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Metro.co.uk: News, Sport, Showbiz, Celebrities from Metro

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    Sam Rehan, 48, laughter yoga teacher and founder of Wellbeing With Sam.
    The founder of Wellbeing With Sam, Sam Rehan

    In the winter of 2015, I felt totally overwhelmed.

    In the space of exactly one week, my son suffered a concussion on a school trip, a young and close family member suddenly passed away and, after years of working in science, I was told my job was going to be made redundant.

    On top of this, I was living as a single mother with my two young children (one with regular medical needs) in temporary accommodation in Sussex.

    After I put my children to bed, I sought to find a way to manage my overwhelming emotions.

    I found some comedy clips but they didn’t alleviate my racing, frantic thoughts. It felt like too much to decipher the humour and the canned laughter sounded jarring to my anxious, tired mind.

    I continued to search the internet and came across clips of very young babies gurgling and chortling. Suddenly, my whole body began to relax as I began to smile and laugh with them. I replayed the video clip. And then I played more similar videos. It was astonishing to me how much better I felt for laughing. My mental tension melted and I felt less stressed and so much more relaxed. It was a magical moment.

    I started to look into the research on laughter. There was decades of it along with hundreds of studies showing its wide-ranging health benefits.

    I learned that simulated laughter can be just as good for your wellbeing as the real thing – one study found that incorporating simulated laughter into an exercise program helped improve older adults’ mental health.

    Faking your laughter helps just as much because the body responds as if it’s real, giving you all the physiological and psychological benefits of laughter.

    The mind will take cues from the body and it triggers the brain to think it’s happier, creating more deep breathing and the release of happy chemicals (endorphins) in the brain. More often than not, genuine laughter emerges. Even smiling has been proved to create positive changes in the body.

    It all made so much sense – I was hooked.

    Sam Rehan laughs with three ladies during one of her laughter yoga classes
    Sam takes one of her laughter yoga classes

    As the research showed 15 minutes of laughter was needed for the health benefits, I sought ways to lengthen my laughter.

    During times of anxiety, I forced a smile. On one occasion, I could not smile, but I found getting up and walking around the room helped. Moving helped me raise a smile and my laughter emerged and I felt mentally and emotionally better.

    Once I began to laugh more and more, the laughter came easier and easier. Even thinking about laughing improved my mood. I knew that if laughter could have this impact on me, then it could on others.

    My laughter fact-finding mission led me to the true story of Norman Cousins. Around age 50, Cousins was diagnosed with a connective tissue disease and a condition known as Ankylosing spondylitis. Doctors gave him a few months to live.

    Soon after, Cousins discovered that he felt less pain and fewer symptoms while he was enjoying something that made him laugh. So he prescribed himself regular doses of laughter, brought on by watching comedy. He later claimed that ten minutes of belly-rippling laughter would give him two hours of pain-free sleep, when nothing else, not even morphine, could help him. As a result, Cousins lived for another 25 years after his diagnosis.

    Cousins and others began to study the medical effects of laughter. This is how I discovered laughter yoga.

    Dr Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbai, is the founder of the Laughter Yoga movement, which started in 1995. He started with just five people in a public park in Mumbai, and now there are more than 6,000 laughter yoga clubs in over 60 countries. Dr Kataria’s wife is a yoga teacher, and the inclusion of the breathing exercises led to the use of the word ‘yoga’.

    I felt I needed to proactively put laughter yoga in front of more people who could really benefit from it. Laughter yoga clubs are becoming more popular, but are more readily found in the larger cities in the UK. So, I trained to become a laughter yoga facilitator.

    It is said that laughter is more contagious than a cough or sneeze. I found laughing with others easy and infectious. I supported people, of all ages and from all walks of life, to prolong their laughter.

    I facilitated laughter sessions with people with dementia, disabilities, teenagers with autism, seniors, school children and in workplaces. I’ve even held a laughter session in an operating theatre with 11 theatre nurses.

    Sam Rehan and 11 theatre nurses after their session in the operating theatre at Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton
    Sam with her class in the operating theatre at Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton

    Laughter is a language that we all speak and it binds us together. Laughter opens the heart – we feel more connected to the people we are laughing with. And people have shared powerful stories associated with their laughter experiences during my sessions.

    In one, a man told me that, aged 14, a group of older girls at school had laughed at his laugh and told him it was awful. Since that moment, he laughed quietly behind his hands but now, 36 years later, he felt he could embrace his laugh fully. It was a powerful moment to watch and he glowed as he roared with laughter.

    I facilitated a laughter session with a group of seniors and a petite, serene-looking lady raised her hand and said: ‘My father slapped me when I laughed out loud as a young girl.’ She vowed to laugh as much as possible as an adult and she continued to do so with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

    One lady, who’d had a mastectomy eight days earlier, came to a group laughter session. She said she had heard about the power of laughter and wanted to give it a go. Afterwards, she told us she felt better emotionally and physically.

    Another lady had spent three years grieving after a family bereavement but, after laughing with me, said she felt she could laugh without feeling guilty and felt the best she had in three years.

    All are humbling experiences and reinforce that I made the right choice to do this. But perhaps none more so than when a man with dementia, who’d lost the power of speech, was overjoyed he could make laughter sounds.

    After the class, he took 30 minutes to write out five words to me… ‘Thank you for my laugh.’

    Daily laughter is a choice I have made. When I laugh, I feel fully present and it’s a fun meditation in motion. Laughter has supported me during difficult times, enhanced personal and work relationships and supported my physical and emotional health. It’s led to me to a successful career. I support workplaces, communities and charities through my work.

    And, surprisingly, even more health benefits of laughing daily have emerged for me. Aged 48, I have tons of energy and as laughter stimulates facial muscles, I enjoy free, natural anti-ageing.

    Life continues to have its ups and downs but, for me, laughter is an important daily form of support.

    Just as I finish writing this article, my son, wearing headphones, watches a video clip and is overcome with a huge belly laugh. I laugh along, while he remains blissfully unaware. The magic and power of laughter found me in a big way and has completely changed my life.

    And, now, I have the best job in the world.

     

    To find out more about Sam and her work, visit wellbeingwithsam.com, or you can email her on hello@wellbeingwithsam.com.


    Sam Rehan 2-e737Sam Rehan 2-e737

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    Illustration of two people lying in bed together
    Insomnia can seem relentless but don’t panic (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Every night, you curl up in bed, waiting to drift off, but what do you do if instead, you spend the time staring at the walls.

    Not being able to sleep is torturous. The longer you stay away, the more you panic.

    Insomnia, whether that is the odd sleepless night or a chronic inability to get enough sleep, is more common than you might think. According to a study by Chemist 4 U, 30% of people have experienced insomnia at some point.

    It’s important to remember that insomnia can be a symptom of other conditions so if it is a frequent problem, you should see a doctor to rule out any other cause.

    If you are suffering from sleepless nights, there here are some things you can do.

    Shamir Patel, a pharmacist who complied the study, recommends a number of things to try when you find yourself wide awake. He said: ‘I would recommend getting up and taking a walk around your house, perhaps making a chamomile tea or something that could soothe you back to sleep.

    ‘That being said, however, you shouldn’t get up immediately unless you’re really struggling to drift, as this might wake your brain back up again.

    ‘Try not to overthink the time, or how long you’ve been awake, as this is likely to keep your brain active and make it harder to fall asleep. I would recommend giving it about half an hour before getting up to walk around, though this should only be a ballpark estimate and you shouldn’t count the time.

    ‘Make use of your ‘awake’ time, if your body isn’t ready to sleep, it’s fine to be awake a little longer. Do something sedate, something that can encourage you to feel sleepy, like reading, listening to calming music, meditating or stretching. Once you find your sedation solution, you should try and use it to encourage your brain to feel tired.’

    We asked people to share their own tips on what they do when they can’t drift off:

    Laura

    I’ve dealt with insomnia for years so let’s start with my own tip. It might seem overhyped but the Lush Sleepy cream has genuinely really helped me get to sleep. Investing in making my bed really comfortable has helped too – a nice duvet that is warm in winter but cool in summer, memory foam pillows and a memory foam topper to improve the bed in my rented flat.

    When I do go through bouts of insomnia, reminding myself that I’ve survived with limited sleep before helps to keep me calm and getting up and doing the chores I hate the most is both productive and helps me feel sleepy.

    Rachida

    I just accept it and usually read a book or even tidy my house. The more you focus on your insomnia the harder it gets to fall asleep.

    Ella

    I start the whole going to bed process again. Get up, go sit in another room for a bit, maybe read, then brush teeth, go to the toilet and try again. 100% DO NOT touch my phone.

    Lisa

    Pelvic floor exercises – they are so boring they send me off. Not a joke.

    Punteha

    I take Valerian root. I don’t stay in bed if insomnia persists. The last thing you need is a negative association with your bed.

    Woman lying on a bed
    Don’t lie awake. It’s best to get up if you can’t sleep (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Lauren

    Meditation apps are the way forward. If you can’t sleep, at least your mind is resting. I always stay in bed though, which I don’t think you should.

    Esther

    Learning to breathe helped me loads. It allowed me to relax my mind and body and gave me something to focus on besides my anxious thoughts. Counting deep breaths is definitely better than remembering all the stupid things I’ve ever done in my life.

    Linda

    I find audio books are great. I set the volume really low and on a timer so you don’t fall asleep only for it to wake you.

    Charl

    I find the DBT Sleep Hygiene Protocol really helpful. I also don’t do anything other than sleeping in bed and only allow myself to sleep between 10pm and 8am. No naps! I barely function for the couple of weeks it takes to start shifting things though.

    Seren

    I suffered insomnia in my first year of uni due to my anxiety, which has been a problem for my whole life, but peaked at this point. I tried EVERYTHING and honestly the only things that worked for me were deep breathing exercises, meditation, and keeping a diary.

    woman sleeping at desk
    Lack of sleep can impact your work (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

    Becky

    I always read a great book before bed, spray Bach’s night remedies and zonk. That’s mostly it these days. The main thing is not to panic and know you’ll still be able to manage to cope the next day. Holding a forward yoga stretch for a long time is good too with mindful breathing.

    Stephen

    I listen to podcasts or read a book – something non-lit and passive. A classic of warm milk and headspace often helps.

    Victoria

    Boring and the hardest ‘solution’ of them all – but I think for chronic insomnia, the only thing that works is long-term CBT style therapy (you can do it online for free) to change your mindset about sleeping. Every other thing I’ve tried has been a temporary fix.

    Short-term wise, lavender oil on pillow and guided relaxation breathing exercises. Take sleeping tablets if you need them. They are a great short-term fix.

    David

    Whenever it happens to me, a lot is to do with mindset. I try to see it as an opportunity to get ahead – either with a bit of writing, or language learning, or playing a musical instrument. Trying to see the insomnia as an advantage helps me to relax and after a while, I go to sleep.

    Lianne

    Mindfulness and remember facts over thoughts. It’s important to remember it can be the first sign on some conditions too.

    An illustration of a woman curled up on a colourful background
    Get into a routine to help you drift off (Picture: Ella Byworth/ Metro.co.uk)

    Emma

    I definitely used to get up and go downstairs. The worst thing is if you are listening to your partner snoring. I’d go and read a chapter of a book to make my eyes tired and then try again.

    Sara

    I tend to try and get up and do something a bit mindless like put away dishes or folding washing, and then once my mind is a bit quieter, I go back to bed with a history audiobook on quietly.

    Georgina

    I’ve started taking magnesium and Valerian supplements and that helps. Reading/podcasts/ASMR videos also help take the edge off it but I’ve yet to find a proper, decent ‘cure’.

    Rebecca

    I play a word game on my phone, listen to relaxing music, stare at the ceiling and wait.

    MORE: Morrisons is selling UK’s first vegan tuna in a can

    MORE: UK’s ‘unluckiest dog’ finally finds a home after five years at a shelter

    MORE: Burger from Morrisons named the best supermarket burger in the UK


    How to stop saying sorryHow to stop saying sorry

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    Tango Ice Blast has released a new flavour
    Apparently the flavour is 10.10 (Picture: Instagram)

    Planning a trip to the cinema soon? Well you’ll want to get your hands on the new Ice Blast – people on social media are going wild for it.

    Tango Ice Blast and Disney are collaborating with the new flavour: Peach and Pomegranate – and it sounds amazing.

    The new Tango Ice Blast has been launched to celebrate of the launch of Disney’s Aladdin on 24th May.

    The brand teased the new addition on its Instagram, referencing Aladdin’s theme song, ‘A Whole New World’.

    They wrote: ‘Introducing our shining, shimmering, splendid new flavour *while stocks last* Available at: Odeon, Vue, Showcase, Empire and Reel cinemas.’

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BxSY4-jgPRl/?utm_source=ig_embed

    Sadly, the flavour won’t be available at Cineworld *sob*.

    The flavour is called ‘Arabian Nights’ and is sugar-free.

    So far one person on Twitter who has tried the ice blast says it’s amazing. She wrote: ‘In case you were wondering the new tango ice blast flavour is 10/10 bon appetit’.

    And other people have been commenting on the Instagram post to express their excitement.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxm-FMBhLfV/

    One person said: ‘Ummm I’m getting this then !!!!!!’

    Another said: ‘HAVE to try this on out Aladdin date!!’

    Someone else commented: ‘Looks lush’.

    And another wrote: ‘Oh my goodness gracious me’.

    Honestly, after this release, we’re not sure which we’re more excited for: The new Tango Ice Blast or the release of Aladdin.

    Good job we can experience both at the same time.

    MORE: Burger from Morrisons named the best supermarket burger in the UK

    MORE: Morrisons is selling UK’s first vegan tuna in a can


    Tango Ice Blast just launched a new flavour and wowTango Ice Blast just launched a new flavour and wow

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    SATs quiz
    (Picture: Getty)

    Now that the year six children you know have completed their SATs, it’s time for the bulk of the GCSEs and A-Levels to begin.

    It’s a hard time for them, but thankfully for most of us grown-ups, exams are behind us by a long way.

    If you want to see how you’d fare in the ‘easiest’ of all these exams, however, we’ve mocked up a quiz that can give you a fair idea.

    Questions are taken from last year’s past papers, and will likely have you scratching your head wondering when you last used these grammatical and mathematical techniques.

    Let us know your result in the comments.

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    {{vm.scored}}/{{vm.data.questions.length}}
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    Share your results

    Try again

    MORE: Tango Ice Blast launches new peach and pomegranate flavour

    MORE: What to do when you can’t sleep: People explain how they deal with insomnia


    Students taking a test in classroomStudents taking a test in classroom

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    The grow your own d*ck plant
    Yes, you really can grow your own d*ck (Picture: Firebox)

    If you’re looking for a new plant for your home that’ll really make an impression on your guests, we’ve got the perfect thing for you: Chilli dicks.

    Firebox is selling a ‘Grow a Dick’ box, and it’s essentially a little plant that grows dick-like chillies.

    The ‘Grower Not A Shower’ box will grow a couple of chillies that look like actual willies.

    All you need to do is add water, and the ‘penis will produce itself’ from the soil.

    The product description reads: ‘The spiciest way to tell ‘em to grow a dick. Contains all you need to grow dick shaped chillies. Super simple – just add water!

    ‘100% organic, from the soil to the penis produce itself. Literally looks like a bunch of red dicks.’

    The grow your own d*ck box
    Fancy a box? (Picture: Firebox)

    Firebox adds: ‘Spicy bellend! No, it’s not an STD, it’s the organic produce from our super easy Grow A Dick Kit! This sassy little cube has a big surprise inside: spoiler alert, it’s everything you need to grow a girthy batch of capsicum annuum – AKA phallic chillies!

    ‘This is no bird-of-paradise-flower-situation, these spicy red numbers are unmistakably penile from head to shaft. Except for the little green bit on the stem, obvs. If you actually have one of those on your knob, please see a doctor, you may be at risk of being diagnosed as a plant.

    ‘All you have do to bring your willy chillies to life is open the cube and pour a little water on the pre-planted seeds. Pop it in a bright, warm place and keep watering every so often to keep them moist – in 12-18 days, you’ll be seeing a red cock rising out of the soil. Mental. In a few weeks, you could be slicing your very own scarlet bellend into a sexy stir fry! Nice.

    ‘When you’re ready to repot your plants into something more fitting (coming soon: the Firebox terracotta vagina), the magical eco-friendly cube will slowly decompose and turn into valuable coconut fibre fertiliser for the plant, enriched with all sorts of stuff that makes chillies fully erect big and handsome.

    The chillie willies
    The chillies look like willies… (Picture: Firebox)

    ‘Now all you need is a pair of ginger balls to go with them for a culinary genital match made in Heaven.’

    So far, the reviews for the chillie willies, which cost £9.99, have been amazing.

    One person said: ‘Bought for a friend’s birthday and don’t know if it’ll grow yet. Great idea though.’

    Another said: ‘Already growing up! Cant wait to see it when its all grown.’

    Someone else wrote: ‘Hilarious and 100% worth it!’

    And yes, it’s definitely tempting us to buy and grow our own chillie willies at home.

    MORE: Tango Ice Blast launches new peach and pomegranate flavour

    MORE: What to do when you can’t sleep: People explain how they deal with insomnia


    This ?9.99 'Grow A D*ck' Plant Will Not DisappointThis ?9.99 'Grow A D*ck' Plant Will Not Disappoint

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    The screenshots of the catfish
    Dylan catfished someone on Tinder… (Picture: DylanParkerNash/Twitter)

    People have been raving about a new Snapchat filter which transforms you into either a man or woman.

