America here we come!!

With less than 4 hours before we leave for America I can hardly believe we’ve made it this far…. Never in the three years of us planning and cancelling this trip did I ever think we’d ever get this close to flying. Our holiday we dreamed of – Disney Orlando Florida.

From mums many cancer ops/ procedures, Natalie’s spinal surgery, my Grandads heart attack and to top it all off my eating disorder, it has been a tough few years for everyone. We’ve faced a lot together and that’s not been easy, many tears have been shed, hands held and fingers crossed…. we’ve laughed, cried, screamed and been left feeling empty.!

This holiday has been our motive, the light at the end, the goal or maybe even the beginning of better times? 

It’s finally here. 

I haven’t let myself feel the reality that yes THIS IS HAPPENING, I suppose I’ve blocked it out filling my time with anything but planning. I’ve avoided packing until made to and had minimal input in deciding how to spend our days.

I’m desperately trying to remain positive but still fear its going to be ripped from our grip… 

But my family are my anchor in rough waters – and maybe we weren’t supposed to have it easy. Maybe it was this way because we’re some of the rare few who can handle these tough times and still carry on regardless. Maybe rock bottom will be the foundations in which we rebuild our life. 

Maybe this will be the holiday of a lifetime…
AMERICA HERE WE COME!
 

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Body Confidence – Why it’s not all about change…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and been left feeling utterly deflated. Believe me you’re not alone, I have both hands raised too! Thinking about it I don’t really know anyone who is completely satisfied with their body, it’s either too big, too small, to short. Blotches, pimples, wrinkles and hair in the wrong places.

We are surrounded by a society where body shaming yourself is more socially acceptable than saying “wow I look amazing!” without being seen as boastful or arrogant. Walk into any news agents and you will see a shelf filled with magazines continuing to perpetuate highly unrealistic expectations of both men and women, despite years of controversy.

From the fashion industry to the workplace, we are constantly facing backwards representations of ‘ideals’ which continue to influence our daily life style. If I think about my average morning I probably spend 75% of my time focused on covering up my imperfections with makeup, thin hair with extensions and recycling my outfit millions of times before I go out still feeling dissatisfied.

For someone who is recovering from Anorexia body image is something I battle with frequently. Having had to gain weight in a 6 month hospitalization last year just to restore my physical health managing this drastic change still affects me daily. I find looking in full length mirrors incredibly difficult and knowing it can ruin my day or even set back my progress by weeks – I try to avoid them at all costs.

This avoidance isn’t healthy the same way compulsively body checking isn’t either and it’s questionable why I’d give a sheet of glass such power over me… Recently in therapy we covered the topic of perception being the mental representation one creates. Naturally, I was sceptical – believing it was a hoax just to make me feel better.

But then my therapist said this to me…..

“Look at the wall, it’s just a wall, right?….Now notice that tiny grey scuff and quickly turn away”

I did just that, wondering what an earth he was on about.

“OK now turn back and try to look at the wall as a whole without noticing the mark”  

I couldn’t.

See, this is what we do to our bodies, we scan over them viewing each perceived flaw until this is all that is left. Scrutinising the size of our forehead, nose, thighs or stomach until we are internally labelling ourselves “one big mess’’.

But surely this could be easily changed with surgery or a simple diet?…

WRONG in fact this fuels the obsession itself.

In my experience I have spent years trying to change certain aspects of my shape and body. I devoted so much time, becoming so miserable, yet never once despite all the weight loss did I ever look in the mirror and see anything other than what I wanted to change. It’s a toxic cycle that no amount of surgery, dieting or covering up will ever permanently fix. It’s like trying to make a Bull Dog look like a whippet – inhumane and certainly impossible.

What we need to do instead is to learn acceptance, find out the route of what is making us reflect badly. Is that image subject to distortions from a lack of self-confidence, overwhelming emotions, attitudes influenced in childhood or maybe just that overdue assignment. We should tackle this first because how you feel on the inside is what truly reflects in your eyes.

Body confidence for me has never come from trying to achieve the “perfect”. It’s more of a combination of self-love, compassion and embracing the reasons you were given it… Now that I understand living is more that just existing in physical form, I am dedicating my time to believing it and slowly gaining back what I lost to my illness!

…Apologise to your body and let the healing begin….

Head Meds?!

Recently, I have been hit straight in the face by my old friend depression, out of the blue and almost from nowhere – it’s back again. The same fog I cleared only 2 months ago has appeared once again in a different form…

Whilst scrolling through facebook the other day – up popped this picture of a beautiful field and the caption “ this is an antidepressant…”

It made my think how yes, going outside for fresh air is a fantastic alternative to being inside for days on end – but then again how it is not always that simple for everyone.

