Lauren’s story.

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One day in the winter of 2017 I was having a perfectly ordinary Saturday. I’d woken up in the morning, taken a diet pill, washed it down with a Slimfast smoothie, and forced myself out into the cold to make sure I burned off all the calories from last nights dinner. Two hours later, I was passed out on my bedroom floor exhausted and reaching for my phone so I could find pictures of bodies I needed mine to be exactly like; to validate my reasons for constantly putting my body through hell.

While sifting through what I believed to be people celebrating #selflove, I found something different. A woman writing about loving her body as it was. In her own words, she was body positive, and she was daring to be visibly happy in a body that we’ve all been told we weren’t allowed to be happy in. There she was embracing all the parts of herself that I’d spent my whole life hating myself for – her soft stomach that rolled when she sat, the cellulite that covered the thickness of her thighs, the jiggle and sway of her arms as she moved.

I had never realised that was an option. Nobody had ever told me that shrinking my body didn’t have to be my ultimate goal in life. I’d only ever been told that ‘self-love’ would come once I looked like what society told me I should look like.

So two and a half years ago, I walked into my local library, searching for @bodyposipanda’s new book and I was anxious to get my hands on a copy. As I headed towards the ‘Self-Help’ section, I braced myself for the usual diet detox and lose-weight-fast books but the bright pink cover was the first thing that caught my eye, and I picked it up.

As I caressed the pages and looked down at Megan’s beaming smile I thought about some of the things that had led me to this point. I remembered being 8 years old at school, standing in line waiting to go back to class after morning break and having a boy the same age telling me he didn’t like me and a couple of other girls because we were fat. I remembered the time 10 years later in my first year at university when I decided to shut myself away instead of going on countless nights out with my new friends because nothing looked ‘right’ on my fat body. I pictured myself at many points in the years that had passed since then, at my fluctuating weight and many dress sizes. Then I snapped out of it because I realised in that moment, if I hadn’t found happiness hiding away from all the amazing opportunities life was throwing at me because I’m fat, then I was never going to.

So I decided to take a leap of faith. I immersed myself in Megan’s book and once I’d finished, the online body positivity community. Since then my whole life has changed, I’ve engaged both online and in real life with discussions surrounding body positivity which have branched out into other areas – feminism, sex positivity, periods, LGBTQIA+ ally-ship and much more that hopefully through working with @theempoweredwomanproject, I’ll be able to talk more about. And lastly, I hope that something I write about in the coming months will resonate with every single one of you and help you to make that leap wherever you need to, to reclaim your happiness and to take your power back. Because life is simply too short not to be happy!

Lauren @ TEWP x

(@missmethven)

An ode to dating apps.

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A couple of weeks ago, I found myself single once again. The ‘you’re dumped’ text came through, and within the same second, bumble and hinge were downloaded. (Not tinder – I received a hefty 25yr ban after an incident with sending my pal my other pal’s only fan account, which counts as selling sex for money)

Really, I should’ve learned my lesson by now – all three of my boyfriends I found through dating apps, and they’ve never really been successful. Granted I was with one of the boys for nearly three years, but time doesn’t equal a success does it? So why do I keep going back? (Even after my nana begged me on the phone this weekend to stop meeting boys off of tinder.

Number one – the absolute inability to reply once you mention anything about a traumatic past. So I was sexually assaulted three years ago, a truth I’m very comfortable with, so much so, that most of my writing opportunities came from me being so open about it. Turns out when you match with a guy on bumble, and within the first ten messages you’re talking about how you’re passionate about the safety of sexual assault survivors, you either get a message like ‘oh’, or even better, no reply at all. It’s like a filter; here are the three boys left who aren’t scared of reality.

Number two – Is it partially an addiction? Yes. There is no better feeling than swiping right, and it resulting in a match. Not for romantic reasons, it’s just a massive ego boost isn’t it?

Number three – Like Emma and Mr Knightley, (but far less romantic) a small dream of mine is to fall for a richer, older man, which is why I have my age setting 22-33. There’s nothing more settling than knowing a guy has a job, and is no longer a man child. However, if they have their settings as low as 22 should probably be a massive red flag, but where’s the fun without them.

Number four – the premium content. See Exhibit A, B and C

Dating1                                Dating2Dating3

 

Number five –the witty anecdotes that will inevitably be part of my repertoire when I eventually turn to comedy as a coping mechanism. After a second date with a boy from Bumble (a very small part of me thought he was my future husband), and four ciders, I bit the bullet and confidently went in for the kiss. Not only did he take a large step back when I went in, but I was so embarrassed I had to physically run away. The next day I received a text from the guy saying he still had feelings for someone else. If this wasn’t a slap in the face enough, after returning to Hinge, I get notification saying ‘here is Fred (we’ll call him Fred), you two are extremely compatible. You two should meet’.

Number six –most of the girls that were in my year are either moving in w their boyfriends/getting engaged/getting married or having children. I know that shouldn’t be a reason for using dating apps, but at least I acknowledge that fact, and realise what I’m doing is wrong. Will it stop using it? Most likely not. Whilst my pals are shacking up with their long-term boyfriend, I’m getting a messages at 1am, saying ‘tell me, what is your opinion on pineapple on pizza 😊’, or ‘you up?’.

With all joking aside (not about the addiction, I’m definitely slightly addicted), I know I don’t need a boyfriend. I’m good enough by myself, and I know this because I’ve seen my rendition of ‘all that jazz’ in the mirror, and any guy would be incredibly lucky to date me.

Amy’s story.

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When you’re struck with a life changing, debilitating illness and disability, it’s a tough pill to swallow, knowing that going forward, your life will never be the same ever again. For me, cushings disease has caused a multitude of further illnesses and problems, which I don’t really talk about, some of them, I’ve been a bit embarrassed by.

Due to the aforementioned, I find it difficult to live a ‘normal’ life, life hasn’t exactly been normal since I was in my late teens, sometimes, I struggle knowing this. Needing to readjust to a body and mind that does not work the way it used to can leave you reeling, leave you grieving a life that is limited in comparison to before. So many suffer in silence, faced with stigma in a world that idolises health.

Living with a chronic illness and/or disability means that each day you wake up, not knowing if you will be able to find the energy to even deal with the smallest of tasks. If you choose to go out, you know that you are sacrificing the next few days, if you go out, you may have to go home earlier than expected because of pain, fatigue, anxiety etc. Do you even want to go out anymore? Do people think I’m not sick if I go out and put a bit of make up on? The sad reality is that yes, so many people judge and assume that because you’re doing something for once and have made some effort with your hair and make up, that you must be miraculously better. I sincerely hope that those people are reading this, that those people open their minds and try to understand.

Amy Bojar

These photos were taken days apart. The photo on the left with the puffy red face is the aftermath of simply visiting relatives and doing a little bit of shopping.

The most frustrating and upsetting thing after being struck with something so debilitating and life changing is seeing others do things that you desire to do. You are constantly in a battle of guilt and worry; do people see you as lazy? Are your friends and family seeing you as unreliable because you cancelled those plans again?

A lot of those who suffer, including myself, constantly worry about the impact on the people you love. You may lose contact with friends and family over your illness, which may increase your desire to be ‘normal’ again. However, your true friends and family will understand how your illness is beyond your control and will ride the waves with you. One of the hardest things to accept is that you may have to rely on others more and this involves learning that, actually, it’s ok to allow someone else to love and care for you when you need it.

A huge lifestyle change is often needed and it can be incredibly limiting and will often teach you the importance of self care and listening to your body. It may feel like the illness is controlling your life, but changing your mindset to realise it does not define you is freeing. Life isn’t fair, it really isn’t but, with any chronic illness or disability, you can still play the best game you can with the cards that you’re dealt.

Cushings and Adrenal Insufficiency have completely changed my life, I’ve opened my eyes and I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I am still grieving my old life in some way. I wish that I could work a regular Monday to Friday 9-5 job, go out every weekend with husband and my friends, plan days and nights out weeks in advance, not thinking if I’m going to be well enough or not. I grieve my old body, I definitely grieve my old mind, before I had my brain surgery, before my brain changed shape, causing cognitive impairment that is likely to turn into early dementia, I had an offer of an MA Scholarship in the USA and a dream job in Dubai. I wish more than anything that I could have taken those opportunities. However, I am so incredibly grateful for my second chance. Most of the time, I try to remain positive and make the most of life, as I most definitely now see it as a precious gift.

The words I share above can hopefully help those who are isolated, I am trying to give a voice to those who persevere through chronic illness and disability each day. Everyone has their own unique life and no two journeys are ever the same. I want people to feel less isolated and even empowered knowing that you CAN lead a life of fulfilment, despite limitations.

