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.

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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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A year today…

I was admitted as a day patient to the Priory exactly today last year. (Then after 1 month I was transferred to inpatient)

It’s weird how it’s been a whole year since I was first admitted.. It feels both more time and less time since I first went. Mostly it feels like less, I can’t believe a whole year has passed since then.

I feel like I’ve wasted so much of my life on this stupid illness, yet I find it creeping back on me all the time. I know I am much better, and that yes, maybe I have done well and come far, but I’ve still got a hell of a long way to go.

I ate so much today and I feel so guilty. But I’m trying as hard as I can to remember that it’s just a feeling (that I ate too much) and it will pass.
It’s ok to treat myself, it’s ok to nourish my body.
Weight fluctuates and there are days you’ll eat more and days you’ll eat less, and that’s ok.

As my friend so kindly said during our text conversation today, “You are definitely stronger and I know it’s hard but you must remember that you still have a slightly irrational part of your brain that’s telling you all the wrong things and telling you lies, because you certainly haven’t been a pig, and besides, last year you were critically ill and near death so I think it’s a very very good thing you’re not like that anymore.”.
I couldn’t thank her enough. It’s times like these when I am overwhelmingly thankful to have such amazing friends. True, I may not have many friends, but the ones I have are worth the world.

Anyway (let’s get back on track here), if my friend(s) can root for me and support me, then I must try my best to do the same for myself.
I will try to believe her words, try to believe my own logic, but it is hard.

Eating disorders are horrible, horrible things, but they are illnesses that can be beaten like any other.

Today I’ve eaten:
• 3 mini pan au chocolates
• 2 glasses of Apple juice
• A flake 99 ice cream in a tub
• A big serving of battered cod and chips with peas
• A glass of coke (full fat)
• 3 dark chocolate Kit Kat fingers
• Waffle, baked beans and fried egg
I feel like that’s so unhealthy but I don’t eat it every day and I’m trying to convince myself it’s ok.
I am not fat. I am not greedy. I am not fat. I am not greedy. I am not fat. I am not greedy. I am not fat. I am not greedy. I am not fat. I am not greedy. I am not fat. I am not greedy. [repeat until I believe it]

Tomorrow is halloween and I am both nervous and excited. I’m having a party which I’m really excited about, I’m just nervous about the food because I know I’m going to eat lots and I know I’m going to gain a shit load of weight.

Ah well, these are just the things you have to deal with if you are recovering from an eating disorder. And I personally would much rather be having a hard time while giving myself a chance of recovery and life, than having a hard time in my illness and just wasting my life with no hope of recovering and leaving it behind.

Thanks for reading.

My experience of inpatient treatment for anorexia.

So today I thought I’d share with you my experiences with inpatient treatment for anorexia.

Inpatient treatment is often a last resort for treating eating disorders, because you can easily pick up other bad habits from the other patients, and according to statistics if you go inpatient once, you are likely to relapse and go back again. Personally, I don’t believe the backing behind this research is strong enough, and from my point of view inpatient care is often the only solution for many.

Everyone has their own circumstances, and I personally was having huge struggles not only within myself and my disorder(s), but my dad was also diagnosed with cancer a few months into my recovery and was unable to help me any more. Obviously seeing one of my loved ones so sick had a huge impact on me, and although going away was hard it was what I needed. I also felt less guilty because I felt my mum and sister should be looking after and helping him not me, after all, it’s all in my head right? After over a year of recovery I am starting to accept that perhaps it wasn’t my fault, and although maybe my reasons behind feeling less guilty being inpatient weren’t the best, the inpatient experience was still of extreme use to me.

Originally I was admitted as a day patient (back in October 2013), but after exactly a month of being there I was transferred inpatient when my depression and suicidal thoughts were getting out of hand.
I was inpatient for several months, before returning to day patient and eventually being discharged in August 2014.

Day patient and inpatient are pretty similar; I went to the Priory in Roehampton and the day patients and inpatients share the same timetable/ living area, so apart from the evenings and sleeping arrangements it’s practically the same. Day patient can be a great alternative for many reasons, especially if you live close by and your parents want you at home. (Unfortunately I lived a 45minute drive away from the Priory, and driving there and back 6 days a week was pretty exhausting and left me with little time to shower and sleep).

