#IAMWHOLE

It’s 22:21pm as I write this… but better late than never. It is still #worldmentalhealthday and Rizzle Kicks star, Jordan Stephens has launched a mental health campaign to normalise the stigma around mental health and to fight for the support that the campaign needs, for young people and simply for us all.

More than one in three people between the ages of 11 and 24 suffer with mental health difficulties. That is quite a statistic. That is a scary amount of young people in this day and age who feel like they are alone, who feel like they shouldn’t speak up and get the help that every human being deserves. Jordan created the hastag #IAMWHOLE to soar throughout social media giving anyone suffering in silence the opportunity to click on it and have their eyes opened to a circle of people, holding out a hand so that they don’t have to feel isolated anymore.

Like my photograph above, many of us have joined in with the campaign by drawing a black circle on our hand. We have joined in because we have personally been touched by the effects of mental health difficulties, we want to help raise awareness to a cause that matters or like me, have suffered personally.

It took me a long time to accept that the anxiety attacks that I would have, the ones that would frighten me and effect my life so dramatically, fell under the mental health umbrella. I don’t know why but when I finally realised how I was ‘labelled’, I felt ashamed of myself. I felt weak, alone and embarrassed to admit it to my friends and closest family. It defined me for quite a long time. I was afraid a lot of the time, it stopped me from enjoying life as much as I wished that I could. I hardly said ‘yes’ to anything anymore, I limited myself completely and when I got so bad, my chest would go so tight, beads of sweat would drip from my face and I would be convinced that I wouldn’t get another chance to breathe. Panic would take me over completely and I was left, crying on my bed…a shell of the person that I used to be.

It was incredibly hard, to accept and to fight.

I know how it feels to feel so far from who you used to be, so out of control…So tired.

I want to help anyone who feels like I once did. I want you to want to help. We have to help.

I am a mother. This campaign matters for the future, for our children. For us all.

#IAMWHOLE

Are you?

With Love,

-Ria x

 

 

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Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

To my sweet little Ellenah,

Did you know that once upon a time, the thought of having a little girl absolutely terrified me? In a time when so much comes down to who we are on the outside… and comparison (the thief of joy) plagues so many. It’s a scary time to be a girl or a woman, let alone to raise one.

It was hard enough when I was younger. People made comments about what I looked like, all of the time. I would return home from school on the daily and try to think of ways that I could make my legs shorter, ways to looks shorter…to blend in with the other girls my age. I would stare at my face in the mirror, for what felt like hours. Sometimes I would stare at it for so long that it would eventually distort my reflection and then I would walk away, happy. It was my way of hiding from myself. I did this because I was not happy with my outside and at the time, to me… that was what mattered the most.

I felt that because my outside didn’t please others, somehow it made who I was on the inside lesser, unimportant, less worthy.

I was wrong!

I was wrong about that and I was wrong to be scared of raising a little girl.

I was wrong about me because regardless of how I felt about myself back then, I always tried to be kinder than I felt. I always tried to treat people how I wanted others to treat me. I always tried to prevent others from feeling how I did. In that time, bit by bit… I learned about the things that actually matter.

Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

I learned that your heart should be the most attractive thing about you and like any muscle, the more you use it in the right way, the stronger it will become. In life, if you are using your heart to say kind things to people (and of course, to yourself!), if you are using it to treat everyone as the equal, important humans that they are, to accept people for everything that they are, to love and to forgive, even when that feels hard… Your beautiful heart beams from within and becomes everything that you need, to be ‘beautiful’ on the outside.

And this is what I try and show you, every day.

Being beautiful, being perfect…These are not aspirations. Perfection isn’t real and beauty is skin deep. These goals are a waste of time, energy and nothing good can come from trying to be them.

