Sunflower Thoughts

Kind, supportive and forward-thinking

Sunflower Skates: Month One

I stepped on the ice for the first time in years, bought my first pair of figure skates, and signed up for adult ice skating lessons with my best friend after an amazing taster session.

Since writing my post on picking up a new hobby as an adult I decided it would be productive to start keeping a little diary of my abilities and my feelings as I learn and progress in the sport of figure skating. I'm really excited to be able to look back on these diaries in a few months time and see how far I've come.

These entries probably won't be very coherent as they are copied exactly out of my handwritten notebook, but they are raw and real, capturing my thoughts at that moment.

Monday 11th Feb
Before Lesson
I am very nervous for tonight. I enjoyed my taster lesson last week, but this time Em isn’t coming. I have so many questions that I need answering. I don’t even know where to get my skates sharpened.
After Lesson
I feel like everything went wrong in my lesson – my technique is all wrong, I didn’t wear the right clothes, my skates are wrong. I have enquired about one-to-one lessons, and I will give it 6 weeks before buying some high quality skates. I am determined. I will do this. I won’t let today be a setback. Small win – I got my skates sharpened and the guy in the shop was absolutely lovely.

Tuesday 12th Feb
My sister came with me tonight as I went to practice. She hasn’t skated in years, but was just so confident, skating around as I just stood there and watched people. I felt like a fraud. My new skates also hurt my feet quite a bit. I didn’t notice it whilst skating, but once I took them off the sole and big toe of my right foot was so sore. I wish I hadn’t spent £50 on them, I’m such an idiot. On a positive note, I went very fast and didn’t fall!

Monday 18th Feb
Before Lesson
I am really looking forward to the lesson tonight! Em managed to sign up last week so she will be there too. I didn’t go to practice this weekend as I don’t want to develop any more bad habits. I’m a little bit nervous as I have to drive myself, but I’m mainly looking forward to it.
After Lesson
I really, really enjoyed myself! I seem to be progressing really fast too. I am going to be assessed next week to see if I am ready for level 2. Em is still very nervous and my old skates were too big for her, but we are both learning and having lots of fun.

Saturday 23rd Feb
We both went to practice at Em’s closest ice rink today 0- I felt like I progressed a LOT. I’m becoming really confident with trying new things, and even attempted going backwards. I did fall when attempting to show off, but it felt good to push myself. I’m definitely ready for the assessment on Monday now! I’m very much thinking about private lessons too as this is something I’m starting to feel really dedicated to. When I’m on the ice I feel free and confident and beautiful. I love it.

Monday 25th Feb
Before Lesson
I am so looking forward to going tonight! Each week the nervousness disappears more, and I’m becoming more confident. I must remember to remind her about the assessment. Unfortunately, Em thinks she will not be ready for it. She said she doesn’t want to hold me back. I love her very much.
After Lesson
I feel frustrated, I can (literally) skate circles around everyone else in my group on, and most likely those in level 2 as well, yet I still haven’t been moved up. I’m paying to be in lessons with people who are learning to go forwards, while I’m trying skating backwards. No disrespect to them, but I feel like I'm being kept back for no reason. We had our assessment, but weren’t actually given the results!

Wednesday 27th Feb
I went to practice at the Dome. I don’t feel like I made any progress at all – the Dome is just too busy and full of chavs racing around. I may have to move my practice sessions to the Lammas rink near Em as it was much nicer, or keep driving to Sheffield. I did make a little headway with attempting backwards skating and reverse lemons, however I still cannot stop!

Thursday 28th Feb
No skating today, but I did purchase my first pair of ‘proper’ Graf 500 skates from the Ice Locker store inside of the Ice Sheffield rink today. I was very naughty, and decided to skip waiting another few weeks and just buy them now. They fit beautifully, and I am very excited to begin using them. Hopefully I will be able to fit in a practice session before my lesson on Monday as I’m a little nervous that they will be too stiff for me at first and I’ll fall. Em has decided that she won’t be taking lessons any longer, which is a huge shame as I enjoyed learning with her, but she is still coming each week to support me. She's my Skate Mom now.

