Sunday, 6 August 2017


See previous instalments here: FIVE, FOUR, THREE and THIS one. The article I refer to is HERE

This anniversary post has been a little late in making an appearance. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to make an anniversary post as I have done for the last three years but somehow not acknowledging it didn't feel right either.

But anyway, here we are. I'm pleased to say that I've made it to another year of being self harm free. We can now say that I've been self harm free for more than half a decade, which sounds a lot grander than just saying "six years" so just let me roll with that.

In all honesty, the reason why this post is later than normal and why it's been harder to write than usual is because I nearly didn't make it to six years. This year life really got on top of me and I felt like I was loosing my grip on it. It's been the closest I have ever come to relapsing and starting that awful twisted cycle all over again.

I'm back in counselling/therapy. It was the only thing I could think of to help me stay on track. I've been to three sessions so far and I'm booked in on a weekly basis for all of August.

My counselling sessions have been exhausting but enlightening all at the same time, which is a difficult combination because it all feels a little overwhelming. I've realised that part of my sinking feelings and lack of control are heightened partially by the big song and dance that I make each year about my recovery.

The article that I did with the national newspaper of Wales and these posts means that at times, when I'm down and close to relapsing, I feel like a fraud. I put forward this image of having my shit together and being past it, when in reality I'm not. I felt like I set a standard and I didn't want to disappoint or let people down.

The counselling has helped because I'm coming to accept that my self harm will always be with me. I had previously hoped that by going to therapy and by doing the article, that my self harm issue was a closed chapter, that it was over. But that's not the case. Now I'm almost comfortable knowing that this can't be 'fixed' and that spending time fighting and pretending it can go away is just time wasted.

My scars continue to fade and time does continue to heal me, sometimes with more success than other times. But the flip side of time is that as I said last year, the further I get from the last time I hurt myself the harder it sometimes becomes to remember that this was something I lived through, that it actually happened. That it's not just a bad dream.

Going back to a therapist initially felt like I was waving the white flag of surrender, that I couldn't do it alone anymore. Obviously I know that's not the case. It doesn't make me weak and it doesn't mean I've failed.

I'm approaching the future with some trepidation. A big fear for me is meeting someone and having to explain this part of me. Because that's what this is, this is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It's not like a broken bone, which once fixed you can take the cast off. I worry it will push someone away, because I'm always going to have to keep a vigilant eye on my mental health. I'm in this for life, and that can make me difficult to be around. I don't expect my future partner to save or fix me, but all I really want is understanding and support. We'll see.

But I'm also approaching the future with timid hope. I got this far, I will get even further. Now that I've accepted counselling as a stepping stone, it can only get better and I can only start to feel stronger mentally.

The best thing I ever did was ask for help. It was so hard back then, and it was just as hard this year. But I was so tired of fighting this alone, and now I'm not.

I know life isn't always going to be this way, I won't always feel like I'm fighting against the current, I won't always feel like my mind is letting me down. I hope that next year, when I get to seven years I will be in a better place and that I have learnt how to move on to the next stage of my life.

There is so much to be happy about and life is for living after all.

"They told me life is tough, I told them I was tougher"

Support for dealing with self harm, whether you personally struggle with it or know someone who does can be found here:

Mind | Heads Above The Waves | The Samaritans | Befrienders (worldwide)

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Sunday, 30 July 2017

Back To Counselling

I've never made a secret of the fact that I have been in counselling. 

I started seeing someone in 2010 for about 20 sessions spread out over a year and a half. Speaking to a professional in my early twenties really helped me work through some issues that I'd locked up in a box and tried to ignore. 

But that help has only got me so far. Over the last few months I've felt that I've been unravelling slowly, and then suddenly all at once. 

My grandmother passed away unexpectedly in March and that really set that descent off. I've felt stuck in a rut professional and personally. Hitting 26 years old was also profoundly underwhelming and I have this irrational fear that for some reason my time seems to be running out in the sense that I feel like there's so much more I should be achieving by now and before 30 comes knocking. Like I said, irrational.

In the 7 years since my counselling sessions I feel like I've forgotten the coping techniques I was taught and this year especially I've struggled very hard with not relapsing to self harm. This year is my 6 year self harm free anniversary and being frank, I nearly didn't make it. 

That frightened me. I make a big song and dance about my recovery anniversaries, and this year I feel a bit like a fraud. I came so close to relapsing and felt so out of control that the only thing I could think of doing, besides relapsing was to seek help again. I'm not even sure in the end what made me keep it together and not relapse, but I came so close it really frightened me. People say that I'm strong and brave but the truth is, the last few months I've felt far from it and I don't want to let people down.

