Happy Monday – Smile Worthy Content To Set You Up For The Week Ahead

It’s the 12th October and Autumn (aka best time of the year), is well and truly underway. We spent our weekend cosied up, watching the Britain’s Got Talent final (what did you think of the winner?! Let me know in the comments!), going on a lovely long walk by the river, eating dinner with family and making the most of our brand new Hotpoint washing machine… goodness, that’s when you know you’re not 18 anymore isn’t it? The highlight of your weekend being your new bloody washing machine.

I have felt absolutely exhausted this week, so I intend on spending this week focussing on myself. I ran 10k on Friday for the first time ever and I felt so good I want to make sure I have some really good runs this week, early nights, and I desperately want to get back into using my law of attraction planner, meditating and using my gratitude journal to centre my mind some more. So, to set this week off on a positive note, here are some of my favourite things I’ve come across over the last 7 days!

We all laughed when Joey Tribbiani and Chandler had a pet chick and duck, but this man really did adopt two geese during lockdown… and now they frequent the pub. In nappies.

If you love dogs, and you love fancy dress… well, here is Toad. Thank me later. For more Toad, here you go.

This is Us Season 5 has FINALLY got a UK release date. 28th October, Amazon Prime. Oh, huns… if you haven’t seen it, immediately watch every single episode from Season 1 for the most intense emotional rollercoaster you have EVER been on.

Daisy Edgar-Jones shared a reel of bloopers from Normal People, and it is simply wonderful.

SUCCULENT PUMPKINS ARE A THING!

M&S have always been the gods of Christmas food, but I feel they’ve absolutely excelled themselves this year… here is just one of the reasons why!

And finally, this dog had a bit of accidental X-Rated fun, and I cannot stop laughing at the pictures!

Have a fabulous week, my loves.

Amber x

@amber.izzo

Happy Monday! Positive Vibes for the Week Ahead

2020 is absolutely flying by; I absolutely cannot believe that it is the first Monday of October already. I hope you all had a fabulous weekend and the 10pm curfew isn’t ruining your vibe too much. My Instagram was plagued with people who simply started drinking earlier; bed by 10pm is certainly good for the hangover.

In a world currently plagued with negativity, uncertainty and downright madness, Monday’s will now consist of a weekly blog post with a roundup of positive news and my favourite finds from all over the internet that are guaranteed to brighten you week. Start your week off right, with a smile on your face.

First up – news we all want to hear – a study has found that watching cute animals is great for your health.

Instagram has been flooded with premature Christmas enthusiasts, and I found these novelty ‘boobie baubles‘ from ‘The Funky Pot Shop’, which are most definitely making an appearance on my tree this year!

Lucia Keskin got a haircut, and now I can’t stop watching this. If you’re a Mamma Mia fan and don’t laugh, then I question your Mamma Mia loyalties.

Jane at Jane’s Patisserie has released her recipe for CHOCOLATE ORANGE NYC COOKIES and I am all over this. Adding to my ‘things I must bake in the very near future so I stop drooling just thinking about it’ list.

I found Bloomon UK and found out there was such thing as a ‘flowergram’, which  I am totally obsessed with and tempted to order myself. How cool is this? This particular flowergram is the sunflower edition and is part of a collab with the Van Gough Museum. It’s my birthday next month, kids… hint, hint, hint.

Here‘s a cute cat that keeps letting other cats out of their enclosures at a rescue centre…

This man raised over $7000 for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by cycling from Poo Poo to Pee Pee, including cycling down Sharts Lane.

My girl crush on Katherine Ryan has continued to grow after having finally binge watched ‘The Duchess’ on Netflix – which you have to watch. This is why.

Glamour magazine have teamed up with Boots for a series of digital wellness events that are covering everything from mental health, to nutrition, and sexual confidence. You need to be on this.

These three puppies had a bit too much fun in their owner’s makeup room… woops…

And this 21-year-old exceeded all of our drunken mistakes, and got herself stuck in a tumble dryer.

Have a lovely week!

Amber x

@amber.izzo

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month – My story.

Writing this blog post was something I have toyed with doing for a long time. I have pondered over my written words and deleted them more times than I care to count. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and for that reason, today I feel ready to share my story.

I was 16 years old when I met my first ‘proper’ boyfriend. He was a few years older than me. He had tattoos, piercings, no job and a heavy smoking addiction; in short, he was everything my parents wanted me to avoid. The seemingly misunderstood “bad boy”, and one I became besotted with extremely quickly, nonetheless.

It was the beginning of the summer holidays when I first started seeing him. I was spending every single day with him, without fail. There were so many days where we had planned for me to go to his house, or we had made plans to go out, and yet when I got there, he would be asleep. I would spend hours on end sat on the computer, waiting for him to wake up. I realise how straight away, he was proving he was a waste of my time, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and I realise now just how many red flags I missed. This was just a drop in the ocean.

I returned to sixth form that September to find my friends were barely talking to me. I had hardly seen them all summer, in fact I think I had seen them once, and even then, I left early because he had asked me to go to his. A few weeks later, one of them pulled me aside and told me that they knew one of my boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends. She had told them some stories, and they told me I needed to leave him. What was disclosed is not my story to tell but is one I wish so much I had listened to. It is one that when the relationship ended, caused me to find her on social media and apologise for never believing her, for ever doubting her truth.
I didn’t believe any of them; I told him what had been said, and from there on in, things changed.

When you are in an abusive relationship, you often don’t believe that is what is happening. At 16 years old, I had nothing to compare it to other than school boyfriends at the age of 14. I will always remember one day, arranging to go to a BBQ with my friends; he was not happy. We were sat on the bus as he told me how his Dad had booked a restaurant for us, we were going out for dinner with his family and it was all pre-paid. I questioned why he hadn’t told me, but he told me he had forgotten. He told me that if I loved him, I’d cancel on my friends and go with him. So, I did.

There was no fancy meal, but when I was upset about him lying to me, it became my fault. I never wanted to spend time with him, I hadn’t invited him, and why wouldn’t I invite him to a BBQ with other boys unless I fancied them? It was all my fault.

Soon, it became physical. I had mugs thrown at the wall, narrowly missing my head. I was elbowed in the ribs because I had taken too much duvet. I was kicked in the stomach for having too much to drink on my 18th birthday. I had my hair pulled, I had my face spat on, and my face headbutted. I was skipping school because he’d say he wanted to see me, and after all, if I loved him, I would.

Before I was 17, I had never had a panic attack in my life. I have always been a larger than life, very bubbly, confident young girl. At the time, I was working two jobs. On a Saturday, I was a tutor and on a Sunday, a shop assistant. After work on a Saturday, I would get the bus to his house and stay the night. I would leave early on a Sunday morning and walk to the shopping centre where I worked. Every Sunday, without fail, my phone would ring before I got to work. It was him, demanding I came back. I would tell him, plead with him, beg him not to make me choose and explained that if I didn’t turn up, I’d lose my job. On multiple occasions, I phoned in sick and returned to his. He would scream at me down the phone; tell me that if I didn’t return to his then he would turn up and drag me back by my hair. Some days, he would calm down; other days, he would ring me constantly until my lunch break. Thankfully, he never showed up.

Every single time that conversation ensued, I would have a panic attack. I would be in the middle of a housing estate, in a high street uniform, my heart pounding in my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I would be sweating profusely, even in the December frost, my ears ringing, my eyes blurring, my head dizzy. It was horrific. It was a feeling I can remember so vividly, and the start of many panic attacks to come.

