Just keep swimming!

Pretty good quote from Disney there.

When I last posted on here I thought I was coming out of a blip, and then said blip continued. I 100% thought I could positive think myself out of the hole. I don’t really recall what happened but it worked very temporarily, perhaps a day, and then things became worse again. I ended up in hospital a couple of more times, but only overnight…and then slept a lot in the day time. I mean positive thinking is vital and I 100% believe that what we think, we become. That being said mental illness and being low is not exactly the same as being negative, and positive thinking can only do so much. I think when you are at rock bottom, it takes more than positivity to help you, but once you are beginning to feel a little better, positivity can really help.

Things are better now though! I went through a couple of days at the weekend where I was looking after myself better, but I felt incredibly low, which is the usual process after a blip. It’s like you are letting go of the ways you have been coping, so it’s relatively “normal” to feel a bit rubbish and it’s a lot like when you have been physically ill and it takes a few days to get your energy back, but here we are!

I can’t say I am entirely sure how things have turned around. On Friday I was in A&E from about 3am-7am…but I was determined to still go to work, but then I fell asleep. I was so angry with myself when I woke up. I woke up 15 minutes before I was due at the hospital for an appointment that I was planning to go to on my lunch break. I had to practically run to the hospital and I was not exactly wide awake. The clinic was running an hour late, and I basically slept in the waiting room for another hour and then saw them. They asked a lot of questions and were worried about me, so they wanted me assessed by the crisis team but I managed to avoid it. I walked home in a daze and really disappointed in myself. I think sometimes you get to the point where you are drained, tired, and sick of letting yourself down. I spoke to the mental health team I am under for a planned phone call and I attempted to act “fine”…but the plastic surgeons, police and the university mental health team had all contacted them within a day so the “I’m fine” routine didn’t work. When I got home I rested all afternoon/evening, and my pain levels were so high that even with prescription painkillers, I was struggling. It helped me to keep safe because the idea of more pain was, to be honest, intolerable.

I am still on extra meds, plus the pain killers and antibiotics. Apparently it’s harder to get antibiotics these days but I swear I’m given them so often! It can’t be healthy!

I’ve been to work, and the gym for the last 3 days. On Monday I saw my MA supervisor, and I’ve also been super challenging myself with food. At home especially. I had been eating the same things every day for all meals including my evening meal, and then having set rules about lunch at work that I won’t go into, but I’ve had different meals every evening, eaten foods I haven’t eaten in a long time (cheese, avocado, salmon, cous cous, houmous, crisps and more), and also eaten different things at work. Every time I start panicking about it and my head wants to go back to eating the same old things I actually get really angry with the thoughts and I feel like, and excuse the swearing, “f**k you, you don’t get to dictate my life any more” and I love it when I am able to have this attitude.

I actually feel like my recovery from my eating disorder has had two stages; stage one was forced treatment as a child, stage two was actively choosing to “recover” as an adult, and I feel like I am entering a third stage where I am no longer accepting what I previously have. I’ve not been “ill” in terms of my anorexia for a few years, but I have been making a deliberate effort to keep my weight at or just below the target weight range eating disorder services set for me, doing as much cardio as possible, eating at certain times, eating the same foods, avoiding a lot of foods and other similar things…and I feel like I am beginning to challenge that.

If I gain more weight, who cares?! I’d rather be happy. Just because my current weight is what I need to be to be regarded as “healthy”, doesn’t mean it is my bodies healthy weight. I mean BMI isn’t the most reliable of measures, everyone’s weight/BMI varies, and a minimally healthy weight doesn’t have to be the end goal. A BMI of 20 is healthy, but so is a BMI of 21-24. I choose a little extra weight, happiness and being able to eat dessert any day! More than that, I choose being mentally healthy over spending my life restricting what I eat, not eating things I enjoy and having to put so much energy into not gaining weight. There are far better things to be putting so much effort into, and some food is good for your body, some food is good for your soul!! A healthy body is important, but so is a healthy mind.

I am a big believer in lifestyle changes for anyone who has weight related issues, rather than dieting. I am a big believer in body acceptance – body positivity is great, but actually you don’t have to love your body all of the time, but you can accept it and not criticise every aspect of your appearance. I despise the money making diet industry. I despise the guilt that so many women (and men), feel over their bodies and what they eat. I despise body shaming of any description albeit fat shaming, or thin shaming, and I absolutely hate that some people feel they have to adhere to certain standards. I hate that we are bombarded with messages such as ‘fat is bad’, ‘low calorie = healthy’, and ‘no pain, no gain’ – and I want to practice what I preach!

AMEN.

Advertisements

BPD and Emotional Dysregulation: Part Two.

