Friday, 5 September 2014

The social anxiety scale

Have you ever tried putting the people in your life in order of how much anxiety they cause you to feel? It can be a worthwhile exercise and even rather fun. 

To begin, think of people you're totally comfortable around, with whom you can be yourself. It might be one or two, or even none. Count these types of people as zero. 

Now move up the scale to the people who freak you out and push that anxiety button the most. These people score a full ten. 

All the other people you know can be rated and fall somewhere in the middle. They might make you a bit nervous, or freak you out but not cause your worst anxiety.

You can add detail for why each person makes you feel a particular way. This can help you to look at your negative thoughts objectively and understand why you see the people at opposite ends of your scale as so different. 

For example, on my scale the people who score a zero are calm, quiet, non-judgmental, undemanding. They also happen to be family members whose unconditional love I can count on. If I mess up, I know they won't reject me.

The tens are all type A personalities who tend to get right in my face and bellow their conversation at me, asking rude questions, making me explain myself and generally making me feel ashamed of myself. 

There is one woman in particular I'm thinking of here, a family friend I am sometimes forced to deal with, who has what might be the world's LOUDEST voice; she always looks right into my face for minutes at a time as she regales one of her lengthy anecdotes. 

It makes me feel utterly uncomfortable and has done since I was a child, but like a lot of these people, the more scared I get the louder and more ridiculously animated she becomes. Sometimes I have literally been cowering at the back of my chair during one of these ordeals. 

I think she knows I'm terrified of her and is desperate to make me like her. Um, awkward?

If I'm honest, I try as hard as possible to avoid her company at all costs which I know is the veryt hing that makes anxiety worse. That's what we're continually told, right? It's just that mine has only ever got more extreme every time I face a trigger situation.

Ok, so I'm still working on ways to feel comfortable around the people I score as tens on my anxiety scale, but I now know I'm happiest around reserved, non-confrontational types who don't make cutting remarks, do sudden things or carry any kind of agenda. 

Give it a try and let me know in the comments what sort of people cause your worst anxiety :))

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Noise Abatement Society

Howdy friends! Or frenemies if you came from the I hate Postcrossing post.

This is my coming out post - not as a lesbian (this time).

From this day and for all days to come I proudly announce myself with enormous pride as a life-long sufferer of Misophonia; a Misophone; une misophonique. Je suis. 

Misophonia, if you don't know already, is the neat Latin name for members of the official We Hate Annoying Noises Club. To clarify: the word literally means hatred of noises and boy do we have a lot of that.

Next we must pick our poison as to what sort of noise is the offending nuisance. In my case, it is sharp, loud sounds - doggies barking and old people coughing, those currently top the list. Either could have me reaching for a loaded revolver after ten minutes any day of the year, even if was promised £10m just to sit there and listen to it. I know it's nutty but I am a slave to sounds. 

TBH though, just about any repetitive noise can take me there. Sneezing. Yawning. Dance music with a really annoying sample looped for its entirety. A child shouting the same thing over and over. Alarms. Radio 4 through my bedroom wall (more of later). Pitbull. 

I feel much more disgusted than the average person by farting and burping. Breathing and blowing your noise is pretty rank. The confident jet of someone urinating (ick). Metal on metal; blackboards; felt tip pens; the sickening sound long nails make. Ew, ew and ew. 

Sometimes I trigger my own Misophonia. It's that bad. 

A lot of Misophonics centre their obsession on the noises people's mouths make when they eat. I've only had this a few times but I'm sure if I had to frequent a canteen every day, I'd soon be going bat shit. Comprendo, amigos.

I think I first knew I was a bit mental in the audio depratment was when we used to visit my dad's family every Sunday. They had this horrible aggressive Collie that would follow you everywhere and bark. Sit in front of you and bark. Make like it was going to bite you and bark. 

That smelly miscreant just wouldn't stop barking and it made something in my mind go utterly cray cray. And it was absolutely impossible to think of anything else all the time we were there. The barking wasn't so regular that I could let myself relax with the loud noise going continuously right in front of my face. 

