Book review #2: Panther by David Owen

I have mixed feelings about this book. While on the one hand it provides and interesting comparison between the Panther and depression, I felt let down by the ending and found the book felt almost unfinished? Although I guess you could look at it like depression- there is no definite end.

As someone suffering with depression the ending of the book made me feel hopeless and worse than when I’d started, leaving me almost wishing I hadn’t read it. I had hoped it would provide relief and show that it can be got through, instead it almost showed the opposite. I know it’s not this book’s job to help me in any way, it’s a work of literature not a therapy book. But anyway, I had hoped that this would be a good thing to read to help me get through it but I’m not so sure it’s that helpful.

One thing I would have really liked is more focus and explanation on Derrick, because Derrick himself had depression! He was depressed and binge ate and I was really hoping for some sort of revelation at the end of the book whereby he’d realise he was depressed and ‘understood’ what depression was (understood is the wrong word, I have it and I still don’t understand! Empathise with it I guess?). I also thought that talking about Derrick’s depression might have helped make it clear that not all depression is crying and screaming etc, although the author did this well using the dad.

I also wanted more explanation on why Derrick did some of the things he did, like the slightly creepy sex obsession and obsession with Hadley? But maybe that’s pushing my luck.

However, the book was very well written and I liked how even though it was on a difficult subject it was almost made lighter by the Panther hunt which acted as a good break between the heavier aspects. I thought the symbolism of the panther was really special and Derrick’s hunt enduring.

Overall, although there are some aspects I’m still unsure about, such as the ending, I thought it was a very thought-provoking book. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to people struggling with depression or family/close friends of those affected as I think it can be quite a difficult read with those circumstances, but I would quite possibly recommend it to other people who are interested in the topic.

Thanks for reading.

2 years, 4 months and 7 days: no more CAHMS

2 years, 4 months and 7 days ago I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Since then it’s been a rocky journey- 9 months, 20 days spent inpatient/ then day patient at the Priory EDU (Eating Disorders Unit), and many more days off school. Meals cried over, tantrums thrown, friendships broken. Exercise obsessive, no calories uncounted.
Depression gripping me and blinding me

– I thought I’d never see the light.

But somehow I’ve muddled my way through and I’m still here today, fighting hard as ever. Today is the day my journey carries on by myself, I am discharged from CAHMS/ YPEDS as of today!

I’m going to be honest, being discharged is absolutely terrifying and many tears have been shed. But I know, deep down, it is a good thing. It’s time for me to continue by myself, to use the skills I’ve learnt and to overcome my demons once and for all. It’s hard having my safety net taken away from me, it’s hard having to say goodbye to my psychologist who I adore, it’s hard not being ‘ill’ anymore. But those things will remain hard no matter how long I stay; letting go is sometimes the hardest thing of all, but it has to be done.

So much has changed during these last nearly 2 1/2 years. And though I always feel I could have done better or I’ve let myself down, it’s days like this where I have to acknowledge how far I’ve come.

A girl who cried and refused her meals, who would think of any way possible to hide or restrict her food, who would go on long walks while on ‘bed-rest’, who would even spit out her own saliva in a desperate bid to shed any weight she possibly could. A girl who was so distraught by the numbers on the scale that she cut her skin. A girl so riddled with depression that she no longer enjoyed anything anymore- her hobbies and interests soon redundant. Cold, alone, scared and isolated.

in the grips of anorexia
Now that girl is fast disappearing, replaced instead with a vision of hope. If you look closely there are traces of her- traces that will one day be gone entirely. Of course, she will never forget what she went through. The pain and torture, but also her endurance and determination.

As today draws to an end, I am left thinking about my journey: how far I’ve come and also how far I have yet to go. The reality is that there is still some journey, but it’s time like this where I have to focus on how far I’ve come rather than just how far I’ve got to go.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have friends and family supporting me through my illness, but I know many aren’t so lucky. People are quick to judge mental health: ‘attention seeking’, ‘freak’, they say. But in reality we are no different to you- we’re just a bit lost and need a hand to guide us into the light. 

