I’m sitting on the end of my bed in hospital. Numb but in pain. I don’t understand anymore. Utter confusion. Dreaming of a future like a child, imagining I’ll be a vet or a teacher but seeing reality like an adult…I am just a psychiatric ward patient….I probably don’t even deserve the word ‘just’ in front of that. I’m a nothing, a no one. Three months locked away has completely detached me from the world around me. I belong nowhere and with no one. The world outside the window doesn’t feel like mine. It’s like I don’t remember what the rolling hills look like, nor the supermarket aisles or petrol stations. My ballet shoes disintegrated when my life turned into compost. Maybe new flowers will grow out of the soil but I doubt it. It feels like I’ll never feel the sun on my skin again and that my heart will never vibrate with the bass of loud music. Will I always be gone? Will I ever find me again?
Apologies for the lack of posting recently but I haven’t been well and have only been discharged from hospital today.
I have many blogs in the pipeline and I will be more active ASAP.
For now I’m going to leave you with some good news….This blog has been nominated for the Mind Media Awards which is incredibly exciting. Check out the shortlist here
Somebody asked me the other day, “What are you passionate about?” and a few things came to mind. I’m passionate about mental health, raising awareness and I think overall, the biggest passion is turning negatives into positives.
The night I spent in a police cell on a Section 136 was horrific. Nobody should be put in a cell when they are in a mental health crisis but actually some of the best days of my life have happened as a direct result of that day. Because of that night I have been on national news, Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast and I hope that some of my speaking out has added towards the changes that have happened in our society lately such as triage nurses attending mental health calls and the Crisis Care Concordat.
Being detained under The Mental Health Act and spending months in hospital was also not a nice experience but I have been able to use that experience to speak out, help others and create a short film.
Having a mental illness isn’t nice. These illnesses can be so cruel but now when something happens I try to see the positive in it because I am sure that everything happens for a reason. When bad things happen I am determined to make sure the memory becomes a positive one and that my pain can maybe lessen other’s pain.
Sometimes speaking out about mental illness can be difficult. I find it easy to talk about recovery and when things are going well but it’s not so easy to say that actually things aren’t okay and I guess that’s why I’ve been a bit quiet lately. My blog posts, tweets and Facebook statuses have slowed down in the digital world and my facial muscles ache from forcing a fake smile onto my face in the real world.
It’d be easier to pretend that I’m okay and to stay quiet until things are better but then I’m not sure how that’s helpful for anyone because speaking out about mental illness needs to be a true picture, it can’t just be telling people about the good days. The bad days are when people need the most support and understanding. As much as I want to pretend right now that things are fine and I am okay, I recognise that if I truly want to help others then I need to bite the bullet and be honest because relapse is a part of recovery and that is okay. Pretending recovery is dream-like and perfect is not okay.
I don’t sleep well anymore, not since I relapsed with self-harm. It hurts to lay on my side and I worry about knocking wounds in my sleep and bleeding on my bed sheets. I wake up in pain, every single day the pain in my jaw is unbearable and the flashbacks that come along with it mean the mental pain is worse than the unbearable physical pain. Every meal time is a battle, exhaustion takes over my days and I find myself having to have a lay down before and after doing anything.
I’m scared. Scared because I know this journey far too well. I know what lays at the end of this road after I’ve hit all the speed bumps and swung through the chicane then comes a stay in the psychiatric ward and I don’t want to reach that destination again.
Frustration and self-hatred combine and together they become anger. An anger that has hit boiling point. The steam is not only coming out of the kettle but the kettle is going to explode too and boiling hot water will erupt everywhere scolding anything and anyone that it hits.
I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to be poorly. I don’t want to be the reason my friends and family can’t sleep and I don’t want to hurt anyone. All I can do is give each day my best shot, try to be kind to myself and take my medication until this passes or improves. For now I am scared and I feel very small. Small, weak and tired but determined to win. We only get one life and mental illness is not going to take mine.
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.
I have been a part of the eating disorder recovery community on Instagram for a couple of years now but for the past few months I have been noticing the less helpful aspects of the community and following a recent conversation with my psychologist I have began to wonder if it is really a recovery community after all?
Recovery accounts on Instagram often post pictures of food, of their intake. This in itself could be considered quite disordered. I think it’s great to document your journey and your recovery to show others that recovery is possible, but there can be negatives to posting pictures of everything you eat. People with eating disorders often feel self conscious about what they eat and may seek approval over what they are eating and I fear that photographing food leaves people open to restriction and therefore feeds their eating disorder and keeps it going. I know there have been times where I have photographed food and put it on Instagram in a healthy way, particularly at the start of recovery after a relapse but how do we know who is reading it and what our posts are making people feel? Yes, it is their choice to follow and to read but by posting online we have a certain responsibility to keep it safe. For all we know a child could be reading our posts and clinging on to our comment about how a yoghurt that wasn’t fat free made you feel guilty or how pizza is a fear food and they may stop eating those foods. We may be recovery accounts but we have to be aware that the photos we are posting and the things we are saying can actually be feeding one another’s eating disorders.
Few recovery accounts on Instagram can actually be truly recovered, we wouldn’t be posting the things we post if we are well and you have to ask yourself, “Is this healthy? Is it healthy that we are all unwell people following unwell people?”
I use Instagram because I find it supportive, particularly as I am quite an isolated person. I find it can be helpful to have people to talk to who understand but at the same time, is the community as a whole supportive? The other day I posted a picture of an item of food I had bought and aim to try one day and received comments that have put me off trying it, saying that it tasted horrible and was disappointing and so on and it made the alarm bells ring. Were they discouraging me to eat it?
I feel things are not as they seem on Instagram. I mean you see all these pictures of food but never empty plates, how do you know that these people are in recovery and are eating what they say they are? There tend to be ‘fashionable foods’ that everyone posts such as oats, protein bars and whole pints of icecream. Is it healthy to be in a community that has fashionable and unfashionable food when you are suffering from an eating disorder? Probably not. Is it healthy to spend your days scrolling down your Instagram feed looking at pictures of food? I know from personal experience that it fuels my obsession with food.
I see so many accounts posting body pictures, sometimes in underwear, sometimes in clothes. Body checking is a common eating disorder behaviour but by posting it to your 2k audience on Instagram it makes it dangerous. I understand that people are seeking approval but the comments of “Tiny hun” and “You look ill, I’m worried” will push the person further into their ED and the hateful comments telling the person that they are fat will obviously fuel the ED. Sometimes they are body pictures, other times I feel they are disguised as ‘progress pictures’. People with eating disorders often compare, whether that be their intake or their body. Instagram is the perfect environment for those behaviours.
There is also a lot of meanness that goes on, particularly on ask.fms that are linked to accounts where many of the asks will be about various accounts in the community and are full of hatred and criticism which will further fuel people’s illnesses. The deliberate triggering of commenting on people’s photos, “I wish I could eat that.” or “How did you eat that?!” which will ultimately cause a huge amount of guilt and anxiety in people.
I know the community that I am a part of on Instagram is recovery motivated and that there are some positives to being a part of it but I often wonder if it is another thing that keeps us stuck in our eating disorders. Our mind once again tricking us that we are getting better when in fact, we are not.
I am finding it hard to leave the community, I do not want to delete my account and leave that bit of support and understanding but I am going to try to be aware of how the things I post may impact others and hopefully one day soon I can use my account to document the parts of recovery that are not food based and use it in a different way because being recovery isn’t just about food, it’s about so much more than that.
I haven’t abandoned this blog and have many plans for it but unfortunately I have been unwell and in hospital and am hugely struggling with energy levels.
I will write a post as soon as possible.