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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Being Single on Valentine's Day

Hi guys! I know that my lack of schedule on here is probably getting annoying for you all, and you're likely getting fed up by now of waiting for me to share something new after basically ghosting my blog for the last two weeks. I don't like starting posts off on a negative note, however I feel that I should explain a little of what's been going on with me. The beginning of this year has not started off great for me, with family 'problems' and the loss of some of my beloved pets... there's just been one bad thing after another and life has been hard on my mental health. Not gonna lie, I've been in a really bad place. So, as much as I've wanted to blog, I have been struggling to even get out of bed or do the most basic of self care for myself. It's a little embarrassing to say that, but it's the reality of depression and it is my aim to be more open about my health on here. Anyhow, at 5am the other day, I had a sudden and unexpected urge to open word on my laptop and type up something related to Valentine's Day and what my personal feelings are about it. I'm not sure how interesting it's going to be to read and I'll probably ramble, but at least it's something and hopefully some of my readers can relate :) I hope that everyone is using today as an excuse to treat themselves, not that you need any excuse of course, you should treat yourselves whenever you can! But it's a good opportunity to get yourself a little something and practice some self love 

Well I'm not even sure where to start on this topic to be honest...

I have been single for a long time now, because of a few different reasons. It was difficult for what felt like forever to even consider another relationship after the breakup with my ex-boyfriend. I'm not sure that any breakup can be called a 'good' one, but mine was the complete opposite of anything good. It was horrible and it left me with quite a few emotional scars, which thankfully I have mostly overcome now. Time really does heal things like that, even though it seems impossible at the time it happens. I have been struggling with mental illness since I was 14 years old, and I can't put all of the blame on this breakup but afterwards, my depression and anxiety disorder started to get worse and worse over the years to come. There were lots of factors for that, like the appearance of my chronic health conditions, my struggle to get into the university I wanted and being forced to go back to study for a year at a college that my ex also attended, and I guess just all of the problems from my past combined with other feelings I had going on at the time.

When I finally did get accepted to the university I wanted to go to, I was determined to make sure that I did well and so I invested a lot of my attention to that. As well as the studying side of it, all of the other aspects of university life, such as moving away from home, living with other people, having to be independent, etc., where enough to take my attention away from my lack of a love life. Well for the time being... as the pressures of my deteriorating mental health began to get to the point where I couldn't try to bury them anymore, all of my feelings of loneliness just got so intense. I knew that I was ready to move on, that I wanted to find someone to pursue a relationship with, however my mind had other ideas. I'll talk in more detail about how my mental health affects my ability to date further on in this post, but it really does put a wall up. By mid-way through my second year of study, I was really struggling to live my day-to-day life independently, due to the increasing severity of my anxiety symptoms. I found it difficult to socialise with even my friends, so it was near to impossible for me to interact with people outside of the university setting. There was no way that I would be able to go on a date. Like with pretty much every other area of my life, I was stuck in a place where I desperately wanted to be able to do something, to help to alleviate my negative thoughts, but it was something that was beyond my power to do so. I was ill and I needed help. 

A lot has happened since I have graduated from uni, although it would be hard to tell if you didn't know me personally. The improvements to my mental health have been small and to others might not seem to be of any significance at all, but for me and my well-being they are very important changes. Despite the fact that I am actively making steps towards getting to a better place with various symptoms of my anxiety disorder, I have now accepted it for what it is. A medical condition that I will very likely have for the rest of my life, and therefore there are things now that I will always struggle with and even if I get better at managing them, they will always be something that I have to deal with. The way I do things/go about things now will be different to how I would have before my mental health progressed, and this will of course affect my ability to find a partner and to date, etc. I'm okay with that, but will a potential partner be? This is where for me it has been proving a challenge... 

Being a spoonie is tough, living with both physical and mental health conditions makes so many things a challenge. I have had to adapt my life around my health, to find ways of still being able to do the things I enjoy, to spend time with my loved ones, all in a way that isn't going to make me regret it for weeks when I'm in pain and exhausted. There has been a lot of trial-and-error but now I'm at the point where I generally know what I can and can't do, and what is the best way to go about something whilst managing my symptoms to the best of my ability. When it comes to my mental health, there are things that I have still not been able to 'overcome'. I don't want to sugar-coat it, my social anxiety is severe and although I am now pretty good at communicating online (when you ignore having to read messages like a hundred times before I send them, having to often send my message and email replies to my best friend to tell me it sounds okay, and taking ages to even write said messages/emails), offline in my everyday life, I am literally a social recluse. 

