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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