Thursday, 11 October 2018

10 Things to say to People with Depression and Anxiety

Unless you've been living under goosegog bush you may be aware it was World Mental Health Day yesterday. A time for us to celebrate our unusual, quirky and at times derailing traits that are all part and parcel of being a warm, complex, intelligent human being.

As someone who's had clinical depression and anxiety on and off my entire adult life, I salute you my mental health compadres and healers. From the people who need to switch off a light switch 10 times before they leave the house, to the depressed, gentle souls contemplating walking into the English Channel to be subsumed (I have a friend who did this, he clung to a buoy for an hour and is still with us fortunately), your mental health issues are part of you, they are you. Though they may make you want to turn the light out one last time, they are also part of your story and your strength.

I've had panic attacks at work - to the point my hands went numb and the Financial Director walked into to find me bashing at a phone keypad like Flipper - at home, at other people's homes, on planes and on a National Express coach from Leeds to London. I've huffed into paper bags in Sainsbury's car park and in my kitchen at 2am. It's ok. My weird and wonderful brain is a bag of stuff, imagination, memories, thoughts, fears - real and unreal.

If you share a world with someone with severe anxiety or depression, or have a friend or colleague that is struggling, it can be hard to know what to say.

I've put together 10 things people with anxiety and depression might like to hear to help them roll with the punches.

  • Why don’t you go and curl up in bed for a while?
  • Fancy a cuppa?
  • Your points were really valuable in that meeting
  • You’re a really good friend
  • I was thinking about you earlier and...
  • We’re only going to stay for a few minutes (and then we can go)
  • Do you want to go to the cinema? (Dark, no eye contact, no talking, yes please!)
  • There’s the toilet (Toilets are our friends)
  • Do you want to talk?
  • I understand.
 I know, it's been ages right? How's it going? Please leave your message below.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Five reasons your siblings are your best friends

Siblings: your partners in crime, companions and, sometimes, your kryptonite. They’ve been shinning up the tree of life with you from day one, hiding under the bed until the arguments stop and counting the street lights until you reach your destination.

Here are five reasons your siblings are your best friends.                          

They’re your best friend for life.
Like so many sibling relationships, you may have grown up detesting each other but with the onset of adulthood often comes an unbreakable bond. Not only is it a hard won relationship – you still bear the scars from your biggest fights - it’s one you will cherish for the rest of your life.  

They understand you like no-one else.
Your sibling is your mirror. They’ve seen you naked – literally and metaphorically. They’ve caused you to behave your worst and encouraged you to be your best.  They’ve made you wail harder than you’ve wailed in your life and they’ve made you laugh until tears rolled down your cheek and a responsible adult had to intervene.  Whether you haven’t spoken in a week or a year, you know that your sibling will ‘get you’ like no partner, parent or friend could.                        
Alena Hall’s article Proof There’s Nothing Like a Sibling Bond, describes this connection as ‘the comfort felt when you sit in the same room with your brother and sister, in pure silence, yet you both know how the other is feeling.”      

They still see you as a child.
Having grown up together, you still see each other as the children you were, from the cheeky five-year-old scaling fences to the quietly nervous 12-year-old starting secondary school.

Seeing and knowing your brother or sister’s internal child – their vulnerabilities and strengths- underpins your sense of mutual understanding in adulthood. Furthermore, hearing about a sibling’s triumphs and failures in adulthood is as likely to provoke the same powerful emotions you felt in childhood.   

Matt Ward, 35, brother of 32 year-old Colm, says: “ If Colm gets a new job, I know he struggled at school so it feels great. If I’m honest it can even raise feelings of old sibling rivalry. Equally, if he tells me someone has let him down or hurt him in some way, I want to punch their lights out!”

They’re going to need you one day and you’re going to need them.
It doesn’t matter if you only see each other at Christmas or your sibling is your best-friend; you both know you will need each other’s support at some point. 
Even if you’ve fallen out and haven’t spoken in decades, you can guarantee that on your death-bed you will think about your brothers or sisters. Those thoughts might be of regret or even of love but they will never be thoughts of hate.

