My thoughts on To The Bone new Netflix movie

The much anticipated movie, To The Bone, has provoked a lot of attention from people within the eating disorder community.

I would prefer it to have caused more of a stir in people who have no experience of eating disorders but are they going to be the people who watch it?!

It’s so hard that so often, when trying to raise awareness of mental illness, we end up preaching to the converted and it ends up being more about whether it’s been a typical representation or whether anyone’s offended or triggered by it.

What I want is for people who do not know anything about eating disorders to watching this film. It doesn’t show the whole recovery story but it does show the difficulty coming to terms with needing treatment.

People within the eating disorder world are putting people off from watching it, this is probably their aim. I’m not quite sure why other people think their story “better portrays” anorexia or why it’s ok to deliberately trigger yourself and then lash out at the film’s leading lady or director.

By it’s nature Hollywood is glamorous and stories are simplified for entertainment purposes. If we want to use a widely accepted form of media to raise awareness, we have to accept these compromises.

This film will do more to get conversations going than any blog writer and I’m happy to thank them for doing it.

Please don’t watch it if you think you may be triggered, it really is that simple. I know it may not be easy as in recovery we’re all ambivalent but it is a simple yes/no desision about whether to watch it. Maybe shut off social media for a few days to let the hype die down and every time you’re tempted to click yet another To The Bone link, say “no”.

Read more about my thoughts on my Metro blog

Does prayer work?

Whether people have a faith or not, most are likely to have prayed at some point. Many of these prayers may be quick, fleeting, pleading types, a last resort when in desperation. And when they’re answered, more often than not we forget that we even asked for help!
Our pleads range from the simple things like when you’re late for work and you’ve lost your car keys, to more harrowing times, when a loved one is sick and we’re desperate for them to recover or be at peace.

My faith tells me that an active prayer life aids a closer relationship with my Lord and saviour, which, of course, is something I strive for. By ‘active’ I mean regular. I do not consider prayer a last resort, I pray throughout the day, including praising God, thanking Him, saying sorry as well as asking for things I desire, for others and myself.

The one I struggle most with is asking for things for myself. I also struggle to ask other people to pray for me. I don’t know why this is but it’s most likely something to do with not believing I’m worth it or that other people’s problems are far bigger than mine.

Recently I’ve been on crutches after an arthroplasty on my ankle. It’ll be hard for anyone who’s not been on crutches to fully understand the impact this has had on my life. Taking all my weight through my hands and arms causes a lot of pain, my ‘good’ hip is suffering, and I’m getting incredibly tired.

I planned to play a gig on my saxophony but it was a massive event so parking was going to be an issue. It’d been recommended that we use car parks further away, meaning a 10-15 minutes walk. But for me at the moment, 10 minutes feels like a marathon, I’d struggle to do get there, have to find places to sit down en route and would arrive physically broken! Not to mention that my roady would have to carry all my kit (although he’s a very willing roady, I feel bad!).

So, I worked out which was the closest car park and left plenty of time in case we had to try other places. As we arrived, it was clearly very busy and the car park was packed. I simple said “God, please sort us a parking space”. I felt pretty rubbish asking so selfishly for something so small when there are people dying in war zones but I felt I needed to.

But, would you believe it, there was a space in the corner of the car park? We didn’t even have to wait for anyone to leave. As I checked Google maps it turned out to the be THE closest car parking space to the performance venue, at just 30 seconds walk. I was very grateful and said a massive thank you to God!

Some would say this was a coincidence, Christians have another name for it, a God-incidence 🙂

I know God is omnipotent but it’s not his job to make our lives easy, an easy life does not make for a particular strong character. It’s incidences like this that strengthen my relationship with him, knowing that if he’s with me in the little things, he’ll be there when I pray for the big things.

The ambivalence of eating disorder recovery 

It’s really hard for people who’ve not experienced an eating disorder to understand the pull towards destruction.

Ambivalence…the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings towards the same person, object or actions, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.

When your life’s completely falling apart, you’re not able to hold down and job, you’re losing friends and you’re feeling physically unwell, how could anyone not grab hold of recovery with both hands and run with it?!

If, however, you’ve lost everything else, the only thing you have left becomes your identity and a place of safety. If you feel like your eating disorder is the only thing you have in the whole world, how could you possibly consider letting it go?

Eating disordered behaviour not only becomes habitual but it’s a compulsive addiction.

