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Life Is Fluid

I’m on my medical elective (I passed finals, thank fuck) and am currently in Fiji, lying on my bed overlooking the sea, with the breeze drifting through the windows, and I’m thinking. So I thought I’d share some of the whirrings of my mind.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the pressures we put on ourselves to act in certain ways and to make certain decisions based upon what we feel should do because that’s what’s we’ve always done. How easy it is to become tied down to a certain mindset, to convince yourself that that’s the right way to live because they’re the beliefs you’ve always held. It’s easy to become blinkered and to close your mind to be fact that you might actually have other priorities in life now. Our lives change. We meet new people. We travel to new places. And those things can influence the way we think and what’s important to us.

For example, fitness is usually an important thing to me. Going to the gym 4 or more times a week is the norm for me. Shopping for myself and being able to plan my weekly meals. As far as I’ve come in my eating disorder recovery, my appearance is still an important thing to me. So setting off on a 9 week trip to the other side of the world has clearly blown those routines out the water. I’ve been feeling much more conscious about my body, the gym isn’t on my doorstep, and I don’t have the control over what I eat that I’m used to. I’ve been feeling pretty lost, which has lead me to start questioning a lot of the principles I live by. I’m realising that I was only exercising practically every day because I’d conditioned myself to think I should, when actually I’d often dread it. Having a break from it, I’d now welcome the chance to go for a jog because it’d be coming from a true desire, not an engrained feeling of obligation. I’d often see Instagram posts of friends of mine at the gym, looking incredible, and think that’s what I wanted, but I’m coming to realise that it really isn’t. Being out here, surrounded by such natural beauty, away from the suffocating western ideals, has cleared my mind. There’s so much more to live for. So much to experience. Why miss out on enjoying a month of lying on the beach in Fiji because you’re too caught up feeling guilty that you haven’t been to the gym in 2 weeks. Why miss out on a trip of exploring new cultures, and immersing yourself in new surroundings because you’re too caught up in thinking that you’ve eaten too much, or that you’re hungry but you probably shouldn’t have a snack. How ridiculous. And that applies to day to day life too. I really don’t care about those things when there’s so much more I’d rather be enjoying, but I’ve never been able to free myself of those guilt ridden thoughts until now. Now that I’ve take time to question myself and reevaluate.

I often jot things down in my notes when a thought comes to me. I find it therapeutic to put down on paper a thought that’s been nagging away at me for a while when I finally find the right way of expressing it. This is what I wrote earlier…

You don’t have to have a definition of who you are, what you like, how you live, your morals, your beliefs. Life is fluid, the way you live can change, the things you want can change, what’s important to you can change. You shouldn’t have to do things because you feel you ‘should’ or because ‘that’s what you believe’. When you find yourself berating your decisions and your life choices, question why you’re making those decisions. You won’t always be the same person and you should always challenge yourself as to whether the morals you live by are genuinely what you want or whether they’re what you think you should want.

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A Letter To The Past

So I’ve started dabbling with some writing, I guess you could loosely call it poetry. I find it’s helpful to have a creative outlet, and at the minute this seems to be it… So I thought I’d share some of it on here.

 

Open your eyes, open your mind

Is this what you call a life?

You can continue pretending, blind to the fact

That you’re miserable, crumbling inside

It’s buried so deep, it’s gone on so long

You’ve lost touch with who you once were

So fiercely consumed with continuous lies

Without this you’re not special, right?

 

Well I’m here to tell you that things are to change

The future is bright, it’s true

It’s gonna take time and lots of hard work

But you will find peace with yourself

You’ll banish the rules and free your soul

You’ll finally live for yourself

You’ll start to say yes and stop hiding away

You’ll see that life is too short

 

You weight does not equal your worth

You don’t always have to come top

Stop comparing yourself to others

You are and always have been enough

I know you feel you have no way out

But trust me, once you seek help

This crushing weight will be lifted

And you’ll finally find your way out

 

Eating Disorders Awareness Week

It’s eating disorders awareness week so I wanted to write a post supporting this. A few facts…

 

The average time between someone experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder to them seeking help is 3 years. In my case it was 4, and I can safely say that things escalated over this time beyond anything I could have ever imagined. As time elapsed though, these behaviours became normality and new ‘targets’ continued to develop. They became a way of life, so much so that I didn’t know how to live without them. I still battle day in, day out to fight against those behaviours from creeping back into my life. I still have to use all of my strength every day to shut out the incessant little voices telling me that I’m useless, worthless, weak, a failure because I’ve eaten too much recently, because I’ve not been to gym today, because I’m not as skinny as the majority of the girls in the room. If people feel they can speak out earlier on, things like this can be prevented. Unhealthy behaviours can be addressed before they become normality, and before they completely take over, making recovery more likely.