Thanatophobia & constantly living in fear

I'm terrified of death. Not of my own, I don't ever seem to think or worry about that, but I am always filled with a fear of something horrible happening to my family. Upon googling it, I found out that this constant irrational fear of loved ones dying is called thanatophobia, and it's something that I deal with every day.

I'm not sure when this anxiety about death first started as it seems to be a constant presence in the back of my mind. Every so often it will just spring into my thoughts, sometimes brought on by something, mainly just randomly. It's not always death too - sometimes it's getting hurt, getting kidnapped, being attacked, but it's always around the same themes.

Every time my sister goes into town on a night out, I worry. I lie in bed thinking that if only I can stay awake long enough, I can ensure that she comes home safely. That she won't be stabbed, or dragged away in the dark by a group of men. I've laid there with my eyes squeezed shut and my fingers crossed for hours before, waiting until I hear the door click and I know she's home.

Some days are much more difficult than others, especially when there's a trigger behind my panic attacks and I'm not just being irrational. We had some bad weather recently, and I could not get the thought out of my head of a car skidding on the ice and hitting my mum as she walked to work. The scene plays in my mind over and over again until I'm certain it's real.

Another trigger was that my dad's car cut out whilst driving across the train track level crossing the other day - he re-started the car perfectly safely and made it home, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about what could have happened.

It's also become a lot worse since we got a dog. When we first adopted her, I joked that it was just one more thing for me to worry about, but it's a painful truth. Every day I worry about her running away, getting hit by a car, or being stolen. Even just writing this post is incredibly difficult, and I had to text my sister to send me photos of the dog to prove they were both fine (as I do most days.)

Last week, I had to cancel an order for the dog's biscuits. I was presented with an online form including pre-written answering as to why I was cancelling. One option simply said "Poppy has passed away." Seeing that set me off, badly. It was so much worse that they'd even put her name in there. I had a full breakdown in the toilets at work, crying and crying that she was going to die if I didn't go home right that instant. Luckily my sister was home to send me photos and assure me everything was okay.

It isn't normal, I understand that. I should not be feeling this way every day, terrified of my family going about their daily lives, wanting to bundle them up in the house, lock the door and close the curtains. I once mentioned it to a colleague who stared at me in utter disbelied that I had such awful thoughts all the time. But I'm not alone. I read an article on Scary Mommy which felt like I could have written myself, replacing the kids for my sister and the dog. It's a small comfort to know that it's not just me that feels like this, that wants to scream and cry in terror every time my fiance is fifteen minutes late home, and that the writer found ways to control her irrational thoughts.

If you've read this far, you're probably a bit concerned for me. I'll put your mind at rest. I'm going to have a talk with the doctor and consider my options. In all hope I'll be able to control this fear in time, even if I can't completely eradicate it.

Starting a new hobby as a (sort-of) adult

When you think about the word ‘hobby’, usually two different scenarios come to mind. You either imagine children, going to gymnastics and swimming clubs, or older people collecting stamps and bird watching. It’s not often that having a hobby is considered an ‘adult’ thing to do as it’s widely accepted that adults are very busy – they don’t have time for extra curricular activities.

I’m at a weird stage in my life where I am absolutely not an adult (can’t cook, live with parents, scared of making phone calls) but at the same time, completely am (engaged, full time job, steady income). So I’ve hit a little bit of a rut. I’ve been in the same job for almost three years, slowly progressing, but still not sure what I want to do with my life.

It doesn’t help that I’m still in the same mindset from my teenage years. I love to learn and I feel stale when I haven’t discovered something new for a while. I want to develop new skills and try new things, but as far away from a ‘school’ environment as possible. All whilst working 40 hours a week.

Luckily I do have a lot of free time. Unlike the majority of young professionals, I don’t have a long commute to work. I also only work office hours, leaving the entire weekend open.

So what have I chosen to fill that time, and add a little excitement to my daily life?

