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

Switch on the light!

I can’t remember how I initially got involved with Body Gossip, I seem to remember it started with a tweet and a link to the incredible ‘This one’s for you’ video. I got talking to Ruth and Tash, and later Sarah and Charlotte; and eventually made plans for Body Gossip on Tour @ York University 2011. I had a wonderful time putting on the ‘show’ and looking back, I can now see how my involvement and the friendships I developed with Team BG became an instrumental part of my own recovery journey. The wonderful body gossipers showed me that recovery from a mental illness (mainly an eating disorder) was possible and the process of doing so could then be used to help so many others. I think it was a real point for me where I began to think about the life I could be leading… granted it took me quite a few years to then get the support I needed for my own eating disorder and be able to openly talk about it to my family and friends, but these gals really helped me to realise that I wanted to recover… so thanks!!

Anyway, since BGOT@York, Tash has become a bit of a celeb, I knew her before she was on the telly box and my claim to fame can now be that I drank room wine and ate McDonalds with her before she was famous! Anyway, Tash is now part of the absolutely rocking Self Esteem Team who are basically the Charlie’s Angels of mental health; travelling the country educating young people on mental health issues, kicking the arse of stigma and generally just do an amazing job for young people they work with.

Their awesome new #SwitchOnTheLight campaign aims to encourage men to talk about their feelings because of the high rate of male deaths to suicide in this country. It’s amazing, the video is amazing and hopefully it will do the job of helping men to realise it’s ok to not be ok and talk about that.

So watch the video, share the video or one of your male friends or family members how they really are.

And that ladies and gentlemen is a wrap

So there we go, now is my time to leave the Naomi program and begin the rest of my life. When I arrived on Naomi I was completely under the control of my eating disorder and the lies it told me, I didn’t believe recovery existed and I didn’t believe that I was unwell enough to need to stay longer than my initial plan of six weeks. I’m so glad I have completed the Naomi program, I’m proud of everything I have achieved and I feel like I am definitely now on the road to recovery. I have achieved so much whilst I have been on the program and I’m really proud of the work I have done. I have grown in confidence, really worked on identifying my needs and how I can get them met, challenged unhelpful old system rules and core beliefs and gained so much more of an understanding of myself and my difficulties.

I have really taken a step away from my eating disorder and identified the underlying causes of it and worked on these meaning it has a low weaker grip on me. I can’t thank the team and community enough for such amazing support. The last 9 months has consisted of some of the most challenging and difficult points of my life. I have battled against my eating disorder and really got to understand it, faced really difficult and sad times with my family and overall learnt a huge amount about myself. Despite my struggles, I feel I really have a different relationship with my eating disorder now and I’ve learnt to really be able to fight it.

My life really has changed and I can’t thank all of the people who have supported me to get to this stage enough. I’m still the same person as I was at the start of the program, just a different version of myself, hopefully a better version that is less diluted by my illness. It’s been a long road and it’s not been easy but I feel like I’ve got what it takes to keep choosing recovery each day. Now the real work begins as I practice doing it independently, the prospect of the rest of my life is a little daunting but I will gradually work on it and become the best version of me that I can. I truly believe everyone can recover and sometimes it just takes the right support; like a seed the time, place and conditions must be right before germination can take place and the seed become a flower. I hope that this was and is my time to bloom.

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

Girl overheard

I went for a swim this afternoon and whilst getting changed I heard a mother and daughter having a conversation. A sibling had stated that the (I presume) youngest needed to learn to float better in order to not have to swim with the aid of arm bands, which she seemed keen to be rid of. Initially it seemed like a fairly inane conversation until the little girl responded. She replied, saying ‘My bum’s too big for me to float, do I need to lose weight Mummy?’. It really saddened me that a child, so young, was questioning if she needed to lose weight. It made me feel really sad that she had obviously heard conversations about weight that had led her to mimic what she had heard. Arguably, she probably didn’t realise what she was saying, but it still made me sad that she had thought of it.

As usual, the timing of my little bit of ear-wigging came soon after I had seen this article from The Huffington Post.

Remind your daughter that the best thing she can do with her body is to use it to mobilize her beautiful soul- Sarah Koppelkam

The basic premise of her video is that body-talk isn’t really necessary and that the focus should be on what you can do with your body rather than how it should and shouldn’t look. As I’ve ranted about in previous blogs, there is such a focus on fat-shaming, thin-shaming… you name it, discussions about bodies that really aren’t necessary and can do so much damage to young people.

Rant of the day.