Why you won’t catch me counting my steps

Fitness, Opinion

There are many benefits to the technology that we have available today, but as with most things it is not without its downsides. For me, one of such downsides is our ability to track and monitor every aspect of our lives; our exercise, our sleep, our water intake and even our menstrual cycle. But the big one is our food.

These calorie counting, fitness tracking apps – the Ads for which relentlessly follow me around the internet – brand themselves as a healthy, effective way to manage your weight and achieve your fitness goals. And indeed, for many they are.

But if, like me, you have suffered from some form of disordered eating in the past, you’ll know that these apps can start off objective and quickly turn obsessive.

Eating Disorders can stem from a variety of issues and develop for all manner of reasons, but one thing that is consistent in almost every case is the craving for control.

Tracking apps feed right into this idea. They have you input a huge amount of data, from your weight and height to your daily water intake. They then calculate the length of time it will take to reach your desired ‘goal’, and how many calories you are allowed to consume each day in order get there. The last time I checked there was little restriction on how much weight you could attempt to lose in however little time, it didn’t matter how unhealthy it was – believe me, I tried.

By entering the calories in every item of food eaten and the time and type of exercise taken the app will tell you how much you have consumed and how much you have burnt off – and most importantly how much you have remained under your max calorie count for that day. It’s not hard to imagine how it becomes addictive, that buzz of euphoria when the numbers add up to less than your daily recommended allowance. But just like the highs of success when you come in under, the lows of failure are always waiting in the wings.

In order to be accurate in your food tracking, it can involve weighing out ingredients, constantly checking packaging and eliminating anything not prepared by your own two hands. And so it becomes an obsession, checking the app numerous times a day, thinking about meals every waking minute, skipping social events where there might food involved. All of course, are symptoms of disordered eating.

It’s not just the food tracking apps though. Tracking your exercise and step count, and even sleep can just as easily spiral out of control. With the introduction of watches able to track every movement, comes not just more stats, but the ability to have them right in front of you at all times, you don’t even need to check your phone. Yes, it’s good to reach your target of 10,000 steps, but is it good to be so consumed by the idea of reaching it?

What happened to just deciding to walk to work today, instead of catching the bus, because it’s a lovely morning and the sunshine feels warm on your back? (Rather than because you need to reach your daily step count.)

Even when we are asleep we are not left in peace. The trackers on our wrist or in our phone are carefully noting each cycle of light and deep sleep, so when we open our eyes the first thing we think of is checking the numbers from the previous night, rather than checking in with the day we’ve got to look forward to. Only had one hour of deep sleep last night? An instant kick in the stomach, you thought you’d slept so well.

Although I don’t doubt that it can be useful and even effective for some, to monitor the energy they put in and that that they exert out, do we really need technology to be so in tune with our bodies? Do we really need an app to tell us we’ve eaten too much or not moved enough that day? We probably know it already, after all, we have survived just fine up until now with only human instinct to guide us.

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Too Fat or Too Thin, Stop Body-Shaming Full Stop

Opinion

I can honestly say that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (or Cole, if you prefer) is not a figure who has ever been of particular interest to me. I have never disliked her, but equally I have never liked her enough to care. Sure, I have found her accent mildly irritating at times and have experienced the occasional hair envy, but until now that’s about as far as it went. Recently however, I have found that I am not indifferent to Cheryl’s extremely high profile media persona any longer. I have found myself standing quite firmly alongside the rest of Team Cheryl, I am even cheering from the sidelines.

What could have possibly brought on this sudden shift in opinion? For that, we need to talk about body-shaming. You’re probably used to hearing the term quite often by now, because we live in a culture obsessed with doing exactly that, body-shaming. Society does it, the media does it, even we as individuals do it – whether we share this outwardly or keep our guilty, intrusive thoughts to ourselves. For some reason, which is utterly lost to me, we live in a society which is obsessed with slagging others off, and our favourite genre is the body, particularly – but not exclusively – the female body.

This is not news of course, it has been happening forever – or at least since the Daily Mail was let loose on society – but I’m bringing it to attention now because of two instances which in my eyes, highlight just how ridiculous this body-shaming thing really is.

