The Principle Helping in Recovery

The principle of “fuck it” is quite possibly the most empowering approach to mental illness recovery.

You see, I’m a mess.

I was diagnosed with anorexia and depression at 16 years old, was admitted to a psychiatric ward at 17 and have been struggling ever since with the seemingly innate desire to starve myself to death and the rational want to live a happy and stable life.

I’m a worrier. I worried about the past, the present and the future. I’ve worried about the should haves, the would haves and the might have beens. I’m an over thinker too, so you can imagine the stress and misery I’ve caused myself over the years (best not to dwell on it).

Faced with the end of my formal education -at long last- I have had to square up to and genuinely consider what the bloody hell I am going to do with myself. What career am I going into? Where will I live? Will I get a graduate scheme? Will I have to move back to my parents’ full time?

It’s almost become so overwhelming that I have ceased to bother myself with such matters. On the practical side, I am of course looking for jobs and applying to anything that catches my fancy. Does that mean, however, that I must drive myself into insanity because I am faced with my future?

This is where the principle of “fuck it” comes in. Now, I do not see this as an excuse to be reckless or irrational. Honestly: it’s just not my style. Nevertheless, it is useful to see that there are some things that are just not worth the time nor effort worrying about. If I get a job right away, great. If not, also great. It’s not the end of the world, Alee. With this greater context in mind, it has offered me another perspective on my mental health problems.

As my weight has slowly been creeping up I have taken my principle of “fuck it” and I

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Happier and healthier

have applied it really rather effectively to anorexia. It’s obviously not a case of internally shouting at my inner monologue at any given moment but it is providing me with a strange sense of freedom.

“Fuck it” enables you to realise that sometimes, just sometimes, the little things really are just the little things.

Little things like the number on the scale, like the extra mouthful at dinner, like your reflection, like the thought that pops up and proceeds to ruin your entire day, like fears about events that are not only not happening, but may never happen.

It’s made me reconsider what the big and little things really are. What’s worth worrying about and what’s not? What’s thinking over the situation one more time going to do? What’s fretting over the next few weeks and months going to change?

Those two words have helped me, I hope they can help you too.

10/10

Would recommend.

Alee

x

Goodbye 2016. 2017, What will you hold for me?

I’m a few days late. We’re over a week into 2017 already, however, I desperately wanted to write a year in review for 2016, followed by postulation for this year.

There’s been a lot on social media about how 2016 has been the “worst year ever”, some saying so with a touch of hyperbole and others with genuine moroseness. Thankfully, I do not share in that despondency. At first thought, 2016 has been nothing short of a success. Mental health wise I haven’t relapsed once, sure there have been times where I have felt extremely low and I haven’t always eaten 3 meals a day and 3 snacks, sometimes my mood and intake have been less than satisfactory, however, I have kept a hold of my illnesses for the most part and I am very proud of that!

2016 was a great year academically, I graduated from my uni with a 2:1 in BA English after three years of hard work and a dissertation. There were times where Imooo genuinely thought I might not finish it, but I am so glad I did. A few months later, I started on my MA where I commenced the learning of Latin and started studying more intensively the Medieval English period.

It’s been really challenging but I have loved learning more about this wonderful period in our history.

This year has pretty much been dictated by my learning and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Aside from learning, I have also been working. In the summer, which was free, I took up a job as an English teacher for foreign students. This year I was in the UK, which isn’t as exciting as two months in China, but I still got to explore different parts of England which I had previously never visited.

During this role, I worked and saw Brighton, Portsmouth, London, Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Wiltshire. It was taxing as I was working 12 hour days, but I earned some money and got to help others along the way (what more can I ask for?).

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Sunset in Wiltshire

The third element of my 2016 was definitely travel.

My first foreign trip of the year was in February to France. I went for an extended weekend, flew out from London, spent a few days in the city of Metz with her and spent a day in Luxembourg. It was crazy but so enjoyable! I went when I should have been working on my dissertation, but hey, it all worked out in the end didn’t it?!

