Friday, 21 July 2017

Creating A Distraction Box!

Last weekend after a particularly bad dip in my mood I decided that I would make myself a distraction box. 'What is a distraction box?' I hear you ask. Well, keep reading and you'll find out! Who knows, maybe it will even inspire you to create one for yourself...

What is it & why do I need one?

There's kind of a clue in the title: it's a box that you fill with things designed to distract you when you're feeling mentally overwhelmed. Anything from anxiety and panic to feeling low, it's designed to give you something to focus on other than your negative thoughts and feelings.

The best thing is that you can make it anything you want it to be and can include within it anything that you think is going to help you. You have free reign over what goes in your box and if you enjoy crafting you can decorate it, too!

You don't need anything fancy or expensive to make it, I just randomly gathered a few bits and bobs from around the house and got to work.

How do I do it?

I started with a shoe box which I wrapped up in parcel paper to decorate. I then proceeded to decorate my box with whatever took my fancy. Don't be afraid to embrace your creativity and really get stuck in. There's something liberating about feeling like a child again by covering an old shoe box with stickers!

What should I put in it?

Once you've made your box look a bit more interesting, you can pick whatever you'd like to go into it. What's inside your box is the most important part because that's what's going to help you when you are in desperate need of a distraction!

In mine, I included photos of my pets, family and friends and photos of good memories that I like to look back on. I also added in some postcards I'd collected from places I've visited, and some with positive quotes on.

Then I added little activities for me to do. Puzzle books, stress balls, a slinky (don't ask me why I just thought it may help!) and patterns to colour in. Some may say that it's childish but honestly I couldn't care less as long as it helps me when my mind is all over the place!

(I love the photo of the monkey sitting on the emergency escape route, taken in Gibraltar on a family holiday)

Hopefully my distraction box is going to come in handy and even just the process of making it and deciding what to go in it was a distraction in itself. It was fun to do something a little different for once and create something that I could put my own stamp on. I would encourage you to try making one for yourself if you ever find yourself overwhelmed with negative emotions.

Let me know if you already have your own distraction box and what you've included in yours, or if this post has inspired you to make one.

Thanks for reading,


Friday, 14 July 2017

Mental Health Meets Modelling

Earlier this year, I was very kindly gifted a copy of 'Washed Away: From Darkness To Light', a memoir written by former model and turned author and advocate, Nikki DuBose. Within the book, Nikki documents some of her most personal life events, from childhood sexual abuse to revealing how the model industry fuelled her all-encompassing battle with various eating disorders.

I'll admit, I was a little hesitant to read and review it at first as I didn't think it would be my cup of tea. I don't have much interest in fashion or modelling and so was quick to dismiss the book in it's entirety. The second I heard the words 'mental health' and 'modelling' in the same sentence, I couldn't help but fear that this book might glamorise mental illness and in particular, eating disorders.

However, you know what they say: 'never judge a book by it's cover' and in this circumstance, that saying proved truer than ever.

'Washed Away' explores a wide range of important topics far beyond what I had imagined it was going to and in a way that is real and honest. Nikki really does wear her heart on her sleeve throughout the book, so much so that you can't help but become emotionally invested in each and every word.

She is able to convey her thoughts and feelings in such a way that you as the reader feel as though you have a front-row seat in her mind. From eating disorders to psychosis,  her accounts of her own inner battle give a truthful insight into the harsh reality of what it's like to live with such conditions.

"...I believed that who I was as a human being was a mistake, and feelings of worthlessness replaced my natural joy." - Nikki Dubose

Suffering from an eating disorder and other mental health conditions myself, much of the book resonated with me. Many of the evil, manipulative and self-criticising thoughts that repeatedly tormented Nikki throughout her life I could relate to as if they were my own. She isn't afraid to delve into the reality of what it's like to struggle with mental illness, along with describing in explicit detail the often distressing thoughts and behaviours that accompany it.

In a word, I would describe 'Washed Away: From Darkness to Light' as hard-hitting. It deals with some sensitive subject matters that desperately need to be given more attention within society. Despite my initial concerns, the book does not glamorise mental illness in the slightest - quite the opposite in fact. Nikki's brutal honesty makes it a difficult read in places, yet at the same time it's refreshing to read such a raw account of her oftentimes unsettled life.

My favourite part of the book had to be the 'Key Concepts' described in the epilogue, in which Nikki outlines some essential lessons she has learnt throughout her recovery.  One concept that particularly stuck with me is when she explains how she 'had to get rid of the victim mentality' to progress with recovery:

"Although mental health issues are not the sufferer's fault, at some point the individual needs to take personal responsibility for his or her recovery." - Nikki Dubose

If you choose to read 'Washed Away' or have even already read it, I'd love to know your thoughts. I would advise, however, that if you have ever been affected by abuse and/or mental illness, you be mindful of your own wellbeing and any potential triggers throughout the book.

