23 September 2016

One New Start at a Time...

I cannot believe that the first week of my new start at University is nearly over. It only seems like yesterday that I was unloading all of my belongings from the van and taking that first long trek up the stairs to my student accommodation. As we made our way up the stairwell, I could not help but think back to the last time I had to go through the process of moving in to somewhere new- hospital. Unpacking the same bedding as I used for my time at Grimsby, I did not see this as a negative reminder, but as a positive nod to the progress that I have made over the past year.

Once my room was all set, my parents and I headed into the city centre for a celebratory meal at Piccolino. This was not an easy step for me, as again the thoughts of guilt regarding the financial situation I have and will continue to put my parents into came flooding back. However, mum’s insistence and my determination to learn from my mistakes in the past lead me to indulge in one of the most delicious meals I have had in a long time. As we finished our meal, the topic of conversation turned to food shopping and how I was going to continue with a full and varied diet whilst away from home. Obviously this is something that I have discussed numerous times with both my parents and the medical professionals supporting me, but it was at that point that it dawned on me that the responsibility was literally all down to me. I was going to have to shop for food and not look at it as an outlet to restrict the amount of money I spend, but as a positive experience to fuel and nourish my body.

Stepping into the superstore I glanced at the shopping list of essentials that I had prepared a few days earlier. Whole grains, biscuits, nut butters, dried fruit, cereals, chocolate bars, fresh fruit and vegetables, fish- this shopping list was worlds away from the restricted food stuffs I was purchasing this time two years ago. Thinking back to my first shop in Huddersfield with my parents, I can still recollect the sense of anxiety and fear that encapsulated my body as progressed down the aisles. I can remember the constant questioning from both mum and dad regarding the lack of items in the trolley, to which I responded with a comforting acknowledgement that I was going to collect more throughout the week once I had established a routine. But not this time! Yes, there was the debate as to whether I had gathered enough and this prompted another trip around the shop, but this wasn’t through a desire to restrict on either food or money, this was because I had not looked at how much space I had to put everything in the flat!

Waving goodbye to my parents was difficult- they have been my absolute rock for the past few years. Not only was it difficult in terms of knowing that they aren’t going to be with me 24/7, but it was more the realisation that this was it, I now have to put everything I have spent the last 18 months learning into practice. I now have to make the right decisions without the watchful eye of somebody else looking over me. I now have to do a food shop without spending hours analysing the labels. But more importantly, I now have to live a life without the remnants of my Anorexia clutching onto any aspect that it can to bring me down again. I have to use the resilience, strength and confidence that I have established during the early stages of my recovery and apply them to this next phase in my life. Granted my Anorexia has helped shape the person that I am today, but I am not my Anorexia.

Working my way through my induction timetable, I have managed to become even more excited about my course. Meeting the lecturers, hearing about the opportunities available and learning more about my potential time at Sheffield Hallam, I was even more sure that right now I am where I need to be. Of course as the mention of assignments, deadlines and exams arose throughout each of the group, I began to doubt my current level of knowledge about the topic. I have not completed any science qualifications beyond GCSE level and this made me apprehensive about my ability to complete the course. However, that is what I am here for is to learn. So yes, I may have to try a little bit harder than everybody else, but I am here for my own development, not to compete against my fellow students. Speaking to the other members of the course, my mind was slightly put at rest. We all have such a wide range of motivations for being here but also a wide range of previous experience, so I did feel as though my place here was justified.

I can honestly say, that I feel as though I am making friends for life here already. Everybody that I have come in contact with so far have been truly amazing and inspirational individuals. With me not drinking, I have not felt the attraction to going out every night for Fresher’s Week, but I have not let my lifestyle choice impact on my ability to socialise and meet new people. In the past, my coping mechanism for my emotional issues would have been to shy away in my room, but this time I have felt opposed to that idea. Attending the Students Union fairs daily, socialising with my course mates and going to some of the evening events on offer, I feel like the real me again. Joining the Fell Walking and Mountaineering society, planning cinema trips and attending sports matches, I am excited by the social aspect of my time at University, and appreciate that I need to maintain a work life balance whilst I am here.

As I have said before, and it continues to stay in my mind, I am not expecting this to be easy. I am aware that my course has not started yet and that things can suddenly change, but I am even more aware that it is ok to say if things are not going right. So far from what the university have told us, there is an enormous amount of support available to the students here at Sheffield Hallam and I am not ashamed to utilise these resources. I have also made a few people on my course aware of my past and some of the relapse prevention plans that I have set in place. One example that I gave was to drag me out of my room if they need to, as it could well do me the world of good. I have been extremely fortunate with the girls that I have met so far and their understanding of my situation and what I have been through. I am lucky to have them alongside me and to have made such valuable friendships even after just 6 days; I could not be any happier.

So let the course begin; let the fun begin; and lets see what the next few weeks bring!


  1. You believed you could do it and you are Jess. Trust in yourself and your abilities and you will succeed! Xxx