You’re not beyond help

I know what it’s like to feel like the world would be better off without you. To have gone through medication after medication, sit through unproductive therapy sessions and to experience life through hospital walls. To feel like nobody can help you. I know how much it hurts to see how your suffering is affecting other people. I get it. I do I’ve sat and cried and begged for everything to stop because the pain was so unbearable that death felt like the only way out. But I’m here to tell you that there is no such thing as being beyond help.

You may feel like you are not worthy or that you’re too much trouble, but none of that is true. You’re not too much trouble and there are people out there who care and want to help. It’s okay if you haven’t achieved everything you want to. There’s still time. There’s still time.

The worst day with you here is better than the best day without you. I get that this may not feel true. I understand it might be hard to believe, but you make the world a better place just by existing. You are worthy of life and worthy of help. No matter how hopeless the future seems, you are worth the fight. Please don’t give up because you are worth it.

You are not beyond help. I haven’t given up on you and you shouldn’t either. Hold on. Please, please, please keep holding on. One day this pain will all be worth it. You are not alone in your suffering.

You are not alone.

What I ate today in recovery

Here is a snapshot into what my food looks like in recovery from anorexia. I loosely follow my meal plan of 3 meals and 3 snacks a day, but it’s not everything I eat as I do often have pre-snack ‘snacks’. Nevertheless, I feel like it’s a pretty good insight into what my day looks like in regards to eating.

Breakfast: weeties and milk

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Morning tea: yoghurt and 3 malt o milk biscuits

Lunch: a cheese and salad sandwich on wholemeal bakery bread

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Afternoon tea: a strawberry oak and some fruit

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Dinner: tofu and veggie bowl on top of a bed of rice

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Supper: microwave oats with stewed apple and cinnamon

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Let me know in the comments if you like this sort of post or if you’re interested in seeing something else, and I’ll try and include more posts like this!

 

As always, thanks for reading and I hope you have a good day.

Kind regards,

-S

Choosing Real Recovery

I’m sick of being sick. I’m sick of admissions and appointments and not being able to do what I love. I’m sick of putting hunger and a half-assed life over my own happiness. Of having to enrol and unenroll from university each semester because I’m too ill. I’m sick of denying myself foods that I love so that I can keep my weight at the bare minimum of healthy. None of this is healthy. I didn’t choose anorexia, but now I’m choosing to get rid of it.

It’s not that easy, I know, but I’m determined to beat this. I know it’s not going to be an easy journey and I don’t expect it to go smoothly, but I do believe in recovery. I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it happen for other people.

I’m finally accepting what it means to recover. For me, that’s eating enough food to satisfy myself and my dietician and increasing the variety of my diet. It’s choosing things for taste and not because the bitch in my head says so. It’s facing the thoughts again and again and not giving in. Recovery is going out and eating meals with my friends. It’s going to bed thinking about relapsing but waking up and sticking to my meal plan anyway. It’s gaining weight even though I’m scared of what that will mean, engaging in therapy and taking my medication.

The reality is, I cannot be healthy whilst I am undernourished. And I cannot be happy unless I am healthy.

I want to work and study and be independent. I want to have friends and joy in my life again. And to do that I need to recover.

You don’t have to feel ready to recover because chances are if you wait for the perfect time it will never come. You don’t have to feel ready, you just have to be brave.

Today I am choosing recovery, and not that fake eating disorder turned vegan or clean eating recovery you see on Instagram. I’m choosing chocolate and ice cream and happiness. Today I’m choosing myself.

The War On Waste

Craig Reucassel (from The Chasers) urges Australians to reconsider their role in theWar on Waste‘, a documentary recently aired by the ABC. The 3 part series tackles the issue of cosmetic fruit standards, fast fashion and recycling in order to encourage Australians to become aware of the problem and do their bit.

I found the series incredibly thought-provoking (and entertaining), and I recommend it to everyone.

What can I put in my recycling bin?

You might be surprised by what you can actually recycle. But take not that each council will have different rules so check online if you’re unsure. And is it actually recycled or are we wasting our time? As it turns out, in most Australian states (excluding Queensland) there is a tax on sending waste to landfill so it’s more economical for councils to recycle. So, yes the contents of your recycling bin are being recycled!

