My Blog

Dear John (walking away)

Dear John.

It’s never the kids fault when a relationship breaks down, we didn’t ask for it, we aren’t the ones to blame for it, we are just the ones who suffer when the two people who are meant to love us the most, can’t behave like grown adults and put the happiness of the humans you created first.

Take you and Mum for example. You didn’t work. I get that, and now that I know you both, I can see why. Mum has a temper, she’s vicious and she’s manipulative, she’s so consumed by the little world she’s created, she even believes her own lies. You? You’re arrogant and offensive, you’re the type of person who refuses to admit when he’s wrong and you’re a regular passenger on flight destination “Elevenerife”, you’re stubborn and you’re hard work, you don’t care about what you say and the people you hurt – especially me.

Put the two of you together and quite frankly, your relationship was a recipe for disaster.

But between you both, you had two daughters. When you called time on your relationship, my big sister and I became pawns. A six week old baby and three year old child, pawns in an adult game. You may both deny that, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Mum stopped us from seeing you although she allowed your parents access to hurt you, you’d spend very little time with us when we were with them but as we grew older, you’d ignore us completely and walk out of the room, but you kept tabs on us via the schools or family friends. You knew what was going on at home but you didn’t remove us from the situation and to be honest, I’m glad. Because now I’m able to look at you both and say that I don’t really need either of you. I’ve experienced both sides of the coin now and I don’t think I can say that either of you step up to the plate when it comes to being a good parent. A good parent would have taken us away from the situation, when you knew social services and schools weren’t protecting us, you should have stepped in. But you didn’t.

Do you remember when I was 26 John? I called you whilst I was pushing my daughter on the swings. You told me to Fuck Off. I waited ten minutes then called again. You said the same thing again. I gave up trying to get answers to the questions I was always going to want to know, until I was 32. I’d cut ties with my Mum less than a year before and decided to try one more time to find you, I did. I found you on Facebook and messaged you I don’t know how many times. Eventually you replied. It wasn’t the reply I expected, there was no elation, no emotion, just a bitter message aimed at my Mum, but, I ignored the passive aggressive undertones and arranged to meet you at Nans.

I thought there would be an emotional reunion, a long hug and an apology for being out of my life for so long, but no, a two second hug and a couple of hours spent bitching about my Mum. You didn’t ask my any questions about my life or about my daughter, you didn’t seem to want to know. I put it down to you being in shock perhaps, maybe even overwhelmed but no, fast forward almost 18 months and you’ve not changed a bit.

I used to call you daily, then weekly, now I barely call at all. Why John? Because when I call, I spend two minutes talking to you, then you pass the phone to your boyfriend and spend the time talking to him instead. And I don’t mind, I like Alan, he probably knows me better than you do, because he listens, and he asks questions.

Since the day I found you, you’ve never called me. It’s always me chasing you. When I come to visit Nan and you come over, or you’ve been to my house, we’ve never really sat down and had a proper conversation. In fact, we’ve spoken to everyone in the room but each other, it’s like we are two complete strangers, and that’s what we are, two total strangers connected only by a bloodline. I even changed my name back to yours in a hope it would make you want me more, in the hope it would make me feel like I finally belonged somewhere, but I’ve never hated a name more and, on the day I get married, I will finally have a name that I’ll be proud to carry, a real family name, from a family who love me and my daughter.

You knew I was off work with post traumatic stress and depression, you knew because yet again I rang you and told you, you didn’t really offer me any support and you certainly never called to check up on me from time to time like a good parent should. You were pretty shit to be honest John. I tried to defend you, tried to convince myself that it was because you didn’t know how to be a Dad, but when I think rationally, who does? There’s no manual to give us instructions the day we meet our babies for the first time so you really have no excuse. You just don’t have it in you to be a proper parent.

I got engaged recently John. I should’ve wanted to ring you and tell you. I should’ve wanted to share my excitement, but shall I tell you the honest truth? Only a month before, we had discussed the possibility of eloping just so we could avoid inviting you. And, on the day we got engaged and booked our wedding here in the U.K, we were excited beyond belief, but one of the first thoughts I had was “I don’t want to invite my Dad” do you know how that feels John? Not wanting your Dad there because I’m scared you’ll offend the people who have been there for me more than you have? Not wanting you there because I’m petrified of what you will say when the “Father Of The Bride” does his speech, because let’s be honest John, what can you say? You don’t know me. And I’m certainly not precious to you. I’m scared of you seeing me in my dress for the first time and walking me down the aisle because I know they’ll be no sentimental words exchanged, you won’t be telling me how beautiful I look or how proud you are of me because that’s not you. When I think of you at my wedding, I’m petrified you will ruin my day.

Instead, I’ve asked Paul’s Dad to give me away, and when I asked him, he beamed with pride and I didn’t feel scared or nervous about a thing.

I didn’t even ring you to tell you I’d got engaged because I knew you wouldn’t care, but I know you know because I rang Nan and told her, she didn’t congratulate us either. I knew she’d tell you so I waited for a call but that call didn’t come. So in the end, I announced our engagement on Facebook and let you know in the same way as most other people. We were flooded with messages but none of them from you, yet I know you saw it because you are on Facebook most days, don’t say you’ve been busy working John, if you can update your status, you can message me.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Pam passed away. I know you saw it, I know you know. But did you call your Granddaughter? Did you message her with words of support and condolences? No. Nothing. Beth needed you to step up and you weren’t there. You can hurt me all you like John but there’s one thing you need to know about me. I am a good Mother, I put my baby first and when she needs me, I’m there, if someone lets her down, you can bet I won’t give them a chance to do it a second time.

