Wednesday, 30 December 2015

The annually triggering January diet time.

A few years ago, as April Fools Day approached, a girl I was at school with posted on facebook arguing the case against making 'I'm pregnant!' jokes. It didn't change any of my behaviours- it's probably been 10+ years since I'd have been inclined to post something along those lines-  but it did change why I'd not post one. Before Chloe had written her facebook post, I found the jokes to be not really funny. No big deal, just not all that funny. After Chloe posted, I was more aware of how the posts could make somebody else feel. Her argument was that you don't know which of your facebook friends are suffering with infertility or after miscarriage or infant loss. You never know who is fighting a war that you seemingly are making light of. I'd never really thought about it because, well, it's not really something that's touched my life. I can't tell you how it might make somebody feel without having somebody who really understands the situation explain it to me.

As I'm sure some people dread the same, exhausted jokes being dragged out for April Fools, I dread January. The whole month. Everything that month seems to represent. I dread the implication that the person you were in December needs a complete change, I dread the implication that the way to change that person is to lose weight and I dreaddreaddread the implication that the weight loss needs to be documented all over social media.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that me having had an eating disorder means you shouldn't change yourself or lose weight or be proud of the fact. That's none of my business. All I'm saying is be aware. Be aware that often eating disorders are extremely competitive. Be aware that your comments can trigger a disproportionate reaction in a person that may last far longer than your own diet. For example, I hear someone has lost 5lbs and, even in recovery, I have a sudden, obsessive need to lose 6. I panic that the person posting either has or will go onto develop an eating disorder. And again, my competitive side emerges- I was 'the most ill' for a while and I still don't really know how to be anything else. These are things that aren't easy to admit, because admitting them doesn't paint me in the best light. But this is what eating disorders do.

(Actually, as I type, an ad break has just come on the tele and the first advert is for a weight loss plan that I happen to know- I told you, EDs can be competitive and I'm very up-to-date on fad diets- forces the body into starvation mode. And so it begins.)

It's all well and good for me to be saying this, from my position both in recovery and as somebody who is out of the fridge (it's the ED version of coming out of the closet, I've decided). Eating disorders are secretive by nature and so in a lot of cases you'll not be aware of all the people with EDs within your social media circles. If you're reading this and think that I'm your only friend who has/has had an eating disorder, I can pretty much guarantee that you're wrong. Most people with EDs are not underweight. Most people don't feel comfortable being open about it. But that doesn't mean they don't hurt and won't be hurt by you extensively documenting your weight loss.

Be safe, be well, be aware. If you want to lose weight, do it safely. Watch out for obsessive symptoms in yourself. Be aware of how your words may affect somebody else. Make it a happy new year :).

Friday, 18 December 2015

Sparkly.

It's really hard to sum up how much this Christmas means to me. I keep scrunching up my face in excitement and getting cramp; I am beyond excited and have been since, I don't know, 2011. I am sparkly at the best of times, but a time of year that goes along with that theme is The Best. Seriously. I've been typing and deleting all day, because I just can't get out all them feelingz properly. Ever since I was sectioned (forcibly hospitalised because of a mental health condition) just before Christmas a few years back, I've been waiting for this one. My first one out of hospital since 2011. I've always had to remind myself that I'll eventually get to make up for all the Christmases I missed from being in hospital and all the ones I missed because although I was there in person, in spirit I was too busy planning my next weight loss bloc. I'm well. I'm did it. I got well and I got out of hospital and ohmygod next week I'll get to eat Christmas pudding and brandy butter.

Listen though; it's ok if you're dreading the day, you hate the season, you're lonely or sad or ill. My heart goes to you, but it's ok. I never believed that I would get an opportunity to make up for it all, but I have. I won't rave on about how it's for the best or instruct you to have a good time because, well, honestly it might be crap. It might break your heart. It might be heartbreaking for your family. But there are better days and sparklier Christmases ahead.

If you need me over the season, feel free to get in touch (on Twitter I'm @RebeccaXylo and my email address is rebecca.condron@hotmail.com).

You are not alone. And you don't have to be sparkly right now.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

I was brilliant at dying.

I was brilliant at dying. I got up, rarely ate and usually followed up with vomiting, drank too much and smoked too many, often took the meds I should with a handful that I shouldn't and slept between all of that. And I was really brilliant at dying. I pooled all of my money into my ventures, as well as some other other people's; I begged, borrowed and stole to fund my risks. And I was really, really brilliant at dying. I spent my time in a cloud of misery and bitterness, not daring to do anything that might challenge how dark I thought the world was; too afraid to be wrong, because that would take away the twisted stability that being ill gave me. And I was really, really, really brilliant at dying.

And then, well, then it didn't happen.

Then I lived.

I always wanted to be great at something. The best. You know those kids at school who could turn a perfect cartwheel, or score goals, or dance en pointe, or paint a picture that actually looked how it was intended? That was never me. But I was brilliant at dying. I didn't even realise in the early days, and by the time I did I was too good at it to give up. It was a started as a secret obsession. It became a total addiction, and like any addict, I was never really sure that I enjoyed it. It wasn't really relevant. I just enjoyed finally being the best, and that prevented me from giving it up.

But, of course, then it happened.

But then I began to live.

Because I wanted grace and beauty. I had thought there was poetry in dying slowly. I had thought there was lyricism in dying young. I had thought my tragedy would result in black clothes and a few days of tears, before life without me would go on and everyone would be better for it. I had thought that people might read my words and forget my decomposing body. I had thought that dying would be going out in a blaze of glory, rather than gradually disappearing. I had thought the only thing I could ever do that could ever be graceful or beautiful would be dying.

There is no beauty in the life or death of an addict. It doesn't matter what the addiction is, there's no beauty in any of it. There's no beauty in death caused by addiction, either. Corpses are not beautiful. Tragedy shouldn't be confused with poetry. Dying in the way that I was, was causing anguish that wasn't going to be ended with my death- dying is a debt that saps the resources of the living. That's all.

And so, I'm learning to live. And I'm ok with not always being the best at that.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

I hate the phrase 'mental health.'

I hate the phrase 'mental health.'

I hate that we differentiate. Physical health? That's just health. No prefix needed. That's because physical healthcare is the healthcare that matters by default, whereas mental health needs to be put in its own little box. It's like it's not worthy of being categorised with 'real' health.

I hate that completely random illnesses are grouped and treated together under the mental health banner. Sure, some symptoms overlap- but I hear voices because I have complex PTSD, as opposed to hearing them because I have schizophrenia. It's a bit like how you might have a headache because you have failing eyesight, or you might have one because you have a brain tumour. Imagine being treated for poor eyesight in the same room even as someone is being treated for cancer.

I hate that there is only really one expected treatment path with mental illness and a lot of services won't touch you if you tick too many boxes, because they're not set up or funded for divergence from whatever the norm is thought to be. They're starved of attention and determined by their outcomes, punished in a way that physical health services aren't.

I hate that we talk about admitting we have a mental health condition. Admitting. Like it's a crime. I mean, I'm always much more afraid of telling someone I have mental health conditions than I am a physical ones. Somehow, saying I used to eat very little is worse than saying that I get migraines.

I hate that even the phrase is enough to send adults running for the hills. I have been asked to refrain from telling certain adults about my conditions. I am not ashamed, so don't you dare be ashamed of me.

I hate that, as a society, we forget that it's not only physical health problems that kill. That those heart attacks that seem to plague some, are often a consequence. That addiction kills. Eating disorders kill. Stress kills. Ignorance? I'd say that's one of the biggest killers.

I hate that people honestly think that it's possible the have any health without both mental and physical health.

And I really, really hate that people hear 'mental health' and immediately imagine some kind of personality deficiency that they don't associate with the word health, alone.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Growing up.

I officially applied to uni yesterday. Slightly different from when I applied the first time around. Not just because the mental health nursing I'm planning on studying now is more than a bit different to the politics I did when I was younger (insert a joke about politicians being mental, I dare ya). The first time around I got my applications in just on time, because my tutor had been nagging me for forever to do it and I was pretty bloody awkward. Hello, I'm Contrary Mary. Back then, I eventually got my personal statement done after skiving college and getting hammered at dinnertime- a tradition that would result in being sober by teatime and totally recovered by the time I went to bed, for a good night's sleep. So grown up.

Eventually though, yesterday I got my applications done, all whilst sober. I may have just about grown up. It's funny, because selling myself was somewhat harder this time, as opposed to when I was 18. I think part of that is because I'm now more comfortable and confident in myself. I know that might sound a bit backwards, but to write my personal statement at 18, I had to be drunk and pretty much taking the piss a bit, because it was the only way I could possibly imagine writing it. Now, at the grand old age of 25, I was in the strange position of just about being able to write it sober, from the heart. 

I joke a lot about growing up. Comments about who/what I'll be when I grow up (tall, for example), laughs over how I thought by now I'd be a real grown up. Behind all the jokes though, there is something else. I feel like I never really did the usual steps that a lot of other people my age did, that signal adulthood- graduating, careers, leaving home, weddings, kids, and so on. I think a lot about where I should be, without acknowledging that I've had to take a totally different route from the average person, but have come pretty bloody far.

