My Christmas 2017 Review 

January is a great month for looking back and reflecting on the year gone by. I know we’re kind of supposed to do that in December, but who has the time when there’s so much cheese to be eaten and wine to be drank? Anyway so far this January I’ve caught myself reflecting on Christmas a lot. Maybe because Christmas can be such a difficult time for anyone who’s dealing with mental health issues. I know that my first suicidal thoughts began at Christmas time (2015) and that’s probably not a coimcidemce. Being reunited with family really does bring out every little insecurity and every old resentment that we may have thought was burried deep down. In my family, it’s all about competing with my cousins for respect and admiration, or at least it used to be for me. So I thought what better way to reflect on Christmas 2017 than with an aul blog post! 

I’m glad to say that this Christmas was different. This Christmas I felt very relaxed and comfortable around the fam. I won’t say that I didn’t feel even the teeny tiniest bit insecure, of course I did at times. My career is still a source of embarassment for me sometimes. My cousins are all very successful or on their way to success in their respective fields, whereas I’m really still pretty clueless as to what I want to be when I grow up. The usual questions came up in the usual conversations. “So what have you been up to”? “What are you doing with yourself these days”? And yeah I’d rather have not had those conversations. Being forced to validate and justify everything you’ve done in the past twelve months is uncomfortable, especially if you’re less than happy with your answer. I still don’t really know what to say. On the whole though, I felt significantly less insecure than I have done in years gone by. 

In terms of body confidence, I felt great this year. On St Stephens night in particular, I wore a very tight gold velvet dress that left pretty much nothing to the imagination. Last year I wouldn’t have been caught dead in that dress, never mind sat through a long night of dinner and drinks with my entire family in it. I felt amazing, and that felt amazing. In previous years I’d have been so wrapped up in my self conciousness that I couldn’t relax and enjoy my night. I’d be constantly thinking about my posture, the way my clothes were sitting on me, my hair, touching up my make up every ten minutes, hiding from photographs and lurking around the perimeter of the room, too afraid of being seen to get involced in the fun. But this year, I was the total opposite. I was still the fattest person in the room by a long shot, but this time that didn’t make me feel ashamed of my body. I felt proud of my body. It was a Christmas miracle!!! 

I think one of the best things about this Christmas was the fact that, for the first time, I didn’t let myself give in to the pressure to be prancing about full of festive cheer 24/7. Just because it’s Christmas we’re all expected to be positively joyful at every moment of every day. As if all of our problems just dissappear on December 1st. The truth is, we’re never as broke as we are at Christmas. We’re never as stressed, or as body conscious, or as run down. The weather plays havoc with the moods of most people. Loneliness and the loss of loved ones is never more intense and painful as it is at Christmas. And we’re forced to spend time with the people we love, but don’t particularly like. It’s a bit shit really. So it’s only natural thar most people struggle to get into the Christmas spirit and festive cheer from time to time. I think what was great about my Christmas was that I was ok with not feeling merry 24/7. I wasn’t depressed, my mental health has never been so strong as it is right now. But even the most mentally healthy people experience lows every now and then. So allowing myself to have bad days, giving myself permission to cry when I was upset, and (probably the most important thing of all) letting myself say no to doing the things I just didn’t want to do was refreshing, liberating, and definitely self loving. 

All in all… a great, imperfect, fun filled, exhausting Christmas was had. I drank all the wine and ate all the cheese and rolled my eyes at my family and danced with my friends and wore clothes that I love. Thank Christ it’s over! 

My New Years Resolutions for 2018

It’s easy to turn your back on the very idea of making New Years Resolutions isn’t it? We all eventually reach that point in our lives when we become utterly fed up with the annual process of making promises to ourselves that we inevitably break just a matter of weeks later. How many of us have pledged to lose X amount of weight, to rejoin the gym and start going X amount of times per week, to improve our skin, to have our teeth whitened, to finally become the person we want to be? How many of us have really achieved any of those goals? 

But why? How is it that so many people that for all intents and purposes are perfectly capable of achieveing their goals fail so catasprophically, every January? I believe it’s because we’re motivated by self hate, and self hate does nothing but ensure we consistently get in our own way. When we base our goals on what we think we should do as opposed to what we really desire, aren’t we automatically setting ourselves up to fail?

It strikes me how most of the resolutions we tend to make at this time of year acrually sum to do the opposite. We sign ourselves up to gyms thst we know we will hate goung to. We add more stress and more pressure and more time commitments to our already hectic lives. We purposefully over complicate our lives with things we hate to do! Why? Because we think we should? When did New Years Resolutions become about forcing ourselves to fulfill some made up obligation we think we have to do more and be bussier? Let’s turn that around and make them about adding value to our lives instead through streamlining our lifestyles, minimising the time we spend on shit we hate and maximising the time we spend on things we love! 

That’s why this year I’ve decided to set myself a brand new set of New Years Resolutions. I’ve thought long and hard about why and what I really want to achieve in 2018. I’ve made sure that all of my resolutions aim to achieve one of two things; to make my life easier, and to make it more fulfilling. And to make sure that I’m applying this approach to all aspects of my life, I’ve divided them up into three catagories. 

Personal 

1. Tattoos 

For as long as I can rememmber I’ve wanted tattoos, desperately. I’ve always been so attracted to people whos skin is covered in art and always envisaged my future self brandishing dozens of tattoos of my own. Unfortunately though, I’ve always left my tattoos at the bottom of my priority list, never prioritising my desire for them above anything else. FOr that reason, I’m approaching 30 years old with only two small tattoos to show for it. Well not anymore! I’ve decided that this year I’m going to put tattoos at the top of my priority list. Thankfully most of the pieces I want are small and uncomplicated with very little detail, so they won’t cost an arm and a leg.  Hopefully this time next year I’ll be sporting some very cool art on my skin!

