Anorexia is not welcome on this holiday!

 

So in less than a week I will be on holiday in Zante, with my Mum, Dad and Sister.

For the last few years due to poor health we have not been away as a family. My sister had a Scoliosis operation to straighten her spine which had curved to 60-70 degrees. We spent that summer caring for her, teaching her to walk again and visiting the Royal Orthopedic Stanmore Hospital. My mum later got diagnosed with Cancer (Malignant Melanoma) so had an operation at the Royal Free London to remove some of her lymph nodes and 9 procedures following that. My Nanna also then got diagnosed with the same cancer and to top it all off my Granddad had a Heart Attack.

It was a difficult time for all my family and with many tears shared, hope spread and courage fought I am delighted to say we all made it through!

So, last year, as something to look forward too, we booked a 3 week vacation in America. We looked at it as a celebration, a well deserved break and something really exciting! It would be the first time as a family we would go to somewhere other than France or Spain….

…It has been cancelled and its all Anorexia fault!!

The news of this came as quite a shock to me when my family was advised not to go by the doctors and left me feeling I had let the side down…. Yes, yet again Anorexia made me forfeit something I truly wanted!

It was hard to hear and I felt disappointed with myself with only now realising just because it stopped me before, it doesn’t mean I will let it again.

The holiday has been postponed to the same time next year with the only difference being “I WILL be going!”

Anyway, holidays are not easy for me and over the years I have struggled with them, the thought of the unknown, unplanned food, having to wear bikinis and changes from my normal routine. Its strange really as although Holidays are for taking a break, Anorexia never gave me one…

In Zante we are going all-inclusive and although some people would think having plenty of choice would be better for me – the prospect is terrifying. I am not good at making decisions around food and having a large amount of choice can send my head into overdrive. Why? you may ask…

Well firstly Anorexia tries to work out the lowest calorie option, the banned foods I MUST avoid and also, when it comes to actually putting the food on my plate because other people normally do that for me, I would put on the minimum possible.

Anxiety is also high in any social events where eating is involved, I always am paranoid people think I am greedy, that I shouldn’t be eating and that they are judging me for my choices. This is a common problem and for a lot of people I have spoken too in the moment it can seem overwhelming.

When I was at my prom I had to leave the sit down meal because I felt really panicky and ended up hiding outside till it had finished! The worst thing was I was in recovery at the time and desperately wanted to prove I was “ok” but it terrified me so much I couldn’t handle it. Its awful looking back knowing Anorexia ruined that part of the night for me but if I ever get a opportunity similar to that again I will not let it be remembered as the night “Ana won”!

To prevent Anorexia destroying my holiday I have put in place a plan with both CAMHS and my parents. It is as follows…

  • At the beginning of the week I will plan what I will have to eat each night
  • My mum will serve up all my food as usual
  • I will have my own snacks on hand so it is not un predictable
  • If the timing of meals causes me issues my mum will help me rationalise my thoughts
  • And lastly if things get really difficult we will buy all my food at a local shop instead of eating the hotel food

I can tell already just by the anxiety of the build up that the holiday could possibly be the hardest challenge in my recovery so far. But instead of worrying over what hasn’t yet happened I am going to try my hardest to fight off any negativity and relax on my holiday without Anorexia trying to steal my fun.

I have realised from writing this just some of the power Anorexia had over my life and that by fighting it I can escape this…

“We shouldnt run away from a challenge. Instead we should run straight towards it, as the only way to escape the fear is too trample it beneath your feet”

Doubt kills more dreams than Failure ever will!

Self doubt.

For some its having aspirations they believe are impossible, tests they are certain they have already failed or a worry that they have done or said something wrong. It can be frustrating and appear at the most inconvenient times but we have no way  of stopping what we think right?

Well kinda…. yes we get these thoughts without asking for them but we can also re-condition them into something positive.

But how? You may ask….well it’s possible and I will tell you how, not easy, but definitely within your potential if you take these steps…

  • Recognise your self-doubt…

The first step sounds ridiculous and I always thought it was too when I was first told. But only now do I realise we do not always notice when we are doubting ourselves because we honestly believe it! So instead question yourself this, would you say these things to someone else? Would it be hurtful? Well if you realise that what you would be saying would be criticising, belittling and putting them down then you need to ask yourself why would you treat yourself this way if you wouldn’t hurt others like this?

  • Stop comparing yourself to others

Firstly I would like to point something out, when we compare ourselves it cannot possibly be a true reflection. This is because we are immediately picking apart all our faults and the other persons best qualities so the comparison creates low self-esteem against ‘yourself’.