I think we all feel, at some point, like that episode of Rugrats where the kids have suits on and go to work. I think we all look at the lives of others and only notice the best bits. Which is fine, it stops us being horrible, but it'd probably make us all a bit nicer in general if we looked at ourselves with that kindness. I'm not sure what being an adult is really all about, part of me always feels like I've been one and part of me is sitting waiting for it to happen to me. I don't think it really matters though. All I do know, though, is that being 25 is a damn sight better than the adulthood 18 promised.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Marmite.

A few years ago, it was officially A Thing to declare yourself to be 'like Marmite'. For those who aren't British- you poor fools- Marmite is this food spread that's brown and sticky and salty and smells rank and which, if you believe adverts (as I do, always), you either love or hate. Honestly, most of their advertising centres around how vile it is, but how it's got a bit of cult around it. Strange stuff. Personally, I can take or leave it, but I'm mental, so whatever. Claiming to be 'like Marmite' is meant to be a reflection on how you evoke strong feelings, not necessarily that you smell rank, not that there isn't a correlation between smelling oddly and liking the stuff, but that's neither here nor there.

I've always completely been able to understand the draw of considering oneself to be like Marmite- nobody wants to think of themselves as boring, after all. Until I give it more than a second's thought, and realise that actually I AM a bit like Marmite- and that, actually, I'm not the biggest fan of being that way.

When I'm up and I'm peppy, people tend to love the concept of me. I've overcome the scars of abuse, beaten the demons and look kind of normal (crap dress sense not withstanding). The looking normal thing is pretty important, I think- unlike a lost limb or something, you can pick and choose when you want to be aware of my disabilities, until I have an episode and freak everyone out, that is. Wheel me out when you want me to tell you that if I can do it, you can. Wheel me back in when you've had your fill of my issues. In theory, it's pretty inspirational and that. Until I crash. When I'm down and I'm psychotic, if people don't dislike me, they dislike the concept of who I am. I make people uncomfortable. Anything out of the ordinary frightens people.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I necessarily blame anyone for it. But it's just tiring that the same people who call me an inspiration also kind of see me as a freak show at best, and as someone to be locked up in the attic, at worst

We're not meant to be vocal about our struggles, because that's attention seeking. We're not meant to hide anything, because that's not being true to ourselves. I'm An Inspiration, so I carry the weight of others' expectations. I'm a weapon or contagion too, because it's easy to berate yourself or others for not being at the point in recovery that you think I've made it to. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to know people care, but exhausting to keep up a front.

I'm not meaning to smack anybody back for genuinely caring and being my cheerleaders. One of the best things about having this blog is when people read it and message me little bits of encouragement or wisdom. I thrive on it. It's just the awkwardness that gets to me. It's the pressure of being held up as an example when it doesn't feel honest or true.

I think my point with all this is- we're complicated. As people, we're all bloody complicated. It's ok to be uneasy of me because it's ok to feel anything. But it's also ok for me to get knackered and feel weighted down by my position. It's the blessing and curse of being so open, I suppose.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

New Year's resolutions.

I never care much for new year, mostly because I really bloody love Christmas and to me, NYE is only really notable for it being 51 weeks to the next Christmas. That's not to say I don't love a good party, because, y'know, vodka is great. I just don't really get why people can only make changes after midnight on that particular date. Saying that, I know that mid-November might be an odd time to be thinking about this, but I've decided that I'm going to make my New Year's resolutions now. But am I hell making them for 2016, because I'm fabulous and don't need to change... but I reckon I'm going to make a few for the last 10 years, just to get me up to date.

2006- Stop wasting time on anger.
I know you think you hate the world and I know you think you deserve to; you hate the situation you're in. But being angry at the situation is fine, being angry at yourself isn't. Go easy on yourself.

2007- Stop concentrating about the wrong priorities.
GCSEs are really. really unimportant, which you know and so you've done absolutely no revision. Good lass. Keep that up. But take your laid back attitude to your exams and apply it to your body. It just seems a bit backwards that you're more worried about how fat you'll look at prom than you are about qualifications that you'll carry with you.

2008- Stop worrying about what people think.
People come and go. There will always be people who love you, people who like you, people who are ambivalent and people who dislike you. There will be people who can't handle your lows or your highs. That's absolutely fine- everybody has their limits. Just remember to let people go when they need to look after themselves. You are important, but so is everybody else. Be fair. Let go.

2009- Stop looking forward to your demise.
You think that this year you'll move out, this year you can stop doing the minimum you do to keep alive. This year you can give up the final part. You're wasting your gifts planning the end, instead of the beginning.

2010- Stop worrying about being enough.
You have more to give than just your mind, as good as it sometimes is. You'll find out soon that you are more than your demons and smarter than your academics. You have nothing to prove.

2011- Stop blaming yourself.
It looks like you're on a one-way street to destruction. You're so angry at yourself, so adamant that all the wrongs committed against you are your fault, that you're missing the point that when you take out imagined wrongs on yourself, you're committing far worse wrongs. You did not ask to be hurt. If you had, had it been your fault, you'd not still be damaged from it.

2012- Stop resisting help.
A stitch in time saves nine. Accepting and recognising when you need help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You don't have to do everything alone. You're not alone.

2013- Stop expecting instant gratification.
Working on yourself takes time- it's not a case of it happening straight away, as much as you might wish for that to be the case. Don't let anybody make you feel like you're not trying hard enough or working hard enough. It's not about having a eureka moment and suddenly being your best self. Keep going.

2014- Stop thinking you don't deserve good things.
You've worked hard to get to where you are; it's not been easy, but you've got this far. Don't feel like you're not good enough for anything. You've earned the right to feel better, don't destroy yourself because it doesn't feel like you deserve it.

2015- Stop doubting yourself.
Babe, you've got this.

And for 2016, what then? I'm not going to make a resolution for this one. I'll keep my head above water, I'll keep fighting. I don't need to resolve to fix things now, I'll fix them as I go along. It's going to be ok.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Walking away.

Facebook and I have a complicated relationship. We're best friends when I come out with a boost of hilarity and need validation through likes, but we're ex lovers as soon as somebody puts up a picture of me with several chins. Now, that feature where it tells you exactly what moronic crap you came out with a few years back on that day, well, Rebecca is in a Complicated Relationship with that bit even more. Like, for example, three years and two days ago I had my first(/last) philosophical revelation- 'When men feel threatened by famous men, they call them gay, as an insult. When women feel threatened by famous women, we hope they're at least bi-curious and into the same weird things we are.' I am, to quote my girlf, full of depth.

On a slightly more sober thought, our complicated relationship entered the highly emosh level the other day, when Facebook kindly reminded me of a thought from 2009. I can't find the exact status, because Facebook won't allow me to see what I said six-years-and-a-few-days-ago, but I can almost remember it off by heart. It was along the lines of, 'I hate that you can walk away from me, and delete me from your life. But more than anything, I hate that I give you the power to do that, because I'm not strong enough to walk away myself.'

I don't remember exactly what led me to that status, but I'm all-but-certain that I know exactly who the person in question was. There's something really sad that I can't pinpoint which event it's about. I was hurt by one person so insidiously, so many times, that I can't even list the occasions. Granted, it's a six year old sentiment, but it's much more than that. It's the culmination of a relationship that I almost let destroy me.

Forgive my vagueness here. I don't want this to be a post ranting about the person in question, neither do I want this to be a passive aggressive thing. This isn't about the person in question. I mean, if you've been close to me at all in the last few years, you'll probably know and honestly? I don't care. I don't care enough to name the person. I very much doubt the person themselves would read this, but know that if you are- I honestly don't care. I don't care if you think you know the person in question and plan on reporting to them. I don't care if you don't know at all. That person can't break me. Not again.

Six years ago, I was a 19 year old little girl. I wasn't a 19 year old woman. Hell, I wasn't a woman until I was 23 and finally decided that enough was enough. I decided at 23, as I laid in a hospital bed half dead and partially destroyed, hooked up to drips and feeding tubes, that I was done. I was done with being hurt, I was done with hurting myself, I was done with being picked up and discarded at will, I was beyond sick of depriving myself of life because one person was depriving themselves of my life. I realised that I could allow that one person to leave my life, as they wished, then pick myself up and get on with it, or I could remove myself entirely and permanently from the lives of numerous other people who loved me.

So I let them go. And I lived. I took their power and made it my own. I've made the decision that they will never walk into my life, so that they never again get to choose to leave it.

I'm not sad about the people who chose not to be a part of who I am. I don't feel that my life is devoid of anything for their lack of a presence. If anything, maybe I should be sad for them, but I'm too ambivalent. I just don't care. I'm brilliant and if you can't handle my fire, those days where I am sunshine and those days when I am a tropical storm, then that's up to you. Your tea probably tastes like sewage. But I am sad for every one of those childhood days where I planned how much more you'd love me if I was thinner.

But am I sad now? Nope. Not a smidge. My life is good. I'm good. I don't thank you for some contrived notion of you having made me stronger. I don't blame you for the fact that I nearly died, numerous times. I've come full circle and I can finally close a chapter with utter indifference. And that in itself is pretty good.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Enough.

Whenever I used to complain about my short legs, my mum would remind me that if they were any longer, they'd not fit so perfectly in the gap between my arse and the floor. It's logic that's impossible to argue with. Totally impossible. I only realised today that you can extend it to virtually anything- if my giant head (hat shopping is beyond stressful and I LOVE hats) was any less, well, gigantic, there would be too much space between my ears. 

