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 ❤️

I’m not responding but I still really care

BXqFCCBCIAAmL22I normally have texts to reply to, facebook messages to read, letters I ought to be writing and sending but sometimes I just don’t have the brain space to respond. It’s hard when you have a day when you’re feeling low or finding it hard to muster together the motivation to do all of the things you need to and then there’s being sociable added in too.

When I was first admitted on to Naomi (ED inpatient); I became a bit of a hermit, it was all too stressful and intense to think about any other aspect of life. I was attending to my needs and trying to get well; fighting the everyday battles, some of which took place in my own head. But throughout that time I appreciated the contact from my lovely friends and family. I couldn’t quite manage to respond or get into conversations about how things were or what it was like, how I was doing. But I took a great amount of comfort from the friendly messages from the people I loved.

Now I’m in the real world, again I still have day’s when socialising or getting in touch with people is just a little extra that is a bit of a struggle. The delight of replying to everyone, getting in touch but then getting replies and once again feeling a little snowed under is all too familiar. But again, it really really doesn’t mean I don’t care and don’t want to talk to everyone, I’m just not quite up to speaking right at that second.

I realise it must be really hard to keep trying to message and talk to a friend who doesn’t always reply, and no doubt a lot of my friends and family must have times where they think they won’t bother to keep trying. But know that your friend/family member will reply when they have the brain space to, and they will definitely appreciate knowing you are there, care for them and will wait until they are ready to talk.

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.

Life is one big transition

Today I’m blogging about a topic chosen by my lovely friend Naomi, you should follow her on twitter @Naomi_Barrow, she talks a lot of sense and is an awesome activist and fabulous lady. Anyway, Naomi suggested I talked about transitions for today’s #MHAW2015 post.

Now seems the perfect time to talk about transitions, as I am mid-transition myself between being an inpatient and out in the real world again (12 days free). At the same time I’ve gone from living in York (student accommodation pre-hospital) and now I’m back to living at home for a while. Transitions are hard, especially for someone who is mental health concerns or needs to think about. I’ve come up with a list of my top tips for managing transitions.

Top tips for smooth(er) transitions:

  • Work out your time scale– think about the time scale before your move/transition and work out the time frame you will have to ensure everything you need is in place. Try not to leave things until the last moment if you can.
  • Make sure you have a support network at home who are aware of your mental health e.t.c. Making appointments and having to start afresh with someone new can be really stressful, but if they’ve already had some information and an idea of the kind of support you will need can be really helpful. It can also be good to have a named person where you will be so you know in advance who you’ll need to talk to if you are struggling. 
  • Plan ahead– as part of my relapse prevention work, I had a meal plan for the first week of being out in the real world. Having ideas of what you will eat, how you will manage your time and the kind of activities you can do if you are at a loss or struggling can be really helpful. Have some kind of notebook/folder with all of that information in is also really helpful as you will have a go-to emergency guide. I had things like a back to basics meal plan (a week of food), back to basics weekly structure (things I needed to do over the week as a minimum if I was low in mood or motivation), emergency meal plan (for one day) and emergency activities plan. 
  • Get yourself a distress tolerance box– I’ll do another post about distress tolerance boxes, they really are amazing. But essentially they’re a go-to place when you’re struggling with things that will soothe you, distract you and generally help you bring intense emotions back down to somewhere more manageable.  Your box could include pictures that make you happy, distraction lists, nice smelly things, touchy feely things and reasons for recovery/to not use a self destructive behaviour. There’s scope for them to contain anything really, it’s just a place to keep all the helpful things you know work for you together.
  • Remember you don’t have to do it alone– Talk to friends, professionals and family members. Try and let them know the things you might feel difficult and ways they might be able to help you if you’re struggling. Keep letters or notes ready that you can give to people if you’re struggling with a guide of how to support you on it. 
These are just a few thoughts, it’s not a definitive list but hopefully it’s a few things to think about. I suppose life is all one big transition and the key is to think about how you can manage them, once you’ve got a good set of skills you can use them in a variety of different settings. Transitions are hard but they are possible, keep going my lovely mental health warriors! 

Mental Health Awareness Week 2015

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!