My Relationship with Facebook: It’s Complicated

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Well, actually, that’s not entirely true, it’s more of a obsessive-need/hate relationship. Either way, it’s complicated.

I check Facebook every day, not even just once a day, several times a day. Not just when I get a notification on my phone, sometimes for no reason at all – in fact, most of the time for no reason because I don’t actually get that many notifications.

And that is exactly where my ‘obsession’ becomes harmful.

As someone who suffers with depression and social anxiety, and who has also moved around 300 miles away from practically everyone she knew, I desperately want social media to provide me with the social contact, love, care and support that other people get from actually friends they see as part of their day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, whether it’s down to age or something else, very few of my Facebook friends seem to engage with Facebook on a regular basis and those that do don’t seem to engage with me – it’s from this point that the little depression demon in my head starts running round in circles yelling unhelpful comments like “They’re deliberately ignoring you”, “Everybody hates you”, “No-one wants to speak to you”, “You’re annoying and boring” and other increasingly nasty and unhelpful things like that until I want to scream and shout and then curl up, cry and never show my face in public ever again.

Basically, for me anyway, Facebook is a depression enabler – it provides my depression demon with more than enough ammunition to totally destroy any small crumb of happiness or confidence I might have built up. A wonderful combination of images and status updates that show how wonderful everyone else’s’ lives are combined with an almost complete lack of interaction and much desired social contact for me.

I’d would like to point out at this point that my rational brain knowns that none of this is the fault of the people I know, this is all totally the result of how I (over)react to things. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, the result is always the same.

The only thing I have left is to seriously cut down on using the damn thing – which sounds easy enough but I have so far failed in this. Maybe because the occasional optimist in me always hopes that someone might have sent me a message but my phone has forgotten to update me (cos that happens all the time, right?). Maybe it’s just become such a habit over the years that I just can’t help myself.
I do go through periods of thinking it would be easiest to just delete my profile and never use it again – but then I don’t know if anyone would ever contact me again, at least while I’m still signed up then there’s a chance.

I’m sorry if this has been a bit of a whingy post, but it’s something that I needed to get off my chest. I also hope that if I write it down and make it public then I might actually stick to reducing my use and ending this damaging obsession.

Thanks for reading,

Graduation Day

Just less than two weeks ago I finally graduated from my PhD and brought 8 years of University to an end.

It was a lovely sunny day, although a little bit hot to be sat around in academic robes. The robes for PhD graduates from the University of Southampton are a delightful combination of burgundy and light blue, which made selecting an outfit a little difficult. I went with a very safe black dress with a simple crane pattern, from Monsoon (in the sale).

Me in my ‘beautiful’ robes

I was pretty nervous before the ceremony – having to walk across a stage in front of a hall full of people, what if I fell over? Plus, when you get a PhD you have to kneel on a stool in front of the Vice Chancellor and they put the hood over your head. What if I completely misjudged the stool and ended up collapsing into the Vice Chancellor’s lap?

Yeah, I get a bit ridiculous and paranoid about these things.

Needless to say, nothing terrible happened. I walked up, knelt down, got my hood put on, had a brief chat with the Vice Chancellor and left. Now I’m 100% officially a Doctor and even have the certificate so I can go get my title changed on my bank cards ๐Ÿ™‚

My Mummy and Me ๐Ÿ™‚
Me and Pete
Me and my Dad ๐Ÿ™‚

It was a nice day, especially as my parents came down to visit and Pete got the day off work to be able to be there. In the evening we were also joined by my sister and her boyfriend for dinner, it isn’t often we get the whole family together like that ๐Ÿ™‚

These past few weeks have been pretty crazy. A few days after my graduation we had to head up north for my cousin’s wedding, followed a few days later by my 28th Birthday. In addition, we’ve been trying to make some pretty big life decisions about moving home and our job situation, as I am still struggling to find work. So all-in-all it’s been pretty hectic and chaotic.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have noticed that I have recently become an Instagram-er, as I got a new iPod for my birthday that can use Instagram, unlike my phone. I haven’t posted too many photos yet, but think it’s definitely something I could get carried away with! Find me by searching ‘betty_leopard’, and let me know if you use Instagram too, I’m very keen to find interesting people to follow.