    And one guy who recently transformed himself into a woman on the app decided to save the photo and upload it to a female Tinder profile, to catfish other guys.

    Dylan Nash shared a photo of himself as a woman, who he named Dilana, to Twitter, before also sharing a conversation he’d had with another guy called Dylan.

    'Dilana's profile
    The guy fell for it! (Picture: DylanParkerNash/Twitter)

    ‘Dilana’ told Dylan that she liked his name, and, calling ‘her’ ‘baby’, Dylan didn’t catch on at all.

    The original Dylan shared all photos to his Twitter, captioning it: ‘Last night I got drunk and woke up to a fake tinder I made using the girl filter’

    The conversation on Tinder
    The conversation between Dylan and, er, Dylan (Picture: DylanParkerNash/Twitter)

    So far, the tweet has had over 10,000 retweets and 74,000 likes – and a whole bunch of comments from amused Twitter users:

    Others agreed that Dylan looks very pretty as a woman – and we’ve got to agree, he does pull it off.

    The Snapchat filters have definitely caused some confusion – and a lot of entertainment (seeing what you’d look like with a beard and bushy eyebrows is actually pretty fun) – but as Dylan has proven, they can be all too convincing.

    So we’d recommend staying off Tinder until the craze is over.

    MORE: Men use Snapchat gender swap filter to see what it’s really like to be a woman on Tinder

    MORE: Love, Or Something Like It: What 15k Tinder matches has taught me about true love


    Single bloke uses Snapchat gender swap filter to create fake TinderSingle bloke uses Snapchat gender swap filter to create fake Tinder

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    Merlin An enthusiastic advocate for the legalization of The Nip. Might have had some before the shoot.
    Merlin, an enthusiastic advocate for the legalization of The Nip. Might have had some before the shoot (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    Cats and dogs with black fur are gorgeous – but not everyone appreciates them.

    Animals with black fur are less likely to be adopted from shelters, for muddled reasons including superstitions and people thinking it’s tricky to photograph cats and dogs with darker coats.

    It’s a massive shame, because there are some lovely cats and dogs out there who aren’t getting the loving homes they deserve, simply because of the colour of their fur.

    Photographer Emma O’Brien wants to show people the beauty of these adorable creatures.

    In her Black Rescue Series, she photographed rescued black cats and dogs from Johannesburg, to show how wonderful these animals are.

    Emma explains: ‘Black dogs and cats get a raw deal when it comes to being unwanted.

    ‘Ending up at a shelter is bad news for any animal, but black critters are the least likely to be adopted and if they are lucky enough to be chosen by an adoptee, they will have waited the longest.

    ‘I’ve done a bit of research on this and there seem to be four major reasons that black dogs and cats are last on the list for potential adoptees – firstly, they don’t photograph well (I think these images disprove that point) which is tragic if you want to take over Instagram with your new pet (repeatedly smacks forehead against wall), secondly, black dogs can look intimidating and aggressive, thirdly, black cats are superstitiously unlucky (or should that be stupid-stitiously) and lastly, they are a bit plain and boring to look at………

    ‘So, because I’m a fan of championing the underdog (and cat), these images are my PR stunt to show that black dogs and cats are far from boring.’

    Jessie

    #7 Jessie As crazy as she looks. Once used a set of toddlers as skittles. Claims it was a total accident.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘As crazy as she looks. Once used a set of toddlers as skittles. Claims it was a total accident.’

     

    Grace

    #16 Grace Only wears Gucci. Anxiously waiting for a Net-A-Porter delivery that's taking forever to arrive.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Only wears Gucci. Anxiously waiting for a Net-A-Porter delivery that’s taking forever to arrive.’

     

    Merlin

    #1 Merlin Lost his eye whilst on a secret mission for MI5. Keeps requesting a monetary allowance for a diamond-encrusted patch. Keeps being denied. Has put in an order with Cartier and is going to expense it.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Lost his eye whilst on a secret mission for MI5. Keeps requesting a monetary allowance for a diamond-encrusted patch. Keeps being denied. Has put in an order with Cartier and is going to expense it.’

    Bentley

    #18 Bentley Reserved at first. Secretly a HUGE Madonna fan. Has all her albums.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Reserved at first. Secretly a HUGE Madonna fan. Has all her albums.’

     

    Dogg

    #15 Dogg Pronounced 'D' 'O' "double G' as in Snoop. Impossibly cool. Fan of hip hop.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Pronounced D O double G, as in Spoop. Impossible cool. Fan of hip hop.’

     

    Gabriel

    #5 Gabriel Insisted on a head shot only because he's still trying to get bikini ready.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Insisted on a head shot only because he’s still trying to get bikini ready.’

     

    Arizona

    #17 Arizona Didn't stop talking throughout the shoot. Also has paint on her ear. Also fired.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Didn’t stop talking throughout the shoot. Also has paint on her ear. Also fired.’

     

    Parker

    #12 Parker Raised by a cat. Has a full repartee of witty one-liners. Won't wait to be invited to use them.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Raised by a cat. Has a full repartee of witty one-liners. Won’t wait to be invited to use them.’

    Lena

    Full-time retiree. Part-time therapist. Will always share her couch, but may fall asleep whilst you talk.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Full-time retiree. Part-time therapist. Will always share her couch, but may fall asleep whilst you talk.’

     

    Mia

    #10 Mia Weighs 50kg, thinks she's a lap dog. Can take out a couch once she breaks into a gentle trot.
    (Picture: Emma O’Brien)

    ‘Weighs 50kg, thinks she’s a lap dog. Can take out a couch once she breaks into a gentle trot.’

    MORE: It’s not a good idea to make homemade food for your cats

    MORE: Vincent the therapy rat travels to schools and libraries to help children learn to read

    MORE: Cats are being given buzz cuts to look like little dinosaurs and don’t they look fierce?


    featured image for black cats and dogs-017efeatured image for black cats and dogs-017e

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    Simona Stankovska stands, smiling at camera, in a yellow dress with a flower pattern
    Simona Stankovska suffered a rare brain tumour which changed her life forever (Picture: Simona Stankovska)

    From a very young age I felt different.

    The truth is, I was different. From the age of 18 months, I grew up in rural Sussex with parents who had moved to the UK from Macedonia (a country hardly anyone had heard of) for a better life. I was the only foreign kid in my class and Macedonian was also my first language.

    Over the next few years, I went from speaking no English to being top of my class. This made me stand out even more and I ended up being bullied.

    At 11, we went on holiday to Macedonia. It was the first time I had visited since we’d left.

    I was excited to meet my Macedonian family for the first time and learn about my culture.

    However, I didn’t enjoy it at all. I was overfed (every house we visited we had to eat or it would be rude), and then criticised for the way I dressed or looked.

    The comment that sticks in my mind, even today, is when my cousin told me I had ‘footballer’s knees’. That was the beginning of my eating disorder (ED).

    As soon as I got home I went on a starvation diet. I measured my hips, thighs, knees, arms and waist, and kept a chart on the back of my door. I restricted my food to as little as a satsuma per day, telling myself that even that one satsuma had 200 calories. All I knew was that I didn’t want to be me anymore. I hated the way I looked, the way I sounded and the way I thought. I hated my life.

    When I dropped lots of weight and could fit into young children’s clothes, I was happy. People told me I looked ill, but in my mind they were jealous. My periods stopped and my hair started to thin. Yet, in my mind I was still huge and needed to lose more.

    My mum used to read me articles about the dangers of eating disorders and how it would kill me. She also always monitored what I ate and followed me around after I ate so I couldn’t purge. To this day, she can still be quite over-protective around my relationship with food. My father worked a lot so never noticed, but it caused a strain on the whole family. 

    Simona at 16 years old, suffering from bulimia, stands in a Manchester United shirt
    Simona, in 2006, aged 16 when she was bulimic (Picture: Simona Stankovska)

    Then, at 16, I had a major allergic reaction to hair dye, which almost killed me. My face ‘deformed’ as it swelled to double the size. I was put on steroids, which made me hungry all the time. I couldn’t control my anorexia anymore. So I became bulimic instead.

    From 16 to 26 I threw up after every meal. But, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing weight. Instead, my throat was red raw, my knuckles scraped from forcing my fingers down my throat and my cheeks and glands swollen from excessive vomiting (I had hamster cheeks, which is common with bulimia).

    I lived that miserable existence. My relationship with food was one of hate. I hated I had to eat, I hated it made me fat, and I hated that I could no longer starve myself. I even began to hate my parents for making me eat, and my sister, who is five years younger than me and was born after we moved to the UK, for always stressing me out by trying to cause arguments, which made me want to eat.