Can

  • Empty aerosol cans
  • Hard plastics that hold their shape when squished
  • Deodorant sticks (in VIC everywhere except Mildura)
  • Bottles; vitamin, shampoo/conditioner, soap pump bottles, milk, cordial, juice
  • Empty food containers; biscuit trays, cake trays, yoghurt, take away packaging
  • Paper; newspaper, books
  • Cardboard; cereal boxes, egg cartons, paper towel, pizza boxes
  • Cans; pet food, food cans

Can’t

  • Coffee cups
  • Polystyrene
  • Soft plastics; plastic bags, chip and biscuit wrappings. These can usually be taken to special soft plastic recycling bins at supermarkets where they will be collected and recycled.
  • Crockery and kitchen glasses– They have a different melting point compared to glass jars and bottles as they have been tempered.
  • Batteries
  • Mobile phones- Take to drop off sites. Mobile phones are sent to the Melbourne Zoo to help with gorilla conservation.
  • Light bulbs can contaminate the recycling
  • Plastic bottle and jar lids– it’s usually recommended to remove the lids and place them in the waste. The lids make the bottles more rigid which stops them from being flattened easily.

Takeaway coffee cups are cardboard, so surely they can be recycled?

No. Turns out that’s not the case. The waterproof lining that keeps the drink in the cup is made of plastic and therefore they aren’t biodegradable and can’t be recycled. In fact, if large amounts are put into recycling bins they can actually ‘contaminate’ the load and prevent other items from being recycled.

Then what do I do with them?

The short answer is; don’t buy them. Reduce the amount of takeaway cups that end up in landfill by; reusing your own reusable coffee cups, or sitting down at a cafe and using their crockery. Some cafes have even introduced a discount when you bring your own cup, see Responsible Cafes.

And next there’s the issue of plastic shopping bags!

Plastic bags possess a huge risk to the environment. They end up in waterways, parklands and streets and cause harm to animals that ingest or get caught in them and then die.

Currently, only South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and ACT have banned plastic shopping bags but even within these states there are loopholed. The documentary shows that some shops in these areas still give out plastic bags, just ones made of heavier plastic and unlike major supermarket chains these bags aren’t always charged for or marketed as reusable.

Biodegradable bags sound like a good idea right? Or at least I thought so, but no! Seems that if they break down into smaller pieces they are potentially more harmful to wildlife. The documentary advises steering clear of these altogether.

I am no sustainable warrior and I certainly do get my shopping in plastic bags sometimes, especially when I am out and about picking up last minute items and haven’t come prepared. If my family is going grocery shopping we will bring reusable bags from home but unfortunately not always which means from time to time we do end up with plastic bags.

My question is this, is it okay to use plastic bags as rubbish bags in your bin? Because that’s where most of ours end up. We won’t put them in the bin empty and if we have a surplus of them will use the soft plastics bins at the supermarket, but is it okay to use them as rubbish bags? If someone finds out then please let me know.

Take away message;

At the end of the day, every bit counts. Check what can go in your recycling bin and try to minimise the amount of rubbish you send to landfill. Take your keep cup with you in the morning and your reusable bags when you go shopping. Educate yourselves and spread what you learn to your friends and family. The government and supermarkets listen to consumers and if we make changes then eventually they will too.

I was hospitalised for Anorexia Nervosa Part 2; Inpatient life

(This is a 2 part series and if you haven’t read part 1, you can click here to read it first – Part 1; The lead up)

7 weeks. That’s how long the eating disorder ward was my home, by far the longest admission I’ve ever had. I ate, slept and lived within those walls with no more than 7 other patients at any time. Those girls (and guys) became my friends and my family, along with the lovely nursing staff.

The day I was admitted, I thought they had made a mistake. I wasn’t sick enough and I didn’t need to be there. I didn’t ‘deserve’ the label of anorexic or the privilege of a hospital bed because there were so many people out there who needed it more. But the thing is, that’s how eating disorders work; they convince you that you don’t deserve help when in actual fact everyone does regardless of the severity of their illness.

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I sat on my bed and cried. And cried. And cried. I was escorted to the dining room to sit with the other patients. Then began the routine of eating, resting, more eating and still more resting. I began on level 1 of a refeeding meal plan and eventually worked my way up to a meal plan of three meals and three snacks a day. A meal plan that meets my bodies nutritional needs. In the beginning, it was extremely difficult. I spent many a mealtime battling my thoughts and wanting to refuse the meal or supplement. And sometimes I did. But the nurses were determined and week after week it got easier.

