Falling to Help Others Fly

Fundraising and falling from the clouds with style all in aid of Beat; the UKs leading charity for eating disorders.

Back in 2014 I took to the sky in aid of Beat; the UK’s leading charity for eating disorders.

Beat do fantastic work campaigning for better services and treatments, they offer a wide range of self-help and support groups for carers and sufferers, provide online forums and helplines, many of which served me well in my years of battling anorexia.

Beat also actively engage with a variety of research projects helping advance our understanding and treatment of eating disorders.

They help a wide range of eating disorders, not just anorexia. Their website has a lot of useful information about key signs and symptoms to look out for, how to help someone you know, help lines, support groups, and much more!

Their services have supported thousands of families and young people through many dark and difficult days. They are a testament to the optimistic outcomes, that with hard work and perseverance, recovery brings.

With the relevance this charity has had in my, and my families lives, it was no surprise that for my first charity challenge this was the one I gravitated towards.


Many hours were spent clicking on and off the “apply now for your charity skydive” link.

…”Will I raise enough to cover the skydive?” …

…”I’ve never fundraised before I have no idea what to do”…

…”Why would anyone want to support me doing this”…

These were just a few of the anxious thoughts racing through my mind.


It’s fair to say I made the right decision.

The application went through quickly and the fundraising pack arrived. [Eeeek]

18I set up my first Just Giving Account. Posted endless social media posts annoying the hell out of friends and family, sent emails, wrote letters, took pictures…anything I could think of  to rally up support.

For anyone who has fundraised before you will know the anxiety of the waiting game; will there be any donations?! 

I had given myself a good 10 months to do this though, which was more than enough time. Although, I am someone who panics and wants to do everything immediately, so this was a massive learning curve for me to be patient and actually sit back and just wait. Luckily I had a year at University to distract me from getting too nervous, and also providing me with a fantastic opportunity to advertise the event to thousands of others.


As the months passed by the the donations began to come in. Endless comments and posts of love and support which energised me, filling me with confidence day by day.

I would get excited to see the Just Giving emails pop into my account, and read the comments of those who were supporting me. Many I had never met shared their stories of recovery and bravery, and others had found solace and hope in my reading my recovery journey.

I was finally achieving what I had set out to do.


The Big Day Arrived.

A sunny day eased the nerves. My parents joined me as we went to the airfield and then the registration and training began!

I think my mum was probably writing my will for me in the car.

I was one of the last to go up in the small, slightly shift, propeller plane. But the first to come down!

We went up a bit.

Then a bit more….

and then a bit more.

10,000ft.

“Shit. This is high”


Surreal as it was to be dangling out of a plane the adrenaline killed the nerves…. I trusted the instructor and I was excited to finally fly.

Buzz Lightyear had nothing on me.

I was the first out of the plane because I was being filmed as well… no pressure. For this debut appearance I definitely went for the wind swept look. No time for that hair and makeup malarky.

“Legs underneath the plane, arms crossed, head back….3..2..1…”

[Queue High School Musical “We’re soaring….flying….”]


To this day, nothing has beaten the feeling of free-falling; whirling down through the clouds, the wind blasting in your face…literally ripping the hat from my head and the goggles from my eyes!! [disadvantages of being small]

And then.

Finally.

Breaking out into the glorious wide open, gliding above the rolling hills

and fields below.

You can see for miles.

I remember as I twirled downwards, arm stretched out like an eagle, thinking to myself:

“This is truly what freedom feels like”

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I was flying for those still falling. 

Everything. Is. So. Small. 

Life. Is. So. Precious. 

Up in the clouds, floating around, really puts things into perspective. I had finally accomplished my first big challenge, and achieved more than I began this endeavour believing I could, raising around £1000 for the charity who helped save my life.

…kind of ironic to jump out of a plane to say thanks. But needs must.


What’s important to note is that all my previous worries about whether I would be able to fundraise enough were abolished. By simple monthly plugs on social media and reaching out to local groups, friends, family members and University clubs, I raised a fantastic amount, and challenged myself a whole load in the process. I realised that I could do more than I thought I was capable of, and this sparked my interest in charity events and fundraising which you can read more of on this site.

So if you’re sitting on the fence wanting to do something similar yourself, please just go for it!


So, a HUGE thank you to everyone who supported this event

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And thank you to all those who helped me fly when I was falling. 

The money raised helps fund helplines and youthlines, run support groups, train staff, and fund campaigns.

It changes lives, creates solutions and provides the social support needed for recovery.

So, the question is now…who will you fall for, to help fly?

