Sunday, 24 July 2016

Five

TW: self harm
"I am thankful for my struggle because without it, I wouldn't have stumbled upon my strength." - Alexandra Elle

Half of a decade. 5 years.  260 weeks. 1,825 days. 2.3 million minutes.

Five has been a reoccurring number in my life this year. I turned 25 and this year marks my fifth year of being self harm free. I've talked about my self harm extensively on my blog (see here and here) Plus I even made a video about it.  See here.

For my fifth year anniversary things went a little bit differently.

To start off this special year I did something I didn't think I'd ever do. I spoke with a national newspaper about my self harm. It went online, it went into the physical newspaper. It was overwhelming. When I went to speak with the reporter it was the first time I'd ever spoken with someone about my self harm who wasn't a family member, a boyfriend, friend or my therapist. Before this article came out I could count the number of people who I had actually spoken about this issue of mine on two hands.

Once the article came out it really blew up. I had people text me that I hadn't spoken to in years, the post got shared, liked and talked about. The messages of support and love continued for days. It was as if the biggest weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Emails from the parents of my school friends poured in, sharing that their own children struggled with mental health. A school friend that I had shared a room with for one year and counted as one of my closest friends, messaged me and said that whilst we'd been roommates she'd been visiting a therapist which I had no idea about.

It was so heartwarming and at the same time heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking that girls I lived with and shared a part of my life with struggled in silence. And I didn't have a clue. It just shows how isolating suffering with mental health can be.

When the article came out, it came out suddenly and without much warning. To my shame I didn't have time to warn my parents, who I worried would try and talk me out of speaking with the reporter. When the article came out it was very difficult for my mum. Once I completed my therapy for her it felt like that chapter of my life was closed. When they read the article, my dad who paid the therapy bills but had never ever spoken with me about it before, called me and said "You've got to see this through now".

Mum and I have spoken at length since the article. She understands now that even though I'd been in therapy, the chapter of my life that was marred with self harm was never 'closed' or over for me. She admitted that she would have tried to talk me out of doing the article. But now she's proud that I did it. Only now, five years later do I realise how hard my self harm was for my mother and how alone she must have felt with it. She was trying to hold our family unit together and be the rock for all of us. She struggled as well. That still breaks my heart.

Now that I've shared the most secret and darkest part of myself to the world it truly feels like that chapter of my life is over. I have nothing to hide any longer. I have nothing to be ashamed of any more.

Something about this anniversary feels more important and I'm a little more melancholic about it than last year where I felt jubilant about it.

The biggest struggle for me is the concept of my fading scars. 

I can point out every single one of them even if they are almost gone. I know the exact part of my thigh where I carved 'fuck up'. The scars are long gone but I still see the letters like little ghostly apparitions, dancing on my own skin. But the reality is that my scars are fading. It's like finally letting go of that ex who still haunts your dreams. I don't want them to fade because once they're gone it will feel like none of it ever happened, there's nothing left to remind me except the hazy and foggy memories of difficult times. I think that's why I try and talk about the milestones as often as possible. I want to remember it happened because I want to see how far I've come.

I spoke with a friend, Si, about this and for him it's the opposite. He's glad to see his go, whereas I almost want to tattoo them on me as a permanent reminder. It sounds twisted and I can understand that others who have self harmed may disagree with me and even think I'm really insensitive about it. That's part of the problem, self harm and mental health are both so subjective. There's no blueprint or one size fixes all approach. 


This year, keeping focused on my mental health and working towards another year of being self harm free has been harder than usual. At times this year I've felt trapped in a rut and struggled with keeping things in perspective. 

With that in mind I've set myself a challenge to keep myself focused. I'm running a half marathon. On October the 2 I'll be lacing up my trainers and running 13 miles (21 kilometres) across Cardiff. The only thing that will be keeping me going for another kilometre on the day is that I'm running this half marathon to raise money for a charity that is so close to my heart.

My friend Si, along with an amazing group of people, set up Heads Above The Waves. This is a charity that supports young people who struggle with self harm. It encourages them to find positive ways to have open conversations about self harm and mental health. As well as finding positive coping techniques to 'keep your head above the waves'.

I'm hoping to raise £500 which will cover the vital workshops that HATW take to local schools to introduce the concept of positive alternatives to self-harm. They encourage honest and open conversation, and plant the seeds for self-help. Every penny donated will go straight to Heads Above The Waves, I know Si well and wish that something like HATW had been there for me when I was struggling.

If you have a few pennies to spare I'd appreciate any donations. If you don't, don't worry. Check out Heads Above The Waves online and see how you can get involved and support them. They sell great merchandise and are really engaging.

So where will I be in another year? Who knows. 

There are days when I forget that this part of my life ever existed. But then there are days when old feelings snare me down and leave me speechless. I don't know if those feelings will ever really go away. I'm single at the moment and I have no idea how I would ever bring this part of my life up to a boyfriend. Or whether I would even want to. That bothers me a lot. I guess I will just have to wait and see. The further I get down the road of recovery the more questions it seems to throw up about my self harm, what it really meant and what the effects of it have been. I'm not even sure if I'll ever get all the answers that I'm looking for.

For the meantime I know I'm still here. I know I'm a fighter. I know I've worked through worse. And I'm happy to be where I am now. So happy.  I'm surrounded by amazing people who even though I didn't always know it at the time, have had my back and always will. 

If you're struggling with any kind of mental health issues, I can understand how hard it is to get yourself on a path of recovery. It's so tough. But trust me, once you start racking up the milestones, whether it's one day, two weeks, three months or four years, you will feel amazing. And it's worth it.

