My Recent Admission

I don’t normally blog about myself with updates of my current situation but this feels important. It feels important to say it all now although I am very tired so please bear with.

For weeks I had been explaining my situation to my mental health team, they were aware I had stopped taking my medication due to the sickness and knew that the thoughts of suicide were getting worse and worst whilst my body felt totally drained of energy They knew all of this but did not step in or offer solutions when I was feeling so very stuck.

On Thursday night things hit a bad point. I had been up the hospital for an emergency assessment that day in which the outcome was no different to the ‘care’ plan all along. I phoned up the man who said he was my point of contact on the way to go to harm myself and he suggested listening to music, I was way past that point then and explained this to which I was told that it was my choice and I could just walk home. Anyone who has been in that serious actively suicidal frame of mind must understand how it takes a lot more (often someone else) to help you out of that crisis. I was expected just to turn around, go home and sit there like nothing happened.

I couldn’t.

I managed to convince the member of staff to give me some medication to help me, he then drove me home agreeing to see me in the morning.

After a horrendous night, a night which my mental health team didn’t give me the opportunity to talk about, I walked into the meeting with a piece of paper in my hand. I was hoping to talk, I needed to talk but instead I was just given a prescription and expected to leave. Still at crisis point I burst into tears and sat there with my head on the desk sobbing only for that member of staff to say, “Claire, can you leave please, you are blocking the room for other people” and so I left and went into the toilets to compose myself and was told “Claire can you leave please, we need both cubicles”. Not only did I feel suicidal, I felt like a waste of time and space too. I was embarrassed and ashamed and it all ended when the police got involved after I contacted a helpline.

The police were friendly, polite, understanding and even more importantly they actually wanted to understand. It’s a shame not all mental health professionals are like that.

I was admitted to the ward and it’s all been a bit of a blur, I don’t remember a lot of it which worries me. Maybe it’s because I was stressed. I did notice that some of the care was appalling. For example yesterday I asked to leave the ward for a family thing and was placed on a Section 5 (4)…today I was discharged home to an empty house. It makes no sense. I have more than one diagnosis but to them I only have anorexia, how am I meant to get well with a team that fails to recognise the other illnesses that were diagnosed back in my home town. How are they ever meant to support me with crisis situations and medication if they do not understand my presentation? It’s like my dad breaking his leg and them refusing to notice his Crohn’s disease and therefore not medicating it during his stay-it wouldn’t happen. I can have more than one mental illness and I can have mental illness as well as physical illness. I feel like this is often forgotten.

I am not being negative towards the whole service, there were a couple of very helpful nurses and I know some people were doing their best but I feel very let down, very alone and definitely untrusting of my mental health team. I do feel it is very important to speak out when things are wrong, if nobody speaks out then how can anything change?

My Petition

I’ve created a petition because I feel very passionately about young people’s mental health services and the specialist, life saving care not ending at the age of 18. Evidence suggests that the mind does not develop fully until the age of 25 and young people’s life styles are very different to adults of perhaps an older age. This is why I feel that specialist wards for 18-30 year olds are needed.

Please sign and share my petition. Let’s make change happen and make sure that everyone is treated in an appropriate and helpful way.

Eating for a Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body

Since coming home from hospital, I have noticed the amount of ‘anorexic porn’ that surrounds us in this society. The magazines that say someone is too thin one week and too fat the next and the different fad diet featured in every single issue. On top of this are the fat shaming TV programmes, the programmes that will tell the nation that bread is bad, cereal has too much sugar and chocolate should NEVER be eaten. It is not sustainable to completely ban a food, by telling people they can never have chocolate, all that does is create unnecessary and cruel guilt every time that person ‘fails’ as the media put it. These programmes are incorrect, they say the opposite of what my dietician says but the scary thing is a huge number of people believe all the ‘anorexic porn’ that floats around, even people without eating disorders.

In a way, I’m lucky that I am able to access the right information about food from a highly trained and experienced dietician. I’m not lucky that I’m ill, but I think what I am learning through treatment is something many people would benefit from.

Mood and Food

Firstly, I am going to look at food and mood. The first thing I need to say about food and mood is that if you want a chocolate bar, go and eat a chocolate bar because it is healthy to allow yourself treats in a balanced way and sitting there thinking about chocolate for the rest of your life without actually eating it isn’t going to make you feel too happy.

