of those messages.  I still feel like I’ve failed in some way because I’ve gained weight.  I still feel less attractive when I notice that my jeans won’t zip or that my belly pokes out more than it used to.  I still feel like I should be ashamed of my weight gain.  It makes me pretty angry that even though I’ve done my best to resist that negativity and shame, it’s still wormed it’s way into my consciousness.

I’ve also felt frustrated with myself because I keep having this idea that my weight is something that I should control.  And that if I’m gaining weight, it’s because I’ve done the wrong thing.  I feel ashamed and lazy.  I feel mad that I have to manage my depression with drugs that have caused me to gain weight.  I feel burdened by my full-time job, which takes up much of my time and energy and makes it much more difficult to eat well and exercise. And I curse my genetics which make it more likely that I’m going to have a rounder figure as I get older.  I feel impotent because there are so many factors working against me, and I imagine that I should be able to manage them and keep my figure because that’s what women are “supposed to do”.

I also feel uncomfortable with the way I look.  Now, I need to point out that I don’t think that fat=ugly.  The reason that I don’t feel comfortable is that I’m not used to the way my body looks now. Even though the shift in my weight hasn’t been dramatic, it’s enough that I feel strange in my own skin.  I look in the mirror and it feels weird to see more rounded hips, and a curved tummy  and actual boobs.  My figure has become more hourglass where it was always fairly up-and-down and very skinny.  My clothes fit me differently and hug me too tightly over my new curves.  Outfits that used to make me feel confident and sassy now make me feel like a sausage in a too-tight casing. I don’t feel like I look like “me”. It’s so difficult to learn to love a new shape when I’d barely become confident in the one I had.

But I’m doing alright.  And there are a few things I’ve been doing that have helped immensely.  I’d like to share those things with you, in case you’re also struggling with a body that’s changed.

Talk about it.

Discussing my feelings and insecurities has been extremely helpful.  I’m lucky enough to have many people in my life who were kind to me, who listened attentively and empathised.  Talking it over with a few of my favourite people helped me to feel so much better.  It made me realise that my feelings aren’t unique, that these struggles are something that most people go through.  It gave me comfort to know that those special people didn’t think any less of me because I’d gained weight, and still valued me just as much.

Decide what action you want to take (if any)

Let me be absolutely clear: you don’t have to do anything about your weight gain if you don’t want to.  I’m the last person who will tell you that you need to go on a diet.  But I do think that if your weight gain is causing you pain and grief, then you need to do something.  For me, I’ve taken stock of my  lifestyle and realised that I could definitely improve my eating habits and exercise routine.  I know that I need to plan a more well-rounded diet and move my body more often.  At the same time, I know that unless I starve myself and stop taking my medication, I’m never going to get back to my old body.  And so as well as taking better care of myself, I’ve decided that I need to work on accepting my body and coming to terms with the changes that have taken place.  So whether you want to change up your habits, or look at your emotional patterns, or a bit of both, I think taking some action to get yourself feeling better is a good idea.

Recognise that bodies change

All bodies, particularly female bodies, go through massive changes over the course of a lifetime.  And whether those changes are caused by a lifestyle shift, hormones, medication, illness, age, growing a human inside you or some other reason, it can be difficult to manage.  As difficult as it is, it’s really important to accept that our bodies alter and shift as time passes.  It’s perfectly OK to mourn the shape and size you once were, but I think it’s also a good idea to begin to celebrate some good things about your new shape.  For example, I’m trying to feel chuffed about the fact that I finally have boobs, after years of struggling with push-up bras.  Find something that you like, celebrate that and build from there.

Get rid of clothes that trigger self hate.

This one has been hard for me, because my clothes are a huge part of my life.  I love getting dressed in the morning, and I place a lot of emotional attachment to the items in my wardrobe.  For me those skinny jeans aren’t just a couple of denim tubes and a zipper, they have the power to make me feel fierce and sexy.  And when those fierce jeans will no longer zip, their power changes….they become a trigger for self loathing.  Lately I’ve been taking a long, hard look at my clothes, and I’ve gotten rid of a few things that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear again.  There are some I’m hanging onto because there’s a chance that they’ll fit someday.  But the ones that made me feel the shittiest had to go.  It’s hard to let go of those items because of the memories attached to them, and because in a way it feels like the end of a part of my life.  But sometimes you have to take a deep breath, let them go and then buy some new gear that makes you feel fierce and fabulous.

