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.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015: My first video

Sorry for my lack of posting lately, school is very stressful and I have been struggling a bit with my mental state. I am trying hard to stay on track, but food thoughts and self harm urges have been bad so it really is a battle at the moment.

I would never wish an eating disorder upon someone, no one deserves to go through that. I know from personal experience how horrible it is and how hard it is to recover from. But it is possible.

I wrote a song a while ago and decided to edit a video of it to raise awareness for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2015.

I am not a strong singer so I do apologise for my terrible vocals. It was really hard and anxiety-provoking posting this, but if I want to make a different to how people view mental health I have to be open about it.

So here goes!

My previous post on this poem/ song lyrics: Shadows [original poem]

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.

Today I am thankful

Today, as you are probably already aware, is Christmas Day.
And I want to celebrate all that I am thankful for.
I am obviously thankful for my presents which are all lovely, but there are so many more important things that need celebrating and we might take for granted in day to day life.

I am thankful for my family, for their ever-supporting presence and their kindness and love. Yes, sometimes we may argue or my sisters might tease me, but at the end of the day I love them all the same.

I am thankful for my friends, I may not have many but the few who stuck by me are fantastic and have never faltered in their unconditional support. They are there to have a good laugh with, but are also a shoulder to cry on through tough times. I couldn’t wish for anything better.

Without my friends and family I would never have come so far in recovery, so I thank them most of all.

I am thankful for not only material things such as having a roof over my head, being able to go to a good school etc., but I’m also thankful for unsaid, non-psychical things.

I am thankful for my recovery. No matter how hard, no matter how many times I just want to be thin again, no matter how hard I may find it, it was the best choice I ever made. At times I feel like it wasn’t, that I should never have tried, but I know that is my demons talking, and I will not listen.

I am thankful for today. Seeing all my family is wonderful, and the excitement of Christmas is somewhat contagious. Yes I may still have underlying feelings of sadness and worthlessness, but I will not let them ruin this day. No. This day is a special one.

My aim is to make every day a special one like today.

I was worried about posting this, for fear of people thinking I was “lame”. I know if my sisters saw something like this they would laugh and roll their eyes, but why should being greatful and actually taking a moment to appreciate what we have a bad thing? It shouldn’t be, if everyone took the time to notice the small things in day today life and slowed down just that little bit, I think we would all be much better off.
And thus I concluded to publish this post anyway, doubts or no doubts, because at the end of the day if I never tried, how would I know what the reaction would be.

Merry Christmas everyone, I hope today is a good day, and today really try to beat your demons because you do deserve happiness. No matter who you are or what you’ve done, everyone deserves a second chance.

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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