Example one: newlywed Jennifer Aniston returns from her honeymoon, positively glowing and presumably still on a high – as you would be if you had just married Justin Theroux and spent the last few weeks at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora – only to be publicly body-shamed, ridiculed and humiliated by everyone’s favourite newspaper tabloid. What did she do to deserve this? Supposedly ‘over-doing the dinners’ and relaxing her diet whilst on honeymoon, heaven forbid. Apparently we live in a world where people, or rather those people over at the Daily Mail who actually consider this to be a work of journalism, are more comfortable criticising someone for their body (what happens to actually be an extremely enviable body, I feel I must add) instead of just being happy for them. Sorry Jen, we can no longer label you the poor, jilted women, we’ll just have to call you fat instead.
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Then at the other end of the scale there’s Cheryl, who has also fallen victim to the body-shaming culture. Her crime? She’s far too thin. Cheryl’s noticeably slim figure has had tongues and tabloids wagging non-stop since the start of the X-Factor, accusing her of being ‘too thin’ a ‘bag of bones’ and even a negative influence on young girls. Even though Cheryl had already spoken out honestly about her weight loss, putting it down to illness and stress caused by a recent personal trauma, the skinny-shaming was so insistent that Simon Cowell jumped to her defence, reassuring us that Cheryl was in fact eating properly.

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As I have also lost weight recently due to illness, I too, have of course found myself at the receiving end of body-shaming comments (whether these are intentional and malicious or not, the end result is the same) you’ll now understand why I am completely resonating with Cheryl on this one. It is equally as hurtful and frustrating to be labelled as “too thin” and constantly told to eat more and gain some weight, as it is to be told the exact opposite. So if no one can win, why can’t we just stop the body-shaming full stop? Public shaming, in the cases of Jen and Cheryl are not just one-off media assaults on individuals, they are attacks on all women, proving to us that no matter what we do or perhaps more importantly, what size we are, we will never be good enough. At least not in the eyes of the Daily Mail anyway.

6 Reasons Why We Should ‘Drop The Plus’

Fashion, Opinion

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“I am a model FULL STOP.” Says the face of Dita Von Teese’s lingerie line, Stefania Ferrario.

“Unfortunately in the modelling industry if you’re above a US size 4 you are considered plus size… I do not find this empowering… I am not proud to be called ‘plus’ but I am proud to be called a ‘model'”.

Stefania is one of a group of models, alongside Australian TV presenter, Ajay Rochester, who are campaigning to get the fashion industry to #DropThePlus – as in ‘plus size’ and stop classifying models by their size. The campaign is now widely trending on Twitter, with women worldwide tweeting their support and sharing selfies like Stefania’s.

There have been objections, of course, with many in the industry saying ‘plus size’ is a term simply used to differentiate. How is it any different from petite? But whereas petite describes a certain body ratio, ‘plus size’ doesn’t describe anything. Plus what? What is normal? Is normal the industry standard size 10? That’s ridiculous, right? That is the message that the fashion industry is currently sending out.

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Here’s why we need to ‘Drop The Plus’:

1. ‘Plus size’ is a pointless classification, when we already have a very successful, numerical system of differentiating between sizes e.g. 10, 12, 14

2. The term implies that anyone who is larger than a size 10 is not normal, or too big. This is extremely damaging and leaves women wondering “If she is a plus size, what the hell am I?” A perfect example of this is the Calvin Klein model, Myla Dalbesio, who was labelled as plus size, causing outrage.

3. Fashion is about empowering people to express themselves and be confident, it shouldn’t be about excluding people because of their size and making them feel insecure and inferior.

4. ‘Pus size’ is not just negative for the consumers of fashion, it is damaging for the models themselves. It stigmatises all size 12 and above models as “not real” or “not normal models”, just as the label of “real women” with “curves” excludes those models who are smaller, as if they are not real women.

5. Yes, ‘plus size’ did serve a purpose when women over size 10 had completely separate divisions within model agencies and were so rarely seen in campaigns and editorials that it genuinely shocked us to see them in Vogue. ‘Plus size’ was a fashion movement and it worked. Yes this is great, but the real success is when fashion rejects the plus label and starts accepting these models as an industry standard.

6. Language matters. Contrary to popular belief (we are all familiar with the rhyme – sticks and stones may break my bones….) words have an exceptional effect and can be irreparably damaging. As Stefania says “I am a model FULL STOP.” Just we are all women FULL STOP.

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@droptheplus

How Is the Fashion Industry Affecting Your Body?

Fashion, Opinion

https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/how-the-fashion-industry-affects-the-bodies-of-young-women

As I was reading this fantastic article, taken from the 1993 Beauty Issue of I-D magazine, I couldn’t help, not only completely agreeing with everything Avril Mair says, but also finding that many of the issues are still of extreme prominence today. I find myself asking the question, has anything actually changed?

I mean, apart form the obvious differences, the increase in statistics of Eating Disorder sufferers, and the celebrities who we are choosing to idolise, the basic principles remain the same.

“A woman’s experience of her own body arises from how she believes it compares with the magnified images of women that surround her on billboards, on television, in films, magazines and newspapers.”

“A consumer society in which women’s bodies are used to sell products while being presented as the ultimate commodity creates all sorts of body image problems.”

These quotes, taken from the original article, seem obvious, common knowledge to us today, but yet that doesn’t make them any less accurate. Even though the issue of the negative body image caused by the media has been recognised and addressed in recent years, making us aware of what we are being sucked into when we open up a magazine or switch on the TV, this realistically hasn’t changed a thing. Consumerism is all around us, in the digital world we live in, it is impossible to avoid and impossible to live without. Just because as a society we are aware that the media can have a negative effect on body image does not stop it from happening, or even help us recognise when it is.

“No matter how many ‘feminist’ features magazines may run, body fascism is reinforced by the advertisements, the fashion stories and the beauty pages”

The truth is, women’s magazines are still full of diet tips and the latest fat-busting work-outs, they are still full of photographs of celebrities looking their “flabbiest” at a size 10. The models filling the fashion pages are still painfully thin, they might not be size zero anymore but they are certainly not the same size as you or me. Yet even though we are now more informed, more aware, and we know it’s all an unrealistic expectation, we can’t help ourselves but be sucked in. Because it’s consumerism, and at the end of the day we are consumers.

Today, the diet industry is still without doubt, one of the fastest growing industries in the world and we still face the problem that almost half of British females are on a diet at any one time, yet most of these are not obese or even over-weight. The UK diet industry is worth £2 Billion, yet as a nation we are still only growing fatter.

As for the men, it goes without saying that the affect the media has on male body image has certainly not improved. Men suffering with eating disorders is still something which is rarely discussed, viewed as shameful and not masculine, but the same time it is a problem which is only expanding. The worrying thing is, we can have no real idea of the scale due to the only small numbers of men who feel comfortable enough to speak out and seek help.

21 years on from when this article was written, I am struggling to recognise any major developments in the effect the media has on our body image, in fact, this piece could of been written today were it not for the few differences.

If anything, I fear the media has only become more obsessed with our bodies and how we should look, whether it be “too fat” “too thin” “plus-size” or “anorexic” the media is constantly comparing, judging and sending out subliminal messages to its audience, and now with the power of digital and social media, it is almost unstoppable.

Avril Mair was right, enough was enough a long time ago.

 

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5 Reasons Never to Date the Guy Who Wrote this Post…

Opinion

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http://www.returnofkings.com/21313/5-reasons-to-date-a-girl-with-an-eating-disorder

The post above was brought to my attention on Facebook a few weeks ago, yes you did read that correctly, this is a blog stating the reasons why men should date a girl with an eating disorder.

I know, and I sincerely hope I’m right in thinking that most people would look at this post and realise that the author of this is a just a complete moron. Still, I felt that I couldn’t let this post go without drawing attention to how ridiculous and ignorant it is. It is worrying to say the least, that there might be men who actually think like this and see a woman with an eating disorder as something to take advantage of. Of course as always, what this ignorance boils down to is a lack of knowledge and understanding, but whoever wrote this may wish to think again before publicly mocking such a serious illness.

1.Her obsession over her body will improve her overall looks

Unless pale skin, dark eyes, hair loss, blistered knuckles, acid-stained teeth and downy hair growing on the skin are among your must-haves when it comes to women, an eating disorder will absolutely not improve her looks, whether it be Anorexia or Binge Eating Disorder. In fact, the opposite could not be more true. Eating Disorders are more often that not, not actually about the way the sufferer looks, it stems from something phycological and the eating disorder is a way of coping.

2. She costs less money

For many sufferers, the idea of even stepping foot in a restaurant is almost unthinkable, never mind a dinner-date. While you may be lapping up her leftovers, she will most likely be in turmoil, wishing she was anywhere but in a restaurant with you.

3. She’s fragile and vulnerable

If as a man, you need a girl to be fragile and vulnerable before you can date her, I think that says more about you than it does her. Only men who are fragile and weak themselves tend to go for women who are too insecure to stand up to them. They are easy targets.

4. Probably has money of her own

Aside from all of these statements being massive generalisations, this one is perhaps the most ridiculous as it is simply incorrect. I don’t know where the author got the idea from that only rich girls develop eating disorders but even if this was the case, that money will most likely be spent on slimming pills, laxatives, junk-food binges, you get the idea.

5. She’s better in bed

Maybe sleeping with a girl who lacks the confidence to tell you what she really wants, makes some men feel macho in the bedroom. As a woman, I cannot expect to fully understand what men want in bed, but using someone’s “pent-up insecurities, neuroses and daddy-issues” for your own sexual gain? Pretty disgusting if you ask me.

“a girl with a mild-to-moderate eating disorder—that hasn’t excessively marred her appearance—is today’s best-buy in the West’s rapidly plummeting dating market”

So as long as the eating disorder doesn’t progress into anything to serious, and it doesn’t damage a woman’s appearance in any way, you have yourself the perfect woman?

Is this a joke?

This post is a fantastic representation of everything that is wrong with society. As well as the shocking stereotypes, it shows the ignorance and inaccuracy that surrounds issues concerning eating disorders and mental health. Not only this but it is also a sterling example of blatant sexism, bringing to our attention that there is men out there who view women like this, and we are far from equal in their eyes.

The perfect woman? Quite frankly I wish any man who thinks like this the best of luck in gaining the respect of any woman at all.

Stoptober – 2/3 Weeks Smoke Free

Features, News, Opinion

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Okay, I’m going to be honest here, after the success of my first week smoke free I have somewhat let myself down over the last week and a half. Lets just say I’ve had a few “moments of weakness.” According to my Stoptober app, at this point I should be in control of my cravings rather than being controlled by them and they should be gradually decreasing by the day, in other words I should have almost cracked it. As I write this I realise I am much more disappointed in myself than I thought, I am forced to ask myself the question, was it worth it? The answer of course, is no.

My first slip-up was last Saturday night during a long-overdue night out. I actually bought a packet of cigarettes – which is almost unheard of for me – but honestly, I think I was craving the idea rather than the actual smoke itself. After I spent the first two battling through the truly awful taste, I gave up. I suppose this is the silver lining here, realising that what you’ve been telling yourself is true, smoking is horrid. Sometimes you just need to make sure.

However I still didn’t learn my lesson, one morning last week I woke up severely lacking in motivation. As ridiculous as it sounds, it was as if the part of me which had been telling me not to smoke just didn’t wake up that day. In a moment of madness, I purchased my first packet of tobacco since the beginning of the challenge, fully intending to smoke the whole lot, I smoked two. I am both pleased and relieved to say that this (still full) packet is now lying dormant somewhere on my bedroom floor, and hasn’t been touched since.

As I near to entering the final week, my sense of achievement is severely lacking due to these discrepancies, which I feel are over-shadowing the main positive. I can only console myself with the fact that I haven’t given up all together, in fact it actually shows great willpower to slip up, get over it and get back on track.

Stoptober – One Week Smoke Free

Features, Opinion

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Here I am, exactly one week after I sat in this very seat desperately trying to distract myself from the enticing packet of Golden Virginia, screaming seductively at me from the bottom of my bag. One week on, I wish I could say that those cravings have miraculously disappeared, that I don’t feel any of those overpowering urges, but that would be lying to everyone, including myself. As I write this I don’t feel a great deal different to how I did last week, the cancer sticks are still niggling at my brain, but there’s one big difference. A week has past, a week which has seen me resist the greatest forms of temptation and not smoke one single cigarette. I’m feeling proud.

This week has faced me with some situations which I was sure I would fall back on, take for example, “the very strong cocktails,” “the boyfriend smoking” and “the long journey.” I was genuinely surprised by own willpower – even though after two cocktails I did beg my boyfriend for “just a drag” – he kindly refused.

According to my Stoptober App, I have achieved various things this week by staying smoke free. After 24 hours my body was completely Carbon Monoxide free (I’m not entirely sure what this means for my body, but I like the sound of it,) my senses of smell and taste should be improving, my sleep pattern should be returning to normal and my lungs beginning to produce more oxygen – if this isn’t enough to convince me I’ve done the right thing then there’s no hope for me. Oh, I have also saved £16.58 by not smoking 40 cigarettes.

I have made it through the first and hardest week of this particular journey and although I am proud, I am also shocked that I’ve stuck it out this far. Honestly, I think I’m starting to get used to being a non-smoker, the cravings are starting to become fewer and I don’t have to constantly remind myself that I can’t smoke. I am on my way to breaking the habit, but god I miss it.

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Make Fashion Not War – Chanel, Paris Fashion Week

Fashion, News, Opinion

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As if I needed another reason to adore Chanel more than I do already – one of my only ambitions in life is to one day own the classic 2.55 bag – yesterday at Paris Fashion Week, Karl Lagerfeld gave me just that. For those of you who missed the infiltration of images on your Instagram feed, posted by everyone who is anyone, the Chanel catwalk show gave us something completely unexpected.

As the closing of his Spring/Summer 2015 collection, Lagerfeld sent his Chanel-clad models, which included Cara Delevingne, Gisele Bundchen and Georgia-May Jagger, strutting down a runway transformed into a Paris boulevard, placards in hands (and megaphone poised in Delevingne’s case) fighting for women’s rights. Painted on the placards read a number of statements, including “Make Fashion Not War” “Women’s Rights are More Than Alright” “History is Her Story” – you get the gist, but Lagerfeld had also included a placard reading “He For She” in support of Emma Watson’s campaign.

Of course the show has received mixed reviews and its fair share of criticism but I can only come to the conclusion that it was great. Admittedly it seems a surprising proclamation from someone who once said size-zero model concerns were the “whinings of fat mommies with bags of crisps” but Lagerfeld is also noted as saying, “Every thing I say is a joke. I myself am a joke.”

With this in mind, lets not take this too seriously. I don’t believe that Lagerfeld is the new champion of feminism and women’s rights but I do believe his show had good intentions and could have positive repercussions. Fashion has the power to influence, particularly a brand such as Chanel, and by doing this it is helping feminism reach whole new audiences. It is sending out the message that feminism is fashionable. However the show was intended, lets not read too much into it, lets take it for what is is, a whole lot of good fun whilst addressing an extremely significant issue. It’s a fashion statement.

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“If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?” #HeForShe

Features, News, Opinion

I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked play on the video of Emma Watson’s U.N speech, which is now rapidly overtaking social media. Until coming across this video, I doubt many of us even knew that she was a U.N Women Goodwill Ambassador, and now her “game-changing” speech has sparked global passion, causing a remarkable stir across the internet and getting people rooting for feminism.

Watson’s speech signifies the launch of the #HeForShe campaign, which aims to get one billion men on board, as advocates, for equal rights for women globally. The campaign is taking a refreshingly different approach to other women’s rights campaigns, by directing itself at men, rather than just focusing on women. The speech highlights how equal rights effect males too, for instance, not having to suffer mental health problems in silence, being able to talk openly and being able to show vulnerability.

Watson goes on to say what we are all thinking, making light of herself, the “Harry Potter girl” who might not have been taken seriously to begin with, but within a few minutes of speaking, has captivated her audience. She is no longer the school girl with the magic wand, she i a strong, influential woman standing up and speaking about something that she truly believes in.

Perhaps what I find most significant in Watson’s speech is how she talks about the actual word “feminism,” recognising and clarifying today’s common misconceptions.

“I decided that I was a feminist. This seemed uncomplicated to me. But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Women are choosing not to identify as feminists.”

Unfortunately, I also find this to be true. Women can often be ashamed to be thought of as feminists because it would mean they were too aggressive, too strong and of course, too man-hating. Why is it that feminism has become something to shy away from? How can an idea that men and women should be equal be seen as something negative?

The truth is many people can’t shift the idea that feminism simply means “anti-men.” Even though most people are informed enough to know that this couldn’t be further from the truth, it is a stigma which seems to be sticking around. I know young women who would never admit to being a feminist, particularly in front of men, for fear of being mocked or causing outrage, but what is so outrageous about an idea, a movement, where everyone in the world has equal rights?

If the young women of today cannot call themselves feminists and do not believe in this idea then what hope do campaigns such as #HeForShe actually have? This is but one of the reasons why Watson’s speech holds such importance and has made such a far-reaching impact.

If everyone – male and female – who watches the speech, while scrolling through Twitter, thinks for a second about what feminism actually means, not just for women, but for everyone, and not just for today, but for the long-term, then Watson’s speech has made a difference.

Too often we think to ourselves,”Who am I to talk about that?” “Who am I to make any difference?” Well, who was Emma Watson? She’s the girl who asked herself and us,

“If not you, who? If not now, when?”

Why Are We Still Waiting?

News, Opinion

When statistics were released this week, revealing that one in ten mental health patients are on a NHS waiting list for more than a year before they are assessed for treatment and one in six have attempted suicide while on the waiting list, it quite rightly made shocking headlines. The latest evidence of the mental health crisis, the latest betrayal by the NHS.

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Personally, I wasn’t shocked at all. I didn’t need a survey to tell me that patients can often wait over a year, with little to no medical contact. Nor, that in order to receive any sort of immediate help from the NHS the patient must be considered desperate – think attempted suicide and self-harm. I didn’t need the statistics to tell me all this because I have been experiencing it first hand for the last two years, when I initially gathered the courage to seek help for my own mental health.

When I was 17, after various trips to the doctor proved disappointing, a friend said to me, “You need to tell them you’re going to kill yourself or they just won’t do anything.”

As extreme and dispiriting as it sounds, this has turned out to be drastically true. During the sixth months I waited to be assessed and the further year before I was offered any form of treatment, I often felt the need to lie and exaggerate my symptoms at doctors appointments, in a desperate plea for help. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted them to do, I just wanted something to happen.

When I finally began assessment with the Community Mental Health Team I actually felt that the whole process was having a negative rather than positive effect. The lack of appointments was such that I didn’t see anyone on a regular basis and therefore never built up any of those trusting relationships I so often hear about. The Mental Health Nurse was supposed to be my support, someone who I could call at any time, but I didn’t feel that this was the case. Seeking help for a mental health issue is extremely difficult and took every inch of strength I had in me. I constantly felt like I was putting everything in and getting nothing back in return. When I actually did have appointments, I always left feeling despondent, wanting to give up.

I can think of only one way to describe the evidence and my own experience and that is, for want of a better word, depressing. I think of myself as lucky that I found the strength not to give up on life, but the bottom line is nobody should be left feeling this desperate, especially when they have reached out for help. Waiting lists can’t be avoided but patients shouldn’t be left feeling abandoned and even worse, as though they may as well of not sought help in the first place. Waiting until someone has attempted suicide before taking any action is just unfathomable. What is it they say? Prevention is better than cure?

Now my mind is much healthier and I can actually say that I am happy place, but I don’t put this down to the NHS. I put it down to finding ways to overcome battles on my own, including writing this blog. Just last month I finally received an appointment with a psychologist in the post, a year and a half after I first went to see a doctor. I laughed when I opened the letter.

 


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