I remember one day, being at school in an English class. I had 20+ missed calls from him. I’d left the class to take the calls as they were non-stop; he was hysterical on the end of the line. He lived with another family member who had been food shopping, but they hadn’t got exactly what he wanted. He was so angry; he was demanding I ordered him a pizza. I had £10 in my bank account. I kept telling him I needed that £10 and I couldn’t afford it, but he carried on, and on. I was in tears. He was insisting I either transferred him the money or ordered him a pizza; if I loved him I would and if I didn’t, I wanted him to starve. It goes without saying that I sent him the money.

Nobody ever knew what was going on. I never told a soul. I always remember a few months before it ended; I had tried to leave him. I had told him it was over and the next day gone into sixth form. He was ringing me all day, screaming at me down the phone every time I would answer. It’s easy to say I just shouldn’t have answered, but I can’t explain the hold these people have over you. I was terrified.
He rang me as soon as I finished and demanded I went to his house. I was on my way to work but he wouldn’t listen – I had to go to his and I had to go then. He wouldn’t let me go after work. If I didn’t go straight to his, he would go to my house and tell my Mum some things that at 17/18 years old, you really don’t want your mother knowing. Now, I realise I should have just let him go – I realise now that my Mum would not have stood for this waste of space standing at the door of the family home, making a fool out of her daughter. Now, I realise he wouldn’t have – they were empty threats to manipulate me, and the only person he would have made a fool of was himself.
My friends were on the bus and could not believe what they were hearing; he was screaming at me like something you have never heard before. It was embarrassing and I was a quivering mess. He rang me again just before I got to work, telling me that if I didn’t turn up, he was going to kill himself. He had got the paracetamol and he was ready. He wanted me back and if that was what it took then so be it. I walked into work and just cried. I was hysterical. My boss didn’t even ask what had happened before telling me to go home. I was under a time limit, so I got a taxi straight to his house.

Writing this, I realise how many opportunities I missed to tell someone what was happening. How many times I played it down, how badly I wish I had told my parents then; told someone, anyone, what had happened. I was always so scared, so convinced I was just dramatizing a bad argument.

Inevitably, I walked into his house and he was fine. He was there with an “empty” packet of paracetamol that had been popped into the bin. He begged me to take him back, how he was sorry, how he loved me, and everything would change. How many times I had heard that before… and yet once again I believed him. I listened to every word and I believed him.

That night I stayed at his until I was due to finish my shift at work. I didn’t want to tell my Mum that I had been at his; she would have asked questions and I had no logical answer that didn’t involve telling her. No lie would have made sense, so to me it made sense to say nothing at all.

All that time I was terrified of that boy. I call him a boy because that’s exactly what he was. Despite being in his 20s when our relationship ended, there was nothing about him that made him a man. The way he spoke to his family; the way he spoke to me; the fact that when school rang my parents to tell them I had been playing truant and they turned up at his address, he ran out the back gate and left me in the house with my parents ready to lose their minds at me. There was nothing man about him.

There was nothing human about him.

I remember the Halloween, a couple of months before it ended, sitting in a grungy, sweaty little bar with my friend and her boyfriend. She went to the toilet and her boyfriend’s friends asked if I was his girlfriend; I said yes. They told me they heard he hit me and asked me if it was true. I denied it; I had no idea how they knew. I started to question the stories I’d heard. After that day, something in me changed. I didn’t want to be the girl that people spoke about like that – wondering if she was the one whose boyfriend spat in her face.

A few days later, I turned 18. It was around this time I had started questioning our relationship massively. I don’t even know where it came from, but I suddenly started to despise him. I would go out drinking of a night without telling him. I’d tell him I was staying at my friend’s house, but I’d always be getting drunk in town. I don’t know if it was because I had been having so much fun, or whether it was because other boys were giving me attention I hadn’t had for a while, making me realise that I was more than he said I was, but every time I saw him, I felt like I started to hate him that little bit more.

That Christmas Day was the first time I didn’t spend the whole day with my family. I had been at my Mum’s during the day; we had a really lovely Christmas and it was one I still look back at so fondly. I had been longing for a pair of Jeffrey Campbell high heeled boots; the black lace up ones with the brown wooden heel. That Christmas I got them, and I loved them with every ounce of my being. We had spent the day stuffing our faces and drinking prosecco – it was perfect. In the evening, I headed to his house. We had been to see his family, and everything was seemingly so lovely.

That night we had a get together with his friends; something he did every Christmas. It was great, everyone was drinking, we were having a really good time. It was creeping into the early hours and I was exhausted; I had drunk far too much and all I wanted to do was go home. He wouldn’t let me; I wasn’t allowed to leave without him and he didn’t want to go home yet. I was falling asleep sat at the table and he kept telling me I was embarrassing him. I was making a fool out of myself and looked like a child. Eventually I just stood up and left. He only lived over the road; I didn’t walk far, but I got back and got straight into bed.

It must have been about half an hour before he came back in. He climbed on top of me and started shouting in my face about how much of an embarrassment I was, how disgusting I was and how I was never going to make anyone happy if that’s how I behaved. He was wicked with his words; previously he had told me how my parents hated me, how my friends simply felt sorry for me, that nobody but him would ever love me. Hell, on one occasion he even told me he hoped my Mum got cancer. But that Christmas, he carried on calling me everything under the sun, before telling me he should cut my throat.

I don’t know what happened; maybe it was the drink, maybe I didn’t believe him, but I laughed at him. He headbutted me and stormed downstairs. He returned with a knife. I was on the bed, terrified, and there was this man who was supposed to love me, on top of me, holding a huge kitchen knife to my throat. There’s something about a shock to the system that sobers you up; a cold shower, a shot of espresso, but I tell you now, nothing has ever sobered me up quicker than the fear I felt in that moment.

I don’t know how long he was there for, but it felt like forever. I laid silently, before pleading with him to get off me. Eventually, he did. He broke down crying, apologising and begging me to forgive him. And like a fool, rather than calling the police, or my Mum or my Dad, I hugged him and told him it was okay. I probably deserved it.

2 days later I left him.

I had been to get my hair done; I sat in that hairdresser’s chair and for the first time ever told someone that he wasn’t very nice to me. I didn’t divulge all of the information, but that hairdresser told me I needed to leave him. That I was worth so much more. Something inside me had snapped, because I don’t know how or why, but that evening I was in his bedroom, waiting for him to wake up. I was listening to the clock ticking, and to this day the sound of a clock ticking reminds me of that moment. I must have sat there, silently, for about two hours. I knew if I left, I wouldn’t do it.
He woke up, rolled over and the words “we’re over” left my mouth before I even took a breath.

The next few days, weeks, months, were hard. I had to change my number to stop the constant calls. I remember one day he was outside my house at 07:30 in the morning with a can of cider. He would ‘tweet’ lines of songs he knew I liked to try and get my attention. He somehow got my new number and the calls and texts started again. He rang me once on a night out; he told me he could see me and told me exactly what I was wearing. I didn’t see him, but it was enough for me to go home. A few months later, he found out I was seeing someone else and would send accusing text messages, until I blocked his number, finally. It took about 5 months for contact to fully seize, and a while for it to fully sink in that it was abuse. Somehow, 8 years on, his actions still live in my head rent free. I don’t think they will ever fully leave.

