Health and wellbeing, a constant thorn in my side

As the title suggests, and as another article I have written suggests, health & wellbeing has always been something I have struggled with. I am constantly bombarded, as we all are, with images that focus on body positivity and body negativity and weight and tone and appearance. Furthermore I have messages from friends, relatives and constant reminders on my social media feed regarding the need for a summer body, i.e. a tanned, muscular, slim-line, non-cellulite, trimmed, smooth body fit for a nice stroll on a beach. On the flip side there is a constant, and I mean CONSTANT, stream of images, videos, memes and the like reminding us that to have a winter body, i.e. fat, lazy, chicken nugget eating, hairy, bulky, pale, bumpy body fit for nothing other than single life, Netflix-ing and chilling by yourself, is something that no one should EVER strive for.

My problem is that health and wellbeing is all about physical appearance and physical capabilities. When in reality I think health and wellbeing is about much, much more.

For the past two weeks I have been unwell, and there have most definitely been points over the past 17 days where I have felt completely incapacitated by migraines. I’d never had a migraine until two weeks ago. To be honest I rarely even suffer a headache, so this is a whole new ball game for me. (Any tips would be much appreciated)

Being unable to do anything more than go to work, come home, maybe do some housework and watch some TV has made me feel (at times) lazy, embarrassed and guilty. I feel this way because I am physically able to do just about any activity that I did before these symptoms occurred, but I no longer feel mentally capable, or prepared even, to leave the house, go to the gym, sit in a crowded changing room, take an instruction etc. etc.

It’s an odd feeling as well because I’ve certainly got a lot done in the past week in terms of work and I’ve definitely been good to myself. I was at the Stand comedy club twice, on Thursday and Friday, and I went to see Sam Smith at the Hydro on Saturday night but in all honesty it was a big occasion, and sadly an effort, for me to get out of the house.

There’s a genuine sadness in this though because truly the main reason why I have completed so much work over the past week is because I am consciously attempting to occupy my mind so much so that I don’t have to think about my migraines or indeed my mental health (which may or may not be the root cause of the migraine). This excessive demand for work that I am placing upon myself has lead me to feel completely burned out and overwhelmed; to the point where I do nothing else but think about my mental health. How ridiculous is that? Back to the tactics board for me.

NOTE: I often think that my overthinking is probably the root cause of mine, or anyone else’s, mental health but that doesn’t help me fix any ailments so hey fucking ho! Also, how ridiculous is it that I am causing myself mental health problems? (Any suggested solutions would also be much appreciated)

Back to the point. My physical capabilities are being held back by my mental health. The pain in my head and neck is causing me to worry, which as a result is prompting anxiety and stress. Now, I realise that I’m not dying. Let me make that abundantly clear. But I am so distressed and uncomfortable with the lack of a definitive diagnosis that I am removing myself from physical activity and here we come to the whole point of the article as to the reason why health and wellbeing is such an almighty thorn in my side.

For now is not the time to focus on my physical health. At least not today.

Today was for me.

Today I went with my Mum and Murdo (Auntie’s dog who we are dog sitting) to Glasgow Green; where we walked, and talked, and threw tennis balls and lost tennis balls and engaged with strangers and got the sun in our face (I had cream on, because I’m a sensible ginger), we took pictures, we smiled and laughed and just had a relaxed day where our biggest concern was the daft dug jumping into the Clyde for a swim (he really likes water and has no idea that the Clyde will engulf him – to be fair he’s just a pupper). It was bliss!

Today was about focusing on mental health. And to be honest, maybe every day should be about focusing on our individual mental health. Your thoughts and emotions are something that never really leave your side, so we should really try and take care of them.

If it does come to pass that I 100% suffer with migraines, and that they may be caused by anxiety/stress then my mind will soon become of principal importance. Now of course physical activity can be a great reliever of mental illness but as discussed in a previous article it can also be an unlikely trigger.

