Raggy Dolly


I’m a product of the 80’s; weaned on Smash and the best era of kid’s TV. My nickname of the last 6 years or so is Dolly. These 2 facts alone could be enough to justify the name of my blog but believe it or not there is more to it than that.

I’ve always been clumsy. I have scars that predate my memory, I broke my first bone at 5, was in A&E so much as a child that my parents were probed as to how I was always black and blue,  and I’ve been x-rayed in excess of 50 times in my life.

Over the last few years I noticed that I was increasingly getting joint pain, my always knotty shoulders ached even more than they used to, my knees and ankles felt weak and my clumsiness showed no sign disappearing. However three months ago things worsened even more.  I didn’t only have your usual aches and pains that I had put down to reaching the latter point of my 30’s. I had multiple, severe and sometimes burning pains all over my body. It was debilitating.

I saw a physio aged 19 following a shoulder injury and she had said to me that my joints were hypermobile,  she also said that this was a good thing as I would ‘break fewer bones and I wouldn’t get arthritis when I got older’. It was also a running joke with friends and family that I needed new ankles or that if you looked at me harshly I would bruise.

I’ve got quite a high pain threshold. I don’t really do tablets, martyrdom is much more my thing; but when the pain got so severe I couldn’t ignore it I had to go to the chemist. And when the chemist could no longer supply drugs to ease my pain I had to go to the doctors.  It was at this point I started to wonder whether my bendy joints could’ve been the cause.

I hadn’t realised that it wasn’t normal for your joints to lock in place or for them to regularly sound like the percussion section of an orchestra or indeed for them to give way on you when you are doing something as innocent as just walking. It was definitely normal for me.

It became clear that I wasn’t just any old Dolly but a raggy Dolly. Made imperfectly, as the song goes,  and that these imperfections may well be a part of me that I was going to have to get used to.

(The picture is of Lucy who was my favourite of the Raggy Dolls. Well, behind Sad Sack isn’t that ironic for someone who also suffers with her mental health. Lucy was so called because her joints weren’t fixed on properly like the other dolls and they usedto fall off and bend the wrong way; that’s how she ended up in the reject bin.)


All Change!

I is married now!

I is married now!

The blog address has changed. The main motivation behind this was the fact that my beloved & I ran off & got wed. We had an awesome, secret wedding on a sunny day in Islington and so as I’m no longer a Sheehan (yes, I was a naughty feminist & took his name but that’s a whole other post!) it seemed time to change the address.

The author bit felt a bit out of date too. Tiger Tiger is still available in the Kindle store (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00D5EYHAM?pc_redir=T1), I’ve written a children’s book, have another unedited chick lit book & I have a new non-fiction idea I’ve started working on but I’m not convinced I’ve earned the title author just yet. I am however now feeling like a bona-fide writer now as I have columns in the Herts & Essex Observer, East Life magazine & a fun copywriting job for an online media company.

However I’ve not just changed the site to NicolaOsborneWriter & there is a reason for that; there’s been another huge change in my life & that will be the subject of my next few posts…


Young Minds Matter? Liza’s Story

A couple of days ago I was contacted by a desperate lady called Liza who told me the story of her 15 year old son who suffers with OCD and whose treatment is painfully lacking.

I want to share their story with you. Forgive me if areas seem vague but I want to retain their privacy whilst getting the story down. For the purposes of this blog Liza’s son will be known as Sam.

Sam is fifteen years old. When he started secondary school he had a bright future ahead of him. He was a prize winning student who was predicted all As and A*s in his GCSEs. Now Sam is predicted to fail all but two of his exams and he’s not been in school since Christmas. Sam isn’t a truant though, his life hasn’t been changed by crime or any other misdemeanour. Sam has obsessive compulsive disorder.

It was back in 2010 when Sam was first under CAMHS but Liza tells a story of erratic care, of passive aggressive comments about how surely she ‘can keep him safe’ and, most importantly, of Sam’s condition worsening and worsening to the point where twice a week he shuts himself in the bathroom for the entire night. Sam and Liza are both exhausted. They know they aren’t equipped to deal with this on their own, they are not only open to help but are practically begging for it.

Sam got offered an elective admission to a mental health unit in January and they felt that they had finally got somewhere only Sam was never admitted as there was no bed available. Liza has done all that she can think of: contacted her local MP, the trust’s Chief Executive, her GP, journalists, campaigners; she doesn’t know where to go next, doesn’t know who will listen.