Weight restoration is a significant part of anorexia recovery and this, for me, was terrifying. Having spent years trying to lose weight, put my body through all sorts to try and obtain the unobtainable skinny body of my dreams, thinking about throwing all that work away is unbearable. All the professionals who claim they have my best interests at heart are trying to make me fat, how could they not understand that’s the one thing I can’t do?!

It feels impossible to understand when you’re told “you have to put on weight before you can engage with therapy”. Once your weight is below a certain level and you’re body is malnourished, your brain is not receiving enough energy to function to do everyday tasks, let alone process and absorbed any new understanding in therapy.

“But I can’t gain weight unless my head is straightened out”… this feels like an obvious plea as multiple professionals are telling you your medicine right now is food. “How am I mean to eta when every fibre of my being is telling me not to eat?”

That is what anorexia does, it takes over every fibre of your being, it infiltrates every cell and permeates every breath you take. It feels like you become anorexia. I didn’t feel like I existed beyond my anorexia therefore doesn’t it make sense that I wouldn’t want to let it go? That’s the impact it has, that’s what it makes you believe, anorexia is your identity, without it you are no one, you do not exist… 

Now, I didn’t want to exist, part if my anorexia was about losing so much weight that I would disappear but there was a tiny part of me hanging onto life. In an odd way, although anorexia was killing me, it was also enabling me to hang onto life. When i stopped and thought about my life and what a mess it was, ending my life was an appealing option but focusing on avoiding food and losing weight gave me a purpose.

The first step towards recovery is putting more faith in the people around you than in the anorexia that’s been with you for many months and helped you cope with all that life throws at you. This is quite a tall order. The leap of faith feels impossible.


As I started making progress towards recovery, it felt like the anorexia fought back, as though, it felt threatened. The voice I heard in my head began shouting louder, it continued to tell me I had to lose weight. How do you keep following the meal plan when day in, day out, you’re being told how fat you are, you’re eating too much, your greedy and you should engage in all behaviours to lose weight?

I had so many questions, if let go of my anorexia, who will I be? What will I do? What else will I think about? It felt like I would be nobody and I would be completely empty but as my recovery journey developed, I learnt who I was and things naturally became part of my life. 

How could I stop weighing myself multiple times per day?…then I wouldn’t know how much I weigh

How could I start eating chocolate?…what if I enjoy it?

How could I eat food if I didn’t know how many calories were in it?…then I wouldn’t know how much to restrict the next day

How could I stop exercising?…how would I know how much food I’d earnt?

I confess, when I was in a full blown eating disorder intense recovery programme, I would engage in searching for the web for hints and tips about how to “stay anorexic”, how to stop the hunger pangs without eating, what foods had the fewest calories, how to exercise when exhausted and on the verge of fainting, it’s all there and it’s down right dangerous.

The ambivalence is unbearable, desperately wanting to recover but also, desperately not wanting to recover. I could see the pain I was causing those around me, I honestly did want to recover so I could live a “normal” life but at the same time, I wanted to lose more weight and cling onto certain aspects of my anorexia.

The lack of energy you have when starving yourself makes the fight even harder. The recovery journey is tough and the tougher it gets the easier it feels just to stay indulging in anorexic behaviour. It gets even scarier when you get to the point when anorexic behaviours arent second nature anymore, what now? I thought, “if I’m not anorexic but I’m not recovered, what am I?”. At this point the feelings of failure are rife. Feeling like a “failed anorexic” is all too common but feeling like you’ve failing at life is also a tough obstacle to overcome. At this point, it feels like there’s no way back but the way forward feels equally impossible.

I did make it though, I did put faith in the professionals, I started listening to my body, when it was hungry I would feed it, when it was tired I let it rest. The signals are mixed at first, hunger pangs are confused with feeling full, tiredness gets confused with a lack of motivation. I found it really hard, I’d spent so long ignoring my body I had a brain-body disconnect so initially trusting the professionals and going through the motions was all I could do. I had to trust that they’d been through this more often than I had! It does help when you hear it from people who’ve actually lived through it, when recovering I found it helpful to speak online to people at various stages of recovery.

For me, therapy was the most important part of my recovery but it couldn’t have engaged fully in it until I was nourishing my brain fully. I tried to kid myself that I could sort my brain out while still starving myself but I was wrong.

I may not be totally happy with my body but now I nourish my brain I’m able to think more objectively about it and see that now, my life is full of all sorts of other things that wouldn’t have had space if I’d not let go of my anorexia.

Me, my self harm and my scars

I feel incredibly strongly that self harm is an important topic to talk about. Not only because it is on the increase in schools (and talking about it is the only way to prevent it) but I wish to break down the stigma, misundstanding and controversy surrounding the topic.

Don’t get me wrong, I find it a very difficult topic to open up about, I feel sad that I’ve used it as a coping mechanism and I’m gutted that I have to live with my history on show but we have to start talking about it somehow!

Read more about my story here: http://metro.co.uk/2017/06/19/my-history-of-self-harm-has-left-me-with-scars-but-i-see-them-as-a-mark-of-my-survival-6686564/ 

Is it ok if I feel sorry for myself?

I’m currently laid up recovering from an operation on my ankle.

I’m usually a fairly active person and fiercely independent so being told to keep my foot elevated and be non-weight bearing for 6 weeks is an incredibly challenging prospect.

I’m also contending with thoughts about why my ankle’s in a bad state. 11 years ago, I broke both legs in a suicide attempt. My ankle needed this surgery due to significant cartilage damage, initiated by the original fracture. Initially we hoped the joint could just have a clean out but the surgeon found the cartilage was too badly damaged and extra work was needed. I also don’t know how much damage I’ve done having had anorexia, my body has suffered many years of malnourishment.


I’m finishing it incredibly hard how little I can do for myself. Being fit and relatively healthy does help, I can do a lot standing in one leg but as soon as I need to carry anything anywhere, a drink, food, literally anything, I’m stuck! I’m also (obviously) unable to drive so I’m having to rely on my husband for an awful lot. I’m having to ask for a lot of favours from family and friends, and I’m incredibly grateful to the unquestioning help I’ve received. But I find this really hard, partly because I’m so used to being independent, partly because I feel like no one will want to help, they just feel obliged. I fear spoiling relationships I’ve worked hard to build on a equal level, now I’m asking for help, I wonder if it will ruin the balance and I’ll be seen as ‘the needy one’, a label I’ve fought hard to shake off.

Being off work is hard, I’m missing the change of pace and environment that it offers, I feel useful and needed at work. I’ve been forced into the sick role. I am, of course, keeping up my side of the sick role bargin and I’m making every effort to get better.

I’m putting on a brave face most of the time but the truth is that I’m feeling pretty dejected. I’m not only laid up physically but my independent character is taking a hit.


I’ve written previously about how it’s important to be honest about our feelings as hiding them, putting a lid on them or pretending they’re not there will just make them worse and we end up expressing them in other (normally unhealthy) ways. For example, if I don’t say “I’m feeling pretty rubbish today” to my husband, I more likely to be short tempered and irritable with him which is very unhelpful when I need to ask for so much support.

If I notice I’m feeling sorry for myself, it’s important not to tell myself that’s bad, then I’ll get into a destructive cycle of beating myself up, not helpful for anyone!

If you listen to your honest emotions, they can tell you a lot about what’s going on. For me, right now, my (feeling sorry for myself) emotions are telling me that things are not ok, and there are things I can do to work towards things being ok. Basically:

  1. I need to do things that will ensure I recover as quickly as possible
  2. I need to look after myself and not do things that will jeopardise my recovery
  3. Do as much for myself as I can – I carry things in a backpack so my hands are free to use my crutches
  4. I need to ask for help and support when needed

If I ignored my feelings I could con myself that everything is fine and this may prevent me doing the 4 things I need to do in order to move forward, out of the sick role.


Being honest and keeping the situation in perspective helps me to keep sight of the facts of my situation, things aren’t good right now but this is a temporary position, things will get better. Pretending things are fine can get quite confusing – if things are fine, why aren’t leading a normal life, going to work, cooking dinner, why would I need to ask for help?!

I fear enjoying being looked after as it reminds me of times gone by when mental illness prevented me looking after myself properly. There have been times when I’ve had a total lack of confidence that I was able to look after myself and this perpetuated my illness. I’ve fought hard to break free from this vicious destructive cycle and I’m desperate not to go down that path again.

The thesaurus states that a synonym for “to feel for” is also “to feel compassion”. Whenever something bad happens (to ourselves or another person), it is important to feel compassion, this has a positive effect on the healing process.


It is not, however, ok for me to wallow in self pity! This is not productive, in fact, it can be incredible destructive. Self pity has no purpose, other than to turn our focus inwards. It has a negative impact on recovery as it can actually stop us reacting positively to the situation.

In conclusion, it is ok to feel sorry for ourselves but in listening to this we need to react positively.