Once I moved back home from university, to find myself pretty much house-bound because of my mental health, I turned to the internet to meet like-minded people. I needed a social and creative outlet, and I wanted to find people who understood what it was like to be like me: a spoonie, an introvert, a strange person with quirky interests :) At first and for a long time, it was terrifying. I was worried about how I came across, if people were going to judge me or dislike me, and so much more. I had wanted to blog for a long time and taking the step to share my blog and interact with fellow bloggers was definitely scary, and even though I still get anxious when I publish a new blog post or talk to people, it is no where near as hard as it was over two years ago. My own version of confidence is probably a lot different to others interpretation of it, but for me I feel that I am confident online. Aside from my blog, I have met a lot of people through the various other social media I use. Tumblr specifically has been very helpful for improving my social interaction comfort levels. I feel like I'm rambling but this all plays in with how I come across online.

When I first explored online dating, since that's gonna be the only way I'll probably meet someone now, unless my soul mate just so happens to bump into me at comic con and sweep me off my feet (yeah right! :D), it was just as hard as when I initially began blogging. Everything was new, and I put so much pressure on myself to come across as a 'good catch', I was embarrassed to be upfront about my health and I let my insecurities and loneliness feed my need to find someone, that I was just putting up with so much crap from people online. If you've used online dating websites yourself, especially as a woman, you will know that they are full of fuckboys, that you're likely to get some delightful messages in your inbox, that people can't be bothered to start a conversation with more than a 'hey' a lot of time, and that some don't even want to take the time to write more than eight words on their profiles. Finding someone via these websites is tough for lots of people, then throw anxiety into the mix and it just seems impossible. After using these sites on and off for two years and having become a lot better at talking online, I definitely find it easier to deal with. Not only to talk to people, but also to ignore the negative things too. I am currently giving it another go, and I now mention that I am a spoonie and have anxiety on my profile, although I'm sure that people still take that as 'oh she's just got a bit of anxiety'/'everyone is nervous meeting new people'/'she's just shy, that's cute!', along with a lot of society, who are forever undermining mental  and/or invisible illness. 

Over the last couple of years, I have made a lot of progress when it comes to my own self image and my personal opinions about myself. I am not quite where I want to be, but I would not have believed someone if they'd have told me I would feel like I do now several years ago. My depression makes me question my self worth all the time and I used to believe all of the intrusive thoughts that filled my head whenever I felt bad about who I was. I still have hard days, but mostly I like who I am... I am happy and proud to be me. I am very self aware and I know what I want and need in life. I no longer put up with things that I used to from others, and when it comes to relationships, I am never going to settle for something I'm not completely happy with. I used to endure things because I believed that's what I deserved and I ignored my own feelings and needs. I'm not going to do that again, and I am really glad about how much my mind set has improved with regards to that. As much as I want to find someone, I mean I do feel lonely and I am ready to let someone into my life romantically, I am content with being single until I find someone who is right and good for me :) 

Finding someone who is right for me has been a challenge, and anxiety is a contributor to that. There are things that I cannot do that other people can, and that other people find easy or manageable, and it is hard to meet someone who is okay with that. I've had situations where I have mentioned not being able to do something because of anxiety, such as talking on the phone, which as my regular readers will know, is something I cannot do even with my loved ones (you can read more about how that affects me here). At first, people are seemingly understanding, but over time they have increased the pressure on me to do things that I have told them I am uncomfortable with. It is never okay for someone to pressure you into doing anything that you are telling them you can't or don't want to do, however I can sympathise that when someone likes you that way, they want to progress the relationship and to get to know you better, and when they don't personally know what it's like to deal with anxiety, they might not be able to empathise with why you can't do things that other people and themselves have with no issue.

I have not been able to find a lot of people who are willing to invest the time that I need to get comfortable with someone, and I am not blaming them really because they are on a dating website to find someone to be with. It's just that they are not the right person that I am looking for, but it's been emotionally difficult to deal with sometimes. I mean I will obviously develop somewhat of a crush on a guy I've been talking to a lot and getting along with well, so when they start to be unhappy with the fact that I am not ready to meet them in person, things will eventually drift off either on their part because they are tired of waiting, or on my part because I can no longer put up with being nagged to meet for coffee all the time. Dating me is not going to be easy if you're a guy who isn't willing to build up a relationship with me online first, if you're not willing to wait until I am comfortable enough to open up to you and let myself be vulnerable with you, if you are not going to accept that I won't video chat with you or talk on the phone for a long, long time. I have lots of online friends who am now very close to who will tell you how patient they have had to be with me to even get to point of me snapchatting with them, but they haven't given up on me because they value my friendship and they want to get to know me. They don't make me feel pressured and they just let things be; they're happy to communicate with me via whatever way makes me comfortable. I wish that I could find a potential partner who is willing to do the same. I hope that I don't come across as big-headed or whatever by saying this, but I am an interesting, complex, wonderful person and they are missing out! Good things come to those who wait is something that keeps popping into my mind as I type. Fingers crossed that I am able to find a guy who is happy to get to know me for as long as I need before we meet in person and go on a date, because I would love to find someone :) 

