The stuff we could really do without always seems to happen at once. Health problems, dental emergencies, make-up running out… Although there is never really a ‘right’ time, these much-dreaded occurrences tend to strike at the worst possible moment: I’m financially overwhelmed and time-poor (which, admittedly, sums up the majority of my life).
An impressive internal tussle ensues between the nagging need to solve the problem at hand, and simultaneously putting it off for as long as I possibly can. I ‘forget’ to phone the doctors surgery to make an appointment and convince myself I’ll get round to it tomorrow (inexplicably at 22 and upholding a job that sees me glued to my phone, I still fight anxious nerves to speak to the receptionist on the end of the line).
I’m ‘too busy’ for a dental check up or eye test, so persuade myself to cling onto the last review I received on the situation: ‘you have perfect teeth / eyes / etc.’ (stay tuned to discover why this casual attitude is definitely not advisable).
I prize off the lid of my foundation bottle and scrape every last drop of the liquid onto my brush (which I’ve been meaning to wash ever since I got it but inevitably will never get round to) in a desperate, stubborn attempt to save a few quid by holding off on buying more until payday.
Perhaps the reason I keep dodging my essential yet time-consuming personal to-do list is because I know once I start addressing the items clogging it up I won’t be able to stop. If I pop into the Body Shop to stock up on another six month’s worth of lotions and potions, it’s likely I’ll be tempted to splurge on new treats – masked as necessities – or fall into another high street retailer and lapse in the willpower to stop myself from the temptations of a full-blown shopping spree.
Dismissing these chores like mindlessly clearing notifications from my phone could be my brain’s subconscious way of protecting me from the trap of consumerism and subtly reminding me not to be so materialistic.
But I doubt it.
The reality is much more predictable. I don’t want to spend my lunch break running to grab toiletries, and after factoring dinner, exercise and a bit of ‘me time’ (something I’m religiously trying to stick to, even if it’s just reading for half an hour or painting my nails) into the evening, the shops are shut and everyone else has got the same idea.
Health should be the ultimate priority, but I’m guilty of pushing it aside to focus on work or social life – neither of which will amount to much if I keep running myself into the ground and letting wellbeing take a backseat.
Another reason justifying my hesitations towards investing effort in my own healthcare, which I feel is plausible for many of us, is the worry that I’m being a nuisance on the NHS. I don’t want to overreact to any problems and instead assume issues will disappear soon enough.
My diary is so overly congested that I struggle to fit in routine checkups. I’m very privileged in that my job is flexible and I have been able to work from home in order to accommodate a flurry of personal commitments, because I honestly can’t wrap my head around how those who have to be in the office from 9-5 can do it without taking annual leave. And honestly, who the fuck wants to spend a hard-earned day off meeting with healthcare professionals?
Not only this, but there’s also the fear of being misunderstood or the ailment disregarded. I have been attempting to explain a chronic pain to multiple professionals, however many either pass it off as unimportant or can’t help me reach a comprehensive diagnosis. Eventually the painstaking process convinces me to give up, leaving me discouraged and anguished with concerned about the cause.
Recently I revisited the problem and can now safely say I have been in and out of medical centres more in the last few months than I ever have in my life! It can be difficult to believe in yourself when you haven’t been taken seriously in the past, as it feeds the self-doubt and suspicion secretly harboured about overestimating the smallest oddities. But the long-overdue confirmation that something could actually be wrong proves that your gut feeling is normally pretty accurate and you have to keep persevering until you find someone who cares enough to listen and help you move forward.
For years I have been swapping doctors in the hope of gaining an understanding of what could be triggering my stomach problems, and often my queries are met with the suggestion to keep a food diary and observe how my body is affected. Finally after moving and joining a new medical practice I felt I was genuinely being listened to and my troubles thoroughly examined. It can be both relieving and frustrating to discover that there is something behind the discomfort you have been feeling for so long.
Relief soothed the confusion clouding my mind as it dawned on me that I wasn’t ‘losing it’, or making it up (because, let’s face it, that’s how you are made to feel when your troubles are ignored and deemed insignificant), and frustration brews over the fact that it has taken so long to get to this point. For a brief moment I almost wanted to go back to the very first doctor and scream out that I was telling the truth.
But this triumphant declaration is quickly squashed by fear and apprehension about what may come next and what it really means. I am still in the stages of meeting experts to build up clues about why my body is suffering. It’s most likely a harmless source, although regardless it’s another worry to add to my evolving pile and more hours to designate in the calendar.
If I have been a frequent visitor at the doctors of late, then the only place I have ventured to more is the dentist. A prime example to convince anyone who is contemplating whether or not to bother with a six month check up; I rested on the assurance that I have strong teeth and let this influence my decision to keep swerving the chair. That was until the fact I hadn’t been for nearly two years bobbed up to the surface of my brain and I found myself in a sticky, peanut-butter-Crunchy-Nut-induced situation.
On having my breakfast before work one morning a few months back, a strikingly hard piece of cereal wedged its way between my top teeth. The infliction was so shockingly sharp I had to spit it out and check I hadn’t unwittingly eaten a rock. I naively assumed the agony that followed would soon disappear, and didn’t let it impact what I ate – although I did swiftly book that delayed check-up appointment with my dentist.
Contrary to my blasé approach to tooth ache, you can imagine my disbelief when an X-Ray came back showing my tooth in an unsalvageable state. I honestly thought it was a joke; how could I go from having textbook teeth (thanks to braces while I was still in primary school and good dental hygiene) to needing to have a tooth that looked fine on the outside completely removed?
So adamant was I that this was fixable I got a second opinion, and a third, and a fourth. All the answers were hauntingly similar. The Crunchy Nut incident couldn’t solely be the culprit, but the intense pain had certainly brought the issue to light.
My tooth has apparently been disintegrating for years due to trauma, and no root canal or private care can save it. I laughed at the improbability of it, cried at the audacity and shook off incredulous anger at the thought of losing a precious tooth; and when the swathe of emotion had finally passed I contemplated how up until now I had always taken my teeth for granted.
In my defence, this condition is apparently extremely rare (I know, great luck) and came about in unusual circumstances. Friends keep telling me that no one takes their dental care seriously until something goes terribly wrong, and I’m mildly frustrated at myself for falling into the trap of that stereotype.
I brush my teeth twice a day (more or less, depending on hangover levels or extreme bouts of laziness before bed), but I don’t floss or use mouthwash and do drink copious amounts of alcohol, which I pathetically assumed I made up for with my aversion to fizzy drinks (that was until Diet Coke started making a stealthy appearance in my routine).
So however annoying and devastating (especially for my savings) this blip is, the result is partly my fault. I should have cleared up half an hour in the previous 365 days to dedicate to getting my teeth examined, and I should have taken more notice of what will keep my mouth healthy. Going forward I can sulk about the unfairness of it all (which, rest assured, I will be when it comes to operation day) or I can put it down as another life lesson and make changes to ensure another pearly white isn’t going to suffer the same fate.
Any meeting, brunch date or gym session pails in comparison to the importance of every holistic aspect of our health. So rather than skip an appointment in favour of a pint or because I had to work late, I’ll be cancelling the more trivial plans to ensure that number one is being fully supported.
Floating amidst all the tasks I have waiting to be completed the lure of shopping always lingers, so I’m grateful to Boden for helping me curb my habits with a quick online browse of the New In section’s quality items. I drop a couple of key pieces in my basket immediately, and having modelled their clothes for over a year now I know what works for me and how flatteringly my size is fitted (it’s always a true match), although I always feel confident enough to go for items that are outside of my initial comfort zone.
I’m stepping fully out of it in these gorgeous mock-croc boots, which feature a rather relieving heel height and the kind of brown colourway that compliments my other accessories (I have never been successful at pulling off tan). I actually fell head over heels for them at a Boden event before Christmas, where we were treated to a preview of the festive season collection and I noticed one of the in-house stylists sporting them beautifully with another leopard print frock.
I’m quite wary of boots from the enduring torment of being let down by brands before, so I tend to stick with what I know (Dr. Martens), but so far this pair have not disappointed and if the rest of my wardrobe is anything to go by I know that these shoes won’t be going anywhere for a while! The day these photos were taken the boots (and my feet) survived a long walk through Hampstead Heath despite it being their debut outing without much wearing-in beforehand!
I love a pointed toe (despite nearly always scuffing them immediately due to my inherent clumsiness) because it instantly makes an ensemble look more chic and put together. Unlike my Dr. Martens they are appropriate for the office but also work to glam up more casual looks too.
I feel like double animal print is the new double denim, and to be honest I’m a full supporter of both. Supplying the second dose of jungle vibes is this incredible leopard print dress, which definitely doesn’t allow for any sinking into the background! It’s another example of a bold garment that I wouldn’t necessarily associate with my fashion sense, but that has pleasantly surprised me on giving it a go.
The jersey material is wonderfully comfortable and flattering, and as it’s so thin it can be layered up with a jumper for winter. I’m also looking forward to using it for the opposite purpose in warmer weather thanks to the floaty, loose skirt.
Taking an interest in fashion to some may seem pompous and narcissistic, but in a world where we have so much going on and are constantly bombarded with bad news, it’s important to have a happy place you can escape to.
Ph. Abi Thomas