A month ago I wrote this post, and I called it “part one”, and then I forgot about it. Standard Natalie. But here we are!

I wanted to talk about ways of managing emotional dysregulation (ED).

There are so many different approaches, methods and techniques to manage ED, and while some work amazingly well for some people, they do not work at all for others. It is also VERY easy to disregard ideas because of assumptions we make; I hear about things like meditation, yoga and taking a long hot bath and my automatic reaction is to roll my eyes. Why would I want to sit quietly while struggling? I would rather go for a run, hit the gym or clean the house. Anything but sit still. But I am learning to open my mind to things; try guided meditations, for example. While not everything will work for you, you might be surprised that some things you do not even want to try, might work wonders.

The way I see it is, we have found ourselves in a rubbish situation, and we desperately want to learn how to manage better, and it seems like a pretty sensible thing to try every option no matter how silly it might seem. We have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

So first of all we have all of the things I think are airy fairy and I do not want to try, but which I do and will try; mindfulness, grounding techniques, yoga, arts and crafts. I am not going to go into detail on anything in this post as I have a lot to cover, but check out the links. (I wrote a post on this airy fairy stuff once!)

While in a day programme I absolutely hated art therapy, which they called “creative”, but towards the end I started writing rather than doing “typical” art, because the title of creative gave a lot more flexibility. Since then I have had a few periods of time where I have bought scrapbooks. I’ve had a “positive” scrapbook, and then a not so positive one, which I have yet to find a name for (I do not think “negative” is a good word for it). In the positive one it is simply lots of positive quotes or things I have read, with illustrations and things. I am not artistic. I am the least artistic person I know, but it is not about being an artist, it is about expressing yourself and creating something positive to look back at. In the other one I did the same but with quotes or poems that I could relate to in a different way; in a sad kind of way, but it was helpful because it allowed me to express some of my difficult feelings and find things I could relate to. Towards the end I also often just grabbed a sharpie and scribbled whatever was in my head onto the paper; messy and freely.

Here are some art journal prompts and writing prompts. If you really feel unsure about creating your own art, colouring in for adults is a huge thing now, as well as adult dot-to-dots!

Then there is exercise. Exercise is a complicated one. Sometimes I genuinely believe exercise is the last thing we need, especially if we are really low. There is a massive emphasis on exercise in mental health treatment, and while it is obviously backed by a lot of research, and often it is really helpful, what is not helpful is to feel like you SHOULD be exercising, but be unable to manage it, and then feel bad about it. But exercise can mean anything. Just because you do not like one thing, does not mean you will not like something else. Also, if you are really struggling you might not feel up to being in a busy gym, or intense exercise like running; but a 15 minute walk down a quiet footpath surrounded by nature, a swim, or a bike ride might be perfect for you; with this one you need to find what works for you, and this could be different things at different times. (If you struggle with, or have struggled with exercise addiction, an eating disorder, or any other addiction, be extremely careful about using exercise to manage your mood).

Medication can also be helpful in managing severe emotional dysregulation. While it is definitely not a “fix”, it can help when things are very unmanageable. This is something you will need to discuss with a medical professional, and is not something that will necessarily be an option for you. Different medications work for different people and therefore my experiences are limited in their usefulness for you as an individual, but I have found two medications particularly helpful; quetiapine and clomipramine, and while I did not think they were helping me, when I have been off them I have realised that they do. Like I said, they are not going to solve the problem to a seriously noticeable extent, but they can help ease things.

This next,and final one is a biggie! Acceptance. Acceptance of your emotions is key. Do not feel guilty or bad for feeling sad, or angry, or whatever it is you are feeling. It is ok to feel; a feeling cannot hurt you. Read more about radical acceptance, which is a key component of a famous treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder (DBT). Radical acceptance involves taking a non-judgemental stance about yourself, and the situations and people around you, and accepting them as they are. It is not about agreeing with something or someone, but simply accepting things you cannot change.

There are other things that can be helpful when experiencing emotional dysregulation:

  • Identifying your emotion(s) – if you struggle with this you can use an emotion wheel. An emotion is something that I believe is trying to tell you something. Ignoring your feelings will not help, but recognising how you are feeling and saying to yourself “right now I feel really sad” can often be helpful if you can be accepting of that, and aware that it will not last forever.
  • Distraction techniques – note that distracting yourself is not the same as ignoring your emotions; after distracting, your mood or emotions will at some point return to a more tolerable level, at which point you can address what you were feeling.
  • Longer-term you can keep a diary of triggers. It can be helpful to do an ‘ABC’, that is A (antecedent), B (behaviour) and C (consequence). For more information go here and use their blank template to record yours. This can allow you to identify frequent triggers and work on managing them. This was something I learnt from a mental health professional I used to see, and while I did not find it helpful at the time as she used it as the basis of my treatment (aka we spent all of our time doing it), it can be helpful as an aid.
  • Wise mind. This concept is also from DBT. Your ‘wise mind’ is the middle ground. The two extremes are reasonable mind and emotional mind, where wise mind is in the middle.

