I think it is a good idea to start this post by telling you where I am, not to be dramatic but to just add a little context.
I am currently sitting in seat 27F, I remember because well, it was five minutes ago but more because twenty-seven is my birthday day and F I thought could stand for flight.
I am on my way to Berlin, the seat next to me is empty and I cannot see anything out of the window, other than a blur of lights that make London look like a distant smudge. My book is on my lap, ready to be read and I am pretty sure I need another wee, too much context? On to the post.
This week, all did not go to plan but as I continue to learn, life cannot be planned, no matter how organised or efficient you are, and if you know me you will know just how organised and efficient I am!
As I am sure you know I love traveling and I am extremely passionate about reducing the stigma surrounding mental health. This passion makes all I do with Time to Change truly enjoyable, so of course, I jumped at the opportunity.
I originally called this post ‘here, there and everywhere’ but after rereading the post I realised I have had a month of doing all the thing I love to do. This month has been filled with talking about mental health, exploring, seeing friends, family and somewhere amongst that finding gluten free, vegan goodness to. I am so very grateful.
As you will see I seem to have spent more time on a train than I ever have before, not that I am complaining! It has been wonderful, even the train part, giving me chance to read ‘Everything Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, I have only a few chapters left, so please no spoilers.
I have not written about this before and I do not really know why, perhaps the lingering embarrassment that has been with me since a child. However, unlike the ashamed, confused child I was, I now accept the way I see the world. After years of beating myself for ‘being stupid’, I now simply see it as a difference and who is to say what is ‘normal’?, maybe there really is no such thing.
As you know I am a firm believer in mindfulness and the feeling of being present, with my thoughts neither in the past nor in the future, yet I also like to reflect. I like to look back on the past, whether it be through old photographs, memorising with friends and family or even looking back alone, taking a few moments to remember previous times, even the difficult ones.
I think there is a huge difference in consciously taking time to do so and it coming over you out of the blue. Consciously reflecting in a positive light, perhaps not a positive time to look back on but one that serves purpose in remembering and one that benefits your present thoughts and feelings.
During the last couple of weeks, I have noticed myself doing this, from big reflections to small ones, each time bringing a feeling of gratitude to my present.
Last year, my friend and I, began a new tradition, to start pumpkin picking with my Godson. As tradition (one year counts!) the three of us got our wheel barrow and off we went. Reflecting on how my Godson acted last year, running around a field with orange circles to now, with his quickly growing curiosity, I was truly amazed. Within one year he has changed so much, choosing all the different pumpkins, counting each one, noticing colours, shades and textures to. I felt truly grateful to have seen this change, his ever-growing smile and even louder giggle.
Another reflection being a little deeper, as some of you may know I left my first university over five years ago now, due to being ill with my mental health. This decision did not come easy and I felt huge amounts of pressure from both myself and society, you know the ‘must do, correct way of doing things pathway’. Without diving into the whole five years, it has been a long and up and down journey but one that has taught me more than I can ever express.
As I wrote on my Instagram post, I know that education is not for everybody, we all have different paths to take and that is wonderful. It allows us to make our own journey and mark on this world a unique one. For years, I felt too ashamed to think about why I left university, let alone speak about it the way I do now. I felt like having a mental illness during such an important time of my life made me weak, little did I know that putting my health first, demonstrated my strengths.
It is important for me to look back and remember the thoughts and feelings I had, they drive what I do now. They motivate me to support others who feel this way. You are not alone.
For a long time, I associated a lot of the thoughts and feelings I had with my first year of university, it often being too difficult to look beyond that part of my life. This developed into a huge fear of education. With the mind set I would never return to study. Of course, as I ‘dug deeper’, let people in who could help and really worked on myself, overtime I began to feel at peace with my past. Seeing the time as a time to learn and grow from, knowing that regardless of where I physically was, the thoughts and feelings were already there.
With this peace and my increasingly growing passion to help others and learn to, I returned to university and I am truly grateful that I did. Being completely honest, I did not reflect upon this until yesterday, during graduation. I know it is just one of those traditional days to celebrate, but it gave me a chance to reflect, leaving me feeling proud, inspired and of course grateful for my present.
I spent the rest of my day with family, in the present moment and feeling gratitude for each of them and all around me, the venture I am about to take and the path that has guided me here – not the most conventional path but what does that really matter?
It would not be a ramble without some sort of quote so in the words of J.K.Rowling- ‘Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve’.
