Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Dear Jackie




You may recall my 'Dear Body' post, if you haven't read it, you can find it here.
After writing to my Body I then had to respond as my body.  All seems a bit weird you may think, talking to myself, but the process was quite empowering.
Again I tried not to overthink what I was asked to do, but thought of it as me replying to a friend.

 Dear Jackie,

You were so small and vulnerable when you were born.  I wasn't sure you would survive but you battled on.  I wonder if sometimes you feel like that now?
I know you dislike me, you tell me often enough  You try to hurt me with your thoughts and actions but I'm still here for you and I won't let you down.  You are a fighter.
You tell me how much you hate your stomach.  You see fat and disgust.  I see a part of you which held your child close, a part of you which suffered physical pain for years and needed surgery to put right.
Don't be embarrassed or ashamed of your scars, they are part of your story.
You are so much more than what is looking back in the mirror.  Those scars on your hips show the pain you tolerated both physically and mentally.
You recovered from surgery and you pushed and pushed yourself until you passed that 26 mile mark.
I need to be cared for, loved, cherished and nourished. I know that one day you will feel this way towards me again.
Don't blame yourself for the things that have happened to me. Those things were out of your control, you didn't know any better.
Please, please try and treat me with the respect I deserve.  I hate to be in pain, especially in my head.
I would love to be friends with you again.

Your body xx

My dialogue with my body continues.  My next task is for my to again respond in a compassionate way.
Until next time.

Friday, 22 June 2018

I have a purpose.

Over the past 2 years I have only worked for 3 months. My mental and physical health had taken its toll and work was not a priority,  my recovery was.
I have never been a shirker.  I have always enjoyed my job and often put in more hours than I was paid for.
I would take my work home with me, both mentally and physically.
I enjoyed what I did and gave 100%.
This was to be my downfall.  When I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety I carried on with my work.  I still loved what I was doing but would constantly question my decisions.  I would lay awake at night worrying about clients, reports, safeguarding.  I couldn't shut off.
I would freeze at meetings, important meetings and felt I was failing, not good enough.
It began to chip away at my confidence, something which I am still working on.
Being away from work for such a length of time was hard and not just financially.
I missed the contact from other people, my mind wasn't stimulated, I struggled in social settings.
When I was discharged from hospital my plan was always to go back to work.  Yes I would have loved to return to my previous post but unfortunately it wasn't to be.  I was dismissed on capability grounds after 19 years service.
I applied for other jobs, accepting that at the moment I would only be able to work a few hors a week.  I had interviews for jobs in my field and was offered one but my confidence wouldn't let me accept it.  I stressed about whether I could do it, what would happen if I made a mistake, how would I relate to my colleagues?


I then took the plunge and went for something new, something out of my comfort zone and I'm glad I did.
I am now working at a local cafĂ©. Its busy but that is how I like it.  Each day I have  anxiety before I go but I focus on the benefits, a bit of extra money, meeting people and learning new skills.
Today I received my uniform so I must be doing something right.
I love the business of it all, the staff are great and the customers.....well, I try and make them feel welcome and always give a smile.
I can multi task, steam milk whilst preparing teacakes, I love it. My legs are aching by the end of my shift and I need to be mindful of putting fuel into my body as I'm burning more off.
I may be on minimum wage and cleaning tables but I have a purpose again.  I am giving something back and that feels good.


Thursday, 21 June 2018

Dear Body


Dear Body......









Thought I would share some work I have been doing with my therapist, and would be interested to hear your thoughts or whether you can relate.
I have no idea who reads this now and I hope that whoever is is gaining some perspective to either reach out or to help others.

I was 'invited' to write a letter to my body, concentrating on a particular part if needed that was troubling me.  I then had to write a letter in response from my body to myself.
This is something I had done before but in a more creative less intense way.
I was asked not to think too much about what I was writing and to just feel it and let it flow.
This was difficult to write and uncomfortable to hear when read back to me.
It was like hearing it for the first time and upsetting to process.

