It’s Okay To Not Do It All

img_7557

This summer has been a true awakening for me. I finally realised that I don’t have to do it all. I realised that it’s okay for me to take it slow and just stick to one thing. I don’t have to do everything I want to do all at once. There is no rush. Life shouldn’t be a rush. I now understand that just because I’m not doing something I want to do YET, that doesn’t make me a failure.

Years of being a workaholic, a hunger to succeed, driven by my eating disorder made me obsessive and even more depressed than I already was. Why? Because I was trying to do it all…at once!

Working at my previous job had a huge impact on my mental health. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored working there, dreams have come true whilst I was there and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. But, many many rejections for job promotions and not feeling like I belonged or appreciated in a team caused my mental health to deteriorate. I had to leave and see what else was out there. It was the hardest decision I made but I don’t regret it one bit.

I now work for ITN (ITV News/Channel 4 News) – so I am still in broadcast journalism, it’s full time, it’s one job and I feel like I am being praised and appreciated. I feel happier and most of all, I enjoy the job. It’s more responsibility too and I learn something new everyday. It has also given me huge amounts of confidence.

But at the beginning, I was still in the mindset that I need another job. This job was full time but I needed something else. I had an interview at Sky News as a Text Producer (driving on screen texts and graphics) and I got offered the job! I accepted the offer (it was freelance). But, as I started training at Sky, I realised that it was too much. I was feeling the pressure. Two demanding, equally exciting jobs in journalism. As much as I always had an ambition to work at Sky News, I turned down the offer because I am not superhuman and I cannot do it all and saying no was okay and did not mean I was a failure. I realised that I need to focus on one thing for now, on one job. I need to be and feel normal for once.

All these years, I listened to the voice of anorexia that told me I need to do it all at once otherwise I’d be a failure, but that is not true. Self care played a part in this realisation. Taking breaks was like a reward to myself after doing something well. I would feel guilty if I ever rested. This is what living with a cruel illness like anorexia can do to your mindset. It’s twisted and full of self destruction.

I admit, I still find it difficult to take breaks but it’s getting better. People/colleagues around me giving me a nudge to take a break helps so much too. I didn’t realise how reassuring that feels. Again, this isn’t good but having someone tell me to take a break is like having permission to do so. It shouldn’t be like that and I am working on it.

Sometimes, saying no to all the things you want to do means saying yes to offering the best you can, to relax and enjoy more of your journey, your path. Because, in the end, that’s what it’s all about. It’s okay to not do it all.

Ramadan: Still in the grips of anorexia

ramadan-still-in-41Nv

Every year when Ramadan comes around, I open up about my experience with an eating disorder. It can be such a tricky time for those of us struggling with an eating disorder. For the past seven years, I’ve been strictly told not to fast by medical professionals who were treating me for my eating disorder in hospital. In the past, I had to be monitored extra closely in case my weight dramatically dropped due to fasting secretly.

This year is different. This is the first year that I am not in treatment for my anorexia in seven years, so I feel anxious because now I have a choice. I hate having a choice because I’m more likely to choose the unhealthy one. I’m not being watched anymore and I’m not being threatened with inpatient if I lose weight, so this is the perfect opportunity. I am in no way recovered. In fact, I’d say the thoughts have been creeping back in, especially recently.

A year into my recovery without treatment has been tough. Every day is still hard, and there have been both massive relapses AND recovery wins in the past 12 months and I truly believe this is how it will be for the rest of my life. I don’t think I will ever be fully recovered.

Ramadan brings out a lot of negative emotions and triggers for me. But this year, having a choice to fast or not to fast and still seeing Ramadan as a chance to lose weight and to become sicker is not helping and confirms, yet again, that I am not in a good state of mind to fast safely. I don’t see it as a religious thing. So if I fast, I will be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Rationally, of course I know that I must not fast if I am still in that eating disordered mindset. I know that health and my recovery comes first. But anorexia is so powerful that even if I say I will not take part, I will most definitely act on behaviours because everywhere I go, there will be someone fasting, someone talking about how much they’re “starving” and restricting will be inevitable. Plus, there will be triggering food everywhere and everyone will be talking about food.

