The Media’s Reports Regarding Mental Health Are Damaging MY Mental Health. In The Face Of Simone Biles’ Announcement, What Happened to #bekind?

Earlier this week I saw a tweet from a largely unpopular British journalist regarding the Olympic athlete Simone Biles’ decision to pull out of events in a bid to protect her mental health. She was criticised for letting her teammates, country and fans down along with being called a quitter. Her actions were described by that same journalist with a large following as anything but brave and heroic.

I’m not a fan of sport, I haven’t followed the Olympics and whilst I’m aware of Simone Biles as a medalled gymnast that’s as far as my knowledge of her goes. But for me, the point I wish to make, is that this both is and isn’t about her. If she’d withdrawn from the competition because she was experiencing a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right physically, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I wouldn’t be writing this post. She highly likely wouldn’t be slated for an injury. I can’t imagine headlines would blame her reading that it was her fault and that she’d let people down all for being someone who can, like all of us, get hurt. She removed herself from further Olympic events after experiencing a niggling feeling that something wasn’t right mentally and by some was thrown under a bus.

I go through phases of being angry, disappointed and upset regarding the media’s response to some mental health stories but mostly I’m exhausted by it all. In the world of fame if people speak up whilst in a difficult place they’re making themselves vulnerable to these concerning, and in my opinion, morally wrong headlines which can be dangerous. By invalidating those who stand up for their mental health and calling them “quitters” it sends the wrong message that we shouldn’t prioritise ourselves and instead keep going with a stiff upper lip, until what we hit breaking point?

This is where the double standard kicks in. If they don’t speak up, are pushed over the edge and we lose them the internet blows up with stories questioning why they didn’t seek help, branding it a national tragedy with attempts at positivity and support encouraging anyone struggling to say something which can feel like insincere hot air. Take the Olympics out of the equation all together for a second and I think it shows immense strength of character to stand up and say that something isn’t ok whilst feeling far from 100% knowing there’s an high chance of receiving media backlash. Remove celebrity status and the media altogether and I firmly believe that anyone opening up about mental health concerns is showing bravery.

With every couple of years that go by as headlines like this pop up I can’t help but wonder when the lesson will finally be learnt. In 2020 the world lost Caroline Flack and the media was noted as playing a part and being responsible for the decline of her mental health. Much like my lack of interest in sport, I don’t follow reality television and didn’t watch any programmes she was involved with but I still felt upset by her loss. I am still upset by what is happening all these months later. Shortly after her passing the hashtag #bekind gained momentum. It was originally created by a mother who lost her son to suicide and wanted to stand up to online trolling. Whilst the hashtag has reached millions of individuals over social media platforms and I whole heartedly agree with it’s message I think this week’s online treatment of Simone Biles goes to show that over a year later on the whole that we still aren’t being kind. The words are out there but it feels like the message isn’t being understood despite being as clear as one of the last posts Caroline Flack ever shared.

The situation is bad enough but when you add the global pandemic we’ve all been faced with in the last 18 months to me it just feels even worse. The pandemic has caused loses for us all whether they be small or large and I think we’ll be seeing the effects of this for many years to come. We’ve lost normal routines, social interaction, physical contact, loved ones, a sense of security, jobs, homes and in some cases a complete sense of purpose. Covid made me realise why solitary confinement is used in prisons as the ultimate punishment as the repercussions of being sat in the same 4 walls and living alone without work to show up for gradually crept up on me often leaving me feeling not myself. I’ve seen and heard a lot more people expressing anxious tendencies about the world reopening after us being shut away for so long and low feelings from what became our new normal. As Covid has affected each and every one of us for many this means we understandably aren’t as tough and resilient as we perhaps were prior to the outbreak. Within my social circle I’ve noticed people seem more open to these conversations now than ever before. I think that’s because there’s been a sense of united struggling and it often got too tiresome saying everything was fine when we all knew nothing was normal.

In light of this I think we need the message of #bekind more than ever before.

Monthly Round Up – The Best Ways I Made Money, Saved Money & Bargain Finds In July

July was an incredibly busy month for me meaning I definitely didn’t put any effort into money making this month. I’m hoping when things calm down over August to get back on the eBay train selling clothes I no longer wear and more. In terms of bargains, I’m mildly ashamed to say I succumbed to the lures of the Boots Clearance section but as I paid with my Advantage Card points I think I can be forgiven. I’m banning myself from Boots for August!

