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….

Christmas Wishes…

Christmas, a time filled with family, friends, hope and laughter…I love the seasons undeniable beauty, with light brightening the streets, decorations filling the fireplace and of course the warmth of sitting by the fire with those I love.

But also as a sufferer of mental illness there is the added pressure associatiated with this special day. There is no “off switch” for Anorexia, Depression Anxiety or any other Mental Illness so just like any other day it is unpredictable how much it will effect you.

Recovering from an Eating Disorder at Christmas can be difficult but this year unlike the previous 10 years I’m going to try to not let food become the focus. Instead i will think about positives and be mindful to other activities that are important.

This applies to every one – that if you feel anxious or concerned around ANY situation in the day try not to let them become the negative focus. Sometimes it can be helpful to distract yourself from negative thoughts and in my experience I have found that taking a walk with a family member or friend helps to keep your mind of things, particularly if I’m feeling guilty or panicked. Some other alternatives some people have used is playing a board game, calling a friend or relative, listening to music or focusing on light conversation as positive alternatives.

It can be very easy to become completely enveloped during Christmas, which can magnify the inwards feeling your thoughts can give you and leave you feeling excluded from your surroundings. This year make sure you maintain contact with the outside world and don’t get too drawn into a vortex!

Fight your fears head on and have the magical Christmas you all deserve…

“The blessings of peace, the beauty of hope, the spirit of love, the comfort of faith… may this be your gifts this christmas”

Letter to my old Inpatient…

Dear all you Huntercombers,

Just when you thought you’d got rid of me, here I am again giving you my 3 week update and sending my Staff cards yeh, sorry about the delay I’m to busy doing what you all told me to do and “enjoying my life!”

Yes that’s right you heard it, I am finally ENJOYING things again!!!

I have done things recently that if you asked me at the start of my admission I would never have believed would be possible….I’ve been…

  • Clothes Shopping which I find difficult but it’s getting easier
  • Friends birthday BBQ – yes a social event where I had to eat unplanned food…my previous worst nightmare but I actually loved every minute of it
  • Strawberry picking – obvs took some cute pics
  • Cycling with my Uncle
  • Sleep over – for the first time in like 5 years because before I would be too anxious
  • Rowed a peddle boat on a lake – nearly got attacked by a swan trying to get on the boat, but I survived
  • Day trip to Brighton – which was absolutely fab
  • Swimming
  • Day out in Cambridge – with my Grandparents and Sister
  • Coffee and cake, like all the time because, well why not?
  • London Dungeons – I don’t think I’ve ever screamed so much in my life
  • Running
  • I have attended a recovery group local to me which has been great fun. I have met new people, scrapbooked. And also someone, who runs a campaign to stop mental health stigma, came and taught us how to do pyrography (burning patterns into wood)
  • My blog about recovery from anorexia which I started a month ago has reached 5500 views, had over 300 replies, a Eating Disorder charity shared it on their page and I just really enjoy expressing my experience to try help others.

And right now I am currently chilling in my tent on my first ever camping trip which is exciting stuff! I am with my sister and our 2 best friends and we have had quite the adventure… we had to start a fire without matches or a lighter because some idiots forgot about packing that. I guided everyone 2 miles in the wrong direction to the restaurant before realising it was 5 miles the other way. We eventually got to the resturant 4 hours later after trekking in 30 degree heat across fields in flip flops, through stinging nettles and jumping fences….. BUT WE MADE IT, RIGHT?!

WRONG – the restaurant was shut (I wonder who’s poor planning that was??)

…. So after a quick phone call to my Mummy Spice she came and rescued us and took us somewhere else 😀 The food we eventually got was lush so I won’t complain too much. Also don’t worry I made up for the extra walk with some tasty pancakes, bacon, eggs and syrup – yum!!

See just from this little story you can see “no matter what route life takes you, you can still reach the same destination!” (sneaky quote of the day ;D )

Note to patients:

Recovery won’t always be perfect… it’s not perfect for me…. I have days where it’s difficult and times I feel like giving up, but honestly I am so glad I’ve stuck with it through all the tough times because although it’s hard, it is well and truly worth the struggle!

I remember my first days in hospital crying over everything with no motivation to recover. I felt like the whole world was against me, including myself and it was awful! I wanted nothing more but too crawl back under my rock and hide away from the world…. I didn’t … because apparently that was “not an option”

So slowly I began to get to grips with the whole recovery business, taking a few steps forward and ten steps, back but only now can I really appreciate the help from all the staff pointing me in the right direction and encouragement from everyone else.

It’s amazing really how all them things the staff said that I NEVER believed – are actually coming true…I am finally getting my life back, going out and socialising, eating ice-cream and of course causing mayhem (which will come as a shock to all of you)!!!

I am off on holiday to Zante next week with my family – which although is not the 3 week holiday in America we previously planned… I still have that to look forward too next year! And ANOREXIA WON’T STOP ME THIS TIME!!!

Hugs and positive thoughts coming your way ❤

(AKA – Sassy Spice)

PS: Whatever stage of recovery you are at…whether you are a new admission reluctant to comply or a long standing patient desperate to leave…don’t confuse your path with the destination. Just because it’s stormy now doesn’t mean you’re not heading for sunshine!

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!