I went to University to study Criminology; I focussed my independent study on domestic violence and wrote a dissertation on the matter so I could perhaps try and understand it some more. I have seen multiple counsellors since it happened. I have had trauma therapy that was supposed to be for my infertility but focussed specifically on him for all but the first of the sessions.

I stopped having the nightmares about 4 years ago. Occasionally one creeps in, but not very often at all. My panic attacks have reduced, but they still appear; the latest being halfway through writing this up. I still have the tattoo he paid for, and every day I look at it and am reminded of all I went through. But it also reminds me how strong I am; how much I was put through at such a young age, and how I survived.

Not every woman is that lucky.

2 women a week are killed by their partners in England and Wales. (Office of National Statistics, Nov 2019)

Almost 1 in 3 women aged 16-59 will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. (Office of National Statistics, 2019)

In the year ending March 2019, 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse. (Office for National Statistics, 2019)

It is estimated that around 3 women a week commit suicide as a result of domestic violence. (Professor Sylvia Walby (2004) The Cost of Domestic Violence)

The police receive a domestic violence related call every thirty seconds, and yet HMIC found in 2014 that less than 24% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police. What’s scarier, is that only 8% of domestic abuse related crimes reported to the police result in a conviction. (Office of National Statistics,2019)

I appreciate for many this will not have been an easy read. I am sharing this simply for one reason; to make you think, or make you talk. Raising awareness, as with anything, is the key to making a change and if we keep brushing this under the carpet, nothing will ever change.

I would love to be able to tell you that I don’t know anyone else who this has happened to, but sadly that is not the case.

Domestic violence is something you never think will happen to you. That one time they raise their hand, no matter how much they tell you it will be; it will not be the only time.

Those nasty, cutting words they use, telling you that nobody else will love you – it’s not true. You are so much better than that. You are worth so much more than that.

And if, like I did, you fear that nobody would believe you, they will.

There are people who can help.

I wish every day that I hadn’t experienced what I did. I wish every day that I could wipe it from my memory, but it has made me stronger in a way that I never imagined it could.

You can walk away, and you can be free.

I promise.

If you relate to the experiences mentioned in this blog post and are in immediate danger, always call 999. If you are a victim of domestic abuse and are safe at the moment, call 101.

REFUGE – 24 HOUR NATIONAL DOMESTIC ABUSE HELPLINE – 0808 2000 247

www.refuge.org.uk

www.nationaldahelplime.org.uk

www.womensaid.org.uk

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-abuse-how-to-get-help

 

@amber.izzo

Why you absolutely should utilise the “mute” button, and never, ever feel guilty for it.

How many times a week to you scroll through Instagram and roll your eyes? Do you see a photo and wonder why your life can’t be like that, why you don’t look like that, what you have to do to fly to Bali five times a year on a private jet, or, better yet, why it isn’t you with the baby bump or the pregnancy announcement.

We live in a culture now where life very much revolves around social media. Social media allows us to keep in touch with school friends that otherwise we may have lost contact with, share photos with our nearest and dearest, communicate with strangers across the globe who share a common interest, and sometimes find people who we form a support bond with; people in this world that share the same demons as us. For me, this has very much been the case with regards to my infertility. I have found a community of people who understand how I feel, who have shared the journey and experienced their own. In this community are people who are having egg collections on the exact same day as me; people who have used clinics I am considering, but above all, know what to say when my nearest and dearest (through no fault of their own), just don’t.

I regularly get asked about pregnancy jealousy; how do you stop yourself feeling so envious, so sad and so bitter towards other women who are pregnant? My best friend recently gave birth to a beautiful little boy and in all honesty, when I found about her pregnancy I was absolutely floored. It didn’t matter how happy I was for them; my first round of IVF had only just failed, and it triggered an obscene amount of emotions that frankly, I just didn’t know how to cope with. I was so excited, I was going to be “fake Aunty Amber” and yet my heart still stung at the fact it wasn’t me, even after all this time. I would always preach about communication, how telling my friend how I felt somewhat saved me from hiding away, how I refused to let my heartache stop me from sharing the most exciting period of my best friend’s life, but as of late, I’ve found myself scrolling through Instagram and seeing an unusually large amount of pregnancy announcements – both lockdown babies and post-lockdown IVF successes, and no matter how much joy I feel for these people, I just can’t shake the jealousy.

The lockdown baby is a real thing. In March, when Boris Johnson announced the shut down of our country, the world shared memes and told jokes about all these lockdown babies that would be due at the beginning of 2021. The IVF community spoke up on Instagram, begging people to be more considerate of this when couple after couple were having their treatment cancelled as a result. However, the memes were right, and I have had countless women send me private messages on Instagram to tell me that they too are feeling like there are pregnancy announcements consuming their feed. IVF treatment also resumed, and it seems that the post-lockdown treatment has come with a higher dose of luck; almost like it is making up for the time it lost, as whilst sadly there are still many failed cycles, there is an unusual amount of positive tests flooding our feeds.

I have never muted accounts on Instagram before. Two weeks ago, I did just that. I went through my feed and 90% of pregnancy or newborn related posts resulted in my muting of the account. I felt awful. I wouldn’t unfollow; I was still so happy for them and have every intention of continuing our ‘online friendships’, but I could no longer bear to see it. The guilt was so consuming; these people had supported me during the worst times of my life and yet I couldn’t bring myself to watch their stories or see their posts about their newfound happiness. The problem was this; this wasn’t just one account of whose posts I could see, it was multiple. It wasn’t a case of one picture for every thirty I saw, it was almost every three. I couldn’t just scroll past and ignore.

Sometimes, we have to do things to protect our own mental health. Muting accounts did not mean I wasn’t supportive, that I wasn’t happy for the new mothers of the IVF world, or happy for the infertile couples who had received their finally positive test. It didn’t mean that I was invalidating their journey. It meant I was protecting my own wellbeing, my own sanity, and protecting myself from not bursting into tears with every refresh of my feed.

On Twitter, you have the option of muting someone altogether, or muting certain words and phrases. For example, if you’re a rare breed of person who despises the Great British Bake Off, or Love Island, you are quite able to mute those specific phrases. Those tweets will then not appear on your timeline at all. If you mute a person, anything they post will not be on your timeline whether your friends retweet them or not. Now, in the case of people like Donald Trump, I have no issue unfollowing whatsoever – somehow, I don’t think the POTUS regularly sits on Twitter and cries that Mrs Izzo from Cambridgeshire, England, has unfollowed him. However, was Donald Trump a friend… I might think twice.

In the age of social media, unfollowing someone is a statement. They may just be a friend of a friend, but following someone has grown to be the equivalent of saying hello in the street, and so making the move to unfollow is a bit like acknowledging that you have no time for the person in question. If they found out, there is no denying this would trigger negative feelings. They would question what they did, and no doubt assume that you don’t like them. Dramatic? Maybe, but I don’t think there are many people who *really* don’t take it personally when someone unfollows them. By giving the option to mute, you can at any time unmute without the awkward need to re-follow, prompting the conversation of “you unfollowed me?”.

