Sunday, 29 December 2013

Mindfulness is the secret to a Happy New Year

I hate these awkward few days between Christmas and New Year. The excitement and build up to Christmas is over. Suddenly, the Christmas tree looks a bit sad with a few broken lights, no more chocolates hanging from it and no presents underneath it, the fairy at the top looks slightly uncomfortable having sat on the top few needles / branch / twigs for about two weeks - she's longing for her annual 49-50 week break in the chest where the decorations are kept throughout the rest of the year.

I start to feel anxious about the next few weeks / months and the mammoth task I have in front of me of finishing my degree. My 2014 diary already looks too full and chaotic and my list of things to do is already too long and I don't know where to start - the most important things on that list are "Write dissertation", "Pass exams", "Graduate" and "Find a job".

There is pressure from all sides to be "doing something" on New Years Eve - last year we escaped on holiday to Egypt and it was great to be away from everything. When I was younger, the novelty of staying up until midnight or soon after was so exciting. Now, there is rarely a night that I don't go to sleep before midnight (time check: 00:29) so NYE now just feels like any other night of the year and that novelty of staying up has most definitely worn off. I don't tend to make New Years resolutions but this year one of mine is to go to bed earlier. I can hear my inner critical voice say "You ought to / you should be / you must (be partying like the rest of the world on NYE) and if I don't I'm a failure..." - screw the critical voice and what everyone else wants me to do. CBT and Mindfulness has taught me to turn down the volume of the critical voice, to not give a monkeys about what everyone else is doing (I hate following a crowd) and if this is how I want to spend my evening then so be it:

On the upside, there was a brilliant article published in today's Weekend supplement of the Telegraph newspaper, describing how Mindfulness is the secret to a Happy New Year. 14 life saving tips. Thanks Rubes. 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Looking back at 2013 : Part 2

Following on from Part 1... Highlights of my year:

September: I saw an amazing performance of The Sound of Music (my all time favourite musical / film ever) at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. Another highlight was seeing McFly perform at the Royal Albert Hall for their 10th anniversary concert and the first ever performance from McBusted. I made it to the cinema this month for the first time in MONTHS to see About Time directed by Richard Curtis - such a fantastic film. I have had frequent twitter correspondence with his other half: Emma Freud. Love her. I entered the Cassandra Jardine Memorial Prize competition but won't hear until the New Year if I have won (fingers crossed). 

October: I discovered the CRONUT. Yes, its probably 1 million calories and contains none of my five a day but SO YUMMY. Met Jennifer Saunders and Clare Balding - hilarious evening with them at the South Bank Centre. Saw the musical Les Miserables for the first time - mind boggling. Managed to get in the front row of a live recording of the Graham Norton Show and the guests that night were Sir Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, James Cordon and others. Another incredible evening with Rosie Norman at her supper club. Went to Italy for the first time ever to visit my brother in Florence. Spent the most heavenly and unforgettable day with Charlotte Bevan at their new house in Southwold. Dream like. Rounded off October with another great trip to the theatre to see Raving at the Hampstead theatre starring Sarah Hadland, Robert Webb and Tamzin Outhwaite. Hilarious. 

November: Bumped into David Cameron and his family in Notting Hill for the second time - complete coincidence. Another incredible evening at the theatre watching Scenes from a Marriage directed by Sir Trevor Nunn - an emotional roller-coaster  Went to a live recording of Backchat - a new series on BBC 3 with Jack Whitehall and his father Michael. Also this month, I managed to get my psychiatrist to meet Ruby Wax - so cool to get two amazing brains to meet one another. Nov was busy on the blogging front too - Bill Oddie caused quite a stir saying that celebrities were making mental illness fashionable and my response was read by lots of you and even Ruby dedicated a blog post to me - reposting my thoughts on her website. Charlotte's Helix was also born and saw me as the first person in the UK to donate my DNA. 

