Dear Stranger

I was overwhelmed with incredible feelings when I received the phone call at the beginning of this year asking me if I would like to write for a book being published by Penguin. I have always loved writing and as a child I would dream of one day being an author. I suppose somewhere along the way I lost those dreams. Life throws rubbish at us and mental illness blindfolds us and dreams disintegrate.

My love for words and writing helped me to start this blog but I never imagined the places that this blog would take me to, I could never have predicted that my writing would be published by Penguin less than a year after a started this blog. It was so hard to keep this a secret for so long but I am delighted to announce that ‘Dear Stranger’ will be released on Thursday 2nd July 2015. The book contains letters on the subject of happiness from fifty authors and bloggers including myself, Matt Haig, Richard Branson, Marian Keyes and Arianna Huffington.

I’m really excited for the future of ‘Dear Stranger’ because I hope that the letters in there reach someone and make a difference at a time in need. I’m giving a copy to my one year old Goddaughter in the hope that it carries her through life and lifts her up when she’s feeling sad. At least £3 per copy will be donated to mind so that they are able to continue the wonderful and life changing work that they carry out.

You can buy ‘Dear Stranger’ here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dear-Stranger-Various/dp/0718181611/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1435661106&sr=8-1&keywords=dear+stranger

I know sometimes it can feel like happiness is a long way away, maybe you can’t even see it, maybe you’ve forgotten what it feels like but it is there and you will find it one day, probably when you least expect it.

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The Media Need to Stop Ignoring Mental Health Discrimination

If somebody makes a racist comment on national television then they normally lose their career over it. Discrimination is discrimination regardless of whether that is about colour of a person’s skin or a person’s disability. Discrimination is wrong on every level and yet discrimination around mental health seems to be ignored in the media time and time again.

This can be seen in reality TV programme ‘Big Brother‘ where in the past a contestant was removed from the house for saying “N*gga” however when Helen Wood referred to Brian Belo and Nikki Grahame as “psychos” and then went on to say “Straight jackets are in the storeroom, psycho” Helen was merely given a warning. Considering that Nikki Grahame has had a long battle with a mental health condition the comment was very damaging and had it been about race I am sure a comment of the same severity would have been met with removal from the house.

It is apparent that stigmatising or discriminating public comments about mental health are happening in all parts of the media and are simply brushed over and forgotten as though the implications do not matter. Meghan Trainor said in an interview “I wasn’t strong enough to have an eating disorder…I tried to go anorexic for a good three hours. I ate ice and celery, but that’s not even anorexic. And I quit. I was like, ‘Ma, can you make me a sandwich? Like, immediately,” This statement is damaging in more ways than one. Firstly it reinforces the idea that people with anorexia choose anorexia and also the idea that those with anorexia don’t eat anything. Nobody chooses anorexia just the same as nobody chooses to have asthma or arthritis or cancer. People with anorexia do eat and often sufferers eat more than ice and celery so clearly Meghan Trainor does not know what anorexia is. As for the comments about being strong, what message is that sending out to people? That having an eating disorder is a good thing? That’s dangerous.

Then there are the newspaper headlines that continuously reinforce negative stereotypes. Sufferers of mental health conditions are more likely to be the victim of a crime than they are to commit a crime and yet you would not realise that from the way newspapers front pages look all too often. “Killer pilot suffered from depression” was plastered over the front of The Daily Mirror when in actual fact nobody knew if the incident had anything to do with his depression and most people with depression have not killed anyone just the same as most people without depression have not killed anyone. The Sun‘s front page back in 2003 was plastered with “Bonkers Bruno Locked Up” and The Sun are still running so there were no implications for their language. Only the other day my local paper reported on a ‘lunatic’ teenage driver. Are we really still using this discriminating and unnecessary language? There are other words that could be used for example, wreckless or dangerous. It isn’t right to comment on the colour of someone’s skin when they have committed a crime because it is simply not relevant but the same goes with mental health. There are some rare and unfortunate cases where someone’s mental health does result in crime but for the majority of people the biggest risk is to themselves and the constant stigmatising and discriminating attitudes in the media leave people finding it even harder to seek help and therefore more likely to end up in a crisis situation.

A comment I often hear when discussing mental health discrimination is that I need to get a sense of humour but none of the above points have anything to do with comedy. We need to start treating all discrimination equally. Discriminating against race is unacceptable but so is discriminating against mental health. The media are in a powerful position, they can either educate a lot of people or cause a lot of damage. It’s about time they stepped up and began educating instead of sensationalising and discriminating.