I have made the choice, however, to not take part. People close to me have been expressing their concerns about me fasting. I’d be lying if I said I don’t engage in behaviours anymore so fasting in the month of Ramadan can absolutely land me back in hospital.

I’m in a good place career-wise. I’ve got a new job that I love, but I’m worried if I’ll be able to hold it down if I go down that path again. Anorexia makes me not believe in myself. Every day now, it tells me that I don’t deserve this job, that I don’t deserve to be successful. It makes me question if I’m capable of holding down a full time job without getting sicker. It makes me anxious about disappointing my colleagues and managers. It’s been keeping me awake at night worrying about how anorexia, especially in Ramadan, might impact my mental health this year.

In the past, it was anorexia that made me become this successful. It was anorexia’s perfectionism that made me work hard (without food) graduate and get my dream job. People tell me it wasn’t anorexia, but they don’t know how strong anorexia can be. It was this illness that demanded I prove to people that I can do things. The less food I ate, the more weight I lost, the more successful I became…and it worked.

I cannot keep letting anorexia take credit for everything I’ve achieved. I cannot let it take over me anymore. People tell me that I can do things, that I am capable without this illness. Maybe they’re right?

Ramadan is a spiritual month. It’s about health and helping others and about being kind to oneself. I cannot fast because I am sick, but what I CAN do is help others and take care of myself. I can be thankful to God that I am here in this world. I am alive and I am living.

Ramadan shouldn’t be just about controlling yourself from eating food. It should be about taking care of yourself whatever way possible and if fasting isn’t right for your mental and physical health at the moment, it’s okay not to take part.

For others like myself who cannot fast in the month of Ramadan due to an eating disorder or mental illness, why not turn it around and work on your recovery? This year, I’ve come to realise that putting your own health is more important than religion, career or opportunities. Look after yourself first. Make yourself a priority. That is what I will try to do.

This was originally posted on Beat‘s website.

We are only hurting, we are not criminals

012182821-1

There have always been misconceptions of mental health sufferers as being scary, violent and “crazy”.  Of course, that is what the stereotype of mental illness is. No wonder why people are so afraid to get help.  If you have met the people I have met in psychiatric hospitals, you’d see that they are not even near that. They are often gentle, friendly and amazingly intelligent people.

Yes, my illness can make me do certain things I shouldn’t be doing, such as impulsively and uncontrollably messaging and calling someone when angry or going on a massive spending spree and buying anything and everything that takes my fancy, without thinking of the financial consequences.

But why should someone who is struggling, deeply hurting inside, someone who desperately needs understanding, love and care, spend time detained in custody in a cell with drug addicts and real violent criminals? How is that going to help a person who just suffers with depression and a personality disorder, perhaps due to traumatic experiences in the past, get better? How can someone’s behaviour, out of their control, land them in a police cell? In fact, it could make them even worse.

Mental health patients need help, not a criminal offense or a warning, because their behaviour is never intended to hurt others but rather themselves. They need to see friendly psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses who will understand why they do the things they do. They will have tools that can help them to get better. They need supportive family and friends. They don’t need the police to scare them. In fact, someone suffering with a mental health disorder is often always scared, is always battling in what they think will be a life sentence, why would anyone want to make that worse? Mentally ill patients are often prisoners inside themselves, desperately trying to find a way out.

Whenever someone is in a crisis, police is not what we need. Seeing a police officer immediately confirms to us that we are a bad person. We already feel like that anyway. I am not a bad person. I am sure you are not a bad person either. Having a mental health problem does not mean you a bad person. I am not a criminal. We are not a criminal.

Keeping mental health patients locked up in a police cell could possibly be one of the reasons why some police stations are incredibly busy and overcrowded. Instead of locking them up, who are often very innocent, driven by their illness and need psychological help, why not catch real criminals who are the ones who deserve to be locked up.

Mental illness is not a crime. Suffering is not a crime. We are not criminals. We just need people to understand and help us get better.

This post was published on The Huffington Post UK

How did I get into the BBC?

Many people are interested in how I got to where I am today, career wise, so it is about time I reveal all. Especially because it is now exactly one year that I have been holding down a job at the BBC – so it seems rather relevant to be writing this now (as I have been thinking about writing something on this for months!).

