Reading for our Mental Health- really?

CLOSE YOUR EYES, TAKE A BREATH, INHALE CALMNESS, EXHALE STRESS. MAKE A CUPPA, SINK INTO A CHAIR, PICK UP A BOOK AND DISAPPEAR.

Mental health awareness encourages an incredible level of discussion across the board, with social media playing an integral part in that.  One of the areas that is closely linked with mental health is the effect of stress. Conversations on the impact of stress has encouraged many of us, including myself to really look at our lives, taking time to  consider how we choose to take care of ourselves, of our overall wellbeing and of course our mental health.

Unfortunately stress is one of those things that we simply cannot avoid. From burning toast to loosing a loved one, stressful situations hit us in a variety of forms and are largely unavoidable and out of our control (Although I definitely could have checked the setting of the toaster…) How we deal with these situations however remains in our control and without doubt we can make choices that may guide us through a difficult time with more ease and clarity.

My own experiences have taught me that in the past my go to coping mechanism has been found in my Eating Disorder. Whether that be in the restriction of my food intake or in the form of some other compensatory behaviour. We are all different, we all find our own ways of easing the pressure but unfortunately for many, these coping methods are intrinsically and inherently part of a deeper mental illness.

Stress and mental illness is kind of like the chicken and egg debate- does the stress cause the mental illness, or do we feel more stressed and react badly to stressful stations because of our mental illness. Quite frankly that is a debate which I have no need to get lost in, but I know for a fact that there are alternative ways that we can deal with life that are so much more powerful than not eating dinner (I am severely oversimplifying an Eating Disorder- anorexia is not simply skipping a meal!) There are alternative ways to manage and gain a sense of being able to cope that are not found within the realms of mental illness and one of the most beautiful examples of this is that ancient art of reading.

For a moment in time, as we turn the pages of a book we get lost in the translation of the words to imagination. We are no longer present in the storm but are almost calm in the eye of the tornado. Around us, life and all it’s intricacies continue but with each word, page and chapter that we turn, our minds are freed for just a minute longer, allowed to dance through tales and stories that can evoke so much.

Some may scoff, an actual book- does anyone actually read a book anymore!?! Well yes they do and actually far more of us should invest time into reading. It provides a shut off, the mind engaged in an active task and preoccupied with concentrating on the story unfolding before us.

Of course, minds wander, the phone rings (Or in my case, twitter alerts me of a new follower- @aneartohearhlb– just in case you wanted to join the fun!) and at first it may take a few attempts to fully emerself yourself into the words of the author.

But give it a go…

Try a page, try 2. I promise, once you find the right book, the cosiest seat and the comfort of a still mind, reading wont seem such a bore. It could be your prescription and your vacation in one act.

Go on- grab a cuppa and disappear into the pages of story telling.

Join our book club here

 

 

EveryBody, EverImperfect

We all have a bad hair day every now and again. We all have dark circles and eye bags when we haven’t had the best nights sleep. We all get spots and have birthmarks and beauty spots in the ‘wrong’ places. Reality is that most of us have a non existent thigh gap and a bit of a double chin when we laugh. We all have scars, mental and physically.

bad hair

There are those times where the roots of our hair are a slightly odd colour, when we haven’t quite had chance to colour it. Lets not forget the day old bit of dandruff or greasy hair that builds up when quite frankly we just can’t be bothered and lets not forget the  occasional patch of dry skin and parts of our face are more shiny than others.

We are all human. And we are all beautiful.

What I am trying to say is that nobody is perfect. No one needs to look like they are appearing on the front cover of vogue every day for the whole world to see and coursejudge. But even then; even if you have been voted the worlds most glamorous woman-  that one grey hair, that one minuscule pimple on the end of your nose should not change the way that people see you- too frequently however it does.

There is too much hatred and vulgarity, based purely on perceived imperfections to our appearance and we need to change. We need to see beyond what is considered ‘fit’ ‘peng’ and ‘hot’ and think more about who these people actually are, inside.

People, women, men, and children. We are all human, all perfectly imperfect.

Most of the models you see in the media have been air brushed to death and are essentially fake. Look at any photo of a celebrity with no make up on or no photoshop and you will see how normal they actually are in real life. Not the smooth skinned, curvy-in-all-the-‘right’-places people they are represented as.