2. Sleep

I think that one of the things I’ve learned since my reccovery from depression has been just how crucial sleep is to a healthy mind. I’m not implying that sleep will cure mental illness, but that it is an exceptionally unrearted tool for the prevention of mental illness. Establishing a strong sleep routine was an important part of my recovery, but sadly I’ve let that slip away from me in 2017. 

This year I want to refocus on the importance of sleep to my mental health, and include my daughter in this. I want to establish a very solid sleep routine that will begin at 8pm every night with both of us taking showers, then drying our hair and putting on cream on my bed. THen at 8.30 we’ll go into her room and read until 9 o’clock when it’ll be lights out time. This a similar routine to the one I used during my recovery. I found night time showers were a wonderful way to relax after my day and the theraputic act of applying moisteruriser was really calming. I also definitely want to incorporate the reading with my daughter because I don’t think i read to her enough, and would love her to develop the deep love for books that i have had my whole life.  Last but not least, this new routine will guarantee myself and my daughter get to spend one full hour of quality time together every night without phones or tablets or tv’s to distract or interrupt us, and that can only be a very good thing! 

3. Travel

This year I really want to travel more. This is probably sonething you can relate to. I mean, who doesn’t wanna travel more? I’ve decided to take three trips this year, a city break in May for my birthday, another in November, and a ten day holiday during the summer with my daughter. 

I’ve always complained that I didn’t have the money to travel more. But that’s not really true if I’m being completely honest. The truth is that I just haven’t prioritised putting money aside for travelling. I’m an impulsive spender which really isn’t very good, but this year I’m going to book my three trips nice and early in the year to give myself plenty of time to save up some spending money in advance. 

Professsional

1. Website 

You may have read in my blog post 2018… What’s Next? that I’m planning to develop a brand new website with new and improved features and a cool, clean look. I’m also planning to add new content, a new platform, to run more workshops and lots more! 

I wrote that blog post as a kind of guide. I’m not expecting to achieve every single thing that I set out in it, but I will be using it as a roadmap to take my website and my blog in a new direction.

2. Representation

This year I really want to throw myself into influencing. I’ve realised that even though you can hardly swing a cat in Ireland without hitting one, there aren’t any digital influencers here who are doing what im doing, or talking about what im talking about. On the other hand, there are influemcers in the UK who have built careers for themselves based on blogging about the things I love to blog about, and that there’s no reason for me to believe that I can’t do the same. 

The first step towards achieving that goal is to find the right representation. Luckily there are lots of options here with multiple model and talent agencies now representing digital influencers too. I’m excited at the thought of working with brands that share my message and appeal to my followers. 

3. Writing

Writing is something I’ve always loved. As a teen, I was the biggest bookworm I knew and adored the creative writing aspect of my English classes. In my college years, I dabbled in a little freelance writing and I had some success with pieces published in national magazines and newspapers. But I think a lack im confidence after regular rejections really got to me, and I gave up. 

This year I’m determined to get myself back into writing and start publishing more articles for the magazines and websites that I love. I really want to write about self love and body positivity of course, but I’d also love to write about sex, fashion, mental health, parenting, travel, and general lifestyle stuff. 


 Financial 

1. Debt

Im lucky in that I don’t owe very much. I’ve never had credit cards, I don’t have a mortgage or any outstanding loans. But I am in arrears on some of my bills with one or two bad debts still lingering after years of not giving enough shits about my credit rating. I guess my early twenties wete all about having fun now and worrying about the cost later, and the consequences of that are finally starting to catch up with me. 

So I’ve resolved to end 2018 debt free. I’ve created a cash flow document with a really detailed breakdown of how I’m going to achieve this and it’s very very conservative so no matter what bumps I hit along the road, I should be able to achieve my goal! 

2. Buy a car

I know, I know. It sometimes shocks people that I don’t own a car. To be honest, it sometimes shocks me! The worst thing about it is that I did have a car for five years, so going fron the independence that driving provides to suddenly grabbing with bus timetables and begging my poor mother for lifts everywhere hasn’t felt like a particularly positive change in my life. 

The truth is that two years ago I lost my job, my car died, and I just didn’t have the cash or the access to credit that I needed to replace it. It was a real blow to my ego at the time and I felt ashamed to be a 25 year old parent without a car. But since then I’ve had to make my peace with it, and luckily we live in a place with good public transport and we’ve adjusted pretty well. 

That being said, this year is the year I get back on the road. I have a savings plan in place and all going according to plan I should be on the road by the summer. And if my resolution to write more goes my way, I could be sporting some new wheels even sooner! 

3. Resist!!! 

I am an absolute divil for spending every penny in my bank account. My account is empty, and I do mean literally empty, on a weekly basis. It’s sort of like the compulsive need many of us have to eat every scrap of food on our plates, even after we’re full. I have a compulsive need to spend every penny I have, even if it’s just for the sake of spending it. 

I never really saw that as a problem before. I mean, money is there to be spent, right? I still do believe that. I’ll never be a financial hoarder. But as I get older and I listen to the woes of my friends who are saving to buy houses and starting pensions etc, I’ve realised the damage it might be doing to my future financial credibility when the time comes for me to follow in their footsteps. 

So this year I’m going to try really hard to resist the urge to empty my account. I’ve set myself goals for each quarter of the year to ease myself in. For the first quarter I’m aiming to leave a whopping five euro in my account at all times. Dramatic, I know! Then in each quarter of the year that minimum amount will double, so that by the end of 2018 I will always have at least forty smackers in my account at all times. I’m sure there’ll be exceptions to this new rule, I’m not going to kid myself into thinking I’ll never give in to the temptation. But if I stick to my plan more often than not, then I’m already going to be doing a lot better. 

