Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Is it spring yet?!

Sorry this is late. I've been trying to decide what to share. The other thing will get shared, just not this month.

This weird weather we've been having has left many of us feeling really frazzled. All the last minute cancellations, risky journeys, and dark cold days are getting lots of us down!

Every winter, I notice my mental health and energy levels take a bit of a dip. The last couple of years have been better as I've been able to recognise it, and say to myself 'it's okay, this doesn't last forever'. I just need to wait it out, and look forward to spring. I've realised that winter is natures time to sleep, and I don't need to bloom all year long. I can rest and restore.

Spring seems to be taking such a long time to arrive this year, though!

My energy feels like spring flowers, coming out of the winter sleep. When I start to see the daffodils, the crocuses, the blossom, I start to feel more energised again. I feel myself shrugging off the winter, emerging out of the soil.

This year, the snow keeps squishing me/them back down!

Ugh too many metaphors in this post. Who the hell do I think I am? 

Basically, winter is tough and I usually feel better in the spring. 

During a spring equinox yoga practice I was doing the other day, I was prompted to think about what element of spring I'd like to manifest in myself. The thing that came to mind was the ability to embrace change. I'm trying really hard to be flexible and embrace change, but I am finding it tough at the moment. There seems to be a lot of change going on around me right now. I can only do what I can. I can focus on the positive changes and try to accept the changes that stress me out. Change is constant and I know I can't avoid it. I need to learn to go with the flow. At least I recognise this now and other people know what's going on too.

Even though the weather is still pants and gloomy, the lighter evenings mean that I can go for a walk after work, which is a really important part of my routine. I will start to pick up again. I know I will. It's just taking a little longer than usual to wake up from winter this year.

They're trying! 

Sunday, 25 February 2018

It's Eating Disorders Awareness Week (TW - take care please)

Content/Trigger warning: In the second part of the post (underneath the starred line) there is mention of some harmful eating disorder related behaviours. 

This year, Eating Disorders Awareness Week will take place from 26 February to 4 March. The theme is 'Why Wait'. Some of you may remember my blog for last year's EDAW. The theme was around early intervention and I spoke about my experiences with waiting too long for treatment. There isn't much more I can say on the topic that I haven't already said, so please check out last year's post, read the following bit from the Beat website, and then you can read the thing I've chosen to write about instead. 

"This year, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, we’ll be asking the question ‘Why Wait?’

On average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.

We know the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and fast recovery. As well as campaigning to improve the services available, we recognise that we must raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and encourage and empower people to take action now – no matter how long their symptoms have been present.

So, join us this EDAW to ask: ‘Why Wait?’ "

Me again: I really hope professionals take notice of this campaign and the many people crying out for change. It's important that we don't just tell people to seek help early. As I spoke about last year, I tried to get help when I noticed the early warning signs of my eating disorder reemerging after a brief okay spell and I wasn't taken seriously. I wasn't given the help early on, despite asking several times. I hope times have changed/ are changing.


The Actual Blog Post

Recently, I've been thinking about stuff that I have reclaimed since recovering from anorexia nervosa. 

I'm going to write about two things that, when I was poorly, were damaging to my health and wellbeing. They are now both really important for my self-care and they do not harm or deplete me. 

They nourish me.  

When I started thinking about it, I felt really powerful. It reminded me of how different my life is now. 

1) Baths. I remember using baths as a way to distract myself from eating and from feeling hungry.

Now baths are a crucial part of my self-care routine. If I've had a tough day, or had too much sensory input, nothing resets my system better than turning the lights off and lying in the water. I've come to realise recently how important my 'sensory diet' is. Lights that are too bright, noises that are too loud, smells that are too strong, all drain my energy. This type of environment is, unfortunately, unavoidable but I'm learning what comforts me and what strengthens me. Having a bath feels like I'm properly looking after myself. Doing exactly what serves me, filling my cup back up.

2) Walking. When I was unwell, I would walk a lot and feel very guilty if I didn't.

Now walking is something I do for absolutely all the right reasons. It calms me down when I'm feeling anxious, it boosts my mood when I'm feeling down, and it helps me to be more mindful and reminds me to breathe when I'm stuck in my head. I'm very lucky that I live by a few different parks and green spaces, so I only need to venture a couple of minutes out of my house before I've got that breathing space. I also now have a dog, so on those days where my anxiety makes it difficult to leave the house, he reminds me to go out and take a breather. I made a promise to myself that I would only do exercise that I actually enjoy. No more 'shoulds'. This includes walking, yoga, spinning/dancing in the house and the occasional bike ride.

There are also many things that I have rediscovered (rather than reclaimed) since recovering. Reading is one. Oh the joy of having the concentration to read a book! I might revisit that topic another time.

This was such a nice reflection. It feels important to stop and take stock of how far we've come. Even if it's only small steps. We're all growing constantly and can get to where we want to be if we keep making those steps.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Working as a mental

I wasn't sure how to start this, or quite where I'm going with it, but I really want to talk about how I manage at work.

Before 2016, I'd never had a full time/proper job. This was when I started working in a mental health recovery service, where my lived experience of mental ill health helped me to be really good at my job. I enjoyed what I did, grew in confidence, got recognition for my hard work and made some brilliant friends.

