22 October 2015

There's Something About Sparkly Sophie

We're all guilty of scampering through life lugging the weight of the world around with us in an extra large jiffy bag. What we don't realise is that darn bag is a meddling little minx that holds an unrealistic perception of perfection that easily becomes deflating. It may look pretty if you're fashion savvy n'all but it's also a soul destroying friend to our self-esteem and a best friend to feeding out perceptions of failure. So what's needed is a sparkly new upgrade and I know just the woman who can provide us with the captivating motivation to create and mould a positive life change!

Despite the angst and ill health that has been thrown her way, this bubbly little lady is a figure of inspiration who has channeled her unfair dealings into fighting and supporting a bigger and brighter future for both herself and others. Not only is she a natural sweetheart but the perspective she creates of the world is one of spectacular admiration and her vision for the future and helping others is one of pure hope.

I can't think of a more perfect time to introduce you to one of the greatest gifts and friendships life has graced me with and it's about time more of the world got inspired by the beautiful life story of sparkly Sophie...

"Let adventure whisper in your ear"

(1). So tell us a bit about yourself? What your story so far?
Hi, I'm Sophie, a 22 year old free-spirited, happy, creative, bubbly gal and classic perfectionist who has a passion for all things arty and holistic with an undeniable addiction to quotes as you will soon discover! I've suffered with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 3.5 years after my first year at university (studying Interior Architecture & Design) and it's fair to say my life has done a 180 degree turn since then! I had to drop out and move home, and have since been on the painfully slow and frustrating journey of recovery since. I have also battled on and off with a restrictive eating disorder for the past 6 years which has no doubt contributed to my struggled with CFS. Unfortunately I relapsed at the beginning of this year and finally after over 5 years of trying to keep this battle hidden, I plucked up the courage to admit my struggle and get my bum into therapy at long last. Life has thrown some rather large curve-balls my way over the past 3 years but they have also redirected my life into the direction I believe I am destined to pursue. The saying "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" is one I believe in from my experience and whilst life has had it's many downs, I have grown more resilient, self-aware, compassionate and grateful for the simple things as a result. I do some gentle part-time support work, and volunteer once a week at a care home but predominantly my life revolves around getting better and stronger so I can eventually return to a more 'normal' life.

(2). How do you maintain such an optimistic & positive outlook throughout your past & previous struggles?
I have lost count in the number of times people have mentioned and admired my positive and optimistic attitude amidst my struggles. I have often been referred to as "a ray of sunshine" on many occasions which means so much and makes my soul do a little dance of joy every time! As for how I maintain this outlook? Well I'm certainly not like it all the time that's for sure but when you are dealt a duff card in life, you quickly realise that you have no choice but to just deal with it and when you have no other choice it comes a lot more naturally than you might think!
There is a quote I love which sums this up perfectly: "You can live with a chronic illness and be happy, or you can live with a chronic illness and be angry. Either way you will still be living with a chronic illness." - Substitute the chronic illness for whatever your hardship may be, if it is something that is out of your control, the only thing you can control is your attitude and it makes a bloody enormous difference!
So I would say it is a mixture of my personality and my experience. I spent a long time being sad and angry about my situation and it only made me feel worse so I chose to make the best of what I can and focus on the positives and what I do have/can do rather than what I don't/can't do.
A few quotes to finish because they are all so true and powerful and ones that have helped me a lot:

"There is always, always something to be thankful for"
"Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day"
"You may have been given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it"
"A negative mind will never give you a positive life"

(3). What or who keeps you motivated & empowered through the tough times?
My future dreams for life and career goals keep me motivated. The hope and determination I have to make those dreams a reality and making little baby steps towards them when I can.

(4). What would you say has been your biggest life lesson so far?
Never take anything for granted and appreciate the small things.

(5). What quote/ life mantra do you like to live by?
Okay sorry I can't choose one so I am going to give you 3 of my faves:

"Life is too short to be anything but HAPPY. Kiss slowly, love deeply, forgive quickly, take chances. give everything and leave with no regrets. Forget the past with the exception of what you have learned from it; and remember that everything happens for a reason."

"Too often we underestimate the power of touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."

(6). Where do you think your sense of determination comes from?
Knowing that there is more to life than what I am currently limited to and wanting to use my experiences to help others in similar positions.