It is so unfair that people are consistently and persistently judged purely by the way that they look like. It is unfair that we are pressurised into looking a certain way because of the way our biggest influences, idols and role models (celebrities, models etc.) are shown to us by our media.

It is even more unfair and heartbreaking that people believe they have to go through extreme pain, both physically and mentally, just to achieve what they have been to believe is normal or acceptable.

How can I sum up, what message can I leave you with: YOLO: you only live once. Don’t waste your time worrying about the way you look or calling OUT other people for how they look, it is quite frankly exhausting and well a bit of a waste of time. No two people are ever going to look exactly the same. We are all different, that is the point of evolution and our creation.

Soul

Focus on who people are on the inside. Focus on personality. Focus on who they are, not what they are. Their soul and of course their sparkle.

Rebecca- You are truly so talented- Thank you for allowing me to feature your blog on AnEarToHear and thank you for letting me play a small part in your recovery.

Yes Man, Yes Self

It has truly been an incredible few months writing and speaking to new audiences abut my experience of having Anorexia. The conferences that I have attended, at times have almost left me a spell bounded by the sheer passion of those around me to improve service for mental health and to engage in really constructive discussions.

But what’s been going on back at home? It’s all very well flying high above the fields, soaring even, but what about the drought below? And no I am not simply referring to the months of dryness we have been experiencing. In being so pres

 

ent in the sky, have I subconsciously neglected myself and failed to water the roots that need to be strong and withstanding?

Many of us are guilty of this. As parents, I guess it is part of the job spec, to care, nurture and continually give whilst not always receiving quite so much love back especially in those teenage months and years.

yes

There’s that great film- “Yes Man’, where saying yes to everything in life brings an abundance of opportunities and

 

 

ew experiences but back to reality and saying Yes to everything and everyone might come with a price. Financial and timely in nature, perhaps but the repercussions of being the Yes man run a little deeper in that they form a degree of neglect that ultimately only you are responsible for.

Saying No, for me, often seems like the impossible thing to do.

For some reason, the act of giving, of doing and making right is what I feel compelled to do.

Now please pause here, because I am talking from a personal perspective only, professionally it would be really unwise to start saying no to work commitments because you’re learning to say No!

What I am eluding to, are those personal moments in life where the air around you seems to be getting foggier and thicker. Swallowing you and engulfing your mind. Where saying yes time and time again means that your head is a tornado of spiralling thoughts, deadlines and commitments. Where your diary is packed with sticky notes, crossings outs with a neck that hurts from answering another email on the go, or researching another funding opportunity whilst enjoying the daily commute.

How many of us, almost habitually wake up to a social media stream, or to a “to do” list that has probably doubled overnight. I know the first thing I do is check my phone, I reply and respond to others before looking after my own basic needs- I haven’t even been to the toilet for example!

Motivation in our lives is the one thing that drives us to achieve and do things in our daily lives but oddly my motivation first thing in the morning drives me to check my phone rather than attend to my physical self- what is that about!?!

Is there any fault to be attributed? I don’t think so, I certainly don’t blame anyone else for my own self negligence just as you wouldn’t blame a young child for not being adequately cared for by their carer. I am failing to look after my inner child, failing to nurture my soul and listen to my own needs.

According to Maslow 1943, there is a hierarchy of needs, but guess what those needs focus on? Yourself! Attending to the most human and basic of needs is the grounding foundation, from there our needs progress to those of security, friendship and love and then to esteem.  We cannot be expected to move on to the secondary tiers of self actualisation and self transcendence unless we meet the most basic level of needs.

Is it any wonder that if we continually give to others, or lend our time to endeavours outside of ourself, that we fail to feel the strength of desire to meet those higher needs, to better ourselves and to work on our life goals.

I have so much excitement in my life, so much that could really change my path. Opportunities are plentiful and my future could be so thrilling- I mean we are talking book publication, freelance journalism- this list of possibilities is simply endless.

But thats just it, it’s a list at best. For some reason, my own mental health stops me from pursuing those secondary needs that would feed my soul.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I struggle with an eating disorder and whilst I am in a much better place, to an extent I still fail to meet those very basic needs of hunger and rest.

If those foundations aren’t in place, I cannot expect my body to propel itself further up that hierarchy to levels of transcendence and self actualisation.

Mental illness or not- for many, our fields of gold have suffered a period of drought that have left crop withered and wilting. Fruit is not plentiful and it definitely doesn’t taste sweet.

Dare to dream for for your basic needs, dare to care for yourself and lets get back to basics.

Say yes- to you.

Finding the hope out of Frustration.

I’ve been so humbled and overwhelmed with the increase in traffic to AnEarToHear recently. To receive emails from girls (And yes, sorry it is only girls… so far) who are bravely reaching out for help and support for their eating disorder is almost an honour. They open up, telling me of their highs and lows in equal measure, venting their frustrations at life, the illness and the daily challenges that they continue to face.

AnEarToHear was created out of frustration. Pure anguish after being flippantly brushed aside by a service that I felt was the answer to my recovery. At the time, I didn’t meet the precious criteria, the wait was going to be in excess of 4 months and in the meantime I was going to be left in limbo land waiting for just a consultation.

That period of time, is utter wilderness. There is so much confusion, so much loneliness and at times bewilderment. I found myself battling with myself and not only my anorexia but my self doubt and lowering self esteem.

In the face of my own experiences, I simply got angry- I went to new heights in bringing the service to account and whilst I should never have had to, I did resort to seeking out private treatment, without which I would have taken a very different route.

It was tough beyond all recognition.

Unfortunately, this is a tale that I continue to hear time and time again. A large percentage of the emails I receive report of similar experiences, finding themselves in that same wilderness. They are searching for an answer, for someone, anyone to help them. I’m not that answer, as much as I wish I was but I can be a listening ear.

So what can my advise be? Who can I signpost them to? As a peer listener, my role is to listen and comfort, but I can’t fix, as much as I so wish that I could. I can help with signposting to additional services, but what can I do when there is reluctance to seek help from their GP after being desensitised by the lack of compassion they have previously received.

Perhaps I can nudge them to their local community health teams, but this is one message I receive

d recently:

They said the wait time is about 18 weeks, no support in the mean time. That’s why I’m glad I found you and the class!” (Shameful plug of my service and YogaED there!)

So I guess this isn’t a blog, and please don’t mistake this for a moan about the NHS because it certainly isn’t that either.

money

I know that NHS funding, is stretched beyond all belief. Every single sector, every service and every unit in the country needs and deserves more money. The problem is, that there simply is not enough to go around. There isn’t a bottomless pit, as much as we would like there to be one.

Unfortunately mental health funding is still rather neglected, and requests to ring fence funds have been diluted into other avenues. Channel 4 recently highlighted this massive issues in their documentary featuring Mark Austin and his Daughter where statistics showed that 70% of un-ringfenced funding had been flitted away on other things including IT systems.

There has been been a  cataclysmic rise in mental health issues seen on a daily basis. In spite of this however we know that “Mental health trusts in England received income increases of just 5.5% between 2012-13 and last year, whereas budgets for acute hospitals rose by 16.8% over the same period, new research by the thinktank shows.” 

And we’re not counting the people who simply don’t have the courage to reach out for help.

We need to think outside the box.

We need to act collaboratively, not selfishly or with a precious intent in order to provide additional support to people where the NHS, out of no fault of their own, simply cannot provide that help.

We need to pool our resources, create our army against mental health, reduce the stigma but more importantly create the opportunity to care.

AnEarToHear is one of those options that I hope might just help in those days of complete isolation, I don’t promise, pretend or claim to have any answers. But I do have understanding and experience.

I also don’t have a vendetta against the NHS, the complete opposite in fact. I am proud of the plethora of services that are available to us and that we should be able to access freely and easily. The problem is from the top down and the answer- well I don’t have that- and in fact I don’t think anyone does. Will Brexit make any difference- Who knows, we don’t have time to wait to fin

d out.

If you have a service to offer that may help and support, please get in touch as I continue to increase my site traffic.

If you or a loved one are scared, lonely and in that awful period of isolation, please get in touch because we deserve to be heard.

IWD- What NOT to celebrate!

International Women’s Day 8th March 2018. It marks a time that we can celebrate women from every corner of the globe. Whether that be for their academia, their achievements, philanthropy or talent, regardless of their background, ethnicity, or social platform.

It is a blessing of a day that having originated in 1911 by the overwhelming force of The Suffragettes, marks the start of a year of campaigning and commitment all in respect of ensuring equality between the genders.

This year, this seems to be all the more poignant given the rise of movements including #MeToo and #TimesUp, where women found their voice and their power to speak out about the mistreatment received at the hands of their colleagues, employers and peers.

Largely the focus will be on gender parity, the reduction of the gender pay gap, forging the path for women success and of course the celebration of all things women.

I however, wanted to touch on what we should stop women being celebrated for… and that is their bodies.

The Media. It’s a great thing, it creates opportunity, networks and platforms exactly as this very campaign for IWD. But it can be poisonous; viscous almost.

Let’s start with a few of the hashtags that might not be so positively construed, FitNotThin- created with the best of intentions but has now gone onto fuel the rise of clean eating and an unhealthy obsession with exercise. StrongNotSkinny is just another example of this. The images attached to these hashtags capture just a moment in time, the reality behind the photo may be one of misery, compulsion and distortion but that photo personifies perfection and the pursuit of that ideal becomes exhausting and relentless.

Now I am a self confessed glossy mag addict, and it is my guilty pleasure once a week to indulge. But the fixation on the female form is almost an obsession in itself.

In some of the more trashy and appalling publications , I have read articles that tell me the weights that celebrities are coming in at. Now a few points in relation to this:

  • How on earth do the magazines even begin to gather this type of information? I can assure you that my response would be simply to FUCK OFF if someone asked me my weight
  • What, and I mean what on earth has the knowledge of their supposed weight added to my life apart from to induce a degree of self comparison and no doubt self loathing.
  • And finally, whilst being a celebrity does invite a certain amount of speculation from the public eye, surely the consideration of their weight is intrusive beyond all belief.

The media encourage us to celebrate these women based on their weight- and most probably a incorrect weight at that! Our press dedicate pages of their magazines to a number on the scale that gives no insight into the personal achievements or endeavours of the stars. It tells us nothing of their real worth, because worth and value is far greater than a number on a scale.

JENNIFER

When this image was first circulated, the beautiful and talented Jennifer Aniston got absolutely lambasted by the press and of course the endless speculation to an imminent pregnancy announcement increased ten fold. Now what do you see? Because, I see a women who isn’t fat or skinny, round or straight but simply a woman who is on holiday, she is relaxing and content. She looks comfortable and at ease. She isn’t flaunting her body, nor is she hiding it and why should she.

We should celebrate her for simply being, for having to put up with the relentless attention that she receives because of her body. But far more than that, she is a comedienne of incredible heights, gave us the Rachel Hair do and has donated her time and money into a number of charities.

Most of my friends have now gone to achieve the most amazing achievements of their life, and that in my eyes is to have a child. To grow another human, is just one of the most incredible things that the female body can do. The body changes physically, hormonally and emotionally- by the end of those nine precious months women are physically bloody knackered, but alas this is where the fun of a new born and lack of sleep really begins.

The incredible Giovanni Fletcher spoke publicly about the body shaming she received from another woman just 11 days after giving birth to her second child.

This is how she responded:

Yes, I still have a bump. But that bump kept my little baby boy safe for a whole ninemonths. That bump has filled my world with even more love and light than I knew possible. That bump is a miracle worker…”

How amazing is she to acknowledge this? To say “Yes, I have wobbly belly, but who the hell cares?” And actually who does care? I certainly don’t, she’s right- yes she gained weight, probably a little cellulite, a few stretch marks perhaps but she gave birth to a beautiful baby, she bore a life and has given the world a real blessing. That should be celebrated, surely?

So there we have it folks, Happy International Woman’s Day, here is to a celebration of woman regardless of their size, body shape, weight, appearance, style, hair colour or cup size! Who cares? Celebrate the women within, because we are bloody amazing from the inside out.

Restorative Yoga to Restore and Heal

When I started thinking about how AnEarToHear could help people with Eating Disorders, I immediately thought back to my own experiences and just how far the impact of the illness reaches.  A common theme to the emails that I receive is that just like I had needed, people were desperate for advice on relaxation techniques, tools to calm their racing mind, and to soothe the panic that dominated their days.

