February Reads

Friday, 28 February 2014

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I've not read as much as I usually do this month, perhaps because it's a few days shorter? I started to read 'Twelve Years A Slave' in between these two books but absolutely hated it, so stopped. I haven't not finished a book I've started, in YEARS but I just couldn't get into it at all! However, I have managed to read these two :)

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
I can honestly say that I did not enjoy this book. I saw it at work once and thought it had a beautiful cover, so when it was on offer on kindle, decided to buy it. It's not something I would usually go for - it's more fantasy than anything, with dangerous creatures and hurdles that the narrator faces. Although, if I'm honest I don't really know what happens properly because y'know when you're reading something but not actually reading it? I think that's what I did with this book! I have to finish a book though, and the ending wasn't too bad. However, it's definitely an aquired taste!

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
I absolutely loved this book, and haven't been able to put it down! It's a very easy, light read following the story of two girls during high school. It covers everything from bereavement, bullying, boyfriends, sex and eating disorders - many problems that teenagers face really! I was a bit skeptical about reading this, as I didn't expect Dawn O'Porter to be a writer, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I've made sure my kindle has been with me at ALL times! I'm also really looking forward to the sequel which is coming out in April

Have you read anything good this month? 
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100th Birthday

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Last weekend, I traveled home to celebrate my Great Grandmother's 100th Birthday. Definitely a rare, special occasion - something that you don't hear everyday. Firstly, I should say that it was one of the most beautiful days I've ever had.

We were invited to a lunch buffet with her and every single family member. By this, I mean that half of them, I have not met! It was extremely strange to be in a room surrounded by her children, children's children, and the children's children's children! As well as other cousins, sisters, brothers of everyone in the room. It's easy to get a little lost and confused!

The room that my Great Grandma had hired was beautifully decorated with pink and purple, beautiful flowers everywhere, and her Birthday presents and cards dotted around. This included a card and telegram from the Queen, which was quite amazing to actually hold! The buffet was covered with posh sandwiches, mini-bites, potatoes and salad - followed by desserts and then a huge cake and champagne!

It was such a lovely day, and actually extremely emotional. I spoke with my Great Grandmother, who made me cry; my Grandmother, who also made me cry (all happy tears I may add). It was amazing to be in a room, listening to 100 years of stories and moments. What's more special to me, is that I was there. It could have been very easy to turn it down, what with a huge buffet going on, but no. I had an absolutely fabulous day, and who knows, next year we may repeat it all for 101 magical years!

Decorations, flowers & cards (one from the Queen too!)

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EDAW 2014: My Story

Monday, 24 February 2014

If you didn't know already, this week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2014! It's about talking about Eating Disorders, breaking stigma and misconceptions, simply asking someone how they are.. the list goes on.

I've talked a lot about my present, on this blog, but thinking about it properly, I'm not sure that you know how and why I got to where I am today. This might be a long post, but hopefully if you stick it out until the end, your opinion/perception of Eating Disorders may have changed, and you may feel more knowledgeable and comfortable if you find yourself in a conversation about Eating Disorders.

Rewind to 2011, end of year 11 and I'm doing my GCSE's. I am happy, bubbly and confident, with a great friendship group. I'm getting good grades and looking forward to a summer of relaxing, shopping and spending time with my friends. I should also mention that I'm morbidly obese - did this matter? Not until one tiny comment and I actually acknowledged my behaviour.

I come from a dysfunctional family (who doesn't these days?) and without being extremely personal, my Step dad passed away after months of family trouble. I didn't really realise, but I saw comfort in food. As soon as everyone had gone to bed, I'd hit the fridge and cupboards, binging on junk food. Physically not being able to stop. Was I bothered? Not that I thought. I enjoy food so what was the problem? Well, one of my biggest passions, is music and singing. I was part of a musical society, and auditions were coming up for a part of a young girl. Without sounding big headed, I can sing and perform. There was no reason as to why I couldn't have got this particular part, as I was the only young girl in the society. 

'There is no one here that is young enough or thin enough'

I think I will carry those words to my grave. Nevertheless, they were the turning point and I began to lose weight. There was no way on earth that my size would prevent me from doing the one thing I loved more than anything. It was healthy at first - healthy meals, nutritious snacks and always including a treat of fish 'n' chips each week. My dress size decreased and my confidence increased even more! I loved life.

Fast forward to my year 13 prom (2 years later), I'm now underweight and I'm still losing weight. Only now, I'm addicted and can't stop. I'm obsessed with the scales, calories and exercise. I don't socialise, I only go out to work or 6th form and I am always revising for my A-Levels. I spend hours online, researching foods, devising plans to cut more calories out, making excuses for not going here or there. Lying is second nature, hiding in baggy clothes is normal, baths are painful because it hurts to sit for too long, I'm freezing in summer and I can barely sleep because I don't have enough fuel in order to switch off. I don't see how I'll ever eat again because I'll end up that morbidly obese girl again - but it's OK because I'm still losing weight!

God knows how, but I actually passed my A-Levels and got into University to study Psychology. At the same time, a very special friend of mine persuaded me to seek help. It was at this point that I was diagnosed with Anorexia, and I had a choice - wait 6 months at home for treatment, or go to University. I chose the latter because of my friend, and have never looked back. She is my motivation and I'm recovering for her as well as myself. A sort of 'thank you for saving my life'. It was questioned as to whether I've had an eating disorder for a very long time and simply switched coping mechanisms. I guess it just goes to show, you can be ill at any weight.

