Anniversaries are always a bit of a weird one. It’s been two years since I was admitted to hospital. Two years since I met some of my best friends and grew a second family. Two years ago I was spiralling so quickly into an illness that makes it hard to let anyone in, thinking that I wasn’t sick enough for treatment. Looking back I can now see that I was really very unwell. It was never an easy path to take. Being admitted to a hospital 3 hours away from home so close to christmas, but everyone knew it was the last option we really had. It was that or I would die. I find it so scary that a mental illness is so strong that it can make you think that you aren’t ill at all. Two years on from the beginning of my admission I am still close friends with many of the other patients who I met there. I have an even closer relationship with my family than before and my general outlook on the world has changed. I find it difficult to have gone through an experience that not many other people have been through. But as time goes on I know that difference isn’t bad. The memories from that ward will stay with me forever. The good the bad and the ugly. They have been the product of many a good story! But mainly I’m just happy that I’m still here.
It is coming up to a year since I was discharged from a 9 month long inpatient admission in a adolescent psychiatric unit. It has been a very interesting year. Somethings were more challenging than I had thought they would be other things were a lot easier than I thought they were going to be, but over all life out of hospital is not what I expected it to be. Its been interesting to see that all of my hospital friends have followed different paths since we all left the same ward. Some have gone back into CAMHS wards others have turned 18 in the past year and have been admitted to adult psychiatric units. Some of us have gone back to school and gotten part time jobs. Some people have really distanced themselves from everything to do with their time in hospital. Everything that everyone has done is understandable and has its own merits but it is interesting how we have all done such different things in the past 12 months. For me, the past year has been about finding my feet at home and working with my mental health team to get the right balance of support while also maintaining a social life. The friends I have made in hospital are a huge part of my life still, we are a cheer squad for each other through the tough times and we are there to enjoy the happy times too- because we all know how hard we have each worked for those smiles. I’m incredibly aware of the fact that some jokes I made in hospital are not funny to people from the ‘outside world’ (keeping hospital friends close for these moments is crucial.) I also have come to realise some of the stories I hold from hospital are unique and hysterically funny to people who I have re-told them too. I’ve learnt that a year on from discharge I still am in awe of the staff I met on the ward and miss them everyday. I have also learnt that it isn’t a bad thing to miss people and I don’t have to beat myself up over feeling this way it’s a natural human emotion after-all. The past 12 months have made my relationships with my family grow even stronger and made every happy moment (however small) that we share together even sweeter. With my loved ones help I have been learning more than ever to find things that I truly love and grab onto them with both hands because if I’ve learnt anything in the past year its that those are the things that life is all about.
Triggers. They come with the territory of mental health issues. Eating disorders being no exception. There are so many things that will get my eating disorders voice screaming, some of these things happen daily and cannot be avoided as they are a part of life. Others can be avoided as the harm has generally out weighed the activity itself. My family are extremely supportive of me in my recovery and help me to avoid situations that are going to push my brain too far into chaos. So when the opportunity to go to the climbing wall with my Dad came up there were some concerns with how my body image was going to stay afloat whilst I was there surrounded by super ‘skinny’ people. It was nerve racking to know that the other people there were going to most probably have a small frame and be body conscious. The evening went really well and the situation was a little bit challenging at the start but by the end of the night I felt more motivated to become healthy than I have felt in a really long time. Seeing all of these fit people, pushing their bodies was really inspiring. If the topic of food came up, they would be discussing high carb diets to give their bodies the fuel they need so they can push them further. Making sure they have enough protein for the muscles to re-build stronger and stronger. Yes all of these people are very aware of their bodies-just like I am hyper aware of mine. But the shift in attitude was so refreshing to hear them talk about making themselves stronger, building themselves up and pushing themselves further with the help of food was really inspiring and motivating for me. A disordered brain fools you into thinking you are making yourself stronger by not eating and using behaviours when in reality you are only becoming weaker. It was really lovely to see a black and white reality of what a healthy body is and what your body is capable of when you look after it in the way it deserves.