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The Journey Begins

A person’s a person no matter how small – Dr Seuss

There’s no sure fire way of overcoming any form of addiction. I’ve tried NHS therapy, private therapy and rehab. Nothing worked for me.

To cut a long story short I started my attempts at recovery as a day patient at an NHS eating disorder hospital. It turned out my fairly awful coping mechanism was to drink. And drink. And drink… so I found myself in an NHS detox facility for a week.

Turns out, however that the NHS won’t treat both addictions at the same time. So out of desperation my parents sent me to a private rehab which promised to detox me and then put me through therapy for both my eating disorder and alcohol dependency. It works for some, but it didn’t for me, wasting thousands and thousands of pounds.

The NHS place insisted on empty plates in 20 minutes, followed by desert, and snacks throughout the day. The private rehab had no time limit but wouldn’t allow any sugar or snacks. It was all so confusing.

So now I’m doing it my own way. I live with a chef who seems to get it much more than any of the professionals I worked with. He doesn’t give me massive portions, we put my food on a small plate to make it look more manageable. There’s no time limit or pressure to finish the whole plate and we choose healthy meals that avoid my fear foods while still covering the basic food groups.

Here goes nothing… or something, I hope…

The back story…

Step1: NHS eating disorder day patient treatment:

At the NHS hospital I was sent to as a day patient there were about 6 of us in a room, each with their own chair. Some were anorexic (of varying levels of severity) others were bulimic and others binge eaters. We were all, however, treated as the same. So besides from sitting in our chairs all day the schedule was thus:

1: breakfast, measured out by staff and with a time limit in which to eat it. I can’t remember exactly how long.

2. Snack – usually some form of chocolate or an alternative that matched the fat and calorie content (something I really disagreed with since all advice I have read is that you shouldn’t count calories). Anyway…

3. Lunch. This was always cooked and followed by two pots of ice cream which had to be put into a bowl – I don’t know why and remember being snitched on by another girl because I was eating them out of the pots. We had 20 minutes to finish this and the bathrooms were locked for an hour afterwards.

5. Dinner. Since we were day patients this was a sandwich to take home and eat. The bread had to have butter on it, and we were watched by staff with hawk eyes to make sure enough went in.

It was a hugely competitive place and very bitchy. I hated it and couldn’t handle the portions so eventually started drinking on my way in and also while in there to help me cope. It wasn’t long before I was discharged, something I was pretty relieved about.

Step 2: NHS alcohol detox week:

After being discharged from the eating disorder unit my drinking continued to escalate. My GP referred me to an inpatient detox facility for a week. They got me off the booze but didn’t care about what or when I ate. There was no aftercare. Needless to say I went straight back to drinking once I left – often with some of the girls I had been in there with.

Back to drinking, back to not eating properly. As I said previously the NHS won’t treat both at the same time so I was a bit hopeless, as were my parents who really didn’t know how to help me.

Step 3: Private rehab: 

With my parents at their wits ends they started looking into private rehabs that would treat both my eating disorder and my continuing decent into alcoholism. Both are terms I detest but I have to accept that I suffer from them.

Anyway, they researched long and hard and I mean HARD – mum had pages and pages of details of different possible places. They considered South Africa but ruled it out because they wanted to be able to visit the place they were sending me first, even though SA rehabs are significantly cheaper.

Eventually they picked a company and visited two of its sites. One, the cheaper one, they hated. The other, which boasted an eating disorder specialist, they liked so off I went. Meals were strict but not timed, although I did have to remain at the table for 20 minutes after finishing.</p>

I spent 4 weeks there before moving to the other location as it offered more progression ending up in a sort of half way house type thing where you lived on site and volunteered. I won’t mention the name of the company but one site has folded since I left.

That was about a year ago and I am now doing it on my own and despite some lapses on the drinking front I think I’m starting to get better.

Where I am today

LauraUncategorized  February 22, 2019 0 Minutes

Just a few of the dishes my chef roomie has made me. All on small plates, all reasonable portions, and no pressure at all to polish it all off. Simply some gentle encouragement to give it a go.

Fish and rice with sweet potato fries (normal potato is one of my fear foods so we compromised) and salad
Sweet chili salmon with asparagus and roasted sweet potato and tomatoes
salmon and prawn fishcake with salad
Tapas: dips. olives, pitta bread and a few other goodies. Bit of a pic and mix!
This one was a push – poached egg on toast for breakfast instead of my usual ‘safe’ weetabix or yoghurt

Oh here we go again: covid, what covid? Say the politicians who want a drink

Politicians: are they stupid or are their heads just so far bedded im the sand to care?

First it was Boris, and now his posssee are breaking the very rules they’ve been setting, giving daily (some would call it) scare-mongering briefings and filling up column space in national newspapers.

Earlier today I read that Boris’ minions had a right old knees up in a pub. A pub that wasn’t supposed to not serve alcohol after 6pm (FYI it was after said hour).

From left to right, Labour’s Alan Davies and Conservativea Paul Davis, Darren Miller and Nick Ramsey. Courtesy of BBC

What will they receive? A slap on the risk no doubt, perhaps a guffaw from Boris but no fine, no arrest, no nothing of consequence, quite unlike the rest of us who face a whopping grwat fine for simply going for a walk in a ‘beauty spot’ or sitting on a bench having a coffee because it’s seen as picnicking.

Now, I’m not one for conspiracy theories but is there something we don’t know? Just recently the PM posted on Facebook book about staying home and saving lives.

Not so long ago Boris posted something similar. It’s now not there. Hmm….

The ‘perpetrators ‘ amounted to four members of Parliament, Labour’s Alan Davirs and Conservatives Paul Davies, Darren Miller and Nick Ramsey.

So who and what are supposed to believe? And is it really us general public really the ones doing the spreading?

BBC Wales has been told Labour Member of the Senedd Alun Davies (who’s Twiter account has been disabled) and two others were involved.

A spokesman for the group told the BBC That he had been ‘suspended from the privileges of Senedd Labour Group membership while an investigation takes place into this alleged incident,’ a spokesman for the group told the BBC.

He and two Tories deny breaking rules.

My family are self isolating, I am any going out for essentials and yes, its lonely, boring, scary; schools are closing and businesses are in turmoil.

Boris, sort yourself out. Imply your guidelines on yourself and your staff and stop this ridiculous and deliberate floatation of the law, or guidelines should you wish to call it.

We are looking to you for advice but how can we trust you? Its a farcical of example to say (as I recently posted) ‘do as I say, not as I do’.

Covid is costing more and more lives as this conditions. I’m writing this from hospital where beds are being emptying almost hourly. Its devastating. Alarms are going off constantly, staff are literally running to patients.

This is a PANDEMIC Mr Prime minister, not a joke. And as numbers rise daily you have to ask yourself ‘are you doing enough?’

Step it up and take your responsibility as serious as we (with some selfish people putting police and hospitals under unprecedented pressure’ at risk.

Do yourself and us a favour and stop playing games.

And thank God that my 95 year old grandmother is finally getting a vaccine. I’ve only seen her on Skype since Christmas 2019 and although we talk regularly I miss her terribly.

I pray that we all get is soon 🙏 (not covid is that is, just the importance of sticking to the rules!

Please.

Trust me I’m the PM

Image from Ebay

It’s a tactic often seen in parenting or the classroom: do as I say, not what I do.

Yep, as kids we were expected to follow the rules imposed – but not always demonstrated – by adults.

And oh look, here we are again. This time though it’s a bit more serious than ‘don’t chew with your mouth open’ or ‘only cross the street if it’s the green man’. It’s Boris Johnson allegedly flouting Covid-19 safety guidelines enforced by himself and his parliament.

According to press reports, the Prime Minister broke the ‘spirit of the rules’ by going for a bike ride at the Olympic Park in London – seven miles away from his home – on Sunday afternoon.

We’ve been told to stay home and, specifically, not to drive to beauty spots for exercise. It’s not known whether Boris was driven there or not – although he had his security detail with him – as Downing Street has refused to comment. In typical politician hedge speak all that’s being said (according to an Evening Standard source) is that he was ‘in line with Covid rules’.

Boris Bikes: this ain’t the time for a ride Mr Johnson

But it will be sure raise some eyebrows, especially coming just after two women were issued fines (since retracted, but still) by police for driving five miles to go for a walk at a reservoir.

In response to that incident, by the way, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told broadcasters he ‘would absolutely back’ the officers imposing fines and emphasised that the rules are not ‘boundaries to be pushed’.

Now, I’m not saying I want to do the same thing. There’s no ‘woe is me why can’t I go on a cycle in the park?’ I do get why the rules are there. No, they’re not law but they’re for the safety of everyone.

To me it just seems hypocritical and, to be honest, down right stupid of Boris. Surely he at least glanced over the toughest lockdown rules yet before imposing them on the rest of us?

