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I've Moved!! [Aug. 2nd, 2010|03:04 pm]
Catherine B
Just to let any readers here know, my blog has been moved as The Independent are using a different platform now.

You can now find my blog here: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/author/catherineib/

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"No more worries for a week or two" - Can holidays be that magical? [Jul. 21st, 2010|04:11 pm]
Catherine B
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This week marks for many the beginning of a much-needed, much yearned for summer holiday. Not satisfied with our hottest year in history, thousands of Brits will be leaving the country over the next six weeks, swapping their desks for deck chairs and tea cups for Cosmopolitans and ice cool beers by the pool. Teachers are counting down the days until the end of term so they can kick back and relax. A summer holiday seems now to be more a necessity than a luxury and we all dream that it will be the perfect escape, a place of thorough relaxation where all our worries can be left behind in the shithole that is Britain.

But really, do holidays possess such magical powers as to eradicate all worries, nasty thoughts and stresses? Does changing the physical environment around us have any impact on our thought processes, our moods and the way we deal with lifes niggles? And with modern technology - iPads, iPhones, Blackberries, wireless internet and increasingly cheaper roaming charges, are we not just carrying all of the work we have left behind with us - a constant reminder of what we 'should' be doing, hence forcing us to feel guilty about kicking back in the sand for a couple of weeks?

You can take a Brit out of Britain, but you can't take the shit out of Brit. Wherever we go, we go with flashing neon lights, whether we are the 18-30s drinking lager at 7am before takeoff, the nagging older couple attacking the poor check-in crew when told there is an hour delay or the upper middle class guardian readers who sit with their noses well in the air whilst being pushed onto a coach full of inferior Brits on their way to inferior apartments at the far side of the 'posh' resort. We are all guilty of carrying one or other form of Britishness with us at all times, all too often as an embarassing badge of honour. I digress into cynicism before I even begin answering my initial question, my point being though, that the holiday itself does not have the capacity to change who we are, the way we act or the things we are open to experience.

A few examples, beginning with my own parents. Both in their fifties, my dad works for Emirates and my mum is the headteacher at a school for pregnant teenagers and teen mums. They are Guardian readers, early getter-uppers, creatures of routine, everything well planned, well in advance, not spontaneous, cultured but led by guide books and, most aptly for this piece, extremely stressed. They run busy lives and both careers are ones that lend themselves to a decent break, time to get away, enjoy each others' company and forget for a while. Before their trips or holidays, I wish wholeheartedly that they would make the most of the oppurtunity to chill the hell out - something neither are very good at - but I always know that they won't quite get to the level of chilled-outness that I am desperate for them to have. They would probably say the same for me. Their flight, hotel and transfers are meticulously planned. They leave behind a note with details and numbers of flights times, flight numbers, hotel numbers, addresses, everything. They fuss over who is carrying what, how early to book the taxi, they carry documents tidily in a plastic wallet which dad must be in charge of for reasons known only to himself. Once there, they continue to rise early - not with the sunlight but with the bloody alarm clock. They must know the time at all times, everything must be planned in advance. Lunchtime has to be lunchtime, dinner time remains dinner time and bedtime remains bedtime. The same routine, different place. More enjoyment may be gained from the prettier sights, the laid back locals and the rare laugh here and there, but the watches are still relied on, the guide book is out constantly and my mum will still answer calls about work. The worry, the stress, the routine they run with to deal with the chaos of England is too deepset to be gone. It's a shame.

I am a lucky lady. Just a few years back I realised, and had it pointed out to me, that I carried many of the traits of my parents when it came to worry, stress and the exceptional talent for making mountains out of molehills. What changed? The influence of my boyfriend and his whole family - probably one of the most laid back, earthly, relaxed family I have ever met in terms of how they live their lives. Not quite a bunch of hippies, but people who seem very content in themselves, never too pushy or needy or selfimportant - everything is done with a shrug of the shoulders, nothing is too stressful or worrying - life just sails by and they sail with it. I love them all dearly and my boyfriend's eternal laidbackness does seem to have gradually rubbed off onto me. They really know how to holiday, gurus in the art of carefreedom (new made up word for moi). I should perhaps add here that they spent a few summers at nudist camps in the South of France, an idea which I warm towards every year. My (hopefully one day) mother-in-law to be told me just last week as we shared a bottle of wine whilst watching boats sail past our infinity pool in Turkey, "If I ruled this country I would do one thing. I would make every person have a naked swim every morning. It would be a much better place". I believe her, and if you haven't tried it, you should. Despite the fairytale feel though, there was still talk of jobs and money and moving house and the future, spattered with heated debates and discussion over where to eat, what to eat, where to go... even with the 'perfect' no-stress family, it isn't all plain sailing.

And the rest of us? My parents and my boyfriend's parents are polar opposites on holiday - but what of those in between? I cannot help but think that we, as a nation completely lack the ability to let ourselves just be, to go with the flow of another country, to blend in amongst other cultures and to adapt, scrap routines and leave everything behind. We are too reliant on constant communication, the time, the date, thirst for information, maps, timetables, satnav, gossip... Have we forgotten how to live without gadgets and gizmos and grinding habits? Sadly, it is obvious that many of us have, and unless we can reverse that, no holiday will ever be stressfree.

So, with many thanks to a certain Mills family, here are my top tips for leaving as much stress as possible behind (unfortunately, Cliff was lying, perhaps a few worries were in the smallprint):

In the event of delays, do not shoot the messenger.

Rather than fannying about changing the time on your phone, turn it off and leave it off.

Leave the laptop behind.

Embrace the change, enjoy the small things.

Take off your watch and be led by senses, not time.

Swim naked.

Try local delicacies, games and activities.

Explore, experiment.

No news is good news.

Be spontaneous.

Be adventurous.

For God's sake go further than the pool.

Be thankful, you are lucky, make the most of it.

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'Tanorexia' - It's only a matter of time [Jul. 5th, 2010|04:56 pm]
Catherine B
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Summertime and the Brits are once again out in force - the second the sun peeps out from behind the clouds, we're out on beaches and lying around in parks like flies around shit, arms and legs akimbo and quite honestly, more flesh hanging out than you would expect to see on a nudist beach in the South of France. Later that day, Facebook statuses all over will pronounce different levels of burntness and the swarms will head home covered in dodgy tanlines which, sadly, will make people feel proud and everybody else will yawn as they show them off at the office the next day. It's rather embarassing. One more to add to the list.

Once again, tanning and links to skin cancer have hit the headlines. This time, research has found that 26% of teenagers in the UK have admitted to getting sunburnt on purpose in order to get a tan, around a third (31%) said they have never used sun cream in this country and more than half (55%) believe the sun is not so powerful in the UK. As much as I hate it, I can feel a tanorexia headline coming on, they love it. This obsession, however, is not an illness - the consequences may be, but the act of sprawling in the sun or frazzling away on a sunbed without protection is a decision which really, we all should by now have the knowledge to decide against, do the right thing and smother ourselves in suncream. Factor 4 doesn't count.

It's not just teens. At Glastonbury 2010, 3000 people were treated for sunstroke and I saw literally thousands of revellers sporting scarlet backs, faces, legs... pretty much everything that could burn, was burnt. My friends and I regularly massaged the annoying but necessary goo into each others' backs etc, but the majority ignored the dangers, shrugged it off and turned their noses up to creaming themselves. Stupidity personified.

What is it about Brits? Obesity, smoking our lungs to death, drinking our livers to death and sunning ourselves to melanoma-land... it's almost as though we're all asking to suffer. We know what we have to do to be healthy, so why do we ignore all the warnings? Is it that inbuilt mechanism that tells us it will never happen to us, or do we just not care? Sad world.