At the very beginning, I would cry happy tears after speaking to you because I’d found my Dad, I got excited when you hung up and said “love you too” but it didn’t last long, because I knew it wasn’t real. Now, the only tears you give me are sad and angry ones. I’ve toyed with talking to you about it but I know you can be nasty and nothing is ever your fault so I bit my lip – something that those who know me, know I struggle massively with. Instead, I’ve spent months waiting for a call, waiting for some effort from you and got nothing. Now I’ve given up. You’re not a Dad, you’re just a person in the background. A person I will keep being hurt by and more importantly, my daughter will keep being hurt by you. I can’t allow that to happen. I won’t.

I always thought my Mum used my sister and I as pawns against you, but now I realise it wasn’t just my Mum. It was you too. I strongly believe you only wanted me around to piss her off, because you know she’s not on the scene and it would eat her up knowing I was calling you Dad again. The only conversations you are ever interested in are the ones about my Mum and I genuinely believe that if I told you I’d chosen to allow her back in my life again, you’d be gone. Because for you, it’s you or her.

But let me tell you this John. Mum won’t be back in my life, ever, and after this. Nor will you. Because you both make me sad, you both drag me down and make me feel unloved and worthless. But I know my worth now John, I know I deserve to be loved and I am, I’m loved without question or conditions, I’m loved without having to make choices, I’m loved for being me. You can’t offer me that and that’s ok, I’m not angry anymore, I’ve added another notch on the bedpost of life lessons and as the cliche goes, it’s made me stronger and it’s made me a better Mother because I am never going to be the kind of parents you are. My daughter will grow up to be loved, she will always know that even though things didn’t work with her Dad and I, it was never her fault, she will always know she doesn’t have to choose and she’ll always know no matter what, we both always want the best for her. And, one day, when she gets married, we will stand together by her side, knowing that we were grown up enough to put her feelings before ours. Just as you and Mum should have done for the two lives you created.

You could have been a proper Dad to me John, and Mum could have been a proper Mum, if the two of you had just accepted your marriage was over and you had put your focus into raising your girls responsibly, as a joint effort, if you’d just put your hatred aside. Once upon a time, your hatred for each other ruined me, it left me feeling like I didn’t know myself and had to live my whole life choosing between you both. But now I know I don’t have to choose either of you. Because neither of you are worthy of my love, neither of you are worthy of my daughters love and neither of you are getting it. I’m not choosing between you anymore, because I don’t choose either of you. I choose to just do me.

Take this post as you will. No doubt you’ll accept no responsibility and I’ll be the bad guy for walking away. But whatever helps you sleep at night. It’s not me or Beth missing out, it’s you. You might see this as being harsh, but trust me, nothing is more harsh than being absent from a child’s life for almost 32 years and doing very little to repair the damage. We are done John, and this time, it’s not you walking away, it’s me, and I’m not coming back.

Emma

18 Year Old Emma.

World Mental Health Day.

I’ll never forget that first panic attack, the tightening of my chest that made me feel like I was having a heart attack, the way the walls felt like they were closing in on me, the way the ground felt like it was swallowing me up from under my feet, the headache that made me feel like it would combust at any moment and that horrible feeling of fear.

What was I afraid of at the exact moment in time? I don’t know. I still don’t know properly. I mean, I’m know fully aware of the things that trigger those feelings but, at that very moment in time, I had no clue what was happening but I knew something wasn’t right.

I’m 34 years old and those 34 years have been tough. I’ve experienced abuse, neglect, self loathing, DV, been cheated on, PND, single parenthood, debt, heartbreak, bereavement, family separation and estrangement, living on benefits, lost friendships, been shit on, anxiety and depression, a failed suicide attempt, infertility, a cancer scare, miscarriages, meningitis and early menopause. But the best part of it is, I’m here, I’m still standing.

Now some people might read that list and roll their eyes, some might think I’m revelling in self pity but that is so wrong. It couldn’t be further from the truth in fact. Why? Because I’m proud of the fact that I’m still here, still standing.

I want to share something with you that I don’t talk about to anyone and as I write this, I still wonder if it is the right thing to do, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I was 18 years old, it was New Years Day. Beth’s Dad and I had split up and I was on that rebound stage, I was dating a guy who I believed I’d fallen for – I definitely hadn’t, he’d taken a work placement in Italy and I was heartbroken. Why was I heartbroken? Because I was depressed. I was lonely and I felt that I wasn’t capable of being loved.

A few months previous, I made a stupid mistake, something I regret to this day and just couldn’t live with. I was unable to talk about it to anybody and I felt alone. Eventually, my family found out and I was giving another royal beating by my Mum, I was called all the names under the sun and left feeling like I had nobody.

I remember going to our local nightclub on New Years Eve. Alone. I celebrated the turn of a New Year drinking alone, dancing on the dance floor stupidly drunk and pretending the people next to me were my friends when I started to notice people realised I was out on NYE alone. When the clock hit midnight, I was sat in a toilet cubicle with my knickers around my ankles, drinking a Smirnoff Ice, crying my eyes out. I was 18 years old and had no friends, I’d been let down by the people who should have supported me the most and here I was, wanting to end my life but too scared to do it.

I stumbled out of the club and walked home alone. I got into the house and remember sitting down to write letters, in those letters, I apologised for being a let down, I apologised for not being good enough, for not being loveable, for not being the twin my Mum miscarried (although it’s recently transpired that I never was a twin and I’d been told for years it should have been me that died) I apologised for being a rubbish friend, a rubbish sister and daughter, I apologised for simply existing. And then, I fell asleep. Too drunk to even try and go ahead with my suicide attempt.

When I woke the next morning, I felt heartbroken, heartbroken because I’d failed to do what I set out to do.

I got in the shower and scrubbed myself, trying to rid myself of the thoughts that were taking over my brain. I got dressed, did my hair and made my bed. I put the letters on my bedside cabinet and walked around the house looking for tablets. It didn’t matter what tablets they were, I wanted them. Needed them. I was renting a room in a house and even went into the bedroom of another lodger and found all her medicines.

In total, I’d found 120 pills and so I took them all, washed them down with a bottle of Calpol, then lay on the bed, feeling like this was it. I’d be free. But then something hit me and in a split second, I realised I didn’t want to die. I was 18, I had my whole life ahead of me. So I called 999 and the last things I remember were having paramedics in my bedroom trying to keep me awake. They walked me down the stairs and by this point, my landlady and housemate were home and had contacted my Mum who was stood at the bottom of the stairs with my Great Aunt and as I cried, wanting my Mum to hold me, I remember her shouting because I’d ruined her day and I was a silly cow. Now maybe it was the shock but I knew my Mum and knew she meant it. I remember the paramedic taking my hand and sitting me up in the ambulance and then…nothing.

I don’t recall much after that, only that I woke up a few days later after very nearly dying.

When I was eventually brought home, I didn’t get any support. No help from counselling or professionals, no follow up appointments, I was back to my little bedroom, with no friends and by myself again. But I knew I wanted to live. And so I did. I spent a few months carrying on as if nothing had happened and before I knew it, I was back with Beth’s Dad and not long after, I was pregnant.

To this day, I believed Beth saved me. She gave me a purpose and a reason to live, to want to live.

So you see, no matter how tough my life has been, I know it does get better, I know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I know that there are reasons to live even if you can’t see them at that moment in time. If I’d died that day, there’d be no Beth, I’d never have Paul and my step children, I’d not have my best friend and the people around me that I do now. I came out of it a fighter and I’ve fought hard for all the good things I have in my life now.

I believe that my mental health problems have always been there and will never completely go away, but I also believe that no matter how hard life gets, I want to be here to fight it and I never have to fight it alone.

Life is a beautiful thing, it’s precious and it’s a gift. Whether our life is all smooth sailing or full of constant battles, we are all here, still going strong. My past may be colourful and there may be lots of stories to tell, but my stories are my battle scars. When I hit a low point like I did five months ago, those battle scars remind me that it’ll never get worse than that, there is no test life could throw at me that I won’t find a way to pass. I don’t believe that I’ll ever be as low as I was aged 18.

So here I am now, 34 years old and I’m back at work again after a five month break to conquer my demons. Five months ago, I couldn’t leave the house alone, today I went to work for the second day of my new career, I introduced myself to new colleagues, went for a hot chocolate by myself and browsed around the shops, I laughed, I joked and I smiled. I’ve been happy today, and as I write this, I’m looking forward to all my tomorrows.

It’s important to know that you never have to be alone. Depression can make you feel like you have nobody even when there is a room full of people wanting to help you. It can make you feel like you’re losing even though you’re winning at life. It can also make you the best liar. Telling people you feel fine when really you know you’re not. And that is why is so important to talk to someone, anyone. To reach out and ask for help, whether it’s family, friends, colleagues, a partner or even someone you talk to in social media. Take that step and tell someone how you feel, it’s only when you say it out loud that you are on the way to recovery. It’s a long road and that’s only the first step but it’s the biggest, hardest one. There are so many people that care and I can honestly say, that these few months, I’ve found so much support in the kindness of strangers,I’ve realised there are people who care, and some have cared for me more than I cared for myself at that time.

So, on World Mental Health Day, as we talk openly and honestly about how we feel, how we’ve felt, and encourage each other to do the same, I know one thing, whatever life throws at me, I will never be 18 year old Emma again, and if I can help someone else by writing this post, hopefully it’ll help another person who feels like I did.

You are strong. You are brave and you can definitely do this.

Emma

P.S : If you do feel you need someone to talk to and you feel alone, use my contacts page to get in touch, sometimes, we just need that one person to talk to.

Time.

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It’s that one thing we take for granted most of all isn’t it?

How many of us avoid making that call to our family because we know we’ll be on the phone for too long and Strictly will be on in ten minutes? How many of us rearrange a visit with friend in favour of doing it tomorrow, not for any reason, just because we can’t be bothered and assume we  even have a tomorrow? How many of us pick up that extra shift at work because we think we need to buy that one extra Christmas present but it means missing out on ‘yet another school assembly that we’ve all seen before?’ How many of us have lost a loved one and been left feeling like there are words left unsaid, and why? Because we thought we had time.

On September 20th 2017 at 9.15am, the beautiful, kind, loyal, devoted Grandmother to my daughter and Mother figure to me, the Mum I always wanted, closed her eyes and peacefully passed away with a smile upon her face. Her battle with cancer was over and it was her time to take her place as the Mother of all Angels. Pam was my role model, she was everything I wanted to be and more. She was the kind of Mum and Grandmother who gave her everything and would have given more if she had it but the one thing she gave wholeheartedly, was time.

Pam was kind, she was patient and she was a listener. Three things that often require the gift of time, and boy did she give them. Why should kindness take time some may wonder? Surely kindness comes naturally? And yes, it does. But Pam went beyond that. She would show kindness to people she had never met before, stopping to make conversation with random people in the street that others wouldn’t have given time of day to. She would show kindness to every injured animal or insect she could – a couple of days ago Beth’s Dad and I joked that she would be like Noah up in Heaven. She would show kindness to people that others often prejudged and would make her own decisions. She would show kindness to her family and friends and would give the shirt off her back if she could.

