Monday, 12 December 2016

What is recovery?

It's been, wow, almost a month since I last posted. That's because I've been really low and I just can't bear to be too honest about how I'm feeling when how I'm feeling isn't good. I used to only really post when things were going tits up and then neglect my blog for more exciting things when my mood was up. Now, I want only to be as positive as I can be on here, because I know it's important to give people an idea of what recovery is like, and why it's worth striving for.

The thing is, though, the lows are as important a part of recovery as the more level moments are. Nobody wants to say it. Recovery is meant to be really spectacular, but it's more like, right, a constant stream of 'why aren't I happy? Why isn't this really fun? Why isn't my smile as bright as her's? Am I really in recovery? Is this all that recovery is? Is it worth it?' and on. And on. And on.

Truth is, I doubt myself far more now than I ever did in the grips of my eating disorder. When all I had to worry about was my weight, I could block out all other noise. It was miserable and I was alone and I would rather die than go back, but at least I understood my purpose. As long as every day I continued chipping away at all that I was, both literally and figuratively, I knew what I was doing.

The problem, of course, with blocking out all external noise is that you miss out on the good, too. I was fine with that, because it was worth it to block out the bad. I'm a lot more open now, to the good and the bad, but it all feels so very precarious. Like I could fall apart at any moment. I was broken before and I knew it, whereas now I'm constantly arguing with myself over whether I'll ever be whole again, if I can ever be fixed.

I think, maybe, once we're broken we can never be put back the way we were again. We can just be rebuilt in another way. I'll never be the person I might have been, the person who'd never started making myself sick- the first of my ED behaviours- those 18 years ago. But I need to put her to bed. No amount of self criticism will ever produce what was never to be.

Maybe it's those moments of begging for death that make you stronger, because you know that whatever happens, you've survived the rockiest of rock bottoms. Maybe they make you weaker, because you're always afraid of falling back to that place. Maybe it doesn't matter.

And so, now. I'm clawing my way back out of the dark place I was in. I'd like to think these long blogging holidays- if you can call what just went on, that- will cease, but that's about the one thing I don't doubt. I know I'll keep falling apart. But I know I'll keep putting myself back together, in a million different ways. And that, I think, is what recovery is.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A little thanks.

After the exhausting sadness of the last few weeks, I'm starting to pick back up. I think I let a lot of things get to me that were actually sort of positive. The pressure to do well, and the pressure to be this pinnacle of recovery. Like, ok, people like to tell me how well I'm doing. Yes, that comes with a lot of pressure to constantly one-up myself, but it also means that people care. Both in myself and my story and in other people, in the people they hope my story will help. It's absolutely confining because it keeps me in a box of recovery, but it's absolutely liberating in that it keeps me out of the box of whatever diagnosis. It's an absolute head fuck, really, but it's ok.

Whilst I was down, I posted on facebook appealing for self-care tips and I got some really good ones and lots of support, and that really helped. It's so easy to criticise social media for its impact on mental health, but it's a great platform if you know how to use it. I don't have a particularly long block list (although I know that doing that works for a lot of people), but I'm not afraid of unfriending. I find that especially effective when someone has horrible political views because I've come to find you can't reason with unreasonable. I don't even do that much any more though, because I'm a big fan of the unfollow button. It's like unfriending without looking like a dick. So anyone posting a lot about weight loss, or anything like that are all unfollowed.

It's made my feed a lot more positive. Mostly it's people sharing pics of their kids and I love that. Or strong women I admire. Or funny fuckers. Or people who are unflinchingly honest without being triggering (it's fine to say you're struggling, it's not fine to unload pics of your cuts or jutting bones). That little unfollow button is so nice for us who can't be arsed with confrontation, I tell you.

I've realised I went on a little tangent there, but it's kind of representative of my head space right now. Since I had another Olanzapine (anti-psychotic) reduction last week, I've found that I keep veering off onto completely different topics and telling even more irrelevant stories than usual. And I'm not known for relevant stories, put it that way. I was anxious when I first did the reduction, just from withdrawals, but now I feel just more energised than I did before, which is so novel. I'm no longer sleeping 13 hours a day either, so that's more practical.

ANYWAY. Thank you to everyone who reached out over the last few weeks, I think was my point with this post. Thank you for investing in my recovery and caring about me continuing with it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Success story.

For a lot of people, particularly within local mental health services and the hospitals I was a patient in, I've become more of an idea than a person. Hell, for a lot of people who only sort of know me, I'm the stories people tell, rather than the person I am. I'm the success story; I'm the person who proves that recovery is possible; I'm the person that's rewarding to work with. Not because I'm particularly special, but because I seem to have returned from some sort of living death and a lot of people can claim (and mostly deservedly so) input into that. They tell me that I'm the one they tell people who are just starting their recovery journeys about. And they think that that's going to be nice to hear.

But it's not.

Don't get me wrong, I do honestly get it. I used to search for success stories to encourage myself forward and I ate up all sorts of tales about recovery. Anything to inject me with a dose of hope. I was always waiting for some sort of epiphany, for everything to suddenly make sense. I remember once seeing a made-for-TV film about two friends, one with anorexia and the other with bulimia. All manner of dramatic and fast things happened (don't get me started on how quickly Hollywood EDs progress and how quickly people get help), and then one night one of them had this massively dramatic breakdown where she screamed that she didn't want to die, and then quickly recovered. I never had that moment. Nobody really has that moment.

I think, though, in or way or another, everybody searches for that moment. Everybody wants to believe that it can all turn around instantly. Everybody wants to believe in stories like mine. On paper, you only have to look at my history of hospital admissions and yadda yadda yadda and see that it's been well over a year since I last was in and blah blah blah. You can flick through my facebook photos are see me doing fun things and looking healthy. It's all out there.

Nobody is looking for the silence though. People don't realise that my fear over getting ill again and letting everybody down is literally making me ill. I feel under so much pressure and I'm so beyond stressed. When they tell people about me, nobody speaks about how I lay awake at night worrying about what effect me struggling would have on the morale of services and social media friends and people who sort of know me. Things are not unicorns and rainbows. I'm having a really hard time working out how much I can tell different people about how I'm feeling, judged by how invested they are in my being a success. It's exhausting.

People don't seem to understand that I never wanted to be the poster child for anything. I sort of fell into public speaking and I loved it. I still do. To a degree, it is all my fault. But I only wanted, selfish as it sounds, to speak for myself. I don't want to be a mouthpiece, I don't want to an example, I don't want to be a 'I once knew this girl...' type of a girl.

I just want to be a person. I'm not a success story. Today it took me 3 hours to convince myself to have my first shower in 5 days. Tomorrow might be better. I'm tired.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Unexplained sadness.

Since my accident, I've been really sad. The first week or two it kind of made sense. I was in a lot of pain and I was fed up. I sat propped on a shit tonne of cushions and napped a lot (cheers, painkillers) and that was about it. The pain radiated right up my spine and into my neck and I was exhausted. I was adamant I was only taking a few days off work, which was properly laughable, and when I realised I wouldn't be, I was really pissed off at the whole situation.

After that, I could sit a bit more comfortably but I still couldn't really walk or even stand for any length of time. I knew that my time off work would be measured in weeks not days and I was coming to terms with it, because I knew that although I was improving, I still had a way to go. The problem then was I was bored. I was fed up of sitting on my arse but I wasn't well enough to do a great deal about it.

Now, my back and neck are both a lot better, but that's just leaving me with the sadness without the distraction of a of pain. I'm not even totally sure why exactly I'm so sad. Yesterday I might have given you a different answer, but I've since spoken to work and arranged to go back on Friday, that's one thing I've got sorted, so I don't think the expanse of time ahead of me to fill is the reason.

Chances are, I'm just hormonal with a good dash of bored. I can't quite figure it out though. I'm not depressed. But I've always thought sadness could be explained away and I suppose I'm now realising that isn't true.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Work and a car accident.

I need to do a bit of a life update, so bear with me and I'll be back to the usual stuff soon. It's been a ridiculous few weeks and it feels odd that it's not even been that long since I last posted, but already so much has changed.

I started training for work last Monday. I was so beyond scared on Sunday night, mostly because I was scared everyone would be so much more experienced that I am. I'm working with adults with learning disabilities on a mental health ward, and obvs I am ridiculously experienced of mental health wards in general, but also, obvs, that doesn't mean I'm remotely experienced of being a professional in that environment. In one sense, I was very right. My training group had people from all disciplines and all levels of experience, but they were all very good at accepting the experience I do have, so that was pretty cool. Tuesday I was only in for a half day (which is a good job, because to get to work for 8, I was on a train at 6am. Bloody torture), but I got chance to meet more staff and patients.

And Wednesday, where to begin on Wednesday. I struggled a bit on the topics for training, but a cup of tea about sorted me. After training we piled onto a mini bus to head back from off-site training to the hospital. We were zooming along and apart from the music being tres loud and having to shout for the driver to turn it down so I could call a taxi to pick me up from the hospital, it was all pretty mundane. And then. Well.

Then we were hit. Before the impact of the car hitting the side of our mini bus, I heard someone begin to swear and for a split second thought we'd had a near miss. Although I didn't have time before we were hit for my heart to start pounding, I had time to taste metal in my mouth. And then we we're spinning. And then we were screaming. And still spinning. And still screaming.