If you were to ask me, when I feel most beautiful, my answer would be this…

It’s early in the morning, as the sun beams through the bedroom window. I hear the door squeak as it opens and you appear. Your big, blue eyes are heavy and your soft, tiny hand is crunched in to a ball, trying to rub the sleepiness away. Your dainty little footsteps pad along the floor and then from the side of my bed, you roll over me. You snuggle beneath the duvet and rest your head in my arms. And, your eyes meet mine in this secret moment between a mother and her daughter, before the world wakes up… I feel beautiful. I feel beautiful because as you cup your hand on my cheek and stroke my fresh but slightly ageing face, the look in your eyes reminds me that I am loved by you, no matter what. Despite the fine lines that appear when I smile and laugh, despite my messy hair, despite any of the things that mean that I am not perfect. You don’t care about those things… You see me and they don’t matter to you.

Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

I feel beautiful because the ability to love from within, gave me your dad, gave me your brother and it gave me you.

I so desperately hope that you are the kind of girl who isn’t defined by what make-up you put on, how shiny your hair is, how much you weigh…who you appear to be.

I hope that in the future, any body shaming, mean words, comments designed to make you feel bad or doubt yourself, do not land. I hope they fall, like water off of a ducks back.

I so desperately hope that you have the courage to stand up and be you, unapologetically. I so desperately hope that you stand up and fiercely protect your right to love yourself.

I hope you don’t spend your time trying to adjust yourself to fit in, change yourself to please the world. Be brave, have confidence in exactly who you are and you may just end up changing the world.

Forget fad diets, forget what the media portrays, forget the filters that make you look flawless. That is not real life.

Be kind to yourself…eat the foods that will look after you. Don’t punish yourself though… eat the cake.

Don’t hate your body sweetheart. You are so blessed to have it. Run as fast as you can, dance in the rain, skip when you are feeling happy, climb trees, hike through forests , breathe deeply and feel gratitude for each and every day that you get to have in this world.

Body Confidence // Dear Ellenah

Of course, if it takes you a little time to become you, like it did me and you listen too much to those who try to bash you… I will always be here, loving you so hard, until you love yourself.

Because, you are a beautiful person Els. You are a sweet, kind-hearted soul. A diva…Yes! Fierce… Definitely! A force to be reckoned with… Absolutely! An absolute blessing to the world?

Ellenah, this big, wide world is incredibly and undoubtedly blessed to have you in it. Exactly as you are.

I love you!

– Mama x

 

 

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Return To Sheldon Spa

So to end ‘My Weird And Wonderful Week’ quite perfectly, on Sunday morning, Matt and I escaped for three whole hours to Sheldon Spa in Faversham- my secret place, my hideaway. Last year for my best friends hen day, I visited for the first time and immediately knew that I wanted to come back with Matt for a romantic morning of peace and tranquility. Matt turned thirty years old quite recently, so I booked in for a belated birthday treat. It was just as lovely as I remembered.

We came with a little breakfast picnic of pastries, blueberries and smoothies and hung out on a lounger for a few minutes to have a morning cup of tea and some refreshing lemon water to start our relaxation.

The pool was so warm like a bath and we were actually really good and did some lengths before we hit the sauna.

The sauna was incredible. I suffer with a sun allergy and after we had some incredibly beautiful weather recently, my skin really suffered and it hadn’t yet managed to soften up properly and get back to normal. The steam and heat really cleaned out my pores and my skin felt incredible after using it. We sprinkled some eucalyptus oil on the stones before pouring (perhaps a little too much) water over the top and it smelt so beautiful. I felt like I could really breathe and let any worries of the previous week simply float away, completely out of my system.

We managed about seven or eight minutes in our first burst and then moved on to the jacuzzi where we chatted and let the bubbles massage our (pretty tired) bodies. It was just lovely!

I managed to read some of my book as I hooked myself on to the side of the pool and treaded water. After being a part of the promotion on Thursday, I really wanted to get lost in it and honestly it is so good so far. Once I am finished, I will do a book review and let you know a more detailed opinion for anyone thinking about reading it. As I read, I did tell myself off a little. I definitely need to make more time to read. It’s the perfect escape from reality and… it reminds me how much I really hope to write a book of my own one day. That would be my dream come true.