They know. They just know.
We are all a collection of things; we are the history of ourselves and the history we tell ourselves. Your siblings know exactly who you are, where you came from and what you did growing up. They know your relationship with your parents, your circle of friends and your tricky first loves. They know you were afraid of the dark, how you secretly filled your jacket potato with peas and that it was actually you that smashed the green house door.  They could call your BS then and they can do it now. This sibling spider-sense means you can never hide anything. A tone of voice, a shift of the eye and you’re busted mister.  The good news is that usually what goes on in siblings-ville, stays in siblingsville. It’s just the rules.   


Friday, 9 October 2015

10 Reasons the School Run Sucks

I was inducted into the dark world of the school run a little over a year ago. If I’d have known what I know now, I sometimes wonder whether I’d have joined the motherhood at all.

Ha! 'Weakling arse badger' you think. Hashtag cocking ‘first world problems’ you blast. Well, please, let me introduce you to 10 terrifying secrets of the school run.

1. Let’s play a gameIt doesn't matter where your little darling's school is located, inner city London or two down from a vacant cow field, there is, and never will be, enough parking. 

Like a sadistic game straight from Saw's Jigsaw, you can hear the words: ‘Hello Parents, I want to play a game. There are four parking spaces to 150 of you...’

2. Breaking the law  Dropping and collecting your child at school will cause you to break the law. 

I’ve done and witnessed countless criminal acts in the bid to catapult my child through the gates before the second bell of doom. Including, pavement parking, off-roading, traffic cone removing and – yes I’m guilty - the tossing aside of large rocks, logs and other detritus residents put on verges to prevent parents parking outside their property. 

If it can be moved, it will be moved motherf*cker.

3. Five-minute meltdownThere is no way to avoid the five-minute meltdown before you leave the house to do the school run. You can try but it won’t happen. 

I’ve woken up half an hour earlier, showered the night before, set out my child's school uniform in the shape of a small human, time travel - nothing works. The last five minutes before you leave the house will always descend into a screamy, stompy rapid fire question round:  ‘Where’s your tie? Oh my god, where is it? Where are your shoes? Put them on. For God's sake, why’s there toothpaste on your jumper? Wait, don’t move, there’s a pterodactyl in your hair.’

The five-minute meltdown pretty much always spills out onto the street at the exact moment your neighbour decides to faff about with their green bin.

5. School run buddies Like all new journeys in life, starting school, going to uni etc. the school run requires you to buddy up to make it through. 

A quick word of warning. Choose your school run chums carefully. These people will see you for 20-minutes twice a day at your best and your worst for the next seven years. 

In just 12-months my school run buddies have seen me hungover, emotional, giddy, sick, with make-up, without make-up, make-up on my forehead, teary and elated. The good news is this crash course in bonding means you've probably made friends for life. Or blackmailers - it just depends how you look at it.  

6. Judgey, judgey  – The playground is a cold, unforgiving environment. Because you don’t know people’s names the labelling starts very early on. For example, in my circle, there’s ‘Fruit shoot Mum’,‘Loomy Dad’ and I’m ashamed to say ‘Hooters Mum’ who has a habit of wearing crop tops irrespective of climate or occasion. Just know that they all have names for you too and you’ll all get along fine.
7. It will make you cry – Sometimes this fraught, time-sensitive journey will reduce you to tears. 

I had my first Michael Douglas Falling Down moment a few weeks ago. I was late, stuck in traffic when a school coach wedged me in. The coach driver grumpily ushered me to reverse back along a road lined with parked cars. It was too much. I knew I was in the wrong but I rolled down my window and loaded 12 barrels of f-you in his direction. Then I cried.

8. You will see dead things – At some point you will see something dead on the school run. 

Pheasants, rabbits and badgers have a habit of dying on verges in the early hours. This means early decomposition coincides perfectly with your morning walk to school. Be prepared for lots of questions and even curious stick poking. 

