All my love, Born Without Marbles xx
All my love, Born Without Marbles xx
Christmas is like Global warming. Whether you believe in it or not, it exists as a concept/event that people talk about. Maybe you have already written your letter to Santa (or to use the Global warming analogy, separated out your recycling for the week), or maybe you hate Christmas trees and are a real life embodiment of Scrooge (I guess in the global warming analogy, equivalent to this would be burying hundreds of plastic carrier bags in the back garden under a fire of perfectly recyclable paper, that you then dance around whilst spraying aerosol cans and cackling manically), either way, no matter what you do, whether you celebrate it or live by it or not, it is a thing and it is not going away.
Christmas is also something that is happening in the very near future, and is a festive period that a portion of the world’s population will be celebrating/experiencing in psychiatric hospitals. Maybe the idea of missing out on properly taking part in the holiday season doesn’t bother you because you are our embodiment of Scrooge (in which case hello, here is a friendly reminder that December does not last forever…also I have a sweetie for you…it is a humbug), but what if you are our Santa Claus worshipping/Christmas loving wannabe elf? What do you do then? How can you get through the Christmas period and celebrate what you consider to be the most wonderful time of the year when all the mince pies and fairy lights are in the outside world, whilst you are stuck on a corridor of mental health nurses, health care assistants and locked doors at every turn? Well my friends, if that is you then what you do is come to this blog (as you have done already, so thanks for that…I would give you a sweetie but I don’t think I have any that you will like…I do have some tinsel though…go wild!), because today I am here to solve that problem and provide you with 50 ways to celebrate this festive season if you are, like I am, spending all or part of it stuck in hospital…
So there you have it! 50 ways to celebrate Christmas when you are stuck in a psychiatric unit and are feeling all too far away from the fairy lights, Christmas markets and winter wonderland set ups across the country. As I said last year, when it comes to Christmas there is nothing I or any of us can do to make sure it is definitely a “Merry” occasion, but I do hope at least, that however you feel about Christmas and wherever you are spending it, you get through the festive season in the best possible way with the best possible and safest outcomes for all. If you have a merry time then that is fabulous, but remember, if you are struggling with it, that is ok too. Christmas is a hard time for a lot of us but I will be thinking of you all.
Take care everyone x
As soon as winter rolls around, there are certain questions that suddenly pop up every time you interact with another human. These questions vary but include things like:
“Are you doing anything nice for Christmas?”
“What do you want for Christmas?”
“Do you really need to buy more penguin themed decorations this year?” (Yes. Yes I do)…
And of course the ever sigh inducing “Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?”
Due to the birth of commercialisation and consumerism (two things that, although very much involved in Christmas, were not actually born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger), Christmas shopping is a big stress over the festive season both for money reasons and of course wondering what the hell to buy for everyone. Mental health wise however, there are further complications because sometimes there is a question not just to what you should buy a friend or relative, but whether there is anything that you should definitely not be buying…
As you may know, I have a lot of friends with eating disorders and several of these friends have come to me in the past exasperated and fed up, poised with a story to tell me about a distant relative who sent them food as a birthday or Christmas present. I know a lot of people with eating disorders might get frustrated, find the gift insensitive, rude, or even cruel, like taunting an alcoholic with a bottle of gin, and the majority of people I know have stated that “people should not give food related presents to people with eating disorders”.
I think that one of the difficulties in this issue, is trying to decide whose responsibility it is for someone to manage the whole gift giving/receiving situation. Is it the responsibility of the person who is choosing the gift to give (maybe an unfair burden considering not everyone will know every personal detail of whoever they are buying for this December and surely if it is “the thought that counts” any present is incredibly kind and generous), or is it the responsibility of the person receiving the gift, to manage what it is appropriately for them?
If you give a Dolly Parton hater (for-shame! Come on now, you have to at least like Jolene? 9-5? IT IS A SONG ABOUT THE MONOTONY OF WORK LIFE! DOLLY GETS US!), a copy of Dolly Parton’s Greatest hits, whose responsibility is it to deal with the CD? The gift giver for not knowing about a person’s hatred of the world’s greatest country singer and for not being too careful, or is it the responsibility of the gift receiver to simply donate the generous present to a charity shop where it can be enjoyed by someone else who is able to appreciate a bit of “I will always love you” blasting from the speakers? However, what if a gift is medically inappropriate? Whose responsibility is it to manage then?
