Sunday, 7 September 2014

"But you don't look like you have an eating disorder...?"

Eating disorders exist. Eating disorders exist all around you. Just because you haven't met someone who 'screams' eating disorder doesn't mean that you have never met someone struggling with one. In fact, I know very few (if any) people who I would think 'eating disorder' as soon as I saw them. For one, why should that define them and for another, what makes you think that they give a damn about what they weigh anyway? In thinking that you can identify who does and who does not have an eating disorder, you are actually saying that you think there is something wrong in what a person looks like or what they eat. Stop. Any issue is so much more complex than what goes on at surface level.

So many men and women are on a 'diet' of some kind, whether this is to bulk up or slim down or something else entirely. Only a handful of people seem to be happy in themselves and what they look like and I wonder why this is? Why is it that, in an economy which is supposed to be so 'advanced', is no one happy? Perhaps we're scared we can't moderate ourselves, perhaps things are too available, perhaps we're worried that everyone around us is judging us and we're too afraid of making a mistake that, we fear, will ruin everything.

I don't even think that slightly covers the thoughts that go around our heads when we're trying to sleep at night or alone in ourselves during the day. Even writing that, I felt my heart flutter a little and my chest tighten. Fear does seem to be a very real, very existing factor in society and I'm not sure why.

When you say 'eating disorder', the common response is to wonder about anorexia, followed by bulimia, which doesn't even touch upon the plethora of eating disorders - not to mention disordered eating and thoughts - that exist in the world today and, contrary to what is popular belief, eating disorders are not 'first world prolems'. They exist in every economy. While people with lighter skin might want to make themselves darker, well, this happens both ways around. This isn't just a superficial, silly teenage problem. This is a big deal and it is affecting both boys and girls who are older and getting younger and younger, while they are still growing, and it can leave damage that exists beyond the naked eye, and they'll have to live with that damage forever. And if that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will.

For a long time I was told that I was 'too fat' to have an eating disorder. I wasn't told those words exactly but I could tell by the looks, and by the fact that, when, five years into having issues with food, I lost quite a bit of weight, and that was the first time that anybody listened to the fact I had a very real struggle with food. Apparently making yourself sick all the time, away from the gaze of others and in a hidden toilet block, is, and I quote, 'attention-seeking' and being 'manipulative'. If everyone got the same response that I did, I very much worry for the world.

I had bulimia for four years. After four years, the behaviours of this changed into an undefined label, that of EDNOS - which usually sounds like a fumbled cough, I think, when you say it, as no one has heard of EDNOS, even though it is the category of eating disorders which has one of the highest death rates. It's not easy to categorise. EDNOS can encompass all kinds of eating disordered behaviours - you can be restricting your intake but still have your periods (I'm not sure if this has now been taken out of the DSM) or still be in a normal or overweight weight range, you could engage in bingeing and purging less than twice a week, you could purge without bingeing, you could eat random things (pica), you could have an obsession with health food; orthorexia, or an obsession with being muscular; bigarexia... I hope I've got all these facts right - if I haven't please let me know - but even accepting this, EDNOS seems like a pretty big category, does it not?

For a second, let me tell you about my experience with an eating disorder... and let me start by telling you how hard it is to admit I have an eating disorder, or disordered eating, even now, and it's been many years. It's a lot better now than it has been but the thoughts are still there and sometimes, you do wonder if they will ever go away. However, I do now have better support around me and more self-awareness. Bar about six slip-ups, I have not made myself sick for around two years. I have not taken laxatives for a few months, I have stopped weighing and looking at the calories of everything I eat and writing them down in a book. I can go out for meals with friends and order the 'scary' thing on the menu or have a dessert without panicking too much or having to purge it afterwards.

That said, I am still picking up the pieces of a very real problem that affected my life and, though it is more complicated because of other forms of self-destruction and things like depression, the eating was definitely an issue in itself. I had to have an endoscopy because I tore my stomach lining and am on omeprazole a lot of the time because I have thin stomach lining due to acid erosion. I have lost two teeth and have experienced chronic toothache that people passed off as 'stress' because of purging (and because people pass off your problems as stress if you have had mental health problems, but this is another entry entirely). I still binge sometimes and I still can over-exercise. I have to see a physio about the fact I've overdone it on my knees with exercise. I am constantly anaemic due to my periods messing about. I continue to nurse a caffeine and diet drink addiction that I feel scared of stopping. I do choose exercise over seeing friends quite a lot and sometimes am overwhelmed by the food I have occassionally and can end up purging. At the height, my pupils were continually dilating and constricting, my electrolytes were completely out of balance, my breath was appalling, my tongue was furry, I had to have a sit-down or a break on a 10 minute walk to a lecture. I was never underweight. I never had a straightforward eating disorder - whatever the hell that means. I never had any of these things but I still have effects that continue to this day and I never thought it would happen to me. I thought that maybe it wasn't real, I wasn't damaging my body in this way, I'd somehow miss being affected. I don't know, maybe I thought I was untouchable in a weird sense. I don't think that now.