More information on cushings and AI can be found on my website – shouldifallbehind.com

Amy @ TEWP x

“I’ve had sex with over 100 people”… I don’t want pity. I want people to stop slut shaming.

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I lost my virginity at 16 in a tent. “Classy burd” has forever been the joke about it. Wanna know why I really did it? Because all the girls in my school were. Because I wanted to feel popular. Because I thought it might make me feel accepted. Because I thought that would get me a boyfriend. Because then I might be cool.
Really it was horrid. I cried in the shower afterwards.
The boy told all his pals, who then told their pals and soon everybody knew. Turns out it just made me seem like a joke.

I’ve had sex with over 100 people. 

That is probably one of the hardest things I have ever told anyone about myself. The look of shock on peoples faces.
“But you just don’t seem like the type? Your not a slut are you?”
The disgust some people have come out with is also so humiliating.
“Why would you disrespect yourself like that?”
One ex boyfriend informed me that I was absolutely revolting and if he had known I was a slag he would never have gone out with me. How absolutely awful is that?
When I was a teenager I would joke about being a slut on social media, I would make myself seem like a joke by throwing mad parties, and not caring about my possessions or family. Really all I wanted was a best friend.

Being a slut is cool right?

I don’t know how I managed to get to over 100 people, so many boys act interested and then once you’ve slept with them they disappear. I know this sounds so cliche but that happened to me so many times I felt worthless and of course had no respect for myself.

Maybe I am just this bike that everybody treats me as?

One day I came home to my first flat I lived in by myself when I was 18. Somebody had let themselves into my house and wrecked it. Pictures were torn and my TV was on the floor. My clothes had been chucked everywhere and my couch had been ripped. I don’t think I’ve ever wept so much in my life. I cant believe anybody would treat somebody like that. I know that somebody did it because I was the joke of the town, had a good laugh about it over a pint that night.

I must deserve this because I  am such a slut.

I started seeing a boy from a different town and we went on a night out. A girl from my school who I had never spoke to before approached him and told him not to be involved with me. A few years later a similar event happened again, when I brought home a boy from somewhere else and a guy in the nightclub toilet asked him why he was there. He said my name and the boy also told him that was a big mistake.

I better not get a boyfriend because they will not want to be with used goods.

What is wrong with a girl casually having sex?
How dare you slut shame somebody and make them feel bad for being sexually active? How do you know why they are having sex with lots of people?
To warn people off somebody, you don’t even know!?
Still to this day I have people being shocked about how many people I have slept with. I hear people making comments about chlamydia being awful and only a certain type of girl would have that. I have had chlamydia twice, am I that type of girl?

If anyone finds out I have the clap that will ruin me.

Chlamydia is so common. It also is not such a big deal so can we stop with the shaming.
I realise I have slept with above average amount of people. There is no need to make me feel bad about it though. Woman these days should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies without being judged or shamed.

I just want to feel free in my own body.

I still struggle to talk about it, but now it’s out in the open. I would love it if people would have more of an open mind. Why is somebody sleeping with loads of people bad?
I’ve definitely had moments in my life where I have been sleeping with people because I enjoy sex and haven’t wanted a relationship. I see no problem in this, if it is in a safe environment.
I have also had moments in my life where I just wanted to feel loved. I just didn’t want to feel so lonely anymore. It still hurts to think of my 18/19/20 year old self crying herself to sleep every night because she didn’t know why everybody hated her so much. This has got me in to some really horrible situations.
I am incredibly lucky to have had my amazing family and friends at that time.
I still struggle with relationships now, how am I supposed to trust men, who have fucked me over so many times?
(I just want to put in here that my last boyfriend was an absolute gem and helped me through a lot of these problems.)

18 year old me, in my first flat.

I don’t want pity I want people to stop slut shaming. You have no idea what you might be doing to that girl. I just can’t believe how unkind so many people were to me when I was growing up, just because I had sex with a certain amount of people. I still struggle to walk around the town I went to High School in because of anxiety that somebody might shout something at me.

It could be a cry for help.
It could be somebody having fun.

SLUT IS A DISGUSTING WORD.

I wish I could go back and tell this girl that she is beautiful, she doesn’t need a man to feel complete, and she can do whatever she wants with her body.
Its amazing what is going on under the surface.

BE MORE KIND.

Abi @ TEWP x

There’s this guy…

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There’s this guy I met back in two thousand and eleven and I can’t believe I’ve known him so long.

