Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 Summary!

I am going to say goodbye to 2013 by reviewing my year. The more I've looked into old posts, the more I realise that although I don't think I've made much progress, that actually all of the small things have maybe mounted up into something much bigger! 

January
Looking back, I can see that I began the year still very consumed with my illness. I had the winter blues, and still trying to figure out why I had chosen this path rather than the other destructive method. I think I was very confused about what I was doing, and questioning every action I made. Ultimately, It was a month of working and Uni!

February
Again, I was in a similar place to January, with my thoughts still completely tangled, but decided to turn my experience into something more positive. I took part in a video for EDAW '13, which I now believe has almost 6000 views. Here it is, if you haven't seen it already!




March
A big highlight of 2013 was being able to meet the beautiful Amy-Louise in London! We went to see Matilda the musical, shopped in Camden, Covent Garden and Oxford street, as well as sightseeing and playing in the arcade until midnight. It was just an amazing few days, which has created life long memories.


April
A quiet month really but I came home for Easter and I turned 19! I can see now that I wasn't perhaps well enough to celebrate properly, but I did my best at the time. I also began to learn how powerful the sun and spring are. I definitely started to believe that the sun is a positive thing for me.

May
I finished the first year of my degree with a good mark and took myself off to visit a friend in Nottingham! It was a good month but I think I begun to see the importance of how recovering from a mental illness (eating disorders in particular) have nothing to do with someone's looks or weight.  

June
I went on my first ever holiday alone with a friend, to Spain! It wasn't perhaps the most enjoyable holiday (as we no longer speak!) but it was definitely a HUGE step forward for me. I was completely out of my comfort zone. I played it very safe but very much enjoyed the sun, beach and cocktails at night! I also made a huge step in that I got rid of the scales. I can honestly say now, that I don't know what I weigh and don't want to know either!


July
Not going to lie, my summer after that holiday was so boring as I just worked. However, I did go to the Harry Potter studio tour with a good friend, which was AMAZING. I would definitely go again! It sounds stupid, but things like this would be been completely impossible 2 years ago because I wouldn't be in control of food. It's nice to look back and see that I had a great day :)


August
This month saw the yearly mark of when I was officially diagnosed. I had gained just over a stone (I'm guessing) and celebrated at my brother's GCSE results meal out. It wasn't for me as such, but going out is a big thing for me so it was a special occasion ever more so.

September
The new year at Uni began, and I moved into my new house with my lovely housemates! I completed an insightful work experience placement on a Verteran's mental health unit. I also traveled to Manchester to see one of my best friends from Uni. We spent hours shopping, eating and drinking - and it was just the perfect day. Looking back, I am proud of this day as I was completely out of control and just let things be. It was easy but it was so liberating to just enjoy time doing what I wanted. I also went out for a 2 course recovery meal with my wonderful friend Sarah. No numbers, just good food, company and conversation!

                  
October
I many spent October settling back into University. A friend from home came up to see me, where we spent the day seeing what Liverpool had to offer! The highlight was going back to Manchester with my friend to see Birdy live! We enjoyed food, drink, music and had the pleasure of bumping into another friend, Tanya, who I at long last met! It was a beautiful night.

                  


November
This month saw both highs and lows! I was awarded an academic scholarship and secured a voluntary placement which were both fantastic! However, many life lessons were learned because of difficulty with friendships and living with new people. Now, I am grateful for the experience and the closeness of some friendships that have formed but at the time it was nothing but stressful! I am proud though, that my coping mechanisms were much healthier. I turned to reading, blogging more and watching films as a way to relax rather than much more damaging behaviours. I also enjoyed a fantastic night out with my lovely housemates, for dinner and seeing the iconic coca-cola van!

December
Finally, the month of Christmas! This hasn't been the easiest Christmas, nor the most exciting, but any anxiety has been channeled into something positive. I've enjoyed gingerbread latte's with my grandparents, Christmas dinner with my family, chocolate and board games with my brother, and a football match with my Dad. Additionally, boxing day saw the funniest evening ever with my Nan and Dad. Although it's not been an indulgent December, it's been relaxed and most importantly, I HAVE joined in, and I've coped. 

And, I think that's the biggest lesson I've learned this year. I can cope and I will. I can join in and nothing bad will happen. I can say yes to the unknown, without getting hurt. Contrastingly, it's ok to not be ok too. Recovery isn't easy, but as long as I keep swimming and challenging new things, then it will get better and my life will become more and more enjoyable. 2013 has actually been a good year, and I look forward to seeing what 2014 has to offer. I don't make new year's resolutions as I believe that if I want to change something then I will do it anyway, nor do I hope 2014 to be good or bring positivity. I believe that if I want change or happiness, then I just have to go and get it! And that is what I will be doing in 2014!

Happy New Year everyone! Here's to 2014!




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Saturday, 28 December 2013

Dear Body..

I've been reading around a lot recently, and stumbled across a few posts from women who had written letters to their body. I quite like the idea really and thought it would be quite a positive and insightful thing to read (and do). What I found was not what I initially thought I would find. Some were positive, saying thank you and being grateful for their bodies but some included quite derogative and hurtful comments, such as
'Why do you have to be so fat?' 
'Why don't I look like Kate Moss?'
'Why is my metabolism so slow?'
Now, I know that I don't have a fantastic relationship with my body but I certainly don't think like this. I am actually taken aback that women would go as far to write things like this when really we should be praising the one thing that allows us to live? It's actually made me wonder whether I have a better relationship with my body than most others (which sounds completely ridiculous given the circumstances). So, here is my attempt at this..

