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I'm Bex, and I'm nearly 24,
so, I say nearly 24 because I'm actually 23,
but I don't like odd numbers because they bring bad luck, so...
So, I'm nearly 24.
I love cats, so, I love cats.
I've got bipolar as well, and borderline personality disorder.
I forgot about that then!
It's quite a long list, actually, of what I've been diagnosed with,
but will just stick to the two, well, it's three actually,
cos I've got OCD as well.
That's an odd number. Hang on.
I started off always overweight from being a young child.
When I got to about 16, when I was going to college,
I decided just to lose some weight.
It just sort of snuck up on me.
It's not like one day I, you know, woke up and thought,
"I'm an anorexic."
But...I suppose I started getting the thoughts that it was
out of control when...
..I realised that I couldn't eat without feeling guilty,
I couldn't eat without the compulsive need to exercise.
It does affect my photography quite a lot. It's a very active job.
I'm on my feet all the time.
I have to have the energy, whereas most of the time
I'm continuously weak and not feeling strong enough.
Look at that. Aren't you beautiful?
I hit rock bottom on 20 November 2016,
and I will remember that date
because it was the day I went to sleep and...
..it was the first time that I felt I never wanted to wake up.
On the 20th of every month now, I want to set myself little goals
that help me keep on the road to recovery.
So, they include things like starting a t'ai chi class,
or doing some yoga.
I want to do a skydive for Beat, the eating disorder charity.
And one day it'll be, you know, several years of recovery
rather than just months.
I've always been an anxious lad, really, but it wasn't until
I joined the Navy that I realised that there was an issue there.
I remember once I was walking through the dockyard
and I had a massive panic attack.
I didn't know what it was.
It wasn't till I was told, really, that I knew it was an issue.
That's when I realised that I was ill
and it's not something that's just going to go away.
When it's at its worst, it's completely debilitating.
I couldn't be here now playing golf. It'd be...
I wouldn't shower for days. I'd just sleep or I wouldn't sleep.
I'd drink really heavy.
The panic attacks, the suicidal thoughts,
everything that comes with it.
It comes all at once and there's not much you can do about it, really.
There's so many different symptoms that come with a panic attack.
You've got the racing heart, you can't breathe.
You're shaking, you're crying, you're sweating.
You feel like you're going to die.
I really want to go out for my 30th.
We're on about going away somewhere, but...
..it scares me, because when I get too drunk,
that's when I have my panic attacks.
I'm Gemma. I'm 23 from Dundee and I am a nurse.
And last November I was diagnosed with depression.
When I was a teenager, I found that my emotions were heightened,
I would deal with situations differently.
I didn't want to accept being unwell any more and just dealing with it.
I wanted to admit to myself that I have depression.
So, I went to the doctors.
I have had times when I've been unable to cope at work.
Being on the front line of the NHS can be very stressful,
and there have been times at work where I have broke down
and I know that I'm not the only one that feels like that,
because I see it, but it feels that you are very alone.
I like coming here, because my dad and I used to visit here
when we were younger.
And I think it also helps me to try and think of times
that maybe people didn't have the problems that we have today.
-That's quite a good one. Sick bay.
After going to the doctor, they have started me on a medication,
but they've also asked me to self-refer for counselling.
And, I mean, it's not difficult.
It's just going and saying, "I need help."
But people don't understand.
It's really, really difficult
and there's that barrier there
that I just can't knock down to try and help myself.
I think the reason why I've not went is because it's unknown
what's going to happen or what the scenario's going to be
when I go for counselling.
I don't know how vulnerable I'm going to be and that scares me.
MP3 player, phone...
I've been diagnosed with depression, social anxiety disorder,
obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar,
borderline personality disorder, and also insomnia.
And that window's locked.
I call my anxiety disorder the anxious hug monster.
Because that's how it feels.
The chest just compressed
and it feels like your heart's pounding and your hands are shaking.
When I've been leaving the flat, it takes me longer,
with my OCD as well and my anxiety.
I need to do my checks, right, so I need to go, that's turned off,
that's turned off, that's turned off, hang on, hang on...
That's turned on, and then that's turned off, right,
so, that's turned off.
That's turned off. The window...is locked.
