4 September 2018

The Biggest Step of All Time...

I write this post with a heavy heart, yet a smile on my face. What started as a form of therapy, this blog has gone above and beyond what I ever anticipated it would be. On Friday 8th January 2016, I clicked ‘post’ on the first of many honest accounts of my experiences during the diagnosis, treatment and ongoing recovery from my eating disorder. Each post provided an opportunity to explore why I was feeling certain emotions and engaging in specific behaviours, which helped me understand what my eating disorder was ‘offering’ me in life. Yes, I did just say ‘offering’, because in reality, at that point in my life, anorexia nervosa gave me something. It gave me the chance to feel in control and to punish myself for the choices I had made; and it worked, reminding me every single day that I really was not worthy of health, happiness and life. But I could not see it for myself. I had become the eating disorder and nothing that anyone could say or do would make me think differently about this flourishing relationship I had with anorexia. Conversations with therapists, my parents and my best friends provided an initial spark to make change, but it did not take long before anorexia convinced me otherwise. However, putting my thoughts and feelings in writing? That was different.

It started as a diary in hospital, taking some time out every evening before I went to bed to document my thoughts and feelings from the day. No matter how insignificant, I wrote about it. From meal planning to yoga classes, every piece of information from that day was recorded. Little did I know that 127 days later I would have created my first motivational resource that would allow me to reflect on all of the emotional and physical experiences I had endured during my time in the specialist eating disorder unit. Although a difficult read, I still have this personal documentation in the top drawer next to my bed, just to remind me of the distress, pain and isolation that anorexia ‘offered’ me.

However, it was during my time at the eating disorder day patient clinic immediately after being discharged from hospital that I realised the significance that writing that diary had on my recovery. Not only had it benefited me personally, but also it had allowed me to communicate to people how I was feeling, which I had previously struggled to articulate. There were certain feelings, behaviours and thoughts that I had felt embarrassed to talk about, for the fear of being ridiculed, yet when they were written down I was able to realise for myself just how abnormal and outlandish they sounded. This not only helped me to challenge my eating disorder for myself, but it also posed the question “am I really the only person that experiences this?” I figured that I probably wasn’t, but it made me worry about the people that may also be engaging in the same behaviours and routines, ruled by the anorexic voice, and I wanted them to know that they are not alone and that they too can get help.

So that was it, my story went public. Every Step, Another Story was launched. Unafraid of the judgment, ignorance or ridicule, I wanted people to know that mental ill health is serious and that it nearly cost me my life. I wanted mental health to be openly discussed amongst families, friends and workplaces, and I particularly wanted the perception of eating disorders to change. Now, 81 posts and 82,560 views later, I am proud to have shared truthful accounts of the difficulties I have endured, as well as the triumphs I have celebrated with wonderful readers around the world, in the hope that it educates, instills hopefulness and shares support.

From travelling independently to starting university again, the last three years have been a whirlwind of challenges and successes that have contributed to the relationship I have with my mind and body today. Although this relationship fluctuates from time to time, I have found healthy ways to manage this that have no longer required me to write any content for this blog. I initially saw this as a negative situation because I felt as though I was letting people down by not updating the blog with new content. Yet, after speaking with my parents, I have realised that this is in fact incredibly positive. It shows that I have developed the healthy tools and skills I need to manage my illness, by communicating my difficulties verbally with my amazing family and friends. Therefore, I wanted to write this post to make you all aware that for the time being my blogging will be less frequent. I am not blindsided by the bright lights of recovery; I am aware that anorexia can tighten its grasp at the signs of any vulnerability. But at this moment I feel strong and supported, which means less necessity to write and reflect on the challenges I experience. Now I want to use this strength to continue my work as a Beat Ambassador, a Student Minds Fundraising Champion, a Rethink Media Volunteer and in all of the other mental health related projects I am now involved with at university. My life has become incredibly exciting recently and as I enter my final year of studying, I am enthused about the prospect of developing a career within the mental health sector and I hope that I can use my personal and professional experience to find a job that will enable me to offer support to those that need it. At this point I would just like to thank everybody that has supported me throughout the growth of this blog and in helping me share my story to achieve the goals I envisioned. Every like, share or retweet has sent the message that little bit further and hopefully enabled it to reach somebody that needs it. The blog will not be going anywhere, so please continue to use and share the posts whenever you need to!

This is by no means the last step to end my story; it is just the beginning of a new chapter.