Monday 18 December 2017

Mental Health over Christmas: Hope Virgo

Hope Virgo, as part of our Mental Health Over the Holidays blogging series, encourages us to slow down over this winter holiday period. 
-Hope Virgo

Although Christmas time can be a lot of fun, it can also be an incredibly tough time of the year too. Therefore, we want to bring this to light and ensure nobody feels alone.

What do you enjoy most about the winter holiday period?

The holiday period allows me to switch off and rest. This is something I really struggle with most of the year when I dash from place to place, pushing myself further and further to the edge. But Christmas gives me time to restock and recharge my batteries. What is great about Christmas is that I don’t get the normal guilt I feel when I slow down as I know everyone else is doing the same. I absolutely love allowing myself to relax. Giving myself lazy mornings in bed, time laying on the sofa and the slower pace of life.

What do you find most difficult during the holidays?

The food - although this has been much less of a problem over the years and I feel more able to relax around it. But there is still some general anxiety. ‘Will I eat too much?’ ‘Will I have enough?’ 

All these questions flood through my brain and I have to use techniques I learnt when I was in treatment to calm my mind. The thing that I have found really helps is to talk. I will tell those who I am with for Christmas if it is getting to be too much for me. The other thing I do is reassure myself that I don’t have to eat all the food that is there. Yes, when there is so much food around it panics me, but no one is making me eat it all and I can now trust myself to have the right amount.

Anorexia shouldn’t ruin my Christmas anymore!

Taking some time out from all the festivities to look after yourself can be really helpful. What do you do to help your mental health during the holidays?

On Christmas day I always make sure that I go for a walk on my own just for 30 minutes or so to get out and about. It gives me time to reflect on the day and to think about how far I have come in my recovery. For me it is really important to have that little bit of me time. 

What present would you give yourself over the holidays?

Shellac – this is one of my favourite self-care activities. A pricey but good treat. For me, when I am struggling with my mental health the first things I stop doing are washing my hair and painting my nails etc. As I find Christmas stressful sometimes it is important to put me first and give myself an incentive to take care of myself.

Reflecting on last year:

Something that hit me last year at Christmas was the support on social media that I receive. It was the evening of Christmas Day when I posted a tweet:

“Congrats to all who have had/ have an ‪#eatingdisorder‬ for surviving Xmas! if you are stressing tomorrow ‪@beatED‬ helpline is open from 4-8PM”

I was congratulating the 725,000 in the UK with eating disorders, and the millions of people around the world who were fighting their own mental health issues. I was amazed at the responses I got, and I felt blessed that there were so many people uniting across the world. Millions of strangers standing together to fight the stigma of mental health issues and supporting everyone who might be struggling. I know that social media can be dangerous at times and that people can use it in the wrong way. But posting that tweet reminded me of the amazing support I get on twitter from some incredible people.

I feel confident that this Christmas I can relax that little bit more, get that little bit less anxious about the food. Each year is a step further forward to beating anorexia and not letting it ruin Christmas.  If you are struggling I wish you the best of luck this Christmas and remember to take care and treat yourself!

If you would like to get involved in our Christmas blogging series, you can find all of the details here.

Hope Virgo suffered with anorexia for over four years before being admitted to hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year, fighting one of the hardest battles of her life. Since being discharged, she has fought to stay well. Hope Virgo Hope recently published her book; Stand Tall Little Girl.  She now wants to use her experiences of mental illness to champion the rights of others, inspire them to get well, and to help break the stigma of mental health difficulties. You can see what she is up to here.

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