I don’t have all the answers here, in fact I’m struggling to find any answer that I’ve given at all in this wee article but I suppose I’m just trying to bare my soul because things have been rough the past couple of weeks and I hate letting people down – which I feel in a big way I have done (letting my team mates down by not being available for training or games over the past coupe of weeks and not going to the gym with my two best buddies).

I suppose maybe writing could be my cure (I’ll let you know in a couple of days once I release this article into the ether).

Maybe that’s what’s bugging me; not having an answer. Lacking the knowledge to make myself feel better, makes me feel powerless. Surely that’s enough to make anyone feel disappointed with themselves.

Here, it’s not all doom and gloom. As I said, today I had a smashing day and seeing Sam Smith at the Hydro was a gift to the ears that will last a lifetime. Just please remember that health & wellbeing means more than body image. Try not to focus all your attention on your weight, or tone, or shape etc. Also take the time to check in with your mental health. Find a way to unclog the worry, to remove the self-doubt, to remedy the anxiety etc. And also, don’t let ANYBODY make you feel guilty for taking the time to take care of yourself. Likewise, DON’T BE THE ONE TO MAKE ANYONE feel guilty, or embarrassed, for taking the time to self-care.

That’s probably all I have at the minute cause my heeds (heads) absolutely bursting! But I guess I’m going to be a hell of a pissed off if I do find out that these migraines are occurring as a result of anxiety.

What does one do when your mental health begins to fully impact your physical health?

Maybe that will be the title of my next article.



The Story of Diana Nyad: Another Wonder Woman

Last night I went to the movies with a couple of friends to watch the newly released Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot. It was perfect! Wonder Woman spoke her mind, stood up to men, fought on the front-line, asked questions, made mistakes, lost battles, won battles, learned from mistakes, experienced failure, was relentless in pursuit of success, cracked jokes, had issues choosing an outfit and was generally everything that a woman can and should be. As a 20-something-year-old woman, I was inspired.

Here we are the following morning and a new story has came to my attention. This is the story of Diana Nyad, the woman who never gave up in pursuit of sporting greatness!

Whether you have a keen interest in sport and sporting achievement or not is truly irrelevant here. This one’s for everyone, and the world should know her story.

Diana Nyad came to the public eye last month following the publication of her award winning book, “Find a Way“. At the end of May this year her book picked up the top prize as the International Biography of the Year, and i’m not surprised; her story is triumphant.

Nyad is a swimmer by trade, and as a teenager the young Diana was introduced to the world of marathon swimming. She broke records; in her first-ever race she broke the women’s 10-mile record completing the feat in 4 hours and 22 minutes. She swam the Bay of Naples, without a wet-suit for some 28-miles!! It wouldn’t be me, but each to their own.

Despite the records Nyad’s dream was always to complete a swim from Cuba to Florida. The water was infested by dangerous sea creatures, including sharks and jelly-fish but she did it anyway. In fact, she did it five times!!

The swimmer made her first attempt as a 28-year old in 1978; she completed the journey at the fifth attempt as a 64-year old in 2013.

The first attempt was halted by strong winds and high swells, and after 42 hours covering 79 miles she was forced to retreat. A devastated Nyad, broken by her failure, never swam another stroke for thirty years.

33 years after her first attempt Nyad vowed, just days before her 62nd birthday, that she would have another go at the 110-mile crossing. She wished to “prove to other 60-year-olds that it is never too late to start your dreams.”

She failed.

Shoulder pain and asthma attacks meant the trip had to be abandoned once again.

This didn’t stop her.

A month later she was back in the water. But 41 hours into her journey the brave Nyad was forced to stop due to severe jellyfish stings.

Another one bites the dust.

Again, it wouldn’t stop her.

2012, the fourth attempt. The furthest she had ever ventured but again jellyfish and storms would stop her from crossing her finish line.