 

Recent statistics from Beat have shown that 33% of adults in the UK couldn’t name a sign or symptom of an eating disorder. It’s so important to be able to recognise when someone’s struggling, to providing them with the knowledge that they’re not alone and they have the support to ask for help. I didn’t recognise I had a problem for a couple of years, and even when I did I didn’t know what to do about it. To be frank I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it, I thought I’d feel that way forever. My family and friends came to me on numerous occasions to tell me how worried they were, and I brushed those comments off for a number of years. It was when I hit rock bottom and both my mum and housemate came to say just how worried they were and reached out a hand for me to take that I knew it was time for me to ask for help. We must know how to recognise easting disorders and where help can be found. The Beat website is excellent and I recommend everyone visits it. They list 6 signs to look out for…

LIPS

Are they obsessive about food? Have their eating
 habits changed?

FLIPS

Is their behaviour changing? More erratic or defensive? Dressing differently?

HIPS

Do they have distorted beliefs about their body size? Are they losing weight?

SKIPS

Have they started exercising excessively?

NIPS

Do they disappear 
to the loo 
after meals?

KIPS

Are they often tired
 or struggling 
to concentrate?

 

I remember becoming obsessed with food, planning every meal I’d eat the next day, totalling the calories and making sure I did as much exercise as I could to decrease the total calories for the day. My mood changed, I became crabby and descended into a cloud of darkness, ultimately ending up on antidepressants. I couldn’t concrete and lost and any passion I had for life, everything was about food and exercise and I just couldn’t see beyond that.

 

UK adults are twice as likely to list weight loss or ‘being thin’ as a symptom of an eating disorder than any other symptom. This is hugely problematic. Not everyone with an eating disorder is stick thin, and this is such a common misconception. People can still have disordered behaviour surrounding food and be a normal weight or overweight. Yes, I was very underweight during the depths of my eating disorder, but as I’ve gained weight those thoughts and behaviours haven’t change immediately. I was diagnosed with anorexia, but I’ve also struggled with binge eating during my recovery, even when I was weigh restored. You can’t see from just looking at someone whether they have an eating disorder. There are such a huge array of eating disorders, not just anorexia and bulimia, which are commonly recognised as being the only ‘eating disorders’.

 

We all just need to be more informed about eating disorders, enabling us to create an open and accepting environment in which people who are struggling feel like they’re able to ask for healp. And my God do we need to stop bombarding society with unrealistic ideals about being thin. To stop portraying thin, able bodies as perfection, making anything less feel like a failure. We should be striving for greatness in so many other ways than our appearances. We need to know that out worth is not defined by our appearance. We are all beautiful, no matter what size we are!!!

1 Year On

Today I had a doctors appointment and whist I was waiting to go in, I realised that a year ago I was sat in the same room waiting to ask my GP for help after hitting rock bottom.

It’s been a year since I was diagnosed with anorexia and started on antidepressants. A place from which I thought there was no escape. Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d be where I am today.

This week I finished my final exams of medical school. At my lowest point I felt I just couldn’t continue, I had meetings with the medical school about taking time out, and I just didn’t see the point in carrying on because I’d lost any passion I had for life. This weekend I’m going away to the Peak District with my housemates to celebrate, something that back then I’d be dreading because of the focus on food and drink, and the inability to hide away from the world in my room.

The change is miraculous. I’m a different person, or should I say I’m myself again. The real me. It just shows how important it is to speak out when you’re suffering from mental ill health. If I’d have done so earlier, my time at University would have been very different, but the main thing is that I’m where I am today. Thank Goodness.

Looseheadz

Hi everyone! I’m so sorry I’ve been so inactive recently. My final medical school exams before I qualify are a week away, so it’s safe to say I’ve been buried under a pile of text books since Christmas!

