How a Flirty Photoshoot Improved my Confidence

A couple of years ago, never would I have considered getting my kit off onstage or in front of a camera. I would literally rather make love to a cactus.

I’ve become somewhat desensitised to topless women over the past couple of years thanks to having them shoved in my face whether I like it or not.

I felt pretty having had my hair and makeup done professionally – that was, until my friend Rachael emerged after her makeover looking a right bird.

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As an actress, Rachael knows how to rock the camera. I wasn’t nervous about getting my kit off, but I was bricking it about the actual posing. I HATE photos. I don’t do seductive or sensual, it’s either smiling or no photo. I was literally shaking with nerves despite the glass of fizz and the photographer had to help me fasten my suspender belt.

The shoot was less terrifying than I’d expected. The photographer told me exactly where to place each limb, so I slowly relaxed.

Going back to view the 40 or so photos a week later was nerve racking. What if I was the exception to the rule and they really couldn’t make me look attractive/thinner/etc etc?

Some were terrible. Of the 11 I chose, I still wasn’t keen on them all. But I blown away by these two in particular:

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A few others were nice too, although they have a vague brothel vibe.

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I was so, so excited to get home and post the photos onto Facebook. I never thought I could look so nice.

For the most part, comments were positive. It was a huge confidence boost hearing how lovely I looked.

But by the next morning, I was contemplating taking them all down because of messages like ‘I just wanna take those god damn tassels off your nipples and lick them crazy!!’

Maybe I was asking for it by posting them. Becoming interested in burlesque has made me very liberal towards bare skin, but despite that I’m actually a right prude and too polite to tell anyone they’ve offended me in case I hurt their feelings.

People can appreciate my photos, but that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to me.

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People also commented that they were unprofessional and I would never be able to write for children’s television. My answer to that is: right now, I do not write for children’s television. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but I’m not going to avoid doing things I want to do now on the off-chance I’ll do something else great in the future.

An old (male) friend unintentionally upset me by asking what I got out of posting the photos online. Wouldn’t keeping them for myself have “fulfilled” my hobby?

I am personally not that interested in seeing them, therefore I’m not that arsed. You’re free to do as you please with your own Facebook. I appreciate that it’s part of what make you a more “free” spirit than most women… you seem to give the impression that you want other people to validate what you do, and am curious as to why.

Wasn’t it enough for me to know in my heart of hearts that I looked good? He was like a dog with a bone and I felt terrible about myself. Was everybody secretly calling me a slut? Or snickering about the airbrushing and how disappointing I looked in person?

After a pep talk from a friend, I decided: screw them. They weren’t there to see the 30 photos where I looked like a beached whale and wanted to die of shame.

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I am proud of my photos. I did something that scared me and felt empowered. I am 24 years old and probably not going to look this good again, so why should I hide my body? Why are women – who make up 50% of the global population – made to feel like their bodies are something to be ashamed of?

Showing off my figure doesn’t mean that I’m promiscuous and welcome creepy comments. It means that I can celebrate myself despite my flaws, and the only thing I would go back and change is to put a smile on my face – because regardless of spots, stretchmarks or cellulite – everybody is beautiful with a smile.

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Cirque: a review

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Where: Queens Rd, Manchester M9 5FF

Opening hours: Saturday 8pm – late

Myself and a friend made a weekend of visiting Manchester recently, stopping off in the Alternative & Burlesque Fair at the 02 Ritz before getting dolled up in preparation for Cirque. I had been dying to visit a cabaret event in another city for ages.

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Cirque is an independent champagne house based in a gorgeous listed building boasting original Victorian features and vintage furnishings. Promising to incorporate a whole host of unique entertainment by the venue’s in-house dance troupe, we were excited to see the weekly show Cirque la Vie.

We had pre booked in order to receive £5 entry and a free shot, quoting Manchester Bar Offer. On arrival, nobody had noted our names. They let us in for £5 anyway, though I suspect this was because the place was empty. We did not receive a shot. 

With just us and the staff, it was downright awkward. We wasted time taking selfies against the unusual interiors and were assured by the compère that she would be performing in here at 10pm.

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10pm came and went. Eventually the place filled, though every single person headed to the VIP lounge on the top floor.

Confused and wondering if we’d misheard the compère, we figured that the entertainment must take place on the top floor. We went in – the room was packed with a great atmosphere – but were swiftly given our marching orders.

We waited downstairs at the empty bar, feeling silly. A member of staff told us that the singing take place upstairs after all, presumably because there were literally only two of us on the poor people floor.

