‘No, nothing was wrong with my food. Something was wrong with me.’

Sometimes when I feel as though everything’s getting too much, I like to remind myself of how far I’ve come in my past.

I mean the big achievements. The big things that I’ve overcome already in my life.

The things that at the time felt impossible.The things that I was sure would kill me, but that I eventually wiped out myself before they had the chance.

Anxiety feels impossible to manage all the bloody time and sometimes (a lot of the time!) any hope I have to overcome it drains from me so quickly. I just want to give up and admit that this is it, this is my life.

But strangely, I’m in a unique position – and advantaged in some ways – because I’ve overcome another anxiety disorder already in my life.

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In the summer of 2009, I was seventeen and quickly becoming incredibly ill.

Out of absolutely nowhere, I’d developed a fear of choking.

By the time I turned eighteen four months later, I was just a skeleton of the person I was before. I dropped a couple of stone in weight and developed an eating disorder because my anxiety prevented me from eating anything solid.

I was so scared every single day to eat anything. I remember a friend of mine trying to force a biscuit down me because I hadn’t eaten anything for a long time, but I couldn’t do it.

Everywhere I went I got comments on how ill I looked making me feel even more anxious and self-conscious about my problem. Even from waiters in restaurants that would take away my food and say something along the lines of ‘was something wrong with your food?’ or ‘maybe a children’s portion for you next time, hey!’.

Everyone and everything was drawing attention to it.

My brain stopped functioning and it affected my ability to drive my car safely. I’d completely forget how to break and my reactions were slow.

My BMI was 15.2 and at 5 ft 7 I looked like I could fall over at any moment. My skin looked pale and my cheek bones were harsh. My body looked like that of a young girl, with every curve disappearing.

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I really thought this was my life forever. I thought I was destined to live in fear and bad health until it inevitably sometime soon would take my life.

But then, I packed up my bags in the February and moved to Canada…

I didn’t really know why I was going or what to expect. I went to live with family that I didn’t even know. But it was the best thing I ever did.

From almost the minute I landed in Toronto my big Greek family were trying to fatten me up.

I left Canada six months later after having gained two and a half stone, and I’ve never felt that intense anxiety about eating again.

It’s still there under the surface. When I order food in restaurants I analyse the menu for what I consider a threat, and my stomach has never returned to the size it once was. I eat my food incredibly slowly now, and I still get self-conscious in restaurants when I don’t finish my food; placing a napkin over my plate to avoid the comments.

But other than that, I’m fine. I eat a normal amount every day and have no real issues with food or anxiety relating to it.

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I overcame it. I overcame something that seemed impossible and was taking my life away from me.

And that’s amazing!

Occasionally it’s nice to remind myself of that and keep moving forward. It’s good to recognise that my agoraphobia really doesn’t stand a chance against me.

Article for REglam Magazine

Occasionally, I get emails/tweets from people out of nowhere, asking me to write something for them from a mental health angle. I’m almost always happy to contribute to what ever they have to offer because I love having the chance to write about something slightly out of my comfort zone, and it’s incredibly flattering that someone’s read my blog and appreciates my writing.

Anyway this time, it was the lovely Sem approaching me – founder of REglam magazine; asking me to contribute an article to the publication.

reglam

The only brief I got given was to base it around how the fashion industry affects people’s mental health, so I got busy right away researching as much information as I could find on the topic.

However, if I’ve ever done a guest blog for you before, you’ll know that I’m not very good at following instructions and I tend to go off on my own tangent no matter how much I try not to. And so with no hesitation, I held down the backspace on my laptop scrapping all the research I’d found, deciding not to use one bit of theory or one statistic in my article (typical Lauren!). Sure, Sem hadn’t specifically asked for research, but it’s the direction in which most other articles in her magazine go.

But instead, I wanted to make the article more personal. That’s my writing style. Occasionally I like to present you all with the facts, but on the whole I like to offer my opinion and let you all judge for yourselves whether you agree with me or not – and so that’s what I did for this.

me and mum

Anyway the article is completed now, and I will post a link as soon as it’s been published! I hope you look forward to reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Creativity and Mental Health

For me, creativity is a massive part of expressing my feelings when it comes to my mental health. Creating abstract representations of my disorders or how I feel allows me to release the negative thoughts and create something interesting in the process.