Buzz_Lightyear.png
“It’s not flying, it’s falling with style” – Buzz Lighyear [1995]

Beating Binge Eating [6 Tips]

Beat the Binge

Since 2013 binge eating disorder (BED) has been classified as a distinct eating disorder, as stated in the fifth edition of the DSM classification and diagnostic manual for clinical disorders.

Although many who are obese have BED not all people with a binging disorder are obese. Furthermore, binging is not simply ‘overeating’, which is something every normal human being engages in every now and again – think about Christmas,  parties, or the evenings you get back from a crappy day and turn to the tub of Ben and Jerries, only to realise half an hour later there’s none left; we’ve all been there!

That is not a binge.
That my friends is life.

You are not out of control, not abnormal, bad, disgusting, or any of the other horrifically degrading labels people use.


Norma eating and the difference between overeating, bulimia and binge eating disorder? 

Our eating behaviour is never just biologically determined. What, when and how we eat is shaped socially, by culture and dietary norms, by our health status, age and exercise habits which alters our internal physiology and metabolic needs. Stress and emotions also influence the experience of hunger and fullness. Negative emotions, such as stress and depression, have been found to both suppress and increase appetite.
Positive emotions have been found to lead to over eating, as food is used, and associated with social occasions, celebrations and reward.

Whereas normal hunger can be postponed and prolonged, emotional hunger is intense and immediate, and usually the cravings will centre around all the foods you’ve either been restricting from your diet, or that have high carb and sugar content. There is a neurobiological reason for this, as foods high in carbs and fats release higher levels of serotonin and dopamine which are the “happy”, pleasure hormones in the brain, and enhance feelings of comfort.
These are also responsible for motivation and reward learning, meaning that you will be more likely to repeat the behaviours again.

So whilst over or under eating in some situations is expected, and normal, prolonged periods of disordered eating (pervasive over months) which impact your quality of life, such as your ability to socialise, hold down relationships, work, and your physical and mental health, are hugely complex.

Binge eating disorder is not followed by purges.

Purging; 
compensatory behaviours used to relieve guilt from eating foods) are associated with bulimia and are also found in sub-types of anorexia.

These behaviours may include using laxatives, over exercising or vomiting. If engaged in for prolonged periods of time are dangerously detrimental to ones health. Breaking these cycles can be difficult and cause intense amounts of anxiety.

Patients with BED have described entering a trance-like state when they binge eat. Describe being “out of control” with an inability to stop eating, even when they’re in severe discomfort from fullness and bloating.
Eating episodes are rapid
The person may hide away and eat out of shame and embarrassment.
Different from bulimia, there is no purging behaviours used to compensate. However it is followed by distress and sadness around the binge episode.

If this is your situation at the moment then you must seek medical help from your GP and local mental health clinic.


What causes binge eating disorders?

Whilst some may turn to alcohol, drugs, sex or develop depression, as a response to difficult life events (past or present stress or trauma) many turn to food as a form of control, or escape.
Triggers that have been found common to those with BED include:

  • Body image problems
  • Excessive yo-yo dieting and prolonged periods of restriction
  • Loneliness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma

People with BED may use food to negatively punish their body, others use food to comfort, trying to fill a void and escape from their negative emotions. This leads to a really unhealthy relationship with food and ones own body to develop, and over time can increase the risk of obesity.


What my experience has taught me…

I understand that both ends of the spectrum can be devastatingly hard to deal with, and be a lonely experience to go through. However, now if I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I check in with myself and make sure I prevent under or over-eating that is emotionally driven.

Whilst my experience was not with BED, in my early teens I emotional over-ate. Often buying two or three lunches a day, and eating them as a way to calm myself in social situations, and then on the way home from school would happily demolish cakes and sweets from the local shop before tucking into packet, upon packet of crisps before my dinner, which I would regularly have seconds of, and dessert.

Later in life I developed anorexia.
As my journey unveiled itself the underling trauma surfaced, and this was where my use of food as punishment and comfort came from. Over the years it was dealt with, and now I have a very happy and healthy relationship with my food and body.

I would highly recommend therapy and clinical treatment with a local mental health service alongside any self-help or social support you choose to use. 


My Top 6 Tips For Getting On-Top of Emotional Binge-Eating:

  1. Watch what you buy:
    If you don’t have it in you are not going to binge on it!!
     Make a balanced shopping list that includes small treats, but not packets of foods you know you’re likely to centre your binges on. Try and avoid shopping when hungry, and make sure you eat well during the day, not restricting food groups, so you don’t get over hungry and binge in the evenings.
  2. Distract your mind:
    Distracting your mind, and finding other equally relaxing and pleasurable activities outside of food is important.
    Going for a walk, ringing a friend or journalling/writing are good exercises to do. Art has also been found to be a great distractor and therapeutic outlet for handling difficult emotions. Anything to keep your mind and hands busy.
  3.  Know your triggers:  Be it stress, break ups, loneliness, arguments…what are the repeated events that precede your binges.
    Write your triggers down; how the situation makes you feel, what behaviours happens, and an action plan to counter them.
    e.g argued with my boss, felt useless so binged, next time I will go for a walk to get some fresh air and think about the situation before talking with him the next day.
     
  4. Eat well during the day:
    Don’t skip meals, or eliminate foods from your diet.
    This leads to a higher chance of overeating and if you’re trying hard to not eat a food you generally love, common ones are bread or chocolate,  then you are more likely going to crave a binge on these later in the day. So don’t skip meals, and include all food types so that your body is nutritionally satiated. Portion size is variable depending on your own needs for your height, weight and activity levels. Learn to intuitively eat;  listening to your bodies hunger signals and the foods it actually wants. The more you take care of your body the more it will take care of you.
  5. Most importantly, be kind to yourself!!
    Disordered eating does not manifest over night, and neither will it disappear over night. Be gentle on yourself, know there will be good days, and bad days – write down in a journal what went well, what didn’t work, and learn to know yourself inside out. Setting achievable goals to combat your behaviours is more sustainable than expecting perfection within a week.


WinniethePooh

How to support your child with an eating disorder: Top Tips from one tough Mum!

Living with a child with an eating disorder is tiring, challenging and often very isolating.
I know my own parent’s compromised their social contact and lost out on experiences with friends due the emotional fatigue and time restraints the illness caused them.

It is very important to remember the wellbeing of the wider family and carers is just as crucial as supporting the sufferer.

For optimal recovery the support system around them needs to be at it’s strongest – you are their fortress – but your needs should not be discounted, and for you to be a solid rock for them you need to have your needs met as well.

I first met Janet Richards approximately seven years ago; sadly it was under unfortunate circumstances since it was her daughter, Emma, now one of my dearest friends and fellow recovery troopers, who also received inpatient treatment at the same psychiatric hospital as me.

Since supporting her daughter through anorexia, Janet Richards, Emma’s strong-minded and determined mother, now works alongside Winchester CAMHs (child and adult mental health services), setting up a parent ‘buddying’ system through the ACE programme they have already running there.

Below she shares her an insight to her story and 12 “top-tips” for parents, friends and carers, who are living with the commotion and confusion that having an eating disorder can cause.


image1Hello, this picture of my daughter and me was taken whilst away in Gran Canaria earlier this year. Six years ago, I couldn’t even dream of a holiday as Emma was receiving in-patient treatment psychiatric unit for anorexia nervosa. This was where we met the lovely Joss and that friendship between the girls has continued.

The two years were horrendous, but we got through it and now she is an amazing young woman studying for a degree in mental health nursing. During the desperate dark days early on, I attended a support group who had invited a mum and her daughter recovering from anorexia. It gave me so much hope that I hung onto their story – it was a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Since then I have tried to give support as an ‘expert parent’ to other parents now in similar situations either through ED support groups or individually. But I am one person, and so through the ACE programme that Wnchester CAMHS is running I am developing a ‘buddying’ programme to encourage other parents and young people to become buddies to help support those in need.

So when I am asked about the advice I would give to parents with youngsters struggling with Eating Disorders, I try and make it as simple as possible. So I’ve come up with a list of things that I wish someone had told me when my daughter was going through her dreadful journey.

And don’t you just love the benefit of hindsight!!! Here goes:

  1. Don’t waste energy on blaming yourself, anyone or anything else – you’ll need all your energy to preserve your sanity!
  2. Maintain positive intent – in order words you have absolute conviction that they will recover.
  3. Realise you can’t make them better – the only one that can is them!
  4. Ensure that you have a core of resilience & strength, which means taking care of yourself by taking time out to do ‘nice’ stuff for you.
  5. The medical professionals know the theory but are very unlikely to understand the suffering – they will probably lack  any practical experience with a loved one suffering, so try and find someone who has lived the nightmare & can give you support.
  6. You will be their absolute rock whatever they throw at you (& I do mean physically!) so don’t underestimate how important you are to them.
  7. Try and keep an environment that optimises their chance of recovery –In terms of action, you can try and ensure that they have an environment in which they can recover themselves. Examples being:
    1. Staying calm (as possible)
    2. Having a life yourself, which means going out for dinner with friends/partner – yes if it is at a mealtime!
    3. Don’t add stress by going on holiday together – if you need a break take one on your own or with just your partner
    4. Establish boundaries & stick to them even though they are very ill individuals
  8. Drink red wine – it can soften the pain & get you through the next meal!
  9. Don’t walk on egg shells: Walking on eggshells (or being afraid of saying the wrong things!) isn’t going to make them better so don’t get twisted up on thinking about how to say stuff – say it with love, compassion but positive intent!
  10. Recognise the excruciating fight going on in their brains – its exhausting for them.
  11. Recognise that your son/daughter is still there, but has been hijacked by an evil spirit. You will get odd glimpses of them & hang onto those sightings.
  12. Everyone’s journey is different but you are not alone….

For more information about supporting your child and yourself please look at the following links:

http://www.b-eat.co.uk/about-eating-disorders/worried-about-someone/support-for-you

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents/parents_guide

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/eatingdisorders/Pages/eating-disorders-advice-parents.aspx

 

Anorexia through her eyes…

This, very honest, account was given to me by a dear friend, who I had the pleasure of meeting (albeit through unfortunate circumstances) in 2009. Following our brief meeting a friendship blossomed.  Although our lives moved in different directions I tried to stand by the sidelines, aiming to be a constant supporter and encouragement through her ups and downs fighting her illness – and she did the same for me.

Everyone’s journey and experience of an eating disorder is different…This is her account of how her anorexia led to a very serious and shocking wake up call to the dangerous, destructive and deceiving power it was exuding in her life.

This is anorexia, through her eyes…

“I spent years living with the ‘safety’ that anorexia offered me; the rules and rituals that gave me control, the care from others and the drive I feared I would lack without it in my life. Yet at the same time I was living in danger.

On one occasion after an overly active day and too little fuel for my body to cope, I collapsed in the night causing a brain bleed and two broken bones in my arm.

Even when I was in A&E after my fall and saw numerous specialists and GPs, not once was it picked up on that my weight or diet might have been the cause of the problem. I remained oblivious to the danger I was in and consequently deteriorated over the months following my fall before receiving the help that I so desperately needed.

It is worrying that the Medical Profession in general does not seem to have a great deal of ability to detect the early warning signs of individuals who are at risk. The fact that no-one mentioned to me that my fall might have been linked to an Eating Disorder simply fed into my delusion that I didn’t have a problem, after all, the Doctors hadn’t said so. Although I may not have been in the frame of mind to accept that I was on a slippery slope towards full relapse at the time of my fall, I’d like to think that had a Doctor suggested this to me, I may have at least contemplated the idea.

Anorexia has a sly way of making you believe you are invincible, like nothing can stop you. Until something does and the reality comes crashing into your life; like a tsunami wave. Sometimes it takes a ‘crisis’ before you can allow yourself to consider that you are struggling: something to open your eyes to the trauma that your body is going through. But it shouldn’t have to. It has been shown that early detection is key to achieving full recovery, yet it seems that GPs generally are not equipped to do so. Charities, such as B-EAT, work hard to improve knowledge amongst the health service, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. Early detection would enable costs to be cut to the health services and less admissions to lengthy inpatient and day patient services.

Admitting that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder and seeking help, particularly at the early stages is not a failure, in fact it is probably the, most courageous decision that can be made.  However, it is not easy to admit your struggles and even less so to face them head on. For me, it was a case of accepting that although it was not my fault I became unwell, it is my responsibility to fight the illness.

The fear of change was incredibly daunting, however, over time the fear of staying the same; trapped in the tight grasp of anorexia, actually became greater. Anorexia is the enemy. Over time, I started to believe that I actually had the power to overcome it. The anxiety I experienced when I chose to make a stand against my anorexic fears at first was agonising. Perseverance was key and although sitting with uncomfortable emotions is highly unpleasant, now, my anxiety levels are lower than ever. I have not had to fight alone, but I have had to fight with all my strength. It has been hard work, but it is proving to be worth it. 

Just over a year after my fall, I am pleased to report that I am now weight restored and can appreciate that the way I have been living for several years was extremely dangerous. I never want to go back to how things were and I am discovering that full recovery is not only possible, but also possibly the most empowering experience you can imagine.”

Now in full time employment and back riding her beautiful horses, she is another of my #ConquerED inspirations, and I have faith that she will keep going from strength to strength in all areas of her life.

It has been a pleasure to watch this young lady, and dear friend of mine, turn a corner and fight onwards. Step by step rebuilding, redefining and rediscovering herself as she continues on her recovery journey.

winnie-piglet
“If there ever comes a day we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever” – Winnie the Pooh

 


If this story, or any of the content on this website, has caused you to be concerned about yourself, a friend, family  or co-worker, please follow one of the links to one of the websites below…

B-eat

Mind

Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC)