On the nights I could sleep, my body would awake choking on stomach acid or hot bile, needing to vomit, reminding me of pregnancy. 

Pregnancy: Every night needing to spit, the flow of saliva returning to my mouth as quickly as it exited. Linking my inside self to the outside world visible, transparent & flowing.

During this difference your body had no comparison to mine, mine felt everything felt different. Every effort was carefully manoeuvred into place so as not to cause extra stress or increased chemicals. I mainly lay on my back, sometime having phone calls, sometimes not.

I almost became psychic. In moments I knew everything and the problems of myself, peers and the world hung above, statically cast, ready to examine and critique and comment on. The invisible became graspable  – a map – both electric and frozen


Currently I find myself exploring a sponge of bodily emotion, reaction or something. 

I become my own observer. Due to felt of lack feeling or connectedness to myself I am left to watch over, feeling my way through a weight of experience. When I visualise this matter it is pink and yellow – part clown, part fat cut away from the body.

In my mind’s eye it exists in the place where I currently exercise, an insignificant fraction of what was carried out before yet significant enough to make this observation resonate or wobble.

I draw strings from this sponge in the hope that it was not all wasted experience, but also maybe that I get to know ‘feeling’ or response? Or knowing? 

Like Pinnochio’s dreams of becoming a real boy, I too dream these of strings experience will connect to a real body. 


I hope this letter finds you energised and well.

It is a huge challenge you are undertaking at the moment, I understand how you must be tired and feeling stress, not only in mind but also through your body.

I know the competition you were planning for has been cancelled due to the pandemic and that you are still trying to maintain a ‘competition body’, not knowing if or when you will be able to compete. The world is in chaos and we are in parallel lock-down, you in Spain and me in England but I know your current thoughts are most likely you won’t be able to compete any time soon. If an opportunity arises it won’t be in a natural bodybuilding association.

If it’s any reassurance to you, I understand where you are right now, I can empathise with the precarious position you are occupying. Only for you, it must be tougher than my own experience since you don’t a coach to hand over to or make the decisions (whether right or wrong); you have chosen to be your own judge, master and slave! A self-powered and self-styled manifestation of will and discipline, expressed through your physicality.

Writing in response to your piece “Transmogrification. Between Carving and Bulking. Destroying an Evanescent Body searching for Self-Identity” there were many parallels I wanted to highlight from my own experience I wanted to share with you:
You mention a lack of interest in feeling “feminine”, something that has struck me strongly in myself in many different points of my life. I also lost my periods for many years, even before bodybuilding, so I had an awareness in my life that with effort (controlling what I ate, and the entire spectrum of eating disorders or certain forms of contraceptive) that it was possible to halt my period. I guess that kind of control either made me feel god-like or somehow sick and abnormal, as if I had worked out the secret code to overwrite the body’s ‘natural’ will.

For me, it is only now that as I enter perimenopause my period is reinstated, in fact I have dieted and missed it (or it is late this month)! It’s interesting that as women, this cycle in no way colludes with or assists the rhythms and cycles of bodybuilding, but it connects us to that idea we must attempt to take control over the long-understood value of female reproduction. In fact, for me, the thought that whilst in competition mode that oestrogen may destroy my hard-won work against the body.

Don’t let me project my thoughts on to you though, I am eager to hear yours.

I reflected on how you talked about the discomfort of your growing body and how I understand your feelings and experience, but also, how I feel differently now. Reading this helped me remember how much I disliked the felt exposure of that fragile competition body that superficially looked strong. The exposure I felt was like I could not hide my form, my skeleton and that there was no comfort in my body, that my bones hurt on the bottom of the bath. I enjoyed the adrenaline of competition but the distortions and baring and frightened me. For those reasons, I don’t like the look of my bodily fat but I now appreciate how it feels so much more than before.

I know at the moment you are listening closely to your body, managing what it is asking for and what you can give it. I wish you good sleep and hope you can keep that critical eye in check.