The years have flown by but my feelings never left. The communication went dry, our contact bereft.

It’s been eight years of to-ing and fro-ing and of knowing that we’d be perfect… 

But maybe our version of perfection can be found in the pockets of time we’ve been lucky enough to spend together.

Maybe we were never meant to experience forever.

Maybe our version of perfect is moments in time and our forever is memories captured. Those perfect little fragments piece together a picture, a picture which would look imperfect to anyone else.

But you and I know why our story is broken and we know it can’t be fixed but the solace lies in knowing that it needn’t actually ever be fixed.

Our perfect little moments in our imperfect little story live neatly in our hearts in their pockets of perfection.

Mandy @ TEWP x

For the woman who…

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For the woman whose husband makes an “extra stop” after work every evening.

For the woman who is mourning the loss of a pregnancy that nobody else knew about.

For the woman who still leads from the front even although she’s lost inside.

For the woman who was fired for her fourth late because she has been awake for a straight week with a sick child.

For the single mom who doesn’t know how the utilities are going to stay on this month.

For the woman who has gone through 2 IVF’s and has tried for five years without success but still shows up to every baby shower for her friends.

For the woman who still hasn’t forgiven herself for the abortion that she had 20 years ago.

For the woman who has a line of judging eyes at her and her children as she counts out coins or has to put something back at the supermarket.

For the woman that opens the door to the news of her husband being killed overseas three weeks before he was to return home.

For the woman that lives with a quiet anxiety because nobody understands what you could possibly be stressed about.

For the woman that gives to her family all day- everyday and just needs a break.

For the woman that smiles at strangers all day in public- but weeps silently every night.

For the woman who has wanted to end it all but found strength to carry on.

For the woman that heard the rumour about herself at church today.

For the woman sleeping next to a stranger every night.

For the woman whose genetics will never allow her to look like the ones in the magazines.

For the woman that endures one broken relationship after another because there was no father around to teach her what love looks like.

For the woman raising a fatherless daughter and praying that history doesn’t repeat itself.

For the woman who loves with all her heart who’s desperate to be loved.

For every single woman that cries in the shower so that nobody else can see. Because if you aren’t strong-nobody is.

Just because the water washes your tears doesn’t mean that you don’t cry. Just because you cry doesn’t mean that you’re not strong enough to handle it.

I am you. I see you. I am with you, I cry with you. I love you.

Author: Brittany Latham
Credit to Yehuda Devir for the Art

Mandy @ TEWP x

14 days. 336 hours. 20,160 minutes.

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2 weeks.

2 weeks is all it took for me to fall for another human.

You may think I’m crazy and if it was someone else telling this story, I’d probably agree with you! But it’s true. Because him and I, well, we crammed what some couples do in three months into just 14 short days.

We laughed together, we drank together, we stole each other’s yawns, we fell asleep together, we saw shooting stars together, we went for dinner together, we worked out together, we spent time in 2 cities together, we have a song or two which remind me of him and we talked and talked and talked. And we talked some more.

About all sorts of things. Our shared interests in crime and conspiracies right through to loss of life and hope for life.

The moment I realised how quickly I’d fallen (and I like that we say “fall” because it insinuates we don’t have much control over it) was when he articulated his feelings to me.

You see, at the start he was all “I’ll make you feel things you haven’t felt in a long time” and “you’re a powerful woman”… which are things I’ve never had said to me. They gave me butterflies. But this dialogue quickly turned into “We are just friends… no attachments” and that hurt. It felt like a kick to the stomach.

But the thing is, I didn’t CHOOSE to feel attached… emotions aren’t something we select like a track on a record. It’s random. It’s pot luck. Our emotions are on shuffle and all we can do is work with what we’ve got.

When he essentially friend zoned me, I found it very difficult to handle.

Yes, it has been 2 short weeks… but surely I couldn’t have been the only one feeling the feels? I mean, “it takes two to tango” and all that and being with someone else intimately is an experience and so if both of you are there in the moment then the energy doesn’t lie, does it?

The reason I’m writing about it is because it’s too crazy to say aloud. I feel like I’m not valid in how I feel because of the time frame. I feel like people might judge. But the truth is, time frames and age just don’t matter.

Energy matters. Experiences matter.

I’m happy now to put the amazing couple of weeks into a box which I’ll hopefully feel comfortable to reopen at some point but for now, they’re amazing memories and he did make me feel things I hadn’t felt in a long time, so for that, I’d like to say thank you, T.