Finding A Way Out Of An Eating Disorder

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Today I’m going to talk about something that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed on my blog - my experience with eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa. One of the reasons I haven’t spoken about it in depth until now is because I was scared to focus on it. I didn’t want to ‘jinx it’ or trigger myself into going back to old patterns. But a few days ago I was thinking about it, and I realised just how long it has been since I displayed any disordered behaviour, or felt any anxiety or shame about my body. Only now can I see how far I have come, and how I got to this place of self-acceptance, that I never thought I would arrive at. I want to show you how I did it, in the hope that maybe someone out there will find it useful, and realise that it can get better.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and around 50% of sufferers also meet the criteria for depression, which is a scary-ass statistic. I’m not claiming to be an expert on mental health at all, but these tactics helped me, and maybe they’ll light a spark inside one of you.

Talk To Someone Who Understands: It is really, really important to have at least one person in your life while you are battling with an eating disorder who knows about your condition, who you can talk openly with, and who you can trust. It can be anyone from a school counsellor, a sibling, or a trusted friend. If you don’t have anyone in your life that you feel comfortable talking to, then you are always welcome to email me at and I will be  more than happy to chat to you.

Find Your Triggers, And Kick Them The Fuck Out Of Your Life: Eliminating your triggers is a really important step to recovering, and is one of the most empowering tactics I know of.  I started collecting fashion magazines when I was about 11, and looking at thousands of PhotoShopped images of models every day was not what I needed during puberty. I dropped to less than 7 stone without even realising - which at 5’9 is significantly underweight. So I cut them all up and made collages, which you can see on my artwork tab. Unfollow blogs or accounts that make you feel twinges of self-hatred. Make your internet space as safe and nurturing as it can be, and then…

Surround Yourself With People Who Love And Accept Your Body (And Their Own): The mind works like a sponge, and what we hear people say about our bodies (or their own) can stay inside us for a long time, unless we wring it out and re-fill on something positive. If you spend your day listening to friends  reinforce the idea that fat = bad, then it will be pretty hard to avoid absorbing it. I’m not saying that if someone is struggling with their self-confidence that you should cut them out of your life, not at all. Just try and make sure that the majority of what you hear about food, body-image etc, is good stuff and not diet talk. If you have “friends” who make nasty comments about your looks, then please consider showing them the door. You deserve so much better. And never, ever date someone who thinks you are less than perfect. One of the most healing things for me was realising that there are people out there who will find me attractive just as I am; people that won’t even notice the flaws I see when I look in the mirror, because they’ll be too busy enjoying me. You deserve to be adored, and there are people waiting to adore you. Make room for them.

Fall In Love With A Sport, And Become A Warrior: One of the best things I ever did, and not just in relation to my disorder, was taking up swimming again. I have always loved the water, but for a long time during my teens I stayed away from the pool and the beach, because I hated the thought of someone seeing me in a swimsuit. One day I finally got to a place where staying away from the water was worse than people seeing my thighs. The peace I found there, in the sound vacuum that made me weightless and quietened my mind, is a feeling that I carried around with me for hours afterwards. I began to judge my body by different standards; how fast I could do a lap of the pool, how well I could dive. In order to do a sport well, you have to feed yourself. Not only did I have a healthier body as a result, but being in a swimsuit in public every day made me realise just how irrational my anxieties about nakedness had been. No one laughed. The world didn’t end. I stopped feeling ugly, and started feeling like a mermaid. Of course swimming won’t be for everyone; the trick is to find a sport that gives you that out-of-body-and-yet-blissfully-IN-your-body experience. These days I enjoy weight-lifting at the gym, and it brings out my inner superhero. Find your inner superhero.

Throw Away The Bathroom Scales: It’s obvious I know, but weighing or measuring yourself obsessively are habits that are all too easy to get into, and it can become uncontrollable. It might seem like an impossible thing to do, but throw them away. If you cannot make yourself throw them away, ask that person you trust to do it for you. Chances are, if you’re female, you’re pretty aware of your body already (the average woman monitors her own body every 30 seconds) and the scales are only making that worse. I threw mine away four years ago, and have never looked back.

Remind Yourself You Are More Than Your Disorder: It can be all too easy, when you first start your journey to recovery, to almost swap your obsession with losing weight for an obsession with beating the disorder, or with healthy living (this is known as orthorexia). Arm yourself with information, but remember that the disease does not define you. There is so much more to you than that. Sometimes the most healing thing you can do is just allow yourself to be. Dance. Read. Look at how children inhabit their bodies, and remember what it felt like to be that free. You can be that free again. It takes time, but I promise you, it can be done.