I just want to ask you, please, not to judge someone who has any type of issue with food, whether it's behaviours, thoughts and no behaviours... whatever it is, to listen to them. Support them. Believe them. Don't think anyone's attention-seeking or manipulative and if they do want attention - why? Why can't they get it in any other way? Why is food such a crutch? Just knowing that someone is there, unfailingly there for you, means the world. If you are struggling reach out. Even if you get knocked down by someone who doesn't [want to] understand, there will be someone else out there who will try to. It's okay to admit that you have a problem, just as it is okay to be okay. It is okay to be whatever you are, which is usually a mix of both. Just don't do yourself down because someone else says that how you are is not okay. Don't judge someone according to what you see, don't assume someone is 'lazy'. Believe in them because they might not believe in themselves very much. And never be afraid of speaking out or coming forward, because you might empower someone else to, or you might get the support you deserve. To round this off, take care, okay?

Friday, 15 August 2014

If you feel yourself getting anxious:

Count to yourself: As you breathe in for 5 seconds, count the number 1. When you breathe out for 8 seconds, count the number 1. Keep on counting. Repeating the numbers will help you gain some continuity to help your breathing ease a little and for things to settle and calm.  
Quick meditation: Lie or sit down. If you are sitting, make sure that your feet are flat against the floor and you are sitting up in a state that is relaxed. Set your phone or a timer for a minute. For that minute, focus upon your breathing. Focus upon how your body feels and how your chest falls as you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders, don’t beat yourself up for that, it’s perfectly natural, just bring your mind back to focus upon your breathing. Doing this daily can help you feel more present in the moment and it can help to focus your mind on your breathing if you’re feeling distressed.
Hot and cold: As you breathe in, feel your body warming up from your toes up to your head. Feel it filling with warm, positive emotions. As you breathe out, feel the cold, negative emotions draining from your head down to your toes and flowing out into the ground, not a part of you anymore. You can do this in any public place when you begin to feel nervous and worried.
Drinking water/mints: Only do this if you’re breathing okay, so you don’t choke. Sucking on a mint and drinking cold water can clear your airways. When you drink the cold water, feel it going down your throat and into your system. Focus upon it reaching all the parts of your body and clearing your thoughts. It can help you focus upon breathing more steadily if your airways are clear.
Five senses: Go through each of your five senses: touch, smell, sight, taste and hearing. What do you experience with each of these? How does that feel? If you focus upon hearing, try to listen to every tiny little sound, for example, such as birds singing through a crowd of people. Work through each of those senses and repeat until you begin to feel less overwhelmed by it all.

A snippet of consciousness.

If there's one phrase that I simply can't stand, it's that we should consider ourselves lucky because we're not starving in Africa, or living on the streets, or dying of cancer. I don't think there's a slight that could discount someone's problems more. By all means, be grateful for what you have, and recognise the positives in your life, but don't ever, ever be afraid to grieve for something you lost, or never had, or deperately desire. Don't be afraid to turn to someone else and tell them that you are not okay. Don't be afraid to be happy and to be fine, because that shouldn't be a guilt-trip.

Tips for making a phonecall.

Making a phonecall can be really hard. It can be difficult to press the ‘call’ button and then, afterwards, really difficult to know what to say. We can end up stumbling over our words and mixing them up, and then we might end up hanging up in a panic or getting frustrated, or just avoiding phonecalls altogether.

Here are some tips that I thought might help - they helped me anyway:
    • Before you make the call write down what you want to say or who you will ask to speak to. This can be in bullet points or as a script, depending on how confident you’re feeling. If you want to write “hello, would it be possible to speak to X?” write that, even if it seems pedantic. It might stop you panicking if you forget your words once the phonecall has started.
    • Think about what you want to get out of the phonecall - do you need support? Do you need to ring to change bank details/college course? Write that down so that you can jog your memory if it goes blank.
    • Make sure you are somewhere you feel okay. Don’t make the phonecall with music in the background or with other people talking or it might distract you. If it helps to sit down, do that. If it helps to walk around/pace, do that. I tend to pace around my bedroom when making a phonecall and I have found that helps.
    • Dial the number into your phone. Don’t wait too long before you hit the ‘call’ button because the anticipation can sometimes be worse than the call itself, and you might end up worrying yourself out of it. If it helps, countdown from 10 and then click ‘call’.
    • It can help to have the phone on speakerphone. I know that if I’ve shut my bedroom door and I’m asking for support, it helps me to put it on speaker because that feels less intense than having the person right in my ear, and I can get some space from them and feel less panicked.
    • Put your point across as calmly as you can and just focus upon what you are reading/saying. You might not be perfect and you might feel awkward but the person on the other end of the line is human too and it’s okay. If worst comes to worst, you might not ever meet this person and if you do, it’ll only be for a few minutes.
    • Remember that the phonecall will only be a few minutes long and try to focus upon how relieved you’ll feel after it’s done. Perhaps plan something nice for yourself such as some time reading or a cup of tea, to look forward to after you’ve made the phonecall.
Hope that helps and take care <3

"Don't kill yourself. It's so selfish."

