fearing the feeling of fullness

(hi pals, just a quick message that i’ll be talking about eating disorders/disordered behaviours in this post! if you’re sensitive to these topics, please don’t read, I would hate to upset any of you!)

imagine a plateful of food being placed in front of you. the knife and fork are in your hands, ready to dive right in. as you take the first bite, your emotions are sent into overdrive. however, your body doesn’t respond to what’s happening – it doesn’t recognise that you’re eating. although part of you feels shocked when you realise you’re already half way through the meal, you don’t allow yourself to slow down. sure, you don’t feel particularly hungry, yet you continue eating everything until there’s no trace that any food was there in the first place. you have very little control over your actions, and when you look back down at the plate, and there’s nothing left, you feel like nothing happened. sounds bizarre, right? well, this has pretty much been my life for at least the past three years.

so many people think eating disorder recovery is as straightforward as simply eating more – however, it’s not that simple, and unfortunately, feeling content after a meal is still a mystery. after developing anorexia, my hunger cues have been all over the place. from restriction, to extreme hunger and attempting to intuitively eat, my body has pretty much no idea what it’s doing. in fact, it’s one of the main reasons why I put recovery on the back burner for so long. my eating disorder jumped to the conclusion that, because my hunger didn’t seem that strong or ‘relevant,’ I didn’t need to increase. when in actual fact, I didn’t feel the hunger because I wasn’t feeding myself enough.

but why does this happen? well, when our bodies are starved, all sorts of problems begin – from weak bones to poor circulation and organ failure, restriction can cause serious, lifelong damage. when we fail to provide our bodies with the basic nutrients, any fat stored away is used simply to survive (that’s right, contrary to what toxic diet culture tells us, we need fat). it gets to the point where our brains are broken down – yep, our brains literally shrink. of course, it’s totally possible to regain the brain volume lost during restriction. however, it’s terrifying to think that anorexia has that kind of power. I always remember being told that if I continued to ignore my hunger cues, my body would start eating away at my heart. although it sounds pretty hardcore, I knew that I couldn’t put myself through that, no matter how badly the eating disorder voice wanted me to waste away.

increasing my daily intake was a struggle. I mean, putting all those fun emotions like guilt and fear to one side, trying to get in tune with my body was, and still is, really tricky. ignoring hunger cues for a prolonged amount of time can make your body and brain out of whack. I was no longer at peace with myself, confused by the signals that were being sent from my mind to my stomach. when I had finished eating, I would never be satisfied, even if I was bloated and in pain (which I normally was, and still experience almost daily). it was like my body didn’t trust me, and thought that this was the only time I would provide myself with any nutrients. it felt like I was coming out of survival mode for twenty minutes and shoving down dinner, even though I didn’t feel hunger in the slightest.

many people recovering from an eating disorder have similar experiences, and there are multiple different ways to approach this lack of hunger. some decide to enter recovery with a meal plan, sticking to a certain amount of calories throughout the day. this can be a real helping hand at the start – through making a note of the meals you’ve had, and snacks you’ve eaten, you can be sure you’re getting enough nutrients. however, I actually found that this type of planning hindered my recovery, and that having such a routine of eating was detrimental to the development of my freedom. i’ve talked before about how my anorexia was driven by control; it loved to dictate whatever it could, whether it be the food I was eating, the exercise I was doing or simply through isolating myself so I had no fun whatsoever. being given a meal plan was just another way that my brain could play games, sending my anorexia into overdrive. if I didn’t complete my meal plan, my eating disorder would latch onto each little slip up, pushing them further and further each day.

another time my meal plan proved to be more negative than positive was on the occasions I felt braver than my brain, and wanted to try and challenge myself. i’d have something ‘extra’ to eat (although just so you know, nothing is an extra because there is no limit to what we’re allowed to eat), then feel like it wasn’t justified, because it wasn’t written on my meal plan. how completely terrible is that – I felt like I couldn’t enjoy what I was eating, because it wasn’t written down on a piece of paper? that’s why I decided to scrap any meal plans and just go for it.

side note, this isn’t to say that meal plans don’t work, they just weren’t the best for me. if you feel like you need that routine to get you started in recovery, do it. everyone is different, and making a plan might be exactly what you need to destroy your eating disorder.

anyway, when I started eating what I craved, my body seemed to thank me. by surrounding myself with positive people, my mindset changed. of course, my hunger cues didn’t magically restore themselves. however, as I started eating regularly, and focused on balance, I could feel the benefits. I no longer bloat as much as before, I’m way more relaxed around certain aspects of food, and I overall feel a sense of optimism I haven’t experienced in years. even when I don’t necessarily ‘feel’ hungry, I can judge whether I need to eat by multiple different factors, for example taking into account when I had my last meal, or whether I feel sluggish or exhausted. though each meal may feel like a battle, its the only way to get back on track to understanding our bodies.

if you’re in the same boat as I was once was, and feel like you’re never going to experience hunger again, don’t fret. you will feel hungry, you will feel full, you’ll eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and everything will begin to fall into place. it might seem like a faraway dream, but the first step is to start eating more. chances are you’ll experience bloating and probably extreme hunger, but they’re all positive stepping stones to moving away from your eating disorder. in the end, you’ll look back at your journey and think, ‘wow, I’m so glad I challenged myself to that cake,’ or ‘yeah I felt bloated then, but now I’m so thankful to have a working digestive system.’

also, if you needed more convincing to embrace an increase, whether it be through a meal plan or eating whatever you fancy, here are some photos of foodie bits i’ve eaten in the past few months. all delicious, all uncounted, all a step towards becoming the healthiest, happiest version of myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my rambles about recovery! if anyone has any questions, or needs advice, please message me-im never too far away!

catch you soon pals,

beth xxx

i don’t fit into my jeans anymore, so what?

just a quick side note before you start reading, this blog post will discuss my own eating disorder story and the changes that are occurring to my body. I would hate to upset anyone, so I thought it best to put a disclaimer in beforehand – thanks pals!

***

on sunday, my favourite pair of jeans ripped. after debating whether they could be salvaged or stitched in some way, I came to the conclusion that it was time to say goodbye; I had to throw away my safety net, the one clothing item I could always depend on.

no matter what size i’ve been, or weight I’ve reached, this one pair of topshop jeans have been there for me. they’ve certainly travelled around, from sweaty gigs to unknown cities. no matter how lost or anxious I’ve been, I knew that these jeans would make me feel slightly better, a little bit more ‘me’ if you like. I should have known they were reaching the end, however I certainly didn’t expect it to be this soon.

throwing away my beloved jamie jeans was a massive wake up call – i’ve been forced to come to terms with the fact that my body is changing. dont get me wrong, I know it’s totally normal for our clothing sizes to alter, and to no longer fit into certain items we purchased years ago. I mean, we arent expected to still fit into our baby grows or toddler clothes, are we? part of the process of living life is to grow. however, for someone living with anorexia, bodily changes are a pretty big deal.

before I started recovery, I was terrified of weight gain. I think part of my eating disorder thrived on the idea of staying small so I could remain in a bubble of adolescence. for so long, I refused to change. if I couldnt control the world around me, or the way life would treat me, then I would control the one thing I knew I could. this was, of course, food. stepping into my recovery journey, I decided to embrace those extra pounds – how was I meant to enjoy life if I spent all of it obsessing over the way I looked? in fact, I couldn’t really notice a difference, until I reached a ‘healthy weight,’ aka the minimum weight I should be according to bmi charts. if you’re unaware, bmi stands for ‘body mass index,’ however I think its pure bullshit. in my opinion, there is no way you can compare everyone’s bodies in the same chart and tell them whether they’re healthy or not. however, I won’t get into that rant now – i’m planning on doing an entire blog post dedicated to bmi’s, so stay tuned for that.

alongside weight gain, I noticed other recovery side affects – bloating, edema, exhaustion etc., – you name it. major changes have, and still are, occurring to my body. and even though I know they’re positive, they can also be a huge pain. the major struggle I’ve discovered so far is finding clothes that fit comfortably. i’ve been rotating between the same few baggy jumpers and leggings – anything to remain comfortable while my body and brain start working as a team.

that’s why this one pair of jeans means so much to me. it sounds ridiculous, but my confidence was really affected by them breaking – I no longer have the option to fall back onto my favourite light washed denim. now, going out somewhere takes even longer to prepare for, with hours spent panicking in my bedroom – not only do I now experience terrible anxiety of meeting people and fearing they will point out the changes to my body, but also have to dig through all of my clothes, searching for something to wear that I feel good in.

the other evening, I was getting ready for a night out – my first clubbing trip in months. my relationship with alcohol is pretty rocky, has been for a while, however it’s gotten much better recently. I was looking forward to having a dance around, however dreaded the idea of finding something to wear. now that I have gained weight, it’s difficult to see myself in the clothes that I wore when I was smaller.

(side note, I know I should throw all the old clothes away, since it would majorly help my mental health, but since returning from university and jumping straight into a job, I haven’t had much spare time. mostly all the items are bagged up and ready to be donated to a charity shop. I will get rid of them, I swear).

of course, in the process of getting ready to party, I still decided to try on at least six different skirts, all of which were majorly tight. if I ever struggled with an outfit in the past, I would resolve the issue by putting on my trusty jeans, which was now impossible. everything I tried on hurt my stomach – I was bloated and aching like never before. in that moment, I felt like giving up. all I wanted to do was put my pyjamas back on and have a cry. almost instantly, I could feel my brain plummeting back into a downwards spiral of anorexia, telling me that I needed to fit into those old clothes again.

however, I snapped out of it – I shut my eating disorder up. though anorexia may not agree with me, failing to fit into those skirts was actually a positive. when I bought those items of clothing, I was extremely sick. I didn’t realise what state my body was in. I was slowly destroying my insides to achieve a certain ‘look,’ however no matter how small I got, I still felt like I hadn’t reached my goal. I now understand that I would never be happy with how I looked, no matter what weight I reached. also, if you’re wondering, yes I did go on that night out – thank goodness for baggy trousers with elasticated waists.

i’ve decided to avoid clothes shopping for a while, since my body still has some changes to go through. however, when I do eventually revamp my wardrobe, the clothes that I decide to buy will fit my healthy, functioning body. they won’t restrict me or make me feel ashamed, since I know I don’t need to squeeze into a certain size. for now, I’m letting my body grow. i’m attempting to live life again. I may no longer have my favourite jeans, but I refuse to let that get me down. if recovery has taught me anything, its to embrace the changes occurring to my body. I may not fit into my old skirts anymore, but to be honest, i’ve given up caring. i’d much rather go out and have fun than starve to fit societal beauty standards.

 

is the media to blame for body shaming?

since the new series of love island started, my twitter timeline has never been more active. however, rather than seeing gossip about canoodling couples, i’m met with tweets from girls hating on their bodies. now, i’ve never actually bothered watching love island, and honestly have no interest in starting. however, i’m very aware that thousands across the country praise the show, setting up camp in front of the tv each evening to see what the islanders are up to. despite my mother’s desperate attempts in getting me to sit with her for just one episode, I cant bring myself to. and that’s not because of the premise of the show, but the direct outcome it seemingly has on those watching.

every evening, I scroll through my newsfeed to read about how the women on love island are ‘body goals.’ one girl claimed that watching the show made her never want to eat again, whilst another stated that after tuning in, she felt like a fat pig. don’t get me wrong – we shouldn’t blame the girls on the island just because they have a naturally slimmer shape. obviously, their bodies are all incredible. however, that’s not due to the fact they’re slim, but because they’re healthy, happy, and able to maintain an active lifestyle whilst looking that way.

it’s the producers of the show we should be mad at, those in charge of casting calls and team members behind the scenes for a seeming lack of body diversity. why is it that shows such as love island choose women with only one body type to feature on tv? is there an underlying sense of body shaming for all other figure types?

