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.

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.

We’re all like stretchy yellow men sometimes..

I got given one of these wonderful stretchy yellow men by my friend the other day, it reminded me of when I was little, I loved buying little bits and bobs like that or winning them on the 2p machine at the Pier when I visited my granny.

But now when I see it, you stretch them too far and the smile looks like it’s going to break. Don’t you feel like that sometimes? That people are pulling and pushing you and one day you’re just going to snap?

Anyway, I played on this theme and did a drawing last night to distract myself as I was feeling a bit anxious.

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The black words are things we ‘say’ to people and the grey are things we really feel below it. Obviously no, we are not stretchy and don’t tell people to stretch us, but in the way we talk to others I’m sure at times we are making ourselves vulnerable to being hurt because we are sad and want others to be happy.. Or maybe that’s just me.

A poem:

A toy, she thought,
She pulled and tugged
She twisted and yanked
And pinged it about.

A toy, she thought

But when it snapped
She cried and screamed
Ripped it inside and out

The mother came in,
Swept it away
Hugged her daughter
Bought a new one for a new day

But the cracks are already there,
Beginning to show

How long will it be
Until the cracks start to grow?

How long until,
The stretchy man cannot hide
Those fractures and pains
All bottled up inside.

And how long until
The little girl knows
That man is not a toy
He’s the pain inside us that grows?

Sorry for the random post, I’d be interested to see if people agreed with me though, do you ever feel like that?

This week has been tough on so many levels, just want it all to stop but I know if I want that then I have to keep fighting through. Any motivation would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

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.

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.