I'm not sure how to start this. I want to write something about why I wanted to write about suicide, and why I wanted to explore the quoted statement in the title. I suppose that the reason that this is so prevalent in my mind is due to Robin Williams' death, which I woke up to discover via Facebook on Tuesday. From talking to people, those I know through my experience with mental health; professionals and friends, these were the people who were sad, but non-judgemental. They didn't think badly of Robin Williams for how his life ended. It was respectful sadness, I think, more than anything else.

One of the main themes that I noticed from people I have spoken to and various articles I have seen on the internet, was that Robin Williams was selfish, that those suffering from depression and addiction are selfish, as my boss so delicately put it on Tuesday, as I finished my shift. I very much had to bite my tongue.

Selfishness implies that someone does something to spite someone else, with a sole focus upon themselves to the detriment of others. Selfishness, in society, is seen as a bad thing. We are all supposed to be 'busy' and the only time we are 'allowed' to take to ourselves, well, we have to have a reason for it. If you book time off work, the question you're met with is "why? What are you doing with yourself on your break?" If you answer with something along the lines of "nothing", you're met with raised eyebrows and loaded pauses. We are in a society where we cannot love ourselves for fear of this shutting down the whole economy. We are distrustful of others, we feel disconnected, so many of the population will state that they are "fine" and smile, with exhaustion itching at the eyes fighting to stay upwards within that smile.

I'm not saying that everybody is depressed, that everybody is tired, but from talking to the customers in my work, it sure seems that way. When I ask someone if they have had a busy day, the answer is always "yes", with a sigh biting at its heels. I wonder why. If I ask a customer if it'll calm down soon, the answer is usually 'no', followed by a wry smile. Being busy is something to be proud of, which is funny, considering only the UK figures for the number of people on anti-depressant medication last year - the highest ever, if I remember correctly. Doesn't this suggest that we need to change society? That we need to change our outlook somehow? That we are under too much pressure to conform?

I'm not trying to minimise depression - I experience it myself, I would hardly trivialise it. I am merely stating an observation, perhaps.

Using my own experience of when I tried to kill myself, I remember that some of the first words I heard were "stupid", "idiotic" and "do you never think about me, about anybody else?" And I felt sick. Sick at what I was doing to other people, yet trapped inside this whirlwind of emotions, of the kick in the gut of how much I hurt physically and mentally, but I wasn't allowed to escape that for fear of hurting other people. Other people. Think about that for a second. Instead of asking why I wanted to kill myself, why I wanted to hurt myself so much and why I was hurting so much, I had to think about other people. I think that my rather sarcastic response, when talking about this 'selfish' view of suicide that had been thrust onto me, was that it was selfish for other people to tell me to stay alive for them. It works both ways.

Suicide, in my eyes, isn't selfish. It's when you get so overwhelmed with everything that you don't see any other way out. It's when you think that you are such a horrible, terrible, evil person, you think it will be a blessing on others if you were no longer around. Even if it was selfish, what is so wrong about being selfish sometimes? Why is 'selfish' such a bad word? Why is it not okay to do something for ourselves? I'm not condoning suicide, really I'm not, it's always sad (more than sad, but I do not have the words) that someone doesn't see another way out, but I think that sometimes, it is okay to take some time for you. That might be reading that book that's been collecting dust on your shelf for months, or going for a ten minute walk, or a run, or plaiting a bracelet, or having a bubble bath... something that you enjoy. Something that is for you because heck, you work damn hard and you deserve to do something nice! Everyone does. No exceptions.

I'm not sure what the purpose of writing this post is. I don't think that I planned to go off on as many tangents as I have done but I wanted to write something. I hope that's okay.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Who is it that has made you feel as though you have to apologise for everything, as if you have to apologise for your very existence?

Yesterday I worked for 10 hours. That is a fact and it isn't something I'm complaining about, it's a statement. I think that sometimes stress can inject itself into statements which can come across as complaints, when actually it's more about the stress of someone being late to take you off at the end of your shift or because you've worked 7.75 hours straight without a break and you're tired. I think that people sometimes want to make you believe that you shouldn't ever feel any emotion at all, when really you are allowed to feel whatever you feel about anything.

