An FA-run centre where girls can have a go at the beautiful game. Photograph: Rex/ShutterstockSSE Wildcats, for girls aged 5-11 There are more than 1,250 FA-run centres across the country, where girls can try football, train and play. Weekly sessions after school and at weekends.Soccercise A football-themed workout for girls and women, Soccercise combines a variety of exercises with a football. Suitable for all fitness levels, it is designed to be an introduction to football, used as a pre-match warm-up or fitness class.Five-a-side Played on a smaller pitch with only five players on a team instead of 11, this is physically challenging and designed to give players more ball time.Walking football Played at walking speed and on a smaller pitch, this is a new format aimed at both new players and veterans working on their fitness or recovering from injuries.Where to start? Visit thefa.com to find football near you, or contact one of your local county FAs.• Rachel Pavlou is the FA national participation manager for women’s football.As told to Alexandra Boulton
‘I need to take a hard look at my habits and honestly appraise the way I work.’ Photographs: Getty; AlamyMy next tour is approaching in September, so I am doing what I always do at about this stage, which is spend more time looking at my working methods than working. My garage/office is strewn with Post-its, cards, folders, notebooks, yoga mats and multicoloured pens, all purchased in a quest to unlock a magic way of working that will ensure my ascension to next-level creativity.What has actually happened is that I could probably open a stationery shop. A friend recently commented on the clutter, which is obviously a bad thing. I then spent a good half an hour looking up the best ways to organise your office and am now the proud owner of an empty desk-tidy.Part of this journey has involved working out the best way to manage my time. Usually, if I have a day to write, I will spend the first hour thinking about how I am going to structure my day. I will also spend time helping my kids to get ready for school. Then I spend an hour making and eating breakfast, because balanced nutrition has suddenly become very important. I will then watch an hour of YouTube for some “inspiration kindling”. I will then look up time-management techniques because I am so depressed about the way I’ve wasted my morning – before realising it’s lunchtime. After lunch, I will watch some more YouTube, because it’s difficult to be creative on a full stomach, before writing for about 45 minutes. My kids will come home from school and I will play with them until their bedtime, before entering into a mental tailspin about my work ethic that keeps me up so late that I wake up exhausted. And then off we go again.I have decided this needs to be tackled. I need to take a hard look at my habits and honestly appraise the way I work. I have accepted that if I don’t start writing as soon as I am showered and ready, then my day will descend into a procrastination masterclass.I have also accepted that the psychology of having a whole day to write is too much for me. I think I’ve got acres of time, and so have no sense of urgency, and will happily spend hours looking into the bands featured in the Transformers movie. I have read that, when you are writing or working on something creative, and your attention wanders, your brain is processing and working on what you have just done. But I find it hard to believe that my brain is really taking five hours to fully process the seven minutes I have managed to spend focused on one thing.I have recently discovered the Pomodoro method. You split your time into 25-minute chunks: a short work sesh, and then a little break, and then your next bit. There is a real sense of achievement as you get more and more productive sections of time under your belt, as well as that gaming element of wanting to beat what you have achieved before.The only downside is that often ideas take longer than 25 minutes to formulate and consider, and so 25 minutes is an actual constraint. You can be in the middle of a complex idea, see your 25 minutes is up and then all you’re thinking about is your reward toast. Working around this flaw is infinitely better than spending my day testing different porridge recipes. (Cook with almond milk in a pan before adding a tablespoon of peanut butter and a dash of cocoa. Nailed it.)
‘I stacked my basket high.’ Photograph: Getty ImagesLast year, I wrote about becoming (sort of) middle class after growing up skint. My feelings haven’t changed: I still feel this life is not my own, and that I am merely a tourist passing through.But I have my moments. Like when, over Easter, my teenage cousin was talking about Jesus, using the Arabic word Isa.“I’ve been thinking about Isa,” she started. “Great!” I replied. “It’s never too early to think about an individual savings account.”It’s the imperceptible stuff – the behavioural codes learned from birth, the way people banter over a table – that I stumble over. Frankly, I think most of it is designed to exclude, and is quite daft. (My favourite faux pas is to go to a restaurant with my posh pals and, if my food hasn’t arrived, fail to say: “Please don’t wait for me.”)Yet I envy the confidence that some of these peers project. It’s like magic. I remember a security guard saying to one, while he searched his bag: “You’ll have to bin that water and buy a new one.” My friend just looked at him very closely, and in a soft, clipped voice said: “No, I don’t think I will.” The guard stepped aside.I mention this because of what happened at Waitrose. I don’t usually shop there, but I was passing. I stacked my basket high and paid for the goods at the self-checkout. But there were no carrier bags to be seen; only impatient customers behind me, tutting. I felt judged. I panicked. So I put all the things back in the metal basket, picked it up, and walked home with it, leaving passersby to wonder what they’d seen.I found out later that you have to ask for bags, by which time I’d returned the basket. The funny thing was that nobody said a thing. Politeness, probably, or perhaps I had finally cracked it. Could it be I project a certain confidence after all?
My fianc e is an alcoholic and, although he has admitted it , we go round in circles when he returns to hiding cider in his bag. He blames his drinking on work stress (he is a chef) and he was diagnosed with anxiety two years ago. Medication helped, but as soon as he feels better he stops taking it and goes back to drinking , even at work . The last time he had a panic attack it was so serious I had to call an ambulance. We have two small children and I can’t cope . What do I do? How do I protect my family? When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed. • Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure discussion remains on topics raised by the writer. Please be aware there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site. • If you would like fellow readers to respond to a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of about 150 words. For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns. • All correspondence should reach us by Wednesday morning. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms
‘I think a society can be measured by how its strangers interact.’ Photograph: Getty ImagesI am often in agreement with Jean-Paul Sartre’s idea that hell is other people, particularly other people on a sweaty, height-of-summer bus, or in a bar queue, or “whispering” in cinemas. But this makes it all the more pleasing when I find commonality and shared enjoyment with strangers.One of the best examples of this is when watching sporting events. I cannot tell you the number of high fives given and received with fellow Liverpool fans in random pubs – my best mates for 90 minutes, and without the lifelong lie of pretending to like their spouse. I have hugged people from every walk of life after a ball ricocheted off the crossbar and over the line in the final minute.The bucolic version of this is the nod-and-smile that walkers exchange as they pass, wearing bucket hats and boots, fleeces with shorts: always an outfit for two seasons. We smile as if to say: “Look at this! Nature! Not social media!” It’s like sharing a secret, except it is hectares big and smells of pine and cowpats and not-work. I’m also what my friends call a “mingler”, by which I mean it is not uncommon for me to end up playing Scrabble with people from the next table over at the pub, exchanging niceties and numbers.There is a beauty, too, in strangers coming together in collective annoyance. The mutual eye-roll on a delayed train or the group tut at jobsworth security guards. Conversely, there is the symbiotic ecstasy of a gig encore; the drunken, raucous laughter in the loos with people whose names you won’t remember in the morning.Despite the stranger danger we were warned of as children, strangers can represent safety, too: the women who don’t know each other, but come together when a threatening situation unfolds; the men who step in, too; people, splashed on the front pages, who come to the aid of others in extreme danger or natural disasters.It is said that a measure of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable. I think it can also be measured by how its strangers interact: how they intersect, rub along and share spaces, experiences and moods. From something as simple as a door held open, to the stranger who pulls you by the collar from an oncoming lorry, to the fellow booers of George Osborne at the Paralympics.It might be going too far to say that heaven is other people, but I will never not love the interchanging of spirit, or the quasi-religious experiences that can be shared with someone you don’t know from Adam.