Dear Body,

Well, where do we start? 
It's been a tough few years but I guess I'll get straight to the point and say thank you. Thank you for the first few years of being overfed and under exercised. You managed to survive to late night food feasts, double helpings of dinner and pudding, and thousands of sugary treats. You didn't develop a physical illness and you carried on regardless.
Secondly thank you for then managing to cope with the opposing extreme of being under nourished and overworked. I have no idea how, but you managed to get me into University, continue my part time job and perform in musicals twice a year. Thank you for coping with all of my destructive coping mechanisms, the endless cross trainer sessions and self harm. You didn't deserve any of that, yet you still kept going in hope that one day I would change. Thank you for putting up with all of my stupid behaviours that were slowly destroying and damaging you. 
I know you're not perfect. You wobble a bit and have a few scars but you know what, they all carry some form of meaning that shows me that I have survived many things; overcome many hurdles and challenges. Therefore, I would not change them because that makes me who I am. 
It does not matter that you don't look like a super model because you know what? When you smile, it fills a room, and that is far more attractive than any shape or size. And ultimately, that's all I want for you. H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S.
My aim is to make you happy without causing myself any anxiety. I aim to nourish you correctly, treat you in moderation and exercise you for fun and strength, not because I feel I have to or it's what's expected.
I hope that one day, looking after you is done without a second thought, but until then thank you for being strong and sticking with me. It's safe to say, you're awesome.

Sam
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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas!


Just a quick note to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! I hope you have a fantastic day, full of food, drink, family and everything you've ever wished for! Make it the best yet
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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Approaching Christmas

So this morning, I finished the first semester of year two meaning I am half way through my degree (CRAZY). I am now waiting until the weekend until I can go home for Christmas.This Christmas will be my second Christmas since deciding to recover from an eating disorder, only this time I am once again approaching it with a new head on my shoulders. I am not in the same place as I was last year, or the year before in fact, which is actually quite scary. 
Although I believe that I AM still making progress, it is very slow progress now. This current progress does not involve weight gain or weight loss. For me right now, it is all about maintaining whilst starting to live again, rather than simply survive. For me, I am focusing on eating out and with other people, self esteem issues and reducing anxiety around food in general - basically all of the things that don't just miraculously fix themselves when you've regained weight.
So by living again, that means enjoying Christmas properly. For me, that means not eating breakfast but 20 bars of chocolate on Christmas day. It means having Christmas pudding AND mince pies for dessert. It means having Baileys in coffee instead of milk - you know, all of those little Christmas traditions? I know that it is normal to indulge at Christmas time and that it's more than acceptable to gain a few pounds over the festive season, but then it is also considered normal to then lose those few pounds come January.
Here's my current dilemma
  1. I don't want to gain any weight. I am stubborn and at the moment, I'm not ready for it. However, that most definitely means that all of those traditions that I've just mentioned can't really happen. It will mean that I just survive Christmas rather than enjoying it properly.
  2. I don't want to just survive either. Ultimately, this means I have to decide which one of these two issues is going to happen. 
  3. If I enjoy Christmas like I really want to, does it then mean that I'm allowed to diet? Because in reality, there is no way I can actively lose weight. That doesn't even need explaining really.
This is an extremely different post for me but it is most definitely the real battle that is continually causing anxiety. My aim is to take each day is it comes and maybe I can just let go. I need to stop fearing the unknown and turn that fear into curiosity.
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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Fear of Failure

Yesterday, I received an assignment grade back that definitely was not my best. In fact, it was FAR from it and a lot lower than I'd have expected, liked or wanted! It's only one grade and I know that if I achieve better than this in future, then it won't have any major impact on my overall degree but I cannot stop thinking about it. I clearly cannot deal with failing.
Not only do I feel like I've let myself down, but I also feel like I'm letting my family down and my friends, who believe I can do so well, down. I am disappointed with myself and embarrassed that I did not do well. I also feel like everyone else is disappointed with me, as I am usually the one who they are always proud of for doing well, and this time I have not. 
I have though, realised how much pressure I put on myself and how much pressure other people have put on me to succeed. This pressure is not something that I should perhaps be carrying around with me, all day everyday. I did my best on that assignment, and that's all that should matter really? However, because I've not achieved what everyone expects of me, my best seems to be not good enough any more. 
Also, it's time like this when I realise how big the link between Anorexia and fear of failing really is. It's ONE mark, yet I feel as though my whole world has come crashing down. Like I am no longer good enough for anyone any more. That if I am not perfect, then what is the point? But that's the thing, perfection does not exist and me wanting to constantly chase it, is unhealthy and detrimental in itself. As soon as I saw the mark, I could feel myself wanting to resort back to old behaviours because they are my way of coping. My way of feeling numb. I guess they are my way of becoming invisible so that I don't disappoint anyone.
I think that fact that I'm acknowledging this though, is a huge step forward. Even though my thinking is clearly still disordered, I am no longer willing to act on them. I can only do my best and that will have to do! 
And in light of this, I am going to demolish a quality street chocolate bar to cheer me up. It's Christmas after all.




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Monday, 2 December 2013

How many Christmas' will you sacrifice?

So, December has appeared from what seems like no where, and this can only mean it's officially acceptable to now be festive by wearing Christmas jumpers and listening to cheesy Christmas songs, yes?
I have gone through many years of completely despising this time of year. Before becoming ill, I have disliked Christmas as it holds bad memories and therefore I would only allow myself to think of those things. And secondly, as you can imagine, that when you have an eating disorder, Christmas is a difficult time as one of the main elements is food. Of course, it's more about being with loved ones, celebrating with family and friends and yes, this is what I love most! But there is no denying that usually people look forward to the big tins of chocolates, mince pies and Christmas pudding, Christmas dinner.. I mean, I definitely love it all!
This year I don't want to miss out. I want to be able to say yes when offered the tin of chocolates, yes to the festive glass of mulled wine and yes to a huge roast dinner. 
I am extremely busy at the moment. Good busy though - winter assignment deadlines are looming, my part time work is busy with it being Christmas and I'm travelling around with my volunteering work. Add in house issues, a social life and functioning as a human being, and you don't have much time left. I know myself well enough to know that I can use this extremely busy schedule as a way of avoiding certain social situations with food challenges. However, I believe acknowledging this is a good thing and it means I can actively choose not to make excuses.
Like I previously said, I can choose what I allow myself to think. Last year I managed to turn Christmas around and allow it to become one of my favourite times of year. I believe that if we want something to happen, then we can most certainly make it happen. If I want to do something badly enough, then I know I can and will. After all, Christmas only comes once a year, so really we don't have time to let it pass us by.
I came across an intriguing question this week - How many Christmas' will you sacrifice for Anorexia? Well, I hope I already know the answer to this and I don't add another one to that number.
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Thursday, 28 November 2013

Holidays Are Coming

Last night, some of my housemates and I wrapped up in hats and winter coats, and ventured into Liverpool for the evening, as a final night out before some go home for Christmas. What was so special about it, was the fact that the landmark Coca-Cola lorry was situated in the middle of the Liverpool One to celebrate the festive season (and give out free coke!).
I have been putting off going out for dinner with my housemates for so long, as I absolutely hate it, but last night everyone made sure I was comfortable with the restaurant choice (Nandos), and that everyone actually wanted to go there too. 
I have never felt so supported in my entire life and I genuinely felt honored to be friends with people who just accept that I'm still recovering. 
After finishing a lovely meal, we ventured into the Liverpool One to get a photo with the Lorry - only to be greeted by a huge queue. We did not stand and wait because we managed to get close enough anyway! I'm guessing you got a free drink if you queued!
Following that, we spent the remaining few hours doing some late night shopping, laughing and simply looking at what festivities the beautifully decorated city had to offer. One of which included a stall with minion hats, which my and my best friend just had to try on!!
The whole evening has reminded me of why food cannot dictate my life any more. Small glimpses into a sense of normality is something I really cherish and definitely crave more of. Restricting or being thin has nothing on true friendship and moments that will never be forgotten. 
My first Christmassy night of 2013 was simply magical.


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Sunday, 24 November 2013

Family

Today my I had the pleasure of Grandparents visiting me at Uni. I haven't seen them since moving in this year so it was a treat to have my family come and see the house. I think I have been missing a little bit of home comfort and they certainly have filled this gap up for now.
We ventured into Liverpool for the day, where we had lunch and shopped for Christmas presents and winter essentials (after leaving my gloves on the train!). It's so lovely to show people why I love this city so much, and it's so easy to do so when it's beautifully decorated for Christmas time. The smell of fresh donuts and fudge, hot mulled wine flowing and Christmas carols being played by musicians - what could be better?
I also showed them around the docks, which is something they have wanted to do for a long time but we have never really had the chance to do so. We walked around in the crisp winter air before enjoying a warm drink in Costa. It sounds daft but I have never had a seasonal drink from a coffee shop but today broke that barrier. For me - a heavenly gingerbread latte, my Grandma had a salted caramel latte and my Grandad enjoyed a toffee nut caffe caramella. This is something in which I am sure, will be repeated!
A great way to spend a Sunday :)


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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Right or easy?

'Sometimes we must choose between what is right, and what is easy' - Albus Dumbledore

This week, I have been forced into situations in which I have had to choose between what is right and what is easy. 
The right path is the one which could potentially ruin friendships, cause pain and upset but ultimately get the help that is needed to make a better future. 
The easy path is to keep acting like nothing is wrong, doing what is wanted of you by other people and pretend everything is just fine. But, I guess if you continue down this road you will eventually come to a dead end or an obstacle that cannot be beaten. There will come a time in which you have to pay for cutting the corners and skimming the edges. 
Although my self doubting nature is creeping in and my longing for a perfect life with perfect balance remains strong, this week I believe I have managed to find the courage to do what is right. The right path is always the hardest but it is also the one that brings the best outcome. 
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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Illustration

Today I have received the most beautiful little package in the post, which put a huge smile on my face! A few weeks ago, Hannah from http://teathreesugars.blogspot.co.uk/ ran a giveaway as she had reached 150 followers (well done by the way!), and I actually came second! I have been saying for ages that I never win anything so this was a huge surprise.
Second place was an A5 illustration of myself, in an outfit of my choice. I chose my black heart print shirt, chunky necklace and jeans which is one of my favourite looks right now! 




Words cannot express how much I love this! Hannah is so, so talented and I am so impressed by how much effort and detail has clearly gone into this. So, thank you so much Hannah, it's really amazing!! 

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Friday, 1 November 2013

Academic Scholarship

Tonight, I attended an awards evening at my University and was presented an academic scholarship from Professor Tanya Byron. This isn't something I want to write loads about, more just something for me to look back on in years to come and remember. For once, I am proud of myself for achieving an award (even if part of me still craves for better - perfection maybe?), I know that attaining the fourth highest grade, out of the faculty of Arts and Sciences is a pretty good achievement. 
And what actually made the evening more special, was the fact my Mum and brother drove 2 hours to come and see me. It was really quite a special night.




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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Travel, Manchester & Birdy

The last two days seem incredibly surreal, as in the amount I have done has been so much in comparison to the time I've had to do it in. It goes to show that we always have enough time to fit in the things and people that are important to us.
Yesterday, I traveled to Manchester via Liverpool to attend a Birdy concert. After a lot of walking, train and tram travel, a meal at Prezzo and standing in a long queue (in freezing winds and rain - to which my response 'well, I could be colder' came as a positive surprise!), my friend Beckie and I watched and heard the breathtaking voice of Birdy and her band, whilst consuming vodka shots in an attempt to keep warm. I think what I love most about her, is that she can actually sing live and she plays guitar and piano. She's a real musician and her lyrics are simply beautiful. It was my first ever concert and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Another treat, was the fact that my lovely friend Tanya was also attending this concert, of whom I had the privilege of meeting afterwards. Although it seems scary to say you've met someone from the internet, I think at times like this, I am grateful the internet exists. It's amazing to think that two people can be brought together by something as simple as a screen.

Today, we returned back home after a short detour into Manchester for lunch and a bit of shopping. I think I have said before, that I really do love traveling. I find it so freeing and liberating, probably because there is no routine that comes with it. There is no rigidity holding you back, as you are free to explore as you wish. 
I really am beginning to appreciate busy days more and more. It means I am actually living, rather than wasting precious time, and these two days were full of great food, music and company.



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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Eating Disorders at University

At the moment, B-eat are running a campaign about Eating disorders at University. It's focusing on the issues faced by students during University and the transition period (moving from home to uni), aiming to raise awareness and ensure that students receive the correct support that they need. Many students have difficulty accessing treatment after moving away (myself included), and it's really vital that this changes.
There are many ways to get involved - the easiest via twitter (of course!). You can follow @beatED or use the hashtag #edunicampaign to receive the latest updates, or you can go to their website to read the press releases, experiences from students and advice from other students!
If you're interested, then here is what I've written for this campaign (sorry, shameless plug!) ;)
http://www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/online-community/beat-blog/new-places-and-faces/
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Sunday, 20 October 2013

Trust

I am a strong believer in being in control of the direction my life will take (perhaps a little too much considering the eating disorder I'm recovering from is all about control!) and trusting myself to do the right thing. 
I have been conversing with my Dad a lot recently, as he is struggling with his OCD more than usual, and I find myself telling him to trust himself. When explaining a mental illness to someone, I tend to say (maybe incorrectly) that it is like living with someone sitting on your shoulder. You have your own thoughts and identity, but you also carry around this other set of thoughts. These ones are brimming with negativity, anxiety and self-doubt, and the only way to relieve yourself of these are to a) listen to them and b) go ahead with whatever it is that they are telling you to do. However, by doing this, you are not being yourself and ironically you are not in control of your own life at all. All of your trust is in a negative, destructive illness - one in which we all know can have life threatening consequences. 
These conversations have actually made me question whether I actually trust myself yet and if I'm honest, I still think the answer is no. If someone asks why I still calorie count, I answer with 'because what if I over eat?'. That in itself is a prime example of not trusting yourself to stop when you're full. My real question though, is why don't I trust myself? I've never done anything unworthy of my own trust and I can't think of a logical reason
I think when we trust ourselves, however difficult it may be, we will feel in control of our lives rather than constantly being controlled, and ultimately happy. I'm not saying that I don't trust myself at all - there are aspects of my life in which I am becoming happy with. This week I was awarded an academic scholarship for my grade last year, something in which I worked hard for and I'm now proud of. I know where I want to go in life, in terms of my career, and I trust myself to get me there. But with my recovery, I'm evidently not quite there. There is nothing physically stopping me from waking up tomorrow and eating what I want, when I want. 
I need trust myself and the process.
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Monday, 14 October 2013

Work hard, play hard

It's safe to say that the jump from first year to second year has come as a bit of a shock to me as I'm already swamped in assignments! But after getting myself into a stressed out mess (and almost completing an assignment), I'm realising that actually I'll be fine - I am after all, a perfectionist and know that I'd never let myself get to a point that would mean not handing anything in. 
Last night though, I enjoyed a rare night out. A very free and liberating night in Liverpool, with no thought of calories being consumed or burnt off. It was nice to dance the night away, dressed as a tiger as the carnage theme was circus, and enjoy what the city has to offer.
Going out drinking is a strange one for me - I've gone from dreading it and not drinking at all, to going out with just one drink, to thinking 'why the f*ck am I not joining in?!' I quite like the conclusion I've arrived at! I always tell people not to miss anything or say no because you're too scared of what will happen. Well, what has happened is that I had a good night and I enjoyed myself. Nothing to fear really!



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Thursday, 10 October 2013

WMHD '13


If you didn't know already, today is World Mental Health Day. A day devoted to talking about and challenging the stigma of mental health. In my opinion, we shouldn't need days like today, we should be able to talk freely about mental health problems without being judged or stereotyped. However, until then, days like today are very much welcomed!
If I'm honest, I will say that I find it very difficult to be open about my own mental health for fear of being judged but I am beginning to challenge this very idea. If everyone suffering from a mental illness kept it to themselves, like some kind of dirty little secret, then mental illnesses would never be beaten. They will continue to dominate and ruin people's lives unnecessarily. 1 in 4 of us have or will suffer with a mental illness, so WHY aren't we able to talk about it? We will ALL know someone, some having more experience than others - but you don't have to be an expert on mental health to be able to talk about it.

Simply asking someone how they are today can open up a world of conversation opportunities. Even if we do not understand what if feels like, just offering an ear will mean more to that person than we can ever imagine. They are no longer alone.
 I actually think sharing stories is one of the most fascinating things to talk about, usually resulting in learning more about myself than the other person. It's not that scary at all!

I dare you all to ask someone how their mental health is today - I have done! Let's put a stop to mental health stigma. It's been around for too long.
And I shall end by asking you how YOU are?
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Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Mental Health Labels

Recently, I have found myself thinking more and more about mental health labels and being given a diagnosis. At this current moment in time, 'Anorexia Nervosa' is not something I want or like. It is a label that I desperate to get rid of. It would mean I am healthy and free to live a life without being held back by anxiety or rules.
However, I know this isn't always the case. When first diagnosed with this illness, part of me was elated. It felt like I'd achieved something and I could be proud of it. I was special because I didn't need food and I could easily dismiss it - something in which 'normal' people find very difficult to do.
Similarly, with depression, I was proud that I'd achieved this new label and status. It gave me an excuse for my low mood and subsequent behaviours. 
But, now that I'm a long way into recovery, my view on labeling is changing some what. Looking back, I used my illness to my advantage. Yes, it was a good reason for certain things, but not everything. It was very easy to me to say 'oh, I'm staying in bed today because I have depression' when actually, I'm just being lazy and can't be bothered to go to maths. I have done it with my eating disorder too - 'I'm not going out tonight because I'm anorexic' is too commonly used as the place I'm invited too may not even involve food or drink. I think we have to be very careful when we use our illness as an excuse and not the real reason.
I also think we have to be very careful when giving someone a mental health diagnosis. Don't get me wrong, receiving one can be comforting and can explain why your thoughts and behaviour is irrational but in some cases it may encourage the illness. I have often felt as though I can't do something because I have this diagnosis, and it's not what people would expect from me. I mean, I eat pizza and chocolate, but how can I be anorexic and do that? From an outsiders point of view, I know how confusing that can look. Therefore, it's very easy for me to avoid certain foods or places because it doesn't 'look' right. In other words, I play up to my label.
As I have mentioned above, I am now in a place where I no longer want this label. I am not proud of it and can see now that it's not something to cling onto or feel safe by. Mental illnesses or dangerous and unfortunately, still very stigmatised. Other labels that people may receive are 'crazy', 'mental', 'insane'. These labels are quite possibly the worst kind and as soon as you have a diagnosis, you then have to prepare yourself for these too.