Are you practicing posing and heels? How is it going?

Thank you for letting me share these thoughts with you.

Looking forward to speaking again,



It’s so long since I’ve written, now I try to start the process, I’ve begun to poison myself. 

The feeling is coming from my aromatherapy diffuser. It sits in the background of my Zoom calls and dowses my carnivorous plants in rainwater and eucalyptus daily.

Not only does the humidity look after the plants, the smell of eucalyptus is a signifier – it sets the stage to work. The smell familiar, clinical and inspires a new environment within the known. It cleanses both breaths and thoughts in the pandemic scene.

In my desperation to write, to produce something, I’ve tried too hard. 

I’ve become over generous, wanted the setting to do the work and now I’m choking on eucalyptus. 

The vapour sucking oxygen, is taking my brain and sucking that too.

I cannot think, I also cannot see. 

I feel for a window, I open it.

Clear the air.

Body begin again.


Writing exercise 1.

Blood hot and heavy fat laden pushing and coursing, veins

Sometimes working passing air usefully shaking feeling the rushing past the pain

Pieces I don’t see of understand the smell of feet protein condensed water and feeling high, concentrated pain breath and pressure.

Feeling and doing, numb and feeling still doing

Pushing, pushing through pushing away would normally run from this feeling

Too big for the room

Arms and feet extend, pass the boundaries

Almost wearing it (the room)

Arms too big to feel 

Feet disappearing stood on stalks feet fizz away to invisible 

I feel red the noises are disturbed into the rushing of the veins and structures around my face and head. We pulsate together.

Am I exploding or am I exploding? 

Witnessed but alone.

Exercise 2: Entering the room

  • Reaching the metal stairs, feeling the cold handrail feeling relief to be touching something solid.
  • The group of women on the sofas by the door turn to look, nobody smiles, although we are all familiar with each other there is no response, only blank faces. 
  • Behind the bar the male trainer looks directly at me and nods.
  • There is a breeze that lifts high cleansing my path ahead – fresh unbreathed intoxicants into the room ahead of me.
  • The room is mine, all the machines waiting. To move and lift, notch and cog, mechanic jungle scene working together in some kind of unearthly blueprint. 

Writing exercise 3: Virus, if everyone could feel the joy I feel…

The room would sweat, no one would take offence – the bodies would bulge and pulsate.

The air would be full of grunting, occasionally you would get splashed by another’s efforts and suddenly you would be caught needing to join – either pushing myself or helping them. Effort is contagious it vibrates and resonates. Writing one of these moments you can feel but see very little, momentarily all eyes are turned inward looking for that point, the reason.

Once found or touched in an imaginary war we all slip back and wait for another quake of pushing effort come from, pulsating critique and monsters.


Started in Daniel Oliver’s Neuro-diverse writing group, also in response to conversation with Isa Fontbona Mola. 

Reflecting on past choices, initially looking at gender and ways at which I tried to be a successful woman. I had spent so long surviving/ I didn’t have time to challenge where I was really coming from, what I wanted, how I saw myself, how I would like to be. Everything has been reaction, rather than the reflexive inquiry which I believe is beginning to take place now, in my forties.

At some point I decided to challenge my perception of gender by working physically to take on characteristics of the binary opposite. In reflection I feel this may have been in response to:

  • Growing up surrounded by some extreme toxic masculinity, equally a time where women somehow stood behind men or even appeared to ‘operate’ them.
  • Ingrained family or generational homophobia.
  • Repeatedly experiencing domestic violence over many years and other incidents male perpetrator violence.
  • Perceiving my ‘successful female-ness’ as currency and part of an economy that could keep me ‘safe’.
  • female expressed as victim – culturally this being totally acceptable.

Whilst all these things are happening its hard to contextualise who and what you are. 

