Saturday, 14 July 2018

Why I Don't Wear a Bra // Brighton Fashion

Hello lovely people

Today I am going to be talking about BOOBS. Tits. Jugs. Breasticles. Baps. Melons. Pancakes. Honkers. Bosoms. Whatever your preferred title, boobs are on today's blogtastic menu (not literally..). Specifically, I'm going to be talking about my relationship with my boobs and how having big boobs played a significant part in the development of my eating disorder.

When I was about 10 or 11, I started to develop boobs. Big boobs. I was the first person amongst my peers to do so and it completely Freaked Me Out. My previous, child-body was morphing into something scary, and adult-like, without my consent. I felt as though my body was completely out of control and my mind, as a consequence, was in a state of chaos. Due to my completely insufficient sex-ed and diet-culture laden upbringing, I attributed these new scary changes to my diet and exercise regime. I was an active child, I loved swimming, horse-riding and most of all, dancing. My diet was varied and nutritious. Despite this, I [like many people] grew up believing that my 'top-heavy' body type was completely and entirely the fault of the individual and that it could be changed at will. I associated my big boobs with being fat and therefore (to my undeducated brain) I believed I was lazy, ugly and worthless. My internalised fatphobia resulted in deep shame and humiliation surrounding my breasts and my body as a whole. I took the biggest size in school polo shirts and hated it. I was also teased for the size of my breasts.  I "needed" a bra whilst other girls could go bra free or alternatively fit into comfier light-weight crop tops with cool, pretty designs. I was paranoid that others could see how big my boobs were and wanted to hide them under layers of clothing at all costs. I wore my jumper even on the hottest summer days. One day at school, I spilt water all down my jumper and still refused to take it off.

In my mind, I was trapped and they were free.  

I began to play with the idea of skipping dessert in order to lose weight. It seemed like a simple, innocent, even admirable idea. Little did I know how dangerous this idea really was. It felt like I was gaining some control back. I felt as though this way, i would 'fit in' with everyone else. Foolishly, I assumed that everybody else I met was happy with their bodies - it was only mine that was the problem. To me, my body was a top-heavy distorted figure of my true self that did not match my personality, my activeness, my adventurous spirit. I had no idea that my body-type, healthy weight and shape was predetermined as a result of my genetics. I was convinced that it was somehow my fault.

Around this time, I also started my period, as well as developing acne - I was not prepared for either of these things. With these new unforeseen challenges, the previous dark, ominous clouds created by my breasts changing had now transformed into a full-blown thunderstorm. These things just weren't being spoken about, and if they were in was in hushed tones. " Women's" business shouldn’t  be discussed (insert periods bras and other secret lady things here..like our superhuman strength and secret prehensile tail that boys don't know about ssshhh..). I use the term "women's" in quotation marks as I know that these things are not specific to a certain gender (including the prehensile tail), however, age 11- this was the below-par education I received. There was a pre-existing shame around these topics that left me silenced and humiliated. It was at this point, I decided that my body had betrayed me once and for-all. 

Fast forward to eating disorder recovery aged 17:

As I began to restore my weight I noticed to my horror that I was returning to my previous figure, my boobilicious (yes that is a word), busty self. The self but I had loathed. The self that could not fit into the right clothes from the right shops. The self that felt so lost alone and afraid. The self that was only a child. Weight restoration brought with it a wave of panic. I felt as though I was going backwards not forwards. At this point, I reflected on the desires of that young self. What did she so desperately want that made her hate herself so much?

To do what she wanted to do. To not feel ashamed of her body. To not feel inhibited by her body. To wear the clothes she wanted to wear. To eat what she wanted to eat without fear. To feel loved and accepted. 

I wanted to regress to a childlike state (a common desire for ED folx), before the shitstorm that was puberty. I wanted my appearance to become irrelevant as it had been as a child. Back when my body was something that let me run and play and sing and eat crisp sandwiches. It was something I cared for, I didn't blame it when it sick or injured - sure, I may have pitied myself and felt super sad about it, but I never blamed it. I wanted my relationship with my body to be restored back to how it was then. So it makes perfect sense that I used intentional weight loss (a readily available, accessible coping mechanism) as a means of trying to get my body back to a smaller, child-like state.

