Friday, 4 January 2019

An open letter to acne

Acne is ultimately a disease which has no cure. There are ways to control it and keep it at bay but realistically it is something (for those who suffer) have to deal with.

'Deal with' is not quite the right phrasing. We shouldn't have to 'deal' with it, we should own it.

For a long time now I've told myself that I am not good enough, I am ugly and I look weird.

I've asked myself questions over and over like why me?!, will this ever go?, what if I'm stuck with it for life?

I was torturing myself with these toxic words. They were doing me no good and potentially making my acne worse.

Now, currently I don't have much acne, as in it is not as 'bad' as it was before. Cutting dairy and not having the stress of coursework and exams definitely helped to calm down my red raw skin. But I still get spots and sometimes they stay for months and sometimes they disappear within days and some scar - unfortunately that is just how my skin works.

It makes me sad that I used to think I wasn't good enough or as pretty as anyone else just because of some red marks across my face and scars that I couldn't help prevent. Something clicked in my head one day when I was with my friend, we were discussing how I felt and then I thought wait "It's not like I can help having acne, I didn't ask for it and it is completely normal, I always walk past people with not so perfect skin, so why am I so worried?"

Most of my time was spent crying over my skin rather than living my life. It stopped me from going to social events or partaking in water activities on holiday because I was too ashamed of what I looked like. If I wanted to go makeup free I would always ask my Mum, "am I allowed to?" HOW CRAZY IS THAT. It's my face and my life so I can do what I want.

I was ashamed and scared of what other people would think of me and this put me down. Looking back it is stupid because WHO CARES?!

Whenever I would say or cry that my skin wasn't looking it's best I would always hear people go "It's really not as bad as you're thinking it is" and of course I wouldn't believe them - "they are just saying it".

It wasn't healthy, it was damaging me and my skin literally took up 80-90% of my thoughts which in itself was more disgusting than what I thought my skin was.

I had to remind myself daily that my skin was my one insecurity that I wish I could change but also that everyone has their insecurities, literally EVERYONE.

It would consume SO much of my time it was a joke. I was too frightened and ashamed to look at my reflection in the mirror most days as I knew it would result in tears. I didn't like the face that looked back (without makeup) I couldn't see how I could love myself when I had 'bad' skin. I longed for clear skin, I used to say that I would never be happy until I had clear skin which is so sad.

It may seem like not a big deal to some people but honestly having acne is probably one of the hardest things I have had to deal with. It is an ongoing battle which you are constantly trying to fight but your armour doesn't hold up. It felt like I was running out of charge and that I couldn't go on. It was/is REALLY hard.

Everyday I have to remind myself that I am worthy and I am beautiful and I am enough.

Monday, 7 August 2017

6 things I learnt at University

University has come to an end and I am currently experiencing the 'post uni depression'. I feel sad and isolated but at the same time extremely proud and happy to say that I finally have a degree! Those three years have gone tremendously fast and I am going to share with you some of the things I have learnt along the way. I wrote a post back in 2015 on my  6 tips to surviving the first day at uni and it's crazy that I am now sharing with you my 6 tips on my whole uni experience.

I went to uni not knowing who I was going to meet, where I'd be right now and if I would even come out with a degree. But I can certainly say that those three years have definitely been worth the stress, tears and debt. 

1) Your friends are VERY important
Don't take them for granted!

My friends helped me a lot throughout my uni experience. Without them I would have no one to moan and stress to about the amount of work I had or help me decide on an outfit for every night out. I was lucky enough to have gained a lovely group of friends who stayed with me from first to third year and who I will stay friends with forever. Not only did we support each other through the dreaded dissertation and long days in the library but we supported each other through personal issues. Your friends at uni basically turn into your replacement parents. Even the small things like cooking a meal together or doing your makeup on a night out. They will keep you sane and will be there for you no matter what. Oh and also to warn you that the boy you like is probably a massive fuck boy.

Me, Izzy, Jack and Holly held monthly 'Come Dine With Me' evenings at our houses, it was a great way of spending some time with close friends. 

2) To get involved 

Before uni I was very shy. The thought of living with 6 other people in halls who I had never met before was a terrifying thought. I remember arriving on my first day and telling myself to pretend that I was a confident 18 year old who was going to say yes to everything and I think it worked! I said yes to every night out (maybe too many) and always went for that drink or coffee with course mates. I even went to the Netball try outs (lol). I hated it but at least I can say I tried and it wasn't for me. Get involved, try new things and meet as many people as you can.

