THE MAGAZINE DEVOTED TO MENTAL HEALTH
MAY 2019 £4.00
ART BOOK INSIDE! HEALING POWERS OF CREATIVITY REVEALED
+ 1 million followers, Megan Crabbe is reshaping Instagram
RECIPES EXPERT ADVICE MUST-READS
Ruby Wax "Compassion is the glue that makes our lives worth living"
It's time to rethink your words
FLYING? Your passport to freedom could be with hypnotherapy
(This will take off)
Live Truth YOUR
Celebrate self-worth. Every body is beautiful
ULTIMATE ADVENTURES FOR THE MIND 05
Every artist was. f irst an amateur. – RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Photography | Toa Heftiba
Unleash your power Self-doubt is something we can all relate to – whether it’s about the way we look, our ability to do the best job possible, or if we should share our passion with the world.
This month, we are proud to feature some incredible voices encouraging us all to respect, love, and embrace ourselves – even if it’s a work in progress.
It’s easy to get into that negative headspace of questioning ourselves, and wondering whether we are good enough. Of being afraid to speak our mind and let our true selves shine. Whether your passion is politics, social justice, or art, success isn’t measured only by being the best, or creating something revolutionary. Like our hack on recognising your own achievements, there can be enjoyment found in the process. You can learn about yourself from practise and time, not just the result. We don’t have to seek perfection; there is power in breaking free from the limitations of fear, in stepping out of your comfort zone, and embracing the unknown.
From our wonderful cover star Megan Crabbe, aka bodiposipanda, sharing her self-love journey, to the effervescent Dr Rupy Aujla discussing his mission to be “the doctor in everyone’s kitchen”, and the phenomenal Rose McGowan uncovering the true meaning of bravery, we want you to feel emboldened to follow your own path. What these people all have in common is a desire to see change, and finding creative ways to get the ball rolling. You don’t have to be da Vinci, or the next Shakespeare, or Banksy, just find a way to express yourself, even if it’s only for yourself.
Get in touch with us on social media, we love hearing from you!
You’ve got this,
REBECCA THAIR | EDITOR
In this issue EXPERT PANEL
Experts are at the heart of what we do, ensuring we can offer high quality advice that you can be confident in. This month, meet the team of people who have come together to deliver information, guidance and insight throughout this issue
EDITORIAL Rebecca Thair | Editor Kathryn Wheeler | Staff Writer Tia Sinden | Editorial Assistant Keith Howitt | Sub-Editor Fe Robinson | Expert Advisor
MBACP (Accred) BACP Reg Ind
Fe is a psychotherapist and couples counsellor, based in Durham.
Graeme is a counsellor working with both individuals and couples.
BA MA NLP Mstr
Rachel is a life coach encouraging confidence and motivation.
Susan is a nutrition coach, food writer, and vegan chef.
BA PgDip MNCS (Snr Accred)
BA MSc BACP
Laurele is a counsellor and trainer specialising in relationships.
Lee is psychotherapist, and clinical director of The London Practice.
Amy-Jean Burns | Art Director Charlotte Reynell | Graphic Designer Rosan Magar | Illustrator CONTRIBUTORS Lucy Donoughue, Kat Nicholls, Bonnie Evie Gifford, Becky Wright, Lee Valls, Maxine Ali, Gemma Calvert, Laura Graham, Katie Conibear, Ellen Hoggard, Julia Datt, Pete Ruddy, Mel Bonthuys, Denise Harrison SPECIAL THANKS Joseph Sinclair, Krishan Parmar, Alice Theobald, Susan Hart, Harry Holbrook, Laurele Mitchell, Graeme Orr, Rachel Coffey, Kitty Wallace, Kenny Mammarella-D'Cruz, Peter Thompson, Sarah Lewis, Darren Sleep, Jo Temple, Nichola Rawlings, Emelie Hryhoruk, Melissa Smith COMMUNICATIONS Lucy Donoughue Head of Content and Communications email@example.com Amie Sparrow PR Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
DR RUPY AUJLA
GHR reg SQHP CNHC reg
Dr Aujla is a medical doctor specialising in general practice.
Harry is a senior clinical hypnotherapist using intergrative hypnotherapy.
Aimi Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Emma White | Director & Co-Founder Paul Maunders | Director & Co-Founder Steve White | Finance Director Happiful c/o Memiah, Building 3, Riverside Way Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL
FURTHER INFO Happiful magazine is FSC® certified. Please help us preserve our planet by recycling this magazine. Why not pass on your copy to a friend afterwards? Alternatively, please place it in a recycling bin. Our two-for-one tree commitment is made of two parts. Firstly, we source all our paper from FSC® certified sources. The FSC® label guarantees that the trees harvested are replaced, or allowed to regenerate naturally. Secondly, we will ensure an additional tree is planted for each one used, by making a suitable donation to a forestry charity. Happiful is a brand of Memiah Limited. The opinions,
views and values expressed in Happiful are those of the authors of that content and do not necessarily represent our opinions, views or values. Nothing in the magazine constitutes advice on which you should rely. It is provided for general information purposes only. We do not accept liability for products and/or services offered by third parties. Memiah Limited is a private company limited by shares and registered in England and Wales with company number 05489185 and VAT number GB 920805837. Our registered office address is Building 3, Riverside Way, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 3YL.
Printed by PCP Contact Us email@example.com
FIND HELP Crisis support If you are in crisis and are concerned for your own safety, call 999, or go to A&E Call Samaritans on 116 123 or email them on firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more on other services visit happiful.com/ where-to-gethelp
General listening lines: SANEline SANEline offers support and information from 4.30pm–10.30pm: 0300 304 7000 Mind Mind offers advice Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm except bank holidays: 0300 123 3393. Or email: email@example.com CALM The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a line for men, and is open from 5pm–midnight: 0800 58 58 58 Switchboard Switchboard is a line for LGBT+ support. Open from 10am–10pm: 0300 330 0630. You can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUPPORT FOR EATING DISORDERS Offering a general helpline, as well as a youthline, studentline and free information online, Beat are there for anyone who needs support with eating disorders. Visit beateatingdisorders.org.uk for more.
IN-PATIENT TREATMENT With locations across the UK, the Priory offers in-patient treatment for a range of mental health conditions, from stress to addiction. For more information, visit priorygroup.com
PHOBIA SUPPORT Address your subconscious fears. Connect with a local hypnotherapist to stop fear holding you back. Visit hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk
PANIC AND ANXIETY SUPPORT No Panic have a range of services for those with anxiety and panic disorders, including one-to-one and group sessions, a befriending service, and free information. Visit nopanic.org.uk
OCD AND BDD INFORMATION For more information and support for OCD and BDD, OCD Action offers online resources and a support line. Visit ocdaction.org.uk or call 0845 390 6232
The Uplift 8 In the news 13 The wellbeing wrap 14 What is emotional labour? Uncovering the 'weight' in relationships, and how to adjust the scales
75 Body dysmorphic disorder With help from the BDD Foundation, we find out more about this condition
Features 16 Megan Crabbe
The body positive blogger speaks out about life with anxiety, her experience with anorexia, and embracing the power of self-love
26 Ruby Wax
How mindfulness changed the comedian and activist's life-course
32 Body talk: an endemic
For 90% of people, negative body talk is routine. But it's about time we learned to be kinder to ourselves
85 Art as an outlet
How conversations around mental health have become a work of art
37 Rebuilding a life
44 Spectrum of experiences
A chaotic childhood led Denise to experience depression later in life. But, after help from friends and professionals, she now wants to reach out to others
47 Finding true strength
Pete hid his pain behind a macho mask. It was only when he opened up that he was able to start his journey back to full health
We review the book that explores the spectrum of queer and trans experiences
66 Things to do in May 84 Quickfire: MH matters
63 Time to recover
Severe anxiety and depression made daily life very difficult for Mel. While it wasn't easy, seeking support was the first step to her recovery
A career in modelling put Julia under constant pressure to conform. But when she followed her intuition, she soon found true happiness
Lifestyle and Relationships
READER OFFER Print
31 Adventures for the mind A round-up of five incredible wellness events and retreats
50 Fear of flying
Could hypnotherapy help treat this common phobia? ENTER CODE:
67 Equality for kids
AT THE CHECKOUT
The campaign calling for representation in toys – they're not playing around
70 Rose McGowan
Redefining bravery and empowering us all to make a positive change
For 12 print issues! Pay for 10 months, get 2 free Happiful delivered to your door before it hits the shelves
Celebrate creativity with our craft booklet
UK post and packaging included Competitions and prize draws!
Completely free online Same great content as in print Exclusive offers Competitions!
Food & Drink
56 Healthy Eats
24 Recognise achievements
Cool down with these delicious, nutritious, fruity ice lollies
58 Dr Rupy Aujla
Cooking up a nutritious change with The Doctor's Kitchen
40 Sowing seeds of wellness 54 Night-time panic attacks 78 Preserve empath energy
OUR PLEDGE For every tree we use to print this magazine, we will ensure two are planted or grown. Prices and benefits are correct at the time of printing. Offer expires 20 June 2019. For full terms and conditions, please visit happiful.com
Pigcasso, the surrealist painting phenomenon – and that’s not hogwash!
Rescue pig becomes art prodigy
The Uplift 8 • happiful • May 2019
A rescue pig has taken the art scene by storm after picking up a brush and creating a series of surrealist paintings. The pig, aptly called Pigcasso, was rescued from a slaughterhouse as a piglet, and was taken back to a sanctuary in the Western Cape region of South Africa. Pigcasso’s owner, Joanne Lefson, saw that the sow seemed to want to destroy everything in reach, apart from some paint brushes that had been left in the barn with her. So Joanne gave her some paint to go with them, and it soon became clear that she was dealing with raw artistic talent. The paintings, which are in beautiful, bright pig-ments, have really gone down a treat. Some of her pictures have even sold for just over £3,000 – with all proceeds going to animal welfare projects – and one piece has recently been made into a watch face for Swiss watchmaker Swatch. So if you ever doubted the intelligence of pigs, consider Pigcasso a creative lesson. And that’s the whole hog! Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
People struggling with mental health issues pay up to £1,550 more on bills
Baby’s intuition – it’s not to be laughed at
Vulnerable people are paying more for energy, banking, and telecom services, according to new research
A study from UCLA and New York University has found that babies as young as five months old can tell the difference between laughter shared by friends, and laughter shared by strangers. Gregory Bryant, co-author of the paper and a professor of communication, explains why laughter is key to navigating the social world. “Laughter is an ancient social vocalisation shared with many other mammals, so it makes sense that we see very early emergence of infants’ ability to produce, perceive and understand the signal.” Infants were monitored as they listened to (and then watched) clips of friends laughing together and strangers laughing together. Their attention was held for longer when friends were laughing, indicating that they could differentiate the two (and preferred to listen to friends laughing). This research into laughter is ongoing according to Bryant: “The study of laughter provides a great opportunity to get a window into both human uniqueness, and our evolutionary past.” So if you’re a parent, and ever need an excuse to have some fun and laugh more with friends, this is it. It’s good for your baby’s development, and that’s science. Writing | Kat Nicholls
When you are struggling with your mental health, finding the best deal for various services may be the last thing on your mind. And now, new research from Citizens Advice shows that those with mental health issues are paying an annual ‘mental health premium’ of between £1,100 and £1,550 more for essential services. Urging companies to do more to support those with mental illness, Citizens Advice has highlighted how challenging it can be for those experiencing anxiety and depression to navigate services. In 2018, the charity helped more than 90,000 people with mental health problems. They are now calling for independent regulators to agree on new ways to make services more accessible.
Key recommendations include: working with customers to set up affordable payment plans instead of disconnecting services; offering methods of communications that work best for customers without extra charges; and reviewing tariffs to make sure they suit the customer’s needs. While many companies do have good deals for vulnerable people, these can be tricky to access. Citizens Advice hopes that if regulators commit to enforcing new standards, better monitoring of the treatment of vulnerable customers would be possible, and action could be taken against providers who fall short. Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford
Live, laugh, love: from a young age it seems this is the mantra we embrace May 2019 • happiful • 9
Colours are the smiles of nature
– LEIGH HUNT
Living near green spaces as a child linked to better mental health People who grow up close to parks and other green areas have a reduced risk of developing certain mental illnesses, according to research carried out by Denmark’s Aarhus University. The study collected satellite data from between 1985 and 2013 to establish how much green space one million Danes grew up in proximity to, and then investigated the effect it had on their mental health. They found that the risk of developing one of 16 mental illnesses (ranging from OCD to schizophrenia) decreased by as much as 55% for those who lived close to green areas during their childhood. Researchers adjusted the study for risk factors, such as family history and socio-economic status. This revelation comes at a time when the world is leaning more towards city life. According to the United Nations, it’s estimated that by 2050, 68% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas. Speaking to Quartz news website, researcher Kristine Engemann said: “I think it’s important that we acknowledge the value that green spaces have, not because they are decorative or pretty, but because they can have real benefits to the people living in the city.” So next time you’re looking to move, don’t just think about parking and schools, perhaps consider how the local landscape could benefit your family’s mental health, too! Writing | Kat Nicholls
A keen eye for detail, puzzling prowess, and numerical masterminds are needed for this month’s quiz page. Treat yourself to a few minutes of brain-teasing fun!
Spot the difference
Get those sharp eyes out to catch 10 changes between our two arty images below
Rearrange the letters below to uncover the names of some of our incredible previous cover stars
1 MAGMA TONESINK 2 KALE HELMS MELODY 3 ACE YETMINK
4 1 2
Complete this puzzle by filling each grid, row, and column with the numbers 1–6 (it'll add up to fun)
How did you do? Search 'freeb ies' at shop.happifu l.com to find the an swers, and more!
The Going up
wellbeing wrap Happy days!
Puppy power The school stressbuster solution?
The UK is the 15th happiest country in the world according to the United Nation's World Happiness Report. The UK also came fourth for generosity – kindness and compassion FTW!
A new study has found that regardless of what women think about their bodies, when partners compliment them, it can help to overcome body issues.
HOW DO YOU C ME NOW?
Good news for those feeling the pressure to 'grow up'; scientists say we don't become fully 'adult' until our 30s. More funny cat videos on YouTube it is then
With a mission to challenge society's perceptions of beauty, a new photography exhibit showcases people with Congenital Melanocytic Nevus – a rare, untreatable skin condition where brown birthmarks cover up to 80% of the body. It hopes to give a confidence boost to those with the condition, showing that "visible differences can add to beauty, rather than detract from it".
A US study found that kids who develop obsessive interests, such as a passion for dinosaurs, are more likely to be sucessful when they're older. Much like the dinosaurs themselves, this study isn't new, but it's been hitting headlines recently as people think about how encouraging children's passions can help determine their careers. A world of little Ross Gellers awaits...
Get your creative juices flowing – for love
Icons | shutterstock.com, Font Awesome: fontawesome.com
Let the good times roll... Greggs' sales soar with vegan sausage rolls
Office noise Ain't nobody got time for that
All that glitters The festival fav is actually bad for the planet
Frustration, Monopoly, Cluedo – these might not be your go-to date night choices, but a study from Baylor University, Texas, has revealed that couples release oxytocin (the love hormone) when playing board games together, or getting creative. So, expect more bonding than boredom when you next crack out Guess Who, and perhaps schedule a creative date soon – love is where the art is!
Longing for those weekend lie-ins? Unfortunately a study has revealed that they don't make up for a lack of sleep during the week. Could be time to refresh those bedtime routines and catch some regular Zs.
They say pets look like their owners, but now it turns out our furry friends might also develop personality traits to mirror their humans, too! Specially looking at our feline pals, the study published in PLOS ONE revealed that kitties develop traits such as being neurotic, overweight, or cheerful, similar to their owners. I guess they're called 'copycats' for a reason...
Suited and booted We all know that first impressions matter, so want to look our best at job interviews. But for people who are out of work, it can be a challenge to afford something new – and an added stress to an already pressurised situation.
When life gives you lemons sniff them when you revise
Unemployment in the UK is currently at 4%
But a wonderful initiative from shoe repairs retailer Timpson sees them offer a completely free suit cleaning service for unemployed people preparing for an interview. Simply call your local branch and chat through a couple of questions with a member of staff – then it's job done! While the good news is that unemployment is falling in the UK (currently 4%), fantastic ideas like this will help those people still looking for a job. Good work all round.
emotional labour? From the small things (thinking about what to have for dinner tonight), to the urgent things (paying the gas bill), to the downright ridiculous things (sending a birthday card to your partner’s grandmother’s neighbour), many of us are au fait with emotional labour Writing | Becky Wright
Illustrating | Rosan Magar
t can mean many things to different people but, for me, emotional labour sums up all of the ‘weight’ in a relationship; things that need to be done, things we need to remember. Things that, if we don’t do them, who will? While emotional labour can affect anyone, it’s typically thought of as a women’s issue, and has become a popular way of talking about housework and life admin. Certainly, even in this modern age, it seems that women take on much of the necessary work in running a household. In fact, a 2016 study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that, when it comes to cooking, childcare and housework, women in the UK are responsible for 60% more unpaid work than men. That isn’t just the odd chore here or there. But, that isn’t the full story of emotional labour. The term was first used in 1983, by American sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in her book, The Managed Heart. Hochschild described emotional labour as having to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind
14 • happiful • May 2019
in others”. In other words, emotional labour is when we pretend to be happy when we’re not.
SO, WHICH OF THESE DESCRIPTIONS IS RIGHT? OR DO THEY BOTH HAVE AN ELEMENT OF TRUTH?
We can all handle varying amounts of stress and responsibility as individuals. The problem with emotional labour is that it comes not from the amount of responsibility that one person takes on within the relationship, but from the perceived burden this causes them to feel. So, it’s not necessarily about having responsibilities shared equally between those in the relationship – there’s more to it than that. Yes, it’s incredibly stressful to take responsibility for someone else. To remember everything that needs to be done, never mind actually doing it, can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Relationship counsellor Laurele Mitchell says: “A perceived difference in the division of emotional labour within a relationship, romantic or otherwise, can have a negative impact both on the relationship and on our mental
health. It can be a one-way ticket to passive aggression and resentment, and, frankly, it’s exhausting and unnecessary to subjugate our own needs in order to take responsibility for someone else’s.” Have you ever felt unappreciated for the things you do in your relationship? Or maybe you wish your partner noticed some of the jobs that need doing around the house? Or are you fed up of being the one to come up with ideas for date nights? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, I bet you know all too well the toll emotional labour can take.