The thing that struck me yesterday, when I was working, was the amount of apologies I spewed, and the amount of times I thought "don't screw up" or that I mustn't do anything wrong, and it wasn't until I apologised to a colleague for the fifth time, about something that wasn't even due an apology, that he said "who is it that has made you feel as though you have to apologise for everything, as if you have to apologise for your very existence?" - of course, the question put me on the spot a bit, so I reached for the only phrase I know; I'm fine, and uttered a phrase including this, to try and change the subject. However, I think that phrase is morphing into something that indicates the polar opposite of the meaning cited.

For all intents and purposes, and to the naked eye, I am fine. I'm a nearly-third-year student studying psychology, I work at a petrol station 'to get the pennies in', I go to the gym, I participate in dance classes and yes, I'll grab a drink with someone to engage in a catch up. I live with my parents, I drive my car... those things tick all the right boxes for whatever the societal normal appears to be. But I am not the societal normal, I am not even slightly normal, and part of me thinks that maybe, that is okay and that I am me and I am allowed to take time out to just be.

But there is also a voice in my ear that says, that is definitely not what you are allowed to do.

What my colleague asked me was actually more prominent than perhaps he or I realised in the moment. Why do I feel the need to continually apologise for everything I do? If this is the case, and this is how I feel, am I essentially apologising for breathing the air I breathe and taking up the space that I do in this world? I think that when you think about it like that, something - for me anyway - kind of shifts and you begin to think; why? Why do I need to do that? When did I learn to do that? Who from? Why did I have to learn it? Did someone tell me to say sorry all the time? Did someone tell me that I am a horrible person? Did someone teach me? Who? Questions start falling through the cracks, like when you pull the stick out of kerplunk and all the marbles cascade down all at once. That's what has happened in my head. It's either everything, or nothing at all.

Maybe knowing the answer to these questions is the first step, or an important step I need to take, anyway. It won't fix everything, or fix anything, but it might help me recognise when I apologise, and why, and so I can work on that, and not the apology itself (because that can lead to beating yourself up about a whole host of other things). Perhaps I need to ask myself that question every time I apologise, and I can start piecing myself together a bit more.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Coping With Flashbacks.

(this not my post, I was given it by a therapist and it helped me, so it might help others too)

Flashbacks are recollections from the past. They may be pictures, sounds, smells, feelings, or the lack of them (numbness). Sometimes there is no actual visual or auditory memory. You may feel panicky, or trapped, you may feel powerless without knowing why. These experiences can also happen in dreams.

As a child you had to protect yourself from the emotional and physical horrors of abuse. In order to survive, that child remained locked inside, unable to express the feelings and thoughts of that time. It is as though we put that part of us into a time warp until it comes out in the present.

When that part comes out, the child in you is experiencing the past as if it were happening today. As the flashback happens, it is as if you forget that you have an ‘adult’ self available for comfort, protection and grounding. The extreme feelings and body sensations occurring are so frightening because they are not related to the reality of the present and often seem to come from out of the blue.

We begin to think we are crazy and are afraid of telling anyone about what is happening. We feel out of control and at the mercy of our experiences.

We begin to avoid certain areas and situations, that we think triggered it. Sometimes flashbacks occur during any form of sexual contact, or it may be a person who looks or behaves and reminds you of the person who abused you, or it may be a situation today that stirs up similar trapped feelings (confrontation, angry people).

If you are feeling little... you may be experiencing a flashback. If you are having stronger feelings than you expect to have in the present situation ... you are probably having a flashback

Flashbacks Are Normal 

Flashbacks are sometimes called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The diagnostic category book for psychiatry defines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as the normal experience of all people experiencing an event that is outside the range of normal human experience.

Flashbacks sometimes make you feel insane because the child in you doesn't know that there is an adult survivor available to help.
What Does Help? 

Tell yourself that you are having a flashback.

Remind yourself that the worst is over. The feelings and sensations you are experiencing are memories of the past.

Get Grounded. This means stamping your feet on the ground so that the child knows you have feet and can get away now if you need to. (As a child, you couldn't get away........ now you can).

Breathe. When we get frightened we stop normal breathing. As a result our body begins to panic because we haven’t got enough oxygen. Lack of oxygen causes a great deal of panic feelings; pounding in the head, tightness, sweating, feeling faint, shakiness, dizziness. When we breathe deeply enough, a lot of the panic feeling can decrease.

Re-establish to the present. Begin to use your five senses in the present. Look around and see the colours in the room, the shapes of things, the people near, etc. Listen to the sounds in the room; your breathing, traffic, birds, people, cars etc. Feel your body and what is touching it; your clothes, your own arms and hands, the chair or floor supporting you.

Talk to the child in you and tell her she is OK. It is very important that the child knows that the adult is around to take care of her. The child needs to know that it is safe to experience the feelings and let go of the past.

Find your boundaries. Sometimes when we are having a flashback things get out of proportion we lose the sense of where we end and the world begins; as if we do not have skin. Wrap yourself in a blanket, hold a pillow or soft toy, go to bed or sit in a cupboard... anything that you can do to make yourself feel safe.

