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.”

Advertisements

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it… 

We all struggle and it is okay to have upsetting days. When I relapse into old habits, I always beat myself up over it. I feel that all my progress has been overwritten and that I have gone backwards to square one.
As I write this, I remind myself we are all trying to cope with life’s expectations. And yes, sometimes it can be even harder with Mental Health providing the added fight to even access the day. 

Like many people, I need to learn not to be so hard on myself when I relapse and have a breakdown. Instead I need to look at is as a learning point. I remind myself; this time I have talked about how I feel, this time I have not skipped school or isolated myself. And this is all positive progress. 

Yes, I still have a large amount of things to work on, but I have to keep in mind I’ll get there someday, so instead I must focus on today. 

My recovery from the start has never been linear, and although this is an unfortunate fact, it does mean each achievement is something I appreciate more. 

Through all the tears, stress, breakdowns and the ‘I give up’ moments, I have more of an understanding of how to cope effectively in the future.

Every day global situations are the same, they show us we need each other, that Life can be very hard, and bad things do happen to good people. But some of the worst events have also led to the most outstanding examples of kindness, compassion and determination.

This weeks westminster attacks are no exception, they show how quickly things can spiral, how innocent people are affected and that responding to this is key to any kind of recovery FROM ANYTHING… “An act of terrorism tried to silence our democracy. But today we meet as normal – as generations have done before us, and as future generations will continue to do – to deliver a simple message: we are not afraid”

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.

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