The mute button is healthy, and often very necessary. The resentment we feel towards another friend announcing her third pregnancy, or the happiness but ultimate jealousy we feel towards the woman who has finally got her positive test after 6 rounds of IVF, is simply terrible for our mental health. Forcing yourself to see it daily, every time you load up the app, just isn’t fair on your own mind. There is no shame in putting yourself first, there is no malice in muting the account until you feel ready to share it. If you’re in recovery from an eating disorder, or you’re struggling with the way you look; mute the person promoting diet products, talking about losing weight or not displaying any self-love. By comparing yourself to airbrushed images or listening to someone tell you how drinking some concoction of x, y and z is going to get rid of perfectly normal cellulite, you are not reinforcing your own self-worth. You are not looking after yourself by comparing yourself to others. You have the option to shut those ideals away.

It doesn’t even need to stop there; the excess photos your cousin posts of her new cat, or the colleagues 30 different photos of the same night out, or the posts from your childhood friend trying to sell some whacky new Juice Plus diet… mute, mute, mute, mute, mute. If it stops you screaming, if it stops you feeling bad about yourself, or getting a headache whenever you scroll through YOUR OWN DAMN FEED, then so bloody be it.

Your social media is your space.

Your head is your space.

Your mental health is more important.

I had no choice but to utilise Instagram’s mute button for the first time in 8 years. Infertility is a hard-enough game as it is. Whilst often seeing IVF couples finally graced with their bundles of joy can bring nothing but hope; sometimes, it is a stark reminder that despite all you have been through, it still is not your time. Sometimes, we need to do what is necessary to protect our own hearts. There is no place for guilt in practicing self-care and remembering to put yourself first.

My First Smear Test – What To Expect

Around a year ago, I received a letter that I paid minimal attention to and quickly put into the recycling bin. That letter was an invitation to my first smear test, something I have put off for the last 12 months for multiple reasons that make little sense to anyone, including myself.

After all my fertility investigations and two subsequent rounds of IVF, you’d think that hopping on a nurses bed and somewhat dropping my knickers would be something I was fairly used to, and you would be right, however when it came to the smear test I just felt differently. I don’t know whether it was a fear of the unknown, whether I was scared of the potential results, scared it might hurt, or if it was just sheer ignorance; ignorance and the feeling of “it won’t happen to me”, whatever it was, I should have gone a lot sooner.

In the UK, women are invited for a smear test 6 months before their 25th birthday. Everyone with a cervix between the age of 25 and 64 are supposed to go for regular screening, and they receive letters in the post to invite them to do so. The screening takes place every 3 years between the ages of 25 and 49, and every 5 years from the age of 50 until you are 65.

A cervical screening – or a smear test, if you prefer – checks how healthy your cervix is. Your cervix is the opening to your womb from your vagina. Quite often, there is a misconception that the cervical screening is a test for cancer. In fact, the cervical screening is a method to prevent cancer. During the appointment, your nurse will use an instrument called a speculum to open your vagina, so they are able to see your cervix. They then use a little brush – a bit like a softer toothbrush – to take a sample of cells from your cervix which are then sent off to a laboratory to be tested. The sample is checked for specific types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause changes to the cells in your cervix, known as high risk HPV. If anything abnormal is found, it means that these cells can be treated before they have the chance to develop into cervical cancer.

It has shocked me to learn that cervical screening attendance is at the lowest it has been in England for 21 years. In Scotland and Wales, it is at a 10 year low. There are a lot of different reasons as to why people don’t feel they can attend, however in 2018 Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust found that 1 in 3 women don’t attend their smear tests because of embarrassment. Further research has found that other reasons for non-attendance are being ‘too busy’, fear of what the test will find, concerns about a male carrying out screening, or feeling like their sexual behaviours meant it was irrelevant (e.g. only having sex with women).

Due to the current pandemic (when will it end!?), I wasn’t entirely sure whether I’d be able to make an appointment or not. I rang my doctor’s surgery and the receptionist told me that they were only booking smear tests for women whose last tests came back as abnormal, however as it was my first test, she would check with the nurse. The next day she was back on the phone and I had my test booked in. I felt nervous, and I can’t even really tell you why. When I was a teenager, my Mum had an abnormal test result and had to have some cells removed and I think there was a slight worry I would be in the same boat. I had also had the HPV injection when I was about 13/14 years old and so part of me felt like I was therefore somehow immune (not the case girls).

When I arrived, my nurse was in full PPE. Before my smear, I had been advised by a few friends and you lovely lot on Instagram to wear a skirt, however in true Amber style I didn’t think about practicality; I rocked up in joggers and a crop top.

My nurse was absolutely lovely. Her name was Callie and before the procedure she talked me through what she would be doing. She asked me some generic questions, whether I could be pregnant, whether I was sexually active and whether I was using any form of protection. Callie told me to prop myself up onto the bed and provided me with a paper blanket to cover myself with.

Before I knew it, it was over.

So many people had told me it was uncomfortable, that it feels like a strange scratch, but if truth be told I barely felt a thing. I have a very low pain threshold (ask my husband – he is a hairdresser and in 8 years, not once have I not said “ouch” whilst he’s either been washing or brushing my hair!), and so I expected it to be at least a little bit uncomfortable. I honestly thought it was completely and utterly fine, painless, and I’d go as far as to say not even the slightest bit uncomfortable. It was odd, and that was all.

Within 20 seconds, Callie said “there we are, all done”, and I am not joking when I say I sat up, looked her dead in the eye and said, “is that it?”. I had all this pent-up anxiety about my smear test, and it was over before I even had chance to awkwardly ask how her day had been.

I put my clothes back on behind the curtain and wandered back around where Callie explained that I would receive my results in about two weeks, I would receive a letter but she also receives a letter and so if there was anything abnormal she would give me a call. She also explained that if it did show anything abnormal, not to panic and it still doesn’t mean I have cancer.

That, my friends, was it.

That was my smear test. Done and dusted, in and out within 10 minutes.

I felt completely normal; I got home, made a cup of tea, ate a sandwich and cracked on with my day. Back to work and as though nothing had happened.

I can honestly say I will never miss a test again. I really felt like it was a complete non-event, and totally underwhelmed with the entire experience as if truth be told, I’d built it up to be this big, major happening when really, if I’d have made a tea before I left it would have still been hot when I got home.

A cervical screening could quite literally save your life, please make sure you book them.

I will leave the link below to two really good resources for you to get some more information:

And finally, my YouTube video where I talk to you about the entire process is here.

Make sure you’re following me on Instagram; I will let you all know my results when I have them!

Keep the conversation flowing – it may just remind someone to book theirs, and potentially save their lives.

Love, Amber xxx

 

 

Exploiting PCOS to promote diet culture: Why Gemma Collins’ collaboration with Skinny Jab is shameful.

From the Cambridge Diet to Atkins, Boo Tea (aka Poo Tea – if you know, you know) and appetite-suppressing lollipops, diets and weight loss products are constantly plastered all over social media. Some have their benefits – usually a quick weight loss – but many have their hidden dangers. We’ve all seen celebrities promote them, from the Kardashian clan to Cardi B, popping pills and sipping tea seems to be a ‘revolutionary’ (I use that word very lightly) way to lose weight. The latest that has graced our timeline is that of ‘Skinny Jab’ – a daily injection that, by their own admission, ‘removes hunger from the equation. Using a tried and tested medical revolution, which act as an appetite suppressant, the Skinny Jab plan can reduce your hunger, allowing you to eat less while avoiding the cravings for those troublesome snacks.’. Effectively, Skinny Jab acts like an insulin pen – you stab it in and you feel more full.

You may or may not have seen Skinny Jab circulating your social media; it has for a while been promoted by Kerry Katona, however more recently and in front of a following three and a half times the size (arguably a much younger, more impressionable following), Skinny Jab has been endorsed by the one and only GC… Gemma Collins. For those of you who don’t necessarily know who Gemma Collins is, you may have been living under a rock, but for those of you who do (and likely fall into the marmite category of love or hate), she is a well known cast member of ‘The Only Way is Essex’. So, where is the issue? Once again these diet products are being thrust upon young, easily influenced people, adding to the stigma that to be happy, you must fit a conventional norm, you must lose weight and you must look like the ‘ideal’. Body shaming and the indoctrination of young people into believing they must look a certain way has been strife within society for years on end, however Gemma Collins – who is well known for being a larger frame – has always promoted body positivity. So, is promoting a quick, unsustainable weight loss fix really a way to promote body confidence? I am a strong believer that it is possibly to be body confident, body positive and still want to lose weight, however I do believe that using a fad diet, a ‘detox tea’, or a man made medicine is really not the way to go. What makes it even more astounding is how many people sit and question the potential COVID-19 vaccine on the basis they don’t know what’s in it, how quickly it will have been made, and how little they know about it, and yet a celebrity takes a nice selfie and tells them to buy a tablet or a drink, or in this case an injection, because it will make you ‘skinny’, and without a second thought it’s being consumed. My second issue, particularly with Gemma Collins promoting Skinny Jab, is how it has been followed up with a post regarding her PCOS. Let me explain…

@SkinnyJab

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is a condition that impacts the way in which a woman’s ovaries work. It is estimated, according to the NHS, to impact approximately 1 in 5 women within the UK. PCOS generally leads to irregular, often more painful periods, meaning you are not ovulating as regularly as you should be. It causes excess androgen – effectively more male hormones – causing symptoms that can be highly embarrassing such as excess facial or body hair (tweezers = a girls best friend), and thirdly, fluid filled sacs (follicles) surrounding the eggs, enlarging the ovaries. One of the side effects of PCOS, other than oily skin, thinning hair, infertility… is weight gain and difficulty losing it. PCOS for many women can be deliberating. Those who have followed my blog for a little while will know that PCOS is one of the conditions that have rendered me infertile. Whilst it wasn’t the main antagonist, it has led to a lump of symptoms that frankly, I’d rather be without.

PCOS absolutely can make weight gain easy and weight loss harder. However, are these injections really the way to go? I cannot help but feel that Gemma has used this condition to exploit the women who also suffer in order to make more sales, and ultimately create cash in her pocket. Gemma has undeniably lost weight – you can take one look at her Instagram page to see this – however how much weight has been down to the jabs? I suppose we will never quite know. It is easy to get sucked in on Instagram, we are all both victim and suspect to the case. Lighting, certain clothing, the angles we take the photo from and the poses we create are all incredibly capable of creating a perfectly ‘catfish’ photo. I do not doubt her struggle with PCOS at all, however using this to sell a product specifically designed to lose weight I strongly disagree with. Women are shamed for not conforming to the societal expectations of body image all the time, are expected to be smooth and not display body hair, both things that people with PCOS can find extremely hard. When their self confidence is already taking a battering, why not use your platform to raise awareness of the issue, empower those who suffer, and form an ally? Instead, Gemma has chosen to convince these women that injecting themselves full of rubbish will be the answer to their problems. Gemma didn’t create a post about Skinny Jab and state it would solve PCOS, however, when you have posted a diet product and then followed it up with a post regarding the PCOS, how it is the single handed ‘reason’ as to why she put on weight, it’s hard not to see the correlation. To me, it screamed ‘inject your stomach and barely eat’… I can’t be the only one to see the problem with this narrative.

Skinny Jab’s main ingredient is ‘Liraglutide’, a drug that until researching Skinny Jab, I had never heard of in my life. The drug was first created in the USA just six years ago and was created with the intention of assisting gravely obese people and type 2 diabetics lose weight. It is sold using the names ‘Saxenda’ and ‘Victoza’. It has been prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes as it can help to regulate blood sugar levels. However, what Skinny Jab doesn’t tell you is that on the NHS, Liraglutide can only be prescribed to a patient that has a BMI of over 30. Skinny Jab will prescribe to anyone who has a BMI of 25 or over. Many of the side effects of Liraglutide include things like constipation, diarrhoea, gallbladder disorders, vomiting, toothache, skin reactions, insomnia, headaches and belly ache, heart issues, kidney problems, pancreatitis and dehydration. Is it really worth it? Skinny Jab has not been around long enough for long-term research to be conducted, and neither has Liraglutide itself. There is, however, suggestion that the jabs can trigger gravely dangerous conditions such as thyroid cancer and hypoglycaemic episodes. At what point is injecting yourself in the stomach desirable, anyway? Take it from someone who has had two rounds of IVF… it isn’t fun, your body becomes tired, your stomach starts to bruise, you get fed up, and it’s really not something I recommend doing without a bloody good cause.

It is well known that diet products such as Skinny Jab are far from sustainable and unless you have the funds, which you likely don’t if you are a regular working person, to continue forking out hundreds of pounds for these jabs, the suppressant will soon wear off and the hunger will soon return. Your body is  not meant to be starved. For people like myself with PCOS, we all know that the weight gain is never a slow return. The phrase ‘a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips’ could not be more true. I have always loved food and this will never, ever change for me. However, I am aware now more than ever that having a balanced, good diet, a calorie deficit and exercising is truly the only way I will manage my weight.

There are so many nutritionists, both online and on platforms such as Instagram, that create diet plans and offer advice for people with PCOS that are NOT trying to exploit you, are NOT suggesting you stick needles into your body and deprive yourself of good, but in fact are offering you healthy choices, good snacks, and food that can naturally help to control your symptoms without a) breaking the bank and b) injecting substances to stop yourself wanting food.

I am sorry that Gemma Collins is living with PCOS. We all feel her pain and we all understand how horrible this condition can be at times, however I am more sorry that she feels she has to use it and exploit other women living with the same issues to generate some money in her pockets.

The diet culture is truly shambolic.

Love, Amber xx

SOME PCOS FRIENDLY INSTAGRAM NUTRITION PAGES:
@thewomensdietitian @what_mollymade @the_dietologist @defeatpcos @the.pcos.dietitian @fitfoodieselma

@amberinateacup

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AMBER IN A TEACUP TURNS ONE

Hello! Yes, it’s me, I’m still here, the blog still exists and I’m well and truly back into the swing of things. I have definitely neglected this blog over the last few months, but in all honesty, with the failure of ICSI round 2, COVID-19 and all the strange new normal things that have come with the lockdown (I mean, does anyone remember what it’s like to hug a person? Or how it feels to not have to queue for the supermarket?), I haven’t really known what to write about. The world is an unsettled place at the moment, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is feeling a bit lost, out of place and anxious. I presume everybody is feeling out of sorts in one way or another. I haven’t seen my Grandma in 3 months; I think this is the longest I have gone without seeing her in almost 26 years. Even when I was at University in Leeds, I came back to Peterborough every Friday to stay the night with her. However, I know I’m not alone, and we are all having to adjust to a new way of living. As much as the world seems crazy right now, every day is one day closer to normality. We will get there in the end.

