Friday, 19 July 2013

Only being honest...(possible trigger)

I've been debating as to whether to write this post or not.

But I know that my blog is not just about promoting the perfect life of recovery from a mental health problem, with no battles or obstacles thrown in. I'm here to document those twists and turns and be open and honest with you all about what has happened this week. Writing this is not only going to help me get it out in the open, but may help some of you to open up yourselves and get help.

On Monday the 15th of July, I took an overdose.
I was in a desperate, dark place. The depression had overtaken everything, it was one of those days where I saw no future or hope for myself. Everyone who I had tried calling for help were not answering their phones. I'd been overthinking for the majority of the day and struggling recently as it was, the huge drop came out of seemingly nowhere and I acted on impulse. I genuinely thought what I was doing was right, and that it would just take me away from what I was feeling.

I won't go into details about what I took and how much, but I have been suffering for it since.
The next day, I woke up in agonising pain, my body was trying to be sick but it wasn't allowing it to, I had a pounding headache, I had uncontrollable tremors and shakes, disorientation, irregular heartbeat, dizziness and tingling sensations in my arms. Complete with nausea, I was a bit of a mess.
Instead of going to hospital, like I should have done, I went to work that afternoon in 31 degree heat with no windows and air and barely any food. I had comments on how pale I looked but I just couldn't admit what I had done. I instead managed to pull through a shift (somehow) and felt like I could have dropped at any second.

The next day I spoke to a good friend of mine who happened to be attending a meeting with a pharmacist at the time. She spoke to her about my symptoms (as I refused to see a doctor) and she suggested that I have something called Serotonin Syndrome, a drug reaction caused often by poisoning of the body through certain types of drugs. Luckily, I only seemed to struggle mildly with it, anymore severe and I definitely would have been paying more of a price than I was already. But it was most definitely scary and only yesterday did I stop shaking and start trying to stomach food again. Despite my bestest friend coming over on Wednesday night for dinner, I couldn't finish my meal because I felt so nauseous and ended up feeling more sick afterwards and dissociated once more.

I guess I never thought I would land myself in this situation again. And it really has highlighted to me just how serious things are. I tend to brush off my illness and pretend everything is okay, but it isn't.
I haven't exactly worked out how things are going to move forward from here yet. I'm in one of those state of minds where I just want to refuse help and have entirely given up on myself because I have no hope.

I've always stuck by the phrase 'rock bottom became the solid foundation for which I started to rebuild my life'. And I have no idea where I'm going to start yet.
I go through days where I have hope for my future, then it disappears as quickly as the thought arose. I have 20 years of behaviours to unlearn and thinking processes to undo. I don't know how I'm going to do that.

I hope my honesty of this week can help you all to seek some help when you can. I should have been in hospital Monday night, instead I kept my mouth shut and I'm still almost 4 days on wondering whether I still have drugs in my system. Quite honestly, not going to the doctors for fear of judgement shouldn't happen. Stigma, stigma, stigma.

I'm going to move forward from this point. I don't know how but I hope you all are still going to continue with me on this journey.
I can get through this.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Depression - in it for life?

Over the last couple of days I've been overthinking (surprise surprise) about my depression. One of the main questions that arises from this overthinking is whether I can ever really truly recover from depression, or whether the illness is, in whatever form, something that will always stay with me.

I find it really hard to imagine a life without my illness. Of course, I've had prolonged periods of happiness from time to time and at most times manage to live a relatively normal life, whatever 'normal' is. However, it's been a long time since I've felt that the depression has disappeared completely, that I would refer to myself as recovered.

Let me provide you with a little back story. I would argue that I've always, as a child and during early teens, had a case of mild depression. Naturally depressed, is how I would describe it. Reasons behind my depression are for the most part unknown. You can blame a variety of things. I don't live with my biological father and never have, but what I do know is that he had a history of depression and self-injury. I was bullied throughout my schooling life. I was always, even looking back upon school reports as early as nursery, was the quiet, insecure perfectionist who never felt good enough. Whether the causes of my depression were biological or due to past experience, it's a huge part of my life which seems to determine so much.

A lot of people know this story but when I turned 18 was the pivotal moment when I actually recognised my depression as something to take notice of. It had progressed into something a lot more severe, resulting in more frequented self-injury, not attending Sixth Form or work, and the worst being an accident and emergency hospital stay after an overdose. I find it impossible to describe what that area of my life was like. It felt like an internal hell. Looking back, I remember not really feeling anything, when I did attend school and felt able I'd end up crying and breaking down, skipping more lessons. I didn't really care about my A-levels, my boyfriend, my family, and all of the things that mattered. I pushed everyone away. I wanted to die, really and truly.