Thanks for reading,
I hope you’re well.


Universal Letter Writing Week 8th-14th January

This week is Universal Letter Writing Week.

Image from morgueFile

A handwritten letter is a truly elegant way of communicating. Unfortunately, the past century has seen a relentless influx of new, more convenient, and speedier means of communicating – the telephone, fax, pagers, emails, text messages, social networking, skype. The Royal Mail is no longer an essential communication service, becoming an essential eBay delivery service (still very important!).
When you think about it, none of these new forms of communication really come close to the joy and excitement of a pretty, handwritten letter or card dropping onto your doorstep. Now, January might not be the best time to ask this question as Christmas can provoke a need to send letters and cards, but when did you last send or receive a meaningful card or letter? Just a name and generic greeting (Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas etc). doesn’t count, by the way. How did it make you feel?
I love receiving little cards, notes and letters in the post. When I graduated from uni and everyone went their separate ways back to their own home towns, my friends and I would regularly send each other cards with little doodles and messages, even though we also regularly communicated electronically as well.
A card or letter has so much more permanence than an email or text. It’s something someone can put on a shelf or keep in a special place to pick up and read when they need to feel loved. It’s something very personal, between two people, that can be decorated and made pretty, becoming more of a keepsake than just a form of communicating.

Letter Loungeย (@letterlounge) is an organisation that aims to encourage letter writing. They host letter writing events, complete with pens, paper, cake and even stamps, where you can go along and take some time to write a letter to someone. They even post the letters for you, so it’s pretty minimal effort on your part!
It just so happens that there is a Letter Lounge event this week! If you’re in London on Thursday evening (6pm – 8pm), head over to the Tatty Devine shop on Monmouth Street and check out their Letter Lounge event. If you are running your own event, you can also get in touch with the people at Letter Lounge and get them to come along and set up shop!

If, like me, you’re not in London, you can still try your hand at writing a letter or card and sending it to a loved one. I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for pretty stationery, and this would certainly be the perfect opportunity to buy some! If I’m shopping on the high street, I like Paperchase for pretty cards and writing sets. But, truth be told, if I’ve got the time to get things delivered, Etsy is brilliant for unique and interesting cards and stationery.

Clockwise from top left:
Dandelion Writing Set. ยฃ2.50 for 10 sheets of paper, 10 envelopes and 10 address labels
Ava Zip Letter Set. ยฃ2.75 for 10 sheets of paper, 10 envelopes and 10 address labels
Lazer Cut Floral Cards. ยฃ7.00 for 5 cards with envelopes
Kista Note Cards. ยฃ4.75 for 8 cards with envelopes
Clockwise from top left:
Mini Note Cards: Japanese Kokeshi Doll. ยฃ2.33 for 12 mini cards (based in Utah)
Grey and Peach Note Cards. ยฃ3.99 for 4 cards with envelopes (based in Florida)
Four Owls Mini Letter Writing Set.ย ยฃ9.98 for 12 sheets of paper, 12 envelopes and 12 labels (based in West Virginia)
Bowls Letter Writing Set. ยฃ7.50 for 8 sheets of paper and 4 enveloped (based in London)

Of course, if you have the time, you could always make your own absolutely unique and personal stationery. All you need is some paper or card, some pens/paints/stickers/sequins/etc and let your creativity run wild!

All this, and I haven’t even started thinking about the right pen for writing with!
Can you think of someone to write a letter to? A Friend or Relative? A proper thank you letter for a Christmas gift? Or, if not, write a letter to yourself to open in a years time (or longer)?

