Trigger Warnings: should these be compulsory?

Today’s post is going to be a bit of a debate. I’m going to try to give both sides of the argument as well as my opinions, but I’ll leave you to make your own judgements as there is no right or wrong answer.

So, trigger warnings on posts. Be that Tumblr, WordPress, Instagram– you name it. Should people use them more? Or less? Or should people be using them at all?

It is common now to find recovery accounts on all social media sites; one of the largest being Instagram. From positive recovery accounts to weight loss and pro-Ana accounts, there really is a wide spectrum out there.

Trigger warnings, abbreviated to TW, are often put at the beginning of posts. Recovery accounts may post something like, “TW but I skipped dinner. I feel ill but I just can’t stop. I hate this”, for example. Some people won’t put this trigger warning. The question is, is sharing with social media helping? And should everyone posting potentially harmful content have to use a trigger warning?

Now I believe in freedom of speech, and especially in recovery from a mental health condition, I think opening up about how you feel is vital to ensure your wellbeing and give you the best possible chance of recovery. But to what extent can we go before posting becomes a hindrance to both those writing the posts and those reading?

I believe that unfortunately, websites such as Instagram and Tumblr where sometimes graphic pictures and descriptions are posted are desensitising us.
It is all too common to stumble upon a photo of someone with a drip in their hand after an overdose.
It is all too common to see fresh self harm when flicking through a recovery tag.

Now this isn’t safe or healthy, for anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a wonderful and helpful thing to all of us, including those in recovery, but there are dangers too that we need to be aware of and protect ourselves from.

Although we should all be able to share our feelings, I think we’d all be much safer in these internet communities with a safeguard filter. For example, there should be an option to block posts with TW as a hashtag, and a rule that all potentially triggering content should have this tag on it.
That way it allows freedom of speech, but also protects everyone on the Internet, perhaps most importantly the vulnerable people to these mental health conditions.

And as for people who say, “it’s my account I can post what I like”, is that a fair statement? (I am not saying yes or no, I am simply asking the question).

We are in the day and age where our deepest inner-most thoughts can be published on social media, and although we have every right to do so, shouldn’t we all have every right to be protected from seeing these things? Some people would still look, but it does allow the option not to if you are struggling. Then you will see perhaps more positive posts which would help in recovery. See what I’m getting at here?

I think that whether people post it on a private or public account, if there is any chance it might be triggering (be it the picture or the caption), put TW at the beginning of the post and/or as a hashtag. Two simple letters might save someone a lot of pain.

I rarely use my recovery instagram, as it is a tricky place to be. I only follow recovery accounts (by that I mean no pro-anorexia accounts and the suchlike), but unfortunately this doesn’t mean that I am safe from triggers. There are so many out there, from calorie counting to people posting photos of pills they are about to overdose on.

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Lastly, I thought I’d leave you with two points; one to sum up, and one more just to finish on:
(1) Think before you post. Could this be triggering? Put a trigger warning on just in case.
Make this community safer for yourself and those around you, speak your mind but be considerate. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to put a trigger warning on their post. Obviously there is no need to be rude so make sure you ask politely.

And

(2) before getting a recovery account on any of these sites, make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for, and be careful when looking up hashtags. Your wellbeing is most important, so don’t be afraid to unfollow someone if you find them triggering.

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I hope you enjoyed this post and it got you thinking about trigger warnings on social media.

Thanks for reading.

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5 things to achieve this February

If I’m totally honest (with myself as well as you), I’m struggling a bit recently. With depression, with food, with the thoughts- the whole lot. I figured as today is the start of a new month, why not set myself some realistic but perhaps challenging goals to help me through.

Part of me wants to relapse but part of me wants to beat it and get better; I’ve just got to keep fighting and make the latter part win. It’s so hard saying that let alone getting my brain to think it, but it’s work in progress. I have to keep strong for my friends and family, as well as for me, even if sometimes I don’t care about myself/ more extreme of hating myself.

Here goes! 5 goals this February:

(1) Open my Christmas selection box and eat at least one bad of chocolate from it. It’s been sitting in my room and I’m too afraid to eat it, I also hate having food in my room as it scares me!

(2) Write a blog post at least once a week.

(3) Gain weight at weigh-in at least once this month, PLUS maintain/gain for another week. So max I can lose is 2 out of 4 weeks.