After contacting me via Twitter both Liza and I tweeted the trust, hoping that a little public fuss might rally some action. It seemed to work. On Monday night Sam was offered admission at 11am the next day. They had a sleepless night as they stayed up talking, getting ready, allowing Sam the space in his head to come to terms with the admission and for everything that meant to him, his family, his compulsions. On Tuesday morning however Liza got another phone call, the bed had been taken by an emergency, Sam wasn’t going anywhere. Liza was devastated, Sam utterly bereft. He had no sleep last night either has he spent his entire night in the bathroom.

How have we let our mental health services get to the point where you more or less need one foot off the precipice before you receive care? How can we all chime in agreement about how young minds matter but then give the message to Liza and Sam that Sam’s doesn’t? How can we let a promising and bright young child get to the point where his education has suffered to such a degree that he’ll be lucky to gain two GCSEs? How can we leave people to cope until it is too late?

Sam said to Liza that he thought he was now beyond help, that he’s scared that he doesn’t know who he is without OCD. Liza’s heart broke.


Blue isn’t the Colour: My Word Press Pensieve

I haven’t posted anything in a while. I’ve been plotting along settling into my new rural life, domestic bliss, new lovely job. But I have something to get off my chest. It was just going to be a Facebook post but it was a bit long so I thought I’d put it here and even if no one reads it, or if no one agrees with it it is no longer in my head. My word press pensieve if you will.
The Tories have a majority and I’m not happy. That’s the starting point. But I wanted to give some insight into why I’m not happy as lots of people just don’t seem to get it.
Conservatives getting in won’t have much effect on me personally. I own my house with no mortgage, I’m not on benefits, I no longer work for the public sector, there’s a strong possibility that my ex-in laws will pay for a private education for my son, the last budget put me up by £100 or so a year.
Yes, I struggled in the last five years at the hands of a Tory regime: leaving the NHS because I couldn’t bear to see it crumble, dabbling with poverty because of benefit sanctions, having to borrow money from family because of legal aid cuts. That’s not why I wanted them out though.
I wanted the Tories out because of my friends and family suffering. Because of people having to leave their homes, their city, sometimes even their country because of austerity measures. Because the people I know who disabled suffering humiliating assessments and benefits sanctions. Because those I left in the public sector are having the heart ripped out of their services. Because people I love will have to slog their guts out into old age because of the change to retirement age. Because the brave people I know trying to police this country are doing it with less officers and a decimated justice system.
There are probably more of your stories I’ve missed but on only a few hours sleep I can’t remember them all. But that’s not important.
Much as I love my friends & family they weren’t the main reason I wanted the Tories out, the main reason I wanted them out are the people I don’t know. The woman & her child living in a caravan in Bishop’s Stortford because there’s no social housing, the people living by candlelight or shivering through the winter, the mum (or dad) deciding whether she eats or her child eats, all of the patients that I no longer care for who I dying bad deaths because the resources to pay for them are being eaten up, the people priced out of the property market because of non-Dom investors, the people priced out of the rental market because of lack of control over landlords, the people on zero hour contracts who can’t budget, who don’t know if they’ll make their rent, the disabled who are humiliated and made to prove just how awful their life is to get thrown scraps, the people who are marginalized and repressed, the people who don’t feel represented. I wanted the Tories out to help the society that I care about, to help people I will probably never meet.

So yes, I might not suffer too much under a Tory government but I sure as hell won’t sleep at night. My name is Nicola, I’m a bleeding heart leftie and my heart is currently haemorrhaging.

The King Is Dead, Long Live The King!

On the 16th August 1977 the world lost the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roller that it has ever or will ever see, Elvis Aaron Presley.

There are too many songs devoted to and inspired by the great man to list them all but I thought I’d give my top ten here.

1) Kate Bush, King Of The Mountain. From one of my favourite Kate albums is this very Kate tribute: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F8xk_AkeP5c

2) Alannah Myles, Black Velvet. We all need a big power ballad to blow off the cobwebs. This’ll do nicely. Black Velvet if you please. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tkXNEmtf9tk

3) The late, great Kirsty MacColl, There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis.
Tenuous but brilliant. Kirsty is here because I bloody love her and this song is a genius smear on the lack of trust a woman has in a man (second only to “don’t come the cowboy with me Sonny Jim”)
4) Scott Walker, Jesse.
A musical list from me would not be complete without the mighty Scott. This is on “The Drift”. It’s a fucking scary song, creepy little details, unbelieavble sound and is about Elvis’ twin. Bloody amazing.