A Virginia animal shelter repeatedly offered to re-home the dog before it was euthanised. Photograph: GlobalP/Getty Images/iStockphotoThe unusual death of a woman’s dog in Virginia has sparked outcry and a debate over whether it is ok to kill a healthy pet and bury it with its owner according to their dying wish.Emma, a shih tzu mix, was euthanised and cremated in March as per its owner’s will. The dog was put down despite the efforts of animal shelter workers who spent two weeks trying to talk the executor of the woman’s estate out of the plan.Emma was reportedly taken to a vet, put down and then taken to a pet cremation centre in Richmond, Virginia, and the ashes given to the executor in an urn for burial.“We did suggest they could sign the dog over on numerous occasions, because it’s a dog we could easily find a home for and re-home,” said Carrie Jones, manager of Chesterfield Animal Services.In Virginia, pets are considered personal property and, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, vets are allowed to perform euthanasia in such cases.Some cemeteries are also allowed to bury pets with their owners, so the issue is more an ethical than a legal one.Dr Kenny Lucas, a veterinarian at the Shady Grove animal clinic, said he wouldn’t go ahead with such a request. “Whenever we’re faced with a euthanasia situation, it’s a very emotional situation – and beyond everything we talk about – that we need to do ethically, and we’ve taken an oath to do,” he told WWBT. “Also it’s something we take home too. It weighs on us as professionals.”Larry Spiaggi, the president of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association said he found the practice of euthanising a healthy dog and burying it with its owner abhorrent. A state lawmaker is considering legislation to address the problem.Associated Press contributed to this report
Guests have been told that a poor view will be taken of anyone who leaves the wedding to watch the game. Photograph: pixdeluxe/Getty Images/iStockphotoLiverpool taking on Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League final on 1 June is a reason to rejoice for both sets of supporters, but a source of stress for at least one soon-to-be-married couple. Yes, that’s right, their wedding is on the same day. According to a post on the Mumsnet discussion board over the weekend, guests have been asked “to please respect that this day is about them”.The match in Madrid will not be screened at the venue, and a poor view will be taken of anyone who leaves the wedding to watch it, or who screens it on their phones. This may prove unpopular given that most of the more than 200 invited guests are from Liverpool and the surrounding areas.It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for the couple, who presumably settled on their wedding date well in advance. As recently as kick-off in the second legs earlier this month, it appeared neither Liverpool or Tottenham would reach the final, let alone both. But the bride and groom’s blanket ban has sparked heated debate over wedding etiquette. As the Mumsnet poster says, they could “just shove it on a tele in the bar” – or they could stick with the plan to keep the “tele” off. Either way, the unhappy couple will struggle to stop their guests watching the final because a) it’s the biggest game in European football and b) they are silly enough to get married on the day of the biggest game in European football.Being a Liverpool supporter, I’m very much on the side of the guests in this quandary, but this debate goes beyond football. What we have here is a case of wedding-day tyranny: the imposing of dos and don’ts by people swept up in their own self-regard, who would not be allowed to get away with it on any day that was not “about them”. But they shouldn’t be allowed to on this occasion, either.Such is omnipresent nature of the sport these days, it’s almost impossible to plan a wedding without it clashing with some game or other – but it is possible to avoid the really big ones. “Reception-clearers”, if you like. Most of them take place at the end of May and, as with this occasion, early June. So it’s simple: check the calendar before you book the church and, if you don’t, prepare for the consequences.In this case, those consequences should involve showing a little compassion for the Liverpool fans in attendance by letting them watch the game. If you don’t, they will find a way to do it anyway – it’s too big and too important to miss. Besides, what’s the worst that will happen?Oh, and in case you’re wondering – I got married on 20 June 2009. There was no football that day. I checked.> Dilemma posed on Mumsnet website. Feel bad for the bride and groom but the reality is they’ll be losing a whole load of their guests for 2-3 hours if they ban devices and don’t provide a screen with the CL final on. 🙉 👰 🤵 PS DH stands for dear/darling husband. lfc thfc pic.twitter.com/NkvyrEF7l4> > — Jacqui Oatley (@JacquiOatley) May 19, 2019> Dilemma posed on Mumsnet website. Feel bad for the bride and groom but the reality is they’ll be losing a whole load of their guests for 2-3 hours if they ban devices and don’t provide a screen with the CL final on. 🙉 👰 🤵 PS DH stands for dear/darling husband. lfc thfc pic.twitter.com/NkvyrEF7l4> > — Jacqui Oatley (@JacquiOatley) May 19, 2019
The transformative effects of makeup are truly impressive, especially in Hollywood. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy seeing bare-faced celebrities every now and then. In fact, more famous faces are opting to ditch their foundation and go makeup-free as of late, and as a result, we've been able to see just how gorgeous skin—particularly skin that's over 35-years-old—can look sans makeup. So, we rounded up a few images of celebrities who aren’t afraid to show off a clean face, ...
Cleansing your scalp properly is important. Photograph: Shioguchi/Getty Images Cleanse properly “The scalp is simply skin: it sweats, secretes sebum (oil) and sheds dead skin cells,” says Anabel Kingsley, a trichologist at Philip Kingsley. Eleanore Richardson, a trichologist at the Fulham Scalp and Hair Clinic in London, says shampoo is the first step to keeping the scalp healthy. She suggests shampooing more often if you use lots of hair products or have been sweating. Kingsley says: “Don’t leave more than three days between shampoos. Doing so is likely to cause itching and flaking, and a flaky scalp can cause hair loss.” Tackle dandruff “If you notice your scalp is flaky, your first solution is to use a dandruff shampoo,” says David Felstead of the Hair and Scalp Clinic at Daniel Galvin Marylebone in London. He recommends looking for one that contains salicylic acid or zinc pyrithione, and says you should use it for at least a month. He advises shampooing twice, leaving the product in for two to three minutes the first time before rinsing. If using a specific shampoo doesn’t work, he recommends seeking expert advice. Protect your scalp from the sun “Scalps can easily get burnt in bright sunlight, especially if the hair is thinning or very fine,” says Dr Anjali Mahto, a consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic and author of The Skincare Bible. For those with thinning hair, it is advisable to apply sunscreen or wear a hat. Go easy with the styling “Tight styling, such as cornrows and single braids, while often claimed to be ‘protective’ and low maintenance, can cause severe hair breakage,” says Richardson. These styles are often left in for weeks at a time, which contributes to poor scalp health.” The constant tension on the hair follicles can even trigger alopecia. Choose the right brush Both Kingsley and Felstead warn against using brushes with metal prongs or bristles. A natural bristle brush or one with flexible, plastic prongs is far gentler on the scalp. Essentially, if the brush feels rough or uncomfortable on your scalp, it is no good, says Felstead. For those who need to take extra care, there are options such as the silicone Manta hairbrush, designed by the hairdresser Tim Binnington. Created for his wife when her hair was recovering after a life-threatening illness, it is designed to be as gentle on the hair as brushing it with your fingers, reducing tension on strands and skin.