We went up, feeling quite humiliated. By this time we already wanted to leave but it seemed a shame, having looked forward for so long.

The compère/singer was an excellent performer and I enjoyed her set very much.

The rest of the entertainment, unfortunately, fell short. I have watched a lot of burlesque, as well as performing it onstage. But this was so disappointing. Costumes looked more hen party than professional. The soundtrack was something you’d find in any mainstream club on a Saturday night. There was no humour of creativity, no slow and sensual movement.  No flirtation. Intricately choreographed but lacking passion.

Although they were undoubtedly good dancers who would would surely impress those who had never witnessed burlesque, I felt that the vibe was more stripper than burlesque.

The fire performer were decent, but the highlight of the night was a flapper girl duet.

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We had expected performances to be staggered with breaks to socialise and buy drinks, but they came in quick succession so that the entertainment was over well before 11pm, meaning we had no reason to stay. We discussed the event with various people outside, who also expressed disappointment.

I so wanted to love this event, but we were in bed by 12:15. Although I wouldn’t visit again, people who aren’t familiar with this type of entertainment shouldn’t write it off. As a hen party or girl’s night out, I’m sure it would be brilliant. The space itself is fantastic if you’re looking to hire for a special event.

It’s just a shame that somewhere selling high end drinks fell short on the entertainment which attracts customers in the first place.

Have you visited Cirque? What’s the best cabaret club you’ve been to? Let me know in the comments!

Another Wednesday, another explore

Plan A was a convent in Lancashire, which had been knocked down by the time we got there and replaced with fancy houses that stood empty because nobody could afford them.

Plan B was St Joseph’s seminary down the road. Opened in 1883, its grounds boast a large greenhouse, cemetery and gorgeous lake.

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The building itself is riddled with cameras and alarms, and we staked it out for a long time.

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Can you spot the guard?

There appeared to only be one security guard…

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We crept up on him. Notice how he’s no longer in his chair. He’d somehow managed to creep up on us – literally about 25 ft away – without even spotting us. Amazing.

Eventually we just risked it and walking right past the cameras. Still nothing. All previous entries had been boarded up. It’s such a stunning building and we were desperate to get inside, but my climbing skills weren’t up to scratch. Here’s a report from someone who did make it in.

From then on, we were on the lookout for some TOADS (Temporary, Obsolete, Abandoned and Derelict Spaces).

We found an abandoned cottage near the car and went to investigate. The view was phenomenal and I got the obligatory corn field shot.

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I even saw my first swede field! A swede, growing out of the ground! Day = made.

We scrambled across the overgrown garden to have a gander through the windows. What we saw was mostly furnished, which is my favourite kind of discovery. At first we wondered whether it was actually abandoned. Maybe someone just really hated gardening? No photos exist of the back garden, but the brambles were taller than us.

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An adorable old lady came to greet us, excited at the porspect of someone finally moving in. She explained how many people had stopped to ask about the cottage over the years, which had once been owned by an old man with a “strange son” who died approximately 20 years ago.

Onwards!

On our way to an abandoned garden centre or Camelot we passed an abandoned mansion. Searching for a parking place, we were distracted by a high-walled bridge, and on peeking over the edge on our tippy-toas because we’re both short stuff, spotted an abandoned mill.

Upon further inspection it appeared impossible to reach, so we embarked on a mission to find an alternative route.

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After half an hour’s clambering through plants taller than us and plenty of brambles (just for a change), as well as completing other obstacles, we were there. The mill looked beautiful alongside the river.

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Although the door was wide open, our guards were up in case we encountered squatters. A poster suggested the place had been out of action for around a decade.

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There was roll upon roll of herbal supplement stickers unravelling all over the floor, leading us to gather that the place had most recently been used as a factory.

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We’re pretty sure we were the first people to rediscover this place. Although some buildings had suffered the general deterioration that occurs with lack of central heating and whatnot, there was no vandalism or graffiti and even the copper pipes remained intact. Exploring always gives me the heebie jeebies, so it was easier to relax knowing there was no security or anyone else here.

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We found a pair of overalls and a cute woolly jumper on our travels…

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We sat up here, listening to the river and watching the rain for a long time.

Then we found a dead pigeon.

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We figured that this path was to keep visitors out of harm’s way.

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This was labelled the printing room and had yet more stickers.

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*Someone* couldn’t resist giving the fire extinguishers a go.

