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.

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.

Anorexia in one picture

Sometimes it is hard to capture in words exactly how I feel.
You know the saying ‘a picture says a thousand words’? Well I couldn’t agree more.

After a particularly upsetting day yesterday, I decided to let my feelings out not through self destructive behaviours, not through words, but through taking photos.

I’m going to put a trigger warning here because you can see my ‘spine’, although only because of the position I am in.

This, to me, symbolises anorexia.

The bare back turned away, vulnerable. Caught in a corner with nowhere to turn. No-one and nothing but anorexia. The hunched position, the fear and desperation. That is anorexia.

Anorexia is not this glamorised thing you see on ‘pro-ana’ sites or Tumblr. It is a life threatening and devastating illness. I’ve been in recovery for two years now, and still in some respects I am deep within its grasp. It is hard to let go, hard to do normal things and go about everyday life.

I wish more people understood and accepted that recovery from mental illnesses are not easy. I always feel pressure on me to recover and stop needing therapy. One of my biggest fears is not being able to connect with people, so when people don’t understand me it sends me into panic. Yet so few people do understand me. How can I expect others to understand me when I don’t understand myself?

I am trying, and I will not stop trying until I am through this illness.
For a few blissful months I was weight restored, doing well and hardly thinking about food. I was exercising sensibly, and for enjoyment. Now that frame of mind seems unreachable. But if I have done it once I can and will do it again. That is what I keep telling myself.

Stop saying tomorrow and start saying now. That is what I need to do. I need to get my life back.

Thanks for reading.

F for Faces

Sometimes when I can’t sleep I like to draw. Usually I draw on my ipad because then I don’t need to fuss about with getting my pencil case and notebook out (plus things never rub out properly and I always manage to get pencil marks on my bed!), but recently I got a calligraphy set which is very exciting!

So I drew some faces. I am awful at drawing faces (as you can see), so I usually go for abstract which avoids the need for them to look realistic!

I decided to test my calligraphy pens out in an unconventional way.. With my eyes shut! Half them are with my eyes open and bald with my eyes shut.. Bet you’d have a hard time guessing which was which though! (The iPad ones were drawn with my eyes open)

  

I remember having to do similar exercises in inpatient to try to challenge perfectionism, and as it’s pen you can’t rub it out! It was a bit challenging actually but I embraced the fact it wasn’t perfect and it helped distract me and go to sleep afterwards.

Drawing it a great way to distract yourself, and it can sometimes help you actually relaise how you are feeling. Sometimes I’m just so tired, overwhelmed and hopeless and I don’t know how I feel, and drawing somehow helps me calm down and gather my thoughts.

If you suffer from anxiety or an eating disorder where up need distracting after food, I really would give drawing a go. I don’t do it as often as I like but it’s a really great thing to try.

Thanks for reading.

D for Don’t Even Think About It [book review #1]

Today I thought I’d try something a bit different. As it is an A-Z challenge, I thought why not go for something adventurous and see if I can learn some new skills while I’m at it. So today I’m going to be writing the first of (possibly a series?) of ‘books and mental health‘.

I am currently reading Don’t Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski.

This book isn’t about mental health, but the bits I am going to focus on in this post are. I hope that this way people can see what mental health issues are like in normalised day-to-day life, in this case, a teen fiction book.

IMG_4680

If I’m honest this isn’t usually the sort of book I read, it’s a bit too much of a ‘teen fic’ where they talk about who has a crush on who and what girl is wearing what etc etc.

BUT I found myself pleasantly surprised. 

 
One girl in this novel, Olivia, has anxiety. I see a lot of myself in her. She, like me, worries excessively about what people think of her, and tends to catastrophise and think the worst of every situation.

Here are some examples of her anixety:

“She wished she had gone home after all. The idea of everyone in the room knowing her every single thought filled her with dread.
She had dumb thoughts.
She knew she had dumb thoughts.”

“Olivia sank even further. They can hear me worrying about my dumbness! And now they can hear me worrying about worrying about my dumbness. It’s a friggin’ house of mirrors.
(I’m sure most people with mental health issues can relate to the house of mirrors analogy, I certainly feel like that at times.)

Olivia is also a hypercondriac. People are so quick to dismiss this and say ‘oh they just need to get a grip’, but it isn’t that easy. It’s a mental issue, my Grandad suffers from this and he is always petrified he’s ill and it’s some awful illness. It’s horrible, you can see the fear in his eyes over the tiniest of colds. Olivia is like this too, always scared that she’s got some awful illness. Again, I think it is an important thing for people to be aware of, and at points in the book it seems quite ridiculous, but I’ve learnt from personal experience that often mental disorders are competently illogical; that doesn’t make them any less valid. 

 
Overall I think it does a good job of conveying a different mindset than most teenagers are used to, and could potentially be an important eye-opener to those who are unaware of anxiety and mental health issues

 
I hope you enjoyed reading this slightly different post, please do leave comments and tell me what you think, would you like to read more book reviews like this? I have also read some non-fiction books about anorexia and other mental health issues that I could potentially write about and review if anyone is interested, so please do just give me a shout.

Thanks for reading.