Touch has a range of benefits, including stimulating the immune system and reducing stress Photograph: Getty ImagesIf you think you can only experience intimacy through sex, you’re missing out. Eyes locking across a table, a reassuring squeeze from your partner, a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend – many of us have daily intimate moments that never get near a bedroom, which is good news for the single, the sex-starved and those of us who just don’t fancy it. Here’s how to increase the intimacy in your life. Think about what intimacy means to you“Some people would say to be truly intimate with another means being sexual with them, but that’s a very narrow way of looking at things,” says Ammanda Major, head of service quality and clinical practice at Relate. “Being intimate with someone is understanding them, caring about them, wanting to be there for them. For some people, just having a daily conversation would mean there is some level of intimacy.”Kate Moyle, a sex therapist, describes intimacy as “that sense of being prioritised, special, cherished”. It is not necessarily dependent on being in a long-term relationship: “You can have an instant, deep connection with someone. It’s about vulnerability, that complete ability to be yourself, warts and all, and for that person to accept you.”Once you define it for yourself, you may find it is more present in your life than you first thought. Don’t forget to get physical“How often do you touch your partner, or do you only touch them when you want to have sex?” asks Major. “How close do you get when you’re talking? Do you do it from the other side of the room? Do you eat together? Eating is a very connecting thing, but do you both sit in front of the telly or on your phones? It’s about trying to find a bit of time when it’s just you and your partner. Those are the things that help you feel connected, and start to build emotional intimacy.”As a society, non-sexual touch has decreased alongside a decline in sexual activity. Partly this is political – the fear of being accused of sexual harassment or assault may well be behind a decline in touch between colleagues. But we are also distracted. Tiffany Field, a University of Miami School of Medicine professor and director of the Touch Research Institute, is doing a study in airport waiting areas. “There’s no intimate touch among families, and not even verbal connections,” she says. “Everyone’s on their cellphones and they are not talking.”We know that touch has a range of positive benefits, including stimulating the immune system and reducing stress. Even if we don’t have a partner, having more physical intimacy in our lives can be achieved with a little effort.Field points to the number of “cuddling” groups and workshops that have cropped up as one way to make a physical connection. “But I would prefer a massage over that. Massaging others, like family members, is therapeutic – the massager gets the same stress relief benefits as the person being massaged, most likely from the stimulation of pressure receptors under the skin.” And don’t underestimate self-touch, she says. “Research has shown that self-massage is very therapeutic. Brush yourself in the shower, or use a tennis ball to rub your limbs anywhere they hurt.” Swap cuddling for ‘simmering’Even if you don’t have time to have sex, says the therapist Stephen Snyder, author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship, “you still have time to sample the most important part of the sex response cycle – arousal. Arousal is a mental phenomenon, not just physical, and it means being in the moment and getting a little absorbed in your experience of your partner.”It may only take a minute or two, he says. “Inhale the scent of your partner’s hair, reach inside your partner’s clothes. It warms up the erotic climate in a relationship. The key thing is to recognise that arousal is not a painful state – it doesn’t have to be relieved immediately by having an orgasm.”He describes these quick snatches of sexualised physical contact as “simmering” and says Brits seem especially interested in the idea. “I think people in the UK are doing too much cuddling, and suffering as a consequence,” he says. According to Snyder, cuddling can help create a secure bond but it can also “deplete erotic energy. I would say if you’re going to do some physical contact with your partner, put some sexual current into it.” Cuddling, he says, is “warm, but it’s not hot”.
Baby talk: when he’s finished he’ll say bawbboye. Photograph: Getty Images After 10 months of patient silence, this week saw an explosion in my son’s vocabulary, as his wayward mash of vowels and consonants gave way to a torrent of altogether more defined syllables. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his earlier work. Few who heard his first releases, babababababa or plpplpplpplpplpplp could doubt he was one to watch, and his dadadada earned golden opinions from those who heard within it the freshness of German new wave troubadours Trio, only with the arch and knowing delivery of a young Alan Bennett. Since he was slow to crawl, and still has no teeth, we’ve taken the fact that he’s babbling a little earlier than his playmates as a sign that he is destined for a life of the mind. ‘What use is a full head of teeth anyway?’ we ask ourselves. Let lesser children pursue a career in competitive eating, a life of Crunchie bars. By the time he’s six our son may still be toothless, but he’ll also be doing speaking tours for his second biography of Lord Liverpool, and presenting one of those moderately dumbed down history programmes on BBC2 – the kind that only get made if the presenter agrees to do at least one or two interstitial segments dressed in period costume. There’s always the risk that parents, doe-eyed with love, will see and hear things that aren’t there. So, it’s a real relief to know that this is definitely not happening in our case, especially since we see it so much among other parents and, frankly, it’s embarrassing. No, it’s good that as we scan every single burble and blab, and only analyse these malformed phonemes out of a sense of honest inquiry, not some sort of maddening desperation to imbue them with a nonexistent gravitas. It’s a marvel that, the better he gets at speaking, the better my wife and I become at understanding his every word What’s arguably most impressive about my son’s new faculty with language is how infectious it is. It’s a marvel that, the better he gets at speaking, the better my wife and I become at understanding his every word. About four days ago, he said bawbboye which a lesser mortal might have thought errant gibberish, or perhaps an injunction that we fetch for him a match day ballboy. It was only a little later that we realised he was likely recreating my wife’s ‘bye bye’ in that earthy Dublin twang that grips her tongue. The fact that he’s never made this sound again, despite roughly 700 inducements to do so, is likely because he’s ‘been there, done that’, rather than evidence that it was a random occurrence. No, my son is above the petty catchphrase and he makes his every utterance count. He must be so proud of his new level of speech and I intend to ask him what he thinks about it all. It will, no doubt, be hard for him to put such feelings into words, but I’m sure he’ll manage it somehow. Follow Séamas on Twitter @shockproofbeats
Help is at hand: looking failure in the face and embracing your mistakes can effect positive change. Photograph: sorbetto/GettyIt’s a moment in his 14-year career as a headteacher that Simon Kidwell will never forget. “The husband of a member of my staff was rushed to hospital – and she came in the next day, after being up most of night, panicking because she hadn’t done the marking for her class.” At the time, he expected all the teachers at his Cheshire primary school to mark their pupils’ work daily and give each child detailed feedback – a lengthy process which typically took around 2.5 hours a day, but had been praised by Ofsted.The teacher’s panic made him realise he had made a mistake. “It was a wake-up call for me. I had a teacher more worried about her workload than her husband being in hospital.” Kidwell decided to reduce the marking workload of his teachers, cutting their working hours by around seven hours a week on average. “Staff retention rates are now very, very strong and our teachers have a healthier work-life balance.”At the school’s most recent Ofsted inspection, the new marking system was praised and the school was rated “good”. Kidwell now lives by the philosophy that it’s also good to make mistakes. “That’s something we try to model to the children as well. Because mistakes help you to learn.”They can also, of course, be very embarrassing and, often, distressing. Last week, a member of staff at Hawksmoor Manchester accidentally served diners a £4,500 bottle of wine, and pupils at a £37,000-a-year boarding school discovered they had been taught the wrong GCSE English text – Spies, by Michael Frayn – for two years. It may be some time before their teacher and the waiter who mistook a bottle of 2001 Chateau Le Pin Pomerol for a £260 Bordeaux feel able to embrace Kidwell’s positive philosophy.A huge blunder can be a life-changing experience. (Posed by a model.) Photograph: PeopleImages/GettyBut the sooner they stop licking their wounds and do so, the quicker they will recover, says Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Manchester. “We know that resilient personalities are people who are more adaptable if they do something wrong. Their attitude is: what do I have to learn, so I don’t make that mistake again?”Another resilient response is to publicly attempt to “own” the mistake and accept that you must try to compensate for it in some way. “A big mistake can be a life-changing experience in the sense that it so devastates you, you can’t just carry on doing what you were doing before. You can’t return to your previous life,” says Cooper. Rather than allow a screw-up to permanently affect their self-confidence and self-esteem, resilient people will often reposition their mistake in their own minds as the impetus for positive change, he says. “They’ll decide: I’m going to make that mistake part of who I am. To own a mistake in that way – in the way you live your life – is really profound.”Lee Willows, 46, is chief executive of the Young Gamers & Gamblers Education Trust. He founded the charity nearly five years ago, after being convicted of stealing £19,000 from his employer to fund his secret gambling addiction. Before he confessed to his crime, he says, he was full of self-loathing. “I hated what I’d done, the person I became. The only way out I could see was to kill myself.”> Don’t be in denial about your mistakes. The faster you fess up, the faster you'll recover> > Jonathan AitkenFollowing counselling and treatment at a gambling addiction clinic, he began to feel more resilient. Setting up the charity to help others avoid making some of his mistakes has given him a new purpose in life. “I was a truthful person before I became a gambler. Now, I’ve re-established my moral compass.”The process of rebuilding after a mistake requires support, ideally from a wise mentor or companion, says Jonathan Aitken. The former cabinet minister spent seven months in prison in 1999 for perjuring himself in a libel case against the Guardian. He is now 76, and a prison chaplain. “The first piece of advice I’d offer – and I did in the end take it myself, but rather too slowly – is don’t be in denial about your mistakes. The faster you fess up admit and say you’re sorry, the faster you will recover.”There won’t always be a quick fix and you may need to thoroughly change the direction of your life and career, he warns. “But I don’t believe any mistake is so bad that everything is irrecoverable and ruined. No one falls below the reach of God’s grace.”For 30-year-old former jockey Brian Toomey, a mistake he made during a race in 2013 almost cost him his life and left him with a head injury so severe he spent five months in hospital. He was told he would never be fit to ride again. He believes the fact that he didn’t berate himself about his error helped him to prove the doctors wrong.“I made a split-second decision going 30mph on an animal that can’t talk. It was the wrong decision. But I’ve never given myself a hard time about my accident or doubted I could be just as good a jockey as I was before.” He recovered enough to complete 23 more rides before deciding to become a racehorse trainer. “I was very determined.”Elizabeth Day, the podcaster and author of How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned from Things Going Wrong, believes it is possible to train your brain to change the way you perceive your mistakes. “We are all going to make mistakes. Once you accept that, you can look failure in the face and build up emotional resilience.”Challenging your internal critic can enable you to separate your mistakes from your sense of self-worth. “Making mistakes doesn’t make you a rubbish person,” says Day. “It may be that a particular career is not for you. You may have some very important learnings to take away. But these are helpful conclusions that can come from making mistakes.”Thing do not always go to plan – but that may lead to better outcomes in the long run, she points out. Besides, in her opinion, life is not just a pursuit of success and happiness. It’s also about weathering the storms as well as the calm seas. “I’ve made mistakes in my life. I’ve been divorced. I’ve tried and failed to have children. That causes me an enormous amount of sadness, but I choose to be at peace with that sadness – and to learn from it.”
‘Our sexual landscape may look like the promised land, but not everyone wants to travel there’ Photograph: Getty ImagesWe owe a lot to the sex lives of Greeks. Ancient Greece gave us the origins of the names and concepts for homosexuality, homophobia and nymphomania, as well as narcissism and pederasty. The Romans talked freely to each other in toilets and were equally community-minded when it came to sex, with a reputation for lasciviousness and orgies. Georgians, we believe, were smutty, and Victorians were prudes and hypocrites. (All of these are partial truths.) We like to use sex as a mirror of an era, and to make judgments accordingly. What then, are we to make of us right now?This is the most sex-positive age ever, right? We are liberal and comfortable with sex like no other people have ever been. Our magazines publish articles on how to get on better with your clitoris. Porn is freely available (and accessed by teenagers). Erotic books are bestsellers, however badly written. TV broadcasts shows in which the contestants are naked, or have sex in a box, or make a sex tape on camera. If sexual choice were a shop, it would be a hypermarket, with dizzyingly long aisles of every possibility: straight, gay, bi, trans, poly, fluid, each with its own culture and each widely accepted.In this sex-positive version of reality, we have been unleashed from the bonds of church and religion, and suffocating family expectation; we are free, and we’re enjoying being easy. And society’s greater liberalism is matched by better scientific understanding of sex and the body parts that we use for it. This has been helped by the scientific gaze finally turning to the 51% of the population that it had mostly ignored, so that we know now that the clitoris, though smaller than the penis, has way more nerve endings. Despite what every Hollywood and TV scriptwriter believes, we may finally be accepting that more than 30% of women will not orgasm with penetration alone.> Millennials are having less sex than their parents; young people, we are told, are in a 'sex drought'Sex and power have come together to positive effect elsewhere, with the last couple of years of the MeToo movement. The use of power by men to get sex is as old as the Roman hills, and it is still endemic – along with appallingly low prosecution rates for rape – but something in that balance of power may have shifted, and for the good.How comforting this sex-positive vision is. How sophisticated and liberal we are.Except. A paper in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal summed up the findings of three huge national surveys into sexual attitudes, called Natsal, the latest of which was in 2012. Natsal is British in focus, but some of its findings are reflected globally: worldwide, we are having less sex less frequently and are more upset about it. In Britain, most of the decline in sexual frequency is in people aged over 25 and in long-term relationships. In the US, the over-50s reported the largest decline in how often they had sex, though Finnish middle-aged men reported they were getting sex more frequently. In Japan, the most sexual inactivity was in young single people. Millennials are having less sex than their parents; young people, we are told, are in a “sex drought”.Some other disquieting facts: girls as young as nine are now having surgery to modify their vulvas, and rates of labiaplasty are increasing 45% year-on-year. There is now a labiaplasty known as the “Barbie”, which does what it says and reduces female genitalia to doll-like smooth uniformity. That must be because alongside all the sex positivity is another message: you are inadequate and wrong. Hairless, labia-free female bodies; porn-hard erections; dizzying sexual possibility. If you don’t want to eat guacamole off your bisexual lover while multiple-orgasming in at least three different positions, but only on a Thursday, what’s wrong with you?Meanwhile, when the couples therapist Esther Perel did a Ted talk in 2013 on “the secret to desire in a long-term relationship”, it was watched 17m times on Ted and YouTube. All these numbers and facts point to a gap between the public, digital version of sex and the reality: that we are not getting enough of it and that when we do get it, it’s not satisfying.Our sexual landscape may look like the promised land, but not everyone wants to travel there. This may be down to the way our relationships have changed. Marriage used to be more straightforward: an economic arrangement with clear, though not fair, expectations. For women, security, a home and children and the right not to be raped by the nearest powerful man, or at least a lesser probability of that happening. For men, succession. Now, Perel says: “We want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long.”Esther Perel’s Ted talk on the secret to desire in a long-term relationshipIn their paper, the BMJ authors were careful to skewer expected conclusions. Pornography was too easy to blame, and in fact a US study showed that declines in sexual frequency were greatest among those who didn’t watch it. If we are in a state of anxious disconnect between public sex and our private activities, then it is to be expected: we’re knackered. Middle-aged women reported exhaustion as one of the main reasons they were having less sex. Having children later in life, as we now tend to do, leaves those in middle life with small children and ageing parents and full-time jobs, all at once. No wonder they see a bed and want only to sleep in it.Some of these figures could be because now that sex is primetime and ubiquitous, we feel more able to be honest about how much – or how little – we’re actually getting. But the researchers also noted that rates began to drop in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the iPhone was launched, and in 2008, the world collapsed into recession. Anxiety, stress and exhaustion have led millions of people to be prescribed antidepressants (one in six Britons in 2017) – which are designed to combat those things but also dull libido. It is a heady package. “Should frequency of sexual contact serve as a barometer for more general human connectedness,” wrote the BMJ authors, “then the decline might be signalling a disquieting trend.”Many species appear to have purely reproductive sex. That we don’t, that we have an erotic life too, is a bonus and a blessing. But it is also the source of dismay, dissatisfaction, puzzlement, frustration, mystery, worry, delight and obsession.There may be a clearer lens being pointed at our sexual workings and wants, but our worries, fears and wonder about sex will outlive us all.
Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West arriving at the 2019 Met Gala. Photograph: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/ShutterstockKim Kardashian West and her husband, the musician Kanye West, have named their new child Psalm after its recent birth via surrogate.Kardashian West posted a picture of the boy on social media with the caption “Psalm West”.The picture was accompanied by a message that read: “Beautiful Mother’s Day. With the arrival of our fourth child. We are blessed beyond measure. We have everything we need.”> Psalm West pic.twitter.com/F0elQd1cJq> > — Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) May 17, 2019The couple already have three children: North, Saint and Chicago.This is the second time the couple have used a surrogate, having had one deliver Chicago in January last year, after the reality TV star was warned that she faced serious heath risks if she become pregnant again following the birth of Saint in 2015.The reality TV star shared the news of Psalm’s birth on Twitter on 10 May, writing: “He’s here and he’s perfect!”In another post, she wrote: “He’s also Chicago’s twin lol I’m sure he will change a lot but now he looks just like her.”
All ears. Photograph: Getty Images The questions 1 Max Brod ignored whose requests to burn his manuscripts? 2 Which musical is set in the condemned Weismann theatre? 3 What court is divided into a centre third and two goal thirds? 4 What Italian dairy company was Europe’s largest bankruptcy? 5 Who opened the British hotel near Balaclava in 1855? 6 Surus was said to be whose last elephant? 7 Which lumps at the back of the nose usually disappear by adulthood? 8 Who might speak Shelta? What links: 9 Duke of Rothesay; Earl of Inverness; Earl of Forfar? 10 Willem Dafoe; Tony Curran; Tim Roth; Kirk Douglas? 11 Great; From The New World; Choral? 12 PIN number; PAC code; ISBN number; ATM machine; LCD display? 13 Australian Mist; Turkish Van; Norwegian Forest; Devon Rex? 14 Sophie Germain; Sarah Bernhardt; Isadora Duncan; Colette; Édith Piaf; Gertrude Stein? 15 Volga, Mississippi (1); Euphrates (3); Mekong, Rhine (6); Danube (10)?Edith Piaf performing in Paris in 1961. Photograph: Getty Images The answers 1 Franz Kafka. 2 Sondheim’s Follies. 3 Netball. 4 Parmalat. 5 Mary Seacole (and Thomas Day). 6 Hannibal. 7 Adenoids. 8 Irish Travellers. 9 Scottish titles of Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward. 10 Played Van Gogh on film or TV. 11 Ninth symphonies: Schubert; Dvorak; Beethoven. 12 Tautologous abbreviations. 13 Cat breeds. 14 Buried in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris. 15 Rivers (and how many countries they flow through).
‘As my daughter squealed, I had a sense of what was to come.’ Image posed by models. Composite: Sarah Habershon/GettyI could tell you were getting edgy as you sat with your friends, drinking coffee and watching the crumbs from my eight-year-old daughter’s biscuit fall messily all over her school uniform. Your face gave away your disgust immediately.I was at the next table, helping her open the new toy we had just bought. Yet I had my eye on you, already feeling uncomfortable. I had a sense of what was to come, as I have become an expert at picking up the signs of intolerance.And then it happened – my daughter squealed loudly in delight as she tore open the wrapping of her toy. It was a sound of pure happiness and excitement, yet as she let it out, I felt my heartbeat quicken.Your response came in the form of an abrupt “shush”, and sweat began to appear on my forehead. From that moment on, I didn’t really hear a word my daughter said, my mind focused on asking myself whether you had actually shushed my daughter. I am usually a calm person, but at that moment I was angry with you, and angry with myself for not having told you off. I decided that I would speak to you before I left the cafe.You probably don’t realise the courage it took to approach your table, as you sat with four other middle-aged men, joking loudly and making quite some noise yourselves. But I did it. “Did you tell my daughter to shush?”You said: “If your daughter can’t keep quiet, you should keep her at home.” I answered without any forethought: “You probably don’t realise it, but my daughter has special needs and I will not keep her at home.”Do you know how painful it was for me to tell a stranger that my child has special needs? So painful that as I said it, the tears started to swell. I was mortified, but I felt sure that you would realise the error of your ways and scramble together an apology.Instead, my tears induced yet another rebuke: “Go home and cry to your mamma!” That is when I realised I was done with explaining to you, done with giving you the opportunity to understand, and done with trying to have an adult conversation with you.I hope one day you will learn to be tolerant, or I am sure you will end up alone, while I am surrounded by warmth and love.• We will pay £25 for every letter we publish. Email email@example.com including your address and phone number. We are able to reply only to those whose contributions we are going to use.
‘I have nightmares where I’m chased by a burger.’ Photograph: Getty ImagesA few years ago, the word “adulting” seemed to reach its peak. I’d see it referenced everywhere – in ad campaigns, in real-life conversations, on mass-produced gifts like the mug that reads: “Coffee, because adulting is hard.” As a hashtag suffix to the truly mundane and simple, it saturated social media (“I did laundry! adulting!”).I never liked the word. I didn’t like how easy it made adulthood seem, as if the stuff we’ve been doing since our teens (buying groceries, doing admin) was all there was to it. It suggested we have some choice in the matter; as though we can choose to adult when we want, when in fact we’re all dragged into adulthood, no matter how unprepared we are.I’ve been thinking about this because last week I started my first diet. It is the most adult thing I have done, and pure suffering: hell is a dry Ryvita. But I do it because I am grown-up enough to engage with the idea of my mortality. I am mature enough to subject myself to the misery, knowing the best outcome is not my wildest dream come true, but something just…OK.I am up for being a bit more honest about it. I can see it now: an Instagram vid of me snapping at a colleague because I’m hungry and have nightmares where I’m chased by a burger. adulting! Me, smiling over a bowl of couscous created in the hopes it is so boring I won’t eat it. adulting. Me, 4am, having given up the diet and drunk-tweeting pictures of fried chicken claiming it is part of the vodka diet (lose three days in a week) adulting.Still, I’m not sure my approach will go viral any time soon. But perhaps we could make a new hashtag to truthfully sum up the adulthood experience. SurprisinglyDifficultDrudgery, anyone?