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I love the old stuff…!
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This was in Nancy

Barely a week after, I was off again to Italy with my wonderful boyfriend! You guessed it- we were headed straight to Rome! This came as a surprise a few weeks prior, it was an early anniversary present (we celebrated a year together in March) and I was absolutely delighted to be heading to Italy.

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My handsome guy and I at the Trevi fountain!
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Beautiful!
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We also made a trip out to Bologna and Forli (pictured)
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And of course, the main event…
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The walls of the Vatican City

It was quite possibly the best holiday I had ever been on! And with the man of my dreams, I really couldn’t complain!

In true 2016 style, my next holiday wasn’t far away! After a few months grafting away, I handed in my dissertation… and off we went to Croatia!

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I saw my second Roman Colosseum of the year!

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The weather was gorgeous…
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And along with me came my fellow English students on a well needed break.

The most extravagant holiday came in the month of August. Shortly after finishing my job, my boyfriend and I jetted off to Asia to see the wonders of… NEPAL. This was all planned very last minute, but we managed to pull it off quite magnificently!

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We went hiking in the Himalayas!
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This was the view one morning from our bedroom!
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Breakfast anyone?
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The Himalayas, feat. a dog
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Lumbini, The birthplace of Buddha

It was ridiculously beautiful.

In my final holiday abroad of 2016, I returned to France, this time arriving in the area of Les Vosges. I spent New Year there with friends, in a chalet atop a mountain. Not bad, not bad at all…Image may contain: mountain, sky, plant, tree, outdoor, nature and water

I got back a few days ago (hence the late writing of this post). My French is very bad, unfortunately, but I had a magnificent time nonetheless.

I went on a few UK based trips this year too, such as down to Cornwall and to the Gower in Wales. I’ve been very lucky.

2016, you’ve been ridiculous. And I’m not sure I can top that in 2017, but we’ll give it a bloody good go!

2017

This year, I have to finish off my MA, write a 20,000 word dissertation and well, that’s about it. Come September, I’ll either be getting a full time job or going travelling for a few months. I really need to decide what the next step is for me; I’ve dedicated many years to my own education, is it time for a break? Do I get a job? Do I go travelling?

We shall see.

I Tried To Lead A Fast-Paced-Productive Life and It Broke Me.

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This was an experiment of sorts.

I wanted to make use of every second of my day. I wanted to be productive and succeed and win at life. For the past three weeks, I worked and worked like I never have done before. This wasn’t out of necessity, but curiosity and a sense of laziness prompted me to make a conscious effort to be one of the winners in life. Image result for motivation in sport

You know who I mean. I wondered if I could be one of those people who got four hours sleep a night, who achieved more in the hours before breakfast than most people do in their entire day. I wanted to know if I could embrace this fast paced life, where I could track my day in a diary, hour by hour, and be pleased with how much I had achieved. I wondered if I could exercise, eat well and read books and articles on politics and literature and current affairs and then go to bed satisfied with my lot.

I had established a rigorous routine and I couldn’t wait to get started. As a masters’ student at university, my schedule varied but I was determined to stick to my goal and make use of each minute.

I got up at 6 am every morning, having been up until midnight the night before. I sat down with my cereal and cup of tea while I read the news online. By 6:45 I was fed, washed, dressed and ready to work. I sat at my desk and I read. I read texts for my seminars and I read academic papers that interested me. I sat there until lunch and allowing half an hour for a quick preparation and consumption of food, I soon returned to work.

I scheduled in reading on campus, I scheduled in food shopping (pre 8am is better as it’s quieter and quicker), I scheduled in the cleaning of my room and I scheduled in exercise. I set alarms on my phone which indicated that it was time for me to move on to the next thing, be it leave for a lecture or go food shopping. I would be “doing” something until midnight everyday. I always found my next task.

I did this for three weeks. I scheduled in social activities too, but I wasn’t getting much out of it-after all, what was it achieving?

I soon became extremely exhausted and unmotivated. I was being productive, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. I tried to create a sense of schedule and routine in my life but I sacrificed my own happiness.

I am now in the process of working on a life- friendly routine.

You see, it turns out that I need time to ruminate. I just do. I also need more than six hours sleep (and sometimes a nap in the day too) and lo and behold- I need time to chill out. I need to watch stupid YouTube videos and waste a few hours here and there. I wasn’t allowing myself to relax. I did schedule in the time but I had created a go-go-go lifestyle that I felt anxious, even guilty when I wasn’t working.

In looking at what I actually want and actually need as an individual, it has allowed me to be kinder to myself. The temptation to be this incredible individual who works her tail off 24/7 is there, however, to what end?

I’ve been so busy being busy.

Never again.

You Have To Be Your Own Therapist

Sometimes, you just have to.

If you’re anything like me, asking for help is difficult. And because it’s difficult, I seldom do it.

We all know that a problem shared is a problem halved but when you can have 50+ problems a day, ranging from the mild to unmanageable, is it really possible to ask for help every single time and maintain your own sense of independence without robbing someone else of theirs?

This is a question I dwell on.

If I’m having a bad mental health day, or a bad few hours, I have two options:

1. deal with it myself.

2. get someone to help.

On those days, some of the most basic tasks seem impossible. On my most recent ‘off day’ the things I struggled with ranged from going into the kitchen to get myself a drink, to preparing myself to have a meal, to leaving my place to go food shopping.

In those moments, I was terrified. Thoughts would spring up telling me not to do it, or if i did it this would happen, or that. I would convince myself I was too tired or too busy. I became paralysed by fear.

If I rule out asking for help, I leave myself with the possibility of not doing said task at all. By telling someone else, the responsibility of doing it is in a sense, passed over to them…

“I had to go shopping, x encouraged me to and if I don’t I will let her down”

“I had to make dinner because y told me to…”

You see, it wasn’t me! I wasn’t disobeying, it wasn’t me that made the decision…!

Dealing with it yourself is much harder.

You have to stand up, tall and strong and tell it to f- off.

That takes an insane amount of courage.

Often, it’s a case of talking yourself through the rational response, other times it’s a simple “I need to do it so I am”.

The more I rely on myself, the stronger I become and yet if I can pluck up the courage to ask for help- I am bringing in reinforcements to fight the fears.

Either way, as long as you defy it, you are winning.

In this post, I do want to stress the importance of actually, relying on yourself. By doing so, you give yourself responsibility of your own actions. You start to form your own choices, own priorities, away from the illness, or the part of you that makes you ill.

Forming a part of you, or at least contributing to its development, is imperative to the creation of a person which is not the illness, which is not driven by harmful urges.

It is so, so difficult… but know that nothing is physically stopping you. It may feel that way as our minds are powerful, but the will inside you that wants to thrive is even more so.

 

Stop Trying To Get “You” Back

When in recovery from a mental illness, many sufferers declare a longing of the past. They look at how their lives used to be before they got ill and they miss it. They lament at their lost selves, their carefree nature, their impulsiveness, their genuine smile. All of which was lost when the curtain of mental illness fell before their eyes.

I’m guilty of it too. I wanted “me” back, I wanted to be that studious girl who was physically fit and healthy, who had a social life and who was in charge of her own day. Instead, I was being bossed around by the bully in my head: my entire life was about food and numbers and mirrors and self hatred. I wanted things to be the way they were before and I wanted to be what I was before.

That is a mistake.

I began to look more closely at the person I was before. She was fourteen, excruciatingly shy and had bad acne. I was healthy, sure, but I had definitely romanticised the idea I had of myself.

More importantly, I realised that seeking to be “who I was” is actually very unhelpful.

