P for Positivity

Positivity is important. No one can feel positive all the time, and in recovery it can be rare, so when the moment comes we need to try our best to remember what that felt like.

On Thursday I had my birthday party (I turned 17 on Monday), and it was after my party I had a rare moment of absolute satisfaction and positivity.

So I recorded it , I jotted it down like I was speaking excitedly to a friend. And that’s what I thought I’d share with you today. Sheer, genuine, in the moment positivity and appreciation for life and recovery.

“I had such a fab time at my party! Felt a bit ill towards the end of it but never mind.
And do you know what? I ate loads, like loads to a normal person not just to me. I had crepes, a milkshake, pizza, a slice of birthday cake.. And do you know what? I’m still alive, I’m still ok, I haven’t exploded! My stomach is round and content with food. It’s full. And full is good, full means my body can get to work on any repairs it has to do! Full means my body can learn that I’m not going to starve it any longer. More importantly, today taught me that there is more to life than an eating disorder, there really is. Laughing and chatting with friends, being loud and eating in front of people and actually, you know what?, not caring. Because I couldn’t have had such a good time without food, if I hadn’t eaten it would have been awkward for them and for me. And what’s better than watching a film with a bunch of friends and a pizza on a paper plate? What’s better than laughing at charades with your friends? Yes it was quite loud and challenging for anxiety etc, and I received some absolutely amazing presents and I love them so so much, but it’s hard for me to get presents so that was a challenge to. But I did it, and I’m ok with that.
I don’t know, I just feel so positive right now. Like maybe I do have a place, maybe I can recover and live a full life. I want every day to be like today, challenging but full of purpose and fun.
Only recovery can get you here, only recovery can allow you these opportunities. I couldn’t be gladder that I’ve stuck with recovery, even through darker times where I’ve nearly lost hope. Please remember that, there is always hope. And where there is hope, there is determination, and with determination you will get there.”

I really recommend jotting down moments of inspiration like this, because reading back on it can be so helpful and inspiring and can help pull you up from dark and difficult moments.

Today I am not feeling particularly great, so I’m reading that and trying to remember how it felt. I’ve learnt to live for these moments. They may be few for now, but you never know, one day my life could be full of them. I just have to get there.

Thanks for reading.

Id, ego and superego

We all have 3 parts of our subconscious: the id, ego and superego.

We are all on a scale, a see-saw if you like, between these values.

First I’ll explain what they are:

  • The id is the part of our subconscious making us want to do all things ‘bad’ and selfish, to get our own way and hurt others if needed.
  • The ego is the part of the mind that evaluates and responds to the id and superego. It is at the centre of our being and weighs-up the strength of the id and superego before any decisions are made.
  • The superego is the part of our subconscious that makes us want to do all things ‘good’ and to please others, to be selfless and self-sacrificing and to always put others first.

Now some of you may be thinking ‘why am I telling you all this’? Well there are actually many psychological evaluations of this that can be quite useful in trying to understand yourself.

The subconscious governs your thoughts which you are not aware of, and sets base ‘morals’ that you rely on and shapes you as a person. Ideally you want to have a fairly even balance of id and superego, that way your needs are met but without being rude or unkind to others.

However, when one or the other is too strong, this is where we get a problem.

When the superego is too strong, the individual starts to feel worthless and lack self esteem. Forever worrying about keeping others happy, they lack the id quality telling them it’s ok to be selfish sometimes. Because they are always doing things for other people, they start to lose who they are themselves. They have low self esteem because of this imbalance which often leads to depression.

Having too strong an id can have equal but opposite undesirable consequences.

This area of psychology is called psychoanalysis and was created by Freud. I hope to add to this post in the future or perhaps add a ‘part 2’ if people are interested, do leave any feedback or comments below it would be much appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

G for Gaining (weight) happiness

Today has been a really challenging day for me. I had weigh in at 2pm this afternoon. For the first time I weeks I gained weight, 0.6kg to be exact.

I haven’t been able to focus on revision for the whole rest of the day because of this. Instead I’ve been busy trying to distract myself while simultaneously trying not to have a breakdown in front of my friend.

Quite honestly, I feel awful. I feel anxious and panicky, I feel low and hopeless, I feel depressed. This isn’t just beacuse about gaining weight today, but it sure as hell didn’t help.

So I thought it was about time I reminded myself of the positives instead of letting my eating disorder and deoression nit-pick all the worst parts.


The truth behind gaining weight: anorexia vs. me

  • Gaining weight will make you fat healthy
  • Eating means you are greedy determined and want your life back
  • Eating is a sign of weakness strength and willpower, eating through pain is hard but you can do it


You get the gist.. Now. What gaining weight will really give you:

  • A healthy body so you have healthy ovaries and can have babies!
  • A smile and laughter that is real.
  • A new chance
  • You’ll worry less people and show them they were right not to give up on you. And if they did give up on you? Well even better do it to prove them wrong. 
  • You can motivate and inspire others, prove that recovery is possible
  • Be that person who defies the odds
  • You’ll have to gain it eventually, so you might as well get it over with!
  • Strength
  • Energy
  • Willpower
  • Proof that you can and will beat your illness

  
A drawing I did on my iPad to remind myself what my real goal is.

An important thing to do in recovery is to set goals.

I don’t mean massive ones, just little things that you can achieve. There is no point setting goals like ‘recover by April next year’, because recovery is not a linear thing. It’s different for everyone and that’s ok. Unfortunately it is likely you will be battling it for a while, but that does not mean you have failed.