Never be afraid to reach out, both to those struggling or if you are struggling yourself. Have a broken friendship? Try fixing it before you give up into desperation. Live your life to the full and don’t let your eating disorder or mental health condition live your life for you.

Thanks for reading and supporting me on my journey through blogging.

Louis Theroux: By Reason Of Insanity REVIEW

Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity is a two-part documentary published in March 2015 by the BBC.
The documentary is about those who are cleared of criminal charges due to reasons of insanity by court. The episodes are an hour long each, during which you meet several patients and follow their stories.

Part one of the documentary on the BBC.
Part two of the documentary on the BBC.

Louis Theroux explores the world behind Ohio’s mental health hospital where people go when they are not deemed sane enough for trial.

The documentary was very interesting while also a bit chilling at times. The stories of individuals were explored and from a psychology point of view it was very interesting to see how different each patient and their symptoms were, even under the same diagnosis.

Being a sufferer of mental health issues myself, I was nervous about watching this documentary. I am relieved to say it hasn’t made me feel any worse about my mental health- I enjoy exploring mental health in a wider context than just my diagnosis, so seeing these people who have committed extreme cases of violence due to a mental illness was particularly interesting but also heartbreaking. I feel I can relate to some of them especially with their depression, although I personally do not have delusions. I think programmes like this raising awareness of mental health conditions to the general population are so important, so I really valued the chance to watch it.

I did find on a few occasions I wasn’t sure of what Theroux had said and whether it was appropriate/ thought it might be unnecessarily upsetting, such as saying to one patient that he wanted him to feel more guilty/express more emotion when clearly the patient struggled with emotional difficulties and therefore it wasn’t his fault and was also a sensitive topic. I found one of the parents shocking, calling her son a ‘nut’ for having schizophrenia, but I guess this is how people behave in real life- sad, but true.

Anyway, overall it was a great documentary and I would recommend it to both those suffering with mental health issues and others.

Other reviews:
The Guardian
IMDb
The Telegraph

Thanks for reading.

My First Inpatient Meal

This post talks about the thought processes I had during my first meal at the inpatient unit. It could potentially be triggering to those struggling with eating disorders so please be careful,
I’m posting this to raise awareness of what it’s like to battle your demons through each meal. I hope you like the style it’s written in, feel free to leave feedback in the comments and I’ll reply as soon as possible (I get back home from holiday in a few days time so will reply then).

My First Inpatient Meal

I remember my first meal.

Half a tuna sandwich.

The mayonnaise and sweetcorn spewing from the sides.
My hands shook as I moved the half across from the plastic container to my plate. The others began. Silence all except for the radio wittering softly in the background. I picked up my sandwich again. I looked at it, studied it’s brown seeds and soft brown crust. I pulled it closer to my mouth, lingered there for a moment. Unwillingly, my mouth opened. I nibbled the corner. The dry bread slipped down my throat.
Time was slipping by.

I looked around me, seeing how far others had got. Most had eaten almost a quarter. The girl sitting opposite me, also on half portions, had barely touched hers. I must finish last. No one will take me seriously unless I finish last.

The minutes ticked by.

Soon ten minutes were up, then fifteen. We were half way through the meal. I was less than halfway through my half-sandwich.

I took another bite, forcing the salty tuna down my throat. I felt the eyes of other patients bore into me, sizing me up. Sizing. Ha, it’s almost funny isn’t it? That in actual fact they probably were looking at my size. My enormous, disproportionate body. The body that the professionals insisted was ‘underweight’. The body that I had toyed with for all those months. The body I tried to make disappear.

As I sit there, my head spins. It’s too late now, there’s no going back. I will gain weight, I will never again be this thin. I can’t bear it. If I look like this now, what will I look like in ten kilograms? What will I look like with both halves of the tuna sandwich?

I take another bite.