3) Don't get held back 
By bad friendships or relationships

You meet so many people at uni and you will soon realise that you can't be friends with everyone. People may not like you and you may not like them, and that is completely fine. But do not get held back by people because of what they think. You want to go out and get drunk? then go. You want to go out and pull? then do it. You want to go and join a society? go and sign up! You only do uni once so do it your way.

4) Balance
You will need that double gin and tonic now and again but you also need that degree

Your time at uni will be mainly centred around studying and spending hours in the library but you need to get the balance right. I spent my days studying and my night time relaxing. This worked for me as I didn't feel stressed or guilty that I hadn't done any work, but don't over do it! If you don't let yourself have a break then you will literally combust. You need time to wind down - whether that be watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones or drinking litres of snake bite on a night out. 

5) It's okay to not know what you are doing 

When it comes to third year the dreaded question, "So what are you going to do with your degree?" gets asked time and time again. I remember some of my family asking me and my reply (in my head) was "um...I actually have no idea?!". The question triggered a lot of stress as I literally had no idea what I was doing but that is completely fine! There are SO many options, which for someone who is very indecisive like me can be a bad thing. Take your time and think about what is right for you, don't rush into anything.

6) Do not compare yourselves to others
My most important tip

This is SO easy to do and the worst thing you can do. University is extremely fun but it is like a little bubble segregated away from the real world. Compared to home life I felt that everything at uni was heightened; in terms of how you look and how you act. It was weird and I don't really know how to explain it or if anyone else relates to this? Throughout the three years I put so much pressure on myself about how I looked and how well I was doing in terms of grades. "I don't look like them" or "I don't do as well as everyone else" I would say to myself. It was not healthy and ridiculous as at the end of the day who really cares if I'm not as toned or flawless as other girls or if I'm not getting firsts in everything? You are not ugly and you are not stupid. You are your own person so do you! My best nights out were when I didn't have a care in the world and at the end of the night I was too drunk to even think about what I looked like. Uni is amazing so HAVE FUN and remember you are fine as you are.

Sian. X

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

'This isn't working out'

*A piece of coursework I wrote in Third Year for Literary Journalist*

The break up - the one thing everyone (or maybe not if you're really lucky) experiences. A feeling of distress, anger and then happiness. A weird feeling, something you don't know how to deal with. A feeling you wish you could screw up as a piece of paper as tight as you can and then throw it in the nearest bin, so it is gone forever. It is also a feeling of wanting to run back into their arms and hope everything can go back to normal and be 'ok', but it is not that easy.

There are hundreds of articles and blog posts online about how to survive the 'break up'. Buzzfeed made a listicle of "19 things everyone should do after a break up" with one of them being "have some cat cuddles," - unfortunately I do not own a cat.

Recently I experienced this universal feeling for the first time.

Stage one: Is this REALLY happening?

It all seems very surreal, like something out of a film that you saw last week with a Meerkat Movie voucher. Usually, in films the guy breaks up with the girl then they get back together or she meets a super-hot man the next day and they are suddenly married by the following week. Unfortunately, I don't feature in an American chick flick starring Zac Efron. Instead I sat in my room surrounded by '21st Birthday' wrapping paper which secured each of his birthday presents. He was thrilled with his ps4 game, 21st balloon and breakfast in bed which kept us full until early evening. I was a good girlfriend - maybe even too good.

"So we need to talk..." he said the following day on a Friday night as I laid in bed dreaming of the gin and tonic which would be touching my lips in only a matter of hours.

"About what? Tonight? What do you think I should wear?" I replied, propelling questions at him.

"This isn't working out," each word followed with a sniffle and a few tears.

"What isn't? The heating? Yeah I know! It is really cold..." This could not be happening, he was definitely talking about the cold and not about us.

"Look we can't be together," he said abruptly.

"WHAT?" I caught sight of my reflection, black liquid was smeared across my cheeks like splats from a paint brush.

"You'd be happier with someone else," and that's how it ended.

Stage two: Stalker alert

Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it

Ok I did it. I checked his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat.

"Stop looking!" My friends would yell across the room as I sat on my phone vigorously trying to seek out another girl lurking in the background of his photos.