If we could only witness the consequences of such dangerous behaviours, see someone close to us suffer as a result of pissing all over the warnings, maybe, just maybe we would learn to take precautions, look after ourselves and get rid of that disgusting British cockiness we seem to have adopted.

So, enjoy the sun, but for God's sake, wear sunscreen.
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Anorexia Kills [Jun. 30th, 2010|07:10 pm]
Catherine B
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Forget the statistics, forget case studies and forget guestimations - Eating Disorders kill people, real people; friends, family, that girl you see stalking the aisles of Sainsbury's, that guy at the dirty club you go to on a Friday night, and the people you didn't even know had anything wrong with them at all. All of them can slip away at any time.

Why so morbid? It is too easy to let a dangerous situation float on, simmer away and keep it at the back of the mind, pushed aside by other far more important issues. Have you fed the fish? People who suffer with Eating Disorders usually go miles out of their way to hide their illness, and once detected, to deny that it could ever possibly hurt them - if not to themselves, to everybody around them. There is a massive difference between acknowledging that you might have a 'problem', but most will never, ever accept that anything 'bad' (cardiac arrest, osteoporosis, death) will ever happen to them. I knew it was a possibility, but deep down I always knew that I wasn't quite ill enough to be the one who dies. Bullshit. Scary, but true, Anorexia and Bulimia and the behaviours involved with each can, and do end lives - without warning, no second chances.

I know this all too well, because after years of treatment both inpatient and outpatient, and being part of an online support group for ED sufferers, I have seen this happen. Once is too much, one too many lives lost to what can only be described as an evil and tormenting mental illness. Yesterday was the funeral of a wonderful young woman who I spent months of my life with in hospital. We bonded over memories of Aberystwyth, where we both studied in the Theatre, Film and Television department and spent nights curled up on old green sofas discussing all the tutors there, the beach, our graduations - I loved talking with her because it was rare to have something in common other than our bloody eating disorders. What I remember most of her was her kind spirit, always willing to offer sincere advice (she spoke from years of experience, sadly). She saw the best in everyone around her but failed to ever recognise the good in herself. Whenever she cracked a smile, it warmed me, knowing for that moment she was at least a little less consumed than usual. I only hope now that she is in peace.

She died the night before I left for Glastonbury and, despite being deeply saddened by the shock, I decided there and then (almost in her honour, but not as cheesy) to leave my own food and weight crap behind me for a while. it would have been easy to fall into a depression and restrict throughout the festival, as I have done through many before (ending in a few too many black outs). I spent the whole weekend enjoying myself, with barely a thought about what was going in my mouth (even praising the yumminess of nachos and ice cream (not together)). The loss of someone close is not and never will be a miracle cure, but it makes it impossible to ignore that beating up your body repeatedly does carry that risk - and that all your loved ones worry daily that the same thing could happen to you, whether you accept that or not.

Fighting an Eating Disorder is a continuous struggle, it will never be easy and nobody should expect that it is something someone can just leave behind - but if you have an Eating Disorder, are reading this and think that 'it won't happen to me', then please, please open your eyes and know what it can do. It chooses it's victims, not you. there is no weight you can get to before it says, "OK, that's low enough, your mine now". It sneaks up, a dirty predator, and takes another loved one away.

Let this help you. If it scares you, let it scare you. If it makes something inside you want to reach out for help - do it.

To everyone else, just a little taste of the truth. It's not about media, fashion, celebrities or faddy diets, it is about real people, real lives, a real disease - not a lifestyle, not a choice, a monster.

Love to all, take care yeah (that goes for me too)
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Glastonbury Through The Eyes of a Virgin [Jun. 29th, 2010|05:26 pm]
Catherine B
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If Glastonbury came in pill form, it wouldn't be weed or coke or herbal highs, it would be the best and most powerful antidepressent in the world. It breathes happiness, the atmoshphere so relaxed and unassuming and the music, despite being the main ingredient, only highlights the gorgeousness of what Worthy Farm becomes for five magical days.

I was less than a twinkle in my father's eye when Glastonbury began and grew into what it is now. It is not my place to write about the choice of bands or the ethos, I cannot comment on how the festival has changed over the years or whether that is a good or a bad thing. I live in the here and now and experienced Glastonbury with that view - the only comparisons I could make were not historical, but geological, having been to festivals in Leeds (bad), Holland (pretty damn good) and Belgium (all good too). After Leeds, I turned into a European festival convert, but thought I would give Glastonbury a go, just to see if the hype was true before I committed to a life of travelling overseas to get my annual festival fix. It turns out that old idea that Glastonbury is the best festival in the world is in fact, so true.

I found it hard to believe that some reviewers could pick out as many negatives as they did, as for me the only downfalls were inevitable but painful clashes, dust inhalation, unsuccessful 'shade-searching' which resulted in a pair of very burnt lips and only one awful performance - that of poor Kate Nash. I'll get the bashing out of the way:
I have had a thing about Kate Nash the second I heard the lyric "You said I must eat so many lemons, 'cause I am so bitter. I said "I'd rather be with your friends mate, cause they are much fitter". You understand. We arrived at the Other Stage regretably early and were forced to overhear most of her set - a yappy dog mashed up with a skwarking, dying parrot having an argument with an angry cockney. Not nice, not nice at all, but at least it proved that I was correct in casting her off a long time ago.

Everything else was mindboggling in every way that anything can boggle the mind. My eyes never stopped darting about - bright colours, flowers, creations, beauty and madness everywhere you look. Who needs LSD? There is no way that I can possibly capture just how perfect and wonderful it all looked and felt, from watching the sunset and rise at the Stone Circle to strolling around GreenFields, dancing by fires with strangers at Avalon and waking up after using an unneeded welly as a pillow to singing 'Waterloo Sunset' at the top of my voice all alone in the crowd, letting go of all inhibitions and almost crying at the sight of so many hundreds of children enjoying themselves in the idyllic Kidz Field. I can't squeeze it all in, I just cannot, but I'm trying - do forgive me.

Onto the music. Kate Nash aside, everything I saw was really, really good. I began with a little-known band from East Van in Canada, Blackberry Wood. Nice chaps (and lady), complete with a mop for a bass. They played in the bandstand and managed by the end of their playfully chaotic to get all their audience on their backs kicking legs everywhere - a fantastic start. Next up on my new found favourite list is one that have been around since 2003 but, despite my love of Scottish accents, have bypassed me. Frightened Rabbit played to a scorched audience and I fell in love with them as they ended their set by pelting out "It takes more than fucking someone You don't know to keep warm", the anthemic chorus to 'Keep Yourself Warm'. Stunning stuff. Other highlights bandwise included Florence and the Machine (despite sound problems, she shined and proved herself Pyramid Stage-worthy for next year), The Temper Trap (Dougy Mandagi has the most beautiful voice, often nodding to the soft, high sound produced by Jonsi of Sigur Ros), a glimpse of Laura Marling's secret set and I danced my face off to Editors, who pleasingly played plenty of songs from their debut album - brilliant crowdpleasers with the odd special gem thrown in for good measure. Other less 'obvious' music came from the 'Come and Play' tent, a sort of wierd, crazy jamming session that encouraged passers-by to join in - interesting results, progressively messy throughout the day.

The talking points, aside from the weather (yawn), centred around the 'special guests' (completely gutted that I missed out on Thom Yorke's set at The Park) and of course the headliners and other big names on the Pyramid Stage. Snoop Dogg ruled the crowd and got us all built up for a Friday night of high energy music, he certainly knows how to get Glastonbury going, mainly by yelling out "Who likes to smoke Weeeed?". Rapturous all around. Vampire Weekend followed and I heard them sounding right on form from my tent as I fuelled up on hot wine and gathered a few layers for the night ahead. Dizzee Rascal wowed everyone and undoubtedly earned huge amounts of respect and new fans as he incorporated the iconic 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' amongst a set full of his own hits and welcomed Florence Welch onto stage to perform 'You've got the Dizzee Love'. Many would have you believe that Gorillaz failed to live up to high expectations, and although I was forced to miss out on The Flaming Lips in order to see them, intrigue turned into enjoyment as I danced my way through their set. It possibly didn't quite live up to the hype, but unlike many, I found them decent enough to stick with it, and by the end they were on it. Still, after watching highlights of Flaming Lips I do think a wrong decision was made just that once.

