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Menopause – The Truth And The Surprise Ending

“Your boat is on a very choppy sea,” said Maryann knowingly. She is one of the select older and wiser women in my life, who got me through a turbulent period, back there.

I was recounting my story to her with my head in my hands. Life had suddenly become very confusing. Continuing the travel analogy, one minute I was cruising a marvelously lit highway in a 4×4. The next, without noticing, I had taken a wrong turn, I was bouncing down a dark dirt track in a banger.

“How did I get here,” I kept asking, “and,” (more to the point) “how can I get out? ” I was used to problem solving and multi-tasking with executive efficiency. As a journalist and broadcaster working in the fashion industry for over 30 years, while raising a family, running a business and campaigning for a variety of women’s issues in my daily practice, I had not signed up for this chaos. I quickly became anxious about what each new day would hold.

Every woman’s experience of the menopause is different. It’s a process of oestrogen and progesterone withdrawal and it will impact you in a unique way, because you are unique. Everyone I have spoken to laments the taboo nature of talking about what to expect, but perhaps we could all feel less ambivalent about the forthcoming rite of passage if we knew menopause delivers a mind-blowing mid-life recalibration – one with a valuable message of growth and expansion.

For me it started with Titanic sinking feelings, which amplified the tension and discomfort of unresolved problems in my life. I was working hard in a career I loved but one minute I’d be up, the next I’d be wearing a cement straight-jacket hurtling to the bottom of a murky abyss accompanied by the voice of condemnation. “You really are finished,” it would say.

Then there was the brain fug that convinced me I was going down with early dementia. Industry knowledge evaporated and I found myself unable to remember names, events and dates. My vocabulary shrank too. I would have to script myself to within an inch of my life to feign work-place competence. At home, both daughters would play ludicrous guessing games to get me to the end of my sentence and my youngest still reminds me of the day I forgot her name.

There were minimal physical affects however. I dutifully utilised insomnia to fit in extra work and I could tolerate the mild heat surges any day, but I know some women are driven to distraction by the intensity of night sweats and day-time hot flushes. I asked my mother and an older girl friend for insight. The words ‘Plain Sailing’ and ‘out the other side in no time,’ were bandied about. My GP said I sounded alright to her.

Meanwhile, I was medicating myself with generous amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon each evening. Anesthetising anxiety and panic attacks this way helped me limp on for a bit longer, clinging to the remnants of my previously ordered existence. Then I made an important decision. I stopped and stood still. “What do I need to understand?” I asked myself, having read enough to realise that female bodies are powerful intuitive barometers and mine was trying to tell me something. This is what I learned.

I routinely put others first which meant racing through my life over-achieving and under-prioritising me.

The voice was right: I was finished. But an ending of the way I had been living would be a very good thing. Since leaving Uni I had put in very long hours building a career. As a dedicated parent and partner, I routinely put others first which meant racing through my life over-achieving and under-prioritising me. Exhausted and running on empty, letting go of my expectations of me would be the first positive move.

In menopause our body roars. All these years it has put up and shut up and now will not tolerate abuse or disrespect any longer. This commotion is simply a demand by your newly awake self for quality not quantity, for re-evaluation and re-balancing. Perhaps (when your time comes) you plan to put your hands over your ears? Think again, there is nothing so primal and immediate as your body’s hormonal call to action.

I listened. I cut myself a break. As a result I’m no longer buckling under the stress of numerous projects running concurrently. I’ve made other changes too. I attend less time-wasting meetings, engage in much less unwaged work and collaborate more selectively. I’m thinking about the bigger picture as I celebrate my strengths and focus on the positives, while gracefully accepting my limitations… finally.

Now, for the first time, free of hands-on child-wrangling (the final child, birthed at 41, is 16) I’m in an intense relationship with myself. It’s a joy, as the voice inside me grows stronger and more enquiring of new perspectives. I have grown my hair and grown out my colour. Shedding old ways and reframing people’s perceptions of me, I left the People Pleaser behind. This has been an act of common sense.

“She’s let herself go.” A deliberately pejorative judgment reveals disapproval of maturing feminine appearance. The assertion that we could try harder to cling on to our youth supports every unrealistic beauty claim for anti-ageing balms and unguents and every marketing prompt for hair dye. I’m not buying it. Let’s get one thing straight: our gender has been groomed to self-objectify while beauty corporations grow rich and prosperous. In the process of consuming femininity as a set of unrealistic appearance goals, perhaps we have become blind to our internal exquisiteness and it’s time to open our eyes.

