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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Diffusion of responsibility: not just black and white

You know when you’re in a room full of people, and someone is trying to get everyone to be quiet so they can announce something, but everybody just keeps talking or finishes their conversation? Thinking “ah well I’ll stop talking in a minute when everyone else stops talking.” Well that, my friends, is called diffusion of responsibility.

You know they want you to be quiet, but you decide to follow everyone else and wait until they are quiet. But, of course, everyone else is also doing that. The result? It takes a good lot longer for everyone to be quiet, or sometimes it results in the person not being able to make the announcement!

I think recovery can sometimes be like this. Many aspects of it, from the “I’ll start recovery tomorrow” (and keep saying that day after day), to other people such as friends and/or family saying “I want to help them, but it’s just too draining and I don’t have the time and patience.. Someone else will do it.”. Essentially, life is full of people avoiding things they ought to be doing.

Avoidance, procrastination and diffusion of responsibility all stem a key problem: people find the rules of society hard to deal with.

What I mean by this is that without social norms of “I must say this” and “I should do that”, there most likely wouldn’t be an issue of procrastination or avoidance, because people would be doing what they wanted to do.

Do you ever feel like everything you do in life are just things that have to be done? They become tasks, no longer a choice. Because, quite simply, we are given an illusion of freedom that is not truly ours.

Our government and world leads us to believe that we are free to act and do as we please, whereas in reality that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Going to school, is it a choice? Yes you choose your school, but you have to go, do the work, spend most your time on your studies.
What about work? Again, you chose your career path, but do you really choose to work? The answer is unfortunately no; without working, we would have no money and would not be able to live. What is money anyway, how does bits of paper and metal rule our lives? Anyway, that’s another point entirely that I shan’t go into today.

Some final thoughts I want to leave you with:
Before just saying ‘take responsibility and don’t expect others to do things for you’, I also want to point out that it is not black and white. There are many grey areas in between. Before instantly jumping on the band wagon and doing something because you are told to do it and you want to please others, first consider what you think about it, whether you want to do it or not.
In a world of little freedom, it is important that for the choices we do have, we choose according you our views, not simply out of the desire to please.

I hope this made sense and you enjoyed this post,
Thanks for reading.

Thoughts on mental health services (UK)

When I first went to the GP after developing anorexia, he said it was just a phase and sent me away. Consequently, in the long run I ended up in hospital for nearly a year.

Because I am under 18 I got help much quicker, but even then it was a push and my parents were practically my lawyers in the way that they demanded my help and never stopped pushing for the support I so desperately needed.
Without their constant push for support/therapy I think it’s unlikely I’d be here today.

So many times people have brushed off my problems simply because I haven’t attempted suicide. No amount of self hate or even self harm matters, and it is shocking.
How could someone turn away another who, in turn, may end up killing themselves due to lack of help?
It is truly awful and it is times like these I despair for those struggling with mental health conditions.

So many people are turned away by the health services. They turn a blind eye, pretend that these mental illnesses aren’t happening.
Some aren’t even actively turning them away; there is just so little understanding around mental health issues that they simply cannot recognise and successfully diagnose and treat them. Well, at least in my opinion/experience that is certainly the case.

The government keeps cutting funding to mental health services in the UK, whereas actually mental health services desperately need more funding, not less!
Why is it that if I broke my leg, there’d be tens of people rushing to help; but if I suffered a serious bout of depression or other mental illness I’d be left alone?
It is wrong on so many levels.

For example, I go to Epsom CAHMS eating disorders services, and funding cuts have meant that they now have to stop accepting referrals/ patients who are at a healthy BMI. What that essentially means is that they will not help you until you are sick enough to not just mentally be ill, but physically be paying the price by being underweight. That means only a small percentage of eating disorders such as anorexia and EDNOS will be treated, and other equally as serious mental disorders such as binge eating disorder or bulimia will be left untreated unless they reach the weight criteria.
As if there isn’t enough pressure to be thin anyway, without needing a service that discriminates against BMI! Essentially you have to get worse to get better if you want extra help. And that thought breaks me.

I am lucky I am receiving help, I just wish everyone could get the same treatment.

This post was inspired by ‘The crisis is not “the cutting”‘; a thought provoking post on Sombrayelalma blog that I completely relate to. I definitely recommend a read.

Articles discussing the mental health crisis:
Sky News
The Independent

Mental health charities such as Mind oppose these cuts. Click here to see campaigns and articles on the Mind website.

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Thanks for reading.

My experience with anti-depressant medication

I remember the first time someone suggested that I should take anti-depressants I was reluctant to consider it.
My parents were worse, they were completely against the idea to start with.

But as my depression continued in its downwards spiral, my parents agreed to me trying Fluoxetine, an anti-depressant often used for treating adolescents.
(I myself was very depressed at this time so didn’t really care if I started taking them or not)

It didn’t make much difference at first, but after a few weeks I felt my mood lifting. I was still depressed, but no where near the scale I was before. Things seemed to be going pretty well, but meanwhile my eating disorder was getting worse, and after 6+ months of being on Fluoxetine, it started losing its effect.

I was admitted first as a day patient in October, then as an inpatient in December to the Priory adolescent eating disorder unit. Here they put me on vitamins, calcium, omega 3, and also kept me on Fluoxetine to start with.

In around February I finally changed medication, after describing some vivid daydreams I’d been having to my key worker, who was worried that it could be a side effect of the medication. So gradually we decreased the dose, from 150mg to nothing, before starting on a new medication: Sertraline.

Sertraline is both anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, which I was hopeful about seeing as my anxiety has always had a big impact on my life, (though before therapy I might not have realised it).

It didn’t disappoint. I’m still not 100% better, but both my anxiety and depression are, for the most part, more under control now.
I still get extremely anxious and pretty depressed at times, but it’s times like that where I just have to sit back and think about what I was like back in January time… And I have definitely improved since then.

Although the effects of Setraline are starting to wear off again, I think this is mainly due to the fact I have been on this dose for a while and might need upping again, (I’m on 100mg now).

Not that much is known about Setraline in the general scheme of things, which makes me a bit nervous as I’m not entirely sure what it could potentially do to my body.. But I guess I just have to trust my Doctors and go with it.

Anti depressants/ anxiety medications in my opinion are worthwhile.
People are quick to say “it’s about being positive and working hard, not medication”, but no matter how hard I worked I need/ needed the medication to allow me to reach it.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about needing a bit of extra help. Don’t be quick to judge medication; true, it isn’t right for everyone, but some people need that extra support and that’s ok.

Thanks for reading.