journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

What they didn’t tell you about recovery

Recovery. A word everyone associates with ‘doing well’. A positive word. When you tell people you’re in recovery, they assume you’re doing well. That isn’t always the case. Recovery is having the hope that one day you will get better. Recovery is taking tiny steps to feeling better even if you do relapse back to your mental illness. Recovery isn’t always easy, but I bet nobody told you that.

My experience of recovery will be a lot different to someone else’s. I don’t think of recovery as a set path. One day you move 1 step forward and then the next day you’re moving 3 steps backs. Some days I feel positive that the future will get better. Some days I don’t even want to live. Some days I am back to where I was when I was 10 years old. Some days I have the knowledge and hope to deal with my mental illness. Some days I can overcome the urge to kill myself because I know life is worth living. Some days all I can think about is dying. Recovery is a difficult one to explain. Recovery for me now is a lot more complicated than how ‘recovery’ was for Anorexia Nervosa. I am not in recovery for just an eating disorder. I am in recovery for a range of mental health conditions and problems which fight to ruin my life every single day of the year. I am in recovery to try and survive. I am in recovery to one day be free of suicidal thoughts. I am in recovery to be able to function everyday without worry. I am in recovery to be in control of my mental illnesses.

Recovery is such a big process. It is so difficult. A lot of people imagine recovery to be happy and positive but the truth is it isn’t. A lot of the time recovery involves frustration, confusion, guilt and pain. You want to recover and have a good life but at the same time you have been ill for so long you don’t want to let go of everything you’ve known. Mental illness is a huge blanket covering your mind; feeding you lies that destruct your life. Mental illness is nothing but awful but yet when it comes to recovery, you can’t lose your mental illness. You feel like your mental illness is you and if you lose your mental illness, then you will lose yourself in the process.  When you enter recovery you expect to experience a life without your mental illness but that never works.

Relapse happens a lot in recovery. At first, relapse seems to happen so often that you don’t even feel like you’re in recovery. When you are relapsing back to a mental illness, you start to become forgetful and have irrational thoughts and beliefs. You start to fear being left alone. You feel tense, anxious, depressed, restless, irritable, confused, suicidal and isolated. I know that when I relapse I withdraw from everything around me. I lose interest and motivation in everything. I have trouble sleeping and eating and I don’t pay attention to how I look. My grades suffer terribly because I don’t have the energy or even the care to finish my assignments. Relapse is usually caused by a non-compliance with medication, the use of drugs and alcohol, lack of sleep or an irregular pattern of sleep, stress, lack of social relationships, support for the mental illness, stigma attached to mental health, poor physical health and unplanned life events. Relapse has such negative consequences when you have a disorder such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, or an Anxiety Disorder. When you relapse, it’s so difficult to regain control over your symptoms. It’s so much easier to fall victim to your mental illness than try to fight the demons in your head, but once you beat the relapse, recovery begins again.

Recovery takes a lot of strength and commitment. It also takes a lot of courage. Recovery is like fighting with yourself, with your own mind, because you care enough about yourself to want to get better and fight your thoughts and your illness. Recovery is physically and mentally draining. Some days, it makes me ill. Recovery can make your mental illness worse sometimes. My anxiety levels usually suffer a lot in recovery because in order to change and become a healthy, recovered individual with mental illness, I need to put myself into situations that make me severely anxious. I come home sometimes with the happiness of accomplishing something new but also drained because my emotions have been through hell. The process between recovery and relapse leaves you feeling confused, empty, numb and lost. I couldn’t define who I am. I could not tell you a thing about me, because the truth is, I don’t know me. Relapse makes you see life through a false image; it gives you a negative and untruthful perception of the world. Recovery helps you appreciate the small things in life and offers you a little bit of hope in yourself. I am a different person in relapse than when I am in recovery. In relapse, I am silent, isolated, broken, confused, frustrated, comforted by mental illness, detached from the world, spaced out, extremely tired, hopeless and suicidal. Recovery for me only lasts a couple of days but from what I’ve seen of recovery so far is that I am hopeful for the future, I am able to make plans and decisions related to my life, suicide is no longer an option, I remind myself that I am beautiful and that God loves me the way I am, I am kind to myself, I allow myself to relax and appreciate the small things. I am different.

Relapse is torture. Recovery is beautiful. Battling with both is hell.

The most beautiful thing I have discovered about myself in recovery is that I have the compassion and empathy to help others going through similar circumstances. I absolutely hate knowing that there are people out there, even reading this right now, who feel so alone, helpless and lost. I just wish I could sit with every single one of you and make you feel appreciated.