You can find out more about Nikki DuBose and her advocacy work here.

Thanks for reading,

I would like to thank Book Publicity Services for sending me a complimentary copy of the book to review on my blog. 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Eating Disorders: Fact From Fiction

There's an awful lot of misconceptions floating around when it comes to eating disorders and as an anorexia sufferer, addressing these misconceptions is extremely important to me. I've been meaning to write this post for some time as I believe it's important we talk openly about the reality of life with an eating disorder, as their widespread misrepresentation can be extremely damaging.  Not only does a lack of understanding impact how we treat sufferers, it may also prevent those who desperately need help from receiving potentially life-saving support. 

A few months back I posted the above question on Twitter and received a range of responses. Since then I have written a post on some of the misconceptions surrounding anorexia. However, this time around I want to address eating disorders as a whole rather than only focusing on the one type, which brings me onto my first point...

Anorexia and Bulimia Aren't the Only Eating Disorders

We've all probably heard of anorexia and bulimia, but what about the many other eating disorders that exist? It's much less common to hear discussion around say, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) or EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified). And even if we have heard of them we tend to think of them as 'less serious'.

EDNOS may be given as a diagnosis when a patient does not fully meet the criteria for either anorexia, bulimia or BED or they may display symptoms from a mixture. However, this does not for one second make it a less serious diagnosis. Any form of disordered eating can have fatal consequences and should be treated seriously.

Eating Disorders Do Not Discriminate

That's right, anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. No matter their gender, race or age. We often think of eating disorders as only effecting young teenage girls, but this is far from the case. Absolutely anybody can be the victim of an eating disorder and yet most sufferers don't get any form of recognition. Men, for example, can suffer from eating disorders too and yet we only ever see, hear and read stories of how women are affected.

This is especially true on social media where stereotypes are rife. However, the media is often people's only source of information and that makes awareness very limited (hence why we need to talk about mental health conditions and why I'm writing this post right now!).

Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes

When I say the words eating disorder what instantly comes to mind? Perhaps somebody who is severely underweight and emaciated? Many of us tend to assume that to have an eating disorder, you have to be underweight. However, the majority of people who struggle with an eating disorder appear perfectly healthy from the outside.

Despite this, there is no doubt that they are probably suffering crippling emotional pain on the inside. Eating disorders are mental illnesses with physical consequences. Yes, one of those consequences may be a low weight, but it can also include being overweight, a healthy weight or anything in between!

More Than Skin Deep

The root cause of an eating disorder often goes much deeper than simply obsessing over one's looks. Some may view eating disorders as narcissistic or vain, but I can assure you it's the opposite. Controlling food and weight may be a person's way of dealing with extreme negative thoughts and feelings such as low self-esteem. Nobody develops an eating disorder simply to make themselves look more attractive.

I could spend all day writing this post and I probably wouldn't have even covered half of the eating disorder misconceptions that exist. It's sad to think that as a society we are still so misinformed when it comes to eating disorders and so many other mental health conditions for that matter.

However, when originally posting the question on Twitter the above points were mentioned time and time again and I therefore felt they needed to be included. Perhaps the others will have to go in another post.

Comment below if you'd like to see a second part to this post or if there are any eating disorder misconceptions you feel need to be addressed.

To read more facts & figures on eating disorders, click here. Alternatively, read about the different types of eating disorders here.

Finally, a special thanks to everybody who responded to my tweet.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, 22 June 2017

Expressing Our Mental Struggle Physically

TW: ED, self-harm

When struggling mentally, we may feel the only way convey our struggle to others is to use our body. It may be our way of reaching out - of letting people know that we aren't okay. For when it is possible to see that something is physically wrong from the outside, we no longer have to explain our mental pain because our body speaks for us.

For example, somebody with anorexia may feel afraid to gain weight in case people no longer show concern for them. When people can see that you are underweight, they treat you with care as though you are a fragile and could break at any second. So when you gain weight, you may fear that people will no longer treat you like the 'sick one' even though mentally you feel sicker than ever.

Sometimes it's therefore easier to keep on causing physical damage to our body instead of trying to get others to understand how we are feeling on the inside. Perhaps even we don't fully understand how we are feeling and so expressing our pain with our body feels like the only option.

However, using physical destruction to cope with negative emotions does more harm that good and potentially makes recovery harder in the long run. Because not only do you have to deal with your mental pain, but also the physical damage to your body. Plus, it's incredibly difficult to escape the cycle of self-destruction once it has pulled you in.

