It’s something I hear all the time, “School days are the best days of your life” and I can’t help but think that is the biggest lie I have ever heard. I can think of little worse than having to go to a place everyday learning about things that don’t interest you whilst being crammed in a room full of people who are only similar to you in age.
For me school days were not the best days of my life at all, far from it in fact. I was bullied, bitched about, I spent my break times in the toilets self harming or purging. I threw my lunch in the bin everyday. I faked ill to stay home. I hated everything about school. I hated that I was practically forced to see the school counsellor, a much older man that I just didn’t click with. No, school days were not the best days of my life.
The best days of my life were sitting in a hot tub with my friends and family giggling and drinking Pepsi max out of milk bottles with paper straws, the day I went on BBC Breakfast, the moments in my ballet classes when I don’t care about my reflection in the mirror staring back at me. Whilst I’m in a dark place now I have had some of the best days of my life and these have all been since I left school. I can promise you this: if you hate school and think these are meant to be the best days of your life, they are not. Your best days are yet to come and I promise you that they will come. School days being the best days of your life is one of the biggest lies I have ever heard. Don’t fall into the trap of believing it’s true.
As cliche as this sounds, I can honestly say that I would not be alive if it weren’t for music. Music has got me through the good times, the bad times and everything in between. I will never forget getting up in my hotel room and listening to ‘I’m on top of the world’ by imagine dragons whilst getting dressed before my appearance on BBC Breakfast. I will never forget listening to Meatloaf in the car on the way to the airport before we flew to Rome. That’s the funny thing about songs they hold memories and that can be a double edged sword. Whenever I hear ‘moves like Jagger’ I am plunged head first into the memory of sitting in the lounge in a psychiatric hospital whilst a patient dances around the room. Hearing ‘cake by the ocean’ will always remind me of the cold,hard days spent in utter boredom in the secure unit. There are Ed Sheeran songs that remind me of ex partners and no matter how much I like Ed Sheeran, I cannot hear these songs without feeling like complete rubbish. Music can be therapy but there is also a danger of music being harmful to the mind so be careful.
So, music and recovery. I use music at the moment to get me through my feeds as I’m currently being treated for anorexia nervosa and am being fed through an NG tube. I have a specific playlist named ‘Feed’ which consists of:
- I’m yours-Alyssa Bernal
- Boom clap-Charli XCX
- Learn to live-Darius Rucker
- Starman-David Bowie
- Survivor-Destiny’s Child
- On top of the world-Imagine Dragons
- Cold in Ohio-Jamie Lawson
- Living in the moment-Jason Mraz
- Breathe in, breathe out, move on-Jimmy Buffet
- Little me-Little Mix
- Scare away the dark-Passenger
- Superheroes-The Script
- Let it go-Demi Lovato
- Heroes-David Bowie
- Chocolate-The 1975
- Love my life-Robbie Williams
All of these songs I either find relaxing, recovery focused, feel good or they hold positive memories. I find feeds really distressing and I know a lot of recovery can be distressing, that’s why in DBT there’s a whole module called ‘distress tolerance’. For me, music is my distress tolerance. ‘Cold in Ohio’ always relaxes me whilst ‘living in the moment’ reminds me of mindfulness. ‘On top of the world’ is a proper feel good song and also reminds me of the positive memory when I went on BBC Breakfast. ‘Little me’ gives me the reminder that I want to make 4 year old me proud. Maybe I won’t be able to listen to these songs again once all of this is over but for now they are getting me through and that’s what recovery is about, getting through.
This morning I spoke on BBC Breakfast with Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner to talk about the use of cells as a place of safety for people suffering from mental illness.
A home affairs committee report has called for a change in the law so that cells are no longer deemed a ‘place of safety’ under the Mental Health Act. I spoke out about my experience of the night I spent in a cell due to a mental health crisis. I was not violent, I had not done anything wrong, I was unwell. You would not leave a physically ill person in a cell and in the care of police officers so why would you leave someone with a mental health problem in this situation? Mental illnesses are health problems requiring health care.
I hope by continually speaking out and raising awareness then change will happen. If we are to end the use of cells then we need to improve care. More beds are needed, there’s a lack of funding, a lack of staffing. We need changes not only in crisis care but in the little bit before crisis care when people are saying “Look I’m really not okay, I need some help” and are often brushed off or sent home and told to have a cup of tea. If we are to succeed in ending the use of cells, we need major improvements in our failing health care system.