 

 

 

 

A Reminder of Why I Gained Weight

Sometimes I still catch myself looking back and wondering why I “let” myself gain 40lbs. Who does that? Who chooses to gain 40lbs? I feel like a failure. I cannot figure out why the hell I ever chose to do that. I regret it. But then I push those thoughts away and focus on the here and now.

Things have been slipping for months though. You see despite weight restoring I have never really “normalised” my eating; I still choose the lowest calorie sandwich in the supermarket, I still check the calories for restaurants and choose accordingly and I do not know the last time I chose something because I WANTED it. I avoid dessert unless I can “make up” for it, and I have a huge heap of food related rules. I do not eat things that my disorder stupidly labelled as “bad”; chocolate, burgers, sweets, white carbs, pasta, high fat foods (except peanut butter haha), crisps, non-diet versions of things you can get diet versions of, potatoes, milk, ice cream, chips…you can probably guess the kind of things. I eat the same breakfast, lunch and tea every day, and the same snacks, and the only variation I have managed to add in is different sandwiches at work so long as they are from the healthy living range, and different protein with my evening meal sometimes..but which is still limited to a few options.

I have been at my target weight of a BMI around 20 for a while now, but the food related rules have been plentiful. Eating out still scares me, Christmas still terrifies me although to a lesser extent…and I still often wish I could eat what the other people I am with are eating. I still avoid social situations involving food, I still long to eat certain things and I still feel like I deprive myself. And I convince myself it is ok because my weight is “fine.”

A year or two ago I started exercising again in the form of the gym. I have stuck to three times maximum mostly, with the occasional increase before reducing it back down. Three times is fine, I convince myself…while ignoring the thoughts I have. The panic at not being able to go because it is bank holiday, the panic that I might not fit in three times if I go home. The desire to go every day and the irritable mood I find myself in on my days off. The increased frequency of going an extra day. The obsessive thoughts about burning fat and building muscle.

It has gradually worsened. And in the last 6 months it has completely deteriorated. I had a few weeks where I was running three times, going to the gym three or four, and I ended up triggering an old injury and I felt suicidal. I know that sounds dramatic, but that is what happened. I have been weighing myself daily again, and when I was arrested and placed in a cell (don’t ask!), I was not bothered about the prospect of a criminal record so much as I was bothered about not being able to go to the gym; when I was released I rang my Mum crying that I could not go to the gym (it was too late) and that I was in so much pain I could barely even walk. (By the way I was not charged and I hadn’t committed a crime..it was mental health related and complicated – I will explain if anyone wants to know, but not on here!) I have been going to the gym extra days per week, doing a lot extra cardio and walking 10-20km every day, even if it means walking in the middle of the night.

I should have seen how bad things were getting but I wanted to ignore it. Or rather, because I am a healthy weight, I felt like I had to just act fine, pretend to be fine, get on with it. It was like I did not deserve to feel like I had a problem, and I know that the one person who really knows how things have been has been irritated with me for trying to pretend there is not a problem when it is blatantly obvious that there is, but the underlying issue has been the weight part. How can I need to cut down my exercise or eat more, or challenge my eating rules, when I am at a healthy weight?

But the thing is, being in that semi-recovered but still pretty damn disordered state leaves you not just miserable, but also very vulnerable to relapse, and while I feel like I only relapsed last weekend, it had been coming for a while. Last weekend I decided to lose weight. I was in bed when I made the decision and I planned to simply cut down a little on what I was eating, but then I got up the next morning and ate less than planned for breakfast, then skipped lunch and snacks, ate less than planned for tea, and skipped supper. I went to work without breakfast and had no lunch, I just ate a fiberone bar. Roll on to yesterday and I had a glass of unsweetened almond milk, some egg whites and veg…burnt 500 calories in the gym and 600 calories walking.

And guys, it worked. In 6 days I lost 6lbs. YAY WELL DONE NATALIE (not). How I feel reminds me of a quote by Marya Hornbacher:

“And when, after fifteen years of bingeing, barfing, starving, needles and tubes and terror and rage, and medical crises and personal failure and loss after loss – when, after all this, you are in your early twenties and staring down a vastly abbreviated life expectancy, and the eating disorder still takes up half your body, half your brain, with its invisible eroding force, when you have spent the majority of your life sick, when you do not yet know what it means to be ‘well,’ or ‘normal,’ when you doubt that those words even have meaning anymore, there are still no answers. You will die young, and you have no way to make sense of that fact.
You have this: You are thin.”

