Meribee Me Subscription Box Review- A Monthly Gift Box For those with Chronic Conditions

Disclaimer – The items were gifted

Two weeks ago I had endometriosis laparoscopy excision surgery (I know, what a mouthful!). So it was perfect timing to receive the Meribee Me Subscription Box which is designed to cheer up people with chronic conditions.

In an interesting turn, it arrived the day of my birthday, coincidence? I think not! 😉 So when I opened it I filmed the unboxing and posted it on my Instagram feed.

So What Was in the Box?

Sleeping Mask RRP £10 – such a cute sleeping mask it was in the shape of a llama. Lovely and furry on the outside and silky on the inside (sensory win!). 

Chocolate Bar RRP £1 (estimated) – Dark chocolate (my favourite) with hazelnuts and very tasty!

Little Clock RRP £3.50 – Now as a person with ADHD having extra clocks is always a good thing but as a person with Aspergers I can’t cope with ticking clocks because I can’t filter the noise out, I prefer digital only in my house. Saying this, it is a charming little clock and I’m sure I can find a non-autistic friend who will enjoy it.

Travel Mug RRP £9 – The caption on this is perfect for my personality and actually when I previewed the box this was the item I was looking forward to receiving the most. 

Coffee pin RRP £7.99 (estimated) – Every month the pin is different this month it was in the shape of a coffee mug and said Fulled By Coffee. Very charming!

Monthly Activity Set – DIY Coasters RRP £12.99 – When you have no choice but to lye in bed and watch tv while getting my strength back, it’s useful to have something to keep my mind busy. These very charming woodlands creature themed coasters are a great activity to take your mind off the pain. This was one of my favourite ideas for the box and I’m hoping one month might be a colouring set. It also came with very easy to follow instructions.

Cat Shaped Nail File RRP £1 – Very handy for on the go and extra cute that it’s in the shape of a cat.

Sheep Socks RRP £3.50 – Adorable sheep socks for days your feeling a bit funky. Kept my feet warm in bed. 

How Much Is The Box?

Price £24-264 depending on the plan you choose. You can pay month to month, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months in advance.

Overall Review

Charming little box with products that are great value for money. The lama mask and the coffee mug suited my personality so well, so they were my favourites. I like the idea of a different pin every month. I can’t wait to see what she puts in the box next month.

I like having sneak teasers about what is upcoming in the next box but I love the element of surprise, so if you guys agree, comment below and let Meribee Me know. As this was her first box, to get the crowd interested I believe this is why she shared a preview of all the items in the box. 

Go to Meribee website to subscribe and find out more. Use my code SPOONFUL to get a free gift with your second box when you sign up to the 3 months or more packages. 

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#AbledsAreWeird: People with Disabilities ​Who Share Frustrating ​and Weird Experiences

What Is An Abled?

Abled is an able-bodied person who isn’t disabled.

What Is The Hashtag #AbledsAreWeird About?

It’s a topic started on Twitter to point out the things people who aren’t disabled do to disabled people without realising how weird, intrusive or offensive they are being.

Who Started This Hashtag?

The hashtag was started by Imani Barbarin, also known as Twitter user Crutches&Spice. She started the hashtag, she told Aj Plus, “Because I was reflecting on some of the weird experiences that I’ve had as a disabled person. I just remember feeling off put by some of the behaviour able-bodied people had towards me.” “There’s a lot of disrespect of disabled people’s autonomy under the guise of ‘oh, I’m just trying to help’ And it allows people to believe that disabled people cant consent to what they want for their bodies.”

“You should be respecting disabled people’s bodies. You should be respecting their voices and you should be making yourself ally rather than a hindrance to disabled people’s lives.”

Other Twitter Users Joined In With The Hashtag:

Finally, I contributed to the hashtag as well:

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Disabled parking photo by disabilities

Instagram’s Controversial Censorship of Mental Health Hashtags

Trigger warning: discussion of self-harm

The following popular hashtags have recently been censored: Mentalhealth, selfharm, depression, suicide, anxiety, eatingdisorder, anorexia, anxorexiarecovery, bulimia, ocd, bpd, depressionmemes, mentalhealthmemes, suicideawareness, and possibly others that I haven’t come across.

The risks of using these hashtags are: you will see not as much engagement with your post, as your potential followers aren’t finding you via hashtags. The other risk is a temporary Shadowban, so proceed with caution. 

Instagram will not show you recent posts with these forbidden hashtags. They will only show you a short page of the trending results for that hashtag after showing a warning notice first (which I show an example of later in this post).

Why Has Instagram Censored These Hashtags?

It is believed that some people are promoting distressing images or people seeing them get triggered to feel worst.  In the case of an eating disorder and self-harm it is thought that there are posts on Instagram encouraging people to do it.  They are concerned about the impressionable younger generation who use Instagram a lot. 

While I understand why this has happened, to me as a mental health blogger and advocate, I am now unable to reach more potential new followers. Not just myself, but also charities that help mental health are affected also. As well as this, I have seen a lot of mental health bloggers who are upset about the ban, mainly with #mentalhealth being caught up in this. 

I Carried Out Some Research

For the sake of research I looked into the self-harm hashtag and the results were mixed. The images were quite graphic, with scars all over people’s arms and one drawing of blood dripping down an arm with an inspirational saying encouraging people not to self-harm. There was a picture of an arm with scars all over it, but next to it were the words ‘3 months clean’, meaning the person had gone 3 months without self-harming. The comments were all supportive. There are photos of before and after tattoos, where the before picture is an arm with healed scars all over it and the next photo is the new tattoo that covers it.

 I also saw an upsetting photo of an arm with the words ‘I Hate Myself’ cut into it. Another photo was of scissors and a knife with the words ‘when these become your best friends when everyone else left you alone’. So as you can see there is a valid reason for trying to censor the results for this hashtag, especially with vulnerable teenagers who regularly use Instagram.

What Support Is Instagram Offering?

If you search or click the hashtags you will now be redirected to a window that asks if Instagram can help. It offers support through 3 different ways. 

If you press ‘get support’ you will see this screen:

  1. Talk to a friend

2. Talk to a helpline volunteer

As I’m in the UK and seeing UK based charities, I presume if you are in another country you will see charities to contact in your own area.

3. Tips and support to help yourself

As you can see, Instagram is making positive steps to help those who might be feeling down.

Finally, If You Are Looking for Examples of Hashtags That Aren’t Banned:

Example list for Eating Disorder hashtags that are allowed. They feature people recovering from the condition, recipes and positive selfies: edrecovery, eatingdisorderrecovery , edwarrior , edfighter

Examples list for mental health that are allowed: Mentalhealthawarness, mentalhealthmatters, depressionhelp, mentalillnessawareness, mentalhealthasvocate, anxietysucks, endthestigma, mentalhealthsupport, mentalhealthrecovery, ocdawareness, thereforyou, youmatter, postivementalhealth, anxietyattacks, mentalhealthisreal, mentalhealthcommunity.

What do you think of Instagram censoring hashtags? Let me know in the comments.

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Phone photo by Freestocks

Instagram icon design by Freepik.com

Anticipation Anxiety – Negative and Racing Thoughts Before an Event and Tips to Help

The more time we have before the event the more scenarios we can imagine. These events can be anything from a job interview to a first date. Maybe it’s the travelling before the holiday or social arrangement you made weeks ago.  It could be a concert you booked a while back or family wedding you have to attend or maybe it’s an impending exam.  Maybe it’s as small as someone you know has asked to go out for drinks. Lots of events can trigger this anticipation anxiety.

My Experience:

When I was younger, in school, I used to commit to performing main roles in plays. I loved the adrenaline and I was good at it. Now I’m too scared to commit to anything like that in advance. I now know the suffering and pain of having anxious racing thoughts when saying yes to an event.

I personally have a hard time planning for future events. Because of having a chronic illness (endometriosis) and suffering from anxiety, it’s hard to know in advance if my body will be up to dealing with the committed event. Over the years I am getting better and I’ve been using CBT therapy tried to commit to more things to conquer this. But usually, I plan my social arrangements a few days before or on the day. This can lead me to feel like I’m missing out and it’s something I’m trying to work on.

Catastrophising 

What are some of my thoughts when someone asks me to commit?

I start thinking of the worst-case scenarios and catastrophise:

  • What if it’s really awkward?
  • What happens if I feel ill and want to leave? Do I have to stay? Will they think I’m rude for needing to leave?
  • What if I want to cancel will they think I’m flaky and get annoyed?
  • What happens if I think I’m ill but really it’s just nerves?
  • What if I think it’s just nerves but I end up getting really ill so far away from my house? How will I get home? Will the journey back feel like hell?
  • What happens if I get overwhelmed, where will I go?
  • Remember that time that awful thing happened, what if it happens again?
  • Remember that time you were sitting around in a group of people but you didn’t feel like you were present or knew what to say?
  • Remember that feeling like you were on the outside looking in?

What Usually Happens Next for Me

All these thoughts run through my head without even being aware that I go through the same process each time and 9 out 10 times the outing goes ok. This is when someone I confided in will usually tell me to “Stop worrying! You’ve done it before. You’re usually ok” which isn’t entirely true, nor do I find this kind of dismissive reaction helpful. The more helpful people around me remind me I have good coping methods and I’m stronger than I give myself credit for, they also remind me I’m only human and human’s get ill so of course I can cancel. 

