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.