Now for the scientific stuff:

Serotonin is a chemical that is released in the brain. Serotonin is important because it makes people feel happy and controls mood. Low serotonin levels can cause depression, headaches, sleeping problems and memory problems. Serotonin is made out of protein and in order for our body to make it, we need to eat protein (meat, fish, eggs, meat alternatives, nuts) but not only does our body need protein, it also needs insulin (from starchy food) as well as zinc and vitamin C in order for the protein to be taken up into the brain. If you want your mood to remain stable and positive then it will help you to eat regular, balanced meals especially regular starchy foods throughout the day.

Different Foods Have Different Uses

Carbohydrates (starchy food) are important for energy and good mood and are often a good source of fibre.

Fruit and vegetables are full of important vitamins and minerals and again are a good source of fibre.

Protein is important for good mood and strong muscles but also for good hair, skin and nails.

Fat is important if you want good skin, hair and nails. It might get a lot of hate in the media and we may feel that ‘fat free’ is the best thing to read on a nutritional label but that is nonsense. Fat is as important as protein or carbohydrates. Fat gives our bodies energy and is essential for cell functions as well as allowing our nerves and brain to function.

What is Healthy Eating?

  1. Enjoying your food! My dietician once said to me, “If it tastes good then it’s healthy”. I also think it is important to point out that chocolate does not cause weight gain, neither does pizza. 3500 calories is a pound, if your intake is below that and included a chocolate bar then it doesn’t matter. Food is there to be enjoyed and eaten in moderation.
  2. Eat a variety of foods. Whilst you could eat 2000 calories worth of chocolate and it would have no affect on your weight if you ate nothing else that day, it probably wouldn’t be too good for you nutritionally but neither is 2000 calories of fruit and vegetables. Variety is key.
  3. Eat the right amount to be a healthy weight.
  4. Eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre. Bread is often slated in the media but actually it’s pretty good for you, especially wholemeal-starch and fibre in one!
  5. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
  6. Don’t eat too many fatty foods, but you need to have some!
  7. Don’t have too many sweet foods and drinks, but you need to have some!
  8. Eat a balanced diet. A balanced meal should include starch, protein and fruit/veg/salad.

Waterloo Road: A False Portrayal Of Borderline Personality Disorder

I was watching Waterloo Road last night (10/12/2014) and it became apparent that there was a mental health storyline in the episode. I think it is great to have mental health storylines and characters who have a diagnosis of a mental illness on TV because it helps to start conversations and raise awareness but also these programmes have a lot of power. Thousands of people from all walks of life sit down to watch Waterloo Road, that gives the writers and directors a lot of power to help challenge stereotypes and stamp out stigma but last night I felt as though they abused this power leaving only negativity. It was very irresponsible and quite frankly damaging.

The storyline was that Mandy, a 22 year old, had escaped from the mental health unit and ended up at Waterloo Road’s community cafe. She seemed to cling on to Leo and would suddenly hit or headbutt people and repeat something along the lines of “Bullies get what’s coming to them”. Leo and Mandy went back to Leo’s house and Mandy suddenly smashed something out of nowhere and then trashed the whole room before hiding in the bathroom with a pair of scissors…it was implied that she was threatening Leo with them. Leo’s Dad found them and a police car arrived and that was the very abrupt end of the storyline. If Mandy had not told Leo that she had Borderline Personality Disorder then I would’ve had no idea that she had it because her behaviour did not reflect BPD, in fact I find it quite offensive. I once had the label of Borderline Personality Disorder stuck on me, although this changed to Avoidant Personality Disorder with borderline and obsessive compulsive traits. Not only do I have personal experience of the illness but I have been in hospital with other sufferers and also have a few friends that suffer from BPD.

On top of the fact that the storyline was factually incorrect and damaging to people who suffer from BPD, there was also no helpline at the end of the programme. There wasn’t a message saying “If you have been affected by anything in tonight’s programme….” etc. It is a shame because the BBC could’ve done great things with a Borderline Personality Disorder plot, it’s a very misunderstood illness with very little air time in the media. It could’ve been great but they skimmed over it, didn’t give it an appropriate and educational ending, no helplines were provided and her behaviour reflected a sterotypical/misunderstood mental health patient.

The True Picture Of Borderline Personality Disorder

I feel it is important to try and undo some of the negative, damaging work that has been done by Waterloo Road.

There are many different types of personality disorder, borderline is one of them. Borderline does not mean that someone is bordering on a personality disorder, it is the name of this particular personality disorder which is sometimes referred to as ’emotionally unstable personality disorder’.

Symptoms of BPD can include:

  • Emotions that are up and down. Sufferers may wake up in the morning feeling confident but that evening be feeling despair. Often sufferers experience feelings of anger and emptiness.
  • Overwhelming feelings of distress, worthlessness or anxiety.
  • Difficulty in managing feelings.
  • Difficulty in making and maintaining relationships.
  • An unstable sense of self, for example changing behaviour depending on who the sufferer is with.
  • Taking risks without thinking about the consequences.
  • Self harm, or thoughts of self harming.
  • Fear of abandonment or rejection.
  • Sometimes sufferers may experience delusions or hallucinations.

Often people diagnosed with BPD suffer with other mental health problems, such as, eating disorders, depression, anxiety or substance misuse.

Whilst BPD can be a very serious condition with 60-70% of sufferers attempting suicide at some point, there are treatments out there including dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), psychotherapy and therapeutic communties. Medication can also help.

For more information, please visit:

“So what is it that you do?”

“So what is it that you do?”

That dreaded question that is asked at social events, by strangers and acquaintances. The ultimate ‘let-me-get-to-know-you-and-judge-you’ question. I hate it and for a long time I have had no idea how to answer it.

Inside my head I often think the answer: “I try to stay alive and not cut myself. I try to eat and gain enough weight so that I can walk through town and function to some sort of degree.” but I would never give that as an answer, even though it does take up a lot of my time and energy just to appear like a functioning young adult.

I’ve given so many different answers to that question, including:

“I’m between jobs at the moment”

“I’ve just finished a college course and am figuring out where to go next”

“I go to Princes Trust and am finding my feet”

“I write”

It’s only very recently I’ve realised that actually it’s okay to say “I struggle with mental illness and am putting my recovery first” and I wish I would’ve said that every time that someone has asked me. There’s nothing to be ashamed of by saying that I am unwell but actually it might help someone to realise it’s okay to speak about their illness or to approach me and ask questions about mine. By lying and twisting the truth all I am achieving is feeling isolated, alone and I’m also not helping to stamp out stigma.

So I pledge that from this day forward I will be open and honest about my illness to others. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

One Mindfully

We live in such a busy society that it has become the norm to multitask, in fact I think there is often an expectation that people should do it. I know I’m guilty of it: emailing under the table whilst holding a conversation, eating whilst writing or tweeting. Texting whilst having a conversation with my family AND watching TV. I even started exercising and taking phone calls in the bath. Multitasking is certainly possible but it is not effective and neither is it good for our mental health. I often get stressed out and exhausted with all the different thoughts that race through my head and feeling like I don’t get a minute to myself. This is why I think that ‘one mindfully’ is an incredibly important skill.

One mindfully is all about learning to focus on being in the present, focusing on what we are doing and what is happening in the moment. The idea is to do one thing at a time so that we can give our full attention to what we are doing but it also helps us to feel completely present and have the experience of what we are doing. When was the last time you brushed your teeth and noticed the colour of your toothpaste and focused on cleaning each part of your mouth? I’m sure many people do the same that I do…I often brush my teeth whilst doing other things and thinking of other things. I might get the job done but I haven’t acknowledged that I am brushing my teeth, I haven’t experienced brushing my teeth and I probably haven’t done the best job I could do.

Do one thing at a time! If you are eating, eat. If you are walking, walk. Give everything you do your full attention. Let go of distractions and go back to what you are doing again and again. Concentrate your mind, if you find yourself doing two things at a time, stop and go back to one thing at a time.

It does feel unnatural because it is the opposite of multitasking which is something we have all learnt to do and often feel is necessary but you will feel better and you will be much more effective if you do.