No wonder I blamed these new found changes in my body for my newfound hatred and self-loathing. No wonder I longed for time before diet culture controlled my every move. No wonder I longed for a time before societal standards of beauty entered into my consciousness. No wonder I craved a time before uncomfortable underwired bras ruled my existence. No wonder I was scared. 

My breasts were sexual objects before I even had the courage to get fitted for my first bra. 

Little did I know that the pressures, expectations and judgements that our society placed on my body had nothing to do with me at all. The bra fitting zone was my idea of living hell. Busty, bustling women rifling through my body, pulling the cold measuring tape tightly around my chest, pinging straps, tightening and fastening wires to my flesh. Mirrors, mirrors, mirrors at every angle reflecting back my own visible discomfort. Harsh glaring strip lights highlighting the ugliness of the situation. I would cry and cry and cry, even if I tried my hardest not to. Why can’t I wear a pretty bra, like the ones made for small pretty breasts? Why did the lady speak with such pity and gravity in her voice "I'm sorry to say, we'll need to go up another cup size"? Why did she speak as if my breasts were leeches clinging onto my chest. Why did she tell me with dismay that "underwired is the only option"? Why did she direct me to the 'minimiser' section which was free of love, colour and happiness and was entirely soulless and empty? Why did she feel such shame that she would project it on to an 11-year-old girl?

My journey towards accepting my breasts has been a long and arduous one. 

Learning about feminism has really been such a valuable essential part of coming to terms with my own body hatred. Unlearning unhelpful beliefs and conditioning has been necessary in order to rationalise some of the irrational behaviour of others. For example: whilst working at one job I had, where I was teaching dance to kids, I was told that my top (which was a plain pink full-length T-shirt) was inappropriate and that I would have to wear *another* top underneath to ensure no inch of flesh could creep out the sides and and dirty the children's experience. I was told that my body was inherently unprofessional. 

Learning that women's bodies are hyper-sexualised to the point where our clothes equate to our promiscuity which equates to our 'uncleanliness' was a light bulb moment. Learning that controlling women’s bodies is something that has been going on for such a long time has been both heartbreaking and illuminating. Learning that people profit from the belief that the is something wrong with our bodies has been pretty groundbreaking to say the least. This is a generational wound that we are being called to heal. Our bodies are our own. We can wear whatever we want. We can do with our bodies as we please. We can show as much or as little flesh as we want. It says nothing about who we are as people. There are no external judgements or prejudices that can possibly erase our brilliance.

Recently I visited the seaside city of Brighton and, since it was a warm day and I had not brought a strapless bra to go under the top I wanted to wear, I decided that I would not wear a bra. 

I decided to honour my 11 -year-old self. I decided to go and have fun and eat whatever the fuck I wanted and go on rides and do childish things that I was convinced only small-boobed girls could do. At home, I rarely wear a bra. However the days that I do decide to wear one I make sure that it’s bloody gorgeous. My breasts are not inherently sexual, but they can be if I want them to be - that is a decision that is mine and mine alone.

Another challenge when it comes to accepting my boobs is the fact that I have acne all over my body, including on my boobs (more acne posts here). This fluctuates according to my hormone levels and can vary significantly according to stress levels too. As I developed my eating disorder during some crucial pubescent years, I missed out on a lot of hormonal 'evolution'. As a result, I am experiencing a pretty intense blast of hormones right now, to make up for lost time, which means that my acne is having a 24/7 365-days-a-year rave and it ain't going to stop any time soon. And that's OK. For the longest time, my body was starved and punished - I think it deserves a bit of slack.

Despite it being the most common skin condition, there is zero representation of acne in media, on television/YouTube and very little representation within the body positive movement. Understanding that there is no right or wrong way to have breasts has been crucial to my recovery. Breasts can have acne, stretch marks, scars, hair etc. and still be absolutely wonderful.

Breasts can be tiny, saggy, mismatched,boxy, massive and anything in between. Boobs are just another part of our bodies like a toe or an elbow. They don’t define us. Having said that, it’s also okay to not love your boobs and to never love your boobs. It's okay to just accept that. I am in a privileged position as a white, cis, able-bodied person. Self love is the ideal but can be inaccessible to many. 