The days had the following structure:
Breakfast at 8.00am (although they were always late!)
Education from 9-10.30, then we had a half hour break where people who who were on snacks had their snacks (depending on your meal plan), then people on walks went on a walk (depending on your weight and if you’re gaining/ maintaining as required).
Then back to education from 11-12.30.
Sometimes we’d have groups for 30mins before lunch, or we’d sit and chat in the lounge.
Lunch at 1-2pm.
2-3pm another therapy group
3-3.45 snack (again, for those on snacks)
3.45-4.45 another therapy
5-5.15 walk (again, for those on walks)
Sometimes we’d have groups from 5-5.30, but usually not as we all weren’t well and didn’t have great concentration, and the days just seemed so long.
Dinner was at 6pm, then we could shower from 8 onwards.
Night snack at 10pm, then we had ‘reflection’ where we shared our highs and lows of the day and set a goal for the next day, before being allowed to go to bed at 10.30pm (and it felt so late when you’re exhausted!)

We had the three meals a day which we were allowed 30 minutes to eat, and 15 minutes for puddings.
We then had an hour of supervision, where we were only allowed to go to the loo if we counted out loud (so they could check we weren’t doing anything) with staff outside the door.. (This, in case you were wondering, is actually a real challenge to do and also very awkward)

There were 2 tables; supervised and semi-supervised.
The supervised table was the one you started on where the staff could watch you and try to stop any food behaviours, such as cutting your food up too small or not mixing anything on your plate.
Everyone worked towards the semi-supervised table, where your plates would be checked after the meal, but you weren’t supervised during it.
When you’re stuck in a unit all day (and night) it felt like freedom, and the mixture of emotions I felt on my first day on that table are ones I’ll never forget. I was excited, nervous, proud, ashamed all at the same time; many of the conflicting emotions being my eating disorder. But this transition helped me feel more in control of my recovery, like I was the one making the choice to recover, which was both terrifying and exciting. I think that is an important step for anyone’s recovery.

Another meal time privilege you got after making significant progress and proving yourself to the staff was self-serving. This meant that, under supervision and guidance, you got to portion/ serve your own meals. You still got the same amount, but again, it was this feeling of responsibility and showing (not only to the staff, but to yourself too) that you could do it that mattered.

Everyone took part in the following therapies:
• Food behaviours
• Therapy group
• Drama therapy
• Drumming
• RO-DBT
• Games therapy
• Food and me
• Body image
• CBT
• Everyone had a key worker and co-worker who you would talk to each week. You also had ward round once a week where you’d get to talk to your Doctor and key worker about your care plan and discuss leave.

We were also offered extra activities depending on your weight/ stage of recovery, such as:
• Snack cookery
• Outings
• Swimming
• Exercise
• Yoga
• Dance and movement

A few things I liked about it:
I made some incredible lifelong friends, and for once in my life felt like people understood me and I could relate with others in how I felt.
We were given so many different therapies and I felt like I actually had a chance at recovery.
They don’t pressure you to leave and want you to feel ready before you’re discharged.
There were people there struggling from various eating disorders and at various stages of recovery, and the sense of community and helping each other along was great. Seeing people nearing the end of their treatment was also inspiring and a goal to work towards.

A few things I disliked about it:
The other patients could also be triggering, and I found it hard being around so many other underweight people and feeling like the biggest there, but in a way I guess it helped me learn to cope with being around thin people in a controlled and safe environment.
Being away from home, especially when Dad was ill, was hard and I felt bad for inconveniencing my family.

I hope that this post gave an idea of what inpatient treatment is like and was helpful, though obviously treatment varies from place to place.

Inpatient treatment saved my life, I know I could never have recovered without it (I was with CAHMS for 6 months before I was admitted to the Priory, and I only ever got worse with them and made no progress at all), so even though I was there for 10 months, I wouldn’t change it if I could. I have learnt so many useful skills, and I couldn’t be more greatful. True, some may not have worked for me, but we’re all different and that’s ok.

I hope that through this blog I’ll be able to share what I’ve learnt and inspire others in their recovery, and I also
If I help just one person then this blog is worthwhile and I couldn’t be happier.

Thanks for reading.

The Priory Hospital, Roehampton
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