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Hope (2015) 

mha designs

Mental Health Awareness Designs (2014)

I draw, paint, write – anything and everything! It’s the most therapeutic thing in the world; I can sit in complete silence and not have one thought pass through my head for hours when I have a paintbrush in my hand.

Does anybody else have any methods to relieve stress and negative feelings?

Student Minds

Student Minds is a charity that works across different universities in the UK, including the uni that I go to – Leeds Beckett, where they offer support to students with eating disorders.

And today, I helped them out a bit at the refreshers fair on campus.

For those of you that read my post the other day – The worst person for the job, you’ll know my interest in today was ridiculous considering my dislike/fear of balloons. But of course, I did it.

The aim was for people to write negative feelings on balloons and then pop them so that the negative feeling goes away. There were also sheets of paper for people to write a good thing about themselves on so that they could take that away with them.

My balloon literally said ‘My fear of balloons’ – Obviously, and you can see me popping away that negative feeling in this video.

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Please click on the logo below for more info about this awesome charity.

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lovelauren

Tattoos

Now anyone that really knows me will know that all my tattoos are a daily reminder for me to keep pushing. I don’t really have any random non-meaningful ones, although some of them were definitely on the spur of the moment impulsive decisions.

But that’s OK with me, I still love them all because each of them inspire me to do better, and be better. They’re like little reminders and glimmers of hope that I have the power to make a change in my life and I wouldn’t take a single one of them back.

My first one was inevitably when I turned 18. Actually two days after I turned 18. This is after the depression had started and I wasn’t eating at this point due to my anxiety. The tattoo I decided to get was a fairly abstract lotus flower, but making sure the image featured the stem. It’s unusual for lotus tattoos to show the stem, but for me, the stem is the most important part. The lotus starts off in this dirty water but the stem grows until it reaches past all of that and turns into a beautiful flower. And that’s what it represents to me – Eventually, I will grow past all of this and have a beautiful life.

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A few months later, whilst suffering really badly with the anxiety, I moved to Canada. I have family out there. I’d never met them at the time but I decided to take the leap and try a new place and new people. Canada quite literally (as cheesy at it sounds) changed my life. The people changed my life, the place changed my life – it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I gained over 2 stone during this time and my anxiety surrounding my eating habits hard virtually disappeared by the time I returned home six months later. This is the reason for my second (and favourite) tattoo:

2My third was the first impulsive tattoo I got. A group of friends and I all decided to get small love hearts behind our ears. It’s so tiny and it’s not nearly as bright as when I first got it done in this picture; it’s barely noticeable. But it makes me think of my friends (not just the ones from that experience, but all my friends) and it makes me think of my family and everyone else I love – which makes me in turn love the tattoo.

3Number four: My Shakespeare quote. I wrote a post just the other day about how I don’t believe in fate and mentioned this tattoo then. It goes down the side of my ribs on my left size (oh it looks so sore in this picture – it was just after I’d had it done!)

It reminds me to make my own life and not blame these disorders for everything that’s going wrong. Yes, I have a few mental health issues and sometimes life is beyond difficult, but it’s also what you make it. Our lives aren’t already laid out for us, if you want something to happen, make it happen.

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And FINALLY, the 2013/14 craze that is…

*drum roll*…

5Yep. The infinity symbol. My other impulsive tattoo. And yes, whilst it’s a craze and something that’s been done a million times, I actually really like it. It links to my previous tattoo in that life is what you make it, it’s limitless. And that’s what I think of every time I look down at my finger.

Let me know if any of you have any inspirational tattoos!

lovelauren

We’ve reached 50!

It’s been 16 days since I came up with the concept of The Mental Health Art Auction and allowed bloggers to begin getting involved!

mental health art auction

The auction doesn’t take place until August, but we have already reached our first 50 sign-ups and so I’m so excited to see how many fantastic people we can get on board by the time August rolls around.