Wearing a bra, particularly a wired bra, as a big breasted babe can be super uncomfortable, especially in hot weather, so honestly, the main reason I don’t wear a bra is because I don’t fucking want to. Plus I find it quite liberating to say F U to ridiculous patriarchal standards of acceptable ladylike behaviour.

If you take only one thing from this blog post - go follow @theslumflower on all social media outlets, particularly Instagram - she is the creator of the #saggyboobsmatter movement and is the ultimate boob-positive QUEEN.

Now, for your pleasure, education and entertainment: some breast-filled-Brighton-based-photography.


this was the size 'small' - my kind of portions.

feeling like a big boobed Mary Poppins

Top - Miss Selfridge // Trousers - Topshop //  Scrunchie - Topshop
// Rose Gold Sandals - Birkenstock // Gold Hoop Earrings- M&S
 // Bare Minerals Liquid Matte Lipstick in shade 'Friendship'




I'm now in gif form..you're welcome
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post and you have perhaps caught some infectious boob-positive-power. 

Be sure to follow this blog on bloglovin and Facebook and follow me on Insta for added extras.

Click here for more body-positive blog posts!

Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Bisexual vs Pansexual // BisexualiTEA

Hello lovely people,

Welcome to my brand new series - BisexualiTEA where I will be spilling the *tea* on all things gender and sexuality related.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term 'tea' (have you been hiding under a rock?!), our lord and saviour Urban Dictionary is here to enlighten the masses:

Tea, definition: 

 " Used within the urban gay community, "tea" signifies a piece of sensitive and possibly highly sought-after information or titbit. "
So by merging that with the word bisexuality we get....biseuxaliTEA. Great. Wonderful. Honestly I'm only bi for the puns ;)

An ongoing and seemingly never-ending debate within the LGBTQIA+ community concerns the definitions of the labels 'bisexual' and 'pansexual'.

You may be clueless as to what either of the above mean - if so, don't worry, this is a common side affect of living in a heteronormative (and biphobic) society.

What is the definition of bisexual?

A common misconception is that the label bisexual means 'attracted to men and women' - this is one definition of the word that many use to argue that the term 'bisexual' is binary exclusive (i.e. upholds the gender binary and excludes gender non-conforming people). 'Bisexual' can mean being attracted to both men and women, however that is not the definition used by the majority of people who identify as such. A non-binary understanding of the word 'bisexual' has been around since at least the 1990s (see Anything that Moves' Spring 1994 bisexual manifesto). The term bisexual could be defined as attraction to more than one gender and/or attraction to genders like my own and unlike my own. These definitions are widely accepted and have been popularised amongst the bi community.

Beliefs that the term 'bisexual' reinforces the gender binary are flawed due to this fact, and the fact that there is rarely the same accusation made of monosexual sexualites (i.e. homosexual and heterosexual) and is likely a product of ignorance and biphobia combined. Binary exclusive and transphobic accusations that are framed as a 'bisexual' issue, directly ignore the realities of transphobia within the gay and lesbian communities, not to mention with straights and are unhelpful to say the least.

Identifying as bisexual does not make you transphobic and does not reinforce the gender binary - in fact Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two prominent figures in the Stonewall riots of 1969 were both trans women of colour who were also bisexual. 

Side note: check them out, they are both seriously underrated pioneers and activists for trans and queer rights and we are indebted to them for so much of what we take for granted today!

For me, personally I use the label bisexual because right now, it feels right. It does not mean I'm attracted to just 'men and women'. At the moment, I feel mostly attracted to gender queer people, trans men and non binary people. Who I am attracted to and how I experience that attraction is fluid and changes all the time. Bisexuality, to me, provides the flexibility to experience attraction that is fluid and ever-changing. 

That's not to say I would object to being called pansexual, I don't mind that label either. By calling myself bisexual, I feel as though I am actively helping to combat bi-erasure, which is a massive issue in LGBTQIA+ spaces (not to mention outside of that). Although the label 'bisexual' is on the rise, many are still reluctant to use the word due to the discomfort and uncertainty that surrounds it.