 One mindfully: Be in the moment

How To Manage ‘Fat Feelings’

I think it is important to have strategies to manage anxiety around weight and food and ‘fat feelings’. These are the strategies that I find helpful:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Read
  3. Try to think about what else is going on for you. What else could these ‘fat feelings’ be?
  4. Write
  5. Social networking/blogging
  6. Have a hot, bubbly bath
  7. Paint nails
  8. Do a puzzle
  9. Watch TV
  10. Tell someone how you’re feeling
  11. Look at truths e.g. weight/BMI
  12. Remember that anorexia twists everything
  13. Make an amazon wishlist
  14. Do something arty
  15. Think “What would my therapist/dietician say?”
  16. Tidy/clean/organise
  17. Listen to relaxation music
  18. Try to believe what others tell you
  19. Think of positive things about yourself-weight, shape and body image don’t define everything.
  20. Play a game (video game or board game)

Fat Feelings: They Don’t Exist

I struggle with ‘fat feelings’ on a daily basis. I rarely say that I feel sad or anxious and so on but I often say, “I feel fat”. Factually I cannot be fat, my BMI does not say that I am fat, the number on the scales does not say that I am fat, my mental health team want me to gain weight, so I cannot actually be fat. This is why I find it helpful to think of what else fat feelings could be and this is my list:

  1. Guilt from eating
  2. Tiredness
  3. Bloating from drinking lots of fluids
  4. Low mood
  5. Stress
  6. Worries
  7. Self-hatred
  8. Not feeling good enough
  9. Feeling undeserving
  10. Feeling like a failure
  11. Low self-esteem
  12. Being warm or hot
  13. Being full
  14. Constipation
  15. Stomach pain
  16. Overly body checking

If you struggle with ‘fat feelings’ too, I hope that this list helps you, or maybe you could make your own list to look at when you are struggling. Remember that fat is not a feeling.

What’s It Like To Lose Someone To Suicide? A Personal Account

A few years ago I lost a friend to suicide and whilst it is not something I often talk about, it is something that I think about everyday. Sometimes when suicide is mentioned it can be brushed over and simplified. The person died full stop, but there is no full stop, the person’s death is devastating and the pain continues for the rest of their friend’s and families lives. It makes me angry when suicide is romanicised. There is nothing romantic about your best friend crying until they are sick. There was nothing romantic about me laying flowers whilst the media watched on, I couldn’t even have privacy to say goodbye! I have seen some posts on social media saying, “They will love me when I’m gone” and so on. No, they love you now whilst you are alive to have a hug or a conversation with them, when you die you won’t know that people love you, that people talk about you. You won’t know the whirl of confusion, sadness, anger and pain that you leave behind. There is nothing romantic about dying, romance only exists in the living.

I blame myself, of course I do. I spoke to my friend the day before they died and I had absolutely no idea how they were feeling, it was the biggest shock when I got the text less than 48 hours after we spoke telling me that my friend had gone. That conversation will haunt me forever, I have played it in my head thousands of times and picked up on the potential hint, the hint that I did nothing about and the unanswered questions I have that will never get answered. Could I have done something different? Could I have saved their life? I’m not alone in these feelings of blame, I imagine everyone who knew my friend feels the same. Could we have done more?

My friend’s face didn’t disappear from the photographs, it just made each of those happy memories painful. It makes remembering the fun times sad. Some days I don’t want to remember, I don’t want to remember that I wasn’t there in the weeks or months running up to their death because I was in hospital. I can’t handle that hanging over me. I don’t like to think about the pain I may have caused them. ‘If it was my fault then maybe I should die’ is a thought that has happened a lot.

I have felt so many different things about my friend’s death. There’s the ‘it should have been me’ feelings. The guilt that I am alive and my friend isn’t. There’s the anger at my friend because my friend has the potential to become anything they so wished to be, they were clever enough to be a doctor, kind enough to be a charity worker. The world was their oyster and they threw it away and maybe if they would’ve hung on a year or two their life would’ve really taken off and they would be glad that they didn’t die. I’ve felt sad that I can never have a conversation with them again, I will never walk through town and bump into them. The months following their suicide I saw their face in everyone and then I’d remember and be locked in a public toilet sobbing. Sometimes I feel glad that my friend is at peace but mostly I feel confused. I will never know why, I will never know what our friendship would’ve become, whether what they told me was a hint or a coincidence.

I understand though, I’ve been there thinking that I couldn’t stand another minute of this life. I’ve tried to end my life but there will always come a time after my survival when I feel glad that I am alive. They are temporary feelings, unbearable I know, but temporary and I just wish I could have told my friend that.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over it, it’s already been years and it plays on my mind as much as it always has. In a way it is worse now, I’m worried I’ve forgotten what their voice sounds like. I dread to think what it is like for my friend’s immediate family. Losing someone to suicide is horrific, painful and full of unanswered questions. It’ll stay with me for the rest of my life and the worst thing is I will never know why.

If you have lost someone to suicide, you may find these links helpful:

If you are feeling suicidal, please seek help: