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

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

“Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase”

Recently I have returned back to school after spending many months in Anorexia treatment. The prospect of returning was daunting and left me with a huge amount of anxiety. I know for definite I am not the only person this affects whether they have, like me, been off sick, away for a while or just the daily return. So I thought it would be a good idea to write a guide of how to survive going back to school and coping in a different environment….

I had delayed going back to school for a while before I eventually plucked up the courage to agree, with my school teacher at the hospital, to give it a go. I cannot pinpoint one specific thing that scared me about returning, but would put it down to multiple things.

  • Having gained 3 stone
  • Feeling uncomfortable with my body
  • Going back to a place I was last in when very ill
  • People knowing where I had been
  • The fear of unhelpful comments “you’ve gained weight”…etc
  • Places reminding me of old routines
  • The amount of people who could ask questions about my absence
  • And lastly the inability to hide if things were to become overwhelming

I’ll be honest, the longer I left going back the more anxiety provoking it became and I knew that one day I would have to eventually face it. So instead of running from what I was scared of I dived straight in.

The morning of my first day was incredibly difficult, body checking, changing clothes, thoughts of wanting to hide away in bed and skip my breakfast so my parents wouldn’t send me. But I thought through this and managed to prepare myself and begin my journey to school.

The walk was difficult, to say the least. With having walked a specific longer route which would take anywhere from 2-3 hours previous to admission. Excessive, yes, but it was especially bad as it contributed to me missing lessons – something I would never have previously wanted to do.

But I was stronger than that now and although I still had the compulsive thoughts although I ignored them and instead turned up at school on time. The walk up to the gates left me with a horrible feeling in my stomach and I began to over think. I carried on to my block, quietly absorbing the familiar surroundings with heightened emotions. When I hit the corridors the sudden rush of pupils became too much and I started to feel like everyone was looking at me and noticing my weight gain. I felt disgusted of what I had become and wanted to hide too.

My sister and best friend noticed something was up and took me to my school’s safeguarding teacher’s office to calm down. It really helped and my teacher helped me put things into perspective, I felt reassured and able to carry on. It was the little boost I needed to gain my strength back, and use my resilience to focus and remain positive.

It was not easy and for most of the day, internally, I felt anxious but externally I remained happy and got on with what I needed to. I stayed for 2 hours and was then got picked up by my Nan and Grandad.

I had survived!!!

Looking back a couple of weeks, on having spent my first full day at school this week I Can already see how far I have come. I no longer feel anxious about people asking me questions and instead of hiding my recent experience I am able to openly talking about it.

I shouldn’t have to hide behind a cover story – it just isn’t necessary. I am proud of how far and who I have become and will not hesitate in sharing my story. After all hiding it is just giving into the stigma.

Yes, things aren’t perfect and haven’t gone as smoothly as I would have hoped but my resilience to keep moving forwards is still there. I have done things that, not so long ago, I would have never dreamed of doing;…helping out with sports day, in science lessons, eating at school (first time in years!), speaking in a meeting to someone external who helps run our school and lastly telling people when I am beginning to struggle so it doesn’t get out of hand.

I can’t say I don’t find it difficult, even now, but the things I used to perceive as huge challenges are becoming smaller goal. I hope to continue this building up of my confidence next year when I return for Sixth Form.

I want to get things right this time and prove to everyone I can and will get over Anorexia however long it takes….

But please don’t forget, whatever your struggles are however big you see your problem is, until you face it won’t disappear. I promise it will get easier, maybe not straight away but eventually. Just take things one minute at a time, because yes some days have started badly for me but that didn’t mean the rest of the day was awful…

Remember… “Faith is taking the first step even when you cannot see the whole staircase”

LOVE Kirsty xoxo