What is the definition of pansexual?

Pansexuality could be defined as the capacity to experience attraction to all genders (pan = all); not necessarily all at once, or to the same degree. Or that gender is not a factor in who someone experiences attraction towards.

It is very similar to 'bisexual' bar the fact that bisexuality in some ways offers more 'options' or variables (such as experiencing attraction to 2 genders/3 genders/4 genders etc.) or acts as an umbrella term that can encompass pansexuality, biromanticism, bi-curiousity etc.

Panseuxal and bisexual are not mutually exclusive; people can and do identify as both.

For some the distinction is important, for others (like myself) the terms are more interchangeable.

Some people prefer the term 'queer' and find it more encompassing and empowering (since the word is reclaimed), particularly if their queer sexuality is coupled with gender-queerness. However, this is not always the case, queer can also be a painful word for many, particularly if it was a source of bullying and hate speech growing up.

Always respect a person's chosen label (and always ASK what is OK/not OK), whatever that may be, regardless of their reason(s) for choosing it (unless it is directly harming you in some way).

So, in summary:

Bisexual                                                                           Pansexual

~ the capacity to experience attraction to                   ~ the capacity to experience attraction to       
   more than one gender                                              ~ all genders                                                          
~ can act as an umbrella term to include                    ~ is not an umbrella term                                       
pansexuality/biromanticism/bi-curiousity                  ~ attraction is fluid and can be experienced at      
~ attraction is fluid and can be experienced at             varying degrees                                                    
~ varying degrees                                                        ~  not monosexual                                                 
~ not monosexual                                                        ~ not transphobic                                                  
~ not transphobic                                                         ~ does not reinforce the gender binary                 
~ does not reinforce the gender binary                        ~ definition may vary according to individual     
~ definition may vary according to individual             ~ completely separate from                                 
~ completely separate from monogamy/polyamory         monogamy/polyamory                                 
 ~ does not automatically mean you                            ~ does not automatically mean you                      
    want a threesome                                                           want a threesome                                            
                                                                       
100% valid                                                                         100% valid                                                                                 
I'd just like to point out that, at the end of the day, labels are just labels and while they have their uses, they are inevitably limiting. No label can ever describe your uniqueness and the technicolour nuances of your sexuality. Whether you prefer bisexual, queer or pansexual - don't let it become something that stresses you out. You are a whole entire person, your sexuality is just a tiny (albeit wonderful) part of you.


How cute and PERFECT is this amazing artwork by ThatsPrettyGay
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post, if anybody is planning on attending Cork pride later in the month, let me know!

Follow me on Facebook, bloglovin and insta to keep up to date (and get bonus content..on instagram..).

Click here for my 'coming out' blog post!

Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

TOP 5 life hacks to soothe ANXIETY // Ask an Anxious Babe

Hello lovely people,

Today I’m going to be sharing (exclusively with you blog-reading babes) my top 5 anxiety soothing life hacks.

These are by no means a ‘cure’ for anxiety and are not a substitute for professional help. However, it is really important to take ownership of your anxiety and not see it as ‘someone else’s problem’, or in fact as a problem at all.

#1 REFRAME YOUR PERCEPTION OF ANXIETY

In order to cope with our anxious feelings, we need to avoid demonising our anxiety. We need to understand that having anxiety is, in many ways, a genetic advantage. Because we are stuck in ‘flight or fight mode’ (also third option ‘freeze’), we are acutely aware of any potential threats or danger in our environment. Therefore, it means we’re much more likely to avoid preventable accidents. For example, we’re much less likely to cross the road without looking and thus get hit by a car. Anxiety is all about survival. 

The part of our brain that deals with primitive survival mechanisms is called the amygdala. While the amygdala is great at sensing danger, it isn’t so great in discerning a ‘real’ threat from a perceived threat. When we go through a difficult or traumatic event, our amygdala may feel threatened when we are then placed in a similar situation, or can identify elements that are similar to the previous scary situation, Even when we’re in no ‘real’ danger, our amygdala cannot rationalise the situation and instead *freaks out* and thinks death is imminent (#relatablecontent).