Saturday night ended with Muse filling Glastonbury with some of the best live music I have ever heard. Matt Bellamy was quite obviously in his element as the masses sang along to a string of elongated versions of all the hits, a perfect mix of old and new - a bit of Origin of Symmetry always goes down well. The Edge made a fleeting visit and together they played 'Where the Streets Have No Name' - it should have been a highlight but for me it had to be 'Plug in Baby'. That Matt is a musical genius, don't believe anybody who tells you that Muse are past their best. On the closing night I caught Ray Davies, who again seemed so moved to be up their and that feeling was felt by every member of the audience, repaying him and provoking tears in his eyes as we went mad for his acoustic version of 'Lola'. Faithless absolutely rocked and as for Stevie Wonder - there are no words except legendary. Michael Eavis appeared onto the stage alongside Stevie for a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' - the perfect closing ceremony.

Magical, fantastical, amazing, amazing, amazing. Glastonbury is happiness personified. It has the ability to spread a smile to everybody there, allows you to be anyone you want to be and makes you never, ever want to leave - the prospect of going back to 'real life' was unthinkable. After long days of sun beating down, lying in fields whilst soaking in the atmosphere and the endless music, I felt like sleep was something that was wasted at Worthy Farm and so continued the experience into the night - and the morning. Nothing matters at Glastonbury, every stress is left behind and a peaceful air carries you through the weekend - it goes all too quickly.

Glastonbury, I'll be back if you will have me.

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Stay Together For the Kids... [Jun. 15th, 2010|06:41 pm]
Catherine B
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How about stay together for the parents? The boyfriends? The friends? The employers? The former three are invaluable to me and I would certainly not be here without them - isn't it payback time for all the times they have worried about me, been lied to (and damn well known it), trod on eggshells around me, been patient with me when they wanted to scream? Forget about parents and boyfriends staying strong for me - I have had beyond my fair share of all that. I take and I take and yes, God, I appreciate it more than I could ever put into words, but, excuse my language, it has come to my attention now that I HAVE to start taking responsifuckingbility for myself. Support and love is fantastic, all well and good, but who am I to rely on that amount of compassion and forgiveness for the rest of my life? It should not be something that I either accept or expect. I often find myself wondering why on earth my loved ones have not yet given up on me, left me, even just displayed their anger and frustrations - the answer? They have hope. They have belief. That this is not all there is... that things can, and will change.

Simple movement then - I need to hop on their faith train. I know exactly what I need to do physically, but this is a battle of self belief versus stupidly and rather inexplicabley low self esteem. Change will come from a shift it how I feel over what I do. Motivation is what I need, and I am far too guilty now of sitting around and waiting for something to come to me, waiting for that kick up the arse that never comes until it's too late and I once again find myself stripped of dignity in an Eating Disorder Unit. Like it or not, there is always a choice. From the smallest bite of an apple to full recovery and ignoring all those shitting thoughts that Anorexia keeps telling you - it is all a choice. A bloody hard one, but probably the most important one I will ever make.

They say you can't choose your family, they're stuck with me, with all of this. Others can walk away. Just as I have the choice to make the effort to change my ways, many of my loved ones have the choice to put up with the moody, irritable, constantly tired, lying cow that my Eating Disorder often turns me into; or they can say they have had enough and leave. I can't believe that none of them have, but I do know that now, after years and years of my (what should, to me, be) intolerable behaviour, I can see cracks. Cracks grow. I need some form of recovery-flavoured polyfiller before it is too late.