I have so much content lined up for you over the coming months that I am SO excited to be coming back to the blog. If you follow me on Instagram, you may well have seen that I have a new job. I start at the end of June and I am looking forward to it more than I can tell you. I’m going to work for a very well known, fantastic charity called Mencap (you can check out their website here) who do amazing work for people who are living with learning disabilities. For me, it means that my shift work is finally coming to an end (no more night shifts and 4am starts – yay!), and I will have what can only be described as a ‘normal’ routine. I will update you with a dedicated blog post in the coming weeks, but to say I am nervous is an understatement! Despite being nervous, the excitement (of sleep) outweighs it – especially knowing I will be predominantly working from home. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have their working day to include cuddles with Bruce the Labrador?! My life just got that bit better.
Bruce has never been allowed upstairs, mainly because when we had Teela we didn’t want her hair getting into the carpet even more than it did from our socks (she was a German Shepherd), but now I’m going to be working upstairs in my new home office (how fancy am I?), I have been trying to get him to break the rules and come upstairs. I want him to be able to come and sit with me, however, he outright refuses. I even tried to put a trail of biscuits up the stairs, but even that didn’t tempt him. Some Labrador he is! He took the first two and then ran into the kitchen. I think he associates upstairs with the bath, so I think I’m going to have to try really hard to associate upstairs with something good for him. I know he has no issues with stairs, but I think this might take some time! Mr Izzo isn’t overly keen on the idea of having the dog upstairs, so he finds it incredibly amusing when I spend half an hour trying, so it’s incredibly important that I manage to convince Bruce to come upstairs even if it is just so the smug look leaves my husband’s face. I cannot lose.

It dawned on me this week that it has been 12 months since I started this blog. I had dabbled with it on and off but just short of 12 months ago, I bit the bullet, bought the domain name and started my ramblings. At this point I had approximately 1.3k followers on Instagram and an infertility diagnosis that I wasn’t coping with. 12 months later, I’ve just hit 4.2k followers, I have a YouTube channel that I’ve spent 9 months getting to grips with (finally, I think I’ve got the swing of it!) and a sense of purpose. I wanted to make this post a bit of a reflection on this, as honestly, I can’t believe how much has happened in those 12 months.

Two rounds of IVF & ICSI have been gruelling and brutal. Both rounds have totally chipped away at me in one way or another, whether that is my emotional stability or my tolerance. Everything seems to have become that bit more heightened, I became that bit angrier and that bit more bitter. One day I would be okay, the next? I wanted to strangle everyone in my path. I suppose the rollercoaster of emotions that come with IVF are totally normal, and I have no doubt that every woman who has stabbed those awful little needles into her stomach has felt the same level of resentment when it fails. The heartbreak is one thing, the failure, the shattering of emotions another, but I feel like the level of ‘bitter’ goes from a slice of lemon to shoving an entire bag of slightly too sour lemons in your mouth at once. This blog, every single time I have felt that way, has helped me. It has been a release; it has let me write my emotions and write my thoughts without any judgement. Every time I post I feel a small tinge of doubt, embarrassment almost, as I know people I know in real life read them. The last thing I want is pity, and the first thing I want is to raise awareness, but there is still that element of vulnerability every time a post goes live. However, with pressing the ‘publish’ button comes a sense of release. For every post, every word, every emotion I pen onto the page, a slight weight is lifted. It is liberating, if truth be told, to tell my story and know that other people who don’t feel comfortable enough to tell theirs are gaining comfort from this blog. It is a gorgeous feeling knowing you have helped someone else, even if the only thing you are doing is giving them some kind of solidarity, knowing they are not the only ones dealing with the issue at hand.

I am excited for the next 12 months. I am now IVF free, by choice, for as long as I want to be. We have decided that it will be at least this time next year. It depends on a variety of factors, but to be honest, I feel relieved. The desperation for a child isn’t leaving me; the envy when I see a pregnant woman is still deep rooted inside me, I still go to bed and long to be a mother, but the desperation to enjoy my life, to be in my twenties and LIVE like I am in my twenties, seems to be the thing that is tugging me the most right now. If this never happens for us, I want to resign to it gracefully, I want to know my life isn’t over, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my fertile years feeling miserable. I don’t want to hit 35 and look 50, I don’t want to wake up one day, childless and approaching the menopause, wishing I had drank that bottle of wine, walked the streets of Barcelona with my friends instead of putting every single piece of my energy into IVF. The goal, of course, is for the IVF to work and I will keep trying until I cannot anymore, but I can’t pour from an empty cup. The more drained I feel, the more exhausted I am, the more I resent myself and my situation, and the less likely this is to work. My life has been on pause and I have this new pining to enjoy my life. I hate this saying as it’s so cliché, but I feel it’s the only way I can describe how I feel… I need to find myself again, find out who I am post ‘you can’t have children without thousands of pounds, a bugger load of drugs and a husband masturbating into a cup’ diagnosis. Already in the last few months I have felt myself grow; I have felt my confidence rise, my outlook become more positive and my temper cool. I have really started running (minus a current slight hiatus, thank you to my pained back) and I am well on my way to finally getting into shape.
I am looking forward to having a routine, to having a job that doesn’t entail the same level of stress, to get 8 hours of sleep every night, in my own bed at a normal hour. I am looking forward to having a social life, to creating content on my blog, to put my time, love and energy into this website, into my YouTube and do the things I simply enjoy. To stop giving a damn, and to spend some serious quality time with my husband and my dog; my family.

I adore this blog, I love writing, I love the process of creating something that is mine.
I can’t wait to see where I am this time next year.

Thank you so much to everyone for all the support.

Love, Amber xx

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Life after IVF: It’s time to move on.

Life after IVF: It’s time to move on. 

There comes a time in your IVF journey where you must accept the situation that you’re in. To reach the point of IVF, you have dealt with infertility for at least 12 months, but often those years are multiples. In our case, we have been dealing with infertility for 5 years and 4 months. Years of my life on ‘Mumsnet’ that I’ll never get back, money spent on ovulation kits and basal body thermometers, a laparoscopy, bilateral-salpingectomy and two rounds of IVF later, I’ve come to the conclusion it is now time to let go.

I was so incredibly negative leading up to our second round of IVF. We had been for our treatment consultation and I decided there and then that this was not going to work, we were wasting our money, but we needed to do it. I planned and I wrote a huge list of things I was going to do if the IVF failed. I was going to do a skydive, run a half marathon – a full one if I caught the bug. I was going to go for a summer holiday with my girl friends and my husband and I were going to have a well-deserved break in the sun. I was going to live my life to the absolute fullest, quit my job and train to be a teacher, lose my “infertility weight” so I’ve named it, and colour my hair pink. I was going to have fun for a while. But then the IVF started, and my outlook completely changed. Initially, we found a rather large cyst on my right ovary and we were pushed to cancel, and yet there was something in me telling me not to, telling me to continue and go against the expectations. That’s exactly what I did. I was on track to perhaps get 4 eggs, but I requested my medication was increased (the cyst was not harmful, it was only slowing the growth of my follicles), and on egg collection day we retrieved 10 eggs. 8 were mature, 5 of which fertilised and yet only 1 of which made to transfer. Despite the fact the transferred embryo was an ‘early blastocyst’ (slow growing – it was developing but wasn’t quite where it should have been by day 5) – I was certain it would work. Our first round of IVF didn’t even make it to transfer, this time – even with the cyst – we made it, we’d done better than we could have ever expected and it made sense for it to work. The timing was perfect. You see, I had become obsessed with the timing. We had recently lost our dog – our beautiful German Shepherd, Teela, bless her heart – and she was one with quite the unpredictable temperament. Teela was horrific with other dogs and had only ever been around a toddler once, and frankly it is an experience I never wanted to repeat. I had always been anxious that she wouldn’t react well to a baby in the house. My Mum had also made the decision to move back to our city (she lived 200 miles away), so in my head it was perfect as she could share my pregnancy, and she was also turning 50. My Mum had always said she was too young to be a Grandmother before she was 50, and it would be sods law that she would get her way with this too. I would have been 12 weeks on her birthday had it worked. I was totally convinced it had worked until two days before test day when every single symptom I had vanished, like a star into a cloud. Inevitably, it failed. 