My day began at 6.30am each morning when I’d take my first lot of medication, and on Mondays and Thursdays I’d change into a gown and be blind weighed. Breakfast was at 8 am, morning tea at 10, lunch at 12 pm, afternoon tea at 3 pm, dinner at 6 pm and supper was 8.30 pm. For 15 minutes after snacks and 30mins after main meals (also the length of time we had to eat) we weren’t able to move around and had to sit in a living area. Afterwards, we had a little more freedom and could use the toilet (next to the nurses station) or go into one a small ‘quiet’ room, but really we were fairly sedentary. Throughout the day we had regular blood tests and our physical obs taken (anywhere from once a day to hourly depending on our health).

Between 9.30 am and 9 pm at night, our rooms were locked. This was so that it was possible for us to be supervised with fewer staff, to help keep a regular sleeping schedule and to prevent overexercising. It was really hard not being allowed to sleep during the day or to spend time by myself and that’s one of the things I found the most difficult. I’m not a very social person so having to spend all day every day with other patients was a nightmare for me. Or at least it was in the beginning.

As this particular ward was underfunded, there weren’t many activities on. Twice a week, we hard art therapy run by a student and often only a couple of people would attend. I was usually one of them. I made a lot of collages in this time, as well as; watercolour paintings, paper mache type sculptures and journal pages.

Occasionally, though they were supposed to run weekly, we would have a group with the registrar that could involve anything from pros and con lists of our eating disorders to discussing identity or watching a video on the physical effects. We also had a pharmacy group with topics such as bone density, anxiety and sleep hygiene. Out of all of these, the best day of the week by far was pet therapy day. This was when we all got to sit around and cuddle a dog. Because what therapy is better than animals?

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art therapy helped me cope

Ward rounds happened twice a week and they were the bane of our existence. The night before we would fill out a form with questions relating to what we had achieved, what we were struggling with and what we wanted out of the program including any questions we had. The longer you were in hospital and the more you progressed in treatment, the more responsibility and privileges you would get. Common requests included; downstairs leave, leave from the ward, unsupervised bathroom visits, participation in ward activities such as cooking and take away challenges (a rotation of Thai, Indian and Italian) and the most requested of all; discharge.

During ward round we would go into a room with a whole range of professionals that usually consisted of about 10 people (psychologist, psychiatrist, registrar, doctor, dietician, pharmacist, social worker, nurse, medical students, unit manager and whoever else happened to be there that day) and it is one of the most daunting things I’ve ever had to do. Think of it as a job interview but with everyone prying into your personal life. Not ideal.

The nurses made my experience what it was and are the reason that I progressed as far as I did, farther than anyone had expected. They prepared our breakfasts (toast or cereal), snacks and lunch (sandwiches) every day, but not dinners which were provided by the hospital kitchen. They ate with us, provided meal supervision and encouragement, washed our dishes (low and behold there was no dishwasher on the ed ward) and became our supports. A lot of laughter was had over the dinner table, a lot of tears too but mainly laughter. I become close to a few of the nurses and will always be grateful for them and how they made me feel like a person again.

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One of the night nurses would leave messages for us to wake up to

I’m also grateful for the other patients and the special bonds we formed. Spending weeks and weeks with strangers, it was hard for us not to become close. Some of the girls I met were the kindest and most compassionate humans that I’ve ever come across and they are the reason I got through the admission in one piece. Having that support made mealtimes easier and gave me the motivation to eat so that I didn’t trigger anyone else or make eating more difficult for them. Though over time, it became less about that and more about getting better.

Though I went into this admission involuntarily, I am leaving with hope and desire for a better future. I take with me the knowledge that it is possible to beat this illness and that I possess the strength within me to do so. For the first time in a long time, I truly want to recover. I want my life back. I want to be free. It’s not going to be an easy road but I am finally ready to fight.


Part 1; The lead up

I was hospitalised for Anorexia Nervosa Part 1; The lead up

I never thought that it would happen, but here I am having just been released from an eating disorder ward. The last three months have been a blur that I would rather forget, but I am sharing my story in the hopes that it may help someone.

My eating disorder has been a part of my life for all my teenage years and now has made its way into my adult life. The two main risk factors for developing an eating disorder, though we know they definitely aren’t necessary, are being a girl and in the early teens. Combine this with being a perfectionist and having a chaotic home life, I never really stood a chance.

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My weight fluctuated greatly throughout my teens and I crossed the line between OSFED, anorexia and bulimia nervosa many times. Most of the time I was still able to ‘manage’ it on my own, or at least I thought I could. It wasn’t until I finished high school and turned 18 that things got drastically worse.

I struggled through my first year of university and in the beginning of my second year my weight dropped drastically, to the point where I was physically and mentally at risk. Looking back, I should have been hospitalised at this point, but I stubbornly pushed myself through the semester with twice weekly physical checks and weekly bloods. I was falling down, unable to concentrate, my hair was falling out and I looked awful but I couldn’t acknowledge it. Eventually, as a result of my depression, my eating took on different extremes and I gained a lot of weight back as a result of a severe and lengthy binge and purge cycle.

A year later, in about March of this year things took a turn for the worse again and while in a psychiatric ward; I stopped eating and drinking altogether. Being in this particular ward was traumatic for me for many reasons and I believe was the reason for the severity of this relapse. I still have nightmares about it to this day. My weight once again reached the low it had been the year before and soon the dehydration lead to ECG and blood abnormalities. This is when I was made involuntary, had an NG tube inserted and was transferred to a medical ward.

The week I spent in a medical ward was awful. I was bedridden, had a special nurse watching me at all times, 24/7 nasogastric feeds, daily ECGs, constant bags of fluids and electrolytes and supervision that included toilet visits and showers. The ward was a locked medical ward that meant I could not leave and I was kept awake by the machines beeping and the 5 other patients (many who had dementia) in the same room as me.

During this time I gained a fair bit of weight back and at a rate that was traumatic. My body was changing too quickly and yet I still wasn’t eating. At the same time, my outpatient team were hurriedly trying to get me a public eating disorder bed, a hard feat in Australia as there are scarce few available.

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In the meantime, I spent two weeks in a youth psychiatric unit where the non-eating-disorder trained nurses tried to manage my declining mental health and eating. I was given meal support, but usually for only one meal a day (lunch) and by the occupational therapist who had experience in eating disorders. She was my saviour during this time. After two weeks I was discharged and put on a community treatment order so that when an ed bed came up I would have to take it. This was necessary at the time because I was still refusing help.

Barely a week later, and a month after I had the tube in, I gained access to an eating disorder bed in a public hospital which is where I’ve spent the last 7 weeks of my life.


Part 2: Inpatient life

Identity and career confusion

I have a confession to make. For so long I’ve been determined to complete my science degree and pursue psychology as a a career. I was certain that this was what I wanted and was going to do. Now… I’m not so sure.

I was forced to take a leave of absence at the end of last year and have tried to go back twice since then but haven’t managed to. I’ve been off for a year and still have a year and a half of a three year degree to go. I want to finish it, I do. I just don’t know if I can handle the pressure or if it’s the right course for me. If I could go back and tell my 17 year old self anything it would be to decide what I wanted to do then. because at least if I didn’t like it I’d know by now.

I chose science because I was indecisive and it left options open but what I didn’t consider was whether a high pressure environment was the right choice for me. It wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my university but I wonder whether the pressure contributed to my declining mental health.

Right now I’m still not sure what I want to do. I guess that’s a common thing. It’s hard to plan out the rest of your life when there is so much uncertainty and I think it’s unfair that there is this expectation of young people coming straight out of school to know what they want to do.

This all has left me feeling disheartened and confused.

I’ve been considering doing a course in nursing or teaching, both which can be done as masters after my bachelors or I could choose to start a new bachelors degree. There’s also the option of completing a short course at tafe for 6 months and going back to university study at the beginning of next year.

The honest truth is I still don’t know what I’m going to do. Whatever decision I make, I feel like it’s not going to be the right one. I know I have to make one but at the moment it feels impossible.

5 beautiful songs you need to listen to

  Music is such a powerful force. It conveys emotion and meaning and is unique in that it’s interpretation varies greatly between people. Try and find someone who’s life i hasn’t had an impact on and you’ll almost certainly struggle.

I’ve put together a list of 5 songs that I find beautiful. They each bring something different, yet all mean something to me. These are songs that sound pure or help me relax, they make me feel things or stop thinking altogether.

  1.  Broken Things- Clairity

Clairity is a young American singer/songwriter whose songwriting developed from her love of writing poetry. Her voice is pure and honest and you can practically feel the emotion radiating from it. I like to close my eyes and forget about the world while listening to this song.

“I wrote Broken Things as a reminder that we aren’t defined by our imperfections. It’s about learning to accept the things we can’t change about ourselves and others, and making peace with them.” – Clairity.

2. Maisie & Neville- David Beats Goliath

This song is one that I came across by accident. It’s by a UK band who have their genre listed on their facebook page as ‘this one’. It’s a mix of folk and alternative with stunning vocals. Listen.

 

3. Avant Gardner- Gordi

Gordi is a young Aussie musician and she covers Courtney Barnett’s Avant Gardner beautifully. It’s a soft, other worldly, piano rendition that turns what was already a brilliant song, into something even better. This is one of my favourites and I can listen to it on repeat for ages.

‘I sleep in late
Another day
Oh what a wonder
Oh what a waste.’

 

4.  Hello- Music Lab Collective

The second cover and only instrumental song on this list, Hello makes for great background or study music. It’s a piano cover of Adel’s famous hit but with a tonne of emotion. I like to listen to this when I’m travelling or deep in thought but beware, it has the potential to take you on an emotional ride.

 

5. Lost Boy- Ruth B

This is another song I stumbled upon by accident and I absolutely adore it. Ruth B is a Canadian artist and the song is a piano ballad that explores he story of childhood character Peter Pan. It was inspired by a short clip she posted on vine that then went viral.

‘I am a lost boy from Neverland
Usually hanging out with Peter Pan
And when we’re bored we play in the woods
Always on the run from Captain Hook’

 

Let me know what you think. What songs are your favourites?

Things I am grateful for

Sitting on the dining table in the ward is an empty glass coffee jar that has been repurposed as  a gratitude jar. Essentially, patients write down things or people that they are grateful for and then every few days we go through and read some out. It’s a great way to brighten someone’s day by paying them a compliment as it’s completely anonymous, and it also helps to practice mindfulness.

I love this concept because it is such a simple action to take and after a while it becomes less of a  ‘why am I doing this’ activity to something that can be quite enjoyable. Below are 7 of my own;

I am grateful for…

  1. Being able bodied and physically healthy.
  2. Authors who write books about feelings and experiences that I can relate to, and just seem to ‘get it’.
  3. The existence of therapy dogs and their owners. There’s been many a day that I’ve been calmed mid meltdown by a four legged friend. Animal therapy is the best therapy.
  4. Hot cups of tea and cosy blankets
  5. Chocolate fortisips (hospital desserts) that taste amazing. (probably the only thing I’ll miss from hospital)
  6. Lovely, compassionate and understanding patients who are always there for a chat or a hug or even just to pass the tissues. Knowing that I’m not going through this alone is a huge source of my strength right now.
  7. My gorgeous and strong mother who despite everything, has never given up on me. She’s put up with a lot and has learnt and sacrificed more than I could have ever asked for. She’s my lifeline.

What are you grateful for?

Involuntary ed treatment feels like

It feels like my life has been put on hold, intercepted by a greater power. As if I am frozen in time and space, existing within this small bubble that I cannot escape. The only way out is via a door that I do not have keys to. I catch glimpses of the world outside; newspaper headlines, family gossip, the sound of rain against the hospital roof, but it’s like trying to put together a puzzle despite missing the pieces that fit in the corners. Everything just feels so far away.

My attention is focused directly on my current situation; what I’m going to have for breakfast tomorrow, what time to ask for medication. Whether I can manage to sneak out and go to the toilet in the middle of the night without supervision, or if the relief isn’t worth the embarrassment. I spend my days crying over plates of food and attempting to comfort other patients but mostly being comforted. I’m trying to work out what the right moves are. What actions I need to take to be deemed well enough to make my own decisions. Well enough to choose to go home.

It feels like all of my decisions have been taken away and I am just a machine going through the motions. My interests, dreams, ambitions- all the things I should be holding onto tightly, I can sense slipping out of reach. None of these things matter here. Not now. Not really.

What matters is the contents of the silver spoon being brought up to my mouth, the empty supplement boxes and white chipped plates being put in front of me. I’ve had so much practice now that you’d think it would be easy but every swallow is a challenge. Sometimes I can do it without thinking, but other times I can spend what feels like hours staring anywhere but at the food until it is taken away. And then it all happens again.  Some people go to work, I eat.

It feels like everyone is telling me that my thoughts are all made on false pretence. That the monsters I face daily, are not real. It’s as if my world is being taken apart bit by bit and I am challenged to start again from the ruins.

I am constantly terrified. It’s difficult not having any say over my treatment and to be questioning everything. It’s exhausting. Painful. Endless. But it’s worth it, I know it is.

Or it will be.