Year of Wellbeing Blog: Jade's story

Everyone has their own story to share about ways they have found to care for their own wellbeing, and the wellbeing of other people.

A team of bloggers have agreed to describe their personal journey. We hope their stories help and inspire others during our Year of Wellbeing.

 

Jade's story

Year of wellbeing blogger Jade‘A Jug’s Life? What does that mean?’ you’re probably thinking. ‘A Jug’s Life’ is in fact the title given to my dog’s Instagram profile. A Jug is actually a pug crossed with a Jack Russell, and mine, he’s called Gizmo and he’s one of a kind!

@a_jugs_life is filled with all of Gizmo’s adventures since my family and I brought him home on 30 April 2017. He’s filled that time with fun, laughter and endless memories. However, at the same time as feeling awestruck by Gizmo’s arrival, a few months later we were also filled with emptiness, sadness and misery. This was because a familiar face had made a return to our family home. A face that would fight to beat us, a face that would determine to tear us all apart, and a face that would control our every thought. This ‘face’ was called anorexia nervosa.

We knew her only too well and none of us were prepared to allow her to get comfy once again. We only had space for one new family member and that was Gizmo! Even the personality-wise pug nature of Gizmo knew she was bad news and his protective Jack Russell streak knew she wasn’t in his pack. He wanted her out. We all did.

As life likes to test you at times though, this was our test.

The reason we knew anorexia nervosa so well was she once paid a visit to me whilst in my second year at University. She fought to control my every thought and threatened to defer my studies. She made me so ill that my once healthy weight massively plummeted and my bones became brittle and visible through my clothes. I'd completely lost who I was and felt like a stranger to even myself.

Looking back at photos, I don't recognise the person in them. At my lowest, doctors said I had about two weeks. Two weeks or else she would win. It still didn’t click until I was stood inside an Eating Disorder Clinic being told to say goodbye to my Mum. At that point the lightbulb started to flicker, what an earth was my life coming to? This wasn’t me and this certainly wasn’t the life I wanted to live. From that moment on, I have never looked back. The ambition kicked in and I was determined to go home, determined to finish my degree and determined to find myself. I was terrified but I finally felt ready to say goodbye to anorexia!

Year of wellbeing blogger JadeThe day I left the Aspen Centre in Warwick to start outpatient treatment, I was told only one per cent of people who decide to leave and do it on their own can do it, the rest have no choice but to come back. From the day I was told that, I wanted to be that one per cent and it turned out I was. I managed to go back to University and graduate with a First Class Bachelor of Arts Degree, but most importantly, get my once happy and healthy life back. I always feel as if I've been given a second chance with life and I'm so grateful to all those, especially my mum, who got me through such an awful time. My Mum is undoubtedly my real life superhero.

Although I can safely say I have beaten it and am fully recovered, it’s been dreadful to see this terrible illness now contend with another family member. This is anorexia’s return. The condition was too powerful to begin with, our efforts weren’t able to achieve an overnight change, we had to be patient. She stood firm and we were all too weak, initially. This time round, she’d taken my then 13-year-old sister Amba, and forced her to became a shell of her former lively, confident and carefree self. She made her merely exist, rather than live the life of a typical 13 year-old. Watching her deteriorate more and more each day was heart-breaking for my Mum, Gizmo and I, especially already knowing exactly what anorexia was capable of and just how powerful she could be.

As the months went by and the time came for my sister to go to a specialist eating disorder hospital, we were devastated that anorexia had become so controlling yet again. She could tick off her list tearing our family apart, as Amba was in Birmingham and we were in Coventry. To look at it in a slightly more positive way, we were relieved we were this close. It could have been London or Edinburgh; we were one of the fortunate families that had got a bed nearby. However, this was still too far for us. Our tightknit trio had been split and it crushed us all, not forgetting making Gizmo wonder where his ‘little human’ had gone. We hated leaving Amba, but we knew it was the only way we would ever bring her home again. The only thing we looked forward to going back home for was the warm, tail-wagging welcome we’d repeatedly receive from Gizmo.

It took a lot of hard work from all of us, as well as strong willpower from my sister, but five hard months after she was hospitalised, she made the journey back home. A year on, she isn’t fully recovered yet, but looking back at where she was this time last year, she has come so far. I am finally starting to look again at my carefree, funny and confident little sister.

Without one little furry friend on board though, our experience would have undoubtedly been much tougher than it already was. Throughout what was one of the most difficult challenges we have faced as a family so far, Gizmo was our rock. He helped us crack a smile on the sad days, break a laugh on the long tiring weeks and get through the grief-stricken months. He kept us strong and found hope for us all when we thought there was no more.

Gizmo recently took part in a 5K ‘Dog Jog’ to raise money for BEAT – the charity that helps those suffering with eating disorders, where we raised over £300 so they can continue to help others. Pets are unquestionably a blessing to our wellbeing, Gizmo added so much more meaning and purpose to everyday life when my sister was severely poorly and he prevented what was a very depressive and stressful set of circumstances get so much worse. 

Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, those looking after their fluffy counterparts are undeniably likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of wellbeing while tending to their pet. Did you know that even the simple act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ chemical, in the brain? I feel this with Gizmo every day! The interaction with and love we received from Gizmo helped us remain positive and clasp onto that hope we thought we might lose.

Before Gizmo became part of our family, I’d always liked dogs, but I’d never been fanatical about them. Gizmo absolutely changed that! Without him, I’d be lost. We all would. Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health. Gizmo has proven to be the most valuable companion.

He’s definitely not just a ‘dog’ he’s an intelligent and loving chap, with lots of feelings of his own. When people say dogs are a man’s best friend – they are definitely not lying!

 

Click here to find out more about Coventry and Warwickshire's Year of Wellbeing 2019.

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