Going back to seeing a counsellor initially felt like a defeat. I'd managed this long and thought that I'd worked through my issues by myself. I thought my mind and I were finally back on track and that those chapters of my life were closed, finished, done and dusted. Clearly not. That was disappointing to me. I've always been independent and done things by myself, to accept that I needed help again was a tough pill to swallow. 

Obviously I know that asking for help doesn't make me weak or that I've failed. I know that counselling is an emotional and rational 'top up'  that I need but taking that first step was hard. I cried after I sent the counselling appointment request email, but I'm exhausted of fighting this by myself. I put so much effort into putting a brave face on and pretending that I was fine, when in fact I was exhausted and just not myself.

I'm in a very privileged position where I can afford to pay for the counselling myself, and I've gone privately rather than through the NHS (National Health Service for you non Brits). I had previously spoken with my GP about getting counselling through the NHS but was told that because I wasn't an urgent case, that I could be waiting up to 6 months for an appointment. I'm so lucky that I can pay for these sessions myself, but it breaks my heart to know how stretched the system is and how difficult getting help is for those who can't go down the private route.

I've had two sessions so far and am booked in for a weekly session for the foreseeable future. 

My second counselling session already touched on a few nerves, in fact I was so emotionally exhausted after it that it took me a whole day to recover. We're digging up some old deep roots and it's tough. All my issues and challenges are one big spiderweb, it feels like I pick up on one thread of the web and understand it by itself, but it's attached to so many other threads that I get caught up in them that it's hard to know where to start. 

My biggest worry is that I will always feel like I'm damaged goods, but even if that's the case I hope that my counselling sessions will help me be at peace with that.

Accepting that I needed to go back to counselling was the hardest thing I've had to do in recent times, but I know that means I'm ready to fight. After all it can only help me get back on track and feel truly like myself again.

"Tough times never last, but tough people do."

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Nina Eats - Brunch at Jamie's

Possibly to the disappointment of my personal trainer, brunch and breakfasts foods are a staple in my life. So when the invite from Jamie's Italian came to try out their newly launched brunch menu I instantly cleared my calendar.

I usually don't come into Cardiff city centre on a weekend, it tends to be too busy for my taste but when my friend Steph and I went everyone was in the pub watching the Lions game.

Jamie's has a fantastic location, it's situated right on The Hayes near Cardiff Central Library. It's great for people watching and you can also sit outside (weather depending). It was fairly quiet when Steph and I arrived, to be fair as I said the Lions game kept everyone in the pub. In summer Cardiff gets a large inflicting of visiting hen and stag dos so I can imagine that there's a large customer base that is in disrepute 'morning after the night before' feeding.

In terms of what's on offer, Jamie's isn't re-inventing the wheel. There are 3 pan cooked breakfasts on offer, 2 breakfast sandwiches, 2 'classic dishes' and a side of fruit. It's pretty much all staple ingredients that you expect to find on a breakfast menu. 

I think I was expecting something a little more inventive from Jamie, but when breakfast is done right it doesn't need to be fussy.

Steph and I kicked things off with a mimosa and made our choices. The staff were attentive and we got seen to very speedily.

Steph went for The Fully Monty whilst I went for the avocado on toast with a bonus side of 'market fruit'. 

When my avocado on toast arrived it was served with a fried egg rather than the prescribed preached egg as stated on the menu, but this got rectified immediately when I pointed it out. 

Steph's not a fan of black pudding so she was given some replacements in the form of extra sausages and bacon which she let me poach some of.  I can confirm that the sausages were delicious, as a German this is something I'm very particular about. The golden potatoes were also a nice touch and very tasty.

My avocado on toast was just as it should have been, fresh and creamy avocado served on delicious toasted sourdough bread. I also added a rasher of bacon which was superbly crispy and the small additional of greenery was also a nice touch.

I've been to Jamie's Italian a few times and one of my gripes is a small one but I always struggle with some of the ambiance. The restaurant is pretty big, and so when it's not busy it feels very empty. It doesn't help that the choice of music is very much chart music, which doesn't add much atmosphere.

Breakfast in Cardiff is now getting pretty competitive, there are lots of places mere metres from Jamie's that also offer a similar menu. But Jamie's has a good grasp on the prices on the menu so a visit here won't break the bank and the service I've experienced has always been good. Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am. I was initially a bit surprised at how early things wrap up for breakfast, but the kitchen needs enough time to prep their extensive fresh menu for the lunch and dinner services.

My small gripes aside, I enjoyed our visit. It's always good to have a number of breakfast options and you're not likely to be disappointed in your food at Jamie's.

I was invited to eat at Jamie's but all thoughts and opinions are my own

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