Those of you who are local to Bournemouth may be familiar with the veritable Valhalla of sugary treats known as American Fizz on Wallisdown Road.

Dave and I have been known to spend far too much money on American sodas (root beer for him, grape soda for me), Twizzlers, and Pop Tarts in every flavour under the sun.  They also have tonnes of amazing savoury snacks, condiments, and of course the indescribably delicious Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese.  If you haven’t tried it, trust me, it’s MAGICAL.

I mean, just look at it. ALL the heart eyes.

This gif should come with a NSFW warning. It’s basically pornographic.

This time I picked up some of my tried and tested favourites, as well as some new things.  And then proceeded to roll around on the sofa like a walrus and eat my yearly allowance of fat, salt and sugar in one evening.  Good times!

haul

Grape Crush

Now I’m normally more of a Twizzler kinda gal, but much like the shelves of Doose’s market after movie night at the Gilmore house, American Fizz was a Twizzler AND Red Vines-free zone.  Not to be deterred I went for these, swayed largely by the fact that they were grape flavour.  Seriously, why do we insist on having boring blackcurrant as a flavour in the UK?  Grape is so much better, sort it out UK candy manufacturers!  These did not disappoint.

Pancakes and Maple Syrup Jelly Belly Beans

I’m always a big fan of Jelly Belly beans, but these were in a league of their own.  My new favourite jelly bean flavour?  The maple kind. (And no, I will never stop finding that dog video hilarious).

Maple Bacon Pop Tarts

Um…so I don’t really know what to say about these.  I couldn’t resist buying them out of sheer curiosity and they (perhaps not surprisingly) were absolutely disgusting.  I’m pretty sure even the dog in that video would not be a fan.  Kellogg’s, I have some serious questions.  Namely, whose idea was this, and what were they thinking?  At any point did no-one think that perhaps bacon flavoured icing was a step too far, and maybe it was time to put a stop to the madness?  Did anyone except me actually buy these?!  Answers please!!

evil taste

Swedish Fish

I’ve always been curious to try these.  Their website assures me that they “taste like fruit, not like fish,” which is good to know, and their slogan is the delightfully nonchalant “try some if you want.”  I do want.

Combos

These are hands-down my favourite American snack.  We bought the pizza ones (the best flavour, IMO), but we also grabbed a pack of the Buffalo Blue Cheese (which sadly didn’t last long enough to make it into the photo!).  Eat these NOW.  Thank me later.

happy eating

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts

Kellogg’s, you are forgiven for your bacon-flavoured atrocities.  These are sublime.

clap 

Are you a fan of root beer, or do you (like me) think it tastes like Listerine?  What are some of your favourite American snacks?  Is there anything I should definitely try next time?  Let me know in the comments below!

I feel like fanfic gets a bad rap.

I think it’s probably because people assume it’s all shameless smut full of Mary Sues (when an author writes themselves into the story, usually as a troubled but bad-ass heroine, or the love interest of their favourite character).  And sure, there is some terrible stuff out there, but there’s also a lot of amazing work written by talented writers.

For me, fanfiction, or any fanworks, make up a valuable part of their fandom.  They’re about picking up where the original left off, exploring alternate realities and delving deeper into the characters’ lives.  I think it’s wonderful that fanfiction brings together talented, creative people, who are so inspired by the world created by their favourite film, book or TV show, that they simply want to live in it a while longer.

Some of the most beautifully written stories I’ve ever read have been fanfiction, and it’s no surprise to me that publishers trawled through fanfic to find their next superstar author (though I’m personally not a fan of 50 Shades of Grey, I think E.L. James’ discovery and subsequent rise to fame is pretty incredible).

Fanfiction may well lead you to some weird places.

For example, and no judgement at all here, but I personally don’t get the whole wolf pack A/B/O dynamics thing.  However I know what I like and what I don’t, and sites like AO3 have a pretty good system of warnings and tags, so you usually know what you’re in for.  Also, I recently stumbled upon Chuckle Brothers fanfiction (I bet my husband that it would exist somewhere, and quickly wished I’d been wrong.  Read in all its bizarre glory here).  I know, I’m as confused as you are.

emma stone what

Sites like AO3 and Fanfiction.net foster a wonderfully creative and (for the most part) supportive environment, where people can share ideas, theories, and character analysis.  As soon as I finish a show I love, I check out fanfic, often to see other people’s take on a particular scene/character, or what they think might come next.  If fills in gaps, gives a unique insight into other people’s interpretations, and sometimes challenges my own.

I love to write fic as well, get myself completely lost in the world, and truly become friends with the characters.

I think what most writers love about it is there are no limits or restrictions, which can take you down some bizarre paths, but can also be wonderfully freeing.  The creator of the original work has established the universe and its parameters, but you’re free to bend them however you like.  You can bring in characters from other universes, change gender and sexuality, and explore alternate realities.

I’ve been reading and writing fanfic since I was a teenager, and it’s always disappointed me that it’s seen by many as nerdy or lame.  It’s exposed me to some truly gifted writers, made me laugh and cry, and meant I could keep enjoying my favourite books/films long after they ended.