I'm playing about to see if the wisdom transcends. I'm overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy at the minute. I'm not pretty enough. My body is far from good enough. I'm not deserving enough of my family, my friends, my girlfriend. I'm not funny enough. I'm not nice enough. I'm not smart enough. I've not achieved anywhere near enough. I'm not talented enough at anything. And on, and on, and on. I feel like a slug. Slime-ing through life, not doing or being much of anything. 

Slug life chose me.

But really, what does it matter? I don't have to be the prettiest with the best body, who is always the perfect companion, who is the most hilarious, loveliest, who knows the most about the most, has done everything and done everything better than anyone. That's not me. I'm not any of those things. But that's ok, because I fit perfectly right here, right now, slotted into my life perfectly. And on those days where I don't feel like that's the way things are, it's not me that I have to change to fit- it's everything else that ought to be changed to accommodate me. I'm worth being accommodated.

I shouldn't have to change myself to fit any kind of mould. The mould should be altered to fit me. No, wait, even better- let's sack the mould off and just get on with being whatever the hell we are. Best or not best. A person doesn't have to be the best to be brilliant. I'll never win gold, but I am bloody brilliant (and so are you).

I'm enough (and so are you).

Friday, 30 October 2015

Anna Rexia hallowe'en costume.

Every year at this time, the Anna Rexia costume rears its ugly head. Now, I'm not going to say that I'm cheap, but I am perpetually skint, so I thought I'd give you some tips on how to achieve the perfect Anorexia themed Hallowe'en costume, for a fraction of the cost. There are a few really, really great things about Anorexia. One is that it doesn't just affect the sufferer but also the people around the sufferer, so you can make it a group costume. Another is that there's a thing called The Rule of Three. It's pretty straightforward- a third recover, a third suffer all their lives and a third die.

It all makes creating an Anna Rexia costume all the more fun. You get to decide between looking well but feeling crap; forcing a tube up your nose, crying hysterically and smelling like you're already dead; or making yourself invisible but having a crew of people around you screaming, hurt and blaming themselves.

For the Anorexia recovery costume, to really get into it, wear loose clothes and for a few days before, have somebody follow you around 24 hours a day, screaming at you about your size, your looks, your lack of worth and how you don't deserve to be well. Recovery is a relative term- so don't worry, because you can still create a costume because you can never unlive years of abuse inflicted. For extra points, add swollen limbs, a limp from crumbling joints and random patches of hair, all from a history of malnutrition. For your posse, have them watching you intently and walking on eggshells in case they say something that puts you back. Be creative! You might end up looking semi-normal, but this costume is all about nuance.

For a costume based on the idea of continuous suffering with Anorexia, there are so many great ways to go! Start with the recovery costume, but there are a few more features that are worth adding. Think: zombie. To prepare, a good few nights without sleep is a good way to go- pale and waxy skin, black eyes, an aura of exhausted defeat. The smell of Anorexia is a mix of death and terrible breath (that you can't get rid of by brushing your teeth, because it comes from your insides and hangs thick in the air), which is pretty hard to replicate, but maybe don't brush your teeth and eat some gym socks. Contouring may be fashion right now, but up the ante- not everyone with an eating disorder is a walking skeleton, but why let truth get in the way of a good costume? For extra oompf, take a straw and shove it up your nose and stick yourself in a wheelchair. As for your posse? Have them follow you around and beg you not to die. Tears are a good addition and having them walk around with plates of different foods that they periodically try to push onto you is even better.

The costume for the third of people with Anorexia who die is the most effective. Suicide is a domino and so you and some of your posse should just stay home, in coffins. The rest of them may as well also be in coffins, because premature death breeds living death.


Monday, 26 October 2015

Ugly.

I never want to write on the bad days, for a whole host of reasons. I don't want to come across as melodramatically seeking attention or, conversely, as if I'm getting really unwell again. I don't want other people to read my words and conclude that recovery is impossible or as if it's not worth fighting for. I'm paranoid about people reading too much into anything I put out there; years in hospital will do that to you. My fingers are itchy but idle and my legs are restless but weighted. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to write. But I feel like writing is the right thing to do.

I'm ok and recovery is grand. Except when it isn't. And today, it isn't.

Today I hurt. The physical pain of mental illness is really strange. It takes me off guard. I ache absolutely everywhere and I fell down the stairs earlier because my legs won't cooperate today any more than my brain will. I suppose it's a bit like how when you have a serious physical illness, it can bring on, for example, depression. I don't know. I just can't be bothered to do anything. Writing this so far has taken hours, but I need to feel like I've done something today, even if it's writing something poor. I can barely be bothered to put the kettle on and I spent half an hour sitting on my bed, staring into space, before I could gather the motivation to even get dressed. This is what recovery is like. It's not about smiley faces and delicious food and inspirational words and art and beauty. It's about grim determination. With more emphasis on the 'grim' bit on some days. Like today.

Some days I feel like I'm getting somewhere. Some days I feel like a monstrosity of both inner and outer ugliness. Today, I feel so fat and ugly. And like a terrible person for feeling that me being fat is such a bad thing. Ugly, ugly,ugly. I am. The whole thing is.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A-Z of mental health recovery.

A is for Adventures.
Not all who wander are lost, sure, but not all of those lost are bothered about doing what the sat nav is insisting upon. Turn around? No thank you. Missed turnings? Oh, all the time. Having to return to hospital or to do what the mind monsters insist on? Not any more.

B is for Bones.
Bones are just a feature of the body. Why I spent so many years bothered about having them jutting out is beyond me. That crap wasn't comfy. They're pretty great at holding up the body and protecting organs and all the other bits you learn about in primary science, but that's about it.

C is for Cocktails.
You say 'empty calories' like that's a bad thing.

D is for Dancing.
And not just to burn calories. Maybe because you've done something great or because you're a bit sad and need cheering up or maybe just because, HELLO, it's fun to be silly.

E is for Excitement.
The good kind of butterflies (I don't like real butterflies. They're just peasants who got knighted and forgot that they were once just hairy poos) where your face feels like it will split open from smiling.

F is for Fat.
Good for insulation, great for filling bras.

G is for Gorgeous.
You are, you know.

H is for Hospital.
More specifically, nipping in because you fell over because you're clumsy or to visit a new baby or to check whether you broke you toe when you drunkenly stubbed it. Just nipping in, as opposed to another mental health admission.

I is for Internet Dating.
I have a new girlfriend who is way out of my league in personality AND looks. Thank you, internet. Not just for trolls, apparently.

J is for Jokes.
I can actually remember punch lines now. Not that I can really repeat any of my best ones on here.

K is for Kicking Arse.
Every day you breathe through the pain and keep goinggoinggoing even though it's like wading through treacle, you are kicking arse. You are alive and that's what kicking arse does- it keeps you alive.

L is for Love.
Of course. To love and to be loved is pretty great and to even like yourself, I'm finding, is kind of cool (albeit weird). When I especially don't like myself, I especially don't like other people, which makes me dislike myself even more. I think I'm starting to be an altogether alright person now.

M is for Mental.
Maths is mental. Well, mental maths is. You're not. You're funny and quirky and interesting and so, so much more than your illness.

N is for No.
You are allowed to say no. You're allowed to stand your ground. I've found that the world doesn't end if I need to take some time off, but that saying no to myself isn't always the way.

O is for Opposites.
Here's a game for you- for every time you put yourself down, you have to say two nice things about yourself. And your left boob and right boob don't count as two different ones, so don't try that. Me? I hate my thighs, but I'm mildly entertaining (if you like bad singers/dancers) and I'm great with kids (they tend to like bad singers/dancers).

P is for Personality.
I'm Rebecca Kate Condron and all of her layers and idiosyncrasies. I'm not my diagnoses, I am so much more.

Q is for Quiet.
When it comes to mental health, silence can kill, but quiet can soothe. Sometimes it's handy to step back and watch. Think instead of say and all that. It's ok not to always be the entertainment or the drama.

R is for Reason.
Reason to fight, reason to live. Find yours. Be yours.

S is for Shit Happens.
You can't control everything and it's kind of fun to just go with the flow (that phrase always makes me think of tampons, but you know what I mean) and ride it. Stressing yourself out over things that will happen whether you stress or not is not where it's at.

T is for Time.
Time to live, time to die. Time for, um, rhubarb pie.

U is for Universe.
It's bloody big out there. There's so much to do and see, and the world of being ill is so incredibly tiny. Too tiny to resign yourself to.

V is for Vanity.
Being ill isn't being vain, but neither is working on yourself. I've heard it said that therapy is self-indulgent, which is completely wrong because those hours are some of the hardest you will go through. Vanity really has nowt to do with mental illness, no more than it has to do with physical illness,

W is for Wardrobe.
Anorexia recovery, weight gain, the whole lot is a great reason (as if you need one) to buy new clothes. Embrace it.

X is for Xylophone.
Let them be made from plastic and given to children, rather than be made of your bones and given to your demons.

Y is for You.
You're so great that you deserve a letter all to yourself.

Z is for Zany.
It's good to be weird. Being what you expect normal is, is pretty bloody boring. You're odd, and that's why you're loved (and you are loved).

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Why Topshop's scars are so heinous.