Get help. You may need to be alone or you may want someone near you. In either case it is important that your friends and relations know about flashbacks so they can help with the process, whether that means letting you be by yourself or being there, whatever is right for you is right.

Take time to regain control. Sometimes flashbacks are very powerful. Don't expect yourself to be able to do adult things immediately. Be kind and look after you, do something that you enjoy. Don’t punish yourself; you and your child don’t deserve it.

Be patient. It takes time to heal the past. It takes time to learn ways of taking care of you, of being an adult who has feelings and developing effective ways of coping in the here and now.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Affairs shouldn't make good television

... because affairs can really, really hurt.

If you're a partner, or a daughter, or a sibling, or a cousin; affairs can pull a family apart.

I don't understand how or why that is drama, why it is essentially used to make good TV. There is nothing entertaining about someone's life being pulled apart because someone else is having an affair. There's nothing engaging about watching someone's life being pulled to pieces because they find an email, or a text, that turns their whole life upside down. Affairs are not pieces of entertainment. They are real life, and serious situations, and they shouldn't be cast aside because someone else seems to have it worse, or because it's broadcast so often that we don't even notice it anymore.

I remember, like it is engraved onto every pinacle of my brain, the day I found out that Dad was having an affair. I remember losing myself, quietly, in fragments, when I was threatened, when it was denied, when I was told that it was my fault. I remember curling up in a ball, crying myself into some disturbed dream-like state that was neither awake nor asleep, and wishing that those pincers that were surrounding me would withdraw somehow.

Even now, writing that, I feel like it's dramatic, or that I'm over-exaggerating or being over-zealous with some kind of made-up truth that people never apologise for or refuse to acknowledge. Within a week, everyone expects you to be back to 'normal' again, whatever that is. Every word that is uttered is met with a roll of the eyes and a sigh of repetition. So you stop feeling anything. And you lose yourself.


I guess, what I'm trying to say and not articulating very well, is that no problem should ever be played down. No issue that anyone has should be laughed off. Every situation or feeling or emotion is real, and important, and valid, to the person who is experiencing it. Every single one. And it's so frustrating that these problems are a means to entertain. They're more than that. They're precious, and should be treated as such.

I'm trying to think of a way to round this off and I don't know what I'm supposed to say. I just wish that people wouldn't try to belittle people's problems. There's enough shit in this world without us turning on each other.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

A letter.

Dear 13 year old self,

Don’t take things to heart. If you do that then you’ll only end up being hurt faster and harder. You do not have to please everyone. You don’t have to be perfect. Don’t obsess about things that don’t matter. Let the definition of beautiful adapt itself to you, not the way in which you believe it should be done. Live in the moment, don’t think about the past or the future; only now. In fact, don’t think about other people’s opinions in general. They’re not always right. You need to look after yourself now because in the future, you won’t do such a good job of it. Please try to be confident within yourself. If you do that then people respect you more and you’ll gain more success and happiness. Find people that wish to love you for you, rather than the other way around. Don’t judge those people on a first appearance and get to know them, they might surprise you.

Watch Disney movies as they’ll bring a tear to your eye and laughter to your lips. Do things that you enjoy. Be the person that you want to be and don’t let anyone else bring you down, they’re not worth it. Try believing that you are. Believe you’re a good person and follow through.

Take care of yourself, you never know when you’ll need that most.

Love, your 19 year old self.

P.S. I almost forgot; for goodness sake, stop worrying!

Monday, 19 May 2014

It's okay to ask for help. Always.

I’m Annabelle, 22, and I’m not entirely sure how to start this, because I don’t want my mental health problems to define me, but I don’t know who I would be without them. I’ve never been formally diagnosed with anything, as I worry about the stigma associated with a diagnosis. It works for me, because now I have a team who are very supportive and do what they can to help me. They understand that my possible diagnoses: BPD, depression and anxiety, would cause me distress – especially BPD, because I have been to A&E and professionals enough times in the past, to know that you don’t even need the diagnosis to experience the related discrimination.

I think, for me, it’s hard because I have been experiencing mental health problems for as long as I can remember. I started cutting when I was 14 and I was hitting things before that. A lot of my developmental and adolescent years revolved around travelling from one crisis to the next, with me trying to keep as much to myself as possible, because people either didn’t know what to do with me, were frustrated by me, or were scared due to a lack of understanding. It upset me because we were taught nothing in school and, for my part, I know the statistics are that 1 in 10 people self-harm and 1 in 4 experience a mental health problem, so why were we taught nothing? It breeds discrimination through fear, because no one wants to show themselves up.

