Tuesday, 15 December 2015

I'm back, bitches.

Hi so I've seemed to have dropped off the truthy radar for the past 6 months - apologies for that.

In short;

1. Montpellier was great

2. I briefly got marginally better

3. I then deteriorated rapidly and now I'm the worst I've ever been.

However, I'm still here to tell the tale and I still intend to use the medium of blogging to aid in my recovery.

I've gone on to become an editor of the student newspaper, where my co-editor and I are using the platform to our full advantage in terms of raising awareness of mental health issues and eradicating stigma.

For now, here's a compilation of reasons why I hate Christmas (taken from The Gryphon Blogs et al.)

Right don’t judge me, just hear me out.

By the time Christmas comes around I’m already in a foul mood due to having my birthday two weeks prior (yes, I hate my birthday too), and I’m absolutely dreading the ultimate anti-climax of all – New Year’s Eve (like, who even wants to go to a club which will be overcrowded and overpriced?). And in the middle of these two monstrosities is Christmas.

Now, if I was religious and I wanted to commemorate the birthday of baby Jesus who was born all those years ago and who still may or may not be keeping tabs on us from beyond the pearly gates, then I may be more enthusiastic about having a world-wide HBD shindig for Jesus Christ our Saviour.

However, a Christian I am not. There is a strong probability that if I set foot in a church I would go up in flames.

Also, at the young age of 22 I have already been exposed to Christmas present politics. You bought me one last year so does that mean I have to buy you one now? Because that’s going to prove to be a problem due to the fact that I don’t like you. Oh, and I’m also always poor. I’m not going to spend what little money I have on a shit gift that I know you won’t use. Christmas is just our consumerist society gone mad.

On the other hand, I do have time for Secret Santa (so long as there is a funny theme or a ridiculously low budget so that comical gifts are a definite).

Another thing that pisses me off is that I, by taking the moral high ground and being a vegetarian, am also grilled this time of year by you carnivores who scream in my face saying “so what DO you eat on Christmas day?!”

Nothing. I eat nothing. I go on hunger strike because this is the one day of the year where there is no alternative food on the planet except roast poultry. By 10pm I’m so hungry I eat my own arm and then die.

I’ll have a nut roast, idiot. Get over it. (P.S. Quorn exists xoxo)

Furthermore, I condemn all Christmas songs that aren’t The Fairytale of New York, and all films that aren’t Love Actually because I love turtle necks, Dido and Alan Rickman.

Deck my halls with what now? I’ll do what I want thank you – don’t order me around. Stop screeching demands in my ear.

Now then, this all may be the result of the fact that my pessimism and ‘glass half empty’ mantra is currently being teased by a cocktail of Prozac and Valium… or maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m just a cold hearted monster who is the lovechild of Satan and Katie Hopkins. You decide.

Joking aside, if anyone else is struggling with mental illness during the festive period, and is finding it difficult to buy into Christmas cheer, it’s okay. You’re allowed. My GP recently told me, and I quote: “Mental illness can be a bit party pooper-esque”.

And he’s not wrong. Is it the most wonderful time of the year? Not for everyone.

Unfortunately, it’s not all tinsel and fairy lights for 1 in 4 of us. Mental illness doesn’t take a time off for the holidays.

So on the 25th December, spare a thought for those a bit closer to home. For those who may not want to eat, drink or be merry but may simply just want to battle their demons and win for one more day.

.... x .....

The most wonderful time of the year? Is it?

Not when you’re suffering from acute mental health problems. Now, don’t be fooled – the word acute has nothing to do with actual cuteness. There are no rainbows, fluffy teddies and unicorns in my periphery (although dear god – I wish there was).

No. The word acute in this case refers to the intense degree of your mental illness, when you pass the point of no return where no amount of mindfulness and colouring can save you now. It is, to put it candidly, when you go bat-shit crazy. When your head is like a washing machine on full power. When your hallucinations are coming thick and fast and you become so desensitised to the idea of ending your own life that nothing shocks you anymore.

And yet, around each corner there are carol singers ready to ambush you, recipes for the ‘perfect’ Christmas dinner are all over the telly and all of your friends (if you have any left by this point) are drawing names out of hats, excited to see who they have to buy a present for in this year’s Secret Santa.

