29 June 2016

What's in a quote?


I think Shakespeare gets the credit for the title, along with a few dozen others in the "quotes to live by" library. Rumour has it the collection is rather impressive, from authors to astronauts and a bit of Aristotle - I hear you Elle Woods. As a Literature student, I was a frequent visitor of Quoteville; from caps to cups, with a calendar thrown in, if something was quotable it was a keeper. 

Nonetheless, earlier this year I had an epiphany. What's more, it wasn't inspired by anything I read, not even the words of the Holy Bard. It came from me. That's right, little old me; believe it or not, she has a voice... of her own. 

This "journey" (insert bicycle illustration and poetic proverb) began on the first day of 2016, which coincided with my first day of inpatient treatment for anorexia. In the dining room, staff encouraged us to put prompt cards and motivations by our seat at the table. I was given a mini quote calendar for christmas, which definitely seemed to fit the brief for "daily inspiration". Each morning, I would turn the page and read out the new quote. At first, it really helped. In the first couple of weeks, as the voices of anorexia tried to submerge me, these words were like little lifeboats. 

Nonetheless, by February my motivational mornings were replaced with scepticism. I joked with staff that it was a positive sign of re-nourishment; to to use my exact words: "Were the quotes always this shit? Either February is a really bad month, or I was completely out of it when I arrived." Potentially, both reasons were true. Looking back on the January nuggets of wisdom, February was dominated by sickly love quotes; however, my own state of mind was also important. 

For so long, words had masked the necessity for action. Now, I was finally walking and facing my biggest fear six times a day. By the time March arrived, the quote calendar had fallen under hard times. I vividly remember one morning, ,   directly challenged a certain Einstein quote: "only a life lived for others is a life worth living".

Sorry Albert, but I beg to differ. As I read the quote, I was its living contradiction.  I was sat in that chair, on a hospital ward, because I couldn't live for myself. Anorexia had exploited the belief that my life was dispensable, there to improve the wellbeing of others.  
The post-it note on the right was written by a nurse. Sometimes the simplest words are the most effective
The Einstein incident represented a turning point for Little Miss Rock-the-Quote, aka me. I have placed so much value in the words of others. In the past, my anorexia  recovery has been enveloped by motivational mantras, inspirational books and "recovery inspirations." I relied on them when my own voice was silent. 

In blogs and journals, I wrote recovery bucket lists and imagined a life without anorexia. I wrapped up my future in silver-lined wrapping paper, following the recovery script. Yet no matter how many  pages I wrote, tumblr quotes I reblogged and Instagram photos I posted, if I couldn't act I wouldn't get better. I was only following the recovery script. If I read"seize the day" enough, I would eventually seize the day. If I told others how recovery is a "journey", with weeds to trim and mountains to climb, I would reach the top of that mountain, just you wait and see.... and wait... and wait. Still waiting. 

This was me for as long as I can remember. Last December, when I set about doing a "Quotemas Calendar", my intentions were pure. It was a lovely idea and I don't discount that. It also introduced me to calligraphy and provided a much needed distraction. Yet every day, as fresh words were placed among the bunting and fairy lights, my mind could only see darkness. I talked about being the flower among weeds, yet my own body was withering away. 

Scary but important life lesson: no quote will save you, however beautiful it may sound. 

In my first week of treatment, I spent nearly all of my free time writing calligraphy quote cards. I remember how, one day, I completed over thirty and they all merged into one. I searched for new quotes to write, but I felt completely disconnected. Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I was barely holding a pen, for yarn had arrived and knitting took over. I loved how methodical and thought-free it was; it was a focused mindset that I applied to eating. I knew what I needed to do and only I could make that change. 

Since being discharged from hospital, I'm also learning to accept how things are. I changed my blog name from Writing Possibility, because it felt too idealistic. Now I have started a new chapter with Bumble and Be, one of my blogging resolutions is to be more honest. As anxious as I was to share my bad day post last week, I'm glad I did. Those days you simply have to bumble along and take things as they come. In these latter moments, you can't do an Audrey Hepburn and "believe in miracles", as lovely as this may sound. You can't always be happy, as nice as that would be. 

On Monday, as I flicked through the multitude of Brexit articles in the Spectator, one piece stood out: "Our Sinister, Soul-sapping happiness industry." Now, I'm pretty sure this headline won't be making any Pinterest "motivation" boards. In her article, Laura Freeman is extremely sceptical of the wellness industry, particularly getting 'appy (App happy) and picking up your colouring pens.  

On this subject, I am a bit more open-minded; nonetheless, it was her but her closing paragraph that struck a particular chord: "I am not averse to happiness. I simply think it is not so easily reeled in on a hashtag." Wellbeing matters and, because it matters, it needs to move. It needs more than a script, no matter how convincing your performance is; you cannot hide forever behind the walls of a well-penned phrase. Not if you want to truly live. 

The world has a quote for everything and anything; I wouldn't be surprised if a book "Quotes on Quotes" became a Christmas bestseller, but I know that I won't be the one writing it. I'll be too busy trying to bumble along in this world. Being doesn't always have a camera and quote to hand, nor is it made for instagram; on the contrary, it can be muddled and messy and, above all, imperfect. That's life. 

I haven't lost my love of quotes, but I'm learning to balance words with action. The truth is, acting frightens me; ignoring anorexia and anxiety terrifies me - but that is why I need to do it. I need to face reality and walk in it with my own two feet. I can't stay wrapped up in words forever.

No one else can put a quote on your life. No one can be you.

To Quote or not to Quote? 

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25 June 2016

Fortnightly Favourites #2

In the past fortnight, my bookmarks list has been a very popular destination for my bloglovin' rambles. You know when you read something and it just resonates? Well, that's happened a lot! From fashion and travel, to health and wellbeing, it reminds me how wonderfully eclectic the blogging world is.

Lately, I've been worrying that I try and cover too many bases with my blog post, but I'm realising this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, isn't variety is the cinnamon spice of life? So grab a cuppa, forget about that referendum  and wander into a world of fluffy puppies, fairytale Fortnum's and wellbeing words to live by...

 

Living 


25 before 25 - I could relate to quite a few things on Martha's list! Especially learning to play the guitar; I got mine a year ago, but life ran away with me and it's sitting there. That needs to change! I also want to visit Japan, improve my Spanish, learn how to use my camera properly, oh... and graduate! Writing a book would also be pretty lovely. Now which to do first?

Meet Toby! - I gravitate towards spaniel crossbreeds like peanut butter to a spoon. Cockapoos are definitely the new labrador, but I'll never grow tired of seeing their cute little faces! Just look at how cute Toby is?! I may be just a little bit poody (puppy broody). Yes, that is a thing. It has to be.

Favourite Brekkie atm - So I may have been drawn in by the cute dog photo... hello traffic tip of the day! Minnie reminds me a lot of Minnie; nonetheless, doggy-love aside, I am genuinely looking for new summer breakfast ideas. I currently have cereal most days, but do think oats could be a nice change. I will definitely be trying this yoghurt bowl; complete with nuts and berries, what's not to love?

What book bloggers actually do - I'm not officially a book blogger, but I do follow the #booksgram tag avidly on instagram and want to start doing more book posts! This blog is definitely up my humour street and gave me a much needed giggle: "we are bloodhounds bookhounds for good price." AMEN. Few things say happiness quite like a book bargain.


Wellbeing


A to Z of happiness - If you're feeling a little down, or simply want a dose of positive thinking , this is such a good thing to do! In Kirsty's list, I was sold from Animals right through to Tea and Yoga, not to mention the dollop of Peanut Butter thrown in. The photo of Duke the house bunny is also an instant happiness-booster - he's just SO FLUFFY!

Monday Lunch: you are in charge - I read this post on one of those days you really need a pick-me-up. As Stephie says "you know when you listen to something and it is exactly what you need to hear in that moment?" Well this post was it! I may try podcasts - I listen to music when I walk Millie, which really helps my anxiety (I can't always manage the 'complete silence' thing). However, a wellbeing podcast may be really helpful. If you don't try you'll never know, right? 

Books: Breaking the OCD Stigma - I've been very vocal about OCD awareness in recent weeks, so I was excited to see this book review on Kayleigh's blog. Because We Are Bad, by Lily Bailey, is at the top of my reading list and Kayleigh's review has made me even more compelled to read. On a side note, Kayleigh's blog is also one to put on your reading list! She is an incredibly eloquent and honest writer, who is making a difference with her words. 
*Break the blogger stigma: blogs are so much more than a filtered flatlay.  

I'm doing my best - I've been contemplating a return to journaling for months now - literally. In the IP unit's "goal setting" group, "start a journal" must have made the list for more than 50% of weeks. After reading Erin's post, I may have gotten the final push I needed to recommence journaling. Not only could it get me off technology before bed (bad Sophie), but this Waterstone's journal looks like a great way to do it. 



Styling


Butterfly jacket, co-ord and talking body confidence - from wardrobe to words, this post is just wonderful. I'm so glad that Paige wore this co-ord playsuit; she looks gorgeous, but I could relate a lot to her worries. I've found clothing very difficult in recent months, due to the weight gain in recovery. I basically live in pinafores! This post has motivated me to expand my wardrobe and perhaps share more outfit photos on here? We need more bloggers like Paige! 

If you're happy and you know it wear a... - Hat! I may have mentioned my love of hats before. I would really love to be a hat person; the girl people just expect to see styling a bowler or a beret, looking as effortless as Blair Waldorf. After reading Carmen's post, I am ready to pop a straw summer hat into my shopping basket, although I do think she's more of a hat girl than me! 

Better latte than never - I NEED these shoes in my life! Flats are definitely the way forward; I don't have time for tripping over, which regrettably happens quite a lot in heels. For £17.50, how could you not? I'm also putty for a good coffee pun, so the mug may be on the wonder-list too... 

5 key pieces for your summer wardrobe - Crochet shirts and Khaki anything? A girl after my own heart! Victoria is one of my go-to bloggers for some style inspiration and this post proves why. I need more crochet in my life, although now I can actually crochet.... Great British Crochet Bee anyone?

Denim, Always - denim, denim, denim... have I ever mentioned I love denim? Well here's the breaking news. Denim. Always. As quoted by Kim. The fact she's paired this denim midi with a Cloud Cambridge Cloud Satchel has placed even bigger heart signs in my eyes. I'm pretty sure I need a new summer bag....




Exploring


Gap of Dunloe and Dingle - I've never really Ireland in my travel bucket list, but after seeing these photos I may have to reconsider! Give me mountains, streams and wildlife and trees... what more could you ask for? Even the overcast sky seems to fit in this landscape. Ireland I'm coming for you!

Wanderlist: England's very own Wonderlands - hold the fort and throw away all abroad plans, this is my kind of exploring... right in my own back garden! Puzzle wood in the forest of Dean has particularly caught my eye; even the name has has a mystical aura! 

Alice Through the Looking Glass at Fortnum & Mason - I think it's safe to say that all-things-Wonderland leave me wanderlusting  like no tomorrow. This window display in F&M is fresh out of a fairytale, while I now want wrap pink flowers all over our staircase! I'm sure mum and dad won't mind... Oh Fortnum you are fabulous. 


What have you enjoyed reading this week? 


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22 June 2016

OTCD: Obsessed with Trivialising Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Some may argue the acronym of this headline is a little OTD; the rest, however, are too busy tweeting about how their friend is “a little OCD. Lol.” I can empathise. I’m a little OCD, a tad anxious and a bit anorexic; I starved myself for two hours, before eating symmetrical carrot sticks. Oh, I’m also a little bit diabetic. I give an insulin shot now and then, but nothing serious.

In a trivialised list of my own health conditions, one particular statement stands out. My claim over diabetes is no more shocking than that of anorexia, or OCD. However, it differs in that it doesn’t exist; neither does “a little heart diseased” or “I’m so cancer”. In modern day society, physical health isn’t an adjective. For OCD, it is a very different story. 

It's the cutesy character quirk in sitcoms and a default synonym for neat-freaks. Search “OCD” on twitter, and you are inundated with the “so OCD” adjective. As an experiment, I responded to the first three tweets I saw on the tag. All of them presented a stereotype of OCD, yet one exchange stood out:



If only a “day off” existed in mental illness. Perhaps, in this world, it would not account for 25% of deaths each year. According to the World Health Organisation, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is one of the top 10 most debilitating illnesses; yet in a list of the ‘top 10 most trivialised’, where sufferers qualify for an OCD vacation, it would be a strong contender for first. 

The situation has not been helped by the comments of public figures. Katy Perry has “OCD on tour. If there is broken makeup in my purse I freak out,” while Naomi Cambell is “too OCD to trash a hotel room.” Last November, on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Ultimo creator Michelle Mone claimed: ‘It [OCD] can prove really useful in business. It makes you really organised. So I love having OCD.’ She was criticised for her comments, but they typify the misguided beliefs of society. 

Does Katy Perry create a bulletproof case for her makeup, because she fears one spillage will cause her to fall on stage? Has Michelle Mone ever blamed low sales on the messiness of a single cupboard? The celebration of OCD is epitomised by Channel 4’s Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners. Now on its seventh series, the show effectively endorses a compulsion for cleanliness, with little regard for the devastating reality of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

"I’m a little OCD, a tad anorexic and a bit diabetic: 
I give an insulin shot now and then, but nothing serious."

Compulsions, in isolation, create the mythical “so OCD”. They are generalised by the continual sound of a hoover, or ‘perfectly’ aligned coca cola cans. What it fails to acknowledge is the cause. Sufferers of OCD do not gain pleasure from rituals; they do not have a Monica Gellar love of cleaning. The compulsions are a temporary shield against intrusive thoughts, which relentlessly target your mind and never hear your plea for a ceasefire. Without them, the haunting obsessions become all consuming; nonetheless, so too are the rituals. It is a vicious cycle. 

Fortunately, more individuals are now speaking out on the realities of OCD into public consciousness. Lea Dunham’s won praise for her depiction of the illness in Girls, showing a sensitivity that the television industry should learn from. In an interview, writer and model Lily Baily discusses her overwhelming fear of harming others, while Archie Lamb’s illness left him unable leave the house. 

Wonderful bloggers such as Ellen, Katie and Kayleigh post about their own experiences, challenging the trivialised depiction of the illness; I really recommend reading their posts. Charities and campaigns are also invaluable for support. I read posts from the “secret illness” project and "OCD stories" daily, never failing to be moved and empowered by the bravery of so many individuals. They provide a vital voice for those with the illness and are also powerful outlets for raising awareness in society.

I was hesitant to write this post, worrying that it isn't my place; for many, OCD is more debilitating than I could ever imagine. It can leave people housebound, isolated and, in some cases, cost lives. Nonetheless, my own experience does highlight the danger of the stereotype. In short, I’m not a tidy person - just ask my sister. Misguidedly, I associated OCD with cleanliness and repetitive behaviours alone, echoing the misrepresentation in society. I was guilty of this; in turn, I was also left in the dark about my own mental health. OCD is a complex illness

As I type, loose strands of knitting wool surround me and my mug sits on a marked coffee coaster. Yet as I pick up the mug, I will do so with two hands. Earlier this year, when I was receiving inpatient treatment for anorexia, it wasn’t the food that reduced me to tears one mealtime. It was sensation of heat running through only one of my hands. I envisioned the whole left side of my body burning. In my mind, I was contaminated and needed to restore balance. 

This intrusive fear of contamination soon triggered a compulsion to scratch my skin. It was not deliberate self-harm; in that moment, it was the only respite from the storm in my mind. My arms hurt for days after and I wore long sleeved tops during the latest heatwave. Through numerous coping strategies, which have included stress balls and dressings over my arm, I have learnt to manage it better. Other areas are more difficult to address. 
My little friend Gus Gus helped with the compulsion to scratch my skin. Tsum Tsum stress balls were a life-saver for many of us during inpatient.

Coffee cups aside, a need to have balance can turn a hundred-metre stretch of paving stones into a minefield. For as long as I can remember, my feet cannot touch the lines. My legs will unnaturally stretch that little bit farther, or awkwardly shuffle in order to reach the next ‘safe’ slab. Balance: it can turn the most innocent of shopping trips into a constant anxiety-trip. Only yesterday, a simple knock of my left foot saw me hide in a coffee shop an hour later. From holding a shopping bag in one hand, to picking up clothes in Zara and those delightful pavements, I needed to stop. The thoughts didn’t stop. 

Yet it was only this year, during IP treatment, that OCD was identified. After confronting the exhaustive list of eating disorder behaviours, I saw how much of my day was tied to these scripts I didn’t write. Lines that can be traced back to my diagnosis of T1 diabetes, at the age of 7. When I give my insulin injections, they last six seconds. No more, no less, or I panic the insulin will fail to deliver. 

One of the initial catalysts for my eating disorder was a pervading fear of high blood sugars. I change my clothes multiple times because I feel dirty inside. The cause? My blood sugar was in double figures, or it ended in an odd number. The urge to scratch my skin is also intensified by higher readings. While tweeters take their OCD vacations, I am counting down the hours until my next test, predicting extreme hyperglycaemia; no distraction can alleviate this fear. 
I am currently working with my CPN on ERP therapy. It sounds quite technical, but the philosophy is simple: Exposure. Staying in the outfit I put on that morning, or listening to my voicemail. It is a proven treatment for OCD, but often distressing in practice.
To the makers of the slogan, “I have CDO. It’s like OCD but in alphabetical order. AS IT SHOULD BE,” I hope you never know the reality of mental illness; the storm that strikes you unawares, when you are miles from shelter. Next time you call someone “so OCD”, reconsider your choice of words; though if you do believe that mental illness can take a day off, I would love to know the name of your employer. Until then, please stop before trivialising mental illness. 

It is a twenty-four hour antagonist, not an adjective.
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20 June 2016

Elle of the Ball

When I look back on my childhood viewing, Dakota Fanning was a big presence, from  Uptown Girls and Charlotte's Web, to a rather wonderful Friends episode - "I'll put you on with my bear"Until very recently, I also thought she was in Daddy Day Care; I spotted the film on some far-flung channel last week and couldn't resist catching the last fifteen minutes. It was only when the credits rolled, however, that I discovered it was her younger sister

Then, of course, she grew up and added "Disney Princess" to the list. I loved her in  Maleficent, but where she really shone was behind the scenes (unwritten fact: extended features are the best part of any DVD!) She comes across as one of those genuinely lovely, sweet-natured people, just like Aurora, yet she's also a wise one; given the topic of my last post, I have a lot of love for the following statement:
She is definitely worthy of the modern princess title, alongside Lily James and Belle-to-be Emma Watson. Tinseltown needs more people like her, complete with one very important detail... wardrobe! Whenever I scroll through the guilty pleasure that is Mail Online, I always click on Elle articles in the hopes that there'll be a "buy here" link! Trust me, you'll love it at once, the way you did once upon a fashion dream...

A Little White Buy
1. 50s Lace Dress, £42, Motel     2. Lace Bandeau Dress, £35, River Island    3. Sunglasses, £10, Monki
My mum and sister always used to tell me never to wear white - I was a bit prone to spillages as a child, although you could argue that ice-cream doesn't count (hello white on white). Nevertheless, part of adulting means wearing what I please, so white is back in the wardrobe. 

I especially love anything lacey, chiffony or ruffly, which pretty much summarises all the outfits above! The bell sleeve dress reminds me of my Topshop one; however, if I make a new purchase it would have to be one of the dresses below! If only a Louis Vuitton bag came as the free gift... 


Pastels and Pinks
1. Celeste Peter Pan Collar Coat, £195, Issa    2. 13" Satchel£125 & 15" Batchel£90, Cambridge Satchel Company
Satchels are simply one of my favourite things. I take my Cambridge Satchel everywhere with me and it seems I'm not the only fan! They add a vintage and slightly preppy look to any outfit and are immune from the dreaded zip-break. I'm not quite sure if I would go for a satchel as bright as Elle's, but it has made me deliberate buying a second one in a brighter colour... hmm, there is a 30% sale right now, so surely it would be rude not to?

I really love the look of the pastel bags, as I love softer and more delicate colours this time of year.  I've wanted to buy a pastel coat for practically half my life, but always put it off for fear of it not going with stuff. However, maybe that's all the more reason to deck out my wardrobe in white. I am in love with the ASOS coats below!

Once Upon a Denim Dream
1. Denim bardot dress, £30, Zara     2. Straw hat with contrast band, £14, Pieces 
I make no apology for my denim obsession - this trend just works! I definitely need to invest in one of these loose bardot dresses; I've seen bloggers such as Olivia and Kim wear them, not to mention a spotting thousand and one varieties in Zara. I'm still on the fence about a straw summer hat. I have my velvet burgundy one, which I love, but in truth I'm worried about it blowing away! 

Elle of the Ball
Every girl needs her princess moment, even if there's no ball to go to. I wonder what would happen if you just turned up to Nando's in a gown... anyone care to experiment? Sadly, I'm not sure any occasion in my life comes close to frock-worthy right now, so this one may stay on the Wonderlist. 

The short cream dress, however, could definitely work for summer. It reminds me of the Topshop shift dress I wore all last summer, only with more frills and ruffles - aka more fabulousness. Oh I wish I could afford real Chanel; for now these high street options are firmly on my wishlist...
Disclaimer: the last star style post i did was of  Taylor Swift, so I apologise in advance if my posts carry a man-eater curse...

Who is your biggest star style crush?


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16 June 2016

You're allowed to have a bad day

Perhaps it's the literature student in me, but I'm a first-class example of pathetic fallacy right now. Hello rain, meet the storm of anxiety; in short, I'm currently drenched from head to toe. I keep telling myself that should go and find an umbrella - get a grip of my mind and stop feeling this way. Consequently, I've been feeling inadequate all day. It took me over five minutes just to write the last sentence; I couldn't decide if the "all day" should go at the beginning or end of the line. Obviously this vital detail could determine if someone reads any further. 

Oh head, you are delightful. 

So I'm currently curled up on the sofa with my laptop, sipping tea and accepting it's just "one of those days." I'm too exhausted to try and find a more 'productive' solution. My posts are never usually this unscripted. I planned for my next post to be a slightly frivolous fashion piece; in fact, part of my inadequacy is linked to the delay in finishing this. Simply put, today didn't pan out that way. 

Anxiety reared its dictatorial head from the moment I woke up. Anorexia was quick to follow. It took me fifteen minutes to track down my blood sugar metre; however, after I found it and tested, I almost wished I hadn't. The reading was just a fraction higher than usual, but let's just say that my head didn't respond very well. Breakfast was a new cereal, which I didn't enjoy. My head puts two and two together and we reach conclusion 265 - it's because your blood sugar was high and shouldn't have eaten. It's your fault. Dear head, can we possibly rewind to the other 264 scenarios please? Aka, not the lies that anorexia brings to the table - food tastes better. 

Then came the rain, turning my crisp new batch of CVs into a bit of a soggy story. I'm slowly getting better with buses, which were once a breeding ground for anxiety. Today, however, I felt sick and pressed the button two stops early by mistake - I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I was worried about handing out my CVs, given the fact that last week's round have gotten no response. My self-deprecating conclusion is that my CV isn't good enough. It always comes back on me. Yet I handed them out. What's more, I treated myself to the softest new ball of fleece wool from my new favourite shop in Bath. It felt wrong and indulgent, but it's for a good cause - hello fluffy dog coaster gifts! 

My main purpose today's town trip was my weekly appointment with my CPN. I thought it was at 3pm, but a phone call at 2:10 revealed that I had the time wrong. 2pm. Fantastic. So I  abandoned the Starbucks queue, tried to get a taxi, failed to get a taxi, caught a bus, got off a stop early (again), ran like Pheobe Bouffay and arrived 30 minutes late. My "Sophie is an idiot" head could barely contain itself. In hindsight, there was a silver lining to the whole situation; if only every therapy session coincided with your most anxious moments.

I'm usually quite measured in my appointments - old habits die hard. I definitely use humour as a coping mechanism, though usually the laughs are at the expense of my own "crazy" head. Today, I talked. Just talked - or ranted. I'm not quite sure what I was doing, to be honest! What I do know is that it helped. A lot. As did a very gentle reminder to stop, breath and ground myself.
Moreover, by the end I was able to accept that it's normal to have a bad day. Everyone does. Moreover, it's important to acknowledge and accept bad days - especially if you have a mental illness. In the past, my bad days wouldn't change my plans. If I had an essay, I would write. If I had a lecture,  I would attend. Newspaper press day? I got on with the job in hand. The consequence was always myself; more specifically, my mental health. Anorexia was the engrained coping mechanism. 

I arrived back home an hour ago, drenched from the rain and drained from the storm in my own mind. The last thing I wanted to do was eat. My first instinct was to spend hours silently ruminating, dwelling on "should haves" and "what ifs", but it won't change anything. So I got a trek bar and tea and did what I needed to do. I ate my snack and I chose to write this. My body needed fuelling and my mind needed unpacking; I don't travel light. After I finish typing, I will close my laptop and pick up my crochet hook. The new wool is waiting and that next blog post will wait. This is part of recovery. It's okay to hold up your hands and say "this isn't going my way."

When your head is giving grief, the 'therapy line' would be to challenge it.... I'm not going suggest this! For one, it would make me a bigger hypocrite than Taylor Swift singing "you belong with me." Yet I also question how effective it is. In principle, positive affirmations are wonderful; nonetheless, you have to buy into them. This is easier said than done, when anxiety has robbed the bank of rational thinking. The reality is, if we could magically change our way of thinking, mental illness wouldn't exist. Instead, try sitting with the thought, but remember that this is all it is - a thought, not a fact. I am also a newfound believer in taking time out. Don't force yourself to keep going, if your wellbeing would take the hit for doing so. Don't consume yourself with activities that easily fuel self-criticism.

Find simple distractions for the thoughts, which don't come with high stakes. My go-tos right now are craft projects, Modern Family repeats, or reading. I love reading my new Calm book, or the latest copy of The Simple Things. Alternatively, you could do what I'm doing now. Write about it! There's a high probability no one will read; however, there's a marginal chance that someone in a bad day slump will. 
Recently, I've been focusing a lot on mindfulness. It is all too easy to become caught up in the past, or second guess the future. I am learning to focus on the here and now; start  each day as a new slate. When my head hits the pillow and my eyes close, so too does the chapter of a rather dreary Thursday. I can't carry it into tomorrow, or the next day. It's okay to have a bad day, if you remember to check yourself out before midnight. Think of it like a library fine; once it begins, the money quickly accumulates and you are the one who loses out, while the book sits in your bag intact. Mental illness is the same. Anorexia or anxiety don't feel the pain they inflict, but you will keep getting hurt. 

So it's time for me to press pause. I might even post without proof-reading; I would probably end up deleting otherwise! For now, I have a coaster to crochet and a cup of tea to heat up. Halfway through this post, I decided I would rather have an iced coffee - so I did. I never made it to Starbucks, but it could still get to me. 

Below are some of my favourite blog posts, relating to this topic. They definitely helped me feel less alone, so I am very grateful to the authors.  

* this was the post that inspired me to write this post! Thank-you Lauren. *




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13 June 2016

Relearning to Live

This was originally published on Huffington Post
Once upon a time, half a world away, I could speak French. I was never close to fluent, but seven-year-old “bonjours” developed enough to pull through GCSE; fortunately for me, the exam papers never took a detour via the Business studies department
However, as the years flew past, so too did the verbs, nouns and phrases. Soon, even a ‘bonjour’ sounded alien to my ears. The words on Parisian signposts were faintly recollected, but the sentences never formed. Several months ago, upon overhearing a french conversation in a coffee shop, I had the impulsive idea that I wanted to relearn this most beautiful of languages. Surely I could pick up where I left off? As it turned out, it’s not quite so simple. Moreover, this realisation prompted a far more sobering one. 
I am currently in language school twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It is a school that 25% of people are familiar with. It is, equally, a school open to stigmatisation and misunderstanding. The subject is mental health recovery. 
I am trying to recover from the mental illnesses that began, coincidentally, around the time I stopped learning French. Over six years in a world where self-worth is targeted by every waking moment. In this world, the sunny continent is a world away from continual storms of doubt, fear and anxiety. Revision timetables are blood sugar readings, calorie totals, bus journeys and unanswered texts. These number games make GCSE maths papers therapeutic by comparison. 
Furthermore, each time I try to refocus my efforts on recovery, the standard is that much higher. A simple greeting is now as difficult to me as the dreaded subjunctive tense of my Spanish A Level. Bus journeys and milky lattes, once second nature, cannot be found in the dictionary of mental illness. I am learning to walk again and past experiences are scarce to be found. 
Last year, the destructive language of anorexia and anxiety grew stronger than ever before. Feeling powerless to answer, I ultimately chose to suspend my studies at the University of Exeter and began inpatient treatment. It was here, amidst recurrent thoughts of failure, that a nurse offered me the perspective behind this post.
“You are fighting some of your biggest demons six times a day. It is the hardest battle you will ever fight, but it is a battle worth fighting. If you can do that, a degree is easy by comparison.” 
To those on the brink of graduation, I do not underestimate your achievements! On the contrary, I am still filled with a sinking feeling of inadequacy. It is an emotion that is a frequent occurrence in the school of mental illness. Since my discharge from hospital, almost two months ago, I am still learning to employ self-help strategies. It is a work in progress, but each day I am trying.
On reflection, inpatient is like the recovery equivalent of an intensive language course. You are pushed - both physically and mentally - to limits you never knew existed. Yet you also have the support of professionals, trained to take you there. It literally taught me how to eat again. How to recognise a normal portion. It forced the hand of my macronutrient fears, which were catalysed by a clean-obsessed society. However, it is not a magical fix. At some point, you have to teach yourself. Like the move from school to University, it is then down to you. 
Since my reunion with “real world speak”, it is a daily test to find my voice. Somedays, this can be managing a bus journey without wanting to cry. Today it was getting my lunch with no one there to prompt me. In recovery, a slice of pizza doesn’t make you better, just as a few choice phrases don’t make you fluent in a language. 
I remember preparing for my Spanish AS exam with a book of idioms, including “Estar más sano que uni pera” - to be healthier than a pear. On reflection, the subject of the pun was quite ironic; nonetheless, my exam plan was to throw it into my essay, whatever the subject, slightly overlooking the fact that the rest of my Spanish could never keep up. This idiom is the pizza. Suffice to say, it takes more than one slice to make you healthier than a pear. 
Fluency is pursued one bite at a time; you can’t expect too much, something I have to remind myself when I grow inpatient with my own progress. Imagine you are faced with an untranslated copy of Madame Bovary, one week after your first French class? Your face is my internal reaction, each time I see or hear the phrase “just eat a burger”. For now, I am contenting myself with the prospect of a Macaron date in Paris, with enough phrases to place my order. 
Recovery is a step-by-step process. You are trying to recollect a world that seems utterly alien, where the simple act of ordering a coffee can require as much rehearsal as a final Drama performance. The “skinny latte” line has been in your head for every Starbucks trip in memory. When you answer your emails, social anxiety turns it into a French listening exam. A social gathering is the oral test that no revision can fully prepare you for. 
For those of you taking exams right now, I have been there and wish you all the best of luck.
For those of you in the recovery school - whatever stage - I am there and wish you the strength to keep going, one day at a time. Also remember that you are not alone; mental health affects 1 in 4 individuals. Every step forward, however small, is significant.

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10 June 2016

Fortnightly Favourites #1


Welcome to my roundup of reading loves! I'm going to try and make this a Friyay regular, although my track record of series posts isn't great. It's never too late to change, right? So let's turn a new leaf, starting with life-saving knits, sushi dreams, angry diabetics and that Hogwarts letter... 

Living 

Five lazy ways to stay healthy - feeling unwell and lacking the energy to feel better... it's a bit of a catch-22 situation! Luckily, Lorna's post has a few simple remedies. Drinking more water is constantly on my bucket list, but I am going to try harder! Get back to me in one week.

Smell the roses - beautiful photos and words to match, this was one of those posts that just 'works' in so many ways. A reminder to embrace all the world has to offer. Plus, I may have found the dungarees of my dreams...

I Quit - if this is what quitting looks like, we should all do it more! If you can't be happy, then the act of doing is futile. I've certainly learnt this in recent months. The blogging community needs more posts like this!



Wellbeing

Why we should ignore body shapes - I can't believe it has taken me this long to find Lauren's blog! Within moments of reading this piece, I was hooked. My favourite line has to be "we're not characters from Mr Men - our shape isn't a core factor of our personality." This is SO true!

How craft and cycling saved my life - I can vouch for this! An uplifting and moving post by Rebecca Armstrong, discussing how knitting helped her through depression. It is so true that it can redirect negative thought processes. I started knitting in hospital and am still going!

I am not my Past - This latest Mental Health Monday post from Jules had me in tears by the end. She is one my biggest inspirations in recovery and I love watching the evolution of her blog.  I especially enjoyed reading her list of things that define her, such as "writer" and "advocate" - I may have to borrow the idea some day! She's also sharing the denim love - what's not to love?  

I haven't got time for fun! - I always look forward to reading Katie's blog. I was a particular fan of her last post, where she talks about mindfulness and self-care. I have recently tried to incorporate both of these things into my life more; it requires more effort than you'd think! I am definitely going to give Katie's outlook a whirl.

Photo credit: This Stuff is Golden 

Exploring

It's on my List: Norway travels - Summer arrives and I am instantly bitten by the travel bug. I already had a bit of a romanticised view of Norway ("hang in there Joan!"), but this post completes the vision! If the globe is my red apple, Norway is the Royal Gala (sorry Braeburn lovers).  

The world is my oyster - Nicole has created a very Sophie-approved list of dream destinations. Along with our beloved Norway, Japan, Switzerland and Austria are also top of my list. Who wouldn't want to go to the lands of Murakami, Federer and the Von Trapp family? The world is alive and I am ready to explore it! 

10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Japan - the Nara deer park, that's all the convincing I need! Throw in sushi and tea ceremonies, it's a haven of Sophie happiness. 

The House of Minalima can I have a one-way ticket to Soho please? This delightful post by Hello Miss Jordan explores a pop-up exhibition ft the artists behind the Harry Potter films. If only Apparation and Accio were real....

Photo credit: Polkadot Passport

Challenging

I support Brexit because I'm left-wing, not in spite of it - This is a really interesting piece by Sam Glover. It's refreshing to read a more balanced approach to the referendum campaign, which has been dominated by attacks on the other side.  Whatever your views, listening to the other side matters. If only politicians could do this...

Restaurant Sign outrages diabetics - Technically this on The Mighty reinforces diabetes stigma, where a restaurant told diabetic customers to inject in the toilets. How can we challenge stigma? Speaking up! I encourage every D-warrior to share this post. We need to speak out on these incidents and expose them as wrong.


What have you enjoyed reading this week? 


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8 June 2016

Denim Days

I have a bit of a love affair with denim. I think it could be the first time I've ever been "on  trend", if the High Street and Alexa Chung are anything to go by. I therefore couldn't resist  making a denim-themed Wednesday Wonder List (my Wish List with a magical twist). So pop on the kettle, hide your credit card and get ready to embrace your inner farm girl - she's in there, trust me.

Pinafore Parade 

Let's pretend we're doing this in chronological order, for nothing screams "return to childhood" quite like a pinafore. I expressed my love for them in my last post, but you can never have too much of a good thing - they're the peanut butter of the fashion world. Thankfully, the High Street seems to agree with me; you'll have no trouble pinning down one or four down this season.

Dungaree Dream

With Taylor Swift to Emma Watson, they cover English Roses and American Sweethearts alike. Could we need a bigger endorsement? I have been searching for a good pair of dungarees for a while now, always being slightly deterred by my hobbit height. Thankfully, Topshop answered my call - I didn't even have to shop in the Petites section! Now I just have to build up the courage to wear them...


Flowers & Frills 

When you throw in some of my favourite summer trends, the wonders of denim only increase.  trends, . Enter florals and frills. Ever since I spied these floral Mom jeans in Toyshop, I have been scouring the internet for more flower power pieces. One thing led to another, and I discovered the art of florals. I adore the cutesy combination of denim and ruffles a la Alexa Chung, so the ASOS items below are definitely top of my summer Wonder List.

Footloose & Free 

>justify>Denim isn't limited to clothes. After buying my Toms, I would pledge my heart and sole for denim footwear. I can't vouch enough for Toms; I have had my current pair for barely two weeks, yet am already planning another purchase  From dog walks to town trips, they are a truly faithful companion. 

Onto holiday planning... how gorgeous are the ASOS sandals below? Paired with a pinafore, they would also complete my five-year-old fancy-dress dream. I can just picture them with a beautiful 60s style dress, or even a casual jumpsuit. Basically, they have versatile written all over them, which is all the justification my shopping basket needs... 

What are your thoughts on Denim? 




Left to right: Kendall Jenner, Emma Watson, Emma Stone, Sophie Turner and Alexa Chung

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