Thank you for reading and thank you for your lovely messages,
Having previously written a few thoughts on mental health and Camp America and asking you on Instagram what post you would like to see next, I decided to take a little break from searching for jobs that I hope to live up to my camp experience and write this.
A little early, with a few added rambles. Last week I saw a woman standing in the free from aisle, staring aimlessly at the limited selection of food choices as she asked the shop assistant “is this all?” The shop assistant looked at her, sighing with sympathy, she replied “I will take you to the refrigerated items to”. The woman followed the shop assistant looking disappointed at her basket filled with expensive and pretty-tasteless items. This was one of the many scenes I have noticed since being gluten free; the confusion, the frustration and the disappoint of the newly diagnosed, or even more so, the pity of the non-diagnosed, ‘normal eating’ family member.
This reminded me of why I write these ‘free from favourites’ posts, because I have been there. I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance over two years ago now. My first time to the supermarket resulted in me crying whilst squishing every rock-hard loaf of bread, desperately trying to find something edible and inexpensive.
Since then, I have become very supermarket savvy, you know those television programmes, supermarket saver? I could own an allergy friendly one! As could some of the other people I have met whilst both staring at the free from aisle. The amount of conversations I have had there, each person either welcoming advice and tips or offering them.
Enough of the ramble and onto the post.
Beginning with Tesco’s frozen Vegetable Patties, £1 for six, what a bargain? Since going gluten free, every vegetable burger I can find seems to be coated with bread crumbs or is made with gluten free bread crumbs, resulting in them being very overpriced. With a new recipe, making these burgers now gluten free (I thank you Tesco!), not the most luxury of burgers I know but I love them! They make the perfect quick and easy, childhood meal. Perfect with added sweet potato, beans and peas.
Whilst in Tesco, I found BFrees pitta pockets, I love the brand BFree, personally I think they are one of the best gluten free brands out there. Top tip, always use your freezer, BFree’s bread and pittas both freeze well, I just take what I want out and pop them into the toaster or in the oven for a few minutes. The pitta pockets are great for packed lunches, without those gluten free holes, they can hold a decent sized filling without falling apart as soon as you look at them. My favourite filling is hummus and falafel, basic but delicious.
Of course, to get the best deals you have to shop around and Aldi is always my go to, Aldi’s free from range just gets better and better. Aldi’s cashew nuts, raw fruit and nut bars, falafels and 55 pence- hummus, are always on my list.
A slightly more expensive but trust me when I say they are worth it, is Livia’s Kitchen Raw Millionaires Bites, perfect for those ‘coffee and cake’ moments. Not overly sweet but sweet enough to leave your sweet tooth feeling satisfied. With a lot of ‘raw’ foods, I can tell they are raw, they taste great but I can tell that it is different, unlike these. I honestly could not tell the difference, actually I could, these taste better! I found these little packets in Sainsbury’s free from aisle. Our of the two the Chocolate Orange are my favourite, hopefully I will come across more from Livia’s Kitchen to try, have you any recommendations?
Moving on to my non-free from aisle finds, the woman I mentioned earlier also asked about crisps. As she picked up the overpriced ‘free from packet’ before seeing the price and putting them back. People who are diagnosed do not realise the amount of gluten free items on the ordinary aisles, with more brands becoming naturally or ‘accidentally gluten free’.
Rice, pasta and noodles, with most free from aisles only stocking a handful of choices, more often than not the higher priced brands to, you are best of looking on the normal aisles. Of course, rice is naturally gluten free but I often find the microwavable rice packets containing either wheat or milk, Tilda are usually my go to for things like this. It would seem that more and more supermarkets branching out with pastas made from peas, lentils, brown rice and even buckwheat to, all naturally gluten free. As for noodles, most rice noodles are gluten free, even the instant ones.
Also, most sauces, spreads and condiments can be found without a ‘free from’ label and ‘free from’ price. Supermarket own brands are great for things like tomato sauces, jams and now even nut butters! What ‘accidentally free from’ item have you found?
As for being gluten free and vegan on the go this October, Pret a Manger has been my ultimate ‘go to’, with their vegan friendly options growing, I have been able to spot a few new gluten free options to. Featuring in free from favourites before, it is no surprise that I love Pret a Mangers soups, especially this time of year, I highly recommend trying their vegan chilli or the spiced corn and quinoa, both making the perfect autumnal lunch.
That is all for this month, I am sure Novembers addition will be starting to look a little more Christmassy (how exciting?!).
