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.

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.


Friday, 25 May 2018

To absent friends.

9 years ago tomorrow I lost my best friend.  In real terms I lost her the year before when our friendship broke down. I have deep regret that we never patched things up before she died but that was a choice I made, and one I have to live with.
I first met X when our children were at Nursery school together.
Our friendship started as a walk to the school, the occasional coffee and developed into something a lot stronger and at the end a very damaging toxic relationship.
We spent a lot of time together and for the majority of the time, things were good.
Our partners got on and we looked forward to Friday nights out, Carnival nights, fireworks, Birthdays and Boxing day celebrations.  We had fun, lots of it.
We shared stories of our pasts, both of us had skeletons and things we would rather forget.  At first it made our relationship stronger but by the end it just gave her further ammunition to hurt me.
I wasn't allowed to have any other friends and she would certainly let me know about it if I dared to speak to anyone whilst we were out.  She would blank me for weeks at a time and in hindsight I think her insecurities were ingrained from an early age.
I tried so hard to please her, to make her feel special but I ignored the warning signs.
I was scared of her.  Scared of her threats but also scared of being alone.
I pulled out all the stops for her 40th Birthday.  We went shopping, lunch out and I arranged a party inviting her family and found an old school friend who was a stripper as entertainment.  It was a joy to see her so happy.
On that day X told me what I was allowed and not allowed to wear at her celebration.

Her health started to deteriorate and she was diagnosed with a heart problem.
I sat in the recovery room with her partner after her operation. Took her in her favourite food and stayed with her for hours at a time.
After her recovery she started to turn her life around, adjusting her diet and stopping smoking.
I was proud of her.
At was at this time that Kev and I were planning our wedding. Best friends should be sharing in the joy and the planning but this wasn't to be.
I can only guess that she was either jealous or upset that we were marrying abroad and couldn't be part of it, despite my attempts to involve her.

In the April of that year was when things went drastically wrong.  It would be unfair of me to go through the details of the catalyst but what evolved was 12 months of abuse, lies, fear and the end of our friendship.
I was scared to go out.  She would come to the Pub I worked on an evening and tell customers lies about me, threaten to beat me up and even came to my house where I just sat and took her abuse.
My Hen Night and Wedding party was tainted with the underlying fear of her turning up and making a show.  Thankfully this didn't happen.

I was sceptical at first of my new evolving friendships as this toxic relationship was all I knew.
How could I trust others? What were their intentions?
I still struggle with this at times and have a great fear of what others may think of me. Certain songs trigger good and bad memories......

My friend continued to struggle with her health and after another heart operation sadly passed away on May 26th 2009.
She had tried to contact me prior to this and had left a message on my phone asking to meet somewhere neutral.  Her partner explained that she wanted to see me as she remembered how I had supported her the previous time.
I chose to ignore her call.  I regret this and wonder what would have changed if I had spoken to her.
I knew I did not want to rekindle the friendship as too much had been said.  There are certain things that can't be unsaid.
I heard about her death on social media, It hit me hard.  I was there for her family, helped with the arrangements as if nothing had changed.
I visited the chapel of rest to say goodbye. Went to her funeral, and drank fizzy wine with a friend to say goodbye to the end of a chapter and toast new beginnings.

I do not believe she was a bad person.  She had been dealt a very tough hand growing up and didn't know how to cope with it. She didn't deserve judgement she deserved help and understanding.
I wish I had given her more of that.

R.I.P you mixed up wonderful Woman. xxx

Monday, 21 May 2018


I have 429 friends on Facebook.

61 were work colleagues
40 I have known for over 20 years.
32 I have never met face to face.
28 don't live in the UK.
26 I went to school with.
17 are friends of friends.
18 I know through groups and forums.
13 are relatives.
12 were in hospital with me.
10 are old friends of Kevs
6 are ambassadors for Body Gossip.
5 I went to church with.
4 I met on holiday.
4 have passed away.
4 have been or are neighbours.
3 I have met at a support group.
2 were in Guides.
2 completed the D of E with me.
2 I speak to on a daily basis.
1 was my first kiss.

So why do I feel so alone?
I know my illness has affected a lot of my relationships, particularly the one with myself.
It has affected the way I feel, how I interact with others, how they interact with me.
Sometimes I feel so needy. I overthink everything. I'm unsure of what is safe to say so as not to hurt others.
My emotions can go up and down on an hourly basis, particularly with my therapy.
I am an unknown quantity. Sometimes the life and soul ,other times I don't want to interact and shut myself off.
I keep a diary of how I am feeling, what triggers certain thoughts and how I react to them.
It is hard.
I have amazing friends who I appreciate and love, so why do I feel I have nothing to offer?
Lack of daily social contact at work has shot my confidence down.
I find it difficult to socialise in large groups, I can talk over people as I struggle to know when its OK to interject.
I can get paranoid, anxious, talk too much .  Certain Music and situations can trigger flashbacks and take me right back to a place where I was scared and vulnerable.  I am working on this.

I am not lonely, I have a loving family and friends who I know support me.
 I am just alone in my head.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

I am sorry

I am sorry.....

My heart feels like a knife has been driven through it.
Therapy brought up feelings of sadness, shame, disgust, embarrassment.
At the moment I don't want to feel. Feeling hurts.
It was like being back there, in that moment.  I tried so hard not to cry, not to show my weakness.
There were so many things I wanted to say and so many reasons why I couldn't.
Today I learnt of a friend of a friend who has died.  She was young, she was beautiful, she needed help.
I feel for her family and those she left behind.
I feel for those I love, those who find it hard to cope being around me because I upset them too much.
I feel for the child that I nurtured, who I care for deeply who is hurting. 
I have caused that pain and it only adds to mine.
What you are feeling, I am feeling too.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 The past year.


As the darkness descends, the noises begin
 Footsteps, the wails and the keys jangling.
 Mind numbing pills that alter your mood
Bad dreams and flashbacks, they still intrude.

Mountainous fences to hold madness in,
Pacing of corridors just to keep thin,
Queues at the hatch to get daily meds
Bells and alarms invading your head.

This is no hotel or holiday camp
The pillows aren't plumped but tear stained damp
There is no pass key to access the door
This is your safe place, until we say go.

As it is Mental Health Awareness week I thought it time I posted an update.

My therapy sessions are going well and yes ,Dom is still wearing the purple jumper on a Wednesday.  We have been working on compassion focused therapy which in a nutshell is showing compassion and kindness to yourself and challenging the negative and unwelcome thoughts. This is not something which comes easy to me and involves a lot of homework and self discovery.

So I want to look back on the past year and recognise the achievements I have made rather than focusing on what I haven't done.  Some of you may have kept up to date with my facebook posts but for those of you who haven't, this is my past year.
  Trigger warning............please do not read further if you may be affected by suicidal ideation or self harm.

May 15th I was in my psychiatrists office with my eating disorders nurse for what I thought was a normal appointment brought forward a few weeks. The previous month I had been in a very bad place despite  a glorious holiday and Birthday celebrations.
My disassociation had got worse; I would often find myself in places and not aware of how I got there.
I was not managing my depression or my food intake, was having scary memories and flashbacks and thoughts of suicide came thick and fast.  The rapid change from being ok, to feeling sad or numb was my norm
There is a difference between thinking of taking your own life and planning it.  My thoughts came at different times.  I could get up happy and quickly descend into darkness. When I was starting to get my affairs into order was the day everything changed....
My psychiatrist had arranged a bed for me at a local acute mental health hospital but wouldn't be available until later that day or the next day.
 It was time for the control to be taken away from me.  The threat of a section was hanging over me If I refused to be admitted.  My illness was consuming me and I still fought to hang onto it.

I was luckier than most. At least my admission was slightly preplanned so I had time to get some personal effects packed, some which were taken away from be on admission as they were deemed a risk to myself.

We travelled to Taunton in silence, it was very daunting and I was terrified.
When we arrived at the ward a nurse introduced herself and took away my bags to be checked.She then offered to show us around the ward.  By this point I was already breaking down so we went straight to my room.  It was basic and sparse,  all ligature points had been removed meaning there were no taps just sensors, no headboard, no toilet seat, all furniture was foam and plastic, it was a 'safe place.' 
Kev said it was the worse day ever leaving me there.  I am so sorry for all the pain I put him and my family and friends through and will always be thankful for their support.

I was lucky to receive many visitors during my stay.  I had mixed reviews on whether they thought it was the right place for me.  I too had similar thoughts.  I didn't feel I fitted in and certainly didn't feel ill enough or deserving of the staff support.  In hindsight I now believe it was the right place.  It served a purpose, helped me to adjust to my medication and kept me safe.

I won't go into great detail about my admission but there are many things that stood out.
I began to recognise staff my their footsteps in the corridor.  I would cry at the noises at night, conflict between patients, the sounds of keys and the girl opposite banging her head on the wall.

I kept myself to myself at first, waiting until everyone had finished before I went into the dining room or sitting on my bed with the door locked. The thought of having to eat with strangers or being watched was paralysing.
 The patients came and went,many came back.  I was thankful to meet a few ladies who I was on a level with and we spent many evenings chatting and watching TV in the female lounge.  I am happy to say that they are both doing well and we meet weekly for coffee.

Most of the staff were caring and supportive although we did have a staff nurse who I named Nurse Ratchett.  If you have ever seen one flew over the cuckoos nest you will understand.
The ward was not set up for patients with eating disorders and often my support was inconsistent with my care plan, and recommendations from my Nurse and Dietitian were not followed.  Nurses said they did not have the skills to help me and I will admit to using this to my advantage at times.
I had a real insight into how people I support may feel.  Especially when your movements are restricted.

Because of my low BMI my activity was restricted.  I tried using the activities room but often it was closed due to staff shortages so we were left to occupy ourselves.  The day I was allowed to use my headphones was definitely a highlight.
At first I was allowed out for a walk with the staff or my visitors but this was soon restricted as I was  deemed to be burning too many calories. My Psychiatrist thought I was cycling!  I was actually going out on the back of Kevs motorbike.  The thought of Kev cycling from Burnham to Taunton would be a site to behold.
One Nurse was always happy to take me out for my 15 minutes 'exercise' so she could have a crafty cigarette, others were not so keen.  It makes me smile when I think of the staff member who said she didn't like walking so was not keen on taking me out.  I soon got her lost and exceeded my exercise time.

We had weekly ward rounds which consisted of myself, a nurse, Dr and the psychiatrist discussing my progress, future plans and home leave.
For the first few weeks I was not allowed leave but this didn't stop me asking Kev to take me home one day with a promise I would return.
The feeling of being in normal surroundings, my sofa, using my toilet and own bath made me appreciate all I have.  It was difficult to return to a place where I was not allowed to be free.
The future plan was to wait for a bed at an eating disorders unit in Bristol.  Unfortunately beds are not readily available so after my discharge from Rydon I waited another 5 weeks to move to the specialist unit.  I will save that for another post.

Back to friends.  I am thankful for all the cards, letters, gifts, visits, messages and videos that got me through.  In such a dark place they brought light to my day.
There has always been a stigma around Mental Health units and I want to stress to anyone reading this, do not feel ashamed or judged.  No-one bats an eyelid if you are inpatient for a broken limb, a broken mind is no different.
My story continues.

Eating disorders awareness week 2019

I didn't just wake up one day and decide not to eat. It started with difficulties at work. I wasn't coping, was crippled with anxie...