Secondly would you compare a grey hound to a bull-dog?… of course you wouldn’t because they are so unique it is not possible. Well this is the same with humans, we too come in all shapes, sizes, races, religions, genders etc.. and most importantly we have individual personalities with no two people exactly the same!!  

  • Surround yourself with positive people

Yes, negative people can have some influence on you too and just because the things they might mention might not necessarily be accurate, it can still have a personal impact.

Ask yourself whether this person makes you feel upset, exhausted or in any way demoralised. If the answer is yes then in the best way possible confront the issue or distance yourself from it.

  • Break it down

Make small and achievable goals that will help you achieve the ultimate. I have always found writing lists helps me and sometimes just writing it down can make the work load, jobs or things to do more manageable. Then once you start working your way through the smaller goals it is easy to see things progressing and finally coming together. The list doesn’t have to take long and as long as it breaks things down enough, so it makes sense to you, it is perfect.

  • Believe it is possible

Yes this old saying, but it’s true, if you believe in yourself anything is possible…

”A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of a branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but on its very own wings!”

Yes I confess…. I am also a self doubter who will be convinced I have failed before I have even taken the test, who believes that what I do is never good enough and someone who has to ask others for reassurance that everything is OK. But I too have used these steps to help me in the past.

I took my practical driving test yesterday and did not take these steps into consideration. I have indeed now learnt a valuable lesson and will quickly get back on track….

Before I arrived at the test centre i had already told my parents and instructor that I would fail…some would say this was for effect but to me i believed it. Yes I admit before I continue that I am that frustrating person who has come out of a GCSE physics exam crying convinced ‘I have failed’ only to go and get 98% correct. Annoying yes, and many believe I must be quietly confident…..but hell NO I think the complete opposite!

I started the driving test poorly letting nerves get the better of me, I stuttered when asked questions about the car, did the right demonstration of checking brakes whilst explaining something completely different and mind blanked whilst trying to drive off with the hand break up. Not the best start from me and within the first few seconds ‘I new I had failed’ and was close to just getting out. 

Anyway I carried on regardless giving the test my best shot.

When returning to the test centre I gave my driving instructor the ‘I’ve messed up big time’ glance through the window as she wandered over to find out my feedback and results….By this point I had destroyed myself mentally before I had any evidence of failing and suffered as a consequence and after all the build up I found out I PASSED!

When I first found this out I didn’t believe it and for a second thought it was a joke. But it wasnt! After all the stress and pressure I put myself under, iI asked myself  “was not worth it?”. My self-doubt got me nowhere, all it did was make the experience a lot less enjoyable.

I hope from this experience both you and I realise that we are more capable than we believe and yes we all mess up from time to time, get things wrong but self-doubt only worsens the situation. I learnt something valuable from my experience today and will now focus on preventing a similar situation to ever occur again.

Remember this:

“Although things don’t always follow the perfect route they can still reach the same destination… and from this day forward you and I should both remind ourselves not to let self-doubt jeopardise our capabilities‘’

Take care you beautiful people and don’t forget to Embrace Authenticity xx

I will now strive for progress not perfection…

I used believe there would be a perfect day when I would be completely free from Anorexia; no longer scared of food, numbers or losing control. I would celebrate the day by going out for a meal, eating chocolate freely or even throwing a party. However only now do I realise it is not that simple it takes time and perseverance.

See, my need for perfection has been strong in certain aspects of my life and I think by looking for this perfect day it is just another example. I am not saying that searching for the best possible in everything is a bad thing I just have to remember to appreciate the rest of the journey.

I have learnt it is ok to get knocked down on the way as long as I can pull myself back together and carry on in the right direction, where as before I saw slips as me being weak and failing. Sounds extreme I know but we as society also need to learn how setbacks however big can be resolved with small adjustments to get back on track and a positive outlook.

I have fallen down many a times so far but this was’t failure, failure would have been if I refused to get back up!!

Yes, recovery is a battle  that even when you have reached a healthy weight you have not won. It is not always easy and some days I’m left thinking I’ll try again tomorrow. But now I know that falling gives me the opportunity for a fresh start, to  learn from my mistakes and to rebuild my courage! I now go out with friends, eat ice-cream and am more carefree than previously but recovery is not always pretty. Some days are easier than others like with anything, but the moments of internal conflict can still effect both me and those around me remarkably…

My family is not afraid to admit they are “skeptical”, yes they believe I am “capable of overcoming Anorexia” but because I am still in the early stages and have many set backs they have to remain cautious and on the look out of any ED behaviours sneaking to the forefront.