I just wanted to write a quick post about an inspiring new rugby blog a friend of mine has been involved in setting up. This is a rugby blog with a twist, as it’s goal is to raise awareness and money for mental health… What a breath of fresh air to see mental health being acknowledged in a setting seen by many as ‘too manly’ to be affected by such things.

Looseheadz is paving the way towards normalising mental health within the sporting community, amongst tough men, who despite being at the top of their game, are still vulnerable to the effects of mental health problems. ‘Tackling the stigma’ is their strap line, and I believe that’s exactly what they’re going to do. By providing a platform for not only sportsmen, but for anyone who’s struggling with or who’s struggled with their mental health in the past to share their stories, this is sure to be a success in eradicating the stereotypes that so often cloud our society.

Mental ill health can and does affect people from every walk of life. It does not discriminate between gender, age, race or religion. We need to work together to challenge stigma and discrimination, and together become more accepting of other people’s struggles.

I look forward to seeing this organisation continue to flourish and to see the cogs of change begin to turn as they do.

Check out their website at http://www.looseheadz.com

 

A Christmas Off The Radar

I’ve somehow managed to misplace my phone at a friends house, random I know, how could I have my phone one minute and not be able to find it anywhere 20 minutes later? Anyway, the point is that I don’t have a phone right now. I’m not receiving texts or calls, and I don’t have access to my Facebook or Instagram at the press of a button. I’m off the radar.

Christmas is a time where social media goes berserk. News feeds are filled with Christmas selfies and photographs of the food, drink and festivities this time of year brings. But the past  few days I’ve been given the opportunity to step away from all of that, and actually focus on being in the present. I haven’t checked social media once today. I haven’t uploaded any photographs. I’ve just been focused on the people around me, who I love so dearly, rather than consuming myself with the Christmas days of other people.

I recently watched the interview that broke the internet by Simon Sinek where he talks about millennials and their internet addiction. He suggests that the expansion of social media and it’s infiltration into daily life has led to an epidemic of internet addictions. People have become so consumed by social media that it governs their daily life. We go to restaurants and put our phones on the table. We go to work meetings and put our phones on the table. We fall asleep with our phones by our beds, and the first thing we do when we wake up in the morning is check them. He suggests that this is preventing young people from learning the skills required to form deep, meaningful relationships, leading to a lack of social fulfilment. He suggests that we could be missing out on a life full of meaning and connection, and instead just skim the surface, never having the opportunity to delve deeper because we’re so distracted. An interesting stance I thought, and one which I can believe.

So perhaps misplacing my phone hasn’t been such a bad thing after all. It’s allowed me to focus solely on the here and now. Rather than tuning in to what everyone else has been doing, I’ve been able to immerse myself in my environment and the important people that surround me. An important lesson that I’ll be sure to keep in mind in the future.

And on a side note, I’ve had a such a lovely Christmas. A Christmas filled with genuine smiles and laughter, with a mind free from the destructive thoughts of the past, questioning every decision I made. I’ve eaten and drunk to my hearts content. I’ve rolled around with a full belly, feeling as though I might burst at points, and I’ve enjoyed every second.

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you’ve also had a special day with the people that you love.

Time Away

I’m home for Christmas. It’s great, I’ve got the chance to see family and friends I haven’t seen in months. I haven’t had a break from Uni for 6 months.

It’s wonderful catching up and filling each other in on what’s been going on over the past few months, I just never quite know what to say. “What’s new?” “How’re things with you?” “What’ve you been up to?” The simple reply… “I’m good thanks, been very busy, how about you”…. How could I even begin to touch upon what’s been going on with me? Mental health isn’t the jolly topic of Christmas conversation people want to be delving into on a Wednesday night at the pub. I guess it’s just hard to express how I’ve really been, skimming the surface is just a whole lot easier.

The other thing that’s blatantly obvious is how everyone is looking at me. The past 6 months I’ve put on a hell of a lot of weight. I don’t know what I weigh right now, but I’m certainly not the stick insect I used to be. I’ve filled out to my naturally curvaceous body. I have hips, a bum, thick thighs and arms. I’ve grown to accept and love that, but this is new to a lot of people. I have no idea what they’re thinking when they tell me I’m “looking well” or when I catch them looking at me out of the corner of my eye. My mine immediately screams that they’re thinking how fat I’ve become, how lazy and gluttonous I must be, what a shame it is that I’m no longer the attractive, skinny girl I used to be. But then I think about how miserable and distracted I was then. How I couldn’t go on a night out without constantly thinking about how I looked, or the massive binge I was going to have when I got home. I love being a bigger girl. I love my curves and my rolls. I love having a mind that’s free to live in the moment, because there’s so much more to life than being constrained by the chains of anorexia.

