Category Archives: Uncategorized

I’m not a “Mommy blogger” 

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When we told people I was pregnant, friends and family who were parents told us how amazing being a parent was. How fulfilling and incredible it is. I may have rolled my eyes at times. Cliché after cliché of parents lamenting about how great kids were. We wanted to create a human but I don’t think either Joel or I would say we were children people. We don’t dislike children. We just don’t gush. I didn’t get it. I knew instinct would kick in and I would love my own. But I couldn’t understand how sleepless nights, no down time. No quiet time, expenses, messy houses, messy children, human whirlwinds could make you happy – as in, gushy happy. I just knew everyone said it so it must be true. I was (kind of, somewhat) a believer. 
  
Flash forward to today. Liv is 20 months old. Her and I are in Miami. Mummy and Daughter trip. 

We have had a fun few days. She’s an incredible human to be around. Cliché bias but I love her company. When she takes her nap or goes to bed I’m happy for some ‘me’ time but I also can’t wait for her to wake up as I miss her. 

  

We had a few minutes of quiet time as we drove on the freeway and from the back seat… A sweet “Mummy?” I reply and she says “are you happy?” I don’t know why she asked or what made her ask but it was so sweet and thoughtful and it hit me how this baby that we created understands emotion and feelings and cares enough to ask me. A selfless question. Wise beyond her years. Actually. She’s too young for years. Wise beyond her 20 months. She goes on to tell me “Mummy makes me very, very happy”. 

And there you have it. Cliches backed up. 

Fulfilled. 

A love like no other. 

This tiny human. My best friend. My travel buddy. My heart. 
And with all the sickly sweet gush-iness in the world…. It’s time for me to go to bed because the sooner I sleep the faster it will be morning and I can hug her again. 

Being a parent is amazing. I’m in the gushing club with a life time subscription. 

 
  
 

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My Life Bundle – PTSD

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My Life Bundle – PTSD

My domestic abuse at the hands of my now, ex-husband, was so many years ago, I can’t remember exactly how many. Maybe 8. Maybe 9. Possibly 10.

I’ve built a happy, successful, wonderful life. I’m married to this amazing man who is a great husband; we made what I, with full bias, know is an incredible child. I am surrounded by friends, family and have a fulfilling job. I have ‘it all’.

Part of my life bundle is PTSD.

I escaped my abuser a long time ago but I still haven’t escaped the trauma. That, may, last a lifetime.

I mentor women, young and old, in how to survive abuse. I talk about safety plans, protecting yourself and your children, the court and legal system in the U.S., and how to find the right kind of therapy. Because, sadly and unfortunately abuse doesn’t end when you leave your abuser.

I coach women through life after abuse. I’m experienced in it. I suppose you could say I’m a subject matter expert.

As I lay awake at 1, going on 2am, my heart is still racing. My breathing, hard yet fragile at the same time. I’ve found my outlet to make myself calm; I write.

Fifteen minutes ago I was curled up in the fetal position, shaking,  my husband’s protective arms wrapped around me for safety as I brought my breathing back down from extreme panic levels.

Sixteen minutes ago I was fully entrenched in a horrific nightmare or night terror. Crying in my sleep. Screaming in my sleep. Shaking in my sleep. Sometimes all.

This is an occurrence he knows only too well.

He’s woken to me in tears, other nights screaming for help or begging my night terror visitor to leave me alone. Tonight, it was me gasping for air.

This is how, together we have learned to handle night terrors.

Trauma after domestic abuse is a major part of what survivors deal with. Just because someone leaves, it doesn’t mean their ordeal is over.

Night terrors are just one aspect of PTSD.

However many years beyond the abuse I survived, however many therapy sessions I’ve taken, however much I mentor and coach other survivors, I still carry this memory and this trauma. I carry this burden. I am not alone.

Please help victims of abuse. Please recognise abuse. Please stand up to abusers.

Please don’t give up on supporting someone just because they have left their abuser.

Life goes on. Trauma goes on.

 

 

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Information:

If you, or someone you know needs help please contact the domestic abuse hotline (US) for guidance, contacts and safety plans on 1-800-799-7233 or 0800-2000-247 in the UK

Don’t hesitate to call 911/999 in an emergency – know that is always better to be safe and protected.

 

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Snapchat – @LondonGirlinLA

Ask me how I’m feeling. I will write you a blog

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It’s curious to some people that I share so much on social media, so I’m sure it’s even more curious that I would tell you that I’m an introvert. I really hate attention. I hate being in a room full of people. A happy hour or cocktail reception is an Introverts hell. I’ve been told I’m anti social. But I’m not. I like talking to people. I just don’t enjoy certain situations. I hate making small talk. I so wish I could charm a crowd. Be the belle of the ball. I just can’t do it. I want to. I will work out how long I have to be somewhere before I can leave and how I can fill that time before I can leave. 3 minutes to go to the bathroom. 6 minutes pretending I have a call to make or an email to send. A minute getting a drink and 2 minutes deciding what to drink to really stretch it out. I take refuge in the fact that I’m not alone in this feeling and I also have great friends who will help me work in to a conversation so I don’t feel quite so awkward.

With that in mind it really surprises people that I would share my life to hundreds and thousands of friends and strangers on social media.

Last week it was confirmed that I have/had an aggressive form of thyroid cancer that had in fact  spread to my lymph nodes. 8 to be exact. All of which were removed. Thanks to a great skilled surgeon.

When the doctor told me the results I wasn’t surprised or shocked. I was resolute. Strategic. What do we do next? How do we do this quickly? How do we stop any further spread? I left with a plan that I was comfortable with. That I could understand.

I realised quickly that the results did not make me emotional. I can handle it. There’s a plan. I called Joel and my parents and gave them the facts. No emotion. I’m ok. Calm. Relaxed. Plan. Goals. Expected outcome. Steps. I like steps and plans.

That evening I had to go to a happy hour. People I haven’t seen since the surgery. Introvert kicks in on full power and I’m awkward walking in to a crowd. Questions like “hey how was your day?” A wholly innocent question. Questions with such a weight on an answer. There’s a socially expected answer and there’s the truth. A colleague approaches “Hey. How was your day?”  In my head my answer I’m toying with saying is “I found out two hours ago I have an aggressive form of cancer and they aren’t totally sure if there’s any left inside of me so… I have to scan my body and take radioactive iodine. My day was a little tough”. I run through the potential reaction to that answer and I can’t handle the response. I can be calm. But not when faced with others. So my answer is “fine thanks, yours?” As I smile. A fake smile. Knowing it probably shows all over my face.

I share my life to hundreds and thousands of people because it’s easier to be an open book behind a screen than one on one, this is how an introvert (with a craving to write) handles cancer.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out the last week or so and of course my incredible family. I wouldn’t be where I am without you and without your love, care and consideration.

The scar has nearly healed but the journey isn’t over yet. This week brings me blood tests, scans, more results and more plans. Along with a full work schedule of presentations, decks and deadlines. Funny how the world still turns  even when you feel like you have to stop, hold your loved ones and breathe. It all keeps turning. Whether you want it to or not.

Ask me how I am. I will tell you I’m ok.  Ask me how I’m feeling. I will write you a blog.

An almost healed scar

An almost healed scar

Schrödinger’s Cancer 

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It’s Saturday morning. 3am and i can’t sleep. Normally this would be typical but annoying. Today it’s a good sign. It means that the exhaustion of last week’s surgery is hopefully coming to an end and I will be back to ‘normal’ soon.

Let’s start with I had no symptoms.

Liv had kicked me in the neck during a tickle attack in August and it hit in just the right spot that gave me discomfort for longer than it should. I brushed it off but Joel insisted I saw the doctor.

The doctor saw nothing to worry about but sent me for a scan just in case (I rolled my eyes. Thank you for another medical bill for nonsense – but today I’m so grateful). The scan showed a ‘small nodule’ on my thyroid. Sounds so harmless.
They felt it needed a biopsy.

The surgeon doing my biopsy almost cancelled as the nodule was so small. (I rolled my eyes again – another medical procedure I didn’t need that was now roped in to. Again. I’m glad it happened). A week later, the biopsy showed abnormal cells.

Now I began to worry. The biopsy got sent to a geneticist, it’s no longer a cute little nodule. Now it’s being called a growth and I’m realising this is now a thing.

Another week goes by and genetic testing came back ‘suspicious’. Everything pointed to possible cancer and needing to get this growth out.

A few weeks passed the growth was renamed a tumor. (That’s a scary word) and I was ordered to have my lymph nodes scanned for possible spread.

That same week Liv was admitted in to the ER, with a Lymph node infection and growing abscess, and there we stayed for 5 days. Watching her, so worried for her as she went through surgery to remove the abscess in her lymph nodes. Everything for me goes on hold while we focus on her. The coincidence doesn’t go unnoticed as we both do battle with our lymph nodes.

Liv is out of hospital and thankfully healthy and I get back to business. Lymph nodes scanned and deposits found in lymph nodes next to the tumor. The doctor says “it’s highly unlikely this is benign” – it looks like cancer is spreading in to my lymph nodes.

I’m laying on the hospital bed. Joel holding my hand. Me saying to him “I’m going to be fine” because what else would I be if not fine, but in my head, shit just got real.
All this testing. All these doctors. I really might have cancer.

In the world of cancer this is no big deal. This is the ‘best’ cancer. This is cancer ‘light’. Something I’m humbled by when I think of loved ones who have been taken by this evil disease after years of fighting and torture.

We prep for surgery and agreed on removing the half thyroid with the tumor. It was the right thing to do. We didn’t need to do any more. Take out the bad half. Test it. See if we need to go back in for the rest. Positive. Only half is a good sign.

Two weeks later. Game day. I’m gowned. IV’d and ready to get this over with.
Ten minutes before going in for surgery the procedure  was up’d to full thyroid plus a bunch dof lymph nodes and “looking incredibly like cancer”. I looked at Joel and I signed on the dotted line. There was nothing to say. It had to be done. Take it all.
So here we are. One week post surgery.
A gnarly scar running across my throat held together with glue!

I’m laying right in the centre of limbo. I simultaneously did and did not have cancer last week. Schrödinger’s cat world.

Another week until testing comes back with results.

If I didn’t have cancer it was all a clever rouse on my body’s part to trick multiple doctors, surgeons, geneticists, pathologists and a couple of endocrinologists. If it is cancer; well then it’s gone and outta here before it got to throw down big time.

My sharing like this is not for sympathy or concern. It’s because you just never know what life will throw at you and how you will handle it. But what matters is that fate or God or whatever you may believe in caused the string of events to occur in the way they did that got me in front of that surgeon. I  say Joel and Liv have probably saved my life. That’s an incredible thing.

I’m thankful for pushy doctors every time I rolled my eyes.
I’ve learnt in the last week that thyroid cancer is the fastest growing diagnosed cancer in the world. But also the most treatable.
I’m so grateful that my friends didn’t look at me with pity. My friends rolled up their sleeves and said “what can we do?” And that’s what I needed. From the flowers to the toilet plunger on Saturday morning (thanks Jojo) to taking me out for lunch, the hundreds of texts and messages from around the world, friends and our au pair, Maddy helping with Liv, and my team at work picking up what I dropped to focus on this. We are so grateful for the support.
To my forever wonderful parents being my cheerleaders and late night virtual hospital visitors keeping me company in the wee hours and my incredible husband. My amazing husband, with the countless issues at home, Liv’s unexpected surgery a week before and with me to worry about – he’s held us all together.
With or without cancer. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. Without love. There’s nothing. They all keep me going.

Who knows what could have been.

Here’s to next week.

My Independence Day – My Story of Domestic Abuse

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As I write this, we are hours away from Independence Day and it’s always a bitter sweet day for me. July 4, 2008 was the day I reclaimed my independence

I make reference to domestic abuse, domestic violence, PTSD and the violence against women act in various social media channels I am present in – but I haven’t really spoken openly about it in a public forum to any great degree, but 5 years on from my independence day, I feel like it’s a  fitting time to open up.

Last weekend my story was written and published by a London journalist and featured in the Sunday newspaper (see below) – this was the very first time my story was shared outside of my immediate family and friends. It hurts to read and I know neither my husband or my parents have read it and I understand why, but it isn’t something I am ashamed of, it is something I gained from.

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On July 4, 2008 I left my, now, ex-husband. Saying “I left him” takes away the emotion and the drama – what you don’t read in those words “I left” is the angst, fear, pain and suffering. My story of abuse is much like what many other women are dealing with – chances are you know someone who is dealing with abuse at home, it could be your mother, your sister, your best friend, the girl in the office, your daughter,  or it’s you. We, the victims, or survivors, hide abuse well, our abusers hide it even better. We feel ashamed, we feel like failures, like we are letting everyone down, like it’s our fault. When I left my ex-husband, I was running, literally running for my life, running for help, terrified, terrified, that July 4, 2008 was going to be the night he actually took that last step in the familiar abuse pattern, and killed me.

At the hands of my abuser, my husband, the man I loved, I was psychologically tortured every day for over 2 years – living on a knife edge, walking on egg  shells, never knowing when the explosion would happen and what it would be. I was strangled, kicked, thrown out the house, humiliated in front of friends and strangers. I was chased down and dragged down the street. My belongings were destroyed or thrown in the trash when I didn’t ‘behave’. Walls were punched inches from my head. I was held down, strangled and raped. This was, what he called love. I tried to leave, I left 6 times, he talked me home every time, with tears, apologies and promises. I believed him. I loved him. I was embarrassed.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD. A lot of people don’t realize that mental and emotional abuse can damage you, affect you that badly to leave you with post-traumatic stress disorder – but it can, and it does. My abuse is over, my abuser far away, but the trauma hasn’t gone away, including frequent nightmares, night sweats, crying, screaming and panic attacks in my sleep. It took me 4 years of therapy to be able to speak with emotion about what happened – for years I was clinical in my explanation of what happened, cold, I took out the emotion because I didn’t know how to process it. I saw myself outside of my own body. 5 years on, I can now connect me, with the facts and the emotion.

5 years seems so long ago, yet I remember every minute of that night vividly.

It’s times like those, that you learn who your true friends are – the ones who want to stick around and go through the trenches with you. The friends who pull you out and hold you up and support you in any and every way that they can.

I vowed, that with every friend that helped me I would pay it forward. It has taken me some time to get to a place where I am financially and emotionally comfortable. Where my life is better than it has ever been and I can start to help others.

I can’t donate hundreds or thousands of dollars, but I can donate my time and my experience and my advice. I am now a mentor to women who are going or have gone through what I went through. I am not a therapist, a counselor or a doctor, but I can help. I hope that my talking to each of these women, I am giving them the support that I had, the understanding shoulder to cry on and the strength to know that there is a way out. There can be the ‘happily ever after’.

I hope that by sharing my story, I can help other women survive and find their strength. People ask me if I regret my choice to be with my abuser, to stay with my abuser for so long – I regret what happened to me, and wish it on no one, but I love the person that I have become, the strength I have. The courage I know I have and the bravery that I can be proud of. I love the strong bonds I have with those that were there for me in my hardest time  they will be my friends eternally. Lastly, without that experience, I wouldn’t be where I am now, physically, emotionally, financially – and I wouldn’t have this amazing love with an incredible man, who has shown me what true love means, what a true man is like and how after such darkness and fear, there is love and light  – for all of these things, there could never be regret.

To my dear friends, Diana, The Kaufmans, Nick & Jenny, Andrew (amongst many things, the man who taught me to pay it forward), Jonathan and the Weisman’s  – thank you for being there in 2008 and now – you have my eternal gratitude.

My parents and my husband  – I know these things are hard to read and thank you for your never ending love and support.

So, as I am about to celebrate my first Independence day as an American, I will look back at how far I have come and how there is life after abuse.

Wishing you all a safe and happy July 4th.

Information:

If you, or someone you know needs help please contact the domestic abuse hotline (US) for guidance, contacts and safety plans on 1-800-799-7233 or 0800-2000-247 in the UK

Don’t hesitate to call 911/999 in an emergency – know that is always better to be safe and protected.

survivors-mentor

I am a Domestic Abuse Mentor – please contact me or use the information page here to seek help from one of the group of mentors available to help for free.

Join me/follow me:

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How To Live In The Now – social media, content and unplugging

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We live in a world of now, now, now, gimme, gimme, gimme.

How did we become so obsessed with now. We don’t even have time to focus on the futuresome, it seems do not even care about the past, we just want it all and we want it now.

We are so in need, in lust for the now that anything else makes us impatient.

We are surrounded by the ‘instant’ – Twitter, Facebook. Vine. Insta(nt)gram

I primarily connected my figurative life line to social media in 2007 as a way to connect with my family and friends at home in London and across the globe, an easy way to share what I was doing and get the social reach easily to everyone I cared about when I was on the run and didn’t have time for a call or to write a letter  – technology has allowed me to face time with my Mum while I am out shopping to get her buy in on a dress I like or some shoes I’m contemplating adding to the collection. While I am connected to my family, I am also, now, so conditioned to getting everything out there right now – real time sharing, real time experiences.
I want to know if I’ve won – now. I want to know what people think – now. Who is liking my status, who is viewing my blog, what is my friend in another part of the world doing right now, I want my food order in 3 minutes.  I need the information and I need it now.

Capturing the moment

Capturing the moment

Don’t get me wrong – I love social media and what it has enabled us to do as individuals and as a global community, I like a fast pace, I like to have everything at my fingertips, but I’ve become so motivated by instant gratification that I’m not stopping to smell the flowers. I’m not taking in my life – the memories. Yes; every inch of the memory is captured in 140 characters or a heavily filtered and edited photo stored in a virtual cloud for the future, but am I living in that moment? Or am I merely capturing it?
Am I really listening or am I merely hearing?
Am I missing what’s really going on around me, now, because I’m so obsessed with the now.

My husband has created a social (media) experiment for us, mainly me, but us – can we, one day a week, tune out, shut down and turn off – can we leave our iphones, our ipad and our computer alone and just live in the moment, see the world through just one lens.

It’s time to take my moments. To realise that to really appreciate the now. I need to stop, inhale and absorb. Otherwise, my life will have flashed by in a series of uploads, tweets and posts.

Life is too short to not really LIVE in the now.

For more on our figurative life lines and our constant connection here is a great article on Huff Post – Disconnect: A New Movie Sounds the Alarm About Our Hyper-Connected Lives.

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Just Let It Go

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If December is the season of good will, then January is the season of resolutions made and broken.

I don’t really make resolutions – but I do make choices – I chose last summer to Drop To Shop and I followed that plan to a tee.

With January – comes winter – the most depressing time of year for me. I don’t like the cold, I hate snow and ice and I really don’t like bundling up just to take a 2 minute walk to my car and I live in Texas – it shouldn’t even be cold here. Generally I’m happy, but also miserable – a grumpy mess of whining, complaining and negative thoughts until the thermostat shows a pleasing number above 70 degrees. I’m pretty sure my friends in Dallas are fed up of me complaining, I know my husband is, so in an effort to make everyone around me less annoyed by me, I made a choice, not a resolution – to be more positive.

I have only just started my trek in to positivity. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, I, like most people, find it easier to criticize, complain and speak badly of people or things, than compliment, be positive and smile. As I read in one of the books I’m reading –“ it’s easier to complain than to laugh”* – and it’s so true. How often will you gossip about someone than compliment someone – or for that fact even take a compliment – us girls would rather put ourselves down about our weight, what a mess we think we are or be self-deprecating, than take the compliment about our hair, our dress, our amazing presentation at work or dinner we just made.

My first step in to positivity was recognising I needed a rule for myself – something that was quick to employ and easy to remember – one of my wise, wonderful friends, one day, said to me “you just have to let it go” and there it was – ‘Let It Go’. It’s so simple , a basic concept – take what is bothering you, what is just winding you up, stressing you out and making you miserable, and just let go of it. It’s my modern day version of the much quoted prayer**

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Work hard, make it happen – when I can, but know when to Let It Go – be smart enough to know the difference.

I started using Let It Go as my mantra – when something happened that I didn’t like, when I would normally rant and vent to anyone who would listen, I just said “Let It Go” it’s not important. At first it was hard – so I decided I needed to visualize something – I found an image of a balloon with the phrase on Pinterest and thought it was just perfect – so now, when I find myself on the verge of negativity, I just let go of my balloon and let it float away….far, far away.

How are you letting it go? Let me know.

#LetItGo

Let It Go

*Quote – Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project

**Quote – Reinhold Niebuhr

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