‘It’s exasperating and annoying and sometimes I feel it pointless to even start a conversation, as it has become a futile exercise.’ Photograph: Sharon Cudworth/Getty Images ‘It’s meant fewer dinners together’Has giving my child a phone changed my relationship with them? It’s meant fewer dinners together, and less inclination to share in conversation; greater irritability and less ability to self-regulate or find meaningful non-phone related activities to participate in. Many activities are done with the phone as meditating entity and spatial registry. The phone enhances the need for immediate mediation or gratification. Daniel, US ‘It’s exasperating and annoying’There is less talking now, and I have to go to greater lengths to have a normal conversation and any possible eye contact. Even then, the attention span is short and the eyes go back to the phone. It’s exasperating and annoying and sometimes I feel it pointless to even start a conversation, as it has become a futile exercise. Anonymous, UK ‘We do not interact’We do not interact as a family. Kevin, US ‘I maintain strict control over the apps’I gave my child a phone when she was 10, but maintain strict control over the apps on it – no YouTube, no social networking of any kind, and web browser limited to a small set of sites. She gets text messages, games, and a camera, which allows her to have fun, stay connected with her friends, and learn responsible use (no nude photos, ever). Notifications and the ringer automatically deactivate between bedtime and the end of school, so she gets to sleep without her phone going off all night like a Christmas tree.Back in the day, I remember my big brother spending hours on our landline as a teenager. Some amount of that is healthy, in my honest opinion. Elizabeth, US ‘My son is fairly addicted … it’s a shame’When my older son turned 12, he was given a phone because he started having more autonomy. However, my ex, from whom I am happily divorced, gave our 10-year-old a phone at what I thought was far too young an age. I had to parent quite heavily around my 10-year-old’s phone usage – no data, only wifi, block many things/numbers. My younger son is fairly addicted to it now at this point. It’s a shame. Carmen, Canada ‘We now communicate through text messages’We stopped talking two weeks after my daughter got her phone. We now communicate through text messages and the odd Instagram post – even when we sit opposite each other at breakfast. John Sproule, UK ‘My daughter’s priorities have shifted’My daughter’s priorities and allegiances have shifted from family to pretty much everything not family since getting a phone. But then again, she’s 14 and that is what’s supposed to happen at that age. But it may not have happened to the same extent if not for the overwhelming presence of the smartphone. Pascal, US ‘It has made things better’Giving my child a phone has made things better – we text and email one another all day and we remain close. For us, the written word is an easier way to communicate than verbally. Laura Euler, US ‘She has lost the ability to be present with us’My relationship with my daughter has all but disappeared over the course of the last year as she increasingly engages in social interaction through her smartphone. She is 13, and like her friends, almost every contact, dialogue, and interaction is through the smartphone. She has lost the ability to be present with us. She is always distracted, and looking for the next opportunity to see what is sitting out in the digital ephemera – possibly validating her, or perhaps making her feel more salient.It seems at times that she has lost the art of in-person conversation – the “Hello, how are you?” kind of thing. She’s furtive, quiet and awkward when we have guests over. Mind you, she is a straight-A student. But I worry. John P, US ‘Text gives you another way to communicate’My child having phone is helpful. It is a tool that helps us communicate more often. For example, my teen can text me photos of their homework when it’s done. They text me funny videos, quotes they like, photos. And I can do the same. Your voice can sound redundant as a parent, but text gives you another way to communicate. Cynthia, US ‘We’ve managed to keep the phone problem small’I gave my son a really cheap phone that won’t do much. It looks like a smartphone but works really slowly, so he’s not tempted to play on it or use it. We got away with this because right now, nobody at his school is too fussed about what kind of phone anyone has. As there’s no peer pressure, we’ve managed to keep the phone problem very small. He does ask for an iPhone from time to time, but we’re brushing it away successfully at the moment (he’s 12). Nicola, UK ‘No phones until age 16’If I could do it over again, I would not give them phones until age 16. Pablo, US ‘Her phone has brought us closer’Some of our interactions can be more mutual – she has access to all sorts of interesting information which we process and explore together. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a big fan of technology; I’d much rather she was accessing this information through books. But for my daughter, it has been one way in which she belongs with her peer group, among many ways in which she clearly does not. She is on it more than I would prefer, but she shows maturity and restraint a great deal of the time. She does not usually use social media apps, noting that they make her feel bad.I feel very lucky. We talk frequently when she is away from home and stay in regular touch through text. In fact, and in spite of my concerns that it would be otherwise, her phone has brought us closer together and given her a chance to make her own decisions about how she wants to apportion her time and attention. Elizabeth West, US ‘Ultimately, it’s for the better’I’m sure there used to be rows about phones at the dinner table when my kids were younger. Now that one of them works in San Francisco and the other periodically works or studies abroad, smartphones keep the daily conversation going – queries, comments, links, photos, recipes, music recommendations. There’s also the occasional challenge, like my second son sending me six seconds of him singing a line and demanding I identify the song! So it’s for the better, ultimately. Karen, UKSubmissions have been lightly edited for clarity
Sophie Wood had never truly appreciated the feeling of soft carpet underneath her toes. Nor the luxury of boiling a kettle without being watched, chopping an apple with a knife, or using a hairdryer. But six weeks after being admitted under the Mental Health Act (1983) to a Mother and Baby Unit (MBU), she was slowly starting to remember the minutiae that make life interesting.“For weeks, I’d had someone sitting at the end of my bed watching me, monitoring exactly what I ate, the medication I was taking, and how I was caring for my baby,” the 35-year-old tells The Independent. “I felt like a prisoner. At the beginning, all I wanted to do was escape.”After longing to start a family for years, this isn’t exactly how Sophie had envisaged the first few weeks of motherhood. In April 2016, Sophie gave birth to her daughter, Isabella. Like the majority of new mums, she fully expected long sleepless nights and problems latching in the early stages. “I didn’t sleep at all for three to four days after giving birth,” she admits.“While I was excited and elated to have a baby, I felt entirely responsible for looking after my daughter all the time. I became obsessed with checking she was breathing. Every time she cried I went to pick her and feed her. I felt I needed to be with her, constantly.”These may sound like the concerns every mum feels after giving birth, but Sophie and her husband soon realised her experience of motherhood wasn’t the norm as her obsession soon turned into delusion. Unbeknown to Sophie, she was suffering from postpartum psychosis (PP) – a severe form of mental illness which usually begins in the first two weeks after childbirth.National charity Action of Postpartum Psychosis (APP) estimates that more than 1,400 women experience PP each year in the UK (one to two in every 1,000 mothers). Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, restlessness, confusion, and a manic mood.Dr Trudi Seneviratne, chair of the perinatal faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says it’s often difficult to pinpoint whether someone is suffering from PP or the “baby blues” (when women experience low mood and feel mildly depressed after childbirth) given the natural fluctuations in mood due to hormone changes after a woman gives birth.However, Seneviratne notes that 75 per cent of women who suffer from PP often exhibit behaviours that make them appear overly-energetic. “They might write down a list of ideas all at once, become busy and obsessive with certain concepts. Their sense of taste, smell and hearing may also become heightened.” What is postpartum psychosis? Postpartum psychosis (PP) is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she has a baby, the NHS states.It is estimated that over 1,400 women experience PP each year in the UK (one to two in every 1,000 mothers).Symptoms of PP include hallucinations, delusions, restlessness, confusion, and a manic mood.Dr Jess Heron, director of the national charity Action on Postpartum Psychosis concurs, adding: “The early symptoms of PP can be difficult to identify because many women feel a little bit elated and sleep deprived in the first few days after having a baby. There are some mums at particularly high risk of PP: mums who have previously experienced an episode of bipolar disorder, or a previous postpartum psychosis.”That said, for around half of women – including Sophie – PP can come completely out of the blue.