SHE COUNTS TO TEN
That's locked. And then to my bedroom.
The lamp is unplugged.
The laptop needs to be unplugged.
I don't trust that being on. Straighteners are unplugged.
Everything's turned off in here. The window's locked.
Right, living room.
This window... That's locked. That's fine.
I'll just check the back door again, then we can go.
Right, it's definitely locked, that's definitely locked.
OK, right, we can go, we can go.
I know the straighteners are unplugged, we can go now.
I'll just do that window again.
That's fine, that window's fine.
Everything's turned off.
I know the straighteners are unplugged. For God's sake.
And the back door's locked.
This really pisses me off.
OK, we're... OK, I can go.
Oh, no, I'll just count to ten...
SHE COUNTS TO TEN
OK, we can go.
So, I go to knitting club every week.
And today's knitting club day, so I'm going to do my yarn-bombing,
and sew all my patches onto the bench.
During the week, we make things
and then on the actual knitting club day we just sew them on.
When I was ill, like, with my anxiety,
which hasn't got better, but when I was, like, well, not ill,
but a bit unwell with my anxiety,
I didn't go to the knitting club for about four weeks.
So, I missed a month, but I came back
and everyone was dead welcoming,
they were like, "Oh, I'm glad you're feeling better."
-And now I just like the knitting.
Sorry about that.
I'm really... I don't like sirens. I'm really sensitive to sound.
I try and have a good routine,
like, take my medication at a specific time,
at night-time, and then have a good meal.
Even if it's just a few rules, or if it's just something,
like, I've got a chalkboard in the kitchen,
and it'll always tell me to water the plants and knit.
So, I've got to do at least those two things every day.
And then I know I've done something with the day.
And even though it's not a lot, it's a lot for someone that has,
like, a mental illness, so, even though I'm out now...
..I can't stop thinking if the straighteners are turned on.
But I know, I know I've unplugged them.
I know I've... I know I've unplugged them.
Before, I would never have ordinarily eaten anything for lunch,
but something quite generic, like beans on toast,
is sort of almost a safe food for me, but it's getting it in.
Before I would've never eaten bread or potatoes,
or even beans would have been too much sugar in that.
So, to go from eating nothing to eating something like this
is quite a big deal for me.
But when I am making food,
I just sort of try and distract myself as much as possible,
and if I stand here in silence and think about it,
I will just let my mind wander to calories more often than not
and I will start thinking about, "What else am I going to be
"eating later, and how many calories are in this?"
And if I pull myself back and actually think, why am I doing this?
I can't really give a reason for it.
One of the worst things for me to overcome was the guilt.
You know, when I was just about to hit rock bottom,
I never thought I would be able to eat like a normal person again.
My challenges are going really, really well.
I've just done t'ai chi, and that's gone really well. I enjoyed that.
It was something that was different and I didn't expect.
And then we do the same again to the middle.
And then it's like a warrior pose.
And I'm going to be doing yoga next month as well, which is another
sort of exercise that wasn't intense calorie-burning exercise.
I'm not ashamed to say that I've used alcohol substantially
throughout the years to aid me.
I wouldn't say necessarily that I have an issue.
However, I know it's a trigger.
-Guinness, please, pal.
It's got bad over the past couple of weeks, because I felt bad.
I know I've been drinking too much, cos I'm not doing anything.
The gym's started to slip a little bit.
Golf's just gone out the window.
It's very much waking up feeling like crap on a weekend
and doing it all again.
So, it's a downward spiral.
As soon as you start to counteract the depression with the beer,
just, you wake up sober, you feel shit basically,
and then you go back to where you were.
But it's telling yourself not to do that, cos that's all I've done.
That's all I've learnt through the Navy, etc, when I've been trying
to battle it, like, alcohol's the way out, when essentially it isn't.
It just makes things 20 times worse.
Especially when you're having a shedload a night,
and it's just not worth it.
It's like I'm in a pit of desperation and helplessness.
It's not just being sad.
It's a mixture of emotions, but very negative
and feeling that there's nothing that will be able
to help you change how you feel.
What I say to people who don't understand depression,
I feel like saying,
"Imagine having a really bad day and times it by ten...
"..and like you're fighting a losing battle."
For me, it's...