It was spordaic and made me jump out of my skin with frightening intensity each time. Every bark would set off deeper waves off panic and the obsession grew and grew within minutes of our arrival at that awful place, like a monster in the back of my head that I couldn't even begin to describe to anyone. 

I did try but they just didn't believe how truly overwhelming the experience was for me every week. Only fellow Misophoncs can understand how debillitating it is when you get stuck in a particularly bad episode; when your mind hears something that it simply can't accept. 

When I tried to explain all this to my family though, they'd just be like, "What barking?" or "Just ignore it." But sadly my ears never ignore anything. I'm fairly convinced they're supersonic.

One of the most prominent emotions is rage. Oh how you would love to slap that person or thing stupid and stop them from ever making that noise again. From looking at Google, it doesn't seem like anyone's actually committed murder in the name of Misophonia yet, but surely it's only a matter of time and it's certainly one of the more understandable reasons for harpooning someone through the head.

Anyway, I have waaay more to say on this subject but this post's getting kinda long so I'll just leave it at this for now and bid ye a (quiet) adieu :)

Read this Daily Mail article for a bit more info on Misophonia.

And if you have Misphonia, please share with me in the comments what really grinds your gears. Let's cover our ears and sit rocking together. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


Recently a family friend gave me a pile of out-of-date copies of my childhood favourite, Reader's Digest. Perfect as ever for a snoozy summer read, I set about getting through them all in one afternoon. In one I came across this financial titbit:
"Zombie accounts can gobble up savings. Watch out if your savings account is no longer on offer because interest can plummet - some pay just 0.03% a year. As inflation is currently 2.8%, that's effectively £97.23 for every £100 invested, so check rates regularly to stop your savings shrinking." 

This made me beat myself up a bit. You see, I've got three accounts with Nationwide: two Flexaccounts and one Cashbuilder. One more Flexaccount than I need because it's hard to make them understand what you want sometimes and I ended up with a new account when I asked for a debit card on my original account. Le sigh. Of course I've been too busy procrastinating ever since to close one. Ruminators FTW.

The sad thing is that none of these accounts have any interest on them. It's a bit of a nonsense given its name but the Casbuilder gives a paltry 0.10%. Perhaps that tickles Nationwide HQ but me not so much.

So after I read the RD's tip, I thought I'd get off my arse and find some better interest for my pounds, especially as I've recently got quite a bit more money. Well, dear reader, the Nationwide savings guide might as well be written in Cyrillic. It uses doublespeak, misinformation and cunning withholding of certain facts* (*terms and conditions apply) to blind you with technicalities and draw a veil over the fact that there is no interest. Rien. Nada. Niente. Or at least, about 1% if you're lucky. And that's only good if you're a Russian oligarch.

Any semi-decent interest rate I thought I found was quietly bracketed with "variable". Half of the accounts it's only what you pay in that month that attracts the interest. Most of them it's what they call a bonus interest rate for one year which slips to sweet FA thereafter. Rude. It was one of the most devious Mensa puzzles I've ever attempted.

My essential conclusion from all this is that unless you don't mind your pennies being squirrelled away in Nationwide's underground grotto and fiddled with for five years, 1% is about your lot.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Michael Kors watch

Are MK watches still on? I only ask because around the 2011 mark, these chunky gold timepieces were the It item that no Z-lister, camwhore or tween could be seen without. Remember the whole irksome #wristcandy thing on Instagram? The Kors shiny piece of Chinese tat was the one everyone wanted to make their followers swoon. Or at least, anyone who couldn't afford a real Rolex. 

But it's been a good while since I saw any MKs featured in magazines or on the arm of some slaggy-looking fashion blogger. So did the PR freebie machine stop to give the watches a more high-end feel, or are they just dunzo in general? 

A quick search reveals they are still being sold in newer, glitzier, gaudier designs than ever (above), still at wince-inducing price of £200+. That may be one of the biggest mark-ups ever for a product that must only be worth a couple of quid. You don't need to look at many watch forums to learn of the shoddiness: the thin gold plating that rubs off after only a few months wear, and the lack of any sort of design or engineering credibility is hardly appealing.