HOW CAN WE AVOID EMOTIONAL LABOUR?
The important thing to remember is that, although it might seem it, emotional labour isn’t one-sided – and it’s got nothing to do with the amount of love or trust in your relationship. But, the same thing that causes it can also help you to overcome it: communication. So, no, not even a shared to-do list really appeases the fundamental problem with emotional labour. If one person is ‘in charge’ of writing things on the list, it assumes that they are
The same thing that causes emotional labour can also help you to overcome it: communication the ‘manager of the chores’. Trust me, I’ve tried it. And, although striking up a conversation about housework or chores can often be the catalyst for an argument, talking to your partner really is the only way to appease emotional labour for good.
HOW DO YOU ADDRESS EMOTIONAL LABOUR WITH YOUR PARTNER?
The key is to do this sensitively and respectfully. If a perceived lack of support is taken too personally, and is not clearly communicated, it runs the risk of damaging the relationship – especially if your partner is unaware that there is a problem.
When opening up the conversation, avoid using blaming, accusatory language if you can – I know the housework can be a bone of contention, but you’ll do yourself a favour by remaining calm. Instead, focus on communicating your thoughts and feelings. Laurele says: “Own what you say with ‘I feel’ rather than ‘you are’ statements,” Laurele says. “You’re less likely to make someone defensive, and more likely to hear the other person’s point of view.” To help illustrate your points, try to identify and discuss the current division of emotional labour in your relationship. By collaborating and trying to make compromises, you can decide who does
what – ensuring that you’re both happy with your collective responsibilities. Laurele explains: “Shared responsibility for everything may be the way forward. Or you may agree that one takes responsibility for the housework, and the other the finances. Either way, play to your strengths and check in with one another regularly.” We all know communication is key in any relationship, but life can get in the way sometimes. However you do it, the key is to talk through the changes that will help both of you. So pick an appropriate time, and share how you’re really feeling with your loved one – your relationship and emotional wellbeing will be better for it.
May 2019 • happiful • 15
Megan Crabbe’s commitment to changing how we view our bodies has seen her amass more than one million followers on Instagram, and it’s the seriously supportive messaging behind those social squares that we really love her for. But the path to where Megan is today hasn’t been an easy one. She has lived with anxiety, and was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 14. After a long period of being at war with herself, Megan found body positivity. She began to study the cultural messages that can cause harm, and started to tell others about the alternatives to self-loathing and punishment. Now, on her mission to spread self-love far and wide, we have an intimate chat with Megan on her inspiration behind body positivity, putting on the ‘panda face’, and the irreplaceable relationship she has with her sister, Gemma Interview | Lucy Donoughue Photography | Joseph Sinclair
f you’ve not seen Megan Crabbe’s Instagram feed, I recommend you head over to @bodyposipanda to take a look. With her mission to spread the word about body positivity and acceptance, the plethora of pink and rainbow colours is instantly cheering. There’s also authenticity, deep thought, research, and empathy at the heart of everything Megan posts and presents. When we meet, Megan introduces herself as “an advocate for body positivity, eating disorder recovery, and a writer”, noting that she also does ‘influencer’ things. I’m struck by how modest she is. As well as having more than one million followers, Megan has written a truly brilliant book on improving your relationship with your body, writes a regular column for The Unedit, appears on panels, has just announced a live tour, and has been in a Little Mix video… This woman is fierce. Speaking out about how we can view our bodies with more kindness and compassion started just over four years ago for Megan. “I was on Instagram, looking for ‘fitspo’ – beautiful pictures of women that I wanted to look like, and then I would use those pictures to punish myself. That was my thing,” Megan explains. At this point in her life, Megan had experienced extreme anxiety, years of yo-yo dieting and anorexia nervosa as a teenager, receiving a diagnosis at 14 after “years of falling down the
18 • happiful • May 2019
rabbit hole of disordered eating”. Body dissatisfaction was something she had felt for as long as she could remember. However, this one search for ‘fitspo’ changed everything.
As soon as I found it, everything clicked into place. It made me realise that the problem is bigger than me and my body “I stumbled across someone who was wearing a bikini; she was maybe a size 20 to 22 and calling herself fat, but saying that wasn’t a bad thing,” Megan recalls. “She was talking about being fine with being fat, and that she was fabulous, beautiful, and she was not dieting anymore. She was living life. It opened up this whole world that I didn’t realise existed.” Megan began poring through books about women’s bodies, how we’re taught to hate ourselves, why that is, and – as Megan puts it – “how that is bullshit”. “As soon as I found it, everything clicked into place. It made me realise that there is a bigger issue, that the problem is bigger than me and my body. Everything changed after that.
“That realisation allowed me to start healing,” she continues. “At that point I was still carrying around the pain from my eating disorder that I’d never really healed, because I still hated my body and I was still completely disordered in my relationship with food.” Megan says that books played a huge role in her self-discovery, crediting them as game changers on her path to a better relationship with her body. “The first book I found was The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, which is this manifesto about beauty ideals and women, written in the 90s. It was so powerful for me, so fiercely feminist, and it changed how I thought.” After this, Megan started to collect other brilliant books, but realised that the majority of them had been written in the 90s or before (with the exception of contemporary writer Jes Baker, who she describes as “fantastic”). While her library taught her more about body positivity and rejecting diet culture, many of the books didn’t reflect the challenges around self-image now – in the age of social media. It was through her social platforms that Megan shared her new-found knowledge of body positivity, and her messages resonated with a lot of people who had not considered that there could be an alternative to selfhatred. As a consequence, Megan was approached to write a book on the subject, and Body Positive Power: How to Stop Dieting, Make Peace With Your Body and Live emerged in 2017. Continues >>>
Dress | Topshop
Driven by DREAMS
March 2019 • happiful • 19
Dress | Preen at Debenhams, Shoes | Jimmy Choo
Megan’s book shows her great talent for breaking down and exploring wider issues with the diet industry; global companies profiting from an individual’s poor self-image, cultural conditioning, and how widespread these problems are.
“The underlying issues I had all those years ago, the anxiety, perfectionism, not feeling good enough – they are still there. “Looking back, I’ve realised that my eating disorder was a manifestation of those issues. It was a way to put those
On social media it’s so easy to reduce people to one dimensional beings. All you have are these squares and it’s very simple to put people in boxes “When it comes to body image, absolutely everyone has some kind of issue that they’re dealing with,” she explains. “To actually zoom out and look at all of the forces that are teaching us to hate our bodies, and really recognise that you’ve been consuming messages since you were around four years old – whether it’s adverts, magazines, television, Barbie dolls, whatever the beauty ideal is at the time – that moulds how we think. We are not insular, our beliefs are impacted by what we are taking in every single day.” Megan recognises that starting to unlearn the ideas we hold about body image can be difficult, but suggests that each of us need to take the beliefs we have about bodies, beauty, and worth and look at them under a microscope, questioning where they came from, and whether they are serving us. That process, even for her, is never ending. “I still find myself having that same conditioned response to certain things that I’ve had all my life, and all I can do is take a step back and think: ‘I don’t want to believe this anymore, I didn’t want to believe it in the first place, and I want to let it go.’” Megan is very open about the fact that her professional success doesn’t mean that the struggles, which were a catalyst for her subsequent work, have completely disappeared.
feelings into something I felt that I could take hold of. “I no longer have that destructive outlet of disordered eating, but that doesn’t mean all the other parts have disappeared. They are still in me and I am still finding ways to manage them that aren’t self-destructive.” For the past year and a half, Megan has been going to therapy weekly. As well as dealing with past and ongoing issues, she says: “There are also the very new, sometimes overwhelming, parts of being on the internet, which comes with a lot of challenges for the most anxious people.” The aspect of being a public figure Megan finds the most difficult is when others try to tell her who she is as a person – something she finds disorientating, and harder than any judgement on how she looks. Her response to this is to mentally reclaim herself – she knows who she is. “On social media it’s so easy to reduce people to one-dimensional beings. All you have are these squares, and it’s very simple to put people in boxes. Then, when they step out of the boxes, people get mad – ‘How dare you be a full human?’” Known on Instagram as ‘bodiposipanda’, her feed features uplifting posts, joyous dancing (check out her amazing moves to Lizzo’s ‘Juice’) and positive affirmations.
However, I wonder if she feels a pressure to be ‘Bodyposipanda’ rather than Megan when she speaks in public? “Not so much now, but I used to put on the ‘Panda face’, which is what I believed people expected me to be – super smiley, upbeat, and positive all the time. It was exhausting! I could do that for a couple of hours if I was feeling OK, but then I’d get home and sink into nothingness, because it wasn’t really me. “I don’t think we realise how valuable emotional energy is, and how we shouldn’t expect other people’s emotional energy all the time,” she explains. “I love meeting people, connecting with them, hearing that people have read the book and its done something for them, and I’ll always be thankful for that. “I think the line comes when I meet people and they tell me about their trauma, and it’s like they hand me their traumatic life events as if to say: ‘Can you hold this for me?’ Sometimes I can’t, I don’t have the bandwidth to hold that because I’m trying to hold myself up. “I do the Panda face less now. I’m trying to let myself be me, fully human, and be OK if that’s not as loved. Ultimately, I know it’s more important to have integrity in who I am, than to be liked.” Throughout our conversation, I notice that Megan regularly takes a moment to assert her gratitude for aspects of her life and career, her supporters, and the opportunities that have come her way – as well as who she really is, and her perspective on the life she is living publicly. It seems to me that Megan has a lightly worn but authentic wisdom, acquired through her life experiences, deep research, and self-reflection. She is also setting the personal boundaries she needs to. Later in our chat, Megan credits her family for their support, noting that she’s lucky to have them – her mum Continues >>> May 2019 • happiful • 21
(“I get my caregiver tendencies from her”) and her dad (“whenever I am going through something, he’s the one I call”). Her family gives her strength and support, allow her to be who she is, ground her, and keep her as ‘Megan’. One person in particular, older sister Gemma, will be familiar to her followers, as she’s started to appear regularly in Megan’s content. Megan jokingly complains that she’s had messages from people telling her they are only following for posts with Gemma (“She loves that!” Megan laughs).
It’s almost like I have this double life; I have the influencer side, and then I have my sister to go back to, and be who I really feel I am Gemma has cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that can affect movement, reflexes, muscle tone and coordination. She lives independently in her house which is, according to Megan, “a beautiful purple space” and has a rotation of caregivers, including Megan. They usually spend weekends together. This role as a caregiver, Megan explains, also helps to keep her grounded. “It’s almost like I have this double life, Hannah Montana style. I have the influencer side, which can sometimes be exciting, glamorous, and fast-paced, and then I have my sister to go back to, in her lovely purple space, and just connect with her, and be who I really feel I am. It’s a lovely combination, those two lives.” Megan has also been able to share some of her own career high points with Gemma, in particular her 22 • happiful • May 2019
appearance in the video for Little Mix’s song ‘Strip’. Megan was told very little about the filming in advance, other than it would be “celebrating women, sassy and upbeat and that’s my jam, I was not going to say no to that!” On the day of the shoot, Megan danced for the video in a black leotard (“with no bra... there was lots of wild boob action”). She loved the opportunity. Knowing that Gemma is the “OG of Little Mix fans”, she initially kept the filming a secret, and then arranged, with the help of a good friend at Instagram, a surprise for Gemma – revealing the music video and then a meeting with the members of Little Mix. Gemma was delighted, and for Megan it was “one of the best moments of my life, it was so pure. Pure joy.” She smiles broadly. While Megan often acts as Gemma’s caregiver and opens up the world of social media to her sister, Gemma brings a huge amount to Megan. “Gemma has taught me a hell of a lot about a lot of things,” she says with a smile. “She’s taught me self-confidence, she is the most confident person you could ever meet. She refers to herself as ‘The Queen’; she makes demands and she’s a bit of a diva, actually.” The strong bond between the two of them is evident. I ask, what does their relationship mean to her? “For me, it’s really important to have relationships in my life that keep me connected to childhood and my inner child, because that’s the core of who I believe I am. She brings me that. “It’s irreplaceable,” she reflects. “It’s a really special relationship… I don’t know what I’d do if she wasn’t in my life. I love her.” ‘Body Positive Power: How to stop dieting, make peace with your body and live’ is available now (Vermilion, £12.99).
Styling | Krishan Parmar
Follow Megan on Instagram @bodyposipanda, and listen to Megan chat on our podcast ‘I am. I have’.
Make Up & Hair | Alice Theobald at Joy Goodman using Nature’s Wish, Cosmetics à la Carte, Barry M & Colour Wow
Blouse & Skirt | Topshop
Enjoy the process
We are a society of goal-setters; a culture defined by how much we can achieve in the shortest space of time. But by slowing down a little, and recognising even the smallest of achievements, we can learn to enjoy the process Writing | Maxine Ali Illustrating | Rosan Magar
ur career, relationships, often our entire lives, are conducted with achievement in mind – a set of objectives we must complete to feel satisfied with who we are. And who can blame us? With social media bombarding us with people’s highlight reels, is it really any wonder that we fall into the habit of fixating on the outcome instead of learning to enjoy the process? While goal-setting has its value, too much fixation on them can rob us of the pleasure of in-the-moment experiences. Our infatuation can lead us to take shortcuts, make mistakes, and displace the value of time, effort and patience. It can enable us to compromise on our ethical values, which never bodes well for taking care of our mental health. Being too goal-oriented can lead to a state of perpetual dissatisfaction with the present. We look at ourselves through the lens of self-criticism, feeling like we are never enough. Too much goal-setting can cause a persistent case of ‘what next syndrome’, continuously seeking the next thing to strive for, and never appreciating what we have here and now.
We have so much more to offer, and so much more to gain, from letting go of the outcome Some suggest that goal orientation is in our DNA, an instinct embedded in us for the pure sake of survival. Whether it’s searching out food to satisfy our hunger, or finding a mate to continue our genetic line, outcomes are part of our reflexive make up. But we don’t live to survive, do we? We have so much more to offer, and so much more to gain, from letting go of the outcome and learning to enjoy the process instead.
1 Recognise that milestones are arbitrary
First, ask yourself why the rush? We’ve grown up with the narrative that people have their dream career by their 20s, are married with kids in their 30s, and set up enough to retire by 55. Society teaches us to uphold made-up milestones that create a sense of urgency where there is none.
But once you recognise that, actually, these milestones don’t have to be the predictor of your life, it takes the pressure off and allows you to find purpose in the present – not where you have to be in 10 years.
2 Stay in the moment
Easier said than done, I know. Being in the moment is not something that comes naturally to most of us. It’s a skill that takes time, patience, practise, and compassion. You aren’t going to do it perfectly straight away, and you don’t have to. To ease yourself in, try doing one mindful task a day, where you keep your attention on the thing at hand. If you stop worrying about whether you’ll be good or bad, you can learn to enjoy the places your mind goes, and not get too anxious when it strays from what you’re doing.
3 Filter your social media
Research has shown how social media can negatively impact our mental health, but we’re still not great at cultivating an online environment that actually makes us feel good about ourselves. We fill our feeds with people whose lives we wish we had. These serve as a reminder of what we don’t have, or what we haven’t done, keeping our minds occupied by issues outside of the present. The best thing you can do is filter your social media feed to include only accounts that celebrate the seemingly uneventful and unmonumental, the mundanity of just living life each day as it comes. Soon you’ll start to see that the process of day-to-day living is actually rather spectacular.
4 Know that you have value, independent of goals and achievements Regardless of your goals and achievements, know that you have value beyond them. Your worth is not defined by how many career milestones you reach, or what checkpoints you get to tick off the fastest. You, as you are right here and right now, are worthy of love, respect, and dignity, and no goal can ever mess with that.
You can re-route at any age
Comedian and writer Ruby Wax spent years in the grip of depression – but mindfulness changed everything. Now she is a champion for mental health, and here reveals the key life moments that shaped her way of thinking… Writing | Gemma Calvert
do feel like I’ve been given a second chance, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy.” Ruby Wax is discussing the role mindfulness has played in her life, notably since graduating from Oxford University six years ago with a masters in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, after enduring years of depression. For Illinois-born Ruby, understanding the inner workings of her mind is both a passion and a prerequisite to life. She first experienced depression at 13 and now, some 50 years later, practises daily mindfulness to keep it, and other issues including anxiety and selfloathing, at arm’s length. “I can now feel a depression coming, so can do something about it. My last episode was years ago,” she explains. “You don’t need a lot of time, a minute is enough. You’re just training your brain to become resilient, so when thoughts come they don’t hammer you.” Ruby’s memories of childhood are bleak. She was the only-child of her Jewish immigrant parents who fled Nazi-dominated Austria in 1938,
and never dealt with the pain of their ordeal. Her father was violent, and her mother was troubled by OCD, and plagued by bouts of fury. At 15, Ruby found an escape from her pain – through humour. In 1977 she joined the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, and then won a place at the Royal Shakespeare Company, before carving a career as a comedian, and quickly becoming a staple on prime time British telly in the 80s and 90s. But by 1994, married to BBC producer Ed Bye, and shortly after the birth of their third child, Ruby fell apart. She checked into The Priory with depression, where she returned a decade ago, before discovering mindfulness. “Whatever you pay attention to becomes who you are,” she insists. “Mindfulness changes the way you parent, how you are in a relationship, it changes everything. You can re-route at any age, and I think I’m a walking representative of that.” Here, Ruby shares with us eight key moments in life that changed everything for her...