I just wanted to see his face, remember it. But then when I did see it, my face formed a frown, a look of disgust, like he was a creep that approached me on the street one night. It was weird, I looked at his face and felt like I didn't know him. He was a stranger and I wanted to keep it that way.

Days would pass, even months and I would still stalk him. I don't know if it is because I actually am a stalker or because I wanted to remind myself of how horrid this person/stranger was. The Daily Mail wrote, why we should never stalk our ex's and commented that "many of us resort to social media networks to discover what our exes are up to and who they're with in the hope they are unhappy without us". I hoped for exactly that.

Stage three: Crying your eyes out 

The worst stage. I cried A LOT, but I wanted to. It was a way of getting rid of all the emotions that had been brewing inside of me for the past eight months. It was a way of finally letting go of it all.

According to Psychology Today there are "more than 3.9 million results" for how to get over a break up. The most important tip that these searches reveal is that you NEED to cry.

I cried in my uni bed, my bed at home, my friends' beds, my parent's bed, my sister's bed. But each time I cried I always felt a lot better. I would sit alone in my room making my brain over think and analyse every detail of the relationship until I found myself in floods of tears. My brain would tick like a cuckoo clock trying to think of something else my mind could ponder on. Then the cuckoo clock would finally call and I'd find myself crying over something so stupid - yet again.

"But what if I was nicer, or what if I did this or that," I'd cry, blaming the whole thing on myself. But that is not the right way to think. Sure cry as much as you want but never think of the 'what if's' - they won't get you anywhere.

Stage four: Feeling sassy

My favourite part. Each time I cried I felt awful like an abandoned toy that no one wanted, I felt worthless and this needed to change.

"Let's go out next Wednesday!" My friends had planned this big night out, in which I had no choice to back out off.

"I'll see how I feel," I replied sitting on the sofa trying to fight back the tears as we tucked into the Chinese takeaway we ordered to make me feel better.

"Don't let him stop you from going out and having fun!" My sister called, commanding me that I will in fact be going out.

I remember the first night I went out. It was all still fresh. It felt weird because I was single AND I could flirt with boys. I wore the most attractive outfit I could find, ensuring that whatever happened I looked good at all times. A black leather skirt partnered with a floral black top with an open back and heeled boots was always going to make for the best profile picture - and by no surprise it did. A few hours after uploading it to Facebook I received eighty six likes and eight comments. The comments ranging from "You look beautiful" to "slay girl" and "fireee". The classic comments girl's produce when their best friend has just gone through a breakup and you all team up and hate the boy.

I got ready listening to my "Sassy Shit" playlist which I had compiled over the space of a week. It holds every Beyonce song; including "Best Thing I Never Had" and "Irreplaceable" to name a few. It made me feel good, like a god, a sassy god.

Stage five: They come running back

The killer new profile picture worked. He came back.

Trust me in a few weeks he will come running back, they always do. 

I heard this line at least twenty times, once from each of my close friends. I didn't believe them.

"I don't think he will," I'd say sniffling into the same used, worn tissue.

But each and every one of them were right. He did come running back but it was via email?

I received a text six weeks after the break up telling me to check my University email. He had to email because he had blocked me on every other form of social media and what he wanted to say was too long via text. I ignored the text and then my phone lit up with a notification: "Sian -please read".

W T F. My initial reaction. To be honest that was my reaction throughout the entire break up.

I opened the email and was surprised with an essay, a trilogy if you like of how he has "fucked up" and "regrets" his decision. You know all the usual bullshit. "I haven't stopped thinking about you for six weeks" and "everything I do reminds me of you" so can we "meet up?"

UH no you are six weeks too late!

I didn't reply to the email. I've got my sassy shit playlist so why do I need him back?

Stages complete:

Now it may seem like the hardest thing in the world to overcome but in hindsight it's really not. You will feel like shit, you will cry and you will want to punch them in the face, but this is all normal. The most important thing to do is not go back, stay strong. They are worthless to you now and you are free to do what you want. Being single is a time to reflect on what happened and move on and away from them. Focus on you and only you. Throughout the break up I felt hopeless, like a part of me was missing. I scrawled the internet trying to find the answers and to ensure myself that I will be ok. One that did help was an article by Huffington Post titled, "We Don't Always End Up With The Loves Of Our Lives (And That's Ok)". After reading it I felt like I could instantly let go of all the sadness that had built up inside, like letting go of a balloon and never seeing it again. Something to remember is, "sometimes love is not all there is".