I endeavoured to look at my life objectively, by sating facts:

I am a 22 year old woman. I have a degree. I am living independently in a city a long way away from where I grew up. I have a boyfriend. I have an entirely new set of friends. I have different priorities.In short- I have changed since then.

I can never go back to being that fourteen year old. I cannot erase what has happened to me since then. It happened and it has changed me irrecoverably. I am a different person to who I was. I have a greater insight into my illness, I am more self aware, more confident, I am so much more fulfilled and developed as an individual.

I should not seek to have the mindset, life nor appearance as 14 year old me. I have grown up and out and sideways, I will never get that person back. She does not exist. What right minded 22 year old aspires to be a practically pre-pubescent child with no qualifications and no experience in the real world?

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As present day 22 year old me, I have the potential to do more and to BE MORE.

This releases us from our past. It allows us to look to the future, to what we might be, rather than what we were. The past doesn’t have to determine anything.

I used to play with soft toys and dolls as a child, does this mean I have to do it today? No, I’ve got different interests, I have different priorities.

By the same token, just because I used to starve myself, does that mean I have to do that for the rest of my life?

We are all in a great position now, we are in a place where we can grant ourselves the freedom to be who we want to be.

What To Expect In Recovery

So, you’ve embarked on the journey to recovery from an eating disorder. First and foremost: congratulations! Secondly, good luck! Recovering from an ED will most likely be the most difficult thing you have ever had to do, however, it is also the most worthwhile journey you can take. In 10 years time, you’ll be thanking yourself.

1. Expect to fail.

Why? because you will fail. You will fall and relapse and stumble and trip. You will. When I first committed to recovery way back in 2012 I saw a future for myself where I would eat every meal and snack on my meal plan, exercise appropriately and never weigh myself again. I failed again and again.

BUT

That’s alright. It really is. We (myself included) have to see failure as simply another step to where we want to be. Just because we fail once, twice, two thousand times does not mean we will always fail. You just gotta keep trying and eventually you get there. We must fail in order to succeed. Besides, we’re human- we’re not perfect.

2. Expect chaos.

Embrace it. The sooner you do this, the better. Leading on from my previous point, recovery is messy. One day you’ll be doing great then for the next three every mouthful of food will be a struggle. It can vary minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour.

Don’t expect your day, your intake or your mood to be neat and tidy or to follow a set path. It’ll be up and down and inside out and somehow, you must learn to accept it.

P.S. if you can do this, it will put you in good stead for life because life in general really is chaotic and it is random and unpredictable. Being able to throw your hands up and go, what’s next muthafucka is a fine quality. Really.

3. Expect to be exhausted.

Recovery is hard and you have to work for it every second of every day. No joke. Sometimes, you will be extremely lethargic and this will be a combination of weight restoration and emotional stress.

Changing how you think is not easy, altering your perception of yourself isn’t either and nor is working to overthrow an entire belief system (which you are likely to have functioned on your whole life!).

You’re relearning how to eat and how to live. You’re also learning a hell of a lot about yourself and how you think and see yourself.

4. Expect to grow.

And no, I’m not talking about your waistline. Sooner or later, after the endless fights with yourself, after the therapy, after the pep-talks, after the tears, you will change. You will grow as a person, in ways you thought you wouldn’t. You’ll grow in confidence and yes, if you stick at it long enough, your priorities will change.

That was the most awe striking moment for me. When I had more important things to do than to lose weight; when I began to care about my education, even my health, more than I cared to be ‘thin’, I began to see progress.

And it was the best feeling in the world.

Recovery from an eating disorder isn’t just about the weight gain and your attitude towards food. It’s a complete overhaul of your being, you shed your old skin and become something more. Of course, the essence of who you are remains, but it becomes more refined, it shines brighter and it beams out of every crevice. You become who you are truly meant to be.

*Recovery was the best decision I have ever made.

I hope you’re making it too.

~Alee

 

Gain 11: Challenges and Changes

Gain 11: Challenges and Changes

Recovery in the last month has been good/ bad/ difficult/ complicated interesting.

Basically, it’s been up and down like the value of the pound.

In my last post (here) I spoke of how I am coming to terms with being happier(?) which is surprisingly a sort-of-issue. Naturally, a day after posting, I crashed and burned… it’s always the way: you appreciate the good and life comes knocking some sense back into you!

Last week was my Graduation Week, which largely consisted of socialising, partying and one or two alcoholic beverages (okay, maybe three…) o and the small event of graduating  with a 2:1!

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My boyfriend graduated this week too!

Aside from the clinking of glasses and glamorous dresses, we were all faced with the reality of what our final week truly meant. Clearing out my room and packing my bags was tough as I said goodbye to the experiences I had had in that house over the past two years (first year was spent in halls).

In a way, I waved goodbye to some of my worst encounters with anorexia: where I had sat and cried alone instead of being out with friends or attending seminars; where I had hidden to avoid meals; where I had driven myself to despair after staring in the mirror at my always less than perfect appearance. I said goodbye to that.

Bidding farewell to the positive experiences I had accumulated whist residing in that room was equally as difficult. Especially when I began to recall how I had worked strenuously to grow and change.

I am completely overwhelmed with how wonderful things have turned out. In spite of the symptoms that don’t seem to be going anywhere soon… there are still little things, little annoying habits, which I cannot seem to shake. They are all connected to the eating disorder and I’ll shortly be elaborating on that.

The symptoms do arise, but they do not prevail. The other night, as an example, I purposefully skipped a meal. Not a big deal for the average joe, but I soon descended into a fit of melancholy, during which I extensively planned a severe weight loss plan and boarded the self criticism train. Lo and behold, a few hours later when my boyfriend arrived unannounced, armed with a bowl of cereal and a steely determination at gone 9:30pm- I cried.

Not only was it an ‘unacceptable’ time to eat, but I had already resolved to abstain from food for the rest of the day. What followed was the usual torture when I get like ‘this’. Tears, complaints, refusals, attempts on my part to instigate discussions/arguments (anything to delay the consumption of food) and eventually, the inevitable start of the meal.

By refusing to listen to the anorexia and refusing to leave me alone(!) my boyfriend helped me to eat. It was solely down to my boyfriend that I ate that bowl of cereal that night as there was no way I would have gone through the hell of preparing a meal for myself.

He’s an angel.

An hour later, after I had consumed the last spoonful of the now -very- soggy cereal, I felt slightly better. I had one up on anorexia and I had won that battle.

My fights with the illness are rarely so visible, they usually go unnoticed by the passerby. For the most part, I am better, but it is wrong to assume that one day you wake up ‘recovered’ and never have a food related disaster again.

Challenges are so important to keep up with. We all have room to improve. For now, mine revolve around the eating disorder as there are still things I ‘cannot’ do. For various fucked up reasons, these are the things I must try to do, that at present, I have great difficulty in doing:

  • eating past 9:00pm
  • finishing the last bit of a meal or snack
  • liking the lid of yoghurt pots
  • eating ‘unhealthy’ foods in front of others
  • expressing the fact I am hungry
  • drinking more water

These may seem trivial but the fact that they are there show me that it’s not over. These are all illogical and they all stem from the root of the issue- anorexia. it’s not me who can’t lick the lid of yoghurt pots, it’s a habit I can’t shake.

I need to show myself that I won’t die if I prod and poke the eating disorder, that I won’t have to witness my life falling apart if I eat at 10:15pm… because that’s all it comes down to: fear.

Fighting those little fights is how we overcome the monster: we weaken it bit by bit.

On a final note: I desperately want to start running again! I miss it so very much. If anyone has any tips on how to start up again in general (or after an ED) then please comment!

~Alee