Reading over previous posts and having a little more ‘thought time’ than usual, I have realised the last month I have truly been engaging with mindfulness. After my time in America, I felt a little distant from myself, with part of me (pretty much all of me) wishing I was still there. After this realisation, I acknowledged my need for mindfulness, to feel in the moment and start to enjoy the present again.
Yes, you bet I am going to talk about ‘those little things’ again, but seriously focusing on the little things in your life, whatever they may be, has the power to bring you such a grounding feeling.
Feeling more grounded with the world around me, where I am without focusing too much on where I am going or where I have been has changed my mood completely. Of course, it is difficult but it’s the little things that can make a difference.
We all know that physical exercise is good for us but what about mental exercise? Focusing on one thing or time in your day, acknowledging the feel, scent and sound. Okay okay, I know some of you reading will probably look at the photographs of the cute dogs and leave here but bare with me.
During one of my many attempts at mindfulness, a mindfulness teacher asked me to eat one raisin, to close my eyes, feel it, smell it and taste it, noticing the texture and taste, more tasteful than any raisin I had tried before, I began to notice how little we engage with daily activities.
It is unbelievable how much of our lives we miss because we are not mindful, always rushing, looking around and thinking about the past or future. This Sunday to bring more content to your week, try and do something, anything, mindfully.
Oh, and where this post was going before the ramble, it was yesterday afternoon that I realised how grounded I feel, compared to a few weeks back. Mindfulness does not work over night, it takes time but over that time, with consistent practices you will begin to notice the difference, just as I did.
Looking around a pumpkin field, seeing so much colour there could have been a filter, filled with gratitude for my aunty and her doglets. Noticing the crunch of the leaves and even the smell of pumpkin (not the nicest smell I admit), I felt very content with where I was, in the moment.
Not quite the pumpkin picking post I thought would happen but sometimes I just must share these rambles, in the hope that you to have a mindful moment today.
Today is World Mental Health Day, a day to raise awareness, talk about our mental health, tackle the stigma, reach out or simply do something to better our own mental health.
Unfortunately, this day can be a very different day, it can very easily turn into a day that worsens our mental health and one that feeds into the stigma and misunderstandings around mental health.
I have spoken about mental health in the media before, as have so many others, yet it never seems to be enough as the media continue to use phrases and inappropriate methods of sharing mental health information and personal experiences.
Today sees the launch of Natasha Devon’s Mental Health Media Charter, a campaign which will change the way the media reports on mental health. The power of language, imagery and social media is huge and if done correctly can reduce stigma, raise awareness and educate many generations, ultimately saving lives from mental illnesses.
If you care about the way mental health is reported please follow me, along with many passionate mental health campaigners, as we support the Mental Health Media Charter.
I used to feel ashamed of having an eating disorder, even with a diagnosis it was not enough to make me believe I had one. I mean, how could it? I did not look like that person on the television or the one in the newspaper.
Using images of unhealthy bodies, before and after photographs and numbers can lead people to believe they are not sick. Seeing this form of reporting left me feeling unworthy of treatment, reinforcing not only mine but societies misconception that to have an eating disorder a person must be thin.
Using the term ‘Anorexic’ or ‘Bulimic’ instead of explaining how a person experiences an eating disorder, a serious mental illness associates the person as the illness. I have been called ‘an anorexic’ and I cannot put into words how upsetting it is to hear that term, let alone see it in black and white for the whole world to see to.
Being called ‘an Anorexic’ lead me to believe that is all I was and I became very confused, I remember thinking I was anorexia. Looking back, I know better, I know that Anorexia is an illness and that words get thrown around but there really is no excuses. Nobody should feel like this.
I talk about mental health the best I can, yet writing a post on my personal experiences does not come easy. I spend days reading my post over and over again before publishing, making sure nothing I post could be harmful to anybody who maybe reading. If only I could say the same about the media.
How many eating disorder articles, interviews and television shows have you seen that focus on weight, food and harmful behaviours? I have been interviewed myself, asked ‘what food was like during my worst days?’ Something neither I want to relive or be used as a ‘shock factor’ headline, one that could give somebody a ‘she did this, you do this’ thought. Instead we should be focusing on what it feels like, awareness and support.
Four years ago, I was too ashamed and feared talking this way, now if I don’t stop writing this post will turn into an essay. The list of bad examples goes on but hopefully not for long, together let’s end bad mental health reporting.
No matter the size of our publication, the amount of followers we have or our target audience, we must take mental health in the media seriously, we
must take more care and educate ourselves on the correct ways of reporting.
Please if you do one thing today, read and share the Mental Health Media Charter.