Book Review: The Year I Didn’t Eat – Samuel Pollen

14-year-old Max has a fight on his hands. Living with Anorexia is tough enough without having to be at school and trying to keep it secret from your closest friends. As Max writes to ‘Ana’ and tries to navigate his illness he has to deal with the new girl at school who won’t stop staring, family drama and seeing his therapist. Can he beat this?

I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of this novel and I was immediately intrigued. There are very few stories of teenage boys going through an eating disorder, so of course, I wanted to read, I’m incredibly glad I did.

Starting and ending on Christmas day, the novel chronicles a year in Max’s life, alongside writing a diary to his disorder – aptly named Ana. This was a particular highlight for me, the writing was emotional but not sad – I actually laughed a fair bit reading this. Pollen isn’t trying to make Max a sympathy figure. The combination of the diary entries and showing some of the obsessive thoughts was incredibly well done –  I could see similarities between Max’s and my own thoughts from our respective mental illnesses.

It is mentioned a few times within the novel the disconnect that Max feels from what is stereotypically viewed as what a with Anorexia looks like – a teenage girl. By confronting this head-on, Pollen shows insight into something incredibly important – anyone can get a mental illness. The fact that Max is a teenage boy, known for being quite geeky with a loving family and great friends and still has these problems reinforces that.

This shows a new level of representation that is rarely seen, in fact, I don’t believe I have ever read a novel featuring a guy with an eating disorder – which is absurd! I’m hopeful that this will start more conversations. The fact that Pollen has drawn on his own experiences makes this even more realistic.

The novel shows not only the impact that eating disorders have on the person with the illness but also the pressure it can put on families. We meet Max’s family and often feel for them as much as him. That said, despite the hardships faced, Max’s relationship with his older brother Robin was probably my favourite part. They truly seem to care for each other and Robin’s encouragement of Geocaching really seems to be a turning point.

Of course, this is a tough read and it does give descriptions of disordered eating and calories – if these are tough for you to read it might be worth picking this up at a later point.

Is it any surprise that I gave this 5 stars?  This is a novel that needed to be written. Showing that eating disorders can affect anyone and that, by talking about it, we have more of a chance of helping those going through it. I absolutely adored this novel – it will truly make its mark. I truly feel that this will make people feel less alone.

Thank you to the author, publisher and Conker communications for the chance to read this in exchange for an open and honest review.

5 Things You Can Do To Make January A Bit Better

5 Things You Can Do To Make January A Little Better

Let’s face it, as a month, January is pretty rubbish. Christmas is done, it’s cold and pretty miserable – not to mention this feels like the LONGEST month ever. I for one don’t want to spend all month being completely miserable. 

With that in mind, I wanted to put together 5 things you can do to make January a little more bearable and a little less rubbish.  

Embrace the cosy life! 

Big jumpers, scarves, fluffy socks. Wrap yourself up to your hearts content and love it. It might be cold but you can still look cute…or just warm. I’ll go for warm. 

Try something new 

There’s a lot going on in January clubs start up, there’s those magazines to make or collect things for 99p (all the rest of the 5000 issues are £5.99 but you get my drift). It could be a great time to try something new, whatever it is you’re into. 

Crack out that boxset you’ve been meaning to watch or that book you’ve had for ages  and haven’t read yet

It’s not so great outside so why not have some fun with fictional friends? I mean, you could also have your real life friends over but that’s totally optional. 

I love to curl up with a blanket, big cup of tea and a book in the winter months. This year I’m planning on going on a bit of a fantasy binge so I can imagine I’m somewhere warmer. 

Plan your time 

This really helps me if I’m feeling down – I like to have a sense of purpose. That doesn’t mean you have to be doing something huge every weekend for me just knowing I want to curl up with a book, meet a friend for a hot drink etc. 

It can really break up your time and make it feel less lonely.  

Talk to someone if you’re really struggling

Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder is a very real thing. If you’re finding that this is more than just the average January blues talk to someone about it. 

It can be really scary to open up about how your feeling, particularly to a doctor but there’s nothing to be ashamed of. 

Is there anything you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments below! 

Taking Medication Doesn't Make You Less Creative

Taking Medication Doesn’t Make You Less Creative

This is a lot of debate around medication for Mental Health. I’m a proud taker of Citalopram, it’s something that keeps me healthy and that’s that. There’s an idea that having a mental illness makes you more creative – I’m not sure that is exactly true. But why is this coming up? 