Two words - Ice skating. Yep, my lazy and utterly ungraceful self has not only started going to public skating sessions, but I've even convinced my best friend to sign up with me for proper lessons too. How hilarious is that? But in all honesty, it's something that I've always wanted to do since I was about eleven, but it was never feasible at the time. Lessons were too expensive for my parents to pay for. Good ice skates cost upwards of £100. And I couldn't expect my dad to drive me 20 miles each way three times a week, so I just forgot about it.

Ten years later, I now have the income to afford lessons, equipment and clothing. I drive and can make my own way to lessons and practice sessions, without having to rely on bus timetables or my parents taking me (although my gorgeous fiancé has run me around a lot so far.) I have the determination and motivation to learn something new, and to my absolute delight I seem to be quite good at it, which inspires me further.

I've made a lot of mistakes already. I've discovered that my technique is all wrong, the cheap skates I bought aren't right, and it simply isn't practical to turn up to the rink wearing only a dress and thin tights, but I'm learning and that's what matters.

I'm really excited to see where this takes me, especially as for the last two weeks it's been all I can think about. I've been constantly researching tips, watching technique videos and posting in adult ice skating Facebook groups for advice.

I'm hoping this won't just be a fad, and will become something that I am genuinely proud of and can enjoy for a long time.

Finding true friendship in my twenties

I’ve had a lot of friendships end and change throughout my twenty-one years. When I was younger, I assumed that I would stay best-friends-forever with my primary school pals, but we drifted apart, as children always do as they grow up and move to different schools.

Then there was the teenage best-friendship that lasted me through high school, but ended abruptly one day after a betrayal and was never recovered.

Finally, the toxic cliques of my college years, categorised by backstabbing and spite from girls who were very much old enough to know better, ending as soon as I broke up with their leader and was no longer eligible for membership in their ‘squad.’

The last couple of years, I’ve been perfectly fine without having a super-close girlfriend, spending the majority of my evenings and weekends with my boyfriend (now fiancĂ©), watching Netflix shows and going on shopping trips to TK Maxx (where I’d always spend far too much money). However once he moved in with me and we got engaged, I found myself craving a different kind of company.

I needed to find a friend. Someone to gossip and giggle over bottles of wine with, the same way that my mum and ‘auntie’ Sarah have done every Monday night since well before I was born.

But making new friends as an adult is strange, and it’s not something that anyone really talks about. How do you even go about ‘friending’ once you’re over the age of five and can no longer bond over a shared love of Peppa Pig and hatred of school dinners? Especially if you work 9-5 every day, barely leave the house, and hate driving.

As it turns out, it was easier than I initially thought. It’s 2019 and there’s an app for everything, including finding girlfriends. The app I came across was called Bumble BFF, and you ‘swipe’ your potential friendship matches in the same way you would use Tinder. How very modern.

At first I felt a bit self-conscious, putting in my age, likes and dislikes the same way I would a dating profile, worrying about whether my bio made me seem ‘cool’ or approachable, but once I got into the swing of things, it became fun. The matches started to ping in, which (as you’ll know if you’ve ever used Tinder) was all very exciting.

This next part is going to sound like a cheesy rom-com, because that’s essentially what it is. From the moment I first saw Em, I knew I wanted to be friends with her. Grinning out from her profile with a mass of pink hair, she described her love for reading, dogs and Netflix, and from the first message we instantly clicked.

I can imagine a few people reading this now will be thinking that I’m a bit of a saddo for having to use an app to make friends. But I can’t praise Bumble enough for enabling me to find someone to have sleepovers with, go ice skating every Monday, and be amazing and supportive enough to inspire me to start blogging again. 

Em is as loud and outgoing as I am shy. She’s the kind of girl I never would have dreamed of walking up to in public and starting a conversation with as she’s just so cool, with her bright hair and goth stomper boots, but thanks to Bumble, she’s my best friend, and I will always be proud of that.

*this post has not been sponsored in any way. I genuinely freaking love Bumble

Beating the cycle of emotional spending

A cashier scanning a pink garment with a brand tag at a till
I’ll tell you a secret – In 2018, I spent over £2000 on LUSH products. That’s two THOUSAND English pounds. On bath bombs, soaps, skincare and shower gels. I was absolutely horrified when I finally sat down and worked it all out. I knew I spent a lot at LUSH (especially whilst working there for a couple of months) but I had no idea it was anywhere near that amount.

I’m usually very good with my finances. I plan out all my income and outgoings on a spreadsheet, I contribute to a pension fund, and I have never been overdrawn in my life. So how on earth did I spend the accumulation of £2000 without even realising?

The answer is falling prey to the cycle of emotional spending. 

Like Cher Horowitz, Becky Bloomwood and Elle Woods before me, when I'm feeling down I like to buy myself 'treats' to cheer myself up with a shopping spree. Unfortunately, this ends up being a vicious cycle. I feel sad, so I spend a lot of money on things I don't need for a temporary pick-me-up, then I realise how much I spent and I feel guilty, and need another buzz. 

As it turns out, I’m not alone. Multiple studies have found that retail therapy really does make us happier. According to a study by Asda Money, 19 million of us spend for purely emotional reasons, be it after a break-up, retirement or coping with a death. Especially for those of us dealing with depression or anxiety problems, shopping provides a way of literally buying happiness.

It’s even worse if I go shopping when I’m feeling better than usual, as once I get into a buzz, that's it. My bank account is doomed. If I've been to a blog event or store opening I always end up spending way more than I normally would, simply because I'm having so much fun. I can't explain the feeling as well as I can for shopping when I’m sad, but I tend to go into a manic spending 'bubble' where I can't read the price tags, or I just don't care what things cost. The worst case for this is when I'm really getting along with a sales assistant (here’s looking at you, LUSH) and I just want to make them happy too. It’s an absolute mess.

So… what am I doing about it?

I have a few ideas that I’ve started putting into practice already, and they really are helping so far. If after reading this far you've realised that you've also become a victim of emotional spending, take a little time to work out the crucial emotion behind why you're spending (happy? sad? stressed? FOMO?) then check out the following tips.

1. Limit your exposure to problem brands

In 2017, well before my LUSH addiction, I was obsessed with Too Faced makeup. I had to buy every new product on it's release day, meaning I spent about £100 each month. Since unsubscribing from their emails and unfollowing them on Instagram, I haven't spent a penny. Out of sight really is out of mind in this case, especially if you tend to scroll social media whilst feeling down, and therefore susceptible to emotional spending.

2. Ditch the debit card and delete Apple Pay

I've started leaving my purse at home, or only carrying the exact amount I need in cash, so that I literally cannot spend any more that I have with me. This is especially helpful when I head out to buy one specific item, as it prevents me from spending more money on other things I see when I get into a shopping 'buzz'.

3. Keep track of the days since a spree

I've been keeping a small tally chart on my desk, and adding another notch every day I am 'clean' from buying LUSH. You'd be surprised how motivational it, wanting to keep going and building up the days. It makes it like a little game, wanting to hit each checkpoint of 5, 10 then 15 days. It replaces the buzz from spending with a much more rewarding one from NOT spending.

4. Plan your outgoings on a spreadsheet

This has really helped me reduce my spending by more than 60% in the last month (yes, I added it up!) especially as I also try to enforce the rule that I cannot buy anything unless I put it on my spreadsheet at least 24 hours in advance. I get super nerdy over my spreadsheet, adding in bar charts and projected savings goals, which also cheers me up when I see how well I am saving money, instead of spending it.

5. Express your emotions in a healthier way

The most important point of all involves you working out why and how you spend, just like I did, and finding a much healthier way of expressing those emotions. Be it picking up a new hobby or sport, calling a friend for a chat, or starting a blog or YouTube to channel your energy, there's plenty of ways to express yourself that don't require spending any money.

At the end of the day, emotional spending is a habit, and all habits are able to be broken with dedication, support and understanding your motives.

If you are finding beating the cycle of emotional spending a bigger problem than you can deal with on your own, consider speaking to a therapist or counsellor about your struggles, and they can suggest more personalised ways to channel your emotions.