When we stopped, we were on a grass verge and I was certain we were going to tip. We didn't, but we did have smoke billowing out of the engine and we had to scramble to free ourselves. The next bit is a blur. My hip locked and I started noticing pain in my neck and spine that I'd not noticed in the mad climb out of the mini bus and to say I freaked out would be a major understatement. The next thing I do remember though is being strapped into a collar and onto a spinal board and being put in the back of an ambulance.

Long story (sorry) short: no breaks, just whiplash and a strained back. Or a sprained back. I don't really know the difference and I can't remember which they said. Lots of pain. Lots of painkillers. Not a lot of movement. Not a lot of action.

So I'm out of work. Luckily, my girlfriend was able to take Thursday and Friday off to look after me, as well as doing a top job doing the same over the weekend, It's got to have been hard on her because I'm a nightmare, but she's pretty fantastic. Yesterday and today I've been on my own, which has been tough but I'm starting to get a bit of movement back, although I still can't do a lot and I definitely can't do anything without a lot of pain. My recovery time is going to be long, but I'm hoping I'll be able to function more in the next few weeks.

So yes, that's that!

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Eating disorder? Disordered eating?

When I was at uni, I was under the care of the local drug and alcohol service. I've never been into drugs, but I've always been quite the drinker. I'd go to the service and feel really out of place, probably partly because some sort of snobbery that I had- I was young! I was a student! I wasn't like those people!- but also because I just knew I wasn't an alcoholic. Don't get me wrong, I drank all day every day and I was known for my Jesus hip flask, but I knew that that was a choice I made, rather than an addiction. My drinking was a side effect of my mental health problems, if that makes sense. These days, I'm still a drinker. Friday and Saturdays after 5 are just made for drinking. But that's a choice, and that fits in with the culture I'm a part of.

Whenever I hear people talk about disordered eating, I remember those years of being, on paper, an alcoholic. The best way I can think of differentiating between an eating disorder and disordered eating is to remember why I was always so certain that I wasn't an alcoholic.

I think eating disorders, like alcoholism, are all encompassing. You don't get to choose to have a day off because you're a bit skint or you don't feel much like it. You don't pick to turn off your compulsions because you're on holiday or don't want to upset people. You don't get to just make a decision to stop obsessing because it don't fit in with your lifestyle any more.

I think disordered eating is a bit less intense. You might get to choose to have a day off because you can't afford your poison or you don't feel 100%. You might get to pick to turn off your compulsions because you're away or you know that acting on them would upset people around you. You might even get to make a decisions to stop obsessing because it doesn't fit the way you live any more.

Sometimes, I think people opt to say that they have disordered eating rather than an eating disorder because they're afraid of being judged. It probably gets around some of the awful 'you don't LOOK like you have an eating disorder!' type comments that everyone feels like they have the right to make. Or maybe they're not ready to accept that they do have an eating disorder. But, then, there are people who genuinely do have disordered eating- hell, I probably do, myself, these days- and are self aware, in the same ways I was during my drinking days.

It ebbs and flows, too. Like, I had an eating disorder and now I have disordered eating. It would be nice to say that my disordered eating will one days go completely, but I doubt it. I'll always be recovering. And anyway, by the same token, I may one day fall back down the rabbit hole to a full blown eating disorder again. In the same way recovering alcoholics generally need to stay away from alcohol, there are certain foods and things that I'll always need to avoid. I'll always have to be a bit careful, in the way I wouldn't have had to have been if I'd had disordered eating.

Really, though, I have no right whatsoever to decide what makes an eating disorder and what makes disordered eating. This is all just speculation and my own experiences. When it comes down to it, we're all the experts in ourselves and we should all be able to describe our eating however we wish.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Beauty.

I used to think my problem was that I wasn't beautiful. I've always known I was really cute for my first few years, and then I just became... awkward looking. I originally had written a paragraph about how awkward looking I was/am, but I deleted it because it's not the point. Just trust me, I had good reasons for why I was so sure I wasn't beautiful. I thought not being beautiful was a reason to destroy myself. I thought the whole reason for being feeling so awful all of the time was that I wasn't beautiful. I think I even sort of thought there was a certain beauty and value in struggle, and that was worth not striving to recover.

Then I thought, maybe it's not that I'm not beautiful that's the point, maybe the point was I didn't believe I was beautiful. Maybe it was my lack of confidence that was at fault. Perhaps that if my personality had been stronger, I'd have had more faith in my own beauty, or at least I'd have been able to fake it. And I'm a big fan of the concept of 'fake it until you make it.' Maybe had I been told by everyone, ever, that I was beautiful, it wouldn't really matter that I actually wasn't.

That sort of led me onto my current thought: maybe the problem is that I was putting way too much value on beauty. I think that I was right- both in thinking I wasn't beautiful and in not having faith- but, actually, that really doesn't matter.

There are far worse things to be called than awkward or even ugly. I'd rather be called ugly than cruel, malicious, rude, offensive, mean or arrogant. There are far better things to be called than beautiful. I'd rather be called clever, talented, fun, quirky, funny or kind than beautiful.

That's not to say I'm about to stop telling people that they're beautiful. But I am going to try and compliment people on their talents and personalities more, I think. I'm surrounded by so many people who are beautiful- trite as this is about to sound- through both their appearances and their personalities, and I'd like to think that they're aware of both. Beauty is great, but it's shouldn't be the goal. Beauty is great, but it isn't the goal.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Adjectives.

'I was so angry. I swear, I'm a bit bipolar!'
'I hate when people don't wash up after themselves. I'm totally OCD about it.'
'His ex is psychotic.'
'You're so thin! You're practically anorexic.'
'It's like she just has two different personalities, she's definitely schizo.'
'I'm so depressed that there isn't more Disney on Netflix.'

Bipolar? Not an adjective.
OCD? Not an adjective either.
Psychotic? Still not an adjective.
Anorexic? Nope, not an adjective.
Schizophrenic? Keep looking, because that's no adjective.
Depressed? Nah, not an adjective.

In case you're not getting my point: mental health conditions are not adjectives.

It might sound like PC gone mad, or like I'm violating your God given right to offend (yawn), but every time you use serious illnesses as a lazy way to describe personality quirks or physical attributes, you undermine people with those conditions by trivialising them. You also trivialise the quirks/attributes themselves.

Because it's ok to get angry. It's ok to like things done a certain way. It's ok to find a relationship breakdown difficult. It's ok to be at any shape or size. It's ok to have mood swings. It's ok to be sad. But that doesn't mean that you necessarily have a mental health condition.

And even if you are talking about a person with a mental health condition, the conditions themselves are still not adjectives. A big difference between a lot of physical health conditions and mental health conditions is that MH ones tend to manifest slightly differently in every person. The lines between them are definitely blurry. My anorexia was different to another anorexic person's and the experiences of one schizophrenic person is totally different to another's. Diagnoses are pretty subjective, and not easily as easily described as with physical health conditions.

There are better, more accurate and interesting ways to describe people than by using mental health conditions. Personally, I like swear words. But that's just me.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

First meds reduction!

As I touched upon on my last post, I made the decision a month or so back that I wanted to come off my anti-psychotic... and I finally got the go ahead last week! I'm on quite a high dose of Olanzapine and I've been on anti-psychotics all of my adult life, so it's going to be a sloooooow process. When my psychiatrist told me how slow- I'm going to be tapered off over the next 6+ months- I was a bit disappointed. I want off it, like, last year. But, really, I can cope. At least it's all in motion.

My reasons for coming off are varied. A big reason is the side effects. I've gained a lot of weight from Olanzapine and I honestly don't think, on balance, it's going to be better for my mental health for me to stay on and to gain much more weight than it would be for me to come off it. I'm not even coming at this from an former anorexic point of view. I just feel it's not right for me, right now. That's not even the worst side effect, either. The worst is the fatigue. On the dosage I was on, I was sleeping 13/14 hours a night and still felt like my blood had been replaced with molten steel through the day. Bit bloody inconvenient.

I also just want to know if I can now cope without meds, although for now, I'm not too bothered about coming off any of my others because I don't get side effects from any of those. In the future, though, I def want to try coming off things. It's like, in the time since I was first prescribed anti-psychotics, I've had so much treatment and learnt so much about myself, and I'd like to see if I can put everything into action.

So I started coming off last week and I've been so ill from withdrawals. I feel like I've got the flu and had my first panic attack in a while last night, which is pretty sucky. I didn't really imagine coming off would make me feel this ill. I thought it would be exciting because I have literally never had my meds reduced unless I'm going onto something else, so it's a really big milestone. But honestly, I feel like I've been beaten up, everything hurts so much. So forgive me for how boring this post probably is, but I'm dyyyyyyying.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Psychiatrists

You know how you have those little prejudices buried down deep? I don't mean major ones like racism or sexism, but I mean those little ones that are usually about the choices people make. Like disliking strangers because you see them reading the Daily Mail and so on. Well, I have a bit of an issue with psychiatrists.

I know, generally, that they're all different people and, like any group, there are good and bad ones and yadda yadda yadda. Before appointments- which, yay recovery, aren't too often these days- I give myself a little talking to about being fair to the doctor and go through what's likely to come up and how I feel about it. I think that's probably a hang up from being in hospital so long, and probably not necessary. But, my point is, I really do start with good intentions. Promise.

Anyway though, I'm pretty sure that if I ever came across a doctor who wasn't mine, I'd be as likely to get on with them as I am with anybody. I have even made conversation with a woman who thinks mental healthcare is full of 'druggies' (which she says with that tone, you know the one). I'd probably extend to them the same sort of courtesy as I would a Daily Mail reader- I'd give it a shot. Actually, in my last job I did a lot of meetings with psychiatrists and never had an issue. Its just, I think, when it's my notes they're holding and my life they're judging.

I think there are two reasons for this. One is from being in hospital. For that 2.5yr admission, I had two psychs. The first didn't like me because I wouldn't beg for shit. He wouldn't let me go see Gatsby when it first came out at the cinema, because I told him not to spit his dummy out over something. He told me that the staff didn't like me and all this power trip crap. Eventually, I changed psych and my new one was fair. Even though I didn't often get what I want, he was decent about it. I still get anxious about appointments because of the first guy, even though the second one was fine.

The other reason I struggle with psychiatrists is that most of mine have men. I know this sounds awful, but powerful men terrify me. I've been burnt far too seriously to entertain a fire. And psychiatrists, particularly as an inpatient but also in the community, have a lot of power.

I had an appointment today and it went as well as they ever do. And by that, I mean the doctor agreed to me starting to come off my antipsychotic (but it's going to be extremely slow because of how risky it is. I won't be off it totally for at least 6 months) which was good and exciting and I'll post about that itself soon. But then we had an argument about my diagnosis (that's another thing that will get its own post!) and he stormed off without doing me a prescription and then refused when I chased him. Another psych spitting his dummy out. Petty.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Proving you're a Real Anorexic.

Few things make me sadder than people posting pictures showing their bones or a lot of photos with NG tubes. Not just because it can be triggering, but because I've been there. It sucks. And it sucks even more when you know people are doing it to try reassure themselves that they're ill enough. When they're trying to prove that they're a Real Anorexic.

The first time I ever had a feeding tube fitted, I was sort of obsessed with it. Straight after having it inserted, I went to look in the mirror to see if I could see it down the back of my mouth (I couldn't). Honestly, I was obsessed with the idea of them far before I first had one fitted. When it came to it, though, I panicked and begged them not to fit it, and I tried at any chance I could to pull it out- although you could lazily stick an arm across me and I was so physically weak that I'd be unable to move- but I admired its symbolism. Or rather, the symbolism I'd attached to it. When they held me down to insert that tube up my nose, I'd elevated myself to the rank of Real Anorexic. I had an identity. I had a badge of honour. I had proof of my suffering. I had recognition of my hell. I had a place.

Way before I was ever diagnosed, I was fully aware of my eating disorder. At the same time as knowing, myself, that I was ill (and of pretty much everyone else knowing it too), I always felt inferior to Real Anorexics who had those two words- anorexia nervosa- on their medical notes. They'd been force fed. They'd had hospital admissions, They were visible. So I'd attached a certain symbolism to the diagnosis too, although that faded when once I'd got it, because there was nothing to see with it. The goalposts to being a Real Anorexic changed. You can't really take photos of your medical notes.

But you can take photos of yourself with a feeding tube. Or in a wheelchair, because you're too weak to move and can't afford the calorie expenditure. Or with a feeding tube, in a wheelchair. And you just know that I did that.

A long time has passed since that, and a lot more feeding tubes have been inserted and angrily pulled out, in the meantime. But the obsession ended after that first tube, when I realised that the reality of being force fed was far worse than I could have imagined. That's if I'd ever thought of what it meant, apart from the status of Real Anorexic. It's just not nice physically, and don't even get me started on what it does to you mentally. It's a constant violation.

So I cringe whenever I see somebody taking pictures with NG tubes, or prominently displaying their jutting bones on photos. Listen to me: you have nothing to prove. And if you've never had an NG and you don't think your bones jut out as much as they ought to: you have nothing to prove. If you don't have a diagnosis and don't feel Real enough: you have nothing to prove. If you've just got the diagnosis and don't feel like you're ill enough: you have nothing to prove.

It's a clever illness, because it feeds on you never feeling enough. Don't help it along.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Small comments.

I was talking to Penny the other day about how a little comment you make to a child can really stick with them. I don't mean the big, messy, obviously life changing- 'your daddy and I don't love each other any more'- stuff either. That I'll get to, but I mean the little things now.

Like, I can remember towards the start of year 1, when I'd just turned 6, telling my dad's girlfriend at the time about how much I loved my new school shoes, but how a girl in my class had really ugly shoes. Long story short, I ended up getting a pretty harsh lecture about personal tastes. Did it change my habit of thoughtlessly bitchy comments? Unfortunately not, I was a judgemental bitch for a few more years. Did the feeling of an unexpected rap to the proverbial wrist stay with me? Absolutely.

And if that little lecture, over all of the lectures I have so far received in my life (and I assure you there have been a lot) stayed with me, what have I said to the kids in my life, without realising that a quick, sharp word, can stay with a kid? And if the wounded feeling of a small, compared to most tellings off I've had, telling off over my thoughtlessness stayed with me, what about the big stuff?

I'm going to try not to politicise this too much right now, although there are political implications. The things we tell kids without really thinking about it is really fucked up. We tell young girls to carry rape alarms and to watch their drinks on nights out. Don't get me wrong, I see the necessity of both of these things, but that doesn't mean they're not really odd things to do. As if walking alone or alcohol are to blame for rape, as against the fault being with the rapist. We give girls fashion dolls and baby dolls, and we give boys action figures, without reminding our girls that they can do great things, or our boys that it's ok to preen or nurture. But I digress.

I think often it's the way you say things rather than what you say. Like, going back to the shoe story, I think that stayed with me so much because I was embarrassed that I'd been caught out being mean. I've alwaysalwaysalways been as scared about being a horrible person as I ever was about the size of my thighs. As I've got older and more mentally healthy, I come to realise that I'm not generally a bad person, but I can be thoughtless and I lack the filter most people seem to have.

And when it comes to the unsaid things, the things we sort of imply, are the things that probably are the hardest for kids to shake as they grow up, because they tend to be more insidious. It's the idea that you must always be good, must always be smart, must always be pretty, must always be happy. When sometimes we all do what we shouldn't, say nonsensical things, go days without grooming, have Sad Girl moments. As adults, we understand the difference between aspirations and reality, in a way I don't think children necessarily do.

I'm not sure what the answer to all of this is, I'm purely musing. I think it's maybe all about understanding that children are going through this world without direction. They are never all good or all bad, just a mix of nature and nurture. I suppose that although I come from a family with a lot of children, I don't have kids yet myself and it's infinitely easier when a child's emotional health and physical safety aren't your full time job.

I have so much respect for anyone bringing up kids, and respect the job they have in ensuring their kids are the best that they can be. But I do think sometimes we all- parents or not- need to remember that children have their nerves on display. It's cool to want the best for the kids in your life, but we all just probably need to give a bit more leeway.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The best years.

"Enjoy your childhood years- they're the best years of your life!"

When I was younger, it always depressed the hell out of me to be told that those years would be the best of my life. Granted, I didn't have the greatest childhood, but I think that even if I'd had the most idyllic start, I would still have cringed at the constant reminder from everyone that it was only downhill from there. It's just an odd thing to tell kids, it really is. And it's something that is said a lot. I think it's also an odd way of getting kids used to the idea of their own mortality- there's an end to your life coming up, and it's going to be grim.

Aside from the weirdness of saying it, it's also not necessarily true. Being a kid might be wonderful. You might be lost in your dreams and never have to fall back to earth. Being a teenager might be the best fun. You might go to the best parties and never get hangovers. All through your younger years, you might have the most supportive family and the most positive friends. You might achieve. You might be truly happy.

But you might not.

All in all, there's a lot that can go wrong in a person's childhood. You might lose someone important to you, you might get seriously or chronically ill, you might be bullied, you might be abused, you might live in poverty. 

And there's not a lot a child can do about their circumstances. As adults, we like to think that we can change or control a lot of our lives, and whether that's true or not, a child isn't in the same position. When I was younger, there was a jolt of fear that went through me when I was told that those years would be the best, because I felt like I was failing. Like I was meant to be having this really great childhood and I couldn't even manage that. I couldn't change most of what was negatively affecting me.

Don't get me wrong, I know that my experiences weren't the same as most other people. But that's what makes it all the more odd for adults to universally say to kids. You have no idea what's really going on for a kid. Or what might be going on for them in the future.

I also get that a lot of adults have rose-coloured, backwards glancing glasses on, when they talk about their childhoods. I mean, hell, some adults may have had the childhoods that they remember as being so perfect. But that's not universal. Don't make assumptions and don't project them onto the children around you. Childhood was stressful enough 20 years ago and I bet it's only got worse.

I doubt very much that most adults really think about what they're saying when they tell kids that they ought to appreciate how those years are the best of their lives. To be fair, I doubt many kids really think about it, either. I think it's probably more of something that sticks in your mind if you're told it at a time when things aren't going too well for you. And it's really bloody hard, then, to hear.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Sacre bleu!

This last week has been intense. Good-intense, but busy-intense. I got a telling off from my optician because I don't clean my contact lenses (kids: look after your eyes, apparently they're important) and accidentally said 'sacre bleu' during a reading I did at my cousin's wedding. I got horrendously drunk, let my youngest cousins plan my future wedding (we're having cottage pie for the meal, even though I'm veggie and Penny doesn't like it) and somehow cut all my feet to the point that I can't get shoes on. So yes, it's been busy.

