Changing The World: One Book Date At A Time

PieLiving with a chronic physical and mental illness had led me to spend a lot of time managing feeling poorly and struggling. Having spent time in hospital, including a year as an inpatient on an eating disorder ward, I learnt a lot about self care and soothing myself when things are hard. Gradually I realised that I could come up with an idea that combined my love (and the boost it gives to my wellbeing) of craft, vintage and reading to come up with something that might help others who are going through a challenging time. #DateWithABook was born and it has continued to grow from there onwards.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me– C.S. Lewis.

Illness can lead you to feel really isolated. You can face days where you are really limited in the amount of energy you have, or motivation to do the things you would love to be doing. This was one of the starting ideas for my book dates. I wanted to reach out to people who might be finding things tough and offer them something to help them through that moment. I’m a lover of everything old and vintage and the idea of rehoming a beautiful old book felt like the best way to go. Giving these books a new lease of life whilst helping others just seemed perfect! The idea is that a book date is a way to reclaim date night and rest and rejuvenate with a hot drink and a cosy homely coaster with your set.

We read to know we’re not alone– William Nicholson, Shadowlands.

So, what do I hope to achieve with my little book dates? Well… quite a lot! I believe that sharing a #datewithabook can be a huge act of kindness, offering someone who is struggling a piece of calm, distraction and an excuse to have a night off. Or it can be a perfect piece of self care for yourself, to help with the stresses that we face day to day. A date with a book can be a way of reconnecting with someone who needs some extra love or showing you care when you can’t ‘fix’ a situation someone is going through.

Praise for #datewithabook

I absolutely loved recieving my date with a book parcel in the post. Kate made one up based on my likes for me to enjoy on maternity leave. Good value for money and such a wonderful idea for a treat to yourself or for gifts to others. Will be ordering from her again in the future.- Jenny


I received my date with a book yesterday and it’s wonderful. I almost didn’t want to open it as it looked so pretty. I’m currently about to sit down and start reading. I will definitely be using you again. It is such a lovely idea.– Lindsey

Fantastic idea. Love this. Date with a Book. Something really different, original & unique. Brought for a friend, who Loved it to & has been showing friends. Whole thing arrives Beautifully packaged in soft tissue paper. Makes a Wonderful gift for Any occasion. Or No occasion at all.. Just to say, Thinking of you. Hello. Etc.– Annette

Such a unique idea! It was very exciting to receive the package as you don’t know which book you will get and I was not disappointed! I received a book from an author who I’ve never heard of, and I cannot wait to read it! Prompt delivery too!!– Bisma

There are lots of different #datewithabook sets available in my Conscious Crafties and Etsy stores. I’m just in the process of a big restock to make way for a beautiful array of Christmas gifts, ideal for the person who has everything. Use the discount code BLOG10 to get 10% off any orders over £10. I also have a #datewithabook advent calendar full of literary themed items.



Follow your heart, it’s knows the way

Visiting York today was a little like torture. The city was filled with excitable York Graduands embarking on the next step of their lives. As I meandered through on the way to a Mental health app them I felt somewhat stuck. I felt a longing to be graduating with them, as I was painfully aware that it was my fourth missed graduation I was surrounded by. It was a stark contrast to seeing my CPN and discussing the last year, 10 months of which had been spent as an inpatient. 

My moment of moping was soon replaced with a feeling of uncertainty. A mixture of longing to achieve and prove myself but also of realization that there is a chance that I may not decide to do my final year of my degree (depending how it goes when I return) but that if I decided not to do it, perhaps that’s ok too. 

If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the obvious paths in life aren’t the ones that lead to the best bits and it’s completely ok to deviate from the path you thought you were going to follow. I spent a long time believing my degree was the be all and end all, leading me to try to endlessly slog through until I just wasn’t well enough to carry on. Having that pressure taken away really helped me to see it in a different way. I’ve worked hard and gained so much from being at York and that won’t be taken away from me. Hopefully I can see how Uni goes and heaven forbid, even enjoy my last year in more of a mindful way, that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t achieve monumentally great things, the key is that it’s a positive experience. 

My little piece of advice, gleaned from my mini mope, is that it’s actually ok to take the path that your heart chooses and you’ll get back to the path even if it feels hopeless. 
P.s thank you to all of my wonderful family and friends who’s encouragement and love and support is just too fab for words ❤️

A carrot on the end of a stick

Photographs by Lizzie @elizabeebeebee

Recovery is a hard journey, that much is clear but how do you hold on to the reasons you’re doing it and manage to get through the dark and difficult times. When I began my recovery journey, I wasn’t totally sure I wanted to be well. I was advised and subsequently talked a lot about ‘giving it a go and deciding at the end whether I wanted to continue to recover or not’. It was something that filled my family with trepidation, would I make the decision to stay well or would I opt for the eating disorder again. I *think* I’m continuing to make that recovery focused choice each day, it’s hard but it is achievable if you break everything into bite-sized (ironic I know) chucks and tackle the little bits as they arise rather than focusing on the end goal all of the time.

Photographs by Lizzie @elizabeebeebee

Something that did help me was thinking about an obtainable goal that I could achieve at the end, post discharge *if* I made the decision to stay well, my carrot on the stick (ironic again I know) was to aim to be able to get back in the saddle and riding again. Animals have always been such a big part of my life, from working in the veterinary work to having a whole heap of lovely pets. Horse riding was an obvious goal, something I adore and have done in the past and something that absolutely requires health, concentration, strength, stamina… all the things that I could gain from a healthy body as opposed to an unhealthy one. Riding is also a time where I’m completely unaware of my body, ok obviously I have to be aware of my position, posture and what my body is doing as opposed to how it feels in an ED way. There’s absolutely no time available to bodycheck or think about what other people may be thinking about my appearance when you’re riding without stirrups and concentrating on where your leg should be to ensure you’re not going to fall off!

When I started as an inpatient on Naomi, I was so physically unwell. My body was exhausted from all of the damage I had done to it over the years of my eating disorder. I was then put on modified bed rest because of the unhealthy relationship I had with activity. When I eventually got to go for my first walk around the grounds with staff, I struggled to keep up and nearly didn’t make it the whole way round. I didn’t really imagine how much different life could be, what it would be like to regain my health and fitness and get back to being able to enjoy activity in a non-driven way. I’m also mindfully running the race for life… insert shameless bid of sponsorship here!

My plans to horse ride really helped my to think about recovery in a more mechanical way. I needed to eat a certain amount to enable my body to repair which would then allow me to ride again. It helped me to have a really SMART goal to work towards.

Photographs by Lizzie @elizabeebeebee

I’m so happy to have been able to go for my second riding lesson today and I’ve actually improved a bit. My body is doing what I want it to, I’m getting stronger in different ways and it’s allowing me to build a bond with a wonderful, if cheeky pony!

So what’s my kind of take home message of today. Think about something you’d like to achieve, it could be something you used to do or something new. Try and think about something that’s achievable, picking running the London Marathon if you’ve never run before might be a little bit of a step too far, but think about something that you could do if you really focused on your recovery. It doesn’t have to be recovery from an eating disorder, it could be any mental health condition that has prevented you from being able to do something that you adore and love in your life. Once you’ve decided on your goal, tell people about it, get excited, get pictures all over the walls and keep that carrot on the stick firmly in your sights so you can grab it when the time is right. And once you reach your goal, mark it and celebrate it, then get working on the next one. Mine is clearly to move up from my 1 foot jumps to something a little bigger or maybe a few in a row!

Please follow me by clicking on the bloglovin button to the right, and feel free to comment and share your carrot or get in touch with me to talk about my blog/ideas/feedback/suggestions.

Stay strong wonderful people xx

Here’s why I’ve spent the day throwing stuff out…

I’ve had some amazing blog requests which I will get started on tomorrow. Please click on the contact me box to the right hand side if you’re got any suggestions for a blog topic. Anyway, as it’s only just still Thursday (I’m sure it will be Friday by the time I’m finished… I thought I ought to sneak in a quick blog so I’m vaguely keeping up with my promised blog a day for #MHAW2015. The reason for my lack of blog any earlier than now is that I’ve been having a major spring clean.

