Dealing with past trauma

I was looking through my computer yesterday and found this ‘post’ if you like (it’s before I had a blog you see) about dealing with past trauma that I wrote on 5/8/2014.
My ‘trauma’ if you lik was a relationship I was in that made me feel uncomfortable, but I shan’t go into that.
I hope this post is helpful for those dealing with difficult situations in the past, just like I had to, and helps people keep going in their recovery.

Dealing with past trauma
As a person recovering from an eating disorder, I can say hand on heart that I understand what it’s like to have so many feelings and emotions about particular incidents that you feel trapped, vulnerable and alone. The important thing to realise is that whatever it is that happened in your past was most likely NOT your fault, and whatever it was you can work to get through it and carry on your day to day life without the pain you once felt.

For me, the first thing I had to was to sit with the bombardment of feelings and emotions I felt, and try to calm myself down enough to work out what it was that was scaring me so much and causing all these emotions and thoughts.

Some ways of calming yourself:

  • Counting slowly to ten, breathing deeply
  • Focusing on an object and looking in detail at everything, then go back to yourself when you’re feeling calmer
  • Sit with both legs firmly on the ground and with your back straight upright, and feel the chair supporting you from beneath and remind yourself that you are in the present and you are safe

Allow yourself as much time as you need. For me I just lay in bed (it was night) and panicked about it all for a while, until I calmed myself down enough to think clearly.

Still, once I had realised what the situation was that was bothering me, it didn’t change anything. I still had all the same overwhelming thoughts and feelings, and I still felt completely out of control. So the next thing to do is to talk to someone.

I know how hard talking to people is. It has taken me almost a year to trust therapists enough to (almost)fully open up to them and actually start doing therapy work that was going to benefit me.

I see a therapist at CAHMS, but I didn’t want to talk to her about this certain thing for various reasons, so after some panicking and a bit of thinking, I decided to contact Childline, where I could talk anonymously.

However, talking to people you know is probably best depending on the situation; there are some things I understand you just can’t bring yourself to talk to someone you know about. But if you do decide to talk to someone you know, talk to someone you trust. Be it your parents, therapist (if you have one), or friends. Just a word of caution though, talking to your friends is great and you are not burdening them at all if they want to listen and help you, but try not to put them in a difficult situation. For example, if you tell a friend something that puts you or others at risk and beg them not to tell anyone, that is stressful for them and will also probably make you feel worse for putting them in that situation. Or, if you do this, understand the reason why if they tell someone, and be forgiving because they only want what is best for you.

Anyway, after all this, the end result is that it’s no longer trapped and bottled up inside you. Now that it’s out in the open, even if just one person knows, then you can start to gradually let go and move on. It doesn’t instantly feel better, sometimes it’s still scary and horrible after you talk to someone for a bit, but over time the feelings will hopefully get less intense and you can move on with your life and recovery.

I hope this helped anyone who is finding it hard to move onto the past, and please feel free to comment any questions/thoughts or email me at myjourneywithrecovery@gmail.co.uk

Thanks for reading. 

A ‘Severe’ Eating Disorder

I found a letter from last year regarding my eating disorder, and it stirred a few thoughts.

There’s no such thing as a severe eating disorder, ALL eating disorders are living hell and the fact that a proffesional claims me to have had a ‘severe‘ eating disorder makes me mad- so what, you think others aren’t severe? No matter what your weight, what your physical conditions, eating disorders are sheer hell. You can’t go out to enjoy yourself with friends, oh no, you must instead do laps around your local neighbourhood when your parents think you are asleep, you must restrict every waking hour to minimal food, you must constantly be agonising over your body.
Now, who are you to label as ‘severe’ or ‘mild’? Have you been through it yourself? No. Then you couldn’t possibly understand.

I’m sick of the macros, I’m sick of the BMIs, I’m sick of being sick of it all.

Why is it that there’s always a competition? If we were all sicker than each other we’d all be dead, simple as.

Strength is not determined by how low your weight got or how long you went without eating, strength is determined by the courage and determination it takes to recover.

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.

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.

An Explanation

As some of you might have noticed, I completely failed the A-Z Blogging Challenge this year.
Part of me wishes I hadn’t signed up because hate failing, giving up or quitting. But maybe that exact reason is why it’s so important that I did it.

I am currently sitting my AS Level examinations, the first year/ part of the two-year A level course in the UK. It’s hardly surprising that I found writing a blog post each day and revising 4 subjects, going to school, practicing the flute for my grade 7 exam, climbing and horse riding too much.

My mother often says I stretch myself too thin. And maybe she’s right, but at the same time I don’t know how else to be. This is me, I am that person who is always doing ten things at once; who’s life is a precarious juggling act that only she can control.