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When Beth was a baby, I was severely post natal, something that even now, I don’t think many people understood but Pam was my Angel, she took the reins and practically raised Beth for the first few years when I lost my way and struggled to see a way out of it, that was , until she sat me down over a hot cup of tea and talked to me about what was going on inside my head and why. I poured my heart out to her regularly and told her about those PND demons that took over until that switch turned from off back to on. She was patient, she listened, she guided, she advised, she nurtured and she helped me. She showed me how to be a Mum and she was patient as I learnt. In my darkest days when I struggled to be around Beth, Pam was there, holding me up yet I didn’t ever really see just how much. She would stand for hours rocking Beth to sleep patiently, she would sit and teach Beth all about the flowers in the garden and never once grumbled when Beth would rip one from the ground to put into a potion. She would play the same game repeatedly with Beth because she knew it was her favourite, never once did she moan about have to go grocery shopping at Mr Tumbles shop in the back garden and spend all her money on plastic vegetables. She was patient and she was wonderful.

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If Pam had something she wanted to say, she never left it unsaid, granted, she would bite her lip on many occasion but only because she didn’t feel it needed to be voiced because to Pam, being angry or speaking out of turn was a waste of time and, if her words couldn’t change a situation, she didn’t waste her time trying. Time was something she held dear to her.

Losing Pam has given me a bit of a wake up call and I’ve taken time out to stop and reassess my life, where I’m going and what I want to do with it.

I’m a time waster, I spend too much time worrying about the things that don’t matter, the things I can’t control and although I know I will always be that way because it’s part of my make up, I have to start to look at these things that don’t matter and question whether or not I want to waste my time focusing on so many negatives when there are far more postives waiting for me?

At times, I think I almost look for problems. I have never had any qualms with walking away from people who don’t add to my life or bring me sadness but then I spend too much time still dwelling over it, worrying that I have done the wrong thing because people will think badly of me, worrying that I’m worrying in the first place. What I need to do is remember that I walked away for good reason, now I have to focus on what’s right in front of me. If I feel my time is too precious to have them in my life, then I don’t need to waste my time keeping them in my mind right?

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Now I’ve never been one to get splinters in my arse, I’m not backwards in coming forwards and have always been proud that I speak my mind, some appreciate and some don’t but I also know that sometimes I say things when I could just easily save my breath and walk away, I don’t need to waste my time retaliating when people aren’t kind to me, I don’t need to respond to people looking for an argument and I certainly don’t need to constantly feel like I’m having to justify myself. All these things are simply a waste of my time. They create problems that don’t need to be there because I am capable of walking away and giving my time to those who deserve it. I’m a kind person and I want to show that kindness to those who deserve it, not the people that bring out the worst in me. Sometimes, letting go is easier than devoting my time to negative people. I want to make sure that from this day forward, I don’t leave anything left unsaid so long as it’s for the better.

Tomorrow I go back to work for the first time in almost five months. I won’t lie. I’m scared. Scared but excited. The anxiety is still there but not half as bad as it was previously. Being off work has given me a bit of time to find who I am again, to work out what it is that matters to me and where I want to go with my life. It’s been an opportunity to be home when Beth comes back from school and when Paul gets home from work, it’s given me more time with them than I’ve ever had before. I’ve had time to get to know them all over again and it’s been a pleasant learning curve, even with the anxiety and the dark days.

Previously, I was guilty of always picking up extra hours, more so in the care industry. I saw the extra money as opportunities to do more but was never around to actually enjoy it. I missed out on parents evenings and family meals, I missed out on being there when I was needed the most and what for? Because I believed I had time to do it all another day. The sad fact is, we don’t know how many other days we have, we think we have our whole lives ahead of us but the reality of it is, we don’t know that for certain, nothing in life is a given. I’ve learnt that I don’t have to take those extra shifts if I don’t want to, that working a fourty hour week is enough and, when I function in the added travel time to and from work each day, that’s an extra ten hours on top that I’m away from them. Being at Beths parents evening is much more important than that extra shift, that extra two hours travelling and then coming home too exhausted to listen, too exhausted to show the children patience when they want to tell me about their day and too exhausted to deal with their bickering by doing anything other than shouting. If I’m going to be a working Mum, I need and want to enjoy it, I need to manage my time better. When I clock out at work and my working day is done, that’s exactly what it is. Done. My time is then spent focusing on Paul and the children, not worrying about the next day or things beyond my control. My time is precious, I want to all the little things that I’ve had time to enjoy in the five months of not being at work and refuse to let anything jeopardise that. I also want to enjoy sitting with my head in Bridal magazines now we have finally set a date and booked a venue but more on that another day.

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Losing Pam has taught me so much and I feel almost ashamed that it’s taken the loss of someone who was so important to me to make me realise what matters the most. But, in my heart, I know Pam would be proud of this realisation because all she ever really wanted me to do was be happy, enjoy being a Mum and a future wife, to enjoy being me and be the very best version of me that I could.

Don’t let losing a loved one make you realise how precious your time is, be like Pam. A lady who used her time wisely, a lady who made those visits, who picked up that phone, who made sure everyone knew how loved they are, a lady who showed kindness, patience and spent time listening. A lady who didn’t waste her time on words that wouldn’t be able to make a change, a lady who didn’t surround herself with those who don’t matter. A lady who appreciated the gift of time, and used every second wisely because she knew that time isn’t a given. A lady that meant more to me than most people and, if I’d used my time wisely, I probably would have had the chance to tell her that more.

Emma

* For Pamela Evelyn Polo – I loved you like there was no tomorrow, then one day, there wasn’t. Sweet dreams. Until next time, I’ll be seeing you. xoxox

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Blogging : The Struggle Is Real.

Recently I feel like I’m really struggling to find my place when it comes to blogging.

Someone I follow on Twitter last week wrote a pretty bitchy tweet aimed at bloggers (which is ironic as she’s a blogger herself) In this tweet, she said something along the lines of

“Everyone’s a blogger these days, bore off, free loading or writing about depression doesn’t make you a blogger love”

This tweet wasn’t sent to me personally or anyone else for that matter but, it upset me as much as it would have if she’d actually @’ed my name in it. In fact, it went above upsetting me and actually has had me thinking about it non stop.

