Breaking stigma after a negative press release…

Things happen that challenge everything we do, make us feel like our effort has been wasted and sometimes even leave us questioning our own intentions in life.

We go through every day with a perfect track record of getting through, a smile on our face and a hand to help others.

But sometimes life throws us a curve ball, it’s horrible but somewhat unavoidable. We are then left with 3 choices…

1: We can stand there and let it hit us straight in the face, knocking us backwards with little sight of what we’ve tried so hard to do.

2: We can dodge it, hide from the fear. No visible bruise from the hit but whilst letting it destroy us inside.

Or

3: We face it head on, we knock it out the way of our path and carry on regardless. Not choosing to throw it back at the perpetrator but instead using it as a way to propel our self forward in the direction we where heading.

this happened to Ben from ELFTs NHS Break the Stigma Campaign when he had a very negative experience with a local paper a few weeks ago. Doing what he does best and bravely sharing his own experiences and what he has been through to help raise awareness on suicide prevention day.

Unknown to him this interview turned out to be his worst experience since opening up about about his battle with my mental health problems and running the Break The Stigma campaign.

“I knew the article was going out in the paper on the Sunday, but I thought I would check to see if the article was online the night before, it was online, but as I started to read the article my heart sank, it was the most awful thing I had read, full of quotes I hadn’t said, things written about me that were absolutely not true, my deeply personal problems all garbled up making no sense to what I had actually been through, then having my mental health problems being described as me self destructing, not the fact that I was very unwell.

I was horrified that this awful piece about me was online, then I realised……this article full of things I hadn’t said with a picture of me was going to be delivered through thousands of peoples doors the next day. I can’t put into words how that made me feel, just that I became very unsettled very quickly, I had a horrendous night, but all my coping strategies kicked in when I needed them most and I knew I needed help, the motto I have always used with this campaign is “It’s OK to talk, it’s OK to need help” I needed that so much, so that is what I did, I went to the Samaritans drop in service as soon as they opened and spent 2 and half hours there, the support and kindness I received was incredible. I then went to my GP the following day and that helped loads too, she reminded me how far I have come these last few years, It then sunk in if this had happened a few years ago I would not have dealt with the situation as I did and asked for help so quickly.”

Ben did the best thing anyone could do in this situation and took choice number 3.

Seeing his post on Facebook after only seeing him in passing just last week broke my heart. How can such an amazing guy be subject of such a harsh act. Nobody has the right to change his past into an article it never was.

But guess what?!! He didn’t react in the way the stigma expected him too. Instead he used his willpower, positive coping strategies and support circle of people around him to get through. He not only showed himself how far he has come but also has shown others just how strong he really is… something only to be admired.

They say the strongest soldiers are sent to fight the hardest battles… and he is proof of this. I am so proud Ben can tell his story, I am proud of his campaign but mostly I am proud of who he is as a person!!!
Break the Stigma

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Dream Big: DISNEY

They call it the happiest place on earth, a place where dreams come true no matter who you are or how old… 

Disney World

This last week I have spent at Disney has certainly created some magical memories. Up at the crack of dawn and super excited to explore the park – I didn’t know what to expect. 

For once in my life I’m speechless, no words can sum up the experience I’ve had here. A place where my inner child has been set free, where I am able to dance around the park, sing in my loudest voice (poorly I should add but…) with no worries in the world. 

I have finally felt able to appreciate how hard I’ve worked on balancing my mood and how I am able to enjoy my surroundings without the worry of my next “low”.

I think for so long I feared this holiday, I feared depression drowning the excitement so much that I never even appreciated the opportunity of going.  

But the reality of months waiting to get an appointment felt so distant in these moments. So distant that for the first time in months my family and I have had the chance to take a much needed break.

I think it is so important to get both your surroundings as well as yourself into a positive state, be with those you feel comfortable with no fear of criticism. For me this has been key to discovering myself and also realising that everybody has their own struggles.

So to all other dreamers out there, don’t ever stop to let the world’s negativity or your current situation dishearten your spirit. Work hard, dream BIG! 

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….

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 

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”

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!

Dear Anorexia,

Dear Anorexia,
You came into my life and stole my happiness.

I guess you had been hiding in the shadows for a while, following me around, watching my every move. You crept up on me slowly stepping closer only when I was most vulnerable. I was convinced you where a friend.

Oh how I was wrong.

At first I noticed you at school sat at the back of the classroom. You noted every flaw. Natalies spinal surgery; you whispered advice. Mums cancer; you stood by my side. Grandads heart attack you took my hand. Everywhere I turned you where there always in the back of my mind.

Your voice grew louder as I grew older. You started commanding me to do things. STARVE, EXERCISE, PURGE. I followed your commands believing you would help. Every time I listened you gave me a sense of control. But then you snatched in from me and I realised I never had it all along. I became weaker as you grew stronger.

You stole those closes from me pushing them into the shadows. You took over my soul and stole my laughter. Family and friends became an inconvenience to you as I sat back helplessly frightened of your power. You starved my hope and purged my dreams.

Nothing was left.

The day came when I was constantly cold and plagued with fatigue. My hair began falling at my feet, as death blackened my sunken eyes. I was screaming for help but you never let them hear. You left them hurt, raw and crying at my hospital bed.

I was never good enough for you.

But now I’m stronger and things are different. You made me miss out on so much so now I’m fighting back. One day at a time I will fight your lies, releasing your grip. See, you have lied to me and I will never forgive or surrender to you.

From now on I am stronger.

No matter how many times I fall down, I will always pick myself up because I am no longer living a life with you. With living a synonym for barely existing in a world suffocated by the war you created, I am regaining my strength and continuing the battle.

I WILL live my life. I WILL follow my dreams and no matter what is thrown at me I WILL beat you.
It might take until my dying breath but this is a promise – you will never win…