One of the only ways I cope with committing is it’s easier if the person is a close friend and knows about my anxiety and chronic illness, I feel better falling ill around them or I don’t feel they will end our friendship if I have to cancel. 

Anxiety Symptoms

Thoughts can go round and round your head and it uses up a lot of effort to silence them.  You might feel tightness in your chest and shortness of breath when you think about it. You may even start to sweat with worry. You could be up at night stressing about it.  Your heart might race. You could have trouble concentrating in school or at work.  These are all symptoms of anxiety. And it’s ok, not everyone can recognise when this is happening or have in place a healthy coping method to fix it.

How Can You Reduce Your Anxiety?

  • Talk to someone who you trust, talk over what you are worried is going to happen and how you feel. They should reassure you.
  • If you don’t have anyone you feel you can trust to talk to: ring a helpline like The Samaritans, join a Facebook support group for anxiety or if you’re in therapy bring this up. 
  • Remember that you are stronger than you think and you will get through it
  • Remember about all the times it went right or even something amazing happened.  
  • Distract yourself – spend time with someone you get on with like friends or family. Offer to help someone else because doing something for someone else will give you something good to focus on and you’ll feel needed.
  • Self Care- run a relaxing bath, watch a feel-good film, go for a walk, practise yoga.
  • Exercise- all that pent up stress can be released through a good workout, it will give you endorphins which will make you feel better and also the feel-good high you get from accomplishing something good for you doesn’t hurt either.
  • Preparation – some preparation can make you feel better but you must be mindful to not get obsessive and overplan. But the right amount of planning can be helpful. So take your in-case-of-emergency-kit. If I was going on a long trip my kit would include: a charged tablet, good downloaded films, magazines, music playlist, podcasts. I would also take with me some chocolate as a treat to make myself feel good. As well as this I take my travel mug with my favourite herbal tea in it. All these positive associations can work wonders and you often look forward instead to having time to listen to a good podcast or watch a film. Another way to plan is to choose safe topics to talk about at social events, this helps with awkward silences or changing the subject when discussing a topic you don’t like.
  • Write it down- Sometimes just putting pen to paper can help you work out how you really feel. I’ve often journaled when I’m anxious and managed to process the worry in a healthy way. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

I hope this post has helped reduce some of your worries. Let me know in the comments what events make you sick with worry. 

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Planner photo by Eric Rothermel

Many clocks photo by Jon Tyson

Where My Mental Health Journey Began – High School, Panic Attacks and GCSEs

Hello There!

I thought as an introduction to my new blog it would be interesting to hear my own mental health experience. Maybe you have come to this page after following my creative journey as a photographer and illustrator or maybe you have just found my blog now. Welcome! This is a little peek into my mental health journey.

Trigger warning – vomit and anxiety

The Beginning:

My story begins as a teenager, I never really liked the idea of being sick, but it had never been anything that stopped me doing everyday things before. The moment everything changed for me or at least what I think was my trigger, was one day in our morning school assemblies. They usually take about 20 minutes, and we used to sit down in a small hall on chairs. That morning, as the head teacher was making his announcements, a girl started coughing and spluttering from the other side of the room. I think most people looked over as she ran out of the hall. It’s so weird that this was 13 years ago and it’s still imprinted in my memory, though it’s probably a very heavily edited version of what really happened. 

 I felt myself becoming anxious and suddenly very aware of how I was on the end of the row squashed in, with a wall on one side, girls sitting on chairs in front and behind me and basically how I was boxed into my seat. I started to imagine how disruptive it would be if I quickly got up and ran out and how many people would look at me too, how they would tut and all stare if I manoeuvred my way out. In reality, I was very likely experiencing my first big panic attack but at the time I had no idea what was going on. 

How My Mental Health Went On To Impact My Life

After this, the idea of sitting through assembly then having to deal with the rest of the day (as this was the year of sitting my GCSE exams) was too stressful. I started hiding in the toilets when the class walked down to the hall for assembly. After weeks of this, I got to the point where even going into school and knowing I had to attend assembly, was too overwhelming emotionally and my anxiety levels were at an all-time high. 

Where my mental health journey began - fear of school assembly

Feeling Alone

While this was happening, I didn’t talk to anyone about this, I don’t even know if I was self-aware (the way I am now) to know it was a problem that needed addressing.  My reasons for avoiding were, I kept imagining worst-case scenarios, that either I was going to see someone throw up or I was going to and as a result, I would be trapped. At this point in my life I had rarely thrown up. As an undiagnosed emetophobic (the technical term for someone with a vomit phobia), it is quite common to develop a phobia as a result of rarely throwing up in your life. It’s kind of like the more you don’t do something, the more you are scared of it.  So actually, the probability of this happening was so low I didn’t realise. 

When People Started To Notice

It got to a point I was dreading the morning assembly so much that I refused to go into school. I started off by just lying to my parents and saying I didn’t feel well. And in a way that wasn’t a lie, because your mental health is a health problem…it’s in the name! But I felt so ashamed by it all that I felt it was better lying, as well as this, it was the only way I would be allowed by my parents to miss school. After many days of this happening, my mother caught on that there was nothing physically wrong with me and started to try and talk me into returning. I remember sitting on the floor, paralysed with fear and crying in the morning before school.  

My first experience of a therapist.

Feeling out of her depth my mother told me she was going to take me to see, in her words: “A nice old lady who was good to talk to”. I didn’t understand that she was a counsellor or know at the time that my mother was paying her.  I don’t remember much of what happened, but I remember feeling better for talking to this stranger about how I was feeling. I still don’t think my parents knew enough about mental health to know I was suffering with anxiety and depression at the time. 

“Stressed? You don’t know what stress is!”

It’s hard to remember the exact timeline of events, but I do know that before I went to this counsellor, I would have very emotional conversations with my parents during the time studying for my GCSE exams, where I would say I was ‘stressed’ and their response was to dismiss it as I was only a teenager. “Stressed?” they would say, “You don’t know what stress is, you’re too young.” I believe that was my first cry for help, but as I’m writing this I don’t resent them for ignoring it, I just accept that they didn’t know enough to understand mental health at the time. Since then, in the last 14 years, they’ve learned a lot and have become very supportive.

Returning To School

Eventually the school got in contact with my parents and after talking about the situation, an arrangement was made where I was allowed to sit in a classroom just off the hall because I could still hear the assembly but didn’t have to go in. The school seemed surprisingly supportive of trying to help in this way and I honestly thought I was going to get into trouble for asking to skip assembly.  I think this worked out for a bit, but other students and teachers did question me about why I was in my own room and this just heightened my anxiety once more. I felt embarrassed, so again, I skipped school. 

Drama Saved Me – Taking It One Step At A Time

Again, I was unable to get myself to face school. Everything had just become overwhelming. Because drama was the only GCSE that I needed to work with other people to pass and it was my favourite subject, I asked if I could only go to drama for a while. Only going to drama for a bit was such a relief that I actually got the confidence to return to all my other subjects. 

Special Arrangements For My Exams

I started to see another counsellor at school. I still was completely unaware of what mental health was but now I understood I was in therapy. I barely attended assembly but did return to my classes. I had suffered a panic attack during the mock examinations that were earlier that year. Right before the history exam I took a travel sickness pill, believing this would stop nausea because my anxiety was causing me to feel lightheaded and a little sick, but I wasn’t aware that these were just panic attack symptoms.  I think the pill made me feel weird and during the exam I panicked and pleaded with the examiner to let me go to the toilet. I was told that in the real exam I wouldn’t be allowed to use the toilet and this triggered my anxiety again.  My anxiety is around being able to get out and go to a toilet at all times. Now, because of years of talking and therapy I am able to articulate this, but as a teenager it was very hard.

When I brought this up with my school, arrangements were made to sit my exam in a separate room alone with my own invigilator, who knew if I needed to drink some water or go to the toilet that was ok and I wouldn’t be disturbing the other students. I was also issued a doctor’s note as a backup so I could take my exam from home if I was too anxious to come in. I only sat my history exam from home, this was the subject that I ran out of last time so it triggered my anxiety more. This is how panic attacks work, it becomes hard to return to the scene of the last panic attack. 

Hard Work Pays Off

I passed all my GCSEs with good marks from A* through to C. Drama which I had put my heart and sweat into got the A* (which is the top mark).  Next, with the help of a new therapist and a recent self-diagnosis of Emetophobia, I was able to take a trip with my friends across Israel on a 1 month summer camp. I self-diagnosed myself because of a fantastic magazine article that made me go: “Hey! That’s how I feel, let’s Google that. Hey! It’s not just me!” 

My Mental Health Journey Was Just The Beginning. 

I should just mention at this time, aged 16, I was not diagnosed with my life long condition, which I was born with, of Aspergers Syndrome (a form of autism). Anxiety and my phobia is just the tip of the iceberg with what was really going on with me. It’s such a long story that it’s just good to start somewhere.  These days my anxiety and phobia is managed so much better that I have got to a place where I feel comfortable sharing my experience and giving tips.  The road to my mental health recovery has been long and challenging and this is why I am starting this blog.

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Chairs photo by Nathan Dumlao

Classroom photo by Feliphe Schiarolli