I can’t lie. I’m struggling big time.

Blogging is now such a popular little platform and I personally believe that there is room for everyone. Yes, we may all be doing it but, we all have different goals, we all have different views and we also have different styles. I firmly believe there is a blog out there for everyone and now, some of my favourite blogs are very much like sitting down with my favourite books, I look forward to reading the posts and gazing over beautiful photos, I love to read creative content and see how other people view life. In my eyes, blogging is very much a “more the merrier” world now and I like it that way. In fact, I’ve even encouraged a couple of people to start and have taken great enjoyment in reading their thoughts.

However, I feel like finding my place is tough. Real tough. I don’t have a niche or a particular style, I don’t produce amazing photographs – mostly because I have no idea what software I should be using or how to even work my camera properly (I’m forever in sports mode and I don’t know why) I don’t have the looks to produce a pretty photo of myself and I certainly don’t have an exciting wardrobe to create some amazing fashion shots, I don’t have the creative eye to be an interior blogger (my house is pretty boring in comparison to others) and my kids are too old for me to be a Mum blogger (plus I kinda feel like I’m winging Motherhood at the best of times so I can’t really dish out advice. All I have to offer is a small ability to write and, on occasion, I might be a little bit funny which always helps. I just don’t know where I fit in, if at all.

I’m also finding it really difficult to ask for help. For me personally (and please remember these are MY thoughts) when I have been given help and guidance, it’s always come from mostly, the gorgeous Northern Irish bloggers. Sometimes, I don’t even have to ask and they’ll offer me words of wisdom and encouragement, I honestly couldn’t be more grateful.

Lately, I’ve seen lots of blogging events going on but none have really appealed to me and the ones that have, seem to be by the seaside and I live out in what feels like The Outback in comparison. Again, the only event I really wanted to go to was one held last week in Northern Island and, when another is up and running, I’m boarding the next available flight. The amount of positivity I’ve seen on Instagram that has stemmed from the event has been so beautiful to see and I love how inspired accounts now are. The vibe on my Instagram feed has been so uplifting, accounts now really seem to want to take the bull by the horns and make their blog work.

I’ve asked myself lately what I want from blogging. Do I want to be a career blogger? No. Yes. No. I don’t think so right now. Probably because I don’t think I’m good enough and because going out to work and being paid a wage from someone else is all I know. Do I want to earn money from my blog? I’d be lying if I said no, I’ve now got a wedding to pay for after all and I’m pretty sure our gorgeous venue don’t accept payment in buttons, however, earning money from writing and blogging isn’t overalls important to me as I now have a full time job (I start in a couple of weeks and I can’t tell you how excited I am to be employed by a leading brand and getting to work amongst the latest trends) but, extra money is always a bonus.

Am I serious about blogging? Yes. Why? Because some of my best blog posts have been deeply honest and raw, I’ve written each post from the heart in a bid to hopefully help someone else realise they are not alone, to make people see that it’s ok to be skint, it’s okay to not be okay, it’s ok to be estranged from family and so on. I want to use my blog mostly to hope people. However, I don’t want to constantly feel like I’m always writing about sad and negative aspects of my life because believe it or not, I’m actually quite a fun person to be around when I’m on top form. I just want to help people, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life.

I just feel like I need to know what I’m doing. I’ve seen so many people start blogging and give up for all of the reasons I’ve stated, but I don’t want to. I’ve not lost my mojo in anyway, I just don’t know how best to go about this blogging thing. I love blogging through my Instagram and making new friends from it but I noticed that not everyone wants to read posts anymore and perhaps that’s because they feel like there are so many of us. I just wish everyone who felt like that could see that blogging isn’t easy, it takes blood sweat and tears to put your work into public hands, to face criticism and judgement. It takes lots of time to put something together and it takes a lot of guts for anyone trying to make it in such a competitive market.

I’m currently trying to teach myself how to take better images, how to use my camera off sports mode and work out how to layout an attractive blog but it’s not easy when you have no clue. Is it that my photos aren’t right? Do I edit them to be too dark? Is it my content? Am I too scatty? Am I just not someone people feel they relate to?

I’m going drastically wrong somewhere and I don’t know where or why. I do know that I need to keep going as it does take time. Perhaps I need to stop thinking I’m not good enough and have a little faith in myself.

So, to the person who wrote that tweet. Yes, we are all bloggers these days, and we are all in it together so how about helping rather than hindering success?

Have you ever tried to start a blog and felt the same? Let me know your thoughts.

Emma

FRIENDS THAT LIVE IN MY PHONE

Rewind to almost three years ago, I was sitting and laughing at people who referred to Instagram followers as their friends.

How was it possible to call someone you’ve never met, a friend?

They’re followers, they see the bits of you that you want them to see, how is that a friendship?

But now, here I am, 3 years later, engaging in a deep conversation with a friend via whatsapp. A friend who has offered support in some of my darkest days, a friend who shared my joy when I got engaged, a friend who talks about her problems with me and listens in return as I tell her mine. A friend I’ve never even met before. A friend I found through Instagram.

When I first joined Instagram, I didn’t think it was a platform I’d take so much enjoyment from.

For me, it’s quickly become my diary. I share my thoughts, feelings and photographs and suddenly, I’m engaging with people from all walks of life that I don’t think I’d have ever spoken to in a real life situation. And what isn’t to love about that?

I used to have this idea that people with big houses, nice cars and new threads each week would never understand what it was like to have problems, if everything looks perfect on the surface, then it must be behind the scenes too right? Wrong. I talk to people on Instagram that seemingly have it all yet just as I, a women without a pot to piss in, have problems, they do too. And, more often than not, we are often all going through the same.