You are thin. And that is all you really have.

You are depressed, anxious, isolated, suicidal and empty. But you are thin. And at times your head convinces you this is what you want, especially at the start…but then one day it hits you. I remember a moment where it hit me in my last major relapse. It was 2011, I think. I was on an acute medical ward for refeeding in a general hospital. I took my first shower in the bathroom there and they had a full length mirror. I had been avoiding mirrors, and the sight of my own body reduced me to tears. I was thin, and that was all I was. I was nothing else. I was empty, and dying, and I cried. Usually I was pleased to lose weight, to be told I looked sick, to be wasting away…but it was like suddenly my eyes opened up to the reality, and I knew that this was not a life I could carry on living.

I remember looking at my body, seeing that I really was just skin and bones, and crying. I remember thinking “what have you done to yourself?” I remember having to crawl to get to bed because I could not walk at home, and as soon as I was in hospital, not being allowed to go anywhere except in a wheelchair. How can you be 19 years old and in this state for the third time?

 

 

So yes, I spent the last week losing weight as quickly as I could, taking diet pills that used to be prescription only on the NHS but were then banned for causing heart failure, and feeling moody as hell. I had a rubbish appointment with my mentor at uni. I have laid in bed making weight loss plans. I have worried about managing my degree and work, and doing pretty much anything. I have cancelled plans, avoided going home for my sisters birthday, and to be honest, been a wreck all while hiding what I was doing from everyone.

And then today I got up and I ate breakfast and I walked to Tesco and bought food, and I ate lunch and tea. I took the day off the gym, and after I had walked so far, I forced myself back home…and it was literally force. And I do not know how I have managed it. My stomach hurts. I have cried. I feel like I am about to gain a stone in the coming days and weeks, and I think I need to make the decision that a BMI over 20 is not the end of the world. That if I want to minimise the risk of relapse and stop living my life by so many damn food and exercise rules, I have to accept my body wants to be at a higher weight than eating disorder services told me to be.

Back to wondering why I ever let myself gain weight:

I did not gain weight because I wanted to gain weight. God if I had waited for that day, I would be in a grave by now. And that is the thing. An eating disorder is not a diet. There is no ‘end’. You just keep on going and I am one of those people who either eats nothing, or eats 3 meals and a snack every single day without failure. I am obsessive, and very rigid and that is how I go. There is no middle ground.

I have remembered why I gained weight.

  1. Social stuff! When I am losing weight and restricting I avoid people. I avoid family and friends and anything that might involve food. This is my biggest reason to eat; I am focusing on wanting energy for work and to help at an event on the 7th of June. I have arranged to see friends on both Monday and Tuesday, and my sister for the day after her birthday. This will be challenging, especially with food, but I know that being able to remind myself that eating = being able to spend time with the people I love will help me manage eating properly again. And I am not going to just try and return to where I was a few weeks ago…I want to start eating what I WANT and not trying to maintain a minimally “healthy” weight. I do not want to spend my life micro-managing my eating and weight.
  2. Because when I starve myself and become severely underweight I am an awful person. At my worst, as a teenager, I attacked my family, smashed windows while cooking, threw plates of food that my Mum was trying to force me to eat at her, and hid food in socks, pockets…anywhere. But beyond that…I was silent, empty, dead. I know if I relapsed I would sit with my mentor every week in silence, or talk and feel as rubbish and as guilty as I did yesterday. I do not want that life back. I do not want the life back where nothing is important except avoiding food and losing weight.
  3. I really, really, want to go back into treatment, and USE it. GET BETTER. If I go back there at the end of this year, two stone underweight, I will not be able to use it to get better. (It is not for eating disorders) I will struggle; I will struggle to talk because I will be a zombie. I will struggle with eating there. I will struggle to manage to physically cope with getting there and being there all day. Managing just to sit there in silence would be an achievement. I need to be better than that; I need to be able to make the most of it.

There a whole heap of other reasons; enjoying food, being warm, not wanting my osteoporosis to get worse, concentration, Christmas, energy…but those three are my main reasons.

It feels strange admitting what the last six months have been like, and what it has accumulated to in the last week. It feels scary to admit that I am not as “recovered” as I would like to think, or as I would like other people to think. It is hard to say that I have a lot of things I need to change, and possibly some weight to gain, when I am not really underweight and nobody can see that there is a problem.

But there is a problem. I do not care if you are under eating, or over exercising, or not; I am telling you that if you are psychologically obsessing over food, or have rules surrounding food and exercise that cause anxiety, make you depressed, and that dictate your life to you, you deserve more.

You deserve so much more. And I deserve so much more, and if I want to get anything from this week of hell, it is to get truly better for the first time ever, and make other people aware that being at a healthy weight does not mean you are “recovered”, or that you cannot gain more weight. And that being “fine” does not have to be the end. You are worthy of more than “fine” and I am here to tell you that just like me, you can fight for more. You can fight for more than just “fine” and for more than managing, and for more than having to follow your life with rules. I am here to tell you that being weight restored does not mean you cannot still be struggling, and does not mean you have to pretend to the rest of the world you are ok when inside you are still fighting a battle.

The Life Plan

My life plan right now is better known as the treatment plan. I’ve had a bit of a dilemma recently. I have a place at an assessment centre for a grad scheme. It was unexpected and it threw a spanner in the works. My plan was to fight to get back into the therapeutic community aka take time out, and then when I got onto the assessment centre I was thinking ‘Maybe I could just never go back to treatment and get “better” by just “getting on” with my life’. And it could work out. Treatment isn’t always the way to get better. Sometimes living life is. Maybe moving to London and doing a full-time grad scheme would help me get “better”.

However a draft email has been sat in my outlook account for the last week. A draft email stating that right now, due to health reasons, I can’t accept a grad scheme offer, therefore I need to pull out now. The reluctance to send it is the ‘But what if I actually got offered a place on the scheme? How can I turn that down?’ which is why I need to hit send. Because if I did get offered it, it would make my life even harder.

I had an “interim appointment” with the PD service today. A brief explanation if you don’t already know from my other posts is that in November I was, in short, chucked out of the therapeutic community (TC). I was “too unstable” and “too high risk”. I ended up on an acute psychiatric ward, and if you are deemed as being acutely unwell, you are not deemed ready for therapy. Since then I have just had an interim appointment in March.

Today a plan was made. My options were private, self-funded counselling which I was assessed for, and found for a VERY reasonable price; it’s with a charity, and they do student rates of £12 an hour! If you’ve ever looked into private counselling you’ll know you can pay £40-50 an hour minimum. So that was option 1, and would involve being discharged from the PD team with re-referral for the TC once ready and suitable (I’m not allowed back while people I was in treatment with last year are still there). Option 2 was to do a smaller, once weekly group for 6 months, starting in Jan with an interim appointment in May and fortnightly scheduled telephone support, then re-referral to the TC in July 2018. Option 3, which was the option I put forward, was to skip the once weekly group, have the interim appointment/phonecalls, and be re-referred to the TC as soon as I can be.

We are going with option 3! The downside is I won’t be having any formal support until that time comes, which should be November/December – but I will have an appointment in August, and fortnightly phone calls with my lead professional. They are going to work out the date they *think* should be the point at which I can go back into the TC process and let me know. I’m expecting it to be no later than December.

The TC process is a long one. You have to do a prep group first, on a Tuesday morning. If I started that in January, I’d expect to be finished in March/April. It took 4 months last time but I think this time I could be quicker. Then the actual TC is for one year. The TC is 3 days per week, with the occasional extra half day where you are expected to help run the prep group in blocks. Halfway (or 3/4 way) through the TC you join another group called Thrive, which would increase it further…Thrive is basically like the prep group, but it’s a post-therapy group…it’s preparing you for leaving the TC…and when you leave the TC after the one year, you continue going to thrive for either three or six months, I can’t remember. All in all you’re looking at 18-24months.

I am dreading it. The TC was the most exhausting, at times soul destroying, intense, sometimes toxic, environment I have ever been in. I found going there three days per week more exhausting than I would find a full-time job. All I wanted to do when I left each day was sleep. Weekends were spent recovering from the week.

The idea of going back terrifies me. It is by no means the easy option. It would actually be easier for me to try get on this grad scheme. I wouldn’t have to feel bad for not being in full-time employment. I wouldn’t feel like a failure because all of my friends are working and living their lives and going somewhere…and I am sat in a hospital. I wouldn’t have to turn down an amazing grad scheme. I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I wouldn’t have to go through intense therapy that is going to bring up some tough stuff; I am not a person who openly talks about stuff with people, so group therapy is really difficult for me. I am sat here right now thinking ‘oh f**ck what am I doing?!’.

But it’s the plan. And it is a good one. I can finish my current job because I will still be here in September, and honestly I was worried at the idea of having to leave the job early to move away for a grad scheme (grad schemes start in Sept) because I would honestly be absolutely gutted about it. People kept saying to me that I can’t not take a 1-2yr grad scheme because I want to finish the last month of a temporary contract and I was like UMMMM YES I CAN IF I CARE. So this works out soooo well for that. A grad scheme would also mean moving from Leicester at the start of Sept when my MA finishes on the 31st aka I would need to get my dissertation finished a month early which would be fun!