I therefore urge anybody who is struggling with any form of self-harm to seek help. Speak about how you're feeling, because there are people out there who will listen and care. Don't wait until it gets to the point where you feel the only way to express your mental pain is to inflict physical pain.

Samaritans (UK) - 116 123

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Social Media: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

This is a debate which I'm sure a lot of people will have different opinions on. Is social media beneficial for your mental health, or is it actually detrimental, and does it help or hinder your recovery? Personally, I think the answer is a mixture of both.

The Good

Some extremely supportive recovery communities have formed across many different social media platforms (Twitter especially comes to mind here). Honestly, I don't know what I'd do without them and I certainly don't know what I did before I discovered them. Opening up and discussing your problems to complete strangers on the internet is strangely comforting.

Before I joined Twitter, I felt like the only person in the entire world to be experiencing what I was experiencing. Everybody else my age seemed to be living life, they were so successful. I was always the odd one out. But then I came across a lovely bunch of people on Twitter who were just like me, and I no longer feel alone in my struggles.

They have helped me to vocalise my experience with mental health, providing a (mostly) safe place where I can express my emotion and feel reassured that somebody else would have gone, or is going through, something similar. The majority of people on there won't judge me, and instead offer encouragement, hope and a shoulder to lean on.

Tumblr too, where I focus mainly on reblogging positivity, motivation and inspiration for recovery. Reminding myself of these things every day in the form of cute little images and quotes really drums these positive messages into my mind and is a constant reminder that recovery is not only possible, but also very worth it.

The Bad 

However, it's not all sunshine and roses in the vast and all-encompassing land that is social media.

I sometimes find it all too overwhelming, especially during hard times where I'm really struggling with my mental health. When my brain is already overloaded with conflicting thoughts and emotions, the last thing I need is to add to this by scrolling through my Twitter timeline (and I can assure you there WILL be conflict on the ol' Twitter timeline!).

And just like every other aspect of life, both online and offline, there are going to be cliques. What I mean by this is a very close-knit group of people, from whom I sometimes feel rather cut off from. Obviously they aren't doing anything wrong. After all, it's inevitable that some people 'click' more than others. but being noticed in a group of people is something I've always struggled with. I sometimes feel quite isolated from others, something that is true in real life but also seems to have transferred to the online world, too.

The Downright Ugly

Then there is the darker side of social media.

Some aspects of social media can be extremely triggering and not supportive of recovery in the slightest. I'm not going to list those things here as I would hate to potentially danger other people or encourage them to look it up. Let's just say, as much as it's possible to immerse yourself in recovery and positivity on social media, it's also possible to do the complete opposite and actually search for things that do much more harm than good. It's a fine line.

And of course there are people that get a kick out of bringing down others. I'm a sensitive lass and if anybody directs 'hate' towards me, I tend to take it rather personally. I'm trying to work on this, and realise that the sort of people who do this are probably going through something themselves (or are just really shit people, in which case they are better off being ignored).

Like with everything in life, I think it's good to seek balance. When I know I'm going to be easily triggered or upset, I stay away from social media for a few days. It's important to realise when it's becoming too much and be able to switch off your phone and leave it in a draw for a little while. At the same time, though, social media can be used in such a way that it enhances both your life and mental wellbeing.

At the end of the day, you are in control of the content you surround yourself with. If something or someone is having a negative impact on your mental wellbeing, make use of the features available such as block, unfollow, mute etc. Choose to utilise the positive side of social media and don't invite the other side into your space (or allow it to stay enough to have a negative impact on you).

Do you agree or disagree with any of my points? Do you think social media is beneficial to your mental health, or actually worse off for it?

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, 25 May 2017

ED Recovery: Changing Vs. Staying the Same

Today I had another appointment with my eating disorder practitioner and we did a lot of work on the advantages and disadvantages of both changing and staying the same.

Changing involves restoring my weight back to a healthy amount by increasing my food intake, and hopefully maintaining both of these things in the long-term. Staying the same, on the other hand, would mean holding on to my disordered thoughts and behaviours around food and controlling my diet so that I don't gain any weight; becoming more and more ill both mentally and physically as a result.

In therapy, there is often a lot of talking and it can bring a whole range of conflicting thoughts, feelings and emotions. It's therefore sometimes difficult to remember exactly what you worked on during the appointment, so I think it's good to be able to unravel these thoughts, as well as reflect on any progress you made or realisations you had in the session.

Something that particularly struck me in this morning's session was the difference in the advantages/disadvantages of each option (changing vs. staying the same) and the short or long-term effect each one has on my life as a whole.