Behaviour B&Q, here I come.
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Anorexia Bites Back [Jun. 14th, 2010|07:02 pm]
Catherine B
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Ding Ding, round I-have-no-idea-lost-count-years-ago.

You probably guessed - I haven't posted about my own 'issues' for quite a while now... and why? Clue: It's not because I'm doing amazingly well, maintaining a healthy weight and entirely happy with my life. The last thing I want to do here is come across as 'woe is me', so permission granted to slap your screen with a wet fish if you sense an ounce of self-pity.

The downward slope is so deceptively gradual. Relapse is not a click of the fingers, the flick of a switch. It creeps up on you slowly, allowing you to kid yourself and reassure yourself into thinking it will all still be ok - tomorrow will be better. It never is. Despite all this though, you remain aware, in my case hyperaware, of the shadows, the grey area, the feeling in your gut that at some point, something has to change whether you like it or not.

This is life, not a soap opera or a massively edited documentary. Meaning - the changes are not drastic. As far as I am aware, any weight I have lost is not all that noticable or obvious (but what do I know? My perception is not exactly trustworthy). It doesn't go from eating 6 times a day to living off a non-fat yoghurt and an apple within a week. It's the little things, avoidance, fear, old habits such as using the same utensils, sitting in the same place to eat, not wanting to be seen eating in public... the list goes on and is different for all of us. But we know - try as we might to deny that recovery is slipping away through stringy fingers - we know.

The boy knows. He says he cannot watch me self-destruct like this, not again. He wants us to be happy, and that can only happen if I make serious changes - way beyond eating... I need to love myself to be able to make the next move in whatever my life holds for me. Big thought. Hard thought. I fear I am incapable of accepting myself, nevermind loving myself. Any advice on that would go down a treat.

No final thoughts - just a boring little update on the boring little bitch that is Anorexia.
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Please Don't Jump [Jun. 13th, 2010|09:12 pm]
Catherine B
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Post Secret is an ongoing mail art project, created by Frank Warren, in which people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Being the nosey/interested individual that I am, I read through the new set of secrets every Sunday.

This postcard was posted last week and tugged at heartsrings the world over. A group was set up immediately on Facebook and now has over 55,000 members - all in support of a complete stranger. 

Post Secret today announced,
In seven days over 50,000 of you joined an online community offering encouragement and help.

Today (Sunday) at noon hundreds are meeting on the Golden Gate Bridge to take a stand against suicide at the very place where it happens most in the world. (You're invited, look for the yellow balloons and ribbons).

This hopeful story has received international press coverage including this first report on Time Magazine's NewFeed.

I haven't heard from the person who mailed this postcard, but I have heard from many who have felt lifted by this flashmob of kindness."

Now, call me cheesey, but this display of people reaching out, caring for someone, for a stranger, for a cause, makes me feel rather tingly. I choose that word because no other fits. I am such a cynic, so negative in my opinions of mankind in general that I feel foreign to this heartwarming reaction - restoring just a little hope that there is good in this world. It's sad really, I shouldn't feel like a weak person just because I am moved by something - but it only goes to show what an impact this had on me, something powerful enough to crack my stubborn shell. All a mush now.

Forget about me, what of the person who wrote in? Nobody knows. Perhaps we never will. I hope that somewhere, that person will have seen the response and be overwhelmed enough to reach out - but my pessimistic little gut tells me otherwise. I hope I am wrong.

Either way, this stranger has left a mark. That postcard is representational of all those who are/have been/are affected by suicide - more people than I care to imagine. The comments, gestures and pictures posted in response will no doubt resonate with and speak to thousands. If it didn't work for the author, I'm positive it will work for someone - bittersweet.
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Eat Less [Jun. 3rd, 2010|07:54 pm]
Catherine B
Thanks, Urban Outfitters:

#irresponsible idiots
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Signing off... [May. 27th, 2010|11:01 pm]
Catherine B
for a while. Keep well.
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