(Slightly less) SadGirl 2020: a year in review. Part 2

It’s been a year since the start of the pandemic, and with this in mind we’re looking back on the past twelve months and reflecting on what we’ve learned. This is the second part of Katie’s SadGirl 2020 – you can catch up on part 1 here.

Chapter 3:
Summer of Love

Summer was around the corner and with the days lasting longer and lockdown restrictions getting looser there was a new sense of hope in the air. I had been working now for 3 months and happily passed the probation period at my new job. I was loving what I was doing and being given more responsibilities and varied briefs. 

I did still feel like I didn’t really know anyone but that wasn’t through lack of them trying. Bless them, they had really tried every step in the book to try and get people to integrate but with everyone working from home that wasn’t an easy task. A few people had also been newly employed after me, to various teams. They were both really nice and the one who stayed on was really social. He could just chat away and make jokes and as you do when you’re an insecure, socially inept mess I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. I kinda ended up putting a lot of pressure on the social side of things at work. Pressure which naturally would make me start to overthink a lot of the interactions I had with colleagues. 

To distract myself from this anxiety I really delved into dating apps. Who doesn’t love validation in the form of cringey one-liners from strangers on the internet? This girl! This girl is a big fan. Anyways, I started talking to a boy in April and he was cute and we were kinda hitting it off. I remember we got talking and I suddenly realised his distance said something wild… like near on 3,796 miles wild. I messaged him about it and turns out he was at uni in London, where he matched with me, but originally he’s from Virginia, USA. He was visiting home at the same time lockdown began in England, which left him stranded there. As he was in America we obviously couldn’t meet up so we ended up talking on Hinge for near on 3 months before we actually got to go on a date. 

To distract myself from this anxiety I really delved into dating apps. Who doesn’t love validation in the form of cringey one-liners from strangers on the internet?

This girl! This girl is a big fan.

It was the beginning of July and he had been home a couple weeks or so when we finally got to meet up. With covid still in full swing but the rules for summer being less restrictive, our options for a date were limited. We ended up going for the ever-romantic park date in Clapham Common. I remember it was a very weird feeling being in London. Due to lockdown and living with my parents, my contact with other people had really been limited. To go from that to getting a train into London to meet a stranger my nerves were all over the place.

Anyways we ended up having a great date, chatted for hours and ended up finding a socially distanced Spoons to chat in once our alcohol purchases had ran out in the park. We talked about everything and he was pretty cute, I won’t lie. We ended up having a cheeky kiss at the entrance of the tube station, probably to the disgust of the other masked train users. And that’s the last of the date I remember. As about two seconds after that kiss I drunkenly black out. Somehow luckily my drunk brain managed to get myself onto a train home which honestly is impressive and I am still going to give myself props for.

After that we went on dates about once a week and there was a spark; we really got on. 4th date loomed and I was finally staying the night at his. I had managed to wangle out some messy lie to my parents about where I was that night as the thought of telling them “BTW I’ve been dating this guy and it’s the forth date so I should probably have sex with him now” didn’t really seem like a good option. We went to a few bars before heading back to his where he showed me around his flat. We sat down on his bed where he proceeded to pick a police drug dealer action movie. It’s safe to say I didn’t really watch a lot of the movie and not for the reason you are probably thinking, keep your dirty minds out of the gutter! 

The movie wasn’t particularly romantic. Not a movie that allows for a smooth transition into naughty adult cuddle times, if you know what I mean. The blood and guts and gangs and guns weren’t really doing it for me and I spent the majority of the movie confused as to why he had picked it and how he was going to go about starting the more intimate chapter of the date as we lay like pencils side by side. Eventually he did manage to make a move and we had a good time…. some might say a great time! 

With the warmth also came the ability to see friends in their gardens. This was such a blessing as I think a lot of my friends like myself were isolated with parents and it was so nice to finally see some people face to face and actually talk and catch up. I also booked a little weekend away with one of my oldest friends in a cottage. Being 24 and definitely not boomers we had the fullest expectations of getting drunk and having a giggly girly night… Although turns out the Harry Potter Battle for Hogwarts board game is actually very addicting and our initial plans were scratched for a night of strategic game playing followed by slightly too clay-y face masks, the movie “Made of Honour” and an early night. Living the high life at 24, don’t get too jealous!

Chapter 4:
Christmas time, no mistletoe and a lot of wine.

I was still dating the boy and we were getting pretty close, I was starting to really like him. We went on some cute dates to the Horniman Museum and to Kew Gardens and I had met his friends and everything was going well. Unfortunately for us the fun was cut short with Lockdown 2.0. Everything was shut again and I was back to being a shut-in in my parents house and the boy went back to the US to wait out the British lockdown with his family.

Suddenly my beautiful distraction was gone and I was back to my thoughts and myself. Safe to say the winter months of lockdown weren’t the best for my mental health as I’m sure many others can agree.

Suddenly my beautiful distraction was gone and I was back to my thoughts and myself. Safe to say the winter months of lockdown weren’t the best for my mental health as I’m sure many others can agree. The first lockdown had this weird sense of excitement attached to it. Everyone wanted to do zoom quizzes and socially distanced park drinks but this time round the enthusiasm had definitely dried out. Gone were the days of zoom calls being a fun way to catch up, now they felt like a chore and the logistics of anything outside seemed like way too much planning to be fun. Anyways thats enough moaning about winter there were some highlights…. I’m sure…. Can’t quite put my finger on them right now, but I’m sure there was definitely something. 

I’m just kidding, Christmas was fun at least and I realised that I should definitely go back to therapy. LOOOOL


I think what I’ve learnt from this whirlwind of a year is how to be myself again. Through uni and school I’ve always kept my self preoccupied and been busy but being able to find solace in myself has been comforting but also awoken me to areas in my mental health I need to work on. Not only that but with the lack of activities it has really allowed Nikitah and myself to push forward with Afternoon Delight. I can’t express how much having a creative outlet like this has helped me in the past year. It gave me something to focus on and be proud of when I felt like I had nothing going on. So thank you readers for giving me someone to write too. I hope you’re as excited as we are for what’s to come and the future of Afternoon Delight. xxx

In conversation with Ella Greenwood: mental health and the film industry

Ella Greenwood is a British actress and filmmaker. At the age of only 19, she is the director of her own production company, Broken Flames Productions, and has had her work selected for BAFTA accredited festivals. She works as a mental health activist and is an ambassador for teen mental health charity, stem4. We caught up with Ella to interview her about campaigning for better representation of mental health in the media and getting into the film industry as a woman.

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Afternoon Delight: We originally founded our zine as a space for honest discussion about our lives as we navigate through our twenties. Society puts a lot of pressure on young people to achieve particular milestones to a timeline, such as finishing school, graduating from university, getting a job and embarking on the path to ‘adulthood,’ whatever that might end up looking like, and we’ve definitely felt this pressure growing up. You progressed into your career straight after completing your A-Levels, and didn’t attend university. Did you ever feel a level of pressure or expectation to go to university? Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker or has the direction your career has taken changed from what you originally thought it might be? 

Ella: I never felt pressure to go to university, I’ve wanted to be an actor for most of my life, but drama school never appealed to me, so it wasn’t something that I had intended on doing, and then when I started filmmaking, I fell in love with it. The direction of my career has definitely changed, though I’m only where I am now because of what I originally wanted to do.

Afternoon Delight: Your first short film, Faulty Roots, was nominated for an award by Film The House as well as being selected for many festivals, including the BAFTA-qualifying Bolton International Film Festival. Could you describe the premise of the film for those who haven’t yet seen it, and explain why it was important for you to write it?

Ella: The film follows a teenage girl with depression whose mother tries to cheer her up by making her reconnect with an overly positive childhood friend. It was important for me to write it, as I wanted to share some of the experiences that I had when struggling with my mental health as a young teen, and to bring a more normal and accurate portrayal of teenage mental health to film.

Ella on the set of Smudged Smile. Photograph by Inès Hachou.

Afternoon Delight: You’re very passionate about creating projects that raise awareness of mental illness, a topic that you’re a vocal advocate for. stem4 is a London-based charity whose mission is to promote positive mental health in teenagers and those who support them, through education and awareness. Can you tell us about your work as an ambassador for this charity, and what it means to you?

Ella: stem4 are an amazing organisation and it means so much that I get to support and promote all of the good that they do. They have incredible ways to really help young people, and for example, one of my upcoming films Smudged Smile is supported by them so we will be able to give the audience a place where they can access help and resources. 

Afternoon Delight: We’ve read in one of your interviews about your passion for writing characters who experience mental illness, but whose lives don’t mean any less for having them. Your work is important in creating ground for moving portrayals of mental health into honest and accurate representation, away from stigma and harmful stereotypes. As the young generation of actors and filmmakers tell more honest stories about living with mental illnesses, do you hope the industry as a whole will be influenced by positive change to be more representative?

Ella: Definitely, I hope that so much! Change has definitely been made, but it’s still very slow and there’s also been the issue with recent work still doing more harm than good, and romanticising suicide. It’s important that the industry is more representative but in an accurate and positive way.

Mental health wasn’t something that I had an understanding of at all, and then when I started struggling, I just kept it to myself as much as possible. I would say to just always remember that you won’t feel that way forever, no feeling is permanent.

Afternoon Delight: Faulty Roots is now being developed into a feature film, which is an incredible achievement that you must be so proud of. As a 19-year-old, how have you coped with the growing attention of your work and attainment of success at a young age?

Ella: I’m just so grateful that I get to tell these stories that I’m so passionate about, and that I hope will have a positive impact on people, and that I get to work with so many incredible people. My work is what’s most important, really trying to make a difference with it, and so I just feel very lucky when it gets to reach people and gets that attention.

Afternoon Delight: You founded your production company, Broken Flames Productions, with the aim of telling important stories. As someone who has achieved success in a male-dominated industry, have you got any advice for other young women seeking careers in writing and filmmaking? What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far? 

Ella: My advice would just be to go for it, don’t wait until you feel like you’re ready or qualified, just start creating work! Also make sure to reach out to other people, those that inspire you or you feel you could learn from, women in the industry are so wonderfully supportive. The biggest challenge is probably powering through stressful situations and getting over rejection, those things will always be hard, but I’m learning the best ways to get through!

Afternoon Delight: For us, engaging in honest conversations about mental health has been really important in developing a greater understanding of ourselves, helping us to reach a level of self-acceptance that we didn’t have as teenagers, struggling with emotions we didn’t understand. Did you ever find it difficult to initiate conversations about mental health whilst growing up, and do you have any advice to give your younger self? Do you find it easier to speak through your work and the characters you write?

Ella: I definitely found it difficult, and honestly, I barely had those conversations whilst growing up. Mental health wasn’t something that I had an understanding of at all, and then when I started struggling, I just kept it to myself as much as possible. I would say to just always remember that you won’t feel that way forever, no feeling is permanent. I find it easy to talk about mental health in general now, whether that’s through my work, or whether it’s just me talking on a podcast or interview, it’s a lovely transition to now be able to and also to enjoy sharing my experiences.

Ella on the set of Smudged Smile. Photograph by Inès Hachou.

Afternoon Delight: The charity Mind recently revealed that more people have reported experiencing a crisis in their mental health during the pandemic than ever before. There seems to be more of a sense of urgency to the conversation now as more people seek support. Do you think the pandemic has changed the way society as a whole is engaging with the mental health discussion? 

Ella: There’s more awareness of the fact that so many people are struggling, but I worry that articles and statistics are about as far as it goes. Saying that a lot of people are struggling is one thing, but then implementing ways that those people can get help and support is another. There’s also always going to be those steps forwards and backwards; you see those positive stories about slight changes being made, but then you also see someone on a primetime TV show refuse to accept that someone was having suicidal thoughts.

Afternoon Delight: The pandemic as a whole has seen the closure of many cinemas, with films premiered on streaming platforms instead. Has the pandemic changed your production company’s approach to making films? Do you hope the future of film returns to the big screen again, or will you look to showcase your work on online platforms?

Ella: It’s been interesting for us, some of our projects had been made and in the festival circuit just before the pandemic started so we had no choice over what happened to those, in terms of being shown at virtual festivals etc, and then all of the work we have made since then is almost finished or in pre-production & development so now things are starting to open up again, we have those options. I love the cinema so much, but I also love streaming platforms, it will probably depend on the project as both have pros and cons, and I really do like both.

Afternoon Delight: Looking to the future, Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place in the UK in May and this year’s theme is ‘Nature.’ Over the course of the pandemic we’ve found solace in taking walks and looking after our houseplants. Do you think you will get involved in some green-fingered activities? Are there any self-care rituals you engage in during your downtime when you’re not working?

Ella: I most likely will not be getting involved in green-fingered activities, gardening just isn’t for me and honestly, I hate walks. So many people have said how much they love going on walks and how much it helps their mental health, but it’s not something that works for me, I just really don’t like them. I’ve been binge-watching The Office and New Girl for the first time and they definitely help, I love them!

Afternoon Delight: Finally, can you tell us about your upcoming short film, Self-Charm, and what you’re looking forward to doing the most once the UK’s lockdown restrictions end?

Ella: Self-Charm focuses on a teenage girl who is struggling with self-harm and it stars the amazing BAFTA nominated actress Bukky Bakray. I’m looking forward to literally everything!! Seeing family and friends, going to the cinema, going to restaurants and pubs, travelling, going to events again, I just cannot wait to leave my house!!!

Ella on the set of Smudged Smile. Photograph by Inès Hachou.

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Interview by Afternoon Delight Zine

To find out more about Ella Greenwood and her filmmaking projects:
visit her website and follow her on Instagram

To read about stem4’s work supporting teenage mental health
visit their website

SadGirl 2020: a year in review. Part 1

Soooo… 2020… What a year… 😦 We have decided to each write a year in review. I think everyone hears enough about the world every evening on the news, so this is more to do with what we have been up to, and what we have learned over the last twelve months.

Katie I’m not really sure where to start with this one as so much has happened with the Big Corona and what not. I flip flop between thinking I’ve done absolutely fucking nothing this year to remembering all the small (and big) victories/few losses I’ve had.

Chapter 1:
the realities of unemployment

I graduated with a degree in Graphic Design in the summer of 2019. When January rolled around I had been unemployed for not too far off a year, and was somewhat living in despair of the whole thing. I decided to have a bit of a break from applying for jobs over Christmas, but once January hit I was to have no more fun. In hindsight, this was not the best for my mental health. I basically decided that I was not going to see anyone, not spend any money and not do anything other than send applications and do interviews. I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to find a job and even though it did eventually work it meant I put a lot of friendships to the side and wasn’t the happiest in myself…which probably showed in my interviews. I mean, who wants to hire an unhappy person?

“I decided I was not going to see anyone, not spend any money and not do anything other than send applications and do interviews. I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to find a job, which meant I wasn’t the happiest in myself.”

I remember feeling like I was on the edge. I felt like I had a mask on that was slowly losing opacity. The fear that people would be able to see through me was constantly looming. Everyone would know I wasn’t worth shit and that I was as useless as I felt I was. I know in my heart of hearts this isn’t the case but when you’re in that “walking on the edge” state I felt wholly transparent and completely breakable, unable to complete tasks or have motivation to do anything.

I would love to say that freelancing and job hunting helped me get out of this mindset, but that wouldn’t be quite true. The number of freelance-jobs-won and interview-invitations-received were fleeting accomplishments, quickly cut down by my ever-growing self pity. It felt like whatever I achieved was just putting a fabric lid on an ever-filling jar of water. I could hold it off from spilling for a little bit, but before I knew it I was falling under, drowning under the weight of responsibility and uncertainty of the future.

One weird thing I found some comfort in was Wicca. Now hear me out, I know it’s a bit out there but I came across it from Harmony Nice’s clothes hauls. I basically had a bit of a binge of her content and ended up finding out a bit about modern day Wicca as she practices it.

I ended up buying her book secondhand and as I opened it a hand-painted bookmark fell out. On the bookmark the previous owner had written “My Darlings, Enjoy living a thousand lives.” On the reverse was a beautifully hand painted moon phase.

I had a Roman Catholic upbringing and never really saw religion or belief systems as particularly welcoming or happy things, but, hand on heart, I have never felt more accepted. Maybe that sounds stupid, but it’s how I felt. I’m now open to learning more about Wiccan ideologies. Maybe I’ll make it into a blog posts, maybe I won’t – who knows 🙂

Chapter 2:
being the new girl at work

When March came around I was still in the teetering state. I had received a job offer so 50% of the self loathing had dissipated but it had been replaced by an influx of new job anxiety, happily taking the place of its predecessor. I had also started dating someone. I’ll be honest and say the whole thing didn’t last very long; we went on about 4 dates before he ghosted me, something that I am still convincing myself is based on covid restrictions and not on my personality or my awkwardness in bed.

I started my new job around a week into March. Everyone was lovely, I literally couldn’t find a bad word to say about anyone. The job was good and the people around me were all really happy to help me gain my footing in my role. They would talk me through jobs and briefs and help me understand what I was meant to be doing, which honestly was so much more than I was expecting. Unfortunately for my training about a week into being in the office the government ordered everyone to work from home and a new house-bound normal became reality.

“Because of the social anxiety I have formed, I managed to create this internal state of forever being the new girl at work and forever existing in a place of not knowing where I stand with other people.”

Once we all started working from home the ability to turn into myself excelled and isolation became easy. I’m not a very loud person or someone who shares their opinions easily, especially in a new group. Even if I’m with two of my closest friends I will often shut down verbally. I’ll still be in the conversation and listen but I struggle to input verbally when it’s more than a one on one. On top of that, group chats are my one and only true nemesis and now, in the times of lockdown, they had become the only way to communicate.

I don’t know what it is about them but they make me feel like my brain is going to explode. I can be writing the simplest message and ponder it for hours and then eventually end up deleting the app in frustrating as I can’t make myself press enter. Because of this ridiculous social anxiety I have formed, I managed to create this internal state of forever being the new girl at work and forever existing in a place of not knowing where I stand with other people.

Although the last two chapters have had right negative-Nancy vibes, there were some good things that happened. 

  • Nikitah and I really gave this blog a good start. We designed a logo, brand, and website, started blogging, posting on social media and overall I’ve really enjoyed this new exciting creative outlet. It’s also given us something to be proud of and be in control of during this time of uncertainty.
  • My friend and myself started sending each other “vlogs.” We basically recorded 5 min video logs every week, showing what we had been up to and other bits. One time I even bought a Cameo, asking one of her fave people to make her smile. If you’re bored and your friends fancy it this is a great way to waste your time.
  • And also it was nearly summer so that always perked me up… Plus I had kinda started talking to a new boy who you will hear more about in the next chapter.

– Katie


The next chapter of Katie’s SadGirl 2020 will be out soon, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on dating and friendship.

Dating a ghost

It’s a late evening in December and I’ve had a mulled wine (three). Ben is scrolling through Deliveroo, furrowed brow debating the merits of tuna as a pizza topping. I think about warm mozzarella and my body starts to melt against his, the shoulder of his padded jacket resting against mine as he sits on the seat beside me. Earlier, we walked along the banks of the River Thames in the dark, and as our drinks cooled in paper cups we glanced at each other’s hands, fingers seeking relief from forgotten gloves.

Now, train windows steam with the lens of his glasses and he smiles at me with foggy blue eyes. I extend my right hand, palm facing upwards as an invitation for touch. Fingers gently trace mine with repetition, like a shape he’s trying to remember; the outline of the keys in his pocket or the tangled maze of streets he will walk along on his way home.

My breath catches in my throat for it has been that long since I’ve held a hand, but his skin is stretching mine tense in an uncomfortable caress. I’m suddenly insecure about the dry patches on my thumbs and the short hairs on my knuckles that have risen in anticipation of human contact. We hold hands in silence and he rolls my palms flat into dough.

We hold hands in silence and he rolls my palms flat into dough.

I close my eyes and try to imagine what he would feel like on the parts of my skin that lie unexposed. But it feels unnatural, as two strangers who have forgotten how to touch. Now we’re at New Cross and he stands to say we’ll see each other again soon. We don’t, but I spend the rest of the journey unattached to land, like at any moment I could float out of the window and my body would disperse into powdery ash, leaving no trace behind like the now empty seat beside me.

As the train continues to pass through the outskirts of the abandoned city, I feel the company of its ghosts. 700,000 people are estimated to have left London since the start of the pandemic, and the air around me is weighted as though they are all here with me on this train. Ben’s hands felt so unfamiliar I wonder if I conjured his presence from the phantom world, hungry for skin. Did I dream the long leg resting against mine, the kiss on my neck, the hand on my lap. Was he real?

– Nikitah

Mistaken identity

Once upon a time a boy on Bumble, let’s call him Sam, messaged to say he’d seen me walking down a street in Elephant and Castle. I had not experienced a stranger’s such vocal investment in my whereabouts since another man, ten years older than me, who would without fail greet me on the platform for the 4.06pm train home from uni and ask how my day had been.

I, a hormonally imbalanced teenager, had no interest in discussing my day with anyone and after several weeks’ polite rebuff of his chat failed to elicit the desired outcome (an end to the conversation), I told him I was moving carriage and that he should not follow me. We did not speak again.

I hadn’t been to Elephant and Castle on that day so I informed Sam he’d mistaken me for someone else. He replied that was GREAT because the ‘me’ he’d seen wasn’t particularly good looking… A week later I saw Sam on the bus, sprawled over the row across the aisle from where I was sat. His long limbs made the seats look toy-like, as though we were dolls in a miniature world, convened in the same location by a higher puppeteering power. Was it fate?

His hair shone bronze in the sunlight and his shirt was damp from the sweat of a summer’s day. I stared at him, wondering why a.) he thought my doppelgänger was unattractive and b.) whether he’d place the sat-on-the-bus version of me in the category of South Asian girls who, in his mind, all looked like twisted variations of same person.

I watched as he began to pick his nose, inspecting the contents of the dig before wiping his finger down his trouser leg. I wondered why I had placed so much emphasis on this stranger’s unwanted opinion of my appearance when he cared so little for his own, and excused myself to the lower deck instead.

– Nikitah

UTWHYYYYY?! – Part 2

Ok, maybe Part 2 is a little late. What can I say… Lockdown 2.0 sucked and had me feeling blue, spending my evenings crying over old hard drive videos of happier, more simple times. Anyways, Nikitah and I are feeling invigorated for the new year and I’m really excited to start putting energy into this blog as I do really enjoy having this thing that is ours that we work on together. Apology over! Here is the much anticipated UTWHYYYYY?! Part 2.

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At first I thought the UTIs were alcohol related, but after talking to doctors I got told it could be anything from diet or weight to the types of clothes I was wearing to sexual activities. The list went on and as it did, the more hopeless I became. I realised there wasn’t a real solution barring pumping my body full of antibiotics.

Eventually I started to realise this is something there isn’t a straightforward answer to, and the doctors don’t have a lifetime fix for it. I’d love to say to you I fixed it and I have a fool-proof plan to not get another one but that’s just not the case. What I do have is a small arsenal of things I do that definitely reduce the chance of getting a UTI. So here is my “most-of-the-time-it-works” plan to reduce the burnnn.

Number 1 and most importantly DO NOT HOLD ONTO WEE. When you need to wee just go, even if you’re in the middle of sex – you have to go. Holding onto urine can just lead to whole load of germs and grossness to fester inside you. You are literally giving the enemy time to organise a battle plan and that’s just dumb. So flush that wee-wee out as often as you can!

Number 2 try to manage your diet so the stuff you intake doesn’t encourage meanie bacteria to grow. So reduce sugar, alcohol and coffee and most importantly drink gallons of water. Being constantly hydrated is so important to help you flush through any toxins and bacteria lurking inside. Alongside this make sure you are hydrating yourself with the right things. WATER IS YOUR SAVIOUR and avoid at all cost things with blackberry in them.

Number 3 try if possible to pee before and after sex. This does involve some planning and can kinda ruin the vibe of spontaneity but, believe me, if you are as sick as I am of getting home from a date and spending the whole night crying in pain on the toilet it’s worth it. What I do is down a pint of water before and another as soon as possible after. This allows your system to wash itself through and clean itself out in case any bacteria has got stuck during sex. 

Number 4 is not 100% proven but I take 2 cystisis pills in the morning, 2 D-Mannose tablets after sex and a probiotic everyday as well. I think they work (obvs I’m no doctor) so make sure you read up on this first and even talk to your doctor if you’re unsure. I’ll link the ones I use below if you want to give them a try.

  • Superdrug Cystitis Prevention Capsules here
  • Precision D-Mannose 500mg 90 Capsules by Swiss BioEnergetics here
  • Solgar Advanced Acidophilus Plus Vegetable Capsules by Natural world here

Number 5 don’t use any lubricants without testing them on your skin before. When I say testing I don’t just mean on your hand as allergies can vary in different areas. I am allergic to every lubricant I have tried. They immediately flare up to cause a burnt, prickly sensation and leave an itchy red rash for days. I’m sure there will be one that I won’t be allergic to, and I will make sure to share with you when I do find it, but for now that side of things is kinda on me. But hey, I’m not gonna moan about having to “mess around” for a little longer to make sure I’m ready. I have found when I talk to the person I am dating about these things they are happy to do what’s best for me and if they aren’t they can get fucked… by somebody else obvs.

Number 6 watch what you put near your crotch. Try to wear breathable knickers and change them regularly. Also, when washing them I use unscented detergent and steer well clear of fabric softener. Try to reduce any fragranced products near your cooch. I find that even the most minimal fragranced period products set me off so I have to be super careful when buying them.

Number 7 should be a given but clean your/partner’s hands and sex toys before use. Let’s not add anymore germs into the problem area eh..?

Finally, number 8 is be prepared. I’ve learnt recently that to be considered to have reoccurring UTI’s you need to have at least 6 in year that have been reported and written on your notes at your local GP (this information is based on a call I had with my UK doctor in 2020.) I was given an email to send the report to, in which I included the colour and smell of wee, any other symptoms and how long they have gone on for and also photos of the home dipstick test I had done, including writing down the results as well as showing them. Make sure to end the email explaining what you want to have done with this info. In my case half the time I just want it added to my notes as I often manage to fight off the UTI with one sleepless night and gallons of water. It’s important to have a urine testing sticks and urine samples stocked in as well as the test needs to be taken when the UTI is at its worst and not once it becomes heavily diluted with water, as this results in an inaccurate and not representative result. The sample bottles are useful to have too as they allow you to take a sample to the GP ASAP. Best to check with your GP if this is acceptable as some will want you to wee into a bottle supplied by them. I’ll link below the products I use.

  • Container, 30ml here
  • Urine Test Strips here

. . .

I think that is it… for now. I’ll be sure to let you know if I come across any more tips and tricks and I’d love to know if you guys have any other ways of handling reoccurring UTIs. Get in touch as I will happily add to this list.

Also as I mentioned at the beginning Nikitah and I have loved every second of writing this blog and we are starting to get that energy again we had at the beginning. Life in lockdown, as we all know, is a weird one and sometimes our lives right now seem a little lack lustre to share but hopefully we will have another post out soon!

– Katie

UTWHYYYYY?! – Part 1

So let me set the scene. 

It’s currently 5am and I’m sitting on the toilet with as many over the counter painkillers as I can possibly put in my body, hoping that by some miracle I’m going to be able to wash through this UTI* before I have to start getting ready for work…. That gives me 3 hours. I’m not feeling hopeful.

Let me set the scene further.

I woke up at 2am so I’m already 3 hours deep into this process. I’m pissing blood and I feel like my urethra has first-degree burns and I’ve decided this is the right time to start writing this as I’m hoping it’ll be some form of distraction from the excruciating pain in my crotch. Although I’m not sure that it is working and may have to go back to watching Tiktoks as that seems to be better at keeping my spirits up for the long journey ahead.

As much as I would like to say this is a one-off experience, that wouldn’t be quite true. I’d say I’ve had at least 100 UTI’s at this point in my life. Ranging from one night of having slightly painful wees, to the fall blown infection I am currently experiencing.

My first UTI was at about 2 and a half. Obviously my memories are slightly blurry from my toddler years so this has been filled in by my Mum. She says I always had problems with my nether regions. When I was in nappies, if my mum didn’t immediately change my nappy after I weed or pood my skin would erupt into a red rashy mess, taking mountains of Sudocrem and a fair few teary eyes to get through. She started to notice me crying and getting frustrated when I went to the toilet. I’d run to the toilet and not be able to pee, but then proceed to wet myself later on. As she had been a nurse previously, she was aware of the signs of UTI’s and proceeded to take me to the doctor who prescribed me a few courses of antibiotics.

I continued to have the same problems and UTI’s became a constant in my life. At 3 I was prescribed a prophylactic* daily dose of cephalexin* by a doctor and with the threat of me missing more school from UTIs there wasn’t really any other choice. Although antibiotics are often the best option, consistent and regular use can lead to your body building a resistance to them. There is always the risk of becoming allergic too, so this wasn’t a decision lightly taken. 

Even with the consistent medication I would still get the occasional full infection, leading to the need for another set of antibiotics. At 7 I was sent to have a DMSA scan* where you take a short-lived radioisotope, that goes directly to the kidneys once inside the body, and only stays radioactive for a few hours – giving doctors detailed pictures of my kidneys. They looked for any evidence of damage but didn’t seem to find anything and we were kind of left at square one again. 

That was until one day mum was talking to our neighbour at the time, who said her daughter had suffered from the same problem. They stopped giving her Ribena and the problem went away. This seemed to be too good to be true, but, after some digging and probably a sense of looming hopelessness, Mum heard about about a Kinesiologist* nearby who could test for intolerances.

Once we arrived the lady said I was so young that she sat me on mum’s lap, with our legs touching. Using a small glass vial filled with various foods, including blackcurrants (a main ingredient of Ribena), she would put the glass vials against my skin. Whilst doing so my mum would have her arm outstretched and the lady would push down on it whilst my mum resisted. On every food stuff my mum was able to keep her arm up, but when she put the glass vial of blackcurrants up to my arm she lost all strength and could not keep her arm up. So with that information mum decided to stop any drinking of Ribena and seemingly the UTI’s subsided after a couple weeks. Now, Mum is a trained nurse who worked the majority of her years in intensive care, and not often is she swayed by more alternative medicines, but this one is hard to explain away and at least in my opinion it seems pretty unexplainable.

And that was it…. well until I hit 18 and became sexually active. *Ding* *Ding* Round two here we come 😦 You’ll have to wait until next week to read the rest of my UTI journey, for some actual advice from someone who hasn’t found the answer (yet) but has dealt with a life long reoccurrence of them and has a few tricks up her sleeve to help with reducing them.

If anyone has had similar problems I would love to hear what you do and maybe I can add it into the advice list next week.

*UTI – A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and the urethra.

*Prophylactic – Preventive healthcare, or prophylaxis, consists of measures taken for disease prevention.

*Cephalexin – is an antibiotic that can treat a number of bacterial infections.

*DMSA scan – stands for dimercaptosuccinic acid. A DMSA scan uses radioactive chemicals to create special pictures of the kidneys. These pictures can help doctors assess how well the kidneys are working. DMSA travels through the body joined to a radioactive chemical. It builds up in the kidneys. Pictures of the kidneys are then taken using a special camera which can detect the radioactive chemical.

*Kinesiology – is a form of therapy that uses muscle monitoring (biofeedback) to look at imbalances that may be causing disease in the body. It aims to detect and correct imbalances that may relate to stress, nutrition or minor injuries. Kinesiology is not used to diagnose disorders.

– Katie

The Dating Dilemma

My last first kiss occurred nine months ago, mid-conversation, unexpected but direct. He leaned over as he stood to go to the bar, and our mouths met briefly. It was a polite kiss, assuming nothing but suggesting everything. It lasted forever but was over as soon as it began, asking a question to which the answer was yes: more, please. First kisses can be messy and awkward, the touching of teeth or the push of a tongue in a clumsy way evidencing the infantile excitement of the vulnerability that happens when you put your feelings into the hands of another. Ours was a soundless secret between two bodies, a sweet mix of warm air and the chips I stopped to buy that made me a few minutes late. I didn’t feel the earth move beneath me but there was a small shift in the gravity between us, setting our paths toward each other on a course for collision. At the end of the evening goodbyes were said with lips that smiled an unspoken promise that they would touch again, as they did upon each occasion until they met for the last time.

Since then, intimate acts have had to adapt. Over the last six months I’ve experienced something subtle, like the touch of two palms or the tucking of hair behind my ear, turn into a grasping of hands around the body of a phone, a desperate willing to merge into the surroundings at the other end of the video that remained intangible until travel permitted. What was once the softness of a lover’s whisper against my skin became an interruption of jarring Internet lag and background noise. The delicacy of lifting a stray eyelash from a face was a mouth frozen, mid-word, on screen, or a pixelated kiss shared across webcam.

Fantasy underpinned my waking hours, loneliness precluded by the dream of a reunion, memories preserved by a mind that rethought them endlessly. Lost in the illusion, the relationship disintegrated before it found space to grow; fruits picked before they had ripened, flowers pulled up mistaken for weeds. I tended to the produce in my garden and with each handful of sugared blackberries I picked, another soured the landscape that stretched between us. We were separated by 400 miles of miscommunication with the excess time to overthink the magnetism to which we were once tied so strongly. But I still see his face in my head as I turn corners, remembering what it was like to walk down city streets hand in hand.

***

Now, it’s September and as my date stands to go to the bathroom, he puts on his mask obligingly and turns away from our table. Harrison does not lean over to kiss me; our skin does not touch all evening. We sit across from each other in a dimly lit pub in Waterloo, along a side street by the railway bridge, and I imagine reaching across the table to hold his hand. I look into his eyes and allow myself to float in the temporary distraction of his smile. We talk about our lives and find comforting similarity in the discovery that neither of us felt like they were where they should be. Our preoccupation with the world intersected at so many points I could have sat with him all night, if it wasn’t for the claw of feelings from the past that threatened to drown me as I tread water.

A drawing of the interior of the Imperial War Museum, as seen from a higher floor. The view looks down on 3 planes and a torpedo which hang from strings from the ceiling, with figures on the ground floor looking up. The visitors wear masks. One is dressed in a red shirt.

A few hours earlier I stood on the landing of the fourth floor of the Imperial War Museum, overlooking the landscape of flying machines below, wondering if he had actually gone to the bathroom or if he was instead making his escape to the front door. I peered over the edge, sifting through the drift of people below to see if his red shirt was amongst them. Deciding it wouldn’t be the worst outcome if he didn’t come back, I turned my attention away from the distant figures, neatly assembled on the floor like pieces in a board-game. I imagined myself jumping from the side of the balcony, landing in one of the planes which hung from the ceiling, starting the engine and piloting myself away from the unexploded confusion I felt inside. The vision was cut short as he tapped me on the shoulder, brows raised in anticipation, and we continued through the remainder of the exhibition as we had before.

I feel Harrison’s fingers in my hair as he carefully extracts a leaf that has blown there in the wind, and my body shivers for the kinds of closeness I’ve longed for but haven’t felt. He borders six feet; I stand at five foot three. His slender frame bends towards me like the branches of a tree, craning to hear my voice from behind a mask. He puts a hand on my back as we steer away from the other bodies in the narrow passageways of the museum. I recoil slightly, navigating around the tanks and aeroplanes as our individual trajectories continued to cross. How do we create and maintain acts of intimacy without physical touch? I didn’t feel myself drawn to him in the hypnotic way I itched to be pulled by, the attraction disfigured by the shadow of social distancing that followed behind us like a chaperone.

I started to forget his face the moment we said goodbye. My memory filled in the gaps so that as I thought about him when I got home it was through the hazy lens of alcohol; remembering shared looks and small moments of conversation, the warmth of his arms as they wrapped around me in a masked farewell. It would have been easy to suggest we meet again, to learn his last name and the complexities that made up his person. To allow passing time to blur the uncertainty, imagining a connection invented with the same insistence as my lockdown fantasies. But so much has changed since that last first kiss.

***

I send the text as the changing leaves of Autumn fall to the ground. A dull panic sets in as I feel the potential seeping away; he was kind, attractive, interesting, but… It’s a hungover Sunday and a grey sky drifts outside my bedroom window, a reminder that I’m not ready to follow the seasons. I want to pick the leaves up, glue them back onto their branches. I think I’m mourning the loss of familiarity that comes with learning the depths of a new body. Although I look over moments of the past with fondness, I miss the intoxication, the feeling of spaces merging, the comfort of physical presence and belonging to someone with complete ease. I long for something new but moving forward with these interruptions to intimacy has dampened the hunger. I struggle to feel satiated without it, but my taste for it has turned stale.

Endings and beginnings overlap the present and past with the fantasy of future, and I’m confused by the complexity of crossing threads. My phone screen lights up as Harrison responds to the message; he feels the same way but is glad we met up for a date in a return to some semblance of normality. The dating dilemma is a puzzle that as of yet I haven’t managed to solve, but maybe right now I don’t need to.

– Nikitah

To the man down the road (a poem)

When out walking the dog, what happens if a stranger says hello? Do you greet them in return, smile politely and keep walking? What if they try to push the conversation, follow you during your walk and won’t stop?

To the man down the road

Walking the dog,
On the dirt road,
Strangers I meet,
Passing me swiftly.

Repeated head nods,
And smiles alike,
These known strangers,
With bound’ries I like.

Small talking is key,
Never amiss,
I know your dog,
But you, not so much.

One man I pass by,
Known face only,
He asks a lot,
As I smile along.

I must be polite,
Wanting to leave,
Hoping my dog,
Moves me on subtly.

I often leave fast,
Poor excuse used,
Hope no offence,
But have a nice day.

One day I came home,
Dog by my side,
He calls out “hey,”
I’m cringing inside.

He tries to talk more,
I refuse to come closer,
He asks what I do,
I try to leave faster.

I say I must go,
And he’s looking dismayed,
I walk home quickly,
Whilst glancing back swiftly.

A week goes passing,
No more problems afoot,
Until one night Dom
Interrupts my ev’ning.

He rides his bike near,
Unwelcomed in my space,
I try to walk on,
But the chit-chat persists.

He follows a bit,
Until I make distance,
I’m feeling bad now,
Why am I such a bitch?

I finish the walk,
Making mum collect me,
So I don’t pass by,
Where Dom last left me.

I know he’s no harm,
But I don’t feel safety,
I beat myself up,
Why do I feel so guilty?

– Katie

My Journey to Recovery – by Esme Michaela

Content warning: this post contains eating disorder references.

Positive body image is always something that I’ve struggled with, ever since I was a kid, and it is definitely something that has always fed my eating disorder. As a child I would make all of the dolls and Barbies I played with look as skinny as possible, wrapping their dresses tight around their waists and stuffing their tops with toilet roll. I remember I would get frustrated if the Velcro on their clothes was a looser fit. To me, this was how I thought women should look. Once I hit my teenage years I would purposefully wear shoes with practically no sole in the bottom as I didn’t want to feel ‘big’ or take up more space than I already did. If I could go back to my younger self, I would tell her repeatedly; “take up space, take up space!”

My whole life I had known that I wanted to be an actor and once I finished school, at 18, I knew that I now had the opportunity to finally pursue it. Because of the way women are presented in the media I consumed, I always had this idea that to be successful I had to look a certain way. Since I was a child I had watched TV shows such as Friends. Because of the female representation in this program in particular I was convinced that successful actresses had to be as slim as Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox. Now I am in recovery I know that this is not the case; appearance does not equal talent. These women were put under such scrutiny about the way the look, Jennifer Aniston having to lose 25 pounds to play the role of ‘Rachel Green’ is a prime example of this, all because of diet culture and the male gaze.

Drawing of a girl crying as she watches a tv show in her bedroom.

When I was 20 I moved to New York to study acting, I would eventually stay there to start working. The programme that I was on called for being on camera, in front of our class, nearly every day. When I was a child I had always been praised for how photogenic I was and how comfortable I was in front of the camera. Once my eating disorder had started to run my life, however, this changed dramatically. Although I still loved acting and loved being on camera I constantly had this voice in my head telling me I looked awful and that to be successful, in acting or any areas of life, I must lose weight. 

Even though my weight was the lowest it has ever been in my teenage/adult life I still had exceptionally bad body image issues. But, because I had bought into the idea that being slim makes you happy and magics all of your insecurities away, it still wasn’t enough. I put my body through hell to achieve something that could only be reached by changing the way I think about how I look, not changing the way I look. Once I came to terms with having an eating disorder my body image issues went up and down like a yo-yo. One hour I could love everything about my body; the next I may not even want to exist because of how I looked.

It took me a myriad of ways to achieve even partial positive body image. One was taking clothed mirror selfies, and eventually taking part in Come Curious’ 30 day nude challenge, where I would take an un-posed naked picture of myself every day, with the aim to just accept the way I look naturally. Eventually I decided to start being open with the world about my struggles and journey, through posting about them on my instagram, @esmemichaela, and by having open and honest conversations with my friends and family. Even though at first I found this exceptionally scary, and still do sometimes, it has given me a body freedom that I have never felt before. I am able to look deeper into how the media doesn’t reflect reality and that social media, or fiction media is never an accurate representation of real people or real life. We are meant to have curves, fat and wobbly bits. People are beautiful because of who they are, not because of what they look like.

Learning to love myself and the way I look naturally, without restricting, dieting or over exercising, whilst still doing and eating the things I love and enjoy, is the best decision I ever made. Now I am a year into recovery I still have body image issues and I still have relapses, but I have to remind myself that, although it feels permanent, it is not. And I will feel better again, eventually.

by Esme Michaela


Resources

For ED resources and contacts, please visit Mind charity’s website here

Image credit: F**ks Given podcast

Click here for Come Curious’ F**ks Given podcast to listen to a body confidence discussion that informed the launch of their #30DayNudeChallenge

Image credit: Come Curious

Come Curious – @comecurious and on YouTube