Sunday, 1 March 2015

NEDA week | What bulimia means to me.

Throughout national eating disorder awareness week i've been following the #neda tag on instagram and while it's great that people are trying to raise awareness for eating disorders it's also somewhat disheartening to see that the majority of posts feature individuals at severely low body weights. Such posts not only fuel the competitive nature of eating disorders, they also reinforce the damaging misconception that you have to be thin to have an eating disorder.

As someone who has suffered from bulimia for 12 years I know the pressure of never feeling ill enough or like i don't deserve help because I've never been hospitalized or reached a critically low weight, and I know I'm not alone in feeling like this. The majority of bulimics are of average or overweight, same for those with ED-NOS but that doesn't make either illness any less severe or damaging. Yet for those individuals asking for help and receiving treatment is a hell of a lot harder  and a disorder without extreme weight loss is much more likely to go undetected because everyone knows that only skinny people have eating disorders right?

What we should be raising awareness about are the things that can't be seen, the mental and physical anguish that goes on regardless of what the scale says; what it's actually like to live with an eating disorder. With that in mind i've decided to share something that i wrote for therapy a few years ago, it's a little long but i hope it's worth the read. Just for the record i am still bulimic and can easily say that trying (and still trying) to overcome it is the most difficult thing i've ever tried to do.

What bulimia means to me.....

"In the beginning you tell yourself it'll be different for you, you would never let it get that out of hand. Other people are trapped by their disorder but not you. Then before you know it when you should be out having fun, seeing friends, studying, living life you're at home hiding in the shadows with bulimia. You eat food you don’t want, food you don’t even like. You eat too much, so much that you can’t even taste it but you can’t stop, because while you’re eating all you're thinking about is the process of eating and in that moment nothing else matters, in that moment everything will be alright. You can’t stop until you're physically forced to, when you’re so full that it hurts to move. You sit for two, three minutes max, just remembering how it feels not to be empty.

But the fullness is scary; you can feel everything you've just consumed moving through your insides threatening to taint your body, threatening to tarnish the illusion of control that you've spent so long perfecting. You force yourself to the toilet, hair back, seat up, music blaring, deep breathe; heave. As the first surge of vomit hits the water you smile in relief, and like an old friend, you let it take over. Fingers move at their own accord, plunging deep into your throat, teeth scratching at the scars that permanently mark your knuckles before fluttering down to the toilet bowl. Passing through the contents you silently note what’s already come out, checking with bated breath for traces of blood. Back to the throat, heave, heave, vomit, repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat until the familiar taste of bile graces your throat, the acidity gripping at your taste buds, leaving your mouth sour and raw.

As much as you detest the bile you welcome it in glee because with the clear substance revealing your now emptiness you know that you have done well. With a satisfied smile you flush the toilet but before the water even has time to settle your head starts to cloud, whatever was in command as you faced the porcelain bowl is pushed out by the same darkness that you purge to escape from. Just seconds ago you felt light and free, consumed only by the action not thoughts of the deed that’s just been done. But now there is nothing to stop the thoughts from flooding back in, you start to feel heavier and heavier; ironic when you’ve just rid yourself from 5lbs of food. Hands still clutching the toilet rim you pull yourself up, exhausted but knowing you have to erase the last hour of food and vomit. Toilet first, then hands, soap all the way up to the elbow just in case. Teeth next, water then mouth wash, wincing as the cold liquid graces your rapidly weakening enamel. Apprehensively you turn to the mirror, your eyes blur but a quick check confirms that you escaped from any burst blood vessels this time round. Lost in the mirror a faction too long you try and remember when the reflection staring back at you with dull skin, puffy cheeks and dead eyes stopped scaring you.