I love fashion and self-styling and I have great fun with my image, but I don’t play the patriarchal game of defining myself as decorative dressing in a man-made world. Maybe this has helped me to embrace the thrill and privilege of age with its intellectual and experiential gifts. I do believe that if we can stop focusing solely on exteriors and start embracing personhood, post-menopause becomes a position of status and composure.

For the record… We do not let ourselves go, just the flotsam and jetsam of an earlier existence.
The mirror becomes less important in the most fundamental way with the realisation that age does not equal atrophy and that we are not diminished by the passing of years. Instead we are intensified, our force amplified and our knowledge expanded.

I’m not pretending life miraculously becomes uncomplicated and undemanding – challenges await every age and stage. Women, however, are great facilitators of others so in menopause we can and must reclaim our time and assets for ourselves. This is not selfish, this is smart.

The simple truth is that just like the adolescent surge of hormonal activity providing an exciting gateway to adult sexuality, menopause, (the process in reverse and in withdrawal) enables an additional and equally compelling portal into yet another selfhood. Step towards this doorway with confidence that once out the other side you will be renewed. Unlike me, you might prepare yourself mentally and physically beforehand by choosing less stress, more sleep, a healthy diet and supportive friends. You are not powerless, when you choose to surrender to something bigger than you. Treat yourself with kindness and tolerance as the bio-chemical make-up of your body re-arranges itself. It will be an education so expect enlightenment.

Post-menopause needs renaming and reclaiming for what it truly is, a magnificent time of curiosity, creativity and rank. It’s not surprising that some societies have been threatened by this natural female evolution to leader and mentor. In Pagan times of Goddess Worship, female tribal elders were respected and celebrated but with the introduction of Christianity came the brutal persecution of middle-aged women as witches and heretics. As feminist history explains, older women were simply channeling their menopausal force to intervene in an oppressive culture that undermined female wisdom and equality.

Hundreds of years later the quest for gender parity and fairness remains and growing old without self-reproach is one deliciously subversive act all women can embrace. Use everything the fashion and beauty worlds offer but bring these products into your life on your terms. There is no need for any woman to feel ambivalent, even fearful of ageing, in fact with the right physical and mental health supports, we can thrive. Having roused the ancient mystic, healer and tribal elder in me, I am on the journey towards Cronehood, and I love it.

Here are a few practical tips to get you through…

Getting physical and emotional support

I was introduced to bio-identical hormones and unlike the one-size fits all HRT from the NHS, BIH is a bespoke system that can be tailor-made for each woman. There is a cost but it was the best £500 I have spent. Dr. Lynette Yong read my blood test and prescribed DHEA. This hormone can be converted to whatever is needed by the body. My memory improved instantly. The progesterone cream I would later take would act as a calmer to alleviate anxiety and stress. I now pay a fraction of that to repeat my prescription every couple of months.

Systematic Kinesiology

Francesca Topolski uses muscle testing to tell which minerals the body is deficient in and can restore the body’s balance with dynamic effects. My magnesium levels were low and my adrenal glands were stuck in fight or flight mode which in turn created insomnia (this would have also caused memory problems.) She helped me to make small changes with big impacts.

Counselling

Make it a post-menopausal woman and a wise old sage. Since menopause amplifies emotions, you will find unresolved issues become more urgent to look at. Be prepared to take responsibility for your own contribution to the areas in your life that aren’t working and be ready to take action. My Maryann was recommended by a good friend – you need someone in your area who comes through the same channel. Ask for recommendations or look through a directory but check testimonials.

Reading

The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup. This was my bible. Dr. Christiane gives advice on every stage your body will go through and how to alleviate the many symptoms. She cites medical studies in support of your femininity, intuition and power that will thrill you while combining spiritual and personal stories of herself and other women to help you get to calmer waters.

Bio Identical Hormones By Dr. Uzzi Reiss, will help you understand your symptoms and get involved in your meds!

The Crone – Women of Age, Wisdom and Power By Barbara G Walker, invaluable for your re-calibration – unlearn what you have learned.

Women’s History of the World By Rosalind Miles. Celebrate women and their amazing grit, determination and ingenuity.

Fitness

Now is the time to begin Yoga or some other regular and calming activity. 20 minutes most mornings will create a new and focus headspace as well as a supple and strong body.

Clothes and fashion

I love dressing up more than ever. Quality and good design is key to promote modernity and sophistication. I love wearing clothes by emerging designers and I prioritise up-cycling and sustainability.

Beauty and skincare

Organic products like Liz Earl and Weleda keep my skin supple and perfume (my current favourite is Atkinsons 24 Old Bond Street) gives me a true lift.