“The only way I can describe PP is like an iceberg,” she says. “If you look at the pictures of me after I’d given birth, I looked like a perfectly normal and happy new mum holding my baby. Underneath I was suffering from chronic anxiety and confusion.”While Sophie still doesn’t know what triggered her PP, she believes the lack of aftercare she received in the first few hours following childbirth played a key role. After undergoing an emergency caesarean section as a result of her daughter being in breach (when a baby is born bottom first instead of head first), Sophie found herself becoming increasingly distressed.“It was around midnight when my husband was booted out of the hospital and I was put on the general ward with other mothers and babies,” she recalls.“It was pitch black and I was connected to multiple tubes and a catheter. My daughter was screaming and I really felt incapable of helping her. I kept pressing my buzzer but no one came to help. I could see she might need feeding but my milk hadn’t come in. I panicked.”That night, Sophie tried to breastfeed to no avail, resulting in her nipples becoming raw and bleeding. A midwife later told her that “this feeding malarkey” might not be for her. “It was excruciating,” she says. “I beat myself up about it so much in the first few days.“My daughter gradually started to lose weight because I couldn’t feed her. I felt I was it was my fault as I couldn’t give her the natural thing she needed. I felt I was failing as a mother.Four days after coming home from hospital with her child, Sophie experienced her first psychotic episode. After falling asleep amid exhaustion, she recalls having a horrific nightmare. “I woke up screaming in a hot sweat and shaking. My husband ran up the stairs to find me babbling nonsense. I told him I felt unsafe and that I didn’t know what was going on.” Sophie could feel herself getting jittery, battling racing thoughts and talking quickly.> It was so sad for my family to watch me go from being happy, organised, and positive about becoming a mother, to someone so anxious and fearfulMoments later, Sophie’s husband found her doing the Michael Jackson-inspired moonwalk across the landing (“I wasn’t even aware I knew the entire Thriller routine”), before forcing him to watch the Lion King. “I remember holding up my daughter like the monkey on Pride Rock showing Simba to the pride. “Look, she’s ours, she’s amazing,” I kept repeating to my husband. The couple recognised how out of character Sophie’s behaviour was and were increasingly concerned. “I felt like I was coming in and out of dream world,” she says, describing her mental state at the time. “My husband knew something was wrong and told me he thought I was having a psychotic episode but he was naturally scared to call anyone in fear social services would take me and the baby away.”Despite visiting A&E that night, Sophie was told she was experiencing the normal anxieties of becoming a new mum and needed sleep. After being handed a cup of tea and a sedative, she was soon sent home.Over the next few days, her mental state deteriorated rapidly. She began hearing voices in her head and was convinced her brother had died. She even lost the ability to speak and spent hours watching her wedding video on repeat. To this day, she still has the in-depth business plan she wrote out on her phone about a new invention she’d created to help new mums suffering like she was. “I genuinely thought I was the new Richard Branson,” she jokes.Eight days after giving birth, Sophie was forced into an ambulance and admitted to an MBU which provides support for mothers who experience severe mental health difficulties during and after pregnancy. She remembers her husband breaking down into tears as he signed the forms to have her sectioned.“It was so sad for my family to watch me go from being happy, organised, and positive about becoming a mother, to someone so anxious and fearful,” she says. “No one saw it coming.”During her initial stay at the unit, Sophie feared male staff would hurt her and she couldn’t bare people looking at her with Isabella. “I was tearful, quiet, and fearful. I ended up singing a lot to myself. It was a very lonely time,” she says.Despite taking numerous forms of medication including mood stabilisers, attending group therapy, mindfulness and group counselling sessions, at no point during her time in the facility did anyone tell Sophie she was suffering from PP. She says: “I used to ask people ‘what’s happened to me, why am I here?’ They used to tell me I was unwell which I thought was ludicrous. ‘Unwell’ is what you are when you have a cold or food poisoning.”While Sophie showed signs of improvement during her time at the unit, her battle with PP was far from over. She suffered from chronic anxiety and feared going outside. For the first month after leaving the MBU, she called the crisis team on a daily basis. “I was traumatised. I kept having flashbacks of what had happened,” she says. She didn’t step foot into a supermarket on her own for six months.Heron says: “Women go on to make a full recovery, however, the journey to full recovery can be long and difficult.”According to the NHS, most women will require treatment for PP in hospital, ideally at an MBU. Treatment may include medication, psychological therapy, and on extremely rare occasions electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).Seneviratne says: “Ninety per cent of sufferers will make a good recovery thanks to a combination of medication which can include anti-psychotics, that have mood stabilising properties, and sedatives that help them to sleep. However, while medication is important, so too are psychological therapies.“The term ‘psychosis’ is a hugely stigmatising term as it can be a reason why people don’t seek help early enough – PP is a severe condition. It’s important to talk openly about PP and give families the platforms to do so. Sufferers should in no way feel embarrassed about sharing their experiences.’’As her treatment continued, Sophie underwent counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and was finally diagnosed with PP some four months after giving birth. She came off her medication 11 months later and has attended numerous meet-ups and peer support groups through APP to share her experience. With hopes to have more children in future, she has also discussed several contingency plans with her doctor on how she can try to avoid suffering from PP again.“We’ve spoken about the need for medication, making contact with a perinatal mental health support nurses, birth plans, bottle feeding – anything so I can feel as calm as possible if I fall pregnant,” she says.As a result of her experience, Sophie has also become a media volunteer for APP and is setting up a blog to detail her journey through future pregnancies about how she plans to prevent PP, if she can, for women, families, and healthcare professionals.“It is not the ‘baby blues’ or a bad patch, rather a serious mental health condition. The earlier you get intervention, the healthier you’ll be. It takes a long time to recover from this illness but it is possible, there is hope.”To find out more information about postpartum psychosis, click here. For more help on the condition, contact www.app-network.org
Nasal sprays can help with hay fever symptoms. Photograph: Martin Leigh/Getty Images/Cultura RF Find the correct treatment Hay fever is increasingly common and now affects about one in four of the population, says Glenis Scadding, a consultant allergist at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear hospital. Citing official advice from the NHS, she says over-the-counter antihistamines are fine for those with mild symptoms, but she warns against sedating antihistamines, which can impair driving and cognitive function. Scadding says the treatment of choice for more severe hay fever is usually an intranasal steroid spray, but she recommends seeking medical advice if symptoms are unclear or potentially complicated by other issues. Take preemptive measures Taking hay fever medication early is key to achieving maximum effectiveness when pollen levels peak, says Holly Shaw, a nurse adviser at Allergy UK. People with hay fever are advised to start using nasal sprays two weeks before symptoms usually begin. If you need advice on medication, Shaw advises speaking to a pharmacist. She also stresses the impact pollen can have on those with asthma, 80% of whom will also have hay fever. “Pollen can be an allergic trigger for those with asthma. Managing hay fever symptoms is an important part of keeping asthma under control.” Check the pollen count For a daily local pollen forecast in the UK, check the Met Office; from March to September, you can opt in to receive push notifications on its app. It is useful to know that the pollen season falls into three main sections: in the northern hemisphere, tree pollen from late March to mid-May, grass pollen from mid-May to July, and weed pollen from the end of June to September. The NHS recommends wearing wraparound sunglasses when outside, and putting petroleum jelly around the nostrils to trap pollen. Avoid bringing pollen into the house Pollen can be carried into your home on clothing or by pets. It is advisable to change your clothes and even have a shower when you come in from outdoors. Allergy UK advises not drying clothes outside and keeping windows closedwhen pollen counts are high, especially in early morning and evenings when levels of pollen in the air are highest. The NHS also recommends not cutting grass, or walking on cut grass, and avoiding keeping fresh flowers in the house. Try to reduce stress Studies have shown that stress can exacerbate allergies. Dr Ahmad Sedaghat, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, explains the possible mind-body connection of inflammatory disease. “Stress can make the allergic response worse. We don’t know why exactly, but we think stress hormones can ramp up the already exaggerated immune-system response to allergens.” Meditation, exercise and eating healthily are all recognised ways of trying to reduce stress.
