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.