And how I am seeing this is…yes I am 25 this year and I thought I would be well into a career by now…but what is 1-2 years of my life if this treatment actually helps? Do I want a full time job where I am struggling and spending evenings and weekends in hospital or prison cells? Or do I want to focus on treatment, get myself sorted, and then focus on my career? In the long-term this could be the best decision I have made. I will be fully dedicating myself to treatment this time…rather than doing treatment plus university. This time I am going to give it everything. If I am taking a year or two out, I am going to make it worth it. While I do want to find part-time work, the part-time work will have to be second on my list of priorities.

So now I just need to work out how to get myself ready for returning so that I don’t get chucked out for a second time!

PLAN.

We also had some interesting conversations regarding diagnosis which I might write about another day, and it was raised that my exercise might be becoming excessive and/or obsessive and how to manage that.

In Which I Rant About Everything.

Apologies in advance for the abnormally open and long post.

I am a bubble of stress and anxiety. Mostly anxiety. I have in this learnt that anxiety is one of my biggest triggers for negative coping mechanisms and now I am looking at the past, I can’t see why I didn’t realise this sooner. I think I was in denial of it, because two people had brought up the idea that my negative behaviours are often a reaction to anxiety, and I totally dismissed it and to be honest, quite frankly felt annoyed at the suggestion.

It all just got too much on Friday and I ended up in A&E at 4am which was incredibly stressful, not helped by the A&E department moving to a new building with new procedures. I was a mess, but maybe I needed to be a mess. Maybe it helped as horrible as it was. A&E is usually the place where my meltdowns occur, like I’ve been holding myself together and then I just fall apart. Any way, I got physically sorted and had this lovely doctor who knew me already. He spent absolutely ages with me before I managed to talk but it was helpful, although kindness and people saying nice things about me always makes me upset and he seemed extremely worried. He said normally I seem a bit better after what had happened to end up there, but that this time I seemed a lot worse. I saw the mental health team after treatment for a few minutes, but that was unhelpful or rather, pointless. I was tired and calm, and not bothered about talking. I felt like I did the talking with the doctor and to be honest, considering he wasn’t a mental health professional, he was a lot better at helping me than the mental health team ever have been. I guess I got lucky there. When I first saw him I was thinking ‘oh god not him’ because I knew him, but he was amazing with me. He also said some interesting things about my diagnosis and treatment, and that he has never met someone with my diagnosis who is managing as well as I am, and studying for an MA which made me feel both good but a bit annoyed that being outwardly functional sometimes makes people over estimate how ‘well’ you are doing.

The doctor was discussing admission to the psych ward or crisis team input but as soon as I saw mental health it was clear that was out of the window, which was mostly a relief.  The following days were full of feeling anti-treatment and spending pretty much all night every night walking in the dark which on the first couple of nights was very dangerous, but on the last night, was very peaceful and reflective and last night I was sat up till 4am arguing with myself over a decision. I made the healthiest decision, the safest one,  and I feel calmer now. I’ve overcome most of the guilt and regret of ending up in A&E because I am a work in progress and that is ok. I pick myself up quicker and better than ever, and that is an improvement. I have time to improve further. This is not a race.

So yeah, I have *picked* myself back up again, which is good, but not exactly fun or pleasant. I’d rather not. I’d rather crumble. Correction, in the short-term I’d rather crumble because it is easier. In the long-term I will be glad I am not crumbling. I know where crumbling ends and I will not like it.

I think a big part of my stress is to do with treatment. Like, I was kicked out of the TC in November and things have felt so unstable since. It is like I am supposed to make myself stable while everything around me is the exact opposite. It doesn’t feel like the easiest of things to do.  I’m meant to be starting counselling privately but I’m re-considering doing a group at the PD service (same service as the TC) instead. I don’t know which will be best for me. I think I would prefer to do the counselling, but that perhaps the group would actually be best for me. But I have no idea what day the group is on, or if it is still an option, so I need to find out which means ringing them tomorrow. I don’t want to wait till next Friday because I’m starting my new job on Wednesday and if I am going to have to ask to swap my days around I want to do so in a way that is the least annoying for work so my plan is to find out what day the group is tomorrow, so when I go to work on Wednesday I can ask to change my days to fit the group, just in case I do the group. It feels like the best option rather than messing work around in a months time or whenever.

Now I want to do the group I regret stretching the truth with my responses to the initial questionnaire thing for it. And regret ruling it straight out without thinking. I am scared now that I won’t be able to do it aka more anxiety.