(4) Get through another month without self harm (in terms of cutting of scratching)

(5) Moisturise at least once a week this month. Caring for my body is so scary as I think I don’t deserve it, but I’ve got to challenge these thoughts right?

That’s all for this month, I have no idea whether this will be helpful or not, but I figured I’d give it a go and see. I really hope I manage to achieve at least some of these, at the end of the month I’ll tell you how it went and set more goals if I found it helpful!

Hope you’re all ok and sorry for my lack of posting, depression and anorexia are bitches but I will fight them.

Thanks for reading.

A meaningful goodbye

Today was a hard day, because I had to say goodbye to my psychologist, whom we will call L.

We exchanged goodbye letters and a few tears were shed, but I’ll never forget what she has taught me and I will forever remember our time together. It is so sad and hard saying goodbye, but this isn’t the end: I am still in recovery and on an ever changing journey, and you never know, one day our paths might meet again.

Here is my letter to L.

Dear L,
It’s hard to know where to start.
Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me, you’ve helped me so much and made me realise that I am not alone. There are two types of people in this world: those who know their limits and accept them, and those who know their limits but do not let that stop them or define who they are. I may be more susceptible to mental health issues than others, but you’ve assured me that things can change and that, although it hard, you can always overcome your issues.
I might not easily find the ‘middle ground’ that we oh so love, but, like anything, hard work and practice should get me there.
I’m not saying all my problems are sorted and I’m going to waltz myself through life, because that is unrealistic. I still have some way to go, but you have helped me open up doors I didn’t even realise were there. You’ve helped me realise things I felt or thought that I didn’t even realise I felt. And most importantly, you’ve been there for me. You never gave up on me and for that I can never thank you enough.
You’ve allowed me to talk through my fears, no matter how small or silly they may seem, and you never judged me.
Goodbyes are hard and I hate them, because you really have changed my path or at least helped me along the right one. Without your incredible support who knows where I’d be now?
Goodbyes are hard at the best of times, but it’s even harder when the person you have to say goodbye to has made such a big impact on your life. I trust you more than I trust anyone except maybe my mum, and it is hard to leave that.
I will forever remember our times together; from laughing about the elusive middle ground to shedding a few tears. But as you say, that only strengthened how close we felt and how we were able to connect.
You must get heaps of patients thanking you and telling y how much you’ve helped them, big I just had to say it because it’s the genuine truth. We all thank people who, let’s face it, we don’t particularly like or value, but my thank you is sincere and I honestly could never thank you enough.
And finally, I hope you have an absolutely incredible time in X. I am sure it will be a wonderful experience and a new and exciting chapter of your life.
I know we don’t talk much about you in our sessions, but I really hope you live a happy and fulfilled life, because you really deserve it. You’ve given me a chance and I’m sure you’ve done the same for many others, so don’t forget to put yourself first and have some fun.
Life is too short to worry about the small things, that’s what you’ve taught me. And for every bad there is a good, so I’ll try hard not to forget that.
Thank you ever so much for everything you’ve done for me, and I wish you all the very best.”

And here’s poem I wrote for her representing my journey through our time together from first day of therapy to last:

Day 1 A scared and frightened girl
Day 2 Another day gone
Day 3 She nervously looked away
Day 4 She cried she’d never belong

Day 5 Scared, she opened her mouth
Day 6 Began to talk
Day 7 Let unleash the demons within
Day 8 Nothing went wrong

Day 9 She finally looked your way
Day 10 Smiled
Day 11 She took comfort from your words
Day 12 The time was worth your while

Day 13 progress began to take its place
Day 14 A glimmer of hope finally found
Day 15 She had a good night’s sleep
Day 16 Their friendship, tightly bound

Day 17 The time came to say goodbye
Day 18 But there was no time for tears
Day 19 For throughout all the pain
Day 20 You were always by my side

One of my favourite quotes from her letter to me:
“I hope you can continue this journey you have taken the courage to begin. If in doubt, be nice to yourself, compassion at the times we feel in pain, have stumbled, made mistakes are important. Practice this new voice, ‘I am nice, good, likeable’ and remember THE MIDDLE GROUND!”

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I drew her this. It may look simple enough, but the meaning behind it was the important thing. She gave me hope when I had none, and she’s helped me grow in so many ways. I drew this in biro without any guidelines or rubbings out to challenge my perfectionism just for her. I think she welled up a bit then.

