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.