So yes, I’ve been away. Yes, I’ve changed. Yes I might look different, but that doesn’t mean I’m not still myself. If anything, I’m more myself than I’ve ever been. I’m finally at peace.

Fat

When you see hear someone called fat, what do you really hear?

Ugly?

Greedy?

Lazy?

Failure?

Unimportant?

Why have we become conditioned to associated so many negative things with being fat? Why do we think we can make these assumptions? We’ve been lead to believe that if you’re fat you’re less important, less driven, less worthy, all of which are completely untrue. How can you possible judge a person by their weight!

Why should being described as fat be an insult? Why should calling someone fat be any different to calling someone tall or short, blonde or brunette, short haired or long haired. Its no different! Fat is simply as description. You’d call someone muscular without all of those connotations, why should being called fat be any different?

We need to stop using the word fat as an insult. Its not a bad thing. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful, sexy, important, or worthy of respect. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

Body shaming is not ok, and using the word fat to try and do that just doesn’t make sense. Stop using the word fat as a front for what you’re really trying to say.

It’s Been A While…

Wow, I’ve not posted in a month. Hi everyone!

It occurred to me this evening that I haven’t written a post in ages, and I started to wonder why that might be. I guess it could be because I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been having more ups than downs, don’t get me wrong I still get the downs, but the up are outweighing them significantly now.

I feel more at ease with myself. I feel like I can really tune into ‘me’ nowadays, whereas in the past I would concoct a persona that I’d try to enact. It’s really hard to explain. I’d create rules I’d have to live by. I’d rationalise all my decisions (and I mean everything that I did) according to what this made up character would do. My decisions weren’t my own, my life wasn’t really my own I guess. It was restricted in all aspects, not only in terms of food. I was locked away in the darkest depths, but somehow I’ve managed to find the key.

But I’m still learning. I still question a lot of my decisions, and I still find my mind running away wanting to revert back to its old self. But the thing that’s changed the most is that I just give less of a shit nowadays. I’m less concerned about what other people will think how my actions might reflect on me. I gain weight… And what? I make a decision that other people don’t agree with… And what? I’m no less of a person, and I’m no less important. People who are going to judge me aren’t people I want to know. The relief you feel when you just let go and live for yourself (without acting in a way that’s damaging to other people) is so liberating. It’s freedom.

So here I am. Another month down the line. No longer having weekly psychotherapy. No longer on anti-depressants. No longer underweight. Smiling again. Still batting through the days on occasions, but with the ability to embrace those feeling, accept who I am, listen to the real me, and survive.

Exercise

I’ve always told myself that I love exercise, and I do, it’s a great outlet, but I also think I’ve been in denial about it for a long time as well. I still feel the pressure to go to the gym a certain number of times a week, and often find myself dreading it for the whole afternoon because I’m tired and I’ve got a shit tonne of other stuff I need to do.

I recently downloaded a 10k training app which requires you to train 3 times a week. I’ve done 2 this week, but I’m going home this weekend and so won’t get chance to train on Saturday or Sunday. So I was planning on going for a run tonight, and its the longest one yet. I got home after a long day, I was starving, I felt tired and I just wanted to have a chill before heading to the train station, but I felt this pressure to go for a run. I feel this same pressure on a regular basis, and I don’t want that in my life anymore.

So I’ve decided that from hereon out, when I go to the gym or go for a run I do it for me. Not because I ‘should’. Not because I haven’t been in a few days. Because I want to. I don’t want to feel tired, dragging myself out, pushing myself to the limit and to the point where I simply don’t enjoy it. I want to enjoy exercise and the way it makes me feel. If that means my stamina goes down, so be it. If that means I gain a few more pounds, so be it. I don’t need it fuelling my anxiety anymore.

The most important thing in life is to do what’s right for you and what makes you happy. End of.