But forget all of that, because I come bearing good news... beepity beep, I have a full time job! I know this is exciting and significant fullstop, but it's especially great because I haven't had a full time job since I was 18. I'll be 26 next week, and I haven't been well enough to get clearance to work full time in all those years. 

I'm pretty excited (less excited about how early I'll have to be on a train to get to work, like. I think I'm on a 6am train there and I won't be home until 10pm. On the plus, because the shifts are epicly long, I'll only be working 3 days a week, so I can't complain too much!). I'm doing support work with people with diagnoses of learning disabilities and mental health conditions, so I'm expecting it to be really bloody hard. But I can do it, and I can do it well. Might have to develop a work wardrobe though, because even though there isn't a uniform, I don't think tutus are that appropriate. Gutted.

I don't have a start date yet, but they said it'll be a week or two. Hopefully more like two, because I have this niggling worry that I'll be starting on my birthday otherwise. And I'd rather kip in on my birthday, won't lie. ANYWAY, I don't have a great deal more to say (I have these mental lists of future blog topics, but I wanted to give a little life update before I say my next lil piece). The end.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Toxic people.

When I was at school, I had a pretty big friendship group. In my teens, in standard teenage girl fashion, my best friend pretty much depended on what my hormones were doing, but in my last few years especially, I had a big pool to choose from.

Things weren't rosy though, but at that point, I was very good at compartmentalising. I could be sprawled out on the field at school during dinnertime, dancing to Queen- my friends and I all had majorly different music taste, but we could all agree on what a tune Don't Stop Me Now is- and laughing until my sides hurt. But then I could go home and be cutting those same sides to ribbons and feeling nothing. I could be skiving school to go shopping, or I could be nipping out of class to claw my insides out of my throat.

As I got more ill, maybe when I was about 16, my friendships began to fall apart. There were a lot of reasons for this. I couldn't function in ordinary settings, or in ordinary ways. I wasn't fun. I was needy and selfish. I left school at that age and went off to college, where the 150 people in my school year became, I don't know, about ten times that. But other groups of friends lasted. But a lot of my friendship group did last. Just without me.

I had started to become toxic.

I made new friends at college, but they were mostly temporary. There's only really one of my friends from college who has always been there for me. That sounds a bit bitter, but I don't mean it to be. I honestly just was that toxic.

A similar sort of thing happened when I went to uni. I started out with a big group of friends and now, I'd say I have a couple of genuine friends from that point, a few acquaintances whose tweets I'll like, and probably a whole lot of people who realised I was toxic and couldn't handle it.

Which is ok. It's more than ok. A key component of self care is letting go of that which weighs you down, and toxic people will definitely do that to you. We will drain you, we will exasperate you, we will expect a lot of you. And you don't have to take it. Maybe you shouldn't take it. But you remember that that toxic person is still a person. Don't be cruel.

Recently, it seems like 'personality disordered' has become a handy synonym for 'toxicity'. There's more stigma around personality disorders than there is over any other mental illness. The 'crazy' women in films are always borderline (let's not forget the character in Ugly Betty who tried to kill Betty because she thought Betty was into her boyfriend... all because she had BPD and that's what BPD women do), 'crazy' men are always sociopaths. Even in mental health communities, service users who are seen as difficult are almost always diagnosed with personality disorders. When people talk about toxic people, they often describe people exhibiting PD traits. They diagnose them as narcissists or as histrionic, without the knowledge necessary of PDs or the person they're talking about. And that needs to stop.

If you need to walk away, walk away. But be compassionate. Remember that oftentimes toxic people have developed that way for a reason. Remember that when you write someone off as having a personality disorder- be that borderline, narcissism, sociopathy etc- you are adding to a catalogue of reasons that went into their personality. Remember that walking away might be necessary, but that you need to do it fairly and openly. Remember that it's fine not to like the way a person behaves, but that people are more than their darkest days.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A job hunt and a trip.

I'm in Belgium right now, which is pretty bloody cool, so in a break from the usual mental health stuff (which will return when I'm home!) I thought I'd do a bit of a general catch up.

A lot of wonderful people have been wonderfully supportive since I was told I wouldn't be allowed to start uni. I'm not quite ready to laugh about it, but I am the only person I know who has been chucked out of two unis for mental health reasons (or any reason, actually), so thats cool. Sucks more this time because when I was thrown out of Essex, even though that was two thirds of the way into my degree, at least I was actually ill, as opposed to now. I'm killing it, dontcha know? But I'll be fine, I always am.

So I'm on a mad job hunt. Mad in a hectic rather than mental health way, that is. I've applied for one role in a hospital that would be a bugger to get to, so I'm more than cool if they don't fancy offering me the job. Then two roles that I have interviews for in a few weeks (side note: already panicking over wardrobe choices. Big boobs and awful dress sense is a killer combo. I always look more... booby than professional). Then two jobs that I want so badly but that I'm not sure my CV supports. Being signed off since I was 18 has a left a gap bigger than my chest on my CV. But both of those jobs would be amazing. To be fair, at this point any would be excellent.

But anyway, Belgium. My girlfriend Penny and I hopped on the Eurostar this morning and I was disappointed to discover that even though it's a train under the sea between England and France, you're actually just in a tunnel for 20 mins and you don't see any fish. Belgium seems cool though, it's drizzling in Brussels, so it's a lot like home so far. Except there were a shit tonne of army lads in the train station with giant guns. I was pointing and Penny kept muttering at me to act naturally. Sure we didn't look sus at all.

Tomorrow we're going to check out the European Parliament and go on a beer tour, then Thursday we're getting on the train to Bruges for a couple of nights. All very exciting. So exciting that Penny is fast asleep next to me because we were out of the house by 6 this morning. I'm running on sugar and political excitement. Fully expecting to be mardy as fuck tomorrow morning, mind (soz, Penny), but it's all good. I've also been using this as an opportunity to practise my French. Je voudrais les petits pois, s'il vous plait.

But I want beer now, so it's fiiiiiiiiine to wake the lady, I reckon.

Bonsoir! Bonne chance! Je t'aime! Et cetera!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Sad girls.

I can't decide where my head is right now. The problem with having a history of severe mental illness is that, even in recovery, you start to read a bit too much into things. Take last night. I was so sad that I couldn't sleep. I might have been tired, I might not have been, but I was definitely sad. So I laid there and I read a lot and I had a cigarette (I swear, I'm not starting again. I'm just stressed and the thing I like about fags is that they're like a little break from everything) and I had some cereal and I wanted to cry. But I couldn't. I was too sad to cry.

So I panicked. I got anxious. And that made me all the more sad. I got scared that it was starting again, that soon I'd give up food and that would lead me to lose everything again. Because not everything is terrible. I'm in love. I do fun stuff. I have friends and family and family who are friends. And I couldn't bear to lose everything all over again.

And that made me more sad. It scared me. I got sad for the girl I was two years ago (because I didn't become an adult until I could function as one last year) and I got sad for the girl I was four years ago and then girl I was at 18, 16, 10, 3. It felt like those girls existed as separate to me and that, somewhere, they were still sad. In a way, I suppose they do. They exist in every school, down every road. There are sad girls behind you in the supermarket and on the train and sitting watching reality TV.

There are sad girls everywhere. Some functioning highly, high flyers in all manner of jobs. There are some who don't get out of bed. There are some who drag their crumbling bones out and run until they collapse, and ones pouring over food diaries alone. They're all alone. All sad girls are alone. It doesn't matter what they're doing or who they're doing it with, sad girls are all alone. It's a whole other world, a twisted existence. A really, really lonely one.

There's a difference, though, between sad girls and girls who are sad. Sad girls are alone apart from their misery. Sad girls have sadness running through their veins and permeating everything, every tiny little thing. They might laugh, but it's hollow. They might do something fun, but it feels like a chore. They might be high flying, but really they're not flying; they're swimming through treacle.

Whereas girls who are sad are often women. They're women and something happens and they get sad. Or something doesn't happen, and they get sad. Or maybe they're just blue and they don't know why, but they know it'll get better. Girls who are sad and some of the most hopeful because they know sadness doesn't last.

I'm definitely a woman who was sad last night. But when you're sad, it's so hard to differentiate. It can consume you for a while, but you know it won't last. The sun will rise. The rain will stop. And you're ok. I'm ok. It's ok to be sad, I think.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The official end of the dream.

Well, the dream is officially dead. I won't be a nurse. After I had that letter from the doctor who recommended I'd not be fit to study (see last post!), they asked me to go to a meeting at the uni, which was yesterday. 6 weeks before I was due to start studying, they tell me that because my mental illness is 'severe and enduring' I'm def not about to start. I think I'd be able to cope if it was before of exam results, because then at least it would have been as a direct consequence of something I had some sort of control over. But my grades have always been good, far better than my mental health. And it's my mental health that everyone only ever focuses on.

Ahead of yesterday, everybody told me to think positively, even though I had a bad feeling about it. Everyone told me not to come up with a plan B, even though I knew I might have to. Everybody told me it would be fine, even though things just don't see to work out that simply for me.