Happy Letter Writing,

New Year: 2012

This time last year I set out a short list of resolutions, things I wanted to achieve and develop during 2011 (here). Looking back over this list one year on, I’ve done ok, better than I expected anyway ๐Ÿ™‚ This is a bit of a wordy post I’m afraid, but is something I really want to write about.

Reviewing my 2011 Resolutions

1. Lose Weight/Tone Up
Over the summer I put in a lot of effort and lost half a stone in about 2 months. While the amount of effort I’ve put in since has tailed off a bit, I haven’t put any of it back on, just lost a little bit of tone.

2. Invest in a more grown up skin-care regime
Well, I’ve written quite a lot about this over the course of the year (here). I’ve experimented with a fair few products and have found something that is certainly more suitable for my skin than what I was using before.

3. Make more time for the important people in my life
My efforts on this haven’t been wholly consistent. I’ve gone through phases in the amount of effort I’ve made, and overall probably haven’t made as much effort as I had intended ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

4.ย Work on being happier/more confident and enjoying life more
My mood has fluctuated a lot this year, for various reasons, but I have definitely made significant efforts towards being happier and enjoying life more. Pete and I have made more efforts to do fun things together and I have really tried hard to stretch myself and do things that wouldn’t normally be within my comfort zone (eg. Blogger Meet!).

5. Work harder
This had probably been my area of least success. My dedication and motivation has taken a fair few hits at various points, and I think I’ve probably spent more time wishing I wasn’t doing a PhD than I have feeling positive about finishing ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

So, that’s probably 3 and a half out of five? Could have been better could have been worse. But it’s important to keep focussing on the future, moving forward and continuing to better ourselves, not dwelling on the past and the things we could have done better.
Which brings me nicely to my resolutions for 2012. I’ve actually written a big long list of things in my ideas book, but I’ll limit myself to the key ones here.

1. Lose more weight/Regain my tone
I am very happy that I managed to lose half a stone this year, but my ideal weight is about 10 stone, which is still another half stone away. I’ve done it once so I am confident I can do it again this year ๐Ÿ™‚
While exercise is going to be the biggest part of this (Gillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred), I want to improve my diet too, largely by reducing the amount of unrefined carbohydrates I eat.

2. Continue my efforts to be happier, confident and to enjoy life more
Again, I laid a good foundation for this is 2011, but there is more I can do. While money is always a limiting factor, I hope to get out and have fun as much as possible, with friends, family and Pete. I need to do at least one thing this year that scares me (another Blogger Meet couldย fulfilย this one).
For the sake of minimising the number of resolutions, I should also throw making more efforts with the people I care about in here too. These people are so important and it’s too easy to forget this before you realise they’re gone.

4. Get more work published
In 2011, I had my first article published by an online magazine. I intend to get more work published, by the same magazine and, hopefully, beyond! Writing is still a career I think I might like to pursue, so I’ll need all the experience I can get.

5. Develop my skills
Specifically, I want to improve some of my craft skills, take a class on cupcake decorating and learn more about photography.

6. Leave Southampton
I have been in Southampton for more years than I care to think. It’s not a bad town, but after so long it seems a bit boring to me. I don’t want to be limited by location, there has to be somewhere better!!

7. Grow my hair
Well, it might be a bit overwhelming if all my resolutions were big ones! I’ve tried to grow my hair before and always got annoyed with it at that in-between stage. This year I really want to try and get past that. I might still want to go back to being short, but I at least want to try it longer ๐Ÿ™‚

The prospect of an entire new year spread out in front of me, with so many things I want to achieve, is quite daunting. I am hopeful for a year of positive developments and making happy memories.
Have you taken any time to think about your ambitions for 2012? Whether you have or haven’t, I hope the year holds good things for you too.


Friday Filler

I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline, but not anything that’s going to be ready today, so I thought I’d fill the space by recognising and thanking my new blog followers, twitter followers and commenters.
I’ve had a super successful week with the blog, getting a record 153 views yesterday.
I really enjoy writing my blog and I’m absolutely thrilled to know so many people have dropped by and (seem to have) enjoyed reading it!
I’ve found some interesting new blogs through my new followers as well, which I will likely be featuring next time I do a Blog Love post.

Thank you again, your support means a lot,


My Birthday

Last Saturday was my birthday. I turned 26.
I’ve long had a funny relationship with birthdays. When I was younger I didn’t have many friend, and with my birthday being in the summer holidays, any friends I did have were often away. So I remember a lot of lonely birthdays that, over time, led to me not being that bothered about celebrating them. My previous two birthdays (24 and 25), since meeting my wonderful boyfriend, have been the best I’ve ever had, what with being thoroughly spoilt and having a couple of good parties. However, as he’s away this year and wasn’t going to be here for my birthday, I wasn’t really looking forward to this one. I didn’t want to organise anything and was pretty much set on spending the day on my own and ignoring the occasion.
In the end, my mum came down to stay for a few days over my birthday weekend to keep me company and prevent me spending it on my own. Me, my mum and my sister went out for dinner on the Friday night. We had some good food and a few drinks. Then my very good friends Katie and Jenny decided to come over on my birthday to see me and help me celebrate. Despite my diet, I got in a lot of cake and we had a very nice little celebration.
I was thoroughly spoilt with presents, including loads from my boy Peter who had bought everything and wrapped it before he went away more than a month in advance (the pile of presents sitting on the side for that long were almost too much to resist!).

My sister bought me a few Soap & Glory products; a body wash, body scrub and a soap moulded with nodules for massaging (good for cellulite apparently), not sure if she was trying to tell me something :/ I do love Soap & Glory products, they work well, smell good, aren’t too pricey and have awesome retro styling ๐Ÿ™‚
She also got me some leopard print hair bows, a large selection of earrings and a purple nail polish.

Leopard print hair bows from my sister

Soap & Glory Body Scrub from my sister

My boyfriend, Pete got me a selection of books, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein and a collection of work by Edgar Allan Poe. I also got Dracula on DVD, the 1992 film with Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, a small stone box that he picked up while we were on holiday in Gozo, a pretty blue dress, a case for my super duper new camera and a parasol, that was also bought while we were in Gozo.

Wuthering Heights from Pete

Blue Dress from Pete
Parasol from Pete

My main present from my parents wa a contribution toward my fancy new camera, even though I bought it two months ago because I wanted to take it on holiday. Even though that was a more than generous gift, my mum got me a few bits to open on the day. I got a collection of mismatched socks, funky and useful, I rarely bother to wear matching socks and my mum threw out a load of my old socks while she was here because she said they were too old and worn ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
She also got me a set of decorative swallows to hang on the wall, there are three of them, a large one, a medium one and a small one, like the kitsch old sets of ducks that people used to have. It’s strange really, as I saw an item on a TV show last week about the fashion of having the ducks on the wall, and there was a lady who had a whole collection of them in different styles, including swallows. As soon as I saw them I wanted them, and so was really suprised when I saw y mum had got me some without me even having mentioned them. I haven’t hung them yet, I need to get some nails, but I’ll put up a picture when I have.

The largest of the wall swallows from my mum (please excuse my shiney face)
My friend Katie went a little overboard with presents. She got me a pink mug with the slogan “Eat a Cupcake and Move On”, along with some cupcake tissues, for emergency situations, as well as a “Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake” poster and a book on making zombie/horror themed cupcakes. Jenny, my other wonderful friend who came to see me, got me two sewing guides, one for making a skirt and the other for making a cloak. I am very excited to try those out ๐Ÿ™‚
Motivational Poster from Katie
Emergency mug and tissues from Katie
Zombie Cupcake book from Katie
Sewing Books from Jenny
There was a lot of cake involved in the celebrations. Which was great, except for the fact I’m supposed to be on a diet, although I didn’t put on as much weight as I’d feared, should be easily fixable. Katie made a massive batch of cakepops which looked and tasted awesome. I also bought a mini patisserie selection from Waitrose which had mini eclairs, mini tarts and little macaroons, amongst other things. We cut them all up and shared so we got to try a lot of different things without eating too much cake overall ๐Ÿ™‚ I hadn’t had chance or motivation to bake myself, so I bought some cupcakes, although they didn’t actually get eaten on my birthday, due to the plethora of other options.
My birthday cake was amazing. Chocolate, obviously. It had really beautiful chocolate fondant roses on top ๐Ÿ™‚ I probably ate more of that than I should have, but only just finished it today.
Carrot cake Cakepop by Katie
Chocolate Mouse Shaped Cakepop by Katie
Lego head cakepop by Katie
Cherry design cupcakes
Mini patisserie selection
Beautiful birthday cake
Making a wish ๐Ÿ™‚

So, overalll it was a pretty good birthday, certainly much better than I was expecting ๐Ÿ™‚ I wasn’t even that bothered about being another year older, which I have been the past few years.
On the Sunday, the day after my birthday, I went to a barbecue at my friend’s Kirstin and Mandela’s place, with yet more cake ๐Ÿ™‚
Has been a bit hard getting back to work after the weekend, but I’ve managed to make some decent progress. Back on the exercise again as well, work of all that cake.
Hope all is well,

Catching Up

I am a bad, bad blogger. In all honesty I’ve felt very drained recently, I’ve had words to write but no energy to actually write them with.
Prior to my lack of energy, I was actually feeling pretty good ๐Ÿ™‚ The diet and exercise have already begun to pay off, I’ve lost nearly 4 pounds in 2 weeks which I think is pretty good. It already shows when I wear my skinny jeans, almost no muffin tops, which were one of my biggest drivers. It hasn’t been easy though. I have next to no will power, especially when it comes to cakes, biscuits and chocolate, but I’ve been very, very good. I’ve even surprised myself! I do miss baking though. I’m also almost enjoying exercise. Almost. It’s still a hideous process, and I hate being sweaty, but, once I’ve recovered, I do feel good for having done it ๐Ÿ™‚

Also got my hair cut last week. I’ve had short hair since I was about 18, and no matter how many times I think I’d like to try and grow it longer it always gets to a point where I get so frustrated and annoyed with it that I just go to the hairdresser and have it all chopped off again. Sometimes I regret going too short, but not this time, I’m loving how easy it is to manage and style ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m pretty sure my hairdresser likes being given more-or-less free rein over my hair. I’m not really too scared to try anything, at least once. It’s only hair, it’ll grow back! Even if it doesn’t, I can buy wigs and have different hair every day!

Hmm, nice background of piles of work :/

Having my hair cut actually made me feel loads better, more so than I expected. That combined with the weight loss gave me a very good few days ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve also managed to get to see most of my really good friends over the past week. I didn’t go out, just had people round for chats, but it was still nice. It’s good to remember that there are people who want to see me and that I can manage social situations, hold conversations and not totally bore people.

The good feelings have been wearing off a bit over the past few days. Weight loss has hit a bit of a plateau and I don’t have much energy to boost the exercise, although I am going to try later. I sort of miss doing it, in a really strange and unfamiliar sort of way. Lack of energy and enthusiasm has also taken a bit of a toll on my work rate and I haven’t got as much done as I feel I should have done.
Tried going out with some work friends last night, but that might have been a step too far. One of those situations where being around a lot of people actually leaves me feeling more alone than ever. It wasn’t bad, nothing bad happened, but it just reminded me of how distant I am from all those people and their lives.
All I want is someone to hold me today, so I’m probably not going to be very productive.

It is my birthday a week today and my mum is coming to visit, so my diet and exercise regime may not be easy to maintain. I suppose I’m just hoping I don’t put on any weight, I’m definitely not expecting to lose any. Need to try and get as much work done as I can before my mum gets here. Really need to find some get-up-and-go, any ideas where it got-up-and-went to? :/

Best Wishes