(7). What was your “game-changing” moment or have you always been so focused?
The quote (surprise surprise!) : "Recovery takes a lot of time, effort and planning, but staying sick takes your whole life."
Realising that I had to stop fighting myself and start fighting FOR myself else I'd wake up in 5, 10, 15 years time and have only walked in circles rather than forward.

(8). What do you feel is the #1 factor that holds individuals back from living to their best potential?
Fear (of failure predominantly)...

"In order to succeed, your desire for success needs to be bigger than your fear of failure."

(9). What would you say are your fail-proof strategies in kicking a bad day where the sun don’t shine?
I have a "happy box" that I made myself for these days! I often find  that when I'm consumed by that black cloud of darkness and hopelessness, even thinking of let alone choosing something to do, near on impossible. So I made myself a little tin full of things that make me happy and nourish my soul, mind and body.
Examples: pet therapy (cuddling or stroking an animal is one of the best antidepressants I know!), listening to my 'Happy' YouTube playlist, cute animal videos, colouring in, walking barefoot in grass, eating ice-cream, playing guitar, inspirational TED talks, colouring in etc.

(10). What’s next for sunshine Sophie  What are your beautiful, inspired plans for the future?
Ultimately I want to be a holistic therapist and more recently would love to specialise in the treatment of eating disorders. Short-term goals, I want to learn as much as I can about such therapies like Reiki, Enegry Medicine, Reflexology, Holistic Massage etc, and to help others recover from ED's using my Instagram account which has been of huge benefit to me (and others so I'm told!) throughout my own recovery. Most recently I have begun exciting plans to team up with the gorgeous Sarah (who kindly invited me to do this guest blog post!) and help raise awareness for mental health.

(11). Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?
I am inspired by so many people - I'm a massive fan of TED talks which I thoroughly recommend you go check out because they are probably my biggest inspirations -- favourite talks are by Brene Brown, J K Rowling (both of whom I am massive fans separately as well), Steve Jobs, Janine Shepherd and Sam Berns.

(12). When would you say you’re at your happiest?
This might sound cliché, but I'm happiest when I'm truly myself. When I'm being creative and authentic. I particularly love being outdoors in the sunshine and grounding myself to the Earth. Creativity, art and music are my favourite hobbies as they allow me to get lost in the moment and my soul overrides my mind.

(13). Social media is a bit like marmite - you either love it or you hate it. What are your personal views on its ever-growing presence & the effects it has on the influence of young individuals today?
I think social media is like marmite because of its 'marmite effects'. Social media sites can be your best friend or your worst enemy - it depends how you use them and what you expose yourself to. It can be very negative and unhealthy due to the unrealistic portrayal of people's seemingly 'perfect' lives which stems comparison and jealousy, often making others feel inferior. Of course there is also the problem of "trolling" due to anonymity on the Internet today, and whilst not always completely avoidable, I do believe that the primary responsibility is down to individual users. Accounts can be made private to protect users from this very problem and over-sharing details of your life to strangers is asking for trouble. Nevertheless I think social media sites can be very helpful and beneficial for some people, particularly those with illnesses due the 'community' of fellow sufferers that offer support and understanding. This is broadly the case for many illnesses but my main experience lies within the eating disorder recovery community on Instagram which has been immensely helpful for me and countless others.

(14). What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
"Keep your aspirations high and your expectations low"

(15). What advice would you give to someone going through a tough time & facing struggles they feel unable to control?
Don't take it out on your body. It doesn't solve problems but just temporarily numbs them whilst also creating new problems. Nothing lasts forever, bad times will pass and brighter days will come - hold on to hope, and reach out for help, surround yourself with a strong support network that can be your strength when you've run out. You don't have to do this alone.
I love the Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

(16). What does true happiness look like to you?
I don't think true happiness 'looks' like anything in particular but is a feeling on the inside. I've been inconsolably sad when things in my life have 'looked' great and I've had moments of genuine happiness during really difficult periods of my life. Alas, if I had to depict it, it would be health, family, friends and following my heart and passions in life/career.
Ultimately, I try to live by the quote "Happiness is a journey, not a destination"

(17). What positive things to do like to tell yourself when you’re having a bad day?
I actually made a "Happy Box" for bad days because I often find choosing or even thinking of something to do near on impossible. I colour coded mine into "high/medium/low energy" things, partly due to my chronic fatigue, but also being mentally down tends to make you only want to curl up into a ball in bed and hide away from the world. The idea of doing anything energetic is the last thing on your mind. Examples I have include: cuddling my cat, watching a favourite movie, playing my 'happy' YouTube playlist, watching TED talks, colouring in, going for a gentle walk, writing post, browsing through my 'funnies' Pinterest board.

(18). What makes you feel good?
Helping other people. Walking barefoot on grass. Laughing. Being productive. Eating healthy nourishing foods but also eating ice-cream and chocolate - make sure you nourish your body, mind and soul (that's the chocolate and ice-cream ;) !!)

(19). As individual with experience of personal struggles, do you feel there is enough awareness of help and support for individuals dealing with mental health issues such as depression & eating disorders?

Awareness - no. Terms such as 'depression' and 'OCD' are thrown around like adjectives, completely belittling the serious disorders that they are and the devastating impacts they have on peoples lives. Particularly with eating disorders there remains a huge lack of understanding and stereotyping (specifically "you have to be thin to have an eating disorder - absolutely 1000% NOT true) within and outside the medical profession which often fuels the eating disorders further. I think there is still far too large a Western influence on the treatment of many mental illnesses - the "band aid" approach where drugs are prescribed like sweets, most commonly for depression and anxiety yet the drugs are merely masking the problems rather than solving them. I believe drugs are sometimes often necessary but should not be solely relied upon without holistic intervention to address the root of the problem. My experience of therapy within adult ED services has been excellent, delving into the underlying issues that stemmed my eating disorder. I am particularly aware that within CAMHS and intensive treatments such as inpatient/residential programs that almost sole emphasis is placed upon weight restoration which whilst of course is entirely necessary, without appropriate psychological treatment tends to just lead to relapse when the patient is discharged. This is due to the underlying problems still very much entrenched. I know that mental health services in the UK are under extreme pressure and demand but I think there needs to be far more preventative methods and access to treatment and services whilst the conditions are more treatable and would consequently reduce the need for inpatient admissions as people would be receiving help before they were forced into it.

(20). If there was one piece of advice you could give to someone experiencing the trauma of an eating disorder and body image issues, what would it be?
You are not your body. You are a soul who has a body, not a body who has a soul. Your body does not define you, it homes you - the person who lives within. It may sound cliché, but it really is what's on the inside that counts. Despite how you may feel it is your personality that will be remembered and will draw people to you; not your physical appearance. The only person judging your body is yourself and if you can learn to stop criticising and just accept yourself, peace and freedom will be yours to obtain.

"We think we're made of numbers: percentages on tests, pounds on a scale, likes on a photo, prices tags on clothes, but we're not. We're made of love, happiness and the way we laugh. We're made of good memories and late nights. We have more substance than numbers."

You are not a number. Please stop reducing yourself to something you are not.

Quick-fire Questions:

#1. Current book you're reading...
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

#2. Your ultimate choice of drink...

Okay I am so indecisive so I'm going to give you a hot, cold and alchy fave! Peppermint tea for hot, Iced mocha for cold and either a strawberry Pimms or Malibu for a tipple!

#3. You're being jetted off to a secret deserted island with only 5 possessions...what would you take with you?

Guitar, phone, journal, pen, kimono/dress, Harry Potter books

#4. Favourite celebrity crush?

Emma Watson, Hayden Panettiere, Shailene Woodley and Taylor Swift....sorry, I told you I was indecisive! 

#5. Dream holiday destination?


#6. What is your signature scent?

When I'm a sophisticated working woman it will be Si by Giorgio Armani but for now it is Live by Jennifer Lopez.

#7. Sweets or chocolate?
Chocolate all the way

#8. You're starring in Come dine with me...who would you invite? (Dead, alive, famous etc.)

JK Rowling, Dalai Lama, Michael McIntyre and Taylor Swift

#9. If you could be any animal, what would you be?

A dolphin so I could explore our mysterious underwater world.

#10. What do you reckon is the most overrated virtue?


#11. ....and what do you think is the most underrated?


#12. Are you a Spring, Summer, Autumn or Winter baby?

A Summer baby!

[Photo Source Inspiration: Pinterest]

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