 

A lesson in accepting my humanity

While trying to carry a cup of coffee, I trip, causing my painful ankle to slam into the ground. At this point I step (hop) back and think, “what am I doing?!”

Having recently had an arthroplasty, I’m not allowed to put any weight on my left leg so I was doing a weird shuffly hop with 1 crutch while carrying my coffee… it didn’t work out too well! But I wanted a coffee, what was I meant to do? Stand in the kitchen while it cooled down so I could drink it where I’d made it? It’s shocking how little you can do on crutches! I’m managing to carry things around in a backpack and I can do some tasks standing on one leg but there’s so much I simply can’t do…carry a hot drink turns out to be one of them!

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m fiercely independent. I hate asking for help and will do anything to manage everything on my own. I’d rather really struggle to do a task than ask for help, even if the easier/better/safer option is for someone else to do it. When I first got together with my now, husband I had to learn that it’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to let him do things for me, even if I am capable of doing it myself! I learnt that it can actually improve our relationship if I relinquish some of my independence.

I thought everything was going well, I’d started gentle physio but I had a set back this week with one of the wounds not healing properly. This has hit me hard. I was already feeling fairly down but this has knocked me down further.
I’ve even asked for prayer – something I struggle with, partly because I do not think I deserve it but partly because no matter what I’ve been through, I’ve accepted my lot and do not feel I need to hope for things to be different.


Much as I hate asking for favours or putting people out, I’ve asked people to visit me and asked for lifts to go out. Otherwise I’d be stuck at home (mostly) on my own 24/7.

I find it so hard to rely on people but it occurred to me that if the shoe was on the other foot (not my other foot, someone else’s) I wouldn’t think twice about helping them out and certainly wouldn’t want them to feel like they owe me.

I’m really struggling with how little I can do for myself and how exhausting the simplest task is. For someone who’s had to work hard to break free of mental illness and the dependence that that caused, I hate how dependent I now am. I never want to go back down the path of being so hopeless and helpless, some of my stubbornness is born of fear.

My husband has pointed out to me that this is temporary, even if I do have set backs, my ankle will recover eventually and I will be able to walk again soon. I am normally an incredibly patient person but I’m feeling incredibly impatient just now.

While I’m hating how much help I need, doing things for myself right now is seriously putting my recovery at risk. I must look after myself in order to return to full health, and part of that is asking for help. It feels like I’m asking for help because I’m weak, as though I’m a lesser person, but I suppose it’s a sign of strength and courage to be vulnerable.


I find it so hard to ask for help but no one can mind read! If I need to go somewhere or I need help with something or I need something doing for me, I’ve had to be blunt and just say “please can someone help”. I feel like every time I say this I may as well be saying “I’m completely useless” and my self esteem is knocked a little further each time. I don’t know why I judge myself so harshly when I wouldn’t think that of anyone else making the same requests.

I feel like all I’m saying at the moment is “thank you” and “sorry”, I’m fed up and just want to be able to do things myself.

This period is being a real lesson in just accepting help and support.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who care and who want to help. I should be grateful instead of tarring the gestures with guilt and awkwardness from my side.

In the words of Nick Knowles “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone”. I know if I was able to help someone (give them a lift or do some shopping for them) I’d feel really good that I could be helpful when they needed it so maybe in an odd way, I’m helping people by me asking for help?!

Quick Mental Health Awareness Q&A

Why is it important to raise awareness?

People with mental illness not only have to suffer the debilitating effects of the illness but also have to suffer stigma, discrimination and a whole host of effects caused by misunderstanding and ignorance. Raising awareness of what mental health will go part way to breaking this down.

The more society understands about mental illness, the more we talk about it, the more normal it will be for people to get the help they need, earlier, and therefore a meaningful recovery is more likely.

People with mental health problems can work provided they can get the right support. At the moment, this support is not available. Raising awareness will ensure moving from benefits into work can be an easier transition and reasonable adjustments within the workplace will ensure staying in work is possible. It’s not rocket science.

So, basically, what is mental illness?

In a nut shell, when chemicals within the brain get out of balance, thoughts and feelings become out of sink with reality, meaning we may behave out of character. This means it can be solved on a number of levels by tackling the thoughts, the feelings, the behaviours or the chemicals but most people think it is best to manage all of them to some degree since they all impact each other.

Is mental illness scary?

As a sufferer, I would say, “yes” – at times I’ve been petrified.

Watching a loved one suffer, I would say, “yes” – at times, it’s devastating.

BUT this does not men we should be sacred to talk about it – talking will only help these situations. Mental illness will always, by its nature, be painful , it will break hearts and break lives but if, by talking about it, we can ease the tensions and heightened emotions, we will be making progress.

If I don’t know anyone with a mental illness, why should I care?

1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem min any given year. You may think you don’t know anyone but I promise you do, if they’re not talking about it to you, it’s because of fear; fear of judgement, ignorance and discrimination. If you genuinely don”t think you know anyone with mental illness, just for fun, count down a list of friends and ever 4th person, say “it could be them” – that person could suffer this year – think of the devastation that could cause, they might not be able to leave the house, to meet you socially, to go to work, to play with their children, their life might be at risk, they might need specialist treatment – now do you care?

Bit feeling a bit low or a bit worried isn’t that serious is it?

“Depression is sucking the life out of me, it saps me of emotion, it hags over me like a black fog. I feel nothing and everything. I’m completely exhausted but I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. My body aches. No medication is working. I think the only way out is suicide.”

“I feel so overwhelmed that my family is in danger, I have an in uncontrollable compulsion to check the door is locked, multiple time. Thoughts intrude my mind, it doesn’t feel like they’re mine. It’s called anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder but it feels like it’s ruining my life.”

“I’m trapped in a cycle of not eating. Food feels like the enemy, I’m genuinely terrified of what it will do to my body. I hear a voice telling me that I do not deserve to eat. I so desperately want to break free of this destructive cycle but it feels like there’s no hope. I’ve been told I have anorexia but I don’t think I have because I’m not skinny enough.”

“At times I’ve thought I can fly, it might sound funny but it’s not when I’m feeling so elated I climb out of my 2nd floor flat and flap my arms. Breaking my leg wasn’t enough to stop me, my mind was still racing, I ran out into traffic thinking I was invincible. I felt awful waking up in hospital realizing I’d put so many people at risk. This is the sort of thing I do when I’m manic.”

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 years. Mental illness is incredibly serious, it can stop people working, it can stop people socialising, it can literally stop people living their lives, it affects not only the person with the diagnosis but everyone around them.

Mental health services are still not properly funded, waiting lists are too long and people are not receiving the teat,jet they need.

If it’s all so bleak, what’s the point?

It is possible for everyone to recover a meaningful life, no matter how serious their mental illness has been. For some people this will mean managing with medication and ongoing therapy but the majority of people can move on to be so completely free from their mental illness. This is all only possible provided they have access to appropriate support and treatment – this wil only happen if people feel they can come forward for help and if they help is there!

What do we need to do?

  1. Share this blog 🙂 It’s one small step on the road.
  2. If you think someone might be struggling, just asks them how they are and if there’s anything you can do and don’t be scared.
  3. If you have a story to tell, share it. I know it’s hard but someone has to break the silence – knowledge can only come from the knowledgeable.
  4. Take in interest in things like Time to Change and Heads Together, follow them on Facebook or regularly visit their campaign pages, they’re the experts on how we’re going to move forward with all this!

This is my dream

This year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is Surviving or Thriving. I absolutely love this, to me it’s making the point that so many people miss. Getting through a mental illness is all about surviving, surviving the illness itself, surviving what the illness takes away from you, surviving the mental health system and more. 

But once on the road to recovery (which I truely believe is possible for everyone) it really is about finding how to thrive. Many people get stuck in survival mode and I want to cry out to them, you can do better, there is more out there for you, I promise.

I want to be an example, dare I say, an inspiration, that survival in possible.

When your mind is sick and all around you is black, it can feel like there is no hope, like you’re all alone and no one has ever felt as bad as you feel before. I have been there, I have been in deep dark depression and debilitating anorexia. At times I’ve been so stuck in my head my behaviour has made no sense at all. I’ve been in that place where you make the same mistakes over and over again, desperately hoping something will magically solve itself.

But I survived, I fought my way to freedom.

It is wonderful to be positive about the possibility of freedom from mental illness but sometimes there’s an added dimension that makes recovery far harder than just taking medication and forging a few new neural pathways (if that wasn’t hard enough!).

Eating disorders, in particular, are incredibly difficult to recover from because as they are a coping mechanism and therefore there’s a big part of the sufferer that does not actually want to recover. This can be really hard to admit, and nearly impossible for other people to understand. I argued with myself, I was going through hell, I hated what was going on, so, of course I wanted to get better but a big part of me was holding onto (what felt like) a safe coping mechanism.

So, I want to be a warning.

I have recently spent some time thinking about what my mental illness took away from me.

Sufferers are all too aware of how much we lose to our illness but at times we can be so embroiled in the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that we become blind to the scale of the impact.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, from medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide. – Beat

I’m fortunate that I’m here to tell my story, however…

I have problems with my bones, colon and stomach, I have fibromyalgia and could be infertile. I have to have frequent blood tests which often show deficiencies and I continue to take medication and undergo other treatments including operations to manage the various conditions. Consequences other people face include ongoing liver, kidney or even heart problems, with eating disorders, no body system is left untouched.

If you or someone you know is struggling to break free, I implore you to do everything you can to find that tiny part that does want things to be different and hold on tight! Things will only be different if you try something different. 

Surviving mental illness takes effort, thriving takes something else!

Thriving at life isn’t easy, the truth is, life’s hard – I don’t think anyone would deny that! I have to work hard at the little things, being spontaneous, using the phone, knowing how to take care of myself, smiling when I have no energy and being socialable when I don’t want to. That feeling “stop the world I want to get off!’ – I get that a lot! But I’ve discovered the things I like, I know what makes me happy and I make sure I take time out of life.

When making my way back into the world of work I did some volunteer work to a) find out what I was good at and b) find out what I liked. Trying new things with no strings attached is fun and liberating! It became fairly obvious that my forte was going to be in the mental health world, my personal experience built on my background education. Since then I’ve been gaining experience in a variety of settings and more than anything I’m enjoying writing 🙂

There is no definition of thriving, you are not going to know when you’ve ticked that box and that can be tough! It’s a journey not a destination!

My dream is that people can see that I can recovered and have hope that they can develop their own version of recovery, I want those struggling with the pull of addictive behaviours to find the desire to break free and I want those stuck in survival mode to break free and find how to thrive in their unique way.

How do I believe in a God who allows suffering?

We are all too painfully aware of suffering and if we are touched by it we are bound to ask questions, we generally want to know why it’s happening?

If God exists, maybe there are a few possibilities, either:

  • he is not all powerful or
  • he is not all loving or
  • he just doesn’t care/can’t be bothered/is lazy.

I do not believe in a God who causes suffering, nor do I believe in a God who actively wants us to be in pain or sits back watching us in pain.

My experience

I have been to some of the darkest places on earth through suffering the torture of depression. At times, my mind was so broken that I could not see a way through the emotional pain so the only way it was going to stop was if I ended my life. Some people have experienced physical or spiritual pain that has taken them to a similar place.

I believe in a God who knows my pain, a God who experiences my pain with me. I am his child, when I’m in pain, his heart breaks.

I also believe God has experienced the ultimate pain of seeing his one and only Son be put to death for crimes he did not commit. And it’s by his wounds I believe I am free (but that’s another blog).

Illness and healing

When it comes to illness, the fact is, our bodies go wrong. What’s fantastic about our bodies is that they often get stronger as they heal. Healed muscle fibres are stronger, this would not happen if little tears didn’t happen.

When my mind was sick, I could have wished (prayed) for instant healing but I never did. When I could think rationally I knew the recovery journey would be worth it and make me stronger.

Our bodies are incredibly complex machines that require very fine balances to function, things will go out of balance for all sorts of reasons, some things we can control (and we chose not to at times), others we can’t.

Perfect isn’t so simple

Some could say that God should have made our bodies perfect and that they should not go wrong. Christians believe everyone of us is made in the image of a God and that we are all perfect in his eyes. Creating a “perfect” world is not as simple as is sounds. For example:

  • Would the body contain water? Vital for life as we know it but only a small amount is capable of drowning.
  • Would the body contain bacteria? Vital for digestion but can also cause deadly diseases.
  • Do we want a body that can experience pain? If we do not feel pain we would not withdraw our hand from the hot iron, nor would we know if we’d swollowed a fish bone.
  • We’ve been given wonderfully beautiful minds that have invested medicines and make great technological advances but we also use our intelligence to make weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

If everything was good and perfect all the time we would have no concept of good or perfect. How would we know things were good if we had nothing to compare it to?

Turning despair on its head

Some people are able to look at their disability or illness in such a way that it is a gift. To some this may sound very bizarre. It is a fact that mental illness exists, if I had not suffered, I would not feel passionate about raising awareness about injustices, stigma and discrimination. I have met a whole new world of people, some of the kindest and gentlest people I know. If I had not gone through therapy I would not have developed such clear understanding of how my mind works and my relationships wouldn’t have gained the benefits.

God as a parent figure

Some people find it helpful to think of God as a parent figure. Let’s consider the parent who protects their child from everything. These children are not allowed to play in the stream, they do not tear their trousers, they never graze their elbows, these children will not develop a healthy immune system. Children wrapped in cotton wool are not allowed to play conkers or tag, they do not watch upsetting TV programmes, are protected from anything that might hurt them physically or mentally and do not develop skills to assess risk and take responsibility for their actions.

My parents gave me opportunities to make choices, sometimes I have made wrong choices and these have harmed me, I have learnt far more powerful lessons from these times than if I’d just been told what I should and shouldn’t do. My Father God has done the same, I am glad I am free to take risks, to make mistakes, to learn and to grow. He has gifted me with free will.

Free will

God has overcome evil but he has given human beings free will to follow Satan if they choose to. God asks us to choose him but he cannot force us to, otherwise it would not be true free will.

So, if we accept that stuff happens, whether it’s illness or poor decisions, surely God can just put things right when they go wrong? The way I see it is that we would not learn to look after ourselves if someone else could automatically click their fingers every time we stuffed up.

Something God does offer, to help us through the tough times, is a unique relationships with him.

Who am I to say?

When we object to suffering we are suggesting that we have the right to decide what is right and wrong. But who are we to decide that our right is right and our wrong is wrong? One person’s right could be another person’s wrong. We’re all aware of the saying that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Even between my husband and I (who agree on most things) have opposing views regarding WMD (called a nuclear deterrent when we want to deminish their destructive nature). My black and white belief is that they are evil and every single one should be (safely) destroyed, my husband has more grey views, believing they are a political necessity (but would not have them in an ideal world). Who am I to say my view is any more right than my husband’s?

Perhaps we should take responsibility

When it comes to natural disasters, have you ever wondered why we build settlements on faultlines or in the shadow of a volcano? Why, as a world, do we allow the poorest of our world to live in the most dangerous places, meaning not only their homes but their lives are at risk? Why do we jump into action when the disaster happens, running crisis plans, blaming and getting angry at God for allowing it to happen? Why do we not act before the disaster happens? Why do we not use our intelligence and moral compass to declare dangerous sections of the world uninhabitable and make sure every single person in the world has a safe place to live?

I’m not saying it’s easy, nor do I have all the answers, these are just a few of my humble thoughts about how I make sense of it.

In conclusion I believe God chooses to use his power wisely, he does not callously decide some people will be in pain while others will be spared. When in the midst of suffering we may think things are simple but if we’re able to step back and consider the bigger picture, the subject of suffering is not as black and white as it feels. My experience is that God loves us so much, he offers himself as a companion in the pain, he doesn’t just watch us, he experiences it with us and carries us if we ask him to.

A broken world will throw trials at us, we have God given freedom to choose to go through our trials with him or without him.

Hawk Conservancy Trust 

A visit to The Hawk Conservancy is a fantastic day out where you get to explore the grounds, see numerous birds of prey both in their enclosures and in flying displays. It’s educational and great fun for the whole family. Plus, you’ll be contributing to some important conservation work for these birds across the world.

Vultures feeding time

In the first event of the day, we saw Deloris and Hector showing their dominance as the biggest in the enclosure, getting their choice of food from the keeper.

There are 3 distinct types:

  • Rippers – they have strong bills and wide skulls designed for ripping off the skin and tendons.
  • Gulpers – go for all the soft bits like organs. They are usually very large vultures due to the high nutritional content of their diet.
  • Scrappers – they have bills designed to get every last little scrap of flesh off the bones.

Also, there is the bearded vulture or lammergeier who pick up the bones, fly up and drop them from a great height onto rocks so they break open and they can eat the bone marrow.

Vultures are vital for ecosystems, they are the dustbins that clear everything up; they stop rotting flesh building up and stop the spread of disease.

At the end of the 20th century use of diclofenac (anti-inflammatory) to treat sick Asian cattle caused the death of millions of vultures when the farmers put carcasses out for vultures to feed on. No one had any idea diclofenac was so lethal to vultures but with one carcass being food for up to 200 vultures, the mortality rate was astronomical. The knock-on effect was that feral dog packs filled the gap. Fear is that the same thing will happen in Europe as Italy and Spain licensed the use of diclofenac for vets. Eagles are also at risk. Support the call for a ban here.

Cassius and Clay are the Trust’s African white backed vultures, each weighing 9lbs with a wing span of 7ft. They are now critically endangered, which means the International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified them as being at very high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. The Hawk Conservancy have overseas projects running to try and restore vulture numbers in the wild.

Wings of Africa display

Here we met Othello, the fish eagle. These birds can catch anything up to the size of a flamingo in flight but usually, as the name suggests, fishes for their food.

We were also introduced to Tolkien, a milky eagle owl. Random fact, they are the only predator of the African spiny hedgehog but they can also tackle prey as large as a baboon!

Dr No flying kick at a (rubber) cobra
Next we were in for a bit of a laugh with Dr No, their secretary bird, also known as the archer of snakes due to the way it hunts and kills its prey. It flushes the snake out of the long grass then kicks it in the head. Dr No took his role in the performance very seriously, including showing us how he would tackle a cobra by doing a flying kick! It’s an hilarious sight! Not so hilarious for the rubber snake!

We then saw some cute sacred ibis and white storks as part of a beautiful multi-bird display. Interestingly, they’re not officially birds of prey since they do not catch their prey with their feet but with their beaks. It was lovely to see the close bond birds have with the keeper as they were hand fed at the end of the display.

Valley of the Eagles display

The saker falcon was an example of how many sayings we get through the history of falconry. For example being ‘under the thumb’ meaning to have control, ‘hoodwinked’ meaning tricked or ‘waiting with baited breath’ when waiting for something to happen. It was lovely to see some traditional falconry work with a lure, the relationship between the falconer and his bird was spectacular.

We were introduced to a new vulture, the turkey vulture which is one of the few birds of prey to have a sense of smell, and it uses it to hunt. Unusually it is actually a descendent of the stork family rather than the rapture family. I’m not sure who had to be more brave as the vultures swooped over and in between audience members, it was an extraordinary experience to be in such close quarters and even though we ducked, the wings of these great birds brushed our heads!

We were spoilt with 9 black kites who performed brilliantly catching their prey in their feet and eating it while still flying. This conserves energy as when birds catch prey and land to eat it, it’s the setting off again that uses energy. The commentator and the bird handler worked brilliantly together showing the birds off to their full potential in very comical fashion!

I was beginning to think we’d been misled by the title of the show but they’d left the best for last. A stunning American bald eagle was flown in from 1.5-2 miles across the rolling Hampshire countryside, he swooped into the arena within a few seconds. Absolutely beautiful!

Woodland Owls display

The first owl we saw was a tawny owl. Baby tawny owls are often brought into the Conservancy by well meaning members of the public having found them on the floor. Unfortunately, this is not necessary and leads to them being humanised. Tawny owls do something called branching where they climb out of the nest before they’re ready to fledge, unfortunately this leads to them sometimes falling to the ground but the parents will continue feeding them no matter where they are so they will be fine. Troy was one of the tawney owls brought to the Conservancy and he’d already been humanised so he’s now used to fly the flag for all his wild cousins. Unfortunately, when he arrived he was also afraid of heights (probably because his only experience of any height was falling from a tree) so to get him to do anything interesting in a display his trainer had to climb a tree to reduce his anxiety; he put on an excellent show for us!

We then saw Walter the great grey owl, not the most inventive name for such a beautiful bird. He displayed stunning agility, with a wing span of 5 feet, he flew between to members of the audience standing, I estimate, less than 2 feet apart by swooping and bending his wings up at the last second.

Whisper the little boobok owl was a beautiful little thing! He performed wonderfully, landing on the benches close to audience members. But he showed us that he was boss and that even though humanised and tame, he’s still able to choose what he does and wouldn’t perform his trick, flying through a hollowed out log, until the last try when he performed it spectacularly.

Our native barn owl has showed a worrying decline in numbers as agricultural habits have changed. Not only have their possible nesting sites reduced but they have seen a decline in habitat for their prey. Fortunately The Hawk Conservancy Trust discovered they like nesting in purpose built nest boxes so their nest box project is have great success! Charlie did a wonderful display for us, circling the woodland area many times. Elder, however, decided she would only show herself as the commentator was wrapping up the display, she did, however, show us her flying style beautifully.

I cannot enthuse enough about the skills of the commentators and bird handlers, they obviously love the birds and are passionate about what they do. They truely made this a wonderful day to remember.

In visiting The Hawk Conservancy Trust you can support the local, national and international work they do. I’d highly recommend a visit!