Friday, 28 February 2014

Defining Recovery


What is recovery? Well, tells me the following:

1. an act of recovering.

2. the regaining of or possibility of regaining something lost or taken away.

3. restoration or return to health from sickness.

4. restoration or return to any former and better state or condition.

5. time required for recovering.

Thank you for that, but I think when it comes to mental health recovery this becomes a massive cloudy grey area. I strongly believe that if you are receiving treatment within mental health services you should be given the opportunity to discuss what you want out of your recovery because no two recoveries are the same. For this exact reason recovery is quite a difficult topic to write on as you will never fully cover it all. 

Personally, I don't view recovery as living without symptoms of an illness. I believe recovery to be living a fulfilling life in spite of any limitations an illness may cause. In this way I think of the journey through recovery to be an ongoing learning curve, the first time you put on your ice skates you are going to land on your bottom a few times but learning to pick yourself up after that fall is the important bit, trying again is how you learn.  

I really like definition number two: possibility of regaining something lost or taken away. Becoming mentally unwell can feel like you have lost so much or because you have so little control over the situation it will feel like your life has been taken away from you. Both of those are totally understandable for there is never going to be a convenient time for you to feel like you are starting from scratch as that is a very scary thing to be expected to do. Take a little look at the journey in from eyes and feel free to disagree with all of it because recovery is yours:

Remember, it is your journey, nobody else can tell you what your recovery should look like.

Hannah x

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The Play


I came up with a new play idea a few months ago and as usual I let the ideas float about my head for a little while until I can clearly work out what it is I want to write about. That time passed, I did some planning, thought about what medium I was going to write it for, started actually writing it, made a pin-board for it yet here I am still referring to it as "The Play" or "The New Play". It is really starting to annoy me that it doesn't have a name, I don't normally get that hung up on names but for some reason it is really annoying me.

Grace is a student, an optimist, a runner, works as a barista. She drinks coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon and green tea on an evening. Grace dances when she thinks noone is watching her, she prefers daffodils to roses. Grace will judge you if you order your coffee without foam. Grace is a butterfly stuck in a cage called life. Grace has anorexia but she is so much more than that.

This afternoon I rattled off this slightly out of hand list of possible titles:

• Baby Steps • Frozen Steps • Steps of a BabySteps of a Frozen Baby • Butterfly Steps • BlanketsFrozen BlanketsBlankets of a Baby • Bottles of Butterflies • Glass bottles • Bottled-up dreams • Bottled-up Butterfly • Encaged • Caged dreams • Caged footsteps • Brave Butterflies • Catching Butterflies • Caged wings • Birdcage • Frozen Wings • Feathers of a butterflyHandcuffed ButterflyWinged OnesWinged WandsWands with Wings • Blossoming Butterflies • Wings of a Feather • Butterfly Fields • Broken Butterflies • Amputee Butterflies • The Devils Fly • Knitwear for Butterflies • When Satin Fails, Enter Jumpers • Paper Wings • Satin Wings • Just Add Jumpers • Wing Transformation • Butterfly Jumpers • Wiggly WormsWanted WormsWorms of GraceWormy Wands • From Grace with Wings • Eleutheromania • Swimming with Butterflies

I was looking at the pictures on my pin board whilst rattling off this list and clearly some of the titles could go straight away. Here is a smaller lists of titles I may actually consider:

 • Catching Butterflies
 • Swimming with Butterflies 
 • Frozen Wings 

For now though I should be actually writing "The Play". Take a look at my pin-board for it:

Hannah x 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Weather to Fly


Weather to Fly
Allison Davies
Customs House, South Shields
Saturday 15th February

A beautifully tragic piece of contemporary theatre that tackles big issues from the innocent eyes of a child, Weather to Fly left me heart-broken.

With a mam in hospital, 'the one for people with broken heads, like clocks that have stopped', and a brother away in the army young Debbie is left in the care of 'Gary-Dad'. Despite never actually seeing 'Gary-Dad' he is ever present throughout the play in a sort of omniscient sense, leaving me feeling constantly on edge. The use of a child as the main character adds a more light-hearted tone to a disturbing reality which in a way makes it ever more heart-breaking as there is rarely a moment in which we forget Debbie's innocence.

Weather to Fly is the perfect representation of the importance of speaking up and being authentic. Debbie's brother Joe reminds us that life can still be hard for those who stand out from the crowd despite the fact that 'it's supposed to be alright now, no discrimination'.

Having seen Weather to Fly once before at Live Theatre I was sceptical about how the production would transfer to a larger setting, however I was pleasantly surprised to see this made no difference whatsoever. From lights down to lights up I was caught up in the storyline the separation between stage and audience was almost non-existent thanks to the natural delivery and casual staging.