STOP

STOP

My psychologist handed me a few of these cards yesterday because I need them. There are times when I don’t think, I just react and then I end up making the situation worse whether that be because I’ve shouted back in an argument or because I’ve hurt myself or spent money I don’t have.

I’ve stuck these in a few places where I am likely to see them at a time when I need them. They are in my self-soothe box and next to my computer and I’m going to save the image onto my phone too.

I think STOP skills can help everyone but I feel it is important to put this on my blog because I think both people with mental health conditions and those caring for people with mental health conditions could benefit from this. Don’t just read it, write it down and put it where you will see it. If you struggle with binge eating stick it on the fridge, if you struggle with spending then put it in your purse. Put it somewhere that suits you.

I Love My Body Because…

I love my body because it is mine. I am the only person to know what it’s like to be in my skin and to know each and every perfect imperfection and I think it’s pretty special to have something that no one else has got.

I love my body because it is my vessel and I travel around in it like we travel in cars. Sometimes it’s like one of those old bangers that keep breaking down but you still love it anyway because it’s got character and other times it feels like the latest model of luxury car and nobody can bring me down.

I love my body because without I couldn’t ice skate or dance, or be anywhere for that matter. I need my body as much as I need my heart and it should be given the same amount of respect. If my heart felt funny I wouldn’t ignore it so I will not shame my body for anything that it is or is not.

I love my hair because it gave me those memories of sitting on the floor whilst my mum plaited it and those hilarious photographs I look back on from when I decided to dye my hair outrageous colours. I love my hair because it is a part of the genetic mix up that I received as a gift from my parents.

I love my eyes because they allow me to see the beautiful world. Without them I would never have seen a rainbow or a waterfall. I didn’t need mascara on my lashes to see them because my eyes were enough.

I love my nose because without it I wouldn’t be able to smell freshly baked bread and neither would I be able to long for the nose piercing I’ve always been to scared to get.

I love my mouth and my wonky teeth because they enable me to smile, laugh and talk so that I can share my life with others. I love them because they allow me to eat watermelon and share pic n mix with my family at the cinema.

I love my arms and hands because they have given so many hugs and held my closest ones’ hands when they have needed it. My arms and hands are in constant use and they deserve some credit for that. I am using my hands to type this now, without my hands my passion for writing would dissolve.

I love my stomach because it protects my organs and keeps them cosy. My soft skin always feels warm on my stomach and my core gives me balance when I am dancing or skating.

I love my bum because it allows me to sit in my friend’s car and laugh until our stomach muscles ache. I love my bum because it sits on the grass whilst I make daisy chains.

I love my legs regardless of whether my thighs touch or not because they allow me to walk, run, jump and dance. They are my own personal mode of transport.

I love my feet because those five tiny toes grew into pointe shoes and danced and then they grew into walking boots and climbed mountains.

I love my body exactly the way it was made.

Self-Soothe Boxes: Self-Harm Recovery

Something I really struggle with is self-harming and self-destructive behaviours. There are times where I feel really upset either because something has happened or because mental illness is dragging me down and I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t concentrate on television as a distraction. Going for a walk feels like too much because I want to hide away from the world and not feel exposed and then I end up feeling kind of stuck because I don’t know how to deal with how horrible I am feeling and I don’t know what to do with myself. This is where the self-soothe box comes in.

My self-soothe box is all about the five senses which are touch, taste, smell, sound and vision. The behaviours I engage in are strong behaviours and so the self-soothe box needs to contain things that have a strong impact on my senses. It isn’t about what you like or dislike or what is deemed cool or uncool. A self-soothe box is simply about what will help YOU when you are struggling.

So what have I got in my self-soothe box?

  • A scented candle
  • A stress ball
  • Bubbles
  • Play-doh
  • Lip balm
  • Balloons
  • A colouring book
  • Word-searches
  • Photographs of people who mean a lot to me
  • A notebook
  • Chalk and chalkboards
  • Wool to make bracelets

Taste was a difficult one to include because having an eating disorder means that I don’t find taste very self-soothing but you could include mints or chewing gum. An extreme taste is pretty good to get the senses going so minty, sour or spicy food can be helpful but self-soothe is about what soothes you and if a bar of chocolate soothes you then put it in the box. Remember this is about YOU.

This is my self-soothe box:
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The Secret Side of Eating Disorders

Here’s my latest piece on The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/claire-greaves-/the-secret-side-of-eating-disorders_b_7428768.html It was probably one of the hardest and scariest posts I have ever written but the silence on binge eating needs to be broken. If any of my readers are struggling with binge eating then I hope you find some comfort or something of use in this article. You are not alone, I promise you that.