For example what about Horris who is deathly allergic to peanuts? Maybe Horris didn’t write a Christmas list this year (always a risky move), and maybe his third cousin twice removed’s husband’s goldfish wants to send Horris a gift (for he is a very generous goldfish), but is unaware of Horris’ unfortunate peanut condition.
If this lovely Christmas loving goldfish sends Horris three tonnes of peanut butter, a t-shirt made from knitted peanuts and a trip to the “World of Peanut” theme park with the “Ultimate Peanut Experience Peanut roller coaster” (you ride around the track within the shell of a giant genetically modified peanut and then at the end enter a flume tube filled with peanut butter that will leave you utterly soaked upon plunging into it). If Horris uses this ticket to the theme park, surely it is partly his fault for not taking proper care of his health requirements (aka the requirement to not plunge into a pool of peanut butter at 100mph in the shell of a giant peanut). Then again, what if Horris is so allergic that the mere sight of the ticket and the tonne of peanut butter sends him off in an allergic reaction without him having any warning of the deadly gift? Who do we blame? Goldfish or Horris? Surely this is a very different kettle of ethics than the previous Dolly Parton debate? So what about people with eating disorders?
On one hand, as a person with an Eating disorder myself, I can see the point of those who say that giving food as a present to someone with an eating disorder is inappropriate or something they don’t like happening. It can indeed be frustrating to be given food presents that you fear every year and are possibly unable to enjoy due to your illness. I have heard people with anorexia say that it makes them feel more isolated from the rest of the Christmas festivities because being given, say a Christmas present that is a box of merry smiling gingerbread men with chocolate buttons, a freshly cut yule log or a batch of homemade mince pies is like being shown something “normal” about Christmas that others can enjoy and that they may want to take part in like other people, but due to their illness, feel they can’t. Some could say that getting food presents makes them feel misunderstood or like their problems/disorders have not been taken seriously, belittled and assumed to be “a mild difficulty with food” that can easily be solved if you put a nice bow on a box of chocolate penguins, rather than a fully fledged eating disorder ruining their lives no matter how many bows you stick on top of that box of rich 70% cocoa waddlers.
As well as food presents for disordered eaters being problematic in the sense the present receiver may be too scared to enjoy them, there is also the risk that food presents could trigger someone in other ways, for example someone who feels the compulsion to binge and maybe purge afterwards. Some sufferers keep certain foods that they are likely to binge on out of the house to make them feel more in control, so when that food is suddenly handed to them wrapped in glittery ribbon tied paper, they struggle to deal with it in the way they might like to when fighting their disorder.
That said, though what I am about to say is something most Eating Disorder sufferers would disagree with, I don’t think that people should put a full-on ban on food presents for people with eating disorders and I think that getting a food present once in a while is more likely to help rather than hinder your recovery.
What if one Christmas as the countdown to the 25th was underway, you went into some form of new treatment that you started to find more beneficial than any you had tried before. What if an image of what life could be like without your eating disorder started to give you hope in a positive future and what if, like a Christmas miracle, your eating disorder backed off a bit and you felt strong and determined enough to kick some ass. What if in this Christmas miracle you became so inspired to fight your demons that you made a promise to join in on all the scary Christmas food things this year, finally buy that advent calendar, make that gingerbread house with the candy cane decorations, try one of Aunt Enid’s famous mince pies and join in on all the party canapé platters at the work Christmas buffet (I hear the brie and cranberry filo tarts and chocolate penguin profiteroles are a delight). What if all of these goals arise, all this determination to fight and join in with everyone else…and then nobody gives you the opportunity to do any of it because they are all too scared to offer you that filo tart or wrap up that tub of Celebrations. To me, that would be incredibly triggering, if I were to be there ready to fight, ready to eat and join in and everyone just left me out anyway because they assumed I wouldn’t do it. This year, considering i am in hospital and not particularly well right now, that assumption might be right but in my head, never being given food presents at Christmas or any other time of year like Easter or a birthday, is simply a way of other people confirming the idea you already have in your head that you don’t deserve or need food and therefore shouldn’t eat it. People treat you like an eating disorder and you will find it hard to see another identity for yourself. Furthermore, when would the food ban stop and would it ever? How would that be decided and wouldn’t that be more triggering in itself to have food presents suddenly reintroduced? If you have an eating disorder at one point, are families to avoid food gifts even if you are recovered “just incase” which again isolates you from certain celebrations. Yes food can be triggering as a gift but wouldn’t it be more triggering to be very unwell for years and then one year to be maybe doing a little better mentally and physically, so much so that people notice, give you food and then you freak out thinking that they are insinuating that you “aren’t ill anymore” or that they think you have put on weight so are clearly fine with eating again.