With this in mind, I started to think about how I could collaborate with other people and services to be able to really provide that holistic and precious support that I knew would be of value. Exactly the type of support that I would have valued over anything else and that would have gone some way to giving me the bespoke, tailored support I needed.

With caution I started to think about Yoga and on more than one occasion, I was reminded by a dear friend just how valuable Yoga can be

IMG_0070
in stilling the noise of the mind and really becoming intune with ones body. The same dear friend put me in touch with the amazing Yoga Therapist, Alex Flatman and it gives me so pride to be able to write this, our first blog following the successful launch of YogaED.

YogaED was born with the intention of being able to provide a yoga class specifically for those with a history, or experiencing issues with disordered eating and body image.

We had clear aims and knew that the class would be one of calm and tranquility, allowing the body to rest into poses rather than push or exceed the bodies limits.

It was so important for us to step away from the fashionable Yoga that can be so easily abused by those who are fighting distorted thoughts towards exercise. The poses and sequences that are practiced are done so with the aim of internalising thoughts and directing energy inwards.

During the class, we create an environment that is safe and peaceful. Each student has their mat, their grounding force which serves as their island for the duration of the class. On that mat, they have the opportunity to isolate themselves from their irrational thoughts and find peacefulness in relative solitude. With a small candle marking the top of each mat, and artificial lighting dimmed, the whole room breathes tranquility, the perfect space to develop composure and silence.

Each week, Alex creates a class that aims to ground the body and mind into present moment with a theme that runs inherent throughout the practice.

These themes whilst applicable to all of us, livin
g incredibly busy and hectic daily lives are even more relevant for those suffering with eating disorders. Themes have varied from Grounding to thinking abut Self Compassion. These themes are areas that I know from my own experience, Ihad difficulty in both understanding and practicing. When Alex concentrated on Grounding she encouraged us to think about how our feet need to be planted firmly on the ground in order to be able to move forward. In line with that, it

really encouraged me to think about recovery as a walk, a walk where in order to move forward, our feet have to be firmly on the path in front of us. That no matter what, our feet must remain pointing forward, planted firmly down and moving in one direction. We cannot let ourselves get carried away by unhealthy thoughts that lift us out of our grounding and into

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heights that cause us to loose focus and direction.

That grounding on the mat, allowed us to feel strong and powerful, not by performing a difficult pose but by simply being firm in our standing and consequential thought.

Following the class, we engage in a few moments of peer support where we give ourselves the opportunity to vocalise any thought thats have arisen either in the previous week or through the class. Remaining constant in this discussion is the overwhelming feeling of wellbeing that results from the classes core practice. Students feel remarkably calm and at ease. It is always clear from their face that they have individually benefited in their own way from the practice and they are able to take away from it what ever message or learning they wish.

Eating disorders are on the rise, and this is not just in official diagnosis. Many many people wait years and years to seek treatment before reaching out for help. Body image is so heavily focused upon in our lives, that not a day goes by that we are not bombarded with images, headlines or simply our own thoughts. We aspire for the perfect body, to fit the mould we believe we are destined to be, achieve happiness through the ideal body.

I can 100% promise however, that happiness, contentment and peace is not found through our physical appearance. The pursuit of this is one that undeniably led my to eating disorder but YogaED can really help to stop your thoughts, clear the mind and really acknowledge where the answer to true contentment lies- and that is within yourself, just the way you are. Beautiful and rich in every way.

The Great and Ugly WW Debate of 2018

I felt that it was really important to explore the recently announced initiative from our friend/ foes at the seemingly omnipotent Weight Watchers. In a nut shell (not a ‘zero food” by the way) WW is giving teenagers as young as 13, the opportunity to attend their meetings/ cult gatherings for the Summer of 2018.

Forgive me- I’m being callous and perhaps I should give some credit to WW for their mission to improve the “healthy habits at a critical life stage” of our teenagers. Teenagers who of course also happen to  be the most vulnerable people in our society at that time.

I have never hidden away from the facts of my illness and the honest truth is that my illness started with a diet. I became persuaded by external stimuli, convincing myself that I needed to diet, to change my body image into a more acceptable female form.

We’ll pause again: Perhaps I’m being naive- not every diet leads to an eating disorder and to suggest this is negligible…

But every eating disorder starts with a diet,  and this is pure fact.

