Just a quick post to check in as it’s been a little while and I’ve got something very exciting to share…

I’ve just had my last ever CBT session!

It’s been a long old journey, with two separate therapists and many, many issues to work through. But I DID IT!

If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I’ve not been very well over the last couple of weeks and that just after my birthday something happened that once would have been my worst nightmare: I threw up.

If you don’t know, I have HAD emetophobia, a fear of vomiting. At my worst, this phobia controlled my life, made me starve myself and turned simple things like eating in public into a massive source of anxiety. As is common with emetophobes, I am very rarely ever sick. But for some reason, that night I was.

And you know what? I was completely fine. I mean, I didn’t enjoy the experience, obviously, but I stayed calm throughout, cleaned up after myself and took it in my stride. That might seem small to you, but to me it was a huge achievement.

Since then my confidence has grown and grown. I now eat things with my hands at work, eat chicken on a regular basis, and a few days ago did something I honestly never thought I would be able to do – I ate a sweet without washing my hands first. I didn’t try to tip it in my mouth, or pick it up with the wrapper. I just plunged my hand in the bag and went for it.

The list of small victories like this goes on and on and I’m ridiculously proud of myself.

This time last year I was at my absolute lowest point. I honestly felt hopeless. It’s been a long, difficult road, with almost 40 sessions of counselling and a prescription for Sertraline, an SSRI. Now, I feel like a new person.

No, that’s not quite right. I feel like the old me is back. The version of myself that finds joy in things, smiles for no reason and has goals, dreams and drives.

I was almost bursting with happiness when I reeled off this list of achievements to my counsellor and she looked so damn proud of me.

I went in knowing it was likely to be my last session. I felt ready. I’ve learned what I need to be kind to myself, to support myself during difficult times and to listen to my rational thoughts rather than my obsessive ones. I’m still recovering, but I feel confident enough to go it alone now.

Right before I said goodbye to my counsellor she said

You did this’

‘It’s not easy, but you did this.’ I can’t tell you how proud that made me feel. Finally I believe in myself again. All that trust in myself I’d lost over the years (for one reason or another), is coming back.

I feel invincible.

Afterwards I walked to work in the sunshine and treated myself to a milkshake.

Elliot drinking Starbucks

I reminded myself of this scene!

I’ve got this. I’ve bloody well got this.

Recovery is possible. There is hope. I hope that I’m proof of that.

If you think CBT could help you, speak to your GP, who may be able to refer you to local NHS services. Or, check out the BABCP website, to find a private therapist in your area.

A while back I decided to do a Q&A and loads of you tweeted me lovely questions. Thank you so much to everyone who took part, I was so nervous no-one would ask me anything!

Erika (@TheWeInMe) asked,

‘If you could only choose 1 thing-one sentence of support-to say to someone struggling with mental illness what would it be?’

I would say that recovery isn’t a straight line. You’ll have good days and bad, ups and down, but in the end you will get better. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether that be to your loved ones, a counsellor, or your GP. You are not selfish for telling other people what you need, and it’s OK to not be OK. Be kind to yourself.

Oops, that’s more than one sentence.

Joe (@themanicmedic) asked,

‘If you had control of all the penguins, how would you take over the world?’

I love this question! I would command the penguins to do a giant flash mob to ‘Jump Around’ by House of Pain. This would undoubtedly be the cutest thing ever, and would eventually become the most successful viral video the world has ever seen. With the vast amount of money I would make from this, I would start to solve the world’s problems one at a time, and quickly be elected Prime Minister. My cabinet would be the penguins, and we’d travel the world together using the power of sheer cuteness, whimsy and joyful dancing to bring peace to every nation.

Laura (@lauradavis_96) asked,

‘What and when were you diagnosed with and how did the diagnosis make you feel?’

This is a tricky one as I’ve never really been formally diagnosed. I’ve always known I have emetophobia, but didn’t really know I also had OCD until my counsellor suggested I might. I was in denial initially, until I realised she was right. Having a label for it and a better understanding of what I was going through was actually a huge relief. Throughout counselling, everything clicked into place and I realised that I’m not alone which was a huge comfort. Finally I understood myself better, which is definitely the first step to recovery in my opinion.

When I saw my GP he didn’t officially diagnose me with anything, but he prescribed anti-depressants. I have also been prescribed beta-blockers for anxiety. So to an extent, as far as my doctor is concerned, I have depression and anxiety.

Depression is a serious illness so I’m careful not to throw the word around lightly. To be honest, I’ve always wondered whether it was just a series of very shitty events that made me feel the way I did, rather than an actual medical reason. All I know is that my medication is helping me and that’s all that matters.

Hannah (@hannahrainey_) wondered,

‘What is your greatest achievement? Something you’re really, really proud of yourself for?’

To be honest, surviving last year and coming out of it stronger than ever. I sought out the help I needed, took some huge, scary steps and put myself through a lot of pain, all the while learning to trust myself to do what’s right for me. I learned to put my needs first and gained the strength to open up to those around me.

I learned that the right course of action is sometimes the hardest, but in the end you’ll only come out stronger than before.

I’m proud of Geek Magnifique, and the amazing people I’ve meet through blogging. I’m proud of myself for following my dreams and landing an amazing job.

But most of all, I’m proud of myself for not giving up.

‘If you could have dinner with one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?’ 

– Rich (@RichBiscuit21)

It’s a tough one. Probably my Grandpa, as I never got to know him, but I’ve been told he was the loveliest man.

Possibly my Dad, to try to right some wrongs and repair our relationship.

Or maybe Louis Theroux. Because, well, Louis Theroux. *Heart eyes*

Charlie Brooker is also very high on my dream dinner party guest-list as I reckon we’d really hit it off. I think we have similar views on the world, and I’d love to pick his brain as I think he’s an absolute genius. He’d be amazing to chat to, and he suffers from emetophobia like me, which makes me like him even more!

Kat (@thekatway) was curious to know,

‘Who made your profile picture? And what good things have come from being a MH advocate so far?’

My profile picture (below) was made by the supremely talented, and wonderful, @AlohaLolaCards – check her out!

Cartoon image of me

The best thing about being a MH advocate is when people tell me I’ve helped them. Knowing that I’m helping people to feel less alone is a wonderful thing, and I feel honoured to have met all the incredibly courageous, inspiring people I have through blogging.

Mel (@melreylaw):

‘Do you ever get comments from people who think social media jobs are easy? What’s your response?’

I definitely get a lot of, ‘So what do you actually do? How is that a full time job?’ as people just imagine I’m sitting on Twitter all day. I explain that there’s a lot of planning and strategy that goes into it, and that my role encompasses many other things, for example writing blog posts and email marketing. To be honest, I’ve learned it’s easier just to say I work in marketing! Less questions that way. That or I joke that I’m a ‘professional tweeter’ and have a laugh about it.

And finally, another lovely question from Laura:

‘Name five things you’re grateful for.’

  1. My friends and family. Of course this includes my wonderful husband!
  2. Having a home and stability.
  3. Doing a job I love.
  4. Animals.
  5. Pizza.

Puppy eating a slice of pizza

A few months ago, while I was going through a difficult time with my mental health, a very good friend sent me a Get Well Soon card.

It was such a kind gesture, yet the card itself didn’t feel quite right. When you suffer from a mental illness, the thing you most want is to feel reassured and understood. My anxiety shakes my confidence and makes me question what others might think of me. So many times I’ve longed to hear a gentle, ‘You’re doing just fine, don’t worry’.

That’s why I’m so excited to announce:

I’m going to be launching my own range of mental health focused greeting cards, Honey Bee Cards.

Those who know me know I’m obsessed with cards. I have a drawer full of them (for all occasions!), and I could quite easily spend hours browsing through card shops.

Honey Bee Cards will feature cute designs, messages of hope, and most importantly the reassuring words it’s sometimes hard to find when a loved one is struggling.

I’m hoping to launch the shop on my blog within the next month, so keep an eye on Twitter for updates, and if you fancy it, you can follow Honey Bee Cards too!

I can’t wait to share the first designs with you.

Excited woman

 

Hi guys,

So as you probably know, I struggle with OCD and have done since I was a child.

You’ve also probably noticed that OCD is the butt of many jokes at the moment.

From OCD candles that ‘smell like OCD’ to ‘Obsessive Christmas Disorder’ cards, if there’s a play on words to be done, it’s probably out there somewhere.

And I’m bloody sick of it. OCD is a debilitating mental illness, and shouldn’t be trivialised in this way. If people understood what OCD really is (and not any of the myths flying around), they probably wouldn’t be so quick to joke.

So, that’s what #OwnYourOCD is all about.

I want as many of you as possible to share your experiences with OCD. That could be blog posts, photos of your cracked and bleeding hands, or details of your compulsions with the hashtag #MyOCDMakesMe.

The goal is to fill people’s timelines with REAL accounts of OCD, start conversations and put an end to misconceptions and stigma.

Who’s with me?

#OwnYourOCD

What Thordis Elva is doing isn’t dangerous, but thinking we have a claim to her pain is.

Yesterday, Cosmopolitan published the remarkable story of Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger. To summarise briefly, the pair were in a relationship 20 years ago. One night, when Thordis was drunk, Tom forced himself on her. She was 16.

Years later, she reached out to him, and the pair embarked on a journey down the long road to forgiveness. Now they give talks about what happened all those years ago, and have co-authored a book, South of Forgiveness.

The article stirred up a lot of outrage on Twitter, and while I can understand where it’s coming from, I think we need look a bit deeper.

I appreciate that the issue here is that Tom has been given a platform. He doesn’t deserve to have a voice – he’s a rapist after all, right?

No. I simply don’t agree. While I don’t sympathise with him or condone what he did, he has a right to share his story. A story that I believe carries an important message. His account details how over the years he faced up to what he did, and shifted the blame of the attack onto himself. He learned that being in a relationship with someone doesn’t entitle you to their body, a lesson I fear many others have yet to learn. If his story stops just one other person from committing the same awful crime he did, then surely his openness is a positive thing.

As Thordis herself puts it,

“I understand those who are inclined to criticize me as someone who enabled a perpetrator to have a voice in this discussion. But I believe that a lot can be learned by listening to those who have been a part of the problem — if they’re willing to become part of the solution — about what ideas and attitudes drove their violent actions, so we can work on uprooting them effectively.”

I couldn’t agree more. I may not feel comfortable reading the words of a rapist, but I truly feel that the positive impact of his candour will far outweigh my uneasiness. It’s clear that Thordis understands the seriousness of what she’s doing, and I think we should trust that they will use their platform responsibly.

Thordis wants to share her story, and for reasons we don’t need to understand, she wants Tom to be a part of that. By suggesting Tom shouldn’t have a voice, are we not saying Thordis shouldn’t either?

Many people have sadly gone through what Thordis did, and quite understandably wouldn’t be able to forgive their attacker. But we can still support what she is doing without invalidating our own feelings. There is no ‘right’ way to recover from sexual assault and while we might not understand how Thordis is able to have the relationship she does with Tom, we have to respect her right to do what she needs to heal.

You have every right to be outraged.

No-one would blame you if you didn’t want to read their book or listen to what they have to say. But for every person that disagrees with what they’re doing is another person that could draw strength from their story of forgiveness. So please don’t be so quick to brand what they’re doing as ‘dangerous’.

Tom has a voice here because Thordis has given it to him. If we silence him, we are effectively silencing her. And that’s dangerous.

You can watch their Ted Talk here.