9. Dads on the school run – In 2016, Dads doing the school run is a very normal occurrence.  However, Dads tend to have their own set of rules which I quite admire. They operate on the periphery, like lone wolves in North Face Jackets. They don't engage in small talk about nits or dick about under the shelter pretending to read their phone. A common technique is to rock up at the last minute, walk in confident, avoid all eye-contact, grab the kid and get hell out of dodge. That's it - in and out, without so much as a f*ckety-bye.   

10. All weathers - It doesn’t matter what the weather is doing because your child’s school will have its own micro-climate. 

Prepare for rain and the playground becomes a back-sweat inducing sun-trap, prepare for sun and torrential rain will ensue. My advice is wear waders with everything.
School run fun? What’s your experience? Also if you like this please share the love, innit. 

Friday, 5 June 2015

This is f****** 40

So, the big 40 happened. What did I expect? To feel joyful that I had reached this milestone? To look at my gorgeous husband and daughter and feel immensely thankful? To wake up, stretch, hungry to know what adventures the next decade has in store?

No. I felt shit-house miserable.

As a child if I heard someone was 40, I imagined they were basically Skeksis from the Dark Crystal - hairless, sinewy-looking vultures, gasping for a fresh slug of Podling blood to renew their life force.  If you were 40, you were essentially the walking dead.       

40 is an unmapped territory.

In your 20s and 30s it’s acceptable to slam jaegar bombs on a week day, flip flap from job to job, try on different boyfriends and friends for size, dip your toes in all of life’s various glorious pots.  But a 40-year-old doing this? Heaven forbid, you’re an adult with responsibilities, plus that subscription to Good House Keeping isn’t going to pay for itself, is it?    

There are lots of things about turning 40 that have made me feel uncomfortable, here’s a few:

What the f*** happens next? In your twenties and thirties there’s a big old, exciting to-do list of activities – finish your education, find a job, sleep with the boss, find another job, secure somewhere sensible to live with a cat flap, find a partner, find another partner, find the one, and if you like and can, have a baby. But your 40s? So far on the horizon I see paying bills, raising your kid(s) and finding cheap holidays during the school holidays. I mean, really?       

Looks – 40 is a funny one in terms of looks. The gloss of youth not quite faded but the wobbly edges of ageing starting to set in. You look in the mirror at home and think you’re still wolf-whistle worthy, only to catch sight of your reflection in the car window and wonder where Gary Busey popped up from.

I want to embrace ageing in a wholesome, wear lots of black, Goldie Hawn kind of way, yet at the same time something in me is resisting – and not enjoying – looking older.  I loathe the ageism you see, especially the items so viciously directed at slating a women’s appearance.

Poor Felicity Kendal was given a saber-toothed tear down in the Mail recently – her only crime, to be and look 68, apparently.  What do you do? You’re lambasted for trying to look younger, yet everywhere you look, the media tells you to worship the cult of youth.      

I’ve spoken to a few friends about the ‘invisibility phenomena’, and how once you hit your late thirties you start to feel invisible to the opposite sex.  In my twenties, all bosoms and bravado, I could sense a pheromone ‘prickle’ when I walked up to the bar, now I’m grateful for the wistful gaze of an older gentleman carrying his wife’s handbag in the fruit and veg section of Sainsbury’s. 

People say it’s about feeling comfortable or confident in your own skin, but if your skin is going south, who feels ‘better?’.  I don’t see my elderly aunt stripping down to her undercrackers in celebration of her crags and crinkles every five-minutes? In fact, most of the elderly women I know sadly operate at the edges of life - beetling in and out of shops as soon as they open and averting your gaze - it’s like they don’t want to be seen. 

Jon Stewart made the point brilliantly in his piece about Bruce Jenner coming out as ‘Caitlyn’. As a man he was referred to in terms of his athletic achievements. As a woman, all the media can talk about is whether they’d 'give him one.’ Women's worth being defined by their ‘bangability’ in 2016. Sheesh.        