I recently read a cosmopolitan article about this exact topic, with food psychologist Kimberly Wilson coining the term ‘the love island effect.’ this, in a nutshell, is the idea that through constantly broadcasting one body type, our self-esteem becomes smaller and smaller. showing such a specific shape soon leads to toxic thoughts, with many stating they’re going to starve so they can look a certain way. of course, some may argue that these tweeters are joking, however the fact that such a large number of the general public are saying the same thing is pretty scary. through watching love island, or any show condoning similar archetypal body types, restrictive rituals are being made to sound normal – the same rituals that can easily lead to the development of eating disorders. with a desire to now become smaller, boys and girls are going out and buying meal replacement bars rather than eating dinner. they’re becoming reliant on shakes rather than snacks. they’re ignoring hunger cues in the hope they’ll fit into the next size down.

however, the representation of body types is still limited practically everywhere, particularly online. with one click, the world wide web becomes our playground. despite living in a growing society of self-care, there is still a particular toxicity apparent in social media. i’ll regularly see tumblr text posts discussing how ‘thick thighs save lives’ and how ‘all bodies are good bodies,’ and yet clothing companies refuse to acknowledge this. instead, brands continue to advertise their newest collections with one model type. from facebook to instagram, it’s never been easier to spend hours obsessing over these fragile figures.

when I was deep into my eating disorder, I would scroll through page after page of petite girls, deeming them as my ‘thinspo.’ I would compare the size of my stomach to theirs, often pushing and pulling on extra skin and wishing for it to fall off. some times, the models would write their clothing sizes in the instagram caption (why they did so, I have no idea). of course, this just sent me into further meltdown. after reading how many inches their waist was, I would make a mental note of the number to obsess over. the projection of these models who so often fit into nothing higher than a size eight, heightens a desire to be small. to be slim. to be wanted. these women had millions of followers and likes on each post, they had hundreds of comments, of strangers telling them they were gorgeous and their bodies were ‘goals.’ how could I not want to look like them? now, I’m happy to say I’ve realised how toxic this thought process is. I can now step back and see how having a certain body type as inspiration has, and will, never make me happy.

another aspect of social media that I despise is how platforms often make ‘pretty’ and ‘skinny’ synonymous, when they don’t mean the same thing at all. I always remember piecing these two together like some kind of puzzle when I was, again, into the depths of anorexia. when I lost weight, suddenly everyone started paying attention to me. I came in on year eleven leaver’s day, donning my new smaller body. my peers praised me for my weight loss journey, saying it was incredible I had managed to kick the cravings and drop a dress size (or three). it was like one of those moments in every teen movie when the girl everyone calls nerdy has a makeover and suddenly is deemed worthy of prom queen. I thought that was my shining moment – it felt like people cared about who I was.

however, I had gotten it all wrong. the main reason I had reached that ‘pretty, skinny’ goal was because I was starving myself. I thought I had to achieve a certain figure for other girls to want to be my friend, or for boys to find me attractive, when in actual fact I was destroying my body. I was tearing it down until I had no energy, until I was turning blue and couldn’t even walk for five minutes without feeling like I was going to collapse. I thought loosing the weight to be like the models on social media, the ones projected to us constantly, would make me my true self. when in actual fact, it just took me further away from who I actually am.

personally speaking, I believe social media is the main culprit for the majority of body shaming. if companies decided to hire models of all shapes and sizes, then so many issues with ‘body goals’ would be eliminated. firstly, young boys and girls would be more likely to identify with the fashion industry. through heightening the need for diversity, issues of comparison would become smaller. if I, at age fourteen, had spotted a model with a similar body type, I probably wouldn’t have fallen into the trap of anorexia.

until our digital age becomes more willing to change, all we can do is accept ourselves. we may not look like someone else, but we’re all unique, and that’s the important thing. being healthy and happy with no restrictions on enjoying life is the body type i’m striving for.

now, what I want to know is, what are your thoughts on social media? do you think that the growing technology we hold at our fingertips is to blame for the root of all evil? do you think theres anything more we could be doing to spread positivity? i’d love to hear your thoughts!

until next time friends,

beth xxx

High as Hope by Florence + The Machine album review

despite knowing the hits, such as ‘Dog Days are Over,’ ‘Shake it Out’ and ‘You’ve Got the Love,’ I don’t listen to Florence + The Machine very regularly. in fact, I had no idea the band were planning to release a new album at all, let alone so soon. all I can say now is, i’ve definitely been missing out.

I can still remember the moment I first heard ‘hunger.’ it was a standard thursday morning; i’d been awake for about four hours, scraped clean a bowl full of porridge and knew I should be at university, working away at one of my many assignments. however, rather than leaving the house, I decided to have a quick scroll through youtube. it was there I spotted that Florence + The Machine had released a new video. clicking onto the track, I watched as the video to ‘hunger’ began. I was hooked almost instantly. each frame looked like a snapshot from a daydream. Welch’s moves were hypnotic, dancing around with grace like some kind of ancient spirit. as soon as the vocals began, I knew I was in for four minutes of pure heartbreak. the first line, ‘at seventeen I started to starve myself,’ rang out through my phone and straight through my chest. could it be I had stumbled across a song addressing eating disorders, something that is practically alien in the music industry and hardly ever spoken about?

at first, I thought perhaps Welch was using hunger as a way to tackle ideas of emptiness, or craving more in life, which I think is one major theme of the track. however, I recently found multiple interviews online, in which Florence opens up about her personal struggles with food. Welch states that writing music was the only way she could discuss her illness to others. alongside this, Welch has opened up about how this illness was one of many copying mechanisms to deal with her fear of getting older, alongside becoming reliant on alcohol and drugs. ‘Hunger’ takes us on a journey of what it feels like to be powerless, of this desire to be wanted whilst feeling hopeless.

the lyricism throughout ‘hunger’ is incredible, with Welch using her craft to form a sense of nostalgia; the song expresses reality in a blunt yet wonderful way. despite the track being packed full of pain, there is also a sense of hope that one can achieve happiness, and that inspiration can be found anywhere if you search hard enough. its almost as if Florence is talking to her past self, stating ‘you don’t have to be afraid.’ when the music video for ‘hunger’ had finished, I instantly pressed replay, eager to hear what else Florence + The Machine’s newest album had in store for us.

High as Hope was released on the 29th June 2018, being the bands fourth studio album. produced primarily by Welch herself, the album explores issues such as childhood, heartache and loneliness. taking a more stripped back, minimalist approach compared to past work, High as Hope brings to light a certain darkness lingering throughout the years spent growing up, and how they can continue into adult life.