Do you struggle with your body when it changes?  What have you done to make that change easier?

A geeks guide to online dating: your dating profile

This is the third post in my Geek’s Guide to Online Dating series.  We’ve already talked about your profile picture and choosing a username.  So today I’m going to get down to the gritty details of filling out your profile.

 

My online dating profile has undergone a number of makeovers in the last year.  As I’ve discovered what works and doesn’t work for me, I’ve polished and updated my profile accordingly.  In it’s current incarnation, my profile is witty, honest and somewhat detailed.  Just the way I believe it should be.  Everyone has a different idea about what makes a good online dating profile, just like everyone is looking for something different in a date.  So my suggestions aren’t a definitive guide.

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Be honest about what you want…and what you don’t want.

I found that my online dating game jumped up a notch when I got brutally honest about what I was looking for.   My profile mentions things like the fact that I’m open to long-distance as long as the other person is willing to share the responsibility of travel.  Or my desire to find someone relatively introverted who is OK with not going out all the time. I also mention that I’m not interested in casual sex, and that even though I’m bisexual I’m not interested in playing the special guest star in your three-way.

 

Once I got honest about what I wanted, the replies I got were a lot more selective and much more suited to my tastes.  Sure, I still got the occasional dickhead writing to ask for pictures of my boobs, but they became less frequent.

 

Here’s the deal: it doesn’t really matter what you’re looking for, but it’s much better if you’re honest about it.  I don’t mind if you’re looking for a hookup, or you want to get married, or you are exclusively interested in women who are experts at Fallout.  But actually saying “I want X, I don’t want Y” gives the person reading your profile a better idea of what you’re after and whether it’s worth getting in touch with you.  It saves everyone time and you’re less likely to go on a bunch of mismatched dates.

 

Be wordy, but not too wordy.

There’s a fine line to tread when it comes to the length of your profile.  You don’t want it to be too sparse, or you won’t generate any interest.  But on the other hand, if you write an essay that’s roughly the length of War and Peace, nobody is going to slog through it all.

 

You want to write in enough detail that you give the person reading a snapshot of who you are and what you like.  I tend to click away immediately when I see a profile that has only answered the bare minimum questions, because I have no idea about the person who wrote it.  They could be the most interesting, hilarious person ever, but how would I know because there’s no hint of that on their profile?

 

When filling out your profile, make sure you provide some details, but keep it on the succinct side.  Always leave the reader wanting more.  After all, if you tell them everything, there’s no reason for them to want to get to know you further.

 

Include a secret code (wink wink!)

There’s always the danger that you’ll be contacted by someone who has just seen your profile picture, thought you were cute and hasn’t read your profile at all.  If you’re cool with that, then you don’t need to worry.  But if you want to be sure that people have actually read your profile, then you can weave in a little insurance policy.  I’ve seen profiles that say “please message me with the following phrase to show you’ve read my profile” or ask you to answer a particular question in your message.  These aren’t foolproof, but the secret code method helps to weed out those who have actually taken the time to check out your profile.

 

Your time to shine.

You need to make sure that your profile has a sparkle to it, something that sets it apart from everyone else.  So how do you do that?  Well, for starters, don’t write the obvious.  Sure, you like music, pizza and movies.  Who doesn’t?  Stand out from the pack with original answers.  Talk about the band that changed your life or your ability to whip up the best fettuccine carbonara in the galaxy.  Talk about your love for 80’s television.  Highlight the things that make you YOU.  Those things might not seem like the coolest or trendiest, but that’s a good thing.  There just might be an awesome person out there who gets pumped to find out that there’s another person on the planet who enjoys watching Biodome.  It’s those silly quirks that stand out, so let your geekery shine brightly to lead your date to you.

 

Do you have any other tips that I’ve forgotten?  What do you think makes a good online dating profile.