25th Birthday Trip To Bruges

For my 25th Birthday (6th April 2018), my best friend Hannah and I went to Bruges in Belgium to celebrate. Last year, we went to Paris. This might just be an annual thing!

Bruges is a beautiful city. It’s exactly what I look for in a holiday. The peaceful, cobbled streets surrounded by medieval buildings and dreamy canals; it is certainly like a fairy tale town as people often describe it.

We stayed for three nights in a beautiful hotel (pictured below).

Even though the weather there is very much like England, it’s what I love. I don’t need sunshine and beaches. Give me a quiet city with glorious views and I will be happy.

My ‘glampacking’ journey in Europe

(May contain triggering content)

My friend and I decided to book an Interrail trip around Europe this Summer. I decided to call this trip ‘glampacking’ as opposed to backpacking because we are in our 20’s and we are not students (well I am not anyway) and I had a healthy budget to spend on luxury accommodation. I do not want to go away for the first time in my life and stay in hostels. If you know me, you’d know that I am a rather glamorous person. I cannot stand uncleanliness and dirty environments. If I have to splash out on a nice hotel, with a nice view, a comfy bed, a clean shower, a gym and wellness area, then I would.

We were both quite weary about going on this trip because we both have physical and mental illnesses that limits our ability to travel but we decided to give it a go to try and not let our illnesses win.

Rome, Italy

The first day was like a slap in the face. We flew from London Stansted to Rome and when we landed, the weather was so hot and I immediately couldn’t hack it. First of all, my eating disorder was already quite bad. Second of all, I’m very weak and cannot lug my luggage around for too long as I get tired very easily, especially in the hot weather.

We went to the Colosseum on the first day we got to Rome. We decided to get a guided tour but it was so boring that we ended up not listening to the guide and seeing the sights ourselves. The weather was very hot! 40 degrees. I just couldn’t cope. Along with my eating disorder, hot weather makes me cranky and moody and somewhat rude to the people I’m with.

On the second day, we visited Vatican City to see the Pope (well not really!). We ended up getting a guided tour and again, it was very boring. Most people in the group just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. We realised in the middle of the tour that the tour guide will not take us to the chapel until another hour!

We decided to ditch the tour and head their ourselves. The chapel wasn’t what we were expecting but inside was very cool, so it calmed me down a bit.

But as soon as we left and decided to take a rest outside and see the beautiful architecture, I got moody and cranky again. The hot weather made me sad and I craved to be back home to the UK. Bearing in mind, this was a long trip (10 days) and I’ve never been away from home for that long.

We also went to see the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain.

In Rome, or rather the Romans we came across, are quite rude to Brits. Brexit revenge perhaps? Plus, the language barrier didn’t help either.

Florence, Italy

So the next day, we headed to Florence by train. The weather was still extremely hot. We dropped our stuff in the hotel and planned our day. The city is very beautiful. We saw the Florence Cathedral. The buildings are so pretty and different. I passed some shops and I really wanted to go shopping. As I felt homesick, shopping is the one thing that calms me down when I’m sad or stressed. I realised then that my friend and I had different ideas for this trip. Yes, I wanted to sightsee and be tourists but I also wanted to shop and window shop as I’m a massive fashionista.

When you’re travelling with someone, there’s bound to be disagreements. As my friend didn’t want to shop and only wanted to see the sights, and I was still cranky and moody from the hot weather, I got angry and walked away, leaving her alone to sightsee herself. BPD got the better of me and I stopped eating. I headed back to our hotel to rest and when she finished, we met at the train station to head to Venice, with things still awkward between us.

Ever since this happened, everything started going downhill and I wanted nothing more to be back home.

Venice, Italy

Next stop was Venice. We stayed in a nice apartment, which I booked from AirBnB. We arrived in the evening so had time to plan the next day. Venice is a rather beautiful city. I love that it is surrounded by water. We travelled with the waterbus and saw the Rialto Bridge. We then got on the Gondola, a rather luxury type boat, passing all the major sights and also very small parts of Venice people rarely see.

Venice was definitely my favourite city I’ve been to in Italy and I would definitely love to come back one day, in the winter and that goes to Italy in general! Never going to Italy in the summer ever again!

This was our last stop in Italy and it felt like we’ve been there for weeks! We were thrilled to see the back of it.

Vienna, Austria (pit stop)

Next was a pit stop in Vienna before Budapest, after leaving Venice in the morning for an 11 hour train journey. We got to our hotel in the evening around 8pm and slept as we had another early morning to head to Budapest.

Budapest, Hungary

We left Vienna at 6 in the morning for a 4 hour train journey to Budapest. We stayed in a cute little apartment which was like a hotel with a reception and breakfast. When we arrived, we planned our day. We went to see the usual tourist spots including the Buda Castle and the Houses of Parliament.

After about 4 hours of sightseeing and the hot weather, we decided to head back to our apartment for a nap, planning to go to the Thermal Baths in the evening. As we were both so tired we overslept so we didn’t manage to go after all.

Vienna, Austria

We came back to Vienna, this time for sightseeing. It was 20 degrees and it was raining. For me that was the perfect kind of weather minus the rain. After a week of heatwave, it was so nice to see some rain and cooler weather.

Again, we were both so exhausted so when we arrived at our hotel room, we immediately went to sleep. My friend has M.E and Fibromalygia including mental health issues and I have mental health issues too including an eating disorder which also causes physical pain such muscle and joint pain (osteoporosis), so I get tired in general so quickly and so does my friend.

When we woke, we decided to go and see a bit of the sights, but we weren’t going to stay out for hours. We decided to go out for an hour. We only saw the Austrian Parliament and then returned back to our hotel.

At this point, I haven’t had anything to eat for days as I was so scared and in a starvation high. My friend and I weren’t getting along still, so the only way I could cope with the pain of that was to not eat and exercise.

My friend had an unusual pain in her stomach so we decided to go to hospital to get it checked out. I was skeptical because we are in a foreign country and I felt weak as I obviously had no food in me for over 24 hours. All I wanted was to hide under the covers and sleep the fear away.

But as I am a good friend, I went with her to ER. We spent half the night at one of Europe’s biggest hospitals in Vienna and after getting the all clear, we headed back to our hotel at 3am.

We had another early morning to head to Prague so we managed to get some sleep.

Prague, Czech Republic

After an awful night in hospital, we managed to head to Prague. However, we did not see any sights. We got to our hotel and just slept the whole day. After waking up, we decided to cut our trip short and book a flight home the next day and not go to Barcelona, which was supposed to be our last stop.

As I’ve been very homesick and we both haven’t been getting along, I jumped at the chance to go home to finally see my family and my cat.

Summary

Overall, this trip has been so hard. I wish I could say I enjoyed it, but I didn’t for the most part. I have never in my life been away from home for this long so it was an experience. As we are both unwell in general, we knew it would be hard for us but we didn’t want to let our illnesses ruin opportunities for us.

However, we have realised it is difficult to go away together when both of our illnesses are so severe. There were times when I didn’t understand my friends’ severity and there were times my friend didn’t understand my severity. It was almost like a competition, trying to prove to each other who is sicker, when it was blatant that we both were as equally as sick as each other.

I need time to lug my luggage around. I need to stop for breaks and to reset. My friend didn’t understand that and snapped at me whenever I stopped. It made it so hard.

I find it incredibly hard to cope with heavy luggage, hot weather, walking too much, eating regularly especially in a foreign place when food is unknown to me, waiting a lot etc…which had annoyed my friend and made her angry at me. I cannot cope with criticism and someone yelling at me, so when I experience this, I stop eating and punish the person I’m with. A lot of people close to me always say I don’t act my age. I act like a stroppy teenager or a child. I haven’t grown up mentally that’s why. I still have so many issues I haven’t faced up to or tackled. So I am sorry if I don’t act my age. It’s hard for me like many things is hard for you.

Many times on trip I had panic attacks and nearly collapsed. My eating disorder got the better of me and I ended up exercising on an empty stomach a lot. I was angry at myself a lot. I was scared and felt incredibly alone. I felt like I had no one to turn to. Not even the best friend I went away with as she is battling her own demons herself. We said we will look after each other, but it didn’t work. Our illnesses are too severe.

I won’t go on a trip like this again anytime soon, especially not with someone who is equally as sick as me. I have realised for me, one place is enough. My family didn’t want me to go because of my health and maybe they were right. I do need to get better psychically and mentally to go abroad.

Anorexia and BPD wins this time.

My Birthday Trip To Paris!

For my 24th birthday this year, I decided to challenge myself and book a trip away to Paris with my friend Hannah. I’ve only ever been to Scotland, which is of course in the UK but going to France was a massive step in my recovery. It’s the first ever proper country I’ve been to.

Travelling for me has always been something I have avoided all my life due to my anorexia and anxiety but I have always craved to travel somewhere (except for Bangladesh which I do not count as a holiday).

Of course, I had other fears – the increase in terror attacks in France for one. That’s why before, I never really wanted to travel to Europe because of the fear of Islamist terrorism – and that really increased my anxiety and panic levels. But what will you achieve if you just avoid going to places because you are scared a terror attack will happen? That is letting the terrorists win. You cannot stop living your life because of terrorism and unfortunately terror in Europe is the norm now, so you must be vigilant but not afraid.

On this trip (we stayed for 3 nights) I realised what I can actually do. I can be spontaneous and I can let go and have fun. I realised that I don’t have to be confined inside this little shell of myself anymore. I can go out and I can socialise and I can eat! Surprisingly, the pressure of eating eased off during this trip – I think mainly because I was in a different place and my hotel had a gym – so in a way, I felt safe. I have to say, I purposely chose a hotel that had facilities to suit my needs, where I know I can workout at the end of the day, so I don’t get too overwhelmed with what I’ve eaten.

Of course, I did feel overwhelmed but having a friend with me who understands what it’s like really helped me.

It was the perfect time to be in Paris because it was of course the French elections and the campaigning was in full force when I was there. An election, or anything to do with politics rather, is right up my street as I cover it at work. Being on holiday didn’t stop me from asking people what they think about the candidates – and when people found out that I am a BBC journalist, they did not hesitate to ask me what I think about it. As soon as I mentioned Marine Le Pen, the French people immediately wanted to debate with me. It was interesting to see what people thought about a Le Pen win. It was also interesting to see what the French think about Brexit. Now, it’s against Macron v Le Pen – we had Brexit, we had Trump, a Le Pen win could be a massive possibility!

Places we’ve visited…

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Louvre museum
  • A cruise across The River Seine
  • Arc De Triomphe at the Champs-Élysées
  • Sacré-Cœur

I completely forgot that I had Bangladeshi relatives (an auntie + family) who live in France. They found out (from my parents) that I was in France and decided to call me up and invite me to my cousins’ wedding! If you know me, you’d know that I hate Asian weddings and in the UK, I always avoid going to them. But since I was in a different country, I decided to go! My friend Hannah also wanted to experience what an Asian wedding is like, so this was a good opportunity.

All in all, I had an amazing time away and ready for my next adventure! I just experienced what recovery can be like and it is great, so maybe, I should keep going?

Reflecting on 2016

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As 2016 is coming to an end, I thought I would reflect on the past year. Let’s be honest, this year hasn’t been one of the best for many people. For me, it has been up and down. There were a lot of bad times but there were also a lot of good and memorable times in both my professional and personal life.

Taking work for example, I’ve had the pleasure of working on some of the biggest news stories that will go down in history. 2016 has definitely been a historic year for politics. Britain voting to leave the European Union had split the whole of the United Kingdom and it was a truly fascinating campaign. One word following the Brexit vote was ‘unpredictable’. Things suddenly started happening and changing. David Cameron resigning as Prime Minister after Brexit vote, then the Conserative leadership election was cut short after Andrea Leadsom quit the race, which made Theresa May the Prime Minister. Another Labour leadership election won by Jeremy Corbyn. It was so exciting yet so emotional. Following that was the victory of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. The “impossible” kept turning into possible. It was such a fascinating year of politics and one that is unforgettable.

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I’ve learnt a lot about myself this year. I do get upset and angry very easily and take everything personally and lash out. This is something I definitely want to work on in 2017. I need to learn to take criticism and know that I cannot always be perfect. I need to realise that not being perfect is okay. It hasn’t been a good year for my mental health. I am still in this period of ambivalence with my eating disorder. I want to get better but I don’t at the same time. That is ongoing and something to work on in 2017. Then again, I still have a job that I adore and have been holding it down pretty well, despite my mental health.

This year, only recently in November, I went on my first ever holiday. It was only to the Scottish Highlands – Loch Lomond, but this was a big deal because I hadn’t travelled in 12 years. So, going on a plane and staying away from home for a couple of days with friends was a challenge for me. It was a good challenge and a learning experience. In 2017, I hope to travel some more and who knows, hopefully I can be brave and go somewhere abroad. The only place I have been abroad, not in the UK, is Bangladesh and heck, I do not want to go there again. I don’t see it as a holiday. I would like to visit Australia and somewhere in the US, like New York. But, my kind of holidays are quiet places, peaceful and relaxing – I live in the city so it is nice to go somewhere with less people (that’s why I chose to go to the Scottish Highlands for my first trip!). I like places with nice scenery and big mountains and not that hot – I also love the countryside.

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Now this one might be controversial for someone in my condition, but I got back into training since the summer. I was on exercise ban by my treatment team (even now they’re still weary about me working out) but now I feel I have a much more “healthier” mindset to exercise – less focus on weight and more focus on getting stronger and a better mental health. They say exercise helps with depression and it certainly does. I joined Gymbox and I have to say, it has made working out so much more fun and sociable. In all honesty, it has changed my life. Gymbox isn’t just your average gym – it is literally like a club but everything fitness. You walk into the sound of big heavy beats and the atmosphere is so cool and fun. I go to a lot of different classes, mainly dance and HIIT classes, that consists of circuits. I also do spin class, pilates and some weights based classes too. I also adore boxing. My goal for 2017 is to keep working on that core and get it stronger so I can do planks for longer than 50 seconds and just have fun. The best thing about Gymbox is that it has helped a lot with my confidence too. In classes, you meet new people and make friends and you all have something in common – fitness. If you’re someone who hates the thought of the gym – join Gymbox. Trust me, you will not want to leave!

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I enjoyed doing a lot of photoshoots this year, stepping out of my comfort zone and being in front of the camera really did help my confidence. I also got signed to a modelling agency, which is so exciting, so hoping for more shoots in 2017. I was also very pleased to be featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, where I spoke openly about being a high functional women with an eating disorder. It was such a cool opportunity.

When I first decided to write this, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t have any big memorable happy moments but I guess I realised that I should be grateful for the little things that happened. Sometimes, actually wanting to live is hard for me, but here I am, I am still here. I haven’t let this illness taken me and I will still fight every single day in 2017 to survive. A lot of this year I battled with feeling lonely. It’s not the lonely where you think you have no friends, it’s an empty feeling inside. But, I am where I am and I can only improve it slowly. Life isn’t a rush and it isn’t a competition. There are things I haven’t been able to achieve this year, for example, my driving – I failed one test and haven’t had any since but my aim for 2017 is to pass it – but if I don’t, I shouldn’t be hard on myself. The only thing I can do is just enjoy the journey and not focus too much on the destination – and I suggest you guys do the same too.

Happy New Year!

xxx

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