Ok, so you know Topshop? It's that clothing company, the one of identical young women with daddy's money. It sometimes has a good sale. It's the high street shop that we like to browse through, before scoffing and just nipping into Primark. It rarely has anything in a size bigger than a 14. And the clothes/sizes it does have are only really good if your Topshop Princess body is a 6. Well now, Topshop has decided we should love our flaws. Isn't that lovely? Ignore the fact that being told to love your flaws is incredibly patronising and ignore the fact that, as mentioned, your flaws are only good enough to love if you're slim, what's there to argue with?

How about the fact that the flaws that you're meant to love are your self harms scars? Starting to get a bit dodgy, right? But sure, I'd say that acceptance is pretty important, as is self love. So I can kind of go with that.

It gets worse.

If you don't have self harm scars on your flawless body... you can now buy them in temporary tattoo form. And they're gold. And glittery.

Take a second for that one.

Forgive me if I sound bitter, but by making such a serious issue into a fashion accessory, it makes a mockery of it all. It makes our fights frivolous and shallow and empty. It fetishes what is usually a symptom of a potentially fatal illness, in the way that just wouldn't be done with symptoms of a serious physical disability. It's appropriation. Exploitation of our efforts. And it's wrong. Flat out wrong.

I'd like to think that this was a naive gesture that just was executed so, so misguidedly. I'm sure Topshop has seen that mental health awareness is being sought, that we're fighting a battle and slowly moving forward and they want to be a part of our cause. Naaaaat. I think, more likely, they saw this as a gesture to jump on a bandwagon for a bit of cash, because it's not like they were doing it for a mental health charity (which wouldn't make it any better, but I'd believe in the intentions being positive a bit more).

So I'll tell you this: flaws are what you make them. I don't think you have them, personally, but if you have parts that you don't like, then that's fine. Nobody has any right to tell you what you have to love or hate- including Topshop. Don't like that you're too big for their clothes? I'd blame their shitty sizing, not your body, but that's on you. Don't like your self-harm scars? Remember they are a part of your battle and let them remind you that you fought, but if that's a sore point then fair enough.

But by the same token, so you love your thighs, despite the fact that they don't showcase visible bones? Excellent, because you are perfect. Love your scars? You are more than your past, but there is nothing wrong with loving yourself.

Screw Topshop. I'd say screw white girls with bindis, feather headdresses and their new glittery scars, but that's a rash comment and not all that helpful. Instead, let's educate and unite and explain to anyone who thinks that this kind of crap is ok. Let's respect. That's something to love.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

WMHD2015.

I'm writing this on World Mental Health Day, but I'm not going to publish until just after (GMT). Do you know why?

Ask the child who can't understand why everybody hates them.

Ask the teenager who can't understand why their best friend would want to hurt herself.

Ask the young parent who can't understand why they can't bond with their baby.

Ask the man who can't understand why everybody else apparently succeeds whilst he's racked with fear about answering the door.

Ask the woman who can't understand why, despite being in agonising pain, she can't take painkillers in case someone sabotaged them with hidden calories.

Ask the person who can't understand why their favourite person in the world would possibly believe that they would ever cope after that favourite person's suicide.

Ask your brother/sister/mum/dad/friend/neighbour...

Ask any other human, because we should feel empathy based on something other than our own relationships.

Every day is mental health day.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of World Mental Health Day because, let's face it, we need it. I'm guilty myself of glossing over parts of my past to make things more palatable to the outside. I'll talk about myself and be half ashamed and half impressed at the fact that I can tell whole stories about stuff I've done without mentioning the events mentioned happened in hospital. I'm actually quite proud of the person I'm becoming, the person I have become because of the hurdles I have mostly tripped over and occasionally flown over, and yet still I make things easier for the outside world to break down. Because every day, to me, is mental health day. But to you, it's not. Not always.

More than the fact that I like the idea of World Mental Health Day, I like the idea that one day we won't need the day. I don't know, there's something about it that kind of grates on me because for 1 in 4 of us, every day is mental health day. In fact, I'd say every day is mental health day for most of us, because, chances are, whether you know it or not, someone you know, someone you love, is suffering. And if someone you love is in pain, well, that concerns you. If you know it or if you don't, if you know a person or not- all eventualities are problematic.

The thing that really needs to change and the thing that I really urge you today- the day after the official WMHD15- to do is to start the conversation. Open up the floor. You are worth it. You are loved. And you will fight.

Not every day is WMHD. Not every day you will win.

But every day, you can fight.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Semantics.

Alrighty, just in case it wasn't obvious/you've not read my rambling before, a note. I'm going to write about terms around mental health that I find insulting, inappropriate or just, you know, a bit bob (I've decided to bring the word 'bob' back. Apologies to anybody called Bob. Or anyone who didn't know that bob means poo). The list probably won't be comprehensive and some of the terms will be ones that other people with mental health problems are cool with. And that's fine. I'm mostly writing this for catharsis and to open it to the floor- have a chat, learn what bothers you and what bothers your loved ones. Be brave.

The term- Anorexic.
In a sentence- The anorexic refused to eat.
The problem- Defining a person by their mental health problem (it's the same with words like schizophrenic/bulimic/depressive, I'm just using anorexic as an example) implies that, at best, the illness is the most a person is, and at worst, the illness is all that a person is. We are NOT the illness; we HAVE the illness.
A better way- The person with anorexia refused to eat.

The term- Mental.
In a sentence- She's well mental!
The problem- It just sort of implies that anything negatively or scarily out of the ordinary- and what is ordinary?- is aligned with bad mental health, which is strange because often it's the introverts you need to worry about. And like, I get called mental by strangers who don't know my history all the time, just because I'm an odd 'un. It doesn't bother me quite so much when people are talking about a situation, but I still don't think it's quite the right terminology.
A better way- She's well weird!

The term- Mental patient.
In a sentence- The mental patient was hospitalised.
The problem- It goes back to the problem with the word mental to describe unusual. We are not mental. We have varying levels of mental health, just like the whole population.
A better way- The patient with mental health difficulties was hospitalised.

The term- Psycho/psychotic.
In a sentence- Psycho/psychotic killer on the loose.
The problem- What if I told you I have psychotic episodes a few times a week? Mostly these days they're fleeting. Occasionally I might have a day where I'm tormented by voices. Chances are, you wouldn't realise, because, well, why would you? In the same way that you wouldn't be able to spot necessarily a stranger with diabetes. Sometimes, it's true, a person with a mental health condition commits a murder, but generally, the media uses the word with no evidence of mental health issues and it exacerbates the fear of people with genuine psychosis in the population.
A better way- [insert any cheap, sensationalist words] killer on the loose.

The term- Manic.
In a sentence- It's been a manic day at the office.
The problem- I get it, I get it. But manic doesn't mean hectic. Manic is scary. It's a lack of control and it's heightened senses and anxiety and snapping. It's dangerous and yeah, ok, it's busy and I won't lie- I've had some fun with it. But the comedowns are the worst thing. It's physics, yo. Maybe. I don't know, I'm not that great at science.
A better way- It's been a hectic/busy/stressful day at the office.

I know some people will read this as me being a special snowflake, but you're the people who don't understand what it's like to have an illness that's robbed you of years of your life and, well, taken the actual lives of people you love, seemingly mocked. You're the lucky ones. And I hope you stay that way.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

I believe in selfies

I believe in selfies.


I believe that there are worse things than a person thinking that they're beautiful. Like a person thinking that they're ugly or worthless.


I believe that there are worse things than a person thinking they have a good body. Like a person starving themselves to death.


I believe that everybody needs some attention and that there are riskier ways of seeking attention than posting numerous selfies. Like acting dangerously.


I believe that everybody needs to feel good about themselves and that there are riskier ways of doing that than taking numerous selfies. Like acting dangerously, sexually.


I believe that if you're having a good face day or hair day or body or outfit day or whatever day, you should feel able to document it and post it everywhere, ever. Or even just to keep a little folder for yourself, to remind yourself in days that don't feel so good, that you felt good once and so you will again.


I believe that if you're having a bad face day or hair day or body day or whatever day, you should be able to find a pose that makes you feel however you need to feel, capture it and do what you need to with it.


I believe that taking selfies isn't vain or a sign of a shallow person any more than checking your reflection is and that not taking selfies makes you no better or worse than someone who takes hundreds.


I believe it's not fake to keep taking several selfies until you find one you love, with people you love, and that it can result in a photo that will always make you smile.


I believe you are more than your selfies could ever show, but that they're not a bad start. Let's try something- be nice to yourself and snap one for me.


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Average.

When I was 14, I made a stupid decision that plagued me for two bloody years. GCSE options. More specifically, opting to take GCSE art. I take colouring-in extremely seriously, but apart from that, I have precisely zero artistic ability. I can write a good essay, but I can't illustrate it. Luckily, that's not something you tend to have to do. Anyway, I took art and, long story short, it became the first thing I ever failed. Four years on, two years after I took that final art exam- I drew a lot of wobbly shoes over a background of wonky lines of Beautiful South lyrics- I then took my final A-Level Philosophy exam and, I kid you not, instead of even opening the question paper, I wrote a story about giraffes. Grade X achieved, booyah (and I still think of it as an achievement because before that I didn't even know X was a thing).

The art I failed due to a good helping of No Talent, but also thanks to a lot of Really Not Wanting To Have To Work Hard To Be Average. The philosophy I failed partly due to a bit of Laziness but mostly due to A Complete Fear Of Being Average. When it came to it, in both situations, I chose literal failure over being average.