For me, it's being on, like, a...
Sorry. For me, it's like being on a tightrope.
And you're walking over it
and there's people throwing things at you to try and get you down.
And it's my emotions that are throwing at me,
trying to push me down into a pit of despair,
and that's, like, every day I have to deal with that.
It's like I put a brave face on to try and say,
"I'm OK, I'm doing OK, you don't need to worry."
And I think people sometimes take that the wrong way
and maybe that's not the right thing to do, to actually, I think actually
maybe you should admit, look, when somebody says, "How are you doing?"
and you go, "I'm great," but you're really not great. You're struggling.
And people think, "Oh, you know, she says she's got depression,
"but she's not showing it, so she doesn't have it."
So, I have to collect my medication today.
It's just something that I dread.
But we'll see how I get on.
OK, so, we're here.
And it's definitely busy.
There's people everywhere.
People get too close to me.
And then the people having conversations,
but loads and loads and loads of conversations.
And then there's staff talking, and it's just really loud.
It really affects my anxiety.
So, I've got my medication. Hurrah!
And it's time to go home.
So, I wasn't in there for very long.
And I'm home now.
I still don't feel that calm.
There's three little boxes in there.
So, that'll last me, erm...
That'll last me four days.
And then in four days' time I'll have to get some more.
So... SHE SIGHS
It's just a case of me trying to find something to calm me down.
There's lots of other side-effects that come with having anorexia.
I want to show you a little bit of my bloat.
This is just from eating a perfectly normal tea,
let's have a look at the time, three hours ago,
and I look like I am carrying a baby.
Now, I know it's not that bad, considering,
but as somebody who has bones jutting out
most of the time, my belly button is even sticking out.
It isn't painful,
but it is extremely uncomfortable.
It feels like the worst gas, the worst pressure,
you can't get the air in.
These are my ankles.
And today they are terrible
with something called peripheral neuropathy.
That is a nerve damage, and it's very, very bad.
It feels like creeping, burning.
No matter how cold I am, my veins start standing up.
They sweat, they're cold, they're icy, they're tingling
and the best way to describe it, it's like a creeping sensation.
Like lots of little bugs are crawling up my legs.
Anybody who thinks that eating disorders are a vanity thing,
you know, I look haggard and half dead
in my worst throes of anorexia.
And I knew that was ugly.
I didn't want to look like that,
and that's a prime example of the fact that it's all in your head.
Nothing to do with being narcissistic or vanity.
Exhale, release down.
Make that pillow with your hands.
On the plus side, I've just completed this month's challenge.
Extend the arms forward.
Yoga went really, really well.
It should help my circulation as well, which was a nice thing.
And I just thought it was a really nice way
to spend some time with myself,
and to be with other people at the same time as well.
Today, I am going to refer myself to counselling.
But also feeling I should have done it a long time ago.
Wish me luck.
So, just picked up the forms from the counselling,
I need to go and fill them out.
So, one of the questions in this form,
asking me why I want to speak to a counsellor.
And it's asked to please ensure you write it clearly to avoid delay.
I mean, I'm going to have to be open and honest,
which is really difficult, to write it down on paper, your feelings,
and make it so open for someone to see.
My initial reaction is what was I fussing over?
It was just so straightforward,
but I feel that, you know,
I built it up too much, being me.
And it was easier than I thought,
and I feel it's just a massive release.
And a massive relief as well.
And it... I feel so much better already,
just to think, "Ach, I've not done that," but now I have, so...
If I keep going like that, I should be more proactive with things.
I've got all these thoughts in my head all the time.
It just hurts, like...
The world is just really loud
and my chest always feels really tight
and I've got all these thoughts going in my head all the time,
there's just not an off switch.
I just want to feel OK and I don't even know what that feels like.
Normal day, woke up 5am ready for the 6am-3pm shift,
the early shift.
Nothing stands out during work that would influence what happened,
it was just a standard day.
At the time, I was going through the motions, giving my car back.
I took a pay cut to go to my current job
because it was causing me too much stress in my old one.
So, that was a way of eradicating certain anxieties.
I came home, just had a quick beer, playing FIFA.
And I get a phone call from an unknown number,
which I wouldn't normally pick up, but for some reason, I just did.