Matt went for his treatment which was a half an hour back, neck and should massage…and I read the whole time that he was there.

Then it was my turn (and I had the same treatment). The massage was amazing. I felt so pampered and relaxed after and I think I may have fallen asleep for a little while. I obviously needed it. I probably needed to catch up on the sleep that I lost when I was full of worry in the past week. When it was finished, it took me a while to regain my place in the day… I felt like I was somewhere else completely. It was amazing.

It takes a lot to leave me short for words, but I was too relaxed to speak.

Return To Sheldon Spa

It was so nice to have a little space in time to be completely selfish for a change. It was nice knowing that Noah and Ellenah were safe and happy so that I could feel much less guilt about taking some ‘me/us time’ on their time.

Sometimes it is so hard for me to listen to what my body really needs. What I really need, as a person.

The truth is, I want to give everything that I am to the people that I brought in to the world. When I say that they are my everything, that’s no joke. The parenting thing, I’m totally in it, one hundred and ten percent! The reality though, is that I can’t give EVERYTHING because then there would be nothing left…no good bits, no patience, no understanding, no empathy! And, I would be half the person that they deserve. I want them to have the best.

In this video HERE, I talk about ‘Me Time & Motherhood’…but I am terrible at taking my own advice.

It’s only when I went to collect the children after the spa and Ellenah had a melt down about who would help put her shoes on, I realised that I felt way more confident in handling the situation and myself. That little bit of time away stripped everything back and gave me a fresh start and a fresh voice.

I mean, I can’t be nipping off to the spa every day for a little talk with myself, can I?…I’ve gotta get real and knock that wonderful idea on the head.

But, surely I can save a little piece of myself in other ways. For the greater good?

How do you mama’s revive yourself and you sanity to be the best mum you can be?

With Love,

Ria x

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A Letter To My Younger Self

Dear Ria,

Do you remember when thirty years old felt a million years away? Well I’m coming at you from twenty nine years old with our flirty thirties lingering. It used to feel so old but actually it’s quite nice living here, peaceful almost.

The best thing about it is hindsight, I say best thing sarcastically (yes cherub, you’re still pretty sarcastic and yes you know it’s the lowest form of wit…and no, you still don’t care too much about that!)… because actually, it can really sting sometimes. Oh the things I wish we would have known Ree!

This is so weird, I feel like a wise relative or something, like it’s not us… but it is. When you get here, you will have learned some lessons, some really hard ones too. You are naive now… you don’t stay that way completely. I’m afraid to say, I’m still figuring out if that is a shame or not. It means that life has hardened you a bit but it also means that you are learning not to let people control you so much or better still, try and break who you are.

You still like to see the best in people and life but you’ve seen another side of it, you’ve seen how you can’t control everything that happens in the world or the people in it. You’ve felt it hurt you. You’ve learned that it’s the people closest to your heart that will break it. You’ve learned how to piece it back together and you have understood that every crack changes you…and it is absolutely meant to. True to who you have always been, you hold on to the lessons and any good that you can possibly keep hold of in the palm of your hands. You know that you will need it to help you move on, move forward and grow.

You don’t hate yourself in your late twenties. In fact, you are pretty happy with how you turned out. You’ve never lost sight of the path you could have taken and what that would have meant for you. Unhappiness, loneliness, pity and unfulfilment. I’m proud we didn’t choose that life… our smile is too big for it.

I’m proud of us for a lot of things. I’m proud that we stopped using Dream Matte Mousse on our skin which was two shades too dark. I’m proud that we always wrote down our feelings, it helped us to better understand ourselves. I’m proud that we knew how to walk away from people who were not good for us and i’m proud that we respected ourselves enough to put ourselves first in some real life defining moments of our journey.

We didn’t always get it right. We gave too many chances sometimes and not enough in others. We have always struggled with finding the balance between being too harsh and too soft, too forgiving. Some of those people and friends didn’t deserve that extra time, those extra chances… and some really did.

We have always struggled with expecting people to live up to our expectations of them. I’m happy to say that we are working on that, most definitely. We accept people as exactly that these days, people…in their own right! It’s pretty liberating and I wish we had done it sooner. We feel more free for it and the world suddenly feels a lot more exciting, new almost!

You have two children now… can you even fathom it? They are literally incredible…like so cool! Noah is six and a half now and Ellenah, she is four. You have been on one crazy adventure through motherhood so far Cherub but you wouldn’t change a thing…apart from maybe you would try not to be so perfect. You wasted energy on that and nobody actually cared about it. I think that you were trying to prove something to yourself. I know that we are bad at math but do the sums, you were a young mama at the fresh age of twenty-two. Honestly, it has all worked out well but you spent a while building a wall around your bubble so that it wouldn’t burst or break. So that you wouldn’t break. You didn’t break! It has truly been the greatest thing that has ever happened to you…or ever will I’m guessing.

You are a good mum! So in the future when you see that line on the pregnancy test and you start laughing to stop yourself from crying out in self doubt… please know that it will be okay, you will be okay… it is okay. The reality is, it blows okay out of the water. It is amazing and wonderful and awesome and super and glorious and yes hard, I won’t sugar coat it but so completely worth it because nothing has ever up until this point, made you feel so proud of yourself than being the mother that you are.

Noah and Ellenah love you. And that is all that you need to make every day bright.

Katie- Fay is still your firm best friend and I don’t doubt she always will be. She really was a find when you grabbed hold of her at play school and hoped that she would be your pal. I’m pleased to say your friendship has NEVER faltered since that day. Rich is still your brother from another mother. You don’t see Anna enough and that bond is special. Nobody will understand your childhood like she does!!! Laura, you wouldn’t have met yet but that friendship is one in a million. When you go on a course with work to Brighton for a week (when you worked in finance…haha, I know right?!)… it is going to be special. You will get drunk, almost end up in the sea, invent the best inside jokes that will make you laugh every time and she will be the bridesmaid at your wedding.

Yep, we grew up and got married! His name is Matt! He is handsome and love has been an adventure. It has been perfectly imperfect and he will teach you the absolute best and the hardest lessons in your adult life. Think of a tornado and take a deep breath before he sweeps you off of your feet the day after you packed your things and walked out on the home and life that you had started to build with your long term boyfriend at the time.

Remember what I said about walking away, giving too many chances, hurt and heartbreak…but more importantly, what I said about choosing yourself in some life defining moments. That was one of them.

You grew yourself some balls over the years Girlfriend… and I don’t mean your boobs…they didn’t grow much. Gumption though, you developed that…strength and courage. And…I’m really glad!

Of course, there are many chapters and adventures in between all of this and a lot of fun but you need to experience it first hand. Those moments bring you to now and regardless of the good and bad…you wouldn’t change a damn thing! Because…You are happy now! Not just content. I know we’ve always had a bit of a thing about the difference between the two. I will say though, you have learned that ultimately, happiness is what you make it. You can actually choose it… and you must, always!

The thing that I’m thankful our adult life has taught us is that anything bad that has ever happened, anything mean anyone has said or how negativity has made you feel… It really is empowering. You survived it! You realise that nobody comes out of life unscathed and the more people you talk to about their stories, you will often feel sick, surprised, sad… and you will be ever so grateful for your own.

You’ve said goodbye to the bad parts. Others aren’t as lucky as you.

And on that note… I’m excited for everything to come ‘Smaller Me’… I can feel adventure in our heart, our smiler is bigger than ever and I’m really looking after us. Please don’t be in too much of a hurry to get here, okay? Promise me?

Love, Ria x

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‘Okay, I just need to weigh you and take your blood pressure, would that be okay?’

‘Sure, no problem…’ I replied. I know the drill- quick, quick…do all the normal checks, get handed a prescription and I’ll be back again in three months time to see how it’s going.

‘Did you know Mrs Langner, we have the same weight for you since you were seventeen years old?’

I knew, it’s not the first time that they have mentioned it. Surely the fact that I am at my natural weight can’t be that baffling to science really, can it? Plus, I’m not that sure how I’m supposed to answer that question, I’m not sure if I’m being scolded, congratulated, questioned… If i’m honest, I don’t know why they bring it up every time. I know for my height I’m classed as ‘under weight’ but I know as well as they do that I am healthy. I would rather we didn’t talk about it. It’s not the reason that I came.

I kind of grunted and said a meek ‘oh!’, I grabbed my prescription and left.

It got me thinking about my body and what I think of it.

I grew up hating it in some ways and loving it in others.

I always hated being tall, I was bullied for being lanky, I never felt in proportion…especially not to how invisible I wished I was in secondary school anyway. My limbs were long and skinny… You couldn’t miss me and I was an easy target. In secondary school I hated being me.

I walked a little crooked just trying to be shorter, I never looked up incase people were staring. I had an unhealthy obsession with food… I just wanted to ‘fit’ somewhere, be like the other girls…. be and look like someone else that wasn’t me, even for a little while.

People were mean to me. People were mean about my body. Being a teenager was hard for me, it’s hard to think about.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad.

I could dance. And those limbs that I had grown to despise helped me to fly. I felt like I had wings as I leapt through the air and moved so gracefully. The neck that I would crane over so that nobody would see my eyes would elongate and I felt so high up, like I could really breathe from up there…like I could love my body forever because it allowed me to fly, to breathe, to see and to be me… away from the opinions and horrible things that people said.

I could run too, really far and really fast. My body let me push it, further and further and I got better and better. I got stronger and stronger and as I held the medals in my hand that basically told me to love my body, I still couldn’t bring myself to give it much credit. I told myself it was all in the mind.

And in the wake of the school years, away from the toxic people that had broken my confidence, I realised that I was wrong. I started on a journey to truly love my body and be happy in my skin.

Of course, early adulthood wouldn’t be the same without drinking a little too much, partying a little too often and eating the wrong foods with your friends as you talked into the the following day. Early adulthood wouldn’t be the same if you had enough sleep and didn’t abuse your body in some ways. It’s part of growing up and a part of life.

And then I reached the age of twenty two and I learned that I was going to become a mother for the first time. At first it was daunting. I was worried how I would look and feel after having a child, I had come so far in my journey of self-acceptance… I didn’t feel ready to deal with more body issues.

And then I felt that flutter like little butterflies. My son.

From that moment, it wasn’t just my body… it was a home. The first home that I lived in with my little boy. It’s where I grew him, fed and watered him and where I kept him safe… and later on, my beautiful daughter too.

I watched my body change in front of my eyes. I watched it push its limits, further and further, life felt better and better and my body was the reason that my baby grew stronger and stronger. And then, I started to give my body the credit that it deserved all of those years ago and especially in that moment when I was growing a child, the first and second time.

I realised that my body is capable of such incredible things. And I loved it a little more.

Of course, my body changed. Yes, three days after having both children, I was back in my jeans and if you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t ever have guessed that I had just had children.

I knew.

It was almost like Noah and Ellenah had carved their names into the walls of their first bedroom and in it’s place, left me with a couple of faint stretch marks to mark the occasion. Over time, they have become almost invisible but they will be there forever. And, I will treasure them until my dying day.

I don’t hate them like once upon a time I thought that I would. How could I ever?

And that brings me to now, approaching thirty this year and more in love with my body than I ever have been. It has been a journey, one I won’t ever forget.

My body is more than ‘a weight’.

My body is more than a statistic.

My body is more than a comparison to anyone else.

My body is mine and there isn’t another one out there like it.

And I do, I absolutely love it and everything that comes with the privilege of ageing it.

My Body

With Love, Ria x

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