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on the day of its release, I decided to download High as Hope and get stuck in, hopeful that the band would take me away on a magical, musical journey. soon enough, I was sat on a bus listening to song seven, ‘Patricia.’ (side note – whenever I listen to a new music release, I always shuffle the album rather than listening in chronological order. don’t ask me why, because I honestly have no idea. its a habit I have yet to break). as the track started, I couldn’t help but feel like I was listening to Welch perform a folk-tale. her unique vocals broke through the one-tone melancholic background, carefully executing melody lines and runs I can only dream of doing. then, the drums kicked in, and I was swaying at the back of bus, fighting the urge to clap along. brief piano twinkles or plucking of strings thickened the instrumentation, whilst also contributing to the magical tone of the track, again adding to my belief that Florence Welch is some sort of musical goddess sent from another world.

whilst listening to the track, I couldn’t shake the question of, ‘who actually is Patricia?’ so of course, I took to the web like I do with all my problems. soon enough, I discovered that the song was written as a homage to Patti Smith, one of Welch’s idols. Florence has created a track that acts almost like a letter to her role model, singing about how Smith has been her ‘north star,’ shining out through the bleakest of moments. I think the idea of writing a song for the person who inspires you the most is incredible, and commend Welch for releasing the track. overall, ‘Patricia’ acts as a thank you to Patti Smith. through paving the way for future female artists, this incredibly influential patron of punk has made Welch’s ‘cold world beautiful.’

another personal favourite on the album is ‘South London Forever,’ a song that takes us on a guided tour of Welch’s teenage years. she sings about her peers and how they would stay out late with the world at their fingertips. this song brings us back to the idea of nostalgia, and Welch’s fear of growing up. despite being ‘high on e’ and forgetting her own name, Florence believed that this was the best time of her life. on one hand, ‘South London Forever’ is an up-tempo celebration of youth. however, when we reach verse three, we begin to feel a sense of regret within Florence, posing multiple questions to the listeners, such as ‘did I dream too big?’ or ‘what do I know?’ as ‘South London Forever’ comes to an end, there is a sense of uncertainty. with all the memories of youth now lingering, Welch is unsure whether to feel joy in the moments that she has lived through, regret for her actions, or sadness in that she no longer has those moments to rely on in order to get through her pain.

if you want to be knocked off your feet by Florence Welch’s vocal power, check out ‘The End Of Love.’ the instrumentation throughout the track remains simple, with slow strings and piano chords throughout, adding to the sombre ambience. the real show stopper throughout the song is Welch’s voice, heightening the pure power she holds deep in her lungs. starting with soft, subtle tones, Welch slowly builds up her harmonies, the chorus reminiscent to a choir of angels. rather than telling the tale of romantic love, Welch presents a track detailing her dysfunctional family and the troubles they have faced. when growing up, the singer-songwriter watched her parent’s divorce, whilst also coming to terms with her grandmother’s suicide. the song tackles this, with Welch detailing how she was part of a ‘family pulled from the flood;’ despite being offered a safety net, they refused, tearing the ‘floorboards up’ and letting the ‘river rush in.’ when listening, I couldn’t help but feel my a-level english literature side come out, analysing the imagery in the track and how it reflects the fragility of familial relationships; though the love of a family member is often believed to be conditional, in actual fact it can often feel forced. ‘The End of Love’ is a beautiful track, heightening Welch genuine talent; she doesn’t need vocal alterations or a big band to create something that can speak to the soul of pretty much anyone.

if you’re stuck on something to listen to, I urge you to download High as Hope. prior to listening, I had no idea what to expect. of course, I presumed the album would feature some kind of Florence + The Machine trademark, such as sprinkles of soft melodies and incredibly catchy choruses. however, what I didn’t realise is just how quickly I would fall in love with the album. High as Hope has a way of creating a certain atmosphere, a feeling of both good and bad nostalgia. it takes me back to days of youth, sat in a park watching peers drink beer while I was afraid to go near alcohol. it makes me think of mornings in sixth form, lost deep in restriction when all I wanted was to be living life like a ‘normal’ teenager. certain songs make me upset that I’ve missed out on certain opportunities that could have helped me progress, whilst other tracks make me feel content with where I am now. suddenly, youth is crafted in a new light. even though I’m still young, the album transports me back to certain feelings and memories, moments that I didn’t realise would be so significant to me now. so, I guess you could say High as Hope has left a pretty massive mark on me – and hopefully, it will impact you the same way.

i’ll be back soon with another blogpost, but until then, happy friday!

beth xxx

 

summer book club – Misfit by Charli Howard

welcome back to another segment of my summer book club series! today, I bring you a review of Misfit – an eye opening memoir by Charlie Howard. this book is a must read for all. written with a certain underlying humour, Howard tells us all about the demons she has had to face to get where she is today. the novel may be one of my favourite pieces of writing ever – it managed to make me lose all faith in society then restore it, whilst also filling me with pride for my body. have your tissues at the ready for this one, its going to be a long and emotional ride.

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when I first decided to write this review, I knew that I would have to talk about some of the issues I’ve struggled with. at first, I was afraid that people would think I was over sharing, or seeking some kind of attention. however, I then started thinking about the concept of over sharing, especially in relation to mental illness. in recent years, we’ve been told to be more open about our struggles, and that living with a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. however, so many young people who speak out about their battles are being shown the cold shoulder, told by trolls online that they are ‘over sharing’ to try and gain some fame. yet, these trolls are nothing but cyber bullies, keyboard warriors who will belittle anyone to gain some power.

there is nothing braver than telling someone if you’re struggling. within this post, I’ll be talking about some pretty bad places I’ve found myself in, and the direct impact it’s had on me today. and I know I shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid to do this– if anything, its raising awareness to the reality of eating disorders, and the way they destroy lives without care.

in relation to this, I thought it best to include a disclaimer, as this blog post will mention a few eating disorder behaviours. some will be quoted from Misfit, others will be things I have been through myself. therefore, i’m going to put a potential trigger warning here. i’d never want to intentionally damage someones progress, or hurt them in anyway, so if you think you may be sensitive to the mention of some topics please stop reading!

I hope you enjoy reading my review of Misfit and gain a sense of body positivity. also, if anyone reading this is going through similar things to what I discuss, perhaps struggling to start recovery or needs a helping hand, please don’t be afraid to get in touch! it took me a while to see how much damage I was doing to my body, but with a helping hand, i’m now coming out the other side.

***

‘That’s the thing with eating disorders – you can hit that goal weight, and it’ll never be enough. You’re chasing happiness. A number on a scale will never solve that.’