My Pussy Taste Like Pepsi Cola

Holly Cassell Art
Making collages is something that I only ever want to do in a very specific frame of mind. I can’t be too happy, or too busy, or too depressed. I have to be full of thoughts and nervous energy, but not so many thoughts that I can’t find a clear outlook. Melancholy sometimes helps. Listening to music always helps. The best time for me to become absorbed in niggledy tasks like cutting paper is when I have an experience in my near past that no longer causes me pain to think about, but that I haven’t quite learned a lesson from yet. Making collages, writing and blogging are all things I use to come to terms with who I am and how I see the world. There is a quote by Flannery O’Conner that goes “I write because I do not know what I think until I read what I say”. This has always been true for me, and conversely, I never know what I feel until I see what I make. This is my first attempt in a long, long time, so it’s not up to my usual standard, but I thought I’d post it anyway, just because I’m really happy to be making them again. I know it signals healing, and learning, and a thought-harvest.

Girl Hate In The Blogosphere: Internalized Misogyny 101

girl hate in the blogosphere

I have never been one of those people who, when criticised, will shrug it off as the words of jealousy. I take criticism to heart; not just from people that I admire and wish to imitate, but from everyone. As my online presence grows and my blog finds more readers, naturally I have become more exposed to both negative and positive attention. I get trolled by both men and women on Twitter for expressing my views on feminism that might not match up with their own. I often have to delete casually nasty comments from my blog, and I stumble across many other instances of girl-hate, or as it is academically known, internalized misogyny. Internalized misogyny is when a woman unconsciously absorbs patriarchal ideas and attitudes, and directs them towards herself and/or other women. You know, those times when somebody tweets you something that sounds like a compliment at first, but is really laced with venom; “Oooo, so jealous you got to go to that event! How on earth did you get an invite?!”; “You look amazing in your last post! It’s so nice that you’re confident in your curves, I don’t know if I could be that brave!”. It is girls spewing poison left, right and centre, with an innocent face and a shrug. Internalized misogyny is thinking that you are the only girl in the world that reads comic books or plays video games. Internalized misogyny is dismissing other women’s interests as girly, superficial nonsense. It is laughing at women for their apparently inferior life choices. It is branding women or their taste as “basic” or “ratchet”. And I see it everywhere in the blogosphere, coming from all niches and directions.

When somebody within the blogosphere has a great success, I sit back and wait for the inevitable shit storm. People don’t like to see their contemporaries do well, it seems. When Zoella announced the launch of her beauty line, the criticism, bitchiness, and blatant jealous backlash on Twitter was depressing to witness. The most depressing thing about it is that it came, almost invariably, from other beauty bloggers. The people who object to Zoella, Pointless Blog et al on the grounds of their “vanilla blogging” being culturally damaging (as Vice did in this article) you would at least have expected to have something critical to say. But no - the people tearing her down were her secret followers, her hidden admirers. People who read her blog and envy her success, but would never admit it. I checked the relationship between Zoella and a few of the people behind the nastiest tweets (this information is public and can be checked easily on many apps) and every single one of them was following her. This says a lot about the competitiveness at the core of internalized misogyny.

I’ve heard so many remarks along the lines of “I’m not like regular bloggers” or “I don’t really fit into the usual blogger mould”, or even worse, “I don’t want to be associated with most bloggers, I’m not like them”. People feel pressured to fit into a box, and in reaction to this, they attack the box and everyone who fits within it. This is overlooked because we live in a society where it is normal to slate others in order to glorify ourselves. We have “body confidence” anthems like Anaconda and All About That Bass that are all about pandering to the male gaze, because hey, real men like curves, right? Who wants to be one of those “fake”, “Barbie doll”, “skinny bitches”? Fuck those skinny bitches, right? Wrong. Bashing a woman’s body shape (or blog, or lifestyle, or taste) because you want everyone to know that yours is better or more “real” doesn’t make you confident. It makes you a sad, uneducated sexist.

So how do we stop it? Well, we can start by not being hypocritical. If you write a blog about make-up and skincare and then slate a girl who does the same as a talentless fraud, please take a good, long look at yourself. If you don’t like a blog, don’t comment on it because leaving your link there gets you lots of traffic. Don’t leave insincere comments period. Share the things you like. Promote the things you believe in. Praise people. Watch loads of Laci Green videos. And remember you aren’t the only woman who likes video games.

I Jumped On To The Lush Bandwagon

lush bubblegum lip scrub
Lush is one of those brands that I’ve always meant to get into, but never really found a product that totally wowed me. For someone who’s a vegan and has a toiletry cupboard full of shampoos made from hemp and neroli oil, the fact that I’d never really gotten into Lush stuff felt like a heinous crime. They’ve been getting a lot of good press lately and so I thought I’d go in their Cardiff store and take a look at the new Christmas range. While I was there I picked up this little beauty. I’d wanted a lip scrub for a while and when I smelt the absolutely mind-bogglingly good scent of this one, I sort of lost my shit just a little. It smells like candy-floss and pick-and-mix, and tastes just as good. The only gripe I really have with Lush is that I completely disagree with their policy on SLS (Sodium Laureth/Laurel Sulfate) which they use in most of their shampoos and soaps. SLS is believed by many to be carcinogenic, as it comes from petroleum, which I try to avoid wherever possible. This scrub, however, contains only sugar, organic jojoba oil, methyl ionone (which is a safe synthetic) and some colourings. It’s edible and can be licked straight off your lips when you’re done exfoliating them.