Think back to caveperson times; while our laid-back counterparts were getting savaged by a saber-toothed tiger, we were strategically hiding in a nearby bush. Smart. If we did not remember that threatening situation and the environment in which it occurred, we would probably stroll straight back there the next day and get savaged too. What a brilliant function ‘anxiety’ is! It’s quite literally life saving. I want all of us to remember this - all your anxiety is ever trying to do is keep you safe.

#2 RECLAIM YOUR POWER

You can do so many things to reclaim your power. This is not a war/battle with anxiety (why would you pick a fight with the part of your brain that keeps you alive!) - this is about recognising your abilities and celebrating your vulnerability, anxiety included. Talk about your anxiety with friends/family/online chat group/therapist - whatever! Whatever you are afraid to talk about is controlling you - take back your power. Watch that mountain of fear shrink before your very eyes. Set up an anonymous (or not so anonymous hehehe... ) blog/Instagram account and journal your progress / thoughts / feelings / discoveries or just do so the traditional way with a pen and paper. (Or not so anonymous hehehe... ) You may discover lots of other people who have anxiety too! I cannot stress this point enough: so. many. people. have. anxiety!!!

They’re just not talking about it! Same goes for having an ED - it’s ridiculous how many ‘me too’ responses I have gleaned from talking about it to others (both online and offline). Anxiety is a spectrum - some people experience high levels of anxiety, for others it’s more of an undertone, some experience panic attacks - some don’t. It’s all good, fine, valid stuff. Your anxiety, believe it or not, is actually just asking to be seen. That part of you (usually a young part of you) that you have pushed away, neglected, feel ashamed of - that part of yourself that you have locked deep inside and thrown away the key. Listen to it. Sit with it. Ask it what it needs. Treat it like a child. Talk to that part of yourself as you would a distressed child. With compassion. With a willingness to understand, to listen, to support. Doing this work to understand our vulnerabilities is super-important, and super-necessary - we can only delay the process (which is never a good idea), not avoid it. If we want to live as authentically, as fiercely and as compassionately as possible - then this work is worth the investment.

#3 REST dammit.


Having anxiety is like being chased by a bear, on the daily, except the bear is in your head and nobody else can see it. This means we have a considerable amount of adrenaline pumping through our system to prepare us to run away from danger, and, very often we have nowhere to run to. 

So instead our stomach churns, we feel nauseous, our heart pounds in our chest, we run to the bathroom, we lose our appetite, we feel dizzy, our head aches, our palms sweat, we might even start crying - the adrenaline and anticipation that has been building up inside our minds and bodies has to be expressed somehow. The number one way to shut down a panic attack is to cry. Cry, cry, cry and release all that has been suppressed. Then lie down, preferably somewhere dark and quiet and breathe as best you can. Cover yourself  with a jacket or blanket as you will get quite cold after such a massive release. On the topic of breathing - I hate to be THAT person but breathing really is the shit when it comes to reassuring yourself. Even if it’s just 3 deep breaths in the bathroom at work - whatever you can manage - don’t worry about being perfect or zen or whatever, just take things at your pace - meet yourself where you’re at. Because we’re anxious babes, we really going to need lots more rest than non-anxious humans because our days can be emotional roller coasters/marathons and therefore physically and emotionally exhausting. Take it easy on yourself. Rest as soon as you feel a little bit tired - don’t wait until you burn out. Lie down. Unplug. Then replug and watch some trash TV that requires zero emotional investment. You do whatever you need to do.

#4 BUILD YOUR MANTRA


Mantras are super helpful and paired with some deep breathing can be incredibly powerful. They may seem like airy-fairy spiritual nonsense but regardless of your spiritual beliefs, mantras help to challenge and interrupt your anxious thoughts with new positive suggestions that will, over time become your default response to panic-inducing situations.

Repeat to yourself:

‘I am safe. I am grounded. I can cope. I always cope. I love and accept myself, even with this anxiety. It’s ok (insert your name here), I’ve got you, I’m here for you. I am calm. I am going to get through this.’
Or some variation of the above that is personalised to YOU.