Recently, Kanye West went on a Tweeting spree, within his many, many he states  ‘You don’t make runaway on medication’ and he was ‘six months off medication’. I was pretty worried after reading this. 

While medication is 100% someone’s choice, the idea that you can’t be creative and well frustrates me. For many people, medication saves lives every single day- just like insulin does for a diabetic. The idea that your creativity, your creative worth is tied to you being mentally ill is sad. 

Everyone deserves to feel well and the problem when you are mentally ill it can make you feel that either you are not worthy of feeling better or that you are not ill – you are fantastic, you have every single idea and why would you want to slow down…before you crash.

It is true that beautiful things can come out of these times we’ve seen Art and Music and ideas born from mania but it’s not sustainable. Living in that way is not sustainable and more than anything it worries me that people will think it is, especially those in mania. 

Taking medication doesn’t make you less creative. There are medications that don’t work and can make you feel worse BUT there are a lot you can try while you find one that works for you and makes you feel like yourself. 

I hope that Kanye can get the help that he needs. Mental illness is hard to deal with and I cannot imagine what it is like in the spotlight. Do I agree with the things he does and says all of the time? No, but he’s human and I do have compassion for others. 

It goes without saying that I’m not a medical professional – if you want to change/come off your medication please, please talk to a doctor before doing so. It can be incredibly dangerous to go cold turkey on these meds. 

Take care of yourself and those around you. 

 

Top Posts of 2018

My Most Popular Posts Of 2018!

I don’t know about you but I find my analytics absolutely fascinating. Stats might not be everything but year after year I love to see what my readers have been getting up to on my site. So, I thought, why not make a post out of it? 

I’ll always write what I want to write but, at the same time, my blog – and the opportunities I get from it is down to my wonderful readers. On that note I’m going to stop babbling and let you actually read! 

Number 10: Fibromyalgia And Me 

I’m really pleased this post made my top 10, because it was one I was very nervous about posting. I only got diagnosed with Fibromyalgia earlier this year and my reaction was…complicated.

I didn’t want people to see me differently BUT needed to reevaluate parts of my life. Now I feel much better and can be much more open about living with Fibro. The post that started it all is here.

Number 9: I’m Starting Again 

In July I found myself job hunting again and it knocked my confidence. This post was just chatting about how I felt, what I was trying to do and a general update. You can read about it here

Number 8: I’m In A Funk 

Another one of my mental health posts to hit the top 10. I wanted to get out there that I was struggling and comparing myself a lot to others. It was a to the point post about how we look at ourselves and comparison. 

Number 7: Carrying On: Surviving The Past Year 

A post from April about the previous 365 days that had been pretty tough (little did I know this year would have a LOT of ups and downs too!). I like to keep you guys in the loop and this was looking back on how far I’d come.

Number 6: I’m Obese? 

I really wanted to write about body image and expectations because of a few knocks I’d had. Following on from a doctors appointment where I was deemed overweight-obese by my BMI, despite being a size 12-14 I decided to get my feelings down once and for all! 

Number 5: Why I Will NEVER Use An App For Birth Control 

Responding to a worrying idea that people were using a fairly risky app as a way to try and prevent pregnancy got in the top 5. I made my feelings very clear and, actually, had a lot of great conversations about it! 

Number 4: The Pros and Cons Of Long Distance 

I’m in a long distance relationship for chunks of the year. I get asked quite a lot of questions, some weird sympathy and so I wrote about what’s it’s like – and you can check it out here.

Number 3: Taking The Plunge – I’m A Freelancer 

Not something I entirely planned for this year but it happened! I’m planning to do an update on being freelance in the new year too! The blog about how it all started is here

Number 2: Harry Potter Haul: Updated 

One of my most popular blogs EVER was a Harry Potter haul I wrote while at university. So, when I went to London for a Potter filled day shortly after Christmas I came back with a little collection and wanted to share! The updated version is here.

Number 1: Stressed, Depressed, But Well Dressed? 

This is one that really, really surprised me. I wrote the post a few years ago about a top I saw with the slogan on and how I felt about the phrase. Next year I really want to talk more about Mental Health! You can read it here.

So, that’s my top posts of 2018! Thank you to each and every one of you who head read, liked and commented on my posts – it means so much. 

Which of these was your favourite? I’d love to know in the comments below! 

*please note these were the most popular at the time of writing.

Why I get so excited about Christmas

Why I Get So Excited About Christmas

I LOVE Christmas, love, love, love. Recently I have been met with more than a few people who don’t get why I get so excited for the season. Why I can’t stop listening to my Christmas playlist and why on earth I started my shopping in September. 

Now, aside from the fact that deep down I have an inner basic who needs to come out every now and again, there’s a much better reason as for why I love this holiday so much. I love it because I can. I can feel the excitement and love when previously I haven’t been able to. 

In the deepest parts of my depression, I couldn’t find joy in anything. These were times when I was very ill. One Christmas in my teens I just felt empty. I cried for no reason. The darkness swallowed me whole. In short, it was the worst. 

Because I have known that feeling I am so grateful to feel excited and happy. I am grateful that I have my health under control enough, that my medication works and I can feel happy rather than empty. 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a miracle. I am not ‘cured’ from my mental illness. I still have to work on myself every day and it’s something I live with. BUT, for me, each Christmas shows me moving forward from that one year when I couldn’t summon any joy. 

This year, my focus well and truly is just to try and enjoy myself as much as possible. See my friends and family, while also making time for myself (which is super important over Christmas). As well as trying not to put huge amounts of pressure on myself for January, although that’s a whole other post all together! 

If you’re reading this and right now your mental health isn’t great, give yourself a break. No one chooses to live with the monsters in their head and, unfortunately they don’t seem to take time off for Christmas. Be kind to yourself and take it one step at a time, you’ve got this. 

Why Sleep Is So Important For My Mental Health

I love to sleep. For me the idea of curling up in PJs at the weekend and getting a solid 10 hours is bliss. I know, I know, I’m 23 years old, surely I don’t need that much sleep. I thought so too until I worked out that, actually, sleep can completely change my mental state. So, why is sleep so important for my mental health?

Before I had Depression or Anxiety, I knew that if I didn’t sleep, I wasn’t in the best mood. My sister is the same if we’re tired we’re easily annoyed and I get particularly emotional. Joy of joys but I could deal with it, I was just grumpy doing so. Then when I was a teenager I realised that a lack of sleep meant much more, it made me get a lot sicker. I struggled with my emotions, even more, to make sense of what was going on with me. It took on another meaning.

In my recovery and fight with mental illness over the past decade, I’ve had to make sleep a priority. And I’ve also had to be kinder to myself. In uni pulling an allnighter wasn’t an option for me, the emotional drain the next day from not sleeping was not worth it. I started making sure I had a plan for busy times to make sure I could get my 8 hours and be as mentally healthy as possible. Did it always work? Of course, it didn’t! But I had the knowledge and knew that sometimes if I felt down that was why.

Just as I managed that and was happy, I broke my spine. Even after I recovered I found the fatigue getting worse and worse, impacting me mentally and physically.  Eventually, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which meant sleep was even more important as it now impacts me physically.

Why am I writing about this? A lot of people who prioritise sleep are deemed ‘lazy’ or ‘boring’, I’ve been in the situation so many times. A lot of people claim that, because of my age, I should be out and partying and shouldn’t need sleep. You know what I do and even if it didn’t impact my health it’s my choice.

Are you a fellow sleep lover? Let me know in the comments below!

Where I’m At – World Mental Health Day 2018

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Today is World Mental Health Day. I thought about what I wanted to do for a while and then it hit me. Why not give you guys an update on how I’ve been doing recently? I’m hoping that by talking about my own life and feelings it opens the conversation and takes away that damn stigma that’s still hanging around!

So, how am I doing right now?

Things are very different this year to any other. I took a big step going freelance and the change in job has had a big impact on my mental health. I was really struggling for the past year with that I wanted to do with my life and my career. I wasn’t happy but I thought that was just life, you went to a 9-5, you had a commute you hated.

Until I didn’t. Freelancing has many challenges and its own stresses – it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that’s another blog post. BUT, the stress of two 45 minute commutes? Gone. The stress of not having control over certain aspects of my career? Gone. If I need to take a break for my health, I can do that. In that regard, I’m doing much better and my self-confidence is growing.

I’m still working on myself – this is an ongoing health condition. Some days I feel great and can do everything. Other days I struggle to even get out of bed, to see the point in what I’m doing and think I’m terrible at everything. It’s taking it day by day.  So, I’m a lot better than I was a year ago, but it’s a constant effort.

How’s the self-care going?

Ummmmm, well….. Ok I’ll be honest with you, I’ve kinda been slacking. There’s a lot of excuses I could give about the fact I haven’t been looking after myself a much as I should.

More time for me, more baths, more early nights – I will try!

What I wish I knew a year ago

You don’t need to please everyone, things will work out no matter what.