Dear Body,

We have known each other for a long time now and have shared lots of experiences.
I know I do not treat you as I should.  I often hurt you or don't look after you properly.
I am sorry for the pain I put you through but sometimes it is all I know what to do,
I don't find you attractive anymore.  I no longer remember what you used to look like and that frustrates me.  I want to remember a time I was happy with you, or just a part of you.
I detest your stomach; the scars; the fat; the skin' the way it looks when I sit down.
I hate it but it gets more attention than any other part of you.
It is my main focus when I am moving, walking or when I look in the mirror.
You disgust me.
I wonder what others think of you? Do they think me fat, gross and lazy when they see you?
Body, I don't want to be seen or noticed.  I hate that you have been a sexual object, something to be used and hurt by other people.
You have been ridiculed, shamed and abused.
I am ashamed to be seen, to be noticed.  Some days I do not even know who you are.
I hate you.

I have yet to write the response.  I think that will take some time.  Compassion doesn't come easily for me.  Compassion towards others yes, but not towards myself.
I am work in progress.
I hope you can show compassion towards yourselves and not hate on your body or that of others.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Dining room rules




So after the diet coke fiasco I'm back on board.
Inpatient had rules, lots of rules.  Diet coke was not allowed. Neither were any fizzy drinks, sweeteners, skinny versions of hot chocolate, sweets, mints, I think you get the general idea now.
Other rules were classed as 'non-negotables.' No point entering into a discussion about them as you would not be onto a winner.

Dining Room Rules.
Everyone sits down to eat at the same time and have  an agreed start time when staff are seated.  This always didn't work out to plan.
One morning I overslept, was woken by a nurse and staggered to the dining room still with creases on my face.  Luckily I was allowed to eat in a quiet room with support so I didn't disturb others.
Often we were short of staff or they were supporting others who were trying to negotiate the non-negotables.  No point trying, you're not going to win.

We had 35 minutes in which to finish our meal or 20 minutes for snack.
No tissues or napkins were allowed at the table.  Meals had to be eaten with a knife and fork, no cutting food up into very small pieces and only 2 sachets of condiments allowed.
Teaspoons could be used if your pudding came in a pot, otherwise it was a tablespoon for cereal.
We were not allowed to leave the table until either the time was up or everyone had finished.  Very rarely did that happen.
The dining room itself was OK, although a little tight on space when everyone was trying to measure out milk and cereal. Yes, you heard that correctly.....cereal was weighed and milk was measured.
No risk of trying to bend the rules as staff had eyes like hawks, and why would we?  We were all there for the same reason.  To weight restore and get better.  Saying that, there were a few incidents of watered down milk and tampered with cereal!!
We had set places to sit which were changed every week.  Dependant on your support needs you would have a member of staff sat close by to help if you were in distress.  The peer support at mealtimes was amazing and often we supported each other when staff were busy or unaware. Unfortunately many of us kept our distress to ourselves and died slowly and quietly inside.

Dining Room picture courtesy of a wonderful Woman with a wicked sense of humour



Mealtimes as you can imagine was a very anxious and distressing time for all of us.
Re feeding can bring up lots of emotions and for some triggering memories.  I had many of these in the dining room due to memories from certain foods, smells or music.  I dealt with this in not so positive ways so my hands had to be kept above the table whilst I squeezed the life out of a squidgy ball.
As much as I tried to burst the damn ball over a period of 2 months it didn't happen. I was well impressed when a patient told me after my discharge that he had eventually killed it. Good one Sam.
My place at the table had many things that reminded me of why I was there and why I needed to get better. My photo collection grew so large that I practically had built a wall around my placemat.
It looked a little childish but it gave me some focus other than what I was eating....distraction, distraction.




I'm happy to have my cereal teaspoon back, has to be the one with the rounded handle, and my white plate and bowl.  We were allowed to have our own mugs......This is mine.






I mustn't forget the door!!  The dining room door slammed if you didn't close it gently. This as you can imagine be distressing especially if someone is in a constant state of hyper alertness.  The 'please close quietly..I slam' notice got bigger and bigger (courtesy of A) and was still ignored.  The words  'for fucks sake' or 'DOOR' were regularly heard.
I'm sure before I left they had got around to getting it fixed.  Anyone reading who can let me know, please do. :}






Tuesday, 5 June 2018

And so my journey begins.




Distraction, distraction, distraction.  
I'm really struggling with the weight gain at the moment.  What is only a few pounds to me feels like a thousand times that.
I have been laid on the sofa, wrapped in a fluffy blanket. My security blanket.  Post evening meal is always the hardest.  I suggest a nice walk or cycle ride, hubby suggests a bath. Seriously, me going anywhere near the bathroom at this present moment is a recipe for disaster.
In hospital we had to sit with the feeling.  Open posture, one foot on the floor, no security blankets, no fidgeting...breathing was allowed.
I haven't spoken much about the inpatient eating disorders unit on here, so maybe now is the time.
I had a planned admission in July of last year.  Steps unit in Bristol was out of my catchment area but the Exeter Unit had no places until October at the earliest, so Steps it was.
The unit is on the grounds of Southmead Hospital, tucked right away from the main hospital campus.
It was quite easy to find, unless of course you were an Amazon delivery driver. 
I had visited the unit whilst I was at Rydon so it wasn't too much of a shock and I knew what I could not bring.  I had also spoken to staff beforehand and agreed on my preferred meal plan and  possible length of stay.
Some patients only stayed for 4 weeks to get themselves back on track, I opted to give recovery and weight restoration a good go.
I asked Kev to drop me at the door and not wait with me.  Our goodbye at Rydon was traumatic enough, I needed to do this one on my own and I was very very scared.

The unit was aesthetically OK.  I had my own room but no toilet  ( for obvious reasons)
The walls were lilac and this time I had the privilege of coat hangers.  As I was determined to complete the programme, I made my room as pleasant and liveable as possible. Fairy lights on the window, snugly blanket, bright sheets and duvet. 

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        The programme is very full on and supports you to challenge thoughts, behaviours and unhelpful thinking styles which after many years are very ingrained.
On that note I am going to pick up on this another day.
I've just realised that the three cans of coke I have drank was not diet, but full fat.  As well as bouncing off the walls like Tigger on speed I am very angry with myself so need to 'sit' with the feelings and unhelpful thoughts. 
I will return......                                      



  

Monday, 28 May 2018

Friends with benefits.


I bet the title made you look.
Don't worry, I'm not talking about those sort of benefits.
Over the past 8 years I have friended or followed dozens of people within the eating disorders community.  The forums and groups were a safe place to go, not judging, always there and often gave helpful advice and reassurance. (Although I am writing this after being shot down for saying something on a group)

There was always a downside.  Depending on how entrenched I was in my eating disorder I would follow people for the wrong reasons.
I would look at photos of very thin girls, 'thinsperation' as it is known in the pro-Ana community.
I have never been pro-Ana but the pull towards those people was always strong.

Over the years I have learnt that these relationships are not always healthy.  I have always been open to others, made myself available online to those who need to talk but sometimes that needs to stop.
I often go through Facebook and have a friend cull. There's never any malice involved but If I find someones behaviours or attitude too triggering or negative I need to say goodbye.
If there is little benefit to the relationship then they need to go.  I'm sure at times people have done that to me and that's OK.  Its about what is right for you and what is beneficial.
I know I could just stop following but there is always the risk of taking a little peek. A risk I cannot take.

I now have a select number of friends from the ed community on social media, these are my friends with benefits.  Friends from all over the world, people I trust and many I am honoured to have met.
Let me tell you about a few of them...........

Jenn Friedman.
A lovely woman from Brooklyn, New York who I stumbled across in 2010 on an eating disorders recovery forum. She is an amazing writer, singer songwriter and pianist. 
Jenn was part of a blogging group which fuelled my passion for writing.  She and several others took part in a recovery blogging challenge where we were given daily prompts, and shared online.
It was amazing to hear others voices and totally changed my views on a possible recovery.
Her recent album and book she published are pride of place on my bookshelf.  She has the voice of an angel.
I was lucky to meet Jenn in 2016 on her first visit to the UK.  She was everything and more than I expected.  I took her to Glastonbury for the day and we laughed and laughed. I love her accent, the way she says bathroom, how she felt comfortable enough to rest her head on my shoulder on the long bus journey home.  I laughed at her misunderstanding when I said 'Mary Quant.' She is a joy to be around.  I'm sorry she left her cake in the shop but happy that I taught her how to swear in a northern accent.
Jen is now studying in London and we plan to meet next month in Bath.  I cant wait.