Fandom in general gets a bad name, and is perceived by many as screaming girls obsessing over their favourite celebrities.  But for me, it’s so much more than that.  It’s wonderful to get lost in something, over-analyse it, and let your imagination run wild.  And really, isn’t that what entertainment’s all about?

There’s a lot of different fic out there.

Personally, I prefer fics that stick to canon.  For me, that’s when the best stories are born, the ones that truly delve into a character’s mind and explore their motivations and relationships with others.  But again, each to their own.  And that’s truly the joy of fanfiction.  There’s something for everyone.

 

I’ve been feeling really good recently.

No, make that great!  Like, smiling at strangers in the supermarket and feeling like I’m an unstoppable force kinda great.

At the weekend I had the immense joy of watching two of my favourite people in the world get married.  I was a bridesmaid for the very first time and I loved every minute.  I laughed, cried, caught up with old friends, drank too much champagne, and danced all night.  My thighs are still hurting, but it was totally worth it!  It was a perfect day.

No YOU'RE drunk.

No YOU’RE drunk!

You know it’s been a good day when you start off looking like a princess and end up looking like Boy George!

nice weddingboy george

The days are getting longer and warmer, I have some potentially exciting opportunities on the horizon, and I’ve finally started planning my Scandinavia trip (June 2017, fingers crossed!)

All in all, life is looking pretty fantastic.

On a personal note I’ve been working on being more positive and focusing on all the times I feel good.  CBT has taught me to take stock of all the ways my anxiety can manifest itself physically.  I’m supposed to focus on symptoms like tingling fingertips, shortness of breath, or feeling lightheaded, and remind myself that these sensations aren’t anything serious, but rather my nervous system misfiring.

I haven’t felt any of these things for a while now, which feels like a really big step, but it’s got me thinking, why am I not channeling that same focus on all the lovely ways my body responds to happiness?

Like the way laughter rises up through my stomach in little uncontrollable bubbles, or the tingle of goosebumps down my arms when I listen to a beautiful song.  The warmth that spreads through me when someone pays me a compliment, or the way I felt so overwhelmed with joy at my best friends’ wedding that my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest, but in the best way possible.

We all lead such busy lives and get so wrapped up with the stresses of adulthood that I think we sometimes forget to slow down and take stock of all the times we feel good.

So next time you feel butterflies of excitement, or the uncontrollable urge to smile, take a moment to really enjoy the sensation.  Focus on all the other things you’re feeling, and truly savour them.  These are the moments that we take for granted.  When we look back on this time in our lives we’ll remember the big things that made us happy, but we’ll forget all the tiny little snapshots that helped to make up the big picture.  I feel like I’m ready to stop dwelling on my anxiety and start cherishing my own happiness, however small and insignificant it might seem from the outside.

I came to you because I’d become scared of the world around me.

Working from home, I’d started to isolate myself, closing off from friends and family.  I was crippled by OCD and an overwhelming fear of vomiting that had me going to new and increasingly extreme lengths to ‘protect myself.’

Sometimes I would go a week at a time without leaving the house.  I would wash myself compulsively because I never felt clean.  I never felt at ease.  Simple, everyday decisions reduced me to tears, or led to a panic attack, and I had moments so low that I simply couldn’t see how I’d ever be happy again.

My family was going through a difficult time, and I knew things would get much worse before they got better.  For the first time in my life I was faced with a loss I didn’t know how to prepare myself for.  Things are still hard, but they are getting better each day.

Issues from my past were resurfacing, and my relationships with those close to me were suffering.  I remember confessing to you that I was afraid I was ‘unfixable.’  I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I used to be afraid of everything, and I hated how weak that made me feel.

Once spontaneous, adventurous and full of energy, I was now a shell of my former self.  Thanks to you I know now that I’m not weak.  Thanks to you I’m starting to feel positive about my future again.

CBT trains you to approach things differently and become your own counsellor, but you’ve taught me so much more than that.  I’ve learned to value and look after myself, and make my needs known to others.  You’ve given me a voice again.

You’ve made me braver than I ever thought possible, and given me the courage to tackle things I never thought I could.  You’ve given me the insight to understand myself, question my thought processes, and challenge my own negative thoughts.  I still have my problems, but you’ve equipped me with the tools to tackle them better myself.  I’m a million miles away from the person I was eight months ago.

Before, I couldn’t wait to see you because I desperately needed an outlet.

I needed to vent, I needed you to help me organise my muddled thoughts.  I needed to cry freely, without judgement.

Now I can’t wait to see you because I want to tell you about a fear I conquered, or a new personal milestone I’ve achieved.  No matter how tiny, you are always proud of me.

I couldn’t stop smiling during my last session because I started to feel like the pieces of my life are finally coming together.  What we have worked through together has brought me a sense of direction again.  It’s brought me closure, vindication.  It’s shown me how to feel joy again.

I’ve never been suicidal, but there have been times when I’ve wished I could simply stop existing, just for a little while.  Because no matter how much I shut myself away, turned off my phone, or ignored others, there would always come a point where I’d have to face it all again.  I switched wildly between shaking with nervous energy and feeling so drained I couldn’t move.  I didn’t care about sleeping, eating, or looking after myself.  Nothing excited me anymore; I felt numb.  That was the worst part; in the moments I didn’t feel overwhelmed by fear or sadness, I longed to feel something but couldn’t.