I promised myself I wouldn’t let this this cripple me, like I did before. I was going to swallow it and move on. I spent the day painting my fence with my husband, drinking tea and dancing to Shakira in the garden. Every now and again I would have a moment, but I would shake it off and move on like nothing had happened. I started planting a raised border in the garden, planting bulbs like there was no tomorrow, and with every bulb I was simply burying my problems deep into the soil. I wasn’t dealing with the problem at hand. So then, nearly three weeks later, it hit me. 

IVF has taken over my life. My life, for 5 and a half years, has revolved around my pining for a child. My desperation to be a mother has been the forefront of my mind every second of every day. IVF has made me bitter in a lot of ways, but it has made me wise. It has taught me patience, it has taught me real heartbreak – I am not talking your first love heartbreak, I am talking real, raw, undisputed grief. I have grieved for the child I cannot have, more than once. I have felt sad beyond words and I have had more bad days than good. I see myself only as a broken woman, like I wear a sign above my head: BARREN. In my eyes, I am somehow faulty, a dog with three legs that people look at and say ‘awww how sad’. I have never asked for pity but empathy, and this situation has taught me the difference between friends who want to understand, friends who empathise and friends who want to be there for you, and those who see you simply as the three-legged dog, those who see it as ‘just one of those things’ that you should just be getting on with. I have been depressed for a long time; I have been trying to fill a void that can’t be filled. My mind has been on a downward spiral since my ‘official’ infertile diagnosis and if I don’t do something about it now, I never will.

Waking up from sedative after my egg collection… have you ever seen anything so attractive? I told Marco the same thing 7 times in 5 minutes. High. As. A. Kite.

Over Christmas, I was having a form of trauma therapy called EMDR. We explored the blame and the guilt I feel regarding my infertility, but also the blame and the guilt I feel for a wide range of things that have happened in my life since the age of 13. I can’t explain to you how much it has helped me process things I was hanging on to, but at the same time it has surfaced feelings I wasn’t prepared to face. It made me realise how much I craved stability, security, how much I wanted the perfect family life that really is non-existent. It also made me realise I don’t need to accept my infertility, but instead I need to resign to it. It is something that will always make me sad, and if I never am a mother, that sadness won’t go away. However, by resigning to it I understand that there was nothing I could do to change it. It wasn’t my fault, I did everything I could with the tools that I had, but it wasn’t meant to be. The thing I need to learn is how not to look for answers when frankly, there are none. There is no reason as to why it is me, and the more I look for this clarity the more my mind will spiral. You can’t find something that isn’t there. 

It is now time for me to have a life. My husband and I got married and fell into the world of IVF; we have not been able to enjoy our time as man and wife without any hiccups, without every penny we have going into medical treatment. IVF is like a married couple addicted to gambling – you’re always spending money without a return, hoping that one day you get lucky. We haven’t been able to enjoy our time together and I have lost all sense of self. I am not the woman he married and often that breaks my heart. I carry a sadness that can’t seem to be lifted, but now it is time to air it out. It is time for me to work on me, for as long as it takes, and until I have reached an element of peace, an element of acceptance, we will not be ‘trying again’. We are going to live our lives in a way we wouldn’t be able to with children; we are going to be selfish, a bit reckless, and laugh – A LOT. I am going to run, and I am going to cycle, and we are going to holiday (whenever we can – thanks Corona!). I will get another tattoo and drink wine in dungarees until my heart is content. Until then, it’s over. I look forward to the day we try again, but for now, IVF is in a box. A box that will always be there in the corner of our eyes, but until we are ready to open it – it’s time to breathe some new air.

Love, Amber xxx

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Life with Endometriosis by @ThisEnglishHome

Throughout my infertility journey, I have encountered so many different amazing women through online support groups, this blog and my Instagram. Endometriosis is an issue that has regularly been mentioned, a condition that impacts 1 in 10 women. One woman I have met on this journey is the fantastic lady behind the Instagram account @ThisEnglishHome (whose account I highly recommend if DIY, budget friendly, boss women are your thaaang), who I am honoured to have share her story on Amber in a Teacup.

I have tried so many times to explain what endometriosis has done to me. So many times I’ve put pen to paper, only to fail & leave upset and sad that the words don’t exist. That in another way, I am alone. I will try again here, because it’s important, and because (poetically) trying again is the very definition of endometriosis; endlessly getting back up, a little less of myself each time, ready to go back into the fray. 17 years in, and I am tired.

At this stage even consultant clinicians argue amongst themselves about what endometriosis is. But the ones I most agree with (& it’s me writing this so I decide) say it’s due to retrograde menstruation (period “back-up”- not flowing “out” but seeping where ever it wants). It’s worth saying now that research and care are woefully inadequate and under researched but what seems certain, is that it’s a disease of modernity; from too many periods in a lifetime. Huh? Let me explain.

Female/femcoded bodies (transmen can still have periods) evolved from ancient apes & in an environment where they would be consistently pregnant or breastfeeding from around the age of around 13 to when we died (at 35).

Modern life is not like that huns and thank god. But, just as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are the draw backs of having a modern Western diet (I’m speaking on a population level, no judgement), modern life does not match what we evolved to do. We are simply not designed to have so many periods so often.

This evolutionary biological theory explains also why breast cancer and ovarian cancer is so rampant in western societies and so rare in indigenous ones. Cancer is cell mutation gone wrong, every time we release an egg (ovulate) we give the cell production a chance to go wrong. We just bleed too much, and girl, can I believe it.

Image: Healthy Teen Network

Endometriosis is the same: the more periods we have, the more chance we give retrograde menstruation a chance to appear. And when it does, the more periods we have, the more we feed it. 

These rogue endometrial cells are womb-like in their nature, and as such; they respond to the hormones your brain emits when it talks to the womb. Yes, that’s right: endometriosis cells are stupid (that’s as kind as I can be about them) – they truly believe they are still in the lining of the womb. So they chirp awake ready to work whenever your brain tells them to. You menstruate and that endo on your bladder will bloom like an evil red flower…and you will cry every time you pee that day. You ovulate, and yep, those cells on your bowel will glow like a lantern lighting the way to hell (and you won’t leave sight of the toilet that week). 

Oh the sheer unending joy of it all. And the dignity. And the joy (did I say that already?)

It doesn’t sound that bad though does it? Just bad periods. Bad ovulation.

Ha. No.

Because it also somehow compromises our immune system, leads to anaemia, poor diet, weight gain, weight loss, infertility, painful femurs, insomnia & fatigue, cysts, facial hair, lack of libido and even ulcers, bad teeth and migraines. 

Without a doubt the most dangeorus side effect of all this….is the depression.