Grounding exercise

Wiggle your feet into the ground. Close your eyes.
Feel the ground supporting you, holding you and always being there for you. 
Imagine a golden light showering your entire being from head to toe.
This light is going to keep you safe and protect your energy. 
Take 3 slow deep breaths. 
Then repeat your mantra at least three times. 
Then take another 3 deep breaths. 
If it feels OK, give yourself a little hug - self soothe through touch. 
Thank yourself for taking the time to nourish your energy. 


This little exercise can be whipped out at a moments notice and only takes about 3 minutes. It’s actually a great way to start and end the day. It’s great for exams/big events, can be done in the car, before therapy - it’s just a super-versatile little gem.

#5 DON’T GO BLAMING YOURSELF

It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. 

You’re doing your best. You’re doing your best. You’re doing your best. 

You are learning. You are growing.

FYI: Growth and progress often feel reallllyyyy uncomfortable at first - don’t let this discourage you - it will pay off.

You aren’t faking it. It’s not ‘all in your head’. Your physical symptoms are real. Your mental symptoms are real. Your emotional symptoms are real. You’re not being ‘melodramatic’. 
I BELIEVE YOU.

You are not alone. You are never alone. Your body loves you (PSA I LOVE YOU). Your body is always doing it’s best. Your brain is always doing it’s best. You are not broken. You are not a problem to be fixed. You are not crazy. You are not neurotic. You are a human being. You are a human being who has survived everything that life has thrown at them. Every single bad day, sad day, every single impossible moment - you have survived. You have thrived despite it all. Not only that, you are a human being who is statistically less likely to be savaged by a saber-toothed tiger. How awesome is that?!? Your anxiety is your power - tap into it, get to know it - who knows what wonderful things might transpire. We have been conditioned to believe that this part of ourselves is wrong, weak, self-indulgent even. It is not. It makes perfect sense that you have anxiety. Just like it makes perfect sense that you see it as something to be rid of. 

Let’s change the game. Let’s rewrite the script. Let’s dance to a different rhythm. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s embrace our wholeness. We are enough. 

Stunning artwork from the incredible Cloudy Thurstag
I hope you have enjoyed this blog post - as always, feel free to reach out to me if any of the above resonated with you. I would love to do a ‘part two’ where I can talk a bit more about a DIY anxiety soothing kit (which can be pretty life-changing, fyi). 

Let me know if that’s something that you would be interested in reading. I think I’ve rambled on long enough for today, lol.

Follow me on bloglovin, Facebook and insta to keep up to date with all this good stuff.

Click here for more #AskanAnxiousBabe posts!


Until the next time,

Niamh xxx

Friday, 15 June 2018

I'm Bisexual

Hello lovely people,

Today's post is going to be a more serious one than usual. I never ever thought I would be writing this. It is important to me to be as authentic as possible in my life online and offline. I try to stand up for what I believe in and speak my truth. In Nayyirah Waheed's 2013 work 'salt', her poem 'the freedom in fear' resonates a great deal with me in this moment (check her out- she is incredible):

'when i am afraid to speak
is when i speak.
that is when it is most important.'

This blog post isn't going to be perfect or poetic - it's going to be messy and raw and vulnerable. If we all had the courage to be a little vulnerable from time to time, I think we wouldn't suffer from so much perfectionism. Vulnerability definitely acts as an antidote to my own perfectionist standards.

For most of my life, I assumed I was straight, in fact, I was pretty much convinced of it. I knew I liked boys and growing up in such a heavily heteronormative culture, I took that to mean that I was definitely straight. I also assumed that most people who were gay, knew that they were gay as children and since I had no such inclinations as a child, I completely wrote it off as a possibility. Our primary school sex-ed was typical of a rural catholic school - no mention of anything LGBTQIA at all - that was strictly prohibited. Of course I'd heard whispers of such things in the playground, amongst peers, but mostly the word 'gay' was reserved as an insult, usually thrown around boy to boy (which never seemed to bother anyone). To be honest, it was as if gay people were these mythical creatures that existed in the shadows, never daring to enter the mainstream world. The 'normal' world. I would even go as far as to say I was frightened of meeting an openly gay person.