I love writing blog posts, I enjoy it and it gives me a sense of purpose. It makes me sad that I have to prioritise exams, which I need to do in order to get to the university I want and to get to where I want to be in life. I think it’s crazy how much pressure is put on 16-18 years olds. These exams essentially decide the rest of our lives. That’s ridiculous! No one needs that sort of pressure. No wonder so many young people and teenagers get mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
At our school we’re taught from a young age that in order to succeed in life you must get a degree and go to a good university. That’s just not true.


https://vine.co/v/e77MHBgDIbe

I’m on half term now and have done 5 out of 8 exams. 3 more the week after half term then I’m done! I shall be writing more blog posts and posting at least a few times a week, and you never know I might have time to socialise and enjoy myself too!

Thank you for reading and I’ll be posting again soon.

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.

Health is not defined by calories

Something that really bothers me is the way people associate health with calories.

I’m not talking about people suffering with eating disorders, of course it isn’t their fault and I bet you anything they wish that they didn’t feel the need to count calories, but I mean the general population/ the way they are presented in media.

There is far too much focus and emphasis on calories these days.

“New recipe, lower calories”

“Workout more, burn calories” etc

The fact of the matter is; health is not and never will be defined by calories.
Calories can be a factor to your health I agree, but so can so many other things and calories only really come into play if you’re eating an unbalanced diet or are eating too much/ too little.

The Oxford dictionary definition of health is:
“The state of being free from illness or injury.”
Does this mention calories? No.

People say “a calorie is a calorie”, meaning that it doesn’t matter what they eat as long as the calories are the same, whereas I truly do not believe this is the case.
Again, I am not trying to pick on people or be rude, it’s just people’s lack of knowledge around health when it comes to eating. It really is shocking and I find it quite upsetting, especially when people refer to calories all the time when I’m trying to stop looking at them.

“A calorie is a calorie”, well, yes and no. If you have a calorie goal in recovery of course it is important you reach it! And it is equally important that you challenge yourself and treat yourself to niceties like chocolate. But, calories do not define health.

A really simple way of putting it is this;
say a glass of smoothie is 200kcal,
a bottle of Coke Zero is 0kcal.
But which is better for your health?
The smoothie.
But it’s higher calories, how can this be?!

Just because it is higher in calories does not mean it isn’t good for you. Smoothies are full of vitamins, minerals and natural healthy substances. Coke Zero has many artificial additives and not many natural substances at all.
So why is it that in today’s modern day and age, where we know so much about health and nutrition, that people are so fixated on calories?

Obviously I cannot answer this question. I can simply say this; a healthy diet is one of balanced nutritional values, not one based on calorie goals. Having treats is ok, good for you in fact, but so is it important to have things such as your 5-a-day.

I eat chocolate almost every day I would say. Not necessarily in it’s pure form, but I eat puddings that have it in and chocolate yoghurt etc. All food groups are important. I have a high metabolism and I love chocolate, so I shouldn’t be ashamed to say I eat it often. It isn’t bad for you, fats are healthy and are just another food group like any other. I have a balanced diet of all the food groups; fats and sugars, starchy foods (carbs), protein, dairy, and fruit and veg.

The key to a healthy diet is balance. And the understanding that calories aren’t everything is so so important.

I want to promote health and am sick of societies views on calories. I believe it is wrong and it’s encouraging disordered eating behaviours and thoughts around food.

[note: I am not saying Coke Zero is bad for you in any way, simply that you do not want to be drinking it every day of possible, and it was just an example to show that calories aren’t all that counts when it comes to health]

One day we will all be able to nourish our bodies well and understand health better. We just have to spread the word.

Thanks for reading.

The Weight of Eating Disorders

As a victim of an eating disorder, I know that there is one ultimate secret that is hard to hide… Weight.

The numbers consume you. No matter how small they go, they crush you in their seeming enormity. Others may ask, but never will you let them know how ‘huge’ you really are.

Since I’ve been in recovery I’ve learnt that often victims of eating disorders don’t see their body how they truly are, often associated with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). However, this new piece of knowledge does not provide much comfort for the agonising pulling and pinching of your body.

No matter how many or how often people tell you you’re not fat, your view of yourself doesn’t change.
So your weight drops and the numbers plummet, you forever hoping that maybe one day you will look in the mirror and like what you see.

“Maybe if lose a few more pounds I’ll be happier in my own skin”

If only it were as simple as that.

You see, eating disorders aren’t kind and forgiving like you and I; they’re out to cause pain and will not stop at attempting to do so. A few pounds lost, the voice tells you “not good enough” and “just a few pounds more, then you can stop“.
The pounds come off, but the ‘stop’ is never reached.

Even now that I am in recovery and dedicated to it, telling people what I weigh (e.g. my parents) never ceases to be a challenge.