Hair

Make sure you are working with a knowledgeable hairdresser to achieve your chosen natural tone. Matthew at Charles Worthington helped me over a period of years to grow out sections of coloured hair first and then create high and low lights around the crown to disguise change-over

Talk

Explain to your loved ones that you are evolving. My daughters understand the changes that have taken place and I’m happy they are now better prepared for their eventual menopause than I was. My husband was kind and considerate. Sharing my vulnerabilities and challenges strengthened my relationships and my honesty was appreciated.

What do men really find attractive in women? – Tim and his honest answer to this question

Here we go, another article with a male writer talking about how inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. “Men want a good personality over a good pair of lady lumps!”

Sorry to disappoint you ladies, but not today. I only do honesty.

You want to attract a man, you have to be attractive! It’s simple logic. By definition, attraction in it’s simplest form is a first impression; instinctual and purely a physical judgment. If you’re shopping for bananas, do you take the ripe banana or the brown bruised banana?… Now before you react, I’m not calling, or insinuating, that anyone is a undesirable bruised banana simply based on how someone looks. Everyone has something to offer and that is what makes us ‘DESIRABLE’… but let’s not joke each other and pretend the world is perfect. Popular culture will have you believe that ‘attraction’ and ‘desire’ are the same thing… but they are not even close… If you are standing next to a Victoria’s secret model, then congratulations, you are now invisible. You’re now a superhero, go you!

I know it’s hard, and yes, you can’t change your genetics. You can’t change the past and you can’t change plain-old bad luck. Attraction for men, biologically, is based on your physical appearance, and although that may vary for personal preference, the general consensus of beauty is fairly universal. You either have it, or you don’t. If you aren’t sure if you’re pretty or not, then you already know the answer. This is harsh but this is the truth.

HOWEVER… all hope is not lost! Do not despair or give up! This is why you ‘Ask Tim’ and this is why I get paid the big bucks. Physical appearance means NOTHING when it comes to REAL, NORMAL, EVERYDAY people! Life is nothing like the movies or Television! Popular culture needs you to believe that celebrities, actors, musicians and the like, are better version of real people. That they are more beautiful or more importantly, living an ‘easier’ life. If you compare yourself to others, and doubt your desirability, then you have already lost the competitive edge; and therefore by simple logic, are less attractive than your ‘competitor’. The dating game is nothing more than a animalistic primal dance of bright colors and loud screams. Attraction will get you noticed first, but just because the early bird gets the worm, doesn’t mean that every other bird is starving!

So…. the top three things that a man will find most desirable. Starting with the most important!

1. Can you have a conversation?!

Approaching a girl is hard. It takes a lot of confidence, practice and sheer optimism. If a guy approaches you, that you like, then make an effort to have a conversation! Even if the guy is a dud, it’s still good to practice until you find the right guy. There is nothing worse than when I’ve approached someone, and after asking,

Tim: Hey, how’s your night going?
Girl: Oh Hey, yeah, good thanks, you?
Tim: I’m great, had a few beers and feel relaxed after a long day. Do you come here often?
Girl: Yeah… a bit… you?
Tim: Yeah I do actually. Really like the music and vibe. Good ambiance. Are you here with friends; having a big night?
Girl: Yeah, a few, what about you?
Tim: Just a few guys from work. Not sure where the night will take me yet. Keeping my options open.
Girl: Oh nice. Nice. Yeah. um. *Sips drink*
Tim: Cool… Cool… *long awkward silence* Talk later then…

No matter what you look like, that example right there will kill any guys mojo. It’s done. It’s over. He’s not coming back. Pack your backs and call an Uber…. Of course you may be nervous too and even too shy to ask him meaningful questions but just the act of trying will make you ten times more desirable. Even if you feel like you are making a fool of yourself, it’s better than not offering anything to the conversation.

A boy will like you for how you look; a man will love you for how you make him feel.

2. Common interests and related humour
Let’s try again.
Tim: Hey, How’s it going, I’m Tim.
Girl: *Notices funny Game of thrones T-Shirt* Ahh excuse me, I’m Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, please address me by my formal title. *with playful smile*
Tim: My apologies Queen, let me buy you another mug of ale.
**Fast forward**
Girl: Do you have protection?

It’s important to understand that men are just as vulnerable to social expectations and they too suffer from the feeling of inadequacy. If you have realistic expectations about the man you want to meet, then that man is just as nervous about being perceived as ‘attractive’ as you are. He hasn’t nor will rarely approach the most attractive girl at the bar. Every guy knows that that is a suicide mission because she will reject you… and reject you hard… He is approaching you, because A) you seem approachable, meaning yes, in truth, in what he believes is his ‘social range’ but more importantly B) the most attractive girl within his range… Simply by approaching you, he has acknowledged that he finds you ATTRACTIVE! You didn’t have to do anything!!!

3. Know what you want before the night even begins!

The majority of men hate wasting time. When I ask, what do you want for dinner and you reply… “ahhh, I don’t know, what do you want?”, I am dying inside from frustration. Men are simple creatures with unnecessarily complex brains. We are capable of great things, but most of the time, just want to eat, (work), play and sleep. For that, you need to know what you want before you go out. If you are just looking for a no-strings hook up, then act like you want a no strings hook up. If you are looking to find a future, meaningful relationship, then act like you are looking for a meaningful relationship. Social expectation dictates that a man approaches, or makes the first move, but there is nothing sexier than a woman who knows what she wants. That doesn’t mean you tell a guy what to do and when to do it. It means you act with conviction and congruence in your words and actions. If you want a real connection, ask questions that are both socially appropriate and meaningful.
***
Tim: Yeah I do actually. Really like the music and vibe. Good ambiance. Are you here with friends; having a big night?
Girl: Me too, I really like Jazz. Especially the saxophone. Something about the sound is just so smooth and calming. Oh and my friend is just at the bar.
Tim: Haha, there is my friend, at the bar also. I know what you mean. It has such a soulful rhythm. Easy to move to. Do you play any instruments yourself?
Girl: Haha I tried the piano but I’m not very good.
**fast forward**
Tim: Maybe I can get your number, and we could check out a Jazz Gig sometime?

The last words…
Attraction is important, that’s undeniable, but it will only get you so far. If the only reason you are with someone is ‘attraction’, then that relationship will never last. Be desirable because you show genuine interest in the other person. Make them feel wanted and the rest will fall into place.

 

Have any questions or want more details? Looking to skip the nonsense and get straight to the action, I can help too. Find me at www.facebook.com/timreplies/

How to let go?

Still thinking about that ex after six months?;
Or about that guy you had a ‘crush on’ but waited too long, ‘I should of said something!’;
Or how can I trust again after my last bad relationship/s?

How do we deal with the memories that haunt us, taunt us and make us question ourselves; what is wrong with me? Humans have, and always will be, emotional beings. Everything we do in life is defined by how we feel about ourselves and the outside world. Sometimes that’s a positive, sometimes a negative. We can laugh at jokes told hours before, smile about the things we love when they aren’t around OR even hold onto grudges for a lifetime over one poorly chosen and ill-willed sentence.

The why is simple; we have evolved to learn from our experiences by attaching emotional connections to reinforce the ‘desired’ lesson. Just as every day you spend with a lover increases your connection; so too can time apart strengthen a negative attachment. In simplest terms when spoken to our children, ‘Do not touch the stove or you will get burned.’ Yet for all our good intentions; we all know that curiosity and the inevitable painful consequences will be learned. In this case, after many scream filled tears, the lesson that you should never touch a stove will last that child’s lifetime.

So Tim, How do we move on? Well… My first answer is always the question, ‘why do you want to move on?’

Every time you reflect on an old flame, memory or experience; that is your brain reminding you of potential consequences of lessons learned, positive and negative. It’s that simple. Remember, our brains, or more so, our subconscious is not the enemy. It isn’t trying to confuse, trick or manipulate us just for the sake of it. It is simply answering the question based on the information you have given it. This is you…

You: I’m bored and not fully focused on this task, please bring up a selection of thoughts based on emotional importance to reinforce existing learning.
Brainoogle: Are you sure about that?
You: Not really but let’s roll the dice; C’mon happy thoughts….
Brainoogle: Let’s see… searching… Current stimulus = At Work ADD Most frequent thought cross referenced with emotional potency REMOVE results older than one year…
Loading… Loading…
Brainoogle: Here is a vivid memory of the time you caught your boyfriend cheating on you with your co-worker. QUE Chemical release attached emotion – Anger leading to heart wrenching sadness.
You: Where is that BI*CH! I’ll kill her! She ruined my life! I have nothing left! I’m useless!
Brainoogle: RELEASE TEARS… and my job is done for the next 30 minutes… time for my smoke break.

Like and share if you can relate.. But joke aside, it is important to understand that although you can’t always control what you think, you CAN CONTROL how you interpret these thoughts. Using cognitive restructuring YOU are able to reprogram these conditioned responses BUT it takes time and continued effort. You cannot just break the memory/emotion neurological process over night. The more we think about any one topic, the stronger the bond gets. It’s that simple. The reason you can’t move on, is because you keep thinking about how you can’t move on. The stimuli is only relevant so long as you keep reinforcing that emotional bond.

So here is the answer; and I know It’s not as easy as just switching off the thought. You can’t just stop thinking about it, that’s impossible. Every where you go, you will be reminded of the connection, it’s inevitable. This is your brain actively learning and improving. A very necessary function to human life… Example, you see a movie; ‘this is where we used to date’ ect ect. Excluding serious brain trauma/concussion, you can’t just erase memories.

So what do we do; this all leads back to my first question… See what I did there… *wink*

Until you have decided what you truly want, and you yourself believe it, you will never be able to ‘let go’. In many cases, people can get back together, and they can live happily ever after, and sometimes people learn to forgive and have meaningful friendships, and so on. OR you may decide that YOU WILL NEVER LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN!!!

Decide on a goal, weighing up the pro’s and con’s, and decide once and for all what you want, then try your best to achieve it and with success or failure you will have closure. Anything else is only reinforcing unhealthy mind sets.

You need to change the emotional attachment through sheer unwavering repetition. Every time you have that thought/memory, you need to remind yourself that the future is better than the past. You will be happier in the future! You may not be ‘happy’ now, but you know you are working to make a better future. You need to re-wire any thought you had, and reconstruct it with a positive outlook. Thinking about your ex? ‘you’re better off without them’. REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.

There is no easy fix, and your brain is trying to help you avoid the same mistakes. The amazing thing is; after you have deconstructed and remade that memory chain, these very same thoughts you’re having now, will actually bring you joy in the future. When you start the next amazing connection, it will only add to the richness and vigor of those memories and create a happier, better you.

 

Have any questions or want more details? Find me at www.facebook.com/timreplies/

What if he is asking for a break ? 5 reason why he would do that

 

 

There are few sentences that doom a relationship as much as “let’s take a break.” It’s almost like saying, “We’re on the way out, but neither of us wants to let go, so let’s just do this painfully and slowly.” It’s like clinging to flotsam after a shipwreck in the middle of the ocean, knowing you’ll likely drown but being unable to give up. Except, in the case of the relationship, instead of sinking slowly into a watery grave, you just get sad for a while and then date someone else.

So people know that, even if the idea of the “break” has the best intentions, the odds that it won’t just turn into a full-on break up are certainly stacked against you. Here are the reasons he’s probably asking for one, in order of likelihood:

1. This is his way of breaking up without being too harsh.

 

This is almost always why a “break” is proposed. He’s probably a good guy, but he’s also too cowardly to tell you he doesn’t want to see you anymore. Typically, the relationship was amazing at one point, and you were deeply in love, maybe even unhealthily codependent. He wants to get out but feels awful being the one to end things, even if it’s the right thing to do in the long-term. If you suspect that’s what’s going on, ask him to be real with you. It’ll be way less awful than dragging through months of long talks and confusion when he’s already made up his mind.

2. He wants to have sex with someone else.

 

If you’re on a break, and he has sex with someone else, he technically didn’t cheat and then you can still get back together. This is a pretty garbage reason to ask for a break. Granted, this is 2016 and some people can successfully navigate an open relationship, and if you want to bang other people too, then maybe you’ll be down for this. “I have so many people I wanted to bang,” you’ll say. “Look at this bang list. I need to get started.” And then the two of you high-five and everything works out, and I guess you’re both soul mates because you both have a “bang list” apparently and aren’t deterred by your partner possessing a similar bang list.

But, if open relationships aren’t your thing, then this is his way of sneaking in a free pass. If there’s some woman he’s been hanging out with and he suddenly asks for a break out of the blue, you can tell him, “The only break you’re getting is a break up. With me. I’m breaking up with you.” Maybe don’t say that, but just break up with him.

3. He really actually needs to reevaluate your relationship. 

 

It’s not necessarily a great sign, but he might really want to take a constructive look at your relationship and take some distance for a few weeks. The relationship might’ve once been great but now feels stagnant. He might feel like he’s at a crossroads where he needs to figure out if he wants to spend the rest of his life with you or not. His intentions are good, but if he has to do this in the first place (or more specifically, if he feels he has to do this), then it’s time for you both to really look at your relationship and at what needs changing. Are those things worth changing, or things worth breaking up over? Can you come back from a “break?” Sure. But you both have to really want to work at it if you don’t want it to be your death sentence. It’s way too easy to think, Single life isn’t so bad and I’m comfortable here, now.

4. He needs a few weeks of peace and quiet.

 

Maybe he’s not the best with words and “break” isn’t the most accurate term. He could have some major finals or a huge crunch at work, and doesn’t want any distractions. He could really just be looking for some space. If he’s stressed and he’s the kind of person that needs to focus on one thing at a time, you’ll both feel better in the long run if you give him that space. He probably knows he’s going to snap at you for little things, or act distant, and he doesn’t want to feel guilted into spending time with you when he knows he should be devoting it somewhere else. In all fairness, he probably should have said “me time” instead, but hey, this isn’t the worst possible outcome on this list.

 5. This is some kind of “relationship test.” 

 

He wants to see if you’ll say yes to the break because that would somehow mean you’re not committed to the relationship. Some people are just so insecure that they feel compelled to play mind games. Maybe he’s afraid of losing you. Maybe he thinks, She’s going to break up with me, so I should break up with her first. Maybe he’s a sociopath. Maybe he read it on some website on the internet (who would do that?). I don’t know, some people are crazy and play weird mind games. Don’t bother with anyone who does this.

Are 36 questions enough to find the love of your life?

Give or take a month either side, I’ve been single for three years. One thousand and ninety five days of doing whatever I damn well please and shaving only when common decency demands it. If my relationship status were a child, it would be wearing big boy pants by now.
It’s not for want of trying. There have been Tinder dates – many, many Tinder dates – some good, some bad, some as interminable as double maths on a Friday afternoon. There have been colleagues. Friends of friends. Holiday romances. The guy I met at a house party. The guy I met at a bar. The guy I met at a bus stop. As it turns out, how you meet is really neither here nor there; they all ghost you in the end.
So when an email dropped into my inbox, inviting me to participate in a “social experiment” that promised true love in return for divulging some highly personal information to a complete stranger before gazing into his eyes for the duration of your average pop song, I thought: What do I have to lose?
The experiment would be based on a study conducted by Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which explored whether intimacy could be established between two people over a period of 90 minutes during which they ask each other a series of increasingly probing questions, then wash it all down with a pint of 100% proof eye contact. The study is some 20 years old but came to prominence in 2015 via an essay written by Mandy Len Catron for The New York Times’ Modern Love column, entitled “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This”. In the essay, Catron recounts how she and a loose acquaintance spent an evening asking one another those same questions – and subsequently fell in love.
Despite Catron’s endorsement, I’m sceptical. Perhaps it’s that very British fear of discussing anything of any consequence with someone you’ve known inside of five minutes but I find it difficult to believe that enforced (over)sharing can be a substitute for those first tentative weeks of a relationship, where you delicately brush away each other’s layers of self-preservation like archaeologists on a dig. Nor can I silence the inner voice that whispers, What if they pair you with someone awful? At most, I hope to come away from the evening with a hilarious anecdote and my dignity intact.
The day of the experiment rolls around and after checking in (“Just like at the airport!” trills the host, somewhat unromantically) I grab a large glass of wine and hover awkwardly in a corner, awaiting kickoff. A half-hour wait stretches into an hour, by which point the bar is littered with single people staring at their phones while simultaneously scanning the room out of the corners of their eyes.
It’s time to begin. We line up and everyone is given a number – mine is 42 – and instructed to find the table with the corresponding number, where their partner will be waiting. (I should mention here that the only information I provided on signing up was my age, sexual orientation, and what I was looking for romantically – a casual fling, dating, a long-term relationship.) Bracing myself, I stride confidently into the room. The man sitting at my table is – thank you Jesus – really rather handsome. We shake hands, introduce ourselves and get down to business.
There are 36 questions, divided into three sets, each set designed to be more probing than the last. The questions are available online but I resist the temptation to look them up in advance.
Question one: Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? I hate this question. I want to say my friends but I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed so I find myself embarking on a tortuous (and, frankly, unoriginal) argument that you should never meet your heroes so the wise choice would be to invite someone you detest and before I know it, Katie Hopkins is coming round for Sunday lunch. My partner (let’s call him Mr X) looks confused. This has not started well.
Question three: Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? “Yes, all the time, because I’m deeply socially awkward and find silence over the phone even more excruciating than silence IRL.” Question seven: Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? “Sleep paralysis. Or a sinkhole.” Question 11: Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
In her aforementioned essay, Catron makes this remark: “We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative.” I beg to differ. Mr X answers this question first and, when it reaches my turn, I follow his lead and talk about my upbringing, school, my parents’ divorce, university, travelling and work. I leave out anything to do with previous relationships. For the first time in the evening, I am editing my response, revising and redacting before I speak. This is where Mr X and I discover we have a surprising amount in common: we went to the same university, we both spent a year in France, we have a similar family dynamic. But I can’t help feeling that I haven’t been entirely honest. Then again, Mr X didn’t mention his romantic history either.
We’re into the second set now and it’s getting rocky. A precedent has been set and from this point on my answers veer from astonishingly frank to not-telling-the-whole-story. Question 18: What is your most terrible memory?
By the time we turn the corner into the final 12 questions, I’ve had three glasses of wine and am feeling chuffed with how this whole social experiment is going. For question 30, we have to share when we last cried in front of another person. I answer honestly that it was at the cinema with a close friend, although, again, I can’t help feeling that a truer answer would have been, “In front of a guy I met on Tinder last year; I was a little bit in love with him but all he wanted from me was sex.”
And so we come to the four minutes of eye contact. I’m ashamed to say that Mr X and I agree we don’t want to do it, which technically means we don’t complete the experiment. By this point, though, Mr X has moved his chair to sit beside me and we’ve swapped numbers.
Fall In Love With A Stranger took place at Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen.

Avoid Romance Scams in the Cyber Love Age

There was a time, long in the past, where the local singletons would go down to the disco or local dance in order to find that special someone; those days are definitely gone. The most popular way these days to find love is online, which has seen a surge with applications such as Tinder and Plenty of Fish, now offering instant, on-the-move match-making. Online provides a way for those unable to cultivate a social life, for work or personal reasons, to find instant gratification, although it does have its pitfalls.

Winter Darkness, Season Depression

Winter depression is still a mystery to scientists who study it. But researchers agree that people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder are particularly sensitive to light, or the lack of it.

 

A wistful feeling comes over us in late autumn, as the last remaining leaves drop, morning frosts cover the ground, and the sun sets earlier each day. Hot cider and the warmth of a favorite old coat may be all you need to face the coming winter with good cheer, but for many people, fall melancholy deepens to winter depression.

Winter depression is still a mystery to scientists who study it. Many things, including brain chemicals, ions in the air, and genetics seem to be involved. But researchers agree that people who suffer from winter depression — also known as “seasonal affective disorder,” a term that produces the cute acronym SAD — have one thing in common. They’re particularly sensitive to light, or the lack of it.

Many studies have shown that people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light. It seems simple enough: In higher latitudes, winter days are shorter, so you get less exposure to sunlight. Replace lost sunlight with bright artificial light, and your mood improves. But it’s actually far more complex. Alfred Lewy, MD, a seasonal affective disorder researcher at the Oregon Health & Science University, says it’s not only a matter of getting light, but also getting it at the right time. “The most important time to get light is in the morning,” he says.

He thinks seasonal affective disorder is due to a “phase-shift” of the circadian rhythm. The wall clock may tell you it’s time to get up and at ’em, but your body’s internal clock says you should be resting. Bright light in the morning resets your circadian clock.

This is relevant to the “fall back” time change, which happens in places that observe Daylight Saving Time. You might think that setting back the clock one hour would make seasonal affective disorder symptoms worse, because the sun sets one hour earlier. “Actually, I think it’s the opposite,” Lewy says. “The problem is waking up before dawn.”

Lewy says he suspects that “true winter depressives,” the people whose problem is biological and not related to other factors, might feel better after the time change. But the improvement would only be temporary, as days continue to shorten.

Arctic Winters

In Fairbanks, Alaska, in the dead of winter, less than four hours separate sunrise and sunset. With so little sunlight, it seems like no one could escape winter depression; but in fact, many Alaskans fare just fine. One study found that about 9% of Fairbanks residents had seasonal affective disorder. That’s about the same percentage another study found in New Hampshire.

Mark D., who lives near Fairbanks, says he doesn’t suffer from seasonal affective disorder, even though he rarely sees the sun. He pulls 12-hour shifts working in a power plant.

He stays active in winter, so “cabin fever” isn’t a problem for him, either. “If you sit around the house and do nothing all day I suppose it could eat at you,” he says. “But there is always something for me to do — snow-machine, cut firewood … or just going into town and have a cup of coffee with friends at the cafe.

There are people, though, that will have a ten-yard stare in a five-yard room,” he says. Some seek comfort from a bottle, too. “In lots of the smaller villages, that does happen. Drinking is a big problem.”

Seasonal affective disorder researcher Michael Terman, PhD, at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, offers some possible explanations for why seasonal affective disorder isn’t more common in the arctic. For one, people with seasonal affective disorder may be genetically predisposed to clinical depression and light sensitivity. Most people, in any place, wouldn’t have both genetic traits. “Another way to look at it is that those are the people who are still in Alaska,” he says. People who can’t cope might not stay.

But not everyone affected by seasonal changes has full-blown seasonal affective disorder, so estimates of how many people do have it may be low. “Winter depression is a spectrum of severity,” Lewy says. You may have trouble getting up, have bouts of fatigue during the day, or feel compelled to overeat, without feeling depressed.

These symptoms can be treated with the same therapy given to seasonal affective disorder patients. Bright light — generated by a special light box that’s much brighter than a normal lamp — is the first option. It’s proven to work, but not for everyone. Also, the right time for it differs from person to person, Terman says. For a night owl, taking light therapy too early could make seasonal affective disorder worse.

New Ideas

om Wehr, researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, has proposed a new explanation for seasonal affective disorder: It may stem from too much melatonin. When the brain‘s pineal gland starts pumping out melatonin, we get sleepy. During winter, animals secrete melatonin for longer periods than they do at other times of the year. Wehr discovered that people do, too — but only those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

Light therapy would still work if melatonin were the main culprit, because light controls melatonin levels. Researchers are also testing a drug called propranalol, which they hope will improve seasonal affective disorder symptoms by curtailing melatonin flow in the morning hours. Lewy is studying the effects of small melatonin doses given in the afternoon, hoping that they will adjust circadian rhythms.

Raymond Lam, MD, researcher at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and others are studying the role of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. “We know there are interactions between the serotonin system and the circadian system,” Lam says.

Some antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac work for some seasonal affective disorder sufferers. But Lewy says he prefers light therapy to antidepressants, which he says “are probably more of a Band-Aid,” because they’re not specific to winter depression.

Terman has been testing yet another new way to treat seasonal affective disorder. This therapy involves aiming a stream of negatively charged ions at a person sleeping on a special conductive bed sheet. The discovery that high-density negative ions (not the same ions produced by home air filters) helped people with seasonal affective disorder came accidentally from a previous study. A second study, which will end later this year, has also found a beneficial effect.

The air is full of negative ions in springtime, and not in the winter. But that doesn’t explain how ion therapy works. “We don’t yet have an answer to that question,” Terman says; nevertheless, “We’re now convinced that it’s real.”

What is blood cancer? The symptoms and treatment you need to know

 

Blood cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer and third biggest cancer killer in the UK, yet it can still often go undiagnosed when patients visit their doctors with the initial symptoms. Sky Sports presenter Simon Thomas is now campaigning to raise awareness of the disease following the death of his wife Gemma, who passed away just four days after she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in November.

Sharing a tweet from cancer charity Bloodwise, Simon told his followers: “Acute Myeloid Leukaemia took my wife Gemma and Ethan’s mum just before Christmas aged only 40 years and just three days after being diagnosed. This is so important.” He added: “Three times my wife Gemma went to the doctor in six days and three times she was sent home and told to rest. Four days after her final visit to her GP she was dead. We have to help and train our GP’s and to detect #bloodcancer earlier. @bloodwise_uk is doing this. #hiddencancer.”

What is blood cancer?

Blood cancer happens when something goes wrong with the development of your blood cells. This stops them working properly and may prevent your blood from doing what it normally does to keep you healthy, like fighting off infections or helping to repair your body.

What are the symptoms of blood cancer?

Each specific type of blood cancer will have different symptoms, but there are lots of common symptoms such as:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Repeated infections
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Easy bruising and/or bleeding
  • Drenching night sweats
  • Itchy skin
  • Lumps or swelling in your neck, head, groin or stomach
  • Bone and/or joint pain

How is blood cancer diagnosed?

Many blood cancer symptoms are shared with illnesses like colds and flu – for example tiredness, fever or an infection. Lumps are a common symptom of lymphoma, but other, less serious illnesses also cause lumps. Because of this, see your doctor if you have symptoms or groups of symptoms that you think are unusual for you, or last for longer than normal.

The most common types of tests for blood cancer are blood tests and biopsies, but the tests you have will depend on your symptoms and what type of blood cancer is suspected.

What is the treatment for blood cancer?

The treatment you receive will depend on the type of blood cancer you have, but may include chemotherapy, stem cell transplant or taking drugs that encourage your immune system to fight cancerous cells.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Visit your GP with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.

NYC Pipe Bomber Captured Alive and Identified Inspired by ISIS

 

The guy who strapped a pipe bomb to himself and set it off in an NYC subway has been captured alive … and police say it was “absolutely an attempted terrorist act.”
The bomber, now identified as 27-year-old Akayed Ullah, was walking in one of the tunnels underneath NYC’s Port Authority when the bomb went off. It appears something malfunctioned, or it was a very small explosive … police captured the man at the scene. NYPD says Ullah has been living in the U.S. for 7 years. He’s a Bangladeshi immigrant, and police say the attack was definitely a terrorist act, inspired by ISIS.
FDNY says a total of 4 people were hurt in the bombing … all non-life-threatening injuries. The Port Authority shut down all subways and the walking tunnels near the bombing.

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