I have way too much stuff, something that has become apparent over the time of living away from home and then being in hospital for 9 months, my piles of stuff have accumulated and there’s definitely bits I really don’t need that could be donated to charity or sold on ebay. This part was the simple part, have I used this in the last year- if not in the charity bag, simple!

Then came the tricky part, the clothes. Now, having been unwell for a number of years and having lost weight, restored weight and repeat; I have clothes in a range of sizes for different stages of illness. Now, some of these clothes are definitely not clothes that I can wear if I am well or healthy, some of them are absolutely relapse clothes. It was a difficult decision to make to get rid of them all, I wanted to but I only part committed, throwing out the worst ones but not fully wanting to accept the fact that if I am going to continue with my stab at recovered life, there are just some items I won’t be wearing again.

Today I made that commitment to get rid of any of the clothes I own that aren’t the right size for me. I’m going to give the less sellable ones to charity and put the rest on ebay, the proceeds will be spent on clothes that fit me and my recovered life. I don’t think you can properly continue with recovery with the ghosts of illness past in your wardrobe so I urge anyone who has any pre-recovery clothes to work to get rid of them, then you won’t be facing a trigger and temptation everyday.

It’s been one week…

It’s been a week on the outside world, a week since finishing my inpatient stay, seven whole days of doing it for myself! I’m not really sure what I anticipated the first week post-discharge would be like but it’s been remarkably normal. Of course it’s been challenging and I’ve had to really think about what I’m doing and really work on making the recovery focused decision day-in-day-out, but it feels like that’s what I’m doing. It’s not easy, I not going to pretend it is, recovery is an upward battle. Sometimes you wonder if the war is worth fighting but then you remember the reasons you’re doing it, the wonderful life that’s there waiting for you to grab!

I wish there was a secret, a way that would just make it all happen and be possible more quickly. My inpatient consultant frequently said she wished there was a magic wand she could wave to make it all go away. The thing that I’ve found really helps is getting perspective and distance from your inner demons and remembering what’s important in your life. I want to be able to make a difference in the world, I want to help people and do something that means something. I know that the only way I’m going to be able to do that is if I can stay well. I’m not letting some stupid eating disorder get the better of me and stop me from being able to do that. Arguably I’m not really sure how I’m going to take on the world and make a difference but fingers crossed I can start through my writing. I hope there are people out there reading my blog and getting something from it. Fingers crossed I can continue to use the medium of writing to at least keep me on the straight and narrow… if nothing else! The thing is, there’s no right way to do recovery, there’s no right way to go off and save the world but I’m going to just work out my own way of getting there. Perhaps not immediately but slowly but surely.

So… what now? 

The plan for the moment is to keep going as I’m going at the moment. I’m going to really find the things that make me happy and do more of them; find a yoga class in Suffolk to go to, keep doing exciting things at work, spend more time outside, spend more time with my family, just enjoy living a normal life that doesn’t need to involve hospital!

The place of true healing is a fierce place

The reality is, recovery is shit but gradually you get used to that and it becomes more tolerable, eventually you don’t even realise you’re doing it anymore… well that’s the hope anyway.

Once again the timing of my blogging has been quite apt, I seem to have a knack of starting a blog post and then having a conversation of the same theme with someone, or seeing it in real life. This happened again today. Last week I wasn’t well and as a result I was under quarantine and ‘banned’ from the ward. Now so close to my discharge date, a bit of independent practice wasn’t a bad thing but it showed me that actually living a ‘recovered’ life is exhausting and a real challenge. The nice shiny idea I had of leaving the program all better was possibly a bit of an unrealistic expectation because I actually do still have an eating disorder. This realisation, I suppose, has been something I’ve been coming to over a number of weeks but the time to myself completely independently just brought it to the forefront of my mind.

I have a cartoon on my wall that depicts the road to recovery as two lines, the expectation of a line that goes directly from A to B and the reality of a line that goes backwards and forwards in a form of a scribble, ultimately getting from A to B but not straight away. As long as the general movement is in the right direction then it’s ok if it’s not exactly the way you would expect, it’s ok for it to be good enough. Nb. I’ve added the cartoon now! Because it made more sense to have it in my blog.

So one night, at the dining table, we were discussing the difficulties we were facing and wondering when it would start to feel easier. At the start of the program, we complied with the boundaries because we had to which became doing it for ourselves because we had worked out our reasons for recovery which often also included recovering for others. The reality was that recovery was and still is hard work, a constant battle and drive to keep on track and make the ‘recovery’ focused decision multiple times a day. The silver lining, I determined, was that gradually you get more used to how crap recovery is until, hopefully, it would become so routine and mundane that it would be the automatic choice rather than requiring an internal dialogue each time. It all sounds somewhat depressing but actually it feels like real life. The hard things become tolerable, you may not always love doing them but you have an inbuilt understanding of why you need and want to be doing them which then becomes almost innate. And overall, faced with the alternative, recovery sucks a while lot less than life with an eating disorder does! So yes, recovery is a bit shit, but I will be choosing it as it holds the key to the life I want to leave and I’m ok with the fact that it’s going to feel uncomfortable until I’ve got used to it.

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Brown paper packages tied up with string

There is always something to be thankful for!

A page from my relapse prevention

It can be really difficult to have any outside perspective on life if you are feeling low. It’s so easy to get really stuck on your failings, how bad you’re feeling or all of the little details with inadvertently keep you really stuck and trapped. If you’re feeling bad physically or emotionally it’s so easy to end up in this trap and the prospect of it ever being any different can be unimaginable.

I’ve recently been doing a lot of work in a couple of areas that I have found really helpful and empowering; gratitude and personal values. I think both of these kind of fit in with this idea and are kind of the antidotes to think internally and getting really stuck in the moment with how you are feeling. In my relapse prevention, I’ve tried to think about all of the things I’m grateful for, and unsurprisingly (…well now I’ve done it!) there’s a hell of a lot I have to be thankful for. The key for me now, is to look at it as a positive and not as another means of beating myself up and thinking… well look at what I’ve got, I need to buck up my ideas and fix the rest of me. I think it has been really helpful to be able to refer back to my list on days where I feel a bit low and hopeless and like everything feels really difficult, these are the things I already have that are amazing and can’t be taken away from me. It’s such an empowering thing to do and once you get started you really can get carried away with all of the different things you have to be thankful for.
And some more relapse prevention

Then… values! In our Core CBT group, we looked at KellyWilson’s values worksheet. I’ve attached the link to the worksheet because it’s a really awesome tool to help focus you and work out what you want in your life and think about how successful you are being at fulfilling that value. You start by looking at the value ideas given on the sheet and rating them in their importance to you, I obviously added in pets/animals to the end of my list too. Then you think about the type of person you would like to be in each of the relevant areas, next you think about your success in each relevant area and finally you rank the values in the order of their importance of working on them at the present moment. You end up with a really focused idea of what’s important to you and what you’re neglecting at the moment. My values have really guided my relapse prevention and I’ve gone on to think about what the immediate steps you need to take to be working towards those goals. It’s really interesting because sometimes you have to work on different values before you can get to others, for example a lot of my values need to come second to me sorting out my health and mental health; without a healthy body, I can’t work on my family values and goal to have children.

More relapse prevention

The beauty of these two areas is that they can give you a real focus and kind of grounding to help you get back on track and work out where you want to go next and what that might look like. You can see what you have got and realise how fortunate you are and then think about the values that you want to guide your life and help think about yourself as a person. See recovery really is that simple… well possibly not but I think this definitely could help. I think the next step for me will be to think about my gratitude for my body and then perhaps tie all these into my positive data log and positive qualities work… all for another day!

My self-critical voice is looking at this post with an air of despair at the quality of my writing… and art work at the moment! My anxiety and self-doubt looks at different areas where I could have written better or more coherently or just differently, but my goal for today is to use the ‘good enough’ principle and think… sod it, it’s fine!! My perfectionist nature is trying to stifle me and I want to, for now at least, try and ignore it and post this piece anyway without judgement or regret.