Calorie restriction has impacts on our body that far surpass that of simple weight loss.  It can lead to extreme levels of fatigue, decreased bone density, loss of reproductive faculties and an increased preoccupation with food, calories and body image. Ooooh funny, I seem to recall all of these being associations with Anorexia.

But come on, I’m being unfair, and given that I have no doubt WW won’t exploit their right to reply to me; a mere blogger, I should at least consider the altruistic nature which I’m sure underpins this ground breaking initiative- to save our teenagers from life of being fat and miserable.

Obesity after all, is a problem. It’s an epidemic that is costing us the lives of thousands through related illnesses and disease and of course stretching our already massively over stretched NHS to the point of breaking. We absolutely, need to address this and our Government has to take some responsible steps and actions to make a substantial change.

BUT

Is putting overweight teenagers on a diet based on weighing foods, counting calories and the labelling of foods as free really the right thing to do?

Is a diet based on watching our weight really the way we want to encourage our teenagers to live?

Are we neglecting the greater picture, the picture of wellness, happiness and contentment which is far far more important than a diet?

WW have clearly put a great deal of time, effort and resources into these latest initiatives which is detailed in their press release. It states unequivocally that the focus is on the establishing of “healthy habits”, which we could all do with paying attention to.

By doing this however they also intend to incrementally increase their revenue to circa $2billion by 2020 whilst increasing profit faster than revenue. How? By strengthening their reputation and increasing retention.

Now, call me a cynic but surely to increase retention would suggest that the diet doesn’t work and there for people can’t leave? Or that they get sucked into a life of counting, weighing and monitoring?

And that whilst it may be initially free for teenagers, once they hit 17, the money tree stops growing, the seed is planted and with the aim of increasing retention I have no doubt that there will be a renewed effort to keep them sucked into the WW lifestyle.

Ability to listen to intuition? Lost. The reliance on a programme to tell them what and when to eat? Well and truly established. And the presence of a disordered relationship with food and body image? Probably deeply cemented by this point.

There is so much more to write about, to make comment on. I haven’t even begun to touch on set weight point theory- the theory that diets simply just don’t work or the omission by WW to consider the mental wellbeing of their newest and youngest recruits but I do want to reiterate what I come back to time and time again.

I wouldn’t be in the mess, turmoil and trap that I am now in if i hadn’t started A FUCKING DIET. God this makes me so angry. It took one decision, one stupid stupid moment in my life to get sucked into a life that was dictated, ruled and governed by a manipulative illness.

Calorie counting, weighing myself, recording my food and the demolition of my self worth all bore from a diet.

We have to take responsibility, not by encouraging our young to follow diets, but by giving them the knowledge to lead healthy lifestyles from the word go. Eating intuitively, whatever they want- no that does not mean crisps for breakfast but it means giving them the facts to make the right food and exercise decisions.

no fads

no diets

no counting

no weighing

no good, bad, ugly, dirty, clean or free food

Food is a source of comfort and joy, we are blessed to have an abundance of it, a variety of ingredients and flavours, textures and tastes.

But it doesn’t create us as people, it doesn’t define us.

What defines us is the relationship that we have with ourselves.

By dieting, we are simply not trusting that relationship and that Mrs WeighWatchers is the “healthy habit” that needs developing more than any other.

Your Relationship and You

An inherent part of recovery is the idea of learning to love yourself again. Love the body you have been given, the strength that it gives you and the mind that you are blessed with. We are encouraged to treat our bodies with self care, respect and rest.

Learning to listen to the internal cues of hunger and pleasure is all part of healthy building that relationship with ourselves free from a distorted level of thinking often resulting in self loathing and punishment.

Sounds blissful doesn’t it?

What a beautiful and lovely thing to be able to give yourself- what a relationship to have. To give yourself rest, love and attention, and simply because “you’re worth it”.

For me, I found and still find this idea almost overwhelming. I struggle to grapple the reality of what “loving myself” actually looked like. How on earth is it possible to have a relationship with myself, when I’m already me? And what about that relationship with my illness?- with anorexia, depression and anxiety- what on earth will happen to the safest and longstanding relationship I know.