Many people would have stopped at the first hurdle, never mind the fourth, but there she was again; standing on the shores of Cuba ready to find a way.

And she did.

On the 2nd September 2013, Nyad reached the shores of Florida. As she stepped out of the water, exhausted and victorious, she gave the crowd awaiting her arrival a piece of advice:

“Never, ever give up…You’re never too old to chase your dreams”

It’s never too late, you’re never not ready.

Wonder Woman, as genuine as her representation was, doesn’t flip off horseback, knee-slide into Nazi’s and jump from buildings; or maybe she does. Maybe we can. But this Wonder Woman, another one, she swims across the Gulf of Mexico in shark-infested water. She does this five times until she succeeds.

Nyad’s story highlights exactly why sport is so important while simultaneously justifying the ways in which it can lose it’s importance.

It may be pertinent to say that we have become far too obsessed with material gain. Modern sport has become too focused on collecting as many golden nuggets as possible by the end of the quadrennial fair. But this obsession pulls funding from athletes who are trying, just as Nyad did, to achieve a dream. This obsession can be damaging. Not everyone will stand on a podium but everyone has a dream, and you can achieve it.

Nyad did not swim from Havanna to Key West for Olympic Gold, nor did she do so with the support or finance of a billion-dollar training programme. Rather she did it because she wanted to achieve a dream.

Sport is important because it pushes people beyond their limit. It brings out the best and worst human emotions and experiences. Experiences that bring us together. Lessons that we can learn. Losses that we must humbly accept, and victory that we must gratefully receive.

Sport has the ability to do this in a way that few other things in the world are capable of doing.

Similarly, if sport isn’t for you – find your dream, define success and achieve it.

Keep going until you find a way. Just as Nyad did.

Finding a way is universally applied to everyone, in every place, in every creed, in every colour, in every gender.

You keep going, you never give up and you are rewarded with a prize so enormous it can’t be bought. The prize of self-fulfillment. The only thing limiting you is your decision to give up.

It’s never too late, you’re never not ready. Believe in yourself.



Throwback Thursday – The Sports Bra!

jogbraThis weeks THROWBACK THURSDAY is the ladies sports bra; a technology like no other that became a revelation to women all over the world.

Its inventor, Hinda Miller, had noticed the dangers for women who were running without efficient support around their breasts and had witnessed the horrific site of female runners bleeding from the nipples.

Running without the support was causing the tear of the Cooper ligament. This ligament is made up of connective tissue within the breast that helps to maintain structural integrity. A tear to this ligament can cause sagging to the breast, which may affect breast feeding and can cause further problems with the breast in later life.

After observing such a shocking image Miller, along with her two close friends Lisa Lindahl and Polly Palmer-Smith came up with an idea that would protect and support the breast – they called it the Jogbra.

The Jogbra was released in 1977. The inspiration behind the clothing was the male sports undergarment the jock strap. Lindahl and Smith sewed two jockstraps together which were to be placed across the rib cage aligning underneath the breast.

The sports bra has since been developed by leading sports manufacturers such as Nike, Adidas and Puma, who have all added their scientific advancements to the technology in order to improve breast support.

The success and the indispensible nature of the sports bra have been recognised by sports women world wide.

One such testament comes from 11 time British javelin champion, Goldie Sayers, who said:

“If I forgot my sports bra, forget it, I just wouldn’t compete.”

There is no question that the sports bra plays a vital role in sports participation rates for women, and particularly for young girls. A study conducted by the University of Portsmouth found that 1 in 5 women say their breasts stop them from participating in physical activity.

Further research shows that the majority of women and young girls who exercise on a regular basis don’t actually wear or own a sports bra.

It is very important that ALL women and young girls performing in sport, or who are engaged in a physically active lifestyle wear and regularly replace their sports bra, just like you would your shoes or other leisure wear.

Please educate women on protecting their breasts and increase your own awareness or friends and family members’ awareness of breast health.