Imagine someone snuck up the day before a day you’d been dreaming of and just cancelled it? And then you had to apologise to all your friends for YOUR agony. The dead coffee dates, the missed job interviews, the school plays, the ruined holiday, the missed flight. The drugs…. on your wedding day (we had to stop in the car on the way to the church).

And that’s before we talk about the medicine. Or lack thereof.

Here’s what I get to choose between:

Depression from the progesterone only pill (a widely reported and experienced side effect so don’t @ me with your essential oils) or infertility. Or I can have a combined pill. But not if you’ve ever ever had a migraine because you might die from a stroke or a blood clot. You could have the coil but that’s a tempestuous little minx too.

Or, you can have a hysterectomy at 27. Like my friend. Who had to pay for it, because middle aged white men decided she might one day want a baby (even though she could barely feed herself).

So painkillers, right? Well, NSAIDs (drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen) are the best. But I gave myself an ulcer so now I can’t have them for a while (I do, against medical advice and wonder if every stomach ache is a perforation & I’m 15 seconds away from death. Often at 4am). Paracetamol is ok & is worth taking but it won’t knock it out as any labouring mum to be will tell you. You can try gabapentin, amitriptyline & pregablin. But they all have their side effects. 

And then there’s the opiates. Codeine, tramadol, oramorph, morphine, fentanyl. The big gun.

I’ve been on tramadol for 8 years and let me tell you, it’s an amazing painkiller but it’s a demon. And it comes with its own set of rules.

My days revolve around deciding which medicine is less likely to hurt me, fielding migraines and agonising femurs, a strong and loving relationship with my bathroom & apologising. So. Much. Apologising.

I won’t tell you the most embarrassing moment of my life, but it did make me consider adult nappies.

And on that note I’ll leave you, with one final note: if I ever hear you respond to the word “endometriosis” as “just bad periods”….I will find you, and YOU will bleed.

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Top Tips for IVF Stims!

Everyone’s journey leading up to IVF is difference. Everyone’s IVF cycle is different, from the clinics, the medication, the protocol, the side effects and ultimately, the outcome. I am currently amid my second round of ICSI and despite being under the same clinic, this round is different to the last. IVF/ICSI (whichever you are doing!) is a scary journey. I found that the lead up to round 1 was totally different to the lead up to this round. The first time, I felt hopeful, positive, certain it would work and excited to begin this adventure. I was terrified of the prospect of injecting myself; I couldn’t even go for a blood test without looking in the other direction, sweating profusely as I sat down waiting for the metal prick of death in my arm… how on earth was I going to manage injecting myself? I had a lot of people tell me to just get my husband to do it for me, but that was easier said than done. My job revolves around shift work, so there was no way I was going to be home every night for him to do it for me. I had to learn, so I did, and guess what? I managed just fine, and the one time I let my husband do it, he made me bleed!

The lead up to this round has been totally different. After the miserable failing of the first round (our embryos didn’t make it to transfer), I have felt nothing but sheer apprehension and nervousness leading up to the second. I haven’t felt anything close to what I felt the first time and day 1 of injecting was nothing more than just something we had to do. Last time I was injecting Bemfola and Cetrotide, whereas this time I am injecting Menopur and Cetrotide. Bemfola was a pre-filled pen, nice and simple, whereas Menopur is (like Cetrotide) one I must mix. 45 minutes before the injection, the anxiety begins… What if I do it wrong? What if I cut myself? What if it hurts? What if I accidentally push the syringe and I lose all the liquid? What if I inject the wrong part of my tummy? What if, what if, what if….? The truth is, it was fine, and once you’ve done it once, the rest are easy. I know everyone says it, but that’s only because it’s true.  

I feel I am slowly becoming an expert with this injecting malarkey… I should have named this blog Amber with a needle. So, without further ado – these are my top tips for IVF stims!

  1.  DON’T WATCH TOO MANY VIDEOS 

When you had your treatment consultation, it is likely your clinic told you to watch video tutorials of how to do the injections. You will have been shown how to do it in this appointment, but if you’re anything like me you’ll forget as soon as you’ve left the clinic. I made the mistake the first-time round of watching way too many videos from way too many uploaders. I ended up getting myself into such a tizzy and almost making a total hash of the first Cetrotide injection. My advice instead? Pick one video and watch it no more than 5 times. You’ll only increase that anxiety.

  1.  DON’T USE THE ALCOHOL WIPES

This is probably a bit of a controversial one, but one I know I am not alone in. A lot of the injections will come with an alcohol wipe for you to clean the area you’re about to inject. I sacked these off after about 2 days. I hated them. Yes, it felt very nice wiping this sanitary, cold wipe across my stomach, but I found that when I used them the injection stung. I spoke to my consultant and asked if I had to use them and she agreed that it was not a necessity. At the end of the day, you are injecting into your own skin. I trust you are all hygienic, clean people that don’t have four-day old mud on your belly, and so I really don’t advise using them unless you really want to! (I am not a medical practitioner and am aware some would advice against this, so my advice is do what makes you comfortable!)

  1.  TRY TO DO IT YOURSELF 

I completely understand that some people have a total fear of needles. I also understand that unlike me, some people can be at home for every injection and therefore have their other halves to do it for them. I feel if you can, you should at least *try* to do one yourself. I actually found it quite liberating. When it comes to IVF, the injections are the only bit of the entire process that you have control over. I let my husband to one of mine, but generally, I felt like I was really in control of my body at this point. Injecting myself made me feel like an absolute boss. By the end of it, I was injecting in train toilets, work toilets, in the car… I was an injecting Queen and I loved it.

  1.  DRINK ALL OF THE WATER

I seem to have a hidden allergy of water and a love for being dehydrated. I find it so hard to drink the recommended 2L of water a day, let alone drink 3L water a day (minimum!) as recommended by my clinic. I have bought myself a HydrateM8 water bottle – whilst rather pricey, I love it. It’s BPA free and it tells me how much water I should have drank by what time. I fill this up 3-4 times a day and get through it all. The downside? Constantly needing the toilet, which really isn’t ideal at work, but if the IVF works then I’d better get used to it! You can get cheaper versions of this bottle, it isn’t an AD, I just love my bottle and highly recommend it. Water is really important during IVF. It helps with the bloat, it helps with your energy levels, it stops you being dehydrated but most of all, it really helps with the headaches. I didn’t really get headaches the first time round, but I promise you, Menopur headaches are a real thing. Within an hour of injection number 1, my head was pounding, I struggled to sleep and during day 2, a huge headache also stuck with me. Beautiful.

  1.  INJECT IN DIFFERENT POINTS 

I can not stress this point enough… do not inject in the same place twice! I really recommend alternating sides and injecting anywhere within the acceptable region to avoid injecting in the same place and minimising your risk of bruising. You don’t always bruise, but it’s best to try and minimise the risk as much as you can.

  1.  BREATHE, RELAX, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY 

You need a nap? Honey, you take that nap. Once you’ve done the first injection, you’re good to go. You’ll feel much more at ease and honestly, the anticipation of doing the injection is much worse than the actual thing. You have to do it, so you may as well try and make it as relaxing and as easy as possible. Listen to your body, if you’re hungry, nourish it, thirsty? Drink something. If you’re tired? Sleep. Read a book, cancel your plans, stay in your pyjamas… do whatever it is you need to do to look after yourself and feel good.

Remember the reason you are doing this. With any luck, it will all be worthwhile. IVF is a funny old ride – but only the strongest people get to ride it. I am crossing everything for you – good luck!

Love, Amber xx

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