    Simona stands in a black dress with a colleague in black tie at an awards ceremony
    Simona with a colleague from The City at an awards ceremony in 2012 (Picture: Simona Stankovska)

    At 26 I reached my breaking point. My ED was now starting to affect my job, my relationships, and my everyday existence. I was so low I wanted to kill myself. I had gone from being what I considered, at the time, glamorous – fitting into tiny clothes, not having to wear a bra because my chest was so flat, my rib cage showing, hollow cheekbones, and people noticing me – to throwing up in public toilets, constantly being spaced out from malnutrition, and I couldn’t be in a relationship, because the greatest love in my life was my ED and everything and everyone came second.

    That’s when I knew I had to either do something or die. At the time, I had private health insurance through my job – a staff writer for the Financial Times. So, I phoned my health insurer and I asked for help. Three days later I was in a residential rehab facility in Surrey.

    I spent four weeks in rehab and, all I can say is, it’s the hardest thing I have ever done. I had to work on my core beliefs. I had to let go of the crutch that was my ED and I had to learn to eat normally. At times I enjoyed letting go of the control and being fed, other days I’d sit at the ED table and cry into my spaghetti bolognese, not wanting to eat it because I felt fat. But it also prepared me for what was to come.

    Just 18 months into my ‘recovery’, I had a stroke. At 27, driving down the M4 on a summer’s afternoon, I passed out at the wheel of my car. An ambulance, two scans, and a stay in hospital resulted in me being diagnosed with a rare type of brain lesion called a ‘cavernoma’. Not much is known about cavernomas, so when the neurologists told me I had a suspected benign brain tumour and would need brain surgery, the first thing that came into my head was… ‘I’m going to die.’

    A hospital brain scan show Simona's brain with the rare tumour called a 'cavernoma'
    A brain scan shows Simona’s rare tumour called a ‘cavernoma’ (Picture: Simona Stankovska)

    I went from wanting to die 18 months before to now fighting for my life. They said that the cavernoma, which was filled with blood, had bled into my brain and caused the stroke. I couldn’t walk unaided for three months, I had to move back in with my mum, I wasn’t allowed to drive, and I was facing the prospect of brain surgery. All I could think of was, ‘I’m going to survive this.’ The doctors told me that If I made myself sick it could kill me, as the pressure of purging could make the cavernoma bleed further. Now, more than ever, I knew it was crucial that I stuck to my recovery.

    Three months later, I was in the operating theatre at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. My chances of permanent paralysis were high, and the cavernoma was sitting on my speech and language centre too, so I could have also lost my speech. I went down the night before surgery and prayed that everything would be okay. I am not religious, but I just prayed to the universe.

    A bird's eye view of Simona's head, post brain op, showing her scar and staples in all its glory
    Simona discovered the tumour could have affected her emotions and even been partly behind her eating disorder

    When I woke up from a six-hour surgery, I was so thankful that I was alive. I couldn’t move my legs, so I cried for a while as I thought I was paralysed. Luckily, a few hours later I regained sensation.

    A week in hospital, 15 staples in my head, and an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy showed me how lucky I was. I was lucky to have such amazing friends who visited me every day (the hospital staff said I was the most popular patient), lucky to have a supportive family who gave me strength to face the operation, and I am lucky to be alive.

    I can’t believe I wasted so many years being scared to eat and worrying about how I look and how much I weigh. Instead, I was proud of my scar, proud of the fact that my body had survived such a major operation and been good to me, and proud that I was stronger than I ever thought I was.

    A bird's eye view of Simona's head, post brain op, showing her scar, covered up
    Simona post her brain op

    I also learned that my cavernoma was in my frontal lobe, which affects emotions and rationalisation. It may have been there for many years, possibly contributing to my ED. 

    Today, I’m a different person. I have a big chunk of my brain missing. I struggle with balance. I can’t do many of the things I once took for granted, and I get tired and confused easily. But, I’m alive.

    I’m not afraid to eat avocados because, actually, they’re a good fat for my brain. I embrace eating out with friends. I see my body as strong rather than fat. Yes, I would love to be thinner, as I did gain two stone post-op and haven’t lost it all, but, now, it’s far more important to be healthy.

    I surround myself with people who love me for my mind, my spirit, and my loving soul, as opposed to people who judge me on the way I look, how much I weigh, what I earn, or how educated I am. I have learnt the hard way that life is too short and therefore we just have to live it and enjoy it.

    Getting the brain tumour was a blessing in my eyes, as it taught me that I am enough, I am worth it, and, most importantly, I want to be alive. Because, today, life is great.

    No matter how you’re feeling, things can change. I talked to people, I had therapy, and I learned to love myself. Anyone can do that.

     

    Simona is setting up her charity – the Cavernoma Society –  to help others like her. A counselling service will be at the core of what they offer, because having a healthy mind is so important.

    What is a cavernoma?

    A Cavernoma is a lesion in the brain or spine made up of abnormal blood vessels. It’s usually benign, but it can seep blood into surrounding brain tissue, causing strokes and epilepsy. You can also have multiple cavernomas. Currently, brain surgery is the only proven way to stop cavernomas bleeding and causing further damage. One in 600 people could have a cavernoma without even knowing it. Most people get diagnosed after a stroke or seizure.


    A rare brain tumour cured my eating disorderA rare brain tumour cured my eating disorder

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    firebox releases shoe condoms to protect your sneakers
    Firebox releases shoe condoms to protect your sneakers (Picture: Firebox)

    All sneakerheads will know the exquisite pain of buying a glorious pair of shoes, only to be too scared of dirt and scuffs to actually wear them outside the house.

    You want to show off those fresh kicks, but you just can’t risk it. It’s a gross, grimy world out there, with the Tube, the streets, and sticky floors at pubs just waiting to wreck that pristine white leather.

    And so your shoes sit in waiting. They are held aloft for an Instagram shot, but that is all. A sad fate.

    But wait. There might be a solution.

    Firebox has unveiled a new creation called the shoe condom.

    They’re exactly what they sound like – condoms, but for your feet; little rubber shields to pull over the trainers you’re so desperate to protect.

    firebox releases shoe condoms to protect your sneakers
    Theyre transparent, so you can still see the branding of your precious shoes (Picture: Firebox)

    No, we’re not talking about those little blue bags you get at the local swimming pool. These are transparent and subtle, so you can still get the clout of wearing the latest Yeezy Boost without risking water stains on the exterior.

    Could you just wear some shoes you don’t mind getting dirty? Absolutely. But where’s the fun in that?

    Firebox markets their shoe condoms for festivals, where shoes go to die, but we reckon these will work for any outing. Never again will your precious trainers need to touch the filthy streets of London.

    the shoe condoms are designed to protect your sneakers from dirt, water, and grime
    The shoe condoms are designed to protect your sneakers from dirt, water, and grime (Picture: Firebox)

    The condoms are waterproof, dirtproof, machine washable, dishwasher safe, and have gripping on the bottom to stop you sliding around.

    You slide them on for whatever messy occassion, slip them off, give them a wash, then save for the next time (a quick disclaimer here: this same method is not appropriate for actual condoms. Only shoe condoms).

    The production description reads: ‘You may be keeping your cock safe, but what about your creps?

    Once youre done, you can roll off the shoe condoms and pop them in the wash
    Once you’re done, you can roll off the shoe condoms and pop them in the wash (Picture: Firebox)

    ‘There’s antibiotics for super-gonorrhoea, but there’s no remedy for getting mud caked into every nook and cranny of your Fila Disruptors.

    ‘Or worse – try getting those precious Air Max 97s even half as vibrant as they were when fresh outta the box. Impossible. Damn that fabric outer.

    ‘Luckily these ingenious Shoe Condoms will keep you from ruining your beloved shoes. Whether at a festival or just doing a particularly muddy commute, these water-proof, dirt-proof keep your feet safe from chlamydia anything life can throw at ‘em.

    ‘Endlessly reusable, they’re also machine washable AND dishwasher proof, so you’ve got no excuses for getting your glittery Glastonbury gladiators or job interview brogues in a dirty state.’

    If you fancy getting your feet in a pair, you can buy shoe condoms through Firebox for £7.99.

    MORE: Fashion Nova romper mocked for looking like ‘Lara Croft entering the Matrix’

    MORE: Fenty fashion just teased us with a sneak peek and the looks are fierce

    MORE: Working in fashion gave me such crippling body anxiety, I quit


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    Throughout my life I have identified as goth.

    I am always found in black clothing, dark makeup, with an overall vampy aesthetic, but what does it mean to be goth?

    To put it simply, gothic culture is just a group of people who share a similar interest in the beauty of darkness but, to me being gothic is less about what you look like and more of a feeling.