Reaching for the bathroom door leaves a knot in your already aching stomach as you pray that no one is stood on the other side, constantly in fear of being found out, already seeing the disgust and disappointment in their eyes. But no you are alone, all that awaits you is the mass of wrappers and plates strewn over your bed, hastily left in the hurry to get to the bathroom. You struggle to even remember what exactly you ate that short time ago, recognizing most by how it came back up not how it went down as you bag up the evidence. Only now when the last few crumbs are brushed away do you allow yourself to breathe again. Only now do you acknowledge the speed of your heart and the pain in your chest. This scares you. As much as you think about death, the thought of your heart giving in at this exact moment is all too real. So real that you silently vow that tomorrow will be different but before you know it you’re walking back from the toilet, making the same all too familiar promise to yourself, praying and hoping that one day tomorrow really will be different before it’s too late.

Bulimia nervosa is not just an eating disorder, it’s everything. At first it’s a miracle cure, your safety net that lets you reverse any little blip in your otherwise perfect diet. It’s your friend when you’re sad letting you escape from the thoughts and memories that force you to take a blade to your skin, but once it has you in it’s grasp it won’t let you go. Then when it’s too late you realize the true identity of bulimia nervosa; a thief. It might be years after you first met but eventually you will look back and realize that bulimia has stolen everything, your time, your energy, your potential, your friends, your health, your hopes and dreams, your self esteem, your happiness, your life."

Friday, 6 February 2015

Time to talk: Take 5 to blog...

First off you'll have noticed that i've had a bit of a blog make over, head over heels just didn't feel like me anymore and i was due a change, i've still got a few things to tweak including setting up a domain name but it'll do for now. Secondly i know this should have been posted yesterday but the day just went from bad to worse, better late then never though right?

The last couple of weeks haven't been good so i've been avoiding social media but a text yesterday from the lovely Anna reminded me that it was time to talk day which i couldn't ignore (although evidently could delay). For those of you who don't already know time to talk day is part of the time to change program, set up by Mind and rethink to promote mental health awareness and challenge stigma and discrimination. The aim is to get as many people talking as possible by taking just five minutes to have a conversation about mental health, or in the blogosphere to 'take 5 to blog.'
I've spoken quite candidly about my own experiences with mental health before now on my blog, (mostly here and here) but regardless i still wanted to participate in the take 5 to blog scheme so here goes...

My name is Charlotte.

I have experienced anxiety, depression, self harm, bulimia and PTSD. I'm also under review at the moment with the potential diagnosis of a personality disorder on the horizon.

My mental illness has affected every aspect of my life; i can't have relationships, i put myself in vulnerable situations, i ruin friendships, it can take hours to work up the courage to leave the house on my own, i have panic attacks to the point that i pass out, i constantly doubt myself and put myself down, i can go from hugely elated to hopelessly crying in the space of an hour, i spend the majority of my days in therapist offices, i can't make plans and look to the future, i can't even do normal things like go swimming or enjoy a meal with friends. Every day feels like i'm fighting with my own head, fighting thoughts, feelings and impulses that scare the hell out of me. Over the last year my mental health deteriorated to the point that i attempted suicide in November. That's how much mental illness has affected my life; it nearly took my life.

My greatest source of support has been my best friend Jordan who has always been there for me and has saved my life probably more times than he realises, he was the first person i opened up to about my problems and has never once judged me. More importantly then that though he reminds me that it's possible to be happy, he makes me laugh, he lets me be myself, heck he even puts up with the pain inducing process of taking my bog photos. To him i am just me not depression or bulimia or any other illness.
At the moment i also wouldn't be surviving without my therapists...yes plural, i know that some people struggle with getting the help that they need so i'm grateful for the position that i'm in. It's taken me years to get to this point but i finally feel like i'm getting the right help and that i'm seeing people who i can be entirely trusting of which is making a huge difference.

My hope for the future is that i can be happy, that's all i ask. I no longer say i hope to be normal because firstly what does that even mean and secondly because i've come to accept that i will always have mental health issues, i just hope that i can gain enough control over them that i can start living my life again.