I was the hardest decision of my life but the best one by far, but it's true what they say 'Your worst day in recovery is still better than the best day when you are ill'. I am recovering alone, which has meant slow and gradual increases and changes. But you know what? I'm getting there! I've put weight on, I've ditched the scales and counting isn't an obsession any more. I received a scholarship for my Uni grade last year, I've traveled the country, I volunteer for a mental health group, I work part time, have the best friends and as you know, I'm volunteering in Thailand this summer! I genuinely didn't think I'd ever be writing that!! 

I am living proof that recovery is possible. I'm not there yet but I will be one day, and won't stop until I am! In the mean time, I'm getting my life back each day at a time. Life is too short to starve - I have adventures to be going on, food to be enjoyed, people to see and places to go! 

I have a life to be living, without an eating disorder.

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Little things #3

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Coffee and cake: one of life's most simplest pleasures. It's one of those things you can enjoy as a treat whilst at your Nan's, visiting a friend, enjoying after a shopping trip or just having because you want to.

Coffee and cake: my worst nightmare.

However, I don't want this to be the case any more! So, today I've been to John Lewis for free coffee and cake (sign up to be a member online and they send you free vouchers for cake each month. What are you waiting for?!). One of my best friends at Uni, and myself  ventured into Liverpool for a little day trip, to celebrate my Thailand trip by shopping, chatting and enjoying a stop at John Lewis. Cake is something I've not had in years, and it's actually a big deal for me. Therefore, going without having any idea of menu, without obsessing or counting anything is a step I should probably write about. 

Not going to lie, it was hard. I still have that voice in my head, screaming at me for doing the wrong thing, for losing control. But then, that's what recovery is, isn't it? Feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Choosing to actively go against that voice until it no longer exists. Choosing to do what you want to do because enjoying life is far more important.

I picked a Bakewell tart. It was delicious.

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Please can you help me get to Thailand?

Monday, 10 February 2014

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As many of you know from my recent blog post, I am spending a chunk of my summer volunteering in Thailand. However in order for me to do this, I have to fundraise money to get me there. Asking for donations/sponsors is something I usually steer completely clear of as I know how annoying it can be when people constantly ask, but this time I really need all the help I can get.

I have set up a Justgiving account in which donations can be made and I have written about what I shall be doing and why on there. I would be eternally grateful if you are able to donate even the smallest amount - if I found 740 people to donate £1, then I would be there! Obviously, I understand if this is a really cheeky request and you cannot donate!


Also, another cheeky request would be if you could help me by publicising my just giving page. If you are willing to help me by tweeting, sharing on facebook, mentioning me in a blog post or youtube video (anything!!), then I would actually love you forever. 

Please, please, please can you help me get to Thailand? 
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Friday, 7 February 2014

So, last week I saw an opportunity on my University website to volunteer in Thailand for 4-6 weeks, teaching English to Thai children and living with a host family. It was a complete spur of the moment, impulsive decision, but I applied. Two hours later, I had an interview offer! Fast forward many days of excitement, anxiety and apprehension and I'VE BEEN OFFERED A PLACE ON A VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME IN NORTHERN THAILAND!! 

I am absolutely speechless and although it's not the most intelligent way of phrasing it I'M GENUINELY BUZZIN'! I never in a million years believed I'd ever be going to Thailand for the summer, to teach Thai children the English language; to experience a brand new culture and be living with a host family. I will be learning new skills, seeing new sights, wearing traditional clothes and tasting new foods.

Ah yes - the one teeny tiny factor which could mess it all up for me. Having no idea what I'm really eating, having no control over anything and having no safety. Well, that's one reason why this trip has to be amazing because I am going to learn to LIVE again. By going on this adventure, I am saying YES to life and GOODBYE to this all consuming, torturing mental illness. I've decided it's not going to stop me any more - I am going to enjoy this adventure and it's going to be the best experience I've ever had. 

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Is it my Biology?

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A while ago, I mentioned that for my biological module, I wrote an assignment based on the biological factors of Anorexia. Now, that it's been marked, I can discuss it! (Hopefully, I can keep this as non-scientific as possible!)

We were given a completely free choice of what we wanted to research for this module, so I obviously decided to play to my strengths and research something I know very well already! What I found though, was way beyond what I'd ever imagine. Mental illnesses are never caused by just one factor, almost always a variety of contributors. However, for this I decided to focus on what is called the 'Insula Hypothesis' which can explain Anorexia!

The Insula is an area in the brain, which connects many cortical systems, and when damaged, can explain Anorexia. It's main role is to deal with emotion, experience and bodily functions, so those who are pre-disposed to Anorexia, have difficulty managing emotion, visual and body perception and higher cognitive functioning. If we combine this with the other factors - social, culture, psycho-social pressures and other biological factors (god it's complicated eh?) - then the Insula is unable to combine an accurate sense of body image, state of hunger and reliable cognitive representations of the individuals shape and weight. All of this can then lead to the onset of Anorexia.

So, why have I just given you a biology lesson? Well for me this can explain as to why, when I am exposed to exactly the same social pressures as you, that I am prone to develop an eating disorder. It offers an explanation or cause for a mental illness - something some individuals might take great pleasure in; knowing that it's not their fault and they're biological set this way. I should make clear that I don't believe that this is an excuse for people not recovering though. Also, if we knew our brains were like this, then surely that means treating eating disorders could become far more easier? Tackling the problem before it gets out of hand..? Obviously, it's not that simple as we can't just go around scanning everyone's brains, but it's definitely a step in the right direction!

I know I found this incredibly interesting to research, and I hope I've offered some insight into a biological perspective! If not, sorry for boring you ;)
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