Fashion – I’m finding my forties a fashion no (wo)man’s land.  I’ve kissed goodbye to River Island and its skinny jeans and stringy things held together with gold safety pins. I’ve sacked off Top Shop for making too many square clothes – these are fine on whippet thin teenage girls - on a 40-year-old woman you look like Mr Strong. So now I’m left with Zara – the boho garments not the leather panelled jeggings – and *whispers quietly* the slightly trendier section of M&S.

Revealing flesh is a conundrum too. In your twenties boobs are gravity defying flesh Zeppelins, in your thirties they are udders, in your forties, well, as one 45-year-old friend put it, like ‘tangerines in a rubber sock’.  

And knickers. Now I’m 40 the thong years are well and truly behind me. It’s all about the ‘harvest festivals’ – all is safely gathered in. And belts. I’ve seen so much pale bum cleavage from Mums bending over to pick up dropped toys/adjust the buggy in the past few years that the humble belt has become a wardrobe staple.

Health – Turning 40 has made me evaluate my health and the outlook isn’t brilliant. In fact, on my current trajectory I should probably have put a down payment on a wicker burial casket in 1995.
The last time I did aerobics I was 16, I drink at least twice the recommended  booze limit - putting the blue bin out is my bi-weekly walk of shame – and, sometimes, I eat Monster Munch for breakfast.  
When I bend down I say ‘uh’ and if I’m tickled it physically hurts. Need I say more?

There are positives of turning 40, of course.   

I’m not a shy Bambi in meetings any more. I can book a holiday. I can eat an olive without spitting it out. I have a brilliant freelance career and a husband and daughter who I love to the moon and back. I’m also reminded every day to count my blessings - some of my friends didn’t even make it to 35, let alone 40.

I’m still here and life is unfolding as it should. And when the time comes and I’m more crabstick than crumpet I’ll gently remind myself that no-one is promised tomorrow.     

What’s your experience of turning 40?           


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Think you're ready to be a Parent? Take this quiz to find out if you're really ready for a baby!

You've bought the cot, washed the teeny tiny baby grows in Fairy non-bio and read What to Expect When You're Expecting from cover-to-cover but are you really ready for the joys of parenthood?

Having been there and bought the posset-stained t-shirt, I have put together 10 scenarios to help you find out.

Enjoy! And if you like, please share with your soon-to-be-parent and parent friends. They could probably do with a laugh. Thank you.

Scenario 1: Taking a pregnancy test


1.    Pick up pregnancy test.
2.    Select other random items such as wine, condoms and WD40 to confuse cashier.
3.    Take test.
4.    Stare unblinking into middle distance for ten-minutes.
5.    Prepare dinner.


1.     Carry on as usual until you hear a shriek.
2.     Stare unblinking into middle distance for next 18 years.

Scenario 2: Two weeks before the birth

1. Carefully pack overnight bag with essential items for you and baby. 
2. Re-pack overnight bag, marvelling at your preparedness and forward-thinking.
3. Erase all memory of overnight bag.

1. Step over partner’s overnight bag in hallway.
2. Go to partner’s drawers.
3. Put oldest and most inappropriate underwear (anything red and black or adorned with Nat's Hen Party Magaluf 'On it 'til we vomit' 2010 is good) into a Tesco carrier bag.
4. Take to hospital.    

Scenario 3: Birth Day

1. Put on an outfit you might wear when you are bedridden with Norovirus.
2. Eat some very out-of-date food.
3Use your largest mixing bowl as a portable vomit urn.
4. Attempt to dry shave legs and make important telephone calls between disabling stomach cramps.
5. Ask partner to drive you to a destination 10-minutes away.
6. Try not to vomit, defecate, or punch anyone in the face during the journey.

Scenario 4: Prepare for the magical time at home following your little one’s birth by:

1. Not opening the curtains, putting out any kind of bin for two weeks, forgetting to feed the dog and filling your hallway with empty cardboard boxes.
2. Sleeping for only 40-minutes a night.
3. Throwing a party inviting all your closest friends, relatives, neighbours and some people you have never spoken to, ever, from work. Do not give a start time.

Scenario 5: Operating a baby car seat 

1. You can simulate the precision required to connect the buckles of a baby’s car seat by asking NASA if you can practise the pilot-controlled Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) docking procedure.   

Time allowed before deep space meltdown: two-minutes.

Scenario 6: Technology

Are you ready to share your cutting-edge gadgets with a small child? 

1. Mobile phones – Alternate between dunking in toilet water and orange juice every three days. Delete all contacts apart from your manager’s mobile number. Call this repeatedly. If someone answers, rustle paper and make ‘ba ba’ noises until they swear and hang up. 

2. Tablets – Remove all protective covering. Smear with honey, Sudocrem and body fluids.

Download European apps of singing vegetables at a £1-a-go. Do not stop until your bank makes contact about unauthorised overdraft fees. 

3. DVD players – Break off all small doors. Jam jigsaw pieces and sausage rolls into holes where doors used to be.

4. Favourite DVDs  and CDs – Decorate with felt tip. Now use them as ice skates.    

Scenario 7: Train Journeys  

You can recreate the awkwardness of getting a small child in a buggy onto public transport by placing a chimp in a supermarket trolley.

1. Pick the train time you want to get. Don’t get this. Or the next one. Watch the one after that pull away.

2. On train, put your chimp trolley directly in the path of anyone entering or exiting train.

3. Half way, announce loudly that you need a poo and that it's coming right now.

4. Make remaining train journey without chimp eating ticket, cramming face between headrests or becoming the focus of everyone in the carriage.  

Scenario 8: Childhood Illness

If you are an ‘I haven’t been to the Doctor since I was a nipper’ type of person, you’re about to get reacquainted with your GP; Kids are one-stop-disease-shops. 

Points to remember:

1. Expect a contagion outbreak every other day. From the common cold to thread worm, kids’ illnesses are the gifts that keep on giving.  

2. Despite brand new immune systems, a child with Chicken Pox will usually be back to their bouncy self in two to three days. You, however, will be flat out for two weeks, mentally divvying up your possessions between friends and family in between death throws.

Scenario 9: Lifts

Think calling a lift is easy? This is how toddlers like to roll:

1. Call the lift.
2. Press the button ten times until it jams.
3. Call the other lift. 
4. Wait until doors open, bounce through gap and ricochet off walls.
5. Press lift intercom.
6. Ask Security if they are Buzz Lightyear.
7. Grin, point at or poke adult of your choice for duration of journey.

Scenario 10: Questions

The good thing is you have about three years before children can articulate. 

It is essential you use this time to research the bigger religious, political and social questions because very soon you will have your own mini Jeremy Paxman shadowing and barking questions at you every minute of every day.  

Common themes include:

Death: what is it?

Sex: what is it?

God: what is it?

Prepare for any answer you give to be followed by ‘why?’ and any subsequent discussion to end with ‘because it just does’.  

Right, any questions?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

£70-a-week food shop – Are you having a giraffe?

‘Phrrrrt!’ was the noise I made when Ed Miliband claimed he spent £70 on his weekly shop. Out of touch? Just a Lidl.    

The average food bill for a family four is estimated at around £100 a week. As a family of two adults and a small child our weekly grocery shopping regularly hits around the £100 mark.  Not to mention top up trips to Little Tesco.

While a friend of mine with three children under 10 said she was struggling to bring in her weekly shop at under an eye-watering £185.

Ed’s guestimate would be about right if it related to just food, the trouble is there is so much more to a food shop.

A quick review of my receipt yesterday revealed several unexpected items in the bagging area including, a bottle of Southern Comfort (but it has cherry in it), a six pack of nice ‘n’ spicy Nik Naks (they were on offer) and a strawberry chapstick. ('Pur-lease Mummy, I love straw-bees').   

Asda is a particularly dangerous when it comes to picking up every day essentials. 

I go in for a Toastie loaf and come out with two deck chairs and a Godzilla onesie.   

So how do you stick to your shopping guns?

Here’s a few tips for saving lolly on your weekly trolley. 

Vouchers – You know all those wafty bits of paper they hand you when you get your change, some of them are actually fairly decent offers.  Anything from £6 off your next £40 shop (£6 that’s like two bales of toilet rolls!) to bonus club card points, it’s all money, use them!

Shop online – I am a shopper’s dream. No list, just time on my hands and a vague idea that I need to buy some sustenance.  Stop! Shop online - no distractions, no impulse purchases and no kid bribes.

Some supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose offer free delivery slots if you spend a certain amount.  

Meal planning – I am guilty of being a one meal shopper. Yes it’s yawnsome but you’d be amazed by how much you save by planning next week’s meals in advance. 

Meal planning reduces random trips to the supermarket and is a great way to make meals stretch. So if you’re having a chicken roast on Sunday, use the leftovers to make a chicken casserole or chicken goujans the next day. 

Less meat - As my Dad always barked when I was little: 'Eat the meat!'

Meat is the priciest part of the meal. Plan a few meat-free meals every week, such as pasta, jacket potatoes or home made pizza.

‘Whoops’ aisle – Elbows ready! The Whoops aisle is the place for items that’s just about to go out of date or where packaging is slightly damaged.  There are lots of bargains to be had and you can always pop stuff in the freezer to have another day.  Check out Kate Barrett’s blog – who rustles up gourmet meals for just a few pence:

Do you have any ideas for frugal food shopping?

Let me know on here or on Twitter @melissablamey

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Peaches didn’t die of a heroin overdose but a broken heart

The headline that Peaches might have succumbed the same way as her mum, of a heroin overdose, struck more of a chord with me than I would imagine.

Yes, I was as shocked as anyone at Peaches sudden passing but to discover that it might be in the same way as Paula died says much more about Peaches’ state of mind.

To her thousands of Twitter followers Peaches was a wholesome beacon of light, living out the perfect young mum existence, raising two boys, mashing vegetables, walking her dogs, painting Easter eggs. But beneath the veil of home-spun fun life might have been quite different.   

What I have learnt is that becoming a mother doesn't necessarily erase the loss of losing a mother.

I didn't lose my mum to such rock-and-roll circumstances as a heroin overdose but to common, household-name, cancer.

Loss of a parent at any age is visceral and raw but for children and young adults it seems  particularly destructive, leaving many forever weakened and fragile by that loss. 

It’s scary to admit that when I became a mother myself, it helped, but it didn’t heal. In some ways it made the absence more apparent.

In the early days I would see new mums with their mums everywhere. Steering them through the down times, the sleepless nights, the sore bits, the days when they didn’t have time to shower.    

I was fortunate to have a lovely supportive partner. But when I find myself huffing into a paper bag outside Sainsbury’s to stave off another panic attack I wonder, is this me or what happened to mum still?

You see sometimes on the really dark days (luckily these are few and far between), I resonate with those people who are brave enough to square-up to the unknown and slip into a drugged sleep.

I suspect there is nothing afterwards but maybe, just maybe I would get to see my mum again.
I imagine sharing a Guinness with her on a sunny Autumn day. She would probably bark at me 14 years’ worth of stiff talking to.  

Asking why I didn't leave ‘so and so’ sooner, why I still highlight my hair (you’re almost 40), why I wrote such a verbose inscription on her grave (grief does funny things) and, importantly, why I gave her car boot treasure away.

My mum died aged 49 and like many people whose parents have died I expect to die at the stroke of midnight on the same day.  I also think that despite the warnings I am pursuing the same path.

There are many steps I could take to avoid breast cancer and yet here I am, blithely drinking my daily allowance of alcohol, not exercising and rarely checking for lumps and bumps.

Perhaps Peaches was on a sabotage mission too?

In trying to recreate the idyllic childhood she had had and taking thoughtful well planned steps to avoid inflicting the pain she had felt, history repeated itself anyway.
Consciously I want to avoid the same route as my mum’s death; sub-consciously I think there's something darkly comforting suspecting it might be the same.

Whether the cause of Peaches’ death proves to be true or not, I hope that wherever she is she’s at peace. Or enjoying a natter and cold Guinness with Paula.

Good night sweet girl.