I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going to go with this and I’ve found I can go a few ways, so I might do separate entries for those. I think, for me, the most important thing was what it was that I actually needed since, even now, people don’t know and it's not that anyone should know as such, it's that blame can be thrown your way due to this. Labelling someone as attention-seeking, manipulative or a waste of resources is unhelpful. It feeds an already over-flowing cauldron of self-hatred and I felt like I was permanently on a rollercoaster and I wasn’t strapped in. I had enduring issues that never seemed to lessen (and, even now, I wonder if they’ll ever go, but now I also have a slither of confidence that they will) and I was trapped in a box that was getting smaller by the second. I couldn’t move or think or breathe without wanting to hurt myself and I didn’t know why, and nor did anybody else, so I assumed there was something wrong with me. I still think that, but I am doing a lot better now.

I’ve taken a while getting to this, I know, but sometimes I think it helps for me to describe what it is like, because it’s hard to talk about it when you’re caught in the moment and stuck in the secret, and it’s difficult to understand if you haven’t been through it, and the situation is different for everyone. I just wanted someone to listen. I wanted someone to take the time to be kind to me, to help me look after myself and to make me feel safer - even if this meant just knowing they were there, if I needed them. I wanted someone to inspire my independence and help me help myself along the road to recovery, and I didn’t want them to betray me and let me down. A great deal of people in my life had hurt me, and that can stop you from reaching out. Even when you think you are talking, you aren’t, and that can leave both you and other people frustrated. That word ‘help’ is stubborn and just won't come out.
I guess, what I’m saying, is that I needed someone to persevere with me, someone who wouldn’t let me push them away. I wanted someone to give me enough time to be myself but to show me that I didn’t have to do everything on my own, and to reassure me that maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all my fault. I was hurting a lot, and sometimes people seem to think that it isn’t real, because you can’t see it. Maybe though, it’s okay to admit that you don’t understand something and to ask questions about it – I’d always answer if people asked me. Attaching critical labels to someone means they can lose themselves, and you have to work that much harder to get yourself back.

I am doing better now and that’s because of tenacity and patience on my part and on other people’s. The people I see now are open-minded and will not take it personally if I lash out of them. They know that recovery is not all plain sailing. It's a rocky road full of twists and turns that you don't always think you'll manage to get through, but at least I'm on it. It takes work to prove to yourself that you are worth it (and you are) and that you are a good person. Sometimes you need a supportive hand to get there. Everybody needs somebody sometimes and you should never be ashamed of that. It’s human nature. And I guess, what I’m saying, is that it’s always, always okay to ask for help when you need it, whatever the problem is. This is vitally important and should never be downplayed.

It is okay to ask for help. Remember that.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Fifty shades of Annabelle.

My friend is doing the '50 random facts' list - or whatever quirky nickname it has - and challenged me to do the same, so I thought I'd give it a go, even though I have no idea what I will write and I haven't even started!

