Tag Archives: Stress

Rosa Who?

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There have been quite a few historically significant Rosa’s and each one of them had a lasting impact. Be it Rosa Luxemburg, Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist and anti-war activist who showed courage and tenacity in the face of adversity. Or Rosa Parks, an African American who refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man and inspired the American civil rights movement with her action. And Rosa May Billinghurst, a suffragette and women’s rights activist who was born in Lewisham, the beautiful borough in south east London I call home.

In my last post I described some of the struggles I have experienced and how bodybuilding is my way of reclaiming control over my body. I mentioned that in order to get my health back I had to learn to be kind to myself and to forgive. Surprisingly, it has been very easy for me to forgive other people. The boss who put my life in danger, the manager who bullied me, the justice system that failed me and even the man who raped me. The part I am still struggling with is forgiving myself, however. For the choices I have made, for the warning signs I did not see and for not fighting harder. And it is affecting my confidence and ability to trust myself.

So it is no stretch to see why I would select a charitable fund that supports female causes:

Rosa is a charitable fund set up to support initiatives that benefit women and girls in the UK. Because, while many women and girls here do enjoy freedom of choice and the opportunity for success in their lives, that’s simply not true for all. Our vision is of equality and justice for all women and girls in the UK.

Rosa supports projects under four priority areas that underpin their work:

Leadership and Representation

  • More women should hold positions of leadership and decision-making in the UK.
  • Women are hugely under-represented in politics and public life. And women in minorities – such as black and minority ethnic, disabled, and lesbians – are even less likely to have a public voice.
  • This means that the issues that are important to them, such as care provision, reproductive choice and local community resources, are less likely to reach the top of the agenda.
  • Rosa invests in projects that aim to understand how to get rid of the barriers that prevent women from participating in public life and encourage their equal representation and contribution in politics, the economy, the media and social agencies.

Safety

  • All women and girls have the right to live free from violence and the threat of violence.
  • Safety for women in the UK is a huge issue, as crimes of rape, domestic violence, sex trafficking and ‘honour killing’ continue at shockingly high rates. Yet many projects that support women who are at risk or seeking refuge are in funding crisis. Some organisations are being forced to close through lack of funds, leaving vulnerable individuals with even fewer places to turn for support.
  • Rosa invests in projects that are improving safety for women and girls in the UK, and helps raise awareness of the funding crisis to other potential funders.

Health and Wellbeing

  • All women and girls should feel good about themselves – and be able to get the help and healthcare they need.
  • Some of the health issues we’re concerned about include poor body image, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and increased alcohol consumption among young women. And some women are especially susceptible to ill health, poor support services and access to treatment – purely because they come from black and ethnic minority communities.
  • Rosa invests in projects that tackle these issues – from awareness raising projects to support groups and initiatives to reach women and girls from all backgrounds with the information they need to help keep them well.

Economic Justice

  • All women in the UK should have the opportunity for economic stability and success in their lives.
  • More women than ever before are earning now – but usually far less than men, even if they’re doing the same job. Women also lose out when it comes to moving up the career ladder or having flexible working options. Girls from disadvantaged backgrounds find it hardest of all to get ahead.
  • And lack of affordable childcare keeps talented women out of the job market altogether. Rosa invests in projects that will help create a more even playing field of opportunity for women – benefiting individuals, families and employers alike.

 

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Why from Bedridden to Bodybuilding?

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Welcome to summer. A week into the warm weather and everyone seems to be complaining it’s too hot. You’ve gotta love London 😉

For me, the hot weather is fantastic. The aim of my cardio workouts is to sweat as much as possible and so I wrap up in several layers, starting with thermal underwear and ending with a hoodie and extra warm fleece. In this weather I am just dripping with sweat. And yes, that’s a good thing – burning more fat to get me ready for the stage in just over 8 weeks.

Last week I gave you a broad overview of my journey ahead. Today I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about who I am and how it came to this. For that, I will have to take you a little bit back in time:
It was in 2010 that I found my energy levels dwindling. Initially it was cause to annoyance rather than concern and I did what I always do – push through. Hard.
In 2013, at the tender age of 31, I suffered a complete burnout and was bedridden for a year. Not much use while unable to get out of bed, I lost my job, ending my corporate career. What got me there was a culmination of life changing episodes including severe stresses at work, working hours in excess of 80 hours per week on an ongoing basis, multiple trauma, physical attacks (all of which were sexually motivated), divorce, rape, burglary, sexual harassment and bullying, cancer in the family.  I could go on, but I will leave it there.
In 2012 I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after experiencing cluster migraines and I was signed off work, 2 weeks at a time, for the whole year. I suffered severe pain all over my body and was chronically exhausted. Every morning I woke up feeling like I had not slept in days, even after sleeping for 16 hours straight. I’d then have to decide whether I would brush my teeth or my hair. I did not have the strength to do both. Simple day to day tasks had become insurmountable.

Previously I had felt unbreakable. Super-human. Slowing down was for other people.
And now here I was. Broken.  

As I mentioned in my last email though, I was not willing to accept living like this for any length of time. For me, this was not living at all. So I started to do research. Initially I could not read for more than 5 minutes at a time, it was too exhausting and the letters on the pages turned into indecipherable dark blobs. I had to learn the hardest of all lessons and the one that would help me the most: accepting where I was right now. That meant accepting that, right now, I could only do as much as I could do. Accepting that rest was ok. Not only that, but it was helpful. Constructive. Productive! I had to learn to stop pushing myself harder and harder, something I’d been very good at. In its place I had to learn to slow down and be kind to myself. Something I had never previously done. And I had to learn to forgive myself. For everything that had happened to me.

I slowly improved and was able to start swimming and later yoga in 2014. Roll on 2016: I am now running my own businesses to empower women and to advise other people who are experiencing signs of burnout. I am in the final weeks of preparation for my first ever bodybuilding competition. I will enter the bikini category which sports a lean but not overly muscular look yet still requires a lot of training and discipline. But more about that at a later stage.

I hope that my journey will inspire someone out there to not give up in the face of adversity. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how long that tunnel may be.


He replied, “I’m going through hell!” Said his friend: “Well, keep on going. That is no place to stop!”  ~ John Randall Dunn


Thank you so much for reading, your encouraging emails and support. It means the world to me!

Lots of love
Sarah

To Determine Your Route You Have To Know Where You Are

Yesterday I mentioned the importance of taking one step at a time to achieve a goal. To know what a step is, you need to know where you are stepping from.

So let’s say you want to go to Leeds (don’t ask why, just stay with me here). If I gave you directions from Manchester but you are in Glasgow or London, my directions would be pretty useless. And this is what I feel some nutritionists and trainers do. They just make an assumption of where you are. I did try training with the help of a PT, but he just pushed me to work harder and harder without any previous chat on where I was right now.

And for me, knowing my starting point was not as easy. I would throw myself into exercise and good nutrition again and again, injure myself, get frustrated, give up, start again and so it went on and on. Only this was not a viscous circle but rather a downward spiral. I felt worse and worse and this came to a peak at the beginning of this year. For a while I accepted it but eventually went to see my GP who ran a few blood test to see why I was always so very tired. Many days I barely make it out of bed. Just getting onto the sofa is an achievement.

The blood tests came back within the acceptable range so my GP told me that I am ok. Oh great thanks. Now that I know that, I suppose I will just wake up tomorrow morning and all my symptoms will have magically disappeared? That is just awesome. Only they didn’t. I woke up the next day feeling just as shitty as I have done for months.

But what do you do when your doctor is not very helpful? My answer is: READ!!! You know your body best. You know how you feel. If you feel like shit, chances are something is wrong there somewhere. No matter what the doctor says. You have to trust yourself and your own judgement and remember that your GP gets 15 minutes with each patient. Everyone puts how they feel into their own words rather than textbook terms and even a doctor, whilst highly educated, is only human.

So educate yourself, read, search online. Whatever is the matter, chances are it is not unique and there are others who have been through it already. Establishing your starting point is so important that you should not allow anyone to gloss over how you feel just because they cannot find the cause easily.

Read, see what sits well with you and then try things out. This is all I am doing right now and what this blog is about. Every day I will write about my trials and mis-trials, see what worked and what didn’t. And hopefully, if any of it resonates with you, my journey can help you on your own.