I am also stressed about life post-September aka post-university. I will be unemployed and that makes finding a grad scheme very attractive and I only have a few options that way because of timing. But then there is the idea of going back to the TC, which I had to be honest, ruled out, but I think that is largely a fear of what if it doesn’t work? Which makes me feel like not even trying for fear of ‘failing’, a fear of coping financially and really not wanting to return to a house share because it is SO bad for my mental health and my eating and my anxiety. And then a fear of not being allowed back even if I am “stable”. I don’t know how real that fear is. I’m just scared of rejection and uncertainty.

Also, I don’t know what timescales will be and that is probably quite unpredictable for anyone to say. I mean say I got referred back at the end of November, assessed or whatever by Jan..approved for prep, joined prep in say Feb or March? Like, what do I do between October and March. Financially speaking, and in every other way, it’s a worry.

I mean the best I can hope for is to get myself to this new job without using negative coping mechanisms/sabotaging it completely, ring tomorrow to find out about the day of the group, ask to do the group in my next appointment on the 12th, them agree to let me join, join ASAP, work on “stabilising” further, then when I finish uni look for more part time work in anything though I’d prefer something career related that might be difficult if I want part-time which realistically I do, apply for help financially and find a cheap as possible one bed place (house sharing would be financially better but it feels like such a bad move), finish the group and be re-assessed for the TC, then wait to join the prep group.

I don’t know how realistic the plan is. I’m worried that I won’t be allowed in this group now, but that can be replaced with the counselling and I will just have to work on not letting the issue I am worried with re: counselling, become an issue. I’m also worried that if I do still want to join the TC which at the moment I mostly do, that they will decide I am too well or something. You know, 2016: you are too unstable. 2017/18: you are too stable. That would be a turn of events and not ideal for me. Like stable does not equate well, or happy, or where I want to be at the end of all of this.

Then yeah, going back to work is making me a bit/a lot anxious. And other little things like this walk I am supposed to be doing to fundraise for a charity, some volunteering etc. And then university is a huge stress right now because I’m behind and not sure if I can make up the work, never mind get a decent grade. And then there’s other stuff, like sorting out my routine and sleep, which is a massive issue right now, and exercise and injury and eating.

I just really want some stability around me. I guess the primary things I think I need is a stable once weekly appointment of some kind, either the counselling or the group. To settle back into working. And to be managing a better routine – sleep, exercise, uni work and work being the priorities. Then adding in little things like the volunteering and actually seeing friends at least occasionally without getting so anxious that I cope using negative behaviours.

My psych appointment got cancelled, and while I am bothered, I am less bothered than I was because although I still want medication, that feels suddenly less important to me. Like sure the meds I want to go back on help my mood/anxiety/obsessions and it would definitely help stable me out a bit and ease those things, but there are other methods too. Of course ideally I would have meds plus the other methods but I guess there is no rush and hopefully I will get another psych appointment soon. Pinning my hopes on being allowed back on meds isn’t helpful and is potentially dangerous as I could be disappointed, so I am taking a few steps back from that idea.

I have an interview for a grad scheme and I’ve seen two other things I’d be interested in applying for, but it doesn’t fit in well with my current job which I need to be working in September for. I mean I know a longer-term job should be a priority over the temporary job but I really REALLY want to work there in September because it’s a key part of the campaign and I mean, yeah, I want to badly. And also, starting a grad scheme/job somewhere else in September really does not fit what I want treatment wise and so I am weighing up my options. While I really want to get a proper full time, permanent career job, I’m not sure I am “there” yet. I want to be there and I am trying to work out if I can just y’know, do it and find my way through it as I go…force myself to manage it. Or whether I just need to try and be ok with taking another year or so before getting into that kind of scheme or job and being 27 years old and just starting my career. I do feel a lot of pressure about being 24 and in this position, pressure to be doing what other people my age are doing and to be on the whole career route thing and I hate it. And I know, people say 27 is still young but I wanted to be in a career by 22 and it just really gets to me.

So if I am going to take the treatment route and take time out, I am going to really prioritise therapy and give it everything I have got so that once I am done, I truly am done. Which is very good motivation, it makes me feel very determined. I feel like if I go to the appointment on the 12th and have a clearer plan in my mind, I will probably improve a lot in terms of my mood and negative coping mechanisms and so that feels really important right now. I want to give up and run a few hundred miles from treatment for fear of failure and rejection, but I know what I need more than anything is to feel…I don’t know, contained and safe, and stable.

The sooner the 12th is here the better right now. Going a couple of months between appointments and having no set clear plan is just really unhelpful for me. It’s unsettling and it makes me feel unstable. I struggle to hang onto the plan at the previous appointment for such a long period of time.

I sent them a letter asking to be discharged on the 12th and while I am proud of myself for clearly asserting what I wanted at the time, I think it could have been a wrong decision. I literally woke up that morning with the idea and wrote the letter and sent it all in the space of two hours. It wasn’t exactly the best thing to do so quickly. I’m going to find out about the options with the group and not make a decision right now. I’ll go to my appointment on the 12th and discuss all options openly and without putting a heavy preference on any option, and decide there and then based on the positives and negatives, the options, and just in an appointment where I will be thinking rationally and won’t be making decisions based on feelings or misinterpretations of what other people are thinking.

Plan. My focus between now and then is manning up and going to work on Wednesday, working on my routine and university work. Keeping up the exercise while managing injury, and doing this sponsored walk. I also think I need to stop being so negative about trying mindfulness because a lot of my impulsive behaviour is connected to thinking far too ahead and panicking and the whole being in the moment thing sounds like a very good thing despite my dislike of the idea of mindfulness. Plan. Plan. Plan.

I want to start by expressing my huge dislike of writing titles. This is entirely irrelevant but it is my most frequent thought when I start writing a blog, or anything that requires a title.

My other thought is always that I am going to stop being a student in September and I have no idea what I will change my blog name to. “The Crazy Ex-Student”? Imaginative. Or just “The Crazy Ex”. That makes my blog sound very intriguing, but it would be very disappointing for people who realise I am not in fact blogging about being a stalker-ish ex-girlfriend. I guess I could pretend.

I have a list of things I need to do which I am avoiding. My GP gave me a referral to X-Ray so I am supposed to have been for that, but I am avoiding it for reasons I do not totally understand. She also gave me sleeping tablets thank the Lord.

I have been thinking about leaving university early. Probably because I feel like there are a lot of things going on right now and it is like each “thing” is a brick whacked on top of my shoulders, and getting rid of some of these bricks would be nice. But it probably would not solve anything. I mean my masters is not crucial to my life. I did not decide to do it because I needed to do it. I decided to do it because I wanted to, and because it went well with doing the day treatment. I wanted to be more than a patient and it allowed me to be. But then I got kicked out of treatment so that is no longer a relevant factor. But I do love university and my research, I am just finding progress is very slow and I feel like my work is substandard right now (but I also know my idea of substandard is normal people’s standard and I could achieve a decent enough grade and quitting will make me feel rubbish).

I would guess that university is not my problem and I am just making out it is one to myself, to feel like there is a solution to how things are. “Functioning” feels challenging right now and I suppose leaving university would make me worse.

I have started running, which is to be honest, amazing. I did long distance running as a kid and then stopped because of an injury, and then developed my eating disorder so it just stopped being something I did. I have wanted to start again for a long time, and have made a few attempts but I do not think my heart was in it (or rather I was super unfit and did not want to push through it) and my anxiety about being outdoors in front of people made it near impossible. But I started again, and it is going well. I have done 5k each time which is not far at all, but I honestly thought I would manage a kilometre the first time I went out, and then probably lay down and die. And I survived so 10/10 for Natalie. The third run was supposed to be a walk with maybe a 2k run as an “extra” because I was stressed and hiding indoors. It turned into a 5k by accident.

Hey who knows, by September I might be calling myself ‘The Crazy Runner’. I cannot quite imagine calling myself a runner right now, but I would like to hope by September I do. If I manage to actually stick with running I will be pretty surprised and very happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017 – Not your typical “before” and “after”

It is Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) this week.

Originally I was going to get people onboard to make alternative “before” and “after” images – get people to submit photographs representing before and after in a way that was not using images of emaciated bodies. This felt complicated; what images would do that? An image of someone alone, then surrounded by people? It did not feel completely right nor possible.

Then I gave up on doing anything for two reasons; number one, because I was feeling deflated. What is the point in raising awareness? It does nothing. I felt sick of hearing about mental illness. I struggle with it every day and I want it to go away. Why talk about it? I want to run away from it. Number two, what is the point of any of it? I felt like help does not help, and that all these campaigns do is glorify eating disorders and other unhelpful things. I did not see the point – to understand where I am coming from, this article is partially helpful. I really advise you read it as it makes many of the points I feel we need to become more aware of; it is a problem in the mainstream media, but increasingly more so on social media. It is what my message is for EDAW 2017 (and probably every EDAW ever).

I have also wrote three other posts – the last one being my favourite:

This year to tackle the issue I have with EDAW images I have decided to focus on making posts via graphics on social media myself. There will be two different types:

  1. Alternative “before” and “afters”
  2. “I have to learnt to…” – which talk about things I have learnt in recovery to show was recovery is really about, beyond food or weight.

To see these posts, and to share them, take a look:
Instagram
Twitter

They are also available on my personal Facebook account, and on Friday 26 March I will post a collection of them on here.