Today is World Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, an annual day dedicated to raising awareness of the debilitating condition and of those who suffer its effects.The condition, which affects Girls creator Lena Dunham and former Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young, as well as an estimated 10m other people in the US, causes chronic pain. Read on for everything you need to know about fibromyalgia. What is fibromyalgia?Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition characterised by chronic pain and tenderness across the body.While there are some common symptoms, such as fatigue, everyone experiences fibromyalgia differently, with some cases more severe than others.It’s fairly common, according to the charity Arthritis Research UK, which claims that up to one person in every 25 may be affected.The symptoms for fibromyalgia can be very similar to inflammatory or degenerative arthritis, however, the conditions are not linked.There is no specific test for fibromyalgia, meaning it can often be difficult to diagnose. Who is affected?Fibromyalgia can affect anyone at any age, though it typically affects roughly seven times as many women as men.It usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50. What causes fibromyalgia?It’s not clear what causes fibromyalgia, but researchers suggests it’s related to abnormal amounts of particular chemicals in the brain which disrupt the central nervous system and the way pain is processed in the body.Others speculate that the condition is genetic.According to the NHS, in many cases, fibromyalgia is triggered by physically or emotionally stressful events, such as giving birth, having an operation or bereavement. What are the symptoms?The most common symptom experienced by people with fibromyalgia is widespread chronic pain, which may be more severe in the back and/or neck. Other symptoms include fatigue, insomnia, hypersensitivity, spasms, diarrhoea, dizziness and muscle stiffness.Fibromyalgia can also affect your mental wellbeing, causing something known as “fibro-fog”: problems with memory and concentration. How is it treated?There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, however, it can be managed through treatment, which varies depending on your symptoms.This can be a combination of painkillers, antidepressants, cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling.Some sufferers may also be advised to embark on specific exercise programmes and relaxation methods in order to help manage and alleviate the pain.For more information on fibromyalgia, visit Fibromyalgia Action UK, a charity which supports people with the condition.
Eye of the beholder: a selfie-taker among the bluebells. Photograph: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex/ShutterstockIt’s bluebell season and the dandelions are full. The woods near my house are dense with the last wild garlic. Tulips in the garden are blousy and drunken, and nature is everywhere. I’ve long identified as someone who casually spurned nature, agreeing it was too green and badly lit, but this year something appears to have shifted. Now I spend evenings coaxing strawberries to grow and weekends at garden centres the size of new towns, nodding knowingly at strangers over their hopeful magnolias.A stroll on Sunday through the woods is mirrored by a scroll through social media, where blossom and the greenness of plant life is as ubiquitous as a fancy latte, and signifies similar – moments treasured, a spiritual glee, a display of healthful joy. In a recent Atlantic piece about influencers, they explain that the Instagram aesthetic of pink sofas and artful avocado toast has quietly gone out of fashion, to be replaced by more “authentic” feeds – private moments, stories about mental health. So it makes sense that green spaces (as opposed to staged sets) are accruing likes online as spring births summer and bluebell woods stand strong under trampling picnickers. Green spaces, of course, are proven to boost mental health. “Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities,” says the World Health Organisation, “improve wellbeing, and aid in treatment of mental illness.”And yet access is often restricted: children in the most deprived areas of Britain are nine times less likely to have green areas to play in. This season’s pictures of trees in the wild, it could be argued, are as accurate a visual representation of privilege today as an influencer’s winter tan. Like green juices and no-makeup selfies, they have become status symbols for people keen to show their depth. Unlike an expensive handbag, which anybody can save up for, the nature selfie requires things beyond cash, too – time and travel, a sly superior spirituality.> Blossom and the greenness of plant life is as ubiquitous on Instagram as a fancy latteIn Luke Turner’s memoir Out of the Woods, about sex and solace in Epping Forest, he distinguishes his interest in nature from the sentimental version displayed so vividly and seductively online, “Where photographs of forests exist as memes complete with trite and inspirational slogans.” I listened to the audiobook while walking to work through the hayfeverish mist of the first hot morning, past a jogger who’d paused for selfies beneath a handsome wisteria vine. It stuck with me, his point about the meme-ification of nature, a thing that’s been cleanly repackaged as valuable, a wellness product to sit alongside jade eggs or yoga mats.I’d already started to notice the number of people who seem to approach the outdoors, whether wild swimming or on a winter walk, with a “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality. Alongside the portraits of influencers in flower meadows sits an Instagram account called Our Public Lands Hate You, documenting the damage that these picture-seekers are doing to the plants and the soil and the freshwater pools they’ve colonised. To holiday on Instagram is to witness the psychological disconnect in those presenting nature as magical and divine on social media, while at the same time clambering over warning signs to piss on poppy fields.But, of course, new to the outdoors myself, a person who has grown up mistrustful of natural light and remains extremely keen on central heating, I understand their impulse. Like nature itself, a machine programmed simply to survive and reproduce, people are drawn to record these spaces in part because of a similar internal throb. By displaying them as symbols of our success, our status and our spiritual reverence, are we not inviting potential mates to judge and join us in our parallel quest – to survive and reproduce?The urban squabbles for proprietorship of nature are overshadowed by the countryside wars, where Chris Packham is receiving death threats for successfully challenging the killing of several bird species – two dead crows were left hanging from his gate. Ramblers are campaigning for the new agriculture bill to improve people’s narrow access to the countryside. Since the practice of installing netting on trees and hedgerows to prevent birds nesting has risen, environmentalists have been campaigning to get it banned, some broadcasting themselves ritually ripping it down. The question of who owns nature rumbles on in spikes of class and violence.It is a reminder that, despite its happy side-effects, nature is not for us. It exists in spite of us. It persists greenly, finding new ways to grow around our awfulness. It is not all glory and magic, all bucolic rhapsody and inspiration. Another reason, surely, why the new nature lovers attempt, in increasingly irritating ways, to capture it on their phone, to frame it neatly, to cage it as therapy. But, as sure as trainers follow heels, nature as an Instagram trend will soon be out of fashion, to be replaced by something new. Social media has seasons, too.Email Eva at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter@EvaWiseman