So i guess that's my mental health in five bite size pieces. Reading it back it doesn't sound very inspiring, like i said i'm struggling at the moment but hopefully soon i'll gain back some of the positivity that came through in last years time to talk post. I am happy though that i pushed myself to post and also that i finally got around to taking these photos, even if they were hugely rushed, sound a little like a dating ad and include a hugely frustrating spelling mistake...let me know if you spot it (i hope it's just one) but more importantly let me know if you've taken part in take 5 to blog.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Oxford, the paradise of dead philosophers.

Sometimes the best way to get out of a bad mental place is to physically take yourself to a different place, a little like going on holiday. For me at least the change in surroundings seems to trigger a reboot in my head and re sparks a bit of motivation and positivity. Obviously its not always a viable option with work and other responsibilities but as i have neither of those at the moment i've become somewhat of a suitcase kid (Jacqueline Wilson anyone?) and built up a few places in the last few months that i can escape to.

The added bonus is that when i start to feel more motivated i'm able to do the things i love again. Of course being inspired helps which is why Oxford has quickly become a favorite haven to me, the architecture and quaint little quirks have reunited me with my camera. Most of these are from December and aside from instagram were some of the first photos i'd taken in months. It may not seem like a big deal but to me just enjoying things like photography and writing again feels like a huge achievement. Eventually i'm hoping that the things i enjoy will become enough to pull me out of a bad patch without having to relocate every three or four days but for now i'm just grateful that i've found a way to give myself a little bit of happiness.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The year of self discovery.

New year, a time for new beginnings and aspirations, opportunities and potential. At this time of year we make a lot of promises and if we believe what we resolve then we’ll all be seeing in the end of 2015 in idea jobs, perfect relationships and size 6 dresses. If only life were that simple, i’ve tried to be that person and guess what; it doesn’t always work. As a result 2014 was bad, quite possibly one of the worst and i can wholeheartedly say i don’t want a repeat.

This year i have only one goal and that is the goal of self discovery. I want to carry on writing, reading and taking photographs, i want to travel and make new friends as well as enjoying the friendships i already have. I want to try new things and figure out what i enjoy and who i am away from the confines of who i’m expected to be and who i thought i was. I don’t want to please anyone else; i don’t want to be responsible for anyone else, heck i don’t even want to think about anyone else. Selfish? Quite possibly yes, but i’m entitled to be selfish, we all are.

We’re given one life and not to sound trite but that life and how we spend it is precious. One thing that i’ve definitely learnt from this year is that it doesn’t matter what you’ve got around you if you can’t see it yourself, i've seen so many of my friends struggling over the last twelve months and the majority of the time those struggles have been a result of internal not external factors. You will never be happy with what you have, what you're doing or where you are if you aren’t happy within yourself, which is why at the end of the day you are all that really matters.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The importance of...

Honesty. Friends. Family. Hope. Self esteem. Laughter. Never giving up. Happiness. Life. Until recently I'd forgotten what all of these things mean, how important they all are.

Four weeks ago I attempted suicide. I was tired of living and ready to end it all. Now I realise I'd given up on life a long time before I overdosed. I gave up when I stopped fighting against my anxiety and bulimia, when I started sinking further and further into depression and self harm and couldn't see a way out. I gave up when I started self medicating and acting recklessly almost daring myself to die or get killed so I wouldn't have to do it myself. I was just padding water until the right time came. There was no point asking for help because i had decided that nothing was going to work and besides who would i ask? I had convinced myself that everyone around me; therapists, friends, family, all hated me. Essentially i had decided that fighting was too difficult so i was eliminating any reason that i had to live.

When I woke up in hospital I felt no relief whatsoever, no feeling of regret for doing what I did or happiness to still be alive just fear and sadness at the thought of having to carry on with exactly the same fight that had made me want to die in the first place, and that was the thought that scared me the most.