Nonchalantly I chew. Again, I look up around me, up at the clock this time. 10 minutes left. I let my gaze drift down to the window. There’s a garden outside, one for the adolescent unit. I see a girl sitting there on a bench. I wish I could be sitting there, in place of that girl. Free to run around the garden, to exercise without the judging eyes and stern words from staff.

I look down at my hands. Just a few mouthfuls left.

The staff disturbs my thinking, “five minutes left, five minutes”. I shove another mouthful in.

Chew.

Chew.

Chew.

Swallow.

I try not to think of the grease coating my mouth. I look around, everyone has finished. Even the girl opposite. I stick the last bite into my mouth, just as the staff calls for us that our half an hour is up. I think I’ve done it, but the staff shakes her head at my plate, indicating that I must scrape it clean. Humiliated, I use my finger to scrape the excess crumbs and mayonnaise from the plate. A stray piece of sweetcorn also finds itself in my mouth. No need to chew, I swallow fast. No supplement drink for me. I was through our first meal.

***

Thanks for reading.

My Story, In Prose – by Sarah

Today I am sharing a story. One of sadness, true, but also determination and triumph. This story is not my own, but Sarah’s. Sarah is an inspirational young person and a fighter against anorexia. I hope that you find Sarah’s story as gripping and wonderfully written as I did, as well as it allowing you insight into what it’s like to live with an eating disorder.

My Story, In Prose
By: Sarah
Instagram: @oatsosarah
Written 8/24/2015

August, 2012

Sarah is thirteen and Sarah is fat.

Those are two things that Sarah knows with absolute certainty.

At the doctor’s office, that fateful day in late August, Dr. G says, “Sarah, you are off of your growth charts. Sarah, you must lose weight. Sarah, you must eat less. Start exercising. Something must change”.
And Sarah changed, oh yes they did!

Autumn, 2012

Sarah’s best friends are slim. Athletic. And so are their classmates! In fact, Sarah can count the number of fat people in their school on the fingers of one hand. Sarah only ever wanted to fit in.

“Daily Caloric Intake Calculator
Age? 13.
Height? 5’4”
Weight? xxx lbs.
Goal Weight? xxx lbs.”

It spit back a number and heaven help us, that number was Sarah’s life!

Winter/Spring, 2013

The shower’s water is hot on Sarah’s back but Sarah feels cold inside in an odd, icky, not-so-good way. Brown smoke clouds Sarah’s vision and they nearly fall. Panic. Panic everywhere, and Sarah can’t see!

“I can’t see!” Sarah shouts, hands clutching grey walls. “Help, I can’t see!”

Their mother comes, wraps them in a towel. Spots, static, in front of Sarah’s eyes and a burning pressure right behind them.

“I’ll get you some orange juice? Maybe you’re hungry,” The words cut like knives. Heartless attempt at kindness, that is. Offering her child ORANGE JUICE, while that child is on a DIET?

It’s a waste of calories, Sarah.

“No thanks, I’m fine.”

“Sarah, you are eating /something/.”

Sarah picks up the smallest clementine they can find from the bowl in the kitchen.

“I’m fine.”

Spring, 2013

It’s all your fault, Sarah. Just because it was your mother’s birthday dinner did not mean that you had to eat that. Or THAT. What were you thinking, you fucking fatty? Of course you’ve gained weight since this morning. Of course. Because you fucking pigged out tonight, that’s why! Go. Go do laps and TRY to burn off all the weight you’ve gained. FUCKING FATSO.

Pacing, pacing into the dark, and then jogging, breaking into a run, again and again laps around the house, around the yard, uphill and downhill and uphill again. Sarah tastes bile, sweat drenches their face.

The scale reads lower and Sarah nearly collapses with relief.

Nearly, because only lazy pigs sit down for no reason.

Summer, 2013

Sarah is an overachiever and thus, has decided to take an advanced summer course at school. For the students in the summer session, the dining hall staff were kind enough to cater lunches for the summer session students.

Hot fudge sundae bar! Two of Sarah’s friends, who also opted to take the class, are excited. They rush to the bar— aren’t you going with them, Sarah? They have dark chocolate chips, after all!