December: We have only just reached the half way point in December as I write this and my feet have hardly touched the ground in the last few weeks / days. The start of the month gave me the most tremendous privilege of seeing a preview of Sane New World and I was asked to provide constructive feedback on it **. And then in the same week, I had the most heavenly afternoon tea at the Waldorf (Aldwych) courtesy of a great friend of mine AND then two days later Lunch at the Savoy - which I am still full from!

** I have been so lucky to have been re-kindled (is that a word??) with Ruby since our first meeting in 2012 and to have been so valued by her - I have made heaps of suggestions in terms of pimping her book, ideas for events (some of which have gone ahead like the School of Life), put her in touch with MPs to tackle mental health/stigma on a wider scale, fighting off fools like Bill Oddie and showing up with a cheery smile at the occasional talk in the middle of nowhere to help with a chaotic book signing (Mile End) - and all of it is so appreciated & acknowledged and I feel so rewarded. And this has all surely been one of the MAJOR highlights of the year and given me the biggest spring in my step - for which I am so grateful. More than anything, I have been inspired to work harder than ever at tackling mental health stigma - something else for me to get my teeth into.

Here is a picture I took of London from Waterloo Bridge earlier in December - no filter: it sums up why I love living in London.

And now home and Christmas and I am yet to wrap up a single present. My most recent excitement is the discovery of Puff Pastry Mince Pies AND Morrisons "Indulgent Brandy Sauce" (basically think brandy cream - I felt drunk on one table spoon of the stuff..). I have also been involved with beat's Transitions Project. Very rewarding. 

There has also been one other project which I can't utter a word about other than that if it works / if what I have done comes together, you will definitely be the first to hear about it and it will be the most exciting thing ever (stay tuned!) 

I have also rediscovered my love for the theatre - not just musicals - I mean actual plays - some have left me crying with laughter, others have been poignant and very thought provoking. So excited to be going to see Jeeves & Worcester in the New Year. 

One thing is for sure about the last 12 months - I have met people I never imagined would ever be possible (I did come face to face with my doppelgänger when I met Miranda Hart), I've worked harder than ever - in the classroom and the workplace and hopefully made great strides towards whatever will come next.

Golly, this was meant to be a blog post summing up some of the best bits but it turns out there are heapsI can't wait for whatever 2014 has in store but after this year, it will be hard to top.

Looking back on a fun-filled year...

I know this is highly superstitious but I was nervous at the start of 2013, quite simply because of the 13 bit in the year and I don't like odd numbers. But I need not have been nervous because its been a really fun and exciting year with several highlights, which I thought I would share (I've just realised half way through writing this that many of the best bits involve meeting some very famous people and I've had to split this blog post into two because there are simply too many "best bits"):

January: The first week of Jan 2013 was spent en famille in Egypt, which was a blissful start to the year - no pressure to be "doing" something on New Years Eve, no post Christmas / chilly weather blues and a great boost to our Vitamin D levels with the winter sun. I met Emma Woolf and the other "Apples" including @Meg_JJ and @Think_tall who are now firm friends of mine. The only downside to January was having to bash out 4 or 5 essays one after the other but I did well in all of them scoring 68% - 72%.

February: My only vague memory of Feb was the SNOW or was that in March ? A massive highlight was also meeting the utterly delightful ONE MORE MUM - a tweeter / blogger who I have followed and supported right from the very start. I also met Laura for the first time who is the author of this amazing blog which was also so incredible - I only got in touch with her by complete chance having heard her with Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. Oh and the other wonderful person I met in Feb was @tea4lucy - another great friend.

March: Much of March was spent madly essay writing, whilst the snow came down - it seemed never ending (the snow and the essays!) One of my highlights in March was following Miranda's Mad March for Comic Relief - a hilarious week, which culminated in her organising someone's wedding in 24 hours. I also met Carrie Arnold for dinner while she was at the EDIC conference. Such a privilege.

April: The real bore about April was having to revise for Exams in May. But there were still some good moments - like taking my sister on the London Eye after her GOSH appointment. I also was reunited with Ruby Wax for the first time since Tea at the Ritz 11 months before - that was the first of many fun evenings / afternoons spent with her throughout the rest of the year.

May: I met lots of really cool people in May. Firstly, Dawn O'Porter at Selfridges, and then 4 days later in the same day I met Prof Bryan Lask AND Emma Kennedy & Miranda Hart (I KNOW!) - completely separate meetings I must add. Golly that was quite a day. We also welcomed Dusty Limits and Mat Ricardo to our house to help us celebrate my mums big birthday. I saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - really cool play about a boy with Autism (read the book!). And Mess by Caroline Horton - a very moving play about Anorexia. I went to the National Portrait Gallery and came nose to nose with the much talked about portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge. Breathtaking although described by many as "Like Marmite: you'll love it or hate it" - I loved it. And I love Marmite too. Lunch at Dinner by Heston was also pretty cool - I want to go back for more Tipsy Cake.

June: I met Harry Judd - who's celebrity cricket match at Uppingham was a huge success and I hope he does it again as there were lots of other amazing people there. One evening at the Tabernacle watching 5 x 15, I found myself at the next door table to Joanna Lumley. June also was the start of several weeks work experience - all of which was fun and given me lots of ideas and motivation about what I might do when I graduate in 2014.

July: Andy Murray's win at Wimbledon was unforgettable - such a boost to our spirits - sadly I wasn't actually there but its still a memorable moment in 2013. Also spent a fun filled few days in France with heaps of cousins - lots of late night games of Perudo which I was hopeless at to start with - always out first and hopeless at bluffing (my call of "16 sixes" was hopeless when there were only about 8 dice round the table). Another July highlight was going to one of Rosie Norman's first Gluten Free Supper Clubs, which now sells out in a matter of minutes. I also went to Pollen Street Social at the end of the month, which was full of yumminess. 

August: The start of August concluded three really interesting and fun weeks at the Collective Dairy - try their yoghurt - its amazing! By far one of my favourite jobs in the summer. I met up with @anothermum - another amazing Twitter follower. Then I spent a really great afternoon with Ruby Wax at Danny Boyle's Shuffle "Day of the Mind" festival. I also saw The Other School, performed by the National Youth Music Theatre. I finally gave myself a bit of a break at the end of August for two weeks before my final year of university started. 

Here is one of my favourite pictures of 2013 - Charlotte and I on my trip to see her in Southwold:

Charlotte has had the toughest year of anyone I know (AND she's written and published a book) - I hope that if I ever have to go through what she is facing - that I do it with even half her strength and courage. So inspiring.

To be continued with Part 2...

Monday, 9 December 2013

I had a black dog, his name was depression

This is such an amazing video, which describes depression. Show it to anyone who tells you to "Perk Up"...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Depression: "A Disease of Affluence"

I hope you are as shocked and horrified about the title of this blog post as I was when I read it in my university notes today. 

According to nobody (no reference was given), Diseases of Affluence includes DEPRESSION. I have done a LOT of reading on the subject of depression and consulted many highly acclaimed experts - never ONCE has there been a mention of depression being a disease of affluence. If anything, its those in POVERTY that are more likely to suffer (and there is research that proves this).

I asked Laura Collins about this and she said  "Depression: a disease of affluence?! Disgusting. Artful, really, in combining snobbery with condescension AND ungrounded social commentary all at once!"

When I was really depressed (pre hospital), someone said "Why don't you just get a job and earn some money? That will cheer you up!" NO NO NO - its not a question of just cheering up and earning a bit of money. The point is, its not about how much/little money one has in the bank, depression is not about being affluent or rich. 

I am thoroughly fed up of having to challenge / correct / query so much of what we are being taught in our lectures on the subject of mental health. Most of the facts / research that we have so far been presented are extremely misleading, inaccurate and out of date. Appalling really, given the amount of money we pay to go to university and you'd have thought the least they could do is get their facts right.

Last week, we were told Eating Disorders are caused by "Problem Parenting". Same module as the one today but different lecturer who I am still waiting to hear from on this. I challenged him the minute he said it but he was extremely patronising and tried to tell me about FBT (Family Based Therapy) - he needn't have bothered as I know all about Prof Janet Treasure / the Maudsley.

In my first year at university, we were presented with another appalling eating disorder lecturer which Charlotte Bevan and I re wrote. When I complained about the appalling content, my tutor was keen to talk with me about it, but I felt patronised and belittled  - there was no apology / no offer to correct the errors. On the plus side, I gather the same lecture wasn't on the syllabus last year. Thank God.

The other thing about the lecturer today, who was the one who was telling us about Depression being a "disease of affluence" is she seemed very concerned that us nutrition students admitted to enjoying the odd pizza, packet of crisps, bar of chocolate etc. I am a great believer in the 80:20 rule - whats wrong with it once in a while?

(I must add that she was the one who said in week 1 of this term that those with eating disorders are attention seeking and then flatly denied it - so we didn't get off to the best of starts)

So yes, Dr Lecturer, I have just eaten a pot of chocolate and vanilla cheese cake. Last night, I went out with my fellow (NUTRITION) students and I ate a CHEESE BURGER. I also have walked 7 miles / for 2 hours today. I am extremely aware of the risks of fast food / processed meals but previous severe rigidity around food has made me extremely ill in the past so I couldn't be more open now to flexibility - I think its about everything in moderation. I am probably the only 23 year old I know who has never ever smoked and I hardly drink either (and I listen to Radio 4 - I know I sound really boring)

I'm not going to be the nutritionist who qualifies and prescribes spinach for breakfast, broccoli for lunch and raw carrot for supper. Definitely not. Its about wholesome, fresh food (no "low fat" malarky) with no reason not to have the occasional ''naughty" thing in-between. 

I have never come away from university feeling so angry as I did today. I am surprised, actually, at how wound up I am about this. I didn't realise I cared quite so much. But I do. I mind a lot. Not least because many of those in the lecture know far less than me so they take what they read as "correct" and will go away with completely the wrong idea.

I told Ruby about it and she said "Scream at them". I didn't shout or scream, I walked out. I live with an assistant psychologist who is as appalled about this as me. I wish it wasn't me that was always the one to take the time to complain about it - I'm not a moaner, I just want the facts to be right. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Team Nigella

I think I am one of many people supporting Nigella - this is how she looked when walking into court this morning. 


Throwing Starfish Across the Sea

There is a new book out this week and I am very proud to say that I know BOTH the authors. 

Yup - Charlotte Bevan and Laura Collins have both written a "pocket sized care package for the parents of someone with an eating disorder."

Bev Mattocks writes:

"If anyone knows about evidence-based treatment for eating disorders, it's Laura Collins and her co-author, Charlotte Bevan. Between them, these two women have moved mountains in advocating better treatment and understanding of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Both also actively offer support to other families strugging with this insidious illness, Laura being the founder of F.E.A.S.T. (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders), an organisation that supports families of young people struggling with eating disorders worldwide and which is respected by the world's leading eating disorder specialists, practitioners and researchers.

All royalties from this wonderful pocket-sized book go to Charlotte's Helix: Charlotte's Helix, an international collaboration seeking to bring the AN25K genetics initiative to the UK, in honor of the eating disorder advocacy work of Charlotte Bevan.

The goal of Charlotte's Helix is to add at least 1,000 DNA samples from individuals with a lifetime history of anorexia nervosa in the UK to this international genetics initiative. Under the direction of Professor Cynthia Bulik, AN25K has the ambitious goal of collecting 25,000 DNA samples in order to "crack the code" that makes some people predisposed to an eating disorder."

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Madness and Mindfulness / Sane New World Preview

Does anyone remember my blog post back in October about Cronuts and more? The Cronuts were probably the highlight of that weekend (I've been back to buy more since then - my tastebuds will always be grateful to Emma Freud for the tip off - my waistline not so much - in fact screw the waistline, they tasted so damn good, I will never stop going back for more!)

The other great thing about that weekend was going to see Ruby Wax talk at the School of Life - they have finally published the video footage of that talk. It was a real good 'un. Do watch.  

Last night, I was lucky enough to be able to see her preview / warm up of Sane New World, which is her book that has been turned into the most incredible piece of theatre. Its going on tour in Spring - I KNOW. Watch this space and don't miss out. Based on last nights preview, the real thing is going to be fascinating. Expect 3D images that delve into the mothership (the brain) and much more. I can hardly wait. I've just come off the phone to her as she wanted some feedback - I felt there was a great balance between science and humour. Its much easier to understand about neuroscience / brain chemicals / hormones when they are accompanied with a joke. A hard combination but one she managed effortlessly.

Quote of the night "Such an inspiring and engaging message delivered by a brave sane mind. I hung on to every word."

So did I. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Twerking and Selfie

Was anyone else as confused and baffled as me when they heard the news that "twerking" and "selfie" have been added to the dictionary?

Catch up on the article here. 

I resorted to Wikipedia to find out the meaning of twerking - 

Twerking is a type of dancing in which the dancer, usually a woman, shakes her hips in an up-and-down bouncing motion, causing the dancer's buttocks to shake, "wobble" and "bounce".  According to Oxford Dictionaries, to twerk is "to dance to popular music in a sexually provocativemanner involving thrusting hip movements and a low squatting stance"

I mean REALLY !

Personally, I think "totes amaze-balls" should be an actual phrase in the actual dictionary. 

Maybe I ought to write my own dictionary. Now there's a thought... Charlotte has her own dictionary of words/meanings - couldn't even begin to share some of those with you but they are fun..!

Waiting, hoping, praying...

As the title of this post suggest, today was about waiting, hoping and praying for Charlotte as she under went her huge operation.

Nobody knew when news would trickle through, who would deliver it and what the outcome would be. What we did know was it was going to be a long day and therefore there may not be any news for a while.

But this evening, having been soothed and distracted by a FEAST mummy over two large cups of tea this afternoon, we hear:

"Out of Surgery and STABLE!" (via her blog - Laura wrote it).

Which is JUST what we wanted to hear. Hurrah.

And as Charlotte would say "You may now breathe. And breathe again."

I gather that Laura and I coped today in similar ways - I rung my dear friends at OMBS, and found out I had made it onto the "Latest News" section of their website. Very honoured. 

I also spoke to a FEAST mummy this morning, then had my hair cut and then had coffee with another FEAST mummy. Laura also used her hair as a distraction - she dyed her hair blue. (Click link for fab pics!) 

Who knew that such a thing could be so therapeutic?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Christmas cards

November is nearly over and I will allow myself to think about Christmas when 1 December arrives. Carols and tinsel in November just don't feel right. However, London is looking extremely festive and the chilly weather adds to the buoyant atmosphere. Christmas lights are up everywhere and have been switched on. I love it.

The one thing that is linked to Christmas which I have pondered on is the subject of Christmas cards. 

I have previously mentioned in a post how strongly I feel about Christmas cards and their importance. I heard some rather terrifying statistics on the numbers surrounding Christmas cards...

- Only 9% of 18 - 24 year olds send Christmas cards (I fall into this category). More than 70% will send a tweet or text instead.

- Sales of Christmas cards have dropped by 20% in last few years.

- We send about 800 million Christmas cards each year and it costs us £200 million. 

I love Kathy Lette and I saw her debate about this on television recently. She was "for" sending cards and her opponent argued "against" sending them. I am totally on her side over this.

I enjoying nothing more than hearing the clunk (is that even a word?) of the letter box in the run up to Christmas when Postman Pat brings the mail and I used to beg to be allowed to open some of the cards my parents received. 

I have bought about 80 cards this year (from here) and I plan on sending all of them - even if it will cost me £40 in stamps. Its one of the only charitable things I do each year and they have so much more meaning to them than receiving a text which is "mass sent". I'm spending less than £1 on each friend - in fact, if you look at it like that, its a no brainer. Thats cheaper than meeting up with any of them for lunch or coffee. 

This is one of the cards I am sending this year. Its one of my favourites and is in aid of Mind. "Snow on Embankment"

The other thing I am going to do this Christmas is lose at least 10 pounds. NO NO NO - not THAT type of pounds. Got you there, didn't I? Diets don't work by the way so I don't mean lose it in that way...

I'm going to lose the POUNDS as in ££££££ by donating to Charlotte's Helix - hope you might consider doing the same. Having been the first person in the UK to give my DNA, they need the funds to analyse the sample and look at the genes. 

Charlotte is having a huge operation tomorrow (Wed) - did you see the pic of her revolting lunch today? I have filled my day tomorrow to keep busy and distract myself. She won't want me to worry. Easier said than done when she's someone that means the world to you. 

Ending this post on a positive note, this week Stylist magazine have celebrated their 200th issue/birthday and Miranda Hart was given the job as guest editor - its a gem of an issue, which I went out of my way to get my hands on today, and I think she ought to consider a career change. Totes amaze-balls. 

Here is what you are missing out on if you didn't get a copy:

I must let you go - you've got Christmas cards to write haven't you? Go on - if in doubt, just write one. You may even receive some in return and I guarantee you will feel better for doing it. 

NHS Food - if thats what you can call it

I have blogged once before about the shocking food received in an NHS hospital by a friend of mine who was a patient there.

I'm afraid I am going to have another mumble about this (I'm allowed because thats the title of this blog and I am a nutritionist)

Charlotte is in hospital with cancer and is having a MAJOR operation tomorrow. She's just sent me this photo - 

This was her lunch. 

She said:

Have just been presented with the same meal again. 5 times out of 6 has to be a record. I haven't eaten it the last 5 times either. My nice nurses are not here today. #feelingangry

She is entitled to feel angry. I am angry too. Very. In fact, lots of us are furious on her behalf.

This term in my lectures, we have been frequently told about the fact that many people who are admitted to hospital become quickly malnourished because they aren't fed adequately. Which makes recovery a lot harder.

Charlotte has spoken VERY highly of the nurses looking after her and I am sure she is right. We are so lucky to have a National Health Service. However, this really is unacceptable and is probably happening in many other places all round the UK.

Charlotte only has the use of one arm. They won't even help her spread butter on her toast. 

Come on Basildon Hospital, you really need to buck up your ideas. Pronto.

Jonathan Trott / The Ashes / Stress Related Illness

My family are avid Cricket fans. Some of them find the fact that the Ashes are currently in Australia a total nightmare as it means staying awake most of the night to watch it...

I am full of empathy and support of Jonathan Trott who is a key member of the England cricket team. He has been sent home early with a stress-related illness.

Some of the press surrounding this has been great - full of concern, understanding, respect that he has been open enough to want to come home early to (I guess) get the help and support he needs. He may not have wanted to come home at all - but if it meant relieving him of some of the pain he is in, he would surely have preferred to walk away from the Series than carry on suffering. (I have suffered and it hurts like hell. You'd give up anything to make things less painful) Perhaps the decision was made for him for his own safety.

1 in 4 people have some sort of mental illness. So statistically thats 3 people in the cricket team - yet news of Trott came as such a surprise / as though things like this don't happen to people like him. Us 1 in 4 who are affected can hide it so well, which is why it can be so hard to tell. It reminds us that mental illness doesn't stigmatise - you can be famous / rich / young / world class at cricket and still be affected. 

Michael Vaughan has written a fantastic article about it in the Telegraph. 

Mike Atherton has also written a great article - but you have to be a subscriber of the Times to read it (which I am).

Piers Morgan wrote some HORRENDOUS tweets about it - made my blood boil in fact. Not even worth posting here. What's worse is he has spent most of the day trying to scramble his way out of the hole he has dug himself. Fool.

Its hard enough for Trott to leave early from one of the biggest / most historic sporting competitions he will have ever played in - its even HARDER for him to have to face horrific media coverage (apparently the Aussies have written some monstrosities) that stigmatises and criticises him for this.

He has a mental illness. It is not his fault. He will get better. Its ok for him to ask for help. Therefore, show the man some support and don't criticise him for being ill and needing to come home - he didn't do it just because England are losing. 

Replace the words "stress related illness" with "cancer" or "diabetes" or "broken leg" and people's views change - because they are physical things that are more accepted - not brain related.

Not sure what needs to happen for the stigma to break - are we edging nearer / closer or are we still miles away from the acceptance and understanding of mental illnesses? I do hope we are near. I won't stop blogging / tweeting / ranting until that day arrives. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Gary Barlow and the Meerkat Street Party

I have just seen the following video on the television and decided that its too good not to share... 

Gary Barlow and the Meerkat Street Party - 

Busy day for the blog today... here's to more!

Giving DNA to Charlotte's Helix

As previously mentioned in an earlier post today, Friday was a great day spent "FEAST-ing" at the Carers Conference. The best part of the day was as follows...

I have already blogged about Charlotte's Helix before - if you haven't read about it, it would make me SO happy if you could take the time to read about it or even better contribute towards it in someway. In a nutshell - 

Charlotte's Helix is an international collaboration seeking to bring the AN25K genetics initiative to the UK, in honor of the eating disorder advocacy work of Charlotte Bevan.

And guess who was invited to be the first ever person to give their DNA to this international genetics initiative...? 

Yup, it was ME! When the conference stopped for lunch on Friday, I was whisked off to a little room somewhere in the heart of the Maudsley hospital and I donated these three small test tubes of blood which will be sent off for testing as part of the project.. 

Such an honour and privilege to be part of such an amazing project - not least because it celebrates the phenomenal work of one of my favourite people in the whole world (Charlotte)... 

I do hope others will follow my lead and jump at the chance to be part of this - it didn't hurt and took no more than 5 minutes. We wanted to do it in the lecture room in front of all the delegates and there was vague talk at one point of doing it live on Sky TV but there were various health and safety rules that couldn't be broken...

News of my DNA donation went online and across the pond pretty quickly and I enjoyed this headline on the Helix website: 

"Rolling up her sleeve for science, Miranda gives the first DNA sample for Charlotte's Helix!"

I never thought I would ever roll up my sleeve for Science, but then again, there are lots of things I have got involved with over the last few years that I never thought I would be able to be part of. 

Now all the Helix needs is some much needed funds to enable this project to continue - which reminds me, I must donate and I hope you might too!

For Charlotte Bevan

This post is for Charlotte Bevan, who loves dogs and who always posts wonderful photos of her dogs and those belonging to other people on her blog. 

This is our cairn terrier Titus - I never thought I would be generous enough as to dedicate a blog post to him but if Charlotte can read this, it might cheer her up. 

I took him on a 5 mile walk yesterday - we can't remember the last time someone took him that far round the "block". I think he loved it although he kept walking right under my feet so we both nearly ended up in the puddles and boggy mud. And no thats not funny so don't laugh.

He can't see out half the time...

Feast National Carers Conference / Charlotte's Helix

Friday was a fun and fascinating day.

I was volunteering at the National Carers Conference in Eating Disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry (King's College, London). My role varied from running round the lecture hall after each talk to pass the microphone to anyone who wanted to ask questions to helping sell the Succeed Foundation DVD just being a general help. I also had another huge job to do that day to do with Charlotte's Helix - and it deserves a blog post of its very own coming up next so stay tuned.. 

The speakers were amazing and the research in this area is so exciting and uplifting for the future.

I tweeted various quotes and pictures throughout the day so do look at those. Here are a few particularly special pictures of the day - 

This is Prof. Janet Treasure OBE (left) and Gill Todd (right) - two of the greatest experts in the eating disorder world who I have huge admiration for (Janet got awarded her OBE this year for services to the field - thoroughly well deserved):

This is one of the slides from a presentation explaining about Charlotte Bevan and the Helix:

And I LOVE this FEAST bag:

As I said above, the highlight of my day involved a very special job I had to do for Charlotte's Helix which will be my next blog post so read on...

Monday, 18 November 2013

Oprah Winfrey in LONDON !

So I only heard on Saturday night that Oprah Winfrey is / has been in London in the last few days. She is by far one of the most powerful and influential women in the world and certainly THE most powerful woman in the USA.

I enjoyed watching her interview on the Jonathan Ross Show and as I write this, I am also watching her being interviewed by Lorraine

Wow. What a woman. 

To say she is hard working is an understatement - if we all worked as hard as she has done, our productivity would go up by about a trillion percent. For TWENTY FIVE years, she carried out two interview shows every single day - the famous Oprah Show. She has changed hundreds of thousands of lives.

She is worth almost $3 billion. Mind boggling. I read somewhere that "her profound influence over the way people around the world read, eat, exercise, feel and think about themselves and the world around them is much more difficult to calculate".

I am SO excited about her new film The Butler - I can't wait to go and see it. I don't ever make time for the cinema - I saw About Time about 6 weeks ago and that was the first trip I had made to the cinema in years (I have great difficulty in sitting still but it was well worth it). I will go out of my way to see this. 

We must all adopt her motto - Live Your Best Life

She is about to be awarded with the highest civilian honour in America - the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sounds to me like she thoroughly deserves it. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

Bill Oddie "Mental Health Fashionable" Update

Following on from yesterday's extremely popular post on Bill Oddie who claimed that celebrities are trying to make mental illness fashionable... 

Someone said on Twitter "Don't give the harumphing little turd the attention he so desperately craves." A brilliant summary as far as I am concerned. 

The response was overwhelming - many were as outraged as me that he can claim they are trying to set a trend. Because its simply not true. The thing is - 

If he raises the flag that Ruby and Stephen are doing this for publicity, it means that people might be suspicious when they try and help and so the stigma of being mad wins again...

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Mental Illness - a trend ?

So I was APPALLED to wake up this morning to discover that Bill Oddie has claimed that celebrities are trying to make mental illness fashionable

I commented twice (by accident - pressed wrong button):

"I am afraid I wholeheartedly disagree with Bill Oddie over this. There is no question that people like Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry are trying to make mental illness fashionable - the energy, drive and selfless dedication that Ruby has for this cause has changed the lives of THOUSANDS. She and Stephen did not choose mental illness. Ruby has done an extraordinarily courageous thing by studying neuroscience and talking extensively about her own experiences in order to help others - I have no doubt that she she never once has intended to make money out of it. In fact, I don't know any other person who has given up quite so much in order to trail blaze for an "unfashionable" cause in the way that Ruby has.

There are many people who are so grateful for people like Ruby Wax and Stephen Fry for talking about their mental illness and for working so hard at educating those who don't understand it. In fact, Ruby has worked like a trojan - always thinking of others and never about herself. She is determined to get people help and not take the glory. If you know what depression is like,there is no way you would try and make it fashionable - you wouldn't wish it on anybody. Bill Oddie's comments have made me extremely angry because there is no question that Ruby has hindered people's understanding of such conditions - she has educated and helped MANY."

Regardless of the fact that my view may be slightly biased because I know Ruby - even if her name hadn't been mentioned, I would still have written the above because I simply don't get why anyone would claim that people like her are trying to make mental illness fashionable. Its not trendy - in fact its pretty serious and lethal. Sounds to me like Bill Oddie needs educating - I bet he hasn't even read Sane New World, which isn't even about depression - its about how our brains work. 

Ruby responded to his comments too - here.