Although it was a brilliant find, despite the brambles, trying to find a way in is often the best part. Not so much out though. What I learned: it’s really scary climbing over a spiky fence that is alarmingly close to your vagina.

Back at the car it was getting dark, but we decided to quickly check out the abandoned mansion which we’d all but forgotten about. Unfortunately the phone had died we didn’t get photos.

On a huge plot of land, there was a winding driveway with an overgrown garden which was probably gorgeous way back when. The home’s architecture gave the place an Addams Family vibe.

Inside was  little disappointing, having suffered extensive fire damage and vandalism. Most of the floors had collapsed.

However, some period features remained including arched windows, stone pillars and a carved staircase. What made the visit worthwhile, though, was a huge antique fireplace adorned with a carving depicting a ship at sea. Such a tragedy that only a cartoon enjoying a biffter was there to appreciate it full time.

Images by Phill Gaffney.

Fairylove

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If there’s one thing I love (except lemons and glitter, of course) it’s fairies. I’ve loved fairies for as long as I remember. I remember taking a sample of my new fairy wallpaper to show my year one class. My favourite childhood film was Fairy Tale. Until she died, my grandma bought me fairy ornaments which I’ll someday display in my own home. For my high school animal themed night out, I was a butterfly which is basically a fairy in disguise (my wings were so wide I had to walk through doors sideways).

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At Glastonbury festival I discovered Fairylove, who have been spreading the love and magic since 1992 as makers of bespoke wings and accessories.

Their “fairy army”  typically wear wings, nipple pasties and glitter, which I’m convinced is the best. look. ever.

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Wings and not wearing clothes, my other favourite things! What could better represent festival freedom?

We’re midway through summer season and I still can’t decide what to order in preparation for events like Festival N0.6. I’ve definitely got my eye on these high waisted hot pants though, which are made of ‘sequins, beads and love’:

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Certain products are at the pricier end of the scale, ranging from £12.50 to £120. I’m torn between pastel options and these, which are £65:

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And the fantasy wear doesn’t stop at fairies. How cool are these mythical ram horns?

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And how cute are these bumper stickers?

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Here’s a roundup of my favourite fairy looks. Don’t forget to tell me about your unusual costume ideas for festival season in the comments!

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To create your own magic visit Fairylove’s Etsy page, or find inspiration on Facebook.  PS, Fairylove: can I be part of the love army 2017, pretty please with glitter on top?

 

 

 

How I lost a stone!

Yay, it’s happened! After approximately 8 weeks of dedication, I have lost a stone. Before you reassure me I looked fine before, here’s me (far left) looking my worst at the Secret Circus on Valentine’s week:

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I know I’ve previously said we’re like apples and oranges and you can’t compare us, but see what I had to stand next to?

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For context, here’s me at 18. I stayed a similar size until I was 21+, but the medication I took made me put on weight so I kept eating to console myself:

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I wish I could say those photos shocked me into changing my ways, but I consoled myself even more with more food.

After 12 days on a psychiatric unit in March, I finally decided to take control. I needed to stop relying on other people to make me feel good about myself.

This TED talk by Jamie Oliver had a powerful impact on the way I viewed processed junk, whilst That Sugar Film opened my eyes to the “healthy” foods which are still full of sugar.

A myth exists from high school that I attempted cheese on toast in the toaster (I didn’t). So at 24, I taught myself to cook. I bought The Body Bible by Clean Eating Alice, which is full of extremely simple but delicious recipes.

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My chef pal came over and taught me to make soup. I discovered spices and cupboard staples like canned tomatoes and beans. I learned to boil an egg, and made sure I always had a stash in the fridge for when I was ravenous and at risk of falling off the wagon.

I became dedicated to clean eating, which means being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. For example: instead of buying hummus, I made it myself by blending chickpeas, garlic and lemon juice, so I would know exactly what was in my food.

I was never big on fruit, but I forced myself to eat several portions a day. I didn’t like it at first, but I told myself to suck it up, buttercup.

The movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead had a huge impact on me. I bought a juicer from £18 on eBay and experimented with drinks primarily made of veggies for an extra hit of vitamins.

I ate my first avocado. I ate my first banana, and a second, and a third, until I learned to like them.

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For those who claim that eating well is more expensive: you’re wrong. I paid 8p for a banana yesterday; a chocolate bar would have cost 60+ pence. Amazing!

I alternated my laptop wallpaper weekly between images of women I admired – not just celebrities but people I’ve encountered who are beautiful inside and out, like former burlesque dancer Mimi Amore.

I stuck motivational quotes on my wardrobe and made weight loss and recipe boards on Pinterest.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. I watched so many diet and nutrition documentaries my head spun and I was afraid to eat anything.

I’ve written about bulimia before, and I’ll admit that I slipped up once or twice because I felt guilty about what I ate. But for the most part, I haven’t needed to do that because I feel good about what I’m eating.

I’ve also had a couple of hissy fits because loved ones have wanted to eat lunch at places like Almost Famous. Although I have a willpower of steel, being in a situation where there’s no healthy option makes me anxious.

You don’t realise how bad you felt before until you feel amazing. Before, I was constantly hungry despite constantly eating. By reprogramming my body to stop craving processed junk, it’s receiving all the nutrients it needs and I’m being rewarded through weight loss. The effect on my mental health has also been dramatic.

Now, I will happily snack on slices of cucumber and barely even notice the cookies and crisps in Tesco because the fresh produce aisle is so fun!

This is a change of life, not a diet. I’m not brutal with myself: if I really want pizza, I’ll make my own with wholegrain pitta bread, tomato purée and mozzarella.

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I still drink alcohol, but I avoid fizzy pop and stick to spirits. If I’m hungry after a night out, I’ll make a chickpea and hummus wrap.

Before, if I fell off the wagon I would think everything was ruined and keep eating to punish myself for my weakness. But now I just forgive myself and pick up where I left off. At my parents’ house last week I didn’t eat so well – I had apple pie for dessert, and then Millionaire’s shortcake for breakfast! – but I ate fruit whenever I could the rest of the day.

I also keep a food diary, which is my single most important tool. Over the years I’ve found that if I forget to fill it, I fall off the wagon. Seeing exactly what I’ve put in my body holds me accountable.

The best advice I can give is to stop making excuses. If you’re going to give up and eat takeaway when you’re drunk, you’ll end up in the same position time and time again.

I’m mindful of what I put in my body and have accepted there is no quick fix. It may have taken a while, but the weight has gradually dropped off whilst my confidence has soared. I still need some hand-holding, but I’m confident I will continue to succeed.

Good luck!

 

National Book Lovers Day

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It’s National Book Lovers Day – here’s a roundup of my all-time favourite reads!

Girl, Interrupted 

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Girl, Interrupted is the memoir of a young woman relating her experiences in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s, having been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

This book had a huge impact on me when I first read it, way back before I myself was even diagnosed with BPD. I recently re-read it and realised how much better than the film it is. Although the film itself is largely great, Susanna’s character (Winona Ryder) doesn’t appear to show any borderline symptoms. However, I could relate to Angelina Jolie’s character – a sociopath – far more. I prefer to think that this was a case of bad scripting/acting/casting than my being a sociopath.

 

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A sociopathic female schoolteacher has an insatiable desire for pubescent boys and grooms 14 year old Jack before embarking on an affair, whilst continuing to endure sex with her husband.

The novel was inspired by Debra Lafave, a 24-year-old American teacher who was arrested for an affair with her 14-year-old student, but escaped a custodial sentence when her defence attorney successfully argued that she was ‘too pretty for prison’.

This book was controversial on its release due its taboo theme of child sexual abuse by women and unapologetically explicit language – and it’s just as uncomfortable to read the second time around.

Tampa highlights the double standards we have for males and females in positions of responsibility. Rather than women being considered romantics, the book encourages readers to see the predatory nature they are equally as capable of.

In March 2016, ABC optioned the novel with a view to shooting a three part series in October 2016 with an all star cast including Sofia Vergara in the leading role, who is the perfect sexpot.

 

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The father of four children dies and soon after, so does their mother. In order to avoid being taken into foster care, the children hide their mother’s death by encasing her corpse in cement in the cellar.

Jack (15) and Julie (17) take over the roles of “mother” and “father” of the house, which is gradually deteriorating into squalor, and enter into a sexual relationship.

 

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Young Slovenian Veronika appears to have everything going for her. After seeing an article in a magazine which wittily asks ‘Where is Slovenia?’, she decides to write a letter to the press justifying her suicide in the hopes they’ll believe she has killed herself because people don’t even know where Slovenia is. She wakes up in Vilette, a mental institution where she is told she has days to live.

One of my favourite bands, Billy Talent, released a song based on this book.

If you’re going to read the story, DO NOT research it any further – the final twist had me reeling.

 

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I’m With the Band is a memoir by former groupie Pamela Des Barres, a staple of the late 60s and early 70s Los Angeles social scene. Despite bedding her way from rock star to rock star, this story has so much heart. From being Frank Zappa’s nanny to fears about her marriage to British glam rocker Michael Des Barres, Pamela is like a dizzy, lovable fairy who flies from bar to bar and continent to continent collecting memories. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel Take Another Little Piece of my Heart: A Groupie Grows Up.

 

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Nine year old Bruno and his family have been sent to Auschwitz. One day he meets an SS guard’s son of the same age. The boys look so alike they swap clothes, keen to experience a day on opposite sides of the fence which ends in tragedy.

This is such an important book which I think should be compulsory reading to school children. The language is accessible enough for all ages to enjoy, and yet the story is so moving it had me as a grown adult – and my therapist! – in floods of tears.

 

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Sex addict Victor Mancini drops out of medical school to find work and afford the care that his mother is receiving in her nursing home. He resorts to being a con man, visiting restaurants to purposely make himself choke mid-meal and luring a “good Samaritan” into saving his life. He keeps a detailed list of everyone who saves him and sends them frequent letters about fictional bills he is unable to pay.

Palahniuk is the dark comic I could only dream of being. If you’re short on time and convinced nothing can shock you, his short story Guts – originally published in Playboy magazine in 2004 – is responsible for 73 instances of fainting at his book readings.

 

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What’s your favourite book? Let me know in the comment section!

Girl, Interrupted

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I spent my 24th birthday on March 10th cutting myself in my room, curled up in a corner rocking back and forth humming the tune to Teddy Bears Picnic. That marked the beginning of my 12 days on a psychiatric unit.

Usually I’m an open book and will write about all my experiences, but until now it’s been too difficult to even talk about. But after being surrounded by Scousers celebrating humankind in all its forms at Pride this afternoon I’m feeling brave.

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I have borderline personality disorder, and I’d stopped taking my anti depressant and anti psychotic medication. This was a regular occurrence. I would either feel frustrated because my emotions were dampened down, or think I was cured and no longer needed the pills. It seems so obvious, but at the time you absolutely believe these thoughts. I’d also just broken up with my boyfriend.

My friend Amy found me in my room. I was hiding under a black fringed cardigan and wouldn’t let her turn on the light. She’d brought me a bag of birthday presents: ethically sourced earrings, a decorative heart-shaped rock and a book about feminism in an attempt to educate me. She read the book aloud while I hid under the cardigan. She waited several hours for the ambulance to arrive.

A night at the Royal was by far the worst night of my life. A corridor full of people thinking she doesn’t look ill is the last place you want to be.

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After many hours I was seen by the mental health team around 1am in a tiny windowless room full of ladders and tins of paint. Amy stayed. I’ve got a squeaky voice at the best of times and the woman told me to stop talking like a little girl, so I instantly took against her.

There were no beds on the ward or at the psychiatric hospital, so they left me in there all night. I became more and more hysterical in my exhaustion, hiding behind chairs because it was like being in a zoo with nurses peeping in. At 6am they wheeled in an ambulance trolley for me to sleep on. I managed maybe an hour.

The day shift doctors took photographs of the room, which stank of paint fumes, because they were so disgusted I had been left in there.

Until midday I didn’t do anything but cry my heart out. The ward was packed, loud and claustrophobic. I became more and more desperate to just get out. They said I could leave soon, soon, and if I escaped a police car would be after me.

Once a bed became available at the psychiatric unit in Woolton a doctor escorted me there in a taxi. I was upset the taxi driver would know I was crazy.

I was terrified, with no idea what to expect. This place was a world apart from the Royal. Tip: if you’re going to have psychiatric problems, don’t have them on a Friday night.

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I must have looked an absolute state. I hadn’t showered or eaten for five days and still wore a party dress.

There were about 15 rooms on the ward. It was shaped like a square, with a pretty landscaped garden in the centre.

My bedroom was lovely, with yellow walls and lilac bed sheets. It looked out over the car park and a big Sainsburys. The door had a window so nurses could keep an eye on you, and the en suite didn’t have a door so they might catch you on the toilet. The mirror was made of plastic.

The staff all came to introduce themselves and made an effort to remember my name.

By now I was exhausted and still hadn’t seen a doctor who could prescribe me medication. A nurse scanned me with a metal detector and I volunteered the scissors stashed in my knickers. She weighed me, took my blood pressure, watched me pee before testing the urine for drugs. It was a deep dehydrated yellow.

My only possessions were my phone, keys and Amy’s rock, which I hadn’t let go of. They confiscated the key and rock in case I did myself harm.

I wouldn’t leave my room to eat, but they brought me a cheese sandwich and orange juice. Someone checked on me every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day.

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I concocted an elaborate lie for my parents, telling them I’d gone down south to visit a pal. I stopped answering texts and drew the curtains so I could curl into a ball and pretend the outside world didn’t exist. I just wanted to be alone, while also wanting someone to hold me and say it would be alright.

The night staff were less friendly. In my exhaustion and paranoia I became aggressive, chucking things around the room. I hid in the doorless wardrobe so the night staff couldn’t spot me through the slatted window and screamed that they were stalking me when asked what was wrong.

They woke me up every 15 minutes to check I was still alive. One of the night staff was a lovely religious lady who said ‘God bless you’ and used a torch to check on you. The other night staff  had no passion for their jobs and turned on the big light as if out of spite.

Understanding dawning that I wouldn’t be able to just walk out of here, I tried breaking the grilled windows. The nurse told me I would have to be sectioned if I tried to leave. Still no medication, because there would be no doctor on the ward until Monday.

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With absolutely no distraction, I was becoming increasingly agitated. Late into the night I called my friend Kairi. I was inconsolable and have no idea what I said, but she was the only person I felt I could talk to and I will always be eternally grateful.

I still wouldn’t shower because I had no clothes to change into and didn’t want anyone watching me.

Realising I couldn’t be here alone, I also called my parents who promised to come first thing in the morning.

I was given something to curb my agitation. I was so tired from all the rocking.

The next morning I heard a girl in the corridor crying because she’d been locked out of her room for self harming. I sat with her and held her hand and told her I was scared.

My parents brought books, the only thing that can distract me when I’m unwell. They brought a note pad so I could write, and my childhood soft toy. Mum cried and fed me fruit from Sainsburys.

I began to eat the cheese sandwiches and drink the orange juice the nurses brought, one even donating her favourite book trilogy.

Over those two weeks my parents drove a four hour round trip from Anglesey every single day, bar one, despite my lashing out at them or barely reacting when they did come. Every day there were new magazines, books, snacks, jammies, even a dress. There were countless pairs of underwear because my mum is obsessed with buying knickers; my favourite had neon pink flamingo detail.

I still kept my curtain closed. My parents took me to the hospital cafe and I became agitated to leave the ward.

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I began to venture out of my room to sit on the sunny window ledges. I ate a cheese sandwich every day without fail. I read obsessively to occupy my mind.

Dad brought me a magazine for writers which encouraged me to write non-stop. I have always been a comedy writer and laughing at my situation was the only thing that kept me sane. I wrote a script about the characters  I encountered called The Good, the Bad and the Bonkers.

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My mood began to stabilise. The nurses didn’t recognise me after a wash, wearing my new dress. I wrote incessantly.

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Marie* was in her sixties and said she was getting married to a monk at the Wigwam that coming Saturday (I still didn’t twig). She showed samples of her bridesmaids dresses, which were brown. We organised a hen party which got closed down because we were supposedly making fun of her memory loss (OHHHHH).  We played pin the tail on the donkey anyway.

Chanelle* was a teenager who wore nappies and carried a blanket and dummy. She was referred to as the piggy bank because she swallowed coins and batteries.

Mary* took a shine to me and would follow me wherever I went. One time she insisted on tucking me into bed at 8pm despite not being allowed in other patients’ rooms. I humoured her. 60 seconds later she burst in, demanding I come to the cafeteria and insisting I was going to die.

She caught me picking the scabs on my arms once and said ‘don’t do that, darlin’.

My Welsh neighbour Vicky* was down because she was missing her little boy’s birthday. ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’ by The Verve carried through the wall.

Rita* was a prostitute whose dad looked younger than she did and was a right little tealeaf. I left my brick phone and belongings out to test her and everything stayed put. Nobody ever bothers stealing my phone but I preferred to pretend she liked me because I smiled at her.

calm

I met so many interesting people and the staff were just fantastic despite the long shifts with too many patients and too few nursers.  I was actually sad to leave and am very grateful to everybody who cared for me.

I was apprehensive about leaving and spent a fair while back in Wales with my parents. I felt guilty for worrying and hurting so many people.

Since then I’ve been doing well. I’m taking my medication properly, and I eat clean. I started going back to the gym. Cheese sandwiches still comfort me. I’m going to be OK.

marilyn