  1. I am studying a degree in Psychology. I didn't study Psychology at A level, because the course was not great at my school, and I discovered my love of the subject in my first year at a different university (during which time I chose the wrong course but it's all good now!).
  2. I am vegetarian. I think you call it lacto-ovo vegetarian because I consume dairy but not meat or gelatine products. I decided to become vegetarian because I read a book including factory farming but a friend helped, using Lent, for me to take the real step.
  3. Caffeine makes up a lot of my diet. I will never (rarely) say no to a cup of tea.
  4. I love drawing; particularly animals and cartoons from movies that I enjoy. I like drawing people but I'm not very good at that. I hope to start painting in the future.
  5. Sometimes when I am stressed I will draw a scribble on paper and colour it in. It takes me about an hour (concentration-dependent) and I have done it since I was young. 
  6. I can get really obsessive about things. If I like a song, I'll play it over and over again. If I like a movie, the same thing happens. It's the same with exercise, or writing, or anything that I do. There is no 'moderate' level.
  7. Time means a lot to me. I base a lot of my thoughts around time and I like to arrive places exactly at the correct minute.
  8. My cats mean the world to me. I don't know what I would do without them.
  9. Dancing makes me feel good about myself, and confident. I can lose myself in the music and, if I am nervous about something, I will think about a song in my head and 'dance' to it to put me back within my comfort zone mentally.
  10. I plan to get a tattoo of a butterfly one day. I don't know where exactly and I'm not sure on the specifics of the design, but I know I want a butterfly because it represents a lot of things for me.
  11. I can appear to be very open without talking about anything at all.
  12. I write. A lot. I do not have a 'concise' button. Writing helps me process things and I love the use of language and words. They are fascinating.
  13. I'm particular about spelling. If I don't know the spelling of a word, I have to look it up and cannot let it slide and spell it incorrectly. It's the same with the meaning of a word.
  14. I have a Tumblr. I acquired my current Tumblr in November 2013. I find it really helpful as I make it positive, so that when I feel bad, I can read something positive, and fairly realistic, to help me keep going. A lot of quotes I reblog, I have heard people say or mean something to me.
  15. I write poetry. I love writing poetry. I don't believe that there are set rules for writing poetry and if someone says something is a poem, it is.
  16. My mind works in a very 'black and white' way. Something either is, or it isn't. It is the same with people. I find people's 'grey'-ness, hard to understand and I easily misinterpret situations.
  17. I worry a lot.
  18. This year; 2014, I have made it my aim to write something positive every day and put it in a jar. At the end of this year, I will read everything that I have written and I'm really excited about that.
  19. I want to travel to every continent; including Antarctica. I want to see the Northern Lights, Australia, to meet people from many cultures and dialects. So far, I've travelled to Europe, Florida, Kenya and India.
  20. Going to Kenya is one of my biggest achievements to date. I hate anybody looking at me and I taught 112 children in one of the classes there and it was terrifying, but one of the children ran all the way home to bring me a present, which is hanging over my television in my room.
  21. Harry Potter is amazing. I love it. I read it a lot as a child. It's just, yeah, Harry Potter is great.
  22. I over-use the word 'amazing'.
  23. When I am writing, I don't like using the same descriptive word in the same paragraph or on the same page. 
  24. I love numbers. I break everything down into numbers. That's what focusses me because my head likes manipulating them.
  25. This year I will be about three years free (bar a few slip-ups) of purging.
  26. My favourite animals are butterflies, dolphins, elephants and tigers. Oh, and cats, and dogs. I love animals. I don't even know why I'm picking favourites!
  27. I find it hard to make decisions.
  28. I'm always surprised when someone likes me!
  29. My car is a Peugeot 205, G-reg, white, and I love it. It's quirky, and nearly 25, and I am delighted about this. My car is a little place of my own.
  30. I've always wanted to be a lead role/singer in a play, but I could never tell anyone this [properly] and I don't think I'd have the guts.
  31. I am exceptionally sarcastic.
  32. When I am passionate about something, I find it very hard not to talk about it!
  33. I am hyper-sensitive and feel things very strongly. The tiniest thing can send me into a tailspin.
  34. I want to work with children once I graduate, either via the psychotherapy route or in residential care or in the charity sector.
  35. I want to advocate for the equality of mental health or disability, or any reason people could get discriminated against.
  36. I am honest - sometimes too honest - and this can get me into a mess sometimes.
  37. Once I start a task I have to finish it.
  38. I'm not the best at receiving compliments. I will say 'thank you' and be okay about it but my head is exploding!
  39. I love positive quotes. I have books of them and made one of my own.
  40. I have two middle names. One is a family name; Helen.
  41. I like the fact I can read number plates and know basic cars. I find it interesting. I am finding cars more interesting the older I get.
  42. I have a bit of a sweet tooth!
  43. I am a strong advocate of 'never talk to strangers' and, when I talk to children about this, I will use my own experience of when a stranger asked me to get in the car (I think he was later arrested) because the children seem to listen more when it's the real deal.
  44. Music is an escape for me. I love singing to the songs from movies and love listening to words, and beats, and melodies. I have never really been good at playing an instrument but I have always wanted to sing.
  45. I'm a perfectionist.
  46. My hair is continually static, whenever, and I have no idea why.
  47. I always wear a long black vest top under anything I wear and prefer jumpers and shirts, and boots, to any type of outfit.
  48. I don't like clothes shopping, I prefer shopping online.
  49. I love listening to people; customers (unless they're annoying!), random people, friends, anyone, to find out more about the reality of their life and how they experience the world, but I'm not always great at striking up that conversation.
  50. Although I can come across as negative, I don't think I am fundamentally a negative person and I get irritated with myself for being negative in any way.
Okay, so those are the 50 things! I might change it if I think of something else (always so many things!) or yeah, I don't know, but there you go! That was quite fun. I challenge you to write 50 facts about yourself so I can get to know you!

Sunday, 30 March 2014


The term 'cyberbullying' has been thrown around the media in a way that almost makes it unnoticeable. We read of paedophilia, porn sites, the effects on children, and this can sometimes make cyberbullying an 'it-could-never-happen-to-me' phenomenon but, the truth is, we are closer than we think. We are putting ourselves out there more and more online. We are exposing more of ourselves on sites like Facebook, on forums and blog sites where we have no idea of the audience, and talking to people we would never have met without the internet. This is incredible, as we can glimpse cultures we wouldn't otherwise have known and meet people from many different areas of the life spectrum. However, we can also see more of the darker side of human nature, and that isn't something that ends up being easy.

The internet is very easy to manipulate. You can create an image of yourself, as the person that you'd like other people to see and, since you aren't in physical contact with these people, they only see the 'good' side of you. We try to teach this to children, to stress that E-safety is of  utmost importance and it is, it's just, we never really got taught about it ourselves. Our children are learning things we never learned and the trouble is, when you do learn them, you learn the hard way.