Last week, we lost my daughters beloved Grandmother. She was the kindest soul who touched the hearts of everyone who knew her, she had a charm and a sharp wit about her, like me, she didn’t have a pot to piss in, she was the type of person who had nothing, but gave everything yet she was happy all the time. Sadness wasn’t something she handled very well and although she’d listen to everyone’s problems, if she was ever sad about something, she’d never let on. For 17 years I looked at her asa Mother figure and took so much enjoyment from the close relationship she had with Beth, they went beyond Grandmother and Granddaughter bonds, they were best friends, confidantes and soul mates.

As we all started leaving tributes on her Facebook page, some familiar names popped up to leave their memories for Pam. I’d always just assumed they were friends from back in the day that found each other again online, they way they used to speak to each other was so familiar, as though they knew everything there was to know. Little did I know until I left my tribute and they left a comment, that they’d never met before. They’d made friends via MSN and had kept in touch for years almost daily. Pam had made friends online and yet these people were the people she spoke to about everything, when one of them spoke to me via private message, she had completely summed Pam up in one messages despite having never met her.

And it got me to thinking, she had been doing exactly what I’ve been doing. Making friends for life through the power of the internet.

Modern day pen pals so to speak.

Recently, I’ve started to try and make a conscious effort to meet some of my Instagram friends in person. We invest so much time in each other, it feels strange to not want to actually take that next step.

A month or so ago I went to meet my Instagram friend Joanne and her lovely Mum. I thought it might be awkward, what if they only liked me from behind a screen and in person, I’m not what they expect? But as soon as we met, it was like we’d met in “normal” circumstances and we were just having a catch up. We didn’t need to ask each other many questions because we already knew the answers through our chats on Instagram, it was like we picked up our chat from where we had left off and just enjoyed being in each other’s company.

This weekend, I finally get to meet another Instagram friend Chelsea

and I’m literally so excited. We’ve been planning to meet up for ages but a couple of weeks ago, she messaged me asking how I’d feel if she came to stay. I had no hesitation at all. I speak to her most days just as I do Jo and feel like I have two friends for life who will even be there on my wedding day.

I’m even feeling encouraged to want to travel further to go and meet friends I have made from my phone, London, Southampton, Liverpool, Newcastle and even Northern Island. I’ve made friends with people even further afield such as Canada and can only dream of one day meeting those people too.

Years ago I saw a quote and it’s always resonated with me.

And I really believe that to be true. The people in my phone aren’t strangers anymore, they’ve become as valued friends as my “real life” friends, they’ve become some of the first people I want to reach out too and share good news, they’re people I go to for advice or they come to me, they’re people I want to watch on stories or on lives and interact with.

These friends in my phone have shared my highs and my lows. They’ve seen my relationship grow, seen my little family blossom and grow up, they’ve seen my on stories with messy hair and no make up. They’ve read and shared some of my deepest thoughts and it feels like I’m growing older with these people in my phone, just as I do with the people I go for coffee with in real life. And, it has to be said, quite often, these friends have been there for me more than my real life friends, they probably know about me too (except my best friend, she knows EVERYTHING)

These friendships may not always be something we get to develop past our phone, but that doesn’t make them any less real. I feel happy when I see good news, sad when they’re going through a hard time. I’m excited when I see birth announcements or wedding bells ahead, I invest so much emotion into these friendships that it feels weird now to just refer to them as “followers.”

Not everybody gets it, I understand that. Not everybody wants to understand it and it’s each to their own, but for me, I’m glad I took the time to get it, because now, I’ve gone from having very few friends and a small close circle, to having more friends than I ever thought possible, friends that perhaps, had it not been for the power of Instagram, I would have bypassed on the street.

Friendships are beautiful, they’re there to be held dear and treasured, no matter how you find them.

Emma

Hashtag Ad, Hashtag Spon.

It’s that Instagram Suicide topic isn’t it? And as usual, little miss opinionated has something to say.

Raise a hand if you have brought something on Instagram that we didn’t really need because an influencer told us too?  Raise another hand if months later, you’ve used it once or twice if at all? Keep your hands in the air and lay on your back if you’ve used a discount code that an influencer has offered you? Now raise a leg in the air if you still brought the product even though it was still out of your budget even using the discount? Raise your other leg if you’ve got into financial difficulty because you brought an item on the hastag spon post just so you would fit in with the crowd? Lift your head off the ground if you’ve hidden your purchase from your partner because you knew he /she would be pissed off at “yet another bit of crap you’ve brought”? And finally, stick your tongue out if you like practically free money? For a bonus, you can cross your eyes if you don’t actually give a shit because here’s the thing…nobody forced us to do it!

Now imagine whilst you’re lay there looking like a knobhead, how a tortoise feels when he flips over onto a shell!

Grab a cuppa tea and read on.

I have strong opinions on sponsored posts, opinions I am going to obviously share with you in the most honest capacity.

We all need money right? We need money to pay our bills, to keep the roof over our heads, to keep ex spouses in luxury holdiays, to provide for our children and put food on the table yes? How do we do that? Do we go to work? Do we rely on government funds? Do we live off our parents? Do we go to carboot sales and buy pure shite for 50p and flog it on ebay for £25?

Whichever way we earn our money, we never feel we have to justify it to the public do we? Lets face it, when Sally brought her new yellow armchair from Loaf, did anyone pipe up and ask her how she earnt her money to buy it? No. Because it’s rude. So why do we feel we have to justify ourselves for earning money from Instagram?

Instagram is free, it costs us nothing to set up an account, post our photos and follow accounts that we relate to, and, an even better perk, you make friends without even stepping outside your front door.

Instagram is the only place where you make a friend whilst your farting in the bath and nobody knows but you. Instagram is also the place where we worship the ground people walk on without really knowing them and assume that a nice photo with a funky caption, makes them the next mutts nut. And, because we hang on their every word, we believe them when we should they say how we should go out and buy linen sheets and wicker baskets. Instagram is free, but those baskets are not.

Now I have pros and cons of the ad posts.

Me personally, I’m abit of a live and let live, I can either choose to buy something I’m seeing, or I can choose to scroll past and like a photo of Derek and his canoe instead. But, if I can make money for my family from a free platform that I love, then I’m not going to say no.

However, I am always going to mindful that not everyone can afford or need what I’m promoting, some may even get into debt, so, if I genuinely don’t believe in the product I’m asked to promote, then I will say no.

Now I’m not going to sugar coat shit here, I’m going to start using my platform for advertising occasionally, I am currently not earning a wage, we have three children to feed and Christmas is around the corner, if someone wants to offer me £50 to shoot a product for them that will take me five minutes,I’m going to do it. That money is half a days work for me and we aren’t in a position to financially say no. I am only ever going to do ads for products I genuinely have a use for, products I think others will like too and products that I probably use anyway.

Now, if, I was ever offered an opportunity to promote something big that I genuinely enjoyed and liked but have no use for later on, it’s not to say I won’t, because if I believe in it, then I know someone around me will too and I will happily gift it on.

My heart recently melted when I saw a blogger (Blossomingbirds to be precise) influencing some beautiful statement jewellery and despite loving it and wearing it all weekend, she gifted it to a follower as a thank you for her support. I thought it was so touching and a lovely way to show appreciation, paying forward kindness with kindness. And, I have to say, it’s not the first time I have seen her give away something she was gifted. Obviously you’re not going to see me give away a pack of Babybels but if it was something of value that I know will brighten someones day, why not gift it to another follower or even, donate it to a charity? Set up a bidding on it and donate the funds to a Go-Fund me page or even go out and buy sandwiches and coffee for the homeless. What you won’t see me do is tell you how much I love it and recommend you all go buy it to and, whilst your adding it to your basket, I’m popping it up on eBay to sell on. Ads don’t have to mean filling your boots with free stuff, (in fact, I am actually paying for the products I will do posts for some of the time) but it also means you can do good things with the items you are gifted.

Gifting something you’ve given away doesn’t mean you don’t believe in it, it means you believe in it enough to think in a selfless way and let someone else enjoy the perks of your job.

Recently, I saw a sarcastic comment on the same bloggers post after she was working for a kitchenware company, it was an uncalled for comment and I felt a little irritated by it. Someone had picked up that several accounts were promoting the same thing, at the same time ( the comment wasn’t very nice at all and even if it wasn’t meant the way it sounded, she didn’t come off very well.) This is called selective marketing and having a deadline. Brands will choose accounts with a good following and high engagement, they will send a product and set you a deadline to getting it posted. If you don’t meet that deadline, you don’t get paid. And let’s face it, why should they not get paid? Like us, they are earning for their families, take the time out of their days spent away from their families responding to emails and messages and there you have another full time job.

Look at it this way, just because Brenda works in Aldi, doesn’t mean you have to buy the whole shop does it? You just buy what you want. It works the same online, just because we recommend products, we aren’t forcing you to buy it, you can ignore the picture completely or just engage with the person behind the post in relation to the text content. What you do is your choice but don’t knock someone just for trying to earn a living, be honest with yourself, if you were given the same opportuinty, I bet you’d take it.

I have recently shot my very first ad and I must admit. I feel nervous about having to post it, will I be judged for it? Will people think I’m being false? The fact is, you’ll make up your own minds, and, as I said previously, if I don’t think I’d geuinely use something or like it, I won’t lie. What matters to me more, paying the water bill or risking Tracey and Tina unfollowing me?

What I have discovered by starting this new advertising game, is that it’s giving me an opportunity to learn new ways of taking photos, to adapt my skills and have fun doing something I enjoy. In fact, once I’m back working, I’m going to try and do a photograhpy evening coure so I can become a hobby photographer per and maybe, just maybe, earn money from that too. And, I finally feel like after being out of work for a while, I’m putting food on the table and that is doing wonders for my mental health.

I do feel like some of my favourite accounts are now one stop shops for constant branding and discount codes but that’s up to them ,it’s the direction they have chosen to take their account and earn some money so I’m not going to worry, but nor will I stop following them because I have that ability to scroll past and ignore the 10% codes. Instead, I take enjoyment from the rest of their content and feel pleased for them because they have extra money in their pocket to enjoy the extra things in life.

What we must also take into account is that some of the promotional work is for small businesses that give away products to be promoted, so they are giving away profit in the hope that the advertising works, they gain custom and covers their losses.

Lets just all support each other, live and let live, lets enjoy Sally’s armchair and Derek’s Canoe.

I’m off to sniff my armpit again because the brand I’m advertising later this week, has just brought out the worlds best smelling deodorant ever and I’m scared I’m never going to come up for air!

Emma

A Letter To Myself

This week, I’m feeling positive, I can’t promise every week or even day will feel this way but I’m taking responsibility for the way I allow myself to feel and trying to come out the other side. As I was sat in the sofas drinking my third brew before midday, I suddenly thought about a film we used to love as kids, ‘The Land Before Time’. My little brother was obsessed and I’ve never forgotten one of the lines from the film “Don’t step on the cracks else you’ll fall and break your back” for some reason, as I get older, that line has a whole different meaning. So, I decided to write a letter to myself, one that I will read back on my bad days in an attempt to remind myself that I’m not so bad after all. I’m not saying it’ll work, but I am saying it’s worth a try. Maybe, if you’re in a similar boat, it could work for you to. It’s not about being arrogant, it’s learning to love yourself, because you are allowed to, Bieber said so right? But seriously, loving the person you are and looking at yourself in a positive light doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Dear Outside Emma.

You thought you’d had it all mapped out didn’t you? How your life was going to be, all things you’d have done by now and the person you’d become. You thought you knew it all and you were confident you’d get there.

Don’t worry, we all have big dreams when we’re young and innocent, we all plan out our lives and we’re lucky if life even marginally follows the plan.

By now, you thought you’d have at least 3 of the 5 children you wanted, you thought you’d be married and the proud owner of horses, 2 in fact. Not to mention the white picket fence.

I know you think you’ve failed, you think you’ve not achieved anything, but you have, and as that little inner voice inside your head that you just love to ignore in favour of that little negative demon, let me tell you, you’re just fine. You’re more than fine.

It’s a big cliche isn’t it, that phrase we so often see floating around on social media and on wooden plaques in our home, ” You’re braver than you think, smarter than you seem and stronger than you feel”

But really, is it so cliche? Look at yourself Emma. You ARE brave. You chose to walk away from the majority of your family because they made you feel less than you are worth, you took the bull by the horns and chose to live your life the way you wanted. You chose to protect yourself and your family from being hurt anymore, even if that meant losing so many people you loved, you cut yourself off and bravely chose to live.

You don’t consider yourself smart at all do you? Ok, we all know Alice Tinker is your spirit animal and you have a tendency to come out with the most ridiculous comments at times, gaining yourself a dizzy reputation, but that doesn’t mean you’re not smart. You did well at school, you worked hard at a long career in barbering, you went into customer services and studied hard for an NVQ, you passed. You later went into the care profession and worked day and night to hold down a job, a family and still come out of it with not one, but two NVQs in Healthcare, yet you don’t consider yourself to be smart. You’ve been told numerous times that you’re smarter than you let on, and you are. You see through people with ease, you know who keeps it real and the people you must surround yourself with and you know the people you need to avoid like dogshit on the pavement especially when you’re wearing flip flops!

You are raising a strong, independent young lady who already knows how to cook, clean, wash, iron and save her money. You’ve taught your children to be themselves, to not be ashamed of who they are and to stand out in a crowd. You talk openly to them about things other parents may skirt around or not know what to say, you’ve made a conscious decision to discuss with your teenager the affects of drink, drugs and promiscuous sex even though she cringed the whole way through.

You’re in the process of setting up your own business and helping others along the way. Yes, Paul may have helped and supported you, but you did this. And you did this because you are smarter than you give yourself credit for. Applaud yourself, give yourself credit for the things you’ve achieved, it doesn’t mean you’re arrogant or self absorbed, it means you are allowed to take a step back and look at yourself, look at who you have become and what you are still becoming.

I know right now, you don’t feel strong. You are depressed and constantly anxious. You feel weak and have days when you don’t want to get out of bed. Please Emma, keep fighting, get out of bed.

You survived abuse, you survived a violent relationship, you survived a suicide attempt, you survived debt and being evicted from your home, you survived single parenthood, you survived post natal depression, you survived rejection after rejection, you survived a cancer scare, you survived being cheated on, you survived miscarriages, you survived a full hysterectomy aged 29, you survived friends turning on you, you survived early menopause and still going, you survived packing your shit up into black bin liners, loading it onto the back of a pick up and moving miles away to choose happiness and starting over, you survived being alone and now, you are surviving this constant battle with the demons inside your head that tell you that you’re not good enough. I say survive each time because that’s what being strong is Emma. Being strong is all you know so how do you assume from all of that, that you are weak? Where is the weakness in any of this?

Emma, there is a fight in you deep inside your heart that makes you get out of bed each day and carry on, there’s a fight in you that makes you set a good example for your daughter, there is a fight within everything you do, and you do it because you are stronger than you think.

You’ve always been afraid to talk about your

life because you’ve been shamed into it, because you’ve been told “you’re not the only one” because you feel your life resembles one bad episode of Jeremy Kyle. Let me tell you, any man who has had the same hair cut for 15 years is not to be trusted, get Jezza out of your head for good. Your experiences are the events that have shaped you into the person you are today. The person you are becoming, and each day, you are shaping yourself into becoming a better person.

Emma, I’ve lived inside your head for 34 years and we both know you’re no angel, you’ve been a mouthy twat at times, you’ve argued in a room with nobody else in it just for the sake of arguing, you’ve had one to many boyfriends more than you needed and you’ve been bloody hard to manage at times, you’ve been stubborn and it pains me to admit, you’ve been awfully unkind, you’ve spoken your mind without thought and only worried about it after, you’ve acted selfishly and erratically but you’re turning it around now. You’re settled, you have a good family around you and a man who supports everything you do, this is the life you’ve always wanted, you’ve chosen your people and surrounded yourself with love, the love you deserve. You’ve made the decision to live your best life and I’m proud of you for doing it.

The white picket fence may be a rustic brick wall, the horse may be a rabbit who shits more than you ever thought possible, the children may not all be biologically yours but they’re still yours all the same and the husband may still not even be your fiancé yet, but you’re there. You have everything you ever wanted and more.

Look at your life like a story, write your chapters Emma, turn the page but don’t read back over them. You don’t need to. They’ve been and they’ve gone. Keep going forward, write each new page as a fresh new start. You don’t have to live in your past anymore Emma, you don’t belong there. Yes, you can be sad, yes you can miss some of the happier times, but you can never get them back. Make new happy times, make new memories and learn to forgive. Learn to let go. Seek comfort from helping others, but remember you cannot fix the world, support, care and show love to the ones who need it, but don’t be drained, don’t be pulled down by the things you aren’t able to control. Bring yourself up and again and bring others with you.

This is your life Emma, and as much as your dark voice may resurface and tell you all the things you don’t want to hear, remember that I am the voice you should listen to. I am the voice of the one who matters, the voice of who you really are. I am you.

Learn to love yourself again Emma, you ain’t a bad lad!

With love,

Your inner Emma