I know this sounds really self-pitying and I swear, I'm only self-pitying a teeny bit, but honestly, things just never work out for me. I was forced to leave uni at the end of my second year and then sectioned for almost three years. Nothing, nothing, prepares you for things not quite working out like being forcibly detained. I had to fight for every second of leave from hospital I got. I had to fight for the right to choose to stay in hospital, rather than being forced to, which took months and months of negotiating. And trying to get out of hospital? That was the biggest fight ever.

But I got well, I got out, and here I am. Still, I'm not good enough. As ever.

Do you know what sucks the most about this whole shitty situation? As I was leaving the meeting I had yesterday, one of the people from the uni recommended I tried again in a few years, 'when [my] health is better.' My health right now is really good. Honestly, it's good. I eat. I don't self harm. Sometimes I smoke. I drink on weekends. My mood is stable. I'm in a healthy relationship etc etc etc. I'm actually pretty good, it's just that I have a history that apparently speaks louder than my achievements. If this isn't me in good health, I don't think good health is something that I'll ever reach.

I'm tired of having to fight for every single thing. I'm tired of working for small achievements. I'm tiredtiredtired of those achievements never being recognised.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The end of the dream?

Today has been hard and I am so stressed that I turned to chips and gravy (guys, I think I might have found a comfort food. Yay for recovery) and then cried because we only had potato wedges and crap gravy. I wanted to write and explain why today has been so horrible, but I've been on the fence as to whether or not I should. And then I started really thinking as to why I shouldn't write about it and I came to a conclusion: I'm generally really open, until it comes to me issues around rejection. Then I'm so afraid that if I express having been rejected, other people might also decide to reject me.

But I can't live this way. I'm generally a really open person. Probably way too open actually, because I don't seem to have that filter that people have- I'm more like how a puppy would be if it could talk, than I am an adult human. I think putting everything out there might be really bad for some people, but it's how I survive. I'm so afraid of not saying something, because I always feel guilty for not speaking out being abused, that I've just sort of trained myself to be open. It's good for me to be open.

So I'm going to put aside my hurt and embarrassment and I am going to write about today. No wait, let me start at the beginning: I had to see an occupational health doctor a month or so back, for a medical to see if I was fit to train as a nurse. I expected my blood pressure to be read and possibly to be weighed, but it didn't quite go that way.  The doctor I saw just recommended that because of my history, not only am I not fit for training, it's unlikely that I'll ever be. That hurts. I worked bloody hard to get to where I am, and that hurts.

So today I found out that my dreams of being a nurse might be dead. I feel rejected and also, really, really embarrassed. I think the rejection thing is quite self explanatory, but I feel so embarrassed because with me being so open, everyone has heard so much about my training and everyone wants to know if I'm excited and now I might have to tell everyone that, after all that, it might be all over. I'm hoping people will be sensitive if they read this, but it's an embarrassing mess. I was meant to start in September and now everything is up in the air. I have no plan B. 

Of course, you know me, I don't lay back and let things happen. So I'm appealing the decision, fighting it and I'll fight all the way. I'll be a cracking nurse. I need the sting to calm down and the embarrassment to fade, and then I'll fight. My tenacity is probably one of the things that will make me a good nurse. 

I just don't know what I'm going to do and I hate that. I hate feeling like I'm on a doomed ship. I hate not feeling enough. Not good enough, not well enough, not hardworking enough, whatever.

I probably need chips and gravy.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Stomach bug.

I've had a really bad stomach this week, and it's been kind of nice actually. I know that doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, but I mean I've been physically ill and it's not been at all self inflicted. I always prefer being physically ill to mentally ill because, I don't know, despite me believing wholeheartedly that mental health problems aren't a choice, I still always feel really guilty when my mental health is particularly bad. And none of my current symptoms were deliberately brought about. So it really is lovely.  I mean, it doesn't seem too lovely as my innards evacuate my body through my arse or when I can barely sit down, but, y'know.

The thing about having a stomach bug that makes it so lovely is, for several years, I was addicted to laxatives. I know this is an uncomfortable and kind of gross topic, but that's exactly what eating disorders are. They're not perfectly made-up skinny girls living some sort of Hollywood lifestyle. My eating disorder was nights crying as blood came out of both ends of me, because the laxatives were literally ripping my insides apart. My eating disorder was neglecting the people I loved and the things I needed to do, because my compulsions were louder than their pleas. My eating disorder was being banned from buying laxatives in 4 different chemists, so stealing them from the supermarket. My eating disorder was being told I was going to die of complications from the abuse my body endured, and being more than ok with that.

In the beginning, when I was 15, I didn't know of anybody else who abused them and I didn't let anyone else know I was. It was lonely, but it also made me feel hard. Like I'd discovered something brand new. At that point, I enjoyed it, truth be told, although I was shocked every time by the level of the pain from laxative cramps. As my addiction got more intense, I was dying, quite literally, for something that made me feel alive. I didn't stop regularly smuggling them into all kinds of hospital units until I was 23- it was only when I was physically- manually- stopped that I stopped taking them.

When I stopped, my anorexia was at a high and I literally did not shit for over 2 months. In the end it took 3 really grim suppositories, an hour in a toilet and a stench like something had died, all whilst I had to be in arms reach of two members of staff. I can't even imagine how grim that night was for them.

The last time I took laxatives was on my 24th birthday in 2014, a few months after that grim night. I was still in hospital and there was a horrible atmosphere on the ward. It was just horrible, full stop, and I felt like nobody gave a shit that it was my birthday, despite having been on that ward for almost 2 years. So I took some time off the ward and went straight out and bought some laxatives. They were the first thing I thought of that would make my day better. They were the first thing I thought of that would give me myself back.

It all ended with me back on a general ward, being treated for low potassium and dehydration. As I laid there hooked up to drips, I realised what a bullshit (no pun, I swear) clutch that laxatives are. They gave me nothing and stripped me of everything.

It's been nearly 2 years now and here I am, with a stomach bug and not hating it. Not because I feel good and not because I'm benefiting in the sort of way I thought I did from laxatives, but because I can sit here and marvel at how different my life is now. Being ill is miserable, but it's also sort of enlightening. My head is spinning and my stomach kills, but I know tomorrow I'll be ok. And that's something I didn't believe, let alone know, a few years ago. And that's something I'm more than ok with.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Save you.

Get healthy, but don't think having the perfect body save you.
Buy a new dress, but don't think possession of pretty things will save you.
Learn to drive, but don't think running away will save you.
Get an education, but don't think knowledge will save you.
Breathe in an old book, but don't think history will save you.
Enjoy nature, but don't think flora and fauna will save you.
Nourish yourself, but don't think a superfood will save you.
Be creative, but don't think art will save you.

Love and be loved, but don't think love alone will save you.

Because the thing is, the only thing that can save you is something currently within you. The only person who should get to save you is yourself. The only person who can save you is yourself.

I don't think I ever really believed that I could be saved, but I definitely never believed that somebody would want to save me. Why would they? Still though, I expected some sort of epiphany. Some sort of moment, the kind that I'd immediately recognise... and ta-dah, I'd be fixed. In my darkest days, I waited for someone to say something that would make everything click, or for someone else to teach me how to escape the hole I'd dug for myself.

That didn't happen. Of course, that didn't happen.

I don't think I believe in broken/fixed any more. I don't really believe in a state of 'recovered', I believe instead in an ongoing lifetime 'recovery'. I always thought the idea of not being fully saved or recovered was really depressing, but it's really not. It's pretty cool. And I don't want anyone else to get to say that they rescued me, because I'm determined to do it myself. There are a world of people behind me, working with me, but I'm ultimately in control.

Saving myself began with not wanting anyone else to get the credit of having saved me. And that's what did it. When I decided I no longer believed in being saved, when I stopped waiting for other people to save me, I began saving myself. I don't need a hero, because I'm my own hero. There will never be a time when I am 'saved' there will just be decades longer of me saving myself.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Social media stalking.

I'm always unsure quite what the reasonable amount of facebook/twitter stalking is and how much to really admit to. I mean, it's probably best that you don't consider the social media your job unless you're earning from it. And you maybe don't tell the girl you worked with years ago that you stalk her because she has a really ugly baby (I try really hard to be a good person, but then I see an ugly baby and can't look away). What about, though, if the person whose profile you like to keep up to date on belongs to somebody who seems to somehow inspire you?

Apart from the old ugly baby mama, I generally just stalk people I admire. Not in a creepy way, mind, but purely in a 'look at you now!' sort of a way. Bear in mind a good portion of my friends have/have had mental health problems- whether they're online friends or from admissions- which makes me even more impressed to see their achievements. I know that viewing people through social media is to view them through a filter, but even with that in mind, a lot of my friends from those ill days have done amazingly. I'm pretty proud.

That's mostly facebook, though, because I don't really add or accept friend requests from people I don't know. On twitter, I'm even worse because I follow all manner of wonderful people. For a while, I followed people who riled me up, because in the way that some people work best under presssure, I work best under outrage. It's why I studied politics. I thrive on being het up and ready for a fight. I am from Scunthorpe, after all. I quickly realised that anger that can't be rained onto the right people ends up splashing all over people who don't deserve it. So I stopped. And I started following only people who truly interest or inspire me.

It makes social media a lot more rewarding if you know you're going to pop on to see your feeds full of people who make you happy. Whether it's pictures of your friends with their families, or people talking about fun days and achievments, or sharing funny stories or whatever, it's pretty great. Not that my feeds are exclusively full of unreserved joy. But what marks out the people on my feeds from people I've unfollowed on any site, is general optimism. Not every day is great, not every thought is inspiring, not every thing is happy. Some times, things suck and everything goes wrong. But there's potential. There's always potential for better.

