Category Archives: Heart to Heart

Ghostwriter-Gate: Why I’m not surprised and wish someone had warned Zoella

I watch beauty videos and I like Zoella. I don’t intend to buy her book. But I’d like to say a few things on the subject.

1. The fact that Zoella (allegedly) used a ghostwriter doesn’t surprise me one bit.
Here’s why. As someone who sincerely tried to write and publish a debut young adult novel when I was Zoella’s age, I can tell you that’s it’s a tremendously huge and difficult undertaking. I entered an entirely unknown world. There are so many things to consider. What narrator do I use? Am I getting the voice of a teenager right? Do I make a detailed plan of my plot in advance or do I make it up as I go? Do I write at home or in a coffee shop (The latter in an attempt to imitate JK Rowling)? I could go on. My point is – if I was a YouTube vlogger sharing most of my day to day experiences with my viewers AND had had achieved the incredible feat of writing my first novel, I’d share a little bit more of the process. Not the process of getting the book deal, because hey, I am Zoella, but the writing. Wouldn’t you? By the way, I don’t like the argument she and her publisher seem to go for, that she understandably needed this level of help because it was her first novel. Did every established author need a ghostwriter for their debut? But that’s just a side note here.

2. The public outcry is as predictable as the fact that there was a ghostwriter in the first place. In other words: Why did no one warn Zoella? Maybe they did. It would be a major failure of her management Gleam digital if they didn’t tell her that this would happen. Yes, Zoe could have had the common sense to anticipate this herself, but isn’t this where older, more experienced people should have stepped in? Where was her normally very level-headed BFF Louise/Sprinkle of Glitter? Maybe someone did warn her, but the lure for success and excitement of having her name on a book was stronger. And success in book sales she got.

3.

The sales of this novel have absolutely nothing to do with the content of the book. They have everything to do with Zoella’s brand. She built that brand herself and is reaping the rewards as lots of celebrities do, via brand extensions.

Thank you Matt Haig (The Guardian), I couldn’t have said it better. What if Zoella had been upfront and said ‘I’ve teamed up with this awesome writer, I came up with the characters and plot and now she is going to write it’? What if the novel had both names on the cover? Would her fans still buy it? I believe so. Yes, she should have been upfront. But – If she offers an honest and heartfelt explanation or even apology now, will there be a twitter-trending outpouring of love from her fans? I guarantee it.

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Heart to Heart: Today I am grateful

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*No beauty or make-up in this post, just mental healthchit chat*

Every now and then I come across something that reminds me of the year I spent in depression. That year ended, maybe 8 months ago. Plus minus 3. Sometimes it’s a song I used to listen to at that time (Most recently: Cher – You haven’t seen the last of me). Sometimes I get an accidental stab into one of my old wounds and I am reminded how much they used to hurt. Sometimes there is a bit of bleeding, but I’m able to get it under control. Sometimes I look at the physical manifestation of my scars and remember how I got them. Other times it’s a piece of clothing I bought during that time. Like my mustard yellow scarf with a bird pattern that I bought while in hospital.

And then I think about where I am in my life right now. How different it is.
Like, this week I worked really hard, probably the hardest since I got better. I felt dedicated. I wanted to do it. My goodness, having the energy and enjoyment for what you are supposed to be doing makes such a difference. Sometimes I just walk down the street and realize that I feel light. I feel happy. No anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure). No dysphoria (chronic low mood). I can’t tell you how amazing that feels.

All my therapists had one big worry in the end. That I would be an eternal patient. That I would never be able to let go of that. Why on earth would you do that? Because that is your Number 1 identity. Because you think you deserve it. Because of the care and attention. Because someone acknowledges that you are hurting. Because it is a manifestation that somethings in your life went wrong, or is still wrong. Like spending your adulthood with mental illnesses to show everyone how wrong things went in your childhood. Like that hurts anyone other than yourself. I remember being released from hospital and feeling paralysed with fear that they might be right. That I might never let myself get well.

Only time could really prove this wrong. I think it did. I will never take this for granted. Sometimes I feel so much gratitude that it makes me cry a little. I know I will slip. Life will slip. But that doesn’t matter, because I am excited for it. I want to live. I am up for this. Life feels so good right now.

And then there is the miracle of my relationship. Just to give that a sneaky mention.

A year ago I was in hospital. Today I am happy.

To be well is incredible. Thank you everyone who helped me get there, or simply stuck around.

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Therapy-proof makeup!

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Also known as cry-proof makeup. I haven’t done a mental health related post in a while. Be warned – this is one of those (sort of)!

I guess most people don’t plan ahead if they are going to cry on any given day – unless it’s their wedding day, maybe. Or maybe if you’re someone who cries at the cinema.

However, if you go to therapy on a regular basis (say, once a week), you will learn to plan ahead in the morning when doing your makeup. It took me several years (!) to feel comfortable crying in front of a therapist, but since I got over that, it’s like the waterworks are turned on every time. For me I usually feel like a good session includes a good cry because it means we touched on something important. But that’s just me!

After this overly personal rambling, here are my tried and tested makeup tips for any days when tears are likely.

Eyes:

The waterproof-est mascara: Urban Decay Cannonball. Never once smudged on me.
Eyeshadow that doesn’t get patchy or worse – melts all around your eyes: Maybelline Color tattoo
To hide redness afterwards: apply a nude eye pencil on your waterline, e,g Rimmel scandaleyes in Nude.
If you want to wear eyeshadow, stick to neutral colours and use a primer underneath, such as Urban Decay’s primer potion. Avoid dark eyeliner.

Foundation and concealer:
Admittedly I don’t own anything waterproof or extra long lasting. I also don’t really use primers, but I am guessing they would help keep your makeup in place. I was given a sample of the Laura Mercier foundation primer and will give that one a try.
For foundation, I would say pick a colour very close to your own skin tone so you won’t get light and dark patches. Focus most product in the centre around your nose and sheer it out at the sides. Tears normally run down the sides of your face. Use a setting powder. Have concealer in your handbag to touch up around your nose afterwards, which you will probably have blown a few times.

Lips:
Keep it natural and low maintenance. One of my favourites for that is the Revlon Just bitten kissable balm stain in Honey. OR go for a statement colour that gives you confidence, but put it in your handbag to apply AFTER the session.

Other useful things:
Sunglasses – if you want privacy afterwards
A Boots or Superdrug nearby – 9 times out of 10 I go straight there to browse, swatch and get out of the therapy mood
A diary or personal blog to write down the most important things that came out of the session – You would think that you will remember it all, but I am so grateful to be able go back and read over things months or years after.

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Heart to Heart: Scars

Today I would like to write about something personal. If you would rather read about product reviews and makeup tutorials, stop reading now.

My left forearm is covered in a number of scars. These come from a period in my life when I was very unwell. I was diagnosed with and treated for depression. When I was a teenager, I read about self harming in a magazine. I then made a big mistake – I tried it. To me it is not unlike smoking or drugs, even though I have never tried those. It is highly addictive. Do not think that you can do it once and that will be it. For many people it turns into a big part of their life that may never fully leave them.

Anyhow, this post is not about the cons of self harm. I just wanted to make it clear that I wish from the bottom of my heart that I had never tried it.

What I wanted to write about is the good old topic of accepting your imperfections. My left arm will never be perfect again. It will be revolting to some. It can be a trigger for judgment and stigma. For a long time I thought that I would have to hide my scars for the rest of my life. I started to hate shopping. All these three-quarter length tops that I couldn’t buy anymore. I bought an awful lot of shirts and blouses during that time. I went to parties with long evening gloves. I thought that I had no choice. I just couldn’t bear the thought of people looking at me and seeing what I had done to myself. And by people I mean my friends and family. I was sad and angry with myself.

During a family holiday I strained my back in the shower very very badly. I could hardly move without sharp pain shooting through my body. I was in a hotel with my parents and my brother. My mum is a physio therapist. She could have easily treated it. But I couldn’t let her. I couldn’t ask her to take off my shirt. So I didn’t tell my family anything. I went to breakfast with them. I have never gritted my teeth so much before in my life. I had to move so so carefully so I wouldn’t flinch or cry out, yet I had to appear as if nothing was wrong. My mum asked me three times if I was ok. I lied and said yes.

This is to show you how far I was willing to go in order to hide my imperfections.

Things have changed. Most important of all, I got better and I got ‘clean’. I stopped. My scars began to fade. It was still very nervous about showing them. I still am, to some degree. But I am getting better at accepting my scars as a part of myself that isn’t all that horrible. I will never be proud of them. I will never show them off. But if it is a warm day, I will take my cardigan off. I roll up my sleeves again when I do the dishes. I take my hoodie off in dance class after the warm up. Small steps that feel like I am getting huge chunks of freedom back. I feel a lot less sad and resentful.

So although this blog is mainly about things that help you look more beautiful, we all have our imperfections. Many of them won’t be self-inflicted like my scars, but some may be. Either way, I am starting to learn that it is ok to have them.

P.S.
There is one rule I still live by. I will cover my scars around children and young people. I once copied some teenagers in a magazine. I don’t want anyone to copy me.

I made a video back in the day when I was blogging mainly about mental health about how to treat self harm scars so they fade quicker. If you are interested you can watch it on my YouTube channel.

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When I met Andre Leon Talley

I thought long and hard about whether or not I should post this post. I feel like there is still stigma around when it comes to mental health. But with the Time to Change adverts on TV all the time, a lot of effort is going into campaigns making it more acceptable to talk about personal mental health issues. Anyway, this isn’t even the topic of this post. This post is about the time I met Andre Leon Talley.

Andre Leon Talley

He gave a lively talk about his life and career – his work for fashion magazines including Vogue, and for Andy Warhol. Not a single mention of America’s Next Top Model, even though I am sure most of the audience (and me) knew him through that.

Afterwards he took the time to answer questions from the audience. He complimented a lot of the girls asking questions on their outfits, which was cute. Anyway, I had a sudden idea for a question and got up. They passed me the microphone. I said –

Last year I was really unwell, and I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I took my favourite dress, a beautiful summer dress. I didn’t wear it at first, but then I thought, whatever, I am just going to wear it! So I walked up and down the ward in my dress – until my therapist told me she thought I had a personality disorder because of the dress. She thought I was histrionic – attention seeking. So I stopped wearing the dress. Could you think of a good response to my therapist?

I don’t know what he said first. My face felt very warm and I was shaking. But he then said – wear the dress. And told me I had lovely hair.

Later when I went to take the picture with, he said again that I should wear the dress.

The dress I was talking about was this by the way. A jersey maxi dress from Monsoon. I wear it all summer because it is so nice and comfortable.

dress

I felt very exhausted afterwards, but also somewhat empowered. I had gotten over my shame and literally stood up for myself. I had been open and honest and myself in front of my peers.

For the record – I went to hospital to get a lot of psychotherapy over a short space of time, so I wouldn’t miss too much work. I went voluntarily. I wasn’t sectioned and it wasn’t a closed ward. That one was next door.

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I sew to stay sane

This article appeared in Issue 12 of the wonderful Oh Comely Magazine. It was my first piece of writing to ever get published.

I had my first therapist at 15. I took my first antidepressant drug at 23. I bought my first sewing machine at 24. That was two months ago.

My counsellor refers to depression as “that big black dog.” I know that dog pretty well by now. Being depressed is not the same as feeling really sad. Apart from the low mood, there is anhedonia—the inability to experience pleasure. It becomes hard to find anything that excites you or makes you feel good. I stopped dancing, going out with friends, going to lectures. It became difficult to think of a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But then for some reason or another, I got excited about making my own clothes.

The first fabric I ever bought was a gorgeous dark green silk. A tiny local haberdashery shop was holding a temporary silk sale. I thought the opportunity was too good to miss. I hadn’t even ordered a sewing machine yet. I went online and looked for free patterns—very tricky. Eventually I printed off an A4 drawing of a 50s-style dress and took it to the shop. The lady selling the silks spent a good half hour trying to figure out how many metres of fabric I would need for the dress I was vaguely referring to.

One thing I love about sewing is that it allows me to connect with my mum. I told her about the depression and the drugs last Christmas, and ever since it felt awkward to talk to her. It was as if the black dog was in the room, whether we acknowledged it or not. But then I got the idea to learn how to sew, and suddenly we had loads to talk about. I showed her various patterns I was considering. She thought they were all too difficult. I had no idea it was harder to sew a neckline with corners than a round one.

In the end, I ordered a pattern for a fitted sleeveless dress. I didn’t want to ruin my beautiful silk, so I bought a purple Primark sheet to make a practice dress. Armed with a big book on sewing and the instructions that came with the pattern, I gave it a go. It wasn’t easy and I got stuck at times, but with the help of my mum gesticulating via webcam and googling lots of technical terms, I managed to produce a wearable garment.  I have made three dresses so far and I already have the fabric to make three more.

I guess it’s a coping mechanism. The day before a dreaded psychiatric evaluation, I sewed for six hours. I only took a break to eat when my hands started shaking. Then, the other day, I had spent the night sleepless with the black dog, and only made it from my bed to the sofa around three in the afternoon. At five, I made myself set up the sewing machine, even though I didn’t feel like it. But then I started to sew, and kept sewing. When my housemate came home in the evening, he was relieved to be greeted by the familiar rattling sound. His words were, “I was getting seriously worried about you. But now I know you are alright.”

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Why I care about skincare

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As part of psychotherapy I was told how important it is to look after oneself properly. Easier said than done when it comes to things like regularly exercise, healthy relationship choices and good sleep hygiene (yes, this is a medical term).

As an ex self-harmer, being good to my body doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. I like restrictively diets (temporarily) and other unpleasant things like that.
But the one bit about me that I look after quite religiously is my skin.

I’ve always wanted to have good skin, but I never really managed to get rid of my spots. I didn’t have a set skin care routine and swapped products regularly – I didn’t have any holy grail products (picking up the blogging lingo) for a long time. In hospital I got temporarily obsessed with dead sea face masks – they are the German drugstore version of clay masks. They are about 60 pence per sachet, which lasts for two applications. It’s literally like putting mud on your face that slowly dries. It does leave your face feeling very clean and stripped. At one point I seriously scared a fellow patient, who knocked on my door when I was halfway through the drying stage – my face half grey half brown.

Face masks are nice, but on their own they weren’t enough to turn my skin around. However, for the past month or so, I did some extensive research and put together a small set of products. I only half heartedly believed that it would work – I cannot imagine what it’s like not to have spots.

But then I noticed the other day that they were all gone! I still have the odd clogged pore on my nose, but no pimples, no blackheads, no painful spots on my chin.

It makes me so happy. My skin feels much softer as well. I look forward to my evening routine because I now have pretty good evidence that I am doing something good to my skin. I am being good <em>to myself</em>.

So – if your therapist tells you to be good to yourself, one way to start is to be good to your skin!

Enough rambling. Here are the products I use. Note that I have normal to dry skin and that every skin is different.

Simple nourishing eye make-up remover

I like this because it removes waterproof mascara and doesn’t irritate my eyes. My eyelids tend to get dry patches so this feels nice and moisturizing. Possibly not ideal for oily skin.

Boots Tea tree and Witch hazel Cleasing and Toning Lotion

I use this to remove any face make-up before cleansing properly, using a cotton pad. It smells of tea tree oil, which is good for blemish prone skin. It does give me a slightly “disinfectant”-like feel, which I like.

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser

This is a cult product that in my opinion is worth the hype. You massage the cream into your dry skin and then wipe it off with a wet muslin cloth. I love this part – it makes me feel like my skin is getting a really deep cleanse and also gets exfoliated.

Sanctuary Fresh-faced Purifying wash

Usually I use this in the shower in the morning and the Liz Earle cleanser at night. I have to note that it does sting if it gets into your eyes.

Sanctuary 5 Minute Thermal Detox Mask

I use this once or twice a week. The mask has a nice texture. When you apply it onto your skin, it immediately warms up, which feels nice. While it is meant to be cleansing, it does not leave my skin feeling as stripped as other clay masks. I do like that as my skin tends to be dry rather than oily.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo

This is an amazing product, recommended by beauty gurus such as Ruth Crilly (in this video) and Tanya Burr (in this video). It is meant as a treatment for “severe imperfections”. It helped me clear up my skin and get rid off acne and breakouts. I use it as a daily moisturizer morning and night after cleansing. It has the texture of a light gel that is immediately absorbed into your skin. The only complaint I have is that it does not have SPF, so I am using an additional suncreen or foundation with SPF on top.

Origins Super spot remover

This is little bottle is very potent stuff! I don’t use it much these days as the Effaclar Duo seems to successfully prevent any breakouts at the moment – but in the past I have applied this to any newly forming spot. It has at times managed to clear them up over night without them ever breaking out properly. As I said, it is strong stuff that will dry out your skin and will sting – but I don’t mind that. Contrary to other blemish treatments, it makes me feel like it is actually doing something.

What are your thoughts on skincare? Does it feel like a chore or do you enjoy it as a nice way to be good to yourself? Any product recommendations?

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