STARTING MY RESEARCH INTO MINDFULNESS I had a serious depression 12 years ago and thought: ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I didn’t think there was a cure, but I thought that there must be something else besides medication, so I started Googling. I realised that mindfulness and cognitive therapy had the best scientific results. So I studied a masters in it for two years. You need to know how your brain works to be in control. It’s like a car; if you break down, you don’t have to scream for help, you kind of know what’s going on. I don’t control my depression, but thanks to mindfulness I can see an episode coming, so I have choices. I can see my patterns of thinking, but don’t always play into them; I’ll hold back before I judge somebody and then I’ll laugh, without them knowing, that they proved me wrong. Rather than assuming everything I think is correct, I know my thoughts are just recordings. It’s not easy to commit to it, but I want to know what’s going on in my mind. I put in the work. It’s not a magic wand. It takes discipline. Continues >>>
Compassion is the glue that makes our lives worth living
DISCOVERING DEPRESSION WAS IN MY ROOTS While filming Who Do You Think You Are?, I travelled to the Czech Republic and discovered that two of my distant relatives had been sectioned in the same asylum. It confirmed that mental health issues were in my family tree. When
Photography | Steve Ullathorne
EXPERIENCING PURE HUMAN KINDNESS I’ve always had a very pessimistic view of human nature – every time something good happens in my life, I seem to get kicked in the behind pretty quickly. In February 2017, I was travelling home from Victoria Station in a taxi, writing my latest book. I ended up leaving my computer on the back seat and somebody emailed the next day to say they had it. The lady had bought it off a street market, and when we met, she not only insisted on giving me back the computer for no charge, but she gave me two paintings from the art gallery where she worked. It was an epiphany, having an experience when there was no price. It was just human kindness. Compassion is the glue that makes our lives worth living. I’m going to work in a refugee camp in Greece for three weeks soon, which isn’t something I usually do, but I want to feel compassion. You have to invest in doing good things for yourself and others to feel the positives.
‘How to Be Human: The Manual’ by Ruby Wax is out now in paperback (Penguin Life, £8.99). ‘How to Be Human: The Show’ is on tour at theatres around the UK and Ireland from 24 April (rubywax.net)
she was alive, my mother never mentioned her past, or any relatives, so it made me feel better knowing that I came from a long line of depression. During the making of the show, I also learned the reason for my dad’s anger. He and my mother had fled the Nazis from Austria in 1938 and moved to Illinois. They were literally
chased out of the country, which also explains why my mother was also regularly furious and obsessive about cleaning. [For years] I took on those problems, but after discovering their past I bought my mother a gravestone, and it helped me to close a chapter on my childhood. I felt good for doing that.
LIVING TOGETHER BUT APART FROM MY HUSBAND My husband Ed and I are very independent, and even though we’re together, neither of us thinks of ourselves as a couple, so that was a good match. We’re a unit because we’re parents and are together, but don’t think of us as an ‘us’. I think all couples should do stuff on their own, figure out themselves, then go and save the world. REALISING THE POSITIVE IN NEGATIVES As a child, it felt like my parents were bringing the Second World War into the kitchen every morning. There was a lot of negativity at home. My parents would say ‘why do anything because it ends?’ and would tell me I was going to be a failure. I think it’s why I’m hyper-ambitious now. Out of five thoughts, four are negative, and there’s a reason for that. In evolution, we have to be on our toes. When you make a mistake, like tripping down the staircase, you’ll remember that so you don’t do it again. If things are fine, we don’t memorise it. We need negatives otherwise we wouldn’t survive. UNDERSTANDING THAT MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT WHO I AM Your thoughts can take a toll on you, physically and emotionally. I got depression because my thoughts were overwhelming, and now I doubt those thoughts, because thoughts don’t define you. It’s not about thinking happily all the time, because if you try to be happy you’re going to be unhappy. It’s about recognising when feelings of unhappiness are coming. Whatever is going on emotionally, watch it like the weather. There might be clouds and it might be nice and breezy, but don’t take it as a reality. It’s like ‘there is anxiety, but I’m not anxious’.
BEING TOLD I WAS A CRAP ACTRESS When I was in my early 20s I got into the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the middle of a play, the actor Alan Rickman said: ‘You’d better do comedy now.’ He was insinuating that I wasn’t so good at acting, and I knew I wasn’t, and while I didn’t like hearing his comment, it was a relief because I wouldn’t have had a long career as an actress!
It’s about recognising when feelings of unhappiness are coming. Whatever is going on emotionally, watch it like the weather
Then I realised I was a bad comedian too, so Alan became my mentor and trained me for 30 years. Just because you’re the amusing one in the family doesn’t mean you’re a comedian, it just means you’re funny. Being a comedian is an art, and I’ve had to work on it every second since. APPRECIATING MY BODY At Oxford, I was trained to see the connection between the body and the mind. Mindfulness is about seeing yourself as a whole, and a lot of times, when you focus in on muscles or how it feels to move, it brings the cortisol down. When I’m walking, I try to feel the sidewalk beneath my feet, and when I breathe, I’m aware that there’s a body down there, and that the body is the mind and the mind is the body. I consciously make that connection. When I look in the mirror, I don’t love what I see, and in the past I’ve felt as if my body has let me down, but I now appreciate what I have – I’m flexible and people at my age have pain but I don’t, so I’m grateful! May 2019 • happiful • 29
Photography | Jorge Saavedra
Try a mindful body scan: move. your attention slowly over your. body, noticing every sensation. 30 • happiful • March 2019
Journey to wellness A chance to forge a deeper connection with ourself and others, wellness events can be a special experience. From wilderness adventures to mindful retreats, here are five to spark your interest Writing | Kat Nicholls
1 Wanderlust 108 London
A mindful take on the traditional triathlon, Wanderlust 108 offers a rejuvenating, activity-filled day. Start with a 5K walk or run, then move on to a yoga session, before rounding off the ‘triathlon’ with guided meditation. Meet like-minded people and feel part of something bigger as £1.08 from each ticket sold is donated to The Global Fund to fight AIDS. Where: Battersea Park, London When: 27 July, 7am–5pm How much: From £15.75 wanderlust.com/108-events/ london-2019
Image| Wanderlust 108 London: wanderlust.com
Eat Well for Less cooking classes
Ideal for those who are keen to learn how to cook healthy, nutritious meals that don’t cost the earth, these classes are lead by Bounceback Food – a community cookery school and foodbank supporter on a mission to fight food poverty. In each class, you’ll learn to cook four healthy meals from scratch, with all ingredients and equipment provided. Where: Around the Liverpool and Manchester area When: Various dates and times available How much: £50 bouncebackfood.co.uk
3 Wild Voice Adventures
Offering up events, retreats, and holidays, founders of Wild Voice Adventures, Jess and Scott, encourage us to connect with our environment and emotions, using the power of sound, music, and the art of play. They say: “Our singing events, retreats and holidays are fundamentally an expression of love and the desire to create.” Getting your voice warmed up as we speak? Head to their website to find out more (we love the sound of the singing safari in South Africa!). Where: Across the UK, Tuscany and South Africa When: September dates for the UK, October dates for Tuscany and South Africa How much: From £399 wildvoiceadventures.com
4 Value Your Mind retreats For those looking for a truly relaxing experience, look no further. Complete with guided mindfulness meditations, energising yoga classes, healing nature walks, and nourishing meals (all set in stunning surroundings), Value Your Mind is a treat for the mind, body, and soul. Offering three-day retreats in the UK, five-day retreats in the South of France, and even one-day charity retreats (where all profits go
towards a mental health charity), there are different options to suit you. Where: Three-day retreats in Dorset, UK; five-day retreats in the South of France When: UK dates in September and November; France dates in June How much: From £300 (one-day charity event prices coming soon) valueyourmind.com
The Coach House retreat
One for those of you craving nature and flexibility, The Coach House, in Wales, is open year round. Whether you want to go solo, or take some friends along – the house caters up to four guests – you can choose to simply enjoy some alone time in a beautiful setting, or to take part in exciting activities, from private yoga and meditation classes, to Tula massage, wild swimming, forest bathing, and paddle boarding. Where: Between Raglan and Monmouth, on the Welsh border When: Various dates available (two-night stay minimum) How much: From £140 per night for solo travellers thecoachhouseretreat.co.uk
BodyTalk THE IMPACT OF
ach day we’re exposed to critical commentaries on appearance. In the media, we see slim, tall, and athletic bodies described as ‘beautiful’, ‘healthy’, ‘desirable’, while we’re reminded by advertisements that the stretch marks, scars, belly rolls, and body hair we all have are ‘flaws’ we should erase. Among our peers, we often engage in self-deprecation, speak of our ‘beach body’ woes, the trauma of ‘unflattering angles’, finding commonality in our insecurities. As a culture, we are bonded by the shame we feel towards our bodies, unaware of how normalised this discontent has become. But though verbal assaults and discursive attacks are practically instinct for our aestheticcentred imagination, there’s no denying their devastating impact on our mental wellbeing. Body dissatisfaction is reaching endemic levels in the UK, with more than 60% of adults reportedly harbouring negative feelings about the way they look. Around two-thirds
How often do you criticise your body? Once a week? Once a day? Let’s face it, most of us make comments about our bodies, out loud or in our heads. In fact, for more than 90% of people, negative body talk is a routine occurrence. It’s a habit we share, a pattern to which we’ve Writing | Maxine Ali grown accustomed
of Brits are dieting to lose weight most of the time, and approximately 1.25 million people are believed to have an eating disorder.
More than 60% of adults reported harbouring negative feelings about the way they look The pressure to meet society’s far-reaching standards of beauty has caused a ripple of insecurity across the population – one that is costing so many of us our happiness and self-esteem. As more and more people find themselves vulnerable to the toxic messages within body talk, it’s time we paid attention to how our language affects us. WHAT IS BODY TALK? Body talk refers to the ritualistic conversations we engage in about our own or others’ bodies or bodily characteristics. The concept first emerged in the work of two linguistic
anthropologists in the US, who explored the interaction between language and body image in young women. Through their research, they showed that women who discussed body weight and size often showed lower self-esteem and greater body dissatisfaction, and were more likely to diet and engage in disordered eating behaviours, than women who didn’t discuss their bodies. Body talk is also associated with diminished cognitive performance, due to thoughts being eaten up by body hatred. The role of body talk on mental health can be attributed to a phenomenon known as linguistic relativity, which, simply put, is the idea that language shapes our thoughts and ideas. How we speak about certain things ‘primes’ us to think about them in those terms. For example, studies show that changing a single word when questioning witnesses about a crime they saw, changed the way they remembered it. This demonstrates just how powerful language can be. It can even go so far as to influence our perception and memory. Continues >>>
May 2019 • happiful • 33
BODY TALK AND BEAUTY STANDARDS When we engage in body talk, we make bodies a determinant of selfworth. We tell ourselves, and the world around us, that our value lies in the way we look, not in what we do or how we behave. The more we speak about bodies, the more we reinforce their importance, and start to frame ourselves as little more than ornaments. Repeated over time, this leads to self-objectification, causing us to dissociate from the internal connection we have with our bodies. Those who self-objectify feel less in tune with how they feel, both physiologically and psychologically, posing a huge risk of depression and disordered eating. Beauty is arbitrary. The standards we aspire to are designed by industries to sell fixes for the insecurities they create. Objectively, there is no such thing as a ‘good’ body, no such thing as a ‘flaw’ or ‘imperfection’. Yet, with girls as young as six stating a desire to be thinner, it’s clear that messages of shame are being received loud and clear very early in life. Language is contagious, and the way we talk about bodies transfers negative beliefs. When looking at the relationship between mothers and daughters, and how they behave, for instance, studies found a positive correlation between parental body talk and teenage dieting. In the same way we learn a language through listening to others, we also learn the beliefs and behaviours that accompany what we say. And so, for as long as body talk remains at the core of cultural conversations, poor body image and low self-esteem will remain a problem for future generations.
The good news is that we have the power to change. We can watch our words and start a kinder conversation with ourselves and others around us
BodyTalk SHUTTING DOWN NEGATIVE BODY TALK If we keep using negative, critical, derogatory language to describe our bodies, then, naturally, we will continue to look at our bodies as enemies we have to punish and resent. But the good news is that we have the power to change that. We can watch our words and start a kinder conversation with ourselves, and others around us. CHECK YOURSELF First things first: pay attention to your language. Notice when you talk about your body, or when others around you do. Notice what you say and how you feel when those things are said, then work on checking negative words before they’re voiced out loud.
SHOW YOURSELF COMPASSION I’m not saying it’s easy to challenge body talk. Far from it. If it’s something you’re accustomed to do often, of course, there will be times when the comments just come out. If you slip up, don’t see it as a setback. Be compassionate, counter yourself with a compliment, and simply aim to do better next time.
DON’T FOLLOW THE CROWD Negative body talk might feel like a social obligation, but that doesn’t mean you have to participate. If your friend starts berating the way they look, if a colleague makes a critique about their weight, you don’t have to engage. You don’t have to say ‘me too’, and share your own insecurities. You can simply do what’s right for your mental health, and walk away from the conversation.
Bonus tip: Social media can also be an echo chamber for body talk. If you follow a lot of fitness accounts that talk about weight, shape and size, it’s best to unfollow them and fill your feed with pages that showcase body diversity, among other things. SWEAR TO SILENCE If you can’t walk away from certain situations, then make a pact to avoid all body talk. Let your friends know how this affects your mental health, and vow only to comment on positive properties within your control – such as creativity, thoughtfulness, and generosity. Let this be a reminder that you are so much more than a body, and turn these instances into an experience of appreciation.
Maxine Ali is a food, health and feminist journalist, a linguist, and body image researcher. Follow her on Instagram @maxineali, or learn more at maxineali.com
May 2019 • happiful • 35
Photography | Daniel Jenson
Do something wonderful,. people may imitate it. – ALBERT SCHWEITZER
Down, but not out
After a chaotic childhood, a series of personal crises sent Denise spiralling into depression and alcoholism. But thanks to rehab and loyal friends, she has rebuilt her life, and now uses her experiences to help others
Writing | Denise Harrison
’ve always craved stability. It’s both my catnip and my kryptonite – something I yearn for, but also something that, for me at least, has been incredibly hard to find. The sudden death of my dad, when I was six years old, turned my world upside down. Overnight, life became confusing and chaotic for my whole family. My mum struggled to bring up two small children on her own, depression set in, and she started to use alcohol to take away the pain. Within a few years she was a full-blown alcoholic, and my brother and I gradually morphed into her carers while we were both still in primary school. As a result, I developed huge separation anxiety. I was convinced that my mum would die, too, if I let her out of my sight, and I became anxious and neurotic. Going to school was horrendous, as my mind would fill with nightmare scenarios and I would sit counting the hours, willing the bell to ring so that I
could go home and make sure that she was OK. To distract myself from the worries and chaos at home, I would read a lot. Losing myself in the pages of The Faraway Tree books or The Borrowers fed my imagination, and I would go off on adventures in my head. I would write stories and read them to my toys and, later, despite failing the majority of my exams in high school, I managed to get A*s in English and Oral Communication. Because of my background, poverty and disadvantage have always struck a chord with me. We had to use a food bank, and clothes and toys were often second-hand. I’ve never forgotten opening a present and seeing that my doll’s face was already dirty. I knew it meant that someone else had already played with her. I wasn’t being a snob, I was a confused child. It must have really hurt my mum when I commented. Continues >>>
Denise began blogging about her experience during her recovery
It was the beginning of the end for me. I literally couldn’t take any more. I pressed self-destruct, and had an epic mental breakdown Looking back now, I understand what a struggle things were. But as a child you don’t always see the bigger picture, or understand the impact of words. It was our first Christmas without my dad. With hindsight, I’m amazed we had presents at all. Later in life, I went on to devise and create projects that helped to support struggling families and individuals through some difficult times, and I won several awards for my work. Ironically, behind the scenes, my own life was falling apart. In 2013 my relationship ended after 12 years, and I was left facing homelessness and divorce. I effectively became one of the very people that I had set out to help. My insecurity demons resurfaced and I started to spiral. I moved into a caravan with my cat, and a newly acquired mountain of debt. Then, 38 • happiful • May 2019
almost as soon as we moved in, my cat got sick and had to be put to sleep. He was all I had left, and I was devastated. A switch flipped as I walked out of the vets, and finally, what was left of my head exploded. I slept with his ashes for ages. It was the beginning of the end for me. I literally couldn’t take any more. I pressed self-destruct, and had an epic mental breakdown. My loneliness, loss, and grief were overwhelming, and I would drink myself unconscious. I had disastrous relationships, and was an absolute liability and danger to myself. My mental health was shot to pieces, personal hygiene became a thing of the past, and I was talked about and ridiculed. By November 2016, I was an alcoholic, emaciated wreck. I wore the same clothes for days on end, and slept on a borrowed sofa at night, my
cat’s ashes in an urn inside my sleeping bag. I basically had two options left: seek professional help and try to get well, or carry on drinking myself to death. I chose to get help, and on 29 November 2016 I was admitted to detox, barely weighing anything. My skin was grey and my hair was falling out. The first night I was too drunk to be medicated, and having nightmares and hallucinations. Thankfully, the next day I was able to start the detox process. I stuck to the programme religiously, knowing that my life was in the balance. After six weeks I was moved into rehab, where I spent the next three months trying to adapt to a life without alcohol. After that, I left rehab and moved into a homeless hostel in March 2017. I was struggling to deal with everything that had
happened, and a friend of mine encouraged me to write, saying that it would be good for me. She built me a basic website to get me started, and, despite an initial confidence crisis, ‘Just A Girl – My life’ was born. I joined Twitter, and talked openly and candidly about my journey, my mental health issues, and my struggle with addiction. People read my work, and shared their own stories and struggles, which in turn gave me the confidence to carry on. I started to write for magazines and made podcasts, then we produced a short, dark, animated film – with an original score and vocals provided by Rick and Kim Wilde – that documented my depression and premiered as part of the first International Arts and Homeless Festival in Manchester. As part of the festival, I took part in Manchester artist
“This photo was taken at an event at Plaisterers Hall. I was really ill here, though you may not be able to tell.”