So my thoughts about being single on Valentine's Day are both good and bad. On the bad side of things, I have a lot of love to give with no one to give it to. I am a very affectionate person and I'm feeling pretty unfulfilled in my life right now without someone special. I can't deny that I am lonely and that I am yearning for someone to express a whole side of my personality that is neglected, both emotionally and sexually. My regular readers may have read my posts about being a submissive and into BDSM, and this is another thing that makes finding the ideal date a challenge. With regards to intimacy, I need to have a deep emotional connection with someone before I am engage in any kind of passionate relationship, and with no love interest on the cards at the moment, this is something that I am missing too. On a positive note though, I am happy to be able to focus more attention to working on my mental health 'recovery'. I am glad that I have been single for a while and have been able to develop a love from myself that I didn't have before. I am proud of the way that I think about myself now, and how I am now approaching life with a better mind set that I can take with me into my next relationship.

If you, like me, are single this Valentine's Day, please make sure that you are spending the day concentrating on self love. I know that it is easier said than done, especially when you're probably in the same boat as me and struggle not to look back on your past relationships especially this time of year when everyone is talking about love. It is hard not to dwell on your previous partners and breakups and things like that when every shop window and every website is basically slapping hearts and flowers and other romance imagery in your face. However, remember to be kind of yourself and focus on embracing all that is wonderful about you. Watch your favourite movie, listen to music that fills you with joy, have a relaxing bath and pamper yourself, give yourself some TLC if you know what I mean ;), do whatever makes you feel good. And as I noted in my introduction, take the opportunity to spoil yourself today (or tomorrow, because discount chocolate!). You are fabulous and you deserve a treat! To everyone who isn't single and is spending Valentine's Day with your partner, I hope you are having a lovely time and spoiling one another :)

I am not sure if this post has been fun to read or not, but if you made it this far then thankyou so much for persevering with my rambling. Happy Palentine's Day to all of you guys! 

Thankyou for reading! 

Are you a fan of Valentine's Day or not?

What are your personal thoughts on the day?

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Saturday, 27 January 2018

Celebrating National Chocolate Cake Day | Baking

Happy Saturday lovelies! It has been absolutely ages since I blogged!! Just when I thought I'd gotten to a better place with my insomnia, I finally got my period. If you're a regular reader of my blog, then you might remember when I blogged all about getting my contraceptive implant removed; since August 2016 I have only had one other proper period so this latest surprise appearance was somewhat of a shock to my body and it certainly responded accordingly. I have felt so drained and groggy all the time, ugh >.< I was definitely relieved at first because I was getting a little worried, but after a few days it just wanted it to stop so I'm glad that it's finally over, haha! Anyhow, apologies for my lack of activity once again! :D I know that 2018 blogging-wise has not gotten off to a good start, but I have plenty of time to fix that! And so on with today's post...

If you didn't know, today is National Chocolate Cake Day. To be honest, all of these interesting national 'holidays' and celebrations are a US tradition but I really like how there's so dates marked to appreciate the most random of things so I don't care if I'm from the UK, I'm still going to join it with the occasion, because there's never a reason not to celebrate something! Especially when that something involves chocolate and cake, two of the best things in existence, wouldn't you agree? I spent this afternoon baking and so I thought I'd share the recipe, so that you can have a go at making a chocolate cake yourselves :) I hope you enjoy reading, and if you don't have some chocolate cake in your lives right now, take a trip to the shops and get some! 

I originally wanted to make a Devils Food Cake, because they are super chocolatey and make me think of the iconic cake from the movie Matilda :) however the ingredients was more than I could justify spending at the moment, so I went back to my usual baking tradition of using a recipe from Be Ro. My mom always talked about recipes from Be Ro when I was growing up and so whenever I wanted to make something that's traditional, then I take a look for one of their recipes. So that's where I found the chocolate cake recipe that I used today. You can find the original one here but I'm still going to write it up for you on this post :) 

What you'll need to make your own chocolate cake

200g self-raising flour
225g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
a pinch of salt (half a teaspoons worth)
100g margarine
2 medium eggs
5 tablespoons of water
5 tablespoons of evaporated milk 
some vanilla essence 

Also you'll need two baking tins, a mixing bowl and other baking utensils for mixing and measuring out your ingredients. 