I have days when I cry, find it very difficult to even touch my fork and facing food seems impossible – but this just gives me more of a reason to fight what is destroying me. I am not saying every meal is like a this but the harsh reality is Anorexia is still very  much present in the dining room.

Some days I am able to conquer fear foods  where as other times the thought of facing them throws me completely off route…. On these day’s it can feel like an uphill struggle but I have to remind myself of the view at the top, this is what motivates me to continue…

I have a strict meal plan to stick to and set times to eat. My family have to keep on constant alert so I do not miss anything out and we have to structure the food shopping so we have exactly what I need. Yes its awkward and a lot of pressure on my parents, but it is also my medicine and without it, it can make me vulnerable.

I am forever thankful to the friends, family and health professionals fighting my corner and although I sometimes feel they are against me, in this moment of time I can clearly see they are actually against my Anorexia….

“It was heartbreaking seeing my illness devastate my family and friends. I pushed the ones closest to me away because I was so damaged I wanted to protect them, I also felt I didn’t deserve their love and support…… but for those who stayed true to me and never gave up… I remain forever thankful!!”

I owe it to you and myself to carry on fighting!

“Your current circumstances don’t determine where you can go they merely determine where you start!”

So this week I have attended a group for people in recovery from Eating Disorders located in Bedford. I have met some lovely people since I first started going, built up my confidence as I have got on the train independently, I have developed new skills and also it has benefitted me by speaking to others who ‘get me’.

Just to clear things up for anyone thinking we sit in a circle moaning about our life problems for an hour its the complete opposite!

Each week I have gone we have participated in art activities like scrapbooking, canvas painting and on Monday this week a guy called Ben came in to show us something called Pyrography (aka; wood burning!).

Its been a great distraction attending and a great way to spend some of my holiday – Thankyou everyone involved!!

The pyrography was really interesting and highly therapeutic! We all engraved key rings with patterns and writing in between the time spent burning pieces of wood because it smells AMAZING!!!……

I would recommend it to anyone even just for the smell!! Aha!

Anyway…Ben like many other people has suffered from poor mental health but after seeking treatment he has gone on to help other people with similar difficulties. He started a campaign “Let’s Be Open About Mental Health To Break The Stigma” (like the page on Facebook) to try to get people to talk more about mental health, bring awareness and to let others know it’s okay to ask for help.

He battled for many years avoiding reaching out to others due to the stigma attached to mental health and feels (like myself) that it is extremely important to let others know help is available and it is possible to Recover.

‪#‎BreakTheStigma‬ ‪#‎MentalHealthAwareness‬

The group sessions have really opened my eyes to the vast amount of people who are, or have been sufferers. I have met people of all ages, genders, races and backgrounds who have been victims to mental health since I began my journey to recovery and it has shown me just how mental health can affect anyone.

Previous to my difficulties I would never have imagined I would suffer from a mental illness (I don’t think anyone does!) but it just shows you how we have no control over who gets taken by these demons.

It doesn’t matter how supportive their family are, who they are friends with or where they come from – mental illness DOES NOT discriminate!

Ben could be that genuine, friendly guy, living round the corner from you with every right to go through life living happy and care free! But no, this wasn’t the case when he suffered from an illness that periodically left him believing he had no hope tomorrow let alone a future. I could sit here all day asking questions of why such a lovely person happened to become a victim? But instead because I cannot change what happenned I am thankful of how he has managed to overcome the worst of it and gone on to inspire other (like myself).

His experience has made him who he is today and we should be happy that after the pain he’s been through the outcome has created a remarkably stronger person than before!

Stories like this I find remarkable and just help re-assure me that although things might not be perfect at the moment in time it can all turn around and I can achieve something whilst helpingto show  others the way…

After all “Your current circumstances don’t determine where you can go they merely determine where you start!”

Like this page on Facebook and help support  us in beating the stigma surrounding mental health!!! >>> Let’s Be Open About Mental Health

 

 

The Sour Taste of Numbers…. (Calorie Counting)

When I say numbers most people think of long boring maths lesson spent doing pointless sums with time that seems to drag on forever. However “numbers” to a sufferer of Anorexia means something entirely different….

  • Calories
  • Fat content
  • Step counting
  • Miles
  • Weight
  • Time exercised
  • BMI etc…

Yes it’s amazing how just one word can mean completely different things to individuals and when I was at my worst I was constantly caught up calculating every step I made and every thing I would eat/ drink. I would scroll the internet searching of ways to cut/ burn calories with numbers literally controlling my life…

It became dangerous…

the more I lowered the number the worse it got, nothing was good enough. Some days the calories in chewing gum became too much for me to handle and it would end up sending my brain into overdrive.