CKeOkiXWoAAyyKQ

I don’t even know where to start to be honest. Many people ask me, how on earth did I manage to get into the BBC so very quickly at a very young age. Fresh out of university at the age of 21 and I get my first ever paid job on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which was literally a dream come true – considering the Today programme was one of my dream programme’s to work for.

But, lets rewind back to university. I was an undergraduate at City University London from 2011 – 2014. Being on a media/journalism based course, we were encouraged to take on as many work experience placements in the media as we can. Now, back in 2013, I wrote a piece on ‘Is work experience worth it?’ and ‘How to find work experience placements and internships’ – so do have a read.

Half way through my first year, I luckily got accepted on a month work experience at BBC Radio 4. Since then, I made contacts and shadowed BBC Radio’s 1, 2 and 6 Music. Bearing in mind, my passion back then was radio.

I kept seeking for more work experience. I didn’t mind if it was unpaid – I just wanted to get as much experience as I can so that it can benefit me after I leave university. Month after month, I emailed radio stations and production companies asking for work experience. Long story short, that same year, I did work experience at Absolute Radio, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio, Channel 4 and LBC. Not just that, I also got involved with the media team at uni. I took part in student radio and also became one of the editors of the university magazine.

During uni, I also had my own radio show at London’s youth station Roundhouse Radio, from the Roundhouse venue itself. The station matched me with a professional mentor to help me with my university to career transition (bearing in mind this was now my final year at uni) and luckily my mentor was from the Today programme – which I was honestly over the moon about. Big shout out to Steven (you know who you are, I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help!!).

Whilst being in the midst of writing my dissertation, I was also preparing for life after university. I was so terrified of being unemployed. I hear a lot of stories about people graduating and then failing to find a job. I was rather lucky to have a mentor, who did help me with my CV and covering letters and also recommended people I should speak to and most importantly reassured me that I have enough experience to get a job and not to worry.

One thing I mustn’t forget is getting my CV professionally done. Trust me, it is so worth it. I have never been so proud of my CV until I got it done by a rather amazing company so I do highly recommend it.

My mentor recommended I speak to someone at the Today programme so I sent my CV and a covering letter in an email. I got a reply back saying to come and have a chat with them and I was offered a two week trial period – which was basically shadowing someone for two weeks and then see where I go from there. I trained and after two weeks, I got myself a two month contract with the Today programme as a Broadcast Assistant, mainly handling Today’s website and social media. Of course, waking up at 4am every morning was incredibly difficult but I really didn’t mind, considering I was being made to wake up to work on a programme that I love.

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 20.41.48After the Today programme, I went straight onto work for BBC News Online, for the Digital Video team (which I still do) and became a Broadcast Journalist (my current title). Then lots of other opportunities came up as I approached some of my favourite programmes including The Andrew Marr Show and Daily & Sunday Politics (current programmes I work for). As my background is within online, I look after their website and social media presence.

One of my highlights of working for the BBC is playing a huge role for BBC’s coverage of the 2015 General Election. During the campaign leading up to polling day, I covered a lot for BBC Politics (online) and worked closely with the Daily Politics debates. I was a Results Inputter on results night/day, inputting the results which went straight on-air.

At work, I have met the most amazing people/colleagues. I met rather big people including Prime Minister David Cameron and lots of others. Never thought things like that would happen to me.

This is not a 9-5 job. Some days I am up at 4am for a 6am start. Sometimes I start around 2pm and finish at midnight. Sometimes I am even working overnight. It is not easy and it is not structured, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world.

Without knowing the right people and getting as much experience as I could beforehand, I wouldn’t have been able to get those jobs. Contacts is key in this industry. You will get rejected. I was rejected many time before I got into the BBC but I persevered. I never gave up because this was my dream. This is my dream. I am determined to do more, experience more, learn more – so this is the beginning of an amazing journey. 
Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 20.49.40

I Need To Do This For Myself

-do-it-for-yourself-

For years, I have felt like I needed to recover from my eating disorder for external reasons. I needed to get better to go to university – well, I did go to university and graduated, but I am not recovered. I needed to get better for my family – they were always there, but I am still not recovered. I needed to get better to get a job – I have my dream job – but I am not recovered.

I used the word ‘needed’ for a reason. Of course I needed to get better but did I ‘want’ to get better? Well, considering I am still struggling with anorexia, I realised that I did not really want to recover. Instead, I focused on external reasons rather than myself. I did not feel like I deserved to ever recover.

But recently, I have felt so much more rational, and I truly feel like i do deserve to get better for myself and myself only. Not for anyone. Not for my family, not for my friends and certainly for my career. Because, if I focus on reasons to recover for something or someone, truth is, recovery will fail. It will not work. I have been in hospital treatment for years – no change. I simply wasn’t ‘ready’ to recover.

Now, I do want a life without my eating disorder (though I do believe it will always be with me but I will learn to manage it). Believe it or not, my eating disorder treatment team wanted to discharge me – not because I have gotten better but because I showed no passion to recover for myself. Even though I did not verbally say, “i don’t want to get better” – they soon realised this was the case, because i wasn’t actively making use of the help they were giving me. I took treatment for granted.

Discharging me was a worry for my family. They didn’t want me to get discharged because i am still not better – but is it up to them? No. It is my illness and I should take responsibility for it.

My psychiatrist once told me: “If your heart is not 100% in recovery, then you will never recover. Your family and friends might want it more than you do, but they cannot make you recover. Only you can do that. It is your choice.”

Then it just hit me. I have to do this for myself.  I want to get better for myself. I have achieved so much in my external life and I am proud of that – I now need to believe in myself and do something for me. Get better for myself. That is not selfish, despite what anorexia is telling me.

You need to do this for yourself. Not for anything or anyone else. 

Who says you’re not worth it?

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2015: Opening Up

Screen Shot 2015-02-24 at 20.16.43

This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (Feb 23rd – Sun 1st Mar) and a very important week to raise more awareness. I want to write about something that I have been recently doing and which has been helping me a lot. Opening up to people about my illness.

It is a sensitive thing to talk about with people. People are ashamed of it. However, the power of talking about it is quite amazing and it is something I have not realised until recently.

Telling someone that you struggle with food can be embarrassing but, if they are a decent person, they will listen and won’t judge. For me, telling someone is a relief. It means, I don’t have to feel all alone in this. It also means the person you tell can support you through this.

A lot of people with eating disorders feel like they need ‘permission’ to eat, which is exactly how I feel. When some reassures me that it is okay and nothing bad is going to happen if I eat that particular meal, then I feel encouraged and try. Recovery is a long process but with the encouragement and support of others, I have realised it can be such a weight off your shoulder.

So if you are struggling with anorexia, bulimia or even binge eating disorder, try and open up to just one person about this and see how you feel. Honestly, it can change your mindset quite dramatically, regarding food and guilt.

You are all stronger than your eating disorder. Keep fighting.

For more help and advice, go to Beat. 

Celebrating small achievements with anxiety

celebrate-small-success1

It has been a while since I last blogged so I thought it is about time I write.  I have been inspired to write about recognising and celebrating small achievements when you have anxiety because I don’t think people understand how even little successes matter. It is great if you have big dreams and want to focus on the main long term goal. Looking to the future and having big goals is a motivator to achieve them. But, without small achievements, you cannot get to the big ones. As the saying goes “You can’t run before you can walk.”

We all have bad memories when we may have failed something but when you think about it, there have still been many successes along the way. Have you really given yourself credit for the little things?

For me, I learnt to be proud of little things that I pushed myself to do within the last few months. I started a new job and slowly started trying to face up to my fears along the way.

For example…

  • Making small talk with a colleague: This might not seem like a big deal but my anxiety can make this difficult but whenever I go out of my way to talk to someone, to actually talk, even just saying hello…I feel like I accomplished something.
  • Answering the telephone
  • Offering to make tea for colleagues
  • Asking for a little help
  • Smiling at a stranger
  • Being honest
  • Managing to get out of bed and face the day when it is the last thing you want to do
  • Joining in a conversation rather than isolating oneself
  • Managing to find the time to workout within a busy schedule (even if it just a short walk)

There is so much to be proud of. A lot of people just focus on the negative and beat themselves up. Of course, there are times I still do that myself but there is always something to be proud of no matter how big or small they are. Even the mistakes you made or failed something, you still can be proud that you didn’t give up. Instead, you keep trying. Focus on what you can learn from the mistake and how it can motivate you to do better next time.