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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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!!

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…”

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

“Sometimes the right path is not always the easiest one!”- My experience Inpatient…

I am sat here at Huntercombe Hospital writing hopefully my last blog post as an inpatient. So, I thought to myself what a perfect time to write about my experience of being admitted.

My time since being at Huntercombe Hospital Cotswold Spa has certainly been the toughest journey of my life but with the company of other patients and staff to wind up there have been many funny moments shared too.

I am so thankful for what all the staff have done for me and also how the other patients have been so supportive. But I also cannot wait to be discharged and finally live my life… without the strict hospital rules

  • No bathroom privacy (toilet and shower) until no longer at risk of collapse
  • Post meal obs till earned back privilege
  • Constant check (5, 10 or 20mins)
  • No walks or when weights stabilizing maximum of  20min walks
  • Set time limits to eat
  • People watching you to check your breathing whilst you sleep
  • No internet access or iPhone
  • Meal support
  • Having to empty pockets if staff suspected hidden food
  • Room searches
  • And constant note documenting of everything you have said and done

Yes, in a way, without this I would never have even begun recovery and be where I am today, but when you reach a certain point, going on longer home leave and at a healthier weight it gets extremely frustrating not being able to do everyday things like making a drink or going out in the garden for fresh air on your own…

The things that I once took for granted, I now appreciate so much more. Yes, it sounds cliché, but “you actually don’t know how much you love something until it is taken away from you”. I never thought I took things for granted because I have always been a thankful person but this experience has really opened my eyes to what I have and how lucky I am to be alive.

Anyway enough with my inspirational speeches….

I will explain to you an average Tuesday in hospital, what I now consider worse than a Monday – (WEIGH DAY – aka: RISKY TUESDAY!)…

  • Wake up 6:30 get in the lift for weigh in
  • Blood Pressure taken sitting and standing and temperature recorded
  • Strip down, get body mapped (record any bumps, scratches, bruises etc..)and step on scales to see the dreaded number
  • Leave the room crying with regret
  • Go upstairs and helplessly try to gain a few extra minutes sleep before getting showered and ready for breakfast
  • BREAKFAST 8:30
  • Collect what I needed for education
  • Crawl into education after a lot of encouragement from staff and a stern word from the teacher
  • Stare at the same magnolia walls for hours trying to figure out an excuse to leave the room.
  • SNACK! 11:00  No not the break from education I was looking for.
  • 11:15 back to education
  • “Oh no i need the toilet” (gets escorted by staff and watched closely through a gap in the door)
  • Walk back to education finding any distraction possible to avoid returning (the fish tank, chatting to the lovely receptionist or hiding till found)
  • Get told off for having my legs crossed under the table (apparently its bad for your health?)
  • LUNCH 12:30 yes another half an hour of shoveling food and listening to the same old songs on the radio
  • 1:00 Arts with the therapist… the best part of the day! (Making dream catchers, painting etc..)
  • Return to education arrgghh!or if you’re lucky PILATES!
  • Care planning – where the doctors decide if you can have leave, walks, trips out and also discuss issues (basically a room full of people integrating you)
  • SNACK – and finally the end of education, thank goodness!
  • 1 hour of post meal obs (not allowed out of the sight of staff)
  • Cause mischief with the other patients or scrapbook
  • Walkies! Time out in the boring village of Broadway
  • DINNER 5:30 – wow this food reminds me of how much I miss my mum’s cooking
  • 1 hour post meal obs
  • Chill and watch tv
  • SUPPER! Same old meal plan…..day in day out!
  • Go upstairs for meds
  • Watch the staff as they try to calm everyone down and get us to behave
  • Watch TV – usually some crime programme about Luton – (near my town)
  • Refuse to go to bed
  • Eventually go to bed
  • Repeat the same routine on Wednesday

In short EAT, SLEEP, MEDS, REPEAT! Or boring long days, revolving around food with no escape of focusing on Anorexia. It wasn’t fun but it helped me. It made me discover more about the reasons behind developing an eating disorder and find new techniques to cope with situations. I have learnt a lot about myself through this experience and although I am nowhere near recovered I am a lot better than I was.

A strange thing about being an inpatient and one of the questions a lot of people would ask is if it is really a good idea to put a group of people suffering from anorexia together? With the risk of competition being a trait in the illness I understand why people ask this. However, In my opinion it was really helpful…

  • I realised I was not the only one struggling with what others see as simply just eating
  • I could talk openly  (something I never did before) about how I felt with people who understood me
  • I managed to rebuild my social skills with my worst nightmare pre admission being living away from home with a house full of people
  • I have rebuilt my relationships with family and friends
  • I have realised how much is a normal amount to eat (something I didn’t know before)
  • My trips out to cafes made me realise it was normal to eat in front of people and treat yourself occasionally
  • We had group therapy (which although usually consisted of therapist telling us to “externalise the eating disorder and draw it” whilst we drew a frog and named it Jeffrey we did help each other through our different struggles)
  • And lastly the fact that all the control was taken away from me so anorexia had no influence in decisions really helped me move away from it.

Knowing that a few months ago I had no choice but to go inpatient and now I am at a stage were I am going to be discharged in two weeks just makes me reflect on the experience as a whole. Yes, inpatient was the last resort but it has benefitted me more than anything. I’ve gone from a girl with no motivation to recover to a girl out enjoying life and eating ice-cream. I think this just shows you “No matter how low you hit there is always a way up!”

Love Kirsty xoxo