But anyway, back to the idea of how much to admit to. Sometimes, I want to throw my (virtual, sure) arms around someone and tell them how proud I am of them, how much they push me, how much they entertain and inform me.

But that'd be a bit creepy, I'm sure, so just assume that I'm cheering you on and I think you are very, very incredible.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Scars and the truth.

My arms are quite badly scarred. Because I'm quite (read: very) pale, I sort of pass for not having been a self harmer. My scars have almost all faded to bright white, and my arms aren't a great deal more pigmented than that anyway, so they're not the first thing people hone in on. The sun makes them more obvious because I burn really easily, but most of the time, they're quite insignificant.

Of course, most people know. From strangers in the street who spot them and give me pitying looks (don't pity me, I swear I'm good), to my loved ones who have heard the stories, most people have a pretty good idea what caused them. There were only ever two people who were really important to me who didn't know how the scars came to be: my two youngest cousins.

A lot of my worst scars were created around the same time, and I always kept them covered. It wasn't until I got a really nasty infection and almost lost my lower right arm that they were really made obvious. For months I had my arms bandaged to prevent further infections and it was then that my youngest cousins, who at that point would have been 7 and 10, started asking questions.

The story I told them was that I was getting something out of the oven and oil splattered up my arm, causing burns. The cuts I had were 'random drunken accidents'. It was all said in a flippant tone and with a roll of my eyes to make them laugh, and that was that.

It's not so easy, of course, to explain away scars to older people. And I never really cared to try. I protected my cousins from the truth because they weren't old enough really to understand, but I never felt the need to lie generally. My family are brilliant in that they've never avoided talking about things, and during my hospital years, both of the cousins I'm talking about came to visit me fairly regularly. I adore those kids. I would do anything at all to protect them. And now they're almost 12 and almost 15 and I still would. But I'm learning they don't need the protection they once did.

The older of the two worked out what the scars were a few years ago. I'm not sure whether she was told, worked it out herself or whether I inadvertently told her myself, but she knows. She also knows she can ask me anything and I will not lie to her. She's the kind of almost-woman who has more kindness and emotional maturity in her at 14 than I could ever hope to have, and who can't stand to see somebody hurt. She's a listener, a thinker. She is one of my favourite people, my little almost-sister, who has had to step in as the big almost-sister to me too many times.

Her younger brother is more like me. He's a performer, the life and soul, but also far more emotional and caring than he usually lets people know. He's the kind of person who will try and fix a problem through laughs and takes on so much pressure to be a certain way without ever letting anyone know. He's an enigma with a golden heart, and not at all what people would expect. He's also one of my favourite people. He's also growing up.

Last week, he asked me how I'd really got my scars. And I knew. I knew that he knew. At the time, we were all sprawled out in his garden and I told him that if he really wanted to know, I'd tell him another time. I bought myself a few days to think about how to broach it, but in the end decided that from the way he asked me, he knew and that I wouldn't lie to him.

As ever, he surprised me. This weekend, I explained that I'd done them to myself, and he asked why. I gave him the extremely sanitised version because there are some things no 11 year old is ready for, and he asked if that's why I was in hospital so long. So I told him it was. He looked at me and just sort of went, 'you've had a bit of a messed up life, haven't you?' and we both cracked up.

I am beyond proud of my cousins. Beyond. I don't know that I'd have been so mature and smart at their ages. And I'm beyond grateful to their parents, because kids that brilliant don't just happen. 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Authority.

I spent most of my life being low key rebellious. Sure, it started with taking the sharpest pencils from the pot in primary school and squireling them away from the rest of the kids, but I like to think I got a bit more hardcore during my 12 years of schooling. Really though, I just skived a lot during my last few years of school (I once missed 16 GCSE French lessons in a row. I'm still pretty proud of that) and I had a right mouth on me (shocker, I know). Truth be told, my rebellions at school did stay very low beneath the radar. Truth be told, I suppose they mostly did at home too.

I lived with domestic violence from being 8 until I was 15. Nobody knew what happened in that house, apart from those who lived there. My life was extremely well controlled and governed by rules that I understood. I knew how to keep my head down. I knew what I had to do to survive and to just live just crisis to crisis. I was contained. I was a pressure cooker. I was a disaster waiting to happen.

And that pressure cooker exploded the day we left, my 15th birthday. Overnight, the rules to my world disappeared and I lost my inhibitions. Some needed to be lost- I stopped caring what people thought of my clothing choices and how I spoke and what I said. I stopped taking crap from people, full stop. I just didn't care at all. Other inhibitions I lost are ones we have for a reason- I took stupid risks and did all manner of dangerous things.

I craved attention in the years after we left, because I'd gone from living under so much scrutiny and control to not really understanding my place in the world and feeling invisible, and that made me... flighty. I was like a helium balloon cut free and 10 years down the line I'm still learning the self restraint people usually learn in their early teens.

Of course, we all know what happened when I took one too many risks: I ended up in hospital too many times, and eventually I ended up in longer term. From being told it was likely I'd be in for 18 months right up until my discharge, which came much later than 18 months later, my life was back to being controlled by someone else.

It might have been with different intentions but it sent sirens blaring and panicked me more than anything had in the last several years. The larger choices in life were taken away from me, as I was forcibly detained, and the small things, the things I could control, were analysed- what I wore, how much I swore, how much Pepsi Max I drank (I swear, at this point my blood is made of the stuff). So I rebelled. And those rebellions are probably a good part of why I was in for so long.

I'm getting better with authority, but I still struggle when the authority comes from men. It's funny, because when a person says they're afraid of spiders because of the massive ones on the other side of the world (Australia: I'm looking at you), that's pretty universally respected. But when a person says they're afraid of men or of being controlled, it's dismissed off the bat. Not all men, not all men, is all we hear. Well not all sharks bite people, but swimmers still leave the ocean when one arrives.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Buckaroo.

It's been a bit of a dramatic week. Actually, it hasn't been dramatic exactly, it's been worse. Did you ever play the game Buckaroo? You pile all manner of crap atop a plastic horse and then just when you have a load of brightly coloured bits of tack on it, it bucks and everything goes flying. But before the buck, you sit and you wait and you add things, all the while checking for signs of the impending drama.

I feel like I'm watching the horse thing and just waiting for everything to fly off. Sorry, this is a bit cryptic. I don't want to focus on all the shiny things on top of the horse, because the horse is the important bit. I'm not explaining myself well. I'm fine and safe. I'm overwhelmed with all kinds of different things going on at once though and in a bit of a bitch and whinge mode.

You know me though. Mostly, I love people. I bitch and whinge with the best of them, but I genuinely think that there will always be someone willing to listen to anyone do that bitching and whinging, which all in all gives me one less thing to B&W about. So that's pretty great. And I was reminded of that last night.

Yesterday I ended the day on a low. I'd been in London for the day for my last work commitment (that's one thing piled on top of the horse- I've left my part-time job ahead of starting uni in September) and was meant to meet a friend after my meeting. I found out last minute that she had to work, so I ended up with a few hours at the end of the day, before my train home. Of course, London isn't the worst place to waste a few hours, but I was in bad pain with my hip (anorexia is not kind to your bones and joints) and exhausted and ready for home by the time I left work, never mind by the time I got home at half 10.

On my way home, as my phone battery was declining, I did something I don't do often- I posted a bit of a B&W status. And then my battery died and I got home and collapsed into bed and that was that.

Except, it wasn't. When I checked my social media today, I had a fair bunch of messages from people checking I was alright. Which is really beyond bloody lovely. In the past, I've wondered if people only are interested because my life is so- pardon me- crazy, or if they feel obliged. I can sort of handle the curiosity, because I can get that and hopefully I can smash a few stereotypes whilst I'm at it. It's the obligation that really bothers me.

My therapist has said to me a few times that people choose obligation. They choose to care and if they feel obliged, that's because they care. It's a new way of looking at an old worry of mine and I like it. I want it to be true.

So thank you to those who choose to care. And to those who don't? As long as you care about something or somebody, thank you to you, too.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Because you deserve the best.

This post is for you.

You've smelt rotten death, tasted sickly destruction, felt the rough underside of this life, heard the cry of finality and seen unimaginable horrors.

You've also smelt the soft spot on a newborn's head or the perfume of someone you love or your grandma's home cooking. You've smelt freshly mown grass or the salt of the sea or the clean at the end of a spell of rain. You've smelt new paper or recently laid out paint or old books.

You've also tasted the first sloppy kiss of your childhood or a hot drink on a cold day or something that was made with love. You've also tasted a snow drop on your tongue straight from the sky or an ice lolly on a hot day or a last chip at the bottom of your bag. You've also tasted the anticipation of a new book by your favourite author or the end of a pen as you nibbled mid-thought or the goodnight kiss from your favourite person.

You've also felt the peachy softness of a baby's cheek or the grasp of someone who will never let you go or the story told by a wrinkle. You've also felt the crunch of fresh ice or the sunshine on your face or the relief of air pressure lightening. You've felt the potential of a blank canvas or the smooth of a pen moulded to your fingers or etchings left on the other side of a written page.