It's a proper over-used eating disorder line, a bit of pseudo-therapy to declare, that we're all perfectionists who live in a black-and-white world. Unfortunately, like a lot of cliches, it has a basis in truth. I hatehatehate the idea of being average. Even at my lowest weight, which is a number that makes me cringe, I never felt small enough because as long as I was in this world at all, there was too much of me in this world. For a long time, recovery alluded me because I'd get to where I was starting to get better and I'd realise that I wasn't aceing recovery, but I wasn't aceing being disordered, either. Like, I'd not eaten enough to live, but I'd eaten too much to die. I couldn't bear the idea of muddling on through- I wanted to be the best and if I couldn't be that, I wanted to be the worst.

It's something that's stayed with me. I'm as proud of my X in philosophy as I was when I get firsts at uni. I make no secret of the fact I was dumped out of uni, even if it was because I was so ill, rather than just being the naughtiest girl in the school. As a kid, I tried so hard to fit in and invisibility was my desired superpower but somewhere along the way, when I tried to erase my history, I also erased that part of me. I'm a bit odd and I've had a complicated life, so fitting in never really worked. Aiming to be like everybody else whilst living a life nothing like anybody else's was a bit tricky. Shaking that desire is one of the few good things that have come from the last 10 years or so, because, y'know, I'd far rather be dressed in several clashing prints (today's outfit: purple paisley tunic; rust, mustard and black aztec-y patterned sleeveless cardigan; black and white headscarf; blue leggings) than jeans.

I've not managed to discard my inner perfectionist, but these days I'm less likely to destroy something that's not perfect and far more likely to try something new without the fear of not being good at it. If I eat a bit too little or a bit too much, I'm less likely to turn that into far too little or far too much. I'm not great, but I'm not bad. Things are ok. And, when compared to my history, that, in itself, is pretty good.

(Even if my dress sense has remained truly horrific).

Saturday, 19 September 2015

For my best friend.

Al,

Your haunting is spelt out 
in the Braille of your visible bones. 
Sometimes, 
I'm scared to look at you.
On those pure occasions 
I see you.
In reality.
In photos.
In my head.

I'm scared that if I look too hard,
You'll break.
Your delicate bones
Without protection,
Without barrier,
Without knowledge of their own strength
Will plummet.

And once again,
I will not be able to save you.

Sometimes,
I cannot save you.
And your eternal sweetness
Would never ask 
Or expect.

But I want you to scream at me,
Like you scream at yourself.
Claw at me,
Like you claw at yourself.
Tear up words
Like you tear up your skin,
Your organs,
Your beautiful soul,
Fragmented.
All that you hate,
All that you direct to yourself,
Scream it.

To me, 
You are all that is good.
To you,
You should be all that you are;
More than you know.
Infinitely strong,
Impossibly gentle.
More than the back breaking demons.
More than what holds you below water.
Captive.
Seemingly alone.

But you forget;
you are never alone.

It hurts.
But oh,
It hurts.

And the death that chases you
That sometimes has you
Crying,
Begging,
Gasping,
Praying,
For the end to be soon.
Will not take you
On my watch.

I will cut off the food of 
Your enemies,
Of the ghosts and monsters
And re-direct it to your sinking bones,
Risen again.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

World Suicide Prevention Day (/thank you, Corey Craig).

I've been thinking about how I was going to broach this idea for a little while, and Twitter just informed me that today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so today this seems apt.

When I was 16, a stranger saved my life.

Heartbreakingly, she did this by taking her own. I wish I could tell you her story fairly; the person who she was for her short life deserves a tribute that I can't pay, and it seems wrong or unfair to her loved ones that her death affected me so strongly, when I did not know her. They lost a child who was also 16. And that's horrific. And that pain is something I know nothing of, yet writing this is still making me emotional.

This is a lot harder to write than I even thought it would be, because I need to give the child- because as much as we think we know as 16 year olds, we are still children- so much gratitude for my life and for helping saving my family and friends the horror that her loved ones went through.

I found Corey Craig on Myspace. Maybe because I  was 16, maybe because I was mentally ill and lonely, maybe because at that time I needed to see what I saw that day, I was browsing profiles. Honestly, we all did it, we all added people we'd never meet and I was scanning through to find someone vaguely interesting, whose photos I could live vicariously through, much as I wouldn't have admitted that. This is a bit trite, but the first thing I noticed was Corey's smile on her profile picture. I could only imagine how easy things must be, how perfect her life must be and how loved she must be to wear such a beautiful smile. She was dressed in a cheerleading uniform and my diet of American, well, everything, had me pretty sure that she had it made.  It's funny, the ways photography can deceive and how quick we can be to assume everybody's lives are better than ours.

The second thing I noticed was something she'd written, something about having depression and not caring what people thought. That's another thing I have Corey to thank for- I had never even heard of someone my age, with a mental health condition, being fearless in admission of it. That began my own journey to accepting illness as just another fact about myself.

The third thing, was that her comments feed was full of RIP messages. And that's when my heart sank.

At the time, I was about 10 days- actually, it was exactly 10 days. I had it planned in a way I never have since, even when I've made attempts- away from my own suicide attempt. An attempt that, in the end, never happened.

Because in reading both her own words on the page and the messages that people had left for her, the realities of what I was planning really hit me. I wasn't just planning on killing myself, but I was planning on killing a daughter, sister, friend.

More than that, I couldn't look at Corey's pictures and believe that there was no way things wouldn't or couldn't have improved for her. I couldn't believe that that beautiful smile- the smile that drew in even I, a stranger across the Atlantic- wouldn't have lit up a room again, or that her family and friends wouldn't have stayed by her side. I still believe that there is always, always hope and that's not something I believed before Corey. In the darkness, Corey showed me that it's never pitch black. In all the things I could tell without even knowing her, just from her page, it was clear that she was so, so loved and so, perhaps, so was I.

RIP Corey Craig. I hope one day we will meet and I'll be able to thank you myself.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Recovery commitment

Do you know what nobody ever tells you about recovery? It's a bloody big commitment. It's probably a good thing that they don't- when I'm especially ill I can barely commit to a pair of underwear of a morning, never mind to changing my life- but in the interests of full disclosure, I'm going to level with you here; sometimes that commitment is an almighty drag, because it's about doing the exact opposite of what seems instinctive. It's turning all your effort from self-destruction to something more than even self-preservation and that's absolutely terrifying. Any change is hard but having to change every. single. thing. that you do? Imagine it. So, for example, on bad days I have to consciously argue with my thoughts. I might look in the mirror and want to cry, but I force myself to look, find something I like (and this can take a bloody long time) and then move on, tear-free. It's almost a bit like looking over your shoulder, knowing you are likely to be attacked at any time and plotting your next move. Exhausting.

I wish it was as simple as eating more for a little while, until my weight was healthy, and then getting on with the rest of my life. I've had my weight healthy now for about 8 months, and that's amazing. I look better and I feel so, so much better. My brain works again and so I'm a nicer person to be around, too. When you're literally starving your cognitive distortions turn you into a bit of a monster. You're so scared of looking, visually, like a monster that you pretty much become one, personality-wise. It's a strange one, but anyone who has managed to love me when I've been really ill is my hero. It's not easy for the sufferer or the long-suffering loved ones.

But I wish, sometimes, I could just commit to some parts of recovery. It's nice not to always have a countdown going to my next suicide attempt. It's amazing to actually be able to plan things, because I know, chances are, I'll still be here to carry them through. It's comforting that I'm not constantly cold and tired and mardy and that I can laugh and, more than anything, I will never take my freedom for granted. After 3 years in hospital- it's bloody good to be free, the novelty hasn't yet worn off. I can do things on my own time and go where I want, to see who I want. But, well, there bits I miss. I miss knowing, on bad days, that at least through my starving, there is less and less of me to hate, every day. I miss being tiny. I miss my bodysize speaking the words 'I'm struggling' without me having to qualify it with words. I miss looking as bad as I feel, really, as sscrewed up as that is.

It's really, really easy to romanticise even the worst of times, and I think that's what I'm doing. I would far rather have to reach out for help and describe how I feel on bad days, than constantly be having bad days through illness. I nearly died. The thing I am romanticising nearly killed me. Maybe the reason you can't pick and choose bits of recovery is because recovery is inherently good. Maybe I'm just not used to being nice to myself, allowing me to have the good. Maybe, just maybe, I'm absolutely fine, exactly where I am now.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

An open letter to Chrissie Hynde and Loose Women

I originally wrote this on Facebook, in response to Chrissie Hynde's comments on the victim being responsible for their own rape. I thought this was 2015, but apparently not. I'm ever the optimist and thought... I'm not really sure what I thought, given I once got thrown out of a stand up comedy show at uni, because I lost my shit at the woman on stage singing a pleasant little ditty about a paedophile uncle because OH MY GOD NOTHING IS FUNNIER. Educate yourself and Jesus, don't do a Loose Women and ask- because it's seriously NOT a question- whether or not a person can ever be responsible for their own rape. There is consensual sex between two adults and there is rape. So this is for anybody who thought there was a grey area, Loose Women viewer, Chrissie Hynde fan, or just your average moron.

An open letter to Chrissie Hynde and Loose Women

Below is a picture of me aged 3. Pretty cute, right?

It's also around the same time I was first sexually abused.