Today that fear is still with me, but I've also got something that I haven't had in a very long time, hope. After spending four days in hospital I was put into a crisis house, while there i was given the space, time, patience and understanding i needed to gain back a little part of myself. I started talking again, and with that came crying, a lot of crying. I was thinking and feeling again, such simple things that we take for granted but things that i'd somehow lost. Most importantly i started to enjoy things again, reading, writing, drawing, all things that i love but hadn't been able to do in months, things that reminded me that life is worth fighting for. Of course none of this means that everything is suddenly fine, far from it. But at least there's some light where before all i could see was darkness. 

Some of you maybe wondering why i've decided to post about this on the internet, on a fashion blog of all places, and its something that i've been going over in my head for the last couple of weeks. When i started writing again i knew i wanted to come back to blogging but that this time it needed to be different, i don't want to feel like i have to hide anything or appear a certain way. I've been doing that for way too long and evidently it hasn't helped only hindered me. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. I've said it before and i truly believe it and for that reason i'm going to be dedicating a lot of my posts to mental health from now on. I still love fashion and hopefully always will but there's much more to me than that, most of which i'm only just starting to discover myself, and i think my blog is due a revamp to represent that.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

'Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.' - Dr Suess

Over the last two months i've sat down to tap out a blog post time and time again only to find myself staring blankly at the screen for a while before giving up. Blogging shouldn't be this hard, and when i started my blog it didn't feel this hard. I didn't used to think about what i wrote, now i question every sentence. Somehow blogging has become a constant analysis of whether anything i post is good enough, if i've revealed too much, if i come across as boring or pretentious....the list is endless and all revolves around appearing a certain way.

When it seems like everyone has a professional design, fancy camera and model looks, it's impossible really not to feel inferior and i'm assuming that nearly every blogger out there can relate to that in someway. For me these feelings are intensified even further by my anxiety and depression, i'm incredibly insecure, negative and self-critical in real life and this continues into the online world. Sometimes i can mask it well but when i'm feeling particuarly low it's difficult to write anything at all, not only am i a lot more harsh on myself but then there's also the pressure of not wanting to break the mask that i've built up. At that stage it becomes easier to neglect my blog completely, even though i don't necessarily want to, than to attempt to keep up the bravado.

'Wearing a mask wears you out. Faking it is fatiguing. The most exhausting activity is pretending to be what you know you aren't'

Despite all this and as much as i have been contemplating putting my blog to rest for good, i can't quite do it. There's still that niggling voice in my head reminding me how much i love being part of the blogger community and how hugely cathartic and enjoyable writing has been for me in the past and i want that again. So while i know i can't stop myself caring what other people think i figure that if i can at least be a bit more open about the negative parts of my life and try to release some of the pressure of needing to appear a certain way then maybe i won't feel the need to back away when things aren't great. From here on i'm posting what i want with or without explanation, whether it's an outfit post, drunken photos or a rant about mental health and the NHS. I'm reclaiming my blog.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

A weekend in Venice.

oh my i know i say it everytime but i really didn't realize how long its been since i last posted. The past few weeks have been busy busy with the usual working, drinking and general living but also a long weekend in Venice, from which i've finally sorted through the 500 photos i took, so hopefully this post isn't too much of an overload.

I have to admit i always imagined that when i visited Venice it would involve romantic gondola rides and candlelit dinners (feel free to gag) but with a total lack of a beau of any sort i had to settle for seeing the city with my brother and mum. Romance or not it didn't matter anyway as i still had an amazing time enjoying the sun, crossing what felt like hundreds of bridges and drinking too much red wine and coffee. I still can't quite get it into my head that people actually live in Venice, it just looks and feels so different from anywhere else i've been.

Looking at these now it feels like i wasn't even there, it only took one day back at work to make the canals seem like a dream. To be honest as much as i really did love seeing Venice the best part was having some time to relax in which i wasn't ridiculously tired or hungover, i even found the time to finish two books which i haven't done in a long long time. Now of course its back to real life and i'm hankering after another holiday more than ever!