For a time I got a bit obsessed with buying one myself, but never quite grew the balls to actually pay out two hundred big ones. For once my cowardliness served me well and I'm really glad I didn't spend that on one of MK's vulgar Rolex imitations. Fashion has moved on to other things now: backpacks, yadda yadda. Whatever else we are commanded that we simply must consume this month. And I wouldn't want to still be wearing a rattling mansize watch with all the gold rubbed off. 

The trend has died but taken with it a heck of a lot of money. Ultimately Mr Kors has only damaged his own brand with his unpleasant tactics. Sales don't lie and quality always sells. His watches are but a fading memory while the prestigious brands need to do little marketing. They certainly wouldn't go gifting random PR girls. Also worth noting is that Americans were charged roughly half of what UK customers were for one of his watches. Pfff.*

*Oops! I take that back. Having just checked Amazon, all Kors watch prices are way down on what they used to be. Pile 'em high, flog 'em low ;)

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Happiness can be found in a bar of soap

 For me it's a very rare day indeed that isn't some kind of emotional rollercoaster at the moment. But there is one thing that brings me joy no matter what and that is a beautiful new bar of soap. They seem to have got better, much better, in the last few years. Finely milled and deliciously fragranced is even the cheapest Tesco Value bar nowadays. I love the first waxy, cool feel of the soap as I unpackage it, unsullied by hairs and dust and the imprint of my bath's edge. It looks so pure and new! And there's so many to choose from. Imperial Leather Original with that old-fashioned masculine scent and rich lather. The transparent orange of Pears with its strange, distinctive smell. The viginal purity of Dove. Chanel No5, the only one my mum's friend will use. My brother is a devotee of Wrights Coal Tar but I can't imagine wanting to smell like asphalt. My current love is the Tesco Aloe Vera and Green Tea bar which has a lovely fresh smell, though soon I'll be moving onto the Pomegranate one. I reserve Simple's unfragranced bar for places I get an allergic reaction, even if it's weird with no nice smell. The lather you get from a bar of soap is much creamier than with shower gel and it always makes me feel much cleaner too. It's also perfect for shaving with. I've lived long enough now to know that there's infinitely more romance and nostalgia to be found in a bar of the soap than in a bottle of shower gel. From the cheapest to the most high-end, there's something magical in a bar of soap. So if you haven't used one for a while, give it a go :)

And if you feel really creative, you can even make your own! Here's the deets:
Be sure to put on goggles and rubber gloves as the first part is quite dangerous. Put 900ml of water in a bucket and add 295g of caustic soda. Whisk. There will be steam and weird science stuff happening but try to brave it out. Take 615g of coconut slab and melt in a pan with 800ml of sunflower oil and 800ml of olive oil. This mixture is added to the bucket mixture and stirred for 40mins until the colour and texture change. Now add essential oils and/or food colouring.* Put the mixture into plastic tubs. Put a blanket over them for 24hrs until they set. Leave for six weeks in a cool, dark place for saponification to occur. Cut into blocks and use.

*For lime and parsley soap add a handful of parsley and 20g of lime essence – whisk. It’s really limitless but some other nice ideas are oats and honey or cinnamon and orange. You can also set things in the top – little roses, pieces of orange – to make it look all pretty.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Safe alternative to benzoyl peroxide?

It's now a year since GlaxoSmithKline discontinued their mega popular acne treatment, Panoxyl Aquagel. (Read my infamous Liz Jones-style takedown here.) I thought my life was basically over because my acne would come back worse than ever before and there wasn't another benzoyl peroxide product on the market that I could use to keep the pesky bubonic boils at bay. Well, there is Quinoderm, but that's a disgrace. In the end, the acne did return pretty badly but for the most part it's been ok as long as I can use my foundtion and concealer to effectively cover it. There was a few months around October time when it was the worst it's ever, ever been, but that was due to a horrible bereavement I suffered. The spots were massive and horrendously painful but I suppose it was only a reflection of what I was feeling on the inside. Anyway, thankfully that seems to have calmed down now and my skin manageable. But of course I'm still quite spotty - sadly, I don't think it's ever going to go away now, it seems to be here to stay. 