My experience of the internet as a negative force hit me quite hard. Well, in truth, it hit me very hard and I can't say that I am thrilled with the way I coped with it. I've come out the other side now, I'd like to say, but I still get a jolt here and there when I see people communicating with those people who really, really hurt me. I'm not for a second saying that they shouldn't, I'm just saying that it hurts.

The trouble with being online is that you don't see all sides of the story. When you are receiving messages undermining you and your personality, only you and the senders are seeing those messages. You are trapped, frozen, because the senders are painting you out to be a difficult, unreasonable person and you don't feel as though you have any evidence to the contrary. You don't want to seem like a snitch, or seem like you're whining, or as though you're simply being paranoid, because, in your mind, that's how other people might perceive you. After all, the messages don't necessarily say anything properly insulting, they are more a sly attack on your character and who you are, so you're caught between a rock and a hard place, and you have no idea what is being said to anybody else or who, if anyone, you can trust. You can't tell anyone because, after all, what could you say? These people said that I didn't care about my friends? That I came across as arrogant? Nevermind that conversations such as these may have gone on for hours, or, in a sense, for months. People might laugh. These people were your friends. Isn't it just friendly banter? Aren't you just making a mountain out of a molehill? People might wonder why you are getting upset about something so trivial. I mean, we come across negative opinions every single day, why would this be any different?

What I am saying - or trying to - is that cyberbullying can take place in many forms. We read about it being a certain way but it can present in so many others. No one way is harder than another. No one way should be written off because it is not 'bad enough' or because you don't 'see' it or because you have mutual friends with the people in question. It still feels like sometimes there is a knife in your chest and it is twisting. And, the trouble is, no matter how much you block these people out of your life, they're still going to have mutual friends with them, and it is still going to feel like they're working against you, every single day.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

It’s time to talk.
ime to listen.
'Strike up a conversation.

Turn the kettle on.
Invite someone to have a chat.
Meet everybody with a smile.
Email a friend you’d lost contact with.

Text somebody.
Open your door.

Take some time to learn and think
And remember you are not alone
Let yourself speak, and listen too
Know that someone will always be there for you.
I want you to do something for me. You can close your eyes if you wish, but don't feel pressured to. I want you to think about yourself. I want you to imagine those words in your head. I want you to notice them. Do not fixate on them, just notice them. Think about them. Think about whether they are good or bad. Think about which ones step forward in your mind. Are those words good or bad?

Now I want you to think about those words that you used to negatively describe yourself. Think about when you first started to dislike yourself. How old were you? For me, I was 7 years old, so for the purpose of this exercise, we shall use that age. Tailor the age to the one that is in your head.

Imagine yourself as that seven year old. Imagine that seven year old child sitting across the room from you; on the bed, the sofa, a chair, the floor... wherever feels comfortable. Turn and look at the seven year old child. Now tell the child all those horrible things that you just thought about yourself. Go on, say it. Say it to the child. Tell her/him that they are nasty, evil, useless, pathetic, fat, horrible... Tell this to a child.

Was it hard to tell a seven year old that they were evil? Did it sit right?

I saw this exercise or exchange on My Mad Fat Diary, in Monday (31st March)'s episode. I admit that I might not have written it well, it was aired on a comedy drama and I am not qualified in any way to know what I am talking about but, regardless of all of that, I think that the scene held a powerful message. The little girl or boy inside of you still exists, s/he's still there, and every time that you tell yourself that you are horrible, you are telling the child inside you too.

"Remember that little girl/boy, s/he is counting on you to protect her/him." I think that's true. There is a child within us all and who is going to protect that child if we don't? The child and ourselves, we are one and the same, and, perhaps, we need to start being kind to ourselves as we would a child, who is perfectly innocent and kind and loving. I guess it hit me because I never really thought of it that way and, when you keep this in the forefront of your mind, well, it's hard to be horrible to a child, even if you want to be horrible to yourself.
I decided to wake up my old blogger, though I have deleted the previous posts that I had on this blog because they seem like a life time ago and I am not the same person I was back then. I've always wanted to have a blog and, I suppose, in a way, I have always engaged in blog type activities, be that in the form of my previous blog, or Tumblr, or LiveJournal, or something. I like writing. It's a good way to express yourself in a way that gives you space to breathe and think about what you want to say, rather than tripping up on your words and not managing to form an articulate sentence...

So a bit about myself. I'm Annabelle. I'm 22 (I very nearly said 21 but who's counting... *cough*don't-want-to-get-old*cough*). I am in second year, studying a BSc Psychology at university. I like tea, my cats, dancing, my friends and the sunshine. When I can, I draw and write. Maybe my blog will be a space for that, I don't know?

I think that's all for now, since I don't want to bore you, so get back to your cup of tea and/or Saturday night television and relax a little :).