I'll be seeing you at the finish line of the Cardiff half marathon in October. I'll keep you updated.

All my love as always.

"Time heals all wounds. And if it doesn't, you name them something other than wounds and agreed to let them stay." - Emma Forrest



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Saturday, 9 July 2016

Nina Eats - Wagamama


A few weeks ago I was invited to settle down in Wagamama's with a well deserved glass of wine and to work my way through their menu. I was allowed to bring a guest with me so I took my much taller and more glamorous sidekick Jade with me.

Jade hadn't been to Wagamama before so it was fun to experience it with her. The Wagamama in Cardiff is located in a beautiful building right next to the Cardiff Library and St David's Cardiff. It's an airy and bright location making it great for people watching.

I've been to Wagamama a few times. I enjoy the seating arrangement of the benches, it feels very communal but at the same time there's enough spacing between the seats so you don't feel like you're gatecrashing someone's dinner or date.

The staff here are great, they take you to your seats and straight away ask if you've visited before. If the answer is no, which in Jade's case it was, then they explain how it all works.  


At Wagamama there are no 'starters', if you want the side dishes specifically as a starter just let the staff know. Everything at Wagamama is cooked ready to order, there are four different sections in the kitchen each focusing on the different types of food Wagamama offers. This means that mains don't always arrive at exactly the same time, but the staff ensure that all tables are served speedily and that no one in the group has to wait too long for their food to arrive.

As you can see Jade and me took full advantage and sampled lots of things from their menu. 

We especially loved the variety of gyozas and the garlic chilli salt covered edamame. The pork steamed bun was also delicious - the bun was soft and fluffy whilst the pork melted in your mouth. Also a side note, the green tea at Wagamama is free of charge and you can top it up as much as you want. Green tea has all sorts of health benefits, but helpfully it also makes you feel less full and bloated post food overdose. So it's good to have a cup after you've worked your way through the menu.


I'm guilty of always eating the same dish when I visit. It's either the Yaki Soba, the Pad Thai or the Raisukaree (which is the delicious curry dish Jade went for). Whilst Wagamama are famed for the Katsu Chicken Curry that's not really up my street. So this time I stepped outside of my little Wagamama comfort circle and went for the Grilled Duck Donburi.  

I would without a doubt have this again. The shredded duck was perfectly cooked and really offset with the teriyaki sauce and the vegetables. The rice was super fluffy and the fried egg with the perfectly runny yolk just brought it all together. A word to the wise - this looks like a misleadingly small sized dish but it's best tackled on an empty stomach. There was a lot to get through and I'm afraid to say I was a little defeated by it.

I say we were defeated, we of course also had to give dessert a crack.  We went for the mini three dessert plate plus a side of coconut ice cream with coconut shavings and passion fruit sauce. The chocolate fudge cake was so so, the passionfruit cheesecake delicious but the real winner was the ginger cheesecake. Perfectly zingy and refreshing after all the strong main course flavours.  The coconut reika is my staple favourite and wraps up the Wagamama experience perfectly.

If you're Cardiff based and you're intrigued by all my food adventures get yourself over to the St David's Eat Club. Once you're signed up you'll be the first to know about all things foodie whether it's new openings or special offers, cooking inspiration and recipes. Wagamama frequently revamp their menu so it's worth keeping up to date with!

So all in all Jade's first visit went pretty well. We both rolled home completely happy with our experience. No doubt I'll be back soon.

NB: I was invited to Wagamama's through St. David's Cardiff but all opinions are my own

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Saturday, 18 June 2016

Nina Travels - Paraty | Part 1


So I never got round to posting many pictures from my time in Rio in December. When I'm with my family I'd rather spend my time with them than squirrelled away behind my laptop. That and I've been in a blogging rut. Saying that my blogging mojo has come back and whilst going through my iPhoto I felt that some of these photos were too beautiful not too share. I'm also a little homesick for Brazil so that might also be why the urge to blog about Brazil has struck.

When I was in Brazil for Christmas we decided that as a family we would spend the Christmas days in Paraty, which is an old colonial town located on the Costa Verde - the Green Coast. It was a long drive from Rio but worth every second in the car.


We stayed in the most amazing Pousada - an equivalent word in English would be bed and breakfast but that's not a very accurate description. The Pousada Literária is more than just a bed and breakfast.  It's located in the hustle and bustle of the old town of Paraty but the second the driveway gates close behind you the noise seems to stop and you're in a bubble of peace and quiet.

Life in Rio is non stop, there's noise constantly and you're never alone. So switching off at the pousada was exactly what our overstimulated minds needed. During our stay we'd just relax in the pool reading the books from the library or if you're me - working through all of Serial season 1. It honestly couldn't have been any more perfect.


Paraty itself is beautiful, I can't help but think that Wes Anderson would have a field day if he came here.

The first thing my mum warned me about when we were packing was to leave the heels at home. All of Paraty features these cobbled rocky streets which are misleadingly hard to walk down. It was Havaianas all the way.

My brother is photography mad so on our first evening we went out armed with all the photography equipment and just took it all in. You really feel like you're in another world.


Paraty is a popular destination for the Christmas break. Everyone wants to head out of Rio and every single hotel or pousada is booked up. Brazilians are night owls so when we were walking around at just before dusk it was very quiet.

One of the most popular things to do in Paraty is rent a boat and head out to explore the surrounding islands. We did this on one of our days and I can't wait to share those photos with you. I'm still in awe of the beauty of Brazil. Getting these photos together has made me so 'home sick'.

There's something about Brazil that just grabs hold of your heart and doesn't let you go. 

Can't wait to share the rest of my LONG overdue photos with you!



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