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 

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Letter to Inpatient – 1 year on

Dear all you Huntercombers,
It’s been awhile since I wrote a letter and thought I’d give you all a little update of what’s going on in ‘The Life of Kirsty Spicer’.

So it’s nearly 1 WHOLE YEAR since arriving at the delightful Cotswold Spa Hospital and as lovely as you all are I am happy to say I am not planning to be staying the night there anytime soon. Looking back (although obviously moving forward ;D ) it still makes me giggle some of the funny antics we all got up to…

Since Discharge things have been going well. I have learnt that set backs just make me stronger and a bad morning does not mean a bad day/ week/ life. I have discovered what helps me in recovery and have been transitioned from CAMHS to Adult Eating Disorder services and CMHT.

So what have I been up to?
Well I have been back to sixth form full-time studying AS Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Extended Project Qualification (as extra). It’s going well and unlike my attendance last year I am currently at 100%.

Also, since I have always found lunch times difficult at school, I now act as a mentor for those who find it hard on the playground. They all struggle with different things like Aspergers, ADHD, Anxiety etc so it can be really rewarding when you see you have helped make their school experience easier.

With my aim still to working in the medical field I have had a week’s work experience in the Cardiology department at my local hospital where I witnessed open heart surgery, an operation where someone had to have an electric impulse put through their body to get the heart back into rhythm and was involved in clinics and ward rounds. Also whilst visiting I went back to the children’s ward I was on before going to Cotswold Spa and spoke to some of the nurses who treated me – they seemed to remember me very well (I wonder why it’s not like I caused trouble or anything?)

I have carried on writing my blog “Embracing Authenticity” which has really benefitted my recovery. I find that by having somewhere that I need to remain positive gives me a reason to keep going. It follows my journey and raises much-needed awareness for mental health. It is now featured on the NHS East London foundation, Anna Freud Centre and many other charities websites/ pages. (Gone are the days I aimed for it reaching only a few people. I’m now up to 17,000+ views worldwide and counting)

I am on the ELFT NHS service user panel helping to employ staff for my local CAMHS. It’s really enjoyable and I have helped employ a school worker, psychologist etc… I have to admit I am very picky and they have to live up to the standards of all the amazing staff at Cotswold Spa!!

My social life is buzzing. I have gone from staying at home too anxious to see even my closest friends to now having so many different friendship circles and always being somewhere. I celebrated my 18th birthday last year with my own party ( that’s some contrast), I have brought my own little red car (named: Roxy Red Spice) after passing my test first time and am driving 200 miles to visit Danni and her foster family in Glastonbury next week! I am SO SO EXCITED and we will be sure to cause mischief!

I went on holiday to paris a few weeks ago, which was FABULOUS. I am looking forward to my 3 week trip to America this summer which unlike last year will not be cancelled due to Anorexia trying to ruin my life.

Oh and did I mention I’m basically famous. I was one of the 5 people in the country to have an animated film made around my mental health. I have been up to the London Recording studio’s (surreal time) and it is being produced by a film company ‘mosaic films’. Once complete the film will be screened on the BBC website and on YouTube where they will be used in schools to support PSHE work with young people around mental health. The films will also be made available to charities/ NGOs to embed within their own websites, supporting outreach/awareness raising/and anti-discrimination/ stigma work. As well as that the film may be used in teacher training capacity.

Thank you so much for helping me achieve all these things! And as cheesy as it sounds you have helped turn my life around. I hope you’re all proud of how far I have come and I am now out to prove to you, myself and others the thing you all told me during meal support “life will get better”

I’ll give you all a shout out when I receive my BAFTA!;)

Kirsty x

Little Note to patients;

You have made it this far, and that is something you should be proud of. It is important that you remember that recovering from anorexia takes a lot of dedicated hard work. Recovery is possible and it’s a life worth living.

The journey will be full of both good days and bad days. It’s not necessarily a straight route but it is still moving forward. Some days you might feel hopeless and trapped in the conflicting thoughts. My top advice to cope with this; NEVER give up! Days like that are when you need to fight even harder. Show Ana who’s boss because it cannot, will not define you.

You have a life worth saving. So believe in yourself, trust the staff and believe that you can recover. There is a beautiful life waiting for you beyond Cotswold Spa and I cannot wait for you to find it!!

Now go kick ANA’s ASS!

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!!

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!

“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