Now, forgive me, but I'm not entirely sure what my outfit would have been on that first occasion- it became a frequent affair- but this was pretty much my uniform back then. I know blonde hair and knee high socks can be thought of as quite sexy, but you know something?

An opinion on a form of clothing is more a reflection on your values, than it is on the values of the person wearing them. A piece of clothing is asexual. The naked body is just another animal skin. Anybody who viewed this outfit on me as sexy was seriously disturbed.

The thing is, even if I'd been parading around my estate in fishnets and a bikini, THE FAULT WOULD HAVE BEEN WITH THE RAPISTS, NOT WITH ME. Even if I'd been naked, it wouldn't have been my fault. Even if I'd been older. I could have been an adult in a micro skirt and no bra and it would not have been my fault.

It's taken me a long time to be able to say this all, thanks to people like you. But you know what? Fuck you. It wasn't my fault. Rape occurs when there is a rapist. Rape is caused by rapists. There's not much more to it than that.

Not so hard, eh?
Rebecca.


Friday, 21 August 2015

Exciting!

You know when you get a little flower growing through the cracks? You weren't aware you planted a seed, but somehow- God, what am I blathering on about? A glass and a half of wine, Frozen on the tele and a whole lot of excitement and I talking even more crapola than usual. Excuse me.

I have two exciting bits of news, one that's slightly more exciting than the other. See if you can guess which is which and I'll let on at the end whether or not you're right. Good luck, because if you're right I'll send you nowt. At all. Tell you what, I'll treat you to the same, even if you're wrong.

1. Quick catch up- I hate going outside and I never ever go out alone. I have a fear that I'll run into one of my abusers and actually it happened not so long back, which triggered my last blip, so it's a real possibility. It's pretty depressing, because although there were a lot of people involved, it was 20 years back and now I'm a proper grown up, with high heels (that I could probably have walked better in 20 years back, but whatevz) and bras that I haven't stole off my dad's girlfriends (I have my own, and I don't even need to pad them. Thanks, nature) and I'd like to let it go. Sorry, I told you I'm watching Frozen. It's also boring as, because unless it's a day when my support worker is coming, I'm in alllll day alone. It's boring and frustrating and I am SICK of it. So taking a coping strategy my OT suggested- it's brilliant. Play the game of picking a girls' name that starts with A, then a boys' that starts with B and so on, but make it so they are names you would 100% call your kid- I took to the shop. Half hour walk on my own? SMASHED. Get in. First time in years.

2. Another quick catch up- 6 years ago as of now, I got my A-Level results, got what I wanted, and got ready to head down to Essex to study Politics. Well, I would have done, had I not been sectioned at the time after a nasty overdose. I delayed uni, had a lot of therapy and headed down a year later. And then I effectively was thrown out after my second year when my mental health continued to decline and I was sectioned- admittedly a ridic amount of times- despite my good looks. Sorry, grades. GRADES.

(Looking to go to Essex Uni? Got a mental health condition? Don't. Just don't. Psychosis during Freshers' Week? Suspended suspension because you made the uni look bad to new students, You couldn't make it up)

During my long admission, I realised that my heart lay in paying forward the help that I got, in one way or another, in psychology. And recently I have finally decided how to do it. Not just my heart, but my head too, is in mental health nursing. I am going to be a psychiatric nurse. Oh my God, this is so exciting because I've never written it before. It's a new realisation but it's right. It's who I am.

I am Rebecca Xylo and I am going to be a mental health nurse :).

Friday, 14 August 2015

A medication review

I shake, rattle and roll. I shake as a result of a barely-there heart condition (it sounds a lot more of A Thing than it actually is), rattle because I am on a ridic amount of meds and push me down a hill and they see me rollin' (they hatin' etc etc). As exciting as the shaking and rolling is- does that sounds dirty or is it just me?- it's the rattling that I fancy focussing on. Every meds review I have with my psychiatrist makes me feel like we should be rating them out of stars and deciding if they live up to the hype. So that's EXACTLY what I'm going to do. I can't think of a single problematic thing about this concept.

The One To Prevent Psychosis.
The name- Olanzapine.
The hype- Psychosis be gone! Voices! Visions! Vivid thoughts/feelings! Other things that start with V! All gone!
The bad- Imagine having your blood replaced with molten steel. I'm not sleepy-tired but I'm a heavy mardy bum. And you know how if you give your goldfish too much food they'll eat it all and then die? I'm a bit like that. But alive.
The good- Now I'm out of hospital and my voices have calmed down and I've not tried to hurt myself since the change of meds, so that's pretty cool. My head's still loud and I get verrrry overwhelmed with senses and situations, but it's not pointless.
The rating- A good, solid, ***. Maybe **** because it's only getting marked down for my appetite and part of that is probably hormones. Ok, ok, offish ****. Top stuff (unless I gain more).

The One To Prevent Depression.
The name- Sertraline.
The hype- Banish the black dog!
The bad/the good- I'm lumping the good and bad together here because it's pretty hard to really judge this one. I'm a lot more stable than I was on my last anti-depressant (they only work for so long before you have to change) but anti-depressants, they don't just ZING and make you happy. Just gradually, over 6 weeks or so, thing get a bit lighter and brighter. Sadly, the idea of a proper happy pill is just a myth. Nothing can make you happy, not a thing. Instead, it's all down to you,
The rating- Somewhere between *** and ****. It just depends on how realistic I'm feeling.

The (1st) One To Prevent Anxiety.
The name- Pregabalin.
The hype- Vanquish the anguish!
The bad- Weird side effects. Every now and again my neck locks and I end up examining ceilings. I've seen some reyt good ceilings and sort of you know how in bad films people find shapes in clouds? I've done that with bad paint jobs. It kind of hurts. And my jaw locks and I end up talking like Clint Eastwood (he has a really manly, stiff voice, right?).
The good- I'm not kidding, this stuff is magic. When I first went on it, within a few days my panic attacks (which I was getting maybe about 5 a day) just kind of disappeared.
The rating- Don't even care about the side effects- *****. Two thumbs up. Top stuff.

The (2nd) One To Prevent Anxiety.
The name- Promethazine.
The hype- Sleep it off, oh-oh (sung to the tune of Shake It Off)!
The bad- Sometimes it's really bloody inconvenient to take a sedative 3 times a day. Swear it takes me an hour until I can function when I get up. That could be general slobbishness, but let's pretend it's not (sometimes it genuinely hard to tell what's medication/mental illness and what's my personality).
The good- Well, yanno, sometimes sleep kills time.
The rating- *** I'm a bit on the fence, because I think just making someone tired is kind of cheating. Step it up, Prometh!

I also take Lorazepam and Zopiclone (for anxiety and insomnia, respectfully) when I need them and a load of boring physical health ones. I've messed up my body with the eating disorder years as much as the abuse years messed up my head. There isn't a lot to say about them, just that I'm alive, which is pretty cool. People ask me when I'll come off my meds, like I'm not, I don't know, achieving until I'm off them. It's a bit like me asking you when you're going to give up caffeine. You might one day, you might not. It's just not that big of a deal and if you need a coffee to get going of a morning then it's not the biggest inconvenience going. 'm not exactly sure why it bothers me. I suppose, it's like people are questioning my effort. But I reckon I'm going to save that for another post because I have SO MANY FEELINGS on this one.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Guilt and acceptance.

I'm a scraggly mess of guilt, wrapped up in a scruffy bow of insecurity and topped off by the glitter of, well, glitter. I have feminist, body confidence and eating disorder guilt... I also have Catholic guilt, believe it or not, which is really the sticky base that attracts all else, I'm certain. Religion's a strong grounding for guilt, and guilt's a good grounding for poor mental health. Go easy on yourself. Really.

I'm not even Catholic. I'm a recovering Catholic and aside from the guilt, I'm doing quite well, thank you. But it wasn't always this way; when I was 8, I made my first Confession. It was actually a complete non-event, more like the run up to getting to wear the big white dress of First Communion, totally not as fun as it looks in made-for-TV movies, where it's all cloak and dagger and there's a Catholic church with a priest just chillin' in a box at all times. In reality, it was a corner of a room, reciting faux sins (we were actually told to keep a few we'd probably committed memorised in case we forgot real ones), reciting irrelevant prayers for absolution... or at least making a show of saying 10 Hail Marys when actually you got bored part way through and shook it up with an unsolicited Glory Be.

I actually feel so guilty about the above paragraph that I'm debating deleting it. Apologies for offence (and my agnostic side says to hedge my bets and delete it in case, well, GOD). I'm casting judgement only on myself, honestly. And that's the point I'm about to get to. I swear there's a point.

My feminist, body confidence and ED guilt are all kind of similar. I should love my body. But I don't. I should love it the way I love yours, because yours contains you. But I don't. I should respect it the way I respect you and I respect that we are, or at least should be, all equal; we equally deserve life. But I don't. I should eat and I should digest and I should love and respect that. But I don't. I shouldn't feel guilty about any of that. Or guilty about feeling guilty. But I do.

Guilt is seriously unproductive. I even feel guilty about posting those types of guilt, because I feel like I should be some bloody beacon of body positivity, when really I'm screaming internally. I don't feel fabulous. I'm struggling with the weight gain. But feeling guilty about that is the only thing I can do that is certain to compromise my recovery. I can't hold my hands up right now and say I am even on the cusp of self-love, but I need to let go a bit to get close to acceptance. I think that's maybe the next bit.

I think there's something too about the idea that I am disordered. Like, right, body confidence as a movement is so great because it celebrates life and vitality and personality and just everything that makes a person a person and a body a life. But what makes me a person is kind of flawed. What makes my mind is diseased. What makes my body is something odd, something that can take a lot more than others' because it's had to. And that's not always positive. I think it's almost been drilled into me by everyone who expects less of me. And there are a lot who do. I see your raised eyebrows. And I raise you two back.

Body confidence, as a movement, is also great because it's about acceptance and acceptance of any deficiencies (perceived or actual) and acceptance of that guilt. I don't have to be everything. I'm not everything. Acceptance again, acceptance. I think if not now, soon I can honestly be a bastion of that at least. I'm on leave from hospital and accepting everything from that side, too.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Another night.

I'm in hospital. I'm not really sure what's going on. I mean, right now I'm completely here and with it and everything, but somehow night comes and I'm utterly batshit. I'm hallucinating on and off in the day but it's all quite mild and I can function, but come night I'm certain the abuse is starting again and hallucinating hardcore and urgh. It's mid-afternoon now and I'm totally fine, but this is a list of everything that has happened/I've done (I think; it's all a blur) over the last few nights-

Thursday- took an overdose (from what I remember there was no suicidal ideation, it was more just to try and get some sleep over the shouting of my voices), then FORGOT and called the crisis team because- well, who knows. Somehow ended up in an ambulance then remembered a bit later I'd taken an OD. Not sure what happened next, but that's the night I came to psych.

Friday- self harmed quite badly, um, vaguely remember screaming at a member of staff because I overheard her saying it was attention seeking, I'm not really sure what actually happened after that and what I just THINK happened.

Saturday- did a runner and sat on the side of the road, smashing my head in. I then remembered that there's a police station kind of nearby and so ran there and told them that I was going to be raped. Somehow I ended up back here, but from what I remember, for once in my life the police were lovely, so there's that at least.

Sunday- could see a man in my room and refused to go in. The staff were mostly good 'uns and stayed with me literally for hours because I was so scared. Then I was fainting and my obs dropped and then I went to bed in the early hours and they stayed with me through the night, I think, and, um? How can it be last night only and I barely remember it?

Today I'm just disappointed. In myself, in the fact that I was only out for 4 months before I was back in, for everything. To be fair, this is just a medication change and was always going to have to happen, but it's still pretty cack. And I have to keep reminding myself that once my meds are back on track I'll be out and then getting back on with everything and that it's not like before when I was in years. As ever, I'll be ok. But I really am scared for tonight. I can't take it much longer. Come on new meds. YOU HAD ONE JOB.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

On why I'll never diet.

When I was about 18 and first serious about recovery, it occurred to me that everything would change completely. Of course, there have been many relapses since then, but the same thought has stayed with me- that to recover I'd never even be able to diet. Ever. I'd never be able to stay on the right side of the line if I dancing along it; on the back of a chronic eating disorder, the promised kiss of the diet would become an orgy of unhealthy measures. What I could do, and what made sense at the time, was to die. I could restrict, I could take laxatives, I could vomit... I could do all of that, until it killed me. It sunk in that it was down to staying ill or recovering, living or dying, and there being no middle ground in that, no room for a bikini diet. What I could do was die.

Or I could live.

I actually had a hard time coming to terms with that. I was jealous of every dieter and so compulsively fed on other people's diet stories, in a way I'd compulsively starved and binged before then. I studied up on every diet going in a way I'd never bothered before (I always felt like following even a fad diet was cheating and too slow. I also had a sort of arrogance that I could destroy myself completely alone, through something other people used to build themselves). Once, I got seriously excited about the idea of doing the cabbage soup diet as soon as I left home, before realising that that would just be an extended version of death. I was kind of bitter that getting better meant that I didn't get the satisfaction again of losing a lot of weight; it just seemed like yet another thing my mental health problems was taking from me.

I'm not being melodramatic here. Well, I maybe I am a bit- I forget that most people's dramometer (I just made that up. You couldn't tell, right?) is a bit lower than mine. A bit... but it's how it felt then and how it feels now. Maybe years down the line it's possible for somebody who has recovered from a chronic eating disorder to diet sensibly, but truth be told I don't see myself ever being able to, in the same way I know a chronic alcoholic needs to stay away from alcohol. 

Of course, dieting was never the problem. It never was or will be. The problem is the way I view life. I see it differently. I see fun house mirrors in everything you say and every way you look at me. All your nuances and quirks can be put down to a reflection on me. I mean, that sounds really self-centred. In some ways, I think EDs can come across that way, but it's way more complicated. It's blame and guilt, in the form of a grand optical illusion. It's circus mirrors. It's not you, it's not all your good and bad, but it's not my good or bad, either. It's not how little I eat or how visible my ribs are. It's a mess.

That said, your diet can significantly affect me and mine. I don't expect you to stop talking about Weight Watchers, but please, a few things-
1. Please don't tell me how much you eat (especially not in the form of your calorific intake. By all means tell me if you ate summat delish).
2. Please don't tell me your weight, or how much you have lost or gained.
3. Please don't ask me for dieting advice. The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body. No more, no less.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Curvy.

Ok, I'm going to describe the way I look, with only terms that I can qualify. No negatives, just pure fact. From the top- I have wavy hair, in various pink/reddish shades (I get bored and bleach bits every now and again, so it's a bit of a mess. No, wait, that's not objective. IT'S JUST MULTI-COLOURED, THE END). My eyes are blue and my eyelashes stick out in all directions, like my head hair and eyebrows. I have a tonne of freckles on my face and from a distance I nearly look tanned. I'm not, I just have hyper-pigmentation on reeeally pale skin. I'm pale everywhere, but have the ability to grow a dark monobrow. My boobs are on the bigger end of the spectrum for my size and that's a running joke with my mates. I'm 1.58m but often I'll lie and say I'm 1.6, which is better than when I used to tell people that I was smaller, so that they'd think my BMI was higher than it was, when my weight was low.

Oh, and I'm really curvy.

I've learnt that curvy is virtually a swear word. But I am curvy- I'd tell you my stats but I don't think you need to know. I will say though, as I mentioned before, my boobs are on the bigger size. My waist goes in pretty significantly and then my body goes out a fair bit more for my thighs than my hips. My waist is usually a size or two smaller than my boobs and thighs. Have I qualified? For some reason, when I describe myself as curvy I get a whole range of comments. Here are the most common ones that I hear-

Reaction- You're not fat enough to be curvy (usually accompanied by a derisive laugh).
How it sounds- Not. Enough.
How it feels- Not. Enough.

Reaction- Ha! You're not curvy. I'M curvy!
How it sounds- Love, you wish you had my curves.
How it feels to hear- I'm not good enough. I'm not curvy enough. Even my healthy body isn't any more worthy than my poorly body ever was, despite how much hard work has gone into it.

Reaction- Aw, babe, you're not curvy. You're still tiny.
How it sounds- You used to be tiny. YOU USED TO BE TINY.
How it feels to hear- Without any mention from me of how I was, you've just reminded me that I've gained a lot of weight, whilst at the same time dismissing that I worked hard for my current, natural, body size. Curvy is an insult, apparently, when I just thought it was an ordinary adjective.

Reaction- You have to stop putting yourself down.
How it sounds- Curvy is fat and fat is what you fear. So I'm saving you from yourself, but you need to start saving yourself.
How it feels- I'm really boring you with what you think are my constant self-doubts, when really I'm stating a fact that I need to get used to, for my own future.

There's so much wrong here. When did a simple adjective become so laden? Curvy is either a club to aspire to ('only a dog likes a bone') or lumped with a heinous insult (as when nearly anybody says the word fat). I'm currently a bit obsessed with plus-size blogs, because the bloggers there seem to be able to call themselves curvy. I know that sounds a bit daft, but it's a bit like how I'm 'allowed' to tell you all those other things about how I look. You won't try to persuade me that my eyes aren't blue, you wouldn't even think to. But you are quick to dispute and dismiss my body shape. I know it's with good intentions and I'm not cured- I'm still petrified that I am hideously fat (which is something I DO hate about myself, as it happens. Why do I say hideously? I'm not really sure what's wrong with fat, I just know that it's ok for anybody but me) and sometimes, you know what? Sometimes I need reassurance. I hate my body, as it happens, I really hate it. But that doesn't change the fact that I AM curvy. Not even my sexuality is bloody straight.

(I have really great boobs, btw)

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Work tutus.

THINGS ARE COMING UP CONDRON. I have work. Grown up work where I'll pop down to London (after my interview I drank beer with an old, very posh man called Quentin, in Kings Cross. It would have been very London if we both weren't northern. And if southerners ever talked to strangers. But we judged people queueing up to get to Platform 9 3/4 so it was pretty London) for meetings and have a Royal College of Psychiatrists ID. The job is pretty exciting, but the ID? Insert some kind of heart emojie, right here. The whole thing is a bit bloody exciting and I'm all set to kick arse, going into units and making recommendations and talking to patients and just generally trying to improve services, which is pretty perfect. It's amazing I even got it, to be honest, because before I even introduced myself to the interviewing panel, I got really excited about the chairs in the interview room and told them I would steal one if they were a bit smaller. Seriously. I only just got there too, because my train was cancelled. then I got lost on the tube. My brother never used to travel with me, because my trains are always dead late or cancelled. 

The only problem so far has been the fact that everyone keeps telling me that there is no such thing as a work tutu. In fact, before I even really thought about it, a few people popped up to ask what I would wear, and my best friend immediately told me I couldn't wear a tutu. Harsh. Work tutus ARE a thing, but I'll maybe wait until I have a tenured job, before I introduce the world to them and just hope that by then I'm not, like, dead by then. My best friend also went as far as to buy me a blouse and skirt for my induction next week, because she didn't trust my taste, hahahaha. Apparently, if you talk about tutus enough, people buy you clothes. It probably works even better if you're a man.

I finally, finally, feel like I might be moving forward. My weight has been steady and healthy for about 6 months. I eat. I jog 5 times a week. I have a job. I AM A STRONG, INDEPENDENT WOMAN (and that's a bit weird to say. Good weird, but still weird).

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Fundraising update #1

This is going to be brief because I'm in the middle of working on my Hoedown Showdown. No, literally. As in the Hannah Montana Movie dance thingy. S'all good. But anyway, not here to brag about my lack of dancing prowess. but to tell you that Stage 1 of my fundraising is up and running. Running. Oh, running (I'll get to the running part in a sec). Quick catch up; I'm running a 10k next year- which I still find hilarious. I run as well as I dance- for b-eat, the UK's ED charity. When I signed up for it, I kind of thought 'in for a penny, in for a pound' and so I may as well go at this hard. So that's the plan and I'm just getting started. Phase 1? Well, I've made a shop on Etsy, selling homemade owls with a little positive twist. Here's the link... OwlAlwaysBePostive. Shop, buy, share, do your thang, my beauties!

Running. I'm not kidding, because of my sort-of kind-of agoraphobia (I'm not classically agoraphobic, I'm actually scared of being out on my own in Scunthorpe, because I'm convinced I'll run into one of my abusers. Get me on a train out of town and I'm fine), I decided that it makes far more sense to set an alarm for 4am, go for a run, come back and go back to bed. I know it seems really backwards, but actually it's a lot cooler and nobody is about and it's nice to be alone and free. This last week has been the first time that I've been out alone in Scunny for years, so I'm actually enjoying it. Not so much the running part, although I enjoy my shuffle up the road far more than I thought I would, it's the first exercise I have ever done that isn't for the sake of losing weight, too, so it's weirdly exciting. Speaking of, I got my sporting injury- well, a blood blister- EVER so I'm feeling pretty hardcore.

But back to my owls! All profits will be going to b-eat, and they have positive notes and the collective noun for owls is parliament, so they're really bloody cool. Take a peak at my parliament!


Monday, 29 June 2015

Making the best.

You may need to be seated whilst reading this (I don't know why you wouldn't be, unless SBIWYB is your toilet reading and you're a man. No, wait, wouldn't- never mind), because this is hard to say so unbelievable, no doubt, to read.

I was nearly southern.

Honestly, I epitomise the north. Apart from my use of 'epitomise' of course. I say it with a northern accent and sound a bit thick, but I know long words an' that. I am also disgusting. Just in general. And I talk to strangers on the street; tell sales people my life story and still wonder about that little old lady I met on a bus, who told me she won't support cancer charities because they don't focus enough on brain tumours, which is what her son had died of in his teens. I know this is all very stereotypical, but it's true. The thing is though, my parents divorced whilst my mum was heavily preg with me and she moved from Milton Keynes (where they had somehow ended up after my dad graduated), back up to Scunthorpe. I was born in Scunthorpe General, lived in a council house with my mum, grandma, auntie and brother for a year or so, before my mum got her own council house for her, my brother and me. Apart from my brother, who moved to London years ago, my family are all up north. I know this assumes a lot, but I probably wouldn't be anywhere near as close with my family had we stayed down there. That's an odd thing, because I am mega, mega close to some of the people who make up my clan. I mean, one of my bezzers is a (not quite) 14 year old cousin. I can't imagine that being the case, yanno?

My point is, that everything is fluid. There are no guarantees and anything can affect, well, anything. Joking aside, would being southern have  made much difference to me? Probably. Chances are, I'd have had better access to treatment quicker, if, even, I needed it. The abuse, most likely, wouldn't have happened and things may have been better. But they might also have been worse. I can sit and get angry and bitter that my early years weren't ideal, or I can accept that every decision that was made by my mum when I was tiny, was made with the best of intentions. I can accept that everything I do now will affect my future and try always to make them with the best of intentions.

Another thing that you might want to sit down for, dumdumdum, is that I went for a jog at 4am today. I've made a decision that I am going to take this 10k (I signed up whilst drunk, but usually, my drunken conversations or decisions usually are just things that I'd do/say sober, if I had the balls) seriously, because that's a decision I made and I'm going to make it the best it can be. It's been a long time since I took my future seriously, and up until recently I had never expected to have one. Have one I have though, and I'm going to look after myself, make it the best it can be. I want to be the best I can be. And I haven't got time to get ill again, there are too many wonderful and terrible decisions to  make, decisions that I haven't had the freedom to make before. I'm just realising my freedom, a few months after the end of years in hospital, and what that means. It's pretty cool, really.

Monday, 22 June 2015

10k

Alright, if you know me in person be prepared to laugh. I, Rebecca Condron, who spent years refusing to do PE in case it chipped my nails (which is actually hilarious because I'm way too lazy to always be perfectly groomed. Or groomed much at all), who pretended to be sad every time she was told to stop exercising (I never really bothered with exercise anyway) and who can't go 5 minutes before tripping over her own feet (I'm only a size 4, so it's quite a skill) has gone and...

Oh God, seriously, oh God...

I am terrified to announce that I've signed up to run a blumin' 10k. That's probably 9k more than I've walked in the last week. Like, seriously, my life revolves around SITTING DOWN. And watching MTV. Oh God.

Anyway, it's all good because I've running for b-eat, the UK's eating disorder charity. Obviously it's a really, really big deal and so close to my heart. I will not lose another friend. I just won't. And by the same token, I will not be lost to my loved ones. It's exciting to know that it's a fresh start- I've already thought that I need to tell my dietitian and get her to help me plan a healthier diet than my current one (I get the right amount of calories, don't worry, but usually in the form of junk. Today's breakfast was three packs of Chip Sticks, par example) and that's something I would not have done at all before. It's not going to be used by my anorexia as a way to lose weight; it's going to be used by me, the part of me that is pure Rebecca Condron, to raise as much as I possibly can for the cause.

So be prepared for odd little pop up progress report along the way. Right, it's not even until last year, but I honestly can't run more than about 5m right now, so I'm starting training today. I've also got some other fundraising ideas that I'm proper excited for, but will post about in due course and I'll whack up my fundraising page when I have everything in line. So until then, just laugh. Seriously. It's ok, everyone I've told in person is dying at the idea of it. Dear me.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Thigh gap.

Was it last summer, or the one before, that thigh gaps officially became A Thing? The dream empty space at the top of your thighs, when you stand with your feet together. All of a sudden, completely blind-siding me, my main way of judging my worth became all everybody seemed to be striving for. It put my nose out a bit, to be honest, and I got a bit weird (more than usual, I mean, if you can imagine) and paranoid, like, right, the same I get when people skip meals or go on diets. Worse, though. This was a popularised, slow suicide, a sure symptom of an epidemic just waiting to happen. I swear, I'm not even exaggerating, I really did over-think it this much. But how would you feel about everybody apparently striving to be, I don't know, some other kind of addict? Social media covered in posts of people shooting up? To have a secret you have concealed so well, the only skeleton left in your closet after it's been ransacked by professionals, and to have it seemingly everywhere?

Of course, it wasn't actually the skinny revolution I feared. It wasn't everywhere, on the whole there was no ED promotion and it had nothing to do with me; you might not even have come across it and I never told anybody about how important the gap was to me. A permanent obsession for me became a temporary goal for some. Then life moved on.

But not for me, not then. I finally stopped measuring the gap when I last did re-feeding, this time last year. I am a year clean of thigh measuring. It was mostly because I committed to weight gain voluntarily (ish. Eventually), and so I knew the gap would get smaller. It was also because I was tired. I was tired of it all. The measuring, the counting, the striving each day for a higher number when measuring the gap and a lower one for measuring my weight. And lowerlowerlower still for any form of measurement of my self-worth.

You know what? As of this week, I don't have a thigh gap. I am officially the biggest I have ever been as an adult. But you want to know a secret? I am far, far happier than I have ever been. My relationship with my body isn't great and I get sad and mad and bad, but it's never tinged red any more. I have my grey days, but I don't have black ones with red cuts. Sometimes, just sometimes, I have glittery days and glitter IS my favourite colour after all. 

Measuring my worth by my thigh gap- A GAP- really underlined a lot of what was going on. See, I was measuring myself by an absence. Not by my good features, or even my not so good features, but by nothing at all. By air and space and nothingness; everything that isn't myself. I was, to myself, worth far less than nothing and as that nothingness between my thighs increased, that became more apparent. I didn't deserve that. I don't deserve that. I am not nothing. I don't deserve to be reduced to nothing, to be measured by my absence or to have my humanity ripped away for the sake of air. Air can exist anywhere, but I can't. We each come around once and there's more than enough space already around without creating more room for it between my- or your- aching bones.