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.

February Favourites!

It’s come around again it’s time for my monthly favourites!

Books: 

This month I’ve read a fair amount (although maybe not as much as I’d like) and three books have stood out to me. The first was sent to me by Diamond Press, it’s called March and is a graphic novel written by John Lewis, a key figure in the Civil Rights movement, this is the first in a three-part series and I can’t wait to read the rest. Secondly is Here We Are, I reviewed this (catch it here) and raved about it because it is an incredible book, full of inclusion, intelligence as well as being fun! And finally, although I haven’t finished reading it, I am in love with Giovanna Fletchers newest book about being a mother. It’s not something I personally know anything about, being a mother, but I love the way Gi writes (I found her on her Youtube channel)  and it makes me feel better about the prospect of being a mother in the future.

Music: 

This month was very Busted orientated, earlier this month Abbie and I went to see Busted live (again) on their Midnight Driver tour. I’ve listened to the album a lot this month it’s got an 80s vibe to it and a lot of great and upbeat tracks. Ed Sheeran also dropped a few songs this month which I’ve been obsessively listening to (while getting ready to go see him on tour later in the year). Last but not least two bands I’ve been listening to are Lower Than Atlantis and their new album Safe in Sound, I’ve also been listening to a band called Broadside thanks to my lovely boyfriend Ali.

Shop: 

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After the move it’s been a quite quiet month in terms of any spending. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of window shopping, particularly in Oasis’s where I’ve fallen in love with their latest pieces!

Watching:

Yep, my viewing has been a little dark and very Netflix orientated this month. I wanted to start a new series and had heard great things about How To Get Away With Murder, so I started to watch. I also noticed that The People vs O J Simpson had been added, which I loved when it aired last year. Hopefully next months viewing will be little lighter!

General: 

I’ve really embraced Lush baths to ease the pain of my back which has produced some beautiful colours! I also received some lovely gifts after coming home including a swear word colouring book and flowers! On the subject of food I’ve been loving Tetley Boost teas and getting into my own baking! I’m also loving the new Powerpuff Girls range that Primark are embracing at the moment, I LOVED the Powerpuff Girls growing up so my Mum treated me to these. And finally my first gym session post injection, I was so proud of myself- read about it here.

What have your favourite things been this month? Any recommendations? Let me know in the comments below!

Recovery: Back To The Gym

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As my regular readers know, a few weeks ago I underwent injections in my spine in the hopes of relieving some of the pain I’ve had since my initial break back in 2015. It’s been a long, and quite painful, two weeks while I waited to see if they were going to work at all. I’m not sure if they have, it’s currently too early to tell BUT I managed to do a 30-minute workout today. It definitely doesn’t sound like much, maybe it isn’t too much, but I’m not in agonising pain afterwards. It gives me hope, that even if the pain never completely goes away, it might be able to be managed. I could have cried once I’d done the 30 minutes, because I wasn’t counting down the seconds so I could stop, I was enjoying it and it means everything right now.

Pre Hospital Nerves

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Tomorrow I’m going to be going to the local hospital to be put under and have spinal injections. No biggie right? Wrong. To say that I’m nervous would be an understatement, I’m pretty damn terrified. I’ve never been put under, never had any kind of procedure like this. In almost 2 years since breaking part of my spine, I’ve been awake and often without pain medication for everything. This could work, be great and be the thing that I need to stop the pain I live with every day and allow me to be able to get on and do more. While I’m excited at the prospect I’m also incredibly nervous and feel on the verge of a panic attack whenever I think too much about it. So while the blog and my Twitter presence might be quiet over the next few days I’m really, really hoping I can have som positive news in a few weeks when it’s had time to work. Fingers crossed.

Sunday Seven: Things To Look Forward To In 2017

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Happy New Year!!!

Hello, lovely, lovely people and welcome to 2017! We’re almost a day in and I wanted to share with you some things I’m looking forward to in 2017. Now I’ve said before and I’ll say it again I don’t believe in new years resolutions, nope, nope, nope. I want to spend the whole year setting goals and I know for a fact that I find it harder in the dark winter months to be happy and motivated. So, instead, I focus on things to look forward to! So, here are 7 things I’m looking forward to.

A New Home 

This year at some point Ali and I will move into a new home. It means so much to us and we’re really excited!

Getting Stuck Into Work 

I can’t wait to get even more stuck in with my job, it’s a really exciting time for me. I’m in a company I love and a job I really enjoy, I can’t wait to see what this year brings.

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Carrying On With Spine Recovery 

In the next 8 weeks I should have an appointment for my spinal injections. While I’m absolutely terrified I’m also excited because it’s another chance at relieving the spinal pain I’ve been living with for the past 20 months!

Going on Holiday! 

Ali and I will finally be getting a relaxing break together later in the year, a week in sunny Spain. We haven’t had a relaxing holiday in years so it’ll be a nice time to chill out and spend some time together.

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Improving My Blog 

I’m really focused on my blog and this year I can really focus on it without university work taking up each and every evening. I have some great ideas and plans so keep an eye out!

Celebrating 9 Years 

Yes! The boyfriend and I celebrate 9 years together this year, which is crazy. I’m so lucky to have my best friend by my side every day.

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Caring For Myself 

I bought so much stuff from Lush in the sales, meaning I have a lot of bath products for relaxation purposes. I’m really bad at relaxing, I’m always doing something so I need to work on that but this year I can make that time for myself.

What are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!

The 2016 Round-up

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Well, well, well what a year it’s been. I feel like I’ve been thrown right in the deep end in the past 12 months of the good, the bad and the ugly!

January 

The year started off a little bumpy…

I was sick with a mystery illness that had been going a few weeks already

I was focused on weight loss…

But took charge of my future, getting another implant!

February

I started to think, and panic, a lot, about jobs and graduation and got rejected.

I started Sunday Seven!

I embraced Feminism

I fell in love with Deadpool

 I tried to appreciate things in tough times and combatted stress.

I took part in my last ever Reading and Enrichment Week at uni!

A not so nice trip to the hospital, laying in a short stay ward.

March

I was shortlisted for another KU Talent Award

I got honest about how anxiety affects my social life

My Dissertation Got Real

April

I was invited to Brighton to speak on a conference panel!

I admitted I got a little jealous at the gym…

I got my diagnosis

I was concerned about my future…

And I really struggled towards the end.

I handed in my Dissertation though! And the rest of my assignments.

May

I started seriously job hunting, and wondered what to do.

I saw Busted again

I celebrated Mental Health Awareness Week on my website

I went to May Comicon and dressed up for the first time!

June

I was offered my first full-time job.

I carried on fighting with my body.

I voted in the EU Referendum…and was horribly disappointed with the result.

No People Club struck a match and released our EP.

I got a new Car!

July

We moved out of our Kingston flat, which was so, so difficult.

We played the main stage of Basingstoke Live, a goal of mine for almost 10 years!

I celebrated Star Wars in style!

I graduated!

I waited until midnight for Harry Potter with my Mum and best friend

September 

I thought about my future

I talked about why I wasn’t studying a postgrad

I turned 22

October 

I let go

I welcomed a certain little man

I spoke honestly about mental health waitlists, diagnosis and living with chronic pain

I decided to go Cruelty free!

Another October, another comic-con

We lost Noodle

November 

I read 100 books

I quit my job

I wrote an open letter to those who didn’t vote Trump

I started a new job!

I got in the Christmas spirit at Winchester Christmas market

I finally got some good news about my spine

Fantastic Beasts came out, and it was beautiful

December

I met Carrie Fisher, before we tragically lost her

I celebrated my first month in my new job

Rogue One was incredible

I shared my top 10 books of 2016

Who knows what 2017 is going to bring, I just hope it’s a good one.

Spine Update! November 2016

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Depending on how long you’ve been reading my blog/following me on Twitter you may or may not know that back in 2015 I fell off a horse and broke part of my spine (vertebrae T12 to be exact) and damaged other parts of it. It’s been a long 18 months with a lot of pain, scans, x-rays, physiotherapy, wheelchairs, crutches and walking very, very slowly. There wasn’t any part of my life that wasn’t impacted by the accident, I spent a lot of time (longer than I should have been) on maximum strength painkillers and spent almost 2 months in this wonderful contraption…

 

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I documented on here and on Twitter whenever I could what it was like living with my spinal injury. I learnt a lot from it and it gave me a bigger appreciation for not only being able to walk but life in general. That said, it is frustrating and the pain was indescribable and is still a huge part of my life today. BUT! I finally have some good news to share.

Last week I attended a clinic called Hampshire Backs to see a back specialist. I’d waited since September for this appointment and had an MRI (I was stuck in the machine for an hour!) determined that something would happen this time after seeing endless doctors, consultants and surgeons only for them to shrug their shoulders. My new consultant is brilliant, I’ve seen the scans and my break is fully healed, as is the damage to other parts of my spine, my nerves are clear of disruption and my spinal chord is good. All the majors were ok! We then went to on a physical examination, one that’s almost routine to me now, it took him a small amount of time to work out what was going on.

Due to the fact I’ve tried almost all the options that I have been able to at this point, including a year of physiotherapy, we were going to the next step. At some point next year I’m going into hospital to have a procedure, during which I’ll be asleep while a mix of steroids and anaesthetic will be placed in to the joints in the base of my spine. The hope is that this will give me relief, meaning I can build up muscle before it wears off and hopefully that will help the pain. IF this works then there will be talk of further procedures, if not…well we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I won’t lie to you, I’m terrified of going to sleep and having people stick things into my spine but I also have a new found hope. This could be the start of me not living in constant pain and worry. I’m going forward and trying to be positive about this.