I got weighed today and the ultimate question was asked; “give this [weight record] to your dad on the way out won’t you?”. And did I? No. Instead I folded the sheet as small as it would go, shoved it in my pocket and hoped dad wouldn’t ask. He didn’t.

You might be reading this thinking, “Ok, so I get that eating disorders are hard… But what’s the point in telling us about it?”. The simple answer is, for awareness.

If no one knew about cancer how could anyone possibly help support that person, let alone diagnose it! It’s no different for eating disorders and other mental health issues.
When I first went (/was taken) to the GP with eating issues, he told me it was ‘just a phase’. If anorexia counts as a ‘phase’, then yes, yes it is. But somehow I think that it is not.

If more people understood and knew about these disorders, and if the stigma behind eating disorders and mental health issues were broken, maybe more people would be correctly diagnosed and treated, with more support all round and therefore higher success levels?
And isn’t even that possibly, no matter how small, worth investing in? Just a thought to leave you with.

Thanks for reading.

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Life is like a loo roll [my original analogy]

Life is like a loo roll. I bet you’re thinking “how on earth is life possibly like a loo roll?! That’s ridiculous! Well yes and no. It may sound it at first, but if you read my post maybe your perspective will change. I’d be interested to know your thoughts/ opinions, so do comment below what you thought!

So, life is like a loo roll.

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A loo roll is made up of hundreds of sheets, joined together and wrapped around the core in layers.
It’s there for everything, from doing your business to wiping tears from a sad film or emotional time. You can clear up dirt or spilt paint with it, whatever you wish.
You can take individual sheets or several at once, but if you pull them too hard and aren’t careful, the whole thing can unravel and fall to the floor.
Then you have to spend the time and effort rolling it back up, helping its last little bit flop back over onto the roll. Sometimes you do it well and sometimes you do it badly; if it’s done badly then the loo roll can be more prone to unraveling again, or can just not be quite the same neat roll it was before.

I believe life is very much like this.

You as a person are made up of core values, thoughts, feelings, and morals; much like the layers of the loo roll. Each individual sheet is a thought/feeling/value that you have, about yourself or the world around you.

You are there for others. You’re there to comfort others, you’re the one they rely on and you share both good and bad times with. The blowing away the tickle in your nose on a hot sunny day, and the drying of their tears as you hug each other for comfort during challenging times. That’s what friends are for.

People can use you to do their dirty work. They can say mean comments or a snide remark, just like they’ve ripped a sheet of tissue off your roll suddenly, and the roll spins a bit because of the sudden impact. People can treat you like shit (brilliant pun if I do say so myself), and it is hard.

Unfortunately there’s only so much people can take, and when too many things happen (such as bullying, difficult situations, family or friendship issues, low self esteem; you get the idea), we just can’t take it. We aren’t prepared. It’s like someone’s ripped too many pieces off the roll too quickly and too violently, and suddenly it spins out of control and unravels.

Sometimes people don’t even notice.
Have you ever been to the loo, come out etc, only to come back a while later and find the whole loo roll has unravelled? And you don’t remember this happening at all?
I really think people are like that. Often it happens too quickly or people just don’t see what’s really going on, and before they know it that person is no longer ‘*happy’.

That person needs support and help to build themselves back up and step around the obstacle. It’s just like wrapping the sheets back around the roll. It takes a while to wrap the sheets back around, but with help it can be done.

Yes, sometimes when you’ve helped and the loo roll is back in place, it isn’t quite the same, and some people are different after they’ve been through difficult times. But often these changes aren’t a bad thing. Sometimes people can grow as a person, learn things about themselves they didn’t know before, and finally realise that there are many people out there who care about them and are willing to help.

I guess you can explain eating disorders, anxiety, depression, bipolar, any mental illnesses at all in this way, because at the end of the day with the right support you can recover from them and live a fulfilling life, sometimes you just need a bit of help to start you rolling back up, the. Then you’re off!

***

*I put ‘happy’ in quotation marks because no one can be happy all the time, it’s impossible. But you can be largely happy, more about inner confidence and a healthy approach to life than anything else.

***

I really hope that made sense and I did that analogy justice, because (without wishing to sound big headed as I did make it up) it is one of my favourite analogies because it makes me believe that things can change and I can ravel myself back up, but it’s also realistic in the fact that yes, if you don’t recover ‘properly’ you are more prone to relapse. But none of these things are unbeatable, and although hard times are horrible and can affect us, we can get through it. I guess that’s the message of this post really; life is hard but we can deal with it.

Anyway, I could go on forever. Personally I think there are just so many way this applies to life and the more I think about it the more I can add to the analogy and the more I feel like I understand life.. Weird huh?

I really hope you enjoyed this post.

Thanks for reading.