It means I'm always on the lookout for a new acne product but there really aren't many available here in the UK. So I thought I'd give tea tree oil another shot. I always used to put it on my spots back in my teenage years but it never seemed to achieve much and stung like hell. This time I thought I'd use it just as I did the Panoxyl Aquagel, applying it to the whole affected area of skin as a preventative, not merely dabbing it on individual spots. It really works great like this and is keeping things under control. And all without those hideous harmful chemicals that do God knows what to the body! My skin is clearer in the morning and just feels healthier and smoother. Tea tree oil is only about £3 too, so even though it uses up quite quickly, it's nice and cheap to buy some more. I'm sold! Personally I use the pure oil with no problems but you may wish to use a diluted version. I put it on after my moisturiser which probably helps protect the skin from any burning sensation.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pale and I know it

This isn't an easy thing for me to revisit, but as I was reminiscing about it recently, I thought I'd make a blog post of it, as there aren't many others on the subject. 

I was bullied badly at secondary school and it was largely due to the colour of my skin, which might sound surprising when I tell you that I was a white girl in an all-white school. Not an inner-city school with a bad rep, but a 400 pupil semi-rural comprehensive. And I was brutally tormented almost daily for five years because of my pale complexion. 

Until I went there, I had zero idea that I looked any different to anyone else but it was soon hammered into me that I most certainly was. I was constantly called "ghost" and asked, "Why are you so pale?" Even the teachers would make cutting remarks about my snow white skin, so I never felt I would be taken seriously if I confided in them about the bullying. The kids who loved to humiliate me in front of everyone else were mostly boys - really rough ones who came from the nearest city. They were the sort that already looked like they were in their twenties by the age of 12 and were going out to clubs, sleeping with older girls and committing real criminal acts in and outside of the school gates. 

Whereas I was one of those girls who looked like an eight-year-old until I was at least sixteen, all little and skinny, like a newborn lamb put in a pen with a pack of wild dogs. It was so easy for these boys, once I was isolated from my two besties during form time, to literally corner me and shout abuse in my face abut how pale I was. I really never knew my lack of a tan was such a big deal until I was being utterly tormented for it. 

These boys were so powerful in my year group that none of the other kids did anything to help me, they just sat and watched, probably having a good laugh. There were two girls who were considered "hot" who were accepted by this gang of boys and even though they could see how much I was suffering they never once tried to offer me any kind of sisterly support. People always say that with boys it's physical bullying, but this was sneaky, psychological torment that was always done far behind the teacher's back.

One day, a random kid told me that one of those girls had been saying to people in mock serious tone, "Did you know that [Bossy Thing] is dead, and that's actually a ghost that comes to school?" Writing it down now, it sounds absolutely silly, but I was so hurt at the time and I didn't understand why I had to be made to feel alienated, like a freak of nature. 

In fact, looking at my school year photo now, I barely look any lighter than a lot of the others. But it was me that always attracted the bullies. I guess that, as is the story of my life, my face simply didn't fit and people thought it would be ok to treat me like a piece of dirt on the floor and tear apart every little flaw about me.

Searching online for people bullied for being pale, some float the idea that it is a form of racism, but I don't agree because that only describes descrimination against those of a different race. This was merely gang mentality and ignorance and stupidity directed at someone of the same race. This inter-racial discrimination seems to exist in all races - think of the Indian caste system where the lighter you are the higher up the social chain you go, and blacks who jealously bully their lighter skinned peers. The part of England I'm from happens to be home to some very "swarthy" people (my father included) and it just so happened I turned out a lot lighter than most of them. Why I should have to justify that to anyone seems extremely superficial, not to mention pointless.

That is another reason, along with the details already outlined in my infamous Liz Jones-style diatribe Pity post, why I have always declined to join Facebook. There's no way I would want the bastards who bullied me so relentlessly to now call themselves my "friend" and be able to look through photos of me.

Now I'm a grown-up, people are still frequently amazed at the whiteness of my skin so I guess I really must be freakishly pale. I still don't get what answer I'm supposed to give when they ask me why. "Because I don't have any pigment"? 

I suppose the bullying did awaken my mind to worry about being pale and sometimes it bothers me and I'll apply a little fake tan just to take the edge off that blue-white. But I don't like to think I let the bullies win.