Personally to avoid all of these issues, when it comes to food presents, I would rather be treated as normal, like everyone else, receiving the odd box of Quality Street and being offered the iced mince pies. Even if I can’t accept the mince pies or have to give the Quality Street to my mum, I would rather they were there to make other people treat me “normally” until I am in a place to play that role of “normal person who eats food presents at Christmas and gets two candy canes stuck in their gums by getting a bit too enthusiastic when impersonating a walrus”.
Overall though, I guess that with this topic, it is impossible to make any conclusion because whether or not you give food to someone with an eating disorder is going to be a tricky thing to gauge and will vary from person to person. As I said, even I and my group of friends who share the diagnosis feel very differently about the topic so to be on the safe side, if you are wondering whether or not to give someone with an eating disorder a food related gift, you might want to check with the individual or maybe a relative of that individual first to see how they might react to it. There are many types of eating disorder and even people with the same one will experience them differently at different times, such as when they are going through periods of relapse or recovery, so as much as I would like to have given you a black and white simple answer (and we all know how much I love things that are black and white ahem penguins ahem), I am afraid I will have to conclude in a rather hazy grey as the answer will vary from person to person.
All I would say is, if you are the gift giver, try not to get too anxious or caught up in overthinking it because ultimately you have a 50/50 shot of getting it right and if you get it wrong, it isn’t your fault, nor does it make you a bad person. Similarly, if you are the receiver I am sorry if food present wise, things don’t go your way this year, but equally remember that other people may not be thinking as deeply into the meaning or significance of a box of chocolates as you might be and maybe it is just their way of trying to show they think you are pretty awesome. A Christmas present is a Christmas present, it isn’t a holy significant statement laden with meaning as to how someone views you or your body, it is a sign of appreciation, a sign someone cares, and at the end of the day, it is always the thought that counts.
Take care everyone x
So, as anyone with an advent calendar will be aware (or any kind of calendar to be fair…ooh…a rhyme), it is currently six days until Christmas, meaning that there are six days to submit any Christmas lists you have out there requesting specific presents for December 25th.
Ever one for being prepared, I have had my list written for some time, however unlike the ingratitude of children out there (that is genuinely the collective term for a group of children. Whoever came up with that term clearly wasn’t a big fan of the infant population…), I will not be sending my list to Santa in Lapland. It is 2016 for goodness sake, I am 24 years old and I am certainly not that stupid/deluded.
Of course Santa doesn’t receive these children’s letters! Do people really think that Santa’s magical workshop is in a location known to human beings and delivered to via the imminently striking postal service? Let’s not be silly. Obviously the real grotto is in a magical land unreachable by the Royal mail, and being the age of technology it is clear that Santa is only able to receive Christmas lists via emails/the internet (think it through kids. Bet you feel pretty daft right now. Yeah. You should do).
Annoyingly I cannot seem to find the actual email address for the real Santa this year (he changes it every few months for security purposes), so this week I wondered if any of you readers out there would mind me being a little selfish and posting my letter to Santa here on my blog ready for when he comes to check in as he does every Monday (he is a big fan). I promise it is appropriate for my blog too as it is a mental health related present that I am asking for, so feel free to read it yourselves even if you are not Santa Claus. All that being said, here goes…
Dear Santa/Mr Claus
Hello! It is Katie again (the extremely well behaved one with glasses), and I hope that whenever you are reading this you are having a good day and that all is well with you, the reindeer, the elves and of course Mrs Claus.
I realise it is a bit unconventional for me to be contacting you via blog, but I hope it will be Ok and an acceptable way for me to request the present I would like.
For Christmas this year, if it is not too much trouble, I would like to please have the gift of five minutes without any mental health problems whatsoever.
You may be wondering what exactly I intend to do with this five minutes, yet though I have been thinking about it a lot, I haven’t firmly made a decision as there are so many options to choose from.
One of my first thoughts was to spend the five minutes joining in with a meal with my family, but then I realised that such a thing would be difficult to manage in five minutes and changed it to having a hot chocolate or Christmas drink with my mum in one of those coffee shops with a sparkly festive menu and Christmas cups. I often see mothers and their offspring taking five minutes out of a Christmas shopping trip to refuel with a steaming mug of cream topped cocoa, and I think it looks like fun/is something my mum would appreciate me being able to do. She often looks at the mothers and their children we see in local coffee shops and sighs with a wistful “I wish we could do that” look in her eye, so I would like to give the experience a go for the both of us.
Speaking of beverages I also thought of using the mental illness free time to perhaps try my first cocktail as I feel that is an experience most 24 year olds have had by now (probably several times), and because of my anorexia I have always been too afraid to try one. I don’t know what kind of cocktail I would like to try exactly, but I am thinking one of those ones that comes in a tall glass and is orange with swirly red syrup at the bottom that spirals up through the surface of the drink like a liquid sunrise. With an umbrella (and a glacé cherry if that isn’t asking too much…)
Then again aside from eating disorder related things I also thought about using my potential gift to do some things that I struggle with for OCD reasons. I have always wanted to hold open a door or open a door for someone struggling with too many shopping bags. I really do hate having to be rude and stand back as I watch them stumble under the weight of their 5p carriers because I am too frightened of a door handle. More importantly though, I would really like the opportunity to hug my Mum, Dad or any of my friends and family without having a panic. I know that sometimes I am able to hug certain people in certain situations if I have prepared/have a shower or change of clothes nearby, but I would like to be able to hug my loved ones not when it is deemed as “safe” or “allowed” by my OCD. I want to be able to fling my arms around a friend or family member just because I want them to know that I love them, and for this I feel I would need the requested five minutes of sanity to ensure I could do this without the screaming in my head that I know would occur were I to do this on any other day. Maybe as an extra “stocking filler” you could help me round up all the people I want to hug in one place so that I can use the five minutes effectively and not leave anyone out of my sudden ability to cuddle.
Actually no…wait…I think I have decided what I would like to do with my present should it be possible to be delivered this year (you don’t need to dress it up or anything as I know “time” is notoriously difficult to get wrapping paper around). Okay so were I to be given my five minutes without mental health problems, I would like to spend it doing absolutely nothing. I just want to sit there and know what it is like to experience silence.
I don’t want to have my brain yelling at me about calories, germs or potential suicide plans, I would just like it to shut up for once and allow me the privilege of thinking nothing at all. I know that after the five minutes all the noise would have to return and I would go back to the constant screaming voices in my mind, but still I think it would be nice just to see what life would be like without them. Who knows, maybe not being terrified all the time isn’t all it is cracked up to be and maybe I will be disappointed, but I would still like to experience it just so I could know for myself.
So yeah…that is what I would like for Christmas this year, simply five minutes of life without mental illness. Obviously I understand this is quite a difficult present to construct and not something the elves can whack up in a few hours with a hammer and few bits of plywood, so if it really isn’t possible then I would like to please ask for a penguin instead. I don’t mind which species, just as long as it is a happy penguin who likes spending time with me (and who can waddle. The ability to waddle is imperative).
Anyway I think I have taken up enough of your time making my demands so I will leave you to get on with your December preparations. As always I promise a mince pie, glass of almond milk, carrots for the reindeer and cookies for the elves will be left on my doorstep come December 24th in anticipation of your arrival. Send my love to all the family and have a Merry Christmas.