I came to place where I learnt to modify myself and body being part of that. Here not only could I draw a protective ring but remove myself from the usual pressure of the male gaze – or swap it for one I was less accustomed to. Interestingly, the gaze I swapped it for is one where my body was judged in comparison to male muscular bodies. I became physically self-assured, however not completely confident as this was new and somewhat unstable territory for me. 

This brought up a deeper questioning of my personal positioning of gender and where/what was my inquiry via bodybuilding. I had never been ‘girlie’, and some respect totally withdrew and could not associate with some aspects of culturally portrayed feminine. ‘Basic’ traits felt completely alien to me, e.g. playing with dolls. Take away the binary, there is no issue. There’s no pure expectation of women or scale of woman to adhere to. (To be revisited)

Other lenses that might be just as relevant for me around bodybuilding are that of control, substance use+abuse/medical perspective+intervention that may roll into each other. 

Self-historical issues like:

  • Teenage to early 20s mixed substance addiction (doc heroin), which developed a perspective of control over feelings/states of mind. Also suited my dissociative/dehumanisation disorder.
  • Consequentially lead to development of unusual relationship with medicine and deep fascination with the body and anatomy, but also (self) control over body.
  • Previously as a young teenager I suffered from eating disorders, Bulimia then Anorexia and was able to display discipline and control over food.

Here, bodybuilding was able to feed different facets of my lived but also comfortable and familiar experience. I find that I have an excessively poor memory, which I link to dissociative disorder – however over and over again, I’m drawn to pieces of a puzzle which I can eventually link together over time. I leave breadcrumbs to discover and trace back to something I already knew.


Something interesting is beginning to happen as I start to train again.

A few issues that have arisen that I’m noting here to expand on later or through other writing:

  • What is bodybuilding? What is bodybuilding to me? What makes it different from other types of training or exercise? (Diet, goals, method of training, dislocated body parts.)
  • Relationship to pain. Pain not only defines the body to self, as in, I can feel my outline via DOMS (could this be a key in terms of dissociation/losing self?). But also, I experience pain when I don’t train – my body aches and some joints feel arthritic/RSI/etc. When my mother died, my legs ached incurably for months, in the end it was suggested by a GP it was emotional pain or linked to grieving.
  • Training during and post pandemic may now be a solitary activity – training completely alone, without audience and interaction. Safety is an aspect to consider but I’m relearning my way around equipment trying not hurt myself/trap fingers etc. I’m slowly starting to see this as a positive or ‘purer’ or undiluted, less reactive experience. Somehow potentially a deeper experience.


Some ideas formed through and after a conversation with Isa Fontbona Mola

  • Marina Ambramovic called her teaching sessions “Cleaning the house” – ‘house’ stands in for ‘body’ (research https://mai.art/cth2020)
  • Traditionally the idea of housekeeping includes ideas that denote female pastimes as cleaning windows and floors, buying/keeping/making food, polishing, tidying, dusting, wiping, washing and making attractive. The house/home becomes the woman’s domain. Heteronormatively, outside the home – the garden, garage, shed, bins but also inside the attic or cellar, is the mans.
  • Woman are ascribed the emotional labour, this is the emotional glue of caring, balancing & making sure everyone is OK/functioning or enabling function. Prompt order and request tasks to be done – emotionally taxing – nagging. Seen, unseen (&unwanted?) labour. Got to be ‘just right’ or right enough. Supervising – overseeing – overarching role?
  • Can a link be drawn between bodybuilding and the action of keeping a house/house keeping?
  • How does male and female bodybuilding differ? What role does attention to detail play? Attention to which details?
  • Could female bodybuilding be imaginatively linked to an extreme, extra or deeply defined attention to detail version of housekeeping?

Things to consider:

  • Eating disorders
  • Body as political statement.
  • Not defying female, but re-presenting.
  • Not male attributes, but ‘further female-ifying’
  • Female fear of becoming perceived as masculine. 
  • Western cultures to 1950’s definition of gender
  • Goal based – what is the goal?
  • Has this been done?