Lush is that shop that you can always find in a strange city, because you can smell it a mile away. But if you know what you’re looking for, it can be a great place to find totally game-changing products - even if you do need a coffee afterwards to cleanse your palette! Let me know your favourite Lush products in the comments below, I’ve got my eye on some Snow Fairy shower gel...

Hi You Are Beautiful How Are You

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Arvida Byström is a Swedish artist, model, Tumblr blogger, and internet sensation. Valerie Phillips is a fashion photographer I was lucky enough to interview for THE LE SIGH a while back (you can find the piece in my sidebar); you are almost definitely familiar with both their work, even if you don’t know it. Phillips has shot ads for brands like Dr Marten, Converse, Sloggi, and Virgin. Byström’s Instagram alone has over 28k followers. When I heard that a photo-book collaboration between these two women was coming out, it seemed utterly perfect to me; their candy-coloured, rave-and-skate influenced aesthetics gel so perfectly. But according to Phillips’s introduction in ‘hi you are beautiful how are you’, it didn’t go so smoothly at first. Byström is an unsettling, serious personality and was unenthusiastic to have her picture taken. Nevertheless, they were soon taking over a house in East London, painting the walls and the carpet, with Valerie taking pictures along the way. The resulting images are raw and bright and young, Byström’s hair changing colour as you flick through the pages. She seems like a kind of modern mermaid as she sits, in one image, naked in the bath, tipping a cup of water over her own head, with tattoos and body hair and a beautiful childlike face; only showing some fragments, here and there, of who she actually is.

Are Bloggers Getting Ripped Off?

Blogging, whether we like it or not, is now an industry. It is a marketplace. If you aren’t making money from blogging, chances are, you’re making it for someone else. And I’m not even talking about the all-too-real, nasty, totally illegal ways that bloggers are being ripped off – photos being stolen, content being plagiarised, website designs being copied; I’m talking about the bloggers  who are selling themselves short with0ut even realising. Learning how to navigate the Wild West internet, and be a competitor in it rather than a consumer, is a huge challenge. It should be noted that I am most definitely NOT saying the situations below are by nature exploitative or one-sided. Far from it. But I think they need to be examined on a case by case basis. Whether you do blogging as a hobby or career, nobody wants to get used. We should all value our time more than that.

Working With Brands, Blog Tips, Blogging Tips

Events: On the service, being invited to a blogger’s event at a store for a product launch or a sneak preview of their latest collection can seem like a great opportunity, and it is – if you love the brand. If you love the brand and would normally buy from them anyway, blogger’s events can be a fun way of staying up to date with their latest releases, as well as meeting other bloggers who share the same taste. That being said, I’m going to give you an example of what can happen at a blogger event, based on my own experiences. Let’s say you get an email from a make-up brand you like, inviting you to the launch of their new mascara. You feel really chuffed that they singled you out, and you’ve been hearing loads of hype about this product on Twitter,  so you pack up your camera and a buddy or two and head down there. You take loads of pictures of the event, showing off on Instagram, @ing the brand in every one. You’ll test the new mascara and most probably buy one, to have something to review on your blog. You might get some free testers, or, if you’re lucky, a goodie bag with some travel-size products in it. You then go home and blog all about the event, and then later on, blog a review of their new mascara as well.

Now, I don’t think I really have to explain what’s happened here. Not only have you spent much, much more than a few testers or a goodie bag was worth, but you’ve also supplied the brand with a ton of free publicity all over your social network and blog channels. The way they make it happen is by making you feel like press; like the experience you are getting is exclusive. But it’s not, at all. Beware of brands that try to make money out of boosting your ego as a blogger. They are inviting you because they want you to shop.

How to get the most out of it: Only accept invites from brands that you really, really want to be linked with. Ones that match your aesthetic and blog ethos. Use them as opportunities to network with other bloggers, and don’t just stick with the buddy you dragged along out of shyness. Hand out your card. Take people’s Twitter handles and tweet them, rather than the brand. Remember that you are not obligated to post about the event or their product, and only do it if you genuinely enjoyed yourself and think they earned it.

Sponsored Posts/Gifted Items: A lot of bloggers want to work with brands, in some capacity. Most of us are flattered when brands get in touch and want us to feature something of theirs on our blog. But you have to think in terms of hours of work. Ask yourself how long it is going to take to write up a review, take pictures, edit, put together a post, and publicise it. You then compare that to the price of whatever you are getting in return. For example, if you take only 5 hours to do all that, and they are offering you a £10 lipstick in return, you are then working for a wage of £2 an hour. Would you work for that wage in any other job? Or would you consider it slave labour? Sometimes you will get pitches offering a “competition entry” in return for a blog post. I haven’t even got the words for how exploitative that is, really. Try not to trip over their bullshit as you run  a mile.

How to get the most out of it: If you want to work with brands, instead of passively waiting for them to approach you, reach out to ones that you like and already buy from. Your knowledge of their products and genuine enthusiasm will stand you in good stead. The best way to do this is via email, either direct to the brand or to the PR that handles their press/blogger collaborations. You can find an excellent post for learning how to do this here.

Twitter Mentions/Shoutouts: A tweet can seem like a small thing, and it is. But there is a good reason some people sell mentions, or ‘shoutouts’. If you have a large following, your endorsement in a tweet is worth something. Tweeting about a brand you love might seem like a good way of getting that brand’s attention, and on occasion, it can be. But more often than not your tweet will get lost among the plethora of other bloggers doing exactly the same thing, and will just be another free advertisement for them.

How to get the most out of it: If you have worn a dress you adore in a post (and it’s not a freebie that you agreed to promote on social media) and you want to show the brand some love, then by all means mention them. Include a picture in your tweet so that you’re more likely to get a response or a retweet. This tends to work best with young or smaller brands who are still engaging with their customers personally. Use Twitter as a good way of maintaining working relationships, rather than name-dropping a huge brand in the hope they will spot your blog and give you free things. There’s a handy post about how to use Twitter more effectively here.

I know loads of people will probably disagree with what I’ve said here, this is just my opinion. Let me know your experiences in the comments below.

Every Day Can Be Halloween

Autumn Make-Up, Halloween Make-Up
Lipstick, in Beguiled, from Topshop // Nail Polish, Jessica // Blush, in Mellow Mauve, from e.l.f // Eyelash Curlers, Shu Uemura // Hairspray, L’Oreal // Eyeshadow, Chanel //

There’s a lot of talk around this time of year about ‘autumn make-up’ and ‘autumn colours’. Everyone gets super, super excited about plum lipsticks, smokey brown eyeshadows, and red vampy nails. I’ve never really been one to follow trends, even seasonal ones, and if a colour suits me, I tend to wear it year round. I’m the kind of person that will wear red lipstick to the beach. Apart from a few really terrible mishaps in my teens (think Caboodles lipgloss all over my teeth and blue Miss Sporty nail polish, and you’re about there) I’ve always stuck to things that suited my skin, hair, and aesthetic, no matter whether they were in season. Saying that, there are a few things that I get out more when the actual, real life season turns and the weather gets colder. Things like eyelash curlers and hairspray come out more, as does powder and blusher. I tend to wear my hair down more, so that the wind doesn’t destroy my ears. I’m quite a low-maintenance person, now I think about it. Which is a more positive way of saying I’m lazy. And I’m all about the positivity.

A life update…and some things I’ve been keeping secret

Holly Cassell The Persephone Complex
Sometimes it is easy to talk; the words come flowing out, impossible to stop, effortless and unrelenting. There are times when we want to share ourselves, when the sharing helps, and eases our mind. But for the last couple of months, I haven’t wanted to blog about my own life, or dissect interactions the way I used to do. When I first started blogging, there were times when I almost felt sorry for the poor people reading, who were often (judging by the comments) in floods of tears at my diary-like entries. Lately, although a lot has happened (both good and bad) I have wanted to use my blog as a immovable space; somewhere beautiful no matter what ups and downs I was riding. I didn’t want to examine, analyse, and relive the changes that were occurring all around me. I didn’t want to breathe them in too deeply, and allow them to drown me. Now that I have arrived in a better place, and feel able to breathe again, I can at least state the facts. In the last few months I have been through a family bereavement, a break-up, dating, more heartbreak, my horrific hormonal rollercoaster, and finally, a major relocation out of my father’s house, to the peaceful white apartment I write in now, just outside Cardiff. Things have worked out for me, I think; and it is only because of that, that I am able to write. I’ve met somebody I  like, and for once, I am taking it slow. I’ve found a place I am happy to exist, and the relief is like coming up for air.

I intend to raise succulent plants here. Perhaps a tortoise. My brother is my only room-mate. We have wanted this for such a long, long time; to just be together in our own space, with wooden floors and an echo, where I can blog and he can study in peace. We sit and laugh together on the floor of our sofa-less living room piled up with books, and it is blissful just to hear the birds chirping and make toast for us both in the morning. I could write about this better. I could write something that would make me cry as I put the words down, and make you cry as you read them. But I won’t do that. I think we’ve all cried enough.