I learnt really quickly that the job after that was not for me. I couldn't cope in the environment and my mental health took a turn for the worse. 

It's okay though. Even though I felt shit for a while, I don't regret taking that job. I've got great support around me, wicked coping strategies and a bouncebackability that I didn't have years ago. It gave me some really interesting experiences and, importantly, more awareness of what's good for me and what's not. 

I'm really lucky now that I'm in a job that I love, in a wonderful little team of people who get it

Bastards who push the 'work is good for mental health' stuff always leave out the fact that it needs to be the right work. I love my job, it makes me happy and I'm good at it. However, I know that if I'd have been forced into work, into a job I hate and that doesn't match my particular needs, of course my mental health will suffer. 

I've always been honest about my mental health at work. It's the only way I'd have survived. It's way too exhausting to navigate it on my own, at the same time as pretending everything is brilliant everyday. I've been lucky that my employers have, so far, been understanding and supportive. I know that not everyone feels able to be open at work, or experiences acceptance if they do.

One of the most helpful things has been my Wellness Action Plan for work. I always feel a little silly sharing it with work, but it's so helpful to have it written down. Even if I had never shared it, simply writing it out was really helpful because it gave me a chance to figure it out for myself. What helps me and what drains me.

I've worked dead hard and developed really good self awareness over the past few years. Knowing myself and accepting who that is, is vital for me to stay well. 

Accepting that I find a thing difficult. Not apologising for it. Asking for what I need to survive. Being angry if someone thinks I shouldn't have it or doesn't respect my needs. 

I feel like we all need to get a little better at asking for what we need. Demanding that our needs are met. I thought I'd share my 'Work WAP' with you. Maybe me sharing some of what I need, might prompt someone else to ask for what they need.

Remember, it is illegal for an employer to not make reasonable adjustments to support you at work, if you have mental health needs.

(FYI I've cut out some stuff, that I feel aren't really necessary for me to share here)

What helps you to stay mentally healthy at work?

Making sure I take a lunch break, leaving the building (at least leaving desk/work space)
Getting fresh air and/or having a walk or stretch
Working in a quiet space and/or using headphones when doing admin
Having some time to myself/quiet time to breathe
To do lists and plans
Eating regularly and drinking lots of water
Yoga before work, walking the dog after work
Doing hobbies after work
Having a good routine (including getting ready for, and after, work)

Are there any situations at work that can trigger poor mental health for you?
Generally too much sensory input (e.g. lots of people moving around, smells, lights)
Lack of structure or clarity
Not having enough time between appointments/meetings
Not having a break

How might stress or poor mental health impact on your work?
Difficulties concentrating
Less productive
Feeling anxious or unhappy about being in work

What support could be put in place at work?
Give plenty of notice for events e.g. meetings, training etc. and if there are any changes
Give as much information as possible about them, e.g. location, time, agenda, who else will be there, what I need to bring, what’s expected of me
Schedule meetings to allow time between them to process
Help to plan tasks and structure workload
Regular supervisions 

Are there any early warning signs that we might notice when you’re starting to feel stressed or mentally unwell?
Being more tired than usual
Struggling with verbal communication more than normal
Saying ‘I don’t feel well’, unless I mention other symptoms, like cold/flu
Appearing more stressed or tearful

If we notice early warning signs that you are feeling stressed or unwell, what could managers do?
Check if I need extra support or need a chat (I often just need some space or some peace and quiet for a bit then I can feel more able to talk about it/explain later)
Point me in the direction of a quiet room/space

What steps can you take if you start to feel stressed or anxious at work?
Find a quiet space for 5 minutes or take a walk/go somewhere peaceful if on my lunch break
Talk to colleagues or line manager – tell someone I’m feeling overwhelmed
Being open and honest with everyone about what helps and what hinders at work
Listen to something nice or white noise using headphones

Friday, 26 January 2018

My plan for this blog in 2018!!!

Hello friends!

Just a quick check in to let you know my plan to pick up my blog again and try my best to post more regularly.

I've decided that a monthly post, going out on the last Sunday of the month is doable.

Sorry if I fuck it up. I'm gonna try my best.

So please expect my first proper post of the year this Sunday 26th January.

I haven't thought of a title yet, but the theme will be around how I manage/cope/thrive at work and that.

See you then!

Friday, 22 September 2017


I managed to get a seat on a busy train, this morning, in between two men spreading out. Manspreading, if you like that term. (I do)

I had my rucksack on my lap and my legs pressed tightly together.
I wanted to spread out, to show that they are not entitled to my space.
That maybe I was actually entitled to theirs as well as my own.
I couldn't do it. Even if my feeble lady legs were strong enough to push the manly legs away, I wouldn't have.

Fellow women or AFAB people, can you imagine the feeling of being so entitled to the space around you.
I can't, and the thought makes me feel uneasy.

The men I was sat between probably didn't realise they were doing it. I don't think they were doing it to oppress me, it just shows how we raise our boys and girls.
Girls must make space for boys. Boys get the space because they are big and strong.

