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

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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.

 

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A Message From Your Chronically Ill Friend

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I’m the friend who has to cancel at the last minute, the friend who’s always ill and often not very specific about the exact reason I’ve had to cancel… so I thought I ought to provide a bit of an explanation! 

22251271_10155262155554531_1328950934_oWe’re due to be meeting up, I’m excited, we’ve made plans… it’s going to be awesome. But at the last moment, probably become quite predictably, I’ve sent you a message to cancel… again! It’s not ok, I should have given you more notice or not even made plans if I wasn’t going to be able to keep them. The truth is, I was ready to go. I’d showered and dried and straightened my hair; spent ages picking out something to wear, got excited about seeing you but then my insides rebelled and I was suddenly too sick to come and see you. I’ve ended up spending the rest of the morning sat on the bathroom floor being sick/trying not to be sick. It’s nothing you’ve done wrong. My body just has the most awful timing.

It’s now 3:45am and I’m wide awake. It seemed like the perfect time to write about chronic illness, when it was once again impacting on my sleep. My physical health has been really kicking my butt recently. But it’s hard, when it’s been flaring up for a while, because I worry that people will get sick of hearing that I’m sick. I’m equally sick of FEELING sick too! But unfortunately it’s what’s happening right now and I have had to adapt my life to fit around my broken body until it’s feeling a little better. Being chronically ill isn’t what it looks like in films; people aren’t able to drop everything to come and look after you and the reality is that my Mumma is over 200 miles away… so when I threw up all over my own socks at the weekend, all I could do was cry a little and man up to clean everything up whilst all I wanted to do was curl up on the sofa with a sick bowl and Mum hugs.

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Despite being poorly, I have a job! Working from home is a godsend at the moment and I would have probably needed to take sick leave if I didn’t. Again, despite the common misconception that working from home means you lounge around in bed watching tv all day; I’ve still got to go to meetings, meet deadlines and manage my wonderful team of four. It’s been flexible so I can work my hours around when I’ve got the most energy or feel the least poorly, but it’s still really hard. I have to put on a brave face and nap in my break or collapse at the end of the day needing to go to bed at 6pm… only to wake at about 2am everyday when the pain and antiemetic meds wear off, until the next dose kicks in and I can get a couple more hours sleep before I need to get up for work again. It’s exhausting and sometimes work is pretty much all I have the energy for. Plus, my week is full of regular medical appointments which can increase when I’m not very well.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad. There are days when I don’t feel so poorly and times when I am not having a flare up, that I can be a relatively normal human… even if I do have the hobbies of a 90 year old. I’m used to being poorly now and am good at adapting and listening to my body (occasionally). I have a brilliant supportive army of friends, professionals and cats of course. And life is always good when you’re under a pile of blankets, with a cat and surrounded by wool or paint.

Things I’d love to be able to tell people when I’m struggling with my chronic illness:22217831_10155262157739531_533723081_o

  1. I’m not unreliable, my health is. Yes, this can mean that I AM unreliable, but I feel as awful about it as you feel frustrated with me. I am beating myself up about it already and have been worrying about having to cancel and hoping it doesn’t mean you hate me!
  2. I really wouldn’t cancel unless I had to and it’s probably better than me throwing up on you or having to spend the whole time leaving you to run to the bathroom or being unable to do anything because I feel so unwell.
  3. Please don’t stop inviting me, I feel so lonely with my chronic illness a lot of the time. Even though I often won’t be able to come or commit to seeing you. When I do see you, it means the world to me and I have the best time ever!
  4. I still really love you! Having to cancel plans is no reflection of how much I care about you. It’s really easy for friends to drift away from me because of how pants I am, but it’s really isolating and I miss you.
  5. Please be patient with me! 
  6. I want to be normal. I would give anything to not have to have the problems I am struggling with. It massively sucks for me as well as those around me. I would definitely prefer to be spending time with the people I love than having to be at appointments, being poorly or even in hospital (as happened recently).
  7. My health is unpredictable. So I may have to cancel on you one day, but feel a little better the next and be able to see someone. I have to take opportunities when they arise, it doesn’t mean I like someone better than you, often it’s just that there’s been a little respite from being ill so I have taken the opportunity to try and have a life!
  8. Social media doesn’t always reflect how I am! Sometimes my social media can show me having a relatively normal and fun life, I don’t often post about being poorly because I don’t want to bore people or seem like I’m fishing for sympathy. I’m not the type of person who’s likely to post ‘hospital selfies’ as I often feel ashamed of being ill or embarrassed. On days where I spend 50% of the time hanging out in the bathroom or curled up sleeping, I’m unlikely to post pictures or let everyone know (unless you’re my Mum, then you tend to get a play-by-play account of my misery and sadness 😉 ). I also don’t always post pictures on the day I take them, I might be reflecting on something nice that has happened recently but not necessarily post day-to-day pictures… or I just post pictures of cats, crochet and art journalling.
  9. I’m sorry if I don’t reply! I’m a bit useless at replying to messages on a good day, but on a bad day, it can be impossible. I appreciate people contacting me and it brightens my day so much, but sometimes I’m just focusing on not throwing up on myself… so I might be a little delayed in replying to you!
  10. My illness is pretty invisible! Sometimes I might look fine, but inside I’m really feeling unwell or my mental health is difficult. Please don’t judge me by my outside appearance. Plus… makeup is a mighty fine cover up!!
  11. Let’s alter our plans so we can still meet up! Sometimes, I might still be able to see you if we can change our plans. Coming over to mine is often much easier for me. It means I don’t have to worry about driving and if I suddenly feel unwell, I’m in my own home and it’s easier to manage compared to being out and about. If I’m not well, a crochet and coffee date can be a lot easier than meeting somewhere or walking for a long time. I get really fatigued when I’m poorly and sometimes I can manage going out for the day, but it wipes me out for a few days afterwards. So, talk to me and see if we can arrange something smaller and easier, so I can still have hugs and company!

It’s now 4.45am. I’m still fairly awake, but my insides are starting to settle a little. I’m fairly sure my bloodstream must be about 50% antiemetics by now. Hopefully I’ll get another hour or so asleep before I start it all again tomorrow. It’s hard being ill. I’m sorry for being unreliable. I’m sorry I’m not better by now too. I’m sorry I don’t look ill enough… but most of all, I’m sorry I have to be sorry all of the time. I’ve not asked for this and I would give it away in a heartbeat. I’m not asking for pity or sympathy. I just hope reading this helps with some understanding that I’m being crap for a reason, and I am trying my hardest not to be.

Shoutout to all my badass chronically sick friends, especially my Mumma, who’s the baddest badass of them all.

 

Things To Avoid Saying To People With Mental Health Problems

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Recovery from a mental health condition is a complex and difficult journey that can be a full time endeavour. It’s not a a linear process; but full of blips and struggles as well as triumph and success. Recovery can be hard enough without unhelpful (even if well meaning) comments or conversations. Here is a collection of the types of things people in recovery wish you wouldn’t say to them! This list was compiled initially thinking about recovery from an eating disorder, but a lot of the comments apply to other conditions as well.

  1. Aren’t you better now?– Recovery isn’t a simple process with a clear beginning, middle and end. Unfortunately a course of therapy doesn’t mean you’re fixed and it can often be hard to tell where a person is in their journey by just looking at them. Recovery takes time, try not to assume that because someone has been doing better for a while, it doesn’t mean they’re ‘fixed’ now.
  2. You don’t look like you have an eating disorder (insert other condition here too!)- mental health conditions come in a variety of shapes/sizes and presentations. Try not to invalidate someone by telling them they don’t look like they have that condition. It’s just a bit offensive!
  3. You look fine/healthy/well– telling someone they look fine can be a real challenge to someone in recovery who is battling to come to terms with a new recovering body. It can be a really distressing comment that is often used through habit without any real thought or meaning behind it.
  4. OMG my cousin/aunt/hairdresser/a lady down the road had an eating disorder/the same condition as you– a list of all the people you’ve ever know with a mental health condition can feel a little insensitive. It’s human nature to make comparisons and find similarities in conversation but it can also feel a little invalidating to for the person who has felt able to talk about their own experiences.
  5. General morbid curiosity- sometimes there can be a sense of feeling like a bit of a spectacle with some of the types of questions you’re asked about your illness. My personal favourite was being asked what I ate and if I ate anything when I was unwell. The intimate details of eating disorders are kind of like sexy underwear… We all know it’s and it’s great for anyone who needs to know about it and be involved with it…. But at the same time, you don’t need to discuss it/flash it around. There is a time and a place for intimate details… Perhaps leave it to the person with the condition to guide you on their level of comfort when discussing it.
  6. I totally know what you’re going through, I had depression (insert time since/duration)– mental illnesses are really complex. It can be comforting to know that someone has an idea of the type of situation you’re in, but there’s a difference between empathy and complete understanding. People are all really different so try let the person with the condition explain their situation rather than your experiences getting too involved!
  7. I’ve been in hospital 50 million times more than you– perhaps 50 million is a slight exaggeration but mental illness isn’t a competition to see who’s’ been more unwell. Inpatient stays aren’t a badge of honour that demonstrates to the world that you were the most unwell. Often people suffer from eating disorders in the community and lose their lives, demonstrating that those in hospital aren’t always the sickest.
  8. I have a stomach ache… well I have reflux… well I have IBS… well I have gastro paresis… OH well I have had my bowel removed… WELL I was pronounced dead!… Well I AM ACTUALLY DEAD/chronically and severely dead. Did you have a glucose level of 0.00000001 and get resuscitated?!- again perhaps a slight exaggeration… But battles of the sickest can also take place through unhelpful oneupmanship, where it can feel competitive to have received the most dramatic treatment or diagnosis. In reality, it’s probably not helpful for anyone… So could be another good area to avoid!
  9. Start exercising… it’s healthy for you– for people in recovery, diet as well as exercise is normally controlled and managed in terms of what is appropriate for that individual. Diet and exercise advice is probably left for the professionals to deal with. You never know, you might be suggesting exercise to someone who is not physically well enough to take part in it or could make someone in recovery feel really guilty about their exercise regime and potentially trigger them to feel compelled to do more.
  10. Be naughty, have a slice of cake or saying ‘OMG we’re so fat’ whilst eating something ‘unhealthy’– now… Repeat after me… There is NOTHING naughty or bad about cake or foods that are deemed less healthy than others. Thee secret to a health diet is to have a balance of food groups including those that have fat in them. Cake is good and tasty and something to be celebrated, if you think it’s naughty then perhaps you need to think about your own relationship with it!!
  11. People telling you about their diet and then remembering and saying… oh but not you– diet talk is really challenging. In my experience my ability to cope with that conversation depends on how I’m feeling at the time; generally it doesn’t bother me. The thing that does is people following it on with judgements about my body or whether I should or shouldn’t be dieting. When my eating disorder is strong or my perception of my body a little out of whack, the last thing I want to hear is people telling me I don’t need to diet whilst telling me about all the dieting they’re doing. Think about your audience.
  12. People stopping to ask if you’re ok because you look healthy or assumptions that eating=healthy- sometimes the hardest part of recovery is the point where you look a lot more ‘fine’. Recovery starts the moment you’re free in the real world with real world problems and stresses… that’s the point true recovery starts. Just because people look healthier, it doesn’t mean that everything on the inside is hunky dory and it’s quite sad to feel like you got more support when you were the most unwell… it kind of perpetuates some of the underlying issues with different disorders.
  13. Saying ‘you’re fine now right’?– fine is a really tricky word! What even is fine?
  14. People saying ‘I’m glad you eat now’ I know for a fact, my family were very relieved to see me eating more normally and healthily. But constant reminders that I was eating ‘now’ were excruciatingly difficult and had the potential to make my head go wobbly. It was just easier to change the topic away from the food. Food and eating is just a symptom of an eating disorder, it’s much nicer to talk about normal mundane things around meal times rather than dwelling on the thing I found tricky!
  15. Telling you an ED is just about eating– the above leads on to this suggestion too… in recovery, you are told often, that eating disorders aren’t simply about food or eating. They are complex and challenging mental health conditions and moving the focus away from the food can allow the real psychological work to begin. Reinforcing unhelpful stereotypes of eating disorders isn’t the most helpful way to approach them.