I started taking medication for my mental health just over a year ago now after accepting I couldn’t ‘fix this’ without an extra added boost. 

See, Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It isn’t your typical sadness but simply, dopamine is your drive in life, your ambitions; excitement and enthusiasm whilst serotonin is in charge of happiness regardless of your actual achievements. 

Basically, without the right amount of these chemicals no matter how much love, support, money or family you have around you it is very difficult to feel ‘ok’.

Imagine a bottle filled with the most glorious, colourful, magical concoction, it sparkles and fizzes, it has a light of its own, when you drink it you are in love — let’s call it ‘joy’; now imagine a great selfish, hulking beast comes out of nowhere, it stamps and shakes the ground, roars, snatches the bottle with terrifying hands, and tips out all the joy, because if it can’t drink it nobody can. Depression turns you into that bottle, empty, held in the shadow of a beast; strewn on the shore, wishing for the tide to wash you away.

I can’t take away the effect of nature and healthy living, I mean going for a bike ride can be the best escape for me some days! And it has such a positive impact on my mental health. 

Despite not yet finding the right meds for myself I still have some positives from them which without I wouldn’t be able to enjoy. A flash of inspiration as I walk through my favourite field, have coffee with a friend or sit in the sun with a perfect breeze. Deep down inside in them moments I feel a relief that things will be ok.

So please detach the image of people with depression being selfish and the stereotype that taking antidepressants is somehow a sign of weakness… because personally without my meds I am more likely to hurl myself towards a tree than go for the ideological stroll this circulating photo portrays.

“A breath of fresh air is a perfect aid for recovery – but for some this can never be a replacement of these life saving pills.”

But when is the right time for Recovery?

Anorexia is unlike any other illness, it makes you believe you want to be ill. Yes, it sounds strange but Anorexia tricks you into thinking that the lower your number and the sicker you get the better life will be.

It won’t.

There is no magical number or life changing day and something that my nurse has said to me on many occasions “never in all my years have i met a happy anorexic…”

Its sad but true.

Even, when I laid in my hospital bed a few months ago with the doctors telling me I could slip away in the night. It never hit me that I was actually days off death. “I’m fine” I told them, convinced I wasn’t like the “other Anorexics” who where actually ill. I felt not sick enough to deserve the treatment and not thin enough to deserve the diagnosis.

Having spoken to someone the other day who also went into hospital a few years ago, I found comfort when hearing that she also felt the same. We discussed how we felt that we where not worthy of recovery at the time because we thought we weren’t “that bad”, and how looking at our dropping heart rate didn’t help us see the severity either. I think that’s the hardest thing with this illness is that you become in-denial to what damage you are doing to yourself – your literally blinded from reality.  

So when is the right time for recovery?

This is an easy question for me to answer now but back then was a little harder.

“I believe it is always the right time to recover”

You do not have to be underweight, in hospital and incapable of walking before you recover, because believe me when you get there it will still not feel like the right time. I never had to be fed by an NG tube, does that mean I was not ill enough to recover?

No it certainly does not!

If someone has the diagnosis of Bulimia or EDNOS does this mean they are less worthy of help?

NO they equally struggle just as much!

We don’t compare physical illnesses in this way so why should we mental? You wouldn’t say to someone suffering from breast cancer “you aren’t ill enough as the lady over there dying of terminal cancer to get help”. They should both get the access to the right treatment to help them to have the best possible chance. But why still are people turned away from Doctors not being taken seriously. People no matter what they are sufferring should not have to wait until they’re on deaths door before getting help. It’s just not right!

Only a few years ago i was battling an eating disorder but because I was not underweight at the time I felt that I couldn’t possibly have a problem and people wouldn’t take me seriously. Well I was wrong! If only I had dealt with the issues then it could have prevented my recent admission.

I was still as mentally ill back then, yes not quite as physically but after all Anorexia is a MENTAL illness! And just because I didn’t look physically unwell didn’t mean I wasn’t struggling just as much as at my lowest weight.

Looking back I can’t change what happened to me but if anyone else is struggling at the moment you will never find the right time to recover. Dont waste your day’s saying “when i am sick enough then I’ll recover”, because honestly until your 10 feet under Anorexia will never be happy. Its harsh but true but….you can be happy without Anorexia!
I’ m not saying it’s easy, but I am saying its worth it!!

“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