So those are my New Years Resolutions for 2018. I’m really happy with them because as I said earlier, they cover all aspects of my life, they’re not motivated by what I think others expect of me or want me to do, and they all aim to make my life easier and more fullfilling. And while I by no means expect myself to achieve absolutely every single thing I set out to, or to suddenly transform into a perfect and permanently productive person in 2018, I can’t help but feel wildly optimistic! 

Ten Things I’d Tell My Younger Self

I’ve been experiencing a little writers block lately. I don’t want to write shite anymore. It doesn’t feel good to publish blog posts that I don’t take any pride in. I don’t want to feel obliged to post something on certain days just to keep up with other bloggers. So I’ve decided not to continue churning out blog post after blog post for the sake of consistency.  I’m opting for quality over quantity from now on. 

With that in mind, yesterday I went on my IG Stories and asked my followers to suggest ideas for blog posts. I asked you guys what topics you’d like me to write about, what challenges your facing, what issues your struggling with. And as always, you didn’t disappoint.  My favourite suggestion was to write a post with advice that I’d give my younger self. So I’ve decided to write that one first. 

Having come full circle from self loathing to self love, my reflections on my past are inevitably tinged with sadness and regret. It’s not neccessarily a case of wishing I could go back and change things. But I can’t help but ache a little when I think of all the pain I put myself through, hating myself as passionately as I did. But hey, we live and we learn right?

So let’s get stuck in. Here are the ten things I’d tell my younger self! 

1. There is more than one kind of beautiful

I have news for you; you are actually really, quite beautiful. I know you’ll find this hard to believe. But the truth is that you don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful. You don’t have to have crystal clear skin, or sparkling white teeth. You don’t have to be stretch mark and cellulite free. You don’t need to be petite and graceful. You are beautiful just as you are. And I’ve got even more news for you; your body isn’t gonna stay the same for ever. In fact, it’s about to change in a BIG way. But you’ll still be beautiful. Because contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, there is more than one kind of beautiful and in time, you’ll learn that for yourself. 
2. Your body is not the enemy

You may find this hard to believe, but your body is the best friend you’ll ever have. Everything it does, it does for you. It will never leave you. It will never hurt you. It won’t cheat on you, or slag you off behind your back, or tell you lies. Your relationship with your body will be the longest realtionship of your life. You can never ever get away from it and vice versa. So invest in it, make it a good relationship, or you’ve got a whole lotta misery ahead of you.

3. You are valuable 

Ok so you may not be the most traditionally pretty girl in your group. You may not be the cleverest girl in your class. You may not be the most popular kid in your family. Yes, you can be difficult and you regularly challenge and test the patience of those around you. True, you can be high maintennce and tempermental. But you ARE valuable, just as you are. Never ever let yourself feel less than, or not enough. Remind yourself everday that you are valuable, because you are and always will be. 

4. Your sexuality is not wrong

Those butterflies you get in your nether regions when you see that boy you fancy, or when you watch Sex And The City while your Mum’s out of the house, there’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with exploring your body in bed at night. There’s nothing wrong with being curious and using the internet to find the anwers to your questions. There’s nothing wrong with day dreaming about doing the no pants dance with Him while you should be listening to your teacher. And guess what? Your friends are ALL doing the exact same thing! It’s all totally normal, so stop feeling so bloody guilty about it all! 

5. Do it for you, never for him

Don’t be bullied into doing something you’re not ready for. It won’t make him love you. It won’t make him hold your hand in public. All it will achieve is making you feel like shit. So don’t do it! If you want to have sex for the sheer shits and giggles of it, GO FOR IT! Get yourself on the pill and buy the biggest box of Johnnies you can find, and have at it girl! Sex is the bee’s knees,  but only when it’s about you! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Make sure he looks after you and your needs. Demand your orgasms! Trust me – they’re worth it. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s something you have to do. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not doing it. You’re not stupid so don’t fall for that shit. If you’re gonna do it, do it for you. NEVER for him. Ps: if he’s trying to bully you into it, DUMP HIM. He’s an asshole and doesn’t deserve your beautiful body.

6. If they don’t get you, they’re not your friends

A true friend is someone you can totally relax around and just be yourself with. They’re someone whose weirdness matches your weirdness. Their uncoolness matches your uncoolness. You can be goofy as hell around each other. You can admit to still watching kids tv just because you like it. You can admit to being afraid to have sex, or to having had loads of crap sex. You don’t have to hide anything about yourself from them. Because they get you. And if they don’t… I’m sorry babygirl but they’re not your friends. Move on, find real ones. Because there is NOTHING better than real friendship. 

7. Wear whatever you want

Fuck fashion rules! Fuck dressing for your shape. Fuck not wearing pink and red together, or only wearing the eye shadow colour that matches your eyes. WEAR WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT! Experiment with fashion. Wear weird shit that nobody else wears. Get it wrong sometimes and laugh it off when you do. Hold your head high! Be different. Be interesting.. Stand out from the flock of sheep in their O’Neills bottoms/rara skirts. And don’t listen to your parents. They haven’t a clue about fashion! 

8. The life plan is not your friend

Please. Stop. Planning. You are so clueless about what’s in store. Stop investing in these intricate plans to have this done by that age and be married by that time etc. Live life by the seat of your pants. Choose a college course that you think will be fun. Work hard at your part time job and save half your wages every week. Plan for the year ahead, but never beyond that. And just enjoying being young. There are some very hard times ahead, so just have fun now while you still can!

9. Don’t be a bitch 

STOP TALKING SHIT ABOUT OTHER GIRLS! That is bitchy as hell, and you’ll never know how much the things you say are hurting the people you say them about. They don’t deserve it, no matter what they’ve done. Don’t be so judgey. Who the hell do you think you are? GIrls need to support girls. Be on your own team. You’ll learn soon enough how hard it is to be a woman in this world, so don’t go out of your way to make it ever harder. You’re not a bitch. I know that. So just stop acting like one! 

10. Self hate isn’t worth it

Reality time. You cannot change yourself. Yes, you will change over time, but not deliberately. Life will change you, you’ll learn lessons and grow. The people in your life will change you, they’ll make you a better, stronger person. But you CANNOT change yourself. So please stop torturing yourself trying to. Get used to who you are. Learn to live with the parts of yourself you’re not too keen on. Remind yourself everyday that you’re basically a really good person at heart, and you’ll soon make peace with yourself. Because if you only take one thing away from all this, let it be this; self hate is not worth it. 

Sarah xo 

World Mental Health Day Stigma Smash! 

Today it’s WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY. Yay! So for the day that’s in it, I wanted to smash some stigmas that are heavily associated with mental illness in Ireland. 

Unfortunately I don’t think you guys want to read a twelve thousand word dissertation, and I don’t really want to write one to be honest, so I’m limiting the scope to the three stigmas which I think most urgently need to be smashed. These are stigmas that not only paint a horribly inaccurate picture of what it’s like to experience and live with mental illness, but they actually make a persons mental illness WORSE! So they really need to go. Like, now. Today if at all possible!

Stigma 1 – Suicide is Selfish

The belief amongst many that suicide is a selfish act is one I used to subscribe to (hangs head in shame at former closed mindedness). I thought that to end your own life, to put your family and friends through what can only be described as the most heart wrecnching, soul destroying grief imaginable was an utterly selfish thing to do. I mean, if you loved your friends and family you would never do that to them, right? Wrong!

It wasn’t until I began to have suicidal thoughts myself (shivers at the mere memory) that I realised the truth; for many people, suicide is seen as the right thing to do for the people you love. I can’t claim to speak for everyone who has ever had suicidal thoughts obviously, but there is no doubt that in my case my thoughts around suicide were completely based on the very certain conviction that I was damaging the lives of everyone around me. 

I wholeheartedly believed that my friends and family, my own daughter who was just five years old at the time, would be infintely better off if I was no longer around. Sure, they’d be sad at first and there’d be a period of grief and mourning. But in my mind at that time, I thought they’d get over it and go on to live fuller, happier lives as a result of it. 

That’s some dark shit, right?

So how does this make mental illness even more difficult for those going through it? Well it’s simple really. It makes people much less willing to talk about their experiences of feeling suicidal if they think they will be criticised for it. And if they don’t feel free to talk about their experience they can never fully recover. We need to stop making people feeling guilty for having gone through this. Instead of shaming them, we should be supporting and celebrating them and their courage.  

Stigma 2 – Depression is Just ‘The Blues’ 

If i had a euro for everytime somebody brushed off depression as a simple case of ‘The Blues’ I’d be on a yachy in the south of Spain right now, or at the very least I’d be writing this post on my very own rose gold MAC and not my daughters Lenovo tablet. 

Many people of a certain generation still hold the opinion that depression is just a phase we all go through, an inevitable result of the shittiness of life, and something to be just gotten over with a generous dose of tough love and a bout of fresh air. This is NOT TRUE! 

The symptoms of depression go above and beyond a simple bad mood or a period of consecutive bad days.  Insomnia, lethargy, weight loss, weight gain, mania, axiety, disappearence of sex drive, self imposed isolation, lack of personal hygiene, irrational mood swings, paranoia and about fifty other sympotms are associated with depression. 

It is NOT The Blues. It is a debilitating and life threatening illness. By brushing it off as anything less, we discourage them from seeking the help they desperately lead, and increase their chances of suffering in silence as their illness gets worse and worse over time. 

Stigma 3 – Medication is The Source of All Evil

Now this is a slightly trickier stigma to smash, but one that needs urgent smashing nonetheless. The notion that antidepressants and other medications associatied with mentall illness are bad is seriously damaging. 

During my depression, not only did I take an antidepressant for six months, but I also took a sleeping tablet every night for three months. Both antidepressants and sleeping tablets have a horrible reputation for being super addictive, and coming with a list of side affects as long as your arm. But by the time I’d gotten myself into the doctor, I was desperate. 

So I took an antidepressant every morning for six months, and a sleeping tablet every night for three. 

And guess what? The world DIDN’T end! In fact, my first nights sleep without my sleeping tablet was a full, undisturbed eight glorious hours. I had absolutely no problems at all coming off my daily dose, and I’m convinced that had I chosen not to take a tablet every night at 9pm for three months, I couldn’t have developed the really healthy sleep routine that’s still lasting today. And my antidepressants were no different. I have absolutey no regrets about using either, and won’t hesitate to go back for more if I ever find myself in that position again! 

Unfortunately most people live in real fear of both forms of medication, aswell as other forms of medication perscribed for mental illness. Because of this stigma, too many people avoid going to their doctor to seek treatment, and just endure hellish symptoms for months or even years on end. 

Ireland has a long way to go before our society swaps shaming of people with mental illness to supporting people with mental illness. Initiatives like World Mental Health Day are definitely a step in the right direction, as they encourage the discourse around mental health and raise awareness and understanding of one of the most important social issues of our time . Yes, there is still SERIOUS stigma surrounding all forms of mental illness. And yes, these stigmas are harming the mental health of our nation. But through social media and online campaigns, we WILL smash them. And once they’re smashed, hopefully sufferers of mental illnesses such as depression will finally feel comfortable to speak up, seek help and find their way to the road of recovery! 


Dramatic Weight Change; Time to Think About the Why! 

Some thoughts I’ve been having around weight loss and weight gain on my holiday… Musings, if you will! 

We tend to see weight as a problem, the problem. When somebody gains or loses weight, we look at that as the problem. But we never really wonder why. 

When somebody gains or loses weight rapidly, it’s an indicator of far more than the amount of food they’ve been eating. Sure, we often wonder how they’ve lost or gained it. We regularly speculate about their eating and exercise habits. We’re always very interested in the how but not the why

I gained about six stone in a ten year period. The how? I binged on shitty food. The why? I was battling self loathing and depression. If somebody lost six stone in the same period, the why is equally important. 

Why is that person losing so much? What’s going on inside their brains to result in such dramatic weight change? What demons are they facing? Are they sitting at home crying every night? Do they hate who they are? Are they having suicidal thoughts? Are they self harming? Do they have anyone to talk to? What help do they need? 

These are just some of the questions we should be asking when dramatic weight change occurs. But we never do. 

I wish my family would ask themselves these questions when they look at me, instead of always focusing on what I eat and how often I exercise. Maybe then, they’d realise that I am not my weight. Maybe then, they’d realise that I am more than just a number on a scales.

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20 Things That Are Hard AF When You’ve Got Depression.

Last night I came across a post on Instagram which highlighted the glamorisation of the #selfcaresunday hashtag. It really made me think about the way we talk about self care, and I realised that I haven’t been very forthcoming when it comes to talking about the daily struggles I faced during my depression. 

So in the interest of breaking down the stigma around mental illness, here’s a fairly exhaustive list of the things that were hard AF for me during my depression. 

  1. Brushing my teeth
  2. Changing  my bed sheets
  3. Washing dishes
  4. Opening post
  5. Answering the phone
  6. Showering 
  7. Doing a grocery shop
  8. Changing my underwear
  9. Changing my tampons
  10. Hoovering
  11. Paying bills
  12. Getting my daughter to school on time
  13. Going to family events
  14. Brushing my hair
  15. Wearing deoderant
  16. Walking my dog
  17. Taking out the bins
  18. Cleaning the toilet 
  19. Doing laundry
  20. Putting clothes away at the end of the day 

    Are you struggling with body confidence and self esteem? Join The Self Love Sisterhood today to get weekly newsletters jam packed full of aweome resources and tools that you can use to boost your self love RIGHT NOW! 
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    The Bikini Body Bullshit 

    It’s that time of year again, when our social media becomes saturated by Bikini Body workouts, meal plans and ‘thinspiration’. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that it’s not something that I enjoy. Far from it. But given how pervasive the Bikini Body pressure is in society, I have to face facts and accept the reality of the world I live in. Right? 

    Wrong. I refuse to accept that there is any such thing as a Bikini Body, except perhaps in the case of a human body which happens to be clothed in a bikini. 

    What I refuse to accept is this; the notion that swimwear is a privilege exclusively bestowed on bodies that have reached a specific standard of beauty. 

    Here’s why: 

    1. Swimwear is not a privilege. 

    The idea that we need to earn the right to wear specific types of clothes creates and perpetuates the idea that some bodies are more worthy than others. What about the fatties, like me? What about the disabled? What about those with extensive scarring, or skin conditions? Those bodies don’t reach society’s beauty standards. But does that mean they are less valuable? No! 

    2. My clothing choices are my own. 

    When we judge someone harshly for wearing something we think they shouldn’t, what we’re really saying is that those people don’t have, or shouldn’t have, autonomy over their own bodies and their own clothing. We’re saying that they don’t have, or shouldn’t have, the right to express themselves the way they do, and that they should prioritise the comfort levels of others over the free expression of their own personal identity. 

    3. Society’s beauty standards are damaging. 

    Every year models get thinner. Every year thigh gaps get wider. Every year complexions become clearer, brows more defined, collar bones more prominent, hair thicker and glossier, skin more bronzed, bums perkier, lips plumper. Every year the standard rises further and further out of reach of the vast majority of people. What constituted as beauty in the 50’s is now seen as unhealthy, undesirable and unworthy. What will the standard be in ten years time? Will we require that people have an eating disorder just to try on a swimsuit in the changing rooms? And how many more men and women have to hate themselves into mental illness for us to take control of this rapidly spiralling social problem? 

    So… On that happy note, what can be done? Here’s what: 

    Put a bikini on your body. 

    Congratulations! You now have a Bikini Body! 


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    Five Things I’ve Learned About Self Love 

    This time last year I had just recently embarked on the most important mission of my life; to fall in love with myself. Like most people, I suppose, the idea of self love was completely alien to me back then, and I made all kinds of crazy assumptions about the concept. Since then though, I’ve come to understand self love for what it really is, and let go of the misconceptions I had initially, and being the nice guy that I am I thought I’d share them here. 

    1. Self Love isn’t Narcicism or Vanity

    Whoever coined the phrase, ‘she loves herself’ has done humanity a great disservice! Most people believe loving yourself is about thinking you’re better than everyone else, looking down on others and acting superior and conceited. This is soooooo not what true self love is about! Instead it’s a humble acceptance and appreciation of ourselves as we are. Funnily enough, self love even helps us to see the good in everyone around us, so if anything it boosts our opinions of ourselves and others simultaneously!