I would go to see Weather to Fly over and over again, certain that it will never lose its captivating effect and I urge you to see it for yourself if you get the opportunity. Take your tissues!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

I'm Sick of Privileges


I am cisgender, straight, white British, a Christian and most of the time not disabled. Looking at this list I am societies perfect 'normal person'. Well, for starters lets get rid of this rubbish. I am a very liberal person in terms of any form of human rights and I find this very difficult because I have so many privileges. The only thing in this list that goes against me ever is being a Christian, mainly because people assume that I will want to 'shove it down their throats', I don't, so that doesn't particularly bother me.

Being cisgender is possibly the biggest on the list. For those of you who don't know what cisgender means, it means to identify with the sex I was assigned at birth. Therefore, my gender identity is female, as is my sex. This gives me a whole list of privileges I would never have noticed had I not been exposed to the issues faced by trans* people. My friend is transgender and my word I have life so flaming easy.

1) I can waltz into a bar with noone questioning the fact my ID gender doesn't match up with what they see because I haven't had any legal changes.
2) I can go to into the toilets without worrying that someone will think I'm in the wrong place.
3) I don't get misgendered.
4) I can breath without near suffocation because I don't need to bind my chest.
5) I don't get asked about my genitals regularly.

These are just a few points, I could go on and on forever. But my word these are such ordinary things for me which I take for granted every day. I would keel over if someone asked me what my genitals were and if I'd had surgery on them. That should never be okay to ask.

Next privilege. I am straight. I have never had to come out, I was thinking about this the other day and how socially bizarre it would be to sit down people and be like "just to let you know, I'm straight, that's right I like boys". I have NEVER announced my sexuality to the people I know in a way you are expected to if you are gay/lesbian/bisexual and I find this really odd. Being straight brings with it some privileges:

1) People don't assume I like every boy I see. No I don't fancy you just because I've came into contact with you, calm your ego down.
2) I have never been asked how I have sex. Why do people think it is okay to ask that?!
3) I have never heard my sexuality used as an insult. Contrary to popular belief inanimate objects cannot have homosexual feelings for each other.
4) I have never been called brave for having feelings for another human being.
5) People did not ask me aged 14 how I am going to have children.  

Most of the time I am not disabled, I am slightly disabled at the moment. I am hobbling around on crutches and have been for almost a month now. Heck I've taken my mobility and access for granted, the list of privileges is astronomical:

1) I had never had to change where I was going because where I wanted to go had stairs.
2) I never had to rely on people on the bus not being too ignorant to give me their seat when I'm falling all over the place struggling to stay upright.
3) I never had to worry about my grocery shopping, having to put eggs in my backpack because they would swing and smash of my crutches.

I have tons of privileges and I wish it wasn't that way. Inequality is insanely rife.

Hannah x

Way of Life


I'm currently sitting in a coffee shop with my two best friends, we are all sitting writing because we are nerdy like that. In the dead silence I ask:

"Do you believe in heaven?"

That is a bit of a deep question for  me to be asking on a Saturday afternoon, I then went on to announce:

"My heaven is yellow. Kind of fluffy, cloud fluffy and with lots of daffodils."

Needless to say this sharp escalated into a conversation about our views on religion, particularly Christianity. I am the only practicing Christian around the table, one of my friends is Buddhist and the other is somewhere between the both of us. I would say I am a liberal Christian, I am not entirely sure that is a real term but I am coining it a real term now. I am quite open about my religion to people when I talk about it, I am not embarrassed to say I am a Christian but equally as much I do struggle with some aspects of Christianity and neither am I shy to admit that.

Just as some Buddhists view Buddhism as a way of life I feel that way about Christianity. I feel like The Bible teaches me said way of life and generally teaches me to be a good person, not like anyone should need a reason to be a good person. I feel that I am so far from people's stereotypes of Christianity, far from making me narrow minded on aspects such as sexuality I feel like I am a more broad-minded person because of Christianity. Britain is supposedly an equal nation, well, I am not so convinced about that. I am however convinced that I have an equal centre of belief, I wholeheartedly believe equality is a human right. This sense of equality forms the centre of my Christian beliefs also, it is what draws me to religion, I feel like religion should allow you to be anyone. Religion should inspire bravery and authenticity. It's what it does for me.

