24 March 2018

One Gain at a Time...

I should be used to the experience by now, but this time it did catch me a little off guard.

Obsessively weighing myself is a habit that I tackled a long time ago, but every now and again when I return home from university I do step on the scales to see if I am on track with maintaining my weight or gaining. Since being discharged from all healthcare services I am not weighed on a regular basis, which I used to rely on as a way of monitoring if I was implementing what I have learnt during my treatment as to how to stay physically healthy. Therefore, I agreed with my family that I would just weigh myself on my visits home to check that everything was still going in the right direction. It goes without saying that the best way for me to keep in tune with how I am controlling my eating disorder is to reflect on my thoughts and behaviours, but I am pleased to say that although the intermittent episodes try to drag me back, my mental health and wellbeing is generally stable. However, it is coming up to that time of year with assignments and exams looming, which from past experience, I know that these are some of my major triggers. So when I returned home yesterday I weighed myself to check that I have not been letting things slip.

Let me start off this explanation by reminding you that recovery is not a smooth process. I still have aspects of my journey that I need to work on and accepting weight gain is still one of them. I don’t normally share numbers related to weight, but I want to write this out and prove to myself how far I have come and how much I should not let this experience push me back.

Over the last couple of years I have managed to maintain my weight nice and steadily with a little bit of natural fluctuation. However, yesterday I had a bit of a surprise. When I stepped on the scales, instead of the number reaching its usual result, it kept increasing; not by a lot, but just enough to release a few of those horribly negative thoughts that I have managed to keep nicely suppressed. I glanced down and started to examine every possible area of my body; panicking that somehow I had “catastrophically” changed in body shape and nobody had told me. I started to question everything, allowing those thoughts to start getting louder and louder. And then it stopped. I stopped checking my body; I stopped overanalyzing everything and I started to reflect.

Since starting my treatment, I have gained 16kg. But in all honesty, that means absolutely nothing. Every gram of that weight gain equates to a hundred more positives that I have experienced since embracing recovery. Friendship, happiness, achievement, education, memories, courage; these are all of the gains that they don’t tell you about recovery. And it makes me angry that on this occasion, I too forgot about those gains. I succumbed to the negative thoughts that have been trying to resurface in response to the stress, anxiety and self-doubt that university life has cast over me. Weighing myself was the golden ticket that those thoughts needed to test my strength and motivation to recover. But this time I proved to myself that I am capable of dealing with them. Every time I experience a hurdle in my recovery I know that it is just that, a hurdle. I have the tools that I need to tackle it and most importantly, I have my family and friends that I can talk to in order to give me that extra push I need if I find myself scrambling.

Recovery is not an easy process and you never know what is coming around the corner. A few weeks ago I may well have celebrated this weight gain without any negativity whatsoever, but with a combination of academic pressure and the dreaded ‘time of the month’ colliding at the same time, I didn’t see it coming. However, another challenge is another opportunity to learn!

3 March 2018

We Need You! #PowerfulPopUp

Please support Aiden Mortimer and I with our campaign to introduce a law enforced discouragement pop-up on harmful mental health behaviour websites! #PowerfulPopUp

You may be aware that there is an increasing issue with harmful content that is available for individuals to view and engage with online. Having experienced and noticed the potentially life threatening impact that this can have on somebody's mental health, we are taking action. 

We want the government to implement a law enforced discouragement pop-up on harmful mental health behaviour promoting websites, to make individuals aware that the content they are about to view or post may have a significant impact on their own and others mental health. We also hope that the pop-up could feature a link to a support organisation that may encourage potential viewers to seek help.

There have been multiple studies that show the effects of viewing harmful websites such as pro eating disorder, pro self harm and pro suicide. Many list that the participants experienced lower levels of self-esteem, more willingness to engage in activities being encouraged and distorted perception of self. We believe that discouraging engagement and signposting to support would prevent individuals from being negatively affected by these websites.

We would very much appreciate your support by adding your signature using the link below in order to see this petition be discussed in Parliament. Changes need to be made and regulations need to be implemented so that individuals are aware of their own actions and the consequences that this can have on mental health and wellbeing.

Thank you in advance for your support and please share the link with your family and friends to get the message out there. Help us to gain as many signatures as possible by posting the link to social media accounts, with the #PowerfulPopUp to get this campaign going! We need to start using preventative methods when it comes to tackling mental health, not leaving it until people reach crisis point. Early intervention is key and we believe that enforcing this pop-up will be a step in the right direction.

If you have been affected by content on these harmful websites, then please seek support by contacting the following organisations:





2 March 2018

Empowered, Inspired and Motivated...

I’m not sure how to pinpoint exactly how I felt yesterday evening. As soon as Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn walked into Hallam Hall I felt a wave of emotions- excitement, nerves and pride. Firstly, I couldn’t believe that the event was actually happening considering that everything was against us in terms of the weather, but secondly, all of the attendees that made it were going to have the opportunity to see one of the most inspirational speeches I have ever witnessed. Thank you to the wonderful society committee members, the Students’ Union and the university, the event was going ahead and I could not wait to see the impact it would have.

This next moment I am about to detail is something I never thought that I would be able to do. Neil asked me if this was the first time I had heard them speak and I detailed that actually this was the second time I have had the pleasure of hearing their story. Naturally he asked me where I had heard them previously, and whilst beaming with pride I told him that it was when I was at Rharian Fields Specialist Eating Disorder Unit in Grimsby. I say beaming with pride, but the pride wasn’t solely based on the fact that my illness had led to hospitalisation, but pride that I was now stood in front of them as one of the society committee members that had helped to bring them to the university. I had been at an incredibly low point in my life when I had seen them first time round, stood at the side of the room at NAViGO House buried amongst other attendees; embarrassed that they may notice me and ashamed of where my illness had left me. This time was completely different. I was so proud of my journey and how far I have come from the place I found myself in 3 years ago.

I hope that one day everybody will be able to talk about mental illness in this way. Of course it is important to acknowledge the low points, but these should be viewed like platforms that have pushed you on to that next step. When I was suffering I felt embarrassed, ashamed and like a failure, but now I can look back on those moments and see how much I have progressed. I know that some people look at a diagnosis of a mental illness as a label of shame, but why? I think that listening to Jonny last night demonstrates exactly why our mindset needs to change about how we perceive mental health conditions. He is doing amazing things and still struggles with the illness that has brought him to where he is today. That isn’t due to a miraculous turn of events; it is due to him making it happen. He chose recovery, he chose to speak out and he chose to see the positives in a situation that once led him to try and take his own life. I think that is incredible.

I am still in awe of what I listened to last night and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to speak alongside both Jonny and Neil during the question and answer session sharing my personal experiences. It felt like a dream and now I want to make it my career. I want people to see that mental health recovery is something to be celebrated, not something that should be hidden away, pretending it never happened. I am ready to share my story further and reach out to those that feel exactly how I did 3 years ago. It’s time for me to try and make this happen and follow in the footsteps of the role models I witnessed last night. I would like to thank Jonny and Neil for not only sharing their incredible story with an engaged audience last night, but for inspiring me once again to take that next step in raising awareness of mental illness.