If you’re reading this L, I truly hope you liked my essay of a goodbye letter, drawing and poem, and the present. You truly are incredible. I’ll miss you but I’ll be thinking of you and you’ve adventures. I won’t forget you and I hope you don’t forget me. Thank you for everything.

Anyway, so I have a new therapist/psychologist figure who we’ll call S, who I’ve met briefly but not had a session with yet. Fingers crossed things go ok, though even if it all went terribly I am still thankful for the wonderful help and support of L these last 6 months and beyond.

Thanks for reading.

Mental Health Q&A : I

Firstly I would like to apologise for being absent from blogging for so long, I have been so busy and finding it hard to motivate myself. It takes me so long to get out of bed because I’m tired and I simply lack the motivation to do so. But I’ve ploughed though and here I am.
From now on I have set myself a goal of blogging at least once a week, so hopefully you’ll hear from me weekly.
Raising awareness of mental health has no breaks, it is important and I want and need to do it.

Today I’m doing a slightly different post, which is a mental health Q&A.

After much deliberation I have created a recovery Ask.fm.
The reason I was cautious is because, as you are probably already aware, many people get anonymous hate, are bullied and sometimes driven to even kill themselves due to this abuse.
You can set your Ask to only have registered users (i.e. No anonymous questions), but I think it’s really important that anyone should be able to ask about mental health without having to say who they are.
Thus I concluded to create an open Ask.fm, but I will review it regularly and possibly delete it if I get abuse or I feel it is not helping me or those around me. But for now, I hope it will be a place people can go to ask about mental health, anonymously or publicly, and I will help them as best as I can.

You can find my Ask.fm here. I am more than happy to answer any mental health related questions or general questions too, so feel free to pop me a question.

Here are a few questions I’ve selected and my answers, I hope this is helpful in understanding mental health and answers the questions suitably.

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What made you start recovery? What happened to make you accept it and agree to it?
It takes a long time in ‘forced recovery’ as I call it (CAHMS and parents involved etc) before you actually decide you want recovery. Anorexia is very manipulative even to the sufferer themselves, so for a while I thought I was in recovery etc but really I just wasn’t committed enough; I was still lying about my weight, restricting, lying about food etc.
It wasn’t until I was rushed to hospital after I admitted I was lying about my weight that I realised how serious this disorder was. But even then I didn’t fully commit to recovery, I was too ill, not strong enough to fight it.
So 6 months after I had been diagnosed and been going gradually downhill, I was admitted to a day patient programme then an inpatient one. When I knew that I was getting help, that was when I committed to recovery. Before I never thought I could do it on my own so didn’t bother trying, but when help was offered I grabbed it with both hands, despite how much my eating disorder hated me for it.
Recovery is different for everyone, but for me it was realising that I didn’t want to spend my whole life in hospital, that I was sick of not being able to do things I wanted, that I was too underweight to go to school, that I wasn’t even allowed to run anymore (when I was impatient you weren’t supposed to run at all, so even on walks we had to keep a steady pace and I felt so confined).
Sometimes I want to give in and go back to being thin again. But it wouldn’t just be losing weight, it would be losing freedom.

My sister has anorexia, but she won’t admit it or accept it. She’s very underweight, you can see all her bones sticking out and she refuses to eat. My mum is totally distraught. How did your family help to make you see ur ED?
I am so sorry to hear that, obviously your sister is in a very difficult place, and having been in a similar position I understand how hard it is for the surrounding family to be there and watch as they get worse, feeling powerless.
Firstly I want to emphasise that eating disorders (and any other mental illness) are extremely hard to overcome and are very powerful, horrible things. It is very hard for a sufferer to accept help, as often eating disorders are linked to low self esteem, resulting in them feeling that they do not deserve help.
People are also often in denial, refusing there is a problem. This is often because they do not want to face the fear or problems driving the illness and do not want to lose the control they feel they have.
It is important to be patient towards them, don’t say things like “just eat” or get angry over them over a meal where they eat little. Instead try things such as talking to them away from food and expressing how worried you are, and maybe talk to their close friend(s) if possible to see if they’ve noticed anything strange.
Whether she does or doesn’t open up or admit there is a problem, it is important that you ask your parents to book a Doctor’s appointment for her as soon as possible. Eating disorders need treatment and it sounds like your sister is in a very bad place not just mentally but physically too. Give her the opportunity to go in alone, maybe she’ll open up if she doesn’t have to be worried about upsetting the family. She undoubtedly cares about you a lot and more than likely this is another reason she doesn’t talk to you, because she doesn’t want to hurt you.
Ask the Doctor’s to transfer her to a specialist adolescent eating disorder service such as CAHMS. They will be able to properly asses her and are used to speaking to people who refuse to believe they are ill and can be very helpful.
I am very sorry your sister and family are going through this, I wish her the best of luck and you too; if you have any more questions feel free to ask and I will answer them as best as I can.