You've also heard the babble of a toddler or a story that transports you away or old fisherman swapping tales of who caught the biggest fish. You've also heard the fall of rain on glass or the ripple of the tide or the quiet after the final crash of thunder of a storm. You've heard a tender lullaby or a reading from a book told in a way you'd never imagined or heard a fable that matches your place.

You've also seen the trust in an infant's eyes or that person who makes you forget to hate yourself or an elderly couple walking hand in hand. You've also seen a rainbow breaking through a whole lot of rain or sand blowing gracefully in the wind or the sun setting after a long day. You've also seen a natural colour brighter than you knew nature could produce or a piece of work you will always be proud of or a person you love drift off into what you know will be a peaceful sleep.

You've also smelt, tasted, felt, heard, seen new beginnings and comfortable consistencies and things that have naturally come to an end.

There is far, far more beauty and wonder out there than your demons will ever let you have access to. But it's there, right in front of you, and I promise you deserve it all.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Age.

I was the world's cutest kid. Maybe not the world's, but I was pretty damn cute. Here's me being adorable in 1991-

Here's me (with my brother, but ignore him) being adorable in 1992-

And here's me being adorable in 1993-

Of course, it all went downhill from there. My blonde curls became auburn frizz (that I started dyeing when I was 9, because even my mum thought it was boring), I got glasses when I was 3 and my terrible dress sense became much less cute after the age of about 6. 

Or, well, maybe it didn't go downhill.

I bet that everyone has at least one photo of themselves that they can point to to show how absolutely adorable they were. I bet you were also the world's cutest kid. I bet your grandma was. Hell, I bet if she had one, my grandma would be able to show me a picture of herself at my age and marvel at how she was a gorgeous 20-something. And that's the thing- I bet when I'm old and can lay the evidence of a long life before my grandchildren, I'll be amazed at how beautiful I was at 25.

You're meant to think you were once lovely and that you screwed it all up. That you were once pure, but you muddied it. That you were beautiful, but that you threw it all away. It's the same story that you could read or watch or hear about anywhere, the wizened old crone who tells anyone who will listen that they were once glorious too. Society throws it at us all the time. We're programmed to wish for eternal youth and to believe that the only reason we're no longer how we were is that we didn't guard our youthful beauty as much as we should have.

Of course we all age. If you've made it this far in this post, you'll have aged a few minutes whilst distracted by my thoughts. The thing is though, it's all inevitable. We're born, we age (some for longer than others) and then we die. What we do whilst we age is what's important and I'm so tired of the idea that it's all downhill. That being young and beautiful is everything. Especially since we never even recognise our youth whilst we have it. Don't even get me started on how we never seem to recognise our own beauty.

I, for one, am tired of thinking that it's my own fault I don't have all the same levels of beauty that I had before 1993.

I'm an adult. I'm old to 5 years olds and young to 85 year olds. Once I was that 5 year old and one day- I hope- I'll be that 85 year old. And I hope I tell you how I was as beautiful in 2016 as I was in 1993. And I hope that when that day comes, some time towards the end of this century, I'll tell you how beautiful I am in my 80s and how I know this because I've spent 60-some years believing in my own vitality.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Life!

Things have been a biiiit hectic recently, so I thought I'd do a quick life update, because it seems to have been a while since I have. As ever, things are up and down, although definitely more up than down. I sometimes worry that I'm becoming greedy- for a long while back there I would have begged all the gods I don't believe in for a few good days a week. Then I just was desperate for more good days than bad. These days, I maybe have one really awful day a week and I'm so very hungry for fewer, please. It's like how you don't realise you want chocolate until you have a bit and need to eat Charlie's entire factory.

Speaking of which, my eating disorder still seems to be giving me some peace. My body image is still terrible (I won't go into all my current insecurities now, but that may come another day), but my diet isn't too bad. Besides the last few days (I'm hormonal af), I've not been eating as much as I should, but probably not a lot less than a person without a history of anorexia, on a diet. I'm trying to lose a little weight without going off the deep end. It's dancing on the edge of the abyss, I know, but it seems to be going fine so far. I'll always have to be extremely careful, food-wise, but I think it's all going to be ok. Better than ok.

Work is good, too. I go into forensic mental health units and review them and I love it. I love that I'm learning things and terms and all sorts that will help me when I'm a nurse, I love that I'm always getting to meet and chat to different people and I love being in environments where all my experiences are of benefit. I've only got a few more reviews before uni starts, but they're all in the next few weeks. Literally, last week I was in Doncaster, this week I'm in Warrington, next week I'm in Nottingham, two weeks after that I'm in Poole (funny story: I thought Poole was Manchester way on when I signed up. Actually, it's over 6 hours away, hahaha), then the week after that I'm in London. Bussssssy.

I'm ready for uni to start though, apart from how busy I am atm. There has been so much paperwork to do for it (I had chickenpox Christmas 1993 and they even want to know what meds I took for it) and I've not even started student finance. In case you've never dealt with Student Finance England, let me just tell you I once nearly lost my arm because of burns and that was not nearly as painful as SFE.

My love life is pretty excellent. I'm one half of the grossest couple ever and not sorry at all. Especially when I'm drunk. Do not ask me about her when I'm drunk. Seriously.

I think that about covers everything! So please excuse how dull I'm sure this was, and normal service will return shortly ;)

Monday, 18 April 2016

But you stole my life.

I somehow doubt that on those nights where I can't sleep because of what you did, that you also lay awake. I wouldn't imagine that you would recognise my face if you saw it or my name if it was said to you and you'll certainly never read this, yet I'm still plagued by what you did those days 22, 21, 20, 19 and 18 years ago.

I'm sure the reasons for your convenient forgetting are many and I'm sure there are all manner of ways for you to justify it all, even if you were to stumble across a memory of all that happened down that road. But I can only imagine that should the past ever trouble you, you can reassure yourself that it was all so long ago. Maybe it helps that the crimes you committed are unlikely to ever be committed against you. Far from being the young child I was, you're now fully grown men and infinitely safer than I was then.

It's unlikely that you, now, will go through frequent sexual abuse.

I was a 3 year old when it began and 8 when it ended. When you first touched me, when you last touched me. When I first hated myself. From the end of 1993, 22 years of hatred. I can't imagine that you can ever understand where I am now, because although I'm definitely more well than I was a few years back, I can never have those years back. The only way I can possibly explain it to you is to put it in in a way I think you might relate to. It irritates me greatly that I feel like the only way that you'll understand is if I do this, but I'm going to ignore my misgivings about how analogies shouldn't need to be made- people ought to understand the realities of abuse and assault through listening to experts, but I doubt that anyone who could touch a child will ever understand it unless it's made about them.

So imagine being robbed. Now imagine that every day you are robbed again. Sometimes routinely- waking up each morning to your car having been taken during the night, despite you having obtained a new one the day before. Sometimes out of the blue- you nip to the shop and when you come home, somebody has- surprise- broken into your house and changed the locks. Maybe there are things that you don't realise you have had stolen until somebody points out that they have something that you ought to have, but don't. Maybe it's something small, like a costume earring that you'd not even have realised you'd lost if not for its twin in the other ear, marking how you only have half of what you should. Maybe it's something big.

Maybe it's your life.

Because you stole my life.

It's not just that you stole my sex drive, my self-esteem, my education, members of my family and many of my friends. I can and do live without a lot of that. But you stole my life. You stole the life I could have had. I'm not bitter, not now that I've made something out of my life now, but I'm angry that it's been so much harder than it ever would have been without your actions all of those years ago.

I don't credit you with having made me stronger. I discredit you for constantly depleting my reserves- stealing what might have been and how much stronger security may have made me. I discredit you for everything and with everything that I am. I cringe when people speak about how hardships made them stronger because it makes me feel like a failure for constantly feeling lacking.

You didn't make me strong. I did all of that on my own. Despite the robbery. Despite the blog entries you'll never read and therapy sessions you'll never hear about. Despite it all.

Friday, 8 April 2016

A-Z of BPD.

Borderline Personality Disorder is complex and difficult, but is most commonly known for self destructive behaviours and rapidly changing, extreme moods and emotions. I was diagnosed with it at 18. At 19 I was told I was bipolar. And then I was back to BPD by 22, and swiftly moved to a BPD in-patient ward where I lived for over 2 years. It's pretty contentious with regards my diagnosis, but I think I know it pretty well still, so here's my A-Z. Obviously, this isn't comprehensive and isn't a diagnostic tool. Please seek professional help if you're worried about yourself or someone else.

A is for Attention Seeking.
This isn't an ever-so popular opinion, but sometimes a BPD behaviour might be for attention. But if a person needs to hurt themselves, they really do need the attention they might crave. We all do need attention to thrive, just with BPD it's harder for a person to learn to do it safely and effectively.

B is for Borderline.
I hate that word. HATE IT. It always reminds me of the idea of sitting on the fence and that's not me at all. Really though, in the context of BPD, it's more like the sufferer, affected by varied symptoms, is a land locked country with borders on all sorts of culturally different nations.

C is for Cutting Out.
People with BPD aren't necessarily the best at picking the right people to have relationships with and are often really vulnerable to being taken advantage of. It took a lot for me to cut some reeeeally negative people out of my life, people I allowed to hurt me time after time.

D is for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy.
DBT is the main therapy recommended for BPD. It's split into a few modules that focus on how you regulate your emotions, how to manage distress, how to manage relationships, and mindfulness. It wasn't my favourite therapy and I'm not sure how much I got out of it, but I saw others benefit from it. I suppose you get what you put in.

E is for Eating Disorders.
EDs are really common with people with BPD. For some people disordered eating is considered a symptom and with others they are diagnosed with both, as I am. There's a lot of cross over- low self-esteem is pretty commonplace with both disorders, in particular.

F is for Forgiving.
A lot of people with BPD have had traumatic pasts and I think there are some things that you shouldn't forgive. A lot of things that are inexcusable. But the one person who really deserves your compassion is yourself.

G is for Goals.
It's cool to change direction with your goals and to make new ones and drop old ones. It's all about development and people with BPD especially need to give themselves that room, because we are horrifically harsh when it comes to dealing with our perceived failures.

H is for Hope.
I promise, there is always hope. Whilst there is life in your bones and electricity in your brain, there is hope. Sometimes not in the form you'd expect, granted, but it's there.

I is for I.
It's OK to put yourself first. With BPD, sufferers often struggle to say no, for fear of rejection by other people. When I smoked, I was a push over for giving them away and I'm the ultimate bleeding heart still. That's fine, but so is knowing when to put yourself first.

J is for Jokes.
I can't stand jokes where mental illness is the punchline. Luckily, I haven't had to listen to too many BPD specific jokes, but it's really not cool to make jokes about people licking windows or rocking in corners btw.

K is for Kindness.
Most people are a lot more critical of themselves than they are others, but this is amplified with BPD. With others, they become hyper-critical of others, too. When I was particularly ill I was a bitch, but I think I'm leaving that behind. I try and counter anything negative I say to myself with a positive, because I'm determined to be kind to myself too.

L is for Love.
People with BPD feel things deeper than people without the condition. I love harder than anything and quicker than most. I think we're probably more likely to believe in love at first sight too, but I don't have proof, more a feeling. Ask me one time about how I knew I loved my girlfriend.

M is for Medication.
Medication isn't the only way to manage BPD but it can make it easier to engage in talking therapies. For me, I need my meds to function alongside therapy. Will I be on them forever? Who knows. I'm not too worried- whatever it takes for me to be well.

N is for No.
Often, it's really hard for BPD sufferers to say no and learning to assert myself and admit defeat was really key to my recovery. For a lot of sufferers, it's also learning to deal with being told no, and not assuming you're being told that as a rejection.

O is for Opportunity.
I'm a drama queen. Always have been. My last hospital was fantastic in recognising this and developing my skills- I've had opportunities to talk at numerous universities, national conferences, hospitals, workplaces... all over. Opportunities that came from my illness.

P is for Personality Disorder.
If I hate the word 'borderline', it's nothing compared to my hatred of the phrase 'personality disorder' because that sounds so insidious. It sounds dark. Like, you are meant to always say that you value a person's personality more than anything, but if it's disordered, diseased, not right, then what?

Q is for Queues.
I can only speak for my experiences of NHS England, but waiting times can be hellish. It took 10 months for me to get a specialist psychologist after I was discharged from a long-term unit and would have taken longer had I not been hospitalised so much. Things need to change, because the wait for help can make symptoms and behaviours worse because people feel 'not ill enough.'

R is for Robotic.
Because people with BPD feel things so deeply, we often get overwhelmed and can switch off and feel nothing at all. A bit like when an overworked system crashes. We can become somewhat robotic.

S is for Stigma.
Some of the worst stigma I've faced has come from professionals who see BPD as something less than disorders that are purely chemical, like schizophrenia. BPD isn't a choice or fad, it's an extreme illness that can manifest in ways that look like other mental illness.

T is for Triggers.
Because BPD behaviours are so varied, so are the triggers. It's best to understand the triggers of an individual through simply asking about them, rather than trying to generalise.

U is for United.
There's a lot of us out there who are going through similar things and sufferers could achieve a lot if we all stand together. The problem comes when people trigger behaviours in others, so sometimes relationships between sufferers can become dangerous and need to be carefully managed, especially within hospitals.

V is for Voices.
Hearing voices and experiencing other forms of psychosis is quite prevalent in BPD cases. My therapist has said that I need to accept they may never go and learn to live alongside them, which I think is a pretty interesting idea. It can be really bloody tiresome and distressing though.

W is for Weight.
Weight gain is a really common side effect of mental health medication, one that I know too well. On balance, I'd rather take them and be bigger than be in hospital and smaller. It's worth it, I swear.

X is for Xylophone.
Mostly because it's really, really hard to think of a decent X word and given xylophone is one of my fave words and I was once diagnosed BPD, I think it's fine.

Y is for Youth.
Most BPD sufferers are diagnosed when they're young and it's often a contentious diagnosis. In recent years, my diagnosis was changed away from BPD, which I was diagnosed with at 18. Really, people shouldn't be diagnosed with it so young because some 'symptoms' are more symptoms of being young.

Z is for Zany.
Zany is a nicer word than crazy, which is a word that makes me cringe all the way because of how most of the people who tell you they're crazy are just kind of boring. Zany though, zany is a colour that suits me well.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Scales.

Confession: today I dragged out my scales, dusted them off, and decided that I can't handle the meds weight gain any more. Don't worry, I then stole a pack of Minstrels off my mum (sorry mum) and decided that I don't really care to know my weight. There are many, many things that my scales can't tell me and that I'm not really interested in the few things that they can tell me.

Here are the top 5 things they never told me-

1. You can be glorious sunshine, but dancing in the rain is also fun. I'm loved, I'm liked, I'm tolerated, I'm disliked, I'm hated. Hopefully all by different people, but whatever. It's like my mum always says to me, 'you don't like everyone, so why does everyone have to like you?' A bit of metal and plastic can't measure the depth of feeling you evoke and will never love you like the world might.

2. Nobody cares about what your scales have to say. Here's the kicker- you can spend hours working out and weighing your food, but truth is nobody cares. Sure, people want you to be healthy and happy, but people only equate weight loss with happiness when it comes to themselves. I can't say I've ever met someone going through shit and thought it'd all be lovely for them if they were emaciated.

3. You will always be great at some things and terrible at others. I'm great at academic writing and terrible at running. I'm pretty good at maths and pretty awful at catching anything more handy than a cold. It's the same for everybody. Not everything is for everyone. Oh, and losing weight is nobody one's number one talent. Trust me on this, you are more capable of greatness than you know.

4. When you can't trust yourself, trust other people before you trust your scales. Ideally, you should love yourself and trust your worth. But I'd be lying if I said I found that easy or even possible on tough days. Instead, I find myself relying on other people- I'm a work in progress on this. But still, I know I'm loved and I trust people more than my scales. My scales have never told me they loved me.

5. Life is complicated and that's how it ought to be. As much as life is sometimes cruel to everyone, sometimes it's really bloody great. Your scales might simplify your thinking and narrow down your world, but that's not life. It's not simple. It shouldn't be simple. Too simple and you miss the great things as well as the tough ones.

I'd be lying if I said my scales have never taught me anything, mind. Here's a quick run through-

1. My gravitational force. Through the years, I've been able to measure my relationship with gravity. Wahoo. Important stuff.

So yeah, that's about it.

On balance, there is no balance. Scales have a place, but that's only really in hospital, I reckon. My scales have no place at all.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

There is nothing wrong with being fat.

So picture the scene: I'm in an odd little antique (well, junk) shop in York, wandering around with my girlfriend, when we happen across the owner. Somehow he hears me make a comment about how I'm from Scunthorpe and so can't tell what's decent and what's not (trust me, if you've ever been to Scunny, you'll understand. Not exactly posh). And this happens...

Owner- Oh, you're from Scunny? I'm from Messingham!
Me- Cool. I used to go running there.

[the guy looks me up and down in a way that made me feel particularly uncomfortable and way more like the lesbian feminist that I am]

Owner- Looking at you, I assume you stopped running?
Me- Jesus. Are you implying I'm fat?
Owner- Hey, you said it, not me!

[I exit and find a corner to have a quick cry in. Eventually, with the help of my girlf, I calm the fuck down, hold my head up high, and begin to leave]

Owner- I'm sorry, but you're the one who said you were fat.
Me- Seriously, I'm recovering from anorexia and I really did not need to hear that. You need to watch what you say to people because-
Owner- I'm sorry.
Me- Whatever.
Owner- It was you who said it though, so you can't get offended.

The whole exchange has left me rattled all week. On one hand, I'm revolted because I'm not sure I've been called fat (to my face at least) in 10 years, and I really am at my highest ever weight. On the other hand, I'm more revolted that the idea of being fat horrifies me so much. How shallow and vain and horrible does that make me? What am I so afraid of?

And why? Why is being fat the thing I fear most?

The answer is... it's really not. Being fat is not my biggest fear at all. But it is the easiest to cope with and the easiest to 'fix'. The things that really scare me- the past repeating itself, esp in the sense of abuse; nobody loving me enough to rescue me from a fire; taking up more space and energy than I deserve; being an altogether Bad Person- are harder to face and more abstract than spending a week obsessing about what a stranger thinks about my weight. 

Eating disorders are never just about weight. They're mostly about pooling obsession into something that you can really dig your claws into. They're the ultimate red herring. Even in recovery, I worry about my weight most when I'm trying to avoid worrying about something else.

I'm beyond tired of battling myself. 

There is nothing wrong with being fat. 
Nothing. 
Nothing.
Nothing.