I am actually interested in what you think mental health diagnoses and labels in general. Should be labeling things so easily?
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Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Society

So much has happened in such a short space of time, in my opinion. I have lived in my new house with new people for just over a week now and already, we’ve faced highs and lows, which is only inevitable really as it’s a big change for us all.
The biggest challenge for me, has been listening to the conversations surrounding food, gyms and weight. The constant obsession with working out or eating healthily, using scales or measuring hips. Is that what normal is, in today’s society? Because if it is, then that attitude to food and our body image in general, is just as disordered as someone with an eating disorder.
As someone who is recovering from an eating disorder, I honestly find it extremely triggering. It’s so difficult to stop certain behaviors  when other ‘normal’ people are practicing them every day. I begin to question whether I SHOULD be doing this too. Logically, I know that I can’t but it’s almost as if I’m jealous of  the fact I can’t go on a diet, or to the gym or cut out carbs (the list goes on).
I’m also jealous of the fact that these women can go on diets and to the gym, and still ‘fail’ at their diets when they see a mars bar. As much as I worry that everyone will develop an eating disorder, I’m envious of the fact that they won’t. Why is it that they can stop so easily, yet I (and some others) develop full blown eating disorders? Almost as if I can’t even go on a stupid diet properly.
But then I do question the happiness of society. The diet industry is one of the most miserable places that I can think of.
Surely, we should be encouraging positive body image, healthy eating and moderate exercise? I have made a very good friend this week, who is seriously helping and encouraging me with this but it’s still very difficult when you are a) battling the attitudes around you and b) your own mind.
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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A Meal for Two

Last night, I spent the evening with a friend of mine, Sarah, who is also in recovery from Anorexia (and keeps a great blog!). As I'm off to Uni for the 2nd year on Sunday, we both set the challenge of a two course meal at a local restaurant in town. On top of this, this particular menu provides no nutritional information - not on the menu and not on the website. No where! For me, this is a huge challenge but one I know I have to overcome if I want to recover fully, and that is something I know I am going to do.
I think sometimes, if I am totally honest, being friends with someone who also has an eating disorder can be dangerous. Anorexia is a competitive, ugly game and even though you do your best to help and support, it's always possible that you are being sucked in. Comparing what's being eaten, who is more anxious, wanting not to look greedy - it's almost playing with fire and wanting to get burnt. I am honest enough to say, that if I think someone is hindering my recovery, then I don't speak to them. It's not a selfish thing. It's something I MUST do because I'm not strong enough to keep from playing the game. Even in 'real life', I constantly struggle with listening to what diet someone is trying this week, which exercise class is on the next. But, I have to get it into my head that I am not them. What I do/eat will not affect them and what they do/eat will not affect me. If I lie about something or decline an offer to go out, then it's ONLY me who is failing. It's only me who is missing out.
However, last night I didn't feel any of those things. If anything, calories were far from my mind. We both enjoyed a two course meal like two people should. The food was great and yes it was an achievement, but the company and conversation were the highlights of the evening. Something in which takes a back seat when recovering.
I didn't compare either. In fact, I was only inspired and felt supported. One positive from being friends with someone else who is in recovery, is that they know how you feel.  Last night has motivated me even more and shown me that actually, I CAN do this.
Quite frankly, I'm tired of rolling the dice and getting the same outcome. This academic year, it's time to roll a double six and get my life back.



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Thursday, 12 September 2013

Work Experience

For the past two days, I've have the privilege of doing work experience at the Mental Health Hospital who saw me, only on the Veterans Mental Health Unit. I call it a privilege as I have spent months writing, emailing and phoning the service trying to get a place, but it's all been worth it!
I may be stupid, for going back to this place and before attending, I felt it. Having worked so hard for this placement, I should have been excited but that self doubt continued to niggle away. Someone suffering from and eating disorder, going back into this setting to listen to other people's stories. How can I possibly be strong enough to take that on if my own mental status isn't yet healthy?
However, I could not have been more wrong. I have spent the last two days observing, learning, meeting Psychologists and listening to the most amazing stories. Stories in which have completely opened my eyes and only encouraged me more to continue along this road when it comes to my own career. I have been nothing but interested and fascinated by everything I've done and seen - ranging from anxiety to PTSD. And to my relief, I haven't struggled at all. I haven't been worried by certain statements made and nothing has shocked me or caused distress. If anything, I now think my experiences are helpful and will continue to help me. Although I'm nothing unique, I do know exactly how someone is feeling and really do understand. I'm not saying someone needs to suffer from a mental illness to become a psychologist, but I think the empathy I will feel for patients will enable me to be good at in this profession.
And for the first time, I have actually felt proud of myself for what I've been through rather than ashamed. I didn't mention my illness but I know I've been in a place which understands mental illness and feels as passionately about stigma and treatment, as I do. I have loved and enjoyed everything and I'm extremely motivated to use my illness to help other people. For me, that would be the ultimate reward and I know my perfectionist traits will actually be useful this time.



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Sunday, 8 September 2013

Life's not fair?