Sarah drags themselves up, tears waiting anxiously behind their eyes, ready to run in an instant.

You’re stronger than this, Sarah. Look at you, worthless monster. You’re giving in. Stop. Stop. Stopstopstop.

Sarah gets a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. Passes the dark chocolate chips without a second glance.

Upon arriving home, they begin to exercise, and continue into perpetuity.

August, 2013

“Sarah, look at you! You’ve lost xx lbs! Look at how healthy you are!”

Sarah is healthy. Sarah is healthy.

First day of school, 2013

Sarah, you look so good!
Any tips? C’mon, spill!
Look how SKINNY you’ve gotten!
Wow, way to get in shape!
I’m so inspired by your self control!
Man, you’ve lost a ton of weight!

Autumn, 2013

Sarah’s not studying enough, Sarah has to get up at 4:30 am to study. They can study till 6:30 and then leave for school at 7:30 and still make it on time.

On the weekends, why isn’t Sarah studying for 8 hours a day? Wait, they do? Okay, what about 10? Do you have anything /better/ to do, Sarah? NO. Studying is all you’re good for, after all.

100%.

A+.

You want to get into an Ivy, don’t you! You need to actually work, not sit on your lazy ass all day.

Sarah’s mother is concerned.
“Sarah, why does it take you an hour to eat your oatmeal every night?”
“Sarah, aren’t you healthy already? Why are you only eating x calories a day?”
“Sarah, when will your diet be over?”

November, 2013 Continue reading

Fundraising for Beat

This Sunday I am going to be running a 5km obstacle course to raise money for Beat.
As is obvious from this blog, this charity is very close to my heart and means a lot to me as it is raising awareness and also offering help to both sufferers and families all over the UK who struggle with eating disorders.

It’s easy to raise money, there are so many possible fundraising activities you can do- raising money but also having a whole lot of fun in the process. You can do cake sales, sponsored runs, walks or cycles, discos, sell handmade cards- you name it!

I have had so much help for my eating disorder over the last two years, which I am eternally grateful for. It feels absolutely wondertful to be able to give something back.

So far I have raised over £200, which is over my original goal of £150!

If you would like to sponsor me please visit my JustGiving page.

I have posted fundraising updates on both my personal Instagram and Facebook which was quite a challenge as I explained that I had suffered from an eating disorder, but people have been so supportive I couldn’t be more thankful. Asking people to sponsor me is also a great oppeetunity to explain what it’s really like to have an eating disorder. Being open about mental health is hard, but I will always try my best to be open because that way we can break stigma and make it easier for the future generations to talk about mental health.

Together we can beat eating disorders.

Thanks for reading.

Freya raising awareness

One of the only positive things that has come out of having this illness is meeting some of my best friends. My time as an inpatient in an adolescent eating disorders unit was hard, but the friends I made are friends for life.

One of them, Freya Chandler, is a Beat Media Volunteer and has recently done an interview for the BBC. In it she makes some really important points, and she speaks honestly and truthfully about her experience with anorexia- something I think is really brave and important to do. How can we hope to break stigma if we don’t first try to educate people and help them understand?

Her article and video are on BBC Newsbeat website, the Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday, and Huffington Post.

She also appeared in the Daily Mail, though they twisted her words and the article was stigmatising and wrong. They just want to make a good story. Well guess what? Eating disorders are hell and should be treated seriously, not just to have a good sounding title. It honestly makes my blood boil.

It’s printed now and what’s done is done. I am angry at the Daily Mail, but so so proud of Freya for being a voice for so many people suffering from this awful illness. The BBC article was incredible and they did a wonderful job at portraying the truth about eating disorders, which I couldn’t be more grateful for.

Some of my favourite quotes from Freya:
“There are triggers everywhere and you just have to learn to build yourself up against them”
“Use the old person not as a motivation to go backwards but an inspiration to move forwards.”

I hope you enjoyed the article,

Thanks for reading.