  16. ‘Just eat healthily’ or ‘just get over it’ or ‘it’s all in your head’– of course… if recovery was as simple as just getting better or just being healthy, a lot of people wouldn’t get so stuck within the cycles of eating disorders… much the same as pulling yourself together or just getting over it, it’s much easier said than done.
  17. It’s ok to lose a bit of weight as long as you control it/stay within your healthy BMI/just a little– This is another example of leaving the judgements to the professionals. Any form of weight-loss for someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder needs to be managed really carefully as it can be a strong potential relapse trigger.
  18. When you eat in front of someone and they instantly think you’re fine now or you refuse something as you genuinely don’t want it and they act like you’re dying– it’s normal to have a differing appetite at different times, whilst keeping an eye on someone recovering from an eating disorder and supporting them with their intake is really helpful, jumping to conclusions can cause stress and tension in your relationship. Rather than casting a judgement, perhaps be curious about what’s going on and check they’re doing ok.
  19. When you genuinely have allergies and people think its just an excuse to not eat or not being able to eat certain things because of health issues and people think you’re not doing too well at the moment– this kind of statement belongs with other aforementioned comments that should be left to professionals to discuss. It can be easy to jump to conclusions about choices a person is making and whether or not they are eating disordered… but it’s definitely better to be curious and ask rather than assuming.
  20. Saying “no she wont eat this” without evening offering–  these kind of comments or situations can make it obvious to a group that you have problems around eating; not only can it  be embarrassing, it also sets up a perfect opportunity for eating disorders to take advantage of the situation. It’s much better to offer anyway, you never know, ‘she’ might decide to be brave and participate in whatever is being shared and will feel more included at being able to have a choice.
  21. When someone says “I haven’t had an appetite so I haven’t been eating much, but at least I’m losing some weight”– weight-loss conversations are often best avoided with someone who is in recovery, as it can feel quite upsetting. If it does feel ok to talk about weight-loss, it’s perhaps better to stick to healthy methods rather than taking pride in having lost weight through illness.
  22. Pointing out people around you and commenting on how small they are– comparisons are often a big fear of people with issues around body image… if you’re pointing out other people and making judgements about them, imagine how that could be impacting on a friend who assumes everyone does it about their weight or body!
  23. Saying”you’re eating french fries?!” “You should eliminate X from your diet”– whilst fad dieting tips and ideas are common in conversations, it’s not healthy to eliminate entire food groups from your diet. It’s especially unhelpful to suggest this to someone with an eating disorder as it can really give their illness room to get creative!
  24. ‘You are useless’ or ‘no wonder your manager doesn’t like you if you act like this’– mental health conditions aren’t a measure of your worth as a person… and it’s really unfair of someone else to comment on you in this way. Telling someone who is struggling with a mental health condition that they’re useless is often reinforcing the way they already see themselves and really isn’t helpful… to then apply these unhelpful judgements to other people… well that just feels pretty out of order regardless of your mental health!
  25. ‘Grow up’– Unfortunately eating disorders and other mental health conditions aren’t a sign of immaturity and don’t just disappear as you reach a certain birthday… maybe if you feel like saying this, you could do with a little growing up yourself!
  26. ‘Everyone finds things hard, you just give in’– life and being a human is really complicated. Unfortunately combinations of events, feelings and other elements such as illness or even the weather; can impact on our ability to cope with what’s happening. We all have those days where you end up in tears because you dropped a plate and it was just the final straw to a bad patch! Having a mental health condition isn’t a sign of giving in, often it’s a mark of someone trying to stay strong on their own and not asking for support from those around them!
  27. ‘Those pills are fake’– generally people don’t take medication without a good reason for it, especially for mental health conditions; it can feel embarrassing or shameful to admit to having medicinal help for a condition… but you wouldn’t question someone with a physical health condition taking prescribed medication for it!
  28. ‘It’s sad you need to write things down to realise what’s going on’– if someone has a coping method, try not to destroy it with your words. If it’s working… then does it matter if it seems ‘sad’ or ‘silly’… I like to blow bubbles when I’m stressed. It harms no-one and immediately reduces my anxiety… taking the place of unhelpful eating disorder behaviours. Don’t judge and perhaps give it a go yourself, you never know it might help!!
  29. ‘You don’t look anorexic’– If I had a penny for every time someone has said this to me! Coupled with ‘you look fine now’, it probably tops my list of the most unhelpful thing someone can say to someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder. Firstly, eating disorders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes… but secondly, the goal of recovery is to not look skeletal but to restore a healthy weight. Being told you don’t ‘look’ like you have an eating disorder can be highly triggering and stressful, it’s just additional unnecessary fuel for a nasty ED!
  30. ‘You’re eating loads’– In recovery, prescriptive meal plans are given for a reason. They’re worked out on the basis of the amount of food the person needs. It’s really hard to have that questioned by other people… it’s the amount it is for a reason!
  31. ‘Your problem is that you’re just over-sensitive’– being sensitive is such a positive quality… but over-sensitivity isn’t really a DSM-V criteria for a mental health condition. Often people with eating disorders have very selfless personalities and worry about impacting on others… but it isn’t a single reason for their difficulties.

Sometimes what people do say isn’t the difficulty. Mental illness is complicated enough but often it becomes a barrier meaning people avoid saying something or doing something but the person with the mental illness or difficulty wishes they hadn’t.

One way of tackling difficult conversations is to take a lead from the person with the mental health condition. They can guide you to the right balance and level of discussion. If you are able to promote open conversation that’s respectful and compassionate, they’re more likely to feel more able to be honest with you whilst feeling safe to do so. The moral of the story is… don’t NOT speak to someone with a mental health condition, but perhaps think before you speak and take a little time to judge whether what you’re saying is appropriate.

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Thank you so much to all of the wonderful contributors who made this blog possible and not a rambling list of purely my own experiences!

I Don’t Have Time For Fun!!

After handing in my dissertation last week, I realised how little time I’d been setting aside for self care. It’s so easy when you have an upcoming deadline, an important project at work or even just other life stuff going on… to just set recovery to one side. You can do a ‘good enough’ job… and hey isn’t that what they always said to do! But you can really end up settling for a middle ground that can ultimately not be very enjoyable or helpful.

I’ve spent a few days recently, having FUN! That carrot on the stick I dangled ahead of myself as I was completing my final piece of Uni work; that THING I’d forgotten how to do. It was easy to finish my diss and get right back into exciting things at work. I’d had a bit of a debrief after my hand in, but it wasn’t much at all. As I dived straight into new projects and began picking up the slack again at work, I realised I’d really been neglecting my own self care for some time. Now the truth is, I am an A grade hypocrite at times! I work with amazing young people who inspire me so much and I frequently recommend different skills that they could utilise to help boost their mental health. They laugh at me for the number of times Mindfulness comes up in our chats, but the truth is, I know from experience that it can REALLY work! That being said, after finally stopping at the end of this week, I took stock of where I was at and all the self care things I’d neglected over the last few weeks. Self care is so easy to neglect and it can take some effort to manage to squish it back into a routine where it was so easily replaced by other ‘more important’ things to do. The number of times I tell myself or hear friends saying, they don’t have time to do the nice things they want to, is a bit ridiculous. If being in hospital for almost a year taught me anything (which of course there was lots), it was that you can take time out of life and somehow everything still happens without you giving it your full attention (thank you wise guru Gerry!).

In a sense, a little self care each day can be a sort of personal early intervention. If you top up your internal store of resilience and ‘ability to cope’, then you’ll have a good stock if something comes up in life that you need to deal with. I’m starting off slow and making sure I have at least one nice/fun thing in my day. It can be as simple as a nice bubble bath, reading a book or spending a bit of time pottering in the garden. The key is to help find my space for something good each day and firmly get it into my routine again; once it’s got a foothold and feels like the norm, perhaps I can let it blossom. I think it’s starting to help already.

 

 

Thank You Adele

142ae7a41e4af7e1a18b9013d5f7d4b5I wanted to take a moment to thank Adele for releasing her new song ‘Hello’. It’s a beautiful song and of course her amazing talent shines through. If you’ve not listened to it yet, then I really urge you to go and do that now!

The main reason I wanted to say my thanks was because it’s a song that seemed to reach inside of me and really take a bit of what I’ve been trying to say and put it into the most beautiful words. I love music and singing, but it’s been a while since I really felt a song this much.
According to a review by The Telegraph; Hello offers a glimpse into Adele’s inner private sphere, singing of loss and regret, of loss and attempts to rekindle friendships that have drifted apart. As I sat listening in the car today, I felt myself going all goose-pimply and just thinking ‘yes, that’s exactly it’.

I’ve always wanted to write beautifully, in an inspiring and poetic kind of way. Moving people not only by the content of my words but with my own style. Perhaps the perfectionist, that never really feels content, within me feels like I currently settle for adequate! So in a way, it was wonderful that Adele put into words some of the ideas I’ve been trying to convey. I’ve written a little about friendship and mental health before; firstly when blogging about being incommunicado but still caring and more recently about my gratitude to friends who have stuck by me throughout my difficulties with my mental health.

Perhaps that’s why I felt such a connection with ‘Hello’. The song starts with the idea of getting back into contact with someone you’ve drifted apart from, with an idea that things maybe should be different but haven’t quite got there yet… for me time made things more strained and challenging. A chasm of unsaid words, assumptions and anxiety made even the notion of that kind of phone call terrifying. Next, the idea of being a different person than you used to be, having a weird memory that’s not totally there of the past but recognising that perhaps those similarities aren’t there as much, the shared present is different now. You’re then led into the powerful chorus- the missed calls and attempts to make contact that often don’t happen. I found anxiety was a huge block for me, fear outweighing any positive that might come from getting back in touch. Then the idea of making that contact but somehow messing it up by saying the wrong thing or getting the balance right, something I was always completely terrified of!
When mental health problems are getting you down and simple things like self care seem impossible, it can be so easy to lose touch with people. Having friends who stand by you and support you is something to be really thankful for, but when you come out the other side of your problems… trying to rebuild lost friendships can be such a challenge.

I saw an advert for the Bupa Cancer Survivorship Programme recently, it depicts someone who has completed their treatment and ‘beaten’ cancer returning to their lives pre-illness. Of course I am not saying my situation has been comparable to that of someone who has beaten cancer, but there were definitely some similarities. Being in hospital for ten months meant I was off work for the majority of that time. Finishing my treatment program and returning to the real world was surreal. It was all similar and yet very different. I was terrified of seeing people I knew and getting back to normal but equally terrified of not doing so. In the Bupa advert, the young man walks into his office to be greeted by a colleague with a bunch of balloons and big smiles. My first day back in the office passed me by like a big blur of hugs and excitement but also a tiny bit of hesitation and perhaps awkwardness of how to deal with the situation. I’m so glad to be back to normal with work now, but it was definitely a very odd situation to return to. More recently I’ve gone back to University, back to familiar surroundings but a different cohort of peers and a different mindset to being on my course.

I wish there was a manual to guide you through rekindling friendships and returning to a similar but admittedly different life after time when you have been unwell through mental illness or in hospital because of it. My eating disorder took a lot from me and really shut me away from a lot of people in my life, and it’s only now that I feel robust and resilient enough to try and navigate the nerves and fears of getting back into contact with some of those people. You work hard to find a way through the darkness and back to the life you want and deserve to be living, to find that not everyone waited for you… a few drifted away but it doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. You never know, they might be waiting for you to come back to them.

So thank you Adele, for explaining it so much better than me!

I also post on the Huffington Post

Day 30: Bring It All Together

Somehow, it’s the end of the month and my #SelfCareSeptember journey is coming to an end! ec3ba90e42153fd91bd7ca3b14399517I hope you’ve found some of my posts interesting and that you can take away at least a few ideas to help improve your own self care.

I’ve definitely found thinking about self care for a little time each day really helpful, it’s helped me to realise that it’s ok to make myself a priority for a little of my busy routine… the world won’t end and I will actually feel a little better for it.

I’ve used distress tolerance boxes in the past (something I will blog about at a later date), and I wonder if it could work to make a self care box or bag. Fill it with all of the things you need to complete a little self care, or flash cards reminding prompting you with different ideas… I image it being a little like a lucky dip on lovely ideas to help improve your wellbeing.

Here’s a summary of the month’s blog posts. Thanks so much for reading my blog and not getting too bored of me waffling on about self care! Now to think of a new project!

  1. Day 1: Be Still (Mindfulness and meditation)
  2. Day 2: Healthy Routines
  3. Day 3: Gratitude
  4. Day 4: Radical Self Love
  5. Day 5: Random Acts of Kindness
  6. Day 6: Happy and Safe Places
  7. Day 7: Take a Break
  8. Day 8: Let Go of Your Inner Critic
  9. Day 9: Get Active
  10. Day 10: Warning Signs
  11. Day 11: Love
  12. Day 12: Sleep and Rest
  13. Day 13: Put Yourself First
  14. Day 14: Soothe Your Soul
  15. Day 15: Know Your Limits
  16. Day 16: Colouring
  17. Day 17: Important People
  18. Day 18: Be Yourself
  19. Day 19: Face Your Fears
  20. Day 20: Ride The Storm
  21. Day 21: Live Without Regrets
  22. Day 22: Notice The Little Things
  23. Day 23: Technology Breaks
  24. Day 24: Let Out Emotions
  25. Day 25: Silver Linings
  26. Day 26: Accept and Seek Help
  27. Day 27: Work Towards Goals
  28. Day 28: Expand Your Mind
  29. Day 29: Self Compassion
  30. Day 30: Self Care Bags

Day 17: Spend Time With Important People

12034463_10153285151884531_1998699074819550123_oAfter some lovely days out in the last few weeks, it seemed like a no-brainer to have a special blog about spending time with important people as part of #SelfCareSeptember.

My friends and family are a wonderful support to me. They are the people who have stuck by me through my mental health difficulties, help me remember the reasons I am recovering when it feels tricky and above all, they are the people who make me smile and have so much fun with.

Making time to spend socialising is often something that get’s put to the bottom of the to-do list, it doesn’t always seem like a priority as often those people will still be around later on and of course you’ll catch up eventually. I’ve blogged a little before thanking my friends for sticking by me, but not everyone has been able to. I’ve really seen the importance of a good friendship group over the last year especially. So I’m trying to be really proactive and make sure I’m making the most of the time with my friends and family. They are the ones who make me feel good, so they should be the ones I make time for!

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