I'm not sure where this post is really going to go so apologize in advance for it lacking any direction - I shall just write!
Yesterday, my brother accepted a job at the same store that I work in and I'm furious. Not with him as such, more my family and their attitude towards him, compared with their attitude towards me. Firstly, when I got my job it was because I applied for it, writing my own CV, filling out the application - nothing remotely different from the rest of the world, I imagine. I should also add, that it wasn't the only job or interview I had applied for. But, I got my current job because I worked for it and wanted it.
Dis-similarly, my brother does not want this job. He was more or less forced to apply for it while my Mum stood outside of the shop, with a CV she had printed off for him because she knew people had left for Uni. It only takes common sense to realize jobs would soon be available. Consequently, first application and first interview results in his first job.
Now don't get me wrong, I am happy for him. Getting your first job in the current economic climate is not easy and he must have impressed at interview, so fair enough. However, my issue lies with the mechanics behind it all. Should someone who doesn't want work be landed with a job? Someone who has done nothing and put no effort in at all, be rewarded with something that many people are currently longing for?
Like many teenage lads, my brother is a gamer. I don't see him leave his room unless it's for school, food or football practice. He does nothing else (no housework, conversation etc). Of course though, my parents believe he is the model child and therefore, everything is done for him. As for actual life skills, well, they do no exist.
Also, this is MY work place. Anyone will know that when you live at home, working actually provides some relief. Especially for me. Work is a place away from food, life and constant struggles. It's a huge distraction for me as well as a laugh and a purpose. This is something, after numerous arguments, I can still not get across when stating why I have such an issue with him being there. It will completely change.
This may seem incredibly selfish and could be seen as simply complaining that 'life's not fair', but sometimes I'm not sure it is. Sometimes it really does seem like some people receive everything on a plate given in front of them, while the rest of us have to work extremely hard to achieve the same outcome.
My only positive, is that those of us who face difficulty and power through are equipped when life throws something absolutely awful at them. I guess the are the strong ones.
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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Manchester

Since moving to Uni, I have definitely realised that I much prefer a city. I love the atmosphere, the fast paced environment, the shops and the anonymity it provides. Having said that, I didn't go yesterday to be alone. I went to visit a good friend from my degree course who happens to live in Manchester.
After walking through my own town's beautiful park, I traveled via train to Manchester. I had been feeling a little run down from working so much and doing so little on days off, so a friendly face and gossip was most definitely welcomed. We spent the entire day shopping, talking, eating and drinking. It was really perfect. I can honestly say I just let things be. We went for lunch somewhere I'd never been because that's her favourite place, and then went for cocktails in the afternoon, just because we could. Although, after hardly consuming much alcohol for a few years, a single drink now can make me quite merry and as soon as I walked out of the bar, I casually walked into the curb and tripped, leaving us both hysterical. Smoooooth Samantha ;)
I stayed until late so persuaded her to try Yo Sushi - sharing dishes, laughing and putting the world to rights - before returning home with the company of the 'We Will Rock You' musical soundtrack. I enjoyed the day so much, and feel proud to say that I did not count a single calorie. 
A perfect city and a brilliant friend, were definitely needed and appreciated. This is my idea of a good life.

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Monday, 2 September 2013

Daisy

I've just watched this video by one of my favourite fashion bloggers, Daisy. Not only just she keep an amazing blog and look absolutely beautiful in everything (and I'm sure she'd rock a bin bag!), she too suffers from a mental illness. Her recent video explains her struggles with anxiety and agoraphobia, and it's extremely inspiring. She is extremely motivating to watch and I think that just listening to her speak about how far she's come, provides an instant positivity boost. 
I'm not doing this because she's asked me too but because I personally love her and hopefully, you will too (so I really recommend you check her out!)




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Sunday, 1 September 2013

What's that word?

I am writing this after a conversation with a friend of mine, which began by discussing the importance of money and happiness. We both agree that deciding which is most important is extremely difficult in today's society. It should be happiness, but is it?
Anyway, stemming on from that, I began to question whether we are ever truly happy. I've often imagined that if I were completely free of an eating disorder, then I would be happy. I mean, I'd be free of rigid rules, anxiety and moments of insanity. What would be left must be happiness, right?
Well now I'm beginning to think that's not going to be the case at all. I am someone who is never really going to be satisfied. I expect the very best from myself, with absolutely everything. Admittedly, I am a perfectionist so I push myself to achieve the results I want - with my qualifications, at work, relationships, my own outlook on life etc. But as soon as something has been 'completed' then I move onto something else, which I guess is totally natural. Our society creates an idea of the perfect life, in which we latch onto from a young age. School, College, University, Marriage, House, Children - where does it end? DOES is even end?
When do we get to that point in life where we think 'yes, actually this is happiness'? Or maybe we don't. Maybe happiness is something that comes and goes. For example, you are happy on your graduation day, and then begin creating the next moment of happiness. Although the thought of only being happy for a short period of time seems a tad ridiculous and I'm not sure that's what I believe because I know of people who seem to be constantly happy. Of course, they may not be and it's all a huge facade, struggling with their own inner battles privately. 
Happiness is most probably one of those things that is defined differently by each individual human being, and maybe that's not a bad thing. Having something that can create discussion and opinions can only bring people together and allow for new ideas and relationships to form. Just like it did today.
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Hello September

September already! Dare I say the summer is almost over and it's time to find the cosy knitwear, and embrace the Autumn leaves and darker evenings sat around the fire? 
The summer months have been an odd mixture of work, reflection and maybe a little too much isolation! But progress has been made, that I am definitely sure of.
I often think September 1st isn't just the 1st of a month but almost the start of a year - the academic one? Maybe that's just my justification for starting another fresh! And that's what I aim to do.
I am returning to Uni at the end of the month for year two, which I actually can't wait to begin now. I don't think I'm ashamed to admit that I thrive off learning. As much as I hate essay writing and researching, I also love the purpose behind it. I am doing it to give myself better opportunities in life and to achieve my dream career. And on the topic of work, yesterday I managed to secure my old job back in my store near Uni, which I am immensely pleased about.
I am also, as previously mentioned, moving into my new house in 3 weeks! I can't wait. I don't actually know 4 out of the 5 girls that I'm living with but I kind of like that. I am someone who enjoys alone time and as they are all studying the same subject, I'm quite sure our timetables will allow for some time in the house alone. However, I do want to become more sociable this year. I find it too easy to say 'no' to events and miss out on many occasions, and I want that to change. I want the word 'yes' to become a regular word in my everyday vocabulary. 
'Life is what happens when you step outside of your comfort zone'
This saying couldn't be more true and in light of this, I am going to Manchester twice this week to meet two lovely people. Tomorrow afternoon, I actually aim to be sipping cocktails in (what my best friend from uni has described as) a 'posh bar'. There's no time like the present eh!?
So yes, Hello September. Please be good!
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Saturday, 24 August 2013