    2. Self Love isn’t Selfish or Self Centred

    Another misconception is that self love means prioritising yourself over the needs of others. It’s understandable that people make this mistake, but it is a mistake. Self love means taking diligent care of yourself, so that you can function more efficiently and easily. Someone who prioritises self love eats well, sleeps well, makes good use of their time, cuts out parts of their lives that drain them of their energy, and frees up time to spend with the people they love. They become better parents, better friends, better employees and employers. Who doesn’t benefit from that?

    3. Self Love isn’t a Destination

    I remember when I was in counselling for depression and learning to love myself. I used to get so frustrated and moan to my counsellor that it was taking too long to learn to love myself. I couldn’t wait to get where I was going, to arrive at self love. After all, it sounded like such a beautiful place. But what I didn’t understand was that self love isn’t a destination. Imagine self love as a never ending spectrum, with no end in sight. You can never love yourself enough. You can never be kind enough to yourself, or show yourself enough compassion. You can always love yourself more than you do right now, and you’re never finished learning how to do it.

    4. Self Love isn’t all Manicures and Massages 

    Thanks to  Instagram and the endless array of hashtags that accompany images of pampering days, meals in fancy restaurants, retail hauls and pretty, pink, peonies, many people believe that self love is all about treating yourself to the things you want. Unfortunately that’s not true. Believe me, I wish it was! But self love is about hard graft. It’s about knuckling down with your thoughts to understand yourself more. It’s about dragging your tired ass off the couch and into bed an hour before you want to. It’s about finding the courage to stand up to your boss, or your friend, or your partner that’s been taking advantage of you. It’s about getting the hell out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to finally treat yourself better. Sure, buy yourself the peonies, but don’t think that it means anything other then the fact that you love peonies.  

    5. Self Love isn’t Linear

    This is so true of mental health in general. Everyday is different, every moment is unique. Some days I love myself more than others, and there are some hours when my self love is higher, or lower, than it was an hour before. It isn’t a case of finding self love one day, and then just having it for the rest of your life at a constant, unchanging level. I still have mornings when I wake up and have to consciously choose to love myself. And I have mornings when I wake up positively bursting with self love. Everyday is different and it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. 

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    Depression Myths Busted! 

    It’s the final week of Depression month on my blog and over the month I’ve covered the different types of depression, the side effects and symptoms of depression, and the treatments available. So what better way to wrap it up than by dedicating week four to dropping some truth bombs and busting some myths! 

    Depression is Just The Blues 

    The biggest and most widely held of the myths, this attitude is a serious problem in Ireland. Depression is not the blues! The blues are a temporary reaction to normal life events. The blues don’t lead to big weight loss or gain. The blues don’t cause people to lose jobs and relationships. The blues don’t contribute to suicide. Depression is a mental illness. The blues is a phase. End of. 

    Suicidal Thoughts Are Attention Seeking

    Most people who are having suicidal thoughts aren’t going to be too keen to share that information around. However, this doesn’t mean that if and when a person does make the incredibly brave decision to tell someone that they’re having suicidal thoughts, they should he dismissed as attention seeking. Over the past month I’ve been blown away by the amount of my followers who’ve experienced this during their own struggle with mental health, and I can’t help but wonder if being treated that way when I confessed about my suicidal thoughts to my doctor would’ve made me more likely to follow through with them. 

    Suicide Is Selfish 

    I have to admit that this is something I used to believe. But it’s bullshit! Only when I started having my own suicidal thoughts did I realise that suicide can actually be the ultimate act of selflessness. For me, I believed wholeheartedly that I was holding back the people I loved, that my own daughter would live a fuller, more successful life without me. To me, not taking my life would’ve been the selfish thing to do. Of course I know how illogical and irrational those beliefs were, but it’s opened my mind to just how warped our thinking can become in depression, and how a seemingly selfish act can actually be a very loving, very selfless one. 

    Antidepressants Are Evil

    Another really common misconception, most people still see antidepressants as the enemy. More bullshit! Antidepressants don’t dull your senses or mess with your concentration. They don’t turn you into some sort of brainless zombie. They don’t automatically double or halve your body weight. You won’t immediately take your life the moment you come off them. Like any other medication, it can take time to find the right antidepressant for you, and you may have to deal with some temporary side effects while you find it. But if and when you’re on the right one, you can live a full and happy life with the exact same level of functionality as anyone else and zero additional health risks. Antidepressants are not the enemy. Stigma is. 

    Depression is Just An Excuse For Smelliness 

    This infuriates me. Yes, many people who are depressed struggle with personal hyigiene. Yes, I once went two weeks without a shower. Yes, I smelled. But I also locked myself into my apartment for those two weeks and hid from the world. I didn’t run around full of the joys of life, waving my steaming pits in the air while everyone around me dry heaved from the stench. If you have a colleague in work, or a friend in school, or a brother at home who smells, but otherwise they seem completely happy and healthy, they’re just smelly. If you think that depressed people are just smelly people, then you’re an asshole. 

    Depression Can be Cured With Exercise 

    This is possibly the worst of a bad bunch. It’s true that depression is caused by a lack of serotonin, and it’s also true that exercise produces  serotonin. But like all mental illness, depression isn’t some black and white scenario with a quick fix. It’s often caused by a chemical imbalance which exercise can correct, sure. But more often than not its roots are infinitely deeper and counselling is needed to teach the patient how to rewire their brain to combat old destructive thought patterns and encourage new, more positive ones. Claiming that exercise is the solution belittles the patients struggles and is incredibly disrespectful. Don’t do it. Ever. 

    So that’s it for Depression Month on my blog. It’s been a great way to begin my Mental Illness Monday feature and introduce some information on mental illness to my content. Thank you so much for reading my posts and taking part in the conversations! Next month I’m tackling anxiety, which is something that affects so many of us but is still hugely misunderstood. So as always, get in touch with me on Instagram (@sarah_tyrrell_), Facebook or Snapchat (@selflovewsarah) if you want to share your experience with me. 

    Sarah x 
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    The Symptoms of Depression – What Does Depression Look Like IRL?

    Today I wanna talk about the symptoms of depression. What is living with depression like? How does it manifest itself? How can it affect our lives?

    The truth is that depression can present itself in different ways for different people. Some people experience a huge increase in fatigue and sleepiness, while others experience insomnia and manic energy levels. But the general symptoms and side affects  are fairly predictable for most people.

    Here’s how my depression played out:

    For months on end I was irritable and extremely quick to lash out at my loved ones. As a result, I fell out with pretty much everyone in my life. I became more and more isolated from the outside world, choosing to stay home alone day after day, night after night. I found it impossible to muster any kind of enthusiasm for anything at all. I experienced crippling lethargy, going weeks at a time without showering or cooking a single meal. All cleanliness and hygiene went out the window. I lost every ounce of pride and self respect I’d ever had. I felt I was worthless, so what was the point in pretending otherwise? It was a little bit like encountering a domentor in the Harry Potter movies. I felt as though I’d never feel happy, or laugh, again. I ate to punish myself, binging almost every night on so much sweets and general junk food that I would eventually vomit, burst into tears and stuff more into my mouth in an attempt to distract myself from what I was feeling (although many people find the opposite is true during depression, and lose their appetites completely). I couldn’t make even the smallest, most insignificant decisions. When my phone rang I would panic (even if the screen showed that it was my best friend calling) and cancel the call. I felt so little worth, of so little value, that I eventually began to think that I was getting in the way of the happiness of others, including my own daughter. I rationalised the idea that if I was gone, she would have a greater chance of living a full and happy life. Sure there would be grief and sadness initially, but I convinced myself that in the long term everyone would benefit. My outlook on the future became bleaker and bleaker until I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything other than my depression. I believed wholeheartedly that I would be depressed for the rest of my life, impatiently waiting for the sweet release of death. Towards the end, I began to fantasise about taking my own life.

    Pretty dark stuff. It still amazes me that I found my way out of it tbh. 

    Now I should be clear here and mention the fact that not everyone’s depression will last as long as mine did, and if they’ve managed to get treatment for the illness in the relatively early stages they’re unlikely to experience the depths of depression that I did. It certainly isn’t the case that a person can only be classed as depressed if they haven’t showered in two weeks, or if they’re fantasising about suicide.
    The truth is that depression can be incredibly subtle for a very long time. Looking back now I can see that I had been depressed for years. The symptoms began very slowly, so much so that I didn’t really notice them, or just chalked them down to a bad week or a stressful event. But going unchecked for as long as it did, my depression built up steadily until I could no longer deny it.

    So that’s what depression looks like, but how can it affect your life? Well if you’re experiencing similar symptoms to mine, it’s pretty easy to see how you could lose your job, your partner, your friends, fall behind on your debts and other finances, and gain or lose weight. In fact, if you’re experiencing those same symptoms, fair play to you for even having the energy to read this post. The real difficulty is in the indecisiveness that depression can cause. I remember feeling so utterly overwhelmed by the tinniest things that I would just lock myself in my room and go to sleep. I ignored my bills for months until I had built up thousands of euros worth of debt. I ignored my rent too, for months, until my landlord finally threatened me with eviction and I had to go begging for a loan from a family member. I ignored my depression itself for so long that it’s no wonder it got to the stage that it did.

    I think that part of the reason why there is still such stigma around depression is the difficulty people have with understanding it. So many of the symptoms, when seen on their own, can be easily mistaken for ‘the blues’ (a temporary reaction to life events that will pass naturally). You might notice that your boyfriend is extremely tired all of the time and has no energy to do anything anymore, and chalk it down to a stressful time at work. But when we can identify all of the symptoms together, it becomes crystal clear when a person is dealing with the blues, and when they’re suffering from depression. Unfortunatly we tend to hide our symptoms extremely effectively. I wasn’t going around telling everyone that I met that I hadn’t showered or cleaned my apartment in weeks. I didn’t greet people with, ‘hey how are you, I want to die’. I hid it so well that nobody my life had a clue, and that just made it all the easier for me to ignore.

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    Challenging Fatphobia

    When I first started following bopo accounts, I have to admit that the images I saw of fat bodies unfiltered, unashamed and unapologetic made me extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately, sometimes they still do. 

    When I feel that discomfort though, I ask myself one thing; would I feel this way if the body in the image was thin? 

    More often than not, the answer is no. I don’t feel uncomfortable when I see thin women in their underwear. I don’t feel uncomfortable when I see thin women unfiltered. I only feel that way when the body in question is fat. 

    What does this mean? Does it mean that I’m a bad person? Does it mean that I’m hypocritical? The answer to both is no. 

    It means that I’m a product of my environment and unfortunately my environment is and always has been a fatphobic society. I have been taught since I was a child that fat bodies are bad. They’re bad because they’re unhealthy, unattractive, undesirable and unfeminine. I’ve been taught that fat people are lazy, irresponsible, compulsive, uneducated, and undeserving of respect. 

    Because of this, I am fatphobic. 

    Because of this, you are fatphobic. 

    How do we combat this major social issue? How do we change the environment? What steps can we take to ensure that our children grow up in a more diverse, inclusive, body positive environment? 

    How do we challenge fatphobia? 

    The first thing that we have to do is challenge our own fatphobic relentlessly, every damn day. We do this by forcing ourselves to confront the uncomfortable. We do this by carefully selecting our influencers. We do this by consciously seeking new perspectives. We do this by desensitising ourselves to the taboo. We do this by challenging everything we think we know about our bodies, our weight and our worth. 

    The Instagram bopo community has helped me to take these steps. By following women of all shapes and sizes, I’ve had to get used to seeing fat women in their underwear. I’ve had to get used to seeing fat women dancing in their underwear. I’ve been exposed to the perspectives of fat women in ed recovery. I’ve been exposed to the perspectives of fat women in mental health recovery. I’ve been forced to question my beliefs around the very word ‘fat’. I’ve been forced to think about inclusivity and diversity and intersectionality for the first time in my life. I’ve basically had to relearn most of what I thought I knew about the world we live in. 

    It’s been bloody intense. 

    Has it been easy? 

    Hell no!

    Have I learned everything there is to learn? 

    Hell no!

    Will I ever know everything there is to know about fat acceptance and body positivity? 

    Probably not! 

    Will I always be a little bit fatphobic?

    Maybe.

    Has it been worthwhile? 

    You bet your fat ass it has! 

    My First Photoshoot. 

    I’m doing a photoshoot in a couple of days, and even though I can’t really revel any deets due to the top secret, FBI-like paranoia of Irish media, I NEED to talk about it because I’m FREAKING OUT!

    Firstly – its a body positivity future with 4 other babes, all of whom are infinitely more famous than me. OK none of them are famous famous, but ‘insta famous’. One of whom is a bit of a hero of mine who I’ve followed and admired for years. The initial encounter will inevitably involve me stuttering my absolute admiration at her like some American teen fan girl. It will be unpleasant to experience for both myself and herself, and equally unpleasant to observe for the other girls and the team of photographers, stylists etc, who’s attention will have be drawn by the shrill panicky tonne of my voice. It will most likely end in a room full of people avoiding eye contact and shuffling about. 

    Secondly – I’m the only fat one. The other girls are much more mainstream in terms of their size, which obviously is no indication that they have more self confidence than me, but still. OK OK I know that body positivity is for everyBODY and that thin girls suffer hugely from unrealistic expectations and body shaming. But it would be so lovely to not be the fattest girl in the room. Why am I ALWAYS the fattest person in the room?

    Thirdly – its a swimwear shoot. I have to walk in to a room full of total strangers in a bikini, having never worn a bikini in my life. Yes I do post pictures of my body scantily clad on the internet daily. Many people who’ve seen my Instagram would be justified in describing me as an exhibitionist. But the truth is, there is an enormous difference between a 2D image of my body, and the thing itself in 3D. Walking around in my bikini, things will be moving!!! This does not bode well. 

    Fourthly – there’s a interview with each of us. I’ve already done mine but I’m utterly convinced that I was about as articulate as a drunken guinea pig and that I didn’t represent the bopo movement well at all. People will read it and assume that I’m foreign because my grasp of the English language is so poor. ‘Maybe Latvian or Lithuanian,’ they’ll speculate at length. 

    Fifthly – my family isn’t supportive of my decision to do this feature. My mum has made it clear that she thinks it’s a mistake without actually saying it, as only a loving Mother can. My 82 year old, Irish Catholic, bible bashing, homophobic, climate change denying, anti feminism granny doesn’t know yet, but will undoubtedly kick my fat exhibitionist arse up and down the street when she sees it, which she will because it’s her paper. She will then have no other choice but to move to Mexico just to escape the shame and scandal I will have brought down on her and I will forever be known as ‘the one who broke Granny’s heart’. My aunties and uncles will tut tut and say that I’m in denial and will ‘feel bad for me’. I will be an outcast, forever banished to the fringes of society! (OK some poetic license used here, but not as much as you’d expect!)

    Sixthly (is that even a word??) – this is a big newspaper, probably the biggest in Ireland. People are going to see it. People who I know from school, college, ex boyfriends, bitchy people who I know will go TO TOWN ripping me to shreds. They’ll say I’ve got ‘notions’ and that I look a ‘show’ and gossip about how I drove my poor Granny to flee the country, and to Mexico of all places where the heat is fierce and unrelenting and will undoubtedly be fatal to an aul wan like Granny So And So. Not only will I then be known as Sarah Tyrrell Who Used To Be Pretty Before She Put On All The Weight, I’ll now be upgraded to Sarah Tyrrell Who Put On All The Weight And Sent Her Granny To An Early Grave. Infamous forevermore. 

    So, are u feeling deeply deeply concerned for my well being yet? If you are, I dont feckin blame you! But hold on a second, because as scary as all the above is, there is this: 

    A) I’ve discovered that the more risks I take, the more wonderful and exciting opportunities come my way. And I have big plans to carve myself a career as a bopo influencer in Ireland, so obviously this is a great opportunity. 

    B) I want to push myself further out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to get complacent. I want to do things that scare me, so that I become braver, more resilient and more body positive. From a personal point of view, there is to much growth to gain here to refuse the chance! 

    C) This is acrually much bigger than me and my bs insecurities. I believe in representation. I have never in my life, as far as I can remember, opened an Irish magazine or newspaper and seen someone who has a body like mine. I know that women and girls all of the country will see themselves in me and feel inspired/empowered by the sight of a body positive plus size girl. I want to do that more than anything, to show people that you can and should love your body no matter what it looks like. Because women need it. They need go know that it’s OK to be a size 24. They need to know that it’s OK to have two thirds of your body covered in stretch marks and cellulite. They need to know that they have nothing to be ashamed of and ate entitled to love and respect and kindness no matter what their bodies look like. And this article is an opportunity to reach out to those women and spread that message.