Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tea with Ruby Wax

I had the most sensational afternoon yesterday (Tuesday) having tea with Ruby Wax at the Ritz. I am going to put a lot of thought and effort into this blog post to tell you all about it so am planning that at the moment and will publish it later this week.

For now - I leave you with a photograph of Ruby and I taken today. I look a bit pasty next to her bright red shirt, rosey cheeks and red hair. I ran out of blusher - and the camera flash is not flattering!

Teenagers Translated

This weekend saw the launch of the Teenagers Translated blog - do take a look at it by clicking here - the most recent post is on helping your child cope with Exam Stress...

Also - a newsletter has been set up and will be published fully later this week so do join the mailing list if you want to keep in touch and find out their latest news.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


I feel that Mental Health Awareness Week is a vital opportunity for the world to stop and look around them. We are only one or two people away (1/4) from someone who has mental health issues. Having been ill myself (which led to in-patient hospital treatment), I know only too well what its like to be that person. It's one of the most horrific situations you can ever find yourself in - not least because the people around you often simply don't understand and the stigma also associated with mental health problems is almost a guaranteed "add-on" to being ill. You often "can't see" the problems in other people so you don't think they exist. You don't realise that behind the smile, there is a darkness underneath that torments the sufferer.

As I mentioned, I have had my fair share of mental health problems which have come in the form of depression, anxiety, anorexia and traits of OCD and Asperger’s. That's quite a list. These are problems, which I am not afraid to talk about. These issues crept up on me, slowly but surely. Soon enough, I was franticly out of control in all kinds of ways. Family and friends were worried - but this was expressed in ways such as anger, frustration and exasperation that I clearly wasn't able to get on with my life unlike everyone else. It is very hard to understand what someone like me was going through if you have never been there yourself. Some things are certain - nobody chooses to have a mental health problem (in the same way that you don't choose to get cancer), they do not do it on purpose and they are not doing it just for attention. There is no quick fix - it takes more than a couple of doctor's appointments, a week of tablets and a few days off work/school to get you going again. Oh boy - we'd be here all night if I went into great detail about my route of help. What I mean is - if you are experiencing difficulties, don't put yourself under pressure to be back to your normal self by this time next week - and if you know someone who isn't well - don't be hopping mad and angry that they are not able to be their normal self. After all - what is "normal"? and you wouldn't make someone with a broken leg run a marathon would you?

Now, I am lucky enough to be steady and stable. However, not every day is a good day and my problems haven't "gone away" like a cold or a cough would. There is often an expectation for everything to be fine, dandy and right as rain but its important to remember that it is sometimes ok to not be ok. There are blips and bumps when recovering from any illness - be it a physical or psychiatric one. One of the greatest things that has got me on the road out of trouble is being able to help others who are in need. A scary number of people who I know and have been friends with for a while have approached me to seek advice and help since they discovered and learnt what I went through. I am not ashamed to talk about it.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of not being well, remember that there is plenty of good help out there that can get you through it, you are not far away from someone who might be feeling the same as you and there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel - you will get through this - I am sure of it.

I urge you in this week of awareness about mental health to take some time to read up about something under this umbrella that you haven't heard of before, ring that friend/family member who you know is struggling but you haven't spoken to in months and lastly - remember that there are people battling right now in more ways than you will ever know. Don't be scared to address matters if you can sense that someone you love/know is finding it tough - they may want to tell you but can't find the words or be worried about upsetting you - or they might not even realise the downward spiral you can see them heading into - in which case, you would be doing them a massive favour.

"Experiencing these problems is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign you have been strong for too long." 

Grace introduces Mental Health Awareness Week and BDT

Monday, 21 May 2012


I am about to reveal a TERRIBLE set of guidelines which has left me and a few others utterly speechless.

Charlotte bought it to my attention - and Laura too.

This is word for word what someone sent Charlotte and her comments are at the bottom:

Caloric Conservation Guidelines

For many who have developed an eating disorder, giving up long-standing behavioral patterns such as avoidance of food intake or bingeing and purging is a difficult endeavour.  We have found that gentle incentives are useful in helping persons with these patterns to keep on track toward recovery.  The Caloric Conservation Guidelines involve the loss of certain privileges when certain goals are not met.  The following provides an outline of these guidelines

  • if you are on nutritional rehabilitation, you will be expected to gain a minimum of 0.2 kg (slightly less than half a pound) each day.  On the days you do not attain this goal you will be allowed 5 minutes for the activities of daily living (ADLs) and 15 minutes to dress in the morning following weigh-in.  You must then report to the Dayroom
  • Showers are not permitted on the days of caloric conservation.  This is to diminish calories-burning activity and to provide an increased level of observation.
  • If you do not gain weight for three consecutive days, you may take a shower on the third day.
  • Caloric conservation includes loss of telephone and visitation privileges for the day as well (see telephone and visiting hours for details)
  • In addition to not making expected weight gain, one may be placed on caloric conservation status for non-compliance such as meal or supplement refusal.  Privileges for individuals, or the entire population, may be rescinded by staff if your behaviour or the group's behaviour impact negatively on the unit milleu.

Charlotte's thoughts:

This is wrong on so many levels.  So wrong. 
  • hypermetabolism
  • hormones (menstruating females)
  • it doesn't take into account that the hospital are in charge of calorie intake and they may not be feeding the patient enough.
  • ADL - I am assuming that means clean your teeth, brush your hair, go to the loo, make your bed, etc.  Even for one who doesn't care about personal appearance, 5 minutes would seem to require extreme multi-tasking.
  • weight goes up and down over the course of a week - Mother Nature doesn't do averages.
  • denying someone a shower for three days, when they are mentally ill, may be in contravention of  the Human Rights Act.
  • It is wide open to abuse by staff.
  • Is it even legal to take the rights of one individual because of the action of another?  We are talking about a hospital here, not some English public school
  • "Non-compliance"?  If a patient is severely distressed and anxious, surely it is the job of the HOSPITAL to find some way of ensuring nutrition is administered.  By implying that a patient is non-compliant, Sheppard Pratt are implying that the inability to eat is somehow a "choice" on behalf of the individual and does not acknowledge that the patient is severely mentally compromised.  I would love to see whether this kind of "punishment" (and don't even think about trying to persuade me that this a "gentle incentive" for a terrified 13 year old) for "non-compliance" is the norm in other mental health wards treating other mental health conditions.
  • Please note that this is just an "outline of these guidelines".  I would love to see a copy of those full guidelines, as I suspect I am seeing the consumer friendly part of the guidelines here

To be frank, I am not even arguing on the minutia here.  I am arguing about standards of care for a mentally ill person that is being paid for by the insurance companies or parents.  I am sure I could come up with a whole load more arguments but I feel sick to the stomach re-reading this again and again.

I cannot believe that this type of "care" for eating disorder patients is practised, let alone widely. I am extremely distressed on behalf of the parents who sent me this and any other parents whose children are in a treatment facility that uses punishment, threats and coercion.

I am horrified and ashamed on behalf of the patients, some of whom are very young children, at this, IN MY OPINION, barbaric and abusive treatment of sufferers from the most lethal psychiatric illness. 

If I heard of these conditions in a specialised eating disorders unit here in the UK, I would be scurrying off to the CQC immediately, waving the NICE Guidelines and the Human Rights Act.   

Now I am not sure about the US but I found a few documents that may be helpful:

In my opinion, vulnerable, sick children are being denied basic rights as a punishment for non-compliance.  Is this healthcare?  Is this abuse?  Is this cruelty?  Is this legal?

What I can do is to try and shame Sheppard Pratt into changing this punishment regime immediately.  Please feel free to use this blog, link it, copy it, FB it, Tweet it, send it to your senator, your MP, your friends. 

To quote from NEDA's website the AED Worldwide Charter

Threats, coercion or punishments have no place in the treatment of eating disorders. 

My thoughts:

I feel as angry, upset and frustrated by this as it humanly possible. What part of denying someone the opportunity to speak to/seeing their parents/family on the phone, having a shower is helpful? People in hospital receiving inpatient treatment for eating disorders are there to get better - they are vulnerable people and often pay huge amounts of money for the care they are receiving - they are not there to get worse and live as unhygienic invalids. They are patients NOT prisoners and often (but not always) there through choice and should therefore be treated with the utmost respect, dignity and care.

Looking back to 25 months ago when I was an inpatient, I was only once or twice told that if I didn't get a grip and put on weight etc then I would be moved to somewhere else which would be more vigorous and strict, and I also wouldn't be allowed to go home at the weekend - but NEVER EVER was I told that I wouldn't be allowed to have a shower or make my bed. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chelsea win the Champions League

You may or may not already know this but if you don't then now you do - I LOVE FOOTBALL. Not playing it but watching it. Specifically Ipswich Town FC - which is near where I live. I am not a yob - I don't shout, swear and stamp my feet when it all goes wrong.

Last night, I was one of 300 million people who tuned in around the world to watch the Champion's League Final. Chelsea took on Bayern Munich and WON. This blog post is not going to bore you with the ins and outs of what happened - not least because I don't really know! But I was glued to it - tweeting to the world about #drogbastheman and I was on the edge of my seat during the extra 30 mins and then the penalties. My sister slept soundly upstairs through the whole thing but my dog was very unsettled...even though he is deaf and wouldn't have heard me screaming.

I saw this in the news today, which I think is hilarious:

The most important World Leaders were in America for the G8 summit and decided to put a hold on the proceedings and watch the football instead. Note that David Cameron is delighted with the English victory and the German leader is furious and feeling awkward that her team have just lost (and missed two penalties that could have won them that precious trophy...)

And then it was back to business...

Tweeting and Twittering

Don't forget that you can also follow me on Twitter:

Sing - Gary Barlow: Diamond Jubilee Song 2012

Saturday, 19 May 2012

My Pictures of the Queen in Richmond

These are some pictures I took on Tuesday when the Queen came to Richmond Park:

There are plenty more but these seem the best ones and I don't want to bore you too much. I did get such an amazing view and as you can see, they were so so close to me!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Queen comes to Richmond Park

Yesterday, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh came to Richmond Park as part of their Diamond Jubilee Tour.

I managed to place myself in the BEST spot at the front of the barrier - their car drew up right beside me and she got out on my side of the car and greeted someone in front of me on her side of the barrier. I stood next to Sir David Attenborough, who was also there to meet her. Sadly, it poured with rain just before she arrived and then again during her tour and viewing of the Royal Ballet School performance - it certainly didn't dampen our spirits but it seemed to turn part of the Park into a mud bath. I stood right beside their car in order to get another good view of them when they left.

Many people had already left at this point thinking that they had seen everything. As their car pulled away, I waved madly at the Duke (whose side I was on now as the car had turned around) running along side their vehicle. I suddenly forgot my age and felt about 8 years old running along the platform of a train station. He wound down his window and we were eye to eye. He waved madly back at me. Nobody else was around me - clearly the homemade Jubilee cupcake I had eaten earlier had increased my blood sugar a considerable amount and provided a serious energy boost that enabled me to suddenly wave so madly and run along the barrier keeping up with the car - nobody else had obviously had the same cake as me as they weren't running with me!

This was a once in a life time opportunity. Never again will I be able to be so close to the head of the Royal Family, the head of this country and other parts of the world - two of the most important and honourable people on Earth. Yesterday's visit to Richmond from the Queen was relatively intimate - there was quite a crowd (mostly school children) but not as many people were there as I have seen on other occasions.

I came away feeling uplifted, honoured and so lucky to have seen the Queen in real life, something I have never done before. Having said that, when the Queen was celebrating her Golden Jubilee in 2002, she came to Ipswich (my hometown) on tour with the Duke, and I got close enough to nearly shake hands with the Duke of Edinburgh. The lady in front of me on that occasion beat me to it. I was only 11 then and not old enough to push my way to the front like I did yesterday.

I also feel patriotic and proud to be British. I spent the rest of the afternoon with my Great Aunt whose late husband Norman Hepple actually painted the Queen and other members of the Royal Family on a few occasions.

I was able to take some fab pictures from my own camera which I will post on here for you shortly. Here is one I found online taken by someone else:

Quote of the Day

Today's Quote of the day comes from Carrie Arnold:

"You can't think your way out of a disorder that you behaved your way into..."

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Courage & Determination

Please read and watch the video about Lizzie - I am in awe of this wonderful person. And only found out about her because someone on Twitter suggested that I take a look at this video - and I think you should too:

Prince Charles presents the Weather

This week, viewers of BBC Scotland got a surprise when they saw that HRH Prince Charles was presenting the weather forecast...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Depression in Teenagers

This is an essential programme to listen to that was on BBC Radio 4 today - depression and mental illness amongst teenagers and young people:

The Trouble with Moody Teens 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Single Sex Education

What are your thoughts (if any) on Single Sex Education? Did you go to a co-educational school (girls and boys together) or did you go to a single sex school (just girls/just boys) and what are your thoughts on it?

I went to an all girls school and my brother went to an all boys school. Having said that, we were at the same co-ed school until we were 13 years of age.

This week, Lord Lucas made a claim that Girls' Schools were going out of fashion. I do not believe that this is true and have just come across this impressive response from Wendy Griffiths amongst many others.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Hello Summer

I am over the moon - I had my last university exam today which means one thing -


The exam was about Human Diseases (Infectious/Non-Infectious) - I dont think it went very well but I am not going to worry about that for now. I am going to enjoy the free feeling that I am now finished for the academic year until the end of September. I am terrible at Maths but even I know that this means I have nearly 5 months off. 

Let me reiterate something - I am not going to sit on my backside for all that time. There is the chance that I will have to retake one of the exams if I dont get above the pass mark (40%). My other summer plans are as follows
  • I am going to find short temping jobs as a PA - putting into practice the skills I learnt at OMBS last year.
  • I am working as a Games Maker at the London 2012 Olympic Games - meeting and greeting athletes as they arrive at Heathrow.
  • I am going on holiday to Portugal
  • I am joining Ruby Wax at the Ritz for tea - SO excited about this little event!
  • I am also catching up with friends who I have neglected having been buried under essays and revision over the last few weeks.
I can't wait to spend some time enjoying London - what with the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee coming up - its going to be fab.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Please watch...

Please do watch this.... but make sure you have a box of tissues near by. This man is a true inspiration. The words are in Dutch but the voice is in English...