Magazines

On the news this evening, there was a report on the likes of 'zoo' and 'nuts' (typical lads mags), and how they should no longer be sold in supermarkets or newsagents in which these are on display to children. The report focused on a bunch of women protesting that young girls should not be looking at these as they may influence how they see themselves and the way they should look/feel/act. 
As much as I understand this argument - and I really do because I work in a newsagents and when I was extremely consumed by my illness, I would devour any magazine with a 'thin' or 'beautiful' girl on it - surely it is only fair to scrutinize EVERY magazine including influential a 'thin' body and more importantly so, in my opinion, every magazine that criticizes a size 10/12 for being overweight or includes ridiculous, unhealthy diets. 
ALL of these magazines, whether it's a lads mag or celebrity based magazine include images that will influence young girls (and older ones!). Whether it's fake boobs and tiny underwear or a tiny framed celeb on the beach in a bikini. Ultimately, they are giving off similar messages? That a girl has to look like this to either a) be successful, b) please a man and c) be liked. 
And I write this thinking it's all a huge shame really because I LOVE fashion magazines. I used to love reading about the latest pieces that had arrived in stores, become inspired on how to style things, what nail varnish colour to wear next season etc. I say used to, because I haven't picked a magazine up in over a year (thank god for fashion bloggers!). They are so depressing, it's unbelievable. I don't look like their idea of perfection and I do not wish to be reminded of that.
On a contradictory note, I know that neither of these will be removed from supermarkets or shops. There is a huge market for them, and although influencing, people DO enjoy reading them. I just think that if society is going to start attacking lads mags for influencing young girls, then we should take a look at everything else too.
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Friday, 23 August 2013

A year on

Today marks the day that I was officially diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, something that I still cringe to even type. Although, I actually 'suffered' the most of it before that day, it's still a huge bench mark for me.
This year has changed so much and I am proud that I didn't let this illness stop me from living my life. I haven't had the 'uni' experience that most people have. I haven't been out drinking every night, rolling into lectures with a hangover, mars bar and red bull in hand. I haven't joined in when everyone ordered takeaways or went out for pub lunches but I know those things will come in time. It has been a time of great change, numbers, pain, anxiety, laughter, tears - and it's ALL been worth it. I know now, that being healthy is so much more valuable than being 'skinny' or the lowest number you can possibly be.
This past year, I have gained a stone (probably more, I know longer know!). I've ditched the scales. I've made new friends who treat me like a person not an illness, including me in everything and not drawing attention to food. I've met people online, thanks to blogging and twitter who really have helped me along the way, and I hope it continues! I can honestly say that I have challenged myself. 
But, I also acknowledge that there are things that still need ironing out and I will continue battling this until I am where I want to be. This illness has taken years of my teens away from me and I refuse to take this into my twenties. Yes, I still have bad days in which I feel I can't do this or dwell on how much weight I have gained (which is frightening), but a close friend reminded me that 'the best anorexic is dead' which is completely true. If I were to give up and let this take a hold of me again, then there really is only one outcome, and I actually value myself enough now to say that I DO NOT want that.
So, a year from now, I want to be writing another post about how this is no longer an aspect of my life. I may not actually like my body or the number that would stare back at me but I think I should sit here feeling proud of what I've done.



Last night for my Brother's celebratory meal out



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Saturday, 17 August 2013

Keys

Yesterday, I picked up the keys to my new house! It sounds so strange saying that, as I don't feel remotely old or responsible enough but nevertheless, I don't have time to think about that because it is and has to happen. Although I am not moving in for another month, I visited the place today with my Mum, meeting some of my new house mates and running necessary checks. 
There is so much to take in - bills, electric, water, money, insurance, emergencies - the information is overloading my brain before I have chance to take it in. Can I be 5 years old again?
But, I am reminded by my good friend Tanya's words, to 'Let it be' and embrace this new change. I know that everyone who is embarking on running a house for the first time is in the same boat, and does cope, but it's scary to think it's actually my turn. 
I actually think change and new beginnings/experiences are good for us a human beings. We learn so much by throwing ourselves into a situation and doing something new. Life would be boring if we continued to repeat the same, mundane and potentially negative cycle that we easily get ourselves into because change can be difficult. 
I am learning to accept and welcome change. I am beginning to love learning more about the world and the way we live. I told my Mum earlier, that life is just too short to let those demons hold you back. It is simply YOU stopping and doubting yourself and if you actually question those doubts, you (and I) actually see that there is no logical reason to. 
This new chapter begins when I move in properly, but I know there is a lot to sort and discuss prior to then. Either way, I plan to make this new page a positive experience. 


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Monday, 12 August 2013

Misconceptions

I have actually been inspired to write this after a) reading a this post http://annapob91.blog.com/2013/08/10/misconceptions/, written by my friend Anna, and b) receiving a comment at work from a good work colleague of mine.
It was just the two of us working on the shop floor a few days ago, and we were discussing spending habits. Being girls we both spend money on fashion but we established that I buy a few expensive pieces, while she buys more less expensive items. This progressed into discussing sizes and then my size and mental health. At my lowest weight, I was a tiny size (which doesn't need to be mentioned). I only knew I was that size because scales and tape measures were my best friends.
However, I never wore that size, I covered up. I wore the size that I wear now. I didn't want people knowing how tiny I'd become or see protruding bones. I didn't welcome comments about weight loss but I always joined in discussions about the latest chocolate bar we were told to promote. I did everything I could to appear normal. 
So, the comment 'But you were always mentally with it. You didn't act crazy' wasn't exactly a shock to hear the other day, but it did trigger alarm bells in my mind. Most people suffering with a mental illness don't look or act crazy. Like me, we go to great lengths to hide it due to a variety of reasons. 
I explained to my friend, that I STILL have a mental illness despite gaining a stone. I know I don't look ill. I don't have an emaciated body, drawn out eyes or pale skin any more. And you know what, I never wanted those either! 
A mental illness is exactly that. A disease of the mind. Something neither you or I can see from up close or afar. 1 in 4 of us suffer with a mental illness, so chances are you know someone. And I bet you now, they don't 'look' crazy either.
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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Risks