How are you doing at the moment? Do you still wobble or are you recovered? Sometimes I feel like recovery isn’t possible. Ive heard that once you are anorexic, it stays with you at the back of your mind for the rest of your life 😦
I am doing okay at the moment thank you. I do still have wobbles and am up and down at the moment, I still struggle but I am fighting and more able to cope with difficult things thrown at me than before. I wish I could say I am recovered but unfortunately I am not. Recovery takes a long time and is a battle, but I am still committed to it which is a positive anyway I guess. Body image is still terrible and I want to lose weight, but luckily I am now able to accept those thoughts without acting on them. With time I hope they will go away completely.
People have said that to me before too, I think it’s sad people believe they can’t recover, because I honestly believe you can. It takes years unfortunately and there will be triggers in your life so it is possible the thoughts might come back at very stressful periods of your life, but for the most part I think it is possible to be without the thoughts of an eating disorder. I just keep fighting the thoughts and doing things that I enjoy and helping other people and get on with my life, hoping that it will pay off in the end. But if you want to recover fully I think you have to believe you can. If you think it’s not possible then you’re more likely to give in to your thoughts, and it might be that keeping the disordered thoughts going rather than it not being possible to fully recover in itself.
I hope this helps and I’m more than happy to help if you have any other questions.

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My Ask.fm: ask.fm/recovering_dreamer

Thanks for reading.

Today I am thankful

Today, as you are probably already aware, is Christmas Day.
And I want to celebrate all that I am thankful for.
I am obviously thankful for my presents which are all lovely, but there are so many more important things that need celebrating and we might take for granted in day to day life.

I am thankful for my family, for their ever-supporting presence and their kindness and love. Yes, sometimes we may argue or my sisters might tease me, but at the end of the day I love them all the same.

I am thankful for my friends, I may not have many but the few who stuck by me are fantastic and have never faltered in their unconditional support. They are there to have a good laugh with, but are also a shoulder to cry on through tough times. I couldn’t wish for anything better.

Without my friends and family I would never have come so far in recovery, so I thank them most of all.

I am thankful for not only material things such as having a roof over my head, being able to go to a good school etc., but I’m also thankful for unsaid, non-psychical things.

I am thankful for my recovery. No matter how hard, no matter how many times I just want to be thin again, no matter how hard I may find it, it was the best choice I ever made. At times I feel like it wasn’t, that I should never have tried, but I know that is my demons talking, and I will not listen.

I am thankful for today. Seeing all my family is wonderful, and the excitement of Christmas is somewhat contagious. Yes I may still have underlying feelings of sadness and worthlessness, but I will not let them ruin this day. No. This day is a special one.

My aim is to make every day a special one like today.

I was worried about posting this, for fear of people thinking I was “lame”. I know if my sisters saw something like this they would laugh and roll their eyes, but why should being greatful and actually taking a moment to appreciate what we have a bad thing? It shouldn’t be, if everyone took the time to notice the small things in day today life and slowed down just that little bit, I think we would all be much better off.
And thus I concluded to publish this post anyway, doubts or no doubts, because at the end of the day if I never tried, how would I know what the reaction would be.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope today is a good day, and today really try to beat your demons because you do deserve happiness. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, everyone deserves a second chance.

Thanks for reading.

Pets and mental health

Pets are a wonderful way of helping us keep in good mental health, or for those of us who aren’t so lucky with keeping well, a great way to aid our recovery into a healthy mindset.

Pets are great for all sorts of reasons, as is shown by the fact billions of people across the world have them!

They are a wonderful distraction. Having a bad day? Why not snuggle up with your dog/cat/rabbit/guinea pig/hamster or whatever other pet you may have.

You learn their likes and dislikes, their personality, and how to get on best with your pet. You feed them, pet them, give them water and shelter. They rely on you. For those of us feeling useless in day to day life, they give you a purpose and something we know depends purely on us.

