14 July 2018

Dear Seven Year Old Sophie

I wrote this in creative therapy last week and decided to share. This was completely free-written and hardly edited, which makes it a huge challenge to post. But with the encouragement of my truly amazing peers in the group, I have decided to share the original letter. Self-compassion means valuing my voice without endless editing. It is enough. 

In sixeen years time, you will continually hear about self-compassion. Psychologists will tell you to "be kind to yourself." Magazines and Social Media will encourage you to "take a bath, paint your nails, read a book or go for a walk." Mindfulness will become a buzzword and, in many ways, you will start to believe it.

As I write this now, I still believe it. Nonetheless, for the first time in my life I realise that it is me - twenty-three year old Sophie - who has the answer. Above any mindful memo or media mantra, Sophie knows the secret to self-compassion: stop blaming yourself. Stop translating "diabetes" to "deficit" and seeing yourself as inherently inferior. Stop viewing your life through a number-tainted glasses, where every high and low - hyper and hypo - signifies failure.

You will spend the next sixteen years placing others on a pedestal, convinced that you must always start from the ground. Waist-deep in test strips, finger pricks and little glass vials - your liquid life solution - you continually resolve to be "good", be "worthy", be "perfect". You are also determined that you will never be a burden to those you love, the ones who will time-and-again pick you back up again. You often fell, through no fault of your own, but you still bore the bruises of guilt and shame.

As you apologised to your mother for another sleepless night, or blushed red at the recurring sight of damp bedsheets, did you ever stop to think: I am the one who has to lives it.

When your blood sugar shot up to 17.9 before a GCSE Drama performance, you thought only of your cast-mates as you went on scene after scene, downing bottle after bottle in your thirst to be "okay".   Later that week, when it plummeted below 3, you refused to stop the clock and would do the same again, and again. Did you ever  pause to consider: I am deserving of self-compassion too.

As you clung to your father's coat and buried your head into his arm, the routine blood tests pricking your skin, did you ever tell yourself: I am the one being pricked and poked  I am the one who was placed in a situation beyond my choosing

Have you ever apologised to yourself? Have you ever said sorry to yourself for always saying "sorry"? Well I'm saying it now, seven year old Sophie. I'm sorry for sixteen years of saying sorry for something that wasn't your fault. You didn't cause your diabetes. You are not to blame. Over the years, D will try to beat you physically and professionals will be there to prevent this. But he will also try to beat you mentally - and this is where I come in.

I solemnly swear to you, seven-year old Sophie, that I will not let D beat us. D is not our story.  

27 May 2018

Beet & New Veg: Spring at Brasserie Blanc #BunnyFriendlyFavourites

2018 may come with bamboozling British weathers, bumbling world leaders and a mean bean called Brexit, but one silver lining has truly shone bright: SUN Flowers. Aka plant power and cruelty-free living. Tesco now have a 'director of plant-based innovation' and Waitrose are set to launch an exclusively 'vegan' section next month, in collaboration with The Happy Pear. What a wicked and wonderful pear  they are, but they're far from the only ones. 

From 'no-bull' burgers and holy cow-free cheeses, to shroomdogs and beet-iful buddha bowls, Sainsbury's, M&S and Iceland are also paving a plant-based path. We don't need Professor Trelawney to predict that 2018 will go down as the point-of-no-return; The year that mainstream society joined in the "the cruelty-free crusade"; chose to be strong and stand with the bunnies. Somewhere beyond the factory farm there is a world we can set FREE. Before you know it, auditions will be starting for Les Animales: the musical and I can fulfil my childhood dream of becoming a Lyricist and  use this post as a CV! 

As existing readers of this blog will know, I tend to get carried away with my analogies... In short, the world is finally listening and the UK Restaurant scene is no different. What's more, Les Animales could stay true to its French roots. One man who has definitely listened to the song of our animal friends is Brasserie Blanc founder Raymond Blanc. Now, if you were asked you to describe a Veggie French menu, you'd be forgiven for reciting something along the lines of...

 Starter: Baked Camembert/Goats Cheese Soufflé  
Main Course: Spinach and Gruyere Crepes
Dessert: Creme Brûlée, Creme Caramel
*or just skip straight to Fromage and Fondu*

*...and let's not forget Mr Potato's famous French relatives - Monsieur Gratin et Mademoiselle Dauphinoise - along with the sauces for all-courses: Bernaise and Hollandaise (is anyone else picturing Monica Gellar right about now?)

Let's just say that, if you don't like cheese, you might feel a bit cheesed off in a 'traditional' french Bistro! What's more, options you may assume would be veggie/vegan are anything but: Soup L'Ognion is made with beef stock, bisques are best friend to the bacon lardon and then, of course, there's foie gras - or, as I like too call it, foie aarggh, because there's nothing 'faux' about it

    "Somewhere beyond the Factory  
Farm there is a world we can set Free"

Nonetheless, Brasserie Blanc has become my favourite high-street restaurant, surpassing even Las Iguanas and their dedicated Veggie-Vegan menu. I think the runaway success of the "veganuary night" was a big incentive, as the Bristol branch have started doing a vegan night every month, while  the set menus now have a vegan option for each course.

Yet I'm here to talk about what's cooking a la carte and, true to form, the grass is just as green. Earlier this Spring, we made two visits to Bath's Brasserie Blanc in the space of three weeks. We first went with family friends, a week before the Spring Menu launch, yet couldn't resist returning after we saw the new options - kudos to Brasserie Blanc's social media manager, your email and twitter promotions hit the right note!


17 May 2018

The Silver Linings Playlist #MHAW18

Like books, crafts and the wizarding world, I passionately believe that music is its own form of therapy. Dumbledore himself said music was "a magic beyond all we do here" and, back in the muggle world, 400,530 Instagrammers seem to agree with me; at least, their hashtags do, and we all know that hashtags don't lie.... Or was it hips? I've never actually listened to Shakira's 2005 hit the whole way through, so it could just as easily be hipflasks or hippos too.

As ever, I digress! Simply put, I rarely step foot in the 'mainstream' music scene; it would be like Hermione wandering into a club the night before an exam. It just doesn't happen! For me, music is about meaning. The nostalgia playlist was my silver lining in the first few weeks of University, whenever I felt homesick, while the study playlist has been a saving grace in the past few weeks of dissertationing (spellcheck claims that this isn't a word, but like Quidditch and Quaffle it should be.) 

 Ah, music, a magic beyond all we do here.

Nonetheless, my love of playlist-making began two years ago, when I was receiving IP treatment and struggling with the "deafening silence" of the dining room. In case my blog isn't a giveaway, I'm someone who likes to talk. A lot. So this is where The Silver Linings Playlist began. I made various CDs for the dining room, as phones strictly weren't allowed at meals - a rule that, incidentally, also applies at home and one I am fully on board with. So even if no one was talking, there was something to listen to. 

I like to think that it brought moments of comfort in very stressful circumstances - for what it's worth, I know it helped me and at least one other person! More often that not, the songs that helped us most fell under the umbrella of "nostalgia", so you may recognise some of them from my nostalgia playlist too. There's nothing quite like hearing Little Bitty Pretty One as you eat your cereal, even if my request for Matilda cheerios did fall on deaf ears...  

So here it is: my Silver Linings Playlist. I have published it to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Weekbut it is there for any week, day or moment when your thoughts are clouded and you need an escape. While it is so important to dedicate these times for mental health awareness, mental illnesses aren't aware of a calendar. They always require awareness and support. Like I said earlier, I know that music isn't a magic cure, this playlist included! Nonetheless, if it can help just one person, it's worth sharing. 

I've included some of my favourite lyrics in the 'read more'; however, if if you're going to skip to one artist, make it Dodie Clark. As someone with personal experience of mental illness, her songs truly 'get it' and also offer words of hope. I could listen to 'Secret for the Mad' on a loop and still find the lyrics just as powerful. Thank-you Dodie, for sharing your story and being unashamedly you

 I promise you, it will all make sense again.

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