I basically had two options left: seek professional help and try to get well, or carry on drinking myself to death. I chose to get help
Emma Turner’s visionary art piece ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably’ – answering questions from members of the public on topics such as homelessness and addiction. The story was covered by both The Big Issue and The Guardian. As a result of this, I’ve been invited to tell my story as a TEDx talk, and I am currently writing a one-woman play, called Pandora, which will
confront topics such as addiction and prostitution, while showing that getting dealt a bad hand can happen to the best of us, and that homelessness is often just one paycheck away. The last two years have been pretty intense. I’ve worked incredibly hard to recover from my addiction and turn my life around, and I still have hurdles to get over. I’m 45 years old, and I’m rebuilding my life from scratch. My mental health can be fragile as I come to terms with everything. I have bad head days like everyone else, where I question everything, but I try to stay focused on the positives – like the fact that I have good friends who stuck by me, I have a lovely boyfriend, and I am free of the addiction that wanted to kill me.
I no longer ‘cope’ with things by turning to alcohol. I sit with my demons – however uncomfortable the experience. They tell me when things are wrong or out of sync, and I’ve learned that, often, they have lessons to teach me – uncomfortable truths about myself. I’ve found solace in writing and as a result have been able to help myself and give hope to others through dark times.
I’ve learned that I am far more resilient than I ever gave myself credit for. I have a coping mechanism that improves my mental health, my self-worth, and my confidence. Each day I wake up and I look for the possibilities – because now that I am well and sober, there are plenty. Read more from Denise on her blog justagirl.emyspot.com
Our Expert Says Denise’s experience shows how ill-health can be intergenerational, with early experiences shaping how we later cope with life challenges. She has found ways to express herself and to engage with the entirety of her experience, connecting to her light and shade, and letting her feelings become messages that educate and inspire, rather than threats to fear and avoid. Her strength and tenacity are inspiring, and show what is possible when people find a way to choose support and recovery. Fe Robinson | MUKCP (reg) Psychotherapist and couples counsellor
May 2019 • happiful • 39
We’ve all heard of the mental health benefits we can get from gardening, but what about those of us without a patch of earth to call our own? Can nurturing house and office plants still have mood-boosting effects? Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford Illustrating | Rosan Magar
ou don’t need a green thumb and a sprawling garden to benefit from the wellbeing-enhancing powers of plants. While an impressive 88% of us head to the garden to improve our mental wellbeing, according to a 2015 study, recent trends suggest more of us than ever before are looking for ways to boost our mental health and wellbeing with indoor plants as well. Country Living magazine revealed that searches for inspirational indoor plants on Pinterest increased by 90% in 2017, with terrariums, hanging plants, cacti, and tropical plants topping our search results. To inspire you to get green-fingered, we’ve got five simple ways that caring for indoor plants can help increase your sense of wellbeing.
1 Practise regular mindfulness Whether you have a window box or a desk corner, caring for plants can be a great way to practise mindfulness, which is is known to improve our wellbeing, promote relaxation, and reduce stress. Try focusing your senses on your plant as you touch the soil to see how dry it is, and examine the leaves for any damage. Clear
40 • happiful • May 2019
your mind as you focus on watering, dusting, and caring for your plant.
2 Gain a sense of achievement and responsibility Watching something grow and thrive based on your hard work, commitment, and dedication can be a positive way to start healthy routines and feel a sense of accomplishment as your plants begin to flourish – and doesn’t come with too much pressure! Low-maintenance plants such as succulents or aloes can be simple (and sturdy) starter-plants.
Plants can significantly reduce stress, as well as feelings of tension, anxiety, anger, fatigue, and depression
SIX EASY-TO-CARE-FOR HOUSEPLANTS TO TRY • Aloe vera: low-maintenance, aloe vera purifies the air, and can be used herbally to treat inflammation, scars, and burns. • Lavender: great for unwinding and reducing anxiety, lavender promotes better sleep. Be careful not to water too much, and keep in a bright area. • Eucalyptus: good for colds and congestion, eucalyptus has a pleasant but distinct aroma. Remember to water regularly and keep in direct sunlight. • English ivy: studies suggest this can act as an air purifier and help combat mould levels. Water generously, and keep in direct sunlight. • Succulents: low maintenance and cute, succulents produce oxygen all day and night. • Spider plant: a resilient option for newbies, these are a great choice for pet owners since they’re non-toxic if accidentally nibbled.
3 Make it a social activity
According to a survey by The Student Room, 72% of young people have helped someone else with gardening, with 75% not having the space to grow plants of their own despite enjoying the activity. Starting with indoor plants can be a good step towards seeing how much enjoyment you get from gardening before you look at investing in an allotment. Keeping plants on your desk, or in a shared space, can be a good way to bond with co-workers, who may have plants of their own or are interested in sprucing up their workspace. Offering to look after others’ desk plants while they’re away, or exchanging tips on plant care, can be great ways to make it more sociable.
and increase job satisfaction. In particular, a 2014 study by the University of Exeter reported that productivity rose by 15% by having plants at frequent intervals throughout an office, while a 2010 study, from the University of Technology in Sydney, revealed plants can significantly reduce stress in the workplace, as well as reducing feelings of tension, anxiety, anger, fatigue, and depression.
5 Create a regular self-care routine Nurturing and caring for your plants can be a positive, gentle reminder to practise your own self-care. Getting in the habit of taking time out to check on your plants, and look after them, can not only be grounding, but can act as a physical reminder of the power a little care and attention can have in helping your plant (and yourself) to thrive.
SEEDS TO SUCCESS
4 Boost your productivity and wellbeing
The positive power of nature can’t be underestimated, with studies showing that office plants can boost performance, encourage creativity,
May 2019 • happiful • 41
Ask the experts Lee Valls, psychotherapist, Counselling Directory member, and clinical director of The London Practice, answers your questions on anger
My partner has become very angry at what seems like everything. As soon as she gets home, she’s snappy with me and the children – they are starting to ask what’s wrong. How can I help her, and what can we do to change this?
Anger is often the tip of the iceberg, and there can be many things happening below the surface – stress, fear, grief. It would be good for you to understand what is happening to cause her anger. The first thing I would recommend is that you create a time and space for the two of you to talk, away from phones, the children, and the house. I suggest that you are direct about the issue, as you perceive it, but ask open questions. Avoid language that could make her feel like she is being blamed (“you make the kids and I feel like…”), this could lead her to become defensive.
Listen to what she says, let her know you hear her, and make a plan to move forward together. If she can speak with the children after you have communicated, that would be the best outcome. However, you may agree to talk to them about what their mum is going through. It’s important that everything is done in agreement, otherwise she may feel as though you are all colluding against her, which will magnify her feelings. Talking without blame, really listening and coming up with a plan together, is the best way forward.
Since my mum died, my dad’s personality has changed. He seems cynical and angry, and isn’t very nice to friends, family, or even strangers. How can we talk to him about this, and what can we do to help him?
It sounds like your dad is grieving, which can present as misdirected anger. There is no finite period of time for grief, but there are ways in which you can help him. Start by letting him know that you understand why he might be feeling angry and that you are always there for him. Let him know you understand that loss is hard, and must be difficult for him. Try to offer to talk with him about this – if he wants to. Alternatively, speaking to a therapist or engaging with grief counselling could be beneficial. It could help him process his anger, fears, and vulnerability. He may not feel like he wants to do this with people he knows and loves, or he may not know where to begin. Cruse Bereavement Care have a free helpline on 0808 808 1677. You could leave him these details as a first step.
You can find more information about Lee and his practice on counselling-directory.org.uk If you need immediate support, you can call Samaritans 24-hours a day on 116 123 or email email@example.com
3 TIPS FOR ANGER MANAGEMENT 1. W hen you feel anger coming, stop and breathe 2. G o for a walk, meditate or exercise 3. C heck in and create space for yourself alone. Question what is really happening beneath the surface for you
When it comes to conflict, my partner gets angry and is fine afterwards. I stay quiet but feel resentment for days. How can we handle this better?
Counselling Directory is part of the Happiful Family | Helping you find the help you need
THE EXPER TS
I hope it reassures you when I say that this is a very common problem, and a reason why many of my clients come for relationship counselling. It’s important you make time and space to talk with each other about this, outside of an angry episode. Really listen to each other. Use positive feedback, such as “I understand now”, and avoid negative language. Give your partner, and the conversation, your full attention and make an agreement to treat each other with respect and love. It’s very easy, when we’ve been with our partners for some time, to be complacent.
Brought to you by Counselling Directory
A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities From sexuality and gender identity, to coming out, navigating relationships, and learning to love yourself, cartoonists Mady and JR explain the spectrum of experiences around queer and trans life Writing | Bonnie Evie Gifford
inding ways to share, debate, and help educate others on concepts that are new, complicated, or hard to articulate, can be both challenging and immensely rewarding. The latest book from Limerence Press, the publishers behind A Quick & Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns (a mustread), turns the complex and often sensitive subject of queer and trans identities into a colourful, engaging, and thought-provoking read. WHAT’S IT ABOUT? Covering a broad range of essential topics, A Quick & Easy Guide To Queer & Trans Identities explains the basics around gender identity, sexual orientation, self-love, and relationships, for the curious, and those starting their own journeys of self-discovery. Cartoonists Mady and JR guide readers through the spectrum of human experiences around gender identity, sexuality, and navigating
relationships, with the help of informative comics, insightful first-person experiences, and imaginative examples. Colourful, bright and engaging, the co-authors use cute and eyecatching artwork to educate readers on a range of serious and complex topics. Told primarily from the perspective of Iggy, a snail, as he guides other snails through the language around human love and identities with the help of his human, Bowery, a ‘queer educator’. A selection of human characters share their own experiences as well, highlighting some of the experiences of non-binary and transgender individuals. Touching on the history of the term ‘queer’ and its origins as an insult, the authors explore the importance and sensitivities around language and how we use it. Highlighting the importance of self-identification and flexibility, A Quick & Easy Guide To Queer & Trans Identities reminds us that
we should respect the language preferences of individuals. GENDER VS SEX Going over the basics around the differences between gender and sexuality, narrator Iggy also offers simple, easy to understand explanations around bisexuality, asexuality, and pansexuality. Looking at gender as a wider spectrum (from male and female, to neutral, agender, and gender fluid), readers of all ages and prior knowledge levels can easily follow along and learn something new. Touching on how gender is expressed through interests, clothes, and how people present themselves, the authors explain how gender expression can be just as varied as gender itself, and doesn’t necessarily align with a person’s gender identity. Offering simple tips and helpful advice for those who may want to explore their own gender presentation, but who may not be in a safe,
supportive, environment in which they can do so openly, the book’s advice comes across as inclusive and sensitive. ADDRESSING ISSUES AROUND IDENTITY AND IDENTIFICATION Co-author Mady addressed what can often feel like the elephant in the room for some people. “Why all these labels? Can’t people just exist without having to nitpick at who identifies in what way?” While, Mady points out, this would be the ideal scenario, this misses one of the cornerstones about queer identification and the purpose it serves. The broad range of identities are there to help individuals, not to act purely as classification; they are there to be defined by the individuals, rather than letting them define us. Self-labelling can help some people feel more grounded in their identity, as well as making it easier for them to find others who have had similar experiences or feelings. Selfidentification can help foster a sense of community, counteract feelings of confusion, otherness, and shame. Mady shares her own experience: “Growing up lonely, gender-ambiguous, with a sexuality I didn’t understand, Great for… • Readers who want to learn more about queer and trans identities • Individuals curious or starting their own journey • Sharing with others to get the conversation started
Self-identification can help foster a sense of community, counteract feelings of confusion, otherness, and shame was difficult. Nowadays, young people have the tools available to learn and grow rather than hide and despair, and that’s an amazing thing!” While our initial reaction may be to baulk or feel overwhelmed at learning so many varied labels and ways of identifying, this book shows us, through first-hand experiences and examples, why it’s such an important area to embrace and support. SHOULD I READ IT? Written from a place of experience, Mady and JR have created an engaging and entertaining, yet deeply thoughtful guide to the world of gender and sexual identity. Refreshing and inclusive, with attention-grabbing graphics and straightforward language, A Quick & Easy Guide To Queer & Trans Identities is a must-read for those who are unsure or coming to terms with their own identity, as well as anyone who wants to learn more about queer and trans identities. In a time where the right to express your own idenity is questioned and refused by so many people, this book is a must-read in the fight for self-love
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU’LL LOVE… A Quick & Easy Guide To They/Them Pronouns By Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson (Limerence Press, £6.99) Genderqueer Archie and cisgender Tristain team up to explain the importance of gender pronouns, why they matter, and how to use them. Trans Teen Survival Guide By Owl and Fox Fisher (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, £12.99) A frank, friendly and funny guide for transgender and nonbinary teens to feel informed, empowered, and armed with practical advice to navigate life. Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard By Alex Bertie (Wren & Rook, £9.99) At age 15, Alex realised he was a transgender man. In this honest and emotional book, Alex shares his journey.
and acceptance. Empowering and enlightening, this book opens the door for inclusive conversation. ‘A Quick & Easy Guide To Queer & Trans Identities’ By Mady G and JR Zuckerberg (Limerence Press, £8.99, 23 April)
Photography | Helena Lopes
Kindness is always. fashionable, and. always welcome. – AMELIA BARR
Don’t man up – open up For years, Pete hid his mental anguish behind a mask of macho bravado. But it was only when he learned to talk honestly about his fragility that he found he could start his journey back to health
Writing | Pete Ruddy
itting in A&E, in a vast white room, crying, and utterly terrified to the point of trying to take my own life, I thought it was all too much. I had been awake for days, every moment adding to the ever-deafening roar of anxiety. I was underweight from not eating and my fears were crippling. Fear had eaten away at me, and my depression had reached all-encompassing depths. The NHS and my family pulled me through. Talking and being open helped in that journey. I’m a man. From an Irish family. We didn’t talk ‘feelings’. My dad and grandad never showed emotion. The toxic black tide of masculinity ran through my family like Guinness. I’ve only had one hug from my dad, and that was when our team won at Wembley. We were always taught to ‘be a man’, never cry, always to ‘man up’ and fight. So I never showed emotion, always just got on with it. Didn’t cry and bottled up all my feelings.
Everything got pushed down, consigned to a box in my head. I carried on, putting on a show rather than revealing the true me. I’d swing from high to low. I’d go out and want to drink until the next morning, be the centre of attention and the life of the party. I had to continually push my body to extremes. I’d work a day job, nine to six, then change and work in a nightclub from nine to three. To get noticed and to avoid having time alone, I’d do stand-up gigs in the evening, finding it easier to make 100 people laugh than have to talk to one person. Over time, my anxiety and depression got worse. At first I just tried to ignore it, using nights out, alcohol, and reckless behaviour as a counterbalance to the dark times. It was much easier to have another pint, and try to forget, than to confront how I felt. I needed to be in a relationship continuously, I couldn’t be alone. Continues >>>
Pete on a day out with his three children
I’d do stand-up gigs in the evening, finding it easier to make 100 people laugh than have to talk to one person But was impossible to live with. The anxieties worsened and the depression grew. I needed to calm down. I met my beautiful wife and went to see my GP. He prescribed citalopram, an antidepressant, which I took for a few months and carried on with life. Another 10 or so years went by, with the occasional depressive spell, and I thought I’d worked it out. I’d had three incredible children and 48 • happiful • May 2019
a fantastic wife; my friends were great, I was doing a job I enjoyed with people I liked, and life seemed to be going well for me. But my anxiety had started to creep back. First, I couldn’t face heights anymore, then I couldn’t go into crowded spaces, then I struggled to go out at all. Work was becoming harder, self-doubt creeping in. Sleep was more fragile – I stayed up watching
TV rather than listen to the voice in my head. It got very dark. My mood was so low I decided to end my life. I got incredible care from the NHS and the crisis care team, who checked me, medicated me, and pulled me through. I moved back in with my mum – hard to do after 20 years away, but I felt safe there. I lost a month, sleeping and recovering. Medication started to make me feel more human, and I began to talk. I had to try to adjust to a new life. For a while it was all very flat, and I was constantly tired from the meds. I stopped caffeine and alcohol – which I’ve continued to this day. It was a complete reset, helped along by family and friends. I started to exercise more. Because of the medication I couldn’t drive, so I had to walk anywhere I needed to go. It was tiring at first, then easier, then the walking
became running. I started to enjoy running, building it up week by week. The runs got gradually longer and I was feeling a buzz from it. As the miles increased, my mood was improving, and I decided to try a marathon. Running was my new dopamine hit. I’d go to the gym, or around the town, and it boosted my confidence. My family would come along to races, so it was fun for us all. I ran the London Marathon and raised money for a mental health charity to say thanks for the help I’d had. It was tough going – being anxious and having your name screamed at you by strangers telling you to run faster is challenging – but it was also the most inspiring and magical day. To see the London streets full of runners with different causes, with heartbreaking and heartwarming stories, supported by thousands of
For Pete, talking about his problems has been like opening a release valve
Pete ran the London Marathon to give back to the charity that helped him
people to help you through, is stunning. My journey was minuscule compared to others, but just being there was a privilege. Since the marathon, there have been good times and bad times. I’ve had a variety of medication – literally from A to Z, amitriptyline to zopiclone, with many others in between. I’ve put on a lot of weight as a side-effect, but I’d rather wear out clothes than my family. It’s strange to say, but I think that depression has improved me. I value every day I have with my family; we have more time together now, and it’s precious. I’ve seen a psychotherapist, gained new understanding, and have been able to face some of my demons. Talking made an incredible difference. It’s like a release valve. I was open about my struggles to my male friends. I wish I had talked many years earlier.
The dark bubbles you bottle up inside will go flat if you just let them out More people than I could have imagined have been open about their frailties – but only after I opened up. We need to openly discuss mental health. As a man, I was always told not to – and suffered as a result. It shouldn’t be that way. There’s no shame, and that’s why I wanted to be open about my issues. I shared my story on Facebook and
Instagram recently, and was overwhelmed by the positive response. It was wonderful to get nice messages and support from friends. I found it was much better to open up than to man up. My illness used to make me feel like a bad Daft Punk song: ‘Older, Greyer, Fatter, Weaker’. It made me doubt everything, and destroyed my life. I’ve used alcohol, drugs, caffeine and promiscuity to try to block it out. I should have opened up. Those dark bubbles that you bottle up
inside will just go flat if you let them out. There are ups and downs, but now I don’t have to hide. The dark moments are surrounded by lots of light. I’ve been so lucky to have incredible support at home and at work, people who have guided me through and make me glad to be who I am. My illness doesn’t define me, or own me. Being open has helped me to understand the illness and myself. Opening up wasn’t easy, but it’s the best thing I did.
Our Expert Says Pete’s journey shows that being strong is not about bottling things up and holding them in, it’s about having the courage to let yourself experience what is inside you. Social norms are changing, and it’s good that we are encouraged to speak more openly about our problems. It’s great to hear how well supported Pete has been; I wonder what support readers might access if they let the people around them in. Fe Robinson | MUKCP (reg) Psychotherapist and couples counsellor
May 2019 • happiful • 49
Flying without fear Is a terror of taking to the skies holding you back from travelling? You’re certainly not alone, but help is available. Here we explore how to overcome this common phobia, and the role hypnotherapy can play in it... Writing | Kat Nicholls
erophobia, or fear of flying, is thought to affect around one in 10 of us. So, if you’re on a full flight jetting off for some summer sun, the chances are you’re not the only one on board feeling anxious. According to Anxiety UK, those with a fear of flying tend to fall into one of two camps; the people who struggle with the internal loss of control, and those whose fear is linked to external factors, such as turbulence, bad weather, or a potential fault with the aeroplane. While flying isn’t something we typically encounter every day, this phobia still has a big impact on those affected. For some, it might hold them back from exploring the world. It might mean you say ‘no’ to going on holidays with your loved ones. It
can even affect work – forcing you to turn down opportunities to travel overseas and progress your career. Statistically, flying is one of the safest forms of travel – but numbers rarely help to ease our anxieties. This is because fear isn’t something we can control consciously. As hypnotherapist Harry Holbrook explains: “Feelings of anxiety, claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces), and panic manifest automatically in the subconscious mind. Such feelings are caused by high levels of stress hormones released by signals from the amygdalae – primitive areas of the brain responsible for our fight, flight, and freeze response, designed to keep us safe in the event of danger or unfamiliar occurrences. “If you think about it, being ‘trapped’ on a plane removes our
Statistically, flying is one of the safest forms of travel – but fear isn’t something we can control consciously most fundamental mechanism for regulating anxiety – the ability to flee. Flying also entails us relinquishing our sense of control by handing over the operation and safety of the aircraft to pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers, security staff, and manufacturers.” Continues >>> May 2019 • happiful • 51
UP IN THE AIR: THREE STEPS TO MANAGE YOUR IN-FLIGHT ANXIETY Alongside the therapy options discussed here, there are simple, practical steps you can take when you’re midflight. If you feel your fear starting to rise alongside the altitude, try these useful tips from Harry:
HOW CAN WE FLY WITHOUT FEAR? Understanding why flying can cause anxiety is one thing, but knowing what to do about it is another. Fortunately there are several different treatments available, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and fear of flying programmes run by airlines, which explain the more technical aspects of flying. Harry notes that a good therapy programme should engage both the conscious and subconscious aspects of the mind to be effective – and this is where hypnotherapy steps in. “It is useful to think of the human mind as consisting of two layers. The outer layer is our conscious mind, which deals with our daily decisionmaking processes, and is intelligent, realistic, logical, and proactive. “When capacity is reached, any additional information is stored away in the filing system of the subconscious mind, which is concerned with our emotions, 52 • happiful • May 2019
1. Listen to a song on your phone and pay attention to the lyrics. Switch the device off and try to repeat the words from memory. Repeat with other songs. Using noise-cancelling headphones will also help to block out unfamiliar technical noises from the cabin.
imagination, and memories, as well as our sympathetic nervous system that controls the functioning of our fight or flight response.” He tells us that when we encounter something unfamiliar, such as turbulence, we learn a particular behaviour in response. Every time something similar happens, our reactions attached to the memory are triggered. For some of us, this means we experience anxiety symptoms.
2. If you’re worried by turbulence, place a cup halffull of water on the tray table. Notice that the turbulence hardly disturbs the water (what can feel like plunging hundreds of feet is actually only a matter of inches!). 3. Learn abdominal breathing (guidance on this can be found online) as it’s not possible to manifest full-blown physical symptoms of a panic attack while doing it – and knowing this could help to prevent one!
With hypnotherapy you can reprogramme your old or unwanted behaviour patterns and create new, more positive ones
“With hypnotherapy, you can reprogramme your old or unwanted behaviour patterns and create new, more positive ones. In the hypnotic state, you accept beneficial suggestions that allow you to change your attitude so that you can do the things you want to do – or not do the things you don’t want to do.” HOW HYPNOTHERAPY CAN HELP Hypnotherapy is a versatile tool and can be used in different ways, depending on individual circumstances. The basic premise is that when we are in a hypnotic state (akin to deep relaxation) our subconscious is more open to suggestion. Harry talks us through some common techniques that may be used to help address a fear of flying: 1. Encouraging a more positive mindset: “The fearful flyer is likely to have experienced years of negative rumination about the dire consequences of flying – hypnotherapy is a great way to replace this mindset with positive rehearsal scenarios.”
techniques such as ‘rewind’ have been shown to be particularly effective.” 4. Self-hypnosis: “Self-hypnosis can simply be used to access a more relaxed state, that can help to quell anticipatory anxiety and be used as a tool when actually on a flight.” Combining these techniques (which work on the subconscious mind) with education about the mechanics of flying (which work on the conscious mind), and you have all bases covered. PREPARING FOR TAKE-OFF If you have a flight coming up, and you’re keen to try hypnotherapy before then, be sure to give yourself enough time for a number of sessions. Harry says that it normally takes three or four to cover the therapeutic and practical techniques, along with the technical knowledge.
Your therapist should also share some techniques to help after your sessions are over. “A good hypnotherapist will also provide some ‘first-aid’ tools for their clients to employ on the flight, such as ‘anchoring’ routines set during hypnosis, breathing techniques, and structured exercises designed to occupy the mind and prevent further release of stress hormones.” Fear and anxiety shouldn’t be something we’re ashamed of. Talking about your fears is the first step to finding support, and while you may never love the experience of flying, there are ways you can learn to cope with anxiety and take back control. Consider it a chance to sit in the pilot’s seat of your own life. You get to choose which direction to go, which mountains to fly over, and which new places to explore... without fear as your co-pilot.
2. Uncovering the root cause: “Using hypnosis as an ‘uncovering’ method can help you to discover – and then resolve – the initial event that caused the phobia in the first place.” 3. NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) techniques: “If a trauma was responsible, then NLP
Learn about hypnotherapy and how it can support you at hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk. To discover Harry Holbrook’s fear of flying packages (both online or face-to-face) visit myfearofflying.co.uk
May 2019 • happiful • 53
How to manage
night-time panic attacks With 13% of people experiencing a panic attack at some point in their lives, it seems a lot of us know how terrifying they can be. But for some, having them during the night can be another, overwhelming experience, and often very different to a panic attack during the day... Writing | Katie Conibear Illustrating | Rosan Magar
t night, everything feels more intense, the atmosphere changes to one that is ethereal and otherworldly. You’re not in your daily routine, or out and about with people. Friends and
54 • happiful • May 2019
family that you count on to talk you through the experience might be asleep and unavailable. You can feel alone and desperate. However, there are ways to manage these attacks. Personally, I’ve found that using these techniques has drastically cut
down the amount of night-time panic attacks I have, and for those times when they do still happen, I’m better prepared to manage them. I now haven’t had a serious panic attack one in 18 months, so I hope this can help you too.
1 Think logically
It’s important to know that it’s a panic attack, and although it might be painful and distressing, it won’t kill you. I’ve been taken to hospital by ambulance twice because of the unrelenting pain I was in. Both times the pain was so bad I thought I was having a heart attack. I’ve spent hours having multiple tests to find what was wrong, for everything to come back clear. What I know now is that although I have found myself in a great deal of pain, it won’t turn into anything sinister. I talk myself through the situation by repeatedly telling myself this, and saying it with conviction. When you realise what is actually happening, it becomes much easier to rationalise and get through it.
2 Get out of bed
Waking up with a panic attack can be very scary, and in the moment it can feel easier to stay in bed and try to wish it away. But the experience can be all the more intense if you lie there, with nothing to distract your mind. For me, lying in bed in the dark during a panic attack seems to exacerbate my feelings, as I run through all the worst scenarios in my head. I find that getting up, turning the light on, and going in to another room is much more constructive. Even if it’s just walking to the kitchen to have a drink of water and to do something, anything, rather than staying in bed worrying.
If I occupy my mind effectively and for long enough, I won’t even realise the pain and panic has gone 3 Distract yourself
If thinking logically doesn’t work on its own, and I’m up and out of bed, I’ll try to distract my mind. We all have something in our lives that helps us relax and takes our thoughts somewhere else – it might be as simple as taking a shower or bath. For me, it’s watching a TV show, something light and entertaining that I’ve seen before.
Sometimes I sketch, which keeps my hands busy and forces me to focus. If I occupy my mind effectively and for long enough, I won’t even realise the pain and panic has gone. Distracting yourself from a panic attack seems simple, but it takes practise. If you’re already thinking logically about what’s happening, it will be easier.
I had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to manage my panic attacks, and to understand why I was having them so frequently. Therapy helped me to realise that I wasn’t dealing with stressors in my life, and that my worries and anxieties were manifesting as panic attacks. I learnt to face what was causing me stress and to deal with it there and then. I realised my panic attacks often occurred after a stressful event. Once my body and mind were relaxed again, like going to bed on a Friday night after a difficult week, I would wake up with a panic attack. It became vital to realise when I was going through a stressful time, so when that stress had disappeared I wouldn’t end up having yet another night-time attack. I was taught breathing techniques to calm myself, which I still use today. Katie is a blogger and freelance writer, focusing on mental health. She blogs at stumblingmind.com and has a podcast, ‘A Life Lived Vividly’, with a focus on hearing voices. To try CBT to address panic attacks, find more information and support on counselling-directory.org.uk May 2019 • happiful • 55
Lovely Lollies! Get ready for summer with our four favourite fruity delights Writing | Ellen Hoggard
t doesn’t matter how old you are, ice lollies ignite a sense of excitement. That nostalgic feeling of warm weather, the seaside, fish and chips, and family time. The merry tune of the ice cream van driving around still sparks joy, and fuels the urge to run down the road barefoot, waving your pocket money. In the UK we may not always have the warmest summer, but we still want to make the most of the sunny days. Instead of heading down to the corner shop, why not grab your friends, family, or the kids, and get creative by making your own refreshing treats?
These lollies are perfect for those days lazing in the garden, or even as a fun addition to a BBQ Ice lollies are simple to make, and lend well to tweaking the recipe to your own taste. These lollies are perfect for those days lazing in the garden, or even as a fun addition to a BBQ. But be quick, we can’t imagine they’ll last long! Here are four of our favourite recipes to try, which are not only cost-friendly, but absolutely delicious. Plus, they’ll provide a whole bunch of essential nutrients.
56 • happiful • May 2019
MANGO AND LIME Makes 8 lollies Ingredients 2 mangoes, cubed Zest of 1 lime 2 limes, juiced 80ml coconut milk (you can use light coconut milk if you wish) Method Add the mango, lime juice, lime zest and coconut milk into a blender or food processor. Combine until smooth. Pour into ice lolly moulds and freeze for at least 6 hours, or leave overnight. When ready to serve, run the moulds under warm water for a few seconds to release.
STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM Makes 4 lollies Ingredients 250g strawberries 100ml natural yoghurt, apple or orange juice 1 tsp honey Method Blitz the strawberries, yoghurt or juice, and honey until smooth. Divide the mixture between the moulds and freeze for a minimum of 5 hours, or overnight.
Remem b buy mou er to lds with sticks, o r your loll add y sticks mid-wa y throug freezing h
COCONUT WATER AND BERRIES Makes 6 lollies Ingredients 1 handful fresh or frozen blueberries 1 handful fresh strawberries, sliced 240ml coconut water 2 tbsp maple syrup (optional) Method At the bottom of your ice lolly moulds, place a slice of strawberry. Add two or three blueberries, then another slice of strawberry. Keeping a bit of room, repeat layers until you reach the end of the mould. In a cup, stir the maple syrup with the coconut water. Pour into the moulds. Freeze overnight.
GREEN SMOOTHIE Makes 10 lollies Ingredients 125ml milk of choice 125g plain Greek yogurt 2 ripe bananas, sliced 2 mangoes, cubed 3 handfuls of spinach 2 tbsp honey 3 tbsp hemp, flax or chia seeds (optional) Method Combine the bananas, mango, spinach, milk, yoghurt and honey until smooth. Add the seeds and mix. Pour the mixture into your moulds and freeze for at least 5 hours, or overnight.
OUR EXPERT SAYS… Mango and lime lollies Sweet and juicy, mangoes are high in fibre and vitamin B6, and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. The fibre will help to keep you fuller for longer, and the vitamins are great antioxidants that help to mop up those free radicals. Using coconut milk (from a can) not only delivers a great taste and creamy texture, but adds useful nutrients – manganese, iron and magnesium. These are great for maintaining bone health and transporting oxygen. Strawberries and cream In this simple but tasty recipe, I would suggest using yoghurt instead of juice. Yoghurt contains both protein and calcium and is alkaline, whereas fruit juice (although 150ml is one of your five-a-day) has very little fibre, and is more acidic, which is more harmful to tooth enamel. Strawberries, whether fresh or frozen, are a great source of fibre and vitamin C. Coconut water and berries Using frozen berries often means the nutrient content is consistent, but nothing beats fresh, seasonal produce. Coconut water is great for hydration, and is high in vitamin C and fibre. Try replacing the sweetener with a few fresh mint leaves. Green smoothie What a fab recipe! The milk and yoghurt (both of which can be Find a vegan) will provide calcium for nutritionist strong bones, and protein for near you at strong muscles. Chia seeds nutritionistare also high in protein, while spinach is a good source of resource.org.uk vitamins A and C. With ripe fruit, you might not need to add the honey – taste before adding to check if it’s sweet enough. Susan Hart is a nutrition coach and speaker. As well as delivering healthy eating advice to individuals, Susan hosts regular workshops and runs vegan cooking classes. Find out more at nutrition-coach.co.uk
With nearly 140,000 Instagram followers, a podcast, and two books under his belt, not to mention being a practising doctor, you won’t need us to tell you that Dr Rupy Aujla is somebody pretty special. Here we chat about the important role of nutrition in medicine, and how he’s cooking up a change... Writing | Ellen Hoggard
hey say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but that may not be the case for the incredible Dr Rupy Aujla – if you’re cooking up a healthy dish, he’ll be the first one grabbing a plate and cheering you along! While many people get into medicine by following in the footsteps of family members, for Rupy, it was all new – in fact, his family tried to convince him not to do it! His biggest inspiration was actually his mum’s experience, as she suffered from idiopathic anaphylaxis – a severe form of allergy. After being prescribed medication for life, she was able to overcome it with changes to her lifestyle. Rupy explains: “Watching her make these changes as a child was my inspiration. I realised that I liked the field of helping people. I liked the concept of changing lives through an overhaul of diet and lifestyle.” And he’s got some big plans to do just that. “I want this book to be the doctor in everyone’s kitchen,” Rupy says, elated but humble, as we discuss his new book, Eating to Beat Illness, hitting the shelves. With his sensational first cookbook, The Doctor’s Kitchen, a
58 • happiful • May 2019
must-read for so many health and food conscious people out there, we can’t wait to have an intimate chat with our favourite doctor on healthy living, and his prescription for a more balanced life.
IS THAT WHERE YOUR UK CULINARY MEDICINE COURSE COMES IN? Culinary Medicine is a concept that started in the US. They graciously licensed me the course, and we have adapted it for UK practitioners. In a nutshell, it teaches doctors the foundations of clinical nutrition and how to cook. If you can cook, you can better motivate your patients to look after their health using food as another clinical tool, not a replacement. The goal is to scale that to create a new generation of doctors that can appreciate the medicinal effects of Continues >>> eating well.
HI RUPY! HOW DID THE IDEA FOR THE DOCTOR’S KITCHEN FIRST COME ABOUT? About eight years ago I fell ill. I was suffering from atrial fibrillation (an irregular and often abnormally fast heartbeat) and after many tests, I was told to have an ablation procedure. It was this that sparked a change in my own lifestyle. The power of food and healthy living isn’t taught in medical school, and it took my own experience to realise just how Rupy’s much of an impact nutrition ve must-ha can have. s Everyone needs variety and n gredie t in flavour. Introduce spices, root The driving force behind The vegetables, and quality fats and Doctor’s Kitchen was the idea of fibres. Stock up on chickpeas, creating motivating, exciting, and legumes, and beans. Also focus on accessible recipes that encourage colourful foods, particularly greens and people to recognise food as an reds – cabbage, spinach and Brussels important health intervention. sprouts (in season). Don’t be afraid of Now, I’m trying to understand freezer foods! Peas, sweetcorn, frozen how we can equip the modern berries. They’re so versatile, cheap, doctor to feel confident having easy to use, and very nutritious. conversations about food in a clinical environment.
I realised that I liked the field of helping people. I liked the concept of changing lives through an overhaul of diet and lifestyle
need the information are following me on Instagram, but it does give me an opportunity to reach a large audience. I now have the chance to work with other influential people or industry experts, like NHS England or the Royal College of GPs.
YOUR NEW BOOK COULD HELP WITH THAT! TELL US MORE. I never actually wanted to do a second book! The first one was so much stress, but the feedback was incredible. Eat to Beat Illness was born out of me having more conversations with people about different specialties. Whether it’s your eyes, your immune system, or your brain, nutrition plays an important role for those areas. That’s what the book is about. WHAT CAN PEOPLE LEARN FROM THE RECIPES? We give people a real understanding that healthy eating isn’t a particular style of food. It introduces the concept that by applying healthy principles, you can eat whatever cuisine, and lead a healthy, happy life. 60 • happiful • May 2019
I hope the recipes encourage people to be experimental with spices and herbs. From a health point of view, some of the best herbs are the ones that are accessible. Basil, rosemary, garlic, thyme. We need to start appreciating just how powerful these can be for health. YOU’RE A DOCTOR, AN AUTHOR, A PODCAST HOST, AND INFLUENCER. IS THIS WHAT YOU EXPECTED WHEN STARTING OUT AS A MED STUDENT? Not at all. It started with one patient, where during our appointment I suggested making the change from breakfast cereal to oats. He asked me how. I realised, there are some people who just don’t cook. It was humbling for me to appreciate that not everyone had the advantage of having a mother who taught them how to cook from scratch. This space is my way of influencing public health. I don’t imagine for one moment that the people who really
WHAT’S YOUR ADVICE FOR EATING FOR STRESS? Gratitude. Recognising when you’re stressed is most important. Understand that feeling, appreciate the stress and let it wash over you. Take yourself out of the situation. Taking this time, even for five minutes can be very useful. By practising gratitude, we can hopefully appreciate the wider picture a bit more. HOW DO YOU LOOK AFTER YOUR OWN MENTAL WELLBEING? I probably don’t practise what I preach in terms of taking time off. I’m lucky that I can do my clinical work when it suits me, so I can also do my masters, my nonprofit work, and everything else. But it does take a toll. Gratitude has been revolutionary for me. It reminds me, even when I’m completely overwhelmed, that I should be appreciative of the environment around me, and that I’m lucky to be alive in that moment. I’m pretty regimented when it comes to exercise. I work out in the morning and it’s an incredible start to my day. Without exercise to maintain my stress levels, my enthusiasm and motivation, I wouldn’t get as much done.
Photography | Faith Mason
The goal is to create a new generation of doctors that can appreciate the medicinal effects of eating well
Follow Rupy on Instagram @doctors_kitchen, and visit his website thedoctorskitchen.com
‘Eat to Beat Illness’ by Dr Rupy Aujla (Harper Thorsons, £16.99)
GLAZED PEACHES WITH THYME Serves 4 200g pitted dates Pinch of salt 300g raw hazelnuts, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained 1 tbsp coconut oil 200g ripe peaches, stoned and cut into 2cm-thick slices 2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional) 5g fresh thyme leaves, chopped 100g fresh berries 10g shelled, unsalted pistachios, toasted and crushed Since learning more about the impact of berries on brain health and how they generally reduce inflammation, I try to sneak them into recipes wherever I can. The sharp taste of the berries contrasts with the sweet stone fruit, and the delicious base has plenty of fibre from the nuts and more flavour than a traditional biscuit base. Method • Put the dates, salt and drained hazelnuts in a blender, and blitz until you get a coarse mixture that sticks together when pressed. • Line a small 30 x 42cm flat baking tray and grease with 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil. Press the date crust into the tray to make an even 1cm-thick layer, and place in the fridge or freezer to set. • Melt the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat, and toss in the sliced peaches. Sauté for 4–5 minutes until lightly coloured, then drizzle over the honey or maple syrup (if using) and scatter with the thyme before taking off the hob. • Allow to cool slightly, then scatter the fruit on top of the chilled nutty crust, along with the fresh berries and pistachios, and slice. May 2019 • happiful • 61
If you’re feeling. a little bit down, a. bit of kneading helps. – MARY BERRY
A stepping stone in recovery Severe anxiety, alongside depression, left Mel panic stricken, and affected her daily life. While she had reservations initially, professional support and medication gave her a platform to begin her recovery Writing | Mel Bonthuys
rom when I experienced my first anxiety attack 18 years ago, my journey includes being hospitalised in a psychiatric ward, five psychiatrists, three psychologists, antipsychotic medications, contemplating suicide, experiencing two huge relapses, and many little ones as well. Those times were worse than tough. In my first book, My Anxiety Companion, I actually described myself as being ‘dead’ because I was dissociated from the world around me, and felt so utterly hopeless and anxiety stricken that I had given up every last shred of hope within me. So if someone had told me that 18 years later I would be happy, healthy, married, living in a different country, and writing books on how to recover from anxiety disorder, I would never have believed them! Looking back now, I realise that I was always an anxious child.
However my first big anxiety attack was in 2001 when I was 18, and was triggered by a movie. To this day, I have to be extremely careful with what films I expose myself to. It’s still difficult for me to speak about, but I noticed that instead of the anxiety from the movie gradually going away, it actually got worse. I started to experience really terrifying irrational fears, developed a fear of people in general, chest tightness, muscle tension, and a horrible knot in my stomach – constantly! My best friend didn’t understand, and I was too embarrassed to tell anyone else, because not even I understood what I was feeling. Of course, now I have come to realise that anxiety disorders have two main foundations: fear of the unknown, and irrational fears. Continues >>>
“As soon as I was starting to feel better and trying to get on with life, the anxiety would hit again”
Mel with her best friend in 2001, just before she experienced her first anxiety attack
I was dissociated from the world around me, and felt so utterly hopeless and anxiety stricken The symptoms got worse, and I started to display some odd behaviour, feeling emotions I’d never felt before. It was too much for me to handle, and by that stage, my mom and dad found out. They tried to ease my worry, and we just boiled it down to being scared of the ‘unknown’ in my final year of high school. 64 • happiful • May 2019
But it didn’t get better. It got worse. It got ugly, and it got absolutely heart-wrenching. By this stage, depression had also taken hold of me, making daily life so unbearable that I refused to get out of bed. I ended up in hospital, was put on antipsychotics, and saw three different therapists. However, as soon as I was starting to feel better and trying to get on with life, the anxiety would hit again. Only now it was 10 times worse than before. Not only did I have numerous raging anxiety symptoms, from palpitations, to sweating, tinnitus, dizziness and shaking – you name it, I had it – I also experienced dissociation, strange behavioural changes, and suicidal thoughts, even begging my mom, who’s a nurse, to assist me in killing myself.
In July 2008, I married an amazing guy, but the first year of marriage was hell. My new husband was more of a carer than a spouse, and by 2009 it got to a point where my symptoms prevented me from being able to do basic things like drive, cook and bathe. Nights were the worst, and I would often wake up panic stricken and try to hit my husband from pure fear. It was a struggle just to live, and all I wanted was to die. My family frantically tried to find help for me, and eventually I did get it. My first point of contact was a highly recommended psychiatrist. I was feeling so utterly hopeless at this point in time, but I will always be grateful to this psychiatrist as the medication she prescribed really was the turning point for me. I’ve always been a ‘natural way’ sort of person, but I now do believe that conventional medication does have its place
in this world, and in mental health it can be a life-saver. As much as the medication helped, I was on some pretty harsh stuff and in high dosages, including an antipsychotic, and I wanted to try to get down to as minimum a dosage as I could. I realised how much medication can help you, and it’s something I want to point out to other anxiety sufferers. It’s like a hoist that lifts you up off a crumbling cliff, but it’s only that – a stepping stone. Anxiety disorder recovery is so much more than just taking a pill every day. I began to do some investigation in actually retraining an anxious mind. In the end, my help came from an assortment of medications, natural remedies, therapy, and courses. But what helped the most was realising that my own thought patterns were to blame, and it was how I was reacting to those thought patterns that made all the difference.
Mel and her husband
To see more of Mel’s work and books, please visit myanxietycompanion.com
Anxiety disorders can be complex to treat, but this doesn’t mean that they are not treatable. It only means that they are not quick to fix As I sit here, telling you this, it is unbelievable to think as to how severe my anxiety disorder really was, and I am determined to never let it swallow me up like that again. I’ve learnt that anxiety disorders can be complex to treat, but this doesn’t mean that they are not treatable. It only means that they are not quick to fix. The courage that is needed to stand up and say: ‘I have a mental illness’, is not easy, but you cannot fully focus on getting well if you are treating it from an arm’s length.
It needs to be accepted as a part of you, but also know that mental illness does not define you, and it never will. I have also learned that medication is not the enemy many people make it out to be. It played a huge role in saving my life, and provided the short-term relief to enable me to regain enough strength and focus to decide on a long-term treatment plan. As I began to withdraw from the medication, I was able to find holistic treatments that I still use to this day. Treatment for mental illness is so varied
and it can take trial and error before you find one that works for you. Today, I describe myself as a recovered anxiety disorder sufferer, but I am not cured from the small anxious moments that creep up on me every now and again. I remain on a minimal dosage of only one anxiety medicine, which is a withdrawal from more than 80% of what I was on. The difference now is how I handle those anxious moments, and how I react to them.
Anxiety is all about thought processes, and I am now able to control the anxious thoughts before they take hold of me – it’s a truly liberating feeling. I am the happiest that I’ve ever been, and my message to anyone who has a mental illness is to show them how they too can be happy and healthy, even with a diagnosis. No matter how severe your anxiety disorder is, there is always hope for you.
Our Expert Says Mel found her chronic anxiety initially difficult to understand, and embarrassing to share. Her fear of the unknown made her life unbearable. Medication gave her the breathing space to recover, and she realised that she needed to work on her reactions and thought patterns. Helped by medication, she found treatment options that worked for her. Often a combination of tools (medication, therapy and challenge) will help us overcome our anxiety. Now, she is in a place of hope. Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred) UKRCP (reg) Reg Ind counsellor
May 2019 • happiful • 65
Sing along with the new Elton John biopic, tune in to inspiring stories of learning to rise when we fall, and storm the Tower of London with our top picks for May
PAGE-TURNERS Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come by Jessica Pan When journalist Jessica Pan found herself jobless and friendless, she couldn’t help but wonder whether things would have been different if she’d been more open to new experiences. Plagued by the question, ‘Do extroverts have it easier?’, she challenged herself to live as one for a year. (Out 30 May 2019, Doubleday, £12.99)
THE CONVERSATION World Maternal Mental Health Day With as many as one in five women experiencing some type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD), this day is an opportunity to share stories and break the stigma that stops mothers from reaching out for help. (1 May, find out more at wmmhday.postpartum.net)
TECH TIP-OFFS Daily Art
Whether you’re completely new to the world of art, or want to brush up on your knowledge, Daily Art is a great app for learning about some of the world’s most famous pieces and discovering lesser-known works, too. The concept is simple: each day the app shows you a different piece of fine art with short, clear introductions. Choose to ‘like’ or ‘share’ the work, and unleash your inner art critic!
LEND US YOUR EARS ‘Without Fail’ In this podcast, host Alex Blumberg interviews people from the worlds of business, sport and culture about how they failed and what they learned from doing so. From the man behind Groupon, to the woman who worked to reunite migrant families, be inspired to conquer every challenge. (Listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify)
(Available for Android and iOS)
PLUGGED-IN Baddie Winkle
SQUARE EYES Rocketman Sit back and relax as this new biopic tracing the highs and lows of musical legend Sir Elton John’s rise to fame hits the big screen. Boasting an impressive cast, with Taron Egerton as Elton, joined by Richard Madden and Jamie Bell, Rocketman is bound to have you humming away long after the credits.
(In cinemas 24 May)
PUT ON A SHOW
Blenheim Palace Food Festival Have your fill of delicious treats at this food festival set in the historic grounds of Blenheim Palace. Offering 140 different food and drink producers, celebrated chefs and experts, and specialist free-from options, this free event isn’t one you’ll want to miss. (25–27 May, find out more at fantasticbritishfoodfestivals.com/blenheim)
OUT AND ABOUT
Free walking festival in the Peak District Lace up your walking boots and join guides as they take you on walks through the stunning Peak District landscape. From a 34-mile trek, to a twomile family ramble, these free walks are a great way to experience the Chesterfield area. (11 May. Head to visitchesterfield.info to book on
With her iconic tagline, ‘Stealing ur man since 1928’, Helen Ruth Elam Van Winkle, aka Baddie Winkle, is the Instagram sensation proving that sass has no age limit. With her quirky outfits and iconic photo captions, head to Baddie’s page to soak up a piece of her infectious joy. (Follow @baddiewinkle)
GET GOING Tower of London Run Run 1K laps around the Tower of London’s famous grassed moat as many times as you like up to 10K, and raise money for the British Heart Foundation’s life-changing work. (8 May. Sign-up and find out more at bhf.org.uk)
TREAT YOURSELF Soap Co.
More than just your standard bottle of hand wash, Soap Co. employs people who are blind, disabled or disadvantaged to make their products – creating lifechanging job opportunities for people who may otherwise not have them. Indulge in these luxury products that, as their slogan summarises, ‘are good and do good’. (Available in supermarkets and online at thesoapco.org)
Images | ‘Without Fail’: Gilmet Media, Rocketman: David Appleby - © 2018 PARAMOUNT PICTURES, Blenheim Food Festival: fantasticbritishfoodfestivals.com, Baddie: Instagram @baddiewinkle
Outside the TOY BOX
Around 8% of children in the UK are disabled, and yet the toys they play with rarely reflect their experiences. Toy Like Me is the campaign calling on toy makers to improve the diversity of their products Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
veryone deserves to feel seen. To be able to look around them, and know that they’re not an anomaly, or alone. Messages that tell us what is ‘normal’, and what is not, start very early on. They’re in the films that we watch, the role models we’re given, and the toys that we play with. That is, until now. Diversity is possibly the biggest conversation of the past decade, and Toy Like Me is a rung in the ladder that’s taking us to a more inclusive world. Founded in 2015 by journalist Rebecca Atkinson, Toy Like Me campaigns for better representation of disabilities and differences, by making-over famous children’s toys. Rebecca has been the mastermind of several viral campaigns, picking up celebrity supporters like Steven Merchant and author of The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson, on the way. So how did it all start, and what difference is the campaign making to the lives of disabled children?
breaking down stereotypes about what disability looks like, and shining a light on something that, when excluded from our experiences, so often becomes a source of shame.
So, Rebecca began giving famous toys disabilities, taking photos of them and sharing them online. The photos went viral and the story was picked up by news outlets around the world. But more importantly, Rebecca built up a community of people who shared the same vision. Recognising this, she started a petition asking Playmobil to make official versions of the toys she had adapted.
I never saw anyone with hearing aids in magazines, or on TV, so it felt like something that should be hidden But this overwhelming support for her campaign came as no surprise to Rebecca. “I know how powerful it is to see yourself represented,” she explains. “And when that never usually happens, it invokes a strong ping of recognition. A ‘that’s like me!’ moment which is really powerful and validating for kids, and adults too. “I think I was more surprised that no one had thought of something so simple before.”
IN A BARBIE WORLD
A ‘one size fits all’ attitude can lead to a lot of internalised shame, which Rebecca has experienced first-hand. Wearing hearing aids since childhood, it took her a long time to feel comfortable with them. “I never wore my hair up until I was in my 20s because I didn’t want people to know my secret,” Rebecca tells us. “I never saw anyone with hearing aids in magazines or books, or on TV, so it felt like something that should be hidden. If you never see positive images of people like you, you can internalise a sense of shame about who you are.” When Rebecca founded Toy Like Me, she wasn’t asking brands to make toys specifically for disabled children, but disabled toys for all children. Her vision is for disability to become part of a standard experience –
from guardians of deaf and disabled children, on how well our toys stimulate their learning and creativity, so we are thrilled to be able to champion their representation in the toy box.”
“Playmobil, we’ve made these toys to give you some ideas! We would love to see you make them for real,” Rebecca wrote on the change.org petition. “You’d make a lot of people happy. You’d make a lot of kids feel included. And most importantly, you’d make a lot of guide dog tails wag!” And, the petition worked. More than 50,000 people signed it, leading Playmobil to begin work on new products inspired by Toy Like Me, taking on Rebecca as creative consultant. “The Toy Like Me campaign has been inspiring for us – we’ve listened to our audience and are delighted to offer our full support,” read a statement from Playmobil. “We receive a lot of positive comments
LEGO OF ‘NORMAL’
“We initially had a lot of success on social media with our images being seen by millions of people all over the world, but most of these were adults,” Rebecca explains. “We wanted to reach the children themselves, so we evolved as an organisation to host school workshops and public events to engage children in learning about disability through the magic of toys and play.” The Toy Like Me workshops aim to teach children in primary schools about diversity and inclusion. “For disabled children themselves, seeing toys which represent diversity can be very validating, and for non-disabled children, research has shown that exposure to disability through toys
It’s evidence of the power that we all have to evoke change
to one of excitement – after engaging with our image of a Lego superhero using a wheelchair,” Rebecca says. “These little visual messages can be very powerful. We’ve also heard of lots of children taking a Toy Like Me to school for show and tell, and using it to start a conversation with the class.” can help grow open minds,” Rebecca says. She doesn’t just believe that representation works, it’s something she knows and that she sees in the children Toy Like Me reaches. “One child who was about to get her first wheelchair, and was very anxious about it, totally changed her attitude –
TO INFINITY, AND BEYOND
But all this is just the beginning. This year, Toy Like Me received a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to create 3D printed wheelchairs for toys, which will be available later this year, alongside a white cane, hearing aids, and cochlear implants.
Nothing beats the joy of a child who feels seen, and that’s exactly what Toy Like Me is doing for the thousands of children in the UK who, for so long, have not been able to recognise themselves in the toys they play with. It’s evidence of the power that we all have to evoke change, to join in calls for progress, and to get things done for future generations. Because when we all pull together to celebrate the things that make us, and others, different, we’re taking one giant leap towards a kinder, more inclusive world for all.
B E BR AV E , Author, artist and unstoppable force for change Rose McGowan speaks to Happiful about what bravery means to her, how we can all make a positive difference, and what the future holds Writing | Lucy Donoughue
ose McGowan has been brave since she was a child. Her father told her sisters that his nickname for her was ‘brave one’, and she adds, laughing, that her mother later said she’s always been ‘thorny’ too, so Rose was a perfect name for her. But, as we discuss, the rose is also a symbol of strength, beauty and protection, and couldn’t be more appropriate... Many people will recognise Rose for her acting and work as part of the #MeToo movement, but she found real bravery a long time before that. Her aptly-titled book, Brave, explores her childhood in Italy, living in the Children of God cult, moving to America in her teens, and adulthood. It was released last year, when the media frenzy around widespread sexual harrassment and rape allegations throughout Hollywood was at its height, but the telling of her truth had been coming for some time.
“I’ve always been kind of bold,” Rose explains, when we discuss the concept of bravery. “It’s not driven by ego, it’s driven by fear. I always resented being afraid of things, and so instead of shrinking from them I lean into them. “I’m scared of heights, so I jumped out of a plane. You tackle your fear head on. It doesn’t make it pleasant or fun – not by any stretch – but it’s a compulsion, and I’m that person. “Everyone has their own definition of what bravery is for them. But it’s definitely getting outside of your comfort zone. Who wants to be comfortable all the time? When difficult situations arise, we can either shrink from them, or lean into them. By doing that, I think we can actually change the world.” This is the first of many hugely optimistic statements I hear from Rose. She wants the world to be a better place, she wants to challenge systems that oppress and damage humans, and she’s committed to making waves.
Many of the areas in which Rose has worked as a social activist are well known. Out of respect to her, I don’t want to spend this article discussing the person who raped Rose in 1997. In her book, she refers to him simply as ‘the monster’, and a Google search for ‘Hollywood Producer #MeToo’ will lead you to more information, should you need to look. The same search will also offer up information about the momentum the #MeToo movement gathered in 2017 and 2018, when Rose and many others opened up about the terrible treatment they’d endured at the hands of those with power and money to cover up and tarnish the lives and careers of anybody who spoke out against them. The concept of being compelled to act is evident once more when Rose discusses speaking out against ‘the monster’, and the network of people who were complicit in their unwillingness to acknowledge or stop his toxic abusive behaviour.
B E B E TT E R . “I was waiting for so long for someone else to rise up and do what I did, but they didn’t come. They didn’t come and I knew,” she explains. “I always knew I was meant to do something more than acting, that never quite sat right with me. I always knew I was going to change the world. And I’m not done yet. Maybe I still haven’t done the big thing I’m meant to do, but I always knew it wasn’t in Hollywood.” The subsequent discussions and battles around power abuse haven’t been without personal and mental health consequences for Rose. She describes the act of writing the book as “brutal”, and the media storm that followed had a detrimental impact too. Continues >>>
I always knew I was going to change the world. And I'm not done yet. Maybe I still haven't done the big thing I’m meant to do, but I always knew it wasn't in Hollywood May 2019 • happiful • 71
“It’s really hard doing interview after interview,” Rose offers. “While you know you have to push an agenda forward for social justice, you’re seeing your rapist’s face everywhere, you’re being triggered by stupid, inconsiderate questions, and people thinking that your rape is entertainment. “That’s a brutally difficult thing to go through. And I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I feel like I barely survived the last couple of years, but I always knew it was going to be the fight of my life. And I was right. It was.” Part of Rose’s fight included the release of the book – her truth, in her words. She also worked with E! on a four-part documentary, Citizen Rose. Rose was immensely proud of the first part. “I had control of the edit and worked really hard. It had my music and art in, and it was unique and beautiful. The other episodes I didn’t watch, because it was almost happening in real time. And it was literally too painful. “It was filmed at a very traumatic period of my life, and I couldn’t relive what was happening, literally the week or two before – it was too much for my brain. But I’m very proud of what I did. I wanted to show truth, and I wanted to show how hard it was to fight.” One particular moment that stood out for me was when Rose was being photographed at a bookstore. She stands alone against the backdrop as a sea of flashes go off, the photographers hustling and shouting her name.
I saw this bent flower, this bent rose, growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. I was staring at it and I thought, that’s like most of us – we are bent but not broken
Rose steps forward, and asserts that she will do the shoot but they need to cease the aggressive yelling. They do. The shoot continues in silence. She thanks them and walks away. Someone later mentions how well she controlled the photographers, but Rose insists it wasn’t about control – she simply reframed the situation. This example demonstrates her desire to question everything we
accept as the norm in society, and her optimism around “being better”. It’s part of this quest for a better society that saw her create the hastag #RoseArmy, not in reference to her name, but after a moment of inspiration walking around the city. “I saw this bent flower, this bent rose, growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. I was staring at it and I thought, that’s like most of us – we are
bent but not broken. A lot of times it feels like we’re going to snap, but we come back up. That’s human nature, and the fight that comes with just being alive, and wanting to stay alive. “Rose Army is a hashtag with the ethos of: ‘Can we be better? Can we think differently and do you think differently? Let’s connect!’ It’s this hashtag used all over the world, like a handshake.” Along with the hashtag, the symbol of the rose growing through the hard pavement is a powerful one, as well as the flower’s capacity to defend itself against attack. “A rose doesn’t want to hurt people, but it will if they get closer and grab it in an incorrect manner,” Rose says. “The thorns are there and they carry a consequence. When someone steals another human being, their life force, or who they are – that alters the course of their life. That’s unforgivable to me, and there should be a consequence. Today. Hopefully in this life, and not the next. “A rose is a delicate beauty,” she says. “It needs to be protected and I think that’s like all of us. We’re all roses in our own life, absolutely.” She stops and smiles. “No pun intended on my name, I swear to God.” Throughout our conversation, Rose jokes and chats – about travel, American food (she hates it – especially orange cheese), and her creativity. There is so much more to Rose than what the #MeToo media reports would suggest, and she is always keen to point out that she is “a #MeToo – I am not #MeToo”. I wonder if Rose ever feels reduced to a one dimensional version of herself in the press? This is something she feels deeply and tells me she loves to laugh, and that she’s been told she has a dry humour, which is more of an English trait. She seems happy about that. She wants people to know that she is more than the impressions that have been given.
“I do battle, I am somebody who stands up and pushes back,” she says emphatically. “I’m also somebody who sits on the couch and watches Netflix. I’m somebody who likes laughing with friends. I know how to make a really good spaghetti. “We are all many many things,” she concludes. “And that’s what’s so great about being human.” And how is life, now, for Rose? “I’m in a healthy relationship with a beautiful human, and that’s helped me heal a lot. I don’t like leaning on people for my mental health, but it’s been nice just to be with kindness
I am somebody who stands up and pushes back. I’m also somebody who sits on the couch and watches Netflix
Creativity also plays a major role in Rose’s life. She’s working on her album, Planet 9, and hopes to perform her first live gig at the Edinburgh Fringe this summer. Before we part ways, I ask – after speaking so much about past events – if she could meet future Rose in 10 years time, what does she hope she’d be doing? Rose exhales. “I tend not to think about the future too much because it’s something that can overwhelm me… “But I hope she’d be living in a farmhouse in Tuscany, learning how to paint. And I hope she would heal and be healed.” She pauses. “She’d possibly be in politics, sticking it to the man. The collective man not the man.” She smiles. “It’s going to be an interesting journey.” Rose’s book ‘Brave’ is out in paperback now (HarperCollins, £9.99). Hear more from Rose in our full interview on Happiful’s podcast ‘I am. I have’.
because that was so absent in my life for so long. Hollywood is not known for its kindness, and neither is the media, nor Twitter. To be with somebody who’s kind and generous has helped me heal in a faster way than I think I could have on my own.” May 2019 • happiful • 73
MAYHAPPI AT THE CHECKOUT
READER OFFER ONE YEAR FOR ONLY £57
Get two months free on an annual subscription using code MAYHAPPI at shop.happiful.com
What you’ll get:
• Happiful magazine delivered straight to your door every month • Post and packaging included • Exclusive competitions, prize draws, and a chance to feature inside • For every tree we use to print this magazine, we will ensure two are planted or grown Prices and beneﬁts are correct at the time of printing, using code MAYHAPPI, which expires on 20 June 2019. For full terms and conditions, please visit happiful.com.
Subscribe at happiful.com
74 • happiful • May 2019
Body dysmorphic disorder is a condition affecting around one in 50 people, but how much do you know about BDD? To find out more, we speak to the charity at the heart of the movement to raise awareness for the condition, and the people who have been there themselves Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
What is body dysmorphic disorder?
ody dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental health condition where an individual experiences intense anxiety about their appearance. More than just a concern about the way they look, BDD can cause someone to become very distressed about their image and their perceived ‘flaws’, to the point where it prevents them from living a normal life. As with so many mental health conditions, there is a lot of stigma and many misconceptions surrounding BDD. Here, with the help of the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, we take a closer look at what it means to have BDD.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF BDD?
According to the NHS, the following may be symptoms:
• Obsessive worrying about a specific area of your body • Spending a lot of time comparing your looks to others’ • Looking in the mirror excessively, or avoiding mirrors altogether • Going to a lot of effort to conceal ‘flaws’, such as with clothing choices or make-up • Skin picking to make it ‘smoother’
76 • happiful • May 2019
WHEN DOES BEING SELF-CONSCIOUS BECOME BDD?
Feeling self-conscious about the way we look is something we can all relate to – particularly during puberty. But BDD is very different; it’s a mental health condition that greatly restricts a person’s life. People may feel they can’t leave the house, or may go to extremes to alter the way that they look. Though research is limited, it’s believed that BDD could be genetic, or originate in trauma such as childhood bullying or abuse. “Most people with BDD are incredibly anxious and fearful that their appearance will shock or repel others,” Kitty Wallace, a trustee of the BDD Foundation, explains. “They may feel that their appearance will be an embarrassment or a let down to their family and friends. The disorder comes from a deep and distressing anxiety rather than vanity.”
WHO DOES IT AFFECT?
The short answer is anyone at any point in their life. That said, BDD usually begins in late adolescence – although the BDD Foundation notes that it can take up to 15 years before a person seeks help from a mental health professional. While the area of concentration will depend entirely on the individual, the BDD Foundation identifies some of the most common complaints as the skin, nose, hair, eyes, genitals, breasts, and overall body build.
A closer look HELP IS OUT THERE
The good news is there are a lot of options for treating BDD. More severe cases can be treated with SSRIs – a type of antidepressant – while others may find cognitive behavioural therapy helpful. Often, there is a lot of comfort to be found in coming together to talk about a problem that we share with others, and so the BDD Foundation host several support groups around the country – as well as online groups over Skype, where people have the option to use their camera or not.
A WAY FORWARD
For the thousands of people in the UK who live with BDD, the condition can be debilitating. But the good news is help is out there. For the BDD Foundation, awareness is at the heart of what they do. And it is their hope that by continuing this education and conversation about the disorder, together, we can end the stigma that prevents people from seeking the help that they need.
The disorder comes from a deep and distressing anxiety rather than vanity
Kitty's story “I have always been self-conscious and a perfectionist, and this trait moved towards my appearance in my teens. “I felt I didn’t fit in with my peers, and that I was ugly and repulsive to others. I assumed that my friends and family would be embarrassed to be seen with me, and I didn’t want to let them down. “I tried to improve my appearance, and would spend hours applying make-up, picking at my skin, styling my hair and choosing my clothes, hoping I would be able to solve the ‘problem’ of my appearance. At the time, I didn’t realise that the problem was psychological. “It wasn’t until my gap year when I was hardly leaving the house that my parents learned about BDD through a documentary, and contacted the BDD Foundation. Without the Foundation, I probably wouldn’t be here today.
I would spend hours applying make-up, picking at my skin, styling my hair “BDD is so incredibly isolating, distressing, and disabling that at the time I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. The more I tried to improve my appearance, the worse I felt, and the more
problems I would find. It was only through cognitive behavioural therapy that I began my road to recovery. It’s been a bumpy road (I had a relapse of BDD in my late 20s), but I now feel very happy and fulfilled in my life, which is something I never thought I would experience. I hope that anyone who reads about BDD and relates will feel able to reach out for the help they deserve, and know that recovery is possible.”
Visit bddfoundation.org for more information, or call the OCD Action helpline on 0845 390 6232 for advice on treatment and emotional support.
“It was the early 70s when it started. Part of it was moving from a refugee camp to a community that was all white, so being a different colour to start with. Then around puberty there were issues with hair, and embarrassment about a change in my physical body. “The thing that was devastating was that I had inverted nipples until my early 30s. I never went topless, I never even wore T-shirts. I wanted to be invisible, I didn’t want people to see me in any way. I avoided changing rooms like the plague, I avoided all sports, especially swimming or physical contact. I used to have notes that I would save to get out of sports at school, and it would be traumatic every week to get out of it. “Eventually, I realised I wasn’t alone, and I did get past it in my 30s. But it was bad enough that it demanded self-loathing throughout my life, to the point of suicidal thoughts. Recently, I was sent a photograph by my cousin from when we were forced to go to the beach by my uncle, and I was shocked to see that I looked normal, where in my memory I was a blob. It was shocking to see that.” Today, Kenny runs MenSpeak men’s groups, in London and online, where men can come together, talk, listen and grow. To find out more, head to mensgroups.co.uk
May 2019 • happiful • 77
Protect your energy as an empath Easily impacted by other people’s emotions? You could be an empath. Here we look at what that means, and suggest ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed Writing | Kat Nicholls Illustrating | Rosan Magar
mpathy is a wonderful trait. It allows you to understand and share the feelings of others, to appreciate what someone else may be going through, and to support them. For some, however, the level of empathy felt is intense. Often referred to as empaths, these people can feel truly affected by other people’s emotions – almost taking on their feelings. While this certainly has positive aspects (empaths are often deeply caring and form strong connections) there can be challenges to overcome. For an empath, walking into a crowded room can feel overwhelming.
78 • happiful • May 2019
Talking to someone who is stressed or angry can be draining. Loud noises, strong scents, and bright lights can be overstimulating. Even particularly harrowing TV shows, movies or books can be a challenge.
If you feel especially sensitive to other people’s emotions, and can relate to the challenges mentioned, you may well be an empath. To navigate these challenges, it can help to have some tools and techniques to help protect your energy levels. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
1 Set boundaries
Having healthy boundaries is important for all of us, but if you’re an empath it can be particularly useful. Empaths often feel so full of other people’s emotions that they lose track of their own needs. Learning to say ‘no’ more, knowing when to step away from situations, and prioritising self-care, is key. For example, if you have a person in your life who you find particularly draining, set boundaries and decide how much of your energy you’re going to give them. This could mean pointing them to other forms of support, or simply turning down a social invitation now and then.
2 Give journaling a go
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotion, it can help to get it out in some way. There are lots of different options, but one enjoyable way is journaling. Putting pen to paper, and writing whatever’s on your mind, can not only be a release, but can also reconnect you with your own emotions, and help you to focus on how you’re feeling. To get into the habit, perhaps start by writing a few lines every evening to process the day and any lingering emotions.
3 Start a mindfulness practice Getting to know what you need, and recognising your own feelings, is important – and mindfulness can help with this. Whether you do this through meditation, or an activity like mindful colouring, knitting, or walking, it’s helpful to set aside time to be quiet and present. This can help you replenish your energy levels too, making you more resilient and able to handle other people’s emotions.
4 Try visualisation techniques
If you’re going into a scenario that you know is going to be draining – a big party, for example, or a particularly difficult conversation – it’s worth trying a visualisation technique. Imagine you have a glass wall between you and the person you’re speaking to, so while you can continue to engage in conversation, you’re protected from taking on their emotions. Other visualisations you could try include picturing yourself in a protective bubble, imagining other people’s emotions as water that flows over you, or even seeing their emotions as a balloon and letting that balloon go.
5 Get back to nature regularly
Nature has a wonderfully grounding effect, helping you to clear your mind and feel closer to the earth. If you can, aim to get outside often and seek out green areas. Taking time to notice the leaves on a tree, or clouds in the sky, can help you anchor yourself in the moment and feel more connected to yourself and your emotions.
You have a gift, and now’s the time to master it 6 Plan for emotion overload
Being prepared can help to avoid unexpected emotion overload. The trick is to note down what triggers your empathic tendencies, and having a plan for each. Some of these will involve the boundary work, others will need a recovery plan, such as keeping the day after an event free for rest and self-care. Having these plans can save a lot of time (and energy) when a situation presents itself. The more prepared you are, the more you can embrace your empathic side, and see the many positives that come alongside the challenges. You have a gift, and now’s the time to master it.
May 2019 • happiful • 79
Photography | Honey Yanibel
The key to immortality. is first living a life. worth remembering. – BRUCE LEE
Nourishing yourself Growing up, Julia dreamed of glitz and glamour, but when that dream became a reality, the sparkle soon faded. Her modelling career put her under constant pressure to conform, but in finally listening to her intuition, Julia discovered peace and happiness
Writing | Julia Datt
s a nerdy tomboy with big ears, glasses, braces and a moustache, growing up in Australia I was in awe of models – their beauty, grace, confidence (not to mention a lack of prominent facial hair). I was scouted overseas when I was 13, but my parents were pretty strict and drilled into me that any kind of taking pride in your looks equates to vanity, so the focus remained on my studies, and modelling was just for my dreams. In 2004, during university, where I did an International Business degree to keep my parents happy, I decided to reach out to large modelling agencies, but their response was that they were unimpressed with my dark looks. Back then, Australian agency books consisted of Caucasian blondes and brunettes, with a token African girl, which stirred up feelings of resentment, frustration, and unworthiness.
Eventually a small agency took me on and I did a few jobs, but it became clear that modelling wasn’t something I could make a career of in Australia. So I decided to look at it as a stepping stone to acting, which I’d grown to love since childhood. After my degree, I trotted along from 2007 to 2009 in an office, as everything from a cosmetics product manager to a beauty editor, which exposed me to the glitz and glam of the Sydney social scene and re-ignited my showbiz desires. At the end of 2009, I was made redundant from my job. I wanted the feelings of elation and genuine passion for a job to continue, and I realised the only way to do that would be to give my dream of working in the entertainment industry a chance. After planning for months, in 2010 I booked a one-way ticket to Mumbai, with zero knowledge of the language, family, friends, Continues >>>
Julia’s confidence was affected by bullying from others in the industry
It was a constant cycle of humiliation and mind games, and I felt like I was running on autopilot, an empty shell
82 • happiful • May 2019
I discovered the seedy side of getting into most Bollywood films and it was not a path I wished to pursue. It was a constant cycle of humiliation and mind games, and I felt like I was running on autopilot, an empty shell. Fellow models either joined in the bullying for Brownie points, or gave you a wide berth so they wouldn’t be picked on, too. It was an incredibly isolating and dark place to be in. During this time I had body dysmorphia – unaware of how thin I was, and was hyper aware of my ‘imperfections’. For a few years, my legs were so thin I’d struggle to walk a runway in heels – I just couldn’t hold myself up. After five years, the final straw came after a particularly humiliating experience of yet again being ridiculed – this time for the broadness of my shoulders – in front of a pack of cowering backstage girls.
