The truth behind the gram…

For sometime now there is something I have been holding back from you, probably because I don’t want it to happen. Actually, maybe not so much that, but more I don’t want it interrupting my life. And one big and important part of my life includes my blogging, Instagram life and connecting with other like minded people like you.

So, whats up? Well if you have read my ‘Power of Pink’ post you will know that earlier this year I was diagnosed with a brain malformation called Chiari and a Syrinx on my spinal cord. At the time of the post I was left with a choice; whether or whether not to have decompression surgery. Well a lot has happened since then that I have kept from you.

I went back to my neurosurgeon in late August as some more strange symptoms had appeared. The most distressing was losing some control over my bowel and I skimmed over some pins and needles I had been experiencing (that btw I didn’t think a lot of). Well the mood in the room changed as soon as I mentioned the pins and needles. It turns out the Syrinx on my spinal cord was now causing nerve damage and the pins and needles in my limbs was the start of a degeneration that could lead me to life in a wheelchair. It was a shock to say the least, I no longer have a choice, I now have to have the decompression surgery. Again, if you want to know more please go and read my ‘Power of Pink’ post.

He told me it would be in the next few weeks and at the longest a couple of months. It has now been six weeks since that appointment. And last week on the Friday I finally got the call, and I was booked in for the Wednesday coming. I went into overdrive to organise everything in just a few days. Childcare for my young babes, a date night for me and Dan before a long recovery and money planning as I was going to be off work for sometime. I also asked Dan if we could go pumpkin picking. A little early I know, but it is something we do as a family and with friends every year, and this October half term it was looking very likely I would be in hospital. So we went, in September!

Dress @zara @hot4thespot
Location @pickwellfarm

We squeezed a lot in that weekend. Then Tuesday morning, the day before, I got a call to say my op had been cancelled. My neurosurgeon is also the paediatric neurosurgeon and an emergency had came in and they needed my spot. Now, I’m a mother and my first thoughts were thinking about that poor family. But then as it sunk in I felt frustrated too. Everyday my pain gets worse, I get more dizziness and the world often feels like its spinning. As I said earlier I hate that this condition has come and interrupted my life! I was in denial for a long time and I kept working up until a week and a half ago but then my body just couldn’t do it anymore.

Dress @zara @hot4thespot
Location @pickwellfarm

This condition has put my life and my families on hold and it has meant missing out on some of my friends most important life moments. As I write this I should be on a hen weekend with one of my best friends celebrating her last few days of singledom, but I’m not, I’m too sick. Her wedding is also in just over two weeks and she had asked me to be a bridesmaid. It is looking very likely now that I won’t be there to walk down the isle with her and support her at her wedding, and its killing me. If you’re reading this I’m sorry and I love you!

Dress @zara @hot4thespot
Location @pickwellfarm

In the spirit of pretending is not happening, I’ve carried on posting beautiful pictures on here. But what you don’t see, or what I don’t tell you, is that I am in pain, I cant walk around for very long without needing help, I rely on a lot of help from friends and family to help with my kids, I feel sick, dizzy and constantly tired. My husband behind the camera and my mum are looking after me, the house and the children.

Dress @zara @hot4thespot
Wellies @tuclothing
Location @pickwellfarm

So its Sunday, I am actually going to get myself dressed and made up and go the last part of the hen do today, an afternoon tea, and get my husband to take some more beautiful pictures of me. Because these are the things that make me feel good. I’m going to continue playing with my children right up until I go in, and cuddle on the sofa with my husband until the long recovery begins. Hopefully I will be on the surgery list for this week, watch this space. I’ve spoken about ‘behind the gram’. What I have been posting is not what I have been living and I think we all need to consider this when we look at each others picture perfect feeds. We need to be kind to each other as we don’t really know whats going on. Some of you openly talk about your struggles with health, which is so important, I think you support those who might feel alone with their own conditions, like myself. It was in the news this week about a new phenomena about ‘sadfishing’, i don’t think its about that at all. Its about sharing your/our experiences to support, educate and connect with like minded people. Two of you I have even confided in, and thank you for listening, or should I say reading. My goal for recovery is to get myself to the @curvefashionfestival and hopefully I will see some of you there! It was that event that kick started my whole SELF LOVE journey and I want to come meet all you lovelies in person.

Dress @zara @hot4thespot
Location @pickwellfarm

For more information on Chairi malformation and Syrinx check out these websites. The Brain & Spine Foundation and Ann Conroy Trust have been amazing and I have phoned them when I have needed support and advice. And if you have any of the symptoms like; severe headaches when laughing, shouting, coughing or bending over check out the NHS page.

https://www.brainandspine.org.uk/our-publications/booklets/chiari-malformation/ https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chiari-malformation/ https://www.annconroytrust.org/

And for more information on the surgery I’m having please read this NHS document.

#secondhandseptember

This September I am truly challenging myself. Late Friday night I got a message from one of my oldest friends asking me if I had heard about @oxfam second hand 30 day challenge. I replied with “oooo00oo, tell me more” and within 30 minutes we had both signed the pledge.

#secondhandseptember @oxfam

So why me, why did she message me out of everyone? I can answer that, because I have a serious shopping addiction, an addiction that in the past has even put me into serious debt. I have always loved shopping, I even have memories of a 13 year old me buying pieces from my local New Look in Alton and just holding the bag full of goodies made me feel great. Then when I got home I would lay it on my bed or hang it up somewhere I could admire it, these was the days before I could take a photograph and share it with the world. I literally got a rush of endorphins. Even when the majority of shopping moved online, receiving them via the front door was just as exhilarating. And I still have a space in my room where I hang newly bought pieces to admire, much to the nuisance of my husband, as sometimes it may stop the ability for him to open his wardrobe.

One of the areas in my room I hang new purchases to admire them…

Then came the internet, it wasn’t till I finished uni that I came across my first plus size fashion bloggers @gabifresh and @beckybarnesblog and they changed my outlook. I got to see women with a similar body to be looking amazing and buying fashion that wasn’t available to plus size women for the large majority of my life. Back then before Instagram I would save or screenshot their images straight from their blogs and then hunt online to find similar pieces, and a lot of the time I would find them as second hand pieces on @ebayuk

Pictures from my old blog…where I mainly bought second hand.

Then Instagram came into my life, now I could simply bookmark looks that I loved and instead of scouring the net for hours I could simply click, swipe up or comment to find out where I could get my hands on the clothing I adored. That partnered with easily available credit, low stock notifications and discount emails my addiction grew. It is only recently when I have had some issues with my health that I have started to take note of what I have been doing. I spoke about money with my mum and friends, and my mum described me as a ‘spender’. Now, and only recently am I on top of my budget, so when the Oxfam pledge came along it could not have come at a better time.

So these are my motives but what are the aims of Oxfam? They are not collecting any monies, they are simply asking you to pledge to BUY NO NEW clothing for the 30 days of September. Their goal is to actually raise awareness of the environmental impact of fast fashion. Fast fashion are words we are hearing a lot at the moment, but what does it mean? Fast Fashion (noun) ‘inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends’. So why is this causing an environmental issue? Every week 11 million items of clothing end up in landfill. Throwaway fashion is putting increasing pressure on our planet and its people – it’s unsustainable. Another buzzword that we keep hearing ‘sustainable fashion’, but reading the headlines on the Oxfam page it needs to be taken seriously.

So, this pledge is not only going to be beneficial to my wallet but to our planet! Nicola Tallett, the charity’s director of engagement, was quoted saying in a Guardian article that “its long enough to force you to create new habits, but not so long that it feels daunting”.

I am so on board with the pledge I am not only NOT buying new clothes for myself but for my whole family, I am equally as guilty of overspending on my two young children.

The plan is to document my 30 day pledge here and on Instagram to keep you updated with how I get on and I will be completely honest with you. Let me know if you are going to join me in the comments below.

The Power Of Pink

The colour pink is the colour of universal love of oneself and of others. Pink represents friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace, and approachability.

https://www.bourncreative.com

These words, are the words in black & white, up above the dressing table in my bedroom in my Southampton home, on a peg board I got for Christmas from my hubby. But why were they unobtainable?

January had come around and after an amazing end to 2018 I was full of enthusiasm and confidence. In that last quarter I had set up my new blog name on Instagram, begun talking to other plus size babes who were like me, and making some real connections with them, and attended the @curvefashionfes, which has literally changed my life.

Just before New Year I had the attention of 300 followers and celebrated with a typically Instagram pic. If you would like to see how cliche it is go check out my Instagram feed and whilst your there show me some love and share me with your friends. See, my blogs are equally as predictable with self serving plugs, lol.

Suit – Manon Baptiste @ Navabi
T-shirt – Primark
Shoes – Topshop

What I didn’t know was to come, was an unexpected diagnosis. As soon as the New Year had begun I had cold like symptoms but had not long started a new job, in an interview I worked really hard for, I genuinely was loving my new job and colleagues and so didn’t want to be off sick and let them down. I’m a secondary school teacher and pushed my way through that half term until finally in the February holiday I couldn’t keep going. The cold symptoms had got worse and I was suffering extremely painful headaches. A telephone consultation with my GP sent to me A&E. I actually went late Wednesday evening with my neighbour, who just so happens to be one of my best friends too, the symptoms had got so bad I was unable to drive without feeling dizzy and my husband had to stay at home with our two babes under 4. We went, we saw, we waited and waited and then we left. I told her I was feeling better, which I was a little, but mainly left because I couldn’t bear to wait in there any longer. The next morning came round and the headaches had gotten worse again, I rang the GP again, who was a little cross I didn’t sit it out the night before and insisted I went back to the hospital.

I was seen quickly, they were pretty sure I had the flu but as a precaution the consultant on duty arranged for me to have a CT scan. I got back from this scan and was diagnosed with Sinusitis, I was happy with the diagnosis and the at home care advice they had given me and so waited patiently for the discharge papers to leave. I was on my own, it was Thursday morning, and Dan, my husband, had to stay at home with the kids, I had got a taxi to the hospital that morning. Then the Dr reappeared and instead of passing me the discharge paper work she said the Radiographer had spotted something on my CT and wanted a Neurologist to have a look over it. What….!?! Nothing else was said and I was left waiting for sometime, in that time my mum came home to look after the children and Dan met me at the hospital.

Suit – Manon Baptiste @ Navabi
T-shirt – Primark
Shoes – Topshop

And then some hours later came the Neurologist, a tall and dark man who asked if he had met me before. I hadn’t, told him so and we agreed I must have one of those faces! Unless of course he follows plus size blogs, eh? Anyway back to the matter in hand. He asked me lots of questions about my medical history, including that bariatric surgery I had had, if you want to know more read the blog post from before this one. He asked me about my sight, which turned out not to be a coincidence, earlier in the year I went for an eye test, was given a prescription and blamed this for my headaches. He made me walk in a straight line, which I was unable to do, but I have never been able to do. I told him all about how my family nicknamed me ‘St Johns Ambulance’ as I was accident prone and always falling over, when I was little I broke my nose multiple times! After some thought he told me the radiographer had spotted by brain sitting low in my CT scan and he could also confirm this. It had a name too, Chiari Malformation, turns out I would have had it since I was born. Basically the opening between the skull and the spinal cord is too small and my cerebellum and brain stem, the lowest parts of the brain had fallen through the spinal cord and caused pressure in my skull because the fluid surrounding the brain cannot flow to and from it. This leads to an abnormal amount of pressure surrounding the brain, the cause of my headaches. The flu like symptoms had brought it on more recently as all the coughing had pulled the brain further down my spinal cord. In fact, not just coughing could do this; but sneezing, laughing, bending over and even shouting. I have memories of cheering on my students across the field at my previous school on Sports Day and having the most awful headaches but just thinking it was a mixture of the heat and exhaustion.

Suit – Manon Baptiste @ Navabi
T-shirt – Primark
Shoes – Topshop

I left hospital that day with a diagnosis, a follow up MRI and minus a driving license. The MRI just a week later confirmed my diagnosis and because of limited NHS resources I was unable to get a Neurosurgeon appointment until May. And here we are now. He showed me my MRI images and said it was not the worst Chiari Malformation he had seen, but the pressure building in my skull had also caused a cyst like pocket of fluid in my spinal cord which explained the twitches and feelings of hot, cold and someone touching me on my arms and legs when there was nothing there. If I laugh too hard with my friends, bend over to pick up toys for my children or just get a harmless cold I am in pain. In some episodes I get dizziness that will last for days and clicking noises inside my head that drive me to madness. I find it hard to concentrate, my spoken language can become confused, motor skills worsen and I feel endlessly tired. So whats next? The Neurosurgeon talked me through decompression surgery. They remove part of the base of the skull and the top of the spine in the aim to relieve the pressure, he described a long and hard recovery that would see me off work for months and may not even relieve my symptoms. And he left me with a choice, one I don’t really know the answer to. Do I have the surgery or not? I’ve joined some online support groups, re-emailed my surgeon, been put on the surgery waiting list and have an appointment with occupational health in the next week but still don’t fully know my own answer.

So what brought me here, the pink suit, the gifted suit from @navabifashion and @bethany_rutter, a blogger I had been following since my Instagram journey had begun. P.S. I was a little late to the party. Out of the blue I was sent an email from Bethany saying that she loved my feed, what little there was, I had been on hiatus now since February, so was surprised, and she asked if there is anything I would like from Navabi as a gift. Er, yes, yes there was! I have even been featured on their website, check me out here; http://www.plusize.co.uk/5-underrated-babes-of-instagram/

The pink suit, this beautiful pink suit has done more for me than it knows. NO, I haven’t done a blog post a month, NO I haven’t posted a picture at least once a week and NO I hadn’t loved myself everyday. But this suit reminded me how fucking fabulous I am! My husband took these pictures, the full time photographer after getting a new job this year, in the garden of my house ducking and weaving around my healthy, happy children playing around us. No, I couldn’t drive to some fancy Instagram’able’ location, I didn’t get this post up within a week of being sent the suit, but I could still get pictures that are hot and show how happy I am when surrounded by those I love. SO, thank you pink suit, thank you Beth, thank you Navabi, thank you to the power of pink and thank you to my family and friends. So, come on, give yourself a hug…

For more information on Chiari Malformation check out;

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chiari-malformation/ https://www.brainandspine.org.uk/our-publications/booklets/chiari-malformation/

And for links to the suit:

https://www.navabi.co.uk/product/cropped-crepe-trousers-59536/?colorcode=3800 https://www.navabi.co.uk/product/crepe-double-breasted-blazer-59002/?colorcode=3800

Where did the journey begin?

A short ‘blog’story of were it all begun for me

I may look like a newcomer to the plus size blogging community, but alas I’m not. This journey all began back for me in 2013 with a blog titled ‘Tabitha Stitch It’, I just got married to my now hubby, moved out of the city to the outskirts of Southampton and lived with my two cats. I know, it was a crap name, but stick with me, actually the name was supposed to be a play on words of the Beatrix Potter character Tabitha Twitchit. I thought, at the time, it reflected my love for recycling and redesigning clothes, but actually sounds more like a gang member from the Peaky Blinders. One of my first re-vamps in those days was a leather jacket that I covered in studding, and to be fair I still own that jacket today. I didn’t do large projects, mainly customisation and hemming but it gave me the freedom at the time to adapt shapeless and boring plus wear into something more young, I was only 25 here.

Like a stupid arse, I completely deleted that blog and all my posts when I re-branded myself in 2014, what a stupid decision. Luckily for you lot, the Facebook archive still has some of my original blog shots, so please enjoy. Apparently at this stage I was unaware that photographs could be taken outside of the home…..

Small disclaimer here, at this point in my life I was 3 years post gastric bypass surgery and had just started to put back on the weight. And the joke is now, I thought I was fat in most of these pictures. I think my own self doubt had even sent me back to a slimming club, something I will never do again. I had my gastric bypass in August 2010, after being single for two years I thought no one was ever going to love me unless I was thin. I WAS WRONG! Two weeks after this major, life changing surgery I met my now husband on Plenty of Fish, now that shows my age kids, no Tinder back then. And guess what he loved me fat, I was still fat! And now I’m fat again, nearly 9 years later and he still loves me! Today I am very anti diet and actually happier then ever. The likes of @gabifresh opened a world to me in 2013 that you could be fat and still be successful, in love and fashionable. I was actually more self conscious here then I am now. I can truly say ‘I love me’ and am constantly strutting around feeling myself these days.

So what next, well 2014 appeared (and of course this happened in January) I felt the need to re-brand myself to ‘Tabitha Rose’. Much simpler, now just my first and middle name. I had to keep it low key and to an extent unidentifiable because I was working full time as a school teacher in a local secondary school and did not want any pupils finding my page, so wasn’t even able to publicise it really. What I also did not know at this point is that by the end of the year my first little one would be joining us. I finally realised photographs could be taken outside, but still not much variety here sadly. Although my front door makes a big appearance! Another major life event in-between these two blogs, me and my husband bought a house. I was still having major self belief issues here with my weight but in a lot of these pictures I was pregnant, a time where I should have not given a care in the world.

So what happened next you ask? In December 2014 I gave birth to Jack Theodore. And sadly a lot of my hair fell out, true fact. Didn’t happen with my second babe, more on that later, but hence the awful Christmas novelty hat there!

And then before I knew it a new year and another January rolled around and so of course another re-brand. In 2015 ‘Rose and Bear’ was formed, made from mine and Jacks middle names. I thought now, not only will I focus on fashion but also parenting! And what did I do with that thinning hair post pregnancy of course I cut it off and had a pixie cut.

A lot was going on at this time, I had to go back to work this year after my first maternity leave, and I can tell you things were never the same again. My brother’s long term relationship had ended so he came to live with us and a newborn baby! And I had a quick learning curve on how lonely being an at home parent can be. But what of the outfits? Well I ventured to my back garden, sorry still not very creative yet…

Shortly after this time I started an Instagram page called ‘Tabitha Tells’ but had to keep it a private page as I was still working at a quite difficult local secondary school and needed my private life to be kept separate. Instagram opened my world to even more plus size bloggers like @daniellevanier @calliethorpe @felicityhayward, two of these I got to meet at the 2018 Curve Fashion Festival, I cried when I met Callie it was that overwhelming. I was such a fan girl! This is when my eyes were opened to self love, hundreds of other plus size babes rocking it and more and more brands making fashionable clothes for us curvy girls. In August 2017 I had my second mini monster, Norah Leonie. Another animal themed middle name, it means lioness, as she was born on the last day to be a Leo. And then in October 2018 in a car journey to Kent, having left my job at said local school I made Tabitha Tells a new public page and it is the best thing I ever did! My current employer, another school, even knows its existence and is supportive of it, even though it is public, I just have to be sensible if any of the young people I teach come across it. Hence why I still cant show all of myself, like I would love to a post about bra fittings etc, but its just too risky.

So skip to 2018 and here I am ‘Tabitha Tells’ another re-brand and hopefully the last! I based the logo on the text from Clarissa Explains it All, as I intend to tell you all. And you lovely lot on Instagram were asked which head shot I should use for the blog header and well the results are in, it was…..well a draw between photo 1, 2 and 7. So let my first born have the final choice on photo 1! No heavy makeup, no touch ups on editing apps, just me (the nearly 32) babe from Southampton.

I am still fat, still a mum, but, now to two babes (and one miscarriage), still married, still a successful teacher (actually with a new job under my belt), still in the same home, still a lot of the same amazing friends and some new ones, BUT I AM the most self confident, self loving and happy I have ever been! And well I intend to share all my life experiences and fashion with you as a plus size babe. Blogging about brands I love, experiences I have and people I meet. So come on register to get blog updates from me and come along for the ride.


Lots of love,


Tabitha Tells xx