5) Elton John, Porch Swing In Tupelo.
This is a much more basic tribute to the King and feeds the weakness I have for Sir Elton

6) Depeche Mode, Personal Jesus. This had to go in. Being a child of the 90’s I don’t know how often I’ve danced to/sang to/listened to this song. I love it. And the original version is still the best.

7) George Michael, John and Elvis are Dead.
My second watford delight had to make it and I really do love this song. I actually think it’s quite a beautiful song. Good religious questioning!? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c-GvAbPsarw

8) Scouting For Girls, Elvis Ain’t Dead.
I’ve always had a soft spot for boys and guitars and this song is cute. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3jpLo1A4x_g

9) Mark Cohn, Walking In Memphis.
Predictable but a great tribute song that actually gives me shivers, despite the cheese!

10) Belle & Sebastian, A Century of Elvis.
Oh that we all might see Elvis in our every day lives! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=um57FvM220U

And a bonus one: Pet Shop Boys, Always On My Mind.
Ok, so it’s a cover version rather than a tribute but it’s a bloody great cover version.

Viva Las Elvis!


Sex In The Psyche

I’ve been pondering a lot lately the state of being sexy. What qualifies as sexy and, if it is just a state of mind, is sexiness something that we can all achieve?
What is deemed physically attractive, especially in women, seems to ebb and flow with fashions. In the 1950’s we had the hourglass figures and the blonde bombshell, in the 60’s Twiggy was the aspiration with her lithe limbs and doe eyes, the 70’s brought glamour, the 80’s brought the power bitch & the 90’s were the days of heroin chic. There was always a thing. Of course this thing was never the only thing and there are always different tastes but there has been an archetypical sexiness for each decade. An archetype which I’m not sure exists today. I think sexy today is a state of mind, an expression of confidence.
Alternative modelling is a huge industry at the moment, plus size, tattooed women stepping away from the societal norms having just one thing in common, that gaze down the camera lens that exudes a confidence that can’t be made up by any hipster filter. Even away from models, amongst my friends and peers it’s the ones who ooze confidence, the ones whose manner shouts ‘I think I’m sexy and that’s all that matters’ that smoulder sexiness.
I know it isn’t easy. We are all plagued by insecurities but perhaps if we promise to not judge each other cruelly and to see the sexiness in everyone then we can start to push our own insecurities to one side and feel sexy ourselves. Make like Frank N Furter, don’t dream it, be it; and without the pressure to meet a certain dress size or have a particular body shape.
I’m not sure of my point other that I’ve realised I’m going to try and worry less about my mummy tummy or my too short hair and think more about my attitude. If I can put that spring in my step then I can be Marilyn Monroe. We all can. And boop boop be doop to that.


Listen to Doctor Dumbledore.

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

I love that Dumbledore quote. I try and keep it as a mantra about my own mental health, to help me to see that what I experience is valid and real. Trying to view a mental health disorder in the same way I view physical disorders is still difficult for me. There is something of the stigma that trolls me about it. And yet right now I’m facing the closest thing to definitive proof that I’ve ever had. A medication that works.
I’ve been on my new pills for a couple of weeks now. I was wary of them as they are atypical antipsychotics and sounded a little hardcore for little old me but their effectiveness has been undeniable. I have more energy, I have clearer thoughts and I feel happier. So. Much. Happier.
My psychiatrist had said to me that the therapeutic/self help element to my getting better couldn’t start until biologically things were more stable and yet I’d still lost faith that they could be. I still kept thinking that I needed to try harder, needed to be better.
We need to stop thinking mental health is about strength and trying hard and realise it’s complicated, often biological and very very real.
You wouldn’t start physio on a limb that was still snapped in two so why attempt therapy on an unstable brain?
I’m very glad I have a medication that seems to help. I’m now faced with fear that it will stop and the unease I get at needing medication to stay well (more stigma trolling me) but at least I know there is hope. That it is real. And that there is a place for (the right) medication.