I wrote this back in January and 7 months on I have never been happier. Being single was the best decision I have ever made! I got a job at uni, a first in this piece of coursework, my skin started to clear and I graduated with a 2:1 in English and creative writing. So here is a massive Shout out to my ex, thanks for being a dick and helping me in the long run.

Sian. X

Monday, 17 July 2017

Going Dairy Free

I have been battling with acne for the last 6 years and I have had enough. I've scrawled the internet day after day trying to find a new spot cream or face wash which could fix the mess I see every morning. I needed to find a way to tackle the pulsating spots which looked awful and quite frankly embarrassing. I have been debating for three years now whether or not to go on the controversial drug 'Roacctune' to clear my skin completely. But due to being at University for those three years it was not realistic. Instead going dairy free was one diet change that was easy enough to help keep my angry skin at bay.

Huffington Post claims in an article titled, 'Milk and acne' that if you are an acne sufferer, "dairy is one of the worst triggers out there and could easily be disrupting your own hormone balance and making your acne worse". I did a lot of research before going dairy free and I was willing to give it a go. As a 21 year old at University I found it extremely difficult living with acne. I was constantly surrounded by people with glowing skin and I remember saying to myself "no one has skin like me!". This being said my friends never judged and completely understood what I was going through but it was still frustrating and a hard concept for me to come to terms with that my skin was not clear.

Having no one close to me going through the same battle, I turned to social media, especially Instagram. This played a massive part of changing my perspective on my skin and making me realise that I am not alone. One person that I found very inspiring and helpful is an American girl named Kali, who goes by the username of 'myfacestory'. She has previously taken Roaccutane but her cystic spots slowly came back after a year. She is now on a anti-inflammatory and dairy free diet, which basically means only healthy and natural foods. Her Instagram is filled with photos of foods she eats and comparison photos (which I find the most important) of her skin and how it has improved. One post that really hit me was one that she wrote on the 19th June. She states that "I used to let my skin control my life [...] but your skin doesn't define you, it definitely doesn't make you who you are as an individual". This is so so important! I still complain and cry over my skin more than I should but with the help of people like Kali it helps you realise that your skin isn't everything. The drastic changes in Kali's skin since going dairy free have been incredible and I wanted to follow in her footsteps, I have now been dairy free for 5 months!

Many think that going dairy free would be their worst nightmare and I understand why. No cheese, no milk and no chocolate. But no one ever thinks of the alternatives, there are a dozen milk substitutes from soya to almond, rice and coconut milk. The first time I decided to go dairy free I was walking round Tesco thinking, "literally EVERYTHING has milk in" which stressed me out and inevitably probably made me break out. However I have grown to love being dairy free, even though I do get tempted by birthday cake and chocolate buttons. My favourite dairy free foods at the moment have to be the Alpro chocolate milk, the Naked bars and Tesco's garlic and herb spread. All these foods taste exactly the same if not better than the dairy versions. I am still trying new things and I really want to get my hands on the Alpro chocolate and vanilla ice cream!

Since being dairy free I have seen an amazing difference in my skin. I no longer break out unless I am on my period, eat dairy or if I am very stressed. The comparison is incredible and I am so so glad I did it, I just wish I did it sooner! I still have a lot of redness and scarring which I would ideally like to get rid of. I am currently testing going gluten free and eating less sugar meat. I have only been doing this on and off for about two weeks and so far so good (I will update on this).

Going dairy free has majorly improved my skin but I know this will not clear it completely and I may have to go on Roaccutane at some point this year or next. The one piece of advice I would give to those suffering with acne or anyone that is going through a change in their diet is PATIENCE. It is so important to remember that things do not happen over night. I am still very much coming to terms with this and I need to stop being so hard on my self. Acne is a battle and I know that in the end I WILL have clear skin but for now I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and stay positive.

Sian. X

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Fun things to do in Portsmouth in Autumn.

With summer coming to a close and autumn swiftly creeping upon us, I thought now would be the perfect time to talk about what events are going to be held in the local area.

Portsmouth is a seaside city and this leaves most people forgetting that there are a lot more things to see and do apart from grabbing an ice cream at the pier and basking in the sun. Halloween is fast approaching and Portsmouth has a lot of exciting and different things happening in and around the town centre.

If you find yourself stuck for ideas on a weekend then why not make the effort to travel a little outside of Portsmouth (only a half an hour drive) and visit the local apple picking farm. Having been around since the 1950’s Hill Farm Orchards is the perfect place to pick apples have it be for fun Halloween games or for a quick bite to eat.

Portsmouth is also home to the infamous ‘Ghost Walks’ hosted by Dark Encounters. They will take you for a wander through the cities historical streets. But this is not for the faint hearted! Costumed historical characters will shock you with some horrifying and gruesome facts on the city's most famous tales.

If a ghost walk doesn't take your fancy then join the rest of the city as they watch Portsmouth's 22nd Halloween Parade on the 31st October at 7pm, starting at Pierce Island. You won't be disappointed with the costumes, music and dances that happen on this particular night. They also invite you to join in with the fun as everyone is asked to dress up. 

If you can't make the parade then not to worry as a 'Pumpkin Smash' will be held on the following weekend (October 24th) at the Portsmouth Farmers Market between 8am-2pm. Simply go along smash a pumpkin and win a prize! Good fun for all ages. 

Hopefully these ideas have helped you come unstuck for things to do around the autumn period and also make your Halloween weekend that little more interesting. 


Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Dissertation prep - Month of August

The last time I wrote I was stuck for ideas and felt like everything I wrote was rubbish.Yet I have managed to write nearly half of my dissertation - that's nearly 5,000 words!

I don't know how it happened, I think I stopped stressing so much over it and just got something written down even if I wasn't too keen. First drafts are never great and this is what I needed to remember. My first draft of anything is no where near as good as my final piece. 

My story still has a long way to go and I'm still not sure on the ending or some of the characters, but that's ok! 

One thing I have noted so far is that I need to add more description and depth to both my characters and setting. I also still have a lot of plot gaps that need to be filled in order for the story to make sense.

At the moment the main symbol to my story is the snow globe which I really enjoy writing about, it gives the story a meaning even though I'm not so sure on where it is going. 

I hope that by the beginning of September I can fill all the gaps and power through the word count before I go back to Uni and show my tutor what I have done.

Just last week I was in Edinburgh and I saw a open mic poetry/comedy show during Fringe Festival in an underground pub. It was funny and very clever. One man's poetry stood out to me as he was literally retelling parts of my dissertation idea. I am focusing mine on social media and clean eating and how this is taking over society. This man was also talking about social media and how people only present the 'good parts' of their life and not the reality. He used Facebook as a simile of someone's ego and I found this interesting and will definitely be looking into this more in my own writing. He also said how we are not meeting/seeing the real person on social media we are simply only touching a glass screen of their 'face', also interesting. I found it very odd how we randomly went to this open mic night (not planned) and a man stood up and helped me out with my own dissertation - THANK YOU!


Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Dissertation prep - Month of July

A very, very late update on my dissertation process.

Over the past month I have been stressed and stuck for ideas and cannot seem to write anything down that I actually like.

Since I last updated I have read another book called "The Ocean At The End Of The Lane" by Neil Gaiman. I'm really not sure whether I liked this book or not. It was odd and I didn't really get the whole thing. I read it very quickly, I think because I wanted to get it over with.

However a few things did stick out to me. One of the characters - the stereotypical evil one was manipulative and I liked this. It added something to the story. I also liked how Gaiman used the evil character as a metaphor for the weather and feelings/emotion.

The next book I moved onto was Alice Hoffman's "Practical Magic". I have yet to finish this but so far I really like it. It is different from the average witch story. Last night I watched the film adaptation with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in and really enjoyed it. It had the element of love, sadness, heartbreak and everything most people go through. It was real yet had that strong element of magic throughout.

I particularly noted down the main plot at the beginning with all the girls in the family being cursed and how everyone fears the family. I also liked the symbol of the beetle, whenever it made a sound you knew a man close to the family was going to die. It was very clever and I will definitely be thinking about this when I write some more.

I also watched "Shawshank Redemption" as I initially wanted to write something to do with a prison and this did help a lot (I wrote 3 pages of notes). Yet still when I write nothing seems to be coming together.

Praying that over this next week I have something good to show and it all starts coming together!