    Yes, it comes with the territory that you feel inclined to wear black, but under that blanket goth signifier, there are so many sub-genres.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bv3L382DdVQ/?utm_source=ig_embed

    Since the 70s – when gothic and punk music and culture and fashion movements began – what it means to be goth has evolved.

    Today you have genres including traditional, romantic, industrial, death-rock, metal, pastel, nu, cyber, fetish, hippie, baby, cabaret, Victorian, steampunk, Lolita and gothbillie.

    No matter which one you feel fits your gothic heart most, the fact is, no one genre is more gothic than the other. This is why I say that goth is a feeling.

    As a young girl I discovered that I preferred horror movies to the children’s films most kids my age were watching.

    I was only five years old when I first sat through an entire film. And I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it.

    After this I was hooked. My dad was a preacher, which did limit the amount I could get away with watching, but the desire to watch more of them was there.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/BxQgGGIDy_1/?utm_source=ig_embed

    My desire for the dark and beautiful manifested itself in other ways too. Black and white photography always appealed more to me than life in full colour, the bad guy in movies was always my crush and my heart would swell whenever it heard minor chords.

    I had a passion for art and so would begin drawing these comic book characters and writing their stories.

    Without knowing what a goth was, or what one was supposed to look like, I came up with this character. She wore an industrial style black dress and combat boots and had lengthy raven hair – similar to Morticia Addams.

    The scenes were set in graveyards, melancholy woods or very vacant, dreary islands.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Br4OqVyjt1I/?utm_source=ig_embed

    Finally, one day when I was out shopping with my family, I saw a young, gothic woman for the first time. She was hand in hand with her boyfriend. She was wearing a Tripp brand skirt, combat boots, fishnets, pigtails highlighted with red streaks, a choker and a Type O Negative shirt.

    My memory of her is so precise because that moment was like an epiphany of self-discovery. It finally understood who I was. She looked over at me very briefly and from then on I couldn’t stop smiling, I knew how I wanted to present myself to the world.

    I became engulfed in the history, fashion and culture of the many gothic genres. My hours were spent discovering alternative models, music, clothing, makeup, literature and various other aesthetics that clicked.

    Unfortunately, my father was quite old fashioned and stern about how I presented myself.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/Bwdd03kjWRp/?utm_source=ig_embed

    I saw myself as a gothic fairy but I was stuck in the body of this blue jean, white t-shirt wearing adolescent. It was heart-breaking to love something so much but have it ripped away from you because of other people’s misconceptions.

    My friends also just saw it as a phase or downright silly. It made me a ‘poser’.

    But I knew that one day I would be able to be the person I truly am, despite the backlash.

    So here I am today, 23 years young, finally living how I want to. Goth is not a phase, or just about how you look. Being goth is a passion and inclination towards everything dark and beautiful.

    Not every gothic person would agree with me here, but we are all connected. No matter your gender, race, expression or genre, being goth is imprinted on the heart of each of us in awe of the dark.

    Stay batty!

    You can follow Zoie on Instagram here

    MORE: Goth crocs with spikes and chains exist – and the internet kind of likes them

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    MORE: Working in fashion gave me such crippling body anxiety, I quit


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    According to the 2011 Census, 2.2 million people in the UK have mixed ethnicity – and that is a figure that will likely keep rising, year-on-year.

    Mixed-race is the fastest-growing ethnicity in the country and despite the widely varied stories of the people in this group, there are also commonalities that tie their narratives together.

    Being mixed-race brings the unique perspective of straddling two or more cultures – but it can also cause conflict and innate contradictions. And everybody’s experience is completely individual.

    Mixed Up is a weekly series that aims to elevate under-heard voices, go beyond stereotypes and get to the heart of what it means to be mixed-race in the UK today.

    Cate Sevilla is an American-born journalist and editor. She is now a UK citizen and is working to find a deeper connection with the Filipino side of her heritage.

    Mixed Up - Lifestyle - Natalie Morris
    Picture by Jerry Syder for Metro.co.uk

    ‘I was born and raised in California,’ Cate tells Metro.co.uk.

    ‘My paternal grandparents are from the Philippines and moved to San Francisco after WWII, where they had my dad and his four other siblings.

    ‘My dad is Filipino, but he’s actually also mixed, as his mom was half Filipino and half white – her dad was from North Carolina, but based at a military base in the Philippines when he met her mother.

    ‘My mother is of a mixed European heritage – mainly Scottish, German and Hungarian.’

    The concept of being mixed-race is not something that has always been on Cate’s radar, and her early memories of connecting with her Filipino family are pretty sparse.

    ‘I only recently started really appreciating and understanding that I’m mixed-race,’ she explains.

    ‘Growing up, I didn’t spend a lot of time with my dad’s family. We would have Filipino food at Christmas (lumpia) and occasionally my dad would make pancit and tapa, but it was a special treat, not an everyday occurrence.

    ‘I didn’t really have much of a relationship with my paternal grandparents. I remember being nervous about their accents and because they were so different to my white, American grandparents.’

    Little Cate with her parents
    Little Cate with her parents (Picture: Cate Sevilla)

    Cate was brought up in suburban America, now living in the UK, she has a uniquely transatlantic perspective on race, and how she is perceived depending on where she is in the world.

    Growing up, Cate’s racial ambiguity allowed her to see her heritage as something that wasn’t necessarily that important to her – the world saw her as white and it was easy for her to feel the same.

    ‘I have light skin and blue eyes, and have been dying my hair lighter since I was 14. The only clue to me being mixed-race is my surname, or if you saw my dad or my sister – she’s always looked more obviously mixed-race than I do.

    ‘I grew up mispronouncing my own surname. I pronounced it phonetically (se-vill-ah) rather than the Spanish way (se-ve-yah).

    ‘I also didn’t really understand why I had a Spanish surname until I Googled it and found out about the Spanish colonisation of the Philippines.

    ‘When I was younger, it was more of a “interesting fact” about me that my dad was Filipino, rather than being part of my identity, as it is now.

    ‘I believe the world sees me and treats me as “white” – so I believe I’ve gone through this world with the privilege that that brings.

    ‘Sure, people have struggled to pronounce my name my entire life, but that’s because my first name is Celtic, not because people were being lazy or racist. (And I also was pronouncing my own surname wrong for more 25 years, so, there’s that!)

    ‘If anyone has ever been racist towards me or my dad, I didn’t even register it. People have made stupid comments about “my eyes looking Asian” when they find out I’m mixed-race, but I’ve never experienced any kind of racial abuse.’

    Cate with her dad
    Cate is now working to reconnect with her dad’s side of the family (Cate Sevilla)

    As a child, Cate was lucky to grow up in a multicultural, ethnically diverse environment – interracial families where the norm for her peers and classmates – and that made it seem like a complete non-issue.

    ‘The fact that I was mixed-race wasn’t really a huge talking point for me growing up, it didn’t feel like a big deal,’ she says.

    ‘The schools I went to were really diverse, and despite being a suburban area – the neighbourhood I grew up in was also really diverse. My best friends growing up both had Mexican moms and white dads, so it was more-or-less pretty normal for me for there to be mixed families.’

    As she’s grown older, being mixed-race has come to form a much more prominent part of Cate’s identity. She says part of that is due to becoming a citizen of a country that she wasn’t born in.

    ‘I have lived in the UK for 13 years, my entire adult life, so I feel neither American nor British,’ Cate tells us.

    ‘Society has always treated me as though I am white, but I’m not. I sound American, but I’m not exactly that either. I’m used to the true complex nature of my identity not being immediately obvious.

    ‘And the truth is I’m proud of the complexity of who I am and where I am from, and I’m tired of shying away from it.’

    Cate has dealt with some confusing elements of her identity over the years and she has distinct memories of certain cultural clashes affecting her family life.

    ‘As a child I knew there were aspects of being in a mixed-race family that were difficult because I could feel the tension that parts of it – like religion – raised between my parents,’ says Cate.

    ‘My parents divorced when I was 12, but I don’t know what role, if any, race and culture had to do with it.

    ‘In school I remember there was a “Pacific Islander” club at school that a lot of the Filipino kids I knew joined, but because I didn’t look Filipino enough or know what it even meant to be Filipino, I never felt comfortable enough to join.

    ‘As an adult I’ve struggled with realising that there was this whole other element to my heritage, my identity, and my DNA that I knew nothing really about.

    ‘It used to be embarrassing to say that I’m mixed-race because I looked so white, and because I didn’t know much of anything about the thing that made me mixed. I used to feel that I didn’t really have a right to call myself mixed.’

    Familial displacement can disrupt the natural connection between a child and their family history – and this can cause a deep sense of loss. But Cate’s approach is a proactive one – she’s researching her ancestry and doing everything she can to look for answers.

    Rather than see it as a negative, she relishes the journey of discovery.

    ‘There are still so many questions I have about my dad’s side of the family – I only recently started to learn more about them by doing my own research through Ancestry.com using information from my paternal grandmother’s death certificate.

    Baby Cate with her family
    Cate is sick of people telling her that she doesn’t ‘look’ mixed-race (Picture: Cate Sevilla)

    ‘I found pictures of my great-grandmother Juanita online, and other distant cousins I’ve never met. I still have so much research to do, and one day I’d love to go to the Philippines.

    ‘At this stage in my life, I love that there is this whole other part of me and my dad that I still get to learn about.

    ‘It’s a strange thing to get to your late twenties and suddenly realise that the way you’ve previously thought about your identity has only been partially correct.’

    As a child it’s natural to connect to what you know, what’s familiar, what you see every day – sometimes it’s only years later that you realise what you might have missed out on.

    ‘I grew up around my mom’s family and visiting my maternal grandparents. They were my family – and it’s heartbreaking to me that there is this whole other side of me and my wider family that I don’t know,’ says Cate.

    ‘I suppose I unconsciously connected more with my white, American side of the family because they were who I was around all of the time.

    ‘I would have loved to have had more of a connection with the Sevilla family, but it just didn’t happen, for whatever reason. It would be nice if that could still happen.’

    Cate is tired of having to justify who she is and tired of the assumptions. She wants people to understand that being mixed-race is so much more than skin-deep.

    ‘Just because “you don’t look it” doesn’t mean that you’re lying,’ explains Cate.

    ‘You can have cultural ties to a place or culture without having a certain colour skin or a certain amount of knowledge. I want people to understand that being mixed-race is more complicated than it sometimes first appears.’

    Cate knows there are still gaps in her knowledge, gaps that she is working hard to fill. But she’s no longer embarrased or ashamed of not knowing everything there is to know about Filipino culture.

    She is on her own path to understanding, and it is an entirely individual journey.

    ‘It’s never too late to learn more about your own identify,’ says Cate.

    ‘It can be hard to relate to a certain part of your heritage if it’s connected to a parent or a side of a family you’ve struggled with or maybe don’t even know. But it’s part of you, it’s in your blood, and it’s worth understanding and integrating it into your identity. It’s the story of who you are.

    ‘The more of us that talk about it and identify as being mixed-race, especially if we “don’t look like it”, the more we normalise it and make it easier for other people.

    ‘Representation and visibility are so important, and that’s part of the reason I am trying to talk about it more, even if I am nervous because I’m still at the early stages of learning about my Filipino heritage.’

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘I was adopted by two black parents – they made me who I am today’

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘For white people, having brown babies used to represent a moral taboo’

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘Being a gay person of colour took its toll on my mental health’


    Cate SevillaCate Sevilla

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    Shot of a mature woman looking upset with her husband in the background
    The mum didn’t even know her partner had any children from his previous marriage (Picture: Getty)

    A mum says she’s considering leaving her older husband after finding out that he has children he never told her about.

    The woman, who recently had her first child with her partner, was shocked to find that not only did her husband have three other children she didn’t know about, one of them has a child of their own.

    The 33-year-old, whose husband is 45, knew her husband was previously married but he never disclosed details of the three children he had during their two-year relationship.

    The anonymous poster was excited to have her first child with the partner and thought it was his first too but was heartbroken to learn the truth, she revealed on Mumsnet.

    She found out when he, a self-employed handyman, told her he was going out of town for business, which raised her suspicions.

    When he returned he decided to tell her that he had kids from his previous marriage who he had been in contact with for the past few months.

    He had even been helping his eldest son with the baby nursery and giving his grandchild old clothes that his six-month-old daughter outgrew.

    Though the couple were considering getting married, now the girlfriend wants to leave him.

    ‘He has never mentioned his kids before now. Both of his parents are dead and he doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of his family either,’ she explained.

    ‘He ends up blurting out he has three sons from his previous marriage who he didn’t see for years because of conflict with his ex-wife but has been building bridges with them the past few months ever since he discovered his eldest was having a baby.

    ‘They are 21, 18, and 16. He said he didn’t want to tell me as they resented him for a while over having no contact and weren’t happy to hear he’d had a new baby with a younger woman.

    ‘So half the time when he’s been at “work” he’s actually been spending time at the pub with his sons and even helping his eldest do up his baby’s nursery. Which would be lovely if only I had known about it!’

    When the partner became a granddad, things became more complex.

    ‘On Friday the eldest’s girlfriend had a baby girl and my partner was at the maternity ward paying them a visit,’ the mum continued.

    ‘Apparently, his ex-wife was there as well and while I don’t feel threatened by her I find it disheartening that he’d told me he was at work while he was at the hospital with her meeting their lovely new grandchild.

    ‘All while I was at home with my daughter. I feel excluded and an absolute mug.’

    Then came a greater betrayal: the woman says she found out her husband had packed up her daughter’s things to give to his new grandchild.

    ‘I just feel like me and my darling daughter have been so excluded and disregarded,’ she wrote. ‘It’s great that he’s trying to make it up to his sons for not being part of their lives but he should have told me.

    ‘I’m very hurt and angry by it all and I’m not sure what to do next.’

    Other Mumsnetters reassured the poster saying she shouldn’t blame herself for trusting her partner but the lies were a major red flag and if possible, she should leave him.

    They also had concerns over him abandoning his three sons in the past.

    The mum hasn’t updated the thread to say what she chose to do in the end.

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    Everyday her heart breaks a little moreEveryday her heart breaks a little more

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    Split image of two profile photos of Jude Duncan, campaigner for Changing Faces
    It would be incredible if employers were more understanding of people’s conditions and acted as health diversity champions (Picture: Jude Dawson)

    ‘I thought you had to be pretty to work here.’

    When a customer said this to me, I froze. She stared back at me, not realising the impact of her words.

    In shock, I hurriedly finished the sale, avoided eye contact and wished the ground would swallow me whole. I held back tears as I finished my shift, and then went home and cried.

    This happened six years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday.

    I have psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that can appear as large, red, irritable patches of skin on your face and body. While at the time I was quite a confident person, this woman’s comment broke me.

    What followed was a vicious cycle of trying to cover up my psoriasis with makeup, which usually irritated my skin and made it worse. I suffered from severe depression and developed a deep hatred for my appearance.

    I wish I could say that this was the only time I have been publicly shamed for my visible difference, but it isn’t.

    Two years later, a man asked me if I had ‘gotten ready for Halloween early’.

    At that point my mental health problems were still rife, and my fully covered forehead was my biggest insecurity.

    I calmly explained my condition to him, and told him that depression and anxiety can be concurrent with the condition. I also told him that his words, said to someone in a vulnerable state, could cause a negative impact that can’t be undone.

    He hadn’t expected me to respond to his cruel taunt, but apologised to me and seemed genuinely embarrassed for being pulled up for what in his mind was playful behaviour.

    Profile photo of Jude Dawson, a campaigner for Changing Faces who has psoriasis
    Having to explain why I need time off for appointments and facing a lack of understanding around skin conditions can be frustrating (Picture: Jude Dawson)

    So, how did I go from tears on the shop floor to standing up for myself?

    My family and my friends played a large part in me gaining my confidence back, and new research from Changing Faces shows just how important these networks are.

    I have people who pick me up when I am down, help me through panic attacks and moments where I want to isolate myself and remind me that the wee voice at the back of my head telling me I’m worthless is lying.

    During the original incident, I turned to my manager.

    She had witnessed the event and asked if I was okay or needed some time in the back to digest the situation. I told her I was fine, but she ensured me that if the customer came in again, she would be asked to leave.

    I was lucky enough to have that support at the job I was in then , but I still face challenges in the workplace.

    Despite my regained confidence and self-acceptance, having to explain why I need time off for appointments and facing a lack of understanding around autoimmune conditions can be frustrating.

    The looks say, ‘Really, another doctor’s appointment? How can a simple skin condition need six hospital appointments in one month?’.

    People don’t understand that psoriasis can affect my whole body; chronic pain, fatigue and arthritis at the ripe old age of 26 is not much fun.

    I feel guilty for looking after my health and trying to ensure that I am as healthy as possible.

    It would be incredible if employers were more understanding of people’s conditions and acted as health diversity champions.

    Many people are forced into a freelance lifestyle to deal with chronic conditions and because traditional working environments don’t work for them. By offering flexible or remote working in permanent roles, these people can be part of a team and be able to look after themselves at the same time – guilt-free.

    So, during this year’s Face Equality Week I’m celebrating my visible difference but I’m also calling for change.

    I want to see employers taking the time to understand visible difference, train their staff and listen to what people need.

    After all, happy and healthy employees would encourage a more productive workplace.

    This week is Face Equality Week run by Changing Faces, the UK’s leading charity for everyone who has a mark, scar or condition that makes them look different.

    If you or a loved one have a visible difference and need some advice or support, call 0345 450 0275 or visit the charity’s website for more information.

