Living 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.
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 ❤️
Yesterday was crazy busy so unfortunately I didn’t get chance to write my post on the first day of Mental Health Awareness week 2015. Raising awareness for mental health is so important to me, for obvious reasons! I think it’s vital that people are aware of mental health and that it becomes less of a taboo subject or area where people feel uncomfortable or uneasy because they just don’t really understand or know what to stay. There’s such a problem with the *unsaid* and I really feel it’s something that, if rectified, could really lead to more people getting support earlier or feeling able to say when they are struggling.
This year, the focus for #MHAW2015 is Mindfulness. Whilst I was an inpatient for my eating disorder, I got to practice a lot of mindfulness and found that it made up a really large part of my recovery journey. Mindfulness enabled me to manage my thoughts and feelings in a different and healthier way. Rather than trying to exert control over everything, I was able to notice, accept and move on from my thoughts; being able to do this was particularly helpful with managing my eating disordered thoughts, noticing them, accepting them for what they are (eating disordered crap) and being able to not give them the time of day that my illness wanted them to have. It enable me to be mindful rather than having a mind that was full of things I didn’t want to be there. I was able to just ‘be’ in the present rather than stuck in my head.
A common misconception of mindfulness is that it is some weirdy meditative activity, put simply mindfulness is about focusing on the current moment and not letting the past or present get in the way of it. For me, breathing mindfulness exercises are brilliant if I am feeling stressed or anxious, they really help me to clear my head and have one focus rather than lots of different ideas whizzing through my mind.
My plan is to blog as much as possible this week and help raise awareness and stuff for MHAW2015!
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 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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|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.
I think I’ve been looking for a eureka moment in recovery when I wake up one day and think… ‘jolly good, that’s me recovered now’. I think, coming into an inpatient program, set me off thinking that I would defeat my eating disorder and be rid of it before I left. The scary reality is that I will be leaving this program with my eating disorder, it’s not going to be completely squished as I hoped it would. The difference is that I am a lot more resilient now and able to manage it in a way that is compatible with real life. I have friends and acquaintances who say they are ‘fully recovered’ and I really do believe them. I suppose it really feels like this journey isn’t going to be one that I reach the end of any time in the near future but one that’s more of a slow burn… chipping away at my eating disorder and continuing to shift the balance to the recovered life I want step by step, bite by bite.
It’s so weird even contemplating a life without an eating disorder and a life out of hospital, where I’ve been for the last 7 months. It’s weird to imagine having stretches of free time to fill and manage and enjoy! I have a realistic view that life won’t be completely perfect and there will be times that are more challenging but hopefully the work I’ve done will keep me on the straight and narrow and on the right road to recovery.
I also wanted to say hi to my lovely new followers! Please let me know if there are any blog topics you’d like me to talk about!