In addition to my Catholic schooling, I had members of my family who were homophobic - who were of the opinion that 'gayness' was a choice, and a corrupt one at that. There were links made to paedophilia and 'dirty' sex. Viewing TV shows with any gay relationship was discouraged and despised. It made me uncomfortable then, as a child, to see fictional characters be subjected to such hatred, never mind the real life people.

I remember watching the 'Sophie and Sian' romance unfold on Coronation Street when I was about 12 and feeling completely gobsmacked and simultaneously curious. How come these girls didn't fit the pre-existing lesbian stereotypes in my head? How does sex even work if you're with another girl? Why do I get butterflies in my stomach each time they kiss? Even though the story line was predictable (honestly both characters were soooooo dull) and the acting was *questionable* it was my first time being exposed to anything outside the heterosexual realm.

Also, when I was 12/13 (this really was the age where shit went down), for the first time ever, I had a crush on a GIRL. I actually wanted to *kiss* her........Cue MASSIVE freak out. I remember crying and praying that I wouldn't be a lesbian. Praying that God would reverse it somehow. I promised to be a good girl - if only he would grant my wish. I had so much internalised shame and homophobia. I felt as though I would be a disappointment to my parents and a disappointment to myself. I was already having a very difficult time fitting in at school and this felt like the icing on the cake. Why had I done this to myself? This was all my fault!

On that day, I pushed that very frightened part of myself deep down inside me, locked the door and threw away the key. I would never speak of this again. And so came years of repression and suppression with a relentless underscore of shame. During this time, I learned about the LGBTQIA community from a distance; read books, listened  to songs, watched movies, followed bloggers and vloggers. I began to gain some understanding of queer oppression and liberation. It sounds corny but Shane Dawson's bisexual coming out video really hit home for me. I cried watching it. And whilst all this was happening, a part of me was waking up again, tiptoeing back into my conscious mind, assessing the safety of the situation.

For me, my sexuality and perceived desirability has been intrinsically linked with body image. For the longest time I hated my body and believed every nasty (usually appearance related) comment made about my desirability (usually made after some kind of turndown FYI - present day Niamh is laughing and fuming) was true. So while I was consumed by my eating disorder (unintentional punny irony), there was no way I could acknowledge that part of my sexuality which held so much shame.

I consider all of this a part of my recovery. Refusing to shrink, hide and pretend to be something I'm not. Recovery is about so much more than food and exercise. It about giving myself permission to change and evolve; shed layers of myself that no longer fit. Drop anything that no longer serves me. And this shame - does not serve me, does not uplift me, does not make me a better person. It paralyses me and has done for the longest time.

Up until recently, I understood the concept of heteronormativity from a solely intellectual perspective. It's only been in telling friends and family about my sexuality that I have experienced first hand, the harsh reality of 'coming-out'. What a strange concept it is. If feels like I'm admitting to a previous conviction - like I've done something terrible/prohibited. I've had to justify myself in ways a straight person would never be asked to. In many ways I wished I was straight. In many ways I wished I was simply gay and not somewhere in between. That somehow life would be more straightforward, more 'acceptable', more black and white. I don't want to feel too gay to belong with straight people and too straight to belong with gay people. It's ridiculous having to navigate this uncharted territory - to be fearful of others expectations and my own.

Just a few days ago it was the 2 year anniversary of the Orlando shooting in Pulse Nightclub - an act of violence that specifically targeted LGBTQIA people. That scares the shit out of me. I'm not going to lie, in sharing my truth with others, it feels like there is a target on my back. A license to tease, hurt and even, in extreme cases, kill. It doesn't help having a pre-existing anxiety disorder, let me tell ya. Even within the recent campaign to repeal the 8th amendment, which I was involved in, I witnessed so much casual homophobia. It broke my heart to see how normal it all was. Not that this was something I had been previously unaware of - just less aware. It just hurt so much to feel abnormal, to feel 'other', to feel like if people knew the truth they would treat me differently.

Just because I'm bisexual (or pansexual or whatever) doesn't mean I'm any less. It just means that I have a heart that is incredibly loving and I don't let gender get in the way of that. I'm still ME. In fact, acknowledging all this, means I'm more ME than ever before. Saying that, I am still scared and uncomfortable. I still feel odd. It all seems surreal. It's going to take a while to fully own my sexuality. I feel as though his blog post is a step in the right direction. Finally I am reclaiming my power. Finally I can try to love myself completely without constraint.