Made Money

I sold an unwanted household item for £15 on Facebook Marketplace which was a pleasant surprise as I forgot I’d listed the item a month previously. During the last week of July I received an offer on eBay for an item of clothing I’d borderline given up trying to shift. I ended up making around £7 profit and considering it only cost me £10 in the first place from an ex-high-street clothing market in London I was pleased with that.

I’ve unfortunately been so busy this month that I’ve not had a chance to properly list more clothes on eBay etc but it will be top of my priority list in August.

Bargain Finds

I picked up an Indeed Labs Watermelon Melting Cleansing Balm which still retails for £24.99 on Superdrug and Look Fantastic’s websites for £2.70 in Boots clearance section. It was marked with a £3 sticker and I then got a further 30p off thanks to student discount. I paid with my Boots points so it didn’t cost me anything. This can be used to remove make up and my current make up remover is running out so that helped me to justify this!

I also picked up a Lee Stafford Heat Protection leave in hydrating cream for £1.80 also. I try to look after my hair with low cost products to save me having to pay for hair cuts quite so often so was pleased to grab this as my current one is 2/3rds empty. Once again I paid with Boots points so there was zero spend involved.

In Wilko I picked up this adorable Chinese Money Plant for £1.50 instead of £3 as it looked in need of some care. I’ve wanted one of these plants for a while but been unable to spot one in stores for under £8 so am really happy with this.

Food Savings

Clearance Food – the main element of almost every main meal I ate this month was from the clearance section of Tesco. I managed to time my supermarket arrivals really well to stock up the freezer with reduced fish and more. I’ve been hunting for nearly a year since I gave up dairy for clearance vegan cake and finally hit the jackpot this month. I managed to get a BOSH chocolate cake reduced. As it didn’t say “not suitable for home freezing” I chopped it up and froze 3/4s of the cake which was then defrosted on a slice by slice basis when I fancied a treat.

Lots Of Free Vegan Food – via Green Jinn. I saved £8 on 4 cartons of long life Mighty Pea milk, £4.20 on two large tubs of Alpro Greek Style yoghurt and £1.60 on a vegan chocolate milkshake. I also managed to score 2 vegan probiotic drinks for nothing saving £2.40. Green Jinn is by far the best app for dairy free and has saved me so much money. I haven’t had to buy dairy free milk in over 5 weeks now because I’ve been able to grab these almost weekly. They’re long life and retail at £2 a carton usually so this has been a great saving for me on an essential item. I now have 8 cartons stocked up in the cupboard which are in date through until June next year which is brilliant.

Lunch Box Additions – via Checkout Smart and Tesco Clubcard I managed to get two boxes of 100g pea stick snacks for a total spend of 20p for the two. Green Jinn had an offer for 45p off own brand strawberries which I managed to use also. Via Shopmium I got a free 500ml Robinsons drink also which made a nice treat as this isn’t something I would normally buy.

Cheap Treats – Via Shopmium I scored a £5 tub of vegan ice cream for £3, I’d usually spend about £2.50 on occasion for a treat so decided to go for this as I’d never buy it full price. I also discovered Asda is incredibly reasonable for dairy free desserts with a pack of 2 chocolate mousses or tiramisu retailing for £1. Tesco’s equivalent in virtually the exact same packaging is £1.80. I can confirm I tried both and they were amazing.

Home Bargains Dairy Free Snacks – Home Bargains is the best for reasonably priced, relatively healthy dairy free snacks. They have dupes of Nak’d bars which are 99p for a box of 3 and only made with 100% natural ingredients. I’ve tried both the cocoa orange and blueberry flavours before and they’re fantastic. I also got 2 boxes of Graze Superfood Oat snacks for £1.49 a box instead of £2.50. Whilst there I discovered that the lemon and blueberry flavour which previously contained milk are now vegan so I was over the moon. I find these sorts of snacks brilliant for on the move or when I’m craving something sweet but avoiding chocolate etc.