Charli Howard had always been one of those instagram accounts that would pop up on my discover page daily, however i’d never thought to see who she was. it wasn’t long until I was seeing her name everywhere. one day, I was scrolling through twitter when my feed blew, praising a book called Misfit – I soon discovered that this novel was written by Howard herself. online reporters praised Howard, stating that she was the voice of the beauty industry we had needed for years.  after hearing this, I decided to have a casual browse through her social media. of course, I fell in love instantly. her instagram was packed full of body positivity and diversity, something that had been seriously lacking in the world wide web. it was after this I decided that I had to purchase Misfit, to really discover just who this woman was. though her online presence made her seem so happy, I had no idea of the battles she has faced, or struggles she has gone through.

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I was drawn to Misfit due to its discussion of eating disorders. throughout the book, Charli documents about how she has lived with this mental illness right from her childhood, and the damage it caused her growing up. my own struggles with anorexia are something that I’ve become much more open about recently, no longer afraid of the stigma attached to this illness. however, I was curious to see how Howard would tackle such a fragile subject matter within her book. during my recent trips to waterstones, I often find myself scouring the shelves for books that provide readers with any kind of awareness about eating disorders. and sure, I’ve seen three or four books emerge about body confidence, however this doesn’t quite seem like enough. honestly, I cant help but feel we are in desperate need of a revival in the way we approach disordered eating, whether this be anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia or ednos (eating disorders not otherwise specified).

Misfit does this superbly, with Howard getting straight to the point. she doesn’t beat around the bush, or try to cover up her behaviours, but tells the reader how her illness transformed her into a completely new person; a person that she didn’t recognise anymore. Howard covers all the nitty gritty of her struggles –  how she started binging, soon making herself sick to feel a sense of control. later, the novel moves onto how she was told by fashion agents that she was fat, despite being a uk size six. after reading this, I was fuming. it made me realise just how toxic our society is. I didn’t want to believe that the fashion industry were so corrupt, and hopefully by now they’ve improved. however, to hear a story such as Charli’s broke my heart. it then made me consider the way we value bodies by numbers. we would rather become smaller and judge our worth via the scale, than realising how clever our bodies are and how they are quite literally keep us alive. yet, societal beauty standards are obsessed with shredding, dieting and suppressing our appetites so that we can take up less space. consumerist companies aim to sell us any kind of diet pill possible, showing no signs of remorse for those falling sick. oh and by the way, if you’re ever tempted to buy a diet pill, don’t. so many of them include something called ‘dnp,’ which is actually toxic to the human body. yeah, companies will happily ruin our bodies, along with our mental health, just to earn some cash. pretty disgusting.

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Charli begins the book by telling us all about her younger years. she was moved from country to country, never really finding a place to call her own. her childhood was full of isolation, attempting to find her place in schools where she was simply the new girl. in one particular chapter, Charli tells us of how she was made to stand beside another classmate whilst the other girls inspected, judging which one was thinner. apparently, this was a normal occurrence. what makes it worse is that they were only eleven.  soon enough, Charli’s behaviour became out of control, gaining the title of the ‘bad girl.’ however, whilst Howard seemed reckless to others, she was actually in an incredibly dark place. she goes on to tell us all about the negative thoughts that would flood her brain, the way she would aim to become the skinniest in order to be respected. she calls her negative thoughts the ‘brain deviant,’ a voice that would try and put her down no matter what.

I particularly related to this aspect of Misfit, and how Charli’s ‘anxiety repeatedly told [her] how unliked [she] was.’ ultimately, her loneliness was the catalyst for her eating disorder. in the words of Howard, ‘if I was a happy person, I wouldn’t have been purposefully starving myself.’ this hit me like a tone of bricks. i’d never thought about the fact that I was unhappy when my anorexia developed, even though it now seems pretty obvious. I thought I was completely content (not happy, just content). I had close friends and a supportive family, yet my brain still told me I was somewhat a disappointment. I pushed myself in everything possible, trying to please people and do well in work. if I started something, then I would commit to it wholeheartedly, in fear of being a let down. unfortunately, this meant that when I started dieting, I pushed myself as hard as I could. I figured that once i’d reached my desired weight, everything would magically fit into place, and I would be the happiest I had ever been. spoiler alert, that didn’t work. I was a perfectionist, still am, and therefore nothing would be good enough until I was the smallest I could be. as Charli later says, ‘I was addicted to being thin, and no number was small enough.’

when Charli reached her early twenties, she had big dreams of being a model. while attempting to chase these dreams, she soon realised the deep secrets of the role, and the toxic beauty standards that were projected not only onto her, but all models at that time. after being signed to an agency, this particular recruitment team would consistently tell Charli she was too large to be a model, and that she would have to drop her dress size significantly to be in with a chance of gaining a casting call. Howard takes us through the meticulous routine she would force herself to complete. each day would consist of waking up, running on an empty stomach, pushing herself in the gym, eating nothing but fruit and egg whites. there came a point where she physically couldn’t drop any more weight – how could she possibly shred those final pounds, when all that was left was bone? soon, a number defined her beauty. she had a desire to keep up this appearance, even if it was killing her.

something that Misfit does superbly is revealing the amount of control attached to the development of an eating disorder. as Charli moved in with her now ex-boyfriend, she became obsessed with making sure all the food he cooked would pass her approval. she highlights the ways in which she would try to eat as little as possible, ‘categorically refus[ing] to eat a meal if Scott sprinkled an ounce of salt on top of the food.’ to people that have a healthy relationship with food, this may sounds completely bizarre. why would you be afraid of something as small as salt – its just food right? not quite. so many eating disorder sufferers are fixated with what goes into each meal, believing certain ingredients are out to harm them. it can get to the point where you become a recluse, cooking when no one is around to avoid being forced into eating.

I was a victim to this, getting to the point where I was afraid to let my dad put something in the oven for me, just incase he touched a knife that had been contaminated, then touched my food. I would shout if anyone else was in the kitchen and force them to leave, afraid they would tell me to increase my portion sizes. I would only ever use the same crockery, miserably counting out special k flakes into a dry bowl to maintain the control. to say that at one point, I would rather have died than to eat a bowl of cereal made by someone else, seems completely unreal. I was scared of pretty much everything; oil, salt, butter, spices – all of it became my worst enemy. and because of this, meal times were bland, sad. everything tasted boring. I fell out of love with food, and even more out of love with myself.

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the end of the book tells us of how Howard gained her courage, how she discovered her voice. after growing sick of being treated with no respect, Charli decided to put her foot down, to use her experiences to make a change. I wont give too much away, because I don’t want to ruin the book, but to read of the drastic change in Charli provided me with so much hope. almost as if she had been awoken to the pressure of society, Howard notes how ‘there suddenly seemed to be a lot more to life than being thin.’ through using her platform for positivity, Charli has heightened how we shouldn’t feel the need to shrink ourselves in order to be accepted. life is much more than over exercising, or being afraid to have that extra slice of cake. this is a message we need to spread even further, to make sure that everyone knows they don’t need to fit into societal standards of beauty. our beauty lies in being ourselves, in being unique and being proud of how far we’ve come.

Misfit has helped me realise what joy recovery can bring. my anorexia feeds on negativity, and unfortunately, ‘you can’t just shake off eating disorders or low self esteem.’ it can be difficult to snap your brain back into being ‘normal,’ whatever normal may mean. you can’t magically repair yourself in a week. i’ve been living with my demons for around seven years now, and some days recovery seems like a far off dream. however, I know that it is possible, and Misfit has proved that to me. reading about the life that Charli now leads, and ‘how much of this new-found happiness [comes] from food’ makes me excited for the future. i’ve learnt that food is fuel, but also food is fun. throwing herbs and spices into a pan and having no idea the outcome is exciting. visiting a restaurant with old school friends should be a social occasion – it should fill me with joy rather than anxiety. all of this is can become a reality, if you fully commit to recovery. which is what I’ve done, and am doing, and will continue to do until my brain deviant is gone.

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if Misfit has taught me anything, its that being thin does not equal happiness. and honestly, if society could start spreading this message, then maybe the world as we know it would be a lot kinder. maybe we wouldn’t feel shame in looking a certain way, or simply being ourselves. until then, I would urge you all to go read Misfit. Charli Howard is an incredibly talented writer, beautiful soul and all round inspiring lady. she has filled me with a certain determination, and I truly believe if more people flicked through her memoir, the stigma around eating disorders would be significantly smaller.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my review of Misfit, and gained an insight into what life is life for a sufferer of an eating disorder. if you have any further questions about my own struggles, or simply want to learn more about the workings of anorexia, please contact me! I’d love to have a chat and end the taboo for good.

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i’ll be back soon with another review for you guys, but for now, have a lovely day!

beth xxx

 

summer goals 2018

since finishing university, it’s dawned on me that I have the entirety of summer to fill. normally, I’d have reading to finish, modules to prep for, or even a dissertation to begin (thankfully, that has been and gone). with my postgraduate on hold until I get my results in july, I’m pretty much free. to some, this may sound like a dream. no responsibilities? no deadlines? great! however, having so much spare time is pretty much my idea of hell. I like to keep busy, to be out the house as much as possible and have goals to aspire to. it might sound sad, but I love deadlines, and I feel like this summer I might miss them.

with this in mind, I thought I’d write a list of goals to complete by the start of september. through posting it online, it feels like I’m almost making a pact with myself – the world wide web can witness all the challenges I hope to tackle throughout the next three months. some of them may seem ridiculous, some may seem like nothing at all, but that doesn’t matter; if it’s on the list, I want to tick it off.

  1. perform poetry at as many open mics as possible.

it’s no secret that I love poetry; it’s one of my main passions, the field that I dream of earning a career in. and yet, i’ve been majorly lacking in the world of spoken word. I think that’s down to a few different fears – afraid I’ll fall over on the walk to the stage, afraid my poems wont be good enough compared to the other performers, afraid everyone will laugh at my accent. summer 2018 is the time I put an end to these fears.

last night I attended the spoken word launch night at why not coffee in bearwood, and it was phenomenal. the support and safety I felt in the room was something like no other. the coffee shop was rammed full of all kinds of people, ready to share their stories and become true wordsmiths. I think this atmosphere was the main reason why I decided to sign up and read. taking to the mic, I felt nothing but elation. there I was, standing in front of a room of complete strangers, pouring my heart out, and they seemingly enjoyed it? i’d never had anyone click for me before, and let me tell you, it feels pretty great. though my heart was pounding out my chest when i’d finished, I couldn’t believe I had done it. I felt on top of the world, eager to get out there and read more; that was the first performance i’ve ever done in Birmingham, so surely, it only gets easier?

in light of this, i’ve decided to get myself out into the brummie poet scene. after scouring multiple facebook groups and instagram pages, i’ve discovered that birmingham has a variety of open mic nights all over the place, and all of them are free to read at. i’ve vowed to myself that I will attend at least two a month in order to work on my craft, whilst also get my work heard by as many as possible! i’m pretty excited, as its almost like a gentle nudge to keep me motivated and creating new content! (also, I thought i’d use this moment to give a big shout out to why not coffee – you have truly helped me feel empowered and helped me face my fears).

  1. take myself out on more solo day trips.

i’ve always been someone who enjoys my own company. sure, I sometimes get lonely, but I like having space to breath. however, I’ve recently found myself constantly surrounded by others, slowly becoming dependant on their company – unfortunately, this can cause my brain to act up in all sorts of ways. i wouldn’t say i’m exactly clingy, but i do have certain personality traits that are capable of becoming attached far too quickly. when that person and I are ultimately separated, I can reach new levels of loneliness (pan camera over to me, sat on my bed, sobbing because I feel like I have no one to talk to when in reality I’m surrounded by wonderful people. please brain, stop acting up). but seriously, I need to start giving myself time to be alone – in a fun way, not an isolation kind of way.

with this being said, i’ve decided to make it a goal to take myself out more, do things with myself that I enjoy. for example, today I’ve booked up a ticket to go to a poetry book launch in town on my own, which I’m really looking forward to! I also took myself to ikon, the contemporary art museum in birmingham, and had a nice look around the exhibitions. after that, i had a solo lunch date in pret, sipping on the best coconut milk hot chocolate. honestly, it feels quite refreshing to be on my own.

to ensure I keep up with this throughout summer, i’ve lined up a few different days out to attend. some of them are book launches, others london visits! i’m excited for the places me, myself and I will venture this summer, and I’m sure I’ll blog all about it!

  1. give recovery my all.

this is a biggie, and probably the most important of all goals. for the past few years, returning to birmingham for the summer has meant slacking on recovery. however, I’ve decided I’m done with the bullshit. I don’t want to be in quasi-recovery for any longer, i’m going to fully go for it. the past few months, i’ve worked so hard to get where I am. there is no way i’m going backwards, not now. so, give me all the curry and vegan chocolate you can, i’m making sure i’m on track to getting better than ever.

linking into this, there are a few things I want to achieve by september. I want to cook more hearty, homemade meals. my birmingham kitchen is pretty much left untouched throughout the week. the most action it gets is when my dad wanders in to cook a stew each sunday. this means, it’s the perfect place to get adventurous and try out some new recipes. i’ve got so many vegan cookbooks at home that i’ve only ever dreamed about actually using. this summer, i’m going to try and make at least five dishes from them. it may sound like a small number, but cooking anything completely from scratch is pretty anxiety provoking. if I can nail five dishes, i’ll be over the moon.

another thing i’d really like to do is go swimming. my body dysmorphia has made it impossible to even look at bikinis, let alone wear one and get in a pool. however, I used to really enjoy going to the swimming baths with my friends, doing lengths for about ten minutes then just splashing around. so, in the next three months, I want to get in the water at least once. also, buy the cutest swimwear I can find, because there are some super sweet two-pieces out there.

  1. read more.

i’ve already talked about this in my last post, which you can read by pressing here. to put it shortly, I want to read as many books as possible this summer. i’ve been slacking immensely on broadening my book knowledge, believing I have better things to be doing than getting stuck into a novel. I desperately want to snap out of this, and have decided to make a list of all the books I want to read before september (if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!) i’ll be writing a review of every single book I complete, so you can keep up to date with how well I’m doing!

  1. spend more time with my family.

I feel like I forget about how important it is to spend time with my family a lot, especially my nan. being an only child, I used to spend the majority of my childhood with my parents, especially at weekends. now that i’m an adult, I find that i’m able to talk to them about mature topics. sure, it would have been fine to talk about ‘grown up stuff’ a few years ago, but I was scared – who knew I could mention sex around my own mother, right?

this being said, I feel like i’ve been skipping out on day trips with my family for a variety of reasons, or rather, excuses. there are times when I definitely could have rescheduled a lunch date to pop over to my nan’s house. throughout the summer, i’m going to try and prioritise my time, realising that family time is crucial. plus, when my family are all together, we’re a (very rowdy) hoot – how could I not enjoy myself?

  1. have a good clear out.

my friends will agree with me when I say that i’m a massive hoarder. I hold onto things that I know I don’t need, but something in the back of my mind is like ‘what if you need that light up headband in the future, beth?’ I have too many clothes, too many books and dvds, too many toys squished into every drawer that when I do get new things, my bedroom looks like a jumble sale.

that’s why, slowly but surely, I’ve started packing up my old goods to get rid of. so far, I have about six black bin bags full of clothes that either don’t fit me, aren’t my style or are about four years old. I still need to get through my coats and shoes, and then ship them off to a charity shop. please someone give me strength to catapult myself into a real spring clean. i’ll be working through it all with a sweat, but it will definitely be worth it.

  1. start saving up more money.

i’ve found that when it comes to blowing cash, i’m not too terrible. I know I’ve just made a point of stating how I hoard all my belongings, but they’re from when I was a serial spender – I’ve grown since then.

however, I am partial to a hot chocolate date. i’d say that I go out for coffee at least five times a week, whether it be with friends, family or just on my own. when you add up money spent on my caffeine fuelled addiction, it comes to a lot of dolla. my eating disorder also plays into this spending, making me buy food that is ‘safe’ rather than eating what we already have at home. if I could just push myself and have what my dad purchases from tesco, then I would save some extra cash here and there. I’ve made one step forward in this by putting a hold on fizzy drink consumption. this is huge for me, considering I could easily get through four litres of fanta a day! now, not only have I reduced my plastic usage, but have saved at least five pounds a day!

since I’ll be having less cash from student finance for my postgraduate, I need all the pennies I can get. so, I’m going to try and cut down on my hot drink addiction, stop spending my change on bus tickets and overpriced ‘organic’ health bars to try and help keep my bank balance looking healthy.

  1. begin making music again.

music has always been important to me, as I’m sure it is to many people. throughout sixth form, I was constantly making music with my band mates, recording our original tracks to put out online. and we did super well, releasing a full album and being played on bbc introducing. however, since the start of second year at university (so well over a year now), i’ve been slacking on the music making. sure, I’ve rehearsed here or there, recorded a few covers, but I miss making my own songs.

my main issue is that i’m incredibly picky with my lyrics – once I’ve written something, i’ll record it all, then decide it doesn’t quite feel right. though this could be a good thing, meaning that I make the best quality content possible, it also means that i’m working for far longer than I could be. i’m hindering my development as a musician by being so pedantic.

this summer, i’m going to actually make music, and put it out to the world. I don’t care if I listen back and think, ‘that word isn’t quite right,’ I will broadcast my love of singing online, despite being afraid. feel the fear and do it anyway, am I right? i’ve gotten back into the gist of rehearsals recently, recording a few covers – you can check them out on my soundcloud here!  

  1. stop drinking as much alcohol.

my relationship with alcohol has been a strange one, especially throughout my first and second years of university, now it’s a little better, but still not exactly healthy. i’ve gone from extreme drinker to being afraid of even being around beer. recently, i’ve found that i’ll drink just to fit in, to feel more at ease despite not necessarily wanting to get drunk.

this summer, i’ve decided i’m going to cut down, for the sake of my mental health. this doesn’t necessarily mean never drinking again – I love having an overpriced cider at a gig, or sipping a malibu and lemonade on a night out. however, i’m going to start putting my foot down and start saying that if I don’t want to partake in drinking, then i’m not going to.

the last encounter I had with alcohol started absolutely fine, then fell slowly into a downward spiral. my brain collapsed, and I crumbled. that was a red flag that I need to reevaluate whether being intoxicated is really worth it. (spoiler alert, its not). i’m sure I wont be going sober until september, but i’m going to give myself a bit of space from spirits unless I feel completely safe.

  1. keep up to date on this blog!

blogging is something I always start, but never seem to stick out, despite really enjoying it. this time round, I’m pledging to give peanutbutterbeth my all. creating content is a great way to put my writers craft into practice, and get better at broadening the topics that I talk about. if I schedule my workload, organise my life a little better, then I can get a routine up and running in no time! I like to think you guys will still be reading throughout the summer, so if theres anything you’d be interested in me writing about, let me know!

well, that’s all I can think of for now – reading back, I’d say that’s a pretty solid list. if I can stick to my promise, then summer 2018 should be wonderful! I hope you all have a lovely friday, and don’t worry, the weekend is just round the corner!

thanks for reading my rambles,

beth xxx

summer book club – Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig

its easy to argue that technology is slowly taking over our lives. a growing number of the population are glued to their phones, mindlessly scrolling through their newsfeed to pass the time. due to this, we often find it a challenge to sit down and relax, to take a breather and focus on the real world. one of the easiest ways to do this? start reading! and no, I don’t mean skimming an article on the mail online, or scoping through gossip columns on our iPads. I mean picking up an actual book and letting our imaginations run wild.

that being said, i’m no saint and often fall into this technology trap. social media is all fun and games until you realise just how long you spend looking at trending hashtags on twitter, or how obsessed you are with crying over models on instagram. it can be toxic, and i know i need to get off my phone and enlighten myself in other ways. which is why i’ve made it a goal to read consistently throughout the summer!

I thought it would be a fun idea to review each book as I go, documenting why that particular novel took my fancy, or what impact it has had on me. i adore reading, but have fallen out of love with it recently. i think part of this is due to the fact that i seemingly always seem to reread the same books- however, for this series i’m going to try and read a variety of different novels, branching out of my comfort zone. if any of you guys are fellow literature lovers like myself, this series may introduce you to something brand new and hopefully inspire you to get stuck into a book! similarly, if anyone reading this has any recommendations, please let me know!

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for the first book club blog post, i’ll be talking all about Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig. all I can say is, I wish someone had emotionally prepared me for this stunning memoir before I picked it up. although, I should have really guessed that it would be a roller coaster of a read purely from the title.

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before reading Reasons To Stay Alive, I had no idea who Matt Haig was. I was, and still am, quite ashamed of myself actually, considering I studied creative writing and should therefore have an extensive knowledge of authors. after doing a little research, I soon discovered Haig is an incredibly successful writer, publishing novels across all genres such as fiction, non-fiction and children’s fiction. he’s won awards such as the Nestle Children’s Book Prize, the Books are My Bag Readers’ Award, and has even lined up potential film adaptations for a number of his novels.

in spite of this, Reasons To Stay Alive is rather different from his other work. I’d seen mentions of the memoir online, being praised as a moving, inspiring and often joyous adventure of overcoming your own inner demons – and yet, for some reason, I had never thought to have a flick through. the novel started popping up more and more; in the last week spent at university, I spotted at least five different people reading Reasons To Stay Alive. it was around this time that my mind started acting a bit out of the ordinary – something was happening that I didn’t quite understand, and it was pretty scary. of course, I took all of these aspects as a sign that, clearly, I needed to see what the hype was all about.

let me tell you now, the hype is well deserved. Reasons To Stay Alive struck a chord inside me, made me evaluate my own wellbeing, the environments I place myself in and the people I surround myself with. it made me appreciate all the help I get for when my brain is behaving badly, and opened my eyes to the reality of just how many people truly suffer from a mental illness.

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anyway, I’ll get more onto that shortly. for now, I’ll set the book up a bit better (without giving too much away). Reasons To Stay Alive begins with Haig telling us about how, at twenty-four years old, he fell into a state of depression. we’re offered a lens into the life of Haig, and how his younger, party loving self was soon lost to the silent killer that is mental illness.

the memoir is divided into short chapters telling us of Haig’s journey, documenting his lowest moments and growing victories. one aspect of Reasons To Stay Alive that I applaud the author for is including a chapter named facts, which provides hard-hitting statistics on suicide and depression. though mental health has always affected my life in some way, whether it be through loved ones or myself, this section was a real wake up call – with one in five people suffering from depression at some point in their lives, it makes us realise just how serious mental illness is. Haig has helped spread awareness on the reality of depression, bringing to light what those suffering have to go through day by day.

the book also heightens how you can never truly know what someone is going through. from the outside, it’s easy to put on a mask and pretend to be someone you’re not. Haig tackles this idea in pages 101-102, documenting how he wanted to be happy more than anything, yet had an intense fear of feeling joy again. he would walk around his area with ‘pins-and-needles…at the back of [his] head,’ afraid of everything occurring around him, and yet still strangers had no idea of the pain he was living in.

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whilst reading, I began noting down page numbers or quotes that particularly resonated with me, in the hopes I could figure out what was going on with my brain a bit better. one example of this is on page forty-four, when Haig discusses doubt. i’ve always been an anxious person, with my mind racing over things that I don’t need to worry about, or have no control over – however, recently that feeling has become a lot stronger. in this chapter, the cyclone, Haig notes that he ‘did not say how he was feeling. To say how [he] was feeling would lead to feeling more of what [he] was feeling,’ which I 100% related to. it can be difficult to open up about the thoughts you’re battling, in fear of judgment or abandonment. i’m often filled with a certain fear of telling others what my brain is doing, because then it makes my thoughts a reality. everything going on internally becomes external, and that can be terrifying.

however, the deeper I ventured into Haig’s life journey, the more I realised that it’s important to tell others how you truly feel. no matter how anxiety provoking it can be, no matter how long it takes to open up, no matter how many tears you cry and stutters come out your mouth rather than actual words (believe me, I’ve been there), telling others how you’re really feeling is one of the most beneficial steps forward to helping yourself. self-care isn’t all about face masks and long baths, its about admitting to yourself that you aren’t okay, and knowing you can take steps forward to helping this.

Haig often talks about his mental battles, and how they impacted him physically. when his anxiety and depression were at an all time high, he would find it difficult to be alone – walking to the shop to buy milk became a marathon and attending parties became his idea of fresh hell. however, Reasons To Stay Alive tells us that it is possible to come out the other side. you can get better, and though it may take time, all progress is good progress. depression and anxiety will try to suck you in, but you can fight it, and will realise that life is beautiful.

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if you’re stuck on something to read, please go purchase Reasons To Stay Alive. Haig has managed to write a memoir that has enlightened me, heightening how mental illness thrives on loneliness. if you’re suffering from any type of mental health issues, please know that you’re never alone. there is always someone there to lend a shoulder, an ear to listen, or a voice of reason to help pull you out of the darkness.

thanks for reading guys, I hope you’re feeling inspired get reading – I’ll be back soon with another summer book club entry!

beth xxx

 

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