Now, close to three years on, I've entered what you could refer to as 'recovery' and I guess I've learnt some things about myself and my illness. And although my depression is no-where near as severe as it was when I was 18, it is still there. I can feel it. Right now, I'm at a stage in my life where I feel nothing but worthlessness. Not enough worthlessness to induce self-harming or dangerous behaviours, but complete worthlessness and despair and disappointment at myself. Days where I can't bear to leave the house or leave my bed or face the world. And I've thrown away so many opportunities because of it, leading to that worthlessness to reappear once more, that never ending cycle.

I'm not saying this to attempt to be pessimistic, even though I naturally am. I would consider myself someone  who during her attempted recovery has tried and fought so hard to be positive and to do things to help herself. But I can't help but think am I in this for the long run? Will I ever be truly recovered, or is this illness something that I will always live with and determine my life? Do I need to spend the rest of my life just learning to manage my illness instead of living a life of recovery? Is recovery ever truly possible?

I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on this. If you live with a mental illness, do you believe in true recovery? Or do you think it's something that can only be managed over time? Why/why not?

I'm not writing this blog post in an attempt to drag you all down, at all, but I've been thinking about this a lot recently and thought it would be an interesting topic to bring up.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Living life

Looking back on the last few months, something I have noticed is that I'm actually living my life at the moment. In the last few weeks, I've:

Completed my 3rd 5K Race for Life (jogging 4k and walking the last one) in 40 minutes - raising £555 for Cancer Research UK!

I met Natasha Devon!

I celebrated friends birthdays!

I had drunken nights in with friends (and furry friends!)

I booked a Saturday off work to attend the Summer Stampede 2013 - a music festival with bands such as Haim, Vampire Weekend, Ben Howard, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros! And did I forget to mention MUMFORD AND SONS? (aaaaaah!)

I went to a London nightclub for a friends birthday :)

I sunbathed whilst looking upon my new university for the next three years.

I SAW MUMFORD AND SONS!

Went nightclubbing in Uprawr, Central London

Those are just some of the things I've been up to in the last month or so. And it's felt really nice and weirdly refreshing to be out and living my life again. Don't get me wrong, I've cancelled on the odd event or two due to anxiety and I'm very often a crying mess due to my depression, but when things are good, they're really good at the moment, and I'm totally 100% grateful for that.

On the other side of things, I'm very much unhappy with my job and a lot of other things which are not just going to be resolved overnight. I'm not a perfect person. I look at others lives with severe jealousy and I shouldn't. I've accomplished nothing in the last few years and it makes me sad. I don't want to be like this, but I am.

I guess I'm just spending the next few months in waiting. Waiting to gain a little more focus and a little perspective back. And it's terrifying. But I've always been taught to feel the fear and do it anyway. And I think that's going to have to be my mantra in order to get me through these next few months.
I've stopped going to therapy, I stopped a long time ago. I've stopped medication. I have no support and it was all my decision. Truth is, I want to go it alone. I've been wanting to for a long long time now. And every time I end up running backwards, and I don't want to. I've had some great times as of late but that shouldn't mask the fact that SO much in my life needs to be sorted out, that I'm pushing to the side for fear of facing it.

Fingers crossed that things begin to see some perspective and the silver lining will at some point arise, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Skinny vs Fat comments

After the BodyGossip Flashmob event on Friday, undoubtedly many pictures were posted on various social networking sites after the event, as you have seen. A few comments on a recent picture, however got me thinking and urged me to write this blog post.

On one of the pictures uploaded, three people proceeded to comment on a picture of my good friend and I, exclaiming what can only be described weight focused comments about my friend 'you look so tiny', 'you look like you've lost weight' and the worst being 'don't make me go over there and feed you a burger'. Barely anybody decided to comment on what we actually HAD done, dedicate our day to appreciating our bodies and trying to encourage others to do the same. And these comments just prove that no matter what we do, people are still obsessed about weight and what size people are.

My friend is anorexic. I am a former anorexic. All people commenting on the picture knew of my friends anorexia. Does this give them the right to use the opportunity to comment on her weight? Of course not. Just because they knew of her eating disorder it does not give them right to outright the fact they thought she'd lost weight publicly on a Facebook comment. Surely they would have the decency to understand that just 'eating a burger' does not cure your eating disorder. Would the same people have said the same thing we were overweight? Of course not. Because that would be wrong.

Some would argue the comments were out of compassion. If any of these people showed an inch of compassion they'd take the time to phone or e-mail or message my friend to see how she was and declare their concerns, a few of these people don't even know my friend and I well enough to even state the concerns in the way that she did. We know each other through our eating disorders. And that's all. There's no compassion there, it's one person refusing to see beyond an exterior, once more.

Plus, my friend knows she is anorexic. I know she doesn't want to be like this, she knows she doesn't want to be like this. If anyone knew her as well as I do they'd know that she fights this beast of an illness every single day and wants to recover. Why not recognise that she's done an amazing thing by attending an event promoting body confidence and banishing body shame rather than doing the complete opposite and encouraging her to feel worse about herself. My friend is not a number. She isn't defined by what she looks like, or her weight. She's a human being fighting an illness.

