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

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


What is it?

AboveAnxietyCrafts is a little project that I've decided to start over the summer. All of university work has been completed and I'm now faced with a few months off with very little to do to fill my time.

I'm sure this sounds like a dream to most people but for me, I find I can very easily slip into a depressed state if I don't have a focus. Therefore, I thought I would benefit from some sort of hobby to keep me occupied.

I'm passionate about promoting mental well-being and I have a new found appreciation for arts & crafts. So I thought, why not put the two together and sell handmade items with an emphasis on mental health, self-care, positivity and recovery?

I figured it would make sense to keep it consistent with the theme of my blog and social media, hence the name 'AboveAnxietyCrafts'. 

What are you selling?

At the moment I'm selling handmade mental-health themed bookmarks. Each one is individually painted using watercolour and feature different motivational quotes, recovery reminders etc.

I'll regularly be adding new designs as I make them, but you can also request a custom design with your favourite quotes, colours, images and I'll try my best to produce it!

I'm hoping to expand my product range to include handmade cards, pencil cases and eventually, cushion covers (once I've perfected the art of making them!). I shall therefore keep you updated on any progress with these!

Where are you selling them?

You can buy the bookmarks via my Etsy shop: AboveAnxietyCrafts. Each one costs £1.99 (plus 90p shipping). This is taking into account Etsy fees, the cost of making them and the cost of postage & packing. I currently only ship within the UK, however I hope to venture further afield and start shipping internationally once I feel more confident.

You can also access the shop through my blog by clicking on 'AboveAnxietyCrafts' on the bar at the top of the page, or by clicking on the little 'E' above my face.

I'm only a beginner in the world of arts and crafts (and selling through Etsy!) and so I'm still learning as I go along. However, what I do know is that I'm passionate about both raising mental health awareness and arts & crafts, so I'm hoping this comes across.

Thanks for reading and if you take the time to visit/favourite my shop or maybe even buy a product, thank you even more!


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,


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Therapy Isn't A Magic Cure

When I first started attending CBT sessions at the age of seventeen (around two years ago now) I expected it to be a magic cure. I was disappointed to find that even after a few months, nothing had dramatically changed. At the beginning, I found it incredibly difficult to engage with the therapy; I just 'didn't get it'. At that point, I was adamant that it wasn't for me and that nothing anyone said was going to change my thought processes. I realise now that I was wrong.

What I failed to realise at first is that to a certain extent, therapy is what you make it. If you want it to work for you, you have to put in effort and co-operate. It's so easy to think to yourself 'well there's no way that's going to help me' before even trying it, but that attitude will never get you anywhere. If you want to recover, you have to try. Otherwise, what's the point?

The truth is that even the best therapists out there cannot cast a magic spell that will make all of your problems disappear within one session (although, it'd be a whole lot easier if they could). Treatment is a lengthy commitment that you make, and it's down to you more than anyone else to do the things that are going to make you better! You are only doing yourself a disservice if you don't engage.

Discomfort is part of the process in recovery. It's not going to be easy (because if it was, you would've done it by now). We all would have. As human beings we want to minimise our discomfort, but you have to learn to embrace it if you want therapy to be successful. You can sit in a therapy office hour after hour, but don't expect much to happen if you don't continue to put the tools you learn into practise when you walk away from that room.

With OCD, your therapist can teach you ways in which to control your anxiety when you don't perform a compulsion. They can tell you again and again that performing compulsions only reinforces the irrational fear. Yet, if you choose to ignore that information and go back to performing all of your safety behaviours anyway, instead of learning to sit with the discomfort, your OCD is going to remain as strong as ever.

I realise that therapy doesn't work for everyone, and that's totally fine and I completely respect that. I also realise that some therapists are better than others, and it's extremely important that you 'click' with your therapist in order to engage with them. All I'm saying is don't make the same mistake I did and assume it doesn't work without giving it a proper go.

I'm glad that I decided to continue with my sessions even when I was sceptical because I use the techniques I was taught in therapy every hour of every day. Without them, I'd never have the control over my OCD that I do now. Therapy took an awful lot of time, patience, discomfort, frustration (and a fair few tears) but if I'd given up for those reasons, I would never have improved.

Thank you for reading,


Monday, 8 May 2017

Do I Want It Enough?

TW: Eating Disorders

I think when it comes to recovery, you have to want it for yourself more than anybody else does. Because if you don't really, really want it, you won't find that motivation to fight to get better. That's how I see it, anyway.

Right now, I keep questioning if I truly want recovery enough. Don't get me wrong, I want to be better. I want enough energy to live my life and I want to experience good things again. I'm young and I should be healthy, lively and active. But instead I just continue hurting my body, along with any chance of this I may have.

I want recovery, but do I want it enough?

Do I want it more than the sense of relief, control and power that my eating disorder brings me? Do I want it more than that feeling of euphoria when I jump on the scales and see I've lost weight? Do I want it more than the satisfaction that comes with turning down food that other people are eating?

I honestly don't know.

Perhaps it's not a question of wanting it enough, but believing it is possible in the first place.
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