    MORE: We have to challenge the fashion and beauty industry to be more inclusive of people with visible differences like mine

    MORE: My enjoyment of fashion and makeup shouldn’t be limited by my birthmark. I want the world to showcase diversity in all its forms

    MORE: I was bullied for my alopecia but now I embrace not having any hair


    CHANGING FACES: JudeCHANGING FACES: Jude

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    "rings on a weekly planner calendar. Ad your own date, friday is marked with wedding."
    The bride wanted an adult-only wedding which, to her, also included her fiancé’s child (Picture: Getty)

    Lots of couples don’t want children at their weddings, either to save money or because they don’t want screaming kids running around during the nuptials.

    Totally understandable, it is their wedding day after all.

    But the no-kids rule usually only extends to guests – not the groom.

    When one bride ranted about not wanting to invite her fiancé’s three-year-old daughter to their wedding, no one was on her side.

    The bride-to-be was slammed not only for wanting to ban the child from the event but for the barrage of horrible names she called the youngster.

    Posting on a wedding shaming group on Facebook, she wanted advice on how to get around uninviting her.

    The poster was called a ‘terrible human being’ for wanting to exclude a little girl from her dad’s big day.

    She wrote on the group: ‘How do I tell my fiancé I don’t want his daughter at our wedding? I put “no kids” on the invites so I thought he’d get the point, but he keeps mentioning her being there?’

    ‘Edit because people keep asking me the same dumba** questions,’ she added. ‘She’s three. I am marrying him not his crotch goblin. That’s his mistake, not mine.

    ‘I don’t want her there because she’s needy as f**k and makes everything about her and I said no f***ing kids!

    Bride and groom holding their hands together
    The bride-to-be was slammed for the vicious comments about the three-year-old (Picture: Getty)

    ‘If you don’t have [anything] nice to say or any advice then scroll on!’

    The mean post was met with tonnes of criticism saying she was ‘disgusting’ to use those terms for a child.

    The post received over 1,000 comments from people condemning the user.

    One person wrote: ‘This makes me want to cry,’ while another said: ‘This marriage (if it happens) is going to end quick or last way too long and be horrible the entire time’.

    Others blasted her for wondering why a three-year-old is needy. One person wrote: ‘I’m childfree and I think this is absolutely abhorrent.

    ‘If you don’t want to be in a partner’s kid’s life, don’t be with that person at all! When I was single I had a strict no dating parents policy for this reason.’

    The post was later shared on Reddit, where it received similar criticism.

    Most people poked fun at the bride-to-be for being shocked at the three-year-old child being needy.

    ‘Selfish toddlers always making everything about them,’ wrote one person while another quipped: ‘Deadbeat three-year-olds. Probably hasn’t ever even held a steady job and will be forced to live at home for the foreseeable future.’

    ‘Some kids demand multiple meals a day!’ wrote another. ‘Ridiculous! My dog only needs one bowl of kibble a day and she’s bigger than any toddler. If a toddler can’t get by on a bowl of kibble that’s too bad.’

    MORE: Bride excommunicated from her family because she wanted an adults only wedding

    MORE: Mum is devastated after her brother uninvites her kids from his wedding

    MORE: Not having kids at your wedding is just selfish


    wedding planningwedding planning

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    The Harborough Lavender and Rose gin, which will be sold at Lidl during the supermarket's craft gin festival
    Fancy a tipple? (Picture: Lidl)

    British people love gin.

    Aperol Spritz might be the trend of the season, but G&T is the classic we turn to when we want something that feels like home.

    And if we can get a gin-based tipple that is both tasty and affordable, that’s even better.

    Thankfully, Lidl is here to help.

    The supermarket’s annual British Craft Gin Festival is back for its second round this Thursday (23 May)

    Festival might be overplaying it slightly, as the event will only occur in-store, but we’re excited nonetheless.

    Lidl, which earlier this year won the title of Own Brand Gin Supermarket of the Year at the Icons of Gin awards, will be presenting ten premium craft gins, sourced from nine distilleries across the country.

    Prices are affordable too, starting at £17.99 – with the exception of the pre-mixed Ophir Orient Spiced Gin & Tonic, which costs just £2.49.

    Aber Falls Welsh Gin bottle with flavours of rhubarb and ginger
    Flavours of rhubarb and ginger? Yes, please (Picture: Lidl)

    Gins on offer include six bottles from England, such as the colour-changing Harborough Lavender and Rose Gin, as well as two bottles from Scotland and Wales respectively.

    And don’t forget, there’s also Lidl’s own Hortus gin range.

    Mix and match with tonics such as Elderflower, Aromatic, Mediterranean, Indian or Light.

    ‘Thanks to our popular premium Hortus gin range, the Lidl name has become synonymous with high quality gins at prices shoppers love,’ said Paul McQuade, head of spirits buying at Lidl UK.

    ‘For this second British gin festival, we have worked with innovative distilleries across the country to offer the finest craft gins to our customers as part of our new British Gin Festival. ‘

    All of the gins available at the festival

    The Lakes Rhubarb & Rosehip Gin Liqueur, £18.99

    The Lakes Explorer Edition Gin, £24.99

    The Harborough Lavender & Rose Gin, £21.99

    Tyke’s Strawberry Gin, £21.99,

    Bloom London Dry Gin, £19.99

    Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin, £21.99

    Ophir Orient Spiced Gin & Tonic, £2.49

    Aber Falls Rhubarb & Ginger Gin, £21.99

    Brecon Botanicals Gin, £17.99

    Shetland Reel Filska Gin, £24.99

    MORE: Lidl and Aldi battle it out over square sausage ‘invention’

    MORE: US cinema allows dogs and has bottomless wine and whiskey

    MORE: Lidl is giving away free items for six weeks and the deal is surprisingly easy to get


    Lidl gin festival Picture: LIDL METROGRAB https://www.lidl.co.uk/en/MiddleofLidl.htm?articleId=22298Lidl gin festival Picture: LIDL METROGRAB https://www.lidl.co.uk/en/MiddleofLidl.htm?articleId=22298

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    Compilation featuring a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as well as lots of money flying around in the background
    If it’s the right copy, you could make thousands of pounds (Picture: Rex)

    Harry Potter books might seem priceless, but they’re not (sorry, Potterheads).

    According to an auction expected to take place this Thursday, a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the first book in the series, in case you’re not familiar) is expected to sell for between £20,000 to £30,000.

    The first edition book is an ‘ex-library copy’, and one of 500 in existence. It’s said that 300 of the special copies were given to libraries, which would mean that 200 are privately owned.

    And we know what you’re thinking: ‘Is my Harry Potter book worth lots of money?’.

    Before you start planning how you’re going to spend your new-found fortune, there are a few things to check.

    Open your old, dusty copy and look at page 53.

    In the sentence that lists the items Harry needs to bring with him to Hogwarts, ‘1 wand’ should appear twice.

    Secondly, at the bottom of the copyright page in the book, find a print line that reads ‘1 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1’. Also, make sure your edition credits ‘Joanne Rowling’ as the author, rather than JK Rowling on the title page.

    Does your book match all of the requirements? Then store it in a safe place, because it could be worth thousands or even millions of pounds.

    In 2017, a copy was bought for £60,000.

    If you’re considering bidding on Thursday’s auction, it’s worth knowing that in 2007 a super rare copy of The Tales of Beedle The Bard (there are only seven copies) sold for £1.95million, the most ever paid for a Harry Potter book.

    And it was expected to sell for just £50,000.

    If your tattered Harry Potter copy isn’t a first edition, you could still make some money off it.

    Certain editions are selling for between £20 to several thousand pounds, however this would depend on the book’s condition and when it was printed.

    Or just hold on to your copy and pass it down to someone you care about in a few decades.

    MORE: Harry Potter fans assemble, you can now get a job playing Professor Snape for £75 per hour

    MORE: You can now stay in a replica of Hagrid’s cottage for £195 a night

    MORE: There’s a new range of Harry Potter books that have been adapted for people with dyslexia


    How to tell if your Harry Potter book is worth loads of moneyHow to tell if your Harry Potter book is worth loads of money

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    The Stranger Things cast and New Coke cans
    People didn’t really like it the first time round (Picture: Coca-Cola Company, Getty)

    Coca-Cola is bringing back New Coke 34 years after the product completely flopped.

    New Coke was a product launched by the drinks giant in the summer of 1985, which featured a brand new flavour and new packaging.

    But the level of backlash was unprecedented – and the company were forced to pull the product from the shelves after just 79 days.

    It seems that Coca-Cola have not learnt from their mistakes and they’re willing to give it another bash with a relaunch – in honour of the latest series of Stranger Things, which is set in that same summer of 1985.

    So if you missed New Coke the first time round – maybe you were busy not being born yet – you’ll get he chance to give the new recipe a try.