When the designers had had their fun and walked out, I threw the jacket – which had prompted the remarks – on the floor and stomped on it amidst the cheers of the backstage crew. That gave me the strength I needed to realise I was not going to take the abuse a second longer. On my way home that day, I had an angry conversation in my head of what I should have said to the designer. “You think I’m fat? Well, deal with it – because I love food and this model eats a lot!” This thought gave me an idea and confidence in myself; I created a brand from it. It’s become my identity and has brought me so much joy and peace. In 2014, This Model Eats A Lot started as restaurant reviews, but has since evolved to YouTube episodes at Michelin starred restaurants around the world, as well as collaborations with some food bloggers and food-positive models.
Photography | Black/white dress: Dhruven Shah
home or job. The idea was to establish myself as a model, and then make my way into Bollywood films. I knew it was going to be an adventure, I just didn’t anticipate the toxicity of the modelling environment, and the effect it would have on my mental health. When I walked into my future international agency, they were aghast at my timidly presented folio, openly told me my legs were ‘huge’ and that I needed to get my upper lip ‘done’. Naive me assumed they
meant waxing the moustache (yep, that old chestnut). My confidence was shot, however I took it upon myself to work as hard for this career as I had in my other jobs. I focused on exercising a lot to lose weight quickly, doing hours of cardio most days. As the weight dropped off, the agency finally accepted me a few months later, reinforcing those negative habits. The problem was, it didn’t stop at just my weight. The width of my hips came under scrutiny, and it became a fairly normal practice for show directors and designers to openly call certain girls out on this in front of everyone, which I learned to ignore with an aching heart. Ironically, even though I was working as a model, it never gave me the validating feeling I’d been chasing since I was a kid. By 2012, despite studying two Indian languages day and night almost to fluency,
Photography | JP photography
Julia’s campaign has inspired others in the industry to stand up to unhealthy beauty standards
I realised that when I stopped being fraught with anxiety about being a perfect runway model, and focused on eating intuitively, everything fell into place While it’s been a gradual process, the freedom I’ve been able to exercise with this has been pivotal in my healing. While I gained my first piece of editorial in a major newspaper within a month of launching, the day it came out, I was awash with stress because I’d booked a show that day, and was praying the bullies hadn’t seen it. They had. I left Mumbai shortly after that, at the end of 2014. I was done. Over the years, This Model Eats A Lot has been acknowledged by people in the modelling industry – those who have stood up to the harsh standards and unhealthy practices imposed on models. I am grateful that diversity and inclusivity
has become more and more prominent, and agencies are finally accepting more racially-diverse models who don’t conform to high fashion measurements. In hindsight, I realised that when I stopped being fraught with anxiety about being a perfect runway model, and focused on eating intuitively – eating with no judgement and treating food as a friend, not the enemy – everything fell into place. Having a career where your looks are judged, and your self-worth is tied to whether or not you get the job, is extremely mentally destructive, and there have to be healthy boundaries. Over the last couple of years I’ve
made it a priority to nourish my mental health. This has included everything from chatting regularly to a trusted professional, to journaling, and definitely what I consider to be most important, changing the way I think about myself.
Never forget, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and mental health should be a priority for every single one of us. Here’s to nourishing yourself in every spectrum – body, mind, environment! Follow Julia on Instagram @thismodeleatsalot
Our Expert Says Julia’s story is one of self discovery and determination. It’s great to go out and follow our dreams, but we need to ensure that the real-life situation meets our needs, and we aren’t carrying on at the expense of our own self-worth. Fortunately for Julia, she saw that there was another way. Through a combination of inner strength and professional help she found a way to care for herself, help others, and truly fulfil her dreams! Rachel Coffey | BA MA NLP Mstr Life coach looking to encourage confidence and motivation
May 2019 • happiful • 83
nM E NTA L
H E A LT Hn
Never one to shy away from a challenge, Peter Thompson has truly tested himself, both physically and mentally, for mental health awareness challenges, and none more so than Jake Tyler from the BBC show Mind Over Marathon. Jake is so incredibly open about his mental health, in a way that is so natural and refreshing. He’s also very funny, and someone I look up to, who inspires me to have those conversations when I want to hide away. We should all be a little more like Jake.
Mental health matters to me because… I know, and have worked with, many people who have serious mental health issues. Some have tried to take their own lives, and others battle through with determination and courage that I admire greatly. I have seen people at their lowest, I have seen the stigma they face, and the lack of support when they need it most. In recent years, I have tried to be better educated about my own mental health, and to make a difference by raising funds and awareness through my Marathons for the Mind challenges. When I need support I… talk to the people I know will understand. I’m naturally quite a private and independent person – both of which often make that difficult to do. Luckily, the people I care about most understand me, and together we always get there.
When I need some self-care, I… turn to exercise and the great outdoors. In the past, I have been guilty of letting exercise take over my life negatively, but it is my escape, my mindfulness, and my way to switch off when things get too much. I now realise that running is about so much more than just time, and am a great believer that it can work wonders for our mental health.
Three things I would say to someone experiencing mental ill-health are… people care about you, your problems do matter, and as hard as it is, try to let someone in. You are not burdening them, you are giving them the opportunity to show how much they care. An opportunity that is an honour, and that they will be grateful for.
The books I turn to time and again are… not actually books! I’ll be honest and say I’m not the best reader; I take in a lot of my material online and from magazines. My mum reads enough for both of us though, and in writing this I’ve made a pact that the next book I read won’t be a sporting autobiography, or a travel guide for my next adventure.
The moment I felt most proud of myself was… when I recently undertook two running challenges – running 44 marathons in 44 days, and running the route of the 2018 Tour de France – raising more than £42,000 for mental health charities. It’s not completing the challenges that I’m most proud of, but more the fact that I started. I have often been guilty of not taking risks and obsessing over the ‘what if ’. The challenges show what can happen when you take that leap of faith and, despite my knees potentially disagreeing, I wouldn’t change them for the world.
People I find inspiring online are… I’ve been lucky enough to meet some incredibly inspiring people through my
For more from Peter, visit marathonsforthemind.com and follow him on Twitter @marathonsftmind
For art’s sake
It’s not always easy to talk about our mental health. But ever since the first cave person put chalk to stone, we’ve been finding original and creative ways to express the things that words just can’t quite say. Here, we speak to five artists to find out how they weave their experiences into the fabric of their work Writing | Kathryn Wheeler
rt offers both the creator and consumer a unique opportunity to tap into some of life’s biggest questions, allowing us to reflect on ourselves and our own experiences, as well as the world around us. But, more than just that, art is good for us. So good for us, in fact, that researchers from the University of Gloucestershire found that art therapy courses have the power to significantly improve our wellbeing, even for those with very complex needs. Mental health is at the core of human experiences, and it comes as no surprise that these themes crop up across all mediums. From the traditional to the 21st century, and one that blends the two together, here we put five different artforms under the spotlight, and speak to artists at the top of their game about what makes their medium so suited to talking about mental health. Continues >>>
Hana Madness ‘Morning Hell’
Indonesia-based artist and mental health activist Hana Madness didn’t have an easy start in life. Living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and with little support from her family, she struggled with self-harm and made several suicide attempts. Hana tells us that she turned to art at school when everything just became too much. “I bought my sketchbook and drawing pen and started to pour everything in it. It became a therapy for me. I had no choice,” she says. Hana’s style is distinct. Her ‘doodles’ often feature a collection of cutelooking monsters that reflect Hana’s experience with mental illness. Many of these, ‘Hypomania’ in particular, capture the overwhelming, conflicting emotions that come with bipolar disorder – something that others with bipolar have been able to relate to, and find comfort in. In this clear, eye-grabbing medium, Hana is able to communicate the subtle realities of her condition in an accessible, non-threatening way. For her, doodles allow her to rationalise and order something that can so often feel out of control, and for the people who share her experiences, this could be the first time they see an experience that can be so isolating realised in a piece of art. “Because of art, I’ve found my peace,” she explains. “Because of art I’m seen and appreciated by people. Even though I’m still struggling, I feel more in tune with myself, mentally and physically. I can follow my rhythm, and no longer fight it.” hanamadness.blogspot.com
I just bought my sketchbook and drawing pen and started to pour everything in it. It became a therapy for me. I had no choice
Artwork | Marc Marot & Scarlett Raven © Washington Green 2019
Try it yourself Download the Blippar app on your phone. Once the app is open, point the camera at Scarlett’s piece ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ and experience the immersive power of augmented reality.
Anthem for Doomed Youth
Living with OCD since the age of eight, and struggling with dyslexia throughout school, Scarlett remembers always feeling different. But she managed to find her feet when she attended Central St Martins art college, and it was from there that she refined her craft in augmented reality. Augmented reality is a technology that puts computer-generated images into the real world using a phone or tablet screen. In Scarlett’s work, she creates alternative angles to her traditionalstyle paintings by creating intriguing, unsettling digital layers. “It works so well because it plays with all your senses and helps you disconnect from your life,” Scarlett explains. “As
someone who has mental health issues, augmented reality is a form of escapism. It takes me away from my daily routine and worries.” In 2016, Scarlett created a painting called ‘One in Four’ to commemorate Mind’s 70th anniversary. She explains how the painting represents her own personal battle with mental illness, but also acts as an outreached hand to others who are struggling. “Exploring mental health using augmented reality is helping to break down barriers that often surround mental health issues,” Scarlett says. “I’m not exaggerating when I say that I believe painting has kept me alive. “We often read articles about how someone has overcome mental illness and, while that is great for the person, it can put a lot of pressure on the rest of us to get better. For a lot of people, including me, our mental health is a work in progress. I paint for those people.” scarlettraven.com
Exploring mental health using augmented reality is helping to break down barriers May 2019 • happiful • 87
Selina Thompson For live performance artist Selina Thompson, who lives with bipolar disorder and anxiety, mental health was never a theme she purposely chose to explore in her work. “I make autobiographical work, and mental health comes up because it is part and parcel of my life,” she tells us. Live art is perhaps one of the most immersive forms – requiring full, unrestrained commitment and participation from the audience, whether actively or passively. Selina’s live performances explore a variety of topics, each touching on identity politics. Her project ‘Pat It and Prick It and Mark It with ‘B’’ saw her make a dress out of cake, and was inspired by a comment her mother once told her – that eating, for her, was like a prison. With a long tradition of being a deeply challenging, personal medium, Selina uses her performances to shine a
Selina’s performances explore identity politics
Mental health comes up because it is part and parcel of my life
Photography | Performance art : Ana Jackson, headshot: Rosie Powell
light on topics that are rarely discussed. As she sees it, live art “means that people traditionally marginalised (which historically includes those with mental health needs) are able to tell their own stories in their own ways, which is so important”. “My favourite thing about live art is the space it leaves for ambiguity, for not knowing, for posing questions and refusing to answer. This kind of ambivalence has always been a key part of my experiences of mental health – so there is something at work there too.”
Kerry Roper ‘Time Waits for No Man’
My brain is busy creating rather than over-thinking. It’s a way for me to communicate
Graphic designer and artist Kerry Roper had a successful career when he came up against severe depression at the age of 24. Despite having work displayed in the V&A, and having designed apparel for Nike, Topshop, and the Science Museum, he explains that none of this mattered when depression took over. Naturally, Kerry’s experiences with mental health became infused in his artwork. He points to one piece in particular, ‘Time Waits for No Man’ – a screen-print from 2009 that is part of the V&A’s permanent collection. The print explores a juxtaposition between birth and death, realised in Kerry’s graphic, street style. For Kerry, his background in commercial graphic design plays a significant role in the reason why he believes people are able to relate to
the themes in his work, explaining how it helped him hone his skills in communication – taking lessons from the techniques needed to capture and hold people’s attention when you only have them for a brief moment. Of course, graphic design is a huge and varied field, something that Kerry knows all too well as he moves between commercial pieces, album covers,
and personal work. But challenge and change are exactly what Kerry needs to keep his brain active in “the right kind of way”. “My brain is busy creating rather than over-thinking. It’s a way for me to communicate. The art of creating is a beautiful thing on so many levels.” kerryroper.com
May 2019 • happiful • 89
‘Zhang in the Snow’
Photography | Artwork: Frédéric Daty © Washington Green 2019
“I think every human fears death and loneliness,” Frédéric Daty tells us, as he reflects on the themes of his work. Growing up, Frédéric felt like a spectator of his own life; his depression and sudden changes of mood jeopardising any attempt to have a social life. These themes are present in his work; 3D wall sculptures, made from distorted and crafted steel, lit to throw eerie shadows on the wall behind them. His catalogue of work varies from iconic metropolitan skylines and famous faces, to abstract visions, all realised in his distinctive medium. In Frédéric’s opinion, sculpture offers the perfect opportunity to explore anxieties that many of us can relate to. “I use sculpture because it’s easier to show energy fluxes on a 3D piece,” he
I pour my heart and soul into my sculptures explains. “My work is the opposite of my cluttered mind and soul, it’s clean, pure and simple. My sculptures are very honest and raw, which is how I feel everyone should aspire to be.” “I pour my heart and soul into my sculptures. The process can be painful, but seeing how people react to my finished product makes it all worthwhile. Art gives life the sparkles it needs.’’ fredericdaty.com
Drawing conclusions When Bob Ross said: “You have unlimited power on this canvas – you can literally, literally move mountains,” he captured the limitlessness of creativity. Whatever art means to you, and no matter what form it comes in, there’s no denying that it has the ability to move us deeply. Whether you’re a Turner Prize winner, or just dabbling for the fun of it, art can bring us comfort and community, even through the most difficult times.
Photography | Fabio Comparelli
Some old-fashioned. things like fresh air. and sunshine are. .hard to beat.
December 2018 • happiful • 91 – LAURA INGALLS WILDER
We’ve helped more than
1Million people connect with a therapist using Counselling Directory
You are not alone counselling-directory.org.uk
I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart. – VINCENT VAN GOGH
What is art?
his was one of the first questions posed to my creative writing class at university, but as I quickly learnt, the answer isn’t quite as straightforward as you might expect – and once you throw in some Neitzsche and Plato, you’ve probably got yourself a good ongoing debate.
something undeniably therapeutic about creating, for creating’s sake.
Imitation, creation, legacy, emotion. There are so many interpretations – but perhaps that is the point. Art is subjective. It’s emotion. It’s not constricted by rules and regulations, or by conforming to a guide.
Art is not perfection, it’s a story. It’s a moment captured in time. And if it means something to you, then it’s worth creating.
True art is expression – and it’s up to us as individuals to decide what we define that as. Regardless of critics, multimillion pound price tags in galleries, or societal acknowledgement, there’s
Personally, I see it as experience. Every brushstroke tinged from not washing the previous colour off completely. The unsaid things hidden in every word slightly out of place in a poem or play.
With this booklet, we want to inspire you with art submitted by our readers, who’ve found the power of creativity in supporting their wellbeing – as a distraction in troubling times, as a means of pouring out their truest feelings, or empowering them. You don’t have to spend a fortune on supplies, or pay for
expensive online courses. You could start by doodling on the back of an envelope, or writing on a sticky note. You don’t have to keep what you create, or share it with anyone if you don’t want to! This is about you, and what you feel. So it doesn’t matter if you’re the next Pablo Picasso, or a doodling champion. As Neitzsche said: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” Letting out that emotional chaos could create something truly beautiful. We hope you feel inspired to let your creative side shine. Enjoy!
Rebecca Thair Editor
Sarah Lewis Snowflake
In 2017, photography was a therapeutic outlet for Sarah while she was recovering and grieving, following the loss of her daughter when she was 21 weeks pregnant. Photography gave her a reason to get out of the house – going on long walks with her camera. The creativity helped her to function, and take her mind off things. And now, when she looks back at each photo, she knows exactly how she was feeling that day.
Sarah has been a photographer for 13 years, and enjoys taking macro images of nature. purplefacephotography.co.uk Twitter | @purplefacephoto
Darren Sleep The Power of Nature “I suffer badly from social anxiety and am introverted by nature. I’ve always crowded my time with hobbies in an attempt to ease my feelings of isolation. Nothing fitted the bill, until I did a few weekend courses on botanical illustration. Not only does practising my art encourage mindfulness, it engages the sense of wonder and love of nature that drove me towards my career in science.”
After a breakdown in 2017, Darren revived his blog artyplantsman.com to reflect his artistic and emotional journey. Connect with him to share your love of the natural world
Jo Temple The Last Light For Jo, creating artwork by using light and emotion in photos, has been a positive artistic outlet over the years. Experiencing postnatal depression when her son was little, she credits immersing herself in photography for helping her through it, as a relaxing and welcome distraction when she needed a way to switch off.
Jo has been passionate about photography since she was 10, and now runs Frank & Bloom – a photography company aiming to encourage self-worth, contentment and confidence. frankandbloom.com
Nichola Rawlings Mood Changes For Nichola, knowing there are other creative people in the world who experience mental illness, who lift their heads to help others, is something she truly appreciates. Having non-classic bipolar disorder herself, this inspired her to begin sharing her own poetry with the world.
Emelie Hryhoruk I am Fearless
“I remember the day I began painting my first ‘Empowered’ portrait – I had already cried so hard, I’m surprised the paint strokes weren’t shaking. I felt as though everything was spiralling, and I couldn’t get a grip on any of it. Titled with affirmations, my portraits encourage me to tap in to my inner strength, and inspire others, too. We all have an inner superhero; I hope my work inspires you to bring out your own.”
Emelie’s ‘I am Fearless’ was inspired by Harley Quinn, reminding us that when it feels like the world is against us, we are fearless enough to keep going.
Melissa Smith Creative Strength When Melissa became unwell four years ago, and spent long periods of time at home, she rediscovered her love of creativity. Doodling not ony helped her wellbeing, but opened up new opportunities for her – including a career change, a new purpose in life, and a large circle of friends.
Melissa is on a mission to showcase the amazing benefits creativity can have for our wellbeing Instagram | @FeelGoodInsta
Thank you for your submissions
This month, be empowered by our May issue with a range of uplifting features including: – Body positive blogger Megan Crabbe on anxiety, an...