In recovery, I am a mental health advocate. In recovery, I strive to help as many people as possible. In recovery, I educate people about mental health. In recovery, I raise awareness. In recovery, I offer a voice to others suffering with ill mental health. In recovery, I have the courage to make mental health awareness films. In recovery, I have the courage to talk to ITV news to share my experiences. In recovery, I have the courage to speak at conferences on mental illness. In recovery, I am the true me, that is so often consumed by the shadow of mental illness. In recovery…I have the ability to smile, because I know that one day things will get better. In recovery…I have the ability to smile, because I know that one day things will get better for you and that one day, you will smile too. Continue smiling through recovery, and you will get better.

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Above is the tattoo I had a day before my 18th birthday to highlight my battle with mental illness. The recovery symbol allows me to remember that I am in recovery, even if I relapse. The birds signify freedom – freedom that I will one day be free of the dark hold my mind has on me. Hope signifies the belief that I will get better someday, even if I do not hope now.

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journey to recovery · mental health · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Life gets better!

Life gets better. Does it really? You’ve probably heard this phrase a thousand times during your battle with mental illness. Truth is, people aren’t just saying it. Life actually does get better. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But it will someday, I promise. You’ll have good days, and you’ll have bad days, just remember; the bad days only last 24 hours! You will get through this. You will live again. Today will be better than yesterday. Tomorrow will be better than today.

I know it’s not easy to believe that things get better. This world is big, dark, scary place…especially if you’re only 18 years old like me. The world is massive – full of mystery, full of surprise, of happiness, of wonder, of future…It’s what you make it. Having mental illness can damper your view on this world, I know. I’ve experienced it first hand. You feel so alone – like everyone around you has figured out their life but you. You feel like no one understands you, no one understands your pain or your struggle. You don’t know how to reach out to people, you don’t know how to live everyday with happiness. You feel like you’re the only person that feels so down all the time. Truth is; those people around you that look so happy all the time – you don’t see them 24 hours a day like you see yourself. What happens when you’re not there? They cry, they have bad days, sometimes they don’t want to live any more too. We are never alone. I promise.

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Life is hard. Whether it is trouble with family, friends, your workplace, or perhaps, the inability to even find employment, there are many factors that contribute to making our lives that much more difficult to deal with. Life IS stressful, Fortunately, there are small ways to embrace the very precious things in our daily lives that we sometimes forget to enjoy.

Please, become comfortable with yourself. No amount of anything, be it money or otherwise, will make you happy if you are unhappy with yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and list all the things you like about yourself. Do you like your hair, your eyes, your personality? I bet you’re a wonderful person. Are you caring, considerate, loving? You are you. No one else is like you – you are amazing! Don’t hope to be somebody else.

Accept that you make mistakes. Allow the knowledge you carried afterwards to make you a stronger & wiser person. It’s only a problem if you keep repeating these mistakes. Accept the past altogether. While it is easier said than done, it must be done. You cannot alter history. As devastating or hurtful as the past can be, it is the future we look toward and can impact. Use tragedy as an outlet to join community efforts that seek to prevent/support that cause. Remember that whatever you are doing should be toward making a better tomorrow. Not rehashing the past. If you find yourself thinking more of the past than your future perhaps you should seek the help of a professional/family member/church member that you can talk to to help to give you the nudge you need to move forward with your beautiful life.

Remember you are loved and you live to love. There are people in this world who although they may not know you, love you. This could be distant family or perhaps, a stranger who simply believes in your potential. Know that you are loved and exude that love to those around you so that you may reap the reward of being an exemplary example of human kindness and self-fulfillment. You have to love yourself in order to love others entirely.

Be priceless. There is no amount of monetary value that can be placed on changing someone’s life in a positive way. Be the first to lend a hand or simply listen to someone. Even if you aren’t the person you’d like to be today, love yourself and send love to the person you’re working so hard to become.

Smile. It always gets better if you want it to. No amount of self-loathing will change your present. But hard work and a genuine smile will be your gift for tomorrow.

Negative thoughts plague us all. When they begin, think of things you do like. Distract yourself momentarily with things you do love and find something positive to do. Do not linger with these thoughts. Be strong and move on.

I love you!

journey to recovery · mental health · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

5 struggles of an Anorexic

Having an eating disorder can be such a struggle and there are so many myths associated with the condition. When I was unwell, I came up with 5 struggles that people with eating disorders go through.

  1. Hunger. A lot of people think that people with Anorexia hate food altogether and refuse to eat much. This is not the case. Although we do try to limit our intake of food and absolutely hate consuming it, we do feel hungry. Sometimes, we do get cravings and want to eat chocolate or ice cream or that piece of cake you just offered at the birthday party. Hunger seems to be a constant emotion. The amount of food we take in is usually controlled by ‘Ana’ or the voice in our head, even if we do wish to eat more.
  2. Weight. We don’t always lose weight. Some weeks, we could lose a couple of pound. Some weeks, we could gain some. It can be so difficult. Not all people with Anorexia start off with a low body weight. Some people with Anorexia start off with a normal body weight or may even be overweight. Anorexia is a disorder of the MIND, not body, and so it can be terribly frustrating when people have the belief that all Anorexics are severely underweight.
  3. Emotion. An eating disorder, like any mental illness, can cause serious distress. With Anorexia comes a lot of confusion. It’s being completely safe and comfortable controlling your food intake and exercising excessively but then becoming extremely irritated, upset and guilty when others want you to eat more, or notice you aren’t eating very much, or when others make comments on your weight and appearance. Daily and weekly weigh-ins pay a big role on what our mood will be. If we lose weight, we are more than likely going to feel happy and fall deeper into our eating disordered patterns. If we gain weight, we feel terribly frustrated, guilty and angry which leads us to be irritable with everyone we come into contact with.
  4. Lies. There’s one thing you have to be good at when you have an eating disorder. Lying. You have to be good at lying in order to keep it quiet, in order to stop people finding out what is going on. We have to lie, even if we don’t want to. Did we eat today? Oh yes, of course. How long did you exercise for? Oh, only about half an hour. Are you feeling okay? Oh, yes I’m fine.
  5. Exercise. A lot of people believe that because we exercise excessively and spend endless amounts of time at the gym that we simply love to exercise. It’s not always the case. Exercise makes us feel less guilty and allows us to keep the little amount of calories we consumed inside our stomach. Sometimes, we don’t have any energy to exercise. Going to the gym is sometimes the last thing we want to do. But, we do it anyway, because in our disordered minds, it allows us to feel safe. Exercise is a necessity, one that we must do every single day in order to feel okay about the food we’ve eaten.
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My first encounter with Anorexia – in the midst of my illness, May 2014
journey to recovery · mental health · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Who am I?

Hello smilers!

My name is Savannah Lloyd. I am 18 years old and from a small village in South Wales. I am currently living life in Oxford thanks to being at Oxford Brookes university!

I have set up this blog to share my personal experiences with mental health, to educate others on all types of mental health problems, to be a mental health advocate and campaigner as well as a youtuber, blogger and author (Smiling Through Recovery is available via Amazon)

I was born on May the 31st 1997, one of the hottest days of the year. I grew up in a loving family with lots of pets and loved exploring outdoors. I loved building tree houses, clambering through the woods and streams as well as paying a close attention to the environment around me and the animals that inhabited it.

Unfortunately, when I was 8 years old, I become very aware of the situations and people around me. I become very shy and reserved, never spoke up in class and had few friends. I got on with everyone around me but found it difficult in social interactions. I began to get bullied for being different in my final year of primary school and this continued through comprehensive school.

At 12 years, I made my first suicide attempt after weeks of physical and emotional bullying. I kept these suicidal feelings to myself and didn’t open up about it for years. I began self harming, developed depression and anxiety (unknown to me at the time) and completely went down hill in school. I began getting distracted in lessons and school didn’t feel like a safe place to be. At 13 years old, I started counselling for self-harming but found that the sessions did no help.

During my time at comprehensive school I suffered with several undiagnosed mental health issues and eventually took a turn for the worse at 15 years old (August 2013). I was fed up of getting bullied, struggled to accept myself, had a very low self-esteem and lack of confidence and could barely look at myself in the mirror. I self-harmed on a weekly basis and often had suicidal thoughts.

10 months later in June 2014, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. I had lost  over 25.4 kg (4 stone) in a 10 month period, had black outs and dizzy spells, bruised easy, had pale skin and could barely stand. I hated eating and barely drank. In November 2014, I was also diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder and Endogenous Depression. It is still unknown (though I have many traits) whether or not I have a diagnosis of Avoidant Personality Disorder.

Since my diagnoses, I have come so far yet so little. I have recovered, I have relapsed, I have struggled, I have lived. Mental Illness is not easy. Recovery is so hard, and relapse is always so tempting. However, my mental health problems have given me a great deal of knowledge, a great deal of empathy and passion to fix stigma associated to mental health. Therefore, I am a mental health campaigner, blogger and author and continue every day to end stigma associated to mental health.

Through this blog, I hope to share both my positive and negative experiences in order to highlight the realism of mental health problems and the impact it has on people’s lives.

Smile through recovery, always.

I love you

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