    But original Coke stans, don’t worry – it’s for a limited time only, and it won’t replace your beloved Coca-Cola.

    To get your hands on the limited edition recipe, you’ve also got to buy at least two limited-edition Stranger Things Coca-Colas in eight-ounce glass bottles.

    METRO GRAB - Coca-Cola is bringing back New Coke in honour of Stranger Things
    New Coke was originally launched in summer 1985 (Picture: Coca-Cola Company)

    The drink will go on sale online on Thursday at cokestore.com. Free cans will also be available in upside-down Stranger Things vending machines in certain cities, starting in New York City.

    But for anyone who actually remembers the original New Coke, the news of this relaunch seems to have caused considerable concern.

    ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…isn’t that how the saying goes?’ wrote one Twitter user.
    Another said: ‘But, it was gross back then. Why would it be any good now?’

    But others were more impressed by the savvy stunt: ‘Smart marketing, I think,’ said one consumer.

    ‘Main reason New Coke failed was it was trying to REPLACE the original formula, which no one wanted to happen. Let it be a temporary option so the new generation can experience it, like Crystal Pepsi.’

    The response to New Coke might be mixed, but we think the excitement for a new series of Stranger Things is universal. We can’t wait to be transported to the 80s.

    MORE: Mixed Up: ‘I’m proud of the complexity of who I am and where I’m from’

    MORE: Photographer takes stunning portraits of black cats and dogs to get more of them adopted

    MORE: Being shamed at work for having psoriasis caused me anxiety and depression


    Coca-Cola is bringing back New Coke in honour of Stranger ThingsCoca-Cola is bringing back New Coke in honour of Stranger Things

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    The Aldi remote controlled patio heater
    It costs £99.99 (Picture: ALDI/ metro.co.uk)

    It’s finally getting warmer but once the sun goes down, it can be pretty chilly if you want to stay outside.

    But do not fear. Aldi is about to launch a pretty amazing patio heater.

    It, of course, provides some heat so you can sit outside for longer but it also has built in bluetooth speakers and LED mood lights.

    The heater costs £99.99 but it is only available online so don’t be looking for it down that magical middle aisle.

    The description on the website says: ‘Avoid catching any unwanted chills on cool evenings by unwinding next to the ambient warmth of this multi function patio heater.

    ‘An entertainment statement, the outdoor electric heater bathes its surroundings in a warm 1500w glow while playing your favourite tunes from its built-in Bluetooth speakers.

    ‘The tower patio heater’s remote control allows you to change the LED lights depending on your mood, adding a little extra atmosphere to any situation.’

    The Aldi patio heater in a garden
    Look at it ‘playing music’ (Picture: Aldi)

    It comes with a three year warranty so hopefully you can bring it out year after year.

    It comes after the launch of their sell-out firepit that could also be used as a BBQ.

    If you missed out on that, Argos still has the similar Bar-Be-Quick Dual Firepit Barbecue for £45.

    You can light the fire to keep yourself warm in the garden or add the grill to cook up something tasty.

    It comes with foldable legs so you can take it to the beach or camping too.

    MORE: Coca-Cola is bringing back controversial New Coke because of Stranger Things

    MORE: Lidl launches gin festival in time for the Bank Holiday


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    Model wearing a neon yellow and black patterned dress, as well as large, white wings
    Angels are in style (Picture: PrettyLittleThing)

    If there’s one thing Coachella has taught us, it’s that festivals aren’t just about music – it’s an opportunity to make a fashion statement.

    A decade ago, you could get away with a pair of cut-off denim shorts and stylish wellies (thank Kate Moss for that look) but in 2019, you need to step up your game.

    Buttless chaps, glitter bras and expertly placed tape are all the rage, but there’s a new trend on the horizon: wings.

    PrettyLittleThing is selling ‘statement wings’, inspired by the wings worn by Victoria’s Secret models.

    Model poses in sparkly blue wings, tight cycling shorts and crop top
    Inspired by the Victoria’s Secret wings (Picture: PrettyLittleThing)
    Model walking on sand, dressed in and holding up multi-coloured wings
    There are five colours to choose from (Picture: PrettyLittleThing)

    You can get the wings for £20 in five different colours including silver, pink, red, blue metallic and rainbow (multi-coloured).

    But people aren’t entirely sure if the trend will take off, and some fans said the wings are a bit ‘extra’.

    ‘I love PLT all year round BUT why is their festival collection always so extra,’ one person tweeted.

    ‘Just don’t fancy getting round Heaton Park [in Manchester] with a pair of wings.’

    Others love them.

     

    One person said they would use the wings to transform into a winged unicorn.

    ‘Looks like I’m about to be a Pegacorn!!’, they tweeted.

    Another said: ‘My festival wings from @OfficialPLT at @ASOS giving me life on our way to the 70’s pool party!’

    Nowhere is it more suitable to wear eccentric fashion than at festivals.

    Don’t be surprised if you’re raving next to an angel this summer.

    MORE: Forget bumbags, this utility vest is the new festival fashion must-have

    MORE: Showing your bum in buttless chaps is a massive trend over at Coachella

    MORE: People are ditching clothes for glitter bras at Coachella


    Festival wingsFestival wings

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    Harper Mae is two and a half years old and was born with spina bifida – when a baby’s spinal cord doesn’t develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine.

    The toddler, from Florida, U.S, also has hydrocephalus, a condition which causes increased pressure in the skull.

    Mum Erica Comparin found out that Harper had spina bifida when she was 18 weeks pregnant and later had fetal surgery to close Harper’s back at 25 weeks.

    ‘We knew foetal surgery was not a cure,’ Erica explains to Metro.co.uk.

    ‘We also knew there were potentially significant risks with having foetal surgery, but ultimately chose this route to try and reduce any potential effect of spina bifida.’

    Erica stayed pregnant until 38 weeks when she had a c-section, as Harper had been breech.

    Harper’s parents continue to be amazed at what the preschooler can do, as she can walk unaided or using a walker.

    They document her progress on a Facebook page called Growing Up With Harper Mae.

    Little girl growing up with bona bifida
    Harper Mae, who was born with Spina Bifida, can walk independently and also uses a walker (Picture: Growing Up With Harper Mae/Facebook)

    Harper currently goes to preschool and has six therapy sessions a week.

    ‘If you were to watch her in class, other than seeing her walk using her walker part of the time or noticing the differences in her gait, you’d never know she had some medical needs her classmates don’t have,’ says mum Erica.

    Little girl with Spina Bifida sitting with her family
    Harper’s parents continue to be amazed at her growth (Picture: Growing Up With Harper Mae/Facebook)

    ‘Harper and her brother Kellan are the best of friends, and rough house with one another just like any other big brother/little sister combo do.

    ‘Harper also has one of the magnetic personalities that I’ve ever met.

    ‘She sparkles and brings so much light into people’s lives. She’s fearless and has an adventurous spirit.

    ‘Harper truly is perfect just the way she was born.’

    Harper Mae, two, with mum Erica
    Her parents have documented all her conquests online since she was six months old (Picture: Growing Up With Harper Mae/Facebook)

    Before she was one, the toddler had seven brain and spine surgeries to help her function properly.

    Now she can move the muscles in her feet, walk by herself, run around using her walking frame, and even climb stairs and ladders.

    ‘I could never imagine her without spina bifida or being any different than she is,’ says Erica.

    Harper Mae on a day out
    Harper May on an adventurous day out (Picture: Growing Up With Harper Mae/Facebook)

    ‘Raising a child with spina bifida can definitely be challenging at times, and certainly has its “go away spina bifida, I don’t like you” moments, it is also amazing.

    ‘Even though the moments of medical struggles, delayed milestones and other difficulties, we wouldn’t ask for Harper to be any different.’

    The family decided to start Harper’s Facebook page when she was six months old as they wanted to share her journey with friends and family and help spread positive awareness about spina bifida.

    Little girl growing up with bona bifida Picture: Growing Up With Harper Mae ~METROGRAB https://www.facebook.com/growingupwithharpermae/
    The toddler, who goes to preschool, loves all the attention she gets (Picture: Growing Up With Harper Mae/Facebook)

    ‘We lived through what seemed to be a nightmare when receiving Harper’s diagnosis, and truly wanted other parents to not endure the struggles we did in the beginning,’ says Erica.

    ‘We’ve [been able] to watch our little lady exceed so many expectations that were placed upon her before even taking her first breath.

    ‘We’ve also gotten to bear witness to the joy that she brings when she walks up to others everywhere we go, and shares so much of the love and magic that she has to give.’

    MORE: Baby with spina bifida had an operation while he was still inside the womb

    MORE: Woman with spina bifida says her dates didn’t want to go out with her in public

    MORE: Unborn baby’s spinal cord repaired in keyhole surgery while still in the womb


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