Thank you to each and every one of you – you’re incredible.

1. Borderline Blonde
2. A Day with Depression
3. As We Seek, So Shall We Find
4. Onomatopoeicbliss
5. Luke Hood
6. Lost-One
7. Blissfully Crafted
8. Asparagus Speaketh
9. Manic Medic
10. Lifeofmiblog
11. David Susman PhD
12. The Elephant in the Room
13. Shirley’s Heaven
14. Behind the Wall
15. The Prozac Queen’s Court
16. Quickenings – Memoirs of a Prodigal
17. Borderline Med
18. Behind the Wall
19. The Grand Optimist
20. Stuart Middleton
21. Under the Surface
22. Locked Out of Life
23. CJ Stewart Art
24. Real Life with Bipolar Disorder
25. Pride in Madness
26. A Real Look at What Some Would Call Crazy
27. Under Reconstruction
28. Depressionless
29. Common Sense Secrets for Health & Nutrition
30. Gifts By Anne
31. Make BPD Stigma-Free!
32. Jeff’s Deep Thoughts
33. Inspire and Illuminate
34. Don’t Let Me Get Me
35. For Equal Rights
36. Plumleaf Golden
37. The Bipolar Bear Blog
38. Working Through Bipolar
39. Fabulicious
40. Dicastlewriter
41. Screaming Out to the World
42. Psychology Ponderings
43. Alice has Thoughts
44. Tales of…
45. Life of a DIY Shopaholic
46. Sketch’s Blog
47. The Pretty Little Sparrow
48. Confessions of a Depressed College Student
49. Let me tell U a story
50. Be Brave, and Talk

If anybody else is interested in signing-up, we’d love to have you on board to raise awareness, fight the stigma and raise money for charity. You can find more details here.

lovelauren

A letter to my brain.

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I’m so fucking annoyed with you. Beyond annoyed. Furious. 

You’ve spent as many years as I can remember making everything harder for me. Making me scared beyond belief and making me sadder than I thought it was possible for a person to feel. You’ve made me feel ashamed, helpless, irritated, confused, paranoid and snappy for a large proportion of my life.

You’ve made my relationships harder with everyone around me, and you’ve made my relationship harder with myself.

It’s like you’re not apart of me. You’re cruel and twisted and awful, so you can’t have a connection to me – because I’m not cruel. How can I have something that cruel living inside of me?

Sometimes you give me the confidence to achieve anything. I could conquer the world. But you put ideas into my head that are too big. They’re beyond my knowledge, experience and they require all the money I have, but you convince me that I can do it. I can do it – I could say that a million times. I love you so much in that moment because everything’s fine. It’s better than fine, it’s amazing.

But then you dramatically and visciously tear down these ideas with belated rational thinking. And the world becomes even more fucked up than it was to start with.

You make me want to give up. You make me hate the life I lead because it’s too difficult. It’s too difficult being in my head. It’s painful and it’s exhausting – dealing with this shit all the time.

So you know what, brain – shut up. Be quiet. Leave me alone.

Let’s stop all this shit. Give me normal. A break from my reality. Make me brave enough to do what I want in life, give me confidence in my abilities, but also give me the strength to know my limits. Make me happy with what I’ve got – because I have a lot and I have no reason to be sad, and allow me to breathe freely for the first time in a long time.

I’m not asking you – I’m telling you. This shit ends now.

I’m sick of you. So stop making me sick.

l

Day 24: If you could pick one year of your life to give back and start over, which one would it be?

31 Days of BPD

There are quite a few years that were definitely not fun.

At 14 I was panicked everyday.
At 15 I was depressed.
At 16 I was probably in the deepest depression I’ve ever endured.
At 17 I stopped eating.

I could go on. I think it’s fair to say that my teenage years were the worst. They were awful. Everyone hates the idea of turning 20 when they’re 19, because it sounds a lot more grown up – but for me I loved it. I loved the idea that I was no longer in a period of time that I considered so traumatic.

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But if I had to chose one stand-out year that I’d change, it would be 13. Not because it’s the beginning of the dreaded teenage-dom, but because that’s when it happened.

On May 1st this year, it will be 10 years since everything changed. I was a normal 13 year old who was then ‘sexually abused’ I guess you’d call it, by an uncle of mine. I don’t like calling it that though. 10 years on I still don’t think it feels like it should be called something that bad.

Anyway. That’s the year. That’s when it all started. And that’s the year I’d change.
End of post.

lovelauren

Day 20: How do you usually express yourself?

31 Days of BPD

Through anything creative. I am a sucker for anything that can be made to look pretty. I love art. I love design. I love turning a blank piece of paper into something special, or a thrown out piece of rubbish into something gorgeous. I love how powerful words can be; how amazing a room can look. I love colour, I love black and white and I love gold. I love anything that hangs from the ceiling.

I love anything where you can visually express yourself.

art etc

It allows me to feel free and it allows me to feel like something good is coming out of all the negativity in my life. So often it’s all about feeling rubbish, but when I pick up a pencil or a paint brush, or look at an event space to design – everything comes together.

That’s the reason I thought about this year’s upcoming Mental Health Art Auction. There are so many people that suffer like myself, but that all have one thing in common – the creative flair that comes with the madness. So why not channel all that talent and goodness into something epic, that can raise lots of money and awareness.

If you’d like to take part, I’d be more than thankful and honoured to have you join the fight.
https://bylaurenhayley.wordpress.com/the-mental-health-art-auction/

lovelauren

Day 17: What are five of your biggest fears?

31 Days of BPD *Trigger warning*

I suffer with anxiety and so I have a few fears that relate directly to that –

  1. Claustrophobia
  2. Agoraphobia
  3. Fear of choking

These impact my life massively. Any small closed space, or even a formal setting where getting out would cause a fuss scares the life out of me. Trains. Elevators. Exams. Cinemas.

And the fear of choking has caused an eating disorder in the past. I was 17 when I stopped eating and luckily only 18 when I managed to control it. It was never Anorexia in the traditional sense, because it wasn’t about body image, but I didn’t eat at all. Every time I put food into my mouth, my throat closed up. Causing me to drop 2 st (28 lbs) pretty quickly.

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Then VS Now

Five years on, it still affects me but I’m OK. I eat enough and if anything I’m probably the biggest I ever have been (which isn’t at all big but I’m naturally small). But it still worries me. I’m always the last to finish a meal because I chew everything until there’s nothing left of it, when I look at a menu in a restaurant I evaluate which foods are less likely to choke me – it’s exhausting. This definitely isn’t as much of an issue currently as the Claustrophobia and Agoraphobia though. It’s just an underlying worry.

Really most of my fears are adaptations of this one fear:

4. Control

I always want to be in control. And if I’m not it petrifies me. If I’m choking I’m not in control of my body. If I’m stuck in a room or situation I’m not in control of what happens to me. A few things happened in my early teenage years where I wish I had more control and maybe some of the horrible situations wouldn’t have happened. I think this affects me a lot and when I think about it, it’s really the route cause of a lot of my anxieties.

Lastly,

5. Never having children or marrying

I can’t blame my mental health disorders entirely because that wouldn’t be fair, I have to take part of the blame, but they do make me impossible to be with sometimes. I push people away out of fear that they’ll leave anyway – and my way is less painful.

My poor and quite frankly amazing boyfriend has to put up with a hell of a lot. I never stop pushing him. I trust him completely 100% in terms of being faithful, but I don’t trust his word at all when it comes to staying. I have real problems when it comes to trust – most likely stemming from the people that have let me down in the past. The four people that have hurt me the most in my life were all my family, and if they can do it, anyone can.

It sounds ridiculous because I’m almost helping my fear become true, but it’s like a self fulfilling prophecy and it’s almost become a fact in my own head. This is something I need to change desparately because I wouldn’t put up with me.

But anyway. That’s it. My five biggest fears. What are yours?

lovelauren