What you'll need to make the milk chocolate icing/frosting 

This is also a Be Ro recipe & I doubled it, using one batch for the middle of the cake and the other for decorating the top and sides :) Here's the ingredients for one batch: 

1 tablespoons of cocoa powder 
250g icing sugar 
3 tablespoons of hot milk
60g margarine
a teaspoons worth of vanilla essence

Then, whatever you want to add to your cake for decoration :) As you can see from my first photograph, I opted with chocolate fingers and maltesers for my chocolate cake. 

This mixture tasted so delicious and was really tough not to eat! I love how it looks like angel delight too *nom nom* 

How To Make Your Chocolate Cake 

1. Firstly, set your oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) to pre-heat it whilst you are preparing your cake mixture/batter. Also grease your baking trays. I just use a little margarine for this and coat the entire base and sides a little.

2. To start your cake mixture off, add the flour, sugar, cocoa and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl and stir them together until everything is mixed thoroughly. 

3. This next part is a little messy, but I love it! It reminds me of making crumbles when I was a teenager in my high school food tech classes. You add the margarine into your mixing bowl and rub it in with your hands. Basically you mix and rub the ingredients together, rolling it between your fingers and thumb, until you have created an almost crumb-like mixture. I think it's really fun, haha :) 

4. If you're using an electric whisk then for the next step you can just add the ingredients and whisk it, but I prefer to mix my ingredients by hand so this is what I did. I cracked my eggs into a bowl and whisked them up with a fork, then I added the milk to the egg mix and continued to stir until it was all mixed together. 

5. Now, you pour this egg-milk liquid into your big mixing bowl with the other ingredients, and stir it until it looks like the chocolate paste in my photograph above. Add a few drops vanilla into this as well and give it all a good stir. 

6. You can then separate the mixture as evenly as you can between your two baking tins, and cook for 30-35 minutes. Mine were done in 30 minutes :) 

Method for the Milk Chocolate Frosting

1. Wait until your cakes are cool, then remove them for the baking trays and pop them onto a plate, before starting your frosting :)

2. Add your icing sugar into a mixing bowl first. Then, pop your margarine into the microwave for approx. 30 seconds, stopping and stirring at 15 seconds, until it is liquid. 

3. Now, Add a little milk into a jug or a microwave bowl for 2 minutes, but sure to keep an eye on it stopping it at a minute to check and such. Once your milk is hot, set it aside until needed. The next step is to add a tablespoon of cocoa powder into your melted butter and stir until it's thoroughly blended. 

4. I then made a little hole with a spoon in the centre of my icing sugar, and poured the chocolatey mix in. I added my three tablespoons of the hot milk to it and a teaspoons worth of vanilla essence, then it's mixing time!

5. Keep mixing until you are left with a thick chocolate icing paste, which is delicious by the way! I recommend eating some right away :p haha! It's thick enough to spread onto your cake using a knife. 

6. As I mentioned earlier, I used an entire batch for the centre (which was probably a little too much but I'm happy with my 'death by chocolate' cake XD). Then, I repeated this milk chocolate frosting recipe all over again, and used this lot to spread all over the top of the cake and down the sides too. 

7. Lastly, I covered the sides of my cake with chocolate fingers and popped a few maltesers on top in a random pattern, and ta-da! I have a very chocolate cake! Keep scrolling to see my masterpiece XD (FYI, it's super messy!). 

So, here's my finished chocolate cake for National Chocolate Cake Day! As you can see, whenever I make a cake it never turns out as pretty as I intend. I only had square tins and I wanted a more round shape so I attempted to cut the cake to a better shape without using anything circular to trace around :D and this is the result. I also didn't have anything to smooth down the chocolate frosting so it doesn't look neat but it tastes amazing so I don't mind. Another mistake I made was because of my crappy spatial awareness, I put my cake more towards the bottom of the oven instead of in the middle like you're supposed to. Thus I had some burn parts on the bottom of my cakes, that I had to cut off. Despite all of my baking failures, I had an awesome time making my cake and so it doesn't really matter. Baking is all about the fun and the yummy creations at the end of it. It may not look like a cake from a magazine but it tasted scrumptious! What do you think guys? I hope that you all enjoyed today's post :) Have a lovely weekend! 

Thankyou for reading! 

Tell me all about your baking 'disasters' guys! 

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