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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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 

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”

I’M FINALLY BACK!!!

Well, I’m finally back after nearly three whole months without a blog update… 

And if I’m honest I wish I had a good explanation for my absence but it’s down to poor time management and making the most of every opportunity.

So what have I been up to?

  • Well as of friday I have been discharged from CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service) and transitioned to the Adult eating disorder team and CMHT (community mental health team)- which I will talk about in a later post.
  • I’ve been on the interview panel for CAMHS
  • Celebrated my 18th birthday by going out with my family, seeing bastille in the o2 thanks to my sister, having a house PARTY (which I never imagined would happen earlier this year) and just spending it with those closest to me.
  • I’ve been on my first night out, which after a lot of previous anxiety around situations involving any type of socialising or alcohol I can well an truely say I have fought through the worst of it and am now ACTUALLY ENJOYING MYSELF.
  • I have bought myself a little red car, ran the battery flat, had to be jump started at school and nearly drove down the motorway the wrong way. (pretty successful in my eyes)
  • Visited my Best Friend at Uni and stayed with her in Birmingham.
  • I’ve done a week of work experience at the Hospital in the cardiology department, watched a operation, and visited the children’s ward I was once on.
  • And now I have completed my first term of school, missing zero days and so far achieving my goal of making this year count. I have helped out in a place for students to go who struggle with the playground at break and lunch – which I really enjoy because it gives me the chance to use some of my experiences to help others.

The last few months have been filled with a lot of wonderful moments and considering I have significantly struggled with some aspects of my mental health recently I can well and truly say despite of it I have tried my best to keep going and participate in everything I possibly could.

“I think suffering from mental health has made me realise that good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience and the worst days give you a reason to get better”

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!!

“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…”