Part of my writes this thinking it's completely stupid and not a risk at all. People eat what they want everyday, how can this be risky. But then I guess I have to remind myself that to me it's bloody terrifying so I shall continue.
Yesterday lunchtime, I had the house to myself meaning SPACE. Space to eat something 'risky' in my own time, making it in peace, nobody around to judge etc. I ate a cheese sandwich (I'm still writing this feeling daft). This is huge for me - like an arachnophobic picking up a spider as big as a brick! Cheese in general is difficult for me, but when I have to actually cut it myself meaning I don't really know how much I'm eating, causes so much anxiety. Following this triumph, I actually felt like I could conquer the world ;-) 
My Mum and I had tickets to the Lion King Musicalh last night, so I suggested we ate out before going. This is like an arachnophobic picking up two spiders the size of bricks ;-) We had both wanted to try YoSushi for a while so we went there. And you know what, it was absolutely lovely! We ordered two dishes each and shared one, trying each others as we went. I let go of this fear and enjoyed the food. Sounds so simple, and when you allow it, it really is. 
As for the musical, it was amazing. I have seen many shows, both west end and amateur but nothing like this. The costumes were stunning and the music was entirely different to what you'd usually expect. It was nice to experience a bit of African culture and watch something that I love. Singing and theatre is my biggest passion, which has sadly taken a back seat over the past year. 
We returned just after midnight to mugs of hot chocolate and biscuits.Yet another simple thing that becomes so difficult when consumed by this illness. However,  I just 'let it be'. Sharing this moment with my Mum is so rare that I had to do it. I had an amazing day because I was myself. Someone I shouldn't be afraid of.
The lesson I am beginning to learn is: Risk taking has more pros than cons. It's living. It's getting your life back.





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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Trust

I think the only way to live life is to take chances and say yes to new experiences and challenges. Rather than focusing on what could potentially go wrong, maybe it's better to focus on what you're missing out on. By saying no to opportunities, you're staying safe. You're staying with what you've always done and always known, meaning that will always be.
'If you do what you've always done, you'll only get where you've always got'
I am trying to apply this to myself right now. I was recently provoked into thinking about what this illness still prevents me from doing and eating, and honestly, that list is far too long for my liking. But how do I go about reducing that list? My taking chances.
The thing is, I don't trust myself to face the challenge. The get me through it safely without too much pain or harm. I know that when facing a fear for the first time, it is stressful but with each exposure, it can only become easier.
What if I eat too much? What if I gain weight? What if I lose weight? Will I manage the guilt?
The list of possible 'what if's?' is endless. But I am beginning to ask why exactly it is that I don't trust myself. I've come this far with only one source of (unprofessional) support, so there is no valid reason as to why I cannot continue. I don't have to stop here and I certainly don't want to stop here. 
What if I actually enjoy it? What if there is no anxiety? You might actually be OK?
The answers to any of those questions can't be answered unless I actually attempt the challenge. I won't know unless I try and if the outcome is negative then at least I can say that I tried and I now know. I believe the odds are actually stacked in my favour. I have proof that 11 months on, from rock bottom, I am actually in much better and happier place. I just have to trust myself that bit more. 
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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Harry Potter Tour

After waiting over a month, the day I finally got to go on the Harry Potter Tour arrived today! To be honest, it was perfect timing as I haven't exactly been feeling brilliant lately, so this was definitely something to get excited about.
So, at 5:20 I woke and traveled to Watford (half asleep). We arrived early so grabbed breakfast and a coffee at a local coffee shop before beginning the tour. I went with a very good friend of mine, which actually made the whole day extra special :-)
I don't think I've been this excited about anything for a loooong time. With a huge grin on my face and a spring in my step, I was practically like a child on Christmas day. Everything was just so beautifully detailed and mesmerizing! Each set is handcrafted with such detail and care, every costume designed and made exquisitely - there is so much more to Harry Potter to appreciate than I originally thought. An extraordinary room is one that housed the model of the Hogwarts castle. Words cannot describe how amazing it was.


Hogwarts!
One really enjoyable part of the tour is entering the green room to have a go at 'flying' on a broomstick and in the Weasley's car. I think it definitely adds something to the day by giving the public a chance to experience something totally different. 


But actually, the best part of this day for me, was being able to spend and enjoy my day with a friend with not one sign of a mental illness. Sure we spoke about it but there was no anxiety surrounding food. I ate out, I wasn't thinking or panicking about what I'd have to potentially eat or avoid. I just ENJOYED myself. And that is a memory I shall treasure for a very, very long time.


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Friday, 26 July 2013

Mindfull

Yesterday, I took the train into Birmingham to attend a Mindfull Life Mentor training day. I arrived with my phone ready to guide me to the venue, only to find out that the GPS would work due to the work they are doing on the tunnels so I stood around looking similar to a lost sheep! Fortunately, a lovely policewoman directed me perfectly, and as I'd arrived with an hour to spare I made it on time. Panic over!
For those of you who aren't aware of Mindfull - they are a new charity that launched only 3 weeks ago. Their aim is to talk to young people, aged 11-17, about anything to do with mental health and wellbeing. The only difference being, that it is all on the internet, which I personally think is great as many young people would rather talk via a screen to give them a sense of anonymity and to save any embarrassment that they may feel. Obviously, this charity also aims to reduce the stigma attached to mental health so that more people feel able to talk to someone in real life too.
I went along to train as a mentor, someone who is the first port of call, so to speak. The day was very intense in my opinion, with a lot of information to take on board, but it was great to spend it with people with the same passion and interests as me. We all wanted to be there to help others and use our life experiences in a positive way, which definitely added a little warmth to the room.
I left the training as a Life mentor and now feel quite lucky that I've been given this opportunity to volunteer and help others. Part of me is doing this because I know how it will help with my own future career but a bigger part of me knows that if I can use my own mental history to guide just one person towards a better path or prevent something spiraling into something worse, then my past will have been worth going through.


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