Part of the process has come from adapting the language I use about myself and the self dialogue I was having. It means that you learn to recognise the negative thoughts and the unhelpful behaviours eventually getting that separation from the illness. The goal is to become free from the deafening noises of illness, allowing the blossoming of a new relationship- a relationship between my body and mind, my soul and limbs… my heart and my head.

Recognising toxic thoughts is pivotal to recovery as the separation from these thoughts gives an element of peace and reflection. Consciously making the decision to listen to your heart when your head may be screaming otherwise.

Let’s take some examples that I am sure many can relate to:

“You must run… you must get out of bed at 6am to run, if not you don’t deserve to eat”

“You cannot eat that, that is a bad food”

“You do not deserve that, do X to cleanse yourself”

Sound familiar?

Well guess what, oh lovely body…

No, you don’t have to run. Sleep will not only do more good for your recovery but the rest will help to restore you, and no one earns the right to eat, it is a right and a joy that we are blessed with by simply being born.

There are no bad foods. Eating a food cannot make you a bad person. FULL STOP. Stealing food, well yes that is indeed a sin but no, no no no… there are no bad foods. A calorie is quite simply a unit of energy, and that energy is used for life. That’s the same for an avocado calorie, smartie calorie or sausage calorie!

And finally no behaviour, and I mean no behaviour will cleanse the body. To feel clean… take a shower, have a hot luxurious bath- but trust me, purging, exercising or restricting will not cleanse your body.

A relationship with another person is usually about compromise. When you love another person you take the time to listen to their likes and dislikes, make attempts to accommodate each other. But that is not the same as the cruel and manipulative relationship that you have with your illness. There is no room for compromises, no justification is necessary and there should be absolutely no allowances.

An abusive relationship by definition is an absurd love. It can manifest itself as admiration and attachment. Like that relationship, the one with our eating disorder is a complicated one, it stifles and blindsides us into believing that we somehow need it, that it brings something to our lives. This clever manipulation however, means trying to get away from it, becoming free from it can cause the most overwhelming feelings of    distress and anxiety. During the process of separation, mixed emotions can make the resorting back to the illness feel safe, secure- a constant security.  But just like that abusive partner- there is nothing safe about the illness, there is a only a distorted level of comfort and a web of lies and deceit.

There is no denying that break ups can be tough. Admitting that something is not right and finding the strength to walk away from it can be soul destroying, my experiences of break ups have left me feeling like a failure and riddled with guilt.

This is a break up, however that will only serve to restore your life. It will give you freedom and strength. It’s a breakup where there is so much light at the end of the tunnel it’s blinding.

And on this occasion dumping through text

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message is totally justified. Find that new relationship with yourself… You know what you’re really quite the catch.

Accepting Change, Accepting Recovery

Change. No matter who we are, we all relate and cope with change differently. The type of change can also impact on how we deal and cope with it. I personally love a challenge. I try to embrace change and focusing on the positives and successful outcomes.

However, some stages of recovery, are harder to adjust to that others and in particular is the change in the shape of my body…

I recall, as many do, the constant battle of the voices. It’s hell, exhausting and relentless.  You have the positive – “It’s great you’re gaining weight and maintaining. You are doing great!

Yet, that other voice, ahh yes, that voice.

The one that creeps up to cast doubt and negativity – “What are you doing?! You feel different, people look at you differently, you can see your shape change. You are weak, pathetic. Stop!”.

There is a bitter power struggle between the two. A duel of the mind within one body.

It can be exhausting!

The peculiar thing is that if it was a fired, or a young child I am all too aware of the positive things to say to offer encouragement and support.

Yet, why it appears to be nearly impossible to apply the same advice to my own situation?

Throughout recovery we learn a great amalgamation of techniques and tools through my therapy to deal this mental turmoil and the discord towards change.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

We all know and can rationalise the importance of pushing  away the doubtful voice and focusing on the positives of the recovery journey, recognising what you have achieved so far.

Whilst at times it can seem daunting and never ending, perhaps even painful at times, the whole process is so worth it!

That’s what I still constantly remind myself of and which you must take solitude from.

Looking back, I know I would rather enjoy my life the way it is now and eat food I enjoy. I love being able to go out with friends and be sociable! Why would I choose to let it have control over me? My shape does not define me and certainly not my happiness.

Change in terms of recovery is awesome, change brings health and joy. Change brings back you and you are so more important than a shape.