Seriously, Mr PM, get it together. Because now more than ever he should be setting an example to the rest of us.

Just saying.

Laying down the (not quite) law: Boris addressing the public on Covid restrictions

Feed the world, not Covid

As one of my favourite festive songs asks: ‘do they know its Christmas time?’ And yes I think we all do. But there’s one who doesn’t: Coronavirus.

That became even more clear when Boris Johnson announced the Christmas cease fire was no longer happening due to a surge in cases. We were told to stay home, not mix and police were given more powers of arrest.

But some people didn’t listen.

The NHS struggled to cope, the virus gained force. And now, as we see out 2020 with a weekly death toll of 581 – the highest since April  – we face the next challenge: what will tonight bring?

Will people follow guidelines and opt for a New Year’s Eve at home watching the telly? Or are we on an uphill trajectory to utter crisis?

There’s an easy solution guys.

Please, as you recall the lyrics from Bob Geldof’s Live Aid hit about feeding the world and celebrating the festivities of the season, keep Covid in mind and don’t help feed that.

Because that world is outside our windows. And this year it really is one of dread and fear.

Let’s kiss goodbye to 2020 not with parties and a booze up but with gratitude and hope for a safer, happier 2021 for one and all.

If you need any ideas for a stay-at-home shindig check out Good Housekeeping’s top tips. I’ll be doing an online yoga session, enjoying a salmon and prawn dinner, drinking my alcohol-free (more than 6 weeks sober now…) fizz and chilling out with movies, the cat and some board game fun.

Get the popcorn and films at the ready – Bruno’s ready to party like it’s 2020!

Regrets and risks

A very important question was put to me recently: what risks have I balked on taken and regretted?

At first I couldn’t think of anything. Because every risk has its, well, risks, and how would I know if I’d made the right decision?

At first I thought maybe not continuing to work at the veterinary practice where I was a receptionist /assistant during my gap year. Had I stayed I would have been trained up as a nurse. And I do love animals.

But I had a ski season lined up. And uni. Neither of which I regret.

How different would my life be if I’d sacked off the uni and ski season and become a veterinary nurse? I’d have missed out on experiences, that’s for sure. And lifelong (I hope) friendships. I certainly wouldn’t have worked for the Daily Mail.

Working there made me ill though, so I circle back around to whether I made the right decision. At the time I didn’t know what a risk it was.

Whatever path I took would have lead to a different life. So I think the best answer is that I shouldn’t have regrets. Everything in life is a risk. I just chose one, right or wrong.

Fun but profound: declining a gift of limitless proportion

If you could have one dream gift what would it be?

A new car? £1000000? An island in the carribean? Maybe it would be marrying the love of your life with no spending limit for the ceremony. Or how about first class flights to anywhere in the world for the rest of your life for free?

The big bucks: image from amazon.co.uk

That was a question presented to me during a recent Zoom discussion. The lady running it private messaged us all a potential not-your-average gift based on what she thought each of us would be extatic to receive.

We each then shared it with the group (the conceptual gift that is) and mine was the £1000000. Then we had to consider and discuss what the downsides of each would be. Trust me, it was a hard one!

But with many things in life, to every high has it’s lows.

I met my fiance in rehab, for example. Had I not had the issues that took me there I never would have met him. But the shame of the reason I was there in the first place caused me to isolate from many friends and family members.

Then there’s Covid. Just look at the amazing work people are doing to help others.. For me, personally, it has been the offers of help with shopping or picking up meds from virtual strangers, and the man who helped me when I collapsed in the street. Plus I’m now talking to my grandma every week. We never used to do that. So in that way isolation has ironically made us closer.

But back to the gift of a life time idea. I realised it would potentially drive me away from the people I love not on the same financial level as me. I would squander money on useless things. I would probably become more selfish and no longer feel any desire to work, thus eliminating the joys of success and the new friendships I would make with my colleagues. I mean, I’m not working now and I really miss that. Would I ever truly feel content?

And of course there’s the elephant in the room of my own personal problems. Would my eating disorder worsen to the point of hospitalisation? Would I kill myself through drink? Recently I was in hospital and all I could hear one night was a man screaming over and over again. He was dying. From alcohol. His skin was yellow and bruised. They were basically keeping him alive on painkillers. The next day the bed was empty.

Jen went on to read a passage from the bible that highlighted the very same concept.

I can’t become a believer overnight. But with the help of others I can apply some of the principles of the bible to everyday life. And it becomes more manageable and less overwhelming.

And as for my £1000000, I guess it’s true what they say, money can’t buy you happiness.

Whats in your mirror today?

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Image from Steemit

When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Is it an image of success? Or one of failure? It’s a strong word that. Failure. And I believe we use it way too much. Because really, just having got out of bed and fixed the sheets is a success. If you’ve got a pet you’ve probably fed it and possibly yourself. You may have said a prayer if you’re a religious person. And most of us will already have an idea of what we want to do with our day and been in contact with friends or family.

So really, the day will have got off to a fairly good start.

But have you said anything positive to or about yourself today? Or have you focused on the negatives? The washing up left in the sink from last night’s dinner or the hoovering that needs doing?

I’ve written recently about self judgement and the ways in which others judge us. Or at least, the way we think they’re judging us.

I’ve been in hospital not too long ago and when going through my medical history and what medication I’m on, the nurse’s voice often turns to a bit of a whisper when going on to ask about my alcohol consumption and what I’m doing about it.

Immediately I feel judged and ashamed. I feel like a failure.

The image of the below was sent to me when I was going through a particularly tough time. And when I spoke to friend of mine who is very religious she told me to rememver that Jesus doesn’t judge me. He loves me. And he forgives me. That’s positive self talk.

So why do we judge ourselves so harshly?

If we take the statement from the image and apply it to ourselves we face the question of why we allow ourselves to believe the judgements of others or our assumption of their judgements?

Perhaps instead we shout be asking: what is that person thinking and feeling? Can we help them? The obvious reaction might be to feel resentment towards them but does that help us ourselves or them?

I’ve heard it said that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed. But maybe this is the exception to the rule.

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions but they’ve been circling round in my head and I’d love to hear what anyone’s thoughts are. (if you’d read this post this far. I know it’s a bit of a ramble).

And there I go again – self judgement and assuming no one will find it interesting. I want to read more into what has been written on the topic and I’ll blog about what I find out.

Sliding doors: everything happens for a reason

Image found on Pinterest

Do you ever wonder what would have happened if not for that one encounter? Where your life would be if you’d taken the bus instead of your normal tube to work; bought your lunch in Tesco not Sainsbury’s?

For me it was a coffee shop in London. If I’d gone to cafe Nero I wouldn’t be writing this. But I didn’t. I was in Pret.

A lady struck up a conversation with me. I felt a little nervous at first as in my true british-stiff-upper-lip way I just wanted to present myself as unbreakable and then run away and hide! No way was I going to admit I was unemployed due to mental health, or that I felt completely lost in life.

But she persevered, invited me to a church group (admittedly not really my thing but I went) and 2 years later we’re still in touch.

Which path will you choose?

A few weeks ago she asked me if I’d like to join a Thursday evening ‘Zoom’ discussion. I was wary given the religious element I was expected but instead of a lecture it was a short bible passage followed by a general discussion about how we could related to the thoughts/feelings/concepts within.

The whole experience really stuck with me and it got me thinking about the other random encounters that have changed my life.

Destiny

There’s the girl who I was introduced to as a pen pal when I was about 5 and still haven’t met but recently sent me a beautiful Bible and has been helping me with love, support and guidance.

Then there’s the guy who helped me when I collapsed outside the doctor’s surgery, and the woman down the street who gave me the ‘stories’ book that I blogged about not long ago which gave me so much comfort and reassurance. People writing honestly l about their hardships and how they overcame their struggles.

What if a housemate-to-be hadn’t failed his exams and dropped out of uni in my 3rd year, only to be replaced by a girl who rapidly became and still is one of my best friend?

Oh and last but not least there’s the guy who texted me out of the blue, thinking he was texting his friend Laura. Now, whether or not we do know each other and he’s gotten the two Lauras mixed up (me being one of them), or whether this other Laura gave him the wrong number and it’s a total coincidence… I have no idea. But his contact has helped me, and I think and hope my texting him has helped him.

The list just goes on and on the more I think about it. But I think I’ve made my point

I am really coming around to the idea that this is all happening for a reason. Call it fate or faith or God or whatever… I’ve had a few sliding doors moments recently and I do believe it’s in someone’s plan for me.

And I never thought I’d say that.

Conquering self-judgement

If your school career was anything like mine, it will have been drilled into you from a young age that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.

But it would seem many of us still rate a novel’s merit on the ethnicity of its writer.

According the black author Candice Carty-Williams, publishing remains a ‘white middle class industry’ with little recognition of its non-white contributors from ethnic backgrounds.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, The ‘Queenie’ author talked about the lack of recognition for black writers, the morning after she won overall book of the year at the British Book Awards, making her the first black woman to win the accolade.

And it got me thinking about the way we judge others in a general sense, and perhaps more importantly, about how we judge ourselves.

Candice Carty-Williams and her award-winning debut novel Queenie

I know I for one am guilty of imparting on others the judgements I hold about myself. I assume people look down on me for the aspects of my life or past that I am ashamed of. But that’s only my own opinion and fear of being judged poorly and I’m trying hard to challenge it.

A friend recently shared with me that she too had gone through a time in her life when there were things about herself of which she was ashamed. But her faith in God helped her through. She told me that Jesus is not ashamed of me and that if I put my faith in him he will remove my shame too.

Now, I’m not a religious person. I never have been. But I do envy the people I know who have found God and seem to be so much more at peace. It is, after all, a comforting idea that someone somewhere out there is looking out for each of us, no questions asked, and guiding us in the right direction.

So I’m giving it a go. That’s not to say I’ve got my nose in a Bible or that I’ll suddenly start preaching from the rooftops. But I’ve started reading a book of short stories by people who have overcome adversity with the help of their faith.

The book, simply called Stories, is a compilation of extracts from King’s Church, Newport attendees writing openly and truthfully about their experiences. And it is followed by some really eye opening questions to encourage self-reflection.

It’s given me the opportunity to explore the way my past shaped how I think and behave and feel a connection with the people behind the extracts. There’s no preaching, no forcing opinions or beliefs on others, just a series of normal people – most of whom I’ve found I have at least one thing in common with.

Do I judge the authors? No. I am inspired by their strength in overcoming hardship to lead happy, fulfilled life.

And perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but I began by opening on a random page and reading a page. One per day, and answering the questions that followed. Every single one read like an extract from my own story. I’m willing to consider the belief that it wasn’t just coincidence that drew me to them, so I can stop judging myself and feeling shame.

The dangers of online symptom checkers…

Image from Health Snap

So last week someone I live with was in hospital with a nasty stomach bug. Fortunately he seems to have made a full recovery and is back home. But obviously when I started to develop minor symptoms I panicked. I went onto WebMD and put in my symptoms to the site’s checker service and quite frankly it was frightening.

Apparently there’s a whole host of things I could have – and that’s without even saying about the housemate’s recent hospitalisation with the bug.

I would urge everyone to be cautious when using these sites. The last thing you need when you’re not feeling on top form is to be told a bit of bloating needs urgent care… Pretty much everything says go to a&e, even though it might just be a bit of a stomach upset.

And apparently I’m not the only person who feels this way. As posted in the Henry Ford Blog:

For example: You wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in the lower left side of your stomach. You get up and walk around, but it doesn’t go away. So you search the internet for “left-side stomach pain.” You find out it could be constipation, or diverticulitis, or kidney stones, or a bladder infection, or gas — or cancer. Your mind goes right to the cancer. Oh no, what if it’s pancreatic cancer? And then you can’t sleep, so you keep surfing.”

Unfortunately my Dr’s surgery has quite an unsympathetic receptionist and told me I have to wait until tomorrow (now today) to speak to a doctor on the ‘gp advice line’. Well that service only lasts for one hour and I have tried. But after being on hold for at least 40 minutes it shut off so I’ll just have to try again tomorrow and hope for more success.I’m not too concerned; I think like many others at this time I’m just being uber-precautious.

Just everyone, be careful about what you read online. Right now we all need to stay safe from coronavirus and the last thing we need is more stress. Cos let’s face it – hospital is awful at the best of times, but when being there puts you at risk of a worse disease, well, what’s the best option. Do you go for treatment? Or do you stay home and hope to battle through it?

Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

Need help, he won’t accept it

This is just a but of a ramble from the heart. No references to other blogs; no scientific papers.

I’m just having a bit of a hard time. I’m trying to look after myself – which I’m told is so important because of my health conditions. I hate bringing it up. I’m not going to be a victim.

I just feel so down right now. Someone I care about and am trying to look after is not well and refusing hospital help.

I don’t know what to do I feel terrible but I’m trying to do all the right things.

I just need help so I can help him.

Having been in intensive care following a central drip which, trust me, was excruciating, I don’t want to be back in that situation again. I don’t want him to either.

The NHS are doing above and beyond. I just hope they can help my partner.

8 wish you all well x