I'm not writing this because I think I'm some kind of hero or that I've have a particularly tragic story. I'm writing it because I think there are lots of people out there who feel as I do, who might relate to my story. Who might find comfort in it. Who might even find courage in it.


can't find the artist :((((( but how cuteeeee!

Thank you for reading this, I hope you enjoyed this truth-telling session! And HAPPY PRIDE MONTH!

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Unitl the next time,

Niamh xxx

Friday, 8 June 2018

A Thank You Letter to my Eating Disorder

Dear ED,

This is a letter I never thought I would be writing. I never thought I would feel anything other than fear and resentment towards you. You hurt me. I was angry at you for that. But, mainly, I was angry at myself, for getting so caught up in your promises that I could not see the reality of what was happening to me. I was so ill when I thought I was so healthy. I was so out of control when I thought I was controlling it all. I did not want to believe any of it. I did not want to see how sad I was. I needed a distraction, an addiction, a coping mechanism - that's where you came in. You promised me love, safety, reassurance and instead I felt nothing but silent grief. For a long time, I saw you as my captor and me as your helpless victim.

Now, I see things differently. My perspective has shifted. My heart is open and ready to let go of all that no longer serves me. Now, all I feel is love towards you. The whole time, you were just trying to help me cope. Just trying to keep me alive. Is there a greater act of love than that? Sure, you went about it the wrong way but you didn't know that. You were just a frightened child, trying to navigate your way through a chaotic situation. You did you best. You kept me alive. Now, I can embrace you, relieve you from your role as my leader, my protector because I can do that myself now. I can look after myself now. And I can look after you too.

Now, in recovery, you show me where to heal. Each time I feel triggered, upset or have self-loathing thoughts about my appearance - I know that it's a sign, a clue - from you - to dig deeper. To get curious. To ask why. To enter into uncharted territory. To treat old wounds with a new perspective. Without you, I would never have transformed my relationship with my body and with myself. I would probably have gone for years wrapped up in diet culture with a constant sea of self-loathing bubbling under the surface. I would probably still believe that everything I believed as a child was true. I would probably have little self-awareness and zero understanding of healthy boundaries. All you did was hold a mirror up that reflected everything that was already going on inside of me. You shone a light on darker areas and highlighted my vulnerability.

Before I met you, I avoided vulnerability at all costs. You gave me the ultimate dilemma: continue suffering, hating myself whilst feeling safe OR drop into a chasm with unknown depths and choose to sacrifice my safety for the possibility of real, unconditional love. You forced me to recognise my true desires. You showed me how brave I am. How I can cope with anything and everything. Like stabilisers on a bicycle, you were there when I needed that feeling of safety and now I can let you go, thank you for your service and move forward with a newfound trust in my abilities. And as I do so, I realise that I have been cycling unaided this entire time. You provided the illusion of safety and control but in reality, I could have fallen at any moment, and indeed when I did, you were not there to rescue me. I was. I picked myself up, time and time again.

I chose to recover because I was ready to meet my true self. To stop avoiding her, ignoring her and generally believing that her wants and needs were not important. I have completely transformed my mind, freed my soul and continue to heal, learn and grow every single day, and I could not have done it without you. I am so grateful for all the transformative opportunities you have provided. I forgive all the pain and the hurt. I know it was not without purpose. As a result of meeting you, I can help so many other people in ED recovery. I can experience kinship with people all around the globe. I can show fierce compassion and empathy for others. I can create artwork and poetry from my experiences. I can finally embrace my authentic self. You gave me the gift of metamorphosis. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 



How adorable is this ?!?! source: https://www.etsy.com/shop/buckandlibby

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post. It's a little different to my usual style and was a very vulnerable thing to write.

To anybody who is suffering with an eating disorder, disordered thoughts/eating, body image issues etc. let this serve as a beacon of hope. Let me be your mirror and I invite you to be mine. I believe in you, completely. I am so proud of how far you've come. I am with you every step of the way.

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Until the next time,

Niamh xxx
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