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.”

As if I won Elft’s NHS Young Person of the Year!!! 

I still cannot believe what’s happened to me this week. Not only did I have the pleasure of going to London for the Elft NHS participation awards but I actually won my category – Young Person of the Year!

For someone who masks low self esteem and confidence daily, never in a million years would I have ever believed I would be standing in front of all those people accepting an award. 

Shocked and so overwhelmed

I am an advocate for Mental Health for no other reason than to help not only people struggling but to also bring better understanding to families, friends and the wider community to help ‘Break the STIGMA’. So to win an award for doing something I love is just so unbelievable.

People should be free to feel emotion and speak proudly about it. I want people to feel comfortable enough to express their truth, to let their walls down and actually live a little. 

I have spent my whole life trying to be someone else because I cannot stand the feeling of my own skin. I have treated myself in ways that I would never treat anyone else – judging every part of my personality.

I have never learned how to feel or process emotions. The way I’ve moved through my feelings is to never let them surface in the first place, replacing them with my eating disorder and other unhealthy coping strategies.

But moments like this outshine some of my darkest days.  Moments that keep me going, reminding me theres always something to look forward to, moments when I’m distracted and at peace, moments spent with amazing people…

Thank you to everyone making this possible. I have been given so many opportunities to meet and work with some incredibly life changing people. I have made so many new friends, spoke to hundreds of people and built my confidence to try new things. I feel deeply honored to receive this Award.

Thank you 

1 Year Today

Today marks exactly 1 year since my admission onto the high dependency unit for Anorexia Nervosa.

I still remember my Mum getting the phone call that night. The phone call when she realised everything was not what I described as ‘fine’. The tears that flooded her eyes, drowning any kind of hope. A barrier of twisted lies Anorexia had weaved. ‘I’ve eaten…I’m not hungry…NO I haven’t lost weight’ She blamed herself…

“What kind of a Mum am I not to have realised my daughter is dying in front of me?”

I suppose its something you here about it, but never believe would ever happen to you.

Two days in hospital;  I watched my family and closest friends powerless to Anorexia’s force. My Nan crying at my bed physically shaking with fear whilst my nurses worried about me slipping away. My closest friends leaving the ward in tears, sent away to protect them from my distressed state.  I watched as though an outsider. It was no longer me.

I felt I was taking up a valuable bed. Undeserving of help. I screamed, shouted and locked myself in the bathroom till the door was broken down. I ran away from the ward, refused to make eye contact and at points just hid my face.

My family was separated by an untouched plate watching as I dug my grave with the knife and fork.

I am ever grateful to some of the staff on that ward who understood I just desperately needed help. At the time I didn’t always come across well, but it was my fear. I felt out of control and that was a scary aspect. I said and did things that never before in my life have I done. I wanted to push those that cared further away from me. I wanted them to give up, ‘I was a case not worth saving’.

Yes, I needed more intensive treatment than just two weeks in general but looking back I can’t change what happened. Recovering from an Eating Disorder to me means more than just eating… it means learning to cope without the thing that gives a false sense of control. It means learning how to feel again after numbing your emotions for so long, accepting how you feel and holding them feelings for a while without using unhealthy methods to distract yourself. It means facing whats really going on and remembering that too shall pass…

There’s a huge fear that recovery means letting go of the comfort zone the Eating Disorder once provided and forgiving ourselves and others, learning we are both worthy and deserving enough to heal. It’s about learning to accept who you are without your eating disorder.

I have been in recovery for a while now, but I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere near fully recovered. I have times I want to give up fearing I’ve lost control but I suppose you have to continue to choose recovery at every meal time…

The comfort knowing tonight I can sleep in my own bed without a heart rate monitor bleeping all night long, being shaken constantly to make sure I’m still breathing whilst on 24 hour one to one. Not many understand what it’s like to be watched in the toilet with “high risk” of collapse, having to be held up by nurses and family too weak to walk.
Mentally I’m still struggling, not everything’s perfect and my family don’t always have it easy with me. I carry my Eating Disorder on my back daily, sometimes it weighs me down more than others but now I know no matter how tough it gets I have the support around me and the tools I need to fight it.

Recovery is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

“Failure should not be feared because it is necessary to learn and grow”

So I admit I’m a perfectionist

I have always been complimented for my perfectionism, being told I have the right attitude towards achieving the highest possible. I felt proud of my status… with title “perfectionist” and in a way this fed into my need to please people.

But what happens when perfect isn’t quite good enough….

Recently having started back at sixth form it has brought back a reminder of how hard it is to achieve the high expectations people have of me, and mostly the expectations I put on myself. It can be hard to explain because, on the outside, to many, it looks like I should have nothing to worry about, but inside I can feel the pressue building.