I also assume they have to spread to accommodate their massive penises.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Early Intervention Saves Lives

As you may know, the theme of this year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week is ‘Early Intervention’. I am now fully recovered from anorexia nervosa but I had to go through a lot to get to where I am now. I wanted to take some time to share a couple of my experiences of asking for help and the responses I received.

The first time I asked for help was when I was at sixth form. I told my mum that I was struggling and she came with me to my GP. The doctor weighed me and my BMI was 'healthy'. I don't remember much about what was said during that conversation, but I know that I wasn't poorly enough for real help. I remember that he asked me if I thought I was overweight. I knew I wasn't overweight. I knew my BMI was at the lower end of healthy weights, so I had no idea how to answer this. I now know that he wanted to find out about my body image, but I didn't understand and he didn't get a picture of how unhappy I was. I was referred to a counsellor who was based in my GP surgery, had no idea how to support me as someone with eating difficulties and made me feel worse. I only saw her a few times. I just stopped going and had no follow up.

I moved to Leeds when I was 18 to start professional dance training. During my time there I started to get worried about my eating behaviours again. I went to my GP, thinking I could nip it in the bud. The doctor I saw told me that because I was a healthy weight "nobody would take [me] seriously"

Nobody would take me seriously.

I eventually became too unwell to participate in the classes, which then led to me needing to go back home.

I was referred to the eating disorder service and, later, admitted to hospital. By this point I was really poorly and it took a long time to get to anything resembling recovery.

It makes zero sense to turn people away who are asking for help because they aren't ill enough.

The criteria used to determine poorly-ness is so limited as well. Thinnest does not equal sickest, but professionals still use this to determine who deserves treatment. That is how it feels. When I was turned away from appropriate support, it fed into everything my eating disorder was making me believe. I wasn't thin enough, I wasn't good enough, I didn't deserve help and support.

Maybe if I'd been able to access support and treatment early on, I wouldn't have become as unwell as I did. Maybe it would have been a quicker recovery.

I am grateful for my own experiences. I met my late best friend through eating disorder treatment and many other amazing people through her. Without my experiences, I wouldn't be as passionate about mental health care or be able to support others in the way that I can.

I am lucky that I am able to look back at my experiences and know that maybe 'everything happens for a reason'. However, eating disorders have a huge mortality rate. Not everyone recovers.

'Right now, we are letting people with eating disorders down. They are turned away by the health system, told they aren’t ‘ill’ enough for treatment and are confused about where to turn. This can’t continue.'

Have you ever heard of anyone finding out that they have cancer at an early stage, but were told to come back once the cancer has spread, treatment becoming much more difficult, and their chances of surviving are much lower?

This is the exact experience of so many people with eating disorders.

The evidence is so clear: early intervention is key to a quicker, sustained and full recovery.

Early intervention saves lives.

Waiting for someone to get 'sick enough' costs lives. People are dying and it's not fair. Individuals living with an eating disorder can recover. These deaths are preventable.

The importance of early intervention, and the devastating impact eating disorders have, needs to be recognised.

Monday, 23 January 2017


We are currently approaching Time to Talk Day, which is held on the 2nd February.
The theme this year is 'conversations change lives'
With this in mind, I'd like to share why I believe it is so important to have honest conversations about mental health.

It is something that affects us all. We all have mental health needs. We don't all realise this, though. Some people still really struggle to discuss mental health difficulties openly. Maybe this is out of fear that they'll say the wrong thing and offend someone or maybe there are fears around being judged and appearing vulnerable.

I have learnt, over time, how to have these conversations; being open about my experiences, and encouraging others to be open about theirs. We can't always get it right all the time. We will make mistakes when we have these conversations, especially when we first start. Someone is bound to get upset at some point, but it is important to learn from these moments and keep trying!

Anyway, back to the point!

I started working as a mental health support and recovery worker just under 12 months ago. I was open about my own mental health from the start, which I will never regret. I am lucky that I work in an office with an open and supportive culture around mental health, I understand that not everyone has the same positive experience. Being able to discuss my mental health in the same way as I would discuss my physical health has been really helpful in getting my mental health needs met, and being supported at work. I know that the growth in my ability to talk openly about my mental health has led to a greater awareness of my own, and others, struggles and resilience. I am also really glad that I have seen my colleagues discussing their mental health, and witnessed some beautiful, compassionate conversations.

I love talking about mental health with people who don't normally get a chance to. It's good to be able to remind people that whether you have a diagnosis of a mental health difficulty, or not, you still have to look after your mental and emotional health. We all have our breaking points. Not talking about it is sure to make your breaking point arrive sooner. Tell someone that you're feeling stressed out, anxious, exhausted, sad, overwhelmed... It is not a sign of weakness. There is a certain beautiful kind of strength in recognising when we feel not so good and asking for some help.

That being said, the onus shouldn't be placed solely on the individuals needing support. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute towards a culture of acceptance and compassion around mental illness. This could be making a decision to stop using negative or stigmatising language. This may be deciding to challenge unkind comments when you hear them. It may be as simple as asking a friend or colleague 'how are you?', waiting to hear their answer and being there if they need it.

 time to talk