They add structure to your day. You know when you must feed them, water them, let them out, clean them out, walk them if it’s a pet that requires it. All of these things giving you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

They can be rewarding; having a cuddle with your pet after a long hard day can be all you need to melt today’s stresses away.

Essentially, the amount you give to your pet in terms of not only food and supplies, but also love and affection, is given back to you by your pet in forms of hugs and routine.

Of course human interaction is very important and it is so so important to talk to people and share so that you do not feel alone, but unfortunately people cannot always be there; pets can. If you’re having a rough night and are fighting self harm urges or some horrid thoughts etc., you can always turn to your pet.

Even stroking them and holding them can ground us. They are a physical thing, they remind you that you are here and you are not in the past or future, but in the now. This can be especially helpful with disassociation or similar experiences, as it helps you feel part of your body rather than separate from it.

Reasons such as these are why animal therapy exists and is so successful in helping patients. It is particularly helpful for children with ADHD, and patients struggling from PTSD and/or depression.
I found an interesting article about animal therapies in The SCAS Journal from the Autumn of 2010, I definitely recommend the read.

I have a rabbit (lionhead, male, 9 months, and the fluffiest thing you’ll ever meet) and he means the absolute world to me. Some people might think it’s weird how much pets mean to them, but to m it makes sense. Pets have emotions and we learn to read them, just as we do with humans.

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Last but not least, you can draw parallels between your pet and life. You learn your pets needs, do more of what he/she likes, less of what they don’t, you look after them and give them space if they need it; all things you would do for a human.

My therapist once said “treat yourself like you treat your rabbit”. I laughed at first, but since I’ve realised she’s right.

We need to look after ourselves like we look after our pets, we need to love ourselves and nourish our bodies, we need to do more of what we enjoy and we need to be able to take time out when we need it.

Pets are wonderful things. They teach us things about ourselves that we may not have known before.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences with pets and mental health in the comments below.

Thanks for reading.

20 Facts about Mentally Ill me

I am sorry it has been so long since I last posted.

I have been struggling recently. Not with eating, not with self harm, not even with anxiety (well obviously I do struggle with these, but I just mean these aren’t the main problem of recent). Nope, it’s depression. As per usual.

Today is one of those sleepless nights, so I thought I’d challenge one anxiety and write 20 facts on here.
I have written this at least 5 times but have never posted it, as every time I get nervous about one thing or another and I am just so very scared of being judged. BUT I thought I could challenge that and write it them post it straight away on here, where I am anonymous but in a supportive ‘bubble’, if you like.

This might be a bit too focused in mental health so sorry about that, but as this is what my blog is about I felt this was most appropriate. What is sad is that I didn’t write those 20 facts with that in mind, unfortunately most things these days seems to link to metal illness.

Anyway, here are 20 facts about me and I would love to hear more about you as readers, subscribers, likers, sharers and commenters; so please do feel free to tell me more about yourselves in the comments.

1) I always put others before myself
2) I have always worried lots
3) I tend to take on problems of the world
4) I want to make a difference
5) I want to make people happy
6) I can’t achieve 5 all the time so I always feel worthless
7) I punish myself in so many ways, though –
8) I have stopped self harming (I don’t count days as I find this triggering)
9) I often find myself longing to be thin again, even though –
10) I spent 9 months in hospital (partially inpatient, partially day patient).
11) I am desperate for people to like me
12) I feel hopeless most of the time
13) I’ve felt useless etc since about the age of 6 (bullying) so I do doubt I can change 10 years on
14) I set very high expectations for myself
15) My mental illnesses have taken away different aspects of my life, some of which I don’t think I’ll ever get back
16) I grew up all too quickly last year during both mine and my dad’s illness
17) Most people would not guess I have problems because I am great at hiding it
18) I struggle to ever be proud of anything I do
19) I see so many mistakes and problems with myself, but I only see the good in others
20) I don’t want to live, but recently I’ve realised I don’t want to die. Therefore I do not belong.

And a bonus fact 21) I find it difficult to separate myself from my illnesses and find normal teenage things hard to engage with.

And this, my fellow readers, is why I have few friends and why people take advantage of me.

I hope I get on top of the depression and procrastination (oh is it bad at the moment!) and write more posts this holiday.

Thanks for reading.