This flows quite nicely into prayer. I don't do very much "out loud prayer" but I don't think that makes it any less of a prayer, I'd rather sit in silence and think my prayers through because sometimes I feel a bit awkward saying things out loud, this is okay. I recently came across this Mother Teresa quote which sums up my views on prayer quite nicely:

I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.
I just described prayer to my friends as a verbal diary. Being that we are writers I feel writing to change our minds is something we can all identify with. I will often start writing about something I don't really understand with the hope that by the end of it I will understand it more. I feel the same about prayer, when I lie in bed on a night time doing my "thought prayers" I do it in the hope that I will wake up in the morning with a clearer perspective on the situation. 
Prayer changes us and we change things.

Hannah x

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Great North Run


Last Monday I got an email confirming my place in the Great North Run. I'm not going to lie, this was far from good news given that I'm currently having trouble walking never mind running! The Great North Run is about 7 months away so I'm trying to be positive about the situation and hope that I'm doing really well by then but the most annoying bit is that I'm totally in the dark. No doctor has actually found out what is wrong with my foot but more importantly I don't know what can be done to make it better, all I know is that there is a bone in my foot bent twenty degrees in the wrong direction and that I should avoid pressure on it by using crutches. So you can see why the news of running a half marathon is a bit scary!

Most of you are probably thinking 'why on earth are you doing it?' I'm doing it because:

1) I like a challenge and this is a big one.

2) There are people in far worse situations than me.

3) The charity I am running for are amazing!

I'm going to be running for B-eat, a charity that supports people with eating disorders, their family and friends. The charity relies heavily on their volunteers to run help-lines, support groups and get involved in research. Most importantly they need people to carry out fundraising in order for their amazing work to continue. One of the reasons I am doing it is the determination I have to raise money for this charity, they are supporters of something very close to my heart. I know many people that have struggled with eating disorders: some recovered and some still fighting through each day. In times of despair support is all any of us would want and it is what all of us deserve.

I am determined to finish the Great North Run no matter what happens with my foot. I will finish if I walk, run or crawl. I'll keep you all up to speed with my progress!

My just giving page is here: 

Hannah x

'I'm Being Good' and Why I Hate it!


I was having a coffee with a friend in Starbucks the other day and two middle-aged men were sitting on the table next to us. Both men had coffees and one also had a slice of carrot cake, the cake-less man said to the other 'that looks so good, I love carrot cake.'
The man with cake naturally responds with 'it is good, you should get some.'
'No, I can't, I'm being good.'


Why are you deemed to be 'good' if you deny yourself the pleasure of eating a slice of cake?! If anything you are bad for torturing yourself by thinking you can't have it! I did oddly appreciate the fact that it was men I heard saying this because I am sick of people thinking that women are the only food fixators.

This brings me on to the related issue of clean eating.


I'm sorry, do you usually eat out of bins? If yes, I can see why that kale and spinach feast is clean. Otherwise, what the hell are you on about?!

I am going to stop now because I could complain about this forever.

Off to eat some cake.

Hannah x

Saturday, 15 February 2014

My Best Friend


My best friend is a boy,
My best friend eats pizza at 3am,
My best friend is addicted to Gossip Girl,
My best friend sleeps in old man boxers,
My best friend can't multi-task,
My best friend hates Christmas shopping,
My best friend likes beer,
My best friend is a wicked eyebrow fixer,
My best friend runs,
My best friend fancies Mel C,
My best friend loves a Wetherspoons date,
My best friend straight-jackets his chest and this is okay,
My best friend was born a girl,
Who cares?
Hannah x

Friday, 14 February 2014

Changemakers Coaching Session Two - Relax


Yesterday I had my second coaching session with Changemakers which I am going to split into two blog posts. We talked a lot about my frustration with my current injury using the phrase "accept what you can't change and change what you can't accept", this will form the second blog post I'm going to write but firstly I'm going to have a look at my issue with relaxing.

In the first coaching session I had I realised I could only pick out one occasion that I properly relaxed on and given that it currently hurts to walk I'm going to have to learn how to chill out and let people help me. This brings me on to my point, I wrote some action points at the end of the session, one of which is to do something relaxing every day for one month. I am vowing to set aside time for myself, to do something I enjoy and find relaxing. No dashing about the place busying myself with things that aren't really that important. Just a relaxing activity.

This year I decided I wasn't making any "formal" new years resolutions because I think that it sets you up to fail. Well, I kind of lied a little bit. I made a form of new years resolution. I decided that for every day in January I was going to inspire a very close friend of mine, January ended and I realised I was still doing it, not every day but regularly, purely because I was in the habit of doing it. Most of the days I wrote or made something or told her to write or make something. The point is I am thinking about doing something in a similar way with these relaxing parts in my day. I used to really enjoy doing crafts, so today marks the day of starting to do this kind of thing again. Today my first relaxing activity has matched both of these thing together, why make one person happy when you can make two happy. I've made a washing line of butterflies for my friend to write something to inspire herself on each butterfly each day and started her off with her first butterfly.

I'm setting up a Pintrest board to post a picture each day of what I've done to relax, this way I have to do it. View my board here: Relax Hannah.

Hannah x

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Coffee, Coats and Carole


Tuesday 11th February and I'm off to Edinburgh again because not not being there for five months is five months too long, so my mam got roped into a day trip. Before I start wittering on let it be known that my mam is quite anxious where trains are involved.

We arrived at Newcastle thirty minutes before the train was due and that was apparently far too late, my mam then got out the wrong train tickets because it was "too dark" and despite there being twenty minutes until the train was due there was definitely no time for a takeout coffee. Don't be ridiculous now Hannah. After convincing my mam that there was plenty of time for coffee it all came out. "Hannah, I think it's the mess of the station disturbing me." There are no words.

We've been having a giggle the last week or so about the fact I'm 19 going on 90 with the speed I'm hobbling about on my crutches, then it just so happened by coincidence that we were assigned these seats...

Staying with my crutches problems we went for a hand and arm massage because the palms of my hands are absolutely ruined! We were in Jo Malone, I'm scared to even sniff perfume in there in case I knock it over because it costs more than I have in my bank most weeks! It was a nice relax but my  hands were so smooth afterwards they spent the next hour slipping off my crutches resulting in me falling all over the place. If you have a little bit more money than me in your bank I recommend either the Red Roses or the  English Pear and Freesia scents.

I'm going to Milan in August (I promise this is relevant) so me and my mam were chatting about holidays, this escalated to talking about party holidays. "I just don't understand why you would waste your money going to Magaluf. Just get yourself on a sunbed and go down the Bigg Market, same number of weirdos." My mother, ladies and gentlemen. Did I mention this conversation happened in an Italian restaurant where we were spontaneously served watermelon and ice cream with raspberry sauce. When I say spontaneously I mean we neither ordered nor wanted it. Weird. 

By this point in the day it was lovely and sunny, I wouldn't go as far as to say it was warm, c'mon its Scotland but it was pleasant. See...

This lasted all of two hours before we were greeted with a snowy downpour and ended up looking like this...

All in all it was a lovely day where I bought everything other than what was on my list, wore my already tired feet out and drank my weight in coffee. Before leaving Edinburgh we visited St Andrew's Square to see Bruce Munro's fabulous Field of Light installation:

Hannah x

Off My Toes



I have been off my toes for a week and a half now and its already doing my head in so I'm going to have a complain here. It started with me first not being able to move my toes on one foot and has now escalated to constant pain,  hobbling about on  crutches and apparently a bone bent 20 degrees in the wrong direction in my foot. Fantastic.

You dont realise how frustrating it is to be off yout feet until it actually happens. Everything takes so much longer than before and more planning. Generally I'm not very good at being lazy,  id much rather walk places than wait around for delayed buses but my little weedy arms aren't strong enough for me to hop about everywhere on crutches so I reluctantly wait. This is where the ultimate frustration begins.  People give me the pity look when I'm standing at the bus stop but dont quite feel sorry enough for them to shift out of the way of the seat they aren't actually sitting on! A similar story starts when I get on the bus, the pity look starts again, this time women sit in the easy access seats with their handbags plonked next to them. They look up and watch me awkwardly throw myself up a step instead because they are too ignorant to move their bags. There have been  countless versions of this story over the last week.

I eventually get to town or wherever I'm heading and accessibility worsens. Out of order lifts, no escalators, impossibly high curbs, little green men that turn red all too quickly, people forcing me into wqlls and roads left right and centre. I wish I wasn't so determined to be independent, it would be so much easier to sit in the house and do nothing.

To top this off,  I have a place in the Great North Run.

I'll stop complaining now!

Hannah x

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson


“I believe that you've created a metaphorical universe in which you can express your darkest fears. In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves, and sometimes we do such a good job, we lose track of reality.” - Laurie Halse Anderson

Brutally honest, gripping and heart breaking Wintergirls depicts the harsh reality of both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Anderson's young adult novel has been criticised for being supposedly "pro-anorexia", personally I think this an insult to the brave writing by Anderson. Far too many people shy away from writing about controversial subjects such as eating disorders for fear of criticism, I admire those not afraid to write the honest, harsh reality of the life of those suffering with eating disorders.

The novel could be seen as triggering for those suffering from an eating disorder or those in recovery, that is understanding. However, the fact that can be triggering is a credit to the impressive writing of Anderson, the story is frightening close to the reality of eating disorders it is no wonder that it triggers people. Having said that I don't see any of this as a criticism, it does anything but glorify or glamourise eating disorders, it conveys the mental torture and physical implications of eating disorders every step of the way. I would recommend Wintergirls to those wanting to understand the mental health aspect of eating disorders, they are not diets gone wrong, they are serious disorders that are almost impossible to put into words.

“They yell at me because I can’t see what they see. Nobody can explain to me why my eyes work different than theirs. Nobody can make it stop.”- Laurie Halse Anderson

Furthermore I am so happy for the aspect of hope within the novel; I've lost count of the number of times I've heard people talk about eating disorders like they are permnament and not something you can recvoer from. People enter recovery every day and lead perfectly "normal lives", whatever they are.

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.” - Laurie Halse Anderson

Hannah x

Arts Award


Last week I went to another meeting for Juice Festival 2014 where we talked about what roles we would each like to play in the planning and delivering of the festival and our Arts Award. For those of you who don't know, Arts Award is a program which enables young people to develop leadership skills, creativity and access to the arts.

I'm doing my Silver Arts Award, part of this is "Arts Leadership", as a writer I've always wanted to lead a writing workshop and Arts Award is giving me the opportunity to give this a go. Regular readers of my blog will know that I have an interest in mental health and creativity; I believe in creative expression as a form of mental healing and a way unburden the mind. I also think that the best writing workshops follow a peer-lead attitude, there is nothing worse than sitting in a workshop that is like a school lesson where the "leader" doesn't participate in their own activities/exercises, for this reason I see my Arts Leadership project taking more of a facilitation role.

Currently, I would like to the focus of the workshop to be stream of consciousness writing but first I need to do a lot of reading around this area. I'm a fan of it myself, if I can't sleep I like to write my little mind away but for the purpose of the workshop I'd like to be able to read through work of writers such as Plath, Woolf and Kerouac. Hopefully we will be able to end the workshop by making a zine of our work so everyone has something to show for the day.

For now though, I'm off to do some reading.

Hannah x

Tuesday, 4 February 2014



Today I had a lecture on storytelling within mental health which I really enjoyed; I felt like a proper writer for a whole two hours so I've decided to have a bit of a blog about it because it's lead to me having a big think about why we tell stories and the importance of telling our stories.

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.” 
Sue Monk Kidd - The Secret Life of Bees

Ultimately stories define us, whether it be the kind of stories we write and share the world; the stories you'll only tell your best friend or the stories people tell you, all of these define the way we live our lives. More often than not we need to tell stories to help ourselves make sense of a situation. I've lost count of the number of times I have rang my mam just to rant and rave about something; I don't want her to give me any answers actually I just want someone to listen and by the end of the conversation I've worked out what I need to do by myself. This is where it plays an important part in mental health nursing; enabling a person to talk openly can be just what they need to relieve burden and alleviate distress. Just like I want my mam to listen to my problems a mental health nurse can provide a platform for recovery by means of helping a person reach their own conclusions about their current situation.

Looking at this in relation to the health care system highlights some issues with the the compatibility of narrative care in the current health care system. Susko (1994) suggested that there are two approaches to the perceived identity of the person: the narrative, story telling approach which I've already touched on and then there is caseness. Caseness is based around signs and symptoms which result in a diagnosis, so in a sense it places the person in an "illness category". If you read my blog regularly you will know I have an issue with barriers to accessing care, have a read of my blog on Clustering and Slipping Through The Net . In a way caseness focusses on the diagnosis and current situation in a way narrative does not. What does all of this have to do with stories? The approach taken totally changes the story: a caseness approach gives an "end point" of a story from the nurses perspective whereas a narrative approach gives a beginning and middle of a story from that persons perspective, giving an open opportunity for the end of the story. Thinking of treatment and recovery in the sense of storytelling seems to give so much more hope in a way that a medical model doesn't. A diagnosis is not the be all and end all, there are options for the future and looking back through stories can help find the answers to the future, it can help find goals for the future. 

I mentioned earlier that I ring my mam to rant and rave and don't expect anything in return; this brings me onto the notion of the fact that there is never just one truth of a story. The story you tell will always depend on who you're telling it to, have a think about this. When you have what could initially seem like a normal conversation you could be the only person to hear that one story, make the most out of the ordinary experience of storytelling. Think about how empowering it can be for a person to establish their own reality and remember:

There is no objective truth, there is no one reality, every story has one thousand versions.

Hannah x