Free Box Of Celebrations – via Shopmium as July was my birthday month. Whilst I don’t really eat dairy I decided to claim these as I could always gift them on to someone else. I was offered £3 cashback from Shopmium, they were on Tesco Clubcard price for £2 so I ended up making £1 profit on this.

For all the other amazing freebies I got during my birthday month stay tuned for a post scheduled very soon!

Saved Money

Thanks to the mostly glorious UK weather I did a lot more walking to get from A to B which resulted in free exercise and travel. This month was so hectic that I ate out only once and shared lunch with a friend outside in the sunshine at an independent cafe which was lovely.

I only visited the Boots clearance section once so I feel that needs to be noted as a way I saved money!

Comments Welcome

Low Cost & Easily Accessible Eco Friendly Beauty Swaps That I Plan To Make

In the last few months I’ve been trying really hard to clean up my beauty act. I’ve swapped to zero waste razors and deodorant, given up plastic bottled soaps and gels for paper wrapped bars and tried to prioritise brands with better eco credentials. I know I still have a long way to go. The only reason these swaps are in the pipeline and haven’t already happened is because I have a stash of beauty products or essentials to work my way through. As someone who likes to make the most of their money I’ll often stock up on items I trust or rely on in advance of needing them to ensure I’m not caught out having to pay full price which means I’ve accumulated quite the stash.

Bar Soap Facial Cleanser

I’m aware that last year I mentioned wanting to try Carbon Theory’s bar cleanser but have found such conflicting advice online that I was put off from this. Reviews I read said the formula could be quite drying and as I use prescription acne treatment or ingredients like Benzoyl Peroxide, AHAs, BHAs which can be drying I now use and need a more hydrating cleanser. I’ve seen that Cerave, one of my favourite brands for cleansers, released their famous formulas in bar form with cardboard packaging. So far I’ve yet to see this on sale in the UK in stores but have seen it on Amazon and as I love the original bottled formulas I’ve a lot more confidence that my skin will get on well with this. I think Cerave must be sick of me and my enthusiasm for this product on Instagram as I keep trying to find out when I might be able to buy this in UK stores!

Via Instagram SebaMed UK’s cleansing bar came onto my radar. It too comes in cardboard packaging, has a ph of 5.5 and is designed for sensitive acne prone skin meaning it is gentle and non stripping.

Once my stash of bottled cleansers has been worked through I’ll be transitioning over to one of these alternatives. Interestingly I recently saw online that Nivea have released bar facial cleansers and I’m aware The Body Shop also have a variety. I’m just incredibly fussy as my skin is very acne prone but if yours is less temperamental than mine and your face is less likely to break out faster than you can say “spots” then this is becoming a really easy swap to make.

Bar Shampoo or Refillable Shampoo

I am thrilled that The Body Shop now have refill stations in their stores up and down the country. I didn’t expect my smaller local stores to have this option but both do which made me very happy. As they’re little stores they only have 6 options but this includes 1 hand soap, 1 shampoo, 1 conditioner and 3 shower gels. The shampoo in my local store would be my one of choice out of all their options which was a very happy discovery.

I’m torn between trying the refillable shampoo and Garnier’s new Ultimate Blends bars. I’ve seen these several times in Boots on half price offers making them £3.99 instead of £7 which sounds like a great affordable swap option to me. As they’re stocked in Boots I can see myself using my Advantage Card points to give this a go without spending a penny. I think I’ll try one of their bars first and if I don’t get on with the shampoo bar experience then I’ll go for The Body Shop refillable option as a back up.

I’ve got quite a collection of shampoo bottles that I’ve accumulated from clearance deals thinking these were too good to pass up at the time. I’ll move towards bars once I’ve emptied the bottles I have. I know so many people rave about Lush but their expensive prices put me off slightly when I’ve no idea how I’ll get on with shampoo bars hence waiting it out this long to make an eco switch.

Reusable Cotton Pads

I’ve been incredibly wary of these given that my skin is really acne prone. I didn’t want to potentially waste my money on these. Since delving into using an oil cleanser I’ve been using a wash cloth to remove this and as long as I chuck it in the wash once or twice a week I’ve not had any issues. This has given me the confidence to venture into trying reusable cotton pads. I’d only really be using these for exfoliants and don’t tend to use that many cotton ads as it is hence not making this switch sooner.

One of my wonderful followers and “insta-pals” as she likes to call us, The Acne Pharmacist, kindly sent me a surprise pack of 3 reusable pads recently so I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to try these out.

Plastic Bottle Free Make Up Remover

I’ve been a huge fan of the Garnier Micellar Water since discovering it a few years ago. It’s my go to for removing eye make up as it is cheap, cheerful, highly effective and doesn’t break me out. However, given that I really want to try and make my beauty routines more eco friendly I’m intending to try The Body Shop Chamomile Cleansing Butter instead as this comes in an aluminium tin. Their mini retails for £5 and as I’m a loyalty card holder I received a £5 voucher for my birthday month so I was able to pick this up at no cost. All that’s required is a wash cloth which is far better than plastic bottles and disposable cotton pads so I’m really hoping my skin gets on well with this.

More Eco Friendly Body Lotion

I’m aware The Body Shop recently redesigned their packaging for body butters to include an aluminium lid to make them more eco friendly. I’m torn between purchasing this which I’ve used before and enjoy or branching out to try products from Lush. I’m equally open minded about using a moisturising product in a cardboard tube or similar so intend to do my research for when the products I have run out.

I’m open to low cost suggestions of ways I can continue to clean up my beauty routine.

Comments Welcome

Being A Low Cost Plant Mum – Ways To Save Money On House Plants, Cheap Places To Buy Them & Easy Ways I’ve Found To Keep Them Alive

It started with a few small cacti before escalating as a won a £50 IKEA voucher last summer and used this to get a Monstera, or cheese plant, which I’d coveted for years but had worried about keeping it alive as I’d never had a large houseplant before. I would never had spent £15 on a large plant with no plant care experience so am still really happy I won the voucher. Below are a few of the ways I’ve saved money on plants as well as things that have helped to keep them healthy. I am by no means a green fingered expert and I have lost a few along the way over the last couple of years. I am currently the proud owner of around 12 indoor plants which are all going through a major growth spurt thanks to the summer weather!

Low Cost Places To Buy Houseplants

Wilko – I picked up an Anthurium for £5 in Wilko. I’ve seen virtually identical plants to mine for £12+ in places like Homebase and even B&Q. It’s hard to predict what Wilko will have in store and often the plants look like they need a little TLC but I’ve seen Bromeliads again for £5 instead of £12-15+. They also have a good range of tiny cacti that are reasonably priced.

Sainsbury – they have some amazingly priced houseplants with many in ceramic pots for around the same price as what you could expect to pay for the pot alone. I don’t usually rate this supermarket for value for money but was really impressed by the price tags on plants I’ve seen on a couple of visits. I’ve been very tempted on more than one occasion to add to my collection.

B&Q – whilst some are still pricey B&Q on the whole does have some well price plants. On a recent visit I saw a whole wall’s worth of plants wrapped in brown paper packaging for £4.50 in pots which were 12cm diameter including cult favourites like spider plants, ferns and many other leafy plants with pretty foliage.

Facebook Marketplace – in my local area I’ve seen spider plant cuttings starting as low as £1. This is a great place to start looking.

Ikea – has some low cost cacti options with 3 in a pack for £5 including lovely little ceramic pots for them. The only thing I don’t like about this is that you can’t pick the 3 you want as they come in a multipack.

Tesco – I’ve picked up a mini cacti or two in Tesco. I find these to be pretty well priced and generally well looked after.

Don’t Be Afraid To Barter

Yes, this might sound mad but I’d had my eye on a Spotted Begonia for about a year before eventually finding one in a local shop. They were £8 but all had incredibly dried out soil, some damage to their leaves and the tips of the leaves looked dry and crusty on a few of them. The plant definitely didn’t look it’s best so I took it to the till, explained my concerns and was immediately offered the plant for £4. Since buying it and watering it regularly it’s almost tripled in size and makes me very happy. If you struggle with spot prone skin and need a reminder that spots aren’t ugly I can highly recommend getting yourself one of these plants! Both B&Q and Wilko have reduced plants when I’ve asked. I never abuse this finding fault with perfectly healthy plants.

Do A Little Research

When I first got my cheese plant I read up on the best ways to water them and very quickly came across a few helpful hints and tips which have served me well in the last year. I bought a brilliant second hand book called The Care Of Houseplants very cheaply online which gives problem solving advice e.g. if it has yellow leaves it’s because of x y z. It gives at least 5 problem solving options for each plant in the book to cover most eventualities.

Under Water Not Over Water

I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s almost impossible to save a drowned over watered plant whereas underwatering, in comparison, can be relatively easily corrected. I’ve always erred on the side of caution with watering out of fear that I’ll kill plants off completely by drowning them hence being a fan of the bottom watering technique.

Bottom Watering

I water almost all of my houseplants except the cheese plant, using the method of popping the plant on a saucer, filling this with water and then leaving them to drink it up or not as the case may be. I’ve found this really helpful as sometimes it’s hard to tell if plants need watering and this way it reduces the risk of overwatering or drowning for me! If plants don’t want water they simple don’t suck it up and if the do the saucer ends up emptied.

Be Patient

I never buy loads of plants at once. I tend to pick one up, learn it’s likes and dislikes over a couple of months until I’m confident I can keep it healthy before buying more. I also won’t spend over £10 on a plant, my average is about £5. If a plant isn’t looking it’s best rather than rushing to drastic action I remember not to expect immediate results and not to throw every attempt at problem solving at the plant. I bought a £5 Umbrella Plant in B&Q and no matter what I did with it the odd few leaves kept turning brown and dropping off at first. I tried one new option every 7-10 days such as relocating it, not watering it, etc and eventually it settled down and began churning out very cute tiny umbrellas as it grew.

Comments Welcome

Where the real house plant obsession began – my beautiful giant cheese plant for free via an IKEA voucher competition prize

The Best Contraception For Adult Acne – My Feminist Frustrations About Negative Side Effects & The Unfairness Of Many Options Available.

I am a firm believer in gender equality but have never preached about feminism on my blog or how unfair it can be to be a woman. That is until it comes to contraception and being someone incredibly acne prone I feel doubly entitled to rant. I find it insanely unfair how one sided the business of contraception can be despite, as the old saying goes, that it takes two to tango. Most of the options’ side effects bother me enough as it is but at the start of last year I became increasingly frustrated given that I was also really struggling with frequent regular breakouts and didn’t want to chance anything which could worsen the situation.

Acne + Contraception

I’m not currently in a position where I want to risk getting pregnant, nor was I when I first began compiling this post early last year but chickened out of publishing. After seeing Izzie Rogers‘ highly relatable stories about contraception and acne I decided to rethink this and be brave because it’s a topic that drives me up the wall and I certainly have plenty to say.

If I’d never struggled with painful acne that caused me great discomfort, stress and upset in my early 20s leading to a long journey to accept my skin I definitely wouldn’t be complaining as passionately as I’m about to. I once spent hours trawling through Google searching for the best contraception for acne, which pill was best, comparing the side effects of those mentioned, weighing up which hormone combinations were likely to be most successful and so much more. The reason for this being many methods of contraception, if you’re naturally acne prone, are typically ruled out as the hormone cocktails found in the contraceptive implant, injection, IUD and mini progesterone-only pill all, according to the NHS website and various GPs I’ve seen, have a high risk of worsening acne. If I set aside the acne factor for a second and think about having a small piece of plastic inserted into my arm and cut out to remove that’s enough to give me the shivers let alone the prospect of worsening skin. This doesn’t come from a point of vanity, this is from the perspective of someone who years ago lost nights of sleep due to being unable to rest on sides of her face thanks to sore jawline cysts. Equally the idea of a T shaped piece of metal being inserted without pain relief that can cause heavier more painful periods is just foul.

Then we have the combined pill. I’ve tried several as well as having breaks as I’ve been through periods of time feeling uncomfortable about the lengthy list of side effects and wondering what they’re really doing to my body. Don’t get me wrong, in my early teens the pill saved me from months of agonising pain so I am not wholly against it’s existence. However; recent headlines about the rate of Covid vaccines causing blood clots VS the amount caused by the pill which blew it out of the water certainly was food for thought.

In January 2020 I was desperate to address my acne to improve it and upon telling GPs I didn’t want to take a 9 month length course of antibiotics for a second time many pushed me straight towards the pill. The ones typically considered to be good for acne prone skin, however; seem to come with even scarier risks than the norm which are bad enough. I was twice nonchalantly offered Dianette but told I could only take it for 6 months due to higher than average blood clot risk and negative side effects to mental health. This particular pill is actually banned in several countries as a result of this. One GP told me the NHS no longer prescribe it as general contraception but as short term treatment for acne or PCOS symptoms. Online research led to discovering it comes with the warning that it can cause “depression leading to suicidal thoughts” as opposed to most which simply say “mood swings”. The first GP didn’t make me aware of this, I declined at the idea of taking the stronger-than-average male hormones and after doing some online research I’m so glad I did. It’s advised against prescribing for those with personal or family history of mental health issues. My mental or physical health is not something I’m willing to experiment with simply because I don’t want acne or to be pregnant which I think is completely justified.

Dianette – offered to me twice as an acne treatment offering contraceptive cover for short term use only due to worrying side effects

Other forays into contraceptive cover didn’t end well despite declining Dianette. Being prescribed Lucette resulted in me spending 2 weeks with black spots in my vision, extreme dizziness, nausea and the worst period pain I’ve felt leaving me to crawl around my house in fear of fainting. This happened 3 weeks in and took me 2 months to fully get over. Within 2 weeks Brevinor caused my cheeks, forehead and neck to gain deep, large painful spots under the surface and a huge amount of stress as a result. These experiences were frightening, even more so given how quickly the side effects hit me and took to recover from.

I took 3 varieties of anti biotics back in 2016 to clear my skin as I was the most desperate I’ve ever been with it during that time. 3 months of Lymecycline followed by 9 months of Oxytetracycline and within 6 months of stopping the tablets I began breaking out again so this wasn’t a long term solution. Anti biotics are another really commonly prescribed medication for acne treatment. They also lessen the effect of the pill leaving you at risk of pregnancy unless taking other precautions.

The Unfairness Of Contraception

This is where my feminist streak kicks in. Men don’t have to make decisions about their bodies quite like this or weigh up which nasty side effect they’d rather have because they don’t want to be a parent at present. It’s like a sick version of the silly game “would you rather?”. The potential of poorer mental health with possibly clearer skin that no one can guarantee or likely heavier periods with no chance of worsening your skin but at least you’ll dodge conception?! I realised just how much I hated the one sidedness of this when I first made the decision to break up with my pill after doing some reading about their potential side effects, controversy surrounding acne and after hearing so many friends say they simply felt better without it. Upon explaining all of the above to a partner at the time I was met with the 4 word response “I don’t like condoms”.

I mean who does? But it made me want to scream and that was well before I became fully aware of how many things I was advised against taking as a result of my skin. Contraception should be a joint, equal responsibility yet male led options are painfully lacking. The worst men have to go through in terms of contraceptive side effects as far as I’m aware is temporary minor discomfort caused by basic condoms whereas we are faced with multiple complex options from coils with unpleasant applications causing heavier periods to injections that can damage bone density to implants and pills potentially wrecking havoc. Acne, depression, higher cancer risks, blot clots, lack of sex-drive… the list of side effects goes on. I’ve read rumours of a male pill or injection being tested as safe for human use but dismissed due to potential side effects involving weight gain, acne, erectile dysfunction or loss of libido. If it’s deemed not good enough for them then why are these options deemed good enough for us? On a personal level in 2020 I started to wonder if it was really too much to ask for contraceptive cover that wouldn’t cause my acne to worsen without experiencing almost black outs or risking suicidal thoughts?!

Female pleasure is largely not discussed and our orgasms, despite often being more elusive, are 100% safe with none causing pregnancy. In comparison, 100% of their male counterparts pose a high risk of causing conception in the vast majority of cases. With this being the case why, oh why, is it virtually all left to women often with such hideous compromises to make?!

I drafted this post early 2020 and out of desperation was close to taking up my GP’s offer of Dianette. I’d actually ended the post asking for readers to share their experiences with this pill which I don’t think I should have ever been offered. I’m increasingly glad I decided against playing the horrible game of “would you rather” or putting anything in my body which the idea of scared me. That’s the note I wish to end this post on.

Sensitive Comments Welcome