HE BREATHES DEEPLY
Basically, an insurance company had contacted my old address,
saying they're going to auto-renew my car insurance for £3,000.
..just literally knocked me for six. It was like...
The only way I could describe it, it's like you're grieving.
You have that grieving feeling, when you lose something.
That's all I can describe, that's all I can remember of it.
When people say...just calm down.
Doesn't work. It makes it worse.
So, whoever's watching this, and if you think, don't say that,
because it makes it fucking 20 times worse.
Fuck this. Fuck this!
My profession is my life, it's something that I love to do.
It's an escape for me
where I feel I can concentrate on the job that I love to do.
So, it's been around 5-6 weeks since I referred myself to counselling,
and I had to e-mail them and find out
if they had some sort of waiting list.
And they came back and said it's about 14-16 weeks.
It's frustrating because...
..getting over the hurdle of me actually going for counselling
was a big step, it took me a few months
to actually go and refer myself.
Now that I'm in this point where I'm just waiting for it,
it's a bit difficult now.
You know, there is counselling out there but you have to pay for it,
which I'm not willing to pay for that much, it's really expensive.
When I get here and when I'm doing what I enjoy, all my worries
just go straight away from me, and it's kind of made me a workaholic.
You know, it's everything in my life that I do
and it's what I enjoy doing.
So, the worst thing for me would be to not come here.
I'm just feeling
really nervous and anxious,
because I've got to see the psychiatrist
and I'm not looking forward to it because it's just nerve-racking.
It's just a bit scary because I don't know what
they're going to say and I don't know what they're going to do.
So, it's like I'm going into the unknown.
So, I just walked off the golf course
because in the middle of a comp, I'm that tired from nights
that give me, like, anxiety shocks all down my body.
And I just feel absolutely exhausted, so I just had to go.
I went in, and I was already upset before I even got in the room.
And then they just said, "So, what's brought you here today?"
And I said, "It's my anxiety, it's playing havoc, really."
They want me to explore and talk about...
..the event that caused the PTSD.
I've only ever spoken to one, two...
..four people about it.
My mum doesn't even know what's happened.
She knows I've got the diagnosis
but I think she might be too afraid to ask what happened.
So, she... My mum doesn't even know what happened.
And then, she just knows I'm anxious but she doesn't know what happened.
And then, so...
I don't really want to explore it but I think in order to get better
and to tackle my anxiety, I think that's...
..the only option, really.
So, I'm just glad it's over now.
It just makes me feel sad and makes me feel lonely.
I'm really looking forward to this one,
obviously supporting a charity like this is incredible for me.
It's going to be a big masquerade event in aid of the Mind charity.
I have got a sit-down meal, like I often do at weddings as well.
It's quite a strange experience for me,
I don't tend to enjoy it very much.
Because I'm so busy and I'm on my feet continuously,
I grant myself the permission to be able to eat.
Which sounds awful, you shouldn't have to have permission to eat.
It's usually quite difficult for me to do these events.
I'm very aware of people eating, I panic about the times of food.
You know, when things get delayed,
I will have maybe not eaten as much, so that I can eat a meal
and not feel too guilty about eating a big three-course meal.
I will have eaten less in the day. So, I get very panicky.
But I'm very aware of the fact that I need the food to fuel
the fact that I am so busy and so active and on my feet.
The meal was lovely, very nice.
As usual, I poke around the plate and find a way of avoiding this,
but it was nice, it was nice to chat to everybody.
Just sat there going, "No, it's definitely not me."
I looked in the mirror and thought, "You know what?
"I'm not me any more, I'm this different person,"
but you're learning and you're on a journey.
I just want to thank you all for coming.
Please make sure that you take care of your mental health
and you really think about how you're feeling
and how your friends are feeling.
It's very difficult for me and others, because of the fact
that I tend to get weaker a lot quicker than most people.
I don't have any reserves on me, so it takes a lot of energy anyway.
But when I'm always cold and tired anyway,
and so preoccupied with everything else that's going on in my life,
to then detach from that
and come back to "Work Laura" is quite difficult sometimes.
# Do you feel the same as well?
-# You know, I used to be in 1D
-Now I'm out, free
-# People want me for one thing
-That's not me
-# I'm not changing the way that I...
-Used to be
-# I just wanna have fun and...
-Get rowdy... #
It's the end of the night now, I'm absolutely exhausted.
So, now it's sort of trying to drift off
and slowly make my way out without seeming rude!
But, yeah, I'm tired and ready to get to bed now.
So, today, I've received a letter from my psychiatrist,
who I saw a few weeks ago for the assessment.
Right, so my new diagnosis is,
the freshly, newly assessed diagnosis is
emotionally unstable personality disorder
with strong schizotypal features.
The schizotypal features for me include severe anxiety
in social settings, which is me down to a T.
It also includes paranoia, episodes of paranoia,
which also at the minute is causing a bit of a problem.
And the third part is unusual thinking,
which is also causing a problem for me.
I didn't think my thinking was unusual,
but now it's been pointed out, I think that it is unusual
and now I've got this freshly assessed diagnosis.
I'm still trying to get my head around it,
I'm trying to understand it a little bit better,
and, yeah, that's kind of it, really.
When you drink most days, you kind of feel...
Like, you get used to it.
But when you stop drinking
and you have a binge at the weekend, it's just horrific.
I mean, it's Tuesday now and I'm just recovering from Friday.
# Baby, I'm out of control
# You weren't even... #
..every now and then, get absolutely wamboed,
and we... Yeah!
I'm maybe that guy that wants to kill himself every now and then,
but still, I love my friends, I love going out.
And this is why.
I don't know why I do it. Well, I do but...
Because it makes me...
It's the placebo effect that makes you feel better in the long run,
but it doesn't actually make a blind bit of difference to how you feel.
It makes you 20 times worse.
So, today, I have my first appointment with counselling.
It's been almost a year since I was diagnosed with depression
and I feel that I'm nervous, and it's very apprehensive.
-So, first of all, how old are you?
-And are you on any medication?
-Yes, I'm on citalopram.
What about suicidal thoughts?
I've had suicidal thoughts in the past.
-Not any time recently, though.
And when you say in the past, what kind of times?
Erm, maybe a year ago,
when I first was diagnosed with depression, I think.
-And what about any attempted suicide?
Thinking back to feeling overwhelmed, what was that like?
What does it feel like?
I was just so low, it just was awful.
I didn't see how anybody could help me.
And I would struggle to get out of bed, I'd struggle to go to work.
I was putting on a face.
I was trying to put on a face to say I'm OK, but inside I really wasn't.
I've never felt that way,
that although you physically are well, inside I was not OK.
Like, my brain was telling me that things are just so bad,
-how can you cope?
I expected the session to go not as well as it did.
I felt like I would be more vulnerable, feel more scared.
Compared to how I felt a few months ago, I feel much more comfortable.
I feel more at ease with my own emotions,
I feel like I can cope with things.
I really wish I did it sooner than I did. I think
my own self-doubt prevented me from doing it sooner, I think.
It was much easier than I thought it was going to be.
So, I definitely want to carry on going.
My anxiety has got to a point now where leaving the flat, well,
leaving the home has become...
..has become quite impossible, really.
But when I do go out, these visual images become much more intense
and much more real and very, very frightening.
And I personally don't feel comfortable or safe
with these visual images that are in my head,
because it gets to a point where I want the images to go away.
And the only way I feel the images can ever go away is to...
Is to kind of do what the images are showing me.
And these images aren't very nice.
It's in my head and basically, if I just close my eyes...
..then it's very real, I don't know how to describe it.
It's a challenge to describe it, but I'll leave it at that.
I have changed my goals slightly.
I was starting to realise they were becoming very intense, my goals.
You know, I wanted to do a skydive for Beat,
which I do still hope to do definitely one day.
But I realised how physically and mentally demanding that would be.
And I needed to rein it in a little bit.
I'm feeling really excited, but very nervous as well,
a lot more nervous than I actually thought I would be.
I'm looking forward to it.
But I've never really had a proper massage,
even if I've ever been comfortable in my body.
This is the time I'd now be making an excuse, saying why would
I waste time on myself when there are other things I should be doing.
I'm sat here thinking about the work that I've got to do,
and the fact that I don't want to get disrobed and be cold.
But I'm sort of really excited for it as well, I feel sort of proud
that I've got here again and I'm sort of climbing upwards
and feeling a lot better than I was.
It feels very strange to have her bones touching my bones,
and I can almost feel every movement,
like the skin over my bones, there's no covering.
-How's that pressure for you?
It feels like a xylophone, she goes up my ribs, on my neck,
I can feel all the bones clicking in and out of each other.
There's no covering, no cushioning.
And I'm sort of quite aware of her touching all of this
and there being no softening and she's worried that she's hurting me.
-There we go, Laura. How was that for you?
-Lovely, thank you.
OK, I'll give you a couple of minutes, I'll just leave the room.
-If you open the door when you're ready, OK?
-OK, thank you.
If anything, it's given me a bit of a reality check
of how far I still need to come.
I am in almost a denial, I think, that I'm OK and I'm a lot better.
And because mentally I feel a lot better,
and a lot of the time I'm wrapped up and I don't really analyse
the way I look naked or how I feel, it's been good in a different way.
It's been good in a realisation and a wake-up call
that I still have a long, long way to go yet to feel properly better.
30th birthday today, it's been a massive build-up, really.
I felt pretty crap this morning, to be fair.
Just because you dread people not coming.
But now we've had a few beers, it's flowing so it's quite good.
A few of the lads are here, a few are coming out later, so it's mint.
Really, really good. It couldn't be any better, to be fair.
I was worried we've got people who are going to cancel,
because that's what I do.
As an actual thing to get out of a situation, I just cancel, it's easy.
But then I was scared other people were going to do it
and I thought I was coming here on my own.
I was literally panicking but it's worked out quite well, really.
I'm dreading tomorrow, I bought 25 bags of crisps
and four litres of coke just to get through tomorrow.
Got my sister coming round to get me through the day.
I'm literally... It's going to be horrible,
it's going to be horrendous.
I mean, I know that already but I've prepared for it, so it should be OK.
How many pints have I had now?
Don't know, about nine or ten, I think?
No, I'll have a few shots!
-Ow, that hurts!
-I love you, brother.
That hurt me! That really hurt.
I'm ready to have a day off tomorrow. I literally can't wait.
Yeah, he's well pissed.
That really hurts my feet, that.
I'll will be Netflixing and chilling with my Monster Munch, mate.
That's as much as I'll do all day.
Oh, so it's the day after last night. So, um...
Yeah, I feel absolutely awful.
Still pretty drunk.
Eating lots of food.
So, very recently,
my mental health has declined quite rapidly.
So, I'm trying to do things that will at least try and make me
feel a little bit better, even if I feel better for five minutes.
So, I've been doing my sewing.
And just sewing in a hoop.
So, these eyes, they represent
when I feel paranoid or suspicious of other people.
Also, we have under here, there is a figure under there
and it's all being strapped down in grey and in red.
That's to represent the anxious hug monster,
when it feels like it attacks my body.
This big block here, that represents the brain,
or represents my brain.
And also as well, there's a question mark just there.
That question mark is to represent my new diagnosis,
and how confusing it is and how confused I still am about it.
# Stop, take it in and I breathe for a minute
# I think too much when I'm alone... #
I don't know if I'll ever 100% get over this.
I don't know if it will be something that will go away,
or if it's in my DNA.
# I never win when I keep all my thoughts inside
# So, I'll pick up the phone... #
It doesn't make any sense and that's probably the most frustrating part.
Stopping drinking is something that I've considered for years.
To be honest with you, I don't think I could, because I think I'm
mentally dependent on alcohol to help me get through things.
Like, I've got this diagnosis for life, really.
I'm not going to get undiagnosed, it's not...
I don't think I'll recover from it
but I think I'll learn better ways to manage it.
That image of a recovered life is so scary.
Who am I, if I'm not struggling from an eating disorder?
I don't know if I want to feel like it's cured,
because I'm scared of what that feels like.
I'm starting the new medication now.
It's just a waiting game, but the waiting game is a tough,
tough, tough challenge at the moment.
# I don't know what you're going through
# But there's so much life ahead of you
# And it won't slow down, no matter what you do
# So, you've just got to hold on
# Yeah, you've just got to hold on
# Just hold on for me. #