Katie Simon Phillips (again, the extremely well behaved one with glasses) xxxx
There we go! Christmas present all ready and requested for the year! Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that my wish will be granted but I suppose that even if it isn’t I will potentially be getting a penguin in six days which is pretty cool too. I really hope that everyone out there is having as good/manageable a festive season as possible and that your heads are kind to you over the next week. Kind heads is the present I would give all of you reading this if I could, as lord knows you all deserve them. I promise I will be thinking of each and every one of you next Sunday. Remember you are never alone and that together we can get through this.
Take care everyone and Merry Christmas x
If there is one group of creatures on earth who find Christmas dinner more stressful than all the turkeys out there do, it is people with eating disorders. Actually scrap that, when it comes to having an eating disorder it isn’t simply Christmas dinner that is stressful, it is the entire build up over the festive season when suddenly it feels as if EVERYTHING is about food.
There are Christmas meals out with friends to attend, boxes of chocolates being thrust under your nose at every turn, Christmas puddings, mince pies, Christmas cake, chocolate log and mile upon mile of buffet tables. You can’t even look at a calendar to see what the date is in December without it trying to throw a chocolate at you!
Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the Christmas food traditions we celebrate with in order to make the season extra special and I do not want the food aspect of Christmas to be banished forever. Indeed I love the idea of building gingerbread houses, opening the door on your advent calendar to see what shape chocolate you will find that day and the tradition of turning all the lights off, setting fire to the Christmas pudding and sitting for several moments “oohing” and “ahhing” at the blue flames waltzing across their dried fruit dome of a dance floor. Nevertheless, as fun as all the food aspects of Christmas can be, with an eating disorder they can be incredibly stressful and thus make December a particularly difficult time of year, especially if you find yourself unable to join in with the traditions your loved ones are carrying out and thus feeling more isolated than usual.
For this reason then, I thought I would use today’s blog post to offer a list of suggestions of ways to celebrate Christmas that aren’t food related. Obviously if you find you are able to join in with the usual food activities then by gum join in and have a jolly old time (does anyone say “by gum” anymore…I quite like it…screw it I am bringing it back), but if you can’t, allow me to offer up some new potential traditions that will hopefully get you into the festive spirit without all the festive anxiety…
The Official Born Without Marbles List Of Alternative Non-Food Related Ways To Celebrate Christmas
So there you have it! A list of fifty-two alternative ways to celebrate Christmas when you have an eating disorder. Of course part of me hates writing this post and in an ideal world I would simply tell you all to just join in with everyone else and the “normal” food related activities rather than having to follow any of my suggestions (fabulous though they may be).
As any sufferers out there will know, eating disorders are soul destroying, potentially fatal illnesses that should not be allowed to dictate and ruin your Christmas. They shouldn’t dictate your behaviours, interfere with your ability to be “Merry and bright” and make social interactions around a crowded dinner table utterly terrifying, but unfortunately, a lot of the time, no matter how hard you try, eating disorders do all of those things without caring as to whether they should or shouldn’t.
That is why I have made this list. It is not because I agree with any of your eating disorders telling you that you can’t join in or that there is anything wrong with the food celebrations at Christmas time, but because this is not an ideal world (remember, this was the year Mary Berry left The Great British Bake off), and as much as I wish I could wave a magic wand and banish your eating disorders to enable you to have the ED free christmases you deserve, I know that such a dream is vastly overestimating my abilities as a magician.
Hopefully one day there wont be any eating disorders so this post and these alternative Christmas celebration activities won’t be necessary anymore, but until then I just want to try and help you come up with ways that you CAN join in at Christmas regardless of your eating disorders so that you don’t have to hide all December and become lonelier than the last toffee penny in a tin of quality street.
I have every faith that we will all eventually get to the day where the highlight of Christmas is a roast dinner and flaming pudding with all the family. Until then though, let’s just find fun where we can, knit our stockings and look forward to a time when all of this mental pain is a thing of the past.
Take care everyone x