NO NUMBER WAS EVER GOOD ENOUGH!

I had set weights to reach, set calories not to go over but no matter how quickly I reached these numbers Anorexia was never happy. I was fighting in search of happiness that never came…

Being just 10 years old when I started counting calories on the day I went into General and I could no longer control my calorie content it hit me hard. I almost would say I had an emotional attachment to knowing these numbers and without them I felt lost, panicked and very much out of control. I didn’t handle the situation very well and desperately tried to find out as many details as possible, taking my personal files to find my meal plan, searching online and begging the nurses to tell me. Everything I received was weighed specifically and calculated by my dietician but I didn’t trust anyone and struggled more than ever.

However when I moved to Huntercombe Hospital I was not once told how many calories I would be having and none of my food was weighed out. Instead we had to pour out unmeasured bowls of cereal and had no specific set meals only snacks where the same. This I found extremely difficult. But after all your average person does not weigh out their food or calorie count so by moving away from this Anorexic behaviour it has really benefited my recovery.

This week I have made a big step and have for the first time stepped on the scale backwards. You make think this sounds a peculiar thing to do but it means I won’t know what my weight is to the exact. I found it very anxiety provoking not to know the number but at the same time I know I shouldn’t be letting a number ruin my life. Instead of knowing I have agreed with my nurse that I have a specific range to maintain in and she will let me know if I drop below, or raise above it and we will make adjustments accordingly. This may sound like an easy thing, but for me I feel unnerved whether to trust her or not? Like don’t get me wrong she’s not the person to lie and trick me and it may sound strange but in a way we can all be like that with people. It could be down to someone saying you look nice in a dress but you feel unsure whether they are just saying it to keep you happy. I would say it’s a similar feeling but much more magnified.

I have so far managed to maintain my weight without measuring things out, counting calories or fat. Which in a way calms me as although it can be worrying not knowing exactly what I am having it also takes away the stress of things not being exact.

I would advice anyone in recovery to move away from counting and knowing their weight as it just fuels the eating disorder and keeps the rigid rules in place. I think by stepping back from knowing numbers has helped me a lot and although I can still religiously check things when I can I no longer let it control me as much as I used to.

“Today, I will not count calories. I will not eat numbers. I will eat food to nurture my body to help it grow and thrive. I will not feel guilty. I will smile because I am alive and am one step closer to being happy and healthy! If anything is worth counting it should be the number of days I haven’t counted…”

It’s OFFICIAL..

1:00 pm August 1st

So the day has finally come! DISCHARGE DAY!!

As I anxiously wait for the doctors to give me the official confirmation I am sat here driving the route whilst reflecting on how far I have come.

Its been a rollercoaster to say the least but thanks to all the support of Friends, family, Hospital staff, patients, school, CAMHS and everyone on here I have finally made it through my admission. Even some of the smallest things that people have done recently I have appreciated more than anyone could imagine. The uplifting comments on my blog, letters through the post, odd text messages and the smiles and hugs I have received. Your contribution no matter how small has helped me into recovery.

Yes the journey is nowhere near over but it has well and truly begun….

3:30 pm (review over)

Wow, my review is finally over and its official I am a free women! I can hardly believe the day has come myself and honestly have to keep reminding myself I am never going back… I won’t ever see the staff i have been with for months and the patients I have become so close too unless I travel miles to meet them.

It was hard saying goodbye but at the same time I am ecstatic! Cotswold Spa has helped me so much and without it I would never have started recovery in the first place… watching my Mum cry in my final review today and thanking everyone for all they have done for me really hit home. I knew all along how much it was affecting them and desperately wished to take the pain away but I didn’t know how…. It sounds ridiculous but it took for it to be forced upon me before I realised just how.

It must have been heart breaking for everyone to watch Anorexia destroy me feeling completely hopeless and unable to save me. The more my parents tried to “save there little girl” the more I would block everyone out. It is terrible what Anorexia does to a person and this transformation has been life changing.

A lot of people have said they now have their “old Kirsty back” but I don’t think this is the best way to look at it…. Instead I have discovered more about myself and built on who I used to, I have learnt my triggers and found what I truely love.

I continue to gain courage and determination in every passing moment, mistake and achievement I make….Please let today be the day you finally release yourself from the imprisonment of past grudges and anger. Simplify your life. Let go of the poisonous past and live the abundantly beautiful present…TODAY!!!!

Watch my video of my recovery so far!!  https://flipagram.com/f/tPHzntTHpG