Some little goals/ waypoints I’ve set myself are below. I am only just above the weight I am allowed to exercise, so by gaining I am simply making sure I can do the things I love! That’s not so bad huh?


What gaining weight means to me:

  • I can go horse riding and climbing
  • I am a step closer to my goal/ target weight
  • I can go to the amazon in the summer on my expedition!
  • My body can get used to having a regular amount of food and will hopefully be a bit more logical
  • I can go on random walks when I want without my parents worrying about me overdoing the exercise
  • Spend more time outdoors (my favourite place)
  • Become a Beat Media Volenteer after I’ve been out of inpatient for a year (July)
  • Do much more in the future that I don’t even know about yet, I just have to keep fighting so I can take opportunities as the come!


And lastly I ask you this; what would you rather be doing:
Riding a horse with the wind in your face as you canter round the school, better this time than last and with your horse listening to you and enjoying a minty polo afterwards while you laugh and stroke it’s nose?
Or pacing laps round your room where you have been all night to burn calories, freezing cold even though you’ve got lots of layers on.
I know for sure which I’d chose. And that’s recovery.


Thanks for reading.

E for Easy…

Recovery. Is it easy?
No. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have experienced in my life so far.
I may only be 16 but I often feel much older than my age, I’ve had to mature quickly and realise that if I don’t fight my very hardest and harder then I will not beat anorexia. And eventualy that will lead to death. Now that is a harsh and horrible thing to learn and have to accept at age 14/15.

When I’m struggling, people often say to me “No one said this would be easy”But no one said it would be this hard either.
In my mind I think I had hoped it would be quick. I first imagined it would be a few months maybe, then everything would be back to normal. I hadn’t considered that 2 years on I could still be fighting the very same battle.

When I’m feeling lost, hopeless and in doubt (which unfortunatley is often), I tell myself this: the most worthwhile things in life are often the most challenging.

So with that in mind off I set on my journey.

And here I am today. Still on that very same journey. Still battling various mental health issues. Still fighting.

No, it isn’t easy. But it doesn’t have to be impossible either.

Determination,  motivation and support will become your best friends in recovery. You just have to learn how to use them to conquer the evils.

Thanks for reading.

Insight into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

OCD, we all know what that is, it’s the one where you want everything arranged, so you line your pencils up on your table in colour order right?! Um, no actually. It’s sad how many people seem to think that that is what OCD is.

Firstly, let’s just introduce what OCD is. OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and as defined by Wikipedia, is “an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry (obsessions), repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety (compulsions), or a combination of such obsessions and compulsions“.

As you can see from this definition, OCD is a mental condition and not just people being tidy. I know plenty of neat and organised people, but that doesn’t mean that they have OCD.

OCD is characterised by the intense anxiety and sense of foreboding if they do not do certain rituals, or do not do or organise certain things.

What many people don’t realise is that OCD can manifest itself in so many ways, some more unusual than others. Someone who appears very messy could still suffer from OCD, as OCD is different things to different people.

A common OCD area is hygiene. In this case people often wash their hands excessively (often causing bleeding), will wash excessively, and have a phobia of girls and anything dirty. If they don’t do these things (such as washing hands), they feel intensely anxious and sometimes terrified that something bad will happen.

Although that example seems to make sense, many OCD habits aren’t.

For me, my OCD is very strange and select.
There are many things I have to do before bedtime for example, including washing my feet, moving my pillow right up against the wall, switching off my phone and putting it face down on the bedside table, making sure my hair dryer is unplugged etc.
I also have OCD when it comes to school work. All notes a teacher goes through must be written down, neatly too. I cannot ‘leave a gap’ in my workings or in a test to fill out later, which caused a 34% test mark when I couldn’t do the first few questions but also couldn’t move on to ones I knew. (Now I have my tests all as booklets which I fill out to avoid this, and since then my score has gone up to 86%, thank goodness). I must do homework every day, and complete at least one, no matter how busy I am.

Rules. Rules, rules, rules.

You never get a break from them.

Imagine having your mum constantly nagging in your ear 24/7. Now imagine that amplified to an unbearable level. That is what OCD is like.

People are quick to say ‘get a grip’, but of course it isn’t that simple! I try to break OCD habits but it just makes me extremely nervous and on edge, I cannot sit still if I know I haven’t followed one of the ‘rules’.

Another problem with OCD is that it grows and evolves.
It might start out as something really small, a little habit, but before you know it it’s turned into a huge thing, that often leaves you feeling like you can’t function properly. One thing can lead to another, so one habit can multiply to ten before you realise it was an issue.

I used to have only 1 or 2 things I struggled with, such as sitting in the same seat for dinner, but now there are more than I care to count.

So next time someone says “I’m a little bit OCD about my desk”, just ask them this question “do you feel crippling guilt if you don’t do that? Does your mind feel busy and you can’t sit still, do you feel anxious and sick? Does it scare you if you don’t do that? No. Then no, you do not have OCD.”
[obviously some people will have OCD about desks and the suchlike, I am just talking about people who use it as an adjective rather than the potentially serious mental illness it is]

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I hope this helped give some insight into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and some stereotypes involved. Please feel free to leave any feedback, I love to know if I’ve helped or if something was useful or not so that I can continue raising awareness of mental health in the best way possible.

Thanks for reading.

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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