All of the reasons that part of me wants to hold on to my eating disorder - gaining a sense of achievement and relief when losing weight, feeling powerful and in control, distracting myself from other negative feelings - these only ever have a short-term impact.

Choosing change and recovery, however, means allowing myself to fulfil other aspirations in life. Finishing my degree, living independently, earning money; all things I can only really achieve if I get better. These are all much more long-term goals, that will influence my whole life, not just the present moment.

It's this key difference that I must keep in mind and admittedly often lose sight of when I'm caught up in the moment or experiencing a lot of negative emotions. Every time I have the urge to miss a snack off my meal plan or put one less spoonful of yoghurt on my fruit, I have to remind myself of the longer-term implications, as opposed to only thinking of the short-term relief.

Sure, restricting may make me feel 'positive' in the short-term. It may calm the irrational thoughts and feelings for a brief amount of time and I might trick myself into thinking I feel 'good' for a little while. But when considering the bigger picture, what effect does it all have in the long-term and is it worth it?

No it's not.

This is a realisation I must make time and time again; with every meal, snack and mouthful of food. Because I may think that one spoonful of yoghurt won't make the slightest bit of difference, but it will. It's the difference between choosing to give into anorexia, just like I have done so many times before, instead of choosing to change my ways. It's the difference between focusing only on the short-term as opposed to the long-term benefits.

Thanks for reading and please do let me know if you'd like me to continue posting about my recovery experience,


Monday, 22 May 2017

'I Couldn't Be Anorexic, I Love Food Too Much'

You've probably heard somebody say something along the lines of: 'I couldn't be anorexic, I love food too much' before. Or how about 'I couldn't be anorexic because I couldn't cut out food completely'. Well, this type of comment has been floating around in my mind a lot recently, as I try and navigate my way through the deep, dark depths of eating disorder recovery.

As somebody who suffers from anorexia nervosa, this comment causes a lot of problems for me. For one, it makes me question the validity of my illness. I therefore wanted to write a blog post on it, in an attempt to resolve the conflict that is currently taking place in my brain.

Anorexia is not a lifestyle choice

Firstly, nobody chooses anorexia. It is not a lifestyle choice or crash diet that people decide to go on to 'lose a few pounds'. It's a mental illness, and an extremely serious one at that. Saying something along the lines of 'I couldn't be anorexic...' makes it seem that those who are choose to be, which is simply not true. 

Nobody wakes up and thinks 'Ya know what, I think I can do it. I think I can be anorexic!'.

It's often an accumulation of thoughts, feelings and behaviours that build up over months, even years. These subtle changes in one's thoughts about food and eating habits eventually take over their whole life and may become so impactful that they turn into a full blown eating disorder.

Many people with anorexia love food, too!

A key symptom at the core of anorexia for many sufferers is actually an obsession or preoccupation with food - a fact that may surprise many people. It's a myth that every single person with anorexia doesn't have an appetite for or like food. In many cases, it's the opposite.

I absolutely love the stuff. I think about food every second of every day: different types of food, foods I crave, when I'm next eating, what I'm next eating, how much I'm eating, what other people are eating. I think about food more than I think about anything else. I dream about cheese, pizza, chocolate, ice- cream, bread, cake, doughnuts - all of the foods I won't allow myself to just enjoy from time to time.

Most people with anorexia don't completely cut out food

No human can survive without food, that's a basic fact. Most people with anorexia continue to semi-function with their disorder for years and years. Do you honestly think they haven't eaten a morsel of food in all of that time? Of course not, that's impossible! 

Anorexia nervosa is a mental disorder. It's about the attitudes, beliefs and feelings that the person associates with food, rather than the amount they eat. These feelings manifest themselves in certain behaviours which, in anorexia, usually involves some form of restriction - this usually doesn't mean cutting out food entirely, though.

It often involves an extreme control over food which encompasses many different behaviours. For example, cutting out certain foods entirely or significantly restricting portion sizes. Or it may be counting calories to ensure you don't eat over a certain amount per day (which is usually below that which your body requires). Rarely does it mean cutting out food altogether.

Anything that deprives the body of enough nutrients and energy to function fully may be considered restriction, which can in turn lead to weight loss. Again though, weight is not the main indicator of an eating disorder. Rather, it is a physical symptom.

I hope this post helps to clear up a few misconceptions about anorexia. And if you yourself suffer from anorexia, I hope this can help reassure you that your illness is still valid even if you a) eat regularly throughout the day and b) enjoy food.

I'm planning on doing a post in the near future about the many other misconceptions that surround all eating disorders (not just anorexia!). So, if this is a topic of interest to you, keep your eyes peeled for that!

Thanks for reading,

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