Kathryn
I have been chatting to Kathryn online since 2016.  We were both struggling with our eating disorder and at different stages of contemplation.  We were a good support for each other.
I smile when I think of the late night chats, the drunken facetimes and the deep conversations one Christmas day. I was honest with Kathryn and I think she respected that.  I even got away with calling her a knob.
I love the fact that Kathryn savours ever moment with her family, school holidays are full of good memories, she is a strong passionate woman who would do anything for her family.  I value Kathryn's input but she has yet to tell me why shes goes with the nickname of Bruce!
A few weeks ago I took the plunge and travelled to Liverpool to meet her.  A bit strange you may think. Meet a random person and stay at her house.  Isn't that something that my Mother warned me about?
Thankfully she wasn't an axe wielding murderer, just a very friendly, cocktail loving Scouser with a lovely family.
She was an amazing host and I was made to feel at ease as soon as I got to Liverpool.
We had so much in common, even down to her getting ready to go out playlist. I spent a great day with the children and an even better night out hitting the bright lights of Liverpool with K and her Hubby.
We laughed about the 'urban legend' who was a real person, Purple Ackey the bogeyman of Merseyside.  We sang along to the Greatest Showman and I was in awe of her banter with the taxi driver.............
Entertainment and alcohol aside, we clicked.  We had experienced similar things growing up and dealt with it in not so positive ways.  I was amazed at how relaxed I felt especially around food.  They were very accommodating and thoughtful. Her daughter even gave up her room for me, although I did end up with several soft toys and a little girl on the bed in the morning.
Thank you Kathryn and Dave for accepting me into your home.  You are a diamond.



Online friends can be beneficial.... but choose your friends wisely.  

Sunday, 27 May 2018

it is what it is.




You look well?
 What the fuck does that mean?  Can you see inside my head? 
Society today is so hung up on personal appearance.  Photos are filtered, we can choose what to show to the rest of the world.
Social media shows what we want people to see, our perfect worlds, perfect friends, perfect lives.
Nobody really knows what is going on in others lives, its all a big fantasy. 

I live in a bubble, a bubble that my nurse once said she would pop.  My bubble keeps me safe, protects me from others and my own thoughts.
My illness is not all about weight.  If I was to gain 3 stone tomorrow would I be cured. Probably not.

Its not about wanting to stay ill, it's about knowing my limitations and how hard to push myself.
Hospital was a safe environment, one where I could weight restore and not have to deal with the aftermath of feelings on my own.  In the community is not so easy.

My therapist is working on compassion. Supporting me through trauma and all the feelings that sit alongside it.  Its tough.  We don't talk about food, how I'm managing my meal plan or how to move forward with weight gain.  I struggle with this but I am keeping myself safe.  My blood work is on the normal scale, I know what foods to eat to make sure I am getting the right nutrients.  My dietitian is happy.

Food restriction keeps me in control of my emotions, eating sends me into turmoil.
I often overeat and seek permission from my Husband that its OK to do so and I'm not greedy.  He tells me if I'm hungry to eat, this is normal behaviour and I need it. Rice Krispies are currently my go to food.
I have been open about my urges to purge or exercise and have admitted to times when the urges have been so strong I have lost control.
I am pulled in all directions and the slightest thing can send me into over thinking and fight or flight mode.
I need to talk about this as soon as it happens but does that make me needy?  Do I need to validate every single thought.
I hate my brain at the moment but this is all part of my recovery.  I hate how I'm feeling, that I'm not in control of my emotions, that I can break down at the slightest thing and want to run away from it all.
I have the crisis team number and I have come close at times to calling them.....I haven't needed to as I have managed to ride it through.  Not easy in a public place.
Thank you to those who told me last night that they liked my top.

My illness is not all about weight.....It is what it is.

xx



Dear Jackie

You may recall my 'Dear Body' post, if you haven't read it, you can find it  here . After writing to my Body I then had t...