I too, used to get similar comments when I was younger. I'm one of those people who people think it's acceptable to attempt to grab my stomach and say 'but there's nothing there'! (drives me mad, don't ever do it) In the last year working where I currently work I used to get so many comments on my weight from management and other members of staff and what I was eating - would they have said the same thing if I was overweight? 'Go and eat a burger'. Of course not.

It's really made me realise how as a society people are STILL so pre-occupied with weight and what people look like. It makes me even more determined to work with BodyGossip to banish fat AND skinny shaming and just see a body for what it is. It's flaws and imperfections. Eating disorder or no eating disorder. These people you're criticising have lives, too. They have feelings. Calling someone painfully thin is as bad as calling someone fat. I want people to look at pictures of me and recognise me for what I've done and for what the pictures stand for, for example the BodyGossip event, rather then be pre-occupied with what I look like, or whether I have gained weight (which I have, but who cares, I've recovered from an eating disorder!), or what my make-up/hair/clothes look like. I want pictures to stand and symbolise memories for me, not to remind myself of comments from others and what they thought I looked like.

It's the reason why I don't buy magazines anymore. There's far too much preoccupation with whether so and so has lost weight or whether the next celebrity has been spotted at the gym as opposed to talent and success. That makes me quite sad, really. In my eyes, people looked at the picture of me and my friend and saw my friend for her illness and not for her as a person, what she stands for, which are so many inspiring and amazing things I can't even count. I'm not friends with her because she has an eating disorder. I'm friends with her because she inspires me and she makes me happy. I've probably repeated this idea a lot already, but why can we not see past how people look anymore? I'm all for being happy, thanks.

Other peoples bodies are technically none of your business. We're all beautiful, and we're all different, and that makes us beautiful. So enough with the shaming, okay? Because that is what will make you ugly.

I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!

Monday, 1 July 2013

FLASHMOBBING!

Now is time to blog about Friday's fantastic flashmob which took place outside the Southbank Centre in Central London.

You guys all know that I became an ambassador for BodyGossip this year after admiring the campaign and the work that Natasha Devon and Ruth Rogers have put in for years now. Attending this flashmob meant the world to me and I'm so glad I did.

If you don't know much about BodyGossip, before you read this post I'd strongly urge you to watch this:


Here are some of the pictures from the event:

The gorgeous girls from Curvy Kate proudly displaying their hearts, and a little furry friend got involved too!

Ambassadors hard at work cutting out hearts - truly wonderful ladies!

Myself and one of the founders of BodyGossip - Ruth Rogers, an amazing lady who I feel privileged to have now met!

The amazing flashmob itself!

Me with my beautiful and inspiring friend Kat :)

BG Ambassadors - (from L to R) Jackie Tanner, myself, Kat Cormack, Nikki Grahame, Jasmine Waters, Ellis Spicer and the one and only Ruth Rogers!

Nikki Grahame and I :)

With three lovely friends Ellis and Devika!

Another excellent photo of the Flashmob in full swing!

Overall, the event was a major success, despite the rain (which luckily stopped three minutes before the flashmob!)  We're all totally gutted that co-founder Natasha Devon was unable to attend due to being in hospital the night before and we missed her tons, but I really hope we made her all extremely proud!
One of the things I loved the most about the event was getting to speak to strangers walking the Southbank about the campaign and the work that we do - many loved the idea and the concept and vowed to visit our website and some even took part in the Flashmob themselves which felt fantastic - it really felt like we were making a huge difference.

I got to meet some inspiring individuals, Ruth of course being one of them but my fellow ambassadors who I went for lunch with afterwards and had interesting and in-depth conversations which really inspired me in many different ways.

It really did feel like a huge political statement, with a huge variety of different people (and even dogs!), of all shapes and sizes and ages, from all walks of life uniting to celebrating parts of their body that they loved. Too many individuals are quick to judge which parts of their body that they don't like, myself included. More recently however I have become more self-accepting and am slowly understanding that I can only build myself a better relationship with my body if I allow myself to - so am starting to listen to my boyfriend and those around me when they compliment me or highlight what they love. And working alongside this campaign has certainly helped with that. I now firmly believe that we all need to rock our own version of beauty and take a stand against body and fat/skinny shaming and insecurities. And I'm getting there, thanks to BodyGossip, and this event was just the kick that I needed for me to start building a better relationship with my body. 

I'd love to thank Ruth Rogers and Natasha Devon, two huge inspirations of mine, for allowing this acceptance of myself to become possible. And if I can install more confidence in others lacking in it about themselves and their bodies like they have done, I can safely say I've done something right.

Please check out the website here at www.bodygossip.org and remember to be-YOU-tiful!