But there was a moment when it was like you helped me flick a switch.

Suddenly I felt alive again.  Suddenly I felt fired up.  I had goals, things to look forward to.  I left that session full of hope and on my way home stopped to look out at the sea.  I felt an incredible sense of calm and clarity.

BEACH

I don’t quite know how you do it, but you help me make sense of things.  Sometimes the answer might be so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it myself.  You help me realise that my needs and feelings are valid.  You give me the confidence to ask for what I want, and the strength to make things happen for myself.

There’s so much more I want to say, but no words can adequately sum up just how much you mean to me, or the impact you’ve had on my life in such a short space of time.  You’ve helped me in more ways than I can count.

You’ve helped me to be me again.

We’ve laughed together, cried together, and I will never look at a bag of Mini Cheddars in the same way again.  It’s my last session with you soon, and I find it hard to think about my life without you in it.  It’s going to be a difficult goodbye, but I finally feel ready for it.

I hope you feel proud of the work you do, because you’re amazing at it.  It takes a truly special person to show someone the level of kindness, understanding and compassion that you’ve shown me.  I will never stop being thankful for everything you’ve done for me.

I will miss you, but I will never forget what you’ve taught me, or all the incredible things you’ve helped me to achieve.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

X

Talking about depression and anxiety might seem overwhelming, but if you’re struggling, please reach out to someone.

Talk to your friends, GP, partner or family.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re feeling alone and like you can’t carry on, The Samaritans are reachable 24/7 and offer free, confidential support.  Contact them on 116 123 (UK), or 116 123 (ROI), or visit their website.

There are many different types of therapy, so it’s worth doing some research to find out what’s right for you.  If you’re interested in CBT, visit the BABCP website to learn more, and find an accredited CBT practitioner in your area.

 

  1. New friends will look at you with a mix of bewilderment and fear when you tell them about your hometown customs. Yet, even when people repeat it back, you still don’t see what sounds crazy about it.For example, Jack in the Green: “So you’re telling me everyone dresses in green, covers themselves in leaves and gets drunk in the Old Town?”  Yes, but you left out the Morris Dancing in the streets.what
    Or: “People march through the streets carrying burning torches, which they use to set fire to a huge effigy on the beach.”  Yes, and that’s how we do Bonfire Night in Sussex, bitches!  FYI, you haven’t done bonfire night until you’ve done it Sussex-style.  An amazing procession, followed by incredible fireworks.  Well worth the trip.
  2. Seagulls run the town. They are the apex predator, the top of the food chain.  You will stop your car to let them cross the road, and yes, you sure as hell will give them your sandwich should they desire it for their lunch.
    seagull

    Actual CCTV footage*

     

  3. People always assume you spent your days swanning around on a fabulous beach, basically in manner of The O.C (or, y’know, a more current reference). Except that you didn’t.  The beaches are pebble, the smell of fish and chips and sound of the nearby amusement arcade fill the air.  But you wouldn’t have it any other way.beach
  4. Except on the odd occasion when you fancy a bit of sand, so head to Camber. Where it is always guaranteed to be windy as hell, ensuring sand in your picnic/eyes/underwear within seconds.eyes
  5. You feel a strange sense of pride when you bring your other half to Hastings for the first time and he spots the cricketer’s ball in Priory Meadow within seconds. This one’s a keeper, for sure.
  6. On that note, no-one will understand why you’re so sad that the famous cricketer statue is now gone. Where will you arrange to meet your friends in town now?!
  7. Talking about P.E lessons, aside from bringing up the usual borrowed kit flashbacks and rope climbing nightmares, leads to yet more bewilderment. Stoolball?!  A strange but wonderful hybrid mix of cricket and baseball, and yet none of your friends outside of Sussex will have ever heard of it.confusion
  8. To this day you can’t work out whether amusement arcades are delightfully quaint, or hideously tacky. Either way you will still spend many a drunken evening in them, dominating the air hockey tables and cleaning up on the 2p machines, for sure.money dance
  9. The enjoyment you derive from correcting everyone you meet about the Battle of Hastings. “Ah, but you know, it didn’t actually take place in Hastings, it happened in” *dramatic pause* “…Battle!”  Cue everyone’s minds being blown.
  10. Yet you still have to suppress an eye-roll when you tell someone you’re from anywhere near Hastings and they start reciting their year 9 History lessons.eye roll
  11. Chortling every time you drive past the sign near Chichester that prohibits all racing by “horse drawn vehicles.”
  12. This frustrating conversation. “I’m from East Sussex.”  “Oh, Essex?” “No, East Sussex”.  “But that’s Essex right?” *Speaking slow and deliberately* “Eeeeast Susssssex.  Different place.”  (That being said, they should totally make ‘The Only Way is East Sussex.’)
  13. The pride you felt when you heard about the men who stole a swan pedalo and attempted to sail to France in it. Not all heroes wear capes people.applause
    Only in Sussex…*Just kidding. Probably.