The truth is, though, the last thing I want to hear when my mind is already filled up to the brim with different voices is your pitchy rendition of Silent Night, the thought of that much food makes me ill and it’s debatable whether I’ll have the strength to beat my social anxiety in order to leave the house and purchase someone a gift.

There’s so much pressure on this one day to be perfect; harmonious families, Michelin star cuisine and state of the art gifts. Yet, for approximately 25% of the population, it’s just another day. Another day fighting with our biggest nemesis: our ill mind.

Eat, drink and be merry?

More like calorie counting, drowning your sorrows and fighting to survive another day.

There’s only a certain amount of benzodiazepines that can get one through this charade, so don’t be offended if this year there’s a family member or friend who has to sit this one out, who simply cannot cope with the idea of maintaining the cheery façade for a whole 24 hours.

To the 25%, don’t be ashamed. Do what you have to do to get through the holidays. Tell your family and friends that the expectations and pressure of “the most wonderful time of the year” really isn’t that great for you. Don’t feel like you have to force yourself to fit into a mould of a happy person for the day.

Just do your thing, and try and make it to the 26th.

Best wishes and take care,


Friday, 13 March 2015

A day in the life of a persistent panicker

What time is it? What time did I get to sleep last night? Have I had enough sleep? How am I feeling today? I'm okay. Am I okay? Yeah I think I'm fine? Am I fine? I'm hungry. I should eat breakfast. Should I eat breakfast? Have I got enough food in? How fat am I today? I'm fat I should skip breakfast. No, breakfast is the meal of the day. I need energy to do things. Skipping breakfast makes you put on weight. I'll just have some fruit. I'm sleepy. I need coffee. I should cut out caffeine. What time is it? Do I have enough time to get ready? I better hurry. Oh god I'm behind schedule. I'm not going to have enough time to do my hair. My hairs gonna be a mess today. My skin is horrible. I look gross. I'll have a shower, that'll make me feel better. How long have I been in the shower? I bet I'm behind schedule. I better do my make up asap. Oh! That doesn't look right, I better put more make up on that spot. Oh! I've put too much make up on that spot. What's the weather like today? What shall I wear? I can't wear that, I look too fat. I can't wear that, I'll be too hot. I can't wear that, I'll be too cold. What shall I wear?! I have no clothes. I need more clothes. When do I have time to go shopping? I have no money to buy new clothes. What time is it? Oh no, I'm going to be late. Have I packed my bag correctly? Do I have everything? Oh no I've forgotten my tram pass! Better get my tram pass. What time is it? I'm going to be late. I won't be late. It doesn't matter if I'm late. Yes it does, everybody will look at me. Nobody will look at me. When's the tram coming? Why isn't it here yet? What's he looking at? I knew I shouldn't have wore this today. I need more clothes. I have no money. Where's the tram? Here's the tram. Oh god, there's too many people on this tram. When's the next one? If I wait for the next one I'll definitely be late. Oh god, there's no room. Everyone's looking at me. I look awful, don't I? I bet I smell really bad. No, I can't I had a shower this morning. But this tram is so full! I'm sweating really bad. It's too hot. There's too many people. I need to get off this tram. No, I can't get off here it's too far from university. I'll just wait. I'm halfway there. You can do this. But it's so hot. I'm sweating so much. Everyone's looking at me. They're laughing at me. I have sweat on my face. The sweat is going to smudge my make up. I knew I put too much on today. Is my heart beating too fast? Am I going to have a panic attack? No it's okay I'll just breathe. Imagine the waves of the ocean. What time is it? Am I on time? I'll be on time if I hurry to class. No, I can't hurry I'll sweat more. Will I be like this forever? When will I not have to panic all the time? Which classroom am I? I've forgotten. I've remembered. It's this one. Am I late? Everyone's looking at me. No they're not. The class hasn't even started. Am I going to pass this class? I'm going to fail this class. They think I'm fat. They think I'm ugly. No they don't they don't care. I'm hungry. Am I hungry? What should I have for lunch? I shouldn't have much because I'm fat. It's better to have a big lunch and a small dinner. What time is it? Has this class nearly finished? I can't wait to get home. I can't wait to be safe again. I hate being outside. It's so threatening, anything could happen. Why do you think that? I shouldn't think that. What am I going to do for the rest of the day? I'm exhausted. I want to sleep. You can't sleep now, you won't sleep tonight. I should do work. Do I have any work? Yes but not that much. Actually I have loads. I better do my work. How long have I been doing my work? What time is it? I'm hungry. I should have dinner. I shouldn't eat past 8. I'll just have something small. Am I still hungry? No I'm not hungry. You can't eat you're too fat. Will I finish my work tonight? I need to finish my work tonight. I'm sleepy. What time is it? What time do I need to wake up tomorrow? Will I get enough sleep? I should sleep now. Why am I still awake? What time is it?


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Food: friend or foe?

I feel like a factor in my recovery has been my self discipline and determination to cook and eat vegetarian/vegan. During my second year of university I feel like I epitomised pure, unadulterated depression. I just didn't care. I didn't care how I looked, what I ate, what I did. This is surprising as a great contributor to my mental illness is body dysmorphic disorder, an obsessive compulsive disorder orientated around one’s appearance and how they are perceived by others. As an indicator of how depressed I was, I just didn't give a shit. Breakfast was a can of cider and my meal of the day was the most obscene and fattening thing I could acquire from a takeaway. 

After six months of binging on shocking food that I wouldn't touch with a barge pole now, I decided to get my act together. Not only was I concerned about the amount of weight I had gained, but also the amount of battery chickens I had consumed. I first did a teatox detox which prohibited meat, and found that I enjoyed conjuring vegetarian culinary delights. The more I researched and learned about animals that were killed for human consumption, the more I was convinced by my new lifestyle choice. Eating out in France and being vegetarian is difficult, so I occasionally eat fish if I have to. Eating out and being vegan is next to impossible, so I keep my vegan cooking for when I am at home. 

Of course, having a predisposition for self harming and obsessive and compulsive behaviour has its risks when it comes to eating. Self deprivation is something you should definitely be aware of. Having had phases already where my relationship with food was somewhat difficult, I noticed the same patterns of behaviour occurring recently. Luckily, being of a big build naturally means I will never drop to an unhealthy weight, but the occasional browse of a pro-ana website and the feelings of accomplishment after skipping meals and going to bed feeling starving means that I am prone to suffering an unhealthy mind. Luckily, with my extensive experience in the mental health game, I have learnt to identify when obsessive behaviours manifest and I make a pact with myself to change my mindset whilst still keeping healthy.

So, I would like to share with you some of my creations, and highlight the importance of the notion “you are what you eat”…

Banana pancakes made with vanilla soya milk, topped with fresh fruit and soya raspberry and passion fruit yoghurt. 

Quinoa porridge made with almond milk, cinnamon and honey topped with raspberries, blueberries and cranberries.

Detox water infused with lemon, raspberries and blueberries.

Baked sweet potato topped with a sweet corn, spinach and tzatziki mix.

Vegetable tabbouleh made with red onion, courgette, sweet corn, peppers and dried fruit.

Home made falafels with cous cous and mixed leaf salad.

Shepherdess pie made with green lentils, butter beans, red onion, sweet corn, peas, carrot, yellow peppers and tomato topped with a sweet potato and normal potato mixed mash.

As well as being super yummy, everything I make provides me with a sense of accomplishment.
If I'm having a shit day and can't face the outdoors or to shower and get dressed, cooking something from scratch makes me feel like I haven't completely wasted my day.

Take care of yourselves,

Love HKL xoxo

Back in business

Hello beautiful internet darlings.

Apologies for my absence, a broken hand and an exhausting determination to fight the numerous Devils on my shoulder have kept me away. But hath no fear, I've been brewing a post in the time we've been apart. Before I begin, let me just give you a quick update on what has been going on vis à vis my mental health.

Something amazing has happened. I've been feeling happy!

Now I'm not saying I'm cured by any stretch of the imagination, I'm just saying that for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, I'm not only unsad but happy also. I guess to sum up how I've been this extract from my article in the Leeds student newspaper will do the job:

“The Christmas and new year period flew by, and before long I was stuck in a purgatory itching to return to Montpellier. I say purgatory, because I felt like I was neither here nor there. The claw had meant I had to have weekly hospital appointments and I was not able to sit my exams for semester 1, which may have been a blessing in disguise considering my sketchy attendance and academic commitment during my somewhat tumultuous first semester. Maybe I'm being harsh on myself, I did achieve a lot last year. Considering it was touch and go whether I was even well enough to go on my year abroad, I'm very proud that I’ve managed to do as much as I have. I’ve come here, to a foreign country, with foreign norms and social conduct, speaking a foreign language and I’ve survived. I’ve made amazing friends along the way as well as some remarkable breakthroughs with my therapist. So I may not have been academically successful by the end of 2014, but the ‘real life stuff’ that I achieved shouldn't be dismissed either. In short, go me! Woo!

I guess the influx of Facebook statuses that occurred on the 31st December had an effect on me. There's only so many times one can read “New year new me new start… Out with the old and in with the new… Wiping the slate clean and turning over a new leaf… 2015 gonna be my year!”, without taking on the same mantras. So I returned to Montpellier with some extra oomph, and I don't quite know what happened… Whether all the stars and planets had aligned, whether my medication finally kicked in, whether my therapy had paid off, whether I was determined to not fail my year abroad, whether I was determined to not be beaten by mental illness, or maybe all of the above, but for the first time in what felt like a lifetime I was not only unsad, but I felt SO happy! I made some simple yet effective New Years resolutions which included meditation, hypnosis, maintaining daily hygiene, eating three meals a day, getting 8 hours sleep a night and going to uni. All these seem like pretty basic means of survival, but when you're a depressed zombie these seem like outrageous and impossible demands that you simply don't have the energy to attempt, especially when you're a hyperanxious agoraphobic, drained from always expecting the worst case scenario. 

Anyway, I stuck a middle finger up to mental illness and attended lessons at uni. At first it was terrifying, but it gradually got better, and the support of my housemates, friends and family kept me motivated to keep going. I come out of my classes skipping on rainbows, just so overjoyed that I'm climbing my Everest. My classes are interesting and I actually really enjoy them, especially the language acquisition lecture where we watch videos of cute babies trying to speak for an hour and a half.”

Now, I'm not gonna be naïve about this drastic turn of events, I'm gonna try my best to stay levelheaded and expect that I will probably have a relapse at some point. But this period of happiness, that I've not felt in aaaages, provides me with hope that after things feel so horrific they do get better again. So yeah chances are I'll have a relapse one day, probably soon, but at least now I feel better equipped to cope and deal with my rock bottom, and know what kind of things make me feel better. 

My intention of sharing this news is not to boast, it's not to receive praise and not to show off. I simple would like to let others who are having a hard time know that if I can do it, you certainly can too!

Take care of yourselves,

Bisous xoxo

Friday, 14 November 2014

Good to raise awareness of things people may not realise are symptoms/side effects of BDD

Skin Picking and OCD. Causes of Skin Picking - HealthyPlace

"There are always flowers for those who want to see them"

Hi it's me again.
A low mood incurred some Pinterest surfing, which lead me to browse my favourite things of all time; flowers. I bloody love flowers me. Those who know me know that too well. I have countless floral dresses and scarves, about 4 vases of flowers in my tiny room, flower earrings, necklaces, hair clips, bed sheets... I could go on. My infatuation with flowers started some years back. I don't know what it was that made me so drawn to them? I guess when I perceived my own life to be so horrible and ugly and dark, the beauty of flowers really appealed to me. When I felt so hideous, wearing an abundance of flowers made me feel better. I would hope that hiding behind the beauty of my floral garments would detract from my repulsive aesthetic. So, here is a collection of my favourite pictures of flowers, merged with some inspirational quotes - my two favourite things at the moment. Enjoy!

Find pleasure in the smallest things that you can. When you're having a bad day, a bad time, a bad life even, having those little things that bring you the slightest bit of joy are worth clinging onto with all of your might.

Be strong, be brave, and take care