Having not been in education for almost a year and not sitting any exams this summer, I am retaking year 12. Firstly I’d like to point out that the thing I find the most difficult is feeling that people who do not know I’ve been in hospital think I was just lazy last year or failed all my exams. It’s hard because although I know A level is really difficult and many struggle. I feel like I’m looked down upon because of it.

I admit last year wasn’t great for me, when I did attend school I was barely able to concentrate due to Anorexia’s strong influence, I did not complete work or sometimes even turn up to lessons… the hardest thing for me to admit is that this was not because “i didn’t want to go” or “couldn’t be bothered” but actually down to such a strong hate I had towards myself.

I’ll explain…. During my time in sixth form my mental health began to deteriorate to a point I felt I didn’t deserve to do well or have any future. Unfortunately, for me this impacted on my education because I felt that by withdrawing from sixth form it would stop me ever being able to achieve my dream job as a doctor or gave any chance at a decent career

I would walk to school then disappear for hours pacing round the streets, I would lie to my parents that I had been to school, and on days I wouldn’t go at all because I would be so faint and exhausted I’d feel scared to leave the house, I would further push myself to exercise excessively at home.  

It was hard, tiring and time-consuming!

I felt like a slave to something external which was pushing me to my limits. I was no longer myself, I would never lie to my parents or even skip school. I was ashamed of what I had become but this just pushed me further into the depths of my eating disorder.

With this self hate being something I have only just mentioned in therapy I still find it hard to hear out loud. In a way I’m embarrassed of how things have got the better of me at times – but i suppose nobody’s perfect, right?

I would like to hopee that those who know me perceive me as an accepting person who see’s the best in people, despite any flaws. Knowing I have such strict guidelines for how I think I should be but when it comes to others I am very open to anything – I need to try to find a balance with myself also.

Us perfectionists need to aim for a middle ground between the polar of “perfectionism” and “not caring”. Having the motivation to aim high and achieve the best possible is a good trait but it also needs to be put into perspective to see whether it is taking over our lives.

I find taking a step back from the situation and viewing it as if it’s happening to someone else really helps me rationalise what’s going on. Yes, even when I realise it’s not rational it’s still very hard to change how I’m emotionally feeling, but by viewing both sides it can sometimes minimise things.

I still have a lot of work to do on this aspect of my recovery, but I believe I am now becoming more aware that my perfectionism will never make me feel perfect and understand that…”failure should not be feared because it is necessary to learn and grow”

Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes – even you…

The art of relaxation… a chance for your body to recharge, recover and revitalise. With many appreciating the time spent sprawled across the sofa, watching a film or enjoying a bubble bath. It is important that we all have this opportunity to just “let go” and forget all that is going on around us.

But it can be hard or even a rare occasion for many as they cannot seem to find any time in their hectic schedule. I understand that many are constantly on the go, busy, under pressure or have many responsibilities… However, I still think we use the excuse far too often!

Everyone has time to fit in at least a couple of minutes to put down the phone, shut their eyes and switch off from the world.Yes, switch off…that thing we all find a struggle to do – me included.

Personally I find it hard to relax, not because I don’t have the time but more because I don’t allow myself too. Unfortunately the compulsion to keep constantly moving and on the go has come as part of my Anorexia. This means that any moments I find myself beginning to relax I am filled with a nagging voice telling me I’m either to lazy or don’t deserve to rest.

This can be difficult when both physically and mentally exhausted and something I am trying to address as a part of my recovery. Whilst an inpatient I had relaxation classes which were scheduled into our weekly time-table. I found these sessions very beneficial and although it was sometimes difficult due to the guilt, I knew it was something I had to do…

Since returning to “normal life” I have not had this dedicated time slot to relax and if I am honest I have not been consistently allowing myself too. The last week I have spent on holiday in Zakythnos, although initially being overwhelmed with guilt, I am beginning to remember just how important it is and am ready to re-introduce it when I return home…

Many of you will be wondering why something most people really love, I manage to find so hard. Well if I’m honest I don’t know the exact reason behind it either? But what I do know is that any moment I do end up trying to switch off my thoughts can become unmanageable and like those with a stressful job this is the time when everything seems to rush to the front of our minds.

I have learnt some techniques to successfully switch off when I feel panicky or overwhelmed and have found this also helps with the aim of “switching off.”

  • Move into a safe or calming environment – being surrounded by a place of safety will automatically make you feel calmer
  • Be aware of sounds, smells and the feel of things around you – noticing small thing’s like the rustling of trees in the wind or even the clock ticking can give you a distraction
  • Lastly, I was advised to focus on my breathing – firstly because slowing down each breath helps your body relax and also they reverse the effects of adrenaline.

“If you neglect to charge a battery, it dies. And if you run full speed ahead without stopping for water, you lose momentum to finish the race” So make it a priority of yours to schedule in some time to relax because although it may feel an inconvenience, in the long run you will really appreciate it!!