I recently contributed to an article produced by Vice explaining what it is like to be sectioned in Britain today.
MyFitnessPal is an app that I’m sure many people are aware of. I remember when I discovered it in the depths of my anorexia and it latched on to my illness, fed it and began to control my life alongside it. I think this app should be banned.
On MyFitnessPal you can put in your current weight and your goal weight, you can then find out the calories in almost every item of food simply by searching it and you can record almost everything in the diary. I would even count the ‘calories’ of my vitamin tablets on this app, every time something passed my lips it would get recorded, even glasses of water. I would spend the majority of the day engaging in eating disorder behaviours and recording it on this app. Then at the end of the day the diary would tell me how much I would weigh in five weeks time if my net calories were the same as that day. I was glued to MyFitnessPal, I panicked if it stopped working or if my internet connection went down. I needed it but I needed it for all the wrong reasons. It maintained my mental illness, how is that a good thing?
I am not alone in using MyFitnessPal with an eating disorder, I know hundreds of people who use MyFitnessPal and are battling an eating disorder of some kind. For so many people a milestone in their recovery is deleting the app. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any eating disorder, we may not hear about it much but people are dying from this! Why should an app that encourages this illness be allowed? If they renamed it “My Ana buddy” and it did the same thing as it does now, I can almost guarantee that it would be taken straight out of the app store.
There are some mobile phones that come with MyFitnessPal built in and you cannot delete the app. How dangerous is that? It is not normal to obsess over the calories you eat and the exercise you do in a day no matter what society tells you. Yes, a balanced diet is important. Yes, getting some exercise is important. No, spending all day on an app that takes over and controls your life and makes you preoccupied with food, exercise and weight is not okay. Could this app actually be a factor in causing eating disorders?
MyFitnessPal is the top app in the ‘health and fitness’ category….health and fitness? There is NOTHING healthy about counting calories, recording your weight daily and your life revolving around numbers. I was not healthy or fit when I was obsessed with MyFitnessPal and if I ever bought a phone and couldn’t delete the app, I would be furious and worried for my well being. MyFitnessPal is not your pal, a pal should make you feel happy, confident and appreciate yourself, this app drove me to self-destruction and feeds so many people’s evil mental illnesses.
This isn’t just about those people who battle eating disorders, MyFitnessPal makes me angry because it implies to people that it will make them feel happy and good about themselves but happiness is not recording your calories every time you eat or adding a glass of water to the diary every time you drink. Happiness is being free, not being chained down by a money making app. Happiness is about memories, about being with people and appreciating your qualities and recognising your achievements. If you are seeking health and happiness, you will not find it in this app.
The other day I found myself sat on my sofa feeling totally exhausted and googling, “Tell me something that will change my life” and I came across an article called ‘6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever’ http://tinybuddha.com/blog/6-powerful-questions-that-will-change-your-life-forever/ and it surprised me, I mean it’s not going to pick me up and pluck me out of my life and drop me into another but it certainly made me think and made me realise who I am. I think our society isn’t really suitable for human beings. Society is fast-paced, full of adverts that make us insecure, hate and insults are thrown left, right and centre. Inequality and prejudice exists and we seem to be pushed and shoved into a position where we feel like it’s okay to be anyone but ourselves. The beauty of this article is that it is about YOU and how beautiful uniqueness is. We should focus more on uniqueness because no matter how hard we try as a society we will never all be the same. You can wear the same clothes but your fingerprints will never match anyone else’s.
I thought I’d share the 6 powerful questions and my answers in the hope that someone reading this may do the same and be empowered by themselves or appreciate themselves a little more. I know how mental illness can grind a person down and make one feel like they are so worthless and a burden. This isn’t true and I hope that these questions help you.
1. What do I absolutely love in life?
I love the beach, I love standing there with the sun on my face and the waves breaking against my ankles. I love writing words in the sand with my toes and feeling so blessed and lucky because it feels like I’m on the best place in earth.
I love cuddling up with my dog at night, stroking her paws and hearing her snore in the total darkness with the weight of my duvet resting on me and feeling like I am in my safe haven.
I love music, I love that moment when I have my headphones in and the beat drops and it’s like nothing else in the world matters.
2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?
Still being alive is probably top of the list, that’s been a big enough battle but I haven’t done it on my own, there are so many amazing people out there who are the reason I am still here.
Achieving with my writing: Starting this blog, writing for The Huffington Post and signing my very first Author’s contract!
Media work, appearing on the News, Radio 5 live, BBC breakfast, Made in Cardiff and various newspapers.
Receiving a standing ovation after speaking to 450 people at Ignite.
Working with Fixers and being a panelist at the Fixers Feel Happy Fix in London.
3. What would I stand for if I knew no one would judge me?
I already stand up and speak out about mental health in the hope that it will improve things for someone out there but I think if I could live without fear of judgement then I would probably shout louder.
I would also stand up for all the rubbish about nutrition that floats around our society because it is so damaging.
4. If my life had absolutely no limits and I could have it all and do whatever I wanted, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?
I don’t want a lot of materialistic things in this life. I am not the kind of person who would want and mansion and 5 cars but a safe, stable roof over my head and a swimming pool would be nice, I love swimming but my body image problems stop me from going. I’d love to have a successful book and to shout about mental health to make positive change in our society.
5. What would I do if I had a billion pounds?
Okay, firstly I would buy a new laptop because this blog is currently being written on a computer on it’s last legs. I’d pay off my parents mortgage and buy myself and my sister a home. I’d go on holiday because I haven’t left this country for years and it’d be nice to see the world a bit. I’d get a rescue dog. I’d donate a big chunk to Fixers, b-eat and mind and then I’d get on the mission of building specialist mental health wards for 18-30 year olds.
6. Who do I admire most in this world?
There isn’t just one person, there’s a lot of incredible women (sorry lads!) who have got me to the place I am now and I admire their qualities. I admire the incredible Deb and Aida from BYHP who got me out of my house, out of my silence and gave me the confidence to persue my writing. I admire Jenny from Fixers for her strength, passion and love for her young people, she really is one of the strongest people I know. I admire Lisa Cordery for her commitment to young people and for staying true to herself. I admire my mum for sticking by me, for making me laugh when I’ve wanted to die and for sleeping in my bed when we didn’t feel so strong. Mum, you’re my rock and everything I am today I owe to you. I admire Julie, my best friend, for her strength, determination and kind heart. You do unbelievable (and terrifying!) things with your rock climbing but you do unbelievable things in life too and I am so lucky to spend time with your beautiful son and wonderful husband. We climbed an actual mountain together but we’ve climbed mental ones too and I will never forget the day we sat in the sunshine playing word games when I was in hospital. I admire Kath, my recovery buddy for her determination in recovery and commitment to DBT, you are a good influence on my life. We have fabulous times together using skills and batting off our eating disorders. Finally, I admire my goddaughter because she is a little miracle and she keeps me fighting on and calms my mind with a beautiful smile. Georgina, I love you. I am so lucky and so blessed to have so many admirable women in my life.
Last week I was interviewed about mental health by the lovely Ellen Thomas from Made In Cardiff.
In the DBT group I attend we do a mindful eating activity every week. Normally I avoid taking part as much as I possibly can and often won’t even look at the food in my hand and think about something totally different but last time I fully participated and was shocked at what I noticed.
This time we were mindfully eating dried mango. I normally see colours in blocks but I looked at the piece of dried mango in my hand and saw all different shades of yellow and orange and I couldn’t help but think maybe that says something about how we see the world. That the world around us isn’t just black and white, it’s made up of all sorts but we never look close enough to see or even realise that we aren’t looking closely enough.
I was deeply saddened this morning to learn that someone had taken their life on the Victoria Line but I was even more saddened by the reactions that I read on Twitter. I thought our society valued human life and did whatever was possible to stop human suffering but I was wrong as quickly people’s commutes seemed to become more important than the life lost.
Among some of the disgusting and heartless tweets were:
“Always in rush hour on a Monday selfish b*stards”
“Who decides to kill them self on a Monday morning #selfish”
“If someone wants to kill themselves they should do it in their own time not when it interferes with others”
Where has society’s compassion gone? I thought we were beginning to become more educated about mental health and suicide. I thought we had the emotional intelligence to think beyond a delayed train and see the painful and upsetting reality of the situation. The person who died on the Victoria Line today is someone’s child, they may be someone’s parent or sibling, they’ve got neighbours, they’ve probably got friends. The devastation and upset their death will bring is unimaginable. Think about the train driver, any witnesses, the police and paramedics that have to get the body. It is traumatising and upsetting for so many people. You will get to work eventually today but that person, they will never feel the sun on their skin or send another Christmas card. Can you imagine how horrific that person must have been feeling?! The emotional and mental pain must have been unbearable, and the physical pain of the way they died…I can’t even think about it.
You might have been delayed this morning, you might have had to take a different route to work but you are still alive and count yourself lucky if you didn’t know the person who died because we all think we are so far away from suicide but when my best friend died from suicide it was so unexpected. I can almost guarantee that each and every one of us know someone who has seriously contemplated suicide.
We are a wealthy country, let’s start valuing human life more than a delayed train.
Okay let’s go back to basics, our first days of primary school we were told the school rules and the two I will probably always remember were, “Treat others the way you wish to be treated” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say then say nothing at all” and perhaps the latter should be a life rule, or at the very least an internet rule. I’m going to ignore “Treat others the way you wish to be treated” because I don’t think many of us are very kind to ourselves these days and I don’t think people who send hate over the internet have much self-respect or self-esteem and they probably don’t value themselves very highly.
I am not someone who has received a lot of hate, in fact it is pretty rare but that’s why I feel it is even more important to talk about it. I am not one of those extreme stories, I’m probably one of the ‘lucky’ ones because I can count the hate I’ve received this year on one hand, however this does not mean it didn’t hurt me. Hate is dangerous, any hate is dangerous. If you send someone one hateful comment online, that one comment has the power to cause harm to that person and it’s like throwing a grenade over a fence, you can’t see the damage, you don’t even know if it’s hit them but it has the potential to be deadly.
You do not know that person’s personality, life nor situation. The person you send hate to could already be having a really bad day, your one comment could be the comment that pushes them over the edge.
Online bullying and hate is very different to bullying and hateful comments in the actual world. You can often see from body language or facial expression that the other person isn’t going to be kind and whilst this is equally as horrible, at least you can kind of prepare yourself rather than clicking on an email and BOOM it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, this hateful comment is there and you can read over and over again, it isn’t just said once. You are under attack and your body reacts, your heart races and your eyes sting but you don’t know who or where the attacker is.
One of the first times I received hate, I was sat in a hospital waiting room waiting for a very difficult, upsetting and anxiety provoking appointment. I was on my own and already in a very vulnerable place. I was looking around the room finding objects beginning with each letter of the alphabet in a desperate bid to stop myself crying but I internalised the words and believed them and completely hated myself and it contributed towards me hurting myself that night.
A more recent example was when I was sent hate whilst I was an inpatient on a psychiatric ward. Things were difficult enough, I already had my own nasty voice shouting at me, I didn’t need another one.
The most memorable was when I received an anonymous message telling me I was fat but with many more words and I was sitting down for dinner at someone’s house and I was already full of anxiety but also a determination to not let my illness win. I read that message as the starter was served and I barely ate any of the meal and I hurt myself as I lay in my dark bedroom that night.
Hate has affected me and I am very fortunate that I don’t receive a lot, I would not consider myself to be cyber bullied at all. This is why my message is so important. It just takes one hateful comment. Sending me hate when I am suicidal is as dangerous as handing me gun.
I see hate everyday on Instagram, Twitter, Ask.fm and Facebook and it’s scary how normal it is becoming. I shouldn’t be scared every single time I get a notification that it is going to be hate, our society should not be turning into this. The internet is 24/7, it doesn’t close and our phones are with us constantly. Think about that for a second, it’s exhausting enough to keep up with replies, what each other are doing, trying to fit in and all the rest of it without receiving hate any time of the day or night.
Screens create a distance but that doesn’t mean that the consequences of your hateful messages aren’t happening. You are sending hate to a human being with feelings, memories, insecurities, problems and vulnerabilities.
Don’t be the reason someone cries tonight, don’t be a scar on someone’s arm and definitely do not be a tear in a mother’s eye as she buries her child. Stop sending hate!
I often convince myself that going against anorexia’s word will make me feel worst, or perhaps it’s anorexia that convinces me that. I worry that I won’t be able to cope with the guilt or self-disgust that I fear comes with recovery but that is anorexia lying to me.
In hospital last weekend I felt very physically ill. I was weak and dizzy. I wanted my phone but only made it half way down the corridor before walking back to bed because I felt so ill. Barely being able to get out of bed does not feel good.
A nurse offered me a banana and I normally I would’ve turned it down but I accepted it. Spontaneously and outside of a ‘meal time’ I ate a banana and it was enough to enable me to sit up without my vision going funny. Shortly after this it was lunch time and with encouragement I had a roast dinner, a mini trifle and an orange juice…it was more than I had allowed myself in a very long time and I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten any of those foods. I didn’t want to admit it but I enjoyed every bite. I actually enjoyed food! It felt so liberating and exciting. I was beating anorexia and it felt way better than being too dizzy to get out of bed.
I am writing this post as a reminder to myself and anyone suffering that recovery does feel good and eating can be enjoyable, it’s anorexia’s lies that convince you otherwise.
- My Mother
- Making memories at family BBQs
- My goddaughter
- Painting in the garden
- Walking behind waterfalls
- Playing with my dog
- Laughing until it hurts and tears roll down my face
- 2p machines at the arcade
- Scented candles
- Baking cakes
- Helping people
- Advent calendars
- Wrapping presents
- Playing board games on rainy days
- Running through mazes
- Cadbury world
- Being on TV
- Being on the radio
- Bath bombs
- Going to the theatre
- Being inspired
- Watching my dog dreaming
- Hearing the sea
- Riding in my Dad’s 1969 cabriolet Beetle
- White nougat hot chocolate
- Afternoon tea
- Toasted marshmallows
- Electric blankets
The mirror is a very confusing thing that has somehow taken over years of my life. I mean if we really simplify it, it is just a sheet of glass that shows me a reflection of myself. I guess that’s where the confusion is, it does not show me my actual self, just an image of me but the mirror is the closest thing we get to seeing whole body, or a photograph. We can never see our whole self with the naked eye and that is where confusion slips in. For me, it feels like Chinese Whispers. I stand there in my body but somewhere between the image of me being reflected and observed with my eyes and reaching my brain that message gets confused. It’s always different. I never see the same image.
I’ve hung so much baggage onto my reflection, as I’m sure many people have. The reflection in the mirror gets jumbled up with emotions, mental illness, the food I have eaten and so I no longer see my reflected body but more the reflection of my mind except I don’t realise this at the time.
The mirror has led to many tears, many clothes thrown around the room and self-destructive behaviours. The mirror has withdrawn me from the world around me and pulled all my focus in. I have obsessed over every reflective surface and disengaged from conversation and life. I feel like I’ve been sucked into a funhouse mirror and then I have fallen down the rabbit hole and I’m stuck, trapped and unsure of who I am or what I look like.
Why is it so important? I don’t have two heads or green skin or tentacles. I look like a human being and we all look different. It frustrates me that I can’t just accept that this is who I am and it doesn’t actually matter how I look. Isn’t it more important to leave a mark on the world, to change it somehow in a positive way